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Plans for Ag Center put on hold

By Bethany Anderson

The Johnson County Commissioners have decided to put the plans for an upcoming Agricultural Center on hold for now.
Citing budget restrictions and rising costs Rich Snyder said, “I just don’t see how we can do it at this time. We’ll call it ‘Suspended Until Further Notice.’”
Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor’s report made it clear to all that there simply are not enough funds in the current budget to move forward with plans as they are.
The estimated cost to complete “Phase 1” would total upwards of $1,211,500, which would not include the space previously promised as office rental space for the USDA or that of office spaces promised to other individuals or organizations.
Additional spaces such as these would cost anywhere from $300,000 to $1,400,000 in other costs on top of the previously listed prices for “Phase 1”.
Along with various grants that the county was seeking, Mountain Electric Company had also previously committed to a loan of $200,000, but will now open those funds up to others.
The meeting took a turn when Mayor Parsons mentioned that they still had the option to seek additional funding from the Governor’s office, prompting Commissioner Megan McEwen to put things in perspective for all present. “I think it’s a nice idea, but that’s a lot of money,” McEwen said. “I think that the community would love an Ag Center, but if we’d have to raise taxes or something like that, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
McEwen then made a formal motion to suspend work on the Ag Center, which passed with a unanimous vote.
After the vote, the commission decided the best course of action would be to see if they were able to redirect the already acquired funds for other projects. They also agreed that it would be in their best interest to see about offering the USDA alternative rental spaces because they need space by fall of 2019.
Other results from the Commission Meeting were the new regulations requiring commercial trash haulers to tarp their loads or risk being turned away from the local dump. They are already required to have both a business license and pay taxes. New signs will be going up as soon as possible at the dumpsite as well as the road leading up to it.
Commissioner Freddy Phipps also made a motion to have Johnson County officially opt out of state building codes and permitting processes. Given that Johnson County has continually opted out in the past, this would keep things “status quo” for building and permits in our area. Jerry Grindstaff seconded Phipp’s motion, and then passed with a unanimous vote.
Lastly, Mayor Taylor brought forth a resolution regarding Internet sales taxes. According to Taylor, “Any retailer to have a building in the State of Tennessee has to charge sales tax. But, there’s a movement now to charge sales tax to sales made over the Internet as well.”
Currently, the Internet sales taxes are collected with 68 percent going to the City and 32 percent going to the County.
The resolution would change to where sales tax would be paid to wherever the sale was actually made, be that in the city limits or in the county.
Taylor concluded, “This should make it fairer for those making the sales.”