Downtown Kingsport groups agree to merger

Rick Wagner • Oct 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The Downtown Kingsport Association and Downtown Business Association agreed to terms of a merger Monday.

The DKA/DBA agreement sets the stage at tonight’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting for city leaders to approve a contract for the newly combined group.

It is to operate as the DKA but with two DBA members — John Vachon and Kanishka Biddanda — on the DKA nominations committee along with immediate past DKA President Mark Freeman, President Larry Crawford and President-elect Lisa Phillips.

The DBA is to submit the names of 12 DBA members to be nominated for the DKA board of directors, and the group will pick six to serve for 2010 — to be voted on Nov. 12 at the annual DKA meeting.

In addition, the two sides agreed to a maximum of two three-year terms for board members, with a mandatory one year off the 24-member board. The DKA currently has no board term limits.

“We’re willing to try to unify downtown Kingsport,” said the DKA’s David Quisenbery, to which Vachon added, “We will unify downtown Kingsport.”

Both said they hope 30 to 50 new people will join existing DKA members, which DKA officials said number about 160.

Alderman Larry Munsey, who spent the past two weeks trying to get the two groups together, identified the board election, makeup, size and term limits as key disagreements between the two groups.

“We’ve still got a long way to go. You haven’t waved a magic wand tonight,” Crawford said about issues of trust between the merging groups, but added both sides will work together.

Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote, who recently wrote a proposed merger agreement and contract, said he would be receptive to more city funding for the group if it works “in the way we contemplate.”

The city also may designate a city employee to help the combined group, City Manager John Campbell said.

However, Mallicote called for withholding at least some of the $48,000 appropriation for 2009-10 — split between the two groups and to be paid out quarterly — while Alderman Ken Marsh said the city should go ahead and fund the unified group.

Representatives of the DKA and DBA came to the compromises in the hallway outside Monday’s BMA work session.

Also Monday, the BMA discussed issuing more than $41.1 million in 20-year Build America Bonds, part of the federal economic stimulus package.

Campbell said the bonds, which are projected to refund the city 35 percent of the interest it otherwise would pay, are the best rates in 42 years, or an effective rate of 3.3 percent. That would save the city more than $800,000 in interest costs or $1.2 million when inflation is factored in — and construction costs are down 5 percent to 10 percent — saving $5 million to $6 million.

The proposal, if not pared down before tonight’s meeting, would use roll-off of existing debt, and the package would “peak at 6.5 percent of the assessed value” of property in the city, below the city’s self-imposed 10 percent limit and charter limit of 20 percent.

As for the bonds of $41.12 million, $15 million would fund the proposed aquatic center at MeadowView, with another $1 million going to the MeadowView Conference Center expansion for which $15 million in prior bonds have been issued, including $3 million already under contract.

Campbell said the money must go for specified broad uses but could be shifted within categories.

Aldermen Tom Parham, Valerie Joh and Munsey said they would vote for the full amount tonight, while Marsh and Mayor Dennis Phillips indicated they would not, Mallicote did not say, and Alderman Jantry Shupe was not in the room at the time.

A total of $12.37 million would be general fund projects, including $6 million in road improvements, $1.72 million for energy-efficiency projects for various city facilities, and $1 million for economic development land purchase.

Another $2.55 million would go to schools.

Other categories were $6 million in sewer system projects and $4 million in water system projects.

Munsey said the BMA could vote for the full amount and then have Campbell go back and identify line items the BMA wanted to more closely examine.

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