As a staff member at East Tennessee State University, I am extremely disappointed in my university. Outsourcing is trying to balance the ETSU budget on the backs of custodians who do not make a living wage to begin with.
I don’t think paying for various other projects, such as a $23 million parking garage, which is already $3 million over budget, or an $18 million football stadium while hurting the people who make ETSU such a great community represents the values of our university.
While the university has ensured the janitorial staff will be hired with the new company for the same pay rate, the real issue is the loss of their benefits, including their pensions and the ability for them to retire. Some of these people have worked 25 years for this university and for the state of Tennessee and now they would lose their job and be rehired in an entry level position minus their pensions. It is really disgraceful.
A second issue is that currently the state of Tennessee pays for a portion of workers health coverage. Since our janitorial staff are already the lowest paid in the state, the huge jump in insurance costs that will come with no longer being a state worker would put health coverage for these people and their families out of reach. This not only hurts the custodial workers but Tennessee families and children as well. I hope ETSU makes the right decision and preserves the jobs of those who continue to make ETSU a great place to be.
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Regarding the rezoning of the property at the corner of State of Franklin Road and Sunset Drive, I urge our city commissioners to look at the proposed development in light of the needs of the community. Plans show a grocery store, one large retail space, and several smaller retail spaces. I count six grocery stores currently within about a 2-mile radius of this property. Go somewhat further, and I count eight more. Why do we need another? As for the other retail space, travel in any direction from this site and one can find much vacant retail space. Why do we need more?
Retail or commercial development is not always the best use of property within a city. Central Park in New York City is a good example of this. Indeed our city is currently using taxpayer funds to buy back property in the downtown area to return it to green space.
At the very least, this property should be left as it is currently zoned (medical services), but I think a much better use would be as a small inner city green space or park which would of course require the city to purchase the property from Mountain States Health Alliance, the current owner. There are serious traffic and flooding concerns with the development of this property. Green space/park use would I think nullify both of these.
I always hope our leaders have a vision for the city that makes it a better place. More of the same unneeded retail development is not in my view that better place.
CLAUDIA D. MURDOCK