In a tense meeting yesterday where there was at least some actual "public" discussion by councilmembers of an issue before the city council, the council voted 5-2 to proceed with appraisals and acquisition of land in the East Tennessee Progress Center (ETPC).
The head of the Industrial Board, R. Jack Fishman, was not present at this meeting. Previously, he had spoken twice to council about this land acquisition--once in a work session and once in a Finance Committee meeting held in a small conference room near the Mayor's office. Fishman did not choose to appear at yesterday's regular city council meeting to present the Industrial Board's case or to field questions about the proposal.
In light of the city's pathetic financial condition and the recent cutting of hours of city employees, Councilmember Gene Brooks asked where the money would come from for the appraisals and land acquisition. [The city was broke as of 6/30/08 and only recently paid back a $2.5 Million loan from its sewer fund that had helped cover up its dire financial status].
Mayor Barile mentioned that the city had recently sold some of its property to MUS (Morristown Utility Systems). She said that money could be used to help pay for the land acquisition. The property she was referring to was some acreage on Sulphur Springs Road that the city had acquired years ago to erect a public works facility. Because of the city's financial condition, the Mayor negotiated a deal for MUS to purchase that property from the city for just over $300,000.
Despite offering her assurances that the $300,000 could be used, the Mayor did not state where the additional $1 Million+ would come from for appraisal costs, land acquisition costs, and possible court battles if the city decides to invoke eminent domain on property owners who do not want to sell at all or who do not want to sell for the price that the City/Industrial Board/Jack Fishman offer.
More will follow in coming posts.