Wash. County Commission flap ends with Commissioner Ferguson in spotlight

Gary B. Gray • Aug 27, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Washington County commissioners on Monday came oh so close to completing an entire meeting without a spat.

Commissioner Mark Ferguson, Committee on Committees chairman, recommended appointments to the county’s 10 standing committees — a recommendation fashioned at an Aug. 19 committee meeting.

It was a six-minute communion.

A copy of the notebook-style paper from the meeting read: “This is what commissioners ask for.” The names were neatly typed on a one-page sheet of paper at the full commission meeting, but the placement didn’t quite sit right with some.

Commissioner Mitch Meredith, who is not on the committee but was in attendance when the selections were made, stopped forward progress and proposed amending a few names on four committees: Gearld Sparks and Skip Oldham in place of Doyle Cloyd and Alpha Bridger on the Public Works Committee; Ken Lyon for Bridger on the CIA (insurance) Committee; Lee Chase for Cloyd on the County Owned Property Committee; and Mark Larkey and Pat Wolfe for Steve Light and Bridger on the Legal Services Committee.

“I’d like to say Commissioner Ferguson really had his work cut out for him,” Meredith said. “There were seven or eight commissioners that did not get their recommendations in.”

Commissioner Phyllis Corso did not appear amused.

“I believe Mr. Ferguson spent many, many long hours organizing these committees,” she said.

Commissioner Pete Speropulos took his turn, saying he noticed that some commissioners weren’t seated on any committee while others got on every committee they wanted.

“This is not the Mark Ferguson committee,” he said. “When we start following behind one individual, the system starts failing.”

Corso said all commissioners were leaders and that she did not question the motives of Committee on Committees members.

“I don’t even remember a question about any of the assignments,” Meredith said. “Either we can fill 50 positions in six minutes, or we’re psychics.”

Commissioner Sam Humpreys countered: “You’re talking about how long it took to make a decision? I’ve sat here some nights for five and six hours and no decision was made.”

Meredith’s amended slate fell in a 15-9 tally; the original lineup passed in a 14-10 vote.

Meanwhile, though the county’s fiscal 2014 budget numbers are ready, commissioners were not in a position to vote on the more than $120 million spending plan Monday night.

A final adjustment was made by the Board of Education, which in turn needed approval by the Budget Committee. That happened last week, but there was not enough time to properly advertise a reading of the budget, so the County Commission will meet Sept. 10 in a special called meeting to review and vote on a budget resolution.

The BOE followed Director of Schools Ron Dykes’ recommendation to ask the Budget Committee to use 3 pennies from the Debt Service Fund and not increase funding from sales tax revenue. The committee had proposed using 2 pennies from debt service and a 1 percent increase in sales tax revenue to help balance the school system’s nearly $63 million budget.

The school system will have to use $1 million from their own reserves to balance the budget. About $950,000 will remain, an amount just over the state-required minimum.

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