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Nikwasi Initiative’s development project hits roadblock in needed matching funds

The Macon County Board of Commissioners approved matching grant funds for the Nikwasi Initiative’s development project in January with the contingency that Nikwasi organization secure letters of support from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Mainspring Conservation Trust, and the town of Franklin as well as pledges they will help meet the $1 million match requirement. During the followup meeting in February, county commissioners were informed that at that time, the Nikwasi Initiative had failed to secure a letter of support from Mainspring, which was one of the pattern agencies the county was most concerned about. 

Without a letter of support from all agencies required by the county, Macon commissioners voted to table to funding request. 

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians sent a letter to county officials in support of the development efforts by the initiative but in order for the county to give it’s support there needs to be letters from both the Town of Franklin which did not take any action at it’s meeting Monday and support from Mainspring Conservation.

The Nikwasi Initiative has an opportunity to apply for a $5 million grant, made available through the U.S. Economic Development Administration with American Rescue Funding by the Federal Government. The grant requires a 20 percent match — which equates to $1 million. 

The $5 million grant would be used to develop the area around the Nikwasi Mound to preserve the mound’s history while developing the green space to serve as an economic corridor for the Cherokee Indian Reservation. 

The funding would be used to consolidate more properties into the triangle surrounding the mound and to remodel the former Dan’s Auto Service building, which the tribe purchased in 2017 as part of the eventual development of the area. 

Macon County Commissioners pledged $100,000 in January, contingent on joint support from the other stakeholders involved. The commissioner’s vote to table discussions does not mean the end of the possibility of applying for the grant, however, additional support would need to be showed for commissioners to revisit the proposal. 

When approving their support of the development on Monday night, the Town of Franklin did not allocate any funding toward the development, but acknowledges some may be needed in the future. Franklin Councilmember David Culpepper noted that the development around the mound has been continuous for some time now and he hopes that with better communication and more transparency, all parties involved can move forward for the betterment of all involved. 


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