published Monday, June 30th, 2014

Mountain Cove Farms to get new manager

Horses graze in front of the Mountain Cove Farms barn in Kensington, Ga.
Horses graze in front of the Mountain Cove Farms barn in Kensington, Ga.
Photo by Staff File Photo.

Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell is calling in the cavalry at Mountain Cove Farms.

But this time it's not for a re-enactment.

At her commissioner's meeting last week she announced the county is entering into a management agreement for Mountain Cove Farms with a hospitality management firm out of Kennesaw, Ga., called CUSA LLC. Final negotiations are ongoing, but Heiskell said the county will likely pay $3,000 a month for CUSA to manage the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, store and rentals; handle financial auditing and statements; and assist with events.

"To put it bluntly, we weren't doing a very good job managing it ourselves and were losing a lot of money," said Walker County Chief Financial Officer Greg McConnell.

Between capital expenses on finishing construction at Mountain Cove Farms and operational costs, he said the county has lost around $250,000 at Mountain Cove Farms this year.

"We as a county government have done as much as we can toward the hospitality industry," said Heiskell. "That's not our expertise. We got it ready to do something with. I never expected to get into resort or restaurant business or anything like that."

Starting out, the county will have a month-to-month contract with the CUSA, she said. Once profits increase at Mountain Cove Farms, CUSA also will receive a percentage of the profits -- probably around 3 percent, said Heiskell.

According to its website, "CUSA has consistently been ranked as one of the leading hospitality and commercial management companies in the country." Its client list includes Hyatt Hotels Corp., Sheraton Corp. and Hilton Hotels Corp.

David Ashburn, who managed construction at Mountain Cove Farms, will likely manage the transitional period, but after CUSA takes over they will manage it exclusively, said McConnell. Ashburn will still work with the county.

Contact Rachel Sauls-Wright at rsauls@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6439.

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