Emotions run high during public comments in Monday’s commission meeting

Published 8:10 am Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Anger, sorrow, frustration, desperation: these emotions and more permeated the public comment section during Monday evening’s full commission meeting, as the public begged the county commission to take action towards long-standing issues in Carter County.

Dallas Knight came up to plead the commission find someway to get a project manager in the county, as the Shelter could not in good faith accept the tens of thousands of dollars in potential donations without assurance the project would even be completed, let alone done well.

“I get very emotional about this, so pardon me,” Knight said. “For years, my sister had this money in Edward Jones, accrued over a million dollars, that she left for this county.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Part of this money, she said, was to go towards the Animal Shelter, whose desperate need of repairs and renovations warranted the donations.

Unfortunately for the Shelter, county committees have been in a back-and-forth struggle over where to put project manager duties in the wake of Planning Director Chris Schuettler’s attempts to receive compensation for the extra duties, leaving the Shelter unable to utilize the potential donations to make the needed improvements.

“I would like for you all to call in for a tour,” Knight said. “You would be appalled this is in your county. When you vote against something, I want you to look those animals in the face, […] and you tell them human beings could not afford 30 or 40 dollars to get it fixed.”

The commission did end up voting against the Budget Committee’s two proposals, one towards setting aside $30,000 for a part-time project manager and the other towards beginning the process of creating a job posting for the position. Commissioners could not agree on whose responsibility it was to write up the job description.

Commissioners did vote in favor of giving the Shelter $3,000 to hire a project manager for the remainder of the 2019 calendar year, but later on voted to strip Schuettler of his current project manager and economic developer responsibilities.

Laura Garland gave each of the 24 commissioners a packet detailing evidence of alleged illegal mismanagement of Recovery Soldiers, whose presence in her neighborhood she said violates county zoning laws.

“When I was allowed to speak about the business running a transitional home in my neighborhood, I was told it was […] grandfathered in,” Garland said of her visit to the Planning Commission meeting in July.

Garland said she has gone to just about every public official she could think of over the past year, and she brought evidence of interactions with County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford, the probation officer overseeing some of the programs participants at Recovery Soldiers, the organization itself, the TBI and more.

She said Lunceford told her it was not his job to fix the problem, the TBI told her to bring it to Lunceford, and she also had a conversation with County Mayor Russell Barnett.

Barnett later visited the establishment, which later published a picture on their Facebook page on June 20 of Barnett giving the participants bibles in commemoration of the hard work they do in the program.

Upon looking into the zoning issues, she said she found all sorts of evidence, which she presented, about how registered sex offenders moved into her neighborhood without prior notification, have active Facebook accounts, have places of work alongside children patrons, hang out in church playgrounds, and even photos of them participating in children’s Christmas plays.

“I contacted Recovery Soldiers to beg them. […] I was told it was their property, and they could have whoever they wanted there, and that I should be a better Christian,” she said of her interaction with Ben Cole. “There is no more plausible deniability.”

After hearing Garland’s testimony, Barnett later denied endorsing the organization, and no further conversation on Recovery Soldiers took place.