County Commissioners, City Council meet in joint workshop

Published 11:02 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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The Carter County Commissioners and Elizabethton City Council came together on Tuesday evening for a planning workshop as a follow-up to a joint meeting that the two had in December of 2019 in regards to economic development.

William Hardy was the moderator of the meeting as the two groups looked back over some of the discussion from the previous workshop as well as the goals that had come from the meeting.

The meeting started by looking at some of the joint efforts that have been shared between the two entities such as the library, parks and recreation, and the solid waste and recycling efforts just to name a few.

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There were also several items that were identified that needed work on such as communication, setting a common vision and set of goals, share resources and talents, and setting up a liaison between the two governments.

In the last meeting, there were over 30 goals identified between the two governments.

Some of those were parks and recreation projects, tourism goals that need to be clearly defined, special events, road maintenance, employee healthcare, and public transit just to name a few.

Five goals rose to the top of the heap that the group decided needed to be at the forefront of discussion.

Those included Surf Betsy, Workforce Development Complex which is owned by the county, expanding sewer service beyond city limits, county-wide broadband expansion, and having a joint or shared Economic and Community Development Director with clearly defined plans and goals.

Each one of the five affects both the county and city jurisdictions. They didn’t reflect any political boundaries.

Hardy shared that in looking across the state at other jurisdictions that had successful joint and shared economic and community development that they shared five things in common — they were proactive in they set goals and didn’t set back and let the world shape them, they made a proactive effort to shape the world.

Secondly, they had the right people at the table. Those organizations put people at the table who were really wanting to work hard at it.

Thirdly, they set goals and know where they are going. Fourthly, they have resourced it correctly. And lastly, they hold themselves accountable in the jurisdictions they represent.

By successful, Hardy said that it meant they were achieving their goals and doing the things they said they were going to do.

At a minimum, the cost for a joint and shared Economic and Community Development Director came out to around a total expense of $195,000 for a director and administrative assistant plus expenses according to Hardy.

Hardy laid out possible strategies for the group to consider moving forward.

“We all live here together and it would all be better off if we are pulling in the same direction,” said City Manager Daniel Estes. “It’s just a matter of the city and county getting together to work these things out.

“No decision will be unanimous — it never is but if there is some consensus built to move things forward, I think that the joint economic development board would be good for this.”

County Commission chairman Travis Hill stated, “I think that it’s something that if we are going to move forward we need to do it in the next month or so because both sides are beginning work on their budget process. That will be a fairly large recurring cost every year that we will have to take into consideration.”

County Commissioner Ross Garland added, “We need to move forward with it. We have kicked it down the road long enough and if we don’t act on it we will be talking about it again next year.”

Hardy stated that he would compile the suggestions that were made and get those back into the hands of both parties to see how each might like to move forward.