TWRA seeks to buy 1,700 acres in Morgan County; leaders worry about loss of tax dollars

WARTBURG (WATE) – The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is in talks to buy more than 1,700 acres of private land in Morgan County, but county officials are worried the transaction could cost the county thousands.

TWRA says it was approached by the landowner about selling two tracts of land off Vespie Road, valued at around $2 million. If the sale goes through, the land would become part of the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area and used for hunting, fishing and kayaking.

Morgan County Executive Don Edwards says selling the land to the state could cost the county $7,000 a year in taxes.

“About 21 percent of Morgan County is owned by non-taxable entities and this puts a big burden on the citizens of Morgan County to make up those deficiencies in tax revenues,” he said.

Edwards says the move would hit them at a tough time financially.

“We’re under a lot of pressure right now. Our schools need money. Our police department needs money. Our emergency services needs money. And then the state comes in and jerks money away from us that we should have. That’s very, very problematic,” he said.

Edwards is now thinking of possible solutions to make up for that money, but some of the burden may fall on the shoulders of homeowners.

“We’ve got enough land that’s gone to the state,” said resident Betty Honeycutt.

The state hopes the sale would boost tourism.

“Thirty thousand acres of Morgan County property right now belongs to TWRA and we have not seen any substantial increase in tourist revenues,” said Mayor Edwards.

No matter what happens, homeowners say they’re worried.

“I’ll probably have to move out of the county,” said Honeycutt.

TWRA has been out surveying the land but it is not a done deal yet. It could take another two to threww months to finalize the sale. TWRA says the property owners are hoping to sell the land to lift some of their growing inheritance tax troubles.

Mayor Edwards says he’s spoken with the property owners to come up with other solutions.

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