Parks and Rec seeks $1.7M budget; sheriff’s department sent back to rework proposals

Published 5:35 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Carter County Budget Committee continued budget hearings on Tuesday evening reviewing the budgets of six different county departments.
The Carter County Sheriff’s Department submitted its budget on Friday, with numerous errors. District 3 Commissioner Brad Johnson shared his frustrations with Carter County Deputy Chief James Parrish.
“I guess I am going to take out the hickory switch,” said Johnson. “All of the information that was required was sent out in January and since then there have been four different contacts to the department. Why did it (budget) just get here on Friday?”
Parrish cited the number of shootings so far this year and other circumstances that have required the department’s focus. “This has been a most atypical year which has made it harder to budget,” said Parrish. “We have had to adjust operations with the pandemic and in order to get a good budget it takes time.”
Committee members questioned several items in the budget, including the allocations for overtime and comp time.
Parrish said staffing shortages increased overtime while some employees have built up well over 300 hours of comp time, which creates liability for the county.
“You shouldn’t have people accruing time and working overtime,” said Finance Director Carolyn Watson. “We have to work within the law. The accumulation of money is more than what it should be.”
The committee rescheduled the department’s review for April 21, to allow time to address issues and errors and bring an accurate budget before the committee to detail the full request being asked for by the sheriff’s department.
The Carter County Park and Recreation Committee presented a $1.7 million budget, that included several major items including: $200,000 in reserve for the Tweetsie Tunnel Trail; $1.2 million in reserve for the Gap Creek Park completion; and $175,000 for the creation of a Park and Recreation Department and an Economic Development Office.
Ken Gough, Park and Recreation Chairman, said the board wants to seek proposals for completion of the park to include a regulation senior softball field and an inclusive playground. The softball field is expected to cost $700,000 and the playground cost could range between $400,000 and $1 million.
“The future of the county is recreation,” said Gough. “You have to have professional leadership in this role. Gap Creek Park will benefit the entire county and Elizabethton. We want to make sure that each community has a park and when you go shopping, you have to have funds. The greatest asset that we have is our mountains and streams.”
Johnson told Gough that the county was still dealing with COVID-19 and if the request was granted, it would mean a 14-cent property tax increase.
“An approximate one cent increase in property tax equals $100,000 in revenue,” Johnson said Wednesday.
District 6 Commissioner Travis Hill brought to light a larger concern.
“Right now we are looking at $3.6 million for a new radio system, $9 million for a jail renovation, $1 million for a jail HVAC, and $1 million to replace the windows and guttering on the courthouse,” said Hill. “Right now we have so many large expenditures that we are trying to find how we are going to pay for it all.”
One bright spot of the night was when Animal Shelter Director Shannon Posada appeared before the committee with a balanced budget pending any changes in the ongoing meeting between Elizabethton City and the County in regard to a new agreement on the animal shelter.
“Shannon worked really hard on getting her budget balanced without having to ask for any more money from the city or the county,” said Watson. The budget included a raise from $9.30 to $10 for three part-time workers at the shelter.
The next budget hearing is at 6 p.m. on April 21.

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