Businesses seek stronger ties to Townsend city government
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Citing several issues facing the city, some Townsend business people are seeking a stronger relationship between city government and the business community.
Byron Begley, who has operated Little River Outfitters 17 years, and Chad Rochelle, who represents Trillium Cove business operators, came before Townsend City Commission Tuesday night to make proposals.
“I believe the city should be more proactive on issues that are important to business and prosperity,” Begley said. “A lot of things are happening or will happen soon that affect the prosperity of our town. I believe these issues should be discussed and action should be taken by our city to possibly affect the outcome favorably to all of us.”
He cited these examples:
• Gateway Park at the entrance to Townsend on East Lamar Alexander Parkway at Kinzel Springs and an information kiosk at the Park entrance were planned as part of the East Lamar Alexander Parkway widening, but were never built, he said.
• A proposed covered bridge project just outside the city limits at Kinzel Springs. The one-lane Wilson Bridge at Kinzel Springs, which was closed when the new two-lane bridge over Little River was completed, was to be covered for use by pedestrians and bicyclists.
The idea of a covered bridge was touted as an entryway to Townsend. However, the state earlier pulled funding, according to Blount County Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap.
Tennessee Department of Transportation had approved $160,000 and Blount County Commission $40,000 in the mid-1990s for the project. Earlier this year, Dunlap said the funding was pulled. Officials are expected to try to get the money reinstated.
• “What will happen to the $375,000 annual extra hotel/motel tax revenue after the property next to the Visitors Center is paid off? Where will that go? What can be done with that property to enhance our town, tourism and prosperity? Who should be watching this? We should,“ Begley said.
• Possible changes in Townsend when the new Foothills Parkway phase is completed in 2016 and the proposed Pellissippi Parkway extension to East Lamar Alexander Parkway is completed. Begley said the city should take steps to make sure the changes are positive and the city benefits.
• “Tourism and Park visitation is trending down,” he said. “What should we be talking about right now as we face this reality that is having a negative impact on our prosperity?”
He suggested the city get more involved and help festivals be more beneficial to the economy. Partnering with festivals and use of resources to promote better festivals was one idea.
“I think our city should become involved with the Blount (Chamber) Partnership,” Begley said.
“Because the chamber is about business and business fuels the engine of governments and creates prosperity for their citizens. I think the city should appoint someone who is available to meet with business owners and report to the city,” he said.
Begley suggested forming an ad-hoc committee to deal with business issues.
Supports nonresident voting
He also supports allowing nonresident landowners to vote in city elections.
He said Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Knoxville, Alcoa and Maryville allow nonresident voting.
Former Townsend City Commission member Don Headrick said the city earlier allowed nonresident voting. He said at the time the city was in a pro-annexation mode and discussed annexing Big Valley and Sundown Resort campgrounds. The feeling was at that time that all these small tract property owners could create a bloc and have a major influence on city issues, he said.
The city did not annex the two campgrounds.
The city charter would have to be changed to allow nonresident voting.
Rochelle said the city and businesses would both be better served working together. He also supports nonresident voting.
“I think you bring up a lot of good points,” said Councilman Michael Talley. He said the issues “are things we can look into and maybe have an influence on.”
Commissioner David Wietlisbach said “if businesses are prosperous, the residents who live here are prosperous because they will have jobs. If property owners had a vote I think that would make them more involved in city issues. They might come to meetings and sit on committees.”
The issues will be discussed again later.
Mayor Pat Jenkins and Councilman Charles Tippitt were not present for the meeting.
New fire station
In further action council:
• Heard Townsend Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Will McCampbell report that work on station No. 3 is going well. Townsend Fire chief Don Stallion, who could not attend the meeting Tuesday night, said earlier the station should be occupied by Thanksgiving.
• Discussed hiring Roddeye Coe to update the city’s website. Wes Siegrist, a Townsend resident, had done the website for free, but the city wants it expanded and he does not have the time to donate to the site. The issue will be discussed at the group’s November meeting.
• Discussed providing codes enforcement by hiring an enforcement officer, contracting with someone to provide the service or contracting with a firm or organization. The city will look at how similar-size municipalities handle codes enforcement and will discuss the issue again at the November meeting.
Current codes enforcement officer Claude Scarbrough is leaving the position.
• Heard Wietlisbach report that the Townsend Christmas Parade will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, with the theme of “Home for Christmas.” The route will be the same as last year, starting at Town Square Drive and ending at Nawger Nob. Applications will be available later.
• Heard city Recorder Sheilah Moss report that the city cannot issue insurance coverage to a ball league under its policy.
• Approved a bicycle ride by Turning Leaf Saturday in Townsend. This is the third year for the event to raise money to fight cancer.