TOP PHOTO: State Representative Dennis Powers attended Monday’s County Commission meeting, updating commissioners on several resolutions they had requested of the state. Powers is on the left and County Attorney Joe Coker is on the right.

 By Charlotte Underwood 

JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – State Representative Dennis Powers provided updates on several resolutions that the county commission had sent to the state at Monday’s Commission meeting. 

At a previous commission meeting, Zach Marlow had carried resolutions from the legislative affairs committee requesting help from the state on several issues. 

Powers said he had met with Commission Chairman Johnny Bruce, County Mayor Jack Lynch and Commissioner Marlow last Thursday, and they had given him some of the resolutions they had passed recently and he “wanted to go over those.”

“I followed up on them and got some answers; some of them you’ll like, some you may not like. Don’t kill the messager; I’m just here to pass the word along, but I am going to try to help on a few of them. You have some good ideas, but we may not be able to address all of them,” Powers said.

One of the resolutions was requesting the state of Tennessee to “collect all hotel/motel taxes,” which would benefit the county. 

Powers said that was something he and other legislative officials were working on. 

“First of all, as you know, we went in where we can collect through Air B&B, Verbo and some of the platforms like that, but still having a problem getting revenue and collecting the fair amount of tax even though they are supposed to pay it. We are working on that and I’m going to work with the Department of Revenue and talk to them and work on some legislation. I think we can do that through legislation and I’m going to work and see how complicated that will be; it will require some additional costs on their part and so we will try to get that approved, ” Powers said. 

Other resolutions asked the state to extend the tuition fee waiver for employees to take free courses and to extend the tuition fee discount program to county employees.

Representative Powers addressed the commission on these requests, saying he thought it was a good idea for the tuition waiver to apply to county employees.

“I’m meeting with the chairman of the Education Committee on Wednesday and we are going to talk about this. He said it is something they have kicked around for county employees for a long time and we are going to see what kind of legislation we can come up with,” Powers said.

State employees get a 25 percent discount and Powers said he thought it would be great if this could be matched for county employees as well.

He said to keep in mind that would “affect everybody across the state and would be a large fiscal note “but “worth the money.”

The commission had also asked for an increase in Prisoner reimbursement funds.

Currently the prisoner reimbursement is at $41 a day per prisoner; the commission had asked if it could be raised to $47 due to rising costs and inflation. 

“According to the Department of Corrections this is a budget item so I will talk to them and present this during our budget hearings that come up this fall.  We will ask them $47, but I don’t know if we will get that,” Powers said.

In the meantime, he suggested looking at stipends that might be able to help offset the costs.

“They (Department of Corrections) wanted me to mention there are some stipends out there to look at that might be able to raise that a little per prisoner,” Powers said.

Another resolution regarded Crypto currency mining and requested the state general assembly for a private act with regulatory authority for crypto currency similar to that of a landfill. 

Crypto currency mining operations are popping up across the state. 

The businesses “take up a lot of electricity and they don’t hire a lot of people,” Powers said.

He said the only thing to do about those was “some type of zoning as the only way to control that.

“It doesn’t have to be anything major, but something to come up with like they can’t put them into residential areas or something like that, but it’s really up to the different counties or municipalities to do,” Powers said.

Another resolution sought an increase in funding to EMS services.

“We increased the amount of reimbursement on ambulance service and stuff to match what Medicare is. We increased that so when Medicare adjusts for inflation, those incrases will increase along with it. There’s not a whole lot more we can do at this point. I will let them know during the budget hearings that is an item we need to be looking at,” Powers said.

Another resolution asked the state to establish a “full service driver center in Campbell County. Powers said, “sorry, but this is not going to happen.”

Several years ago, the state revamped the whole driver service center system to where they had just a few locations where citizens could do the actual driver portion of the test. According to Powers, he objected, but the state did this to cut costs. 

“The only people that have to go to Oak Ridge to do that are new drivers, so they only have to go once in their life and the rest can be handled through the county clerk’s office or kiosk locations, so I’m afraid that was an expense reduction thing the state came up with, and I don’t think they would go back to one in every county,” Powers said.

Another resolution requested state funding for veterans affairs offices.

According to Powers, all Veteran’s Affairs offices are funded by the county  across the state.

“That’s funded through the county, so unless we can come up with some additional money; it might be possible to find some grant funding for some of the counties and I will follow up on that,” Powers said.

He alao addressed the request of funding for rural vs urban areas. 

“Governor Lee has made a point in saying we want to get out and do more in rural areas. You don’t have to worry; this administration is going to be putting more money in training, education and roads in these rural areas. We’re going to make sure these rural areas are receiving the same service and same treatment as urban areas do. And as long as I’m there too, we’re always going to be supporting the rural areas because I represent three rural counties and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Powers said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 09/19/2023-6AM)