KIMBALL, Tenn. - Since state officials shut down state-run local planning offices to trim the budget, towns such as Kimball have been scrambling to find a replacement service.

Starting July 1, state employees won't assist local communities with growth planning, officials said.

"The state planning office comes in and helps with regulations, flood studies and urban development and growth plans," Kimball Mayor David Jackson said. "There's just a host of things they can do for you, but all of that has been cut by the state."

Kimball now pays $5,250 a year for the service, Jackson said, and the Southeast Tennessee Development District is hoping to take over at the same rate.

Kimball Attorney Billy Gouger said there are a limited number of people available to do local planning because they have to be highly trained.

Counties and municipalities would be hard-pressed to find private organizations to do the same work at the same rate, he said.

"That money probably wouldn't touch what you'd have to pay on a contract with one of these professional organizations who do the same type of work," he said. "Based on what everybody's paying, it would be very difficult to [hire someone] and have a budget that would meet the requirements of that. This certainly looks like the best option if it works out and comes to fruition."

Board members approved a motion to have Jackson contact officials with the Southeast Development District to discuss taking over local planning services.

"For the money, I don't see why we wouldn't do it," Alderman Jerry Don Case said.

Gouger said counties and cities across the state are struggling to find answers to the state's budget cuts.

"The state's budget problems are quickly becoming local governments' budget problems," he said. "[Kimball] has to continue these services for the town. Everybody is in the same boat."

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