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This Just In - Daily Updates

Dandridge, Tennessee

March 19, 2012

This Week: First Day Of Spring & Second Try For County Commission
Photo by: Madison Johnson / Madison J. Photography
The Lady Patriots made the home crowd proud on Monday, March 19, 2012 as they hosted Pigeon Forge. The Lady Patriots took it to the visiting team and came away with a 6-0 victory. Following a weekend stint at the Commando Classic, the Ladies will take on neighboring county rival Morristown West on Tuesday, March 20 at 5pm.

County Commission Clearing The Slate
JCHS Renovation Back On the Board
Staff Photo
The Jefferson County Commission held their Regular Monthly Work Session on Monday, March 12, 2012 at the Historic Jefferson County Courthouse.  The Meeting was Called to Order by Commission Chairman Mills.  Absent from Roll Call were Commissioners Hubbard, Barreiro and Patterson. Commissioner Patterson arrived late.

First on the Agenda was a Public Hearing on Proposed Amendments to the Jefferson County Zoning Resolution. According to Tim Seals, Director of the Jefferson County Zoning Office, the amendments have all been accepted by White Pine, Jefferson City and Dandridge and are along the nature of general housekeeping for the Commission. A Public Hearing on the Proposed Amendment to Rezone Property that was approved by the Jefferson County Planning Commission on February 28, 2012. The property owner is John W. Coker.

Under Approval and Corrections to the Agenda, Commission Scarlett requested that each Commissioner be allowed time to speak to new issues.

One Citizen appeared before the Commission to request that the County provide relief for the Flat Creek Road area. He stated that there is property in the area, at one particular residence, that is filled with garbage and he would like to have the Commission address guidelines for property clean up.

Under Reports from Elected Officials, Department Heads and Other Officials, Chamber of Commerce Chairman Cason stated that the Commission will be receiving invitations to a breakfast at Carson-Newman and that the adult and youth leadership classes will be traveling to Nashville.

Chairman of the Finance Committee Griffith stated that the Committee has approved a policy for non profits that are requesting County funding to file information with the Finance Office. The Committee has been looking at the pay early discount policy that could allow a discount to the County for early payment on some invoices. Under the Act of ‘81 the Director of Finance has the ability to pay early if it is in the best interest of the County. The Committee is looking at Deferred tax Deduction vs. 401K plans.

Budget Committee Chairman Scarlett informed the Commission that the Committee has set a schedule for the Budget Process that will begin in April. The Committee is addressing the proposed Capitol Request Policy and are looking toward a more concise budgeting process.

Public Service Committee Chairman Tucker informed the Commission that the Committee had been working on a funding algorithm for the Fire Departments and their proposal will pass to the budget committee for review. Chairman Tucker stated that the Public Service Committee would look into a “Dirty Lot” proposal, upon request of the Commission.

Facilities Committee Chairman Tabor stated that the Committee has held discussion on both the current and pending School Building Projects and the E-911 Combination Center.

Chairman of the Building Inspection Committee Carmichael stated that the Committee had installed officers and an ethics policy. The Committee is currently working on an Appeals Resolution.

Commission Chairman Mills stated that question had been raised and that no violations had occurred, however, in an effort to provide transparency the Commission will revisit the issue of the renovation of Jefferson County High School and resolutions for its funding. This will be a new deliberation on the issue. Commissioner Estes spoke to Council regarding the best way to make a clean slate and will call for the resending of the funding and the resolution to fund. Commissioner Carmichael stated that if no law was broken then why is the Commission revisiting the issue. Commissioner Dockery inquired why other issues, such as land and County buildings, are included in the motion to resend that will be before the Commission at their next meeting. Commission Estes stated that because the request was for a general obligation bond it must encompass other County projects. Commissioner Estes will bring both the motion to resend the previous funding and resolution and a new motion that mirrors last month’s motion to fund the renovation of Jefferson County High School and the funding resolution before the Commission at the regular monthly meeting.

Commissioner Tucker will present a motion to fund the renovation to Jefferson County High School at $10 million. He will present a step plan of funding that will take care of immediate needs and accomplish the work in stages. Commissioner Tucker stated that most Commissioners agree that JCHS needs renovation, however they do not agree on a lump sum funding of the project. Commissioner Tucker and Commissioner Carmichael stated that there are already two building projects underway for the Schools and that it is not in the best interest of the County to pledge to a new project of the magnitude of Jefferson County High School renovation until the other projects are closer to completion and most invoices have been received. Commissioner Carmichael stated that the step plan allows to address immediate needs and not pre fund for renovations that will not start until later next school year, when one new school should be completed. Commissioner Tucker called for a compromise between both sides of the Commission.

