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Carroll theater's fate still unknown

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Partners in the Mayberry Opry project have requested one last meeting with Carroll officials to see if the proposal to locate the music venue at Exit 14 off Interstate 77 could move forward.

Weststar Investments and builder RGM Erectors already have land in Pulaski County near Exit 98 at Dublin where the 600-seat opry could go, but Mended Wings Productions representatives want to meet one more time with Carroll officials to see if anything can be worked out, Marshall Lineberry of Weststar Investments said Wednesday.

The partners arrived at their conclusion during a recent meeting to discuss their options for the Mayberry Opry project. Their first choice was to locate the venue at the Interstate 77-U.S. 58 interchange on land that Carroll County owns.

But an indefinite delay after their first proposal was rejected by Carroll County had the partners looking at land in Pulaski County, Lineberry said.

"RGM Erectors and Weststar Investment could benefit immediately due to the fact that we already own the land that Mended Wings Productions would be utilizing at Exit 98 and on that note, encouraged them to go to Pulaski County," according to a written statement from Lineberry.

But Mended Wings' Gary Gray and Rodney Hoots suggested that the partners seek one last meeting with Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe, Supervisors' Chairman Sam Dickson, Industrial Development Authority Chairman Richard Slate Sr. and business development specialist Dallas Garrett, out of respect for all the work that Garrett has put in on this effort.

The purpose of the meeting would be "to determine whether or not this project is going to be accepted by the IDA and the board of supervisors and, if so, to set a timeline for the project," Lineberry said.

Slate and Larrowe have responded favorably to the idea of a meeting between the parties.

"We are hoping that this meeting will take place some time within the next 30 days," the statement said. "Depending upon the outcome of the meeting, Mended Wings would at that time be able to make a decision whether or not they are going to proceed with Carroll County or look more closely at their options in Pulaski County."

The Dublin exit already has everything that's needed to develop the opry, including county officials who want to cooperate to see the project happen there, the partners said.

The partners await a decision from county officials about again marketing the 91 acres of land in question.

"Let's go ahead and get that bid process behind us and move forward," Lineberry said.

If the parties come out of a meeting without a timeline for the marketing of the county land, he believes the partners will pursue moving it to their Pulaski County site.

"It works well in Carroll, but it doesn't have to go here," said Edwards, a Carroll native, financial advisor and businessman involved in the project.

Bob Melton of RGM Erectors said his company has undertaken bigger projects than this in its 28 years in business, like the University of South Carolina indoor football stadium.

He and Edwards are working on the 177-acre subdivision in Wytheville called Country Club Heights, and Melton is building High Meadows Estates, also in Wytheville.

He recently sold Union Station Industrial Park in Salem, and he's done the building work at Volvo's location in Dublin.

Despite other peoples' opinions, a 32,000-square-foot building isn't too big for RGM Erectors to handle, Melton indicated.

Other businesses were set to go on the land in Dublin, he noted. A Ruby Tuesday’s, Applebee’s or Cracker Barrel would be a good use for that land, and he's working with the Pulaski supervisors on a trail through the property to historic Newbern and to the visitors’ center.

The Pulaski officials have been cooperative on developing the land at Dublin, he said. They would go so far as to grade the land for its use.

"I think we could make a lot of things happen, a lot of things, with the team that we've got, here in Carroll County," Melton said. "If they'll shove a couple of people who are causing problems... and let us get on with the project. We need a decision made."

Materials costs, like asphalt and steel continue to rise while the delays play out on the opry project, the partners said. Those increases have probably been as much as 20-plus percent, Melton said. The cost of grading has shot up, along with off-road diesel.

Mended Wings has a set budget, and Lineberry said the project might not remain feasible if the costs continue to rise during long delays.

This is between Mended Wings and the county officials now, Lineberry said. Mended Wings chose Carroll County and they feel strongly about the relationships they've built here.

That's why have agreed to meet with the county officials and answer any questions about their business plan or financing, but if they don't see progress soon, they'll listen to these other suggestions.

Lineberry, along with associates Melton of RGM Erectors and Larry Edwards, feel that they have done all that they could do to bring this project to Carroll County, and they feel gratitude toward the citizens that have supported the idea.

Referring to the comment made by Mike Gallaher to the IDA members at their July 7 meeting, that the opry project was going to Pulaski County, Lineberry said that statement was accurate based on what he had told Gallaher.

"I told Mike that Weststar Investments and RGM Erectors was tired of waiting for the county to decide if they were going to reopen the bidding on the 91 acres and that we intended to encourage Mended Wings Productions to locate at the Dublin exit," Lineberry said.

The partners say they have the highest respect for Gallaher as a person and an entrepreneur. "His courage to stand up and express his feelings of support for the opry house project only made him a target for ridicule by the few that oppose the project," Lineberry said. "We are fortunate to have him as a citizen living and doing business in our community."