By Richard Rourk
The governing body of the Town of Unicoi recently traveled to Townsend, Tennessee, for its annual retreat and, according to one official, returned with a renewed list of goals for the town. Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch and outgoing Town of Unicoi City Recorder Michael Borders sat down to speak with The Erwin Record following the March 21-24 Strategic Planning Retreat.
According to Mayor Lynch, town plans have shifted to more short term goals.
“In the past, we focused on five- and ten-year plans,” Lynch said. “This year we focused on three-year plans.”
The three-year goals center around upgrading the downtown area, finding assistance for resident growth, recruiting businesses to the town and finding ways to improve code enforcement, according to the officials.
One goal that the town officials are looking to accomplish is to establish a police department and to enforce codes.
“We had Rex Barton, the police management consultant for MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service), come speak to us and to inform us what we would need to start a police force,” Lynch said.
Improvements to the town’s main thoroughfare is another priority.
“We are looking at grants to develop Unicoi Drive,” Borders said. “We are looking for more residential development, as well.”
Lynch stressed the importance of making Unicoi Drive a top priority.
“This year we focused on cleaning up the appearance of Unicoi Drive, which applies to everything from littering to building codes,” Mayor Lynch said.
Borders also mentioned that the town is actively recruiting for a travel center to come to Exit 32. “The town is in the process of recruiting a travel center to come here that will include a gas station and a nice convenience store,” Borders said, “and exit 32 is a prime location for that.”
One goal on the town’s list was a familiar one.
“We have placed completing the amphitheater and farmer’s market pavilion as one of our top priorities,” Borders said.
While on the retreat, several officials toured the amphitheaters around Townsend for inspiration.
“I wanted the new people to see and to get an idea of what our amphitheater could be,” Lynch said.
In September 2018, the Town of Unicoi received a $248,000 grant from Tennessee’s Local Parks and Recreation Fund to construct an amphitheater. The amphitheater will be built in the space between the Town of Unicoi Tourist Information Center and the Mountain Harvest Kitchen. As of now, there is no time frame on either project, but Borders acknowledged that these projects will be moving along soon.
Lynch said he felt that the retreat was a success.
“It was a good retreat,” Lynch said. “We went in each day and stayed all day to get our goals together and to prioritize them as a group. To me doing this annual retreat is the smartest thing we ever did – the proof is there.”