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Kingsport added 11 new positions in 2017 budget

Matthew Lane • Jul 31, 2016 at 6:00 PM

KINGSPORT — The debate over a new sanitation fee consumed a considerable amount of time during recent budget discussions among the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. However, the $8-a-month fee was not the only noteworthy feature of the $190 million budget.

Kingsport also added 11 new positions to its ranks this year with roughly half of the jobs being in the public safety arena.

Originally, City Manager Jeff Fleming proposed adding 21 new positions to the city’s rank this year — three fire fighters, two police officers, a custodian, three crews (mowing, enhancement and concrete) funded by the new power franchise fee, a library systems administrator and two part-time positions at the senior center and within the office of cultural arts.

At the time, budget discussions centered on a $12.75-a-month sanitation fee, and these 21 positions were in the proposed budget. When the BMA was poised to vote on the 2017 budget a second time, a compromise was offered in an attempt to improve the 4 to 3 split vote from the first reading of the budget.

The number of proposed positions changed to nine full-time and two part-time, and the sanitation fee dropped to $8 a month. This “compromise” did not improve the vote and the BMA approved the budget again on a 4 to 3 split.

Fleming said the positions that remained in the budget are the three fire fighters (since Kingsport added a new ladder truck to its fleet), two police officers (in criminal investigations due to department work load), the custodian, a library employee, two on a mowing crew and the two part-time positions.

The cost to the city for each position is as follows:

• 3 firefighters for the ladder truck — $31,991 each.

• 2 police officers — $33,610 each.

• 1 custodian at $21,024.

• 2 mowing crew employess — (a driver at $25,616 and a helper at $22,089.

• 1 library systems administrator at $36,195.

• Senior Center office assistant (part-time) at $16,291.

• Office of Cultural Arts secretary (part-time) at $5,000.

The positions not created within the 2017 budget (concrete and enhancement crews) will now be contracted out, Fleming said.

“We can contract these services, but for so many years we have been understaffed in terms of these basic services, that we felt like this was an opportunity to bring those employees on and be able to direct their work every single day and not through a third party/contract management situation,” Fleming said. “There will be times when we would be able to send an employee out to do something that wasn’t specified in the contract. We won’t be able to do that now.”

However, Fleming said the city would be able to manage situations like this, adding that he does not foresee the city proposing adding this many positions next year.

“We’ve been playing catch-up for years, and our community has been telling us very faithfully, pave the streets, fix the pot holes and replace curbs,” Fleming said. “We’ve simply not had a revenue stream to do that, and now for first time we do.”

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