The old saying “don’t start what you can’t finish,” is probably not taught as a maxim for government planners, but it should be.
And nowhere is a lesson needed more than with the half-funded, half thought-out plan for the historic Tate Depot.
The schemes, plots, fantasies and delusions for the scenic building on Highway 53 go back a decade and include both a welcome center and a marble museum.
In 2005, the state DOT awarded a $400,000 grant to both move the building to the other side of Highway 53 where it would sit further from traffic and partially renovate the structure; a second $400,000 grant was pledged in 2007 and the county apparently can re-assign another $400,000 grant that was originally awarded to help with courthouse parking but never used.
The combined $1.2 million is a serious chunk of funding. For a complete depot project, however, the county remains about $1 million short for total renovation based on bids already received. Commission chair Rob Jones said he was “flabbergasted” by the $2.4 million bid to have the depot fully renovated. He expressed hope that the small town of Tate or some other group might raise the rest of the funds.
Hope is a great thing, but starting a project with half of what you need and hoping for the rest is train wreck approaching.
Among the pitfalls is the lack of any strong community desire for a half-renovated building to be moved across the road. Even a decade ago, local historians weren’t happy to see the building moved -- which may leave an interesting structure but one of decidedly less value for history.
The original DOT rationale for moving the building was the fact that its eaves were too close to the road for big trucks pass by. But, consider that over the past decade we are aware of zero big trucks striking the eaves with any significant impact.
Tate leaders have expressed dismay that after a decade of fiddling around with plans at the county level, it appears now the county intends to complete half the work and “drop it in the community’s lap.”
The county believes the grants thus far will fund the move and exterior work, but not the interior.
We are also bothered by the lack of any clear-cut plans should the renovations actually be completed.
A welcome center may be a fine thing, but one on Highway 515 makes a lot more sense. And for a museum, Nelson has already purchased an old building where they may move their Marble Museum. Even if Nelson does want to give the museum to Tate, who would run it? Keep in mind the current Marble Museum started at the Chamber of Commerce building, but they didn’t have the manpower to run it and a busy chamber office. It got moved to Nelson where it has languished – with no marketing or direction. Why would it be any different in Tate?
You can’t expect to spend $1million to $2 million on a museum or welcome center and have it run only when volunteers can show up.
We urge the county to reconsider, and if they can’t convince the state to let them spend the money elsewhere possibly send it back with a Thanks but not thanks” note attached.