Campbell County commissioners wasted little time Monday night in making history at their regular July meeting. The commission modified their agenda to first take up nominations to fill the school board seat vacated by the untimely death of Mike Orick.  WATCH ON DEMAND  With a crowd of friends and family occupying much of the courtroom, the commission voted unanimously to appoint Orick’s widow, Jennifer, to serve on the board in her husband’s stead until the November election.

When Jennifer Orick takes the oath of office at 8:30 a.m. this morning (Tuesday) at the Court House at Jacksboro, the school board will have an equal number of women and men serving on the board for the first time in history.

The motion to appoint Orick was made by Johnny Bruce and received an unanimous second before being approved 14-0. No other nominations to fill the seat were offered.

In an email to WLAF, Campbell County Director of Schools Jennifer Fields writes:  “I am currently in Washington, D.C. at a GEAR UP Conference and regret not being at the appointment. I would like to express my congratulations to Jennifer. I know she will be successful in carrying out Mike’s legacy and continuing the hard work that Mike had put into the school system.”

Having made history once, the commission went on to approve the budget, appropriation resolution and property tax rate. This is the fifth budget approved by this commission, also an historic first.

The current commission approved a budget shortly after taking office four years ago when the previous county commission had failed to vote on a budget before their terms expired. A new state law penalizes counties that fail to approve school budgets by August, leading to four consecutive years that this commission has finalized a county budget.

The commission unanimously approved the tax rate at the previous level of $2.25 on each $100 of value, along with the general purpose school fund at $43,183,063 and county general fund at $16,498,880. Mayor E. L. Morton congratulated the commission on passing the budget, pointing out that Campbell County exceeded the minimum state BEP requirement for education by $388,000 without requiring a tax increase.

The commission then unanimously approved a motion by Ralph Davis to exempt volunteer firefighters and rescue squad members from paying a wheel tax on their personal vehicle. To qualify for the exemption, the emergency workers must have served for at least one year and have completed all training that is required for certification. They will be limited to one exemption per family.

Finance Director Jeff Marlow confirmed earlier that the exemption will have a minimal impact on the county budget, with the 150 or so eligible volunteers costing only $7,750

Commissioners continued their agreeable meeting by unanimously approving a resolution enabling the county to claim over $30,000 held by state statute as “unclaimed property.” The money represents overbids on county delinquent tax sales where the previous owners have failed to claim money that was bid at tax sales in excess of the minimum price that covered taxes, penalties and interest.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to transfer part of a 2.1 acre lot between the county garage and BMT Manufacturing to the company, which needs additional space to bring in large delivery trucks without blocking the county road. Road Superintendent Ron Dilbeck told commissioners that the Highway Department does not need the land, which he defined as a “rock pile” and a “big hole.”

The commission, to avoid having to sell the land as surplus property at public auction, will transfer the land to the Campbell County Industrial Development Board, which can then lease the land required by BMT to the company.

Cliff Jennings then made a motion to appropriate $2,500 that has been held in escrow from his share of the commissioners’ discretionary fund. The commission voted several years ago to eliminate the discretionary fund that was available for each commissioner to make donations to school projects or non-profits of their choice.

Jennings had declined to designate the $2,500 that was his share of the fund, asking that it be held in escrow to eventually go to a veterans’ cemetery. With his hoped for Campbell County Veterans’ Cemetery failing to be approved and his term of office coming to a close, Jennings asked that the $2,500 be divided between the Disabled Veterans ($1,500) and $500 each to Make A wish Foundation and the Campbell County Senior Citizen Meals on Wheels program.

Commissioners unanimously approved his request but ironically, Jennings then cast the only “no” vote of the entire meeting, following his tradition of voting against any motion to suspend the rules and bring up a topic not on the agenda.

That topic was a motion by Marie Ayers to approve a routine agreement involving antennas and transmission lines that Jennings then voted in favor as the meeting ended.

Earlier in the meeting, young anti-bullying advocate Issac Jones was applauded for his efforts to raise funds for T-shirts with an anti-bullying message. Jones has raised $700 so far from commissioners with Lonnie Weldon pledging to match all donations from his fellow commissioners.

At the opening of the meeting, Mayor Morton praised the work of emergency responders and park employees at Lonas Young Park in tending to three young people from Ohio who were injured when the boat that was towing them on tubes accidentally ran over them. All three victims were treated and airlifted to UT Hospital, and are recovering well.  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/17/2018-6AM)