Clarksville, TN – Tennessee’s General Election is tomorrow, so voters who did not already take advantage of early voting, will be heading to the polls to cast ballots on a range of offices and issues.
Amongst these will be selecting the next Mayor for the City of Clarksville. Voters will have their choice between current Mayor Kim McMillan, City Councilman Bill Summers, or City Councilman Jeff Burkart.
Clarksville Online asked City Councilman Bill Summers his position on some important local issues on the minds of Clarksville citizens.
Bill Summers is the City Councilman for Ward 10 in Clarksville, TN. He has been married to his wife Cindy for over 34 years. They have two daughters.
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on future development of the education/school system.
Bill Summers: There is often a misperception that city government operates or directs the activities of the school system. When the city and county school systems unified back in the mid-1960’s, the city no longer had authority or responsibility for school operations and the county became responsible only for the funding of education. As part of that unification agreement, the city transfers to the county its first percent on sales tax collections as its contribution to funding the unified system. As the funding agent for the school system the county cannot hold or alter funding to the school system. The county may only approve or disapprove the entire budget the school system and school board submits to it for funding. Neither the city nor county has the any authority or responsibility to operate, direct or manage the school system. The School Board is the only elected entity that may direct the future development of the education and/or school system operations. Parents and citizens bear the responsibility to elect and work with the School Board members and the school system to determine the future of education.
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on mass transit to Nashville, commuter train, etc.
Bill Summers: Commuter rail could be a great asset to Clarksville and should be explored. Costs, schedules, pickup/drop-off/termination points and the percentage of financial support that may be needed from federal, state and county/city resources to start the process and maintain it until the system can sustain itself will be important questions to answer. While providing this service could be a boon to Clarksville and the surrounding area the questions of funding availability, cost requirements and transportation priority must be analyzed. If the city were put into a position of having to decide to provide financial resources into either commuter rail or local city road construction/development, I will make the decision to place emphasis in local road construction first. With the city projected to reach 250,000 sometime in the 2030s, we must place more concern on getting residents from one end of Clarksville to the other first.
Draw Down at Fort Campbell
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on the proposed draw down at Fort Campbell. Worst case is listed at 16,000 military and civilians. Best case is no change at all. Seems to be no middle ground. What can be done to possibly reach a middle ground or even prevent these loses.
First, we have leverage that many states do not have with Ft Campbell being located in both Tennessee and Kentucky. That amounts to 15 congressmen and 4 senators that can lend their support to Ft. Campbell at the federal level. Citizens and the elected state representatives from both states can bring influence to bear upon these elected federal representatives to affect a change on the outcome.
Second, a local delegation made up of area Tennessee and Kentucky representatives visits Washington D.C. each year for the purpose of supporting Ft, Campbell. Mayors and selected delegates from the local communities should make it a priority to participate in this trip and make their voice heard in person. Their actual attendance and involvement on such trips demonstrates true concern and a call for action. Clarksville cannot afford to have a mayor that misses such a trip, but yet can find time to go to Saudi Arabia claiming it is for the good of the city. Such actions counter verbal claims of supporting Ft. Campbell.
Combining political efforts and representation at the federal and local levels is the best way to influence a positive out for Ft. Campbell.
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on future needs/development of infrastructure. What can be done to lobby to the State of Tennessee/TDOT for improvements?
Bill Summers: Neither of the other two candidates seems to understand that we must not only work closely work with our local state representatives for TDOT funding of local road project development, but we must also be prepared to offer upfront funding and/or a higher funding percentage for road projects to offset the financial shortfalls and burdens being experienced by TDOT. Growth and the resulting increase and strain on our road infrastructure is seen and experienced directly by Clarksvillans everyday. We are but one of hundreds or city and counties vying for the relatively few dollars TDOT has to spare for new or improved road development.
We cannot be content to continually wait in line for a hopeful grant by the state. Instead we need to take a more aggressive approach of trying to offer resources that will help TDOT elevate our position in the “priority” order of cities and counties that will get the restrained resource help that they have. We can also work with TDOT to request and compete for federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grants. Several Tennessee cities and counties have been successful in being awarded millions of dollars for transportation infrastructure. We must make it known that we are ready to compete too.
