published Monday, May 28th, 2012

Marion County gets free mowing contract

John Graham stands in front of the Marion County Courthouse in this file photo.
John Graham stands in front of the Marion County Courthouse in this file photo.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. -- While the Holland Farm property along U.S. Highway 41 in Kimball sits vacant, waiting for a proposed technical school to be built, Marion County must provide upkeep on the land.

County Mayor John Graham said he put out bids for mowing the 150-acre property more than a month ago.

"Last year, we had at least three bidders, and we awarded one that actually paid the county $600 to do that," he said. "This year, nobody turned in a bid."

In the past, contractors have paid the county so they could use the land to reap hay while taking care of the mowing at the same time.

"We contacted some of the people that turned bids in before, and they said it wasn't valuable enough for them at this time," Graham said.

The property hasn't been fertilized, he said, so "it's not producing hay."

Since the county didn't get a bid for the mowing work, officials are allowed to negotiate with anyone who might be interested.

Graham told the Marion County Commission last week that a county resident is interested, but only if he can secure a three-year commitment from the board.

"That's so he can know that, if he goes out there next fall and fertilizes it, that he'll be the one reaping the benefits of the work he put into the property," Graham said.

The board voted unanimously to approve the proposed contract.

Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger said the contract provided protection for the county while obtaining the mowing services.

Ultimate plans for the property are to build a technical and career school that will be run by Chattanooga State Community College.

Commissioner Jane Dawkins, chairwoman of the board's Education Committee, said material selections and drawings have been submitted to Chattanooga State officials to "see if that met with their approval."

Graham said the resident is "aware that [the county] may be building on the property soon."

"If the new school project becomes a reality and construction starts, it does not modify the contract other than that he loses that acreage," Gouger said.

If more construction takes place beyond the initial building over the next three years, the same situation of lost acreage would occur without altering the rest of the contract, he said.

The resident is responsible for any seeding and fertilizing costs and, because he will be considered an independent contractor, the county is not responsible for insurance coverage, officials said.

"This is totally no cost to the county," Gouger said. "The county gets the benefits of the services he's providing."

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