Tom Rowland starting 4th term on panel

Tom Rowland starting 4th term on panel

July 15th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Mayor Tom Rowland stands in front of the shops of downtown Cleveland, Tenn.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland recently was elected to his fourth two-year term as vice chairman of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

The 25-member body, made up of state and local officials and private citizens, provides input critical to proposed legislation, Rowland said.

Rowland, first appointed by former Gov. Don Sundquist, said he has been honored and humbled to serve on the panel.

"It gives me a rare insight on issues affecting our state, as well as cities and counties," Rowland said. "We can give state legislators a good idea of how policy and law changes can affect our local budgets and residents."

Economic recovery, annexation and public infrastructure are current issues before the advisory board.

The commission will meet July 25 to begin studying possible changes to Tennessee's annexation laws, including the elimination of annexation by ordinance and allowing incorporation to occur only through resident requests. Annexations not completed in Tennessee before this spring -- including incorporation efforts by Cleveland and Charleston in Bradley County -- are under moratorium until May 15, 2015.

Even if annexations by ordinance were well under way when the moratorium began a couple of months ago, cities have been warned not to proceed.

"If Cleveland, or any other city, proceeds with an annexation by ordinance during the moratorium, it will only provide fodder for the anti-annexation contingent and thus increase the likelihood of a complete prohibition of annexation by ordinance during the next legislative session," said Josh Jones, legal consultant for the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service, in a letter to Cleveland officials.

The commission proposes to provide a comprehensive study on annexation to the Tennessee Assembly by January, Rowland said.

Regardless of how changes in annexation law may affect Cleveland, the city has been recognized by the panel for getting ahead of the state's economic recovery trend last year.

A recently released study commissioned by TACIR shows that Cleveland is at the top of Tennessee's 10 metropolitan areas in terms of its economic rate of recovery, measuring 5.6 percent job growth compared to 1.4 percent statewide.

According to the study, the Cleveland area lost about 100 jobs among the wholesale, retail and other services sectors but picked up 2,300 jobs, primarily in the professional and business services sector.

One of the contributing factors to keeping and adding jobs in Cleveland is the area's good employee base, said Lisa Pickel, director of existing industry programs for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.