Sullivan votes to create consolidation study committee

J. H. Osborne • Feb 20, 2007 at 9:45 AM

BLOUNTVILLE - The Sullivan County Commission voted Tuesday to create a committee to study consolidation of Kingsport's and Sullivan County's governments.

A similar vote took place last month. This time, however, the committee's ultimate mission is to simply file a report with elected officials in the county and city - or cities, if Bluff City and/or Bristol officials decide to participate.

Last month the commission voted to create a metro charter commission - a group, outlined in state law, that would ultimately have brought an actual consolidation plan to city and county voters.

That didn't go over with Kingsport's Board of Mayor and Aldermen - and state law required that body's approval for the metro charter commission to become a reality.

The County Commission can form a committee to study whatever it wants, County Attorney Dan Street said earlier this month.

But Commissioner John McKamey made his resolution for a study committee dependent on the BMA's approval and participation.

If the BMA takes a pass, McKamey said, "it's a dead issue."

Nineteen of the County Commission's 24 members voted in favor of McKamey's resolution on Tuesday.

According to that document, the consolidation study committee:

•Shall consist of eight members constituted as follows - three county commissioners from County Commission districts not representing areas of the cities, to be appointed by the county mayor; two members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, appointed by the mayor of Kingsport, (the mayor may appoint himself as one of these members); an editor of the Kingsport Times-News, to be appointed by the county mayor; one member of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen or City Council of the cities of Bluff City and Bristol; and Harry Boggs, chairman of a 1987 charter study committee.

•The eight members described above shall constitute the core group of the consolidation study committee. This core group shall meet and select five additional members of the committee from among the voters of Sullivan County as follows - one business person (including farmers); one industrialist; one educator; one lawyer; and one hourly wage employee.

•Vacancies on the consolidation study committee shall be filled by the original appointing authority.

•The core group of the consolidation study committee shall meet at a time and place as set by the county mayor and a quorum being present shall select a chairman and a secretary. The core group of the study committee shall also select the other members of the committee, establish procedures and meeting times and locations. The full study committee shall report its findings to the Sullivan County Commission, and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of Kingsport and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen or City Council of Bluff City and Bristol, not later than Dec. 31, 2007.

McKamey first raised the issue of consolidation - and a committee - in December. He said then he wanted to "reactivate" a consolidated government charter commission that last met in the 1980s. It produced a proposed charter to consolidate local governments, and that charter proposal was soundly defeated by both county and city voters.

Back in December, Street said state law wouldn't be agreeable to such a "reactivation."

McKamey opted to amend his proposal to match state law for creation of a consolidated charter commission - which said the county and city mayors would appoint the commission's members.

The County Commission approved that resolution last month. But to go anywhere, it needed a like endorsement from the Kingsport BMA - which immediately declined to take action.

Several BMA members said they wouldn't mind the county studying consolidation, but they couldn't support creating the charter commission because it would actually produce a charter for consolidation.

Before Tuesday's vote, Commissioner Mark Vance said he thinks city officials are willing to get together to talk about consolidating certain services with the county - but not consolidation of governments.

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