Potter Cemetery Caretaker Danny Wilson argues his case with the Johnson County Commissioners after months of discussion on the subject. Photo by Meg Dickens
By Meg Dickens
The recurring point of frustration for county commissioners at the Thursday, July 15 commission meeting was unfulfilled promises. Two particular callbacks hit home hard: the Potter Cemetery road dilemma and Star LED’s initial agreement when moving to Johnson County. Both caused extended discussion and pleas for action from elected officials with no tangible results.
The Potter Cemetery dilemma first resurfaced in March 2021 when current caretaker Danny Wilson came to the monthly meeting asking for help accessing the cemetery. According to reports from both parties, the road leading to the property, McCarthy Lane, originally belonged to the county. Officials agreed to release the road to an individual in exchange for a replacement route to the cemetery. Wilson claims the deal was for one of “equal or better” quality. He appeared to the county to ask for help with the road situation and to have the gate blocking the cemetery removed.
After months of discussion, examinations from volunteers, and letters sent from County Attorney Perry Stout, the county is at a standstill. Stout reports that the county has “no legal standing” in the case and that it’s not the county’s “case to file.” He mentioned that those involved with the cemetery have a claim based on
being “denied benefits unjustly” and should “hire a lawyer.” Wilson was adamant that he did not wish to sue and only wanted to have the agreement followed as agreed.
“I think the county has learned a lot of lessons,” Commissioner Freddy Phipps declared during the extensive discussion on the matter. “We’ve been giving up a lot of right-of-ways. We’ve been giving up roads on agreements that have not been followed through. I will never vote again to give up another.”
Star LED signed a lease for a county-owned spec property in February 2018 with promises to work on the building and bring 50 jobs to the community. When making this deal, the company’s lease agreement reportedly included an option to buy the property for $140,000. Construction has happened, but locals report the discussed jobs have yet to become available.
The county commissioners were adamant that they did not wish to let Star LED do so because “they haven’t done anything that they said they were going to do,” but found out once again that the “breach of contract” is technically through the state instead of the county. Stout reported that the state and company are currently disputing the contract terms, expressly when the employees had to be hired. The company received “$230,000 or $260,000” in state funding connected with the promised jobs, according to Stout.
“I feel like most of those that have spoken here,” explained Commissioner Rick Snyder. “That we didn’t get what we bargained for when we signed the lease with them.”
Frustration continued to grow, leading to comments such as Jimmy Lowe’s that there is “no use on us voting on nothing.”
Currently, the motion on whether to allow Star LED to buy the building is tabled, and Stout is working with the council from the other party involved with the graveyard to remove the gate blocking access.