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Dandridge, Tennessee

February 13, 2012

JCHS Renovation Funding Passes
Concerns Over Possible Ethics Violations May Hold Up Bond Issuance
Staff Photo

The Jefferson County Commission held a Special Called Meeting on Monday, February 6, 2012 at the Historic Jefferson County Courthouse.  The Meeting was Called to Order by Commission Chairman Mills.  Commissioner Musick was absent, due to illness, from Roll Call.

Jefferson County Mayor Palmieri stated that he is neither for nor against the renovation project at Jefferson County High School, however he encouraged Commissioners to approach the issue with a view on the impact to the County as a whole. He said that it is unreasonable to bill the project as having no tax increase when that does not take into account any other needs in the County that might have benefited from funds allotted for renovation to JCHS. Palmieri stated that the County is facing a possible 51 cent tax increase over the next several years to cover all of the County needs. He said that loss of the hospital lease alone would result in a 7-8 cent increase in tax. The Mayor stated that an independent Commissioner had contacted the Counties outside financial representative regarding wording for a resolution for bond issuance and that the Commission moves as a body, not independent Commissioners.

Commissioner Estes stated that he had requested that resolution documents be drafted that would limit the renovation funding to Jefferson County High School only, however he requested that the dollar amount of funding be left blank until vote of the Commission. Estes also stated that HMA ( hospital) appears to be a solid and viable company and that there is no indication that they will not fulfill the terms of their lease.

Commissioner Estes made a motion to approve funds for the renovation and expansion of Jefferson County High School only in the amount of $23,750,000 million dollars ( $24,200,000 million including issuance costs ) to be issued in general obligation bonds and using the funding source of Debt Service Fund Balance, Debt Service Fund, Hospital Lease Payment and Hospital Lease account, dependent upon a contribution from the Jefferson County School Board of funding for the track of $250,000 and $760,000 contingency fees to come from their fund balance. 2nd Turner

Under objection by Commissioner Turner, Commissioner Tucker made an amendment to the motion to divide the question and handle the funding mechanism separate from funding amount. 2nd Blevins - Failed 10-10 

Commissioner Tucker requested that they address the issue in reverse order with funding amount taken last.

Commissioner Beeler stated that 11 Commissioners had signed the petition for a called meeting and that they had collectively instructed Estes to contact financial advisors regarding a resolution for bonds so that Estes was not acting alone. He said that Commissioner Tucker wanted to separate the question to kill the renovation.

Commissioner Tucker stated that he was interested in the method of funding because paying more up front money from County fund balance could save the County substantially.

Chairman Mills stated that funding can be addressed by committee at the budget level. Commissioner Beeler called for the question , which eliminates further discussion on the issue. Beeler’s call was approved 11-9

Budget Committee Chairman Scarlett, asked for clarification from the County financial advisor Morgan Keegan. The Morgan Keegan representative stated that the current wording on the resolution would require that the Budget Committee reallocate funds from the bond issuance as they are needed for payment, thus retaining control of the funds to the County Commission. He said that any funds that are simply given to the School Board cannot be controlled, however this option addresses that issue. He also stated that higher issuance bonds give the County more bang for the buck and the County may want to look at combining projects. Scarlett also inquired if the $760,000 is the entire contingency fee and was told by Director of Schools Edmonds that, though the contractor was not present, he did believe it to be the entire contingency.

Estes/Turner motion to fund, including Resolutions 2012-4 and 2012-5 ( all taken separately), Passed 14-6 with Blevins, Barreiro, Scarlett, Dockery, Tucker and Carmichael voting No.  The Meeting was Adjourned.

Mayor Palmieri Request CTAS Investigation

Concerns over possible ethics violations within Commission.
2 Video Clips Sent to CTAS for review

Jefferson County Mayor Palmieri is currently declining to sign Resolution 2012-4 and 2012-5, which deal with the recently approved renovations to Jefferson County High School, as well as the bond documents. In a February 9, 2012 letter to Libby McCrosky, legal council to CTAS, Palmieri stated that he felt uncomfortable that violations of an ethical nature may have taken place regarding the renovation funding issue. The Mayor cited two particular points of concern, including the indication that a portion of the Commission made decisions outside the open meeting forum. He requested that McCrosky, in her official capacity, conduct an investigation into the issue and inform him of her opinion. Palmieri noted in the correspondence that the resolutions in question would take effect 10 days after receipt of his office, even without his signature, however bond issuance is stalled until the matter is resolved. Bonds cannot mover forward, be issued, enter the market or funds be expended without the signature of the County Mayor, according to Palmieri. He further addressed, in a separated letter dated the same, the County financial advisors who were contacted regarding the two resolutions and bond issues. The Mayor informed them of his decision to wait until there is more clarity on the alleged ethical considerations. He enclosed a copy of the portions of the February 6, 2012 meeting that are in question, for McCrosky’s review and is awaiting a finding from CTAS. Until a decision is made regarding ethical compliance, the resolutions in question may go into effect within 10 days of receipt, however the actual bond issuance which would fund the Jefferson County High School renovation project is in a holding pattern.

