County Commission Nixed Proposed White Pine Commerce Park and Eyes Established Location

Staff Photo by Jeff Depew

Staff Photo by Jeff Depew

The Jefferson County Commission declined to approve funding for a proposed Commerce Park that was to be located in the C.H. Rankin, Hwy 113 and Roy Messer area of White Pine. Multiple citizens took to the podium again at Thursday’s Voting Meeting to assure that their concerns regarding the proposal were heard prior to the introduction of motions. In addition to citizens expressing concern regarding location and cost, County Commissioner Rita Musick stepped to the podium to address her counterparts as a citizen regarding the slow pace of work, particularly in the kitchen area, at White Pine School and to request that Commissioners check out the pace of progress, as well as consider fully funding Phase II of the renovation and addition project.

The Jefferson County Industrial Development Board brought a request for a little more than $2 million dollars in initial funding on a proposed $15 million dollar Commerce Park that would be located in White Pine. Jefferson County Mayor Palmieri stated that he did not support the proposed project, noting that there is available land near the proposed site that is ready to be marketed and would have minimal funding needs from Jefferson County. He said that several years ago the City of Morristown made a move on property that was on both the Jefferson City and the White Pine side of the city. Palmieri stated that at the time he was Mayor of Jefferson City and that Jefferson City was able to thwart the movement on their end of the County. The City of Morristown informed residents in Jefferson County that it intended to condemn property in Jefferson County for the purpose of an industrial park. Morristown purchased property inside of Jefferson County, near the EXPO center in White Pine, and developed Progressive Park which was touted as the prime competitor for the current proposed Commerce Park in White Pine. Palmieri said that Jefferson City was instrumental in getting legislation passed that negated the ability of the condemnation of land for an industrial park by an outside County without the approval of the home County. But, Progressive Park, which is located partially in Jefferson County, is up and running with infrastructure already in place. Of the total acreage of the Progressive Park, Jefferson County has around 200 acres. The Mayor stated that roads, utilities, initial costs, zoning, and tax abatement authority is already in place. According to Palmieri, the property that Morristown purchased in Jefferson County for the Industrial Park would garner the City portion of the property taxes but the County taxes would go to Jefferson County. He said that a further 80 acres is owned by ETRAMA 13 County Mayors and could be purchased if the County is inclined to increase their amount of acreage. Palmieri noted that there are no impending law suits from citizens regarding the location because it is established and the site offers the opportunity for a more regional approach to industrial recruitment which, according to Palmieri, is necessary to attract business without one community taking on large debt. Mayor Palmieri stated that he and the County Attorney would meet with Morristown officials to solidify procedures for abatement and other issues. Commissioner Scarlett made a motion, 2nd by Commissioner Turner, for EDA Director Faulkenberry and IDB Chair Masters to join the Jefferson County Mayor and County Attorney in the negotiations process. The motion was approved 14-3 with Gaut, Seals and Beeler voting No.

Commissioner Dockery made a motion to approve the IDB request for $2 million in funding for start up costs and to refer to budget committee for funding avenues. He was 2nd by Commissioner Turner. Commissioner Tabor made a motion to table the item but it failed for lack of a 2nd. Dockery/Turner motion also failed to find favor with a 15-2-1 vote. Commissioners were supportive of the efforts of the IDB and offered their thanks for a job well done. IDB Chairman Master asked for direction and suggested that the County Commission determine if large scale industrial developments are a part of their vision for Jefferson County.

In other business, the County Commission approved several budget amendments and surplus items that were general housekeeping in nature. They also approved resolution 2017-14 which amended the thirty day public hearing requirement to fifteen days, which is the state mandated number of days. Personnel Committee Chairman Turner stated that the Veteran’s Service Officer has resigned and the application process will begin to find a replacement. The Commission unanimously approved the Nominating Committee’s recommendations for seats on three committees.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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