The Pickett County Commission denied permission for a county group seeking a grant to restore Byrdstown’s Amonett House.
The Pickett County Historical Society approached the commission to apply for a $75,000 Tennessee Tourism grant that included a 10-percent match. County Historian Richard Pierce said he is disappointed in the Commission’s decision, especially since a private citizen had agreed to cover the matching funds.
“I was expecting if we didn’t have any matching money, they would be against it,” Pierce said. “But we had the match money. I was so disappointed in that they wouldn’t take the match money. That’s losing the county right at $100,000.”
Commissioners opposing the grant pointed to the Dale Hollow Lake Welcome Center, which was an earlier phase of the project surrounding the Amonett House. A mishandled grant cost Pickett County over $400,000 dollars during its construction. Commissioner Tony Beaty said that was the reason he was opposed to seeking another grant.
“The last grant we did, we wound up having to pay the full amount,” Beaty said. “I think we may have got $90,000 or something. Somehow or another the paperwork got messed up and didn’t get signed when the new governor took over at that time. The county ended up paying out a bunch of money.”
The Amonett House was built in the 1830’s and is one of the oldest structures in Pickett County. Pierce said the Amonett family donated the house and 10-acres of land around 10 to 15 years ago.
“The house of built in the 1830’s by Henry Dillon,” Pierce said. “He offered to give some land when the county was formed for the county courthouse. The county wouldn’t accept it, and he never did come to Byrdstown. The Amonetts acquired it, and they are descendants of the Dillons.”
During the Pickett County Commission Meeting Monday night, Judy Martin Urban told Commissioners she believed the Amonett House could be used to draw tourists that visit nearby Dale Hollow Lake. Beaty said the tourism draws are a good reason to pass a hotel/motel tax to fund projects like the restoration effort.
“This would be a perfect opportunity and perfect reason to have a hotel/motel tax,” Beaty said. “You could spend money on tourism, because you just answered yourself. The lake does draw a lot of people in and it is a big business, and you could do things like that and draw even more tourism in. We passed the motion last year to make it an even playing field and to make sure all these rentals started paying their fair share. We created a position, and now we’re paying another salary, but we never passed a hotel/motel tax.”
The Historical Society has to have permission from the county commission before they can apply for grants improving the site. Pierce said Pickett County took possession of the Amonett House over a decade ago.