County employees to receive one-time bonus; Commission makes legal move against CCT
Published 9:09 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Several new expenditures received approval from the Carter County Commission on Monday night including a bonus for county employees and a $75,000 bid to terminate Carter County Tomorrow’s lease.
The 3 percent bonus will be given to both full and part-time employees. Length of employment is not a factor.
The increase was challenged by Commissioner Charles VonCannon who questioned where the money was coming from.
“Where is this in the budget?” he asked. “In less than a year we have come up with half a million for raises. Where is the money coming from?”
It was explained that the bonus, which many commissioners referred to as a raise, would be appropriated from the fund balance. At the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, the county saw surplus funds returned from the various departments and rolled into the fund balance.
The bonus was presented to the full Commission during the group’s September meeting as a recommendation by the budget committee. The full Commission approved the bonus in September but in order to clarify its intentions with the bonus a resolution was drafted for the group’s approval at Monday’s meeting.
During the group’s meeting Monday evening, the commissioners went into a private attorney-client session with County Attorney Josh Hardin to discuss pending litigation – including the county’s lawsuit against Carter County Tomorrow, the county’s economic development partnership with the City of Elizabethton.
When the body reconvened after the closed session, Commissioner Buford Peters made a motion to spend $75,000 to terminate the lease agreement with Carter County Tomorrow regarding the Workforce Development Complex and to take back control of the facility. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Ronnie Trivett and ultimately passed on a vote.
This newest appropriate brings the total of funds allocated by the county to the legal battle with CCT to nearly $100,000 as last month the Commission approved allocating up to $20,000 to allow Hardin to hire someone to help him proceed with the litigation.
Following the vote to terminate CCT’s lease, Commissioner Nancy Brown made an unsuccessful attempt to bar fellow Commissioners Sonja Culler and Danny Ward from attending any further meetings of CCT. Both Culler and Ward serve on CCT’s board of directors and their forced absence could hinder the group’s ability to have a quorum present at the board’s meetings.
Culler responded to the motion saying she has not been involved in any CCT discussion concerning the county’s litigation.
“I’m on the CCT board, but my allegiance is to the Carter County Commission,” she added.
Ward also spoke up. “You chose to put us on this committee,” he said. “We just vote on economic items. There is still a lot of work going on.”
Charles Von Cannon defended Culler and Ward.
“This is overkill,” he said. “These two people love this county. I trust them and we should trust them.”
“What is going on is going to hurt county-city relations,” he warned. “The finger pointing has already begun. But instead of all this, we need to get down to business.”
Brown’s motion failed to garner enough votes to pass the Commission.
In other action, Ken Potter was selected as a new Carter County constable, filling a vacancy in the 7th district. Potter has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement in the Tri-Cities, including his service with the Carter County and Unicoi County Sheriff’s Departments. Potter is also a state-certified instructor in several areas of law enforcement and has provided training in the past to many of Carter County’s constables.
Potter’s only competition for the job came from Brian Keener, a retired law enforcement officer who is also a certified instructor.
The commission also approved an expenditure of $15,000 for emergency mass notification equipment for the Emergency Management Agency.
According to EMA director Gary Smith, the equipment can provide emergency notifications that are not only weather related but also for active shooters, boiled water alerts and more.
Smith said that the service will work with cell phones, land lines, fax machines and computers.
“We can never reach everyone,” Smith said. “But we can reach most people with this system.”
The commission also approved some moves for county offices. The Veterans Service Office will be moving from the small white building adjacent to the courthouse and into the main building. The newly appointed Veterans Service Officer David Batchelder will set up show in Room 204 which was previously occupied by the Election Commission. Room 206, which was also once part of the Election Commission Office, will now be used as additional storage space for records from Assessor of Property Ronnie Taylor’s office.