The Van Buren County Commission and other local elected leaders during a meeting Thursday night announced they are investigating possible legal action to halt the Haslam administration’s plans to demolish and rebuild the Fall Creek Falls Inn.
TSEA attended Thursday’s special meeting of the Van Buren County Commission alongside approximately a hundred residents and concerned citizens. During the meeting, members of the commission, as well as Van Buren County Mayor Greg Wilson, discussed the idea of legal action as well as other long-term solutions, including building the new Inn on the other side of the lake so that the old Inn remains open during construction.
Currently, the state plans to close the Inn on April 2, demolish the current inn and rebuild a new facility in its place. The Haslam administration estimates the entire process will take about 1 ½ to 2 years to complete, but some believe the process could take up to 3 years. As it stands, all employees currently working at the Inn and conference center will lose their jobs and benefits sometime before April 2.
Earlier this week, Mayor Greg Wilson told the Times Free Press that he didn’t understand why the state doesn’t build the new inn across the lake where the marina, tennis courts, a zip line, a store and a pool are already located. “You don’t have the impact on employees and your revenues are still there,” Wilson said. “You’re going to foster those businesses right there and there’s going to be more for people to do. So it’s going to be more of an attraction in my opinion.”
TSEA Middle Tennessee Vice President Donnie Cole and long-time TSEA Field Rep Terrell Gregory were both recognized during the meeting and offered support for the employees and the idea of relocating the build site.
“We have a room full of people, and nobody in here is for the [administration’s] plan,” TSEA Middle Tennessee Vice President Donnie Cole said to the group gathered at Thursday’s meeting. “How many times did someone ask the employees how they felt about this? The idea of building the new inn near the swimming pool, ballparks, and zip line and leaving the old one open till the new one is built would keep jobs and makes a lot of sense.”
TSEA is troubled by the loss of jobs and benefits for the employees currently working at the Inn, as well as the economic impact on the surrounding communities who depend on revenue generated by park visitors.
“TSEA is concerned for these employees and their families,” TSEA Executive Director Randy Stamps said. “Yes, some of them will get the severance package, but these workers have few local options once their jobs at the park are eliminated. And remember, this Inn and conference center will be closed for two years or more, drying up a significant chunk of revenue for the local economy. When this happens, local employers will be looking for ways to cut costs, not ways to keep and add more employees.”
In response to the idea of relocating the build site, earlier this week Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokesman Eric Ward told the Times Free Press the other location was considered, but the administration determined it would incur more costs and would cause that area of the park to become congested.
This is a developing story. We will continue to keep you updated in the weeks and months ahead.