Today the TSEA protested the meeting for the proposed privatization of the Inn at Fall Creek Falls.
This meeting is part of the Haslam administration’s plans to spend more than $20M of our taxpayer money to demolish and rebuild the Inn and Conference center at Fall Creek Falls. Once the Inn and Conference center are rebuilt and reopen, the plans are to immediately hand over operations of the Inn and Conference center, all of the cabins, and the golf course to a private company who will then be able to profit from park visitors.
All state employees currently working at the park will once the Inn reopens lose their state jobs. Some of those employees, not all, will be offered jobs with the private company.
RFP SBC Project No. 126/036-03-2016 was recently released. TSEA staff is reviewing the details of the 140-plus page document. Here is what we already know.
• Room rates for the Inn will more than double. This will put a week-long stay at our state park out of reach of most Tennesseans.
• The private vendor under the concession agreement will receive a brand new 20 million dollar building and pay the State of Tennessee 4.5% of gross revenue from the Inn.
Public policy in Tennessee has been that state parks exist for preservation of land and supplying affordable recreation for taxpayers. The current plans of TDEC appear to move toward privatization at all state parks with Inns, restaurants or marina. We believe that is a significant public policy change that needs legislative review.
TSEA is also concerned about the timing of the RFP, some deadlines for consideration fell on December 30, 2016 at time when many businesses were closed or function with limited staff.
This is a developing story. Additional details will be provided as they become available.