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Anderson Commission meeting agenda rife with hot-button issues

The Anderson County Commission will be busy when it meets for its regular monthly session on Monday May 21st.

Among other weighty issues, the Commission is expected to discuss an Operation Committee recommendation that the county sell the building at 205 Main Street in Clinton that was purchased just last November for use as a new Senior Center. The building was purchased for $600,000 from Mike Farley and was thought to be the perfect new home for the Senior center and Office on Aging, especially after County Law Director Jay Yeager indicated that the property had been inspected and that no problems had been found.

However, it soon became apparent that there were numerous problems with the property, including mold and serious concerns about the building’s roof. Recently, officials learned that in order to fix the all of the building’s problems, it would cost an estimated $600,000 to $1 million. Monday night, a motion by Commissioner Robert McKamey to allow Mayor Terry Frank to put the building up for sale and to accept sealed bids for a minimum of 90 days was passed, with a second option of using the building for the county’s Fleet Service.

Officials are certain that if they are able to sell the former events center, they will not be able to recoup all of the $600,000 spent last year to buy the building.

Commissioners will also discuss an Operations Committee recommendation to close on the purchase of property along Norris Freeway to be used as the new home of a relocated Glen Alpine convenience center. That parcel is not without its issues, specifically ingress and egress from the site and TDOT approval of an entrance/exit.

Operations Committee members were informed Monday night by Mayor Frank that the fire watch required by the state in which a dedicated person roams the hallways looking for signs of fire, at the General Sessions Division II building in Oak Ridge is now in full compliance with those state regulations. In addition, Committee Chairman Tracy Wandell said that TDOT will soon install a sign on Edgemoor Road to prevent tractor-trailers from turning on to Foust Carney Road.

Commissioners will discuss a proposed EMS action plan to address shortfalls, deficiencies and other problems identified in a recently-completed operational audit of the county’s ambulance service that has been put together by Mayor Frank and EMS Director Nathan Sweet. In the brief outline included in the Commission meeting packet, accessible online at www.andersontn.org by following links under the “County Commission” tab, the plan identifies both immediate and short-term actions. The first is to begin funding and purchasing what were identified by auditors from Fitch & Associates as “critical” ambulance and equipment replacement needs, according to the EMS Immediate Capital Plan. One document included in the packet indicates officials are eyeing $800,000 to pay for between three and five new ambulances, 8-12 new cardiac monitors and between one and eight stretchers. That same document also includes a notation that a Community Development Block Grant applied for by the EMS could pay for two new ambulances, two cardiac monitors and two stretchers if the county is successful in that application.

The second “immediate” need is to determine and approve this year’s budget.

“Short-Term” goals include determining “fundamental policies critical to the development of the EMS business model and strategic plan,” namely, whether the ultimate goal is to continue providing both convalescent care and 911 services in the county or if it will be to eliminate convalescent care and focus all efforts on 911 service. Also, officials will need to decide if their “response time goals are [to have] the same throughout the county OR [if] response times will vary by zone.”

As we draw ever closer to the annual budget process, two more departments are requesting additional money.

The county school system is seeking $1.28 million for its School Capital Fund to “assure that immediate and future projects can be properly prioritized, and completed within a timely fashion.” The memo to commissioners from Director of Schools Dr. Tim Parrott indicates that funding the full amount would be the equivalent of eight cents on the tax rate. Dr. Parrott identified sidewalk repairs at Claxton Elementary ($6000), bleacher safety upgrades at Lake City Middle ($18,857.58) and the replacement of 14 HVAC units at Norwood Elementary School (est. $150,000) as “Immediate project needs.” Also included in the capital project breakdown provided by Parrott were partial roof replacements within the next two years at six county schools and the technology department’s headquarters as well as resurfacing tracks at both high schools and replacing the fire alarm system at Anderson County High School.

Further down the line, Parrott’s memo indicates that Claxton Elementary School will need to be completely replaced within the next ten years.

The Sheriff’s Department is also seeking additional money in this year’s budget to address the department’s low salaries, an issue that Sheriff Paul White describes in his missive to commissioners as having reached the “critical level.” in his letter to the Commission, White states that the ACSD is “losing jail employees at a much faster rate than we are able to recruit and hire replacments.” White notes similar turnover problems in both the law enforcement and communications divisions and says that salaries are the main reason that the county is losing so many employees and having such a hard time finding new ones.

White says that the low salaries, combined with increased health insurance costs, along with higher co-pays and deductibles, are preventing the department from keeping up with nearby law enforcement agencies when it comes to hiring and compensating their employees. White writes that county must have an adequate starting salary to recruit qualified personnel, must improve the way that it compensates long-term employees and supervisors.

White writes that “the salary increases we are asking for the next fiscal year is an adjustment based upon cost-of-living increases since 2008. The cost of living has increased 16% since 2008 while our average salary for corrections and patrol deputies has only increased by a third of that.” White’s request calls for a salary adjustment to compensate for the increase.

The County Commission will meet Monday May 21st at room 312 of the Courthouse at 6 pm. The meeting will be televised on ACTV, Comcast Cable Channel 95 in Anderson County.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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One comment

  1. I sincerely hope that our new county commission will act promptly, after the August elections, to return our budget and finance departments to the Mayor! (Ditch the ’81 law and go back to operating under the 1957 purchasing act.) County spending has become impulsive and reckless, wasting big dollars on a decrepit, inappropriate building for seniors and a high-dollar renovation in Oak Ridge for a redundant general sessions court, not to mention throwing money at a phantom computer system security breach. All of these unbudgeted splurges were not considered in any thoughtful, forward-thinking or planned way. And now we’re facing real needs, like the long-neglected EMS, and other demands from the sheriff and school departments. I say lets get back to a bright future with 1957 discipline and direction!

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