Sunday, November 29, 2009

November 29, 2009 Mayor Barile and Councilman Frank McGuffin "Fast-Track" Contract with New City Administrator

The City Council Agenda is here. It lists the contract with the new city administrator as one of the items [IX (1)] for consideration at the council's 4:00 PM meeting at the City Center on Tuesday, December 1.

IX (1). Approval of an employment contract with Anthony Cox to serve as city administrator.

Mr. Cox was selected on November 24, 2009, at a special called meeting of the council at 11:30 AM. Mayor Barile was set to negotiate the contract with Cox. When a councilmember suggested that a councilperson be put on the negotiating team, Barile appointed Frank McGuffin to help her. 

Let's see. Public "meet-and-greet" of administrator candidates and council interviews on Thursday (11/19) and Friday (11/20).  Selection made on Tuesday (11/24), Thanksgiving on Thursday (11/26), and the employment contract is already on the council's agenda on the city website by Friday (11/27). 

Barile and McGuffin put this contract on the fast-track. Of course, Pat Hardy of MTAS, who thinks that Jim Crumley is an excellent administrator, has already given the council some money guidelines and other contract suggestions.

Hopefully, Barile and Frank McGuffin and City Attorney Dick Jessee (who is Frank's uncle) have crafted a contract that adequately protects the city from a repeat of the situation which arose with Crumley.

Hopefully, this contract will provide that in the event that it is discovered--shortly AFTER termination for cause or shortly AFTER voluntary resignation or retirement--that the city administrator violated state law, the city charter, or local ordinances in the conduct of his office, then he/she must pay back to the city all monies and the monetary value of all benefits paid to or for him/her as part of a contractual or negotiated severance package.

The council thought Crumley was absolutely wonderful when he was selected about eight years ago, and Crumley may have performed satisfactorily for a time.  Some of the councilmembers who selected Crumley are still on the council today. If a provision as noted above had been included in Crumley's contract or in the negotiated severance package, it might have allowed the city to get back some or all of the $145,000+ severance package that Crumley was given. Click here.

Cox is the council's pack for city administrator. He appears to have the financial qualifications for the position, and he very well may be the excellent administrator that the city really needs at this point. 

After the Crumley fiasco, however, the employment contract with the city administrator (no matter who it is) should provide protection to the city as well as to the administrator in the event that something goes wrong down the road--and in the event that illegal conduct in office is discovered shortly after termination/ resignation.

With Crumley, it came out shortly AFTER he left office that he apparently violated the law in the conduct of his office. The severance money, however, had apparently already been paid by then, and neither the original employment contract nor the negotiated severance contract provided a way to get such payments back or terminate benefits in the event that illegal actions were discovered shortly AFTER any termination or resignation/retirement.

The Mayor and McGuffin---and the entire council---are charged with looking out for the city in a business-like manner in drawing city contracts. Once burned, twice shy. This is a contract that should be carefully prepared, read by all councilmembers, and thoughtfully questioned and considered before a vote is cast.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25, 2009 Anthony Cox Selected as New City Administrator

Not surprisingly, Anthony Cox of Radford, Virginia was named the new Morristown "city administrator-select" at yesterday's 11:30 AM special called meeting of council. Wonder how many working taxpayers were able to leave work and make it to that meeting?

Pat Hardy of MTAS and Interim City Administrator Lynn Wampler had presented the council with a slate of four finalists from which to select a new city administrator to replace the "retired" Jim Crumley.

Two of the four finalists (Angie Carrier of White House, TN and Jody Baltz of Tullahoma, TN) were placed among the final four at the last-minute because of their "close acquaintance" with MTAS' Pat Hardy and Interim City Administrator Lynn Wampler. Although Baltz met the advertised qualifications for the job, selection of Carrier or Baltz would have raised eyebrows since apparently both got an automatic pass to the final four--with no telephone interview--based on MTAS connections.

Of the two who went through the entire process and who actually interviewed with Wampler prior to their inclusion as finalists (Anthony Cox and James Payne), Cox emerged the winner. 

