Rossville Downtown Development Authority Chairman Ron Wade said he reached out to the nonprofit group running the John Ross House in "the most gentle way" he could and asked them to end public "bickering."
Wade also said his agency dissolved the John Ross House Association's lease due to a lack of insurance, but group leaders say they have a multimillion dollar policy on the historic home.
"We need to develop the idea about 'don't criticize but energize,'" Wade said at a news conference Wednesday morning at the house.
Members of the association struck back after the news conference. Jackie Atkins, a spokeswoman for the association, described the forced removal of the association from the home as "another Trail of Tears."
"We're not going to cave in and give that house to the RDDA," she said. "That's never going to happen."
The association also bought an hour of air time on the local UCTV television channel last week to publicly state its case and decry Rossville development's decision to dissolve the lease.
The house, which was built in the early 1800s, is the oldest building in Northwest Georgia and was the home of Cherokee Chief John Ross, the namesake for Rossville and Ross's Landing.
At the news conference, Wade laid out his plan for a city-run park encompassing the house and adjacent duck ponds. The city or development authority could turn the area into a "winter wonderland" with 100 Christmas trees or pack it with red, white and blue for Fourth of July events, he said.
"One group cannot do that by themselves," Wade said.
He and others have been trying to meet with the association's board to talk about plans since July but hadn't gotten much of a response, he said.
Atkins said the development group was trying to entangle the house's association in meetings and red tape "like grandma's yarn."
She also said Wade's claim that the group doesn't have insurance is false and that the group has $3 million in coverage.
She also blamed the development group for the "embarrassing" cancellation of the John Ross Festival over the summer and called the controversy a "festering sore."
Larry Rose, the association's president, seemed more flexible.
"The association's concern is the preservation of the house, as it has been for many years," he said in a prepared statement. "If the Rossville Downtown Development Authority wants to make improvements or additions to the surrounding areas, such as the duck pond, we would be glad to help."
Rose also added, however, that his group had documents proving "Wade was untruthful in several of his statements to the media."
Both sides say they want to meet with each other to talk things out, but they blame one another for failing to gain ground.
Wade said the only contact he's gotten from the association is from its attorney and he asked members to "lower their barriers."
"I think Mr. Wade is misinformed," Atkins said. "Instead of sitting down with us, he chose to make things difficult."
Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...