With $700K spent, new Reelfoot Lake State Park building may be torn down rather than finished

State officials are tentatively planning to demolish an interpretative visitors center that has been under construction at Reelfoot Lake State Park rather than complete it, reports the Commercial Appeal. That comes 18 months after a ceremonial groundbreaking, expenditure of up to $700,000 in taxpayer dollars and an audit indicating possible bidding improprieties in awarding a construction contract.

“We believe that the most prudent path forward might be to disassemble the building and sell the material as scrap,” said Paul Degges, chief engineer and deputy commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The scuttling of the project represents the most visible fallout from problems that led to the disbanding of a nonprofit group known as Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee. But it also deals a blow to one of Tennessee’s poorest counties, Lake County, which stood to benefit from tourist traffic headed to the center.

… A new facility was needed, officials say, because the existing museum and visitors center at the state park hadn’t been significantly upgraded in more than a half century.

“The project was intended to enhance the visitor experience at Reelfoot Lake State Park while boosting tourism and economic development in the region,” Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokesman Eric Ward said in an email.

The economic development component of the project was anything but trivial. Lake County has the third-lowest per capita income of all Tennessee counties — $24,256 in 2015, according to a recent report to the governor by the Boyd Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.

Note: Previous post (on the audit) HERE.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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