City to consult school board regarding future annexation requests

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

Members of the Elizabethton City Council on Thursday discussed a recent request made by the city school board that, in the future, they be notified of any plans the city makes to annex property. The recent annexation of Carter County's west end, which added 645 new residents, has created concern over how city schools will financially and spatially accommodate more students.
   "They (city schools) are really concerned about their ability to accommodate what already has been annexed, so they have asked that we include them in any discussion about future residential annexations," City Manager Charles Stahl told the board at its monthly meeting.
   Council member Janie McKinney questioned whether the city was properly taking into consideration how tuition paying county students will be affected by the annexation. "I guess what my concern is, is the Westside district and the county students who go there," McKinney said.
   Mayor Sam LaPorte emphasized to McKinney and the council that county students are only admitted into city schools if there is enough room and that city schools are, first and foremost, for the city students.
   Council addressed the fact that lower elementary grades will be affected most by the annexation and commented on the renovation of Harold McCormick's auxiliary gym to build more classrooms to accommodate students who may spill over from Westside.
   Council then conducted a second reading of the tight $14.8 million city schools budget for 2002-2003, which is $395,677 less than last year, anticipating that state-shared revenue will remain the same. Board member Richard Sammons asked Stahl if the city will receive any additional funds due to the increased sales tax.
   "Any increases that came about due to the action of the General Assembly are going to the state government is my understanding," Stahl said. LaPorte said the city promised to consult with school officials on every annexation that could potentially have a negative influence on the school system.
   Discussion arose also over a proposal to change purchasing procedures, increasing the amount from $2,500 to $5,000 for formal bidding. Council member Nancy Alsup said she believed the amount to be too large, enabling spending habits to become irresponsible.
   "Keep in mind one thing that's very important. Unless it's an emergency purchase, all these items have to be budgeted and approved by you in the budget process," Stahl said. Purchasing director Gene Deloach told council that it will still be necessary to obtain quotes for purchases and that the city probably has the lowest bidding limit in the state.
   LaPorte agreed with Deloach and Stahl. "This just reduces the number of formal bids. It doesn't give you carte blanche to go out and spend city money up to $5,000. If it's not a budgeted item, they have to get approval anyway," LaPorte said.
   LaPorte told the council that theft from the city will be guarded by the financial director, Brad Moffitt, and Deloach. Alsup and board member Sam Shipley voted against the increase of the purchasing limit.
   In other business, council voted to install traffic calming devices, such as speed bumps and crosswalks, at three different locations -- Milligan College, the Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency, and the Blackbottom community.
   Planning and Development Director David Ornduff told council members that he had received a petition from 13 of the residents in the Blackbottom area approving the traffic calming devices. However, his office requires that 67 percent sign the petition.
   The council's vote was contingent upon a review of procedures by the city attorney and receiving the necessary signatures to approve the action.
   Also approved was an amendment to the city travel regulations encouraging more accountability, a construction easement for construction at the Elk Avenue Bridge, a fixed asset policy to improve inventory procedures, and an amendment to the gas franchise the city has with United Cities Gas Company.
   The Elizabethton Police Department addressed it will soon be receiving a grant for approximately $12,000 from the Department of Justice, and sought approval from city council. Police Chief Roger Deal said the money will go toward improving the EPD's communication system.
   "We'll use it to put a repeater inside of cars that monitor the Milligan area. Since Milligan is sort of in a valley, radio communication is sometimes difficult. We've had this radio system since I came on board in 1977," Deal said.