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Waste Watch: State-Funded Archaeology Experts Urge City to Hire Private Experts for Sulphur Dell Findings

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee employs a team of expert archaeologists,  but it's opting to have the city hire a private company to head up the investigation of artefacts found at the site of the new Nashville Sounds ballpark.

Construction at Sulphuer Dell uncovered artefacts on March 22.

The city now says they found animal bones and fire pits dating between 500 and 800 years old.

When news about the artefacts broke, Fox 17 called the division of the state archaeologist, a team of experts funded by state tax dollars.

A spokesperson said there were no state archaeologists at the site, and instead directed questions to TRC solutions, a private company the state archaeologist recommended be hired by the city.

"That seems pretty shady if we're paying them to refer us to somebody else," said Victor Ruiz, Nashville Sounds fan.

A state spokesperson says their archaeologists have been on site "most of these days" assisting TRC.
 
But the week before, another spokesperson told Fox 17 they did not have "any archaeology staff at the ballpark site" and that state-funded archaeologists would "only visit if asked,"

According state documents, roughly 81 percent of the division of the state archaeologist's budget goes into payroll.  That's roughly, $687,000 to pay the salaries of seven archaeologists, one secretary and one curator.
 
"That specific department does not come up frequently and budget discussions," said Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.
 
Watson is the chairman of the budget subcommittee.  He says the state archaeologist previously visited his district of Hamilton County.
 
"This is a department that doesn't make widgets," Watson said.  "They don't produce anything and so it makes sense that a large portion of their budget would go to people."

A spokesperson for the state archaeologist said it's important to note the Sulphur Dell construction is a city project, not a state project and that they were providing assistance as a courtesy.

The spokesperson also said the state archaeologist has been involved with the project since November, 2013.

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