The One Kingsport Advisory Commission held its initial meeting last week with all 11 members in attendance, with city officials spending the hour bringing members up to speed on their charge, providing information about the Tennessee Sunshine Law and reviewing the full list of year one projects.
City staff also presented the commission with the draft recommendation list for funding later this fiscal year. The projects are listed by which work group recommended them.
Under arts and entertainment, $98,500 is earmarked for the first year payment on a $1.4 million land purchase for the outdoor venue space. Another $50,000 is on the list for an environment review of that property. The public mural program currently in the works has $10,000 set aside.
A number of plans are included on the proposed list: a master plan for the academic village at $25,000, a downtown master plan at $85,000, a Bays Mountain business plan at $35,000, a streetscape master plan at $100,000 and a facility plan for a health resource center at the Lynn View Community Center at $25,000.
Staff recommended allocating $40,000 as incentive money for downtown retail, restaurants and other businesses and $215,000 to expand the city's materials agreement to include roads, sidewalks and stormwater infrastructure.
Earlier this year, the BMA agreed to pitch in $3 million to the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority to redevelop the Lee Apartments site. This money could be paid in a lump sum or over a number of years.
Though not every member of the BMA may agree, the funds are currently proposed to come out of One Kingsport money, $224,672 in the first year.
The final items on the year one list include $10,000 for tactical urbanism and another $10,000 for the creation of an economic development portal.
Development Services Director Lynn Tully said the advisory commission could change the list as they see fit, except for the two time-sensitive items — the KHRA money and the expanded materials agreement — both of which have already been approved by the BMA.
The One Kingsport initiative is a five-year road map for the Model City, born out of a two-day summit held last fall. More than 240 volunteers worked for months brainstorming and refining “big ideas,” policy changes and capital projects to recommend to the BMA to help move the city forward.
The BMA created the commission in August and charged them with two primary tasks: to review and recommend One Kingsport projects throughout the year and to provide an annual report on the accomplishments, metrics and progress of the various projects.
Volunteers crafted a five-year plan with more than 100 ideas on how to improve the Model City. From there, a 14-member prioritization team created a year one priority list consisting of around 60 projects, mostly “quick hit” or low cost.
“It's an exciting time for us to work with the BMA and citizens and to let the citizens set a direction of the city they want for the future,” said Jane Henry, chair of the advisory commission.
One of the main charges of the advisory commission is to further refine the projects on the list before making a full recommendation to the BMA. By the end of the second or third meeting, that list should be fully refined.
“I don't see us as micro-managers,” Henry said. “We'll work with the BMA to make sure things are on track.”
Commissioner Bill Sumner asked why the list included very little allocation for job creation and entrepreneurship? According to the list, the only item under this category is the economic development portal (just over 1 percent of the total funding package).
“We went through a lot of effort to pick each of the groups ... and I don't see a lot here about jobs and entrepreneurship,” Sumner said. “When I'm accosted (about the list) I'd like to be able to tell them we're using the money to grow the city. I want to be able to defend it.”
Sumner asked if city staff would be returning with more details on each of the items on the year one priorities list. Tully said that would be the case, and while the intent is to have quarterly meetings of the advisory commission, since it is brand new, the group will likely meet more often in the next six months.
“None of us are projects experts on most of the things on the list,” she said.
The next meeting of the advisory commission is scheduled to take place during the week of Sept. 26.