Buddy Holley: Proud of papermill cleanup, charter changes

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By Cindy Simpson

Harriman City Councilman Buddy Holley wants to see some of his projects through.

From clean-up of the papermill site along the Emory River to the hiring of a city manager, he’s been heavily involved in a lot of change in the city.

“We have all these things started or in progress, and I would like to see at least part of them completed, part of them completed and moving forward,” explained Holley.

During his first term in office, Holley wrote charter changes that created a city manager form of government. He also approached state and federal agencies to get cleanup underway at the papermill site.

“Once we get the cleanup and assume ownership of it, we can expand our park,” Holley said.

That could be ballparks, walking trails and a launching ramp for boats.
“There is no place to get to the river in the city,” Holley said.

He’s particularly proud of the charter changes, which were approved by Council this year.

“It took awhile to convince everyone it was the way to go,” he said. “We have six Council members here, and each of us is responsible for running part of the city. You can’t run the city with six part-time members. It needs to be run by one man.

“It is not the right way to manage a $9- to $10-million-a-year business.”

His first duty for the manager is to look for any overlap between city department responsibilities and where reductions can be made, as well as looking for ways to improve services and lower costs.

As a member of the Harriman Utility Board, Holley has seen a number of successful infrastructure projects done to improve the utility system.

Storm drains, however, are a city issue that will need to be resolved. He thinks the city will have more money to address that issue in the near future.

“You have to remember, we put $2 million in Pinnacle Pointe out there for infrastructure, sewer, water and gas. That note will be paid off next year,” Holley said.

He also thinks starting a paving schedule is important.

“We have got to get a routine paving program started,” Holley said.

The Princess Theatre continues to be a focus for officials, who hope it continues to help draw people downtown.

Holley thinks promoting more events at the theatre is key.

“It is going to have to take a concerted effort between the city, Roane State and the Princess Foundation,” he said. “We are going to have to get really aggressive about it.”

Marketing nearby assets can also help the city.

“Advertise the Big South Fork is just up the road. Frozen Head is right by here,” Holley said. “There is a lot of opportunities for recreation here. We need to hype them.”

Holley takes pride in how the city marketed and sold many city-owned properties downtown with Prospect 14.

“We had 14 properties. We sold 10,” Holley said.

He believes the work these property owners will do should do a lot for downtown.

“We have some historical guidelines they have to follow. They have to be brought to code,” Holley said.

He’s also hoping they can condemn some downtown property, including the old Miller Brewer building.

The structure, while historical, would cost a lot of money to renovate, Holley said,  and he cannot imagine anyone willing to buy it and put in that much cost.

He’s also hopeful about  Bethel University locating downtown. The college has looked at the former Roane Medical Center building on more than one occasion.

“I think they are pretty serious about it,” he said. “That would be my preferred use for the hospital. They will have students coming into town. They will have staff that live here.”

He’s also hopeful about what the Renaissance Festival can bring to Harriman.

“That will be pretty nice, bring a lot of folks in on the weekends they have it. We are trying to help them as much as we can,” Holley said.

In addition to focusing on downtown renovation, Holley thinks the city needs to address housing.

The dwindling size of Harriman schools, and the revenue that the city provides to the school system have been discussed by City Council over the years.

Officials think the school system needs to look at redistricting so more of the student body goes to Harriman schools.

Holley is also concerned about the quandary Harriman finds itself in Midtown. In addition to the city’s significant loans to help bolster Pinnacle Pointe, Harriman Utility Board has also done work along Hwy. 70 with the thinking the city would eventually expand.

Other things Holley is proud of is the city replacing street lights with LED.
The city cannot afford to just go in and replace lights at whim, but as lights stop working, LED is what the city is replacing them with.

He said because of this and other efforts, the city utility bill is down by about $9,000 so far.

“It is starting to pay off big time,” he said.

“I think when it is all said and done we’ll be in the $5,000-$6,000 a month range in electric bills,” Holley said.

When he first took office they were running about $28,000 a month and are now down to about $19,000 a month.

He first ran for office after retiring from Oak Ridge as an engineer when he was encouraged to seek a Council seat by various friends and family, including his wife, who thought he should run.