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After a year off due to the pandemic, Kingsport has resumed its financial schedule and will issue bonds to fund its capital budget for next year, a $20 million investment in some needed and exciting projects that will keep the city moving forward.

For the most part, what’s in this year’s bond issuance are last year’s projects, said City Manager Chris McCartt.

“We took a year off for the majority of the capital projects we would have bonded and restructured a lot of our cash during the pandemic so we could address the needed capital items,” McCartt said. “What we’re looking at now is a combination of some new, but a majority are ones that were not funded (last year) but will be funded this year.”

They include:

• School facilities upgrades: $6 million. Most will go toward renovations and upgrades to the old Sullivan North High School campus to make it ready to become the new John Sevier Middle School by 2023.

• Pump track and lighting: $1.4 million. Kingsport recently broke ground on the new Scott Adams Memorial Skate Park at Brickyard Park. The new facility will be directly across from the ballfields. Adjacent will be a new mountain bike course commonly referred to as a pump track.

• Bays Mountain amphitheater: $950,000. Kingsport is partnering with Eastman to split the cost of the new structure.

• Justice Center expansion: $400,000. For more than a decade, city leaders have talked about expanding the Justice Center into the adjacent parking lot to bring all court functions under one roof while providing additional space for the Kingsport Police Department.

• Recycling convenience centers: $300,000. “During the pause in curbside collection, we plan to add new recycling drop-off locations for the community and enhance some of the existing ones to make the experience more convenient for the customer,” said Deputy City Manager Ryan McReynolds. “There are many times citizens may want to drop off larger quantities of recycling material than the curbside collection is able to handle and this will provide a solution.”

• Fire Department: $575,000. This will fund improvements at various fire stations and the initial design of a new Fire Station No. 2.

Other bonded projects include $1.5 million for the water department, $6.9 million for the sewer department, $900,000 for a new roof at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center, and $375,000 to improve the exhibits at Bays Mountain Park.

These projects will bring Kingsport’s total debt at the end of this fiscal year to $229.4 million. That’s a lot of money, but the city’s financial health is outstanding.

State law limits any city’s debt ceiling to 20%, but Kingsport caps its debt limit at half that, or 10%, a testament to the city’s conservative approach to borrowing and spending. This fiscal year’s debt is $18.5 million under fiscal year 2020’s debt despite that the city accelerated its paving program.

It’s comforting to know that we live in a city that is committed to fiscal responsibility.

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