Regardless of the funding amount that is approved, Commissioner Tucker will present alternate funding for the project. Director of County Finance Helton stated that the County will pay around $23 million in interest on a 25 year payback. Commissioner Tucker inquired if $10 million could be pulled from a variety of fund balances and still stay above the red line. Helton stated that $10 could be pulled now and another $2-3 million could be accrued during the building process and committed to the renovation. Commissioner Tucker stated that the County would only need to finance around $12 million and could pay off the debt in 10 years. Director Helton stated that a $12 million bond issuance for 10 years would cost the County around $2.5 - $3 million in interest. Helton stated that all the information was based on current revenue streams. County Attorney Churchwell stated that the project could be funded in a step process, though it would require cooperation and trust between the Commission and the School Board. Commissioner Estes inquired if the Commission could control the funds if they were not in a bond issuance or if the School Board would have control of the funds. Commissioner Tucker stated that funding could be handled by budget amendments. Commissioner Dockery inquired if the Commission funds the renovation at around $25 million with $10 million lump sum from fund balance and another $2-3 million in lump payments within 2-3 years and the remaining $12 million on bond issuance with a 10 year payoff, how much will be saved. Helton stated that the savings would be significant. Commissioner Griffith inquired what fund balances would be tapped. In millions, $2.5 - hospital fund, 3.5-school, 2.5-debt service and 1.5-general.

Director Helton recommended that the County needs an overall plan to address other needs beyond the renovation project and that combining debt might be in the best interest of the County. He agreed that the County should be using part of the fund balance to pay off debt, however paying off high interest debt could better serve the County. He stated that he is not comfortable using hospital funds for long term debt and feels that to do so is risky for the County. Helton suggested that the E-911 combination center could be paid off by using the funds in the hospital reserve fund. He stated that there needs to be a comprehensive plan so that the County gets the best use funds available. He stated that the County is increasing the fund balance every year on the backs on property tax payers and that the County should not be in the business of creating large fund balances, as long as their use does not interfere with the County’s bond rating. He stated that he would prefer to see an increase in wheel tax rather than property tax, as many Jefferson County residents pay no property tax and the burden is shared by fewer citizens. Helton stated that he fears that use of the hospital money will result in the need for a tax increase.

Commissioner Scarlett inquired if the Department of Education has a timeline for cash flow on the project yet and was told that one is not yet available on the renovation project.

Commissioner Griffith stated that he is not comfortable in depleting the fund balances to the proposed degree, however might be comfortable with a lower dollar amount that would leave more in reserve. He asked Helton if the hospital lease is risky and was informed that should HMA default on this lease it is unlikely that the County would get the same type of contract from other parties. Jefferson County Mayor Palmieri stated that legislation is being looked at in Nashville that would require that a municipality owned hospital must put proceeds from its sale to health care.

Commissioner Carmichael will present an Ethics Resolution to the Commission at the regular meeting for review but not for vote.

The “Dirty Lot” issue will be added to the agenda for the regular meeting.  The Meeting was Adjourned.

Pending Litigation in Jefferson County

How much is it costing taxpayers?

Jefferson County has recently supplied auditors with information regarding legal action in which the County has involvement. The information was submitted at the request of auditors to provide an accurate financial picture of the County. Jefferson County is insured and its carrier is handling those suits that are covered in the boundaries of the insurance policy. Matters that are not covered by the County insurance are handled by Jefferson County attorneys Drinnon and Churchwell. The Jefferson County School Board is also insured and a portion of the suits involving the Department of Education and the School Board are covered under the scope of the policy. Should the Department of Education or the School Board require legal representation that falls outside the insurance coverage area, they are handled by the School Board Attorney Charles Cagle, of Nashville. According to records that were sent to the auditors, Jefferson County (excluding the School Board) is currently involved in 10 suits that are in a variety of stages of the legal process. Of the ten, four involve the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. The County’s insurance carrier is defending suits filed by an inmate for alleged mistreatment and an EEOC complaint by an employee that asserts that a supervisor would not allow her to go to the restroom. The remaining two suits involving the Sheriff’s Department are regarding action that has been threatened or may be forthcoming. One involves coverage of medical bills and the other is regarding notice received by the U.S. Department of Labor and Wage Division. Though no suit is currently pending and, according to Jefferson County Director of Finance Helton, no penalty has yet been imposed on the Sheriff’s Department, the County will likely owe back pay and comp time to some Sheriff’s Department employees. Helton stated that the discrepancies were a shared combination of the current and previous Sheriff’s Department administration. Judgment was entered in favor of Jefferson County in two suits that involved zoning violations. Both cases were handled by County attorneys and both are engaged in post judgment enforcement. Of the two remaining suits involving the County, one is currently in appeal to the Supreme Court, following a finding for American Limestone ( property use-zoning) and an overturning of the judgment in favor of the County upon Appeal. The other suit is a worker’s compensation case that includes East Tennessee Zinc , LLC and the Industrial Development Board of Jefferson County. It is being handled by East Tennessee Zinc’s workers compensation insurance carrier.

