State planners jobs eliminated in Jobs4TN plan

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By Damon Lawrence

Local governments that relied on the assistance of state planners will have to seek help elsewhere.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is eliminating the positions, much to the chagrin of the woman who has served Roane County for many years.   

“Our ECD local planning division included 70 positions statewide, and 60 of those positions were filled,” said Yvette Martinez, a spokeswoman for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. “After a top-to-bottom review, ECD found not many local governments used the service.”

Roane County didn’t follow that trend.

Midge Jessiman has worked as a state planner for 36 years. She’s spent about eight of those working with Roane County.

“They’ve been a fabulous county to work, and I mean that sincerely,” Jessiman said.

She was also the planner for Harriman.

The layoffs are part of Haslam’s Jobs4TN plan.

The governor discussed the reasoning behind eliminating the state planner positions during a press conference, which is posted on the ECD website.

“The state was doing a function, assisting with local planning for local governments,” Haslam said. “We just asked the question, is that the right function for state government to be helping with, subdivision planning for local government?”

Jessiman said she was surprised to learn that her job was being eliminated.

“I didn’t see it coming,” she said. “I don’t know how you would.”

Jessiman said state planners have been told July 20 is their last day to work.    

“They will be getting the communities their maps and anything on our system,” she said.

Subdivision planning wasn’t the only thing state planners did for counties.

“We kept them up-to-date on FEMA regulations and requirements,” Jessiman said. “We were supposedly or have been indirectly asked to do their reapportionment this year, and we did their site plan reviews and answered any questions they had. That’s kind of it in a nutshell.”

Jessiman also helped Roane County put together zoning resolutions.  

Woody said the county was paying the state $12,500 for the planning service.

The county now has to consider other options with the service going away.

One possibility, he said, is contracting the service out to a private company.

“We’re just going to have to sort through it in the next couple of weeks,” Woody said. “Just to see how we want to meet this same need, or if the county wants to continue to meet the need. I don’t know. I think we do.”

The planning service is also in the midst of helping Roane County put together a land-use plan.

“That included a whole variety of mapping, existing land use, soil data, slope data, water line locations, things like that,” Jessiman said.

Woody said he’s not sure how the layoffs will affect the land-use plan.

“We’re going to get some more information next week when we meet with them,” he said.