County mayor vetoes waterline extension

Published 8:16 pm Friday, March 6, 2020

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It looks as though Claiborne county mayor Joe Brooks has followed through on what some predicted would happen with the waterline extension resolution, as amended. The mayor has rubber stamped ‘Vetoed’ on the document.

Last month, Brooks spent a chunk of time attempting to persuade the Claiborne Commission to hold off adopting the resolution until it met with the local utility districts, as planned. The idea was to ferret out all areas where installing waterlines would be most feasible before approving a specific amount of money for a capital outlay note.

“What’s not in the resolution is how you’re going to pay for it. Granted, it is coming through debt service but, in that debt service fund, you’re allocating 3 pennies of property tax to pay for that. If the penny stays where it’s at for the current year, you’re looking at $50,000 – $53,000 a penny. So, we’re (guessing) it will take you almost 4 years to pay this $500,000 loan off,” said Brooks, during the February meeting. “If you take that number up to $1 million, to get other dead spots in the county, you’ll have to reapportion more pennies to that debt service fund to be able to make that capital outlay note.”

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He reminded the commissioners that to do so could very well impact property taxes.

Commissioners Steve Brogan and Whitt Shuford made motions to table the issue during its long discussion period. In the end, the commission voted 16 to 5 to move forward with the caveat that the board meet with the utility companies in a fact-finding expedition.

Those voting against the amended resolution were commissioners Shuford, Charlton Vass, Nathan Epperson, Zach Mullins and Anthony Rowe.

Also on the agenda for the March 16 meeting is the controversial resolution to reduce the number of commissioners. The document was tabled during the February meeting via a move that would rival a gymnast in its complexity.

The commission sweated through an extended period of time, during which a couple of failed amendments were brought forward for consideration.

Commissioner Rowe then made a motion to amend the existing resolution to keep all 21 commissioners intact but reduce the salaries by one-half.

The amendment was adopted by a vote of 11 to 10.

Then, it was time to vote on the full resolution, as amended. The vote got underway but was suddenly stopped in mid-vote when a call was made to table the matter.

The voting process started over – this time, deciding by a vote of 17 to 4 to lay the resolution down until the following monthly meeting.

The commission will have up for vote during the March 16 meeting a slightly adjusted resolution from the one that was tabled. The document now calls for 9 members, elected from 9 electoral districts, who will serve regular 4 year terms.

Last month, commissioner Mitchell Cosby informed the board that, according to CTAS (the County Technical Assistance Service), county commissions are barred from having “at-large” members – something the original document included.

The original resolution also called for staggered terms, which Cosby said is not allowed unless the county is ruled by charter.

Also on the March agenda is a resolution that, if adopted, would allow Community Health of East TN to use the now vacant building that was once occupied by CEASE Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault.

CEASE lost two significant grants late last year that had kept the nonprofit in operation, resulting in its closure. If adopted, Community Health will use the building on a temporary basis until it is determined whether the organization plans to continue its services inside the county.

The initial lease will run one year at a cost of $3, if the resolution is adopted.

In operation since 1981, CEASE had been the go-to sanctuary for women and children of domestic violence and sexual assault across six adjacent counties including Claiborne.