Town of Erwin’s new budget dips into fund balance

Brad Hicks • Jun 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM

The town of Unicoi’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year is set after the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, at its regular meeting Monday, unanimously approved the second and final reading of the town’s budget ordinance for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The town’s proposed budget reflects $1,363,790 in expected revenues against $1,459,865 in anticipated expenditures.

Proposed revenues in the town’s budget are made up of a projected $746,133 in local taxes, $434,448 in intergovernmental funds, licenses and permits revenues in the amount of $3,275, and other revenues in the amount of $164,484. Projected expenditures include more than $660,000 for general government expenses, approximately $160,000 for public safety, around $300,000 for public works and approximately $280,000 for debt service.

Unicoi Town Recorder Larry Rea previously said around $111,000 is projected to be spent by the town over what is taken in during the fiscal year. Rea said this difference would be covered by the town’s fund balance, which was projected to be around $800,000 at the time the town’s 2011-12 fiscal year budget was passed.

The board also received a report from Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley, who discussed recent law enforcement activity. Much of Hensley’s discussion focused on the four people arrested earlier this month for their alleged involvement in using a Unicoi store as a front to sell cocaine and last week’s arrest of Unicoi resident Billy Joe Rice after his indictment on federal firearms and drug charges.

In early June, four people were arrested, including Carl and Melissa Glass of Massachusetts Avenue, for allegedly engaging in drug activity by using the Valley Video and Trading Post store on Unicoi Drive as a front to distribute cocaine. Carl Glass and others involved in the alleged operation are currently facing federal charges.

Hensley also discussed last week’s arrest of Rice, who was federally indicted last Tuesday on six felony counts including selling firearms without a license, selling firearms to a prohibited person, possession of stolen firearms and distribution of methamphetamine. Hensley said the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department stepped up its investigation of Rice’s alleged activities since he was appointed sheriff in late March. He also said multiple law enforcement agencies out of Tennessee and North Carolina have recovered stolen property from Rice.

“We were able to surveil Mr. Rice,” Hensley said. “Since March, there were known drug addicts, known thieves, known burglars, not just from Unicoi County, but from Carter County, Johnson City, Mitchell County, N.C., visiting Mr. Rice’s place of business, and we have video surveillance of all kinds of property being traded there from lawnmowers to weedeaters, stolen property that has been recovered. Also, a lot of guns have been moved from one place to another out there.”

Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said officials have found that a connection between the Glasses’ case and Rice’s case exists. Rogers also asked for patience on such investigations, as he said building a strong case is essential to acquire longer convictions and doing so takes time.

“We can put somebody in jail, and we can halfway charge them and they get a smack on the wrist and they’re out in a few weeks,” Rogers said. “But these cases that have been indicted federally out of the Eastern United States Court, we’re not going to see those people again. We’re not going to see Carl Glass ever here again. Billy Joe (Rice) is looking at major prison time and millions of dollars in fines. So we ask that you be patient with us and, by doing it good, it’s done forever. That’s our goal here. It’s not catch them and say ‘we got them,’ and then next week we’ve got to catch them again.”

Hensley said Rice’s case is still under investigation and could not be further discussed at this time. He also told officials that arrests in the two cases put a “huge dent” in criminal activity in the town.

“I think the town of Unicoi is a lot safer today than it was three weeks ago,” Hensley said.

The Erwin Police Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were involved in the investigation of Rice. Hensley lauded the cooperation among law enforcement agencies.

“When everybody starts working together, it all works out great,” he said.

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