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Johnson County Commission explains necessary cuts to balance new budget

By Rebecca Herman

Johnson County Commissioners met on Tuesday, July 18 for their monthly meeting. The meeting began with public comments.
Rick Thompson spoke to commission about the need for a facility that can be used for large group gatherings, such as business meetings, weddings, etc. Thompson and County Mayor Larry Potter had previously met to discuss the project; Mayor Potter explained that there may be grant money that could be applied for. Thompson said that the ideal facility would “hold up to 200 people, have audio and visual capabilities, a small kitchen, and bathrooms.” Thompson mentioned that most people use larger churches or the National Guard Armory, but scheduling can be difficult and the acoustics are not the greatest. He said that he is currently working with the Chamber of Commerce to use a space that they have to place a building and he is also working with the Farmer’s Market in hopes that they would also be able to use this site. Grant money that can be obtained from the Farmer’s Market would also help toward the cost of the building. Thompson said that there would be fundraising to cover leftover costs.
Quarterly reports were all accepted and five notaries were approved: April M. Calhoun, Willie R. Debord, Wendy Lee Hansen, Deena B. Icenhour, and Ranae Laidig.
Account and Budgeting Director Russell Robinson, presented the first reading of the budget to the commission, which was balanced and had no tax increase. Two items that allowed the budget to be balanced were briefly discussed; removing the solid waste fund and putting in general purpose and cutting money from the General Purpose School fund. Robinson explained some new costs to the budget; a major overhaul of the telephone system, renovations to be done at the airport to build a small building in order to provide 24-hour surveillance, and state insurance due to a “major overhaul.” Robinson also explained that, “at one point the budget was $65,000 out of balance, but through cuts we were able to balance it.” A public hearing will take place on August 8 at 6 pm to approve the final budget.
Tom Jessee, an attorney, addressed the commission about entering a lawsuit against opioid distributors; at the time of the meeting 11 counties in Tennessee were “on board” with the lawsuit. Jessee asked the commissioners to consider joining the lawsuit, at no cost to the county, and allowing him to represent them. According to Jessee, opioid use, “has become a public nuisance because the distributors are failing.” If the lawsuit is successful, then the county would be able to have additional fund to be used however they see fit. Commissioner George Lowe recommended that County Mayor Potter and County Attorney Perry Stout review the contract and give their opinion about the contract at the next meeting, then the commission will vote.
Finally, the commission approved for road maintenance to be completed in The Harbour Subdivision. Bill Pollard, resident, explained that there are several cracks in the subdivision and the resources are limited from the county. Pollard asked if he was allowed to hire a contractor to do the work, instead of the county. The commission granted this request as long as the contractor is licensed, insured, and bonded. The work would also have to be approved by Road Superintendent Darrell Reece.
The next regular county commissioners meeting will take place on August 17 at 7pm.