Cities face a variety of issues
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Jun 25, 2014 | 1037 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland government officials attended the 75th annual meeting of the Tennessee Municipal League, which ended Tuesday.

The conference began Sunday afternoon in the Chattanooga Convention Center and featured a variety of speakers, breakout sessions and workshops.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said the meeting began with John Robert Smith of Smart Growth America sharing his experience with town revitalization from being mayor of Meridian, Miss.

Janice Casteel, city manager, said the speaker encouraged city leaders to make plans toward long-term goals, not simply those of two years away.

Also of interest to Rowland were presentations on industrial development and how the nonrenewal of the federal highway trust fund will affect Tennessee, specifically on cities and city governments.

“Congressman Chuck Fleischmann stopped by the TML conference Monday morning [and said] he is confident that Congress will fund the trust later this year,” Rowland said.

City officials also had the opportunity to attend panel discussions, gather information about vendors and receive other updates. Workers’ compensation and financial pointers were also presented.

“Other important discussions centered around the present moratorium on annexation by ordinance and several formulas of funding with the liquor-by-the-drink tax collected by municipalities,” Rowland said.

Casteel said the annexation presentation focused on explaining the law and some of the complications for cities that it created.

“It will cause problems, mainly for first responders, and the public safety folks, who may have to go out of the city then back into the city; 911 may struggle with that when there is a new annexation,” Casteel said.

Changes to annexation laws this year mandate that a city can no longer annex wherever it wants within the Urban Growth Boundary. Now, property owners must request annexation or a referendum must be held to decide if the property will be annexed or not.

Cities are still working through the day-to-day implications of the law.

“It’s a very good time for cities and communities across the state to make sure their legislators understand the impact of annexation,” Casteel said.

While the city of Cleveland waits for its July 1 decision on the mixed drink (liquor-by-the-drink) tax distribution, other cities have more complicated situations involving the education portion.

“Listening to the cities and listening to the different scenarios they have, I found very interesting because they have complications that we don’t have [such as a city whose students attend a special school district not operated by the city],” Casteel said.

Casteel said the presentation at the TML meeting was one that she had seen at a meeting in Nashville. She said any litigation pursued by cities after this point will be heard in Davidson County.

In between sessions, Casteel enjoyed talking with city leaders from across the state.

“You can spend time with other city managers and city officials from across the state. That is always helpful to find out what they are doing. Maybe they are doing things differently than you are, and you can learn from them. That’s always a good experience at these conferences,” Casteel said.

Conference attendees also received information about upcoming legislation that could affect cities.

A silent auction to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital was held during the conference and was a highlight for the Cleveland mayor. Rowland said he made a contribution to the auction by taking a “famous Hardwick blazer donated by the new owner, Allan Jones.” Rowland promoted the item by telling those interested the history and future of Hardwick Clothes.

Next year the TML conference will be held in Nashville.