City to address visitor center renovation budget

Plans $150,000 over initial proposal
Jan. 08, 2013 @ 11:01 PM

The Gatlinburg City Commission is set to discuss updated information regarding the budget of a visitor center renovation project at its pre-meeting workshop today.

The Parkway Visitor Center Renovation Project has been in the works for a while. In February 2012, the commission approved a grant agreement with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) regarding the project. During that meeting, design consultant Steve Fritts said the cost of the project would be approximately $700,000. Of that total, $506,000 would be provided by the TDOT grant.

When the numbers finally came in, they were much higher than anticipated, Mayor Mike Werner said.

"We talked and everyone was in favor, then the number came in and it was $150,000 over the proposed budget," Werner said. "When you get a number like that, it's important to have a workshop and sit down with the people you're working with and see what you're dealing with."

Werner said, however, that it's still important to proceed with the project, with "anything that can help that end of town.

It's important, he said, because that end of town has been in "an economic slump."

Some of the proposed changes to the Parkway Visitor Center, located at the intersection of U.S. 321 and U.S. 441 (Traffic Light No. 3), include a splash pad, interpretive mountain areas, expanded seating areas and removal of vegetation.

"It's something that's really going to draw people into town," Werner said. "Hopefully we can get the numbers worked out. It's a tough economic time for everybody, but this is a good opportunity, and we need to take it."

rhargett@themountainpress.com