Carter County Tomorrow board looks at county’s settlement offer, proposes discussion of possible name change
Published 8:47 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015
After an executive session at the Carter County Tomorrow board meeting Tuesday, members unanimously passed motions to consider alternatives to the County’s settlement offer and to consider changing the name of Carter County Tomorrow.
On October 22, the county offered $75,000 to CCT to clear debts owed to the county by the CCT for the Workforce Development Complex, on the condition that CCT dissolves the current lease, vacates the premises and surrenders control of the complex to the county. The responsibility over all subleases would be assumed by the county.
The indebtedness resulted from an agreement between the county and the CCT — which the commission and budget committee approved — to forgive the rent owed to the county for four years in order to allow the CCT to install new roofing — a total debt of $154,020. This project is a year underway and current debt totals $108,049.67.
CCT took out a loan to cover the roofing expense, so each year of the four-year agreement, the $41,000 rent cost of the WDC to the county is paid towards that loan debt. WDC Director Kim Eggers said the $75,000 is an attempt to assuage this cost and to gain control of the WDC.
“The letter and their offer was not in our favor at all,” Eggers said. “That would still leave us around $30,000 to pay on the roof loan.”
This is not the only control the county is seeking, Eggers said. On Monday, the commission was poised to hear a resolution for the creation of a new economic and community development board, but during the meeting, a decision to consider that move was deferred until its January meeting.
“Without the involvement of both the city and county, he (Humphrey) would be putting residents at risk of losing access to valuable grants in schools and other departments,” Eggers said.
If approved, this board, per Chapter 1101 of Tennessee Public Acts, would have to include representation from both the city and county, which is already the structure of the CCT.
“I don’t understand what can’t be fixed to help us along instead of hurting us,” said Eggers. “No matter how good a single individual may be at recruiting and business retention, that person cannot act alone effectively and should be willing and able to work with an entity set up for that specific purpose. If the County Mayor is such a good choice for the job, why has he not already been involved in assisting an entity, of which he is already a member, in attracting business to the community?”
Members opted to further examine options, effects and outcomes of the county’s proposed settlement offer.
“We need to study what our options are,” said Mayor Curt Alexander. “I think there’s a whole lot more than what this addresses,” he said, referring to the settlement offer focused on the WDC.
Members agreed that perhaps the name “Carter County Tomorrow” is confusing to some, and maybe that has contributed to accusations that it accomplishes little in the way of economic development.
Dale Fair, one of three acting directors of the CCT, said that to him, the name signifies progress, but he thinks some people may be confused with what all they do.
“A new name could help clarify that,” he said.
Eggers cited a number of CCT achievements to counter claims of ineffectiveness during its 10-year existence: assisting in recruiting the Highlands Group, the Snap-On addition, STL Distribution, Fidelitone Logistics, NCI, completion of the SIA road, obtaining grants for the county school system as well as a sign grant for the City of Elizabethton. It assisted in the W. Elk Ave. area project and assisted Borla in increasing its job availability. Additionally, it is a member of the Retire Tennessee Program and the Three-Star Program.
Additionally, Eggers also said that over $266,000 in improvements have been made to the WDC premises.
Elizabethton Director of Planning and Economic Development Jon Hartman gave an update on current progress with local businesses and incoming businesses, mentioning prospective industries and one interested fast food restaurant.
One industry is considering expansion to Elizabethton, but it is also considering Unicoi, Sullivan and Washington Counties. If it expands to Elizabethton, it will bring with it 250 employees. Hartman said, in the future, as these jobs faded out, these positions would open up to Carter County citizens, and there may be some positions available upon arrival. They are looking for 20 acres for their company.
“The need for product is crucial,” he said.
He announced that Sycamore Shoals Hospital has seen more patients this year and that it plans to hire more registered nurses at the end of the school year. He also said that Dwayne Taylor, CEO of Mountain States was excited to announce a potential expansion including the addition of administrative or communication positions.
Hartman said that Snap-On Tools was also interested in expanding employment opportunities.
“I offered both the support of this board,” said Hartman.
He said properties for prospective industries in Elizabethton are in need of development. He detailed the status of the Select Tennessee Property Evaluation Program saying that sites had all been submitted from CCT and the County Mayor’s office, and hopefully, they will participate in a webinar in the next few weeks with Austin Consulting. They will host site visits in the next few months.
“It is crucial that we work together,” he said. “The city, and arguably the county, cannot afford to improve these properties alone.”
He said that in October, CCT Chair Richard Tester, City Mayor Curt Alexander, himself and County Mayor Leon Humphrey attended the Governor’s Conference, at which the theme was “Team Tennessee.”
“I think it would be beneficial for that to trickle down to the theme of Team Carter County with economic development,” said Hartman.