Green Guide

Tennessee state park outsourcing push draws no bidders

Posted May 11

— A push by Gov. Bill Haslam's administration to outsource hospitality services at a Tennessee state park has drawn no bidders.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman Kim Schofinski told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/2r5WzL9 ) on Wednesday that no one bid on the proposal at Fall Creek Falls State Park, located on the Upper Cumberland Plateau in Van Buren and Bledsoe counties.

Schofinski said the department is thankful Haslam and state lawmakers "allocated funding to enhance the user experience at Fall Creek Falls, and we will evaluate how to best manage those resources as we move forward."

TDEC planned to award the winning bidder $20 million in public money to raze the park's inn and build a new one.

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.

In 2015, similar plans to outsource hospitality services at 11 state parks likewise yielded no interest from private vendors.

The administration pointed at the shoddy shape of state park facilities, and put $55 million in capital improvements into the parks in 2015.

Haslam has set aside $52 million for various parks in the new state budget that kicks in July 1, sparking concerns from critics that the money may mean further outsourcing attempts.

Haslam has contended that park services, including restaurants, golf courses, inns and marinas, could be better run at a cheaper price by private groups instead of government workers.

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