Cable questions CCT’s value

Published 8:51 am Monday, April 28, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks

Bob Cable questioned continued funding for Carter County Tomorrow.

As Elizabethton’s City Council reviewed the utility fund budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, one council member questioned whether some of those funds should be supporting Carter County Tomorrow.
Councilman Bob Cable asked other council members if they believed the city was getting the “bang for their buck” from the money coming from the Elizabethton Electric Department and the Elizabethton Water Department’s budget for the CCT.
Each year, $45,000 from the EED and $49,000 water/sewer fund goes toward the CCT operations. The county government contributes $40,000.
“I am dissatisfied,” Cable said. “I don’t think we are getting anything for our investment. It is just not there. Something needs to happen.”
Cable said he wanted the CCT funding to be cut.
“We are spending and we are getting nothing for it,” he said. “We are spending our money but there is nothing in the grocery cart.”
He added the county was not required to have an economic development agency, but the economic development board was a requirement. Cable questioned what CCT was providing for the community for the amount of funding it receives from local governments.
Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman explained CCT oversaw the Three Star program, which gave the city and the county access to better rates on state funding opportunities. He added there was job growth in the county because of CCT, but that it was not on the larger scale that most people thought of.
“We have job growth in the county,” Hartman said. “We have a business that consolidated its operations here from Georgia. Another business is expanding. We are seeing more of a community benefit instead of a direct return on investment for the utility. Economic development is like fishing. You can get 10 bites but only get one fish. That is not the fault of the economic developer or the community. There are a lot of variables that come in when businesses are looking to move to a community.”
City Manager Jerome Kitchens said local governments throughout the area were questioning where economic development funds should come from.
“They are not seeing a return on the investment,” Kitchens said. “There are questions of where the economic development funding should come from. If we aren’t doing this, then what do we do for economic development?”
Mayor Curt Alexander said while the funding was coming from the utilities budget, it was really coming from every EED and city water/sewer customer.
“With the water department budget as tight as it is, what could that money do for them?” Alexander asked.
Director of Utilities Johann Coetzee said that for $49,000, the water department could buy a new service truck with all the equipment needed. But he cautioned that he could not give advice about the value of economic development for the community.
“I can answer questions about water leaks and what we can do to fix that,” Coetzee said. “I can evaluate what is good for the water department, but I can’t answer what is the value of economic development for the community.”

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