Commission tables size reduction, again

Published 12:29 pm Saturday, March 21, 2020

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A proposal to reduce the number of Claiborne commissioners has been laid upon the table for the second time in as many months. It took but a few minutes for 18 of the 21 member board to vote to table a slightly adjusted resolution from the one proposed last month.

The new one calls for reducing the size to just 9 members and setting all terms of service at four years. The previous tabled resolution would have allowed for two “at-large” commissioners and staggered terms.

Commissioner Mitchell Cosby said during the meeting last month that, according to the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS), local governments cannot have at-large commissioners nor can they institute staggered terms unless ruled by Charter.

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Commissioner Nathan Epperson, who sponsored the adjusted resolution, made the motion to accept it. Commissioner Whitt Shuford seconded the motion.

It took but a moment or two following the motion and second for commissioner James Hatmaker to make the motion to table the matter until August.

In that space of time, Commission chair Mike Campbell called for questions. He accepted one from audience member Don Bryant before returning to the motion. Bryant asked if the proposal to reduce the size of the commission was an issue for public referendum vote, rather than having the commissioners decide the matter.

County attorney James Estep III said that, while the proposal could be subject to referendum, it was legal and proper for the commission to make the decision.

Campbell then returned to the Hatmaker motion. Commissioner Steve Mason seconded the motion.

Shuford questioned the propriety of tabling the resolution, referring to Robert’s Rules of Order – a handbook of proper conduct for meetings. The Claiborne Commission has never officially adopted the handbook.

“The only time you can table something is to gather more information. We’ve been doing that incorrectly, for years,” said Shuford.

Commissioner Shawn Peters said that particular rule applies only to matters tabled indefinitely.

Estep agreed, saying that “our procedure is to vote on this, now.”

Commissioners Shuford, Nathan Epperson and Charlton Vass voted against tabling the updated resolution. Those voting in favor were commissioners Hatmaker, Mason, Peters, Cosby, Campbell, Brent Clark, David Mundy, Carolyn Brooks, Juanita Honeycutt, Sherry McCreary, Steve Murphy, Nicholas Epperson, Rosemary Barnett, Zack Mullins, Kim Large, Anthony Rowe, Stacy Crawford and Steve Brogan.

The matter is expected to resurface during the August Commission meeting. The resolution will not be picked up again by the Commission until after the August Elections, which will include the controversial referendum on the Home Rule Charter.

In other action, the county has been given the go-ahead to apply for an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant that, if approved, will allow the Springdale sewer line project to proceed.

The commission recently learned of the critical need in the Springdale area for a sewer line to replace the obsolete, rusting above ground septic system currently being used by those at the Springdale Elementary School.

During a previous meeting, commissioner Mullins questioned just how much longer the septic tank would hold out before dumping waste into nearby creeks – especially those whose waters eventually wind up being processed by the county water department and sent on to flow from business and residential faucets.

If approved, the county will receive up to $432,250 in federal funds after subtracting about $185,250 in the county’s portion of the match. Those local funds will come from the Claiborne Board of Education’s General Purpose account.

The project is expected to require no additional local funding.

The county will be using its 3-Star status to qualify for the ARC grant.

Mullins said of the project that he and his fellow commissioners and school system officials feel that the application is about “95 percent a done deal.”

The resolution is co-sponsored by commissioners Mullins, Peters and Rowe.