‘Primed for growth’: Louisville, Rockford mayors detail community visions
By Iva Butler | (email@example.com)
Growth is in the future for the Blount County communities of Louisville and Rockford, according to their mayors.
Louisville is the fastest-growing municipality in Blount County and Rockford wants to maintain its current family-oriented quality of life through growth.
Those were the respective messages delivered by Louisville Mayor Tom Bickers and Rockford Mayor Carl Koella III at a legislative briefing Wednesday morning hosted by the Blount Chamber Partnership.
The mayors of Townsend and Friendsville had agreed to be part of the session, but later said they could not make it, organizers said.
“We’re primed for growth and we’re now open for business,” Bickers said. “We’re excited about the future of Louisville.
“Look at where Knoxville is and Farragut and Turkey Creek. Louisville is half way between (many work areas),” he said.
“The total square area within the municipality of Louisville is basically the size of Alcoa and Maryville. It’s a little bit behind Alcoa, which is a little bit behind Maryville (in size).”
“Based on the census, Louisville is the fastest-growing municipality in Blount County,” Bickers added.
“The population is greater than Townsend, Friendsville and Rockford combined, yet it has the lowest residential density of any municipality in Blount County,” he said.
In recent years a renewed sense of community vision has arisen, Beckers said. Louisville is going to be a suburban neighborhood community with a high level of community involvement, he said.
Government intervention will be limited. Property values will be protected by the town through zoning. Quality community growth will be in partnership with the government.
He is committed to no property tax in Louisville.
He is also committed to a strong partnership with Blount County government and with Alcoa. If the town is to prosper, it must realize Alcoa and Louisville have to coexist, he said.
“We don’t want to have the big box stores and the shopping centers like Alcoa. At the same time, those stores are needed. A residential community like Louisville is needed to support that, Bickers said.
“The vision is for Louisville Town Hall to be the centerpiece of the community, a place to celebrate our community,” he said, pointing out that the town saved $500,000 for the new building and the community more than matched that.
The town hall has a community room that he wants to be a community meeting place. It is busy almost every weekend. People rent it for celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings.
In the next two weeks he expects a new soccer and recreation field to be done below the maintenance building on city property below town hall.
There is already a bike and walking trail around the area.
Koella said the financial crisis is hitting his city just like other communities.
“Revenues declined 34 percent in four years,” he said. “We have no municipal debt or property taxes, nor do we intend to. We have to live within our means and be careful.”The city just completed a paving program of the post office parking lot, a section of Self Hollow Road, Elm Street, Ann Emert Road, East and West Church Street, Old Gym Road and White Pine Lane.
The parks have been improved through private donations. This included 1,000 donated daffodil bulbs, which the city has planted.
“There are over 100 children in football, wrestling and cheerleading, programs,” he said.
Repair work on the bridge over Little River “which has slowed traffic, should be finished in September instead of October if the weather holds,” he said.
Royal Metal Powders has expanded in Littlebrook Industrial Park and added a railroad spur. This is going to mean 60 new jobs, he said.
“Rockford does not do well without volunteers and we’re blessed to have them,” Koella said.
After their talks, the mayors were asked to identify the biggest challenges facing their towns.
“We want to maintain our quality of life, make sure this is a good place to raise a family, keep it a quiet place with a lot of green space and quality along the river,” Koella said.
Bickers said “the biggest challenge to our community is building a community vision.”
He said there are 10 to 15 percent who want the city to move forward and a vast majority in the middle, but there is another segment that is divisive.
He called the 10 to 15 percent that are divisive “cave people or boulder people.” He said they constantly put boulders in the front of the others that have to be dealt with.
Bickers and Koella both said County Mayor Ed Mitchell had been very helpful in providing them with planning help after the state planning office closed.
Blount County Commissioner Gerald Kirby, who represents the Louisville area, said he is trying to work it out so they can get marriage licenses, passports and other documents at town hall instead of having to come to the Courthouse.