Harriman ponders need for future tax hikes

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By Cindy Simpson

A public hearing about changes to Harriman’s City Charter to create a city manager form of government turned more into an impromptu discussion of what the city needs and the tax increase that would be required to do it.

Harriman Mayor Chris Mason has said the city will someday need to raise taxes, but has thus far avoided it.

He talked tax increase again when talking with community members about the city’s needs.

“I think we need a tax increase,” he said. “It is almost doing a disservice if we don’t do it at that point. We have cut everywhere we can cut.

“It is coming. I said it last year.”

He said a tax increase is not needed to fund the city manager, however.

Roads need paving and other goals officials have for the city costmoney, he pointed out.

Dennis Love, a vocal resident, said he believes paving city streets is a dire need and wonders how the city can hire a manager.

“I’m not against it. My question is if we can find the money to do this why have we not paved,” he said.

Coming up with the money is a concern, but some residents aren’t worried.

“I think they can come up with the money,” said resident Pat LaDue.

Mason has pointed to attrition and to the upcoming free up of loan payments when the final installment to the Pinnacle Pointe development debt is paid off in a few years.

LaDue said he believes a city manager would tremendously help the city.

“I think to move forward and see progress, you are going to have to have somebody in charge, and I’m not saying nobody was in charge but you need somebody full time,” LaDue said.

Officials hope the public will come give input on the city’s needs and what should be the focus for the future at the Harriman City Council visioning meeting on March 18, which will be when the city creates some goals for the near and long term future.

“That is a public meeting also,” said Councilman Lonnie Wright.

Councilman Ken Mynatt believes the city should look as far ahead as 20 years when developing the goal list.

Councilman J.D. Sampson wants to apply for a Community Development Block Grant to work on storm drains, which officials say are a problem with many falling in.

Councilman Buddy Holley said many of the city’s storm drains are so old they are made of clay or brick.

“I think you saw some of it when Trenton Street collapsed behind the (Regions) Bank,” Mynatt said.

Love remembers Harriman in its heyday, and said a lot of problems came about after federal dollars were used to build the large amount of public housing in Harriman.

“Now we have a lot of renters,” Love said.

Mayor Mason agreed there is a large number of renters in the city. Officials often note a difference in the pride residents take in their property when they own it compared to renting it.

Mynatt has said pride in the community and individuals’ property is one of the issues he thinks the city needs to work on regarding beautification of the city and thinks it would go a long way to remedying the city’s appearance.

“We have to change the mindset of the people, make them understand what they are doing to the property does to the neighbors’ property. You have to take pride in your property to enhance the pride in your city,” Mynatt said.