Cunningham freezes hiring, limits travel as county tightens belt

County Mayor Jerry Cunningham on Monday, Dec. 22, froze all hiring and limited travel for employees in departments that report to him.

“I put down an order today freezing any further hiring in my department and cut down on all travel,” he said.

The mayor said all travel now is limited to the contiguous counties of Blount County. The mayor said he would not send or pay for any employees to any seminars.

“We have to tighten our belt. I started thinking about it two or three weeks ago. I thought now is a good time to do it before year’s end, and we can start the new year out on this foot,” he said.

Cunningham said the sour national economy is starting to affect the local economy. “Were starting to see a decrease in the sales tax revenues. I think last month’s were down 11 or 12 percent. You anticipate that will continue, and we’ll feel the crunch,” the mayor said.

Cunningham said he didn’t foresee property values dropping in Blount County as they have in other counties. “Who knows what this economy is going to do,” he said. “Certainly it pays not to spend and to save as much as we can.”

The departments that report directly to the mayor include Purchasing, Planning, Accounting, Environmental, Codes, Probation, Human Resources and Maintenance.

“I copied the notice to all elected officials hoping they’ll follow suit,” he said. “I think they will.”

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