By Rebecca Herman
All members of the Johnson County Commission were present at the regular monthly meeting on Thursday, April 20.
The meeting began with public comments; the first and only speakers was Liberty Foye, who is a doctoral candidate from East Tennessee State University and is currently finishing an internship at A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition, presented a statistical report showing the potential impact of beer sales on Sunday in Johnson County. According to the information presented to the commissioners, the estimated revenue from beer sales to the county would be around $11,000. The report also showed that there was an increase in alcohol-involved crimes and DUIs in many counties that have started selling beer on Sundays. The report also noted that, “The cost of one aggravated assault is $8,641 and one serious car crash is $8,510. If Johnson County had even two more crimes this would negate the tax revenue increase.” A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition also polled 108 Johnson County citizens through Survey Monkey and paper surveys determined “that 70 percent of people polled were opposed to beer sales on Sunday.” The information was presented to the commission or further review.
Next on the agenda was the approval of notaries: Julie K Colon and Malon Lynn Gentry. The commission also approved a bond for Gerold “Jerry” Stephan Jordan, 911 Director, in the amount of $40,000. Budget amendments were also approved.
All county government quarterly reports were approved. The airport reported that there would be a new sign up, per federal statute, stating that all firearms or weapons have to be checked at the door. The health department received a level one-excellence award and the solid waste department said that the new contract for transporting trash from Johnson County to Bristol was “going perfect.”
Purchasing Agent, Dustin Shearin, spoke to the commission about upgrading the communications technology and service for county government offices. Shearin explained that over the past two and half years, he had been through financial documents, contracts, and checking out technology issues. He has determined that the technology being used, specifically phone systems and equipment, and the Internet speeds are “not good enough for what is required by the state.” Shearin explained that by applying for a USDA Community Facilities Grant, which offers 35 percent matching funds, that the county could upgrade the systems and create one contract with a vendor to supply Internet and phone service. Currently there are several providers being used, which is costing more money than if the county went with one vendor. This upgrade would help the system be more cohesive and would better serve the community. Shearin explained that there have been issues with crackling phone lines, calls being dropped, no voicemail for some offices, and fax lines being down for days at a time. “The technology is over 20 years old,” said Shearin.
Four bids have been placed for the technology upgrade. The best value was around $65,000, which includes labor, equipment, installation, and warranty. There would also be a 60-month contract with the vendor, which includes maintenance. The recurring monthly charge for internet, Wi-Fi, and phone service would be around $3,200, which is less than what is currently being paid.
The commission ended the meeting by approving the Highway Department to sell surplus trucks and approving the sale of a 0.037 acre right of way to the state for safety improvements on Highway 67.
The next commissioners meeting will take place on May 18 at 7pm.