At their first agenda workshop meeting with the new mayor and new commissioners on Tuesday, Blount County commissioners moved the matter of accepting the resignation of commissioner Shawn Carter, Sr., to their Sept. 16 meeting.
Carter, District 1 Seat B, resigned 90 minutes after being sworn in on Sept. 1 because of concerns he would violate the Hatch Act if he took office. The act prohibits federal employees from running in partisan elections. Carter is a U.S. Postal worker.
In addition, commissioners discussed motions to spend $100,000 to upgrade the Operations Center on McArthur Road to accommodate four more departments and to enlarge the parking lot at the Blount County Justice Center.
Absent from the meeting were commissioners Mike Lewis, Brad Harrison, Carter and Roy Gamble.
Chair Kenneth Melton made a motion to move discussion regarding Carter’s resignation to the full commission. Commissioners approved the motioned 17-0. The resignation must be accepted during the commission meeting and, according to state law, the commissioners have up to 120 days to fill Carter’s seat, Melton said.
Regarding expenditures to upgrade the Operations Center and extend the Justice Center parking lot, Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap addressed the commissioners. About $42,000 would be needed to prepare the facility, he said.
Commissioners Steve Samples and Kenneth Melton made the motion to move it to full commission for a vote and commissioners approved the motion 17-0.
Regarding Justice Center parking, Dunlap said Circuit Judge Dale Young and Circuit Judge David Duggan along with Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher asked for an estimate on extending the parking lot. “We’re looking at roughly $60,000 for the stonework, asphalt and striping,” Dunlap said.
Commissioner Mark Hasty made a motion to move the measure to Budget Committee for discussion, and it was approved 17-0. Finance Director Steve Jennings said the work would be paid for out of funds to be returned by the Public Building Authority. PBA is required to pay revenues earned to the county general fund. “We’ve requested the PBA send $100,000 back to the county, and that would cover, ironically, the cost for the operations center and the Justice Center,” he said. “We could address those two measures without affecting fund balance.”
Commissioner Gordon Wright, Sr., made a motion to send a letter to the state regarding the right of way controversy in Townsend. Eighty businesses have been affected by the state’s mandate to remove any structures from state right-of-way even though many had no idea there was a problem. “The city of Townsend and businesses would be devastated by what the state has issued them to do,” he said. “We’re working with the state, but we need this resolution to encourage the state to work with the people of Townsend to work out a viable solution.”
Melton made the motion and commissioners approved it, 17-0.
It was the first night for eight new commissioners and the new County Mayor Ed Mitchell. Much of the 90-minute agenda workshop meeting dealt with passing onto the Sept. 16 commission meeting the mayoral and commission appointments for various committees.
New commissioner Jim Folts raised discussion when he asked for resumes for the mayoral appointments the commission routinely approves. He made a motion requesting the nominees’ resumes be included in the commissioners’ packets they receive before the commission meeting.
“In order to cast an intelligent vote, we need good information on the appointees,” Folts said.
Hasty said commissioners usually get that information before the commission meeting. “I agree with you to a point, but we usually have that information,” he said.
Helton reminded commissioners the mayoral recommendations were the mayor’s choices. “The mayor has authority to appoint whom he wishes,” he said.
Commissioner Monika Murrell agreed with Folts. “I think it would be a good idea (to have resumes),” she said. “It would not negate who the mayor chooses.”
Folts’ measure failed 15-2 with Folts and Murrell voting for it, and the rest voting against it. “I’m a little disappointed,” Folts said. “All I was asking for was information on the nominees.”
Commissioner Rick Carver said initially he was a little overwhelming by the pace of the meeting. “But I was able to keep up after about the third topic was discussed,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Greene said, “The challenge of it is trying to find out the issues and making sure you make the right decisions.”
Commissioner Mike Caylor said, “It moves quick, but I think I got the hang of it.”
Commissioner Jerome Moon said he wasn’t disappointed. “It’s very, very interesting,” he said. “You have to keep your ears open. It sharpens your listening skills.”
Mayor Mitchell said, “I think everything went very well considering you had seven new commissioners,” he said. “There were very good questions brought up.”