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Multiple issues discussed at recent commission meeting

By Jonathan Pleasant
Due to the lengthy agenda of the May Johnson County Commissioners’ meeting, The Tomahawk opted to print the coverage in two parts. The following is part two of that meeting.
Having already been through the planning commission with no real recommendation, Jay Peterson and Tim Persesada brought a request to adjust the right of way along Lakeside Drive to the full commission a couple months ago. Peterson is the owner of three lots that lie between the waters of Watauga Lake and the county road and is hoping to build a small house on each, with Peresada having a lifetime stay in one of them. Unfortunately, it was discovered that the county right-of-way in this area is more than 100ft. wide, covering all of the buildable land on the lots.
When Peresada made his formal request two months ago, County Attorney Bill Cockett pointed out issues concerning culverts and drainage pipes put in place by the TVA when the road was built. Because of this, the ROW fluctuates greatly along this section of road and there have been problems with construction in the past as well, including one situation where the county did reduce the ROW to 25 feet, the standard for new subdivisions, to allow a house to be built. However, according to Cockett this was only done once and the commission created a policy afterward to not alter the ROW any further.
Cockett went on to say that if the county were to proceed with adjusting the ROW it would likely fall under state law that says it must be auctioned, which creates an entirely new set of problems. In his defense, Peresada argued that if the county had been willing to allow an adjustment in the past that they should be able to again, especially considering that taxes have been paid on his land for more than 40 years. Peresada went on to point out that the county was given the ROW by the TVA and that allowing him to build his house would bring more tax money into the county.
However, with no real input from the commission, the issue was tabled by default with no action taken. As a result, Peterson and Peresada were back at this month’s meeting, making the same ROW request. Once again the issue was discussed between Peresada and Cockett with little actual discussion from the board. Commissioner Jonathan Pleasant expressed his desire to see some form of action taken, considering the fact that the issue has gone on for several months. Eventually there was some limited discussion, which largely came down to a disagreement between Peresada and Commissioner Jimmy Lowe.
However, none of this brought the commission any closer to a decision and after a call to order from Commissioner Mike Taylor, Chairman Freddy Phipps finally acknowledged that “it appears that no one on the commission is prepared to take action.”
There was one other planning related issue discussed during the meeting, involving the approval of a subdivision just off the new Highway 91 bypass. Road superintendent Tony Jennings brought the Laurelwood Estates subdivision to the commission’s attention a couple months ago, when its roads were paved without first contacting his office. Without having the road inspected, Jennings noted that the developers did not follow the county’s regulations concerning subdivision approval, and it was determined at that time that the road should be core drilled with Jennings having discretion over the results.
The road superintendent was back at the planning commission this month with samples taken from the road, but was still unable to completely verify its compliance with the regulations. As a result the planning commission decided to send the issue on to the full commission this month. One of the problems was a lack of clear information on the base for the road, which would have been recorded in a preliminary plat. Having sat for several years with no development on the site, it was unclear to the commission whether a preliminary had been approved in the past or not. As a result, the commission tabled the issue for 30 days to provide time to look for this information.
The commission also looked at a couple of important appointments this month, including Mayor Larry Potter’s nomination of Wayne Davis to the equalization board. However, possibly the biggest announcement was that purchasing agent Doug Hammons has decided to retire after 35 years of working for the county, beginning in the tax assessor’s office in 1978. Following a short speech from Mayor Potter the commission and those attending all gave their congratulations to Hammons after such a long and successful career.
With Hammons leaving some time in July, Potter made the announcement a few weeks early to give time to train his replacement. Hoping to promote from within, Potter sent out a notice to county employees to contact his office if they were interested in applying. Having taken much consideration, the Mayor came this month with his official recommendation to hand the job over to Dustin Shearin.
Shearin has worked for the county for over five years in a number of capacities including the highway department, emergency management, and the transfer station. Shearin has had purchasing experience in many of these positions and according to Potter has shown a strong work ethic and dependability. The actual decision to fill the vacancy was up to the commission who voted unanimously to support Potter’s nomination.
As the new purchasing agent, Shearin will now be working with Hammons to try and learn the various duties of the job, including the annual approval of bids for county highway department materials such as liquid asphalt and gravel which was also addressed this month. There were few changes and the commission voted unanimously to approve the purchasing committee’s recommendations together.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.