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By TERRI LIKENS
& CINDY SIMPSON
A movement that began in Kingston could lead to some election changes — and leave more money in city coffers.
Kingston City Councilman Tim Neal has been pushing for a referendum to change the municipal election cycle in Kingston to coincide with state and national elections.
“It was a no-brainer with the amount of money we spend on the elections every two years,” Neal said.
Piggybacking on elections that are already being held would save thousands of dollars in those costs.
Neal surmises it would also lead to more turnout.
He noted that in the June 2009 Kingston election, about 930 people cast ballots in Kingston precincts.
But in the November 2010 elections, which included state and federal candidates, about 2,500 voted from those precincts.
Neal is also seeking another change. He wants residents to vote on whether an elected Kingston official can hold another office.
That was an issue for some when Kingston Mayor Troy Beets was also serving as chairman of the Roane County Commission.
Beets was defeated in his run for commissioner last year.
Neal said now is the time to decide the issue because there currently is no one on the city council who is wearing two political hats.
Neal has been working with City Attorney Sandy McPherson to make sure the language in the referendum is clear.
“We in the council want it to be easy for the citizens to understand,” he said. “You want to make it easy for them.”
The change would require a temporary extension of office for some council members — including Neal.
Neal said he hopes Rockwood and Harriman city officials will follow suit on the changes, “just to make it uniform.
Rockwood seems to like the idea.
The Rockwood City Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting the June elections be moved to either August or November.
“If they move it they will have to move it to either August or November of 2014 election,” said Roane County Administer of Elections Charles Holiway.
Holiway said it would mean an elected official whose term is to expire in 2013 would have an extended term of either 13 or 15 months, depending on what election date is selected.
Elected officials with terms expiring in 2015 would stay in office until 2016.
“They cannot shorten anyone’s term,” Holiway said.
Mayor James Watts said changing the date would save the city $12,000 to $15,000 with early voting.
“I have suggested the August day; I think Kingston is going to recommend the November day,” Watts said. “I’m OK with either date if we can get all the cities to join in.”
Harriman City Council is is planning on addressing the issue at its meeting this week.
Harriman City Councilman Buddy Holley believes turnout would be bigger at a November election.
Councilman J.D. Sampson recommended August because of better weather.
Mayor Chris Mason supports either, but mentioned the complications of a November election.
“I’d hate to campaign during football season,” he quipped.
“If it saves $13,000 a year, I’d be most agreeable,” said Councilman Lonnie Wright.