Panel: Carousel should stay at farmers market

Matthew Lane • Nov 9, 2012 at 1:00 AM

KINGSPORT -- A volunteer committee charged with finding the best possible location for the carousel project has recommended it remain at the Kingsport Farmers Market and not relocate to the Legion Pool site, as was proposed by the carvers three months ago.

However, the decision to keep the carousel at the farmers market is somewhat contingent upon the city creating a small park near the proposed site, which would require Kingsport acquiring a small piece of property from Food City.

Over the past five years, Engage Kingsport -- a group of woodcarvers and volunteers -- has been working to re-create a traditional carousel in downtown Kingsport, complete with 32 wooden animals and chariots. This past June, the group recommended, essentially at the 11th hour, moving the carousel from its presumed location beside the farmers market to the Legion Pool site.

Whenever Legion Pool is phased out of operation, Kingsport has future plans for the site, transforming the property into a small park with a multi-use field, playground, interactive water feature and picnic pavilions. Engage Kingsport officials felt the carousel would fit better in a park setting with other nearby amenities, rather than the confined and constrained downtown location.

In July, Mayor Dennis Phillips charged a committee of city staff and community members to determine the best location for the carousel and return with a recommendation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. That took place this week with the recommendation being to keep the carousel at the farmers market.

"We looked at a lot of locations and some have been discussed in the past," said Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager. "Timing was a big issue. How quickly the site could be acquired and prepped for development. And green space, the one (issue) driving the whole process. The carvers felt very passionate about people having other opportunities once they got (to the carousel)."

Engage Kingsport had been planning to launch the carousel at the downtown location in June 2013. However, the BMA has pledged to keep Legion Pool open at least a year after the aquatic center opens in May 2013, which means the Legion Pool site could be unavailable for the carousel until 2014.

McCartt said the farmers market location was selected by the committee contingent upon the city acquiring some adjacent property at the corner of Press and Clinchfield streets for green space.

The site in question is a portion of the 8.5 acres Food City purchased from the city a few years ago for $1 million in order to build its new grocery store. Quebecor World originally donated the property to Kingsport five years ago when the company declared bankruptcy.

Now it seems Kingsport needs to buy back a piece of the property from Food City or maybe trade it for some property on the back side of the grocery store along Roller Street, as suggested by a couple of members of the BMA this week.

McCartt said the city has been in discussions with Food City regarding the property and the company is agreeable to selling it. During Monday's BMA work session, McCartt laid out a $300,000 price tag for the small park, which would include property acquisition, utility relocation costs and site work.

Mayor Dennis Phillips said no one is adamantly opposed to keeping the carousel project at the farmers market.

"We didn't want to see the carving come to an end and everything placed in storage while the (Legion Pool) site became ready," McCartt noted.

Kingsport hopes to have the property in hand by the end of the year and put the project out to bid by late spring in line with Engage Kingsport's time frame for constructing the 60-foot octagonal building adjacent to the farmers market, which will house the carousel. Engage Kingsport is working to raise the estimated $500,000 necessary to cover the cost of this building.

Reggie Martin, with Engage Kingsport, told the BMA this week all of the carving and the restoration of the carousel frame should be complete by August 2013. The construction of the carousel's building should take six to nine months to complete.

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