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Jennings seeks to dissolve county road commission

Road superintendent Tony Jennings was present at the December county commission meeting to make a request to begin the process of dissolving the county road commission. Following the passing of Clint Howard, the commission was down to two members, Terry Shull, who was appointed to finish his late father Earl Shull’s term, and Rhonda Reece Because Shull’s term has now expired, Jennings felt that it might be more efficient to simply do away with the road commission and use that money to hire Reece for a part-time position performing the same duties.
The primary purpose of the road commission is to acquire right-of-way for new county roads, but since there has been no active acquisition in the past few years, Jennings felt that there was little need for the road commission to continue. The superintendent went on to point out that new county requirements ensure that any new road being requested must also meet a set of regulations that is reviewed and approved by the county planning commission, further reducing the need for a road commission.
Some discussion was held on what method the commission could use to dissolve such a committee, which county attorney Bill Cockett informed was probably established as a private act of the Tennessee State Legislature. If this is the case it would have to go back before the state to be officially ended. Jennings stated that he had went through the county records in an attempt to find the origin of the road commission but found that it goes back into the late 1800s at least.
Cockett went on to say that he would look into the issue and would give information at the next month’s meeting. Following the discussion, commissioner John Brookshire made a statement that he felt the county should recognize Clint Howard’s service to the county, as they had done in the past for individuals such as Earl Shull. Brookshire went on to make a motion to do so, which passed unanimously.
County Mayor Larry Potter brought an issue before the commission concerning a request from the Town of Mountain City. Having recently purchased an additional two acres of land adjoining their animal shelter, city attorney Steve McEwen discovered that the original deed that the shelter sits on is actually in both the city and county’s name. This occurred when Earl and Louise Shull donated the land back in the late 1970s and made the deed out to both governing bodies.
Although there may have been initial plans to develop an animal control partnership, the city became the sole sponsor, paying for the facility’s construction and upkeep and hiring a city control officer. Over time the shelter was updated and improved upon until it now meets full state approval. Unfortunately, the county never contributed to this process, and as a result the city is requesting that the county be removed from the deed.
Currently the city and county have an agreement where the city officer helps handle some of the county’s animal control and houses some of the seized county animals for a fee. Mayor Potter assured the commission that he had spoken with city mayor Lawrence Keeble, and the city has no problem continuing that agreement but would simply like to have the deed solely in their name.
However, several members of the county commission questioned whether it would be a good idea to simply turn over the county’s part of the deed, if the county must ever establish animal control for itself. This was coupled with suggestions to possibly begin contributing to the city’s operation now that the county’s role has been brought to light, which included possibly paying for half of the newly acquired land as approved by the budget committee. After discussing the matter it was determined that the county animal control committee should meet with city officials to discuss what they would be willing to do and to determine how to proceed.
School superintendent Morris Woodring presented a proposed contract to the commission, which would put the school system in a 4-year agreement with Energy Education, Inc., a private company that works with school systems to identify energy consumption problems in an effort to save the schools money. The company would work with the system to hire an energy consultant and uses special software that establishes an energy consumption baseline and identifies areas where money can be saved.
The company’s services come with a substantial yearly cost to the school system, but there is also a guarantee that the amount of savings each year will be greater than the cost or the company will pay the difference. Woodring informed the commission that he had been in contact with several local schools that have worked with this company before without problems.
However, several commissioners including Freddy Phipps and Rick Snyder voiced concerns about whether this contract would hold the school system responsible for improvements of equipment and facilities where energy efficiency was an issue and about how the company would get the resulting savings it claims is possible. Phipps questioned how effective the company’s measures might be if it was simply a matter of individual consumption rather than actually installing control devices.
Woodring cited the success of the other school systems and stated that concerns had been addressed and discussed by the school system, which found approval with the agreement. Eventually a motion was made to authorize the contract, which carried in a divided vote of 11-4.
One of the last points of business for the night was to approve the purchasing committee’s recommendations for a homeland security grant to provide new radios and pagers for the county’s local fire departments. Secured though the efforts of the Johnson County EMA, the nearly $19,000 grant will be divided up equally among each of the departments. Four bids came back for the radios and pagers, and the purchasing committee recommended using Radio Express, Inc, which was approved unanimously by the commission.
There were also bids for a grant that would purchase a repeater system to be installed on Stone Mountain. Three bids came back, with the recommendation going to local company Ray Electronics. The commission also approved this purchase unanimously.
Mayor Potter closed the meeting by announcing that state officials are looking more seriously at the highway 91-construction project. Running 7.8 miles from the end of the current Mountain City bypass to the Virginia State line, this project would help Johnson County overcome a strong transportation network disadvantage, especially with Virginia widening Highway 58 between Abingdon and Damascus.
With nothing else on the agenda commissioner Dean Stout made the motion to adjourn.