Gazebo Lease Agreement Discussed at County Meeting

Every Saturday night from May to October large crowds gather at the downtown gazebo for the ever popular Pickin’ on the Square. Pickin’ is just one example of entertainment sponsored by the Town of Franklin for residents and visitors at the gazebo. In addition, the gazebo is often the gathering place for other entertainment and celebrations throughout the year many of which are sponsored by the town.

The Town of Franklin leases the gazebo property on the country square for public entertainment purposes. The county owns the property and leases it to the town as a venue for public events and entertainment. The 20-year-lease the town currently has with the county will expire on May 5th, 2018 and a new lease was presented to the Macon County Board of Commissioners for their consideration at their recent April meeting. However, after discussion on the new lease, it was evident the board has several concerns with the new lease and will need additional time to review the proposed lease.

Prior to the commissioner meeting, County Attorney Chester Jones and County Manager Derek Roland meet with John Henning, Town of Franklin Attorney, and Summer Woodard, Franklin Town Manager to discuss the lease agreement between the county and the town.

The current lease is for 20 years, and the new lease proposed by the town would extend the lease to 30 years.  Another notable change in the new proposed lease is the lease’s termination clause. In the existing lease, either party can terminate the lease with a 30-day notice; the new lease proposes to extend the termination term to 180 days.

Vice Chairman Ronnie Beale voiced several concerns about the new lease proposed by the town. At the forefront of his concerns is the town’s recent conversations about allowing alcohol at festivals and celebrations. Beale spoke at length about his concerns about the liability issues for the county if the town was to move forward with permitting alcohol at events such as at the gazebo. While the county does not allow alcohol on county property, he questioned whether the town would be permitted to allow alcohol at events at the gazebo.

Commissioner Carl Gillespie also voiced he had concerns about the proposed lease. At the top of his concerns, is whether the county could use the gazebo property if it is leased by the town. Gillespie proposed adding a clause to the lease allowing the county to use the property for their own event without having to ask for permission from the town.

Jones stated he also had up to eleven items in the proposed lease that needed to be considered and possibly revised. He assured commissioners that they could put whatever restrictions on use of the gazebo property as they deemed necessary in the lease.  Jones added that while he thought the lease needed more work, he felt the draft was a good starting point for discussion on a new lease for the gazebo.

The proposed lease by the town also did not include a description of the boundaries of the lease and without this the commissioners felt the lease was not ready to be voted on.

The commissioners voted to give the town additional time under the terms of the existing lease until the board can discuss and revise the proposed lease.