Billy Gouger, Marion County attorney

KIMBALL, Tenn. — Town leaders are wrestling with the question of whether Kimball should allow for-profit vendors to use public space or allow only nonprofit groups that option.

"We weren't allowing anybody for profit to use a municipal building, but we have allowed it at the park," Mayor Rex Pesnell said.

Last month, he asked City Attorney Billy Gouger to research the issue and report to the board.

At the October meeting of the Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Gouger shared his findings and provided some sample provisions from other towns for the board to consider going forward.

"One thing that I found that's a little bit different than the direction we had [in a previous discussion] is that instead of focusing on nonprofit versus for-profit entities, most of these regulations that other municipalities have enacted are more toward public profit versus private profit," Gouger said.

Many towns allow vendors to generate revenue on public property at events for the public's benefit.

Gouger said a good example of that is Kimball's annual car show that benefits the Marion County Sheriff's Department's Christmas fund for needy children.

"There were some private vendors there who were marketing their products privately, but they had contributed to and paid fees that went ultimately to the benefit of the sheriff's Christmas program," he said.

Instead of focusing on a nonprofit entity using [city property] versus a for-profit entity, Gouger said, city leaders should look at the "end result."

"Who gets the benefit of what's being done on the town's property?" he asked. "I would encourage this board and the park board both to be open-minded, and if it is a private vendor or private user of the facility but the end result is a public benefit to the town, its citizens, its taxpayers or the county as a whole, then be flexible enough that you can allow that type of use."

Many municipalities make the issue discretionary, so private businesses have to disclose their purposes in using the public's property.

If an event is for private benefit only, Gouger said, that should be "discouraged" by the board.

"In many instances, when you allow that, you're competing also with allowing somebody to use town property to compete with businesses that you have here that are paying taxes and other charges to the town," he said.

Pesnell asked that the board table the issue so its members and Kimball's park board, which serves as an advisory group, could study Gouger's findings and decide what to do next.

Most of Kimball Park's recent upgrades have been made through a Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant, and Gouger said he also wants to make sure there are no restrictions that could limit what the town could do regarding the issue.

"Even if there are some limitations related to that, I don't think they'll be permanent," he said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at