Deal would designate WCEDC as area’s sole ‘economic arm’

Gary B. Gray • Dec 4, 2013 at 9:29 PM

Johnson City commissioners tonight will consider an intergovernmental agreement that, if signed by each entity, would designate the Washington County Economic Development Council the area’s sole economic development arm.

The move would end the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Economic Development Board’s state designation as what has come to be known simply as “PC 1101.” It also would be a first for the WCEDC.

In 1998, Tennessee’s General Assembly created a local growth policy by enacting Public Chapter 1101, which requires local officials within each of the 92 non-metropolitan counties to work together to shape growth policy through the development of 20-year growth plans.

The WCEDC has been functioning as the lead entity with the EDB and Johnson City Development Authority pursuing similar economic development goals, though functioning on a smaller scale.

“If we don’t have this designation, it really hurts the community,” said Mitch Miller, WCEDC chairman and CEO. “If we don’t have an economic development arm which the state can clearly recognize as that body, it will impact grants and other state funding.”

Wording in the agreement works in tandem with the state’s objectives. The agreement basically establishes the WCEDC as the entity designated to foster communication relative to economic and community development between local governments, industry and private citizens.

Membership is equally divided, though it also includes “an unlimited number of private investors” nominated by the council.

The act did not impose a single, statewide solution. It did, however, include five statements of legislative intent, including the stabilization of each county’s education funding base and to minimize urban sprawl.

These and other issues could be discussed today during a special called meeting of the Washington County Commission’s Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee. The meeting will be held in the Washington County zoning administrators’ conference room and precede the City Commission’s meeting by one hour.

The organization’s annual budget is about $850,000, and Johnson City and Washington County agreed to pitch in about $171,000 each over the next three years to help fund its operations. The town of Jonesborough would contribute $7,000 per year. More than $500,000 annually is expected to come from private donations.

City commissioners also will consider a third and final reading of an amended ordinance that would more strictly enforce mandatory spaying and neutering of dogs and cats running loose due to violations by pet owners.

Though it took nearly an hour of debate over three versions of the ordinance, a second reading passed in November in a 3-2 vote.

Non-exempt owners wishing to keep an unaltered animal would be required to purchase a $25 permit. Violations would apply only to animals running loose or causing damage from bites. Pet owners would have only one chance after a first violation to obtain a permit. If a subsequent action has to be taken the permit could be revoked.

Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin, Commissioner Jenny Brock and Vice Mayor Clayton Stout voted for the measure; Commissioners Jeff Banyas and David Tomita voted against. The latter commissioners argued that too much material and too many changes were presented in a short time span, which created a lack of clarity.

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