The Morristown City Council bid farewell to two retiring employees and passed its 2022/2023 budget Tuesday evening.
Before the council began its regular meeting agenda, Mayor Gary Chesney read proclamations and honored the retiring employees- Building Inspector Robert Montgomery and MPD Captain Daniel Cliff with his K9 partner, Zlatan.
“When somebody retires after a long number of years, as these two men are, it kind of occurs to me that, as a city, when you lose someone who puts that much of their life into not only doing a good job, but bettering the city because of it, the city is backing up a step or two,” Chesney said. “It’ll take us a while to catch back up because whoever takes your place, their feet are too small for the shoes they’re trying to fill… I think that’s the beauty of good work is growing into your job.”
Montgomery served with the inspections department since 2016 and served in the military, worked as a firefighter and as a building inspector for other cities. He served as chaplain for the Morristown Fire Department and is planning to continue in that role post retirement. His last day is on June 30.
Montgomery was presented a commemorative watch for his service.
Captain Daniel Cliff has served with the Morristown Police Department since 1993 when he started his career in law enforcement. He served as a field training officer, on the special response team, as a shift commander and as an original member of the city’s first bike patrol.
He became an expert in K9 training and was the trainer and supervisor for the K9 division which won multiple awards for performance under his leadership.
He won “Officer of the Year” and was awarded a meritorious service medal for his bravery during a 2007 active robbery/shooting.
Chesney presented Cliff with a watch and MPD Chief Roger Overholt presented Cliff with his service firearm.
Cliff’s K9 partner, a Dutch Shepherd Zlatan, will be retiring as well under Cliff’s care. The dog would have aged out of service by the time he could have been retrained with a different handler, so he will get to stay with Cliff.
After the proclamations honoring the retirees, the council began its work to pass the budget they have been working on for over a month.
“I’m excited we kept the tax rate the same for the third consecutive year, and I think the things we do with our budget grows the city and improves quality of life,” Chesney said. “I admire the work the city administrator and his staff do and the department heads. We do an excellent job of financial management.”
While there are economic red flags waving in the country right now, Chesney said the budget was crafted in a conservative manner that takes into an account the unpredictable nature of sales tax revenue.
“Sales tax revenue is always an educated guess,” he said. “We’ve been successful. You budget low and hope you reap high. That theory has worked well for us.”
Changes from the first reading include a change order for the under-construction Morristown Landing for a “net-increase of $144,000,” an increase of $1,000 for Crockett Tavern Museum, a pay increase for all part-time Parks and Recreation employees to $12.50 per hour and provides funds for a Christmas bonus for part-time employees.
“We’re excited to get through the process,” City Administrator Tony Cox said. “This is going to be a big, big year with all of the federal funding for projects we’re going to be able to do… it’s going to be an exciting year.”
“I think the decision to increase funding to the Crockett Tavern Museum is the right decision because of the contribution they make to our tourism,” Councilmember Kay Senter said. “They opened on May 2, and by May 27 they had individuals from 34 states and five countries visit the museum.”
In other business, the council passed a change to the buffer requirements between single family and multi-family or industrial/commercial zones. More and better distance and buffer requirements were added that include more stringent requirements for evergreen buffers.
Councilmember Chris Bivens met earlier this year with concerned homeowners near a multi-unit development on West AJ Highway. He said the new requirements should be adequate to address many of their concerns.
“I think if it’s enforced the way it’s written, it’ll take care of everything,” he said.
The council also authorized a work study on an expansion of the runway to achieve a desired classification.
Cox said the taxiways will need to move further from the runway and some land acquisition will most likely be required on the north side of the airport to facilitate the needed change. The south side is ineligible for expansion due to the presence of the railroad.