The Jefferson County School Board has recently offered settlement in the amount of $100,000 to Community Tectonics. The case is not covered under the insurance policy and is being handled by the School Board Attorney. As of noon on Friday, there was no official confirmation of the acceptance of the offer, however, Director of School Edmonds expects a confirmation in the near future. The School Board has a total of three suits listed in information obtained from the audit request. Along with the Community Tectonics suit, there is a EEOC suit that has been filed regarding a harassment suit by a former employee and a wrongful death suit regarding the death of a middle school student. The wrongful death suit is covered under the liability insurance. It was unclear if the EEOC suite was covered under the policy, as well. Absent from the list were the suit of Forgety/Smith and the separate suit of Vick, all employees or former employees of Jefferson County Board of Education, though several knowledgeable sources assert that those suits are still active. It is unclear why they were not included on the list of pending legal suits or if they were included in the final information presented to auditors.

Seasonal Allergies Make An Early Appearance

Spring will officially arrive in Jefferson County this week. Many locals are already experiencing mid-Spring allergies, as pollen has become a yellow blanket on porches, decks and automobiles across the County. According to allergy experts, windy days, like those that have blown in recent storms, are particularly difficult for hay fever sufferers. High winds can blow in allergens from as far away as hundreds of miles. Some of the most common Spring allergies are from hay fever and tree pollen. These will be joined shortly by grasses and weed pollen, as mowing season is upon the region. Pollen is at its peak at dusk, as the temperatures begin to fall for the evening. Allergy sufferers should try to stay indoors, if possible, during peak times. It may be helpful to wipe down pets with a clean cloth when they return from outside. This should help keep the transfer of pollen to a minimum. Clothing should be changed and showing before bedtime will remove pollen from hair and the body. If possible, remove shoes before entering the house to lower the spread of pollen. Wearing a mask when mowing may assist with the inhalation of allergens. Those that have prescription medication for allergies should inquire about the proper time to take the medication. Some medication is more effective if taken before contact with allergens. Knoxville and the surrounding area toped the list as 2011’s worst places for people with allergies. The topography of the region, as well as the local flora, make the area a hot spot for those with seasonal allergies.

North Korea To Launch Satellite In Violation of Security Resolution

By Jake Depew, Jefferson County Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2012, North Korea publicly announced that it would be launching a satellite into space in the following month. Such a launch would violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, as the satellite would be launched using ballistic missile technology. In response to this news, the United States has put its food aid program with North Korea on pause. The agreement was made in 2011 under the agreement that North Korea would not perform nuclear tests. Many countries have been notified about the launch, with France, Russia, South Korea, and many others publicly warning against the launch and urging North Korea to uphold its national duty to the United Nations. North Korea, in response to the United State’s pulling of food aid, stated that it had the right to peaceful space technology and exploration. The U.S. stated that not all countries are considered a risk to international security by the U.N., and urged North Korea to rethink launching Kwangmyongsong-3, as the country was forbidden to launch more satellites by the U.N. Security Council after a 2009 launch. The date of the launch is set to April 12, 2012: coinciding with Kim Il Sung’s, the late nation’s founder, birthday.

HJR 785 Supports Peyton Manning Joining Titans
Rep. Faison and cosponsors join the push to bring Manning back to Tennessee
HJR 785 was quickly drafted and filed Thursday morning. Rep. Jeremy Faison (R—Cosby) came up with the legislation that may help Manning decide which NFL team to join. The resolution calls Manning a legendary quarterback, lists many of his accomplishments, and urges him to remember his Tennessee roots, signing with the Titans. “Everyone was thrilled with the idea of bringing Peyton back to Tennessee and wanted to sign on as a co-sponsor. I hope Mr. Manning realizes how many Tennesseans love him and want to see him lead the Titans to a Super Bowl victory,” said Faison. HJR 785 passed immediately with 93 co-sponsors. Text of HJR 785 and video clip

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March 19, 2012 Go To Page

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