LaPorte, Alsup say farewell

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  Elizabethton Mayor Sam LaPorte and Councilwoman Nancy Alsup said goodbye to colleagues and friends at their final council meeting on Thursday night.
  "I tried my best to represent the citizens of Elizabethton," said Alsup who lost her bid for a third straight council term in the Nov. 2 city election. "I have had wonderful experiences during my eight years on City Council that people wouldn't have in a lifetime.
  "It has been a joy to work with them and I wish them all the best."
  LaPorte, who did not run for re-election, said goodbye to council after four years as mayor. LaPorte thanked his family for their "undying tolerance and support" as well as his fellow council members, city staff and employees.
  "I thank the citizens of Elizabethton, for without them the city would not be the best place in the world to live," he said.
  City Manager Charles Stahl presented a plaque and a key to the city. He said plans made under the past council would continue to bear fruit for the city in years to come.
  "It has been a pleasure working for you," he said.
  The council did conduct business Thursday night voting 7-0 to accept a financial recovery plan for the Elizabethton Municipal Golf Course that has seen difficult financial times in recent years.
  City Finance Director Brad Moffitt formulated a financial recovery plan to fund the EMGC's $60,000 annual debt service. The existing debt payments would extend through August 2010.
  The plan comes after the course's inability to pay its debt service bond payment in December 2003 forced the city to pay $87,826 from the city government fund balance to cover the payment. City administration's review of the golf course's financial records found expenses had increased 11 percent over the past four years while revenues decreased 1 percent over the same time period. The report also found the course's net assets had decreased by $271,000, or 38 percent, over the past four years.
  "There has been a tremendous amount of progress made in the past year," Moffitt said of the golf course's financial situation.
  He added an audit of the course's past fiscal year indicated the EMGC could turn a profit this year. As an enterprise fund and city-owned entity, state law requires the course to be financially self-supporting.
  The council also voted 7-0 to buy three parcels of property located on Hattie Avenue and South Sycamore Street near Elizabethton City Hall and hold them for one year. The city will pay $199,500 for the land owned under the estate of Patrick P. Kildoyle.
  City Planning Director David Ornduff recommended an option that allows private entities to purchase the properties for historic preservation within the one-year time frame. Citizens living in the neighborhood expressed their desire to rezone a portion of downtown Elizabethton to preserve the neighborhood's historic homes.
  Ornduff and LaPorte publicly stated Thursday night that the property was not destined for a parking lot as was rumored.
  "That is just not correct," LaPorte stated. "It is for future growth and planning, not for a parking lot."
  Council members also voted 7-0 to sell a small portion of a city right of way located at Pine Street and C Street to Mapes Piano Strings Company for $1,000. Stahl said the sale price recommendation came after an appraisal of the right of way had been submitted to the city. East Tennessee Railway donated the property to the city earlier this year.
  In other business, the council voted 7-0 to award K & M Construction of Elizabethton a demolition and grading project for city-owned property at 613 N. East St., 615 N. East St., and 701 4th Street. K & M Construction submitted the lowest bid of $12,751 to demolish the structures on the parcels.
  The city purchased the property under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's hazard mitigation grant with the requirement all structures on the properties were to be removed. Funding for the project is provided through a grant by FEMA.
  The council, acting in its capacity as the Beverage Board, also voted 7-0 to approve Wal-Mart Stores' application for an off-premises city permit to sell beer from its new superstore.
  The approval came with a contingency, however. Ornduff informed the council that Wal-Mart had not posted a bond of 50 percent of the total infrastructure work done in city right of ways. The work - with an estimated cost of $650,000 - included water and sewer lines, curb and guttering, and other improvements relating to the development.
  "Without (the bond) the city's chief building official cannot issue an occupancy permit," Ornduff told the council. "The store cannot open for business."
  In other business, the City Council presented proclamations honoring the Elizabethton High School cross country and girls soccer teams. The cross country team won the state championship on Saturday. The girls' soccer team won the district championship earlier this year. Teams members and parents packed the council chambers shortly before the meeting to receive the honors.
  Council and city administration received recognition of their own from two city employees who have spent the past several months serving their country on the front lines in the war on terror.
  Marine reservists Brian Fraley and Andy Wetzel presented an American flag to the council as their thanks for the city's support during the service with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment unit. Fraley, a member of the city police department, and Wetzel, a firefighter with the city fire department, are Lima Company members who returned from active duty in Iraq earlier this year.
  "Mr. Stahl pulled us aside and told us not to worry about our jobs that they would be here when we got back," Fraley told council members.
  Apropos of Thursday's Veterans Day holiday the appearance of Fraley and Wetzel in full Marine uniforms drew thunderous applause from the audience gathered for the meeting.