County mayor outlines tentative Children’s Home property swap

A new Blount County children’s services campus appears to be one step closer to reality.

On Tuesday, County Mayor Jerry Cunningham announced that a memorandum of understanding would be presented at the County Commission meeting outlining terms of a land swap between the Children’s Home and the county.

The Children’s Board and mayor’s office have feuded about what should go on county property adjacent to the home. The mayor also questioned the legality of the board since its membership had increased but the commission hadn’t approved that change. The mayor’s office also stopped payment on funds distributed to the home from an endowment in light of the questions regarding the board.

But on Tuesday night the mayor sounded hopeful an agreement had been reached.

Cunningham said the county and the children’s home would seek relief from the probate court regarding the Ellis endowment, a fund set up from the estate of a doctor to help fund a facility for children. The judge in probate court would be asked to allow the home to begin getting funds from the endowment again. “That would be on a retroactive basis and that would catch them up,” the mayor said.

Cunningham said as part of the proposed agreement, the Children’s Home is requesting they be allowed to have a 15 member board with two of the members being county commissioners. The Children’s Home board requested that those members be Wendy Pitts Reeves and Monika Murrell, to which the mayor agreed.

Cunningham said the board would be required to report their financial wellbeing each quarter to the commission.

“The other issue is land. A survey would be done, and the Children’s Home would deed back to Blount County 200 feet to right of their driveway as you go up driveway,” he said. The mayor said the Children’s Home also would deed back to the county property to the left of the driveway all the way to McCammon Avenue. The Children’s Home also would retain some space that would be considered common parking area between the buildings.

In exchange, the county would deed to the Children’s Home a small tract of property behind a second building that runs back to old landfill.

“The Children’s Home wants that more or less as a buffer,” Cunningham said. “This comes with the recommendation of the mayor’s office and the attorney and the attorney for the county and the Children’s Home board.”

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