Greeneville is continuing initiatives on several fronts in 2019, most notably ongoing redevelopment of its downtown. Mayor W.T. Daniels, after winning re-election in 2018, recently sat down to discuss highlights and challenges of those initiatives with The Greeneville Sun.
Q. Looking back over 2018, what were the biggest achievements for the Town of Greeneville?
A. One of our accomplishments was accreditation of the police department. There was a huge amount of work by the (former) chief (Terry Cannon) and Mike Crum, and participation by a lot of the officers in the police department that achieved that accreditation. It is very important. Another success was our clean audit. It is an ongoing process, and I think it is very important for any community. You have to pay attention to finances and how things are done.
Another thing that needs to be recognized is the approval of construction of the dog park and Frisbee golf park. We are also building an all inclusive playground at Hardin Park. Thanks to the Parks and Recreation Department for carrying the torch for that. It will be a good thing for all of Greeneville.
We also bought another new fire truck. That is one thing we try to concentrate on — maintaining and improving the ISO rating. We have one of the best fire departments anywhere. Those are some of the things that I feel good about that we have accomplished in the past year.
Q. The Downtown Redevelopment Project has had a good start with the preliminary design for the Depot Street streetscape well underway. How can the town’s investment help spur private development?
A. People want to see the involvement of the city. In other words, if the city is willing to do the infrastructure and to provide the infrastructure for growth and development, I think development will come about. We are already starting to see some renovation on buildings. It is important that the city is involved because we are responsible for the infrastructure. People may say, “We need a brewery, we need a retailer, we need a restaurant.” But that is not the business we are in — we are in the business to provide the infrastructure for growth and development.
We are working on the preliminary (streetscape) design now and I am looking forward to that. Like I have said, we are already seeing people willing to make an investment in downtown. We have also been working with some retailers and basically trying get their attention that it would be a good move on their part to make an investment in downtown. I think the future looks good.
The town has been involved in downtown redevelopment for years. An example is the Town of Greeneville built the conference center at the hotel (the General Morgan Inn) and we used TIF (tax increment financing) dollars to pay that back. It worked. Through the hotel’s property tax, the money went in to retire that debt. Now, the conference center is on the tax roll. We are receiving tax money and the county is too, because it is now private property.
I don’t think I have ever seen anything that has created more excitement for the downtown than the redevelopment plan. I am really looking forward it. The downtown is the nucleus of Greene County. We just need to preserve our heritage.
Q. The Greeneville Municipal Airport Authority has made great strides in the past year as it has assumed responsibility for the facility. How would you like to see the airport grow in the next five years?
A. I would define the airport as a doorway to your community through aviation. And aviation, as we know, is so important today. The Airport Authority we have are a forward-thinking group of individuals, and it is something to be excited about. When you talk about the airport, some people are concerned about the money involved, but most of the local monies ever spent at the airport is basically a match to funds from the federal government. Mostly, it is a 5 percent match. If we don’t take advantage of the grants, they will go someplace else.
I am really pleased with what we have been able to accomplish at the airport. I think we will get a return on our investment at the airport. I firmly believe that we would not have the industries we have if it was not for the airport. As far as economic development, we should cultivate the facility even more so. I am hoping that we will see more corporate use at the airport and to do more of what we did for MedTrans. They constructed their building and we did a land lease for the property. After a period of time, that building becomes property of the Airport Authority. We want to look at how we can update the facilities and that is what is in our plans. We want to see what funds are out there.
I am excited about the airport. Because of all the work has been done, there are other properties that can be developed. It is a great opportunity for Greeneville and Greene County.
Q. Several retailers will be opening later this year in the Greeneville Commons shopping center. How can the town continue to attract new businesses and industries to continue to build the tax base?
A. The town can do that by continuing to provide a national award-winning school system, excellent services in health care, and top-notch recreational programs and facilities. Industry executives want to locate in communities that have those type of amenities for their employees and families.
Also, the town must provide infrastructure that will support growth and development — roads, water, sewer, power and most recently our work with Greeneville Light & Power System to enable them to possibly develop broadband service in the future.
Finally, the town also takes every opportunity to have conservations like we had with Brixmor Property Group to bring retailers to the Commons.
Q. What is the biggest challenge that you see for the town in the coming year?
A. We have created jobs, but we need people with strong work ethic to fill those jobs. While we have many excellent young citizens, our challenge is to teach all our youth the importance of personal responsibility so they can be more productive members of our community. And it is not only young people, but all ages. Personal responsibility is hugely important in the success of any community. If you have people who just don’t care, you have a problem. Our challenge is to teach personal responsibility.