JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — In a move that adds strain to the John Sevier Center (JSC) budget, Johnson City Development Authority (JCDA) commissioners will fund security at the downtown high-rise apartments at least through March.

JCDA contracted with a local security company in early January amid worsening issues with unauthorized people entering the building. JCDA Executive Director Tish Oldham said the company reported removing 17 “unauthorized people” from the building in just one night.

The John Sevier has 150 federally subsidized apartments for low-income elderly and disabled residents. A number of residents had long complained of security problems at the nearly century-old former hotel, which is slated for redevelopment after new housing for the residents is complete in roughly three years.

“Scaling it (security) back may be possible at the right time, but it is not the right time now,” JCDA Chairman Hank Carr told board members.

The contract provides nine hours of security on weekdays and 16 hours on weekends and costs $12,000 a month. It’s one of several added expenses that are eating away at a roughly $65,000 monthly revenue increase secured in September. That’s when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) increased its subsidy for JSC apartments.

High water bills, building repairs and a $25,000 roofing job all have contributed to basically eliminating the JSC budget’s ability to create a reserve account, despite the increased rent.

The upshot of those new expenses is that the current fiscal year’s budget for the JSC will have to change. In November, Carr said the JCDA had some “wind in its sails” and the budget for JSC called for putting $75,000 into cash reserves by the end of June and repaying a line of credit JCDA had provided the separate JSC budget when revenues were even leaner.

Now, the best JCDA can hope for is continuing to repay the line of credit, Carr said.

Board member Ernest Campbell said he understood the importance of keeping residents safe but added “I don’t know where we put the upper limit on the expense. I mean if we spend $144,000 on security, that’s $144,000 we could be spending paying down this debt.”

Johnson City Commissioner Joe Wise said the current situation at the building makes it worth investing in security despite the financial challenges.

“I think the balancing act to the point Ernest is making, yeah there’s an expense associated to the organization that could be paying down debt,” Wise said. “The other is if we fail to make reasonable provision for security and something horrible happens … I think we’re pinched between both pressure points.”

In related business, commissioners discussed the need to determine the future of the Downtown Centre. Northeast State Community College leases the entire space, including the parking garage, for $1,000 a month but that lease expires at the end of December.

Northeast President Jeff McCord has asked that JCDA determine soon whether it will continue to lease the space to the college, what that cost will be and whether elements of the lease will change.

Commissioners approved $4,000 for an appraiser to determine the fair market lease value for the building. They also discussed the fact that the parking garage will be a key selling point when JCDA works to sell the John Sevier to a developer once new housing is constructed.

“They’re crystal clear on JCDA needing the vast majority of that parking back,” Carr said.