SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — The question of whether or not to apply for a grant if a municipality is not sure it's going to accept the money can be controversial, and that was the case at the April meeting of the South Pittsburg City Commission.
The board considered two resolutions at that meeting regarding significant upgrades and investment at Loyd Park.
Mayor Virgil Holder said he wasn't sure about Resolution 986, a measure to adopt a recreation plan for the city.
"I just saw it [last week]," he said. "I don't know who all was involved."
Holder said there were "several discrepancies" in the report regarding property ownership and right-of-ways put together as part of an application for a $200,000 Local Parks and Recreation Fund grant.
Jennifer Williams, a regional planner with the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said the plan was recently updated from one approved in 2009.
"Obviously, that needs to be accurate," she told the board. "I'm more than happy to make any changes that are needed."
The board could amend the plan at any time, Williams said.
If the plan was not approved, the grant couldn't be submitted since the application is due April 18, and South Pittsburg would have to wait two years to apply for the next one.
The board voted unanimously to approve the plan contingent on the changes described by Holder.
The proposed project would total $400,000 with $200,000 in grant money and South Pittsburg supplying the remaining $200,000 as a matching funds requirement.
The plan would convert the existing pool at Loyd Park into a splash pad.
The splash pad equipment is estimated to cost $150,000, while $125,000 would be needed for demolition of the existing site, upgrades and installation, and $75,000 to remodel restrooms.
Another $50,000 would be used for engineering and grant administration.
"This $400,000 is just for the splash pool?" Holder asked Williams. "We're not doing anything else with ball fields, to the playground, to the tennis courts or the grounds? This is just $400,000 for the splash pool?"
Williams confirmed all of the money would be put toward the splash pad project.
"Let's go for the grant, and if we get it, then we can decide," Commissioner Samantha Rector said. "If we sit here and do nothing, we're never going to get anything. If we get it, we don't have to take it."
At that point, other people at the meeting began shouting their support for that and concern about the lack of resources for kids in South Pittsburg.
"We have nothing for the children in this town," one resident said. "Nothing."
"We don't have anything, but we have to have the revenue to go with it," Holder replied.
He said city leaders are working to recruit new businesses to increase the town's tax revenue, but that is going to take time.
Another resident asked what the harm was in just applying for the grant.
"I can tell you what the problem is because I've done this with grants," Holder said. "If you apply for a grant, get approved for a grant, then you tell them no, they don't consider you any longer. I know this for a fact."
"Go for it," a different person shouted. "Don't chicken out before you start."
Holder said he was just looking out for taxpayers' money.
"That's what I was elected to do is watch their money, and that's what I'm doing," he said.
The board voted 3-2 to apply for the LPRF grant through Resolution 987.
"All we ever hear is we don't have any money," another resident said. "Where do you start? Do we just sit here for 10 years and not do anything because we don't have any money?"
Vice Mayor Paul Don King, who voted against applying for the grant along with Holder, said the Loyd Park pool was closed last summer after city officials determined South Pittsburg was losing between $7,000 and $10,000 per year on it.
"My argument is if we raise taxes to do all of this, are ya'll good with it?" he said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at email@example.com.