Kingsport officials hail progress and look to the future at State of City event | Local News
KINGSPORT – The model city weathered the storm of 2020 and came out this year in good financial health. However, this past year has been clearly better than the last, and city officials say Kingsport is well positioned for 2022 and beyond.
These are some of the comments from Friday’s State of the City event, held at the MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center.
For the past eight years, Kingsport has hosted such an event to talk about the city’s financial situation, to note some of the projects that have been completed over the past year and to provide an overview of the big things planned for the near future.
Representatives from city, county and state as well as business, education and community leaders gathered to hear from Mayor Pat Shull and City Manager Chris McCartt about what is happening in the model city.
Shull, who was re-elected for a second term in May, opened the hour-long presentation by touching on some highlights on finance, infrastructure and economic development.
â€œOverall, our debt is declining, our bond ratings remain strong and we have an excellent record of annual audit reports,â€ said Shull. â€œWe have made huge strides in paving, our utilities are world class, and we have the ability to expand our utilities.
On the economic development front, Shull said Kingsport is negotiating development terms for the rest of Brickyard Park, a move that would add 300 housing units and green space to this property.
Efforts to migrate to Kingsport continue to bear fruit, and Domtar and Eastman are less than two years away from opening new product lines, the mayor added.
On the communication side, Shull touted its weekly email update (seen by around 5,000 people), a citizen survey currently underway, and a new phone app to receive information and feedback from residents. and visitors to the city.
“We are dealing with externalities (…) of things happening in the world over which we have little or no control: the pandemic, supply chain issues, inflation and turmoil. ideological, â€Shull said. â€œOverall, though, I think you can say I’m pretty optimistic about the things we can control.
â€œSome of the happiest people I meet are people who have moved to Kingsport within the past four to five years. They are so happy to leave their old home and join us.
CITY DIRECTOR’S SUMMARY
In his third State of the City address since he was elevated to his current post, McCartt explained in more detail the accomplishments of the previous year, the financial state of the city, and some of the notable projects at come in 2022.
â€œIt has been an interesting 18 month periodâ€¦ difficult and challenging and I appreciate the resilience of our staff and community partners,â€ said McCartt. “I hope you will walk away today feeling really motivated and positive about how far your city has come and some of the positives we have ahead of us.”
Some of McCartt’s proudest moments of the past year include:
â€¢ Town Hall Renovation: The $ 8.8 million project came to fruition earlier this year, consolidating employees from six locations into one. It received the Tennessee Public Works Project of the Year award and “really shows a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”
â€¢ Miracle Field: Although the new facility opened in the summer of 2020, the project received the Project of the Year award from the American Public Works Association.
â€¢ Bays Mountain Park: The park celebrated its 50th anniversary throughout 2021 with a variety of special events, promotions and partnerships.
â€œI couldn’t think of a better time to celebrate the park,â€ said McCartt. â€œWe needed this. We needed something to rally round, and what better than one of the city’s crown jewels? “
FINANCE AND GROWTH
Financially, Kingsport has seen a 10% gain in sales tax collection over the past year, allocated $ 5.8 million for one-time investment projects and ended up with a little over $ 20 million in his rainy day fund.
A majority of the sales tax growth was due to online shopping and stimulus funds, McCartt said.
Kingsport has seen its Aa2 and AA bond ratings reaffirmed by Moody’s and S&P respectively, with agencies giving the city a positive outlook for the future.
McCartt said the city is managing its debt well and doing more than what is added.
â€œThis should leave you with the impression that the city’s financial health is very healthy, that we are making the right decisions and that we are very strategic with our investments in order to manage growth,â€ said McCartt.
Growth has also come in the form of people and homes in 2021, with Kingsport having 2,200 new homes under construction or in development.
Since the start of the pandemic, Kingsport has seen more than 1,200 families move to the city, from 49 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.
McCartt concluded his presentation by mentioning some of the projects underway for the next year.
â€¢ Brickyard Park: Kingsport has built four ball fields and Miracle Field on the property, with plans for additions, such as open green spaces, a relocated skate park and a new mountain bike course. â€œWe are reopening Cement Hill and have negotiated with a company that will build over 300 residential units on this site next spring,â€ said McCartt.
â€¢ Amphitheater at Bays Mountain Park: In partnership with Eastman, the city plans to build a new amphitheater starting next spring. The structure will open up many opportunities for new programming.
â€¢ Main Street: For years Kingsport planned to tackle the Main Street problem and completely rebuild the road. The 80% state-funded project will go to tender next spring, McCartt said.