Cox has many tasks before him--chief of which is cleaning up the financial mess left by Crumley and company.  Hopefully, the Mayor and Councilmembers are now ready to pay attention and  be active  participants in the operation of city government instead of being a rubberstamp.

Regardless of who is City Administrator, the buck always starts and stops with the Mayor and City Council.

The Mayor and Council appoint an administrator, but they can't just walk away at that point and give free rein to that person, no matter who it is.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The absolute power given to Crumley led to the current financial debacle at the City Center with a huge assist by a Mayor and Council who fiddled while Morristown burned.

Government at all levels should be a system of checks-and-balances. The Administrator is "selected" to be the day-to-day point man at the City Center, but the "elected" Mayor and Council are the people's   representatives in setting policy and acting as a check-and-balance on the power given to the administrator.

Morristown needs an honest administrator who will operate city government like an open book and in a financially responsible manner. Morristown needs honest budgeting without the inflated revenue projections, bloated spending, and excessive borrowing/debt of the past.  
Anthony Cox has a huge task before him. 

He can't go wrong by relying on the two most basic tried-and-true financial principles:  Don't spend more than you take in and realize that excessive debt will cripple and enslave you.

At an ever-increasing pace over the past few years, City officials spent more than they took in, created wish lists, and then spent and borrowed more. 

Of course, when you get to spend OPM (other people's money), it is easy to come up with $100 million dollar wish lists and all kinds of nifty spending ideas (e.g., brick-paving machines). It's also easy to go deeper and deeper into debt when you get to use OPM to pay that debt back. It's easy to set up perks for friends and associates when OPM pays it all. It's easy to sign no-bid contracts and work out sweetheart deals when OPM picks up the tab.  It's easy to buy the latest, fanciest, and chromiest vehicles when OPM pays for them and the gas, too.  Two-million dollar cost overrun (Veterans Parkway)? Not a problem when OPM pays it.
The citizens are watching their government and their government officials more closely than ever before--not just in Morristown and Hamblen County but in cities and counties all across the nation. 

OPM belongs to the citizens and taxpayers. It is not free money. It is not for frivolous, pet projects.  It is not to be wasted.  It is not for excessive spending or excessive borrowing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 24, 2009 No Public Forum at Today's "Special Called" Meeting of City Council

As mentioned in an earlier post, the City Council is having a special called meeting at 11:30 AM.

The announcement of the meeting in Sunday's paper said that there were only two items on today's agenda:

1) Hiring a City Administrator;and
2) A Bond Anticipation Note in the amount of $950,000 for the purchase of the property on North Liberty Hill Road for the new Public Works Complex.

If you check the city's website, the agenda (click here) shows a third agenda item (Installation of fire hydrants in Witt area) that was not mentioned in the newspaper.

Significantly, today's agenda does not list a public forum where the public is given the opportunity to speak to council. The agendas for Council's regular meetings provide the public with an opportunity to speak near the beginning of the meeting. Today's special called meeting, however, does not include a public forum.

It looks like the council and interim administrator not only called this special meeting for 11:30 AM to keep the working taxpayer from being able to attend but also to keep anyone who might be able to attend (retired or off work today) from speaking about items on the agenda.

The process of naming an administrator has had its own problems--see the post here on the last-minute addition of two "acquaintances" of MTAS' Pat Hardy and Interim Administrator Wampler as automatic finalists.

Now the special called meeting is set for 11:30 AM to make sure that the public can't attend and, if the public should somehow be able to attend, the special called meeting prevents them from speaking 

Not exactly a showcase for openness and transparency.

[At its regular meetings, the Mayor and Council at least go through the motions of allowing the public to speak and act like they are listening.  At today's meeting, they don't want to hear the public!]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 22, 2009 City Center Closing at 3:30 PM on Fridays

[UPDATED] There was an announcement in today's Sunday paper that the City Center would be closing at 3:30 PM on Fridays beginning December 4.

Now, if you had a business that served the public, would you shut your business down completely for 1-1/2 hours on Friday afternoons or would you rotate employee shifts slightly so that you could be open everyday as usual until 5:00?

