The officials who oversee the Reelfoot Lake State Park in Lake County reportedly made a major mistake, and federal taxpayers lost $700,000 because of it.
According to The Dyersburg State Gazette this week, the feds gave the state of Tennessee $1.5 million to build a visitors’ center at the park.
Then, after half the money was spent, the powers that be put construction on hold after Tennessee Comptrollers discovered government officials “failed to properly bid out the job and awarded the project to an architect firm from Memphis with a direct conflict of interest,” according to the paper.
“Following the decision by state officials to tear down the building that was to house the Reelfoot Lake interactive visitor center, crews began the demolition earlier this week,” the paper reported.
“The building’s fate was revealed in July 2018, after the structure failed to meet seismic code.”
Lake County Mayor Denny Johnson told the paper the visitor center had to have 60 foot pilings because of that area’s history of seismic activity.
The building, however, was constructed with 20-foot-deep pilings. Johnson told the paper the remaining $800,000 in funds will get used to build a new facility.
Johnson did not return The Tennessee Star’s request for comment Friday.
State funds covered 20 percent of the project’s cost, according to the State Gazette.
“The center was to enhance the visitor experience and boost tourism as well as economic development in the Reelfoot Lake area and Lake County, which has the third-lowest per capita income of all Tennessee counties,” according to the paper.
“The new center would serve as an upgrade to the existing museum and visitor center at Reelfoot Lake State Park, which has not been updated since the 1960s.”
State Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, said the Department of Justice is investigating based on findings from the State Comptroller’s Office.
“Until that, nothing will be resolved. Furthermore, it was federal money that was used for the project. It was not state money,” Sanderson said.
“The state really has no jurisdiction or power to do anything with it.”
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Reelfoot Lake State Park” by tnstateparks.com/parks/reelfoot-lake.