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Cari – If possible, please clarify the following. You say that the County Purchasing Department awarded the winning proposal 10 points and the Dewhirst project 0 points in the financial category. Do you mean that the County actually awarded the winning proposal 50 points (10 points per each evaluator) and the Dewhirst proposal 0 points for each evaluator? If this is true then it shows the power that one anonymous county employee had in determining the outcome of this process and also shows that, when rated by 5 evaluators, the Dewhirst proposal was rated 40 points higher than the winning proposal. Is this correct?
Continued from above…Speaking of businesses, it should be noted that the interests of neither the surrounding businesses nor the surrounding neighborhoods were represented in the selection committee. The interests of these businesses and individuals were, however, represented in the report prepared by the Community Design Center and attached to the County-issued RFP. From the Design Center’s report, it is clear that the surrounding community rejects the proposed use of low-income housing, senior or otherwise. The Family Pride/Southeastern Housing group is aware of this fact and has even acknowledged this within section 4.4.2 of their proposal where they have stated, “As referenced in the Community Design Center’s recommendations, many transitional, homeless or subsidized housing and support services were specifically excluded as “Do Not Allow” uses by both public input and area availability.” Aside from allowing the building to sit vacant or be demolished, the only other “Do Not Allow” use stated by the community can be summed up as NO LOW INCOME, SUBSIDIZED, TRANSITIONAL OR HOMELESS HOUSING. For Knox County to select a proposed use that clearly defies the requests of the community is disheartening to say the least, but I guess that is what we get when our leadership is willing to settle rather than to seek out what is BEST.
I am happy to see that at least one of Knoxville’s publications took the initiative to provide a more complete picture of this situation rather than just touting the fact that the building will be renovated and the Doughboy Monument will be saved, both feats that any of the proposed uses would accomplish. It is most discouraging to see that the quoted County employees and elected officials are not interested in the BEST use of a very large structure and an entire city block in the middle of an area undergoing revitalization.
I imagine that Mayor Burchett’s response must have been “I am glad somebody’s going to take the job” when selecting a Director of Finance (one that can do math but may not the BEST person to be doing it). I would like to see Mr. Clark’s calculations for determining the economic impact provided by low-income senior housing in an area that is already saturated with low-income uses. Sure the County will receive property tax money from this use, but it would receive that same amount of property tax money from the much better mixed-use proposal offered by Dewhirst. Mr. Clark mentions the creation of 18 jobs but fails to recognize that jobs will be created with either use. More importantly, Family Pride’s proposal shows a $480,000 annual payroll for these 18 employees. That equates to an average gross annual salary of less than $27,000 for each of these new employees. $27,000 is more than $4,000 below Knox County’s limits for the VERY LOW INCOME bracket. Family Pride’s low-income housing development will essentially help to perpetuate the need for low-income housing even for its own employees. The major component missing from Mr. Clark’s assessment, however, is the economic impact on the surrounding businesses affected by this short-sited decision. These businesses, many of them locally-owned, will miss out on a huge opportunity that an active, mixed-use development can provide. Instead of economic gains generated by an influx of employed professionals with income that may be spent at the surrounding businesses, Knox County is choosing the route of minimal economic return by allowing a segment of the population that has little to no expendable income to occupy this property. As evidenced in the Family Pride/Southeastern Housing proposal, practically all needs of the residents will be fulfilled on site. Residents will have no reason to explore the surrounding area and invest what money they may have in the goods and services provided. Even if we look past the low-income component, those residing in this facility will not bring positive economic impact to the businesses in the vicinity.