Knox County mayor talks local government consolidation

Knox County mayor talks local government consolidation

Posted:
"It's ridiculous, the redundancy," Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said Thursday. "It's ridiculous, the redundancy," Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said Thursday.
By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett supports teaming up with the city of Knoxville to make government more efficient. It's an idea we've heard before from others. It came up again during our election night hangout with the mayor that we streamed live on our website.

Related video: WATE Primary Election Hangout

"We've got to look at consolidation of services. It's ridiculous that we buy a tractor. We buy a tractor and the city has to buy a tractor, if we're going to do something. Now I'm not talking metro," Burchett said that night.

That metro government idea has been floated in the past, but never took hold. The consolidation idea is something Burchett has been thinking about since he first took office four years ago. He hopes to see it at least partially accomplished by the time he leaves four years from now.

"It's ridiculous, the redundancy," Burchett said Thursday.
 
Burchett isn't sure how much money it would save or how many jobs it would cost, but he believes consolidating at least some areas of Knoxville City government with Knox County is the right thing to do.

The fourth floor of the City County Building is one place where Burchett believes both time and money could be saved. There are currently two offices with two separate sets of staff, one where you pay city taxes, the other for county taxes.

Burchett won't say what might happen to the city council and the county commission, the police department and the sheriff's office, or the city and county mayor seats.

"What I envision is if we took something to the voters, more or less have it as sort of a buffet. Allow them to pick how they want their government to be," Burchett said.

What he doesn't want is Metro Nashville.

"They've got all the mistakes," Burchett said.
 
Eric Vreeland, communications manager for the city of Knoxville, told 6 News: "We’re not able to respond to this. Consolidation of services or purchasing is extremely complex, with a lot of nuances. So is political consolidation, which Mayor Burchett alludes to in a very general way. As Mayor Burchett said in the interview, he’s not brought a proposal to Mayor Rogero for consideration. Without a specific proposal, we can’t really say much at this time."

Burchett says he plans to talk to Rogero sometime this month.

"I think it would be better all in one instead of separated like it has been," said Knoxville resident Sheree Edwards.

"On the surface it sounds like a good idea. Anything that can save the taxpayers money, I'm all for that," said Knoxville resident Katherine Lewis.

"Everyone's turf is going to be ruffled. So yeah there's going to be opposition to it I'm sure. They question is going to be whether it saves taxpayer dollars," said Knox County resident William Taylor.

Burchett points out that having a consolidated school and library system already works for Knox County. And he doesn't anticipate any massive layoffs, saying instead that empty positions could be eliminated over time.

A similar idea was floated back in the mid-90's, but the push-back was too great and the proposal was dropped. It came up again in 2007, but never became reality.

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