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Cut bait on the Elizabethton fish hatchery

Johnson City Press • May 10, 2018 at 8:15 AM

Hard doses of reality can be hard to accept.

The city of Elizabethton knows all about it. The city appears ready to give up on its dream of establishing a high-end fish hatchery in Elizabethton after about 15 years of trying to secure state funding.

The idea has been around since the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency approached the city with the concept in the early 2000s. The Elizabethton hatchery also would have served as an educational center to attract tourists and schoolchildren from around the region.

But local legislators consistently have taken the idea before the General Assembly to no avail. At one point, the project was derailed by partisan politics. As Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson reported in Wednesday’s edition, the TWRA eventually lost interest while legislators found the price tag too high to make it through the state’s budget process.

Meanwhile, a 15-acre parcel of land the city sold to the TWRA for the hatchery remains idle.

When the City Council meets tonight, commissioners will consider a new pitch — building a sports complex on the lot with hopes of getting it back from the TWRA. Specifically, the city staff’s request is for a $16,900 feasibility and conceptual development plan.

“Realistically, it doesn’t look like the state is ever going to build that fish hatchery,” Mayor Curt Alexander told Thompson. “The state might sell it to us at a discount, or even give it back to us if they have no more need of it.”

While the fish hatchery was a fine idea, it’s time to move on.

Elizabethton has grown into a dynamic community, and having a new sports complex could contribute significantly to the city’s livability and bring prospects of drawing tourism dollars from tournaments.

Speaking of sporting facilities, it’s nice to see representatives from the Minnesota Twins back in Elizabethton this week, as city officials continued their efforts toward keeping the team’s minor league affiliate in town.

The Twins have threatened to pack their bags unless the city funds renovations at Joe O’Brien Field. The city issued issued $2.6 million in bonds last year, and $1.5 million of those bonds were for improvements at Joe O’Brien. The Twins and the city have yet to reach an agreement on those renovations, and last month, city officials began talking about how they might spend that $1.5 million in other ways should the team not return in 2019.

Alexander said Tuesday’s initial session with the Twins seemed positive. Let’s hope the team sees the wisdom in accepting the city’s plans and stays put. As we stated in April, baseball and Elizabethton belong together, and $1.5 million should be enough.

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