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Leaky roof draws OK for rental forgiveness

Appropriately enough, the item that rose to the top of the crowded agenda at Monday’s County Commission meeting 1A-CoCommissionA3x4-300x214was a roof.
A leaky roof, to be precise.
The most-discussed request before the Commission came from the Workforce Development Complex, which asked for rent forgiveness in order to complete some much-needed repairs to the facility.
Budget Committee Chairman Harry Sisk brought the request to the full Commission on a recommendation by his committee.
During the Budget Committee meeting last week, Kim Eggers, Director of the Workforce Development Complex, approached the committee and asked that the rent the Complex pays to the County be forgiven for a period of four years to allow funds to become available to replace the roof on Building Two of the Complex.
“The original roof is allowing water to come into the building,” Sisk said. He made a motion to approve the request for rent forgiveness, which was seconded by Commissioner JoAnn Blankenship.
When Eggers presented her request to the Budget Committee, she reported she received estimates to replace the roof for Building Two and projected the cost of the project would be $152,000. The Workforce Development Complex, which is on Highway 91, currently pays $41,000 in rent each year to County. The Complex then sub-leases space within the complex to other agencies – most notably Northeast State Community College.
“They are close to 53 years old and have never been replaced, only repaired,” Eggers said of the roofs on the two complex buildings during the Budget Committee meeting last week. She added that the roof has multiple leaks and they hope to get repairs completed before any structural damage occurs.
Building Two currently houses Northeast State Community College’s Elizabethton campus. Eggers said during the committee meeting that if the roof is not repaired it would affect the college’s operations and could even result in the loss of the Elizabethton campus if the building become damaged further.
“It does affect Northeast State,” said County Commissioner Steve Chambers, adding that a lot of hard work was put in by the county to establish the Elizabethton campus of the college. “I would hate to think that after all the hard work to get this college up here, we would lose it.”
County Commissioner John Lewis questioned why the request went through the Budget Committee and not the mayor’s office, as the mayor’s office is over maintenance of county-owned buildings.
Mayor Leon Humphrey addressed the question by responding that he was not sure why the request was handled the way it was. Humphrey further said that while investigating the request no copy of the original agreement between the county and the Complex could be found, so it was unclear as to which agency held the responsibility for building maintenance.
Members of the Commission also questioned how much money that the Complex brings in to its own coffers by sub-leasing portions of the buildings. No answer was immediately available because no representative from the Workforce Development Complex attended Monday’s meeting.
A call for a vote on the motion ended further discussion on the matter. The motion passed on a vote of 19-4. Commissioners Scott Sams, Nancy Brown, John Lewis and Robert Gobble voted against the motion to forgive the rent.
“Too many unanswered questions,” Brown said as she tendered her vote against the request.
Members of the Commission also voted to renew the county’s health insurance plan that serves the county employees.
County Finance Director Ingrid Deloach reported to the Commission that the premiums for the county’s health insurance plan were increasing by 5 percent.
“We anticipated an increase of 15 or 20 percent, so I feel like we were lucky to only see a 5 percent increase,” Deloach said.
The motion to renew the county’s health insurance contract passed on a vote of 21-2, with Commissioners Lewis and Sams voting against the renewal of the insurance.
An amendment to the contract the county has with the State of Tennessee governing the housing of state prisoners was approved. Also approved was the Litter Grant, which the county receives from the State.