UCHRA is hoping to close on the sale of Lakeside Resort in DeKalb County to the Brentwood Arts Society by September 30th. If the deal doesn't go through, UCHRA is looking at the possibility of opening a residential center for youth there.
In April, 2012 UCHRA settled on a deal to sell the facility to the Brentwood entity controlled by Jim Himelrick and Bob Pierce, real estate developers and former investors in Nashville Shores.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, last fall approved allowing the non-profit Brentwood Arts Society to assume the land lease. Rural Development had to approve a loan to Brentwood Arts before the transaction could be finalized.
In an interview with WJLE Thursday, Randall Killman, UCHRA Human Resource and Community Relations Director said UCHRA is still hoping to do business with Brentwood Arts Society. "Rural Development has notified us that the Brentwood Arts Society has agreed to a closing date of September 30 to finalize the transfer of the Lakeside facility. That's good news in the fact that this date has been set. At that point and time they will need to have all their money secured to be able to do the closing and we are hopeful that will happen. Of course the property is owned by the Corps of Engineers (federally owned property cannot be sold) but they (Brentwood Arts Society) are purchasing the equipment, the furnishings, and the rights to be able to occupy it and to be able to use the facility. The sale amount is the closing amount. Rural Development has issued some requirements for them as far as having some money in an escrow to cover any unexpected expenses that might occur. But the sale price is for the amount that is still owed on it. The amount is approximately $1.6 million," said Killman.
If Brentwood Arts Society can't secure funding and the closing does not occur, Killman said UCHRA may go the route of a residential center for youth at Lakeside. "In any good business plan, you'll always have a plan "B" and maybe even a plan "C", "D", and "E" hopefully to be able to operate in case this (closing) doesn't go through. Our Executive Director, Mr. Luke Collins has been working very hard on that for the past several months and looking at several different options. One of the options, which seems to be, in the early stages, our most viable option is a type of residential center. Something similar to what we do now. We have three different residential centers now. We have one in DeKalb County, Putnam County, and Crossville working with youth so this would be a program similar to that in which we would utilize that area (Lakeside) for that purpose. It's something we're looking into. It would give us the opportunity to be able to serve many more youth than we are currently able to serve. Of course there is always a need for that in the state of Tennessee and around the country, to help those that are in situations that might not get help otherwise. We're looking forward to that possibility if this process doesn't go through. Of course we are in the early stages of planning. We would be working with the Department of Children Services and there will be a lot to have to do to be able to get that (Lakeside) in the position of where we could provide residential services down there for the youth. We would have to work very closely with DCS to be able to do that such as form contracts and make sure that everything was appropriate for the youth down there. The current thought process is to have residential facilities for youth. Most likely it would be teen youth. As far as the specifics go we really have not gotten to that point yet to determine what particular area we may target more. But this definitely is the plan "B"," said Killman.
According to a recent published report in the Herald-Citizen of Cookeville, UCHRA Residential Services Director Brian Swearingen presented a plan to the policy council on Tuesday, August 20, with proposals of opening an enhanced level II alcohol and drug program for adolescents and a primary treatment center and detention at Lakeside.
County Mayor Mike Foster told WJLE Friday that he missed that UCHRA policy council meeting where the residential center option was discussed but believes it is too premature for anyone to speculate on what the UCHRA board will do if the deal with Brentwood Arts Society does not go through. "The day that they had the last meeting, Tuesday August 20 I was at the Hurricane Bridge dedication and missed whatever they (UCHRA officials) talked about in that meeting. But I think they have seven or eight hypothetical situations that they have been talking about though none of them have been approved and we would certainly have to know a whole lot more about them before I think the board would approve any of them. I know they're talking to some church groups and other people for other uses of that (Lakeside) but again none of them have been approved," he said.
Foster said he believes Lakeside should continue to be used as a tourist attraction and by the Brentwood Arts Society if possible. "My first choice is that, hopefully this sale will go through, and it winds up being a tourism attraction which would be a good thing for the community I think. That is the only proposal that has been accepted by the (UCHRA) board and I think it is by far the best proposal. They would use it in connection with their arts and plays that they have and they would also offer a destination tourism attraction, where it would attract people to come there to see plays and to stay in the cabins or motel. To me that's by far the better situation," Foster told WJLE.
"Of course, obviously we still have options, running it as a resort area and trying to do some improvements to the facility and also to do things to promote it more to be able to encourage more people to stay there," said Killman. " But we feel like as an agency that the most viable option for us at this point, if this closing does not happen with the Brentwood Arts Society, would be for us to look at this youth facility. So now we're at a point where if the Brentwood Arts Society can get the financial backing to be able to close this on September 30, we'll be good to go," said Killman.
Himelrick and Pierce of Brentwood Arts Society had reached a deal in April, 2012 to acquire the Lakeside facilities from UCHRA by the first of the year (2013) but also operate it for a fee of $5,000 a month until then. Under the existing lease and loan terms, a non-profit has to be in control of the property.
UCHRA Executive Director Luke Collins, who addressed the county commission during its regular monthly meeting in January said the Brentwood Arts Society would bring more activities to the county through Lakeside Resort. "I think that change will be a win, win for everybody. I think the Brentwood Arts Society will bring more activities to Smithville and DeKalb County and more opportunities because that's more of what they do. They are specialized in doing those things and I think they would be a better suited organization to manage Lakeside. We (UCHRA) are primarily into social services. That's primarily what we do. But Lakeside is a great facility. It offers a lot of educational opportunities for DeKalb County and a lot of jobs. It's brought a lot of tourists here. We want it to continue to be an asset to DeKalb County and I think it will," said Collins
"It would still be run as an educational facility," said County Mayor Mike Foster during that January meeting. "It would still be open to the public and it would probably help create a resort area for DeKalb County and the Upper Cumberland area in that it would still be run as a motel, a destination, a training center, and would still provide a lot of the same services that it has in the past. But it would be run by a private organization," he added.
Brentwood Arts Society provides financial support to the Town Centre Theater in Brentwood, which also has a production group that put on play performances last year at the new DeKalb County Complex auditorium.
Lakeside Resort, consisting of 139 acres on the banks of Center Hill Lake off of the Cookeville Highway, created problems for UCHRA financially, by being unable to support itself or to service the debt on the $1.6 million note owed on property there.