Well, if you had a business and had to cut back on employee hours but still truly wanted to serve the public, you would have some people come in and work on Friday from 8-2:30 and others would be scheduled to come in and work on Friday from 10:30-5. That way you are open from 8-5 as usual and those customers who can't get in by 3:30 can still be accommodated.

But if you are Morristown city government, you just shut everything down completely for 1-1/2 hours on Friday afternoon. This decision shows that the city has little concern for the taxpaying public and does not want to apply logic and business-sense to keep the city operating during normal hours with just a slight change in work shifts.

Is this part of a plan to get people to accept another round of increases in fees and taxes? 

A complete and detailed examination of the city budget, city revenue, and city expenditures is desperately needed.

For years and years, the Mayor and Councilmembers have relied on inflated revenue projections and have passed an inflated spending plan and then walked away allowing the City Administrator to switch money around and pretty much spend all the money however he wanted.

Maybe the next newspaper announcement will be that the Mayor and Councilmembers will be meeting at a very quiet City Center on Friday afternoons at 3:30 PM to figure out what has been going on and to set up a system of checks and balances for real accountability in the future.

November 22, 2009 City Council Special Meeting on November 24 at 11:30 AM (For the Convenience of all Citizens? Not!)

The City Council is having a special meeting on November 24, 2009, at 11:30 AM at the City Center to:

1) Name a new city administrator; and
2) Consider a bond anticipation note in the amount of $950,000 for the purchase of the Roy Widener property on N. Liberty Hill Road.

A very important decision--selecting a new city administrator--is on the agenda. Setting this meeting for 11:30 AM shows that the Mayor and many councilmembers are happy to exclude the working and taxpaying public from being able to participate or observe the handling of public business.

[Of course, the Mayor and most councilmembers have already shown that they are not interested in having any meetings at a time that is convenient for the public.  See a prior post on council meeting times here.]

One reason for the inconvenient 11:30 AM meeting time could be questions that have arisen surrounding how the last two finalists (Angie Carrier and Jody Baltz) for the city administrator position were selected.

The newpaper hinted at these questions in the last two paragraphs of a November 19 article when Bob Moore reported:  "Interim Morristown City Administrator Lynn Wampler and Pat Hardy, a Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) consultant, narrowed the (city administrator) field from more than 80 applicants to the final four. Baltz and Carrier, acquaintances of Wampler and Hardy, were added as last-minute entries into the city administrator selection process.

The normal process of application followed by interview of potential finalists was apparently circumvented with the addition of Baltz and Carrier as finalists despite not being interviewed by phone as were other finalists.

Carrier's situation is particularly troubling. It must be very important to be "an acquaintance" of certain people when you can waltz into the final four with submission of a last-minute resume, no phone interview, and an admission that you are not directly involved in formulating budgets and that you have no experience in industrial recruitment because your city (White House, TN) is primarily a bedroom community for people who work in Nashville. [Bob Moore's November 20 article in the Tribune.]

Strangely, I didn't see any quote in Bob Moore's article from Mayor Barile, other councilmembers, Wampler, or Hardy about the passes given to Baltz and Carrier. Surely, Bob asked for comment about failure to follow procedures in connection with Carrier and Baltz.  Carrier, as I understand, is a very personable individual. Baltz has the financial expertise required for the job, but he, unfortunately, appears to have received an automatic pass to the final four just on the basis of being an "acquaintance" of Wampler and Hardy. 

Contrast the automatic selection of Carrier and Baltz as finalists with the Mayor's comments a few weeks ago rejecting any further consideration of city department head Jay Moore's application and refusing to give Moore an interview because he did not meet the advertised budgeting and financial "requirements" for the job.  

If Mr. Moore had just been an "acquaintance" of Wampler and Hardy, perhaps he, too, could have waltzed into the final four without meeting the financial requirements and without having an interview.

On the other hand, one has to wonder about the Mayor's definition of financial requirements. She seemed to think that the departed Jim Crumley was the financial bomb and that the city would be lost without his presence.

Now that Crumley's behind-the-scenes maneuvers are coming out, what does she think of Crumley's illegal transfer of $2.5 Million from the sewer fund to the general fund? 