Parks and Recreation
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on recent additions to Clarksville Parks, Ford Street Mountain Bike Trail Park, Splash Pad at Edith Pettus Park
Bill Summers: These have been great additions to our recreational line-up. The Splash Pad seemed to be continually delayed, but finally was accomplished this year. We have been pushing for several years to get more upgrades at Pettus and more still needs to be accomplished. The Mountain Bike Trail is the first of hopefully two (the other going in the Exit 11/Ward 10 park) such trails for those that enjoy that activity. The Exit 11/Ward 10 park should also have a “blueway” entry point for canoeists and kayakers, although no plans have been established at this time.
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on Expanding Fort Defiance.
Bill Summers: I think instead of using the term “expanding”, the terms “ inclusion” or “ accessibility” better defines what is needed. It had been the plan when the city extended the Riverwalk to the Red River that a pedestrian bridge would be built to allow direct walking access across the river to Fort Defiance’s walkways, picnic grounds and interpretive center. This was being discussed going into the FY 2012 budget, but did not appear on the budget that year, nor has it been mentioned since. With the new Pat Head Summitt Legacy Park scheduled to be built on the Riverwalk extension to the Red River, it makes perfect sense to have a bridge that will take people over to the grounds of the fort on a safe and beautiful walk.
Also, connecting the walkways of Ft. Defiance to Trice Landing would open up another beautiful area for those that enjoy walking or seeing the views that are available. Both of the projects are needed to provide the connectivity required for the Riverwalk and Greenway trails.
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on future park developments/improvements.
Bill Summers: The city does need another major park complex as we grow toward 250,000 citizens by the 2030s. Mr. Burkhart said in a recent radio show that he is against another major park project and had rather upgrade the one at Heritage Park. The problem is children and adult sports leagues continue to grow and space is needed. Heritage Park is landlocked with no more growth room. Land is being bought and developed at a fast pace and if the city does not move now to secure land for future park development, then there will be no land available for such a project. This approach is short sighted and does not look to the needs of the future.
Mrs. McMillan sprung the idea of a major new park at a public meeting where the council had to learn about it for the first time. She seems intent on trying to place it on property at Exit 8 across from the industrial park. There are no major city neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed area, nor any businesses that could accommodate an influx of visitors. She believes we can host area or state events at this park with the easy access to the interstate and make money. There is little area around this location to commercially develop, as the land is located outside the city limits. Too many people could drive to Exit 8 and leave without ever setting foot in Clarksville to eat, shop or stay if making money is part of the goal.
The goal of any park to accommodate the needs of our citizens first. The other location cited by a study on the park project is on Tiny Town Road area roughly a mile from Trenton Road. This proposed area is surround by thousands of home directly adjacent and within minutes of walking or driving. Thousands of children live in that same area of town and currently there are no park facilities for them to enjoy. This is the location that should be selected and developed. Walking and bike trails coming directly out of the adjacent neighborhoods could be built into the park. Commercial development and restaurants are located in the area and at Exit 4 with more on the way. If we want to have visiting events at our new park, this is the location from which to do it. It will have to be a multi-year project with the first step being the acquisition of the land and doing that very soon before it is gone.
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on a Clarksville Convention Center.
Performing Arts Center
Clarksville Online: What are your thoughts on a Clarksville Performing Arts Center, should city work with Roxy Regional Theatre or start it’s own project.
Bill Summers: After several efforts to raise money as its own entity, it is apparent that the Roxy Board cannot provide the funding needed to construct a new theater by itself. This realization in 2010 is what prompted an informal group to form consisting of Councilman Grubbs, myself, a member of the Parking Authority, a local architect, members of the Roxy Board and the Roxy theater members to explore a public-private concept for a new Roxy or performing arts theater. This informal group developed a number of issues and ideas on how the theater could operate, management operations and events that could be presented. The concept was for a 500-seat theater, a smaller practice or performance theater of about 100-125 seats, with offices, dressing rooms, stage lifts and a 200+ parking garage underneath the theater. A basic architectural plan was designed with these parameters. The new facility would be built in the current location
Mr. Grubbs and myself presented the idea of a joint public-private venture and the initial operational concepts to Mrs. McMillan, in April of 2011. Mrs. McMillan seemed excited about the idea. By fall of 2011 the informal group met and was preparing to officially request the city join the project. At the meeting, it was announced that Mrs. McMillan wanted another parking study performed before the theater concept went further. This put a complete halt on further concept development.
