Tourism, insurance talked about during commission meeting

After the Chamber of Commerce’s announcement last week they would no longer host several long-standing community events, Chris Little from the Ideas Group came to the full commission meeting Monday to highlight the need for change in county policy towards tourism.

“Insanity: when you do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results,” Little said. “Would you pay a contractor $100,000 to build you a house, and at the end of the year the house wasn’t built, would you go back the next year and pay them $100,000 to build the house again? And would you go back a third year?”

He pointed to postings in the Carter County courthouse, which feature more locations and events in Kingsport, Johnson City, etc., and almost nothing about Carter County itself.

He pointed to an article in the Bristol Herald Courier, which said the city has been setting up tourism destinations on the Watauga River.

“Bristol, Virginia is marketing our stuff,” he said.

He said he wants the county to put their heads together and figure out a way to solidify the county’s plan to promote tourism in Carter County, whatever those ideas may be.

Aaron Frazier volunteered to join the Joint Economic and Community Development, the spiritual successor to Carter County Tomorrow, to further those efforts.

Ginger Holdren took some time to formally recognize Keep Carter County Beautiful Chairman Edward Jordan with a plaque for his efforts to improve the quality of life in the community, particularly in the recent Poga Road cleanup.

“We are thrilled to have you,” Holdren said.

Jordan said KCCB’s recent successes and growth is a team effort, not just from his own work.

Kelly Geer with the Sequoyah Group came back to the commission to discuss recent improvements to the county’s health insurance options for its employees.

She said the number of participants in their insurance plan, including the number of families covered, went up, yet premiums went down compared to last year.

“You picked up 23 lives, and premiums went down,” Geer said.

The county also approved the motion to modify the retirement insurance policy, allowing two different systems in order to remain eligible for insurance: 20 years of service at 55 years of age or 25 years of service at 52 years of age. This resolution applies to all county employees, and the funds necessary to cover the difference will come from the Sheriff’s Department.

The vote was unanimous, with Patty Woodby, Isaiah Grindstaff and Layla Ward abstaining.

Mayor Rusty Barnett said he is organizing a roundtable discussion with the city of Elizabethton to talk about what the city needs and exchange ideas for the future. He requested some commissioners attend the meeting to represent the county.

The commission selected one commissioner from each district to attend the meeting, including Mark Blevins, Mike Hill, Charles Von Cannon, Austin Jaynes, Layla Ward, Travis Hill, Ray Lyons and Kelly Collins.

The meeting will take place at the Health Department on Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 6 p.m. The public is free to attend.

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