The marquee at the restored Princess Theater welcomes visitors at the National Cornbread Festival on Aug. 26, 2015, in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — City leaders in South Pittsburg are considering relinquishing management of the historic Princess Theater to the South Pittsburg Historical Preservation Society.

City Administrator Gene Vess said he was approached recently by some of the organization's members about the idea.

"What they would like to try to do, since they're being the lead so far on improvements at the Princess Theater, is they're interested in working out a lease agreement with the city for them to lease the Princess Theater from us," he said.

The organization offered to "take on some of the costs" the city is now paying, Vess said, which he said would help "a little bit" on the next fiscal year's budget.

At the South Pittsburg City Commission's June meeting, Vess recommended the board proceed with working out a rental agreement with the group, so they could "take over and run" the theater, which dates back to 1920.

"The city will still own it," Vess said. "We'll make the payments, and it will still be under our insurance, but [the society] will actually be the one that's leasing it from the city for events and things like that."

Commissioner Ronnie Lancaster said he'd rather see the lease in writing before he votes on the issue.

"That's my thoughts on it, too," Mayor Virgil Holder said.

He said he wanted to see a legal document of what's proposed that's "signed by the authorized person that can do this."

"Then, we go proceed with it from there," Holder said.

City Attorney Billy Gouger said working out an agreement would be a two-step process.

"There's going to have to be the authorization to proceed with it first, and then that would then enable the city to negotiate with the Historic Preservation Society to come up with a document that can then be presented to this board for approval," he said.

The historical society would have to get legal counsel, too, to look over the document on its behalf, Gouger said.

"So, it's going to be something that's going to take a little bit of time," he said.

The board voted unanimously to give Vess the authority to proceed with negotiations with the organization.

Gouger said he would expect a meeting between city officials and society representatives soon to get "the basic terms" worked out.

"Who has what responsibilities needs to be determined on the front end, and then that would be incorporated into the written lease agreement for consideration by the board of mayor and commissioners," he said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at