KINGSPORT — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen plotted a new course Tuesday night when it came to the proposal of helping purchase a new skimmer boat for the Boone Lake Association.
During its regular meeting, the BMA voted 5-2 to give $31,250 to the BLA toward the purchase of a skimmer boat. If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because the BMA voted 3-3 in May on the same issue, meaning the measure did not pass.
The main difference is the makeup of the BMA, given the city election on May 18. Alderwoman Jennifer Adler, who voted against the skimmer boat contribution, chose not to run for re-election.
Alderman Paul Montgomery, who won his seat on the board in that election, voted for the measure Tuesday night.
Mayor Pat Shull, who has supported the proposal since the beginning, brought the matter back for another vote.
“Now I feel like a majority will vote for it and I think considering the amount of impact money we’ve received from the TVA, this is a reasonable thing to do,” Shull said Tuesday afternoon. “If we don’t do it, we look chintzy and look like we don’t want to cooperate with regionalism.”
With Boone Dam essentially being out of commission for more than six years, this caused a financial hardship for many local residents, businesses and municipalities. To help offset this hardship, the TVA has made annual impact payments to local municipalities, including Kingsport, which has received more than $1 million.
The BLA approached Kingsport in March asking for $32,500 to help buy the boat, which would be used year round to help keep the Holston River side of Boone Lake clear of debris.
BLA representatives have made a similar request to Bristol, Tennessee, (which has not approved it), while Sullivan County agreed last year to pitch in $62,500 toward the $125,000 purchase.
One main difference in the wording of the agreement between Kingsport and the BLA is that now the BLA will make the skimmer boat available 14 days a year for use in Fort Patrick Henry Lake.
Val Kosmider, president of the BLA, said he was not initially excited about the provision, but after further thought he believes it’s the catalyst to help the group grow beyond its initial mission.
“I believe this will help us very much in keeping our area safe and clean for local and regional enjoyment,” Kosmider said.
THOUGHTS FROM THE BMA
Vice-Mayor Colette George and Alderwoman Betsy Cooper both voted against the measure in May. They did so again on Tuesday.
“I do appreciate the change, but I’ve heard from several citizens who are not in agreement. My vote will be no,” Cooper said.
George said she too has heard from many citizens, who are on both sides of the issue.
“When the lake was lowered, it did have an effect on Kingsport. We had flooding in the Riverfront Park area, and the impact payments are to make up a loss of city revenue,” George said. “To my knowledge, we have never given city money to a nonprofit to be used outside the city limits.”
Even though a majority of Boone Lake is in Sullivan County, no part of the Kingsport city limits is on the lake.
Alderman Darrell Duncan said the skimmer boat project is regional in scope, adding the $32,500 is a small amount compared to the total amount of impact funds Kingsport has received. Alderman James Phillips said he worries about the precedent of bringing a matter back before the BMA.
“It failed the first time and we’re bringing it back up. I worry about setting a precedent of things failing and then bringing it back until we get the vote someone wants,” Phillips said. “I struggle with that.”