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Editorial: Mayor working to fulfill paving promise

Editorial Board • Jul 17, 2019 at 1:39 PM

Newly sworn-in Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull is off to a great start. During the campaign, Shull said that he knocked on thousands of doors and that residents told him their top concern was the condition of city streets. The city has $2.44 million budgeted for street work this fiscal year, but Mayor Shull has been on a mission to do better.

Even before he was sworn in, Shull was investigating ways to sweeten the paving pot by at least an additional $500,000. That idea has turned into a proposal that could leverage $2 million in federal funds. If that comes to fruition, some $5 million will be invested in city streets over just the next 12 months, making a significant difference in the city’s appearance and road conditions. It will also be a sign that Mayor Shull intends to waste little time in getting some things done in Kingsport.

“Mayor Shull mentioned a desire to inject $500,000 into the paving budget, so we’ve been thinking about creative ways to address our major roads,” said Ryan McReynolds, assistant city manager for operations.

According to information provided to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the plan calls for the city to come up with $500,000 later this year and then use those dollars to obtain $2 million in federal funds. The federal money must be spent on main roads and not neighborhood streets.

McReynolds said Kingsport’s share of $500,000 could come from remaining money in closed-out projects and other leftover money from the fiscal year 2019 budget. The amount of leftover money would not likely be known until September, said City Manager Chris McCartt. “Our year-end money is not going to be at the level it’s been in the past,” McCartt said. “It’ll be a little less than what we’re used to.”

But if the money is there and the measure is approved by the BMA, McReynolds said the paving would take place beginning next summer.

That would mean $7.5 million spent paving roads in Kingsport over a 24-month period.

Mayor Shull believes there’s a disconnect between the public and city leaders as he heard while campaigning. For instance, “The public really doesn’t see a need for a second baseball stadium,” Shull said. “I’m not criticizing the BMA’s motives, but it just sends a wrong message to voters to read about this type of thing and then run over a pothole on the way to work.”

Mayor Shull said he hopes Kingsport will be able to accelerate road repairs, and he’s wasting no time in getting that done.

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