Measure to study “duplicated” government services moves forward in Sullivan County

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BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- Could government services like courts, clerk’s offices, and animal shelters be consolidated between Sullivan County and its cities?

Some members of the county commission believe it could save taxpayers money. A resolution to form a new cooperation between Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, and Bluff City was brought forward by commissioner Angie Stanley at Thurday’s meeting.

“Some services, we do have duplications of. I would be interested in getting with all the cities to see what those services could do by consolidating some of them,” Stanley said.

PREVIOUS STORY: Sullivan Co. Commission discusses consolidation between city and county services

But other commissioners raised concerns about the idea. During one exchange, Commissioner Mark Vance said he was unsure of what services could possibly be consolidated.

“Why would we, as city taxpayers, want to fund the court system inside the city, and take on an extra responsibility and an extra financial responsibility?” Vance said.

“We’re not asking the city to take on the courts,” said Stanley.

“Well what are we asking them to do?” asked Vance.

“We have three, sir,” Stanley replied. “We have duplicated services.”

“Well what are they?” Vance said.

Stanley said the purpose of the committee would be to study what services could be consolidated, aside from courts, clerk’s offices, and animal shelters. The committee would comprise three county commissioners and one representative from each city, all appointed by mayors. 

Commissioner Terry Harkleroad suggested a committee could also be formed to study the consolidation of city and county school systems.

“Until we get serious with our children and schools, and try to get one special district in this county, where all kids will have equal education,” said Harkleroad. “This would be the type of resolution that you put a committee together to look at those matters.”

“That can be brought up,” Stanley said. “But I didn’t want people to think that this resolution was directed towards the school system, because it’s not. I want to look at all services.”

Commissioner Todd Broughton also voiced support for increased city – county cooperation. But he said getting leaders from individual cities to support new cooperative efforts could be a challenge. 

“When you start talking about cutting taxes, the very folks that get upset are the ones that want their own kingdoms protected,” Broughton said. “And they don’t want to talk or get together. That’s the hurdle we’ve got to overcome here. People have got to quit being so protective of their backyards, because that’s what’s running us out of business.”

The resolution passed on first reading and will continue to be discussed.

Commissioner David Akard said while he wasn’t personally interested on being on the committee, he would support its creation.

“This doesn’t cost any money,” Akard said. “If anybody wants to have their committee, go for it.”

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