Planning Commission denies five-year capital improvement plan

Published 1:00 am Friday, April 3, 2015

The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission denied the city’s five-year capital improvement plan, asking for more information and changes before the plan could be approved.

The capital improvement plan is a planning document the commission must approve every year before the city’s budget deliberations begin. The goal of the document is to make sure that development follows the plan for future growth in the city.

Commissioners expressed concerns the funding requests in the five year plan were not adequately meeting the city’s needs and said the commission had not been given enough background and budget information to make an informed decision.

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For the 2015-2016 budget year, the plan included $70,000 to repair and pave the City Hall parking lot for the building department; $60,000 for updated radio communications for the Elizabethton Fire Department, $120,000 for a city park bathroom and concession stand, and $105,000 for land purchase in the west end of town.

It also included $28,000 for the Walter Curtis Park Walking Trail and $85,000 for a dump truck for the Park and Rec Department; $132,000 for construction design for the new Elizabethton Police Department headquarters and four police vehicles: $245,000 for a front-loader garbage truck for the sanitation department and $250,000 for street improvements; $155,000 for a knuckle boom truck and trailer and $90,000 for downtown canopy repairs for the street department.

Commissioner Dena Bass made the motion to deny the capital improvement plan until the city’s department heads could meet with Planning Director Jon Hartman or the planning commission to explain how their capital improvement plan requests support their department’s five-year plans. The motion was seconded by Vicky Manuel.

Commissioner Melanie Sellers told the group she could not vote for the five year plan because sewer improvements for the annexed areas along Milligan College were once again not included in the plan.

The city annexed portions of Milligan in 1999 but has yet to extend sewer to those city residents. The cost to add sewer services to all residents in Milligan is estimated to cost $3.2 million.

The addition of sewer services to the Milligan community should be added to the capital plan and that the project should take precedence over “wish list” items from some of the city’s departments, Sellers said.

“This is something that was promised to the city residents, and it should be in there,” Sellers said. “It is not right that there are city residents that do not have basic services. It should be in these plans to provide this for them.”

Sellers brought up the same concern during last year’s approval of the capital plan. When she made the motion to approve the plan last year, Sellers asked that it include providing essential services to all city residents in the future.

Sellers asked Hartman if the sewer improvements were included this year, to which he responded they had not been.

“I don’t think it is appropriate for us to be doing these other things when we haven’t offered city services to all of our residents,” Sellers said.

Commissioners also expressed their concerns that not enough funding was set aside for street and sidewalk repair over the next five years.

Hartman informed the commission the capital improvement plan was to align with the city’s comprehensive plan. However, the comprehensive plan, which was developed by former Planning Director David Ornduff, did not address all of the future needs that should have been addressed, Hartman said.

“The comprehensive plan is not really a comprehensive plan,” Hartman said.

The planning commission has since finished the community visioning project and is working on other plans to help lay out the city’s future plans, he said.

For Bass, this information made it more difficult to approve the document.

“It is hard to say this is great when we don’t know if it goes with the comprehensive plan or not,” she said.

The department heads submitted what they believed their needs were for the next five years, Hartman said. The plan is compiled and after approval is given to the city manager to be incorporated into the budget process. The items are then either included in the budget or weeded out to be considered another year.

Bass then requested more information on the budgets and plans of the departments and made the motion to deny until that information was given. Manuel seconded and it was unanimously approved.