The parking study never materialized and the next time anything associated with the Roxy was found in the next city budget, in an item buried over 600 pages into the budget document. A request to $100,000 in borrowed money to do “Pre-Planning for Downtown Performing Arts Center and Parking Garage”. Mrs. McMillan would have the city take over the entire process even though she could not explain what she had in mind. Later she added another $40,000 to the study costs. Mrs. McMillan also tried to add another $100,000 to the costs by adding another study phase on where the new Roxy/Performing Arts Theater should be built. With the help of the council, I deleted that additional spending stating the current location was appropriate. Several weeks later the consulting firm agreed the current location was fine.
After almost two and a half years later, and $140,000 spent, we await a study that is months behind and thus far has stated many of the same conclusions that the informal working group had already settled four years ago. The Roxy and the city are now “joined at the hip” to get this done as was the conclusion four years ago. It still needs to be a public-private arrangement and the facility needs to be dedicated to the performing arts.
Clarksville Online: What can be done to bring in more jobs, like Hankook Tire, especially with the upcoming proposed Fort Campbell changes?
Bill Summers: Several processes are needed to bring more jobs to Clarksville. First, ensure that the land and infrastructure are available to meet the needs of any international or national company looking to expand or move. Hankook is here today because of the vision made almost 14 years ago that expanded and upgraded our industrial park.
Second, we continue to work with the state and county as a team to help and encourage these industries to come to our city. This effort will also include keeping in communication with our federal representatives about such opportunities.
Third, lets not forget that small business is still the backbone of business development and growth in our nation and city. As a city, we can take steps to make it easier for the new small business person to get started and stay in business. These new businesses provide jobs and the dollars they generate turn over multiple times in our local economy. My campaign has outlined a detailed approach to small business development and retention.
Clarksville Online: What are your on CDE Lightband, recent internet problems, importance to Clarksville’s Growth.
There is no doubt that CDE Lightband provides a valuable service and is a tool for business recruitment. However, the clock is ticking and it should become apparent within the next two to four years if the operational and financial adjustments that have taken place are effective. CDE Lightband will have to become a financially viable operation.
Clarksville Online: What goals and projects would you like to see started/finished in the next 4 years?
Bill Summers: Goals: A comprehensive set of plans that divides Clarksville’s future into increments of 3-5, 5-10 and 10-20 year schedules. This would allow the city to plan the phases of needed projects in terms of study assignments, financial development, engineering schedules, land development and acquisitions and implementation. From that effort we will know how and when we need to start projects to meet the projected 250,000 citizens that will live in Clarksville by the 2030s.
Projects: Start & Finish in four years – 1) Performing Arts theater, 2) first leg of the East-West Corridor, 3) Business and commercial expansion of the airport, 4) Small Business Development and Retention Center
Projects: Start – 1) Completing gaps of the Riverwalk and Greenway system, 2) initial consideration and study of a convention center, 3) initial consideration and study of a children’s science center, 4) purchase of land for the proposed major park (Tiny Town location)
This list does not include the many issues and projects need for the requirements of public safety and other city general operations.
Clarksville Online: How/What do you see in Clarksville’s future.
Bill Summers: It all depends on who is elected Mayor on November 4th. Neither of my opponents has presented any documented detailed information or plan as to what they will do for Clarksville. Mrs. McMillan has repeated stated she budgets and plans, at most, twelve months at a time. She has made it clear that the tension and dysfunction that her style of leadership and management has brought to the city council will not change, as she sees no problem. Her lack of vision, direction and continuous absence from functions that are tasked to formulate Clarksville’s future leaves them with determining where Clarksville will go next. It is very much a case of the tail having to wag the dog to get anything accomplished.
Mr. Burkhart, like Mrs. McMillan, has not presented any detailed plan of where he would take Clarksville. He laments about the condition the city finds itself in, yet he has voted lockstep with Mrs. McMillan on a vast majority of issues. He states he is for building roads and supporting public safety when his documented voting record in the council shows he has not supported these issues. His actions have contributed to shortfalls in police and fire rescue staff and delays or potential elimination of needed road projects.
On my website (www.sunmers4mayor.com) I have provide the issues that Clarksvillians have said are at the top of their lists. I have provided outlines and plans as to how I will address them. I have provided the measuring stick by which to judge my performance as mayor. My opponents have not and will not provide such information as it will hold them to a standard of performance that they are either not prepared to meet or cannot meet.
How do I see Clarksville’s future…with my two opponents it will be more of what we have seen for the last four years as both have been tied directly together in the decisions and actions (or inactions) that have resulted. With a Bill Summers administration you will see action as I have outlined in Questions #12 and accountability to plan and accomplish the needs of Clarksville as we head toward 2030.