Commission approves grant application after debate, reconsideration

Published 3:49 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tuesday’s meeting of the Carter County Commission began with heated debate as to whether or not a request from Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey should be on the agenda but the matter ultimately passed the group after reconsideration.

At the opening of the meeting, Commission Chairman Dr. Robert Acuff told members there was an item penciled in on the agenda that would need full Commission approval before it could be added for discussion. That item, he said, was a resolution authorizing Humphrey to make and sign an application for a Community Development Block Grant to obtain funding for the construction of a new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the county. A copy of the resolution had been provided to members of the Commission in advance in their meeting packets.

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Under the terms of the resolution, the county would be applying for a CDBG grant for $315,000 for construction of the new EOC, which has an estimated total cost of $507,983.80. If the grant is awarded, the county would be obligated to pay the remaining $192,983.80.

Commissioner John Lewis made a motion to suspend the rules to allow the resolution to be added to the agenda, and Commissioner Timothy Holdren provided the second for the motion.

Commissioner Al Meehan asked if the resolution had been brought to any of the standing committees prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Acuff said he checked with the chairs of the Budget Committee and Buildings & Grounds Committee, which he said were the two most logical committees to review it, and the resolution proposed by the Mayor had not been presented to either committee for approval. According to the rules and bylaws for the Commission “no resolution shall be transacted unless such resolution appears upon the agenda and has a committee chairman’s signature certifying that his or her committee has reviewed and approved the resolution to be placed on the agenda of the meeting and members of the Board have received the agenda of the meeting within the time specified.” However, the rule also allows the Commission to wave the requirement of the committee chairman’s signature or agenda requirement upon a two-thirds majority vote, which would then allow the Commission to consider such a resolution.

Acuff told the group a vote would be needed as to whether or not to suspend the rules and allow the resolution proposed by Humphrey to be placed on the agenda for the meeting Tuesday night.

“You asked me to be the gatekeeper and I am performing that role,” Acuff said, adding the vote to suspend the rule would be required in order for the Commission to follow its own procedures.

Humphrey was allowed to address the Commission regarding his request and the resolution.

“We did not have time to bring this before committee,” Humphrey said. “Time is of the essence for this grant.”

Humphrey said the issue of a new EOC for the county had been addressed previously by the Commission and the Buildings & Grounds Committee, so he did not feel the proposal needed to be brought back through the committee since it was not a new issue.

“Did you not have time, or did you not want to take the time to bring this before the committee,” Commissioner Al Meehan asked the Mayor.

Commissioner Brad Johnson, who serves on the Buildings & Grounds Committee, said due to the work the committee is currently doing to prioritize capital projects around the county he felt the matter should have been brought to the committee. Also, Johnson said, because the grant application would obligate the county to come up with nearly $193,000 in funding he felt the matter should have also been presented to the Budget Committee.

Johnson took issue with Humphrey’s statement that he did not have time to present the information to a committee before it was brought to the full Commission.

“I had copies of this resolution before the Budget Committee met,” Johnson said.

Johnson asked Humphrey where the county would obtain the funds to pay for the county’s portion of the cost.

Humphrey argued that the county did not need to commit any funding at the present time, the resolution simply gave him the authority to apply for the grant.

“Until we get confirmation back that we have received this grant I don’t think there should be any discussion,” Humphrey said. “For this Commission to deny this government to make an application for hundreds of thousands of dollars is just totally unexcusable. I don’t care how you stack it.”

Commissioner Charles VonCannon echoed the Mayor’s statement that the county did not need to think about funding for the project at this time.

“For a lot of these grants you don’t need matching money, what you need is enough sense to understand a gift horse you look it in the mouth, and you accept it,” VonCannon said.

When the Commission voted on the resolution to suspend the rules and allow the resolution to be placed on the agenda, it failed to pass after garnering only 14 votes. Because suspending the rules requires a two-thirds majority, 16 votes were needed for the motion to pass.

Those voting to suspend the rules were Commissioners Acuff, Nancy Brown, Johnson, Ronnie Trivett, VonCannon, Isaiah Grindstaff, Danny Ward, Timothy Holdren, Randall Jenkins, John Lewis, Larry “Doc” Miller, Ray Lyons, Robert Carroll, and Kelly Collins. Those voting against suspending the rules were Commissioners Willie Campbell, Buford Peters, Mike Hill, Meehan, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, and Sonja Culler. Commissioners L.C. Tester, Ross Garland, Scott Simerly, and Cody McQueen were absent.

However, later in the meeting on Tuesday the Commission reversed itself and allowed the resolution to be presented.

Some members of the Commission said they would hate to see the county lose out on a grant opportunity because of a procedural issue, but felt the funding matter should be brought through the proper channels.

The Commission then decided to rework the wording of the agenda to allow Humphrey to apply for the grant but removed the portion of the grant that obligated the county to provide funds. If the county receives and accepts the grant award, Humphrey will then need to present the funding request through both the Buildings & Grounds Committee and the Budget Committee.

The Commission voted unanimously to approve the resolution as changed by removing the funding obligation.