JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – A lengthy county commission workshop session began Monday night with some upbeat presentations and ended nearly three hours later with some sniping between the mayor and one commissioner. In between, much of the discussion involved money – how much and where it will come from to fund a number of projects on the county’s wish list.
Mayor E. L. Morton kicked off the discussion on spending by announcing that six parcels of property totaling over 50 acres are being auctioned off adjacent to Campbell County High School.
Morton suggested the county might want to attempt to purchase the property for eventual expansion needs when the time comes to replace the 50-year-old high school building. The bidding on the property opened on May 11 and closes on May 25, giving the commission the opportunity to see where the costs are standing by the time it meets in regular session next week.
The county’s debt capacity is roughly $2.3 million, making a purchase within limits if the commission agrees to bid on the land. Scott Kitts agreed to bring the question up for discussion at the regular meeting.
After an optimistic presentation from Missy Tackett, director of the Campbell County Chamber of Commerce, commissioners heard a request from Roger Peters, representing residents on Carp Lane near Shanghai Landing, for commissioners to recognize their private road as a county road.
Peters said Road Superintendent Ron Dilbeck had told him accepting a road into the county system was up to the commission and the highway department could not maintain it unless it was accepted by the county. Commissioners passed the buck a bit further down the road, telling Peters the commission would need a recommendation from the planning commission before acting.
The commission then went over a number of items including a request from the school board for approval of bond funds to be used for paving parking lots at various schools. Rusty Orick then asked if the school board “has its priorities straight” in spending a large amount on parking lots. The mayor pointed out that a letter from Director of Schools Jennifer Fields was included in the commissioners’ packets that “clearly spells out the need for work on parking lots.”
The federal ESSER funds that are being provided for education can cover a number of capital projects including roof repairs, but parking lots are among those things not included under federal guidelines and must be paid from local funds.
Kitts also agreed to introduce a resolution next week that will request the transfer of an ARC grant for broadband expansion from the county to Highland Telephone Cooperative, which has agreed to carry out the expansion into rural areas of the county which presently lack broadband access.
Ralph Davis had several items on the agenda including approval of the budget amendment and intent to purchase compactors and trucks to convert the county’s garbage collection to a closed-container compactor system, which Davis contends will improve health and safety at convenience center sites while also improving efficiency and saving costs in the long run. The total cost of the overhaul will be $761,268 with $593,745 of that coming from federal COVID- 19 grants.
Things then took a left turn off the road when Davis added that a state inspector had visited the sanitation department because of complaints that a truck was in violation. “When asked why he was here, the inspector said someone in county government had called them,” Davis added, pausing before addressing Morton that “Mayor, you called and had them come out.”
“I don’t recall doing that, “ Morton replied.
After another exchange about the inspection, Davis then added to Morton, “I’m not mad at you for calling the law on me.”
Morton began to reply but Chairman Johnny Bruce tried to steer the meeting back on track. Kitts then asked Davis, “Did you actually take the mayor’s sign off the building?” “Yes, and I’d do it again,” Davis replied.
The altercation being referred to occurred last week, when, according to sources at the courthouse, Davis pulled his vehicle into the parking spot reserved for the county mayor. That is the only parking space on that side of the courthouse that is not designated for handicapped parking only.
Morton, when he discovered his space taken, called the Jacksboro Police Department to cite Davis for illegal parking. Davis confronted the mayor and officers and at some point ripped the sign reserving the space from the courthouse wall, which has since been replaced.
Bruce quickly adjourned the meeting. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 05/12/2021-6AM)