Commission's work to improve county far from done says McKinney

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Carter County has made some headway, but much remains to be done to make the county successful, according to 6th District Commissioner Larry McKinney.
   Despite the state's budgetary turmoil and subsequent effect on the counties across the state, McKinney said the county was not on the brink of bankruptcy.
   "Carter County is not in bad shape. We've got all the bills paid and we're not broke," said McKinney, 57, who is seeking his second term on the commission in the 6th District.
   "I've got four years' experience and I think I learned enough in the past four years to be an asset to the people," he added. "We've accomplished a lot in the past four years, but there's a whole lot more that needs to be done."
   The acquisition of real estate to develop new industrial land was a must for the county, he said. The proposed Northern Connector and Gap Creek highway projects could create potential industrial property once completed, McKinney stated.
   He also felt the county commission appropriated a significant amount of money to assist those charged with bettering the county's economic development.
   "We pay the economic development board $35,000 from the county, plus the city gives them money," he said. "The Chamber of Commerce collects $60,000 in hotel taxes.
   "There should be enough money to meet all obligations of getting industry."
   McKinney also felt the county had enough existing regulations when it came to zoning. If the existing private acts were enforced, a new layer of zoning rules would not be needed for the 6th District, he remarked.
   "Every law that covers zoning is already on the books and I can't see why you need new laws when you have laws that cover it," he said. McKinney noted that around 90 percent of the 6th District residents he had spoken with opposed new zoning rules.
   He also said he supported additional financial support to the county's volunteer fire departments and the county's selection of a financial director if costs of the office were kept contained.
   The new position should also free up the county executive's time for industrial recruitment and stay abreast of state issues.
   McKinney said once the county completed debt service payment on Hampton Elementary School within the next three years, the county could build a new public school most likely in the Unaka area.
   "Stoney Creek needs a junior high school," he said. "All the other districts have one."
   The Valley Forge resident also said the county could see a significant reduction in litter if other agencies would remove debris from state rights-of-way in the county.
   "Trash is one of the biggest problems we have in Carter County today," he said. "There are organizations to clean it up if they would but they don't."
   McKinney serves on the commission's Highway, Education and Utilities committees. He said he had attended classes on government operations around the state and had actively sought to represent the 6th District's residents.
   He and his wife Judy have two daughters and three grandchildren.
   He served four years in the U.S. Navy and is a Vietnam veteran. McKinney graduated from Hampton High School and Steed Business College and has been self-employed as a plumber for 30 years.
   "I think I have helped the people in my district and I know I've been a voice for the people," McKinney said.