Fill-in policy passes during 5-hour meeting

Published 10:03 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  Commissioner Al Meehan asked that a resolution setting an official fill-in policy for committee meetings be amended to ensure that all the citizens of the county were best represented.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Commissioner Al Meehan asked that a resolution setting an official fill-in policy for committee meetings be amended to ensure that all the citizens of the county were best represented.

In a marathon meeting Monday, members of the Carter County Commission debated a variety of hot topics, including an official policy on commissioners filling in for each other on committees and funding for the county’s economic development partnership with the City of Elizabethton.
During the nearly five-hour meeting, the governing body cast a trio of votes dealing with developing an official policy outlining the process to be followed if a commissioner must miss a committee meeting. The resolution was first brought before the Commission in June but was sent back to the Rules and Bylaws committee for more work.
On Monday, the resolution was once again brought to the Commission floor, but some commissioners took exception with the fact that the resolution still made selecting a fill-in representative at the discretion of the commissioner who would be absent.
Under the terms of the proposal, if the commissioner who will be absent “desires” to have his or her seat filled, he or she may ask a fellow representative from their district to fill in.
The problem with the wording, Commissioner Al Meehan said, was it created the possibility that a district may not be adequately represented during a committee meeting. “The committee has worked hard on this, and it is almost where it needs to be,” he said.
Meehan made a motion to amend the resolution to read that any commissioner who will be absent “shall” contact a fellow commissioner of the same district to fill in for them. He further sought to amend the resolution to change the requirement that the absent commissioner “must notify” to “must attempt to notify” the chairman of the affected committee.
County Mayor Leon Humphrey, who serves as chairman of the Commission, called Meehan’s attempt to amend the resolution as being out of order and Meehan appealed the ruling. County Attorney Josh Hardin then weighed in on the matter and declared Meehan’s motion in proper order and said if the motion received a second the amendment would be voted on and then the resolution itself would be voted on.
The motion by Meehan received a second from Commissioner Danny Ward and passed on a vote of 19-4 .After the amendment was approved, the Commission passed the resolution on a vote of 17-6.
After a brief recess, Commissioner Buford Peters made a motion calling for reconsideration on the vote to approve the resolution to set the fill-in policy. The motion received a second from Commission Bobbie Gouge-Dietz but ultimately failed on a vote of 9-14.
During a committee report from the Building and Grounds Committee, chairman of that committee Ray Lyons made a motion to reserve $40,000 in funding for Carter County Tomorrow and $90,000 in funding for tourism through the Chamber of Commerce until what he described as “problems” with those agencies could be resolved.
As part of his committee report, Lyons said he began looking into the Workforce Development Complex, which is a county owned building, and the lease agreements for the tenants there, including CCT. Susan Robinson, who serves as executive assistant to Humphrey, joined Lyons at the podium and both informed the Commission that the county had lost revenue over the years due to missed rent payments and rent forgiveness granted to CCT and its predecessor the First Tennessee Private Industry Council, which is often referred to as the PIC.
In addition to the lost revenue, Lyons questioned what, if any, progress had been made in drawing jobs to Carter County by CCT and its former president Tom Anderson.
“I’m not after Carter County Tomorrow but they are not being up front with us on what they are doing,” Lyons said. “The last time he was here this body asked him to come back the next month with a list of things he had been able to accomplish and he never came back.”
Lyons noted that he had already turned over his research findings to County Attorney Josh Hardin for him to look over and determine the county’s best recourse.
Meehan questioned why the motion was being brought up during a committee report when that committee had not recommended any action and also asked by the request to withhold funding was being made when the county was already facing budget concerns.
“It seems there is an agenda here that is not on our agenda,” Meehan said, adding he felt it best to allow the county attorney time to look into the matter before voting on it so the Commission could be better informed on the issue.
Meehan then objected to consideration of the motion but on a vote his objection failed on a tie vote of 11-11.
Lyons motion to hold the funding for CCT and the Chamber of Commerce was seconded by Brown but ultimately failed, again on a tie vote of 11-11.
In other business, the Commission:
• Unanimously approved a request from the Parks and Recreation Committee to donate $10,000 from that group’s budget toward the completion of the Tweetsie Trail.
• Approved 22-1 to name the newly constructed roadway off of Gap Creek Road in the Powder Branch community as the Mary Patton Highway in honor of Carter County patriot Mary Patton who supplied black powder to the Overmountain Men on their march to victory during the Revolutionary War.
• Appointed Shannon Morton as a Judicial Commissioner to replace Suzanne Galyon, who resigned from the appointment.

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