Loudon City Council passed Monday on the first reading a new approach for city planning services after letting the contract with Loudon County expire.

Council since 2009 has paid $25,000 to Loudon County in an interlocal agreement, which provided the city with planning services. Loudon County Commission this year chose to raise the rate to $85,000.

“This would be an administrative team again with myself, Travis Gray, Brooke Millsaps and Nicole Curtis,” Ty Ross, Loudon city manager, said. “We plan to design and implement a very user-friendly website, which will direct applicants and developers to the proper forms, the proper check lists, the proper processes to get their questions answered and their developments reviewed, whether that be by staff or by planning commission. We definitely, and this comes from many comments from this body, want to have a customer service focus.”

Ross noted the “unique” opportunity of having a utility manager and planner in one position and how that affects his ability to make decisions about developments sooner rather than later.

Ross is proposing each administrative team member receive a 5 percent raise, which will cost the city $17,000 annually.

Councilman Tim Brewster asked for clarification from city attorney Kris Frye whether the change to Ross’ duties would require a charter change.

Frye assured him the changes could be made in an ordinance.

Brewster then wanted to know if Loudon Utilities Board could help with the costs of the planning team.

“If we go that route, couldn’t the utilities absorb some of that then? Because it’s going to involve them a lot more with you working in it I hope,” he said.

Ross said it had not been discussed with the board yet, but he would.

Brewster also requested Frye talk to the county about giving the city a break since it is being charged for the first quarter’s planning services while being cut off in August.

“Kris, since the county dumped this on us, what about us approving saying, ‘Hey, forgive the first quarter you’re going to charge us for.’ They’re going to charge us from July to October,” Brewster said. “What I’m trying to say, since they did it without notice and give us time to get everything together, I say we go back to the county and say, ‘Hey, the first quarter, you should offer that up for free’.”

Frye agreed to write a letter to county attorney Bob Bowman.

“We certainly don’t need to pay for a full quarter if we’re only getting one month of services,” Frye said.

Loudon Mayor Jeff Harris suggested a prorated payment.

Councilman Johnny James and Councilwoman Tammi Bivens motioned and seconded to approve the ordinance at first reading. The motion passed unanimously.

A public hearing will occur at 6:25 p.m. Aug. 24 at city hall before council meets for a second and final reading.

Ross apologized to the public and Brewster for a comment he made at the June 8 council meeting about the councilman wanting to run the town out of his “back pocket.”

“I just wanted to acknowledge that at times during the past month my interactions with council member Brewster became somewhat confrontational, but it’s up to me to always show respect and not cross the line,” Ross said. “I think when I made the comment, the back pocket comment that was quoted in your newspaper story maybe six weeks ago, that I crossed that line, and I should not have made that comment, and I want to apologize for it.”

In other news, Loudon City Council:

• Authorized a fuel bid from Rogers Petroleum Inc.

• Rezoned property at Cedar Park Drive from C-4 Interchange Commercial District to R-3 Urban Residential District.

• Rezoned property at Queener Road from R-1/F-1 Suburban Residential District/Floodway District to R-3/F-1 Urban Residential District/Floodplain District.

• Rezoned property at Corporate Park Drive from R-1/F-1 Suburban Residential District/Floodway District to C-2/F-1 Highway Business District/Floodplain District.

• Approved tree removal at Lions Club Park.

• Authorized submission of a Tennessee Tourism Enhancement Grant application.

• Authorized a 1993 Jeep Cherokee to be considered surplus.