Town seeks to buy old library

It has considered the old Taco Bell, Nashville Christian Church’s Fieldhouse, the back end of the old mini golf course, and building at the courthouse or in the parking lot on Pittman House Lane.

If all goes well with the transaction, the Nashville Town Council will build new public restrooms at 27 S. Jefferson St.

That’s the block building on the southeast corner of the Four Corners, diagonal from the pavilion corner. Longtime locals know it as the old library.

Town council President Charles “Buzz” King thinks this is a good location because it’s right where the action is during the outhouse races, Spring Blossom Parade and other events that consume Main Street and the Village Green.

“It’s within shouting distance from the visitors bureau, and their complaint to us is, the No. 1 question they get is, ‘Where are the restrooms?’ Having something that close is a plus, in my opinion, anyway,” he said.

Town council members agreed, signing a resolution at a March 9 special meeting to buy and mortgage the property. Arthur Omberg and David Rudd were absent.

The town offered $260,000 for the 3,412-square-foot building. The price advertised online was $298,000.

The council plans to pay for the property and renovations to the inside with town food and beverage taxes — the 1 percent tax on restaurant meals and certain convenience store purchases.

King said that tax is mostly paid by the people who would be using the restrooms: visitors.

Town Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young said $128,000 is in the budget this year to buy land. She suggested the town put down $60,000 on the purchase, which would leave about $68,000 in the fund to use for renovation.

The remainder of the cost — estimated at $200,000 — will be financed through People’s Bank, to be paid back through food and beverage tax revenue. In fiscal year 2012, the town collected about $146,000 through that tax.

Food and beverage tax revenue is allowed for limited uses, including building and maintaining restrooms and public parking. A 2013 bill authored by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, expanded its use in Nashville to sidewalks and streetscape improvements.

In response to concerns raised in a previous meeting, King said the outside of the building will not be changed. Though previous owners added a porch and put on a new roof, it will still look much as it did when it was the county’s library in the 1950s and ’60s.

When the new restrooms are open — possibly by late summer — the council plans to cede the public restrooms in Antique Alley to the property owner, Andy Rogers. The town leases that land for $3,000 per year and pays to maintain the restroom building, which it owns.

King said the Antique Alley restrooms — three stalls and three urinals for men, and six stalls for women — are “not really adequate,” crowded and not in line with Americans with Disabilities Act rules. They are in the same block as the new restrooms will be.

King said building plans aren’t firm yet, but he thinks the old library building could contain double the number of stalls.

Council member Sean Cassiday said plans to build restrooms on the north side of town cost about $149,000, not including the cost of the land. “We’re looking at considerably less,” he said about retrofitting this building.

Community concerns

King said he’d heard complaints about the council not disclosing the address of the property before making an offer.

He said the location was not released this time because other buildings the council had attempted to buy in recent years — including the former EMS building on Artist Drive — were bought by other parties after the town announced its intentions.

Nina Leggett pointed out that Bob Kirlin, an agent with Hills O’Brown, was the listing and selling agent for this property. Kirlin used to be town council president but is no longer a public official as of Jan. 1.

She also asked whether Kirlin also sold the town its police station, the former Christole building, on Hawthorne Drive. Council member Jane Gore, who’s also a real estate agent, said she wrote the offer for the police station, and neither she nor Kirlin received commission.

Chris Ross said she wasn’t comfortable with the location of these restrooms because “it’s such a populous area.”

Gore said that’s all the more reason to locate facilities there. King said the town-owned restrooms on Mound Street, the north end of downtown, are used the least.

Libby Zeigler asked about security.

Cassiday said the building will have outside cameras like other town restrooms do because of a history of vandalism at those properties. King said the building will not be unlocked 24/7; it will have open and closed hours as the others do.

Zeigler also asked about renting out part of the building, as the council had mentioned in an earlier meeting.

King said the west end, facing the Methodist church, would be the most likely space for that. Though the town isn’t normally in the business of renting spaces to retailers, King said statute doesn’t prohibit it.

“We could have a store in there if we wanted to,” he said. “We don’t want to.”

However, there has been talk of the Visitors Center moving there, King said. But there’s been no commitment to do that.

Marilyn Rudd said she appreciated the council’s effort to take public comment. She asked for more transparency and better communication.

Scott Rudd, town manager/economic development director, asked for specifics. The town is undergoing a three-year planning process, he said, and he wants to know what specific things the town is not doing now but could do to increase transparency, such as have public officials take a class in the Open Door Law.

King said those comments will be studied.

“We can be more transparent,” he said. “This deal was a little different because it was kind of crunched. We did do everything legal, but I think we can do it better. We really will try.”

The restroom purchase is on the agenda of the Thursday, March 19 town council meeting. See page A3.