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Originally published: 2013-09-10 18:37:57
Last modified: 2013-09-10 18:38:41

Board requests Daniel Boone Park cost study

by Anna Oakes

Members of a Boone town board charged with developing a licensing policy for use of the Horn in the West amphitheater and other town-owned facilities said Monday they cannot advise the town without knowing repair and maintenance needs.

The Cultural Resources Advisory Board voted to recommend that the town fund a capital improvement plan for the amphitheater and Daniel Boone Park facility, including prioritized repair needs and cost estimates.

For decades, the town has leased the property to the Southern Appalachian Historical Association, which produces the outdoor drama "Horn in the West" in the park's amphitheater and operates the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum on the grounds, as well.

In July, however, the Boone Town Council voted to switch to a licensing agreement with SAHA in 2014. Town attorney Sam Furgiuele has advised that a licensing system allows the town to maintain its rights to the property, while also opening the property up to more potential users and revenue.

The council directed the town's Cultural Resources Advisory Board and the town attorney to develop a licensing process for town properties and to develop an administrative, operational and staffing plan for that process, to be completed by July 2014.

Mark Freed, programs coordinator for the Boone Cultural Resources Department, displayed a slideshow of photos of the property's repair needs, including roof damage, water damage to buildings, dysfunctional bathroom fixtures and drainage and plumbing issues.

Frank Mohler, Cultural Resources Advisory Board chairman, said he did not believe the board could advise on a licensing policy without knowing the costs associated with operating the facility.

Boone Cultural Resources Director Pilar Fotta countered that it would be difficult to determine operational costs without knowing the potential users of the facility, calling it a "chicken and egg" issue.

The mounting repair and deferred maintenance needs at the town-owned park is a key issue as the town transitions to a new licensing model for use of town facilities. Questions remain to be answered as to which parties will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and about additional costs the town could incur -- including staff time -- if it takes on duties previously completed by lessee SAHA.

"I personally have doubts there will be enough users to offset costs," Mohler said.

Board member Billy Ralph Winkler -- a former SAHA chairman -- said he could not envision an arrangement in which SAHA is expected to continue its current maintenance responsibilities without having the same rights to the property.

"That would bother me," Winkler said.

Mohler and board member Cheryl Prisco agreed that continuing to expect SAHA to maintain the property is "unrealistic."