By Kendal Groner

Prior to the Town of Erwin’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Monday, June 4, a debt funding workshop was held during which the town heard from Cumberland Securities, a Knoxville-based municipal advisory service, to assist officials in reviewing their debt and possibly providing strategies for refunding.

The town’s debt currently totals around $5 million, however, John Werner, vice president of Cumberland Securities, suggested that if the town capitalizes on fixed interest rates rather than variable interest rates, their payments can be sizeably reduced.

“All of the loans can possibly be refunded to maybe go out and get a better rate,” Werner said. “More importantly, when you want to get debt in the future, we help our clients not just with larger bond sales, but also the more simple capital outlay notes.”

The town currently has approximately $3.98 million in bond fund loans and in looking at the debt service from 2009 and 2014, those variable interest rates are 1.97 and 2.31, respectively.

“We will convert that debt over to a fixed rate and in today’s market you are looking at a 3.5 percent rate for those,” Werner said.

With the fixed interest rates, that $3.98 million in bond fund loans could drop to $1.67 million, which Werner said was a conservative projection.

If the town were to enlist the services of Cumberland Securities, Werner said that they would act as the town’s municipal advisor, and would only charge them when a particular transaction was carried out.

“I don’t think anyone would criticize you for what many people do when buying a car or a home,” he said. “We are confident rates will continue to go up.”

Both Alderman Mark Lafever and Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley voiced their support of attempts to refund some of the town’s debt and secure a fixed interest rate.

“I personally think this would be the best way for us to go,” Hensley said. “Right now we don’t even know how to budget. If we lock it in, I think it will save us money down the road.”

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In the Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, the board unanimously approved the authorization of the continued funding of city departments, services and expenditures at present 2017-18 budget levels until the new 2018-19 budget ordinance is passed.

The board also unanimously approved an ordinance to amend the previously passed budget ordinance on first reading. The public and final reading of the budget will be discussed at their June 25 meeting.

The board also discussed environmental and engineering services with S&ME Engineering Services as part of the $500,000 ECD Site Development Grant to render the former Morgan Insulation Site pad ready.

“This proposal is for environmental services, including phase one and then a limited phase two,” said Lindsey Harris, project manager with S&ME Engineering Services. “What we’ll do with phase two is work with the area waste disposal on site. The engineering services include preliminary design and then full construction design and limited construction administration during construction of the site.”

Lafever made a motion to approve the environmental and engineering services and the motion was seconded by Alderman Virgil Moore before it unanimously passed.

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The Unicoi County Family YMCA has a youth triathlon planned for Aug. 11 and Frank Cooke, CEO of the Unicoi County Family YMCA, came before the board to request that Love Street from Ohio Avenue to Mohawk Drive, and one lane of Mohawk Drive, be closed for the event.

The triathlon will be for children up to fifth grade, specifically for those in first through fifth grades.

“We decided it was time to do a kids triathlon to try and get kids active,” Cooke said.

By closing the aforementioned streets, Cooke said participants would able to enjoy a one-mile bike ride, with the running portion of the event taking place at the track, and the swimming portion at the YMCA pool.

“It will take about three officers to close those streets, especially since we’re talking about young kids,” Town of Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said.

Hensley asked if the YMCA has enough volunteers to assist with supervising the event. Cooke said in the last race the YMCA held there were around 20 volunteers and he expects there to be more for the triathlon. Tilson said the fire department had offered some help with the event and Lafever suggested reaching out to the county for additional support.

Lafever made a motion to approve the road closures and his motion was seconded by Moore before it unanimously passed.

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Hensley also read a proclamation honoring Linda O’Neal and her work with the TN Commission of Children and Youth and proclaimed June 15 to be Linda O’Neal Advocacy Day.

O’Neal has been the executive director of the TN Commission of Children and Youth Since 1988 and the independent state agency has a mission to improve the quality of life for Tennessee children and families and provide leadership for other children’s advocates.

“It is my understanding that Linda will be retiring after over 30 years of service. She has brought much comfort to the youth and families across the state,” Hensley said. “We’re very fortunate to have people that will stand up for our youth.”