Haslam Administration No Longer Plans To Outsource Popular Inn At Fall Creek Falls

Aug 24, 2017

Gov. Bill Haslam's administration is pulling the plug on one of its most high-profile outsourcing efforts.

After years of study and false starts, officials say they'll no longer try to turn the popular Inn at Fall Creek Falls over to a private operator. Instead, the Haslam administration plans to rebuild the hotel — part of a $100 million overhaul of state park facilities — and leave the Inn at Fall Creek Fall's fate to the next administration.

"It just felt like the appropriate thing to say, 'Let's get this built. Let's get it built the right way,' " Haslam told reporters Thursday. "And then we'll figure out who the right person to run it is."

There's not much dispute that the aging Inn at Fall Creek Falls needs a major overhaul. Opened in the early 1970s, the 145-room concrete structure is deteriorating, and officials believe its bunker-like architectural style depresses demand for rooms and conference space.

But it remains popular. Supporters of the inn praise its affordability and setting in the heart of Fall Creek Falls State Park.

The dispute, however, has been over whether a renovated Inn at Fall Creek Falls should be contracted out to a private management firm. Workers fear they'll lose their jobs and benefits. Nearby residents worry reconstruction will depress attendance at Fall Creek Falls, estimated at about 1.4 million people a year.

And the Inn at Fall Creek Falls has widely been seen as a test case. Opponents worry that if it's outsourced, it won't be long before most state parks, universities and other public facilities are as well.

That's drawn alarm from many state lawmakers, who are considering steps to rein in outsourcing. Some legislators say the outsourcing that's already occurred isn't always living up to the Haslam administration's promises — that privatization will make government cheaper and improve service for Tennesseans.