ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Commission voted by an overwhelming majority Monday evening to charge Kingsport, or in essence Mount Carmel, $750 for a computer disc copy of county GIS (geographic information system) maps.
The issue came about as a result of Mount Carmel deciding earlier this year not to renew its contract with the state planning office for planning services and to instead contract with the city of Kingsport for the services.
A Kingsport city employee had asked the Hawkins County Assessor’s Office that the maps be donated to assist Kingsport in providing that service to Mount Carmel.
Assessor Don Cinnamon said he didn’t have the authority to donate the maps and forwarded a request in the form of a resolution to the County Commission stating that Kingsport was requesting the donation.
There were then two proposed amendments made to that resolution. The first, proposed by Commissioner Virgil Mallett, stated that Kingsport would be charged $750 for the maps.
Mallett told the commission the reasoning for the charge has nothing to do with an alleged “grudge” against Kingsport, as was suggested by Mount Carmel Mayor Gary Lawson in a recent Times-News article. Mallett noted that the $750 charge was the same that would be charged if he or any other county resident, public utility or municipality requested the maps.
“If you’re going to donate one to the city of Kingsport, which doesn’t have anything to do with Hawkins County except for Holston Defense, you’re subsidizing the city of Kingsport to the tune of $750,” Mallett told the commission.
There was also discussion among other commissioners suggesting that if the county donates the maps to Kingsport or Mount Carmel, it will set a precedent for when other governmental agencies or public utilities ask for the maps.
The second amendment, proposed by Commissioner Shane Bailey, was to instead donate the maps to Mount Carmel and not to Kingsport. Bailey said that because Mount Carmel residents pay county taxes, the town should be entitled to the maps.
Cinnamon addressed the commission and acknowledged that his office would not be out much expense to copy the disc for Kingsport or Mount Carmel. He said the $750 is a price established by the state and can only be waived by a commission vote.
The $750 is intended to help offset the original cost of the GIS maps, as well as maintenance and upgrades of the computers and software. The county obtained the maps with a $70,000 state grant and $31,000 in county funds.
Cinnamon added that he has sold two GIS maps for $750 in the past, although he couldn’t recall the names of the purchasers. He said this is the first time a request for maps has been made by a Hawkins County municipality.
Commissioner Chris Jones, who is also Mount Carmel fire chief, addressed the commission prior to the vote. He differed with Mallett’s statement that Kingsport has nothing to do with Hawkins County, noting that he was elected to represent the Kingsport residents west of the Holston River who are also residents of Hawkins County.
“We did have a state planning (adviser), and obviously we don’t see a lot of big business growing up in Mount Carmel, so we’re trying different approaches and different routes,” Jones said. “The next route we took was hiring the city planner from Kingsport in hopes of trying to bring some business into the town of Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel citizens pay their taxes. This is going to be used by Mount Carmel for development in Mount Carmel.”
The first vote was on Bailey’s amendment to donate the maps to Mount Carmel, and it was defeated 16-5 with Jones, Bailey, Larry Frost, Danny Alvis and Dwight Carter in favor.
Mallett’s amendment to charge “Kingsport” the $750 for the maps was then approved 18-3 with Carter, Alvis and Jones opposed.
In other business Monday the commission:
•Voted unanimously in favor of reappointing County Mayor Crockett Lee as chairman of the County Commission and Claude Parrott as chairman pro tempore of the County Commission.
•Approved with one dissenting vote the membership of the newly created Ethics Committee to include Mallett, Charles Thacker, Robert Palmer, Sheriff Roger Christian and Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Barker. Alvis offered the lone no vote.
•Agreed to donate surplus property from the register of deeds office including cabinets and a small table to the graphic arts department at Cherokee High School.
•Agreed to accept a $5,000 grant with no matching dollars from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to the sheriff’s office, which will be used for equipment purchases.
•Agreed to a budget amendment for the purchase of a new mobile home and heat pump for the use by the Laurel Run Park live-in caretaker.