Commission to consider creating new economic development board

Published 8:32 am Monday, November 16, 2015

When the Carter County Commission meets on Monday morning, the group will be considering a resolution that would alter the way the county promotes itself to industries and tourists.
That same resolution will also give more authority to the County Mayor.
Currently, Carter County is in a partnership with the City of Elizabethton and the City of Watauga in joint economic development agency – Carter County Tomorrow. The county contracts with and provides funding to the Elizabethton-Carter County Chamber of Commerce, under the umbrella of CCT, to promote the area for tourism.
If the resolution passes the Commission on Monday, the county will do away with those outside efforts and bring both the economic development and tourism functions back into the county and put them under the direction of the County Mayor.
County Attorney Josh Hardin said the resolution was drafted at the request of Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey. “It did not come from one of the committees to my knowledge,” Hardin said.
The resolution would establish the Carter County Economic and Community Development Board and would recognize the board “as the sole entity authorized to oversee and promote economic and community development in Carter County.”
The relationship between the county and its economic development branch, CCT, has been strained for some time.
During the 2015-16 budget cycle, some members of the Commission sought to defund the agency, which receives $40,000 per year from the county. When the county’s budget came to the floor for approval during a special called August meting, Commissioner Robert Gobble made a motion to do away with CCT and set aside the $40,000 for CCT until another economic development agency could be decided on.
When clarifying the motion, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey, who serves as chairman of the Commission, asked Gobble if he meant to place the $40,000 for CCT, as well as the $90,000 for tourism through the Chamber of Commerce, in reserve. After a brief moment, Gobble replied that he did mean both funds. Commissioner Ronnie Trivett provided a second to the motion, which ultimately passed by a margin of 14-8.
Two weeks after the budget was passed withholding the funding for economic development and tourism, the County filed a lawsuit against CCT and the First Tennessee Private Industry Council (PIC) claiming CCT illegally took possession of PIC assets when the industry council dissolved. The suit also claims a lease agreement between the agencies is null and void.
The resolution that will be presented to the commissioners on Monday says “Whereas, the Board of County Commissioners for Carter County, Tennessee, no longer wishes to permit or fund Carter County Tomorrow to oversee joint economic and community development or tourism within Carter County.”
If passed, the resolution would create a new board that would oversee economic and community development, including tourism.
The resolution alleges that the current joint economic development board is “not being operated in a manner that is compliant with statutory requirements,” but does not state what statutes the county feels that CCT is violating.
If created, the new board would consist of the Carter County Mayor and two County Commissioners elected from the group’s full membership. “The County Mayor shall always serve on the Economic and Community Development Board while in office,” the resolution says. “The term of the two County Commissioners serving on said Board shall be one year, with the election held at the regular monthly meeting of the Board of County Commissioners for Carter County in November of each year.”
The resolution goes on to state that the county shall seek to make the new board the official joint economic and community development board for the county by an interlocal agreement with the municipalities – Elizabethton and Watauga – located within the county and would include “appropriate representatives” of the county and city governments.
Members of the Commission will also consider a resolution to create an “adventure tourism district plan” and apply to the state for “Adventure Tourism District” designations for portions of the county.
Approval as an adventure tourism district allows qualified businesses within the district to earn job tax credit to offset a portion of the Tennessee franchise and excise tax liability.
This resolution is being brought before the full Commission at the request of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
A third resolution up for discussion would have the Commission send a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam voicing the county’s opposition to the outsourcing of state jobs to private sector companies. The Commission previously considered a different version of this resolution and asked Hardin to redraft it and bring it back before the group. The previous version mentioned only employees of the Northeast Correctional Complex while the redraft includes other state employees, such as those working at the two state parks located in Carter County.
The Commission will meet on Monday morning at 9 a.m. in the courtroom located on the second floor of the Carter County Courthouse.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox