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Business Roundtable - City sees great progress in 2020
Pictured is the gym floor at Milner Recreation Center, formerly McMinnville Civic Center. The facility was under renovation for the entirety of 2020 and should be ready to open in 2021.

The immediate past year has been marked by significant progress with the city of McMinnville. The highlights are the new and expanded Civic Center, a consolidation of most city departments in one downtown building on Main Street including the police, the building of a new Hampton Inn, the appointment of new city Police Chief Nicole Mosley, and stronger than expected tax revenues leading to a higher than forecast general fund balance.

With the addition of new aldermen Stacey Harvey, Sally Brock, and Zach Sutton, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is viewed by many as a key strength for the city.

The current number of full-time employees for the city of McMinnville is 158, up two from one year ago. That increase is related to two additional police officers, the funding for which was received by a grant.

There are currently plans to hire five new police officers over the next 6-8 months. These officers are being phased in as they complete the police academy and other required training programs. The city police force was understaffed for a prolonged period, resulting in the need for excessive overtime. These hires were thus considered necessary.

The new “face” of the city of McMinnville is the new and expanded Milner Recreation Center. The final cost is expected to be $9.26 million compared to a budget of $9.228 million or an overage of 0.35% (well less than 1%). There were 70 change orders enacted with this construction project. The new Civic Center will feature many new facilities, which include:

• Handicapped compliant entrances, elevator, etc.

• Gym renovations and expansion

• Indoor track

• Basketball, volleyball, pickleball, and a new indoor tennis court

• Two new racquetball courts

• Several new meeting rooms

• New classrooms The increase in facilities and activities will increase the generated revenues from the Milner Recreation Center. Once open, the city will actively pursue the annual Nursery Show, Craft Show, agricultural shows, music concerts, athletic events, etc. This will be a perfect city partner to the downtown Park Theatre.

The back parking lot to the Civic Center has not changed. It remains as it was. The front parking lot will be the last item to be completed, expected around mid-March depending on when the asphalt plant re-opens. The city intends to move all operations out of Three Star Mall by March 31.

An open house will be planned for the new Milner Recreation Center, but that date has not been set. This is very exciting for our community.

The second big development of 2020 is the consolidation of city government into City Hall on the downtown square as of last October, including the police department. All departments are very pleased and have adequate room. All three floors and basement are in use at this time.

The police department takes most of the third floor. The city is saving from $100,000 to $150,000 a year in rent at the Red Road location, utilities, and maintenance with the police department move. This more than offsets the loss of rent from Regions Bank, the prior tenant.

The city still has office locations available on Bell Road and Belmont Street. After 40 years of service, Bryan Denton retired at year end as McMinnville Chief of Police. As of Jan. 1, 2021, the new Chief of Police is Nicole Moseley, a 20+ year veteran of the police department and highly thought of by all concerned.

With six months gone in the current city fiscal year (July 1 through Dec. 31), sales tax revenues are up a robust 19% and the liquor tax is up about $30,000. Both are well ahead of forecast. The city general fund balance at Dec. 31, 2020 was $4.832 million compared with $4.187 million a year earlier, or an increase of $645,000. These revenue numbers are much better than expected with the COVID pandemic, wholesale business shutdowns, and the Civic Center project.

Mayor Ryle Chastain reports the Tourism Development Board is faring well under chair Christy Ross. Board members Michael Griffith, John Partin, and Katie Kemezis are rotating off the board while Sarah Cantrell, Keval Sheth and Ross Garrison have been added. A new tourism video is complete and will be available for viewing very soon.

The new Hampton Inn on the bypass is expected to open this spring with a new retail center. If this hotel does well, a second hotel could be built on the same acreage a year or two later.

The renovated large building on Main Street downtown that once was Fraley’s Furniture Store is expected to re-open in mid-February. There will be three new stores – an expanded Southern Traditions, Pie Pizza, and a third “mystery” store.

Through a grant received by the city of McMinnville and Ben Lomand Connect, WiFi will be installed in city downtown areas during February. TDOT reports it will be starting the new road from the bypass to connect to Magness Drive (alongside of the Pacesetter’s building) in the spring of 2022.

TDOT will also take over the $1 million sidewalk grant possessed by the city for a sidewalk down Sparta Street to the Motlow campus. The TDOT projects will hopefully be completed during 2023.

In a year overlaid with severe economic cutbacks, untimely deaths with the COVID virus, and a contentious election, BRAC congratulates the mayor and Board of Aldermen for such a great record of progress during 2020. This progress, boosted with additional plans in 2021, spell an era of optimism for the future of our fair city.