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Jonesborough BMA combines athletic, urban forester positions

BEN INGRAM • Feb 13, 2007 at 7:03 AM

JONESBOROUGH - The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously selected Patrick McCammon as the town's new parks and open space coordinator Monday before a packed Town Hall boardroom.

Essentially, the move combines the primary duties of the town's unfilled athletic coordinator position and McCammon's previous post as urban forester. McCammon's compensation will stay the same.

McCammon said after the vote that he was relieved and grateful to the citizens and the BMA for putting him in the new position, though others felt the board was shortchanging the town's residents of some needed services.

"I think that the wrong issue is being voted on," said Charles Lewis, speaking to the board during citizens' comments.

"The board needs to revisit the vote made originally on the athletic coordinator and re-institute that position," Lewis said. "What you're doing is emasculating the position of (urban) forester."

In November, the board voted 3-1 in favor of not filling the vacant athletic coordinator position and billed it as a way to save the town $30,000.

In the meantime, Ken Soergel, a member of the Tree and Townscape Board, read their recommendation to the BMA.

"While the Tree and Townscape Board is disappointed to lose this full-time supervisory position, in the spirit of cooperation we accept the proposal as written," Soergel said.

"However, we strongly encourage the board to hire Patrick McCammon for the position and provide training necessary to be successful in the new position."

Jack Vanzandt said he felt that the athletic coordinator duties were being lost in the effort to come up with a way to combine both positions.

"The athletic coordinator's duties are highly valuable to this town," Vanzandt said. "Personally, I have a problem with it. You have eliminated a very important position. (Wetlands Water Park Director) Tallie (Shelton) is now doing the job of three people now that (Parks and Recreation Director) Melinda (Copp) is on maternity leave.

"I think we picked the wrong time to do this. Especially, when we're looking at relining the pool, beginning marketing for the water park, and getting the ball fields ready for the spring."

Vanzandt said he was also for the board going back and revisiting their earlier vote to not fill the athletic coordinator position.

As for the current urban forester, McCammon told the board that he could handle the position if offered to him.

"I think it's easier to teach someone about Little League, that aspect, than it is to teach someone with a background on field maintenance about forestry (and the sciences that go along with it)," he said.

"Selfishly, if this is the direction the board chooses to go, I'm ready."

McCammon said his only issue was with the pay cut that was included in the original recommendation.

"I feel that it's just as important for kids to play ball as it is to have shade for those kids after they're done playing," he said.

Board members seemed to feel the same. Instead of revisiting their earlier vote on cutting the athletic coordinator position, Alderman Jerome Fitzgerald made a motion to offer McCammon the combined position.

"I'm heartened to see that Patrick thinks he can do the job," said Alderman Chuck Vest.

"The athletic side of the job - marking the field aspect - is something I did when I was 17, 18, 19 years old. To me, the job just needs someone who's willing to get out there and get their hands dirty."

Though he did vote to combine the town positions, Alderman Terry Countermine said he felt that the board was shortchanging the town by combining the two posts. Countermine was the lone alderman to vote against not filling the town's athletic coordinator position in November.

In other business, the BMA also unanimously approved a resolution supporting the proposal for the state of Tennessee to take ownership of the Christopher Taylor house and its long-term care.

"I want to see that it is restored, but I also want it always available to the public," said Alderman Mary Gearhart. "If it's open, I want it free to the public as much as possible."

The house was built around 1777 and is believed to be the first home of President Andrew Jackson. It is the oldest log structure in the state open to the public.

The BMA has indicated that neither the town nor the Heritage Alliance has the funds to properly take care of the house - estimated to need around $70,000 in maintenance work.

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