What does she think of the contract Crumley signed to lease the Roy Widener property on N. Liberty Hill Road--a contract that Mr. Wampler looked at and saw for what it was--a bad lease for the city. Now the City is having to issue $950,000 in bonds--more debt--to purchase the property and get out of additional lease payments with the minimum of financial damage.  Did she see and approve that contract?

What do she and councilmembers think of Crumley and Janish's 09-10 budget--a budget that the Mayor voted for about 4 or 5 months ago and that is now falling apart around her and around the city employees.  Department heads were required to make cuts. Did the Mayor and council take a 4% cut? Probably not, but it is possible and even likely that these officials have protection from any increase or decrease in their pay during their time in office.

What do she and councilmembers think of the huge city debt? What do she and councilmembers think of the astronomical sewer increases--past and future? 

Have she and councilmembers ever really looked at and examined the 2008 audit and current financial  information to try and figure out what has gone on and what is going on? Have she and councilmembers looked at how much more money the city has taken in over the past five years?  Have she and councilmembers ever asked where the money went?

Are she and other councilmembers ready to ask financial questions now without fear of, gasp, micromanaging?  Or is the Mayor's real concern still light pollution and those pretty brick-paving machines?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November 19, 2009 City of Morristown and the FY 2008 Audit: Stay Tuned

City leaders are offended when financial responsibility--or their lack thereof--is mentioned.  They blame "the economy." Certainly, the overall economic outlook today is not good. However, the city's mismanagement and wasteful spending sprees that have driven it into virtual crisis-mode go back to pre-bailout times.

Some readers may recall a headline in the local paper a few years back about the city's $100 Million dollar "wish list"?

In the upcoming days, there will posts on the city's 2008 audit and discussion of why the word "bankrupt" has been mentioned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 17, 2009 Jack Fishman Recommends Acquiring Additional Land in East Tennessee Progress Center, Eminent Domain Threatened

Industrial Board Chairman Jack Fishman, who is also owner of the Citizen Tribune, appeared at the city council work session yesterday. Fishman wants the city to fund the purchase of 11 pieces of property inside the East Tennessee Progress Center near I-81 and 25-E. Fishman wants the city to purchase the property from willing buyers but, if the buyer is not willing, then Fishman wants the city to take the  private property by eminent domain

One of the owners of property on Fishman's list was present and spoke passionately about her desire to live out her life on her 14 acres. Alice Purkey, 86, said her land is "not for sale" and asked simply to be left alone.

While Fishman said he wasn't rushing the council, he made sure that each councilperson was given a resolution (below) to pass in December or at some other time. Fishman's resolution provides for the purchase OR taking of any parcel by eminent domain.

UPDATE 11/18/09: It should be interesting to see the Tribune ace reporter Bobby Moore's article on Fishman's appearance at council. How does the reporter "report" on his boss in a fair and balanced way? Will there be a disclaimer noting that Fishman is the reporter's boss and writes the reporter's paycheck? Just guessing, but I would imagine that the article will concentrate on Fishman implying that the main reasons Morristown lost a Harley-Davidson plant were because the ETPC (East Tennessee Progress Center) looked too "rural" and also because the city does not have "control" of certain parcels of land in and around the Park. The article will imply, as did Fishman, that H-D would have been an almost sure thing if the City had just had these other parcels and had spent millions to improve the ETPC. Hence, Fishman's decree that he/IDB/City obtain control of eleven more parcels within three years. Control by sale from willing owner(s) OR forced control by eminent domain!

November 17, 2009 City Council Makes Cuts, Including Reducing Work Hours of Many City Employees

This afternoon's city council meeting was lengthy. Interim City Administrator Lynn Wampler, who did not have cuts ready for discussion at last Thursday's Finance Committee meeting, today had each department head present cuts to the council today.

The council chambers were full of police, fire, public works, and other city employees. Some employees stood just outside the council chambers while others spilled out into the large rotunda as department heads presented cuts to their 09-10 budgets that were passed a few months ago.

To make up a projected budget shortfall of approximately $900,000, the cuts by various departments  included a reducton in hours for many city employees, vacant positions left unfilled or changed to part-time, and the elimination of the positions of two newly-hired firefighters who had just recently been sent for training.

