Council urged for action on synthetic drugs

John Thompson • Mar 9, 2012 at 9:29 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Although no action was taken during Thursday night’s meeting of the Elizabethton City Council, two men took advantage of the time reserved for citizens to speak about the dangers of synthetic drugs and specifically bath salts, which are legal to sell in the city.

Paul Bellamy, who is a member of the Elizabethton Planning Commission, and Dennis Wilson, pastor of Lynn View Baptist Church, voiced their concerns with the products that are sold at local shops.

Bellamy said the bath salts are labeled “not for human consumption,” and the abuse of the product should at least be considered a public nuisance.

“It is worse than a barking dog,” Bellamy said. “It is very serious. It is going to come down to someone’s life or death.”

Bellamy said the parking lots of the stores selling the items often have cars with license plates from other counties and other states where restrictions on synthetic drugs are in place.

Wilson said the problem is becoming widespread locally, even affecting members of churches.

The council listened to the impassioned pleas, but took no action while the matter is currently being debated in the state General Assembly. Several of the ingredients used in making bath salts were outlawed during the last session, but manufacturers were able to find alternatives.

On a more hopeful note, City Manager Fred Edens said sales tax figures for February were up. The net collections were $841,906.53. The figures represent sales for the important sales month of December.

“This is the first time they have been in a positive direction,” Edens told the council. He said collections are still down for the year. He provided council members with charts that show the adjusted accumulative local sales tax was at $2.3 million, while the city had budgeted for $2.4 million.

As expected, the council voted unanimously to go with a new Tennessee Valley Authority wholesale rate for electricity, a modified time of use schedule. The decision was made after a workshop session with the city’s electric rate consultant, Chris Mitchell.

Mitchell said the change should result in an annual savings of $34,000 for the electric system.

The only matter that divided the council was a request by Tractor Supply Company to operate an inflatable BB gun range in its parking lot this month. A vote was needed because the city’s municipal code on firearms, weapons and missiles does not permit the discharge of BB guns in the city.

The council voted to allow the activity by a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Curt Alexander, Vice Mayor Sam Shipley and Councilwoman Nancy Alsup voting against the motion. They said their negative votes were based on the ordinance.

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