Should the city move forward with proposals to build a park on the former Rayovac site?
That’s an issue the board of mayor and aldermen are weighing as the company that owns the 12-acre property wants to donate the land – and a large park facility – to Covington.
The property is located between Douglas Street and South Main, bordering the railroad tracks, and is currently enclosed by a chain link fence.
Spectrum has been in talks with different city leaders over the last four years and the discussions have taken place at two city meetings in the last two weeks.
After a nearly hour-long presentation by the company, a scientist, and a representative from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the aldermen were not so sure they wanted to proceed but agreed to continue discussing it.
What’s the issue?
The property on which the park would be constructed is the site where manganese was manufactured for disposable batteries from 1947 to 1991.
The site was entered into the TDEC environmental cleanup program in 1998 and was remediated in 2011, which means there was demolition, consolidation and capping of basins drainage improvements were made; and a tree buffer was planted.
There are land use restrictions on the property which prohibit the use of groundwater from the property and excavation activity has to be coordinated with TDEC.
That’s a big deterrent to several aldermen who expressed concerns during the Finance and Administration Committee meeting.
C.H. Sullivan told the group his former stepmother lived near the site and developed cancer, so he was hesitant to get on board with the idea.
Will there be community buy-in?
The aldermen told Spectrum they didn’t believe most of the community would buy into the idea that a park would be a good plan for the property, especially those who’ve lived in Covington for a long time and remember the battery plant’s history.
Constructing a park falls in line with the end use plans of TDEC when remediation began.
What are the proposed plans for the park?
As presented Tuesday, plans for the park include 3/4 mile in walking trails encircling the property, basketball and tennis/pickleball courts, two parking areas with restrooms, three pavilions, inclusive playgrounds, and bench seating.
The park is located in a residential area and near Covington High School. The only other park in District 2 is the passive Court Square Park.
If plans go through, the park could be open as early as the Fall 2023.
The park could cost approximately $727,350.
Spectrum would donate the property, maintain environmental liability and continue to work with TDEC to achieve environmental closure.
The proposal suggests grants are available to help fund construction of the project and the city could use the fair market value of the property to offset costs of its grant-match.
Why do the aldermen have reservations?
After the presentation the aldermen held an honest, frank discussion addressing their reservations.
Alderman Chris Richardson asked the group if they’d take their children to the park.
Sullivan said he absolutely would not.
Others said they were concerned there was a chance someone could get sick due to exposure to materials which may be at the site.
“I don’t want to take that chance,” said alderman Danny Wallace.
The aldermen are considering other questions they may have for Spectrum and TDEC.
There are talks of Spectrum hosting a community information meeting, however Richardson said he’s not hopeful for community support.
“Perception is reality,” he said.