Voting "no" on the cuts were Gene Brooks and Claude Jinks. All others (Bob Garrett, Mayor Barile, Claude Jinks, Doc Rooney, and Frank McGuffin) voted yes.

After the cutting was done, Interim Administrator Wampler asked that the council consider at a future date a number of ways of raising more money for the city. Among the proposals put on the table were raising the hotel-motel tax (which will have to be approved locally, sent to Nashville as part of a private act, and then passed again locally with a 2/3 majority), garbage pick-up charges, and eliminating recycling  pick-up and having people deliver their recyclables to convenience centers instead.

I'll have several other separate posts on topics covered at the meeting.

Update: The WVLT report is here. The WBIR report is here. The WATE report is here.

November 17, 2009 Crumley's Legacy Begins to Unfold. Where Was Council's System of Checks and Balances?

Morristown City Council meets today at 4:00 pm. [At their last meeting, they refused to move the meeting time to a taxpayer-friendly 5:00.]   Most councilmembers are happy with 4:00 and especially with the fact that 4:00 makes it inconvenient or impossible for working taxpayers to attend and actually watch what is being done with THEIR money.

I predict that some of Crumley's legacy of mismanagement along with council's failure to act as a check and balance on the administrator's power may begin to officially unfold today. The word is out. It may take a long time for the full extent of mismanagement by Crumley and cohorts to make it out into the public domain.  In fact, some of the mismanagement and/or illegalities may never be uncovered. In government circles, one level of power protects the other.

One of the most egregious acts of Crumley was the illegal transfer of $2.5 million dollars from the City sewer fund to the general fund in FY 2008 in order to conceal or prop up the "poor" cash situation of the general fund.

According to the city auditors, Crumley suggested the entry and authorized the entry in a meeting with the city's "independent" and "objective" auditor Tom Jones and Finance Director Dynise Robertson.

The transfer was then recorded by Jones in the 2008 audit as a "loan." 

After the illegality of this transfer was discovered, all those involved went into protection mode. The auditors said, yes, we were in the meeting where the journal entry was authorized but we didn't actually make the entry ourselves (we just knew about it). Just a couple of weeks ago, the $2.5 million was set to be transferred back from the general fund to the sewer fund---again no passage by the council, no mention in the paper. I guess two wrongs in the city make a right--especially if it's all conveniently handled in-house with no public acknowledgment or explanation.

[I expect some response and a brief explanation by the city pretty soon. It will probably one of those "spin" statements saying that it was just Crumley who did this. No one else had a part in it. No one knew it was illegal. No one asked any questions. Move on! And for Pete's sake don't expect us to hold anyone accountable. Well, spindoctors, consider this. If the auditors had pointed out this illegality when they prepared the 2008 audit or when they presented the 2008 audit to the council in May 2009, it could have saved the city taxpayers over $145,000.

Did the auditors really not know that a  loan from the sewer fund to the general fund requires local approval and state approval? Was auditor objectivity lost because of their presence in the meeting with Crumley where this transfer/loan was authorized? Was auditor independence compromised by being part of the financial process? With $2.5 Million being shifted around, wouldn't an independent auditor ask or check to see that proper documentation and legal procedures were followed? After all is said and done, auditors have the last call. If only they had blown the whistle on this illegality, if only someone on council had actually looked at the audit and asked about this, Crumley could have been fired without the fancy retirement party and the huge severance package PAID FOR BY CITY TAXPAYERS.]

And while most of that money (the $2.5 million that was illegally transferred) has now or will soon be transferred back to the sewer fund,  it will have to be transferred back again to the general fund pretty soon because, you guessed it, the general government fund is still in "poor" condition. Robbing Peter (sewer fund) to pay Paul (operate general government)?

Crumley is gone, but certainly not forgotten. His fiscal mismanagement and illegal actions are just starting to unravel. The council needs to do a complete and thorough audit of all city funds and departments before a new administrator comes in. The council also needs to set up a system of financial reporting along with a set of checks and balances before a new administrator comes in.

