Troy and I want to thank everyone who supported us and voted for us during the campaign season. I look forward to serving the people the next four years. Feel free to email or call me with your concerns about your County government.
No Discussion on Leadership
Elections that send new people to public offices are suppose to bring fresh ideas and new leadership. That’s not what Blount County got when the Commission chose it Officers. The old guard stayed firmly in place. The same Commissioners that have held leadership positions were nominated in a systematic fashion with no discussion as to why the same people should have power. Even several of the new Commissioners, who rarely, if ever, attended Commission meetings prior to running, seemed to be in complete agreement by their silence. After the Agenda meeting a constituent remarked to me that the Chairman already had his stuff lined up and was ready to take the seat after the swift election. Former Commissioner Jim Folts wrote about the same problem 4 years ago (see Sept. 2010). The people of Blount County deserve open discussion about the leaders on their County Commission, but were once again denied that.
Agenda Committee is optional
Traditionally, the Budget Committee meets the day before the Agenda Committee. Business approved by the Budget Committee is sent to the Agenda Committee (which consists of all members of the County Commission) for review. This usually means that budget items are placed in the Agenda packet the day of the meeting, giving Commissioners little, if any, time to read these important fiscal matters. Usually the rest of the information is in the packet 5 working days prior to the Agenda Committee meeting.
That wasn’t the case this month. Recommendations from the Mayor were dated Sept. 4th, less than 5 working days prior to the Sept. 9th Agenda Committee meeting. Commission rule 6A requires information to be in the Commission packet 5 working days prior to the meeting, unless there is a good reason. The rules don’t say that the 5 day requirement applies to the Agenda meeting, it just says “meeting” singular.
Five (5) working days is a good rule in the best interest of the public because it allows time for the public to review what the Commission is pursing. When I pointed out that the Mayors recommendations were not in our package 5 working days prior to the meeting, Agenda Chairman Steve Samples said they didn’t have to be, ruling that the 5 day rule didn’t apply to the Agenda meeting. I challenged the rule of the Chair and only Commissioners Daly and Miller supported my challenge.
Two of the Mayor’s recommendation letters didn’t list the correct names of the Commissions. I asked that the Mayor resubmit those in October and he agreed. Alarmingly, Commissioner Tom Stinnett wanted to let the Mayor go down to his office and type new letters and submit them to the Commission during the Agenda meeting.
The Commission meeting on the 18th settled the fact that there are no Commission rules governing how the Board (Commission) meeting must receive it’s business matters or that the Agenda Committee is even a required process to send business to the Board (full Commission). Notary Public and Deputy Sheriff oaths and bonds were on the Commission agenda, even though neither had gone through the Agenda Committee. When I raised a point of order asking why these items had not gone through the Agenda Committee, there were periods of time where you could hear a pin drop.
After some discussion, Chairman Jerome Moon declared that both items were in order, despite not being sent to the Board (Commission) by the Agenda Committee. According to Commission Rule 12, Chairman Moon said, “An Agenda Committee meeting is really optional.” I am not sure that all the Commissioners grasped the importance of the Chairman’s statement. Nothing the Board addresses is required to go through the Agenda Committee. As Chairman Moon said, the meeting is optional.
AGENDA COMMITTEE MEETINGS
An agenda committee meeting may be held on the week prior to meetings subject to the discretion of the chairman, the county mayor, and the county clerk. The committee shall be composed of all the members of the Board of County Commissioners. The duties of the agenda committee shall be to discuss items and vote to send or not send items to the agenda of the Board of County Commissioner’s meeting. The committee may also refer the item to other committees.
The most debated matter of the meeting was the resolution on campground regulations. I am not opposed to campgrounds and originally intended to vote for the matter. However, I discovered one word that is the Achilles heel of the resolution.
5J (page 126)
Lighting and Noise. All campgrounds shall be designed to meet the current outdoor lighting standards found in section 7.15 D. All campgrounds should conduct business in accordance to any existing noise laws within the county.
The resolution states that campgrounds should follow noise regulations, rather than shall follow noise regulations. Lighting regulations are shall, as are many other statements throughout the resolution. Is this a simple oversight? I don’t know, but as written it appears to me make compliance with noise regulations optional.
The Commission was given an opportunity to fix this and address other concerns when Commissioner French moved to send it back to the Planning Commission with suggestions. The motion was defeated 10 to 10.
Akard – yes Allen – no Archer – yes Bowers – yes Carter – yes Carver – no Caskey – yes Caylor – no Cole – absent Crowe – no Daly – yes Farmer – no French – yes Headrick – no Lewis – no Melton – yes Miller – no Monroe – yes Moon – yes Samples – no Stinnett – no
The resolution passed 13-7 with 1 absent.
Akard – no Allen – yes Archer – no Bowers – yes Carter – no Carver – yes Caskey – yes Caylor – yes Cole – absent Crowe – yes Daly – no Farmer – yes French – yes Headrick – yes Lewis – yes Melton – yes Miller – no Monroe – no Moon – yes Samples – no Stinnett – yes
Hopefully bullhorns and rock concerts won’t become common place at new campgrounds.
Grant Money to Operate a Spy Van
Commissioners Akard, Daly and I had concerns about a grant application to operate a spy van and train 3 people at a national conference. No one from the Drug Task Force or the Sheriff’s Department was present to address our concerns. The Commission did not have the grant for review, because it has not been written. Because the matching funds (local dollars) comes from an Agency fund rather than the General Fund of the County, the Commission will not see this matter again. With no grant to read and nothing to come back to the Commission, I don’t know how any Commissioner could vote to fund the spy operation.
While the measure passed 14-6, I take heart in the fact that 6 Commissioners voted against the application. This is the largest number of Commissioners that I’ve ever seen oppose what some view as “free” money. In a time when the NSA is the only government agency actually listening to the people, we need to be ever vigilant about government spying. Commissioner Mike Akard said it best, “Are we to believe that when our government has seized drug money that it doesn’t affect the taxpayers when we spend it frivolously on a spy van?”
Commissioners Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Jeff Headrick, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett voted yes.
Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Grady Caskey, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted no.
Commissioner Tom Cole was absent.
Citizen Comments about Open Discussion on Issues
At the end of the Commission meeting, Blount County citizen and regular attendee of Commission meetings, Barney Lowe commented that he was glad to see open discussion on the issues.
In October the Commission with be tasked with refinancing approximately $20 million in variable rate debt. This is a serious matter that I will consider diligently. There will be a public hearing on October 7th regarding cell tower regulations.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING, In accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 13-7-105, the Board of County Commissioners of Blount County, Tennessee, will convene in a called meeting and hold public hearing on October 7, 2014 at 6:15 P.M., at the Blount County Courthouse Commission Meeting Room for the following proposed amendments to the Zoning Resolution of Blount County, Tennessee, being Resolution 00-06-010.
A RESOLUTION TO AMEND THE ZONING RESOLUTION OF BLOUNT COUNTY, TENNESSEE, SECTION 7.4-D-7(a) TOWER SEPARATION REQUIREMENTS.
7.4-D-7(a) Tower separation shall be measured from the base of the tower to the lot line of the off-site uses. Separation distance shall be 85 feet plus one foot for every one foot greater than 75 feet in tower height, whichever is greater, in relation to an existing residential use or a platted subdivision lot intended predominantly for residential us