Governor's Cuts Force Local Governments to Look Elsewhere for Help with Planning

May 2, 2011
Dwayne Page

As part of Governor Bill Haslam's Jobs4TN plan, all employees in state run regional planning offices will lose their jobs when those offices close permanently in mid-July.

With the cuts, state planners will no longer be assisting local communities with growth planning, and local governments will have to look elsewhere, perhaps to private entities, to fill that role.

The City of Smithville and DeKalb County governments are currently served by state planners from the Cookeville regional office, which helps many communities in the Upper Cumberland area with planning efforts. Planners convene with the Smithville Planning Commission on the first Thursday night of each month and the DeKalb County Regional Planning Commission on the second Monday night every month.

During those meetings, state planners give advice in helping local planning commissions draft ordinances and land-use regulations, such as subdivision development guidelines and zoning. They also assist with mapping and serve as a resource for surveyors, engineers, developers, realtors, and property owners.

During Monday night's council meeting, Smithville Alderman Shawn Jacobs asked Mayor Taft Hendrixson what impact this will have on the city

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Mayor Hendrixson said he has received a letter from officials of the Upper Cumberland Development District who are working toward taking over the planning program once the state drops it in July. " I received a letter from UCDD and they are in the process of trying set it up where they will take this over if the fourteen counties (Upper Cumberland) and the cities in those counties would like for them to do this. I think they're (UCDD) very capable of doing this. They're trying to get it all put together," said Mayor Hendrixson.

"Our planner from the state will be here through June. Of course we won't have a planning commission meeting in July. He will be here this Thursday night and then the first Thursday night in June, said Mayor Hendrixson.

"We (city) pay $1,830 per quarter to the state for their assistance in this planning. I don't know what UCDD will charge but I have an idea that it will be in line with what we have been paying. That's something they will let me know. They are checking to see if there is enough interest in the Upper Cumberland area for them to do it. I surely think there will be," said Mayor Hendrixson

Alderman Jacobs added that "I want to go on record that this is pound wise and penny foolish and I highly disagree with the Governors actions".

The cuts are part of Governor Haslam's Jobs4TN plan which calls for a "significant reorganization" effort that he says will create jobs but will also result in a 35% reduction in Tennessee Economic and Community Development staff, cuts that will largely come from these regional planning offices across the state.

The Jobs4TN program will also establish regional "jobs base camps" for which the Upper Cumberland Development District has been named. UCDD has sent out letters to communities, like Smithville and DeKalb County, currently served by local planners, letting them know of the services that will be available.

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