Engineering work being done on the Jake Thomas Farm on behalf of the City of Pigeon Forge has unearthed an archeological area including three burial sites and other artifacts causing increased costs and man-hours for the project.
The proposed work which would be required by state agencies was estimated to cost anywhere between $27,000 and $162,000 for eight to 18 weeks of work.
“We had a meeting last week with the Corps of Engineers, TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) about some general permit issues,” said Liz Porter with S&ME Engineering firm. “One of the primary issues is…an archeological site that has been defined already in the Phase One archeological surveys,” Porter said. She added that there have been other areas along the river where significant archeological finds have been made.
“Before we can submit any permit applications for impacting these wetland areas and the stream crossings that have been proposed, the state is going to require what’s called a Phase Two archeological survey,” said Porter.
The City bought 35 acres on the property near Teaster Lane last year with plans to build a new Fun Time Trolley hub and a 2,000-space public parking lot on the site.
Porter presented quotes from three archeological firms “that have good reputations with the state and that would have the man-power necessary to take on a Phase Two survey like this.”
New South Associates quoted $27,000 for the work while DuVall and Associates quoted $162,000.
“Each of the firms is going to take anywhere between eight and 18 weeks for the survey,” said Porter.
Porter reminded the boardmembers that DuVall is the company that did the original Phase One survey. “They have the most knowledge on the site,” she said. “Their price reflects the fact that they anticipate finding a fair amount of prehistoric information on the site.”
“Even though New South is coming in at $27,000, their proposal is based on a certain amount field time and a certain amount of artifacts,” Porter explained. “If they find more, or if they have to spend more time in the field, I would not be surprised if that $27,000 number goes up a bit,” she said.
“I know it’s frustrating to look at these estimated costs and see such a wide range but it’s the nature of the project that everything’s underground,” said Pigeon Forge Director of Community Development, John Jagger. “This is a very open-ended process and that’s where some of that frustration and concern comes in.”
“You never do know looking into it—the low price might wind up being the highest price in the end,” said city mayor Ralph Chance. “We had an intention that whatever we were going to do we would do it the right way. But, at the same time, we also want to look out for the tax dollar,” he said.