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County declares synthetic drugs a public nuisance

County Attorney Bill Cockett revealed the wishes of the recently formed synthetic drug committee at Thursday night’s County Commission meeting. Having presented each of the members of the county board with a copy of a proposed resolution, Cockett informed that, despite a recent bust on businesses in the region that have been selling the dangerous materials, the committee felt that Johnson County should not be one of the only counties or municipalities to not pass a ban on synthetic drugs.
Attacking the problem from two fronts, the resolution would enable the county to declare the drugs a public nuisance, allowing the court to potentially bring an injunction that could shut the business down, as well as the imposition of a $50 civil fine, the maximum allowed by Tennessee state law. Many of the other local governments in the area have declared similar resolutions, including Mountain City. Although Cockett warned that adopting the resolution would potentially pull the county into a large lawsuit that is now in federal court in Greeneville, the committee as a whole felt that action must be taken to help protect the citizens of Johnson County.
Cockett closed by saying that he felt the resolution would set the clear message that “these type businesses are not welcome in Johnson County.” Without much further discussion Commissioner Dean Stout stood to make a motion to adopt the resolution, which was seconded by Commissioner Jimmy Lowe, and passed unanimously.
Lora Owens with the Contego Group representing a company out of Athens, TN made a presentation to the commission in the hopes of bringing in new speed enforcement technology to the county. Utilizing computerized tracking technology to monitor the speeds of all cars in a particular location, the device photographs the license plate of those breaking the speed limit so that a citation can be issued. Unlike some of the permanent devices that other cities and counties in the region have adopted, the Contego operation is set up on a mobile trailer unit to allow it to be moved from location to location.
Owens went on to say that her company would fulfill state requirement to have an officer on scene at all times by fronting the cost of hiring a new position. As well, the county would receive the device at no cost as long as an average number of citations were issued each year. Unlike regular speeding tickets, violators would be mailed their fine, which is set by state law at $50. The ticket would not go against the violator’s license nor insurance because it would be considered a civil offense.
Several commissioners raised concerns about the use of such equipment in the county, and Chairman Freddy Phipps suggested it might be a topic better suited for the county law enforcement committee to look into before a decision could be made.
County Mayor Larry Potter announced that an ongoing project to improve the 2.2 miles of road running out to the Sink Valley Boat Ramp on Watauga Lake is finally underway. Pending the approval of the commission, Road Superintendent Tony Jennings will now be able to enter a contract with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to utilize the funds and do the work on the road. Putting down a tar and chip surface similar to the county roads, the construction is a part of an ongoing project to improve the county’s only public access boat ramp. Along with the road, additional parking will be added near the launching area and the TWRA has promised to repair the launching ramp. Jimmy Lowe made a successful motion to accept the contract, and was seconded by Jerry Grindstaff.
To read the complete story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.