Political News

Tennessee governor to drop privatization push at state parks

Posted August 25

— Gov. Bill Haslam's administration is dropping efforts to outsource management of Tennessee's state parks and will let his successor decide whether to renew the privatization attempt.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press , Tennessee Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau told lawmakers Thursday he will focus on using the $138 million previously approved over the last five years to address capital needs at state parks.

This spring, no one bid on the proposal to outsource hospitality services at Fall Creek Falls State Park and use $20 million in state money to tear down its inn and build a new one. The park is located on the Upper Cumberland Plateau in Van Buren and Bledsoe counties.

The Tennessee State Employees Association, park workers and some lawmakers opposed the idea. Architects and engineers also grew concerned that the vendor would short-change them or opt to use professionals from other states.

Martineau said Thursday he thinks the lack of bids resulted from expensive asbestos removal mitigation that the inn would require.

In 2015, outsourcing plans at 11 state parks likewise yielded no interest from private vendors.

Asked Thursday about the decision, Haslam said that work at the state parks won't be finished before his term ends in January 2019.

"It didn't feel right for us to say that we were going to hire an operator for the park or decide that we were going to operate the park ourselves when we are not going to be the ones to be in office at that time," Haslam said at an event in Chattanooga.

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