Commission overrides waterline veto

Published 4:03 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

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The Claiborne county mayor’s veto stamp made another appearance, knocking down a resolution to take a $500,000 capital outlay note. The note would begin the process of extending waterlines in dead spots in three of the nine districts.

The Claiborne Commission pushed back, with a vote of 16 to 5, to override the veto. Commissioners Whitt Shuford, Charlton Vass, Nathan Epperson, Zack Mullins and Anthony Rowe voted against the measure.

Last month, the county mayor spent a chunk of time explaining his reasons for waiting until all nine districts were scanned. He said it would allow time to see whether the county needs to increase the amount of the initial note to cover waterline extensions in other dead zones.

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However, the commissioners voted to move ahead with the loan with the caveat that the board get with the utility districts on a fact-finding expedition.

During the March meeting, county mayor Joe Brooks told the commission that each of the nine districts has dead spots that would benefit. In just the 1st district, the expedition found 34 homes along the Ferguson Ridge Road area that would benefit from being added to the project, he said.

Brooks pointed to a very important stretch of Hwy. 33, running past Baylor’s Bridge to Lone Hill.

“You’re never going to get water going up to that area of the county until you can come down four-tenths of a mile along Hwy. 33 with six inch line to Baylor’s Bridge… That would get that whole area of Claiborne county eligible for CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) grants in the future, by putting this cost into this capital outlay note,” said Brooks.

“I’m asking you all to slow down. Let’s include some of this other stuff (dead zones in the remaining six districts) in this. If you wait two months – nobody ‘s going to start digging a waterline until it dries up – to do the two miles of pipe you’re suggesting to be done, because you’re not hooking anybody up. You are merely putting line into the ground, your pressure testing it, covering it up and then you’re waiting for 2021 – it’s got to be finalized by February when we go into application time.”

During the discussion period, commissioner Steve Brogan asked why he had not been told that this was not the first time the county would be taking out a loan for a waterline project. He said he had spoken with Claiborne Utilities director George Coonts, who showed him four examples of past projects in which no grants were involved.

“Where did this money come from and where was it spent? Each one was $300,000. Where is this in the budget.

“I am very, very disappointed that it was not brought up to this court that it’s been done before. And, I don’t understand it having to be done in fund balance and not have to be put in the budget,” said Brogan.

Commissioner Kim Large responded by saying that the fund balance reserves 3 cents in property taxes which equals $150,000 each year. In ten years, that amount – $1.5 million – would pay for the project.

Mayor Brooks clarified the issue by stating that this would be the first time the county would sign a loan note funding a project in addition to what is available in the fund balance collected each year.

Further into the discussion, commissioner Shawn Peters proposed amending the resolution by increasing the note amount to $1.5 million with the stipulation that the extra $1 million would go to funding as many of the other areas as possible. In the meantime, concrete numbers could be attained in time for the April meeting.

County attorney James Estep III said the commission must first address the now- vetoed resolution prior to amending it.

Commissioner David Mundy cautioned his fellow commissioners that there are cost limitations when considering certain areas for a CDBG grant application. Mundy said the final costs must stay within the $300,000 to $400,000 range for each dead zone, when considering how much it would be to “fill the gaps” between the waterlines.

“If you get above that, you might as well forget it,” said Mundy.

The veto was ultimately lifted. However, the Peters’ proposal was not addressed, meaning the original resolution stands without amendment.

According to the original resolution, there are approximately 187 residents who could ultimately benefit from the $500,000 outlay note. Once the waterline project is approved, the Claiborne Finance Department will administer bids for the notes.

Vaughn & Melton will be conducting the engineering and bidding process for the actual construction of the waterline extensions.

The adoption of Resolution 2020-021 simply gets the ball rolling with initial costs. The approval of a CDBG grant next February will cover the costs of the remainder of the project.