Cave Country Canoes inquires about purchasing old railroad property
By Chris Adams, Contributing Writer
Cave Country Canoes last month inquired about purchasing the old railroad property from the Town of Milltown.
“We’re wanting to improve our campground, but the real issue is the security of our campground,” Sherri Nail, guest services manager for Cave Country Canoes, told the Milltown Town Council at its Sept. 14 meeting.
“We’ve had a lot of theft. There’s a lot of paths that go right over the railroad track down into the back of the shelter house … so it would really help us secure our customers and our property,” she said.
Councilwoman Jean Melton urged the other two council members to pause before making a decision. She is concerned that selling the property would mean “another piece of Milltown history (is) out of our hands.”
Nail reassured Melton that Cave Country Canoes owner Gordon Smith has no intention of removing the ramp, only on improving the area, as he also appreciates the town’s history.
“I’m sure there will have to be adjustments and improvements, because it’s overgrown … ,” she said.
Nail said the issue is the public’s access to the area in relation to the campground.
“People walk back and forth over the track late at night and come down into the campground while we have sleeping children and campers, and we have no control over who enters and exits,” she said. “So, I’m sure there will be improvements and changes, but it isn’t coming down, the ramp itself, because we want the tree coverage, but we don’t want a thicket.”
Nail said problems include coolers having been stolen from campsites. When Milltown Police Chief Jimmie Vincent, who was in the audience, said his department wasn’t notified, council members encouraged Cave Country Canoes to report all incidents.
While Melton expressed concern about selling the property, Barnes said he favors doing so since the town has no plans for the land.
“The state mandates that any properties we don’t have a written plan for we aren’t supposed to have,” he said.
He and Council President Jerry Mackey said moving ownership to a private entity would put the property back on the tax rolls.
“My biggest concern was it being taken out … Other than that, I have no problem with it, because we need to get out of the land business,” Mackey said.
At town manager Josh Breeding’s suggestion, the council, while holding off on making a decision about the property’s future, approved moving forward with securing the two appraisals legally required to sell it.
“It never hurts to have a property appraised anyway, because, if what Barnes is saying is true, the state doesn’t want us to own a property that we don’t have no plan for, we’re going to have to get rid of it somehow, someway,” he said.
Nail asked if the town doesn’t sell the property, would it be willing to erect fencing to protect campers.
Barnes said the town doesn’t own the entire railroad bed, probably 100 to 150 yards of it, from American Legion Post 332 to Cave County Canoes.
Asked by Mackey what improvements Cave Country Canoes has planned if it purchases the property, Nail said they would like to upgrade the campgrounds, including allowing for RVs and campers. The exact scope of the improvements would depend on how much money is available following the purchase, she said.
“Now, we’re limited to primitive camping,” Nail said.
Mackey said he would like Nail to bring those plans in writing to the council’s next monthly meeting, which will be Monday, Oct. 12, at 6:30 p.m.
In other business, the council:
•During a public hearing, voted 3-0 to accept the 2021 budget ordinance as presented. Estimates include a total budget of $388,864, with maximum to be raised of $177,500. The current tax levy is $146,731. There were no public comments during the hearing.
•Voted 3-0 to pass the second reading of a noise ordinance. Passage of a second reading was needed because the ordinance includes fines. The town approved a noise ordinance years ago, but a signed copy cannot be located.
•Approved, 3-0, a resolution concerning the enforcement of local ordinances. The resolution authorizes an unpaid fine to be referred to the town attorney for follow-up action, including possibly taking the matter to court.
•Voted 3-0 to approve Vincent’s request to enter a partnership with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department to locate exercise equipment at the old town police department. Vincent said the CCSD will move the equipment from the former English Elementary School. He said there would be no charge to the CCSD as officers from both departments would have access to the equipment. He added the town also would benefit from the presence of additional officers.
The council instructed Vincent to check to see if the CCSD will provide liability insurance on the exercise equipment.
Town attorney David Hutson added that those using the facility and equipment will need to sign a standard waiver just as they would at a regular gym.