County commission hears citizens’ concerns

Laura Riddell returned to the county commission for the third month in a row to talk about Recovery Soldiers’ presence in her neighborhood.

“We are not asking anybody to reinvent the wheel,” Riddell said. “We only ask for Carter County to enforce the rules, regulations and laws that are on the books.”

In the past few commission meetings, Riddell has gone on record saying the ministry’s presence in her neighborhood goes against zoning regulations as put forth by the county, but she said the Planning Commission labeled the property as “unconventional,” and the property was grandfathered in.

“The inconsistencies with how these rules are applied just on my road alone is why we will be making an appeal to the Equalization Board, me and 29 other property owners,” she said.

These inconsistencies, she said, include requiring one homeowner to dig into the side of a hill to meet setback requirements while Recovery Soldiers sits on the resulting dirt pile with seemingly no similar requirement and its presence on a one-car-wide road that forces passersby to back out into people’s yards.

“We will pay less taxes, and you all will have less money,” Riddell said.

Former county mayor Leon Humphrey spoke about the commission’s past year, saying the commission has been “caught up in a fog” about issues instead of solving them.

“Time is of the essence,” Humphrey said.

He said in 2014, he and the commission were able to work on several projects to benefit the county economically without a dedicated project manager, including the courthouse itself.

Roy Livingston came to reiterate his criticisms of the Budget Committee’s meeting last week to the full commission, saying their decision to meet was an insult to the late commissioner Ronnie Trivett’s memory.

“[Trivett’s] over there, flag draped over him, they congregated in the back and then came over here and had a budget meeting,” Livingston said. “What would have been the problem with waiting one more day? They did not want to do that.”

Livingston’s remarks included saying the committee “acted like he was a piece of garbage,” said they had “no sympathy for no vet,” and said this was worse than how veterans were treated after the Vietnam War. He also said Ross Garland’s decision to have the meeting showed he was “not a good leader.”

Garland responded by saying he reached out to all committee members to see how they wanted to approach the meeting, which led them to start at 7 p.m. instead of 6.

“It was under the decision of the full Budget Committee,” Garland said. “It was with no disrespect at all.”

He also said part of their problem was their need to comply with the Open Meetings Act, part of which directs government meetings to be transparent on their meeting times, especially for committees who decide monetary or county policy. These meetings must be advertised in advance.

Garland also pointed out Livingston’s presence at the meeting just like theirs.

“You are saying we are disrespecting Trivett, and you are sitting right there with us,” Garland said.

Youth from the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition showcased the work they did several weeks ago in city playgrounds, cleaning up three gallons of cigarette butts and other litter in a little less than an hour.

CCDP spoke about the recent state-wide opt-in “playground bill,” which would prohibit smoking on county playgrounds. Carter County voted against being included a few months ago.

The coalition provided sample policies the commission could implement that would mirror the intentions of the bill.

In other business, representatives from the Civil Air Patrol came to talk about what they do as an organization, a branch of the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, and the possibility of opening up a branch in Elizabethton.

The commission voted to approve setting aside $430,000 for the purchase of land for a new recycling center, though the identity of the property is still under embargo until the negotiations finish.

The only dissenting vote, Mike Hill, told the Star he would prefer recycling find a way to consolidate with the Landfill center, as well as concerns as to whether current recycling revenue could accommodate a almost half-million-dollar purchase, which he said have not been satisfied.

The county also unanimously approved to split the Victim’s Assistance Fund towards both Shepherd’s Inn and the Child’s Advocacy Center, as discussed during October’s Health and Welfare meeting.

Head of the Tennessee Committee for the Bill of rights June Griffin presented the county commission with a certificate for their “resistance to the red flag laws, intended to allow courts to temporarily remove firearms from individuals they deem to be a danger to themselves or others.

“The red flag laws are some of the most dangerous things to have ever happened in our country,” Griffin said.

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