By Marlana Ward
Budget amendments and property transfer requests were the top items of discussion when the Johnson County Commission met in regular session on November 16, 2017.
In addition to the regular audience of community members and department representatives, State Senator Jon Lundberg was in attendance to observe the local government body in action.
In regular business, October minutes and four new notaries were approved by the commissioners. There were no public comments brought before the commission.
The monthly budget amendments had been presented to the budget committee at an earlier meeting and approved by the committee. The amendments had been given to all commissioners within their packet of material to review. In addition to the amendments in the packets, Johnson County Account and Budget Director, Russell Robinson, requested approval of a 60-month copier lease for the county’s school department. All amendments were approved.
Commissioner Mike Taylor brought forward the request from the sheriff’s department to allow for the auction of surplus equipment. Commissioner George Lowe asked if the sale of the items would go through the government auction site, govdeals.com, and purchasing agent Dustin Shearin stated that he believed that to be the plan. The request was approved unanimously.
Emergency Management Director Jason Blevins came before the commission to request their approval for the Hazard Mitigation Update and Resolution. Blevins stated that this approval was required every five years and shared how he and various representatives from within the county had come together to discuss and determine the best ways for Johnson County to be ready in case of natural disaster. Blevins shared that flooding was the most anticipated problem. It was also shared that FEMA had already reviewed and accepted the plan and that the Town of Mountain City had approved the plan at their meeting earlier in the week. A question was asked about the possibility of unforeseen circumstances and the ability to request money to assist with additionally needed plans. Blevins explained that any grants that emergency management applied for had to relate to a plan contained within the Hazard Mitigation Resolution, but that the team which formed the plan were in regular contact and could offer new updates to the resolution as needed and return for further approval. The resolution was adopted unanimously.
The next item on the agenda was the approval of bids for a fire department grant and to award a bid to C.W. Williams for turnout gear. County Mayor Larry Potter explained to the commission that while the bid had been approved earlier, it had been contested and was required to be re-bid. Mayor Potter went on to state how a potential fine had been avoided by the county due to the diligence of Account and Budget Director Robinson. Potter stated that during work done at the county sheriff’s department, the development agency had reported information that was thought to be fully to state standards. While the information reported was to state standards, it did not align with official Johnson County guidelines. If the mistake had been found by auditors, the county could have been issued a heavy fine. Robinson had caught the error and brought before the commissioners the proper reports and bid information for approval and awarding. The correction was approved by all commissioners. The commission was assured that any future information reported by the development agency would be sent to several county officials for review.
Next, it was asked of the commission to approve Betty Brown as a member of the Johnson County Library Board. The request was approved.
A letter stating compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards was next to be approved by the commission. Commissioner Bill Adams stated that he had visited the different county buildings to assure compliance and had found all satisfactory. Mayor Potter said that he had signed the letter for submission to the ADA upon approval by the commission.
Perhaps the largest item on the agenda was the request from the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority (DMRA) for a plot of land to construct restrooms at the Doe Mountain Recreation Area. Executive Director Tate Davis and Chairman Willie Hammons were on hand to explain the situation and present the commissioners with maps showing the area they wished to obtain for the authority. Davis shared how revenues had increased over 22 percent in the past year and how the current month was showing a 44 percent increase. He explained how this increase in visitors meant that the current facilities were not adequate and a new bathroom facility needed. “This is really a testament to the success of the mountain that we need restrooms,” added Davis. He also shared that a grant was already available for the construction of the restrooms once a suitable location was acquired.
When asked about the possibility of placing the facilities on property already owned by the organization, Davis and Hammons explained that the only land available was wooded and would require much clearing and grading resulting in a much-increased cost to use. Commissioner Rick Snyder was concerned about field lines which were located on the land the authority was seeking and insisted that if the plan were approved, easements be included in the deed for the county to be able to service the lines as needed. Commissioner Chris Pierce added that a clause should be included that if the DMRA were to cease to exist, the property’s ownership reverts back to the county. With these two adjustments made to the motion to transfer ownership to the DMRA, the plan was approved unanimously.
Another request for land was made by Mayor Larry Potter on behalf of the Mountain City Water Department. Mayor Potter stated that he and Mountain City Water Plant Manager, Andy Garland, had visited the Pedro Shoun Road area to review a problem with water pressure along the road. The water pressure was found to be only 20 percent of what it should be and due to this, not only were current residents inconvenienced but the water department could issue no more taps on that line. Potter explained that the water department was requested a portion of land where the county property met with prison property at an intersection of Pedro Shoun Road for the construction of a pump house which would meet the needs of present and future residents of that area. Commissioner Rick Snyder told the commission of his familiarity with the proposal and that the land requested should not be any larger than approximately 30×30 feet. He also expressed that he would be involved in ensuring that the land obtained not exceed what was needed. In order to take action on the proposal that night, a motion had to first be passed that the rule stating no action on non-agenda items be suspended. That motion passed quickly and then the motion to grant the property passed without dissent.
The next meeting of the Johnson County Commission will take place on December 21st at 7 pm. Meetings are held in the upper courtroom of the Johnson County Courthouse.