KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – One local government Monday followed Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order by having its first electronic meeting.
The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen met at the Civic Auditorium with several members present via video conferencing technology.
“This kind of shows technology at its best where we are and to do our meeting this way,” Alderman Darrell Duncan said during the meeting. He pointed out that this e-meeting would have been impossible just a few years ago.
The meeting was a work session aimed at approving the agenda for the board’s upcoming meeting.
One of the tasks the work session aimed to accomplish was to list the next meeting’s agenda items and approve or add some as needed. Kingsport City Manager Chris McCartt noted that the work session agenda had some purchase items listed, however, these items of equipment that the city is currently leasing were deemed necessary for purchase.
“I wanted to make you aware of the fact that we have made several adjustments to our budget to be a little bit more conservative,” he said. “We’re going to continue to watch the revenue that’s coming in and we’ll be making adjustments as we can to help us get through what we anticipate could be a difficult time ahead. We’ll follow along the guidance from the state of Tennessee and we’re also making additional adjustments from from what they have recommended.”
McCartt noted that: “Obviously, we’re in unchartered waters, and we are doing everything we can to protect, citizens and the businesses of Kingsport, really putting a tremendous emphasis on the basic services that we provide.”
Though Kingsport City Hall is now closed to the public, residents who wish to request new services or pay for city services in person may visit the new satellite office located on the first floor of the police station’s records department.
“The reason we did that is that it allows complete enclosure of that employee and we just believe that was in the best interest of being able to protect our staff. Obviously, several facilities have closed to the general public,” McCartt said. “Employees are inside in either doing a lot of work and/or training that they just have not been able to do when they’re in normal operations, so that is going on. We’re constantly working with those individuals to see where within the city they might be able to help out if their operations slow down somewhat.”
He said an example of that would be the city’s budget officer who submitted a request to the city manager that the Kingsport Library staff assist him in analyzing the bills and guidelines coming from Washington and Nashville.
“Each one of these departments, primarily in leisure services, will be rolling out communications about programs that they might offer online or programs that potentially you could take part in within our parks or in a virtual setting through our library so as we kind of gear up for those, please be on the lookout for that,” he added.
He encouraged the public to continuously check the city website or social media channels for updates.
“A lot of people have asked how they can help. One of the best things that you can do to help right now is to help spread the word about what we are communicating out, what the Sullivan County Health Department is communicating out or what you’re seeing from CDC,” McCartt added. “We are in, I think, a very unique position. We are still a very rural area but at the same time that only protects us for so long, so it’s very important that we listen and obey the requests that are coming out. I cannot stress that enough.”
Other changes to the way Kingsport as a government is run are to be expected, city leaders emphasized Monday.
“You may see some changes, please know that as we operate as a city, we’re still making sure that those necessary services – police, fire, utilities, sanitation – are being taken care of,” McCartt added.
All of the aldermen noted their gratitude towards city workers for their unwavering service.
“There’s some people that you don’t think about that are also required to be at work, unless you’re working from home, like sanitation workers. We expect clean water to come from our faucets when we turn them on so someone has to be managing the water services,” Alderman Betsy Cooper said Monday. “I know this hasn’t been easy, it’s uncharted territory, and, but this too shall pass. One of these days we’ll look back at this and remember what all went on during this difficult time.”
Other Aldermen encouraged their constituents and the citizens of Kingsport as a whole to care more for others during the pandemic.
“A reminder that, you know, checking on neighbors, offering to run errands for seniors so they don’t have to go to the grocery store, I think is a really critical thing, but challenging us figure out what it means to be excellent neighbors to one another in difficult circumstances,” Alderman Jennifer Adler said.
“I’ve noted with interest that the age groups in our state that have the most positive cases, are first the 21-30 age group, and then the next highest is the 31 to 40 age group, so I’m making a personal appeal to you young folks to please observe these common-sense rules about social distancing and good hygiene and so forth. The life you save may be you mother or father or your grandparents, so let’s all cooperate with each other and Kingsport’s a great city and we want to keep it that way,” Kingsport Mayor Patrick Shull said during the Monday meeting.
Alderman Tommy Olterman pleaded with the public to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously.
“I didn’t realize really just how serious this event was and it is very serious and I hope everybody washes their hands and does everything that the federal government and the state government and everybody’s asking you to do,” Alderman Tommy Olterman said.