'Big ideas' from One Kingsport summit coming next week

Matthew Lane • Mar 16, 2016 at 8:09 AM

KINGSPORT – “Big ideas” are one week away.

The momentum behind the One Kingsport summit has been building for months, an idea pushed by Mayor John Clark during last year's city election, culminating in a two-day event in October where nearly 200 people came together to offer input on a new five-year road map for the Model City.

From the summit seven work groups were formed, each one focusing on a theme, such as downtown and health and wellness. Volunteers have met dozens of times during the past four months, brainstorming ideas, policy changes and capital projects.

One week from today, these work groups will be making their recommendations to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen during a day-long meeting at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education. Each work group will have 30 minutes to pitch their “big ideas” and policy changes.

On Tuesday, city leaders heard more about what to expect over the next couple of months.

Justin Steinmann, a planner with the city and point person for the summit work groups, said that beginning the week of March 28, the policy recommendations will be assembled — with final reports from the work groups due April 1.

The recommendations will follow a certain format — a description, the desired outcomes, a start date and estimated time frame to complete and a cost, if any.

“One thing we've hammered home with this process is to focus on no more than a five-year time line,” Steinmann said. However, city and elected leaders admitted that some of the ideas will more than likely take more than five years to implement.

“One of the biggest challenges is putting a cost to (the ideas),” Steinmann added.

During the week of April 4, the recommendations will be handed off to a prioritization team comprised of two volunteers from each of the seven work groups. This team will then choose priorities to implement in years one and two of the five-year plan.

The following week, the team will finalize the priorities based on the impact to the community and then on April 18 will present the list to the BMA.

Steinmann said for most of these ideas, new funding will be required and is currently being identified, though public funding could be leveraged with grants and private funding. Cost estimates will be refined in late April and a revised priority list — with more accurate numbers — will then be presented to the BMA on May 2, the day city leaders will review the 2017 capital improvement plan.

Vice Mayor Mike McIntire voiced a concern about the prioritization team, saying the BMA would be abdicating its role if it went this route.

“I'm not comfortable with a committee making these decisions,” McIntire said.

Steinmann and Development Services Director Lynn Tully said the reason for going this route is because the city did not want to overload the BMA with the recommendations. Tully said there would be at least 50 recommendations, if not more.

Alderman Darrell Duncan pointed out the BMA would hear all of the recommendations at the March 23 work session. Steinmann said the city would work out something else to better address McIntire's concern, where the BMA could provide input on the matter.

Following the May 2 presentation, Steinmann said a single One Kingsport summit steering committee would be formed, comprised of work group stewards and participants, to assist with the implementation of the “big ideas” and policy changes.

“We wanted a group of people who were invested in the process and would serve in an ongoing role,” Steinmann explained.

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