Appointments end debate
Published 10:25 am Tuesday, October 14, 2014
It took two meetings and intense debate spiced up with accusations from two county commissioners, but a handful of vacancies on the Carter County Planning Commission have finally been filled.
Members of the Nominating Committee of the Carter County Commission voted Monday evening to approve five appointments to the Planning Commission, but only after more debate over both the appointments themselves and the number of members required to serve on that board.
The committee discussed the appointments during its Sept. 30 meeting but postponed action.
On Monday, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey once again raised the subject of lowering the number of members on the Planning Commission from 12 to nine. When Humphrey proposed the idea at the Sept. 30 meeting it sparked a lengthy debate between the mayor and Planning Director Chris Scheuttler as to whether the change could be made without amending the private act that created the Planning Commission.
“My opinion is we do not need 12 people on this board,” Humphrey said. “We need to cut costs.”
Humphrey said by reducing the number of members, the county could cut the cost of holding Planning Commission meetings.
Two members of the committee took issue with Humphrey’s stated reason behind his plan.
Committee member Buford Peters said he had no objection to lowering the number of seats on the Planning Commission, but added he did not think saving money was the motivation behind Humphrey’s plan.
“This is not about saving money, you want to grab power,” he said. “He’s not interested in saving money. If he was he wouldn’t have blown $7,000 to have two meetings we didn’t need to have when he vetoed the budgets.”
“This is about a power grab,” Peters added.
Committee member L.C. Tester said he also felt there was another reason behind Humphrey’s proposal, citing previous disputes between Humphrey and Scheuttler.
“You know and I know this is personal,” Tester said. “It’s not about saving money.
Peters said he also supported limiting the number of county commissioners who can serve on the Planning Commission. “This (private act) was done to keep politics out of it,” he said. “If we are not careful we are going to put the politics right back in it.”
At the Sept. 30 meeting Scheuttler contended the private act would have to be amended in order for the county to change the number of seats on the Planning Commission. During Monday’s meeting County Attorney Joshua Hardin said in his opinion it could be done by a resolution passed by the full County Commission as long as the resolution stayed within the parameters set forth in the private act stating the board will have between seven and 12 members.
“We can’t come in after a private act is passed and go against that private act,” Hardin said, adding in his opinion the county could pass resolutions which “further define” and “fill out” the private act.
Scheuttler requested the committee fill the vacancies on the Planning Commission immediately in order to allow that board to continue its work, adding the committee could take up the debate on the number of seats at a later time. During the Sept. 30 meeting, Scheuttler reported the Planning Commission had already been forced to cancel one meeting due to a lack of quorum and added the board was in need of a special called meeting to discuss pressing legal matters. He said the Planning Commission is at a standstill until the vacancies are filled.
“If someone comes in for a rezoning request we are violating their civil rights because I can’t given them a date and time when they can be heard,” Scheuttler said.
After the lengthy discussion, committee member John Lewis made a motion for the committee to accept Humphrey’s recommendations to fill the vacant seats – which would place Commissioners Randall Jenkins, Ray Lyons, Sonja Culler and Robert Carroll on the Planning Commission as well as county resident Ken Arney. The motion was seconded by Nancy Brown.
The motion passed on a vote of 7-1 with Peters, Lewis, Brown, Carroll, Culler, Ronnie Trivett, and Ross Garland voting in favor of the motion and Tester voting against it.
Those five members will join the following existing members of the Planning Commission: Steve Pierce, Ralph Watson, Jerry Pearman, Jerry Smith, Mary Ann Patton and Jamie Hughes. Humphrey also serves on the Planning Commission by a provision of the private act which states the chairman of the County Commission will serve on the board.
In other business, the committee voted unanimously to recommend the abolishment of two existing committees to the full commission – the Health and Education Facilities Committee and the Animal Control Board – because those two bodies are inactive and have not met for some time.
The committee also voted to retain appointments to the Board of Zoning Appeals.