Arab League Proposes Cease Fire
By: Jake Depew, Jefferson County Post Staff Writer

On Sunday, February 12, 2012, the Arab League, an alliance based in Cairo, Egypt, declared that it will be proposing a “peacekeeping joint force” with the United Nations. This “peacekeeping joint force” is to negotiate further details, including the possible aftermath, of a proposed cease-fire in Syria. The Arab League has currently placed ending all violence in Syria as the group’s highest priority. President Bashad al-Assad of Syria has been “cracking down” on what he describes as armed gangs and “foreign terrorists” that wish to destabilize his regime. The Arab League also proposed that the UN should cease "trading with the Syrian regime, except those directly affecting Syrian citizens," as well as the "cessation of all forms of cooperation with the diplomatic representatives of the Syrian regime." The recent violence in Syria has become exceptionally controversial, with many claims of cruelty on the part of the Syrian government. Some civilians and rebels claim that the authorities are using captured civilians as shields, going as far as to strap them to tanks so the opposing forces will not fight back. As of the time of this writing, the validity of these claims is unknown. According to recent statistics brought to light by the United Nations, as many as 6000 people have likely been killed since rebels began pushing for the removal of al-Assad a year ago. Although many officials in the Arab League that have ties with Syria support the proposition raised by the group, the Syrian government has stressed that it will not consider any decision made in its absence to be binding.

Staff Photo /  L-R / Tennessee Secretary of State - Tre Hargett and Tennessee Senator - Mike Faulk
Secretary of State Hargett and Senator Faulk Hold Jefferson County Town Meeting
Educating Voters on New Voter ID Law and Citizen Input Topic of Discussion

Secretary of the State of Tennessee, Tre Hargett, and State Senator Mike Faulk held one of several town hall meetings to touch base with Tennessee residents regarding the new voter photo id requirement that went into effect in January 2012. Hargett has been traveling around the State to communicate the guidelines of the photo id requirement to voters. The Saturday afternoon meeting was held at the Historic Jefferson County Courthouse and was well attended by Jefferson County residents. Hargett defined the different types of identification that will suffice for the photo id requirement. He stressed that though the id must have a photo and be State or Federally issued, it does not have to be current. Drivers License, gun carry permits, passport, military id and Department of Safety id will all meet the requirement. College id, even those issued by State universities, do not meet the requirement. According to Hargett, the new photo id regulation is to ensure the rights of correctly registered voters and to eliminate the possibility of voter fraud. Approximately 100,000 Tennessee voters over the age of 65 do not have a photo id, however those voters are eligible due to age to vote absentee, which does not require photo id. Photo id is available free of charge through the State of Tennessee. Those who do not have a photo id at the time of voting may vote on a provisional ballot and return within 48 hours with proper id to have the vote counted. The State hopes to bring security to the voting process in Tennessee. 

Senator Faulk addressed questions from the audience regarding his position on the proposed Norfolk Southern Intermodal project slotted for New Market. The Senator stated that he had received numerous emails both for and against the project. He said that he had investigated some of the issues associated with the project and has found them to be inaccurate in information. Senator Faulk stated that he feels that the infrastructure will support the project and that it could supply much needed jobs through companies associated with use of the intermodal. He said that he is suspending making a statement on his support of or opposition to the project pending information regarding the impact to New Market Elementary School. Questions arose regarding Faulk’s opposition to a bill that would impede surface coal mining. The Senator stated that the bill would have been detrimental to Claiborne County. He stated that more than 90% of the mining in the State is re-mining and reclaiming. According to Senator Faulk, there is strong scientific information that the re-mining process improves the water quality in the area. He stated that Claiborne County is dependent on the tax from mining for Schools and roads. 

Senator Faulk stated that he has found that Tennessee residents, as well as people across the Nation, have a little exposure to civics. Many residents are unaware of the divide between State, local and Federal responsibilities. He is sponsoring Student Town Hall Meetings via the internet for schools to bring the legislative process to life for students. Each session will last around 30 minutes and has been titled Taking the State House to the School House. The Senator encourages all elementary and middle schools to participate and promote civic awareness.

In regard to the No Child Left Behind release that Tennessee recently received, Senator Faulk stated that it signifies that Tennessee is making progress in our own way, however he has been outspoken about the need to reassess the current evaluation system.

Secretary of State Hargett and Senator Faulk were joined by Jeremy Faison, who is the current 11th District State Representative from Cocke and Greene County and will be running in the redistricted Jefferson County later in the Fall.

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February 13, 2012 Go To Page

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