Tribune-Courier News Editor
The Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking $5,000 from Marshall County to renew an easement for land it owns, but has been improved by the county into a day-use park.
Nicholas Morris, recreation agreement specialist, sent a letter to Larry Whitt, Marshall County parks director, dated March 26. Whitt delivered the letter to Judge-Executive Mike Miller. The letter requested the county address a safety issue at Big Bear Park. Morris wrote the county’s easement expired on March 13, 2011 and needs a new easement to continue to operate the park. The initial easement request processing fee is $5,000 and the TVA must recover all costs associated with the review and execution of the easement.
Miller said he contacted Morris on April 4.
“I don’t mind telling you I was upset,” Miller said.
Miller said the county provided park improvements of up to $100,000 of county money. Big Bear Park includes a two-lane boat ramp, a courtesy dock, two picnic shelters, a large parking area for vehicles and boat trailers and a playground. The county also provides regular mowing, trash collection and law enforcement patrols by the Sheriff’s Department.
“They told me to write a letter requesting a fee waiver. I will send that Monday,” Miller said. “That $5,000 may not be all the money they will be asking for.”
Marshall County maintains day-use parks on TVA land in other locations. Miller said a similar facility exists on Buckhorn Bay, and operates boat ramps and courtesy docks on Barge Island, Jonathan Creek and Old U.S. 80 near Jonathan Creek. The county could face similar fees for new easements as current easements at these facilities expire.
“I don’t know what to expect about other facilities,” Miller said. “This came out of the blue. We’ve put a lot of time, effort and money to develop these areas as day-use parks. I don’t understand why they are being so stubborn about this.”
Scott Brooks, TVA spokesman, said the term of the easement for the Big Bear Park was 25 years, and was created in 1986. The normal term for a land-use easement is 30 years.
“The $5,000 figure is a standard cost-recovery amount for an easement for any entity, be it a home, business or government,” Brooks said. “In some cases, we have to have competitive market research or a survey before we grant an easement.”
Brooks said the TVA does grant waivers of the fee on an individual, case-by-case basis. Waiver requests must be submitted in writing and have a justification.
“We’ll work with the county and try to see what is happening. The bottom line is this property belongs to the rate payers of the TVA,” Brooks said. “The county is providing a public service by maintaining and operating the park, so we will consider that.”
Marshall County has options with the TVA. Brooks said his agency is willing to work with Miller and the county to find a solution.
“The TVA is in the same position as a lot of local governments in that we don’t receive federal funding like we did. All costs must be recovered by rate payers,” Brooks said.
on TVA land:
* BIG BEAR PARK
2-lane boat ramp
* BUCKHORN BAY
2-lane boat ramp
* BARGE ISLAND
* JONATHAN CREEK
* OLD HWY 80,