Henry County and Eminence residents will have to look for a water oasis somewhere other than Eminence’s Coach D Park.
Eminence Mayor Drane Stephens announced in November that the city would receive a $42,000 match Land and Water grant for a proposed 1,050-square foot water feature to be built near the old pump house in the park.
The Land and Water grants are available for projects up to $75,000 and come from the Land and Water Conservation fund to protect natural areas, acquire land for outdoor recreation and as an aid to renovate public outdoor recreational areas. The city applied for the grant May 2012.
The grant was to act as part of an initial project to renovate Eminence City Park. The project included a second pavilion, repaving tennis courts, new nets and poles and fencing with contingencies. The city has finished construction on a new pavilion.
The water park design was to include eight different water features with a reclaiming drainage system. Governor Besheare ultimately did not award the grant to the city of Eminence.
Stephens said the city has reapplied.
“We were the highest rated application in the state. We were chosen to receive the grant, notified by the selection committee, then the governor chose to overrule the committee’s selection and recommendation and give it to another city,” Stephens said. “The governor didn’t do the right thing.”
Stephens said in November that the city could make good on a promise for a water feature; a promise made when the city pool was closed in 2002.
Tony Wilder, Commissioner of the Department for Local Government, said the committee only acts in an advisory capacity and works with scarce funding.
“We only have about $600,000 in grant money and the committee looks at projects with subjective criteria,” Wilder said. “No one on the staff here talked to the mayor. If he was aware of scores a committee member must have told him and made an assumption.”
Wilder said the appointed committee works in confidentiality. Scores are based off of complex variables and committee members are admonished about sharing any information.
“The committee looks at many different things and there is little money in this fund,” Wilder said. “The governor looks over these projects and he makes the final decision.”