I began my annual interview with McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley with confirmation he intends to run for Warren County Executive position in the early August election. If Jimmy is elected County Executive, he would retire as a WCHS teacher after 41 years of service.
Jimmy is 62. If he is elected County Executive, he would have about 30 days before taking office, during which time he would resign as mayor of McMinnville.
There are several highlights the city achieved during the 2017 fiscal year. Revenues were up over the previous fiscal year by approximately $100,000. Sales tax was up about $5,000 of that.
Year-to-date through five months of the 2018 fiscal year, revenues are up about $4,000 over the previous year.
The desired cash reserve for the city is at $5.2 million, above the target of $5 million. Tax from wine and liquor sales for the city in a partial year is $68,862.82.
It’s projected wine and liquor sales tax should create $150,000 to $200,000 in annual tax revenue for the city going forward. Tax from beer sales is over $500,000 a year.
Permanent seating (190+ seats) were added to the front area of the balcony at the Park Theatre, bringing permanent seat capacity to over 600. There is a proposed plan to build a corporate skybox in the rear of the balcony area as a future possible project to enhance the Park.
The successful Bluegrass Underground program at Cumberland Caverns ended at the end of December. The owners of Cumberland Caverns own other cave properties as well as Dollywood in East Tennessee. They have contracted with RCS Productions out of Atlanta to start Cumberland Caverns Live as a planned concert series at the local cave.
The first show was held Feb. 3 with five more scheduled throughout 2018. These shows will be offered via video that is streaming live for paying viewers. RCS will be working on obtaining TV show rights for Cumberland Caverns Live in the future.
There is a new website – Cumberland Caverns Live – to order concert tickets, or you can go directly to the Cumberland Caverns website. This Saturday, Feb. 24, there will be an open house at Cumberland Caverns with RCS Productions present to let the community see its plans and facility upgrades.
A city highlight of 2017 was the fundraising and equipping of an advanced robotics program at WCHS with key robot apparatus at the five K-8 elementary schools as well. Over $200,000 was raised to procure the equipment.
Yorozu Automotive donated two late-model welding robots for the program at WCHS. Eighteen local firms made donations, including Yorozu. Robotics and Mechatronics provide WCHS students with excellent career pathways for high-paying jobs in area industry.
Upgrades were made during 2017 with parks and recreation in terms of new sod, irrigation, lighting, and fencing. Of particular note are the finishing touches on a soccer field at Pistole Park. An ambitious schedule was followed with street and sidewalk paving.
Turning to the 2018 fiscal year, the big project is major renovations to the Civic Center. This is expected to be a $5 million project with the budget to be finalized this spring with construction starting this fall. The need to have the Civic Center meet the mandated ADA compliance by 2019 is a driving factor. The target completion date for this project will be winter 2019.
It is hoped that by gaining a private partner that an indoor swimming pool will be considered as a coincident project. Such a pool facility could have exercise lanes and physical therapy built in.
The Tourism Board started in late 2017. Strategic planning sessions have occurred. An active board of directors is in place. The local hotel/ motel tax was set for funding this board in addition to funds from the city. The Blue Building is its first key project. A private investor group has been identified that is considering the Blue Building as a possible heritage hotel site. That could be tremendously exciting for downtown McMinnville.
The city has received a grant to provide marketing assistance. Planned will be a “rebranding” effort that should result in a new city logo, merchandising theme line, and a promotional video. All these features should be accomplished by this spring.
There has been $700,000 set aside in the current budget for additional paving of streets and sidewalk work. The long-awaited Sparta Street sidewalk project is in the final stages of approval as a TDOT funded $1 million+ project. Work on this should start by late summer.
The mayor has been researching the feasibility of a new road from the bypass over to the new Motlow Robotics Center. Preliminary work on this as a possible project has been done. With St. Thomas River Park Hospital, Newell, Motlow-McMinnville, TCAT, and the Motlow Robotics Center all deriving traffic flow from one traffic light, a second access road is of paramount need.
The city has been making strides in the area of technology integration. Working with local firm Litewire LLC, the city is looking at acquiring firewalls and a security system for all IT apparatus going forward. The city has hired a full-time IT specialist to oversee this progress. The city wants more IT efficiency.
Upgrades have been made to the city website with future improvements planned. The city has a grant writer staff position in the budget. That is a future consideration.
The new skate park at the Civic Center should be complete by April/May. It is hoped the needed concrete can be poured by late February or sometime in March.
City aldermen up for re-election in 2018 are Everett Brock, Ryle Chastain, and Steve Harvey. There is no property tax increase expected in the next year budget. The McMinnville Green project is progressing whereby city refuse is collected and sent for recycling through a third party firm, saving significantly with the waste stream costs involved.