Purchase nixed by commissioners amid rumors of ‘kickback’

Published 1:19 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

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The Claiborne Commission decided by a vote of 11 to 10 not to move forward with the purchase of a metal building belonging to Pump Springs Church. The structure was earmarked in the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) grant application to house those inmates who signed up for the McNabb Women’s Jail to Work Program.

Rumors have since circulated that county mayor Joe Brooks would have received a tidy sum if the transaction had gone through.

The Claiborne Progress has been unsuccessful in getting someone to go on the record to substantiate the rumor with verifiable proof. Meanwhile, Brooks was contacted for his take.

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“I can assure you, and I will shout it from the rooftop, that there is absolutely no kick back involved with that building. That is the most asinine thing I have ever heard. I can’t believe that somebody would challenge the integrity of Pump Springs Baptist Church and Adam Robertson and the office of county mayor.”

Brooks insists the $175,000 asking price is the total amount Pump Springs Church owes in payback of grant monies initially acquired for its own failed drug abuse program.

Brooks said he wanted to clear up a rumor that Servolution Health Services owns the building. He says the quit claim deed on the structure reads: Pump Springs Baptist Church dba Servolution Ministries which is a separate entity from its Health Services.

According to Brooks, the only connection Servolution Health Services would have with the McNabb program is in providing services to those women in the program.

At the time of the interview, Brooks was looking toward a conference call later that afternoon with ARC officials in Washington D.C. He posted on the county mayor Facebook page what he had gleaned from the call.

Brooks said in the post that, at this point, ARC is still funding the program.

“Due to the timeline of the ARC INSPIRE Grant Claiborne County has between month’s 1 and 3 to purchase the facility. So, as far as ARC is concerned the project is still on track. However, during the first quarterly bench review of the grant if the timeline benchmarks are not met, Claiborne County will be out of compliance and all the initial funding will have to be returned and further funding of the program will cease,” reads the post, in part.

He says in the post that he contacted CTAS (County Technical Services Association) for a decision on the reversal of course by the County Commission on the purchase of the metal building.

“The attorney with CTAS after reviewing the grant application… and the ARC grant manual stated ‘it looks like they are too far down the road to back out’ and ‘they are committed to this unless ARC agrees to revise the county’s local match as provided in the grant manual (page 11).’”

Brooks goes on to say in the post that even so, the provision says the county must have “prior approval” for any changes.

“So, what does this all mean? Based on the information I have received I believe this much needed program will come into fruition through this grant as outlined in the grant application.”

The post concludes with Brooks asking readers to sign a petition in support for the McNabb program by logging onto http://chng.it/JtdbmXmM4k.

During the interview earlier that day, Brooks said he had had multiple calls with Washington D.C. and Nashville about the grant.

“They were very taken aback that the county has seemingly reneged on its match which was part of the application and why we got approved because we (had) a ready-made building and could start taking our first cohort of women,” said Brooks.

He said his main reason for reaching out to ARC was to get clarification on the timeline stated in the application.

“We have between months one and three to purchase the facility. Now, that’s the facility that’s referenced – the metal building out there.”

Brooks says the commissioners were well-aware that he had applied for the grant.

“They knew it in September,” said Brooks.

The vote was initially postponed to October, he says, because the commissioners wanted to give representatives from Helen Ross McNabb a chance to tour the building.

“They did. They wanted McNabb at the October meeting to answer questions. They were there. And, they wanted the opportunity to tour the facility themselves prior to the October meeting.

“I was out there with that door open for over an hour and I had two county commissioners show up to tour the building. So, these folks who say that it is a rundown building have never even been inside,” said Brooks.

The issue is expected to be further addressed during the next regular monthly meeting of the Claiborne Commission, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on May 17 inside the large courtroom of the Claiborne County Courthouse.

The meeting will be open to the public and is expected to be live streamed by WRIL 106.3 fm on its Facebook page.