SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — Even though other nearby municipalities have chosen to join the Southeast Tennessee Development District’s move to take over local planning services, city commissioners here decided to hire a city administrator for the job.
The state planning office will close July 20, officials said, and that will leave counties and towns without the vital service.
“The [state] government has cut out the local planning office, and we lean on them pretty heavily,” South Pittsburg Mayor Mike Killian said. “It’s a problem for us. They do quite a bit of work for the city.”
The development district helps cities with tasks such as zoning, urban growth plans and subdivision regulations. Recently, the group announced its plan to take over the service for the same cost as local governments now pay the state.
In Marion County, Jasper and Kimball voted this month to join Southeast Development if the organization follows through with its plan.
The Marion County Commission is expected to do the same this week, officials said.
South Pittsburg commissioners, however, unanimously decided to post the job of city administrator.
Killian said the city is paying more than $7,000 per year for the state’s planning services, but he thinks using the development district would be a mistake.
“I don’t think I’m alone in saying that we have usually not been treated fairly by them,” he said. “I am very uneasy [with the idea of using Southeast Development for local planning].”
Killian would not elaborate on his comment, but Commissioner Charles Reynolds said he agreed with the statement.
Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said she was “pleased” that South Pittsburg was hiring its own planner.
“I am pleased that Mayor Killian and the city of South Pittsburg intend to hire planning expertise,” she said in a statement. “There is no better option than for a city and/or a county to have their own planner who can focus solely on the needs of that municipality and/or county.”
Officials said Killian has been acting as city administrator for almost two years, but when the state planning office closes, he no longer will be able to do the job.
“We’ve saved about $1,000 a week by doing that,” Killian said. “I will still do anything that I’ve been doing that I’m needed to do, but it’s impossible to do without the planning office.”
Officials said the job of city administrator will be posted immediately and will require a degree in public administration or an equivalent. Applicants will need to be ready to start work on July 20.
The candidate also must be able to write grant applications, Killian said.
“My thoughts there would be that we would quit letting the Southeast development district write our grants,” he said. “We would write our grants here, in City Hall, for what we need.”
City leaders plan to begin reviewing applications at their next board meeting June 7, officials said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.