KINGSPORT — During a 90-minute work session Monday afternoon, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen appeared to support a move to lease the old Tennessee Highway Patrol building, located at the corner of Eastman Road and Fort Henry Drive, to the American Legion.
The Kingsport school system recently purchased the American Legion’s old site — located behind the Civic Auditorium on the Dobyns-Bennett High School property — and plans to use it temporarily to house Adult Education.
City Manager John Campbell is recommending the city lease the 4,600-square-foot Highway Patrol building to the American Legion for 10 years with three five-year renewals. The cost of the lease would be $150,000, payable up front with the money covering the first 10-year period of the lease.
Campbell said the site makes sense for the American Legion, since it would be located beside the proposed Veterans Memorial currently under development.
The old Highway Patrol building houses the city’s engineering department, which was moved to that site in July 2006 by then interim City Manager Mike Billingsley. Now, Campbell said he would like to see engineering moved back downtown, preferably near the Improvement Building, which houses the city’s development services office, planning department, GIS services and building officials.
One likely site for engineering would be one building in the Tri-City Linen and Uniform Co. facility — a facility the city recently authorized to purchase. Campbell said engineering could go in the 7,000-square-foot building of that facility. Renovating that building could roughly cost $300,000, with the $150,000 lease payment from the American Legion going toward the renovations, Campbell said.
In other business Monday afternoon, the BMA discussed the possibility of holding a one-day retreat to review the major issues facing the city.
Alderman Pat Shull, who has been pushing this idea of holding a retreat for the past couple of months, sent out an e-mail Monday afternoon to “strongly recommend” the BMA hold a one-day retreat within the next 80 days.
Shull suggested 10 topics — crime/traffic violations, economic development, higher education, Kingsport Landing, the Quebecor property, the HOPE VI project, annexation, Kingsport City Schools’ initiatives, the city budget and capital projects.
When Shull has suggested a retreat in the past, most of the BMA ignored the suggestion. On Monday, a majority of the BMA spoke up about the possibility of a retreat and spoke in favor, but with some caveats.
“We are going to have a retreat as needed,” Mayor Dennis Phillips said. “I don’t think we’re able to have a one-day retreat and do 10 major topics justice. A retreat is not an opportunity to voice 12 hours, non-stop, on things you don’t agree on.”
Phillips suggested the BMA hold a one- or two-day retreat in mid-January, with the top priority being a discussion on capital projects and what the city is committed to doing.
“If we go in there and try and do 10 or 12 things, we wear down,” Phillips said. “If we get into doing too many things, we’re not going to accomplish anything.”
Since Phillips took office two years ago, the BMA has held three retreats:
•A two-day retreat in August 2005, which covered a laundry list of topics including economic development, downtown redevelopment, long-term funding of education and annexation.
•A one-day mini-retreat in January 2006, which included topics such as annexation, economic development and the higher education center.
•A one-day retreat in October 2006 where city leaders discussed the new Rock Springs elementary school, annexation, economic development and housing.
Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote said he was certainly open to a retreat and was very willing to talk about Kingsport’s future.
“I’m not interested in going and having the same conversations and debate we’ve had,” Mallicote said. “To go and have those over an eight-hour period, that doesn’t appeal to me.”
Alderman Larry Munsey said the single most important issue for the BMA to get its hands around and understand is funding of capital projects.
“Mid-January is better than never. I would have liked to have it sooner. My list is not all inclusive. These are things that occurred to me as being important, but this is a group effort,” Shull said following the work session. “And I don’t care for the mayor or vice mayor’s remarks regarding arguing. My purpose is doing the public’s business.”