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Hawkins approves lease with Church Hill Rescue Squad for early voting

Jeff Bobo • Sep 26, 2017 at 5:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County's satellite early voting location in eastern Hawkins County will change from Church Hill's Clay Lodge to the Church Hill Rescue Squad, despite a last ditch attempt by the lodge to cut its rent proposal.

Nearly every county office and several state and federal offices are up for election in 2018, and there will be three early voting sessions in Hawkins County totaling 51 days.

Elections Administrator Donna Sharp told the Hawkins County Commission on Monday that the change wasn't just about the $15-per-day rent increase that the Clay Lodge requested, although that did add up to $765.

Sharp said her election workers have complained about being harassed while working early voting at the Clay Lodge and have stated they won't go back there.

She said there has also been a problem with the building not being clean when they arrive in the morning to open for early voting.

"I have election workers who call me in the middle of the day saying they had to put up with certain individuals harassing them, and they are not going to come back," Sharp told the commission Monday. "These are good workers. These are good, upstanding citizens. I had a 19-year-old girl working there who was scared to death."

The county previously paid the Clay Lodge $50 per day, but shortly after Sharp was appointed elections administrator in 2011, the lodge asked for and was granted $75 per month by the Election Commission in a lease that ended in 2016. In 2015 the lodge asked for $100 per day.

"I said wait a minute, we've got an agreement," Sharp said. "They said they forgot they had an agreement."

The County Commission was presented Monday with a proposed three-year lease to use the Hawkins County Rescue Squad at 351 W. Main Blvd. as an early voting location for $75 per day, the same price it had been paying the Clay Lodge located on Hamilton Street.

Clay Lodge Board of Director Chairman Lynn Roller told the commission his board offered a rate of $70 per day, which Sharp said wasn't true. Although Roller said he had asked for the $15 increase, he said that the $70 per day offer still stands.

Commissioner Mike Herrell suggested tabling approval of the lease to give the lodge an opportunity to make the $70 offer to the Election Commission.

Sharp said that after the last Election Commission meeting, Roller met her and stated he had heard the commission voted to move early voting to the Rescue Squad.

"He told me that he hoped we did move, that they were glad to get rid of us," Sharp told the commission.

She added, "I don't think the Election Commission is interested. They already voted."

A motion to table approval of the lease was defeated by one vote, and then the lease was approved 13-4 with commissioners Greg Fletcher, Danny Alvis, Fred Castle, and B.D. Cradic voting no and Herrell abstaining..

The three 2018 election dates in Hawkins County include:

* The May 1 county primary, with early voting set up on April 9 and  early voting April 11-26.

* The Aug. 2 county general election and state and federal primaries, with early voting set up July 11 and early voting July 13-28.

* The Nov. 6 state and federal primaries, with early voting set up  Oct. 15 and early voting Oct. 17 to Nov. 1.                                                    

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