The city taxpayers should not be left holding the bag.  Higher property taxes, higher sales taxes, red light cameras, debt and more debt, and on and on. Lack of accountability put the City in the position it is today. Now, the procedures, regulations, and reporting need to change. And then the council and department heads and others must ensure that the new procedures, regulations, and reporting are monitored and enforced.  No more sleight of hand. Transparency and accountability are needed. Not cover-ups.

If things don't change in a big way, Morristown will simply have a new set of names but the same old waste, fraud, and abuse.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 14, 2009 City Finance Meeting: New Administrator and Sewer Mess

This 'n that:


Interim Administrator Lynn Wampler went over the qualifications of the four candidates for city administrator. He stated that he and MTAS representative Pat Hardy did phone interviews during the previous week. Wampler said that the four on the final list are "all qualified people." Wampler expects that after the candidates complete one-on-one interviews with councilmembers, the council will be able to find a candidate who is a good match for the city and who is up to the task of putting the city on the path to financial stability.

The four include candidates, none of whom are from Morristown, are: Jody Baltz, Angie Carrier, Anthony Cox, and James Payne.

One of the local candidates who was interviewed, Rusty Smith, was present at the Finance meeting. During the discussion of the candidates, former councilmember Rick Trent asked that the council put city employee Jay Moore's name back into consideration and interview him. There were several favorable comments about Mr. Moore's performance as a department head, but in the end the council decided only to interview the four as selected by Wampler and Hardy.


The sewer situation (another city mess) and the fines and mandate that TDEC has put to the city to straighten out overflows and numerous other problems came up. The cost is going to be enormous. Brian Fowler, who is over the city sewer system, was not present at the Finance meeting.

    Fowler and city employee Lester Turner have proposed that city employees handle much of the work that has to be done, including the work that TDEC has mandated. Councilmember Bob Garrett questioned (1) whether the city employees could actually do the work cheaper than a contractor who is experienced in the work and (2) whether city employees could complete all the mandated work within the time frames set by the state.

    Turner pointed out that city workers have gradually become more proficient in using the required equipment and performing the work themselves. 

     Garrett added that if city workers do the work, the state will come in and audit the records (perhaps monthly) to verify that it is really cheaper for city employees to handle the work.

     Previously, Turner and perhaps Fowler as well did not realize that they had to include city benefits (insurance costs, retirement costs, matching social security, etc.) in the city's costs for city employees to do the work. As Garrett said, the city's true and full costs have to be included so that these costs can be accurately compared to the costs that would be incurred by hiring a contractor to do the work. Of concern to Garrett is that even if the costs are slightly lower for city employees to perform the work, he does not think that city employees can get all the work done by the state-mandated deadlines.

     Fowler was not at the meeting to discuss the sewer issue. Fowler testified this week in federal court in Greeneville in the case brought by residents of Witt and Roe Junction against Koch Foods over sewer odors that began in early 2005 at the same time that the Koch Foods plant in the East Tennessee Progress Center opened. The City was brought into the suit as an additional defendant after the lawsuit was initially filed.

    Lamar Dunn, the city's consultant on sewer system problems and sewer rates, has also testified at the federal trial.

    David Wilds of Koch Foods has testified. Cindy Krebs, who works for Veolia, has testified. Barry Calfee, who used to work for Veolia but who now works for Koch Foods, has testified. Veolia is the company with whom the City has contracted for management and operation of the city's wastewater treatment plant.

    Several of the area residents have testified, including County Commissioner Guy Collins.

    Except for one article that announced that the trial was starting, the Tribune has had no reports about the trial or testimony from any of the witnesses. The trial has been going on for two weeks now and is expected to wind up next week.

November 14, 2009 City Finance Committee Meeting and the Farmers Market Site

The Farmers Market site on West Morris Boulevard was a topic of lengthy discussion at the 11/12/09 City Finance Committee meeting.

While the discussion was always civil, there are obvious differences of opinion.

Gene Brooks, who was appointed chair of the Farmers Market Task Force, expressed concern about the current lack of enforcement of codes and regulations. Brooks said that the regulations say "no permanent structures" and that set-up is to be daily on a first-come, first-served basis and then the vendors are to clean and leave in the evening.  [Gene added that he had been appointed chairman of the Farmers Market Task Force, but he was not allowed to appoint members of the Task Force.]

