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Johnson County commissioners request hunting in preserve to curtail growing bear population

By Marlana Ward

The Johnson County Commissioners met in regular session on Thursday, January 18, 2018.  The meeting was well-attended with various department representatives and interested community members in the audience.
Quarterly reports from the various county departments were given to the commissioners ahead of the meeting for their review.  Time was taken for each department representative to stand and take any questions from the board.  Angie Stout, representative for the health department, updated the commissioners on the progress made toward the county receiving designation as a Tennessee Healthier Community.  She stated that reports had been submitted and the department would receive word in March as to the community’s official standing with the program offered by the governor’s office.  Stout shared that their work toward the initiative had already resulted in grant monies obtained by the department.  Some of those funds had been used to help spread awareness of the various walking/hiking trails located within Johnson County to encourage citizens to take advantage of the opportunities around them to get out and get active.  Stout added that maps were being printed that would outline the many trails making the information more accessible to those interested.  All quarterly reports were included and approved in a single motion by the commission.
Commissioner George Lowe brought up a concern to commission regarding the current bear population and resulting problems within the county.  Lowe requested the group’s support for asking the state to allow bear hunting within the current “bear preserve” area in Johnson County during our region‘s bear season.  Lowe mentioned how the increase in the bear population was causing issues with farmers and homeowners and that allowing hunters access to the currently restricted area would hopefully lessen the bear population and ease human/bear conflicts.  County Attorney Perry Stout informed the commission that the only way to allow hunting within a state preserve would be to have an official proclamation issued that allowed the exception.  Angie Stout, who had been in contact with the TWRA regarding the bear issues, spoke to the commission about information she had been given including that since 2016, 97 complaints had been made about bears and that the TWRA had issued over 40 permits allowing private home-owners to dispatch continually troublesome bears.  Commissioner Rick Snyder added that his family’s farm had been one of those issued a permit after bears destroyed corn crops and how the number of bears in the county was indeed a problem.  The motion was made and passed unanimously to request a proclamation from the state assembly.
Along similar lines, Commissioner Lowe also asked for the legality of the county offering bounties for the harvesting of coyotes to be investigated.  Lowe brought up how local farmers are having increasing problems with the wild canines killing livestock and how offering a bounty for the removal of the animals may be something the county should look into for the welfare of the farming community.

County Mayor Larry Potter welcomed Star LED President Garry Garoni to the podium to update the commission about the company’s progress with the spec building in the industrial park and the companies future plans for expansion at the location.  Garoni first shared with the group some stats regarding LED use in America.  He stated that with less than 5% of the country having made the switch to LED, it is certain that LED manufacturing and installation would be rising in great numbers.  Garoni displayed the type of bulb the location in Johnson County would be manufacturing and demonstrated it brightness in the courtroom.  He shared that while traditional bulbs burned 400 watts at a temperature of 450° F, these new bulbs by Star LED used 80% less electricity and operated at about 90° F thanks to the onboard fan and aluminum radiator system.  The bulb was passed around the courtroom for commissioners and the public in attendance to handle and inspect.

In addition to demonstrating what the company plans to manufacture in the county, Garoni also shared his plans to further the company’s integration into the community by also locating its corporate headquarters and a distribution center within the industrial park area.  Garoni spoke of his admiration of the work ethic of the people of Johnson County and his enthusiasm at hiring more of the county’s hard workers with the additional space.  Commissioner Rick Snyder informed the commission that he as a private surveyor had been hired to map out the additional property desired by the company and that if the road front area adjacent to SR 67, were to be considered the “front yard” of the property, there would be no problems with the additional construction on the property.   Star LED was requesting to lease a second plot connected to the spec building acreage to accommodate these additions.  A motion was made to allow the county mayor to negotiate the lease for the second lot and to designate the property along SR 67 as the official “front yard” to the property.  The motion carried unanimously.

In regular business of the commission, the December minutes, six notaries, and budget amendments were all approved.  The previously reviewed Debt Management Policy which keeps the county in compliance with the state’s three-star program was also approved.

The next meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners will occur on February 15, 2018.  Meetings begin at 7:00 pm and are held in the upper courtroom of the Johnson County Courthouse.