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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Carter Commission takes pass on mayor’s idea to thin ranks

August 16th, 2011 8:25 am by John Thompson

ELIZABETHTON — Emotions once again got hot at the beginning of Monday’s meeting of the Carter County Commission, but with a budget approved, most of the session went calmly and smoothly.
The most heated portion of the meeting was when the commission adopted the resolution for the reapportionment of the county following the 2010 Census. Last month, the commissioners voted 19-4 to keep the county at eight districts, with three county commissioners representing each district for a total of 24 commissioners. The only change required was a slight adjustment to the district boundary between the 1st and 4th District affecting 250 residents.
Mayor Leon Humphrey once again called for a downsizing of the County Commission. He suggested it should be composed of only nine commissioners, or at most 16. He said many citizens had offered their opinions that the commission needed to be smaller.
Despite the mayor’s request, Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tom Bowers recommended the commission adopt the final redistricting plan. Commissioner Ronnie Trivette called for a table of the motion, but the motion to table was defeated 17-5.
The commissioners then approved the redistricting plan by a 16-6 vote.
Following the vote, Humphrey said he had been approached by many citizens who were “fed up” with the present commission and he had researched a way in which they could allow citizens to voice their opinions.
“Unfortunately, the state statutes do not make any provision for this,” Humphrey said. Under the law, the commission has the final say in such matters.
Humphrey did say there were three opinions by the state attorney general that would allow for a non-binding advisory referendum.
County Attorney Keith Bowers started to object to Humphrey’s interpretation of the first opinion, but Humphrey continued, adding there were two more opinions.
A motion was made that would have been the start of such a non-binding referendum for 2012, but it was tabled by a 16-6 vote.
The commission also ratified its July 29 action to set the property tax rate at $2.15.28. It was approved by a 17-5 vote.
The commission was also briefed on progress toward reaching a settlement with Blaine Construction Co. over damaged floors in the new jail.
On Monday, Humphrey received an email from Blaine, offering $100,000 to the county to settle the matter and allow the jail to be opened. Humphrey and Keith Bowers said the matter is still developing and numerous emails were sent during the day.
Bowers said it was premature to enter into any discussion at this time.

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