Big issues to address… Carter County budget committee talks water lines, trails, and communications

Published 11:12 pm Monday, July 12, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
The Carter County budget committee met on Monday night with some big issues filling the agenda that needed to be addressed by the committee.

One of the first and probably the most impactful decisions was whether to match a grant and come up with a deficit in a project to replace water lines in the Floyd Dugger Road and Dry Hollow section of the county where the water has become so bad that filters meant to last for six months last only one and there have been cases of E Coli that have resulted from the tainted water.

“I was made aware of this situation back in March of this year,” said Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby. “There was a handful of people in that area that are sick and have been diagnosed with E Coli and it is a very bad situation.

“There have been some issues getting easements as this project began back in 2019. People have came and shown me photos of these filters and they are the black and grim is just falling out of the filters so they cannot use this water for anything.

“The last person that got E Coli got it from brushing their teeth. The person works third shift and normally boils water but got in a hurry and used the water to brush their teeth.”

Ken Rhea with the First Tennessee Development District explained that there have been 25 easements secured with the exception of a couple of residents.

He also informed the committee that construction costs have gone up due to contractors having a hard time finding employees to complete projects.

Rhea and First Utility District Representative Keith Bowers came before the committee to request $121,250 as part of the matching funds required for a grant secured by the First Utility District plus the increase in cost to complete the project of $162,000 for a total of $283,250 from the American Rescue Funds.

The budget committee voted unanimously to send the amount to the full commission for approval.

Wes Bradley with SORBA presented to the budget committee an outline of the first phase of a new bicycle trail at the Hampton Watershed trails as discussed in a prior meeting arranged by Mayor Woodby between members of the County Commission and the City of Elizabethton.

Bradley showed a slide presentation to the committee and discussed the positives of adding the trail including allowing local schools near the trail to form school mountain bike teams.

The City of Elizabethton had agreed in principle to fund half of the $75,000 that it would take to complete the trail, $37,500 if the county would do likewise.

Bradley was asked how long it would take to get the trail completed and informed the committee that the plans have been prepared and expected from the time the shovel hit the trail it would take three to four months with completion by Spring 2022 likely.

Committee member Aaron Frazier was one of the committee members highly in favor of the project and made a motion for the County to fund the full $75,000 since the City of Elizabethton is preparing to dig into an upgrade to the Covered Bridge Park area having to provide $500,000 in matching funds to get the park completed.

“I am saying $75,000 because this is something that is an opportunity for us to say this is an area that we want to work together with the City here because the next time this comes up, we may not be able to pay that for whatever reason. An entire fleet of dump trucks blow up or something,” Frazier said.

“The City of Elizabethton is not going to say they (County) are not interested. I would rather when we have the opportunity to do what we can do rather than later than wait until something later comes up and we cannot do it.”

The committee voted unanimously to send the $75,000 recommendation to the full commission.

Captain Tom Smith appeared before the committee with information surrounding the communication project which will allow the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabethton Police Department, schools in the county, Elizabethton Fire Department, all volunteer fire departments, and EMS to be able to communicate during the time of emergencies and in areas that are not accessible by radio or cell phone.

The project is projected to cost $3.5 million dollars due to an expanded list of agencies that have been added since the project first began.

Captain Smith shared how an experience that happened on Monday was a prime example of why the communication project needed to be implemented as a federal warrant was being served on an individual by Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabethton Police Department, and other agencies and how that a Carter County Sheriff’s deputy had to be with each group so they could communicate as the individual barricaded themselves in the house with children and adults present.

Commissioner Mark Blevins stated at first he was against the project but after experiencing a recent incident his mind was changed and he believed the project was important for the safety of police and the citizens in the county.

A motion was made to have County FInance Director Brad Burke explore ways to finance the project and present those to a specially called meeting that Budget Chairman Austin Jaynes had requested at the June Commission meeting to discuss the project.

The committee also agreed to provide up to $55,000 to purchase a tow motor with a bundle clamp to use with the new baler performing above expectations and putting out 11 bales on Monday.

Also, $16,000 was requested for the installation of a freezer at ARM Ministries which had previously requested around $50,000 for the purchase but a donor purchased the freezer and the only cost left is the installation.

Both items will be sent to the full commission for approval.