KINGSPORT — Kingsport and Sullivan County have a “gentleman’s agreement” when it comes to certain street maintenance issues in the outlying areas of the city limits, a county official said last week.
Kingsport has been pursuing an aggressive annexation policy over the past two years, with much of the focus being on the Rock Springs community. Kingsport is also annexing property by request in other parts of Sullivan County.
One such request, the Chase Meadows annexation in the Fall Creek community, has drawn the ire of several area residents and the Sullivan County Commission, which approved a resolution last year opposing the annexation of a portion of Warriors Path State Park to reach the proposed development.
During last week’s County Commission meeting, annexation was a major discussion topic, with many commissioners voicing their discontent with the city’s annexation plans and the “Smart Growth” law in general.
While that discussion was taking place in the commission’s chamber, Highway Commissioner Allan Pope and other county officials were listening outside the chamber. Pope told some county officials that Kingsport should not be annexing in the outlying areas because the city could not take care of the roads it has already annexed. Pope said the county has had to do some snow removal and pothole maintenance on these outlying city streets.
Reached by phone the day after the commission meeting, Pope said his comments were not meant to be critical of the city.
“If it came out that way, it wasn’t intended to. It might have come out that way, but it wasn’t supposed to,” Pope said. “My only problem is when they get that far out, it makes it hard for them to maintain it sometimes.”
But Ryan McReynolds, Kingsport public works director, said having to maintain streets in the outlying areas is not stretching the city’s street resources thin.
Pope said in some parts of the county, the city has annexed, for example, 500 feet of road to get to a property and that the road is surrounded on both sides by county roads.
Pope said that in the case of snow removal, for example, “what we do with the cities is we tell them if you get there before we do, you push it. If we get there first, we’ll do it.
“I’m not going to get in a turf war over something like that. If we get there first, we’ll take care of it, and if (the city) gets there first, (they’ll) do it.”
Pope called the work a gentleman’s agreement and said the county does the same thing with Bristol. Pope said Kingsport and Bristol have done similar work for the county in the past.
“We might be out in that area patching and run across a city road, and if they need some patching, we’ll throw some shovelfuls and patch it for them,” Pope said. “A lot of times they’re concentrating on the inner city, and it takes awhile to get to the outer parts, and if we happen to be out there, we just do it.”
Pope said no significant money or manpower is spent on work such as this.
McReynolds said the city and county have a great working relationship regarding road maintenance, noting the two worked together on a bridge project near Bays Mountain a few years ago and recently the county demonstrated a new piece of road equipment for the city.
As for maintenance on city streets located in the outlying areas of town, McReynolds said these areas are given attention in a timely manner.
“We assign the Fall Creek or Rock Springs area or wherever, a zone for snow removal. It’s as timely as any other designated route,” McReynolds said.