Pectol: City needs new direction in economic development

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   William "Don" Pectol believes Elizabethton and Carter County officials need to redefine their focus on economic development.
   "We are obviously not doing something right in economic development," said Pectol, one of eight candidates running for a seat on the Elizabethton City Council. "Elizabethton -- from a geographical standpoint -- is one of the prettiest cities anywhere around here, yet we do not have the industry coming here that is being aggressively recruited by Greeneville, Morristown or even Erwin."
   Pectol, 52, graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport. A certified public accountant, he holds bachelor's and master's degrees in Accounting from Clemson and Ohio State University.
   After college, he went on to earn a C.P.A. certificate and has been involved in financial management positions with a number of companies including North American Corporation. He is married and has one daughter who is a graduate of Elizabethton High School.
   "I felt that Elizabethton government didn't really have a lot of background, particularly business background," said Pectol of his motivation to run for council. "I thought I had some skills that might be beneficial to helping the city through some tough economic times."
   Pectol stated that he was not familiar with the level of access the Northern Connector highway project would afford for commercial or industrial development within the city.
   Construction on the 4.1 mile, $28 million five-lane highway project is expected to begin in 2004.
   Pectol said it was unfortunate the city had to spend $1.5 million to renovate the Big Springs water source. The project to reduce water turbidity from the spring was undertaken by the city under state mandate.
   "The regional water supply is a solid plus because it will bring an ample water supply in for at least the next 50 years," he said. "It's going to be expensive but hopefully there will be state and federal grant dollars available to help with the funding.
   "I think ideally one thing that could come out would be the merger of the smaller utility districts either together or in with the Elizabethton city system to get an economy of costs and some efficiencies."
   At a public auction held in September, the city and county purchased the old hospital building, which has incurred delinquent property taxes. The owner has a one year grace period to pay off the property taxes plus a 10 percent penalty to reclaim the property.
   Pectol said even though costs to demolish the building would be high, he believed the city and county would have to take the building down.
   "The deteriorations that have occurred over the last 15 years and the huge amount of asbestos make it really a safety hazard.
   "It is a beautiful piece of property if you could take the building off. It would be ideal to develop into a medical office complex. It is one of the prettiest pieces of property inside the city."
   As far as the city's management, Pectol felt city administrators were handling the city's operations "pretty well."
   "I think there are some areas they can work on," he said. "Fiscally, they have done a good job and kept taxes fairly low and pretty stable. I think they can probably work better with existing business and industry and the economic development people to try to get more business and industry here."
   The city's recent annexations of property in west Carter County had brought in new properties and hundreds of county residents into Elizabethton's corporate boundaries.
   Expanding services to new residents was important, but equally important was to give citizens a time frame for when they could expect city services to be provided.
   "The key thing is whenever the city annexes something, they need to come up with a reasonable time period to provide sewer service or whatever other municipal service is available to the annex area," he said.
   The city of Elizabethton and North American Corporation are presently embroiled in a lawsuit regarding a city sewer line. Pectol nixed any notion that his past affiliation with the company would have influence on his decisions as a city council member.
   "I think anybody that knows me knows I am fairly hard-headed and independent," he said. "I'm not an employee of North American anymore and haven't been for about four years. They are just one of several clients.
   "I would make the decision I thought was the right one whether it was in North American's interest or not."
   Besides manufacturing, the industry of tourism held great opportunities for the city, said Pectol.
   "We have everything to offer that Jonesborough has, yet we don't have nearly the volume of visitors that they do," Pectol stated. "That is an under-utilized attraction we have that we need to work on."
   He has been involved in a number of community activities including being a board member and officer for the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce, past President and Campaign Chairman of the United Way and past President of the Rotary Club.
   "I'm really interested in the long-term future of the city and I think I have the financial background and expertise in the next four years in what is clearly going to be a very tough economic time," said Pectol.