BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County commissioners went on record Monday opposing annexation of any portion of Warriors Path State Park by the city of Kingsport.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to the Model City’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, various state agencies, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the governor’s office, and all state legislators whose districts include Sullivan County.
Before the vote, County Attorney Dan Street explained that annexation of the park wouldn’t change its ownership by the state in any way.
Some commissioners said they fear annexation could change the park, nonetheless. The city’s ban on outdoor fires, for example, could put a damper on campfires at the park, commissioners said.
Street said he hadn’t researched it, but he would think the state holds “the trump card” on who controls who in any dispute over disparate rules.
“Don’t assume Kingsport is going to put out campfires in Warriors Path State Park,” Street said.
In answer to a property owner’s requested annexation, city planners have been looking at ways to extend the city’s boundary out Fall Creek Road past the park. One way would be for the city to annex a 200-plus section of parkland that adjoins the current city limits in Cooks Valley.
The issue could go to the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission next month, city staff have said, and then on to the BMA in December or January.
Commissioner Moe Brotherton said the city’s possible annexation of the state park is the first time such a thing has been considered in Tennessee.
Also Monday, action was deferred on a proposal to require anyone doing business with Sullivan County to at least consider hiring area citizens, when possible.
Or something like that.
Wording on the resolution underwent changes during Monday morning’s commission meeting, with a vote on the issue put off until the end of the agenda. When that time came, the resolution’s sponsor, Brotherton, deferred action without rereading it as amended.
The resolution was originally introduced to “require local companies receiving county tax incentives or funds to employ only U.S. citizens or legally documented immigrants.” It went on to state companies that locate in county industrial parks or companies recruited to locate in the county by use of tax incentives and aided by county funds “be required to primarily employ area citizens” and that any company the county contracts with “be required to employ only U.S. citizens or legally documented immigrants.”
When the matter first came up early in Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Eddie Williams said he agreed with what he thought was the intended concept of the resolution, but that enforcement of those three requirements would be impossible.
Brotherton said the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) would be asked to enforce violations.
“We’re not policing anyone at the time, but if we did that, we’d have to ask the Immigration Service to do that,” Brotherton said.
Resolution co-sponsor Commissioner Sam Jones said the main issue that needs to be addressed is companies hiring illegal immigrants under the table.
Williams, citing delays in construction projects in the Kingsport area, said the county shouldn’t do anything that could restrict work and economic development.
Street urged commissioners to consider that the resolution, as originally presented, would place a huge requirement on different entities to try to maintain compliance.
He suggested changing the wording so it would say the county favors the practices, rather than requires them.
Brotherton agreed to change the wording to go on record in favor of employing primarily local citizens.
Commissioner Elliott Kilgore said the commissioners were “spinning our wheels” with the topic, that it is up to the federal government to enforce existing laws on hiring illegal immigrants.
The issue will roll to next month’s agenda.
It’ll be joined there by another issue heard on first reading Monday.
Commissioner Joe Herron did not ask for a vote — which would have required a waiver of commission rules — on a proposal to lease a former beauty school on East Center Street for relocation of the Sullivan County Clerk’s Office that is now in City Hall.
Herron said he had earlier asked the owner to hold the property until Monday’s date to see if the commission would green-light the lease. But Herron said he’d released that hold, and if the property is still available next month the commission can vote then.
“I’m not going to rest until we get a tag office in Kingsport for Mrs. (Sullivan County Clerk Jeanie) Gammon,” Herron said.
Jones asked that the commission’s building committee take a look at the possibility of putting a new county office building on property near the county health department’s Kingsport offices on East Sullivan Street.
County Mayor Steve Godsey said he’d checked on that privately owned property early in his term and it has since been sold. Godsey said city officials have, since he took office last year, asked the county to look for new offices outside City Hall because the city needs the space.
If the county abandons City Hall, which it partially owns, some sort of compensation will have to be worked out, Godsey said.
Godsey said he’d direct the building committee to take a look at the property mentioned by Jones.