Claude Jinks mentioned health concerns.

Mayor Barile agreed that the area needs to be "cleaned up." Some people who were mentioned as being involved in the Task Force discussions are the Mayor, Alan Hartman, Todd Morgan, Stacy Hayes, and Darrell Williams of the DMA (Downtown Merchants Association).

Brooks pointed out that one individual has set up on seven places and that many are not farmers at all.

Mentioned several times was possible interest by CVS for a pharmacy at that location. [We all know that wherever there is a Walgreens, a CVS will try to locate nearby. And wherever there is a CVS, a Walgreens will try to locate nearby.]

Someone mentioned that Darrell Williams (DMA) had said there would never be a CVS there. Mayor Barile said that the DMA is afraid of losing parking to a CVS if one were built there. Claude Jinks took exception to Mr. Williams' alleged remark and said that the council will decide what happens to the property.

At this time, the city is apparently only considering the proposal of developer Shawn Wilmeth (sp?). McGuffin has talked to Wilmeth and explained that Wilmeth wants a one-year free-look at the property, with no earnest money put down.

Kay Senter suggested perhaps giving Wilmeth a one-year right of first refusal but not tying up this city property for a full year without any compensation.

McGuffin then asked if the council would consider "squaring up" the property and selling it to Wilmeth and having Wilmeth put up an entrance sign where the fountain currently is. There was also discussion about whether a new, updated appraisal is needed.

McGuffin said he thought it was a phenomenal piece or property until he found out about all the utility easements that lie underneath and cross the property. Because of the utility easements, Bob Garrett said that's "dead property" there.

Buddy Fielder said that the city might be able to relocate the utilities to make it possible to build on the property.

Claude Jinks said maybe it should be left as a parking lot since there is so little parking available for businesses downtown.

This is not the first time that the Farmer's Market property has been discussed for lease, sale, parking, etc. If city councilmembers are considering and discussing a ground lease or outright sale of this property, why are they not again advertising and requesting proposals from ALL who might be interested in the property? See my previous post.

The current discussion by at least some members of the council gives the appearance that this is a closed process for consideration of just one proposal.

Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13, 2009 City upset at WATE-TV questions regarding finances

Yesterday's City Finance Committee meeting was long.  I will go into more detail this weekend.

Although it was not on the agenda, there were several comments about calls that councilmembers had received from WATE-TV in Knoxville about the financial condition of the city.  The WATE website report is here.  I heard that WATE also discussed the city's financial situation during its evening news report yesterday.

Apparently, the WATE reporter had been told of the city's financial situation (not good at all) and was planning to come to the Finance Committee meeting if cuts were to be discussed. 

Mr. Wampler spoke to the reporter and told her that proposed cuts had not been prepared and would not be discussed at yesterday's meeting, so WATE didn't come.

While the Mayor and councilmembers are trying to calm everybody down about the city's finances, they are also considering selling some city property (off Sulphur Springs Road) to raise money for the general fund.

Yesterday, there was also discussion about a TIF agreement (tax increment financing) in which the City will more or less give up collecting real and personal property taxes for a lengthy period of time and instead will allow tax money to be used for development of property along E. Morris Boulevard between S. Liberty Hill Road and Montvue.  The Industrial Board is working this out and the proposal to give up taxes for a period of time will be pitched to the city and to the county. 

The owner or developer of the property, according to Finance Chair Frank McGuffin, is All Star Construction. McGuffin expects that city sales tax revenue would increase with the proposed largely retail development. And after the TIF ends (maybe 15 years or so), the real estate and personal property taxes on the land and equipment would then be available to the city for the general fund.

[Tax Increment Financing typically dedicates tax increments (increased tax revenues) within a certain defined district to finance the debt that was issued to pay for infrastructure and other improvements.]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12, 2009 Lawyer: Red Light Cameras Must Have a Private Investigator License

There are a lot of people in Morristown who don't like the red light cameras. And that sentiment is shared by many people across the state.

