Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis on Tuesday night told a group of county officials they need to cooperate to welcome the new Volkswagen plant to Hamilton County.
“Over this next year or two, we’re really going to have to work together like we’ve never done before, planning and preparing for what I believe and what most of us believe (will be) the biggest growth that this part of the state has ever experienced,” he said.
Mr. Davis told officials gathered at the Tennessee County Commissioners Association’s annual regional conference they should be happy any time a large employer comes to Southeast Tennessee, no matter what county.
Newly elected Hamilton County Commission Chairman Jim Coppinger said he and the commission certainly will have to meet with officials from surrounding counties to prepare the way for VW.
But he noted that area counties are going to be trying their best to attract suppliers to build within their borders.
“It’s a friendly competition,” Mr. Coppinger said.
County officials gathered Tuesday night at the Cleveland, Tenn., Holiday Inn to discuss issues that may come up in the next legislative session.
Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey brought up one issue that has been on the minds of officials here for several months.
“Can we get some feedback from those counties that have either frozen (property taxes for seniors) or used tax relief?” he asked.
The Tennessee General Assembly last year gave counties the authority to freeze property taxes for seniors 65 and older who make $32,890 or less in 2008. Counties also can provide a match to a state tax relief program that provides rebates to homeowners 65 and older who make $24,790 per year or less.
David Connor, executive director of the commissioners association, said he believes Bradley County is the only county in the area to enact a freeze. No representatives from Bradley County responded.
Mr. Connor told commissioners at the meeting that they may not be seeing any more help from the state for schools or jails any time soon.
He said state budget problems are likely to continue next year, and efforts to lobby the state to increase how much it reimburses counties for housing state prisoners or up its contributions to teachers are unlikely to pan out.
“The governor may have to come in and propose some additional layoffs,” Mr. Connor said.
About 1,500 Tennessee employees took buyouts this year in a state effort to cut costs. State officials planned to cut back spending by about $468 million.