The authority will ask the county to consider allocating the original $150,000 in historical SPLOST funds to the DDA for a down payment on the old post gym. This amount would have gone to the museum to upgrade the city-owned building that the 6th Cavalry is now housed in, authority chair Jeff Epperson reasoned.
“That money is still earmarked for that purpose,” Epperson said.
The DDA chair suggested the authority could put a $100,000 down payment on the old post gym, owned by local businesswoman Judy O’Neal, and set $50,000 aside to pay the museum’s operational costs for one year.
“We would borrow the rest,” Epperson said. O’Neal had previously said she would sell the historic building on LaFayette Road for $350,000. She made it plain to the city council last week that she would not sell the building unless it was bought for the 6th Cavalry Museum’s use, according to Epperson.
“We have to see if the county would allow us to do this,” Epperson said.
The city rejected the county’s lease proposal on April 9. City council members voted 4-1 not to enter into a lease agreement with the county. The county would have retained ownership of the post gym – because the funding was raised through a one-penny sales tax - and the city would have been financially responsible to the county for the museum’s maintenance and operational costs. County Attorney Chad Young had told the council the county would likely redirect the $350,000 in SPLOST funds to its ongoing courthouse renovation project, should a lease agreement on the post gym fall through.
Epperson said the authority should respect the city’s decision. However, the DDA was created to incubate business in Fort Oglethorpe’s downtown area and providing the museum a visible location could draw tourism and other merchants to the city, he said.
Museum executive director Chris McKeever confirmed the museum board was prepared to move forward with a capital campaign to raise the necessary maintenance and operational funds.
“The money is out there but they (the museum) had to have a specific project before they can do that,” Epperson said.
The DDA chair added the authority would be responsible for insuring the museum, should the county agree to the DDA’s proposal.
“I think we’d be crazy not to try,” Epperson said. “All they can say is no.”
In other authority business, the DDA welcomed new authority member Harold Silcox. Silcox was approved 3-2 by the city council on March 26. Council members Charles Sharrock and Eddie Stinnett opposed Silcox’s nomination. Silcox filled the authority seat previously held by Harry Patel who stepped down in January.
Silcox is well known to Fort Oglethorpe voters having served several terms on the city council, most recently from early 2006 to late 2009. He ran unsuccessfully against city council member Charles Sharrock for Ward 4 last year.
Epperson said he expects to receive a letter of resignation from authority member Jack Bell. Bell’s continued scheduling conflict has prevented him from attending authority meetings, according to Epperson. The DDA chair suggested Bell stay involved with the authority in another capacity. The authority intends to form subcommittees as the LaFayette Road revitalization project moves forward, Epperson said.
The DDA currently meets at 6 p.m. the third Monday of the month. To be eligible to serve on the authority individuals must live in Fort Oglethorpe or own or operate a business in the Fort Oglethorpe downtown district and live in Walker or Catoosa counties. Residents or business people who are eligible and interested in serving on the DDA can pick up an application at city hall. Eligible applicants must then be nominated by the authority and approved by the city council.
The authority also listened as Gateway Mall owner Linda Halpin suggested she partner with the DDA on family-style events, such as the Cruise-in or a farmer’s market. Halpin’s shopping center is on Cloud Springs Road, adjacent to Costco near I-75. She said with her property’s proximity to the freeway, more sales tax dollars from such events would stay in Fort Oglethorpe rather than be funneled into Chattanooga.