The unfortunate demolition of the Old School House/Community Center on Hwy. 25 in Cottontown in September 2022 set off a community firestorm. The fires are only getting hotter from all sides.
Part of that firestorm includes a property at 2268 Hwy 25 in Cottontown where the Old Historic Post Office and the Old Postmaster’s Home reside. This was one of two properties the County applied for the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program around 2018.
Overwhelmingly, citizens want to protect and preserve the structures on this property due to their cultural importance and historical significance.
However, the County Mayor recently vetoed a resolution by the Commission whereby the Commission was honoring the requests of residents to save one of these structures from being demolished and the other from needlessly being relocated to the Old School House/Community Center property.
Since both properties are partly in the flood zone, you would gain nothing by moving the Old Post Office from one location to another. Portions of these properties never seriously flooded until the County stopped dredging and clearing organic debris from the creek bed around those properties.
At the request of citizens, the Commission voted to remove the property at 2268 Hwy. 25 in Cottontown from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program in order to prevent more needless destruction of Cottontown history.
The Commission also successfully voted to override the mayor’s veto. The best part about what the Commission did is that it saved taxpayers money. It did not cost the taxpayers more money, as it was incorrectly stated and presented to the public.
The real story is that the hardworking taxpayers of Sumner County would always lose at least $131,247.70 on these two combined FEMA properties based on the entirety of the original costs of $384,757.64 from 2018, no matter what actions the Commission took.
Again, this loss of taxpayer dollars includes $20,000 in non-reimbursable taxpayer funds for the unwarranted demolition of the Old School House/Community Center and over $70,000 in non-reimbursable taxpayer funds for unnecessary relocation costs for the Old Post Office.
Additionally, due to a lack of disclosure from the County Mayor’s Office managing this program, there was no time to process a new request for reimbursements for cost increases between 2018-2022, including increased property values and demolition costs.
FEMA would have given us an additional reimbursement of $48,059.94 to cover the shortfalls paying back the County approximately $253,509.94 of the $384,757.64 total expenses to the County for all the projects related to these two properties.
If the Commission completed the original plan from 2018 for both of these “FEMA” properties, the County would lose $179,307.63 because of the lost opportunity for the increased FEMA payouts. So, we voted to take the most fiscally responsible approach, which left the taxpayers only on the hook for $165,796.08, with total savings on the project of $13,511.56. These numbers are based on the only accurate information we have been given to date or could find at the time of our meetings.
What former elected officials did to violate private property rights in and around Cottontown can and will happen again unless we do what we can to protect and preserve the immediate and outlying properties in this area.
I’m proud of what this Commission has done to take a pivotal first step in safeguarding structures of cultural and historical significance in Cottontown from predatory developers, high-density development and stopping the use of eminent domain to steal private property for a proposed greenway system leading up to the Bridal House and these FEMA properties.
County Commissioner Jeremy Mansfield represents Distrcit 16.