Loudon asked to pay for arena study

Vicky Newman-News-Herald

A feasibility study is needed to proceed with a 20-year project to build an agricultural multipurpose building in Loudon County.

Loudon City Council members were asked this week to support the feasibility study with a $4,000 contribution. Donna Easom-Pile, who headed up an advisory committee looking at the project, said the USDA, the planned funding source, had asked that the study be done.

"We've done as much as we can without the study," Easom-Pile said. "We've done a lot of investigation and we hadn't heard any negatives. The USDA suggested the feasibility study if we plan to apply for USDA funds.

'This will be the first time all the pieces have been put together, assembled and analyzed," she said.
The advisory committee had begun looking at building a livestock pavilion for Loudon and the county that would provide a place for animal shows and sales. The plan became something more when committee members visited The Northeast Alabama Agri-Business Center.

The multipurpose ing would be a facility that could be rented out for weddings, trade shows, 4-H and Extension and other agriculture-related programs, boat/car shows and motor coach rallies, horse shows, rodeos, covered performance venues and conference/meeting rooms.

The feasibility study will take three to six months, Easom-Pile said, and would define the need and project revenue.

The pavilion would be 71,000 square feet, contain retractable bleachers and look like an auditorium. Behind the arena will be open air barns and a staging area for car shows, monster trucks, etc. There would be 69 camping spots for people attending weekend events.

One location considered was Loudon Municipal Park, but the feasibility study will pinpoint the best potential location. Easom-Pile said about 35-40 acres will be needed.

"I think this is a good investment and we need to do it, but I don't know where we'll get the money for the feasibility study," Councilman Lynn Millsaps said.

Mayor Judy Keller agreed. "I think we should fund the study and see where we can go from there," she said.

Council members also were asked to consider funding the Loudon County E911 Center.

"We ask you to consider funding a $10,000 annual appropriation fee," Jennifer Estes, E911 director, said.

The center dispatches all emergency, fire and police units and provides the National Crime Information Center service. Because E911 is funded in part by a surcharge on land telephone lines, the center is facing funding difficulties.

"So many people have given up their land lines," Estes said. "We haven't increased our budget at all because, if we asked for an increase in the charge, it would hit our senior citizens hard. They are the ones keeping their land lines."

Estes said the requested $10,000 would be used for NCIC.

'There was a time when we contributed $24,000 a year to E911," Loudon Police Chief James "Bear" Webb said. "If you choose not to provide the NCIC service, it will cost us a whole lot to have to operate  it. We have to have it."

In other matters, council members:

Heard a presentation about Loudon Utilities Board success with the government vehicle exchange program.

Listened to concerns from Mark Harrell, parks and recreation director, about erosion problems at Riverside Park and about problems with the city pool.

Discussed concerns about Loudon County School's construction plans. Some officials fear the school sites will create drainage problems in the adjacent park.