An attorney in Clarksville claims that the cameras are "private investigators" for the company (Redflex) that operates them.  The attorney represents several clients, all of whom have been "pictured" running red lights. Now, the attorney may file a motion with the court asking that all of the city's "evidence" (pictures) be thrown out of court because the cameras do not have a private investigator's license! Click this link to the story.

You can bet that many Morristown motorists will be watching for the outcome of these trials.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11, 2009 Veterans Day

 Freedom isn't free.

As Americans, we owe a special debt to all veterans of all branches of the armed forces. Our freedom has been bought with their sweat and blood. Many have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  Freedom isn't free.

Links to the words and patriotic music associated with the following branches of the armed forces can be heard by clicking on each link below:

Army: As Those Caissons Go Rolling Along
Navy: Anchors Aweigh
Marine: Marine Hymn
Air Force: Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder
Coast Guard: Semper Paratus

My father served in the Navy during World War II. My husband served in the Army in Vietnam.

To all who have served in the past and to all who serve today...Thank you for your service and may God bless you and your families.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

November 4, 2009 City Council Sticks with 4:00 Meeting Time

Despite pleas from at least three individuals, the Morristown City Council in a 5-2 vote refused to move its meeting time from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

Gene Brooks made the motion to move the time to 5:00 to make it more convenient for citizens and taxpayers and the public to attend these "public" meetings. Kay Senter seconded the motion. Both Gene and Kay commented on the proposal before the vote was taken, and both Gene and Kay voted "yes."  

The other five members of the council did not comment or explain their opposition to a later, more citizen and taxpayer-friendly meeting time.  Voting "no" were Bob Garrett, Claude Jinks, Frank McGuffin, Doc Rooney, and Mayor Barile.

The City is in a financial mess and doesn't want a lot of info coming out.  The city's mess may partly explain the vote to stick with an early meeting time in order to exclude or make it as difficult as possible for the average working person to attend.  Many of the financial problems that have been discussed by council were generated and orchestrated by former City Administrator Jim Crumley with a big assist from a "no-questions asked" Mayor and Council.

It's time for everything to be brought out, acknowledged, and then cleaned up, but that's a very hard thing to get any elected body to do. The refrain from the Mayor and Council will be "forget the past." They will also use the old stand-by "we just need to move on"---without holding anyone accountable, of course! 

Well, if you just "forget the past" and "move on" without changing your procedures to provide for more oversight and accountability NOW, then you will be doomed to repeat the multiple financial mistakes, money shifting, interest-only debt payments, and finagling of the last years--albeit with new names and faces.

More during the next few days.

Monday, November 02, 2009

November 2, 2009 City Council Has Later Meeting Time on Tomorrow's Agenda

Tomorrow's agenda for the Morristown City Council includes an Ordinance to change its meeting time from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm. This is a request made by Charles Cook several weeks ago and discussed at the council's last work session.

The full agenda is on the city's website. Click here for the website or here for just the agenda.

Currently, council meets at 4:00 and then goes into work session discussion after the regular meeting is adjourned. The new schedule would simply put the work session first and then the regular meeting would begin at 5:00. [IF for any reason the work session had not concluded before 5:00, the council would finish the work session after adjournment of the regular meeting].

There is little doubt that 5:00 is a more taxpayer-friendly meeting time.  

However, at least one councilman is adamantly opposed to such a change. During discussion of the time change, Doc Rooney commented that if the people really want to be there because of an issue they are concerned about, they'll come no matter what time the meeting is.  Of course, Doc, like several other  members of the city council, is one of those who doesn't have to clock in to get a paycheck and doesn't have to take off work and lose pay to attend 4:00 meetings of council.

Hopefully, there will be a vote on this matter. There is no perfect meeting time, but a later meeting would no doubt be more convenient for most working taxpayers.

Of course, another complementary idea would be to tape all meetings and air them on the city's website so that ALL taxpayers---those who can attend at 4 or 5 and those who can't attend then or are sick and shut-in---can see what the council is discussing and how each councilmember votes.  I requested the taping and airing of meetings back in September.  It would be nice to see a public discussion and vote on this issue at some time in the future.