ELIZABETHTON — The Carter County Commission overwhelmingly voted for Keith Bowers Jr. to serve another term as county attorney. In a vote taken Monday morning, Nancy Brown was the only commissioner to vote against granting Bowers another two-year term.
Commissioner Charles Von Cannon was referring to an April 8 front page story in the Johnson City Press when he said he had read news accounts of the salaries and payments made to county and city attorneys in the region.
“I find you are very frugal compared with other counties,” Von Cannon said.
In the interest of keeping legal expenses down, Von Cannon said commissioners should follow the rules they had unanimously established of having all legal questions go through the county mayor before being sent to the county attorney.
Later in the meeting, Pat Hicks said that had been amended so committee chairmen could refer matters directly to the county attorney.
“I was not aware of that,” Von Cannon said.
“I think the minutes will reflect it,” Hicks said.
During his regular report to the commissioners, Bowers said “it has been an extremely positive month.”
Among the legal items accomplished was a certificate of occupancy for the new jail from the city of Elizabethton. The certificate was contingent on six points still be to accomplished, with the removal of the temporary jail pods once the the prisoners are moved to the new jail. The county has six months to accomplish this.
There has been no interest in purchasing the pods, Chairman L.C. Tester of the Building and Grounds Committee said.
Bowers said other positive steps taken during the month has been a discussion with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to work with the county in addressing a litter problem at the TWRA’s public access point on the Watauga River at Rio Vista. Sheriff Chris Mathes said his litter crews would swing by the area during their regular operations to empty receptacles and haul off the trash.
Bowers did not mention it during the meeting, but another positive step was the court decision on Friday in which Judge Thomas Seeley found the telephone company providing phone service in the old jail to be in default. The county is now able to find another contractor for the phone service. A hearing will be held at a later date to determine damages claimed by the county.
Bowers said outside of the meeting that the county has not had to pay out a single cent as a result of court decisions made during the past six years.
In financial matters, the commissioners approved several budget amendments that did not require any new local funding.
The largest was an amendment to the school system budget to cover a $320,000 federal Teaching American History Grant.
There was also another transfer of unused money for new guards for the unopened Carter County Jail. This time, $120,000 was transferred from salaries to motor vehicles to provide new patrol cars.
The delay in opening the jail meant the guards were not hired at the beginning of the fiscal year. Some of the surplus money has already been approved for tile for the jail corridors and administrative areas and for 42 additional security cameras.
In another transfer, the commissioners approved the expenditure of $900 for inoculations for the new animal control officer and $160 for rear tires for the animal control vehicle. The money came from the line item for fuel.
Three resolutions from the Planning Commission were sent back after Brown and Mayor Leon Humphrey said there had not been an advertisement of a public hearing. The resolutions dealt with regulating accessory structures, portable storage containers and substance abuse treatment clinics.
Humphrey once again requested the time for citizens to speak be moved to the front of the agenda. Once again his request was defeated, this time by a 17-5 vote.
Humphrey also spoke about the upcoming cleanup days. Friday and Saturday will be the annual countywide cleanup, with no fees being charged at the landfill for residential disposal. He said Carter County Bank will be providing a free shredding day April 28. Also on that day, the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce will provide a free disposal of unused prescription medication. A free disposal of household hazardous waste will take place on May 19.
The commissioners reappointed Jerry Bowers and Bobby Alley to the Equalization Board and Bill Armstrong and Steve Chambers to the Planning Commission.