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J. H. Osborne • Nov 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — There’s a new Commissioner Harr among Sullivan County’s 24 county commissioners.

On Monday, a majority of the County Commission appointed Jon P. Harr to the District 3 seat formerly occupied by his father, Ralph P. Harr.

The elder Harr, who had served on the commission for more than three decades, died earlier this month.

The younger Harr, vice president of student affairs at Northeast State Technical Community College, will serve as District 3 commissioner until next August.

At that time, the seat will be on the ballot for voters. The winner of that race will then serve the two remaining years of the elder Harr’s four-year term.

Two other men also asked to be considered for appointment to the seat until next August, but Harr easily won in the first round of voting by commissioners.

Later in Monday’s meeting, the commission paid homage to Ralph Harr by the reading of local and congressional proclamations to honor his more than 50 years of public service to the residents of Sullivan County.

Mayor Steve Godsey also presented the Harr family with a plaque holding the “Ralph Harr” nameplate from his commission room desk.

A resolution to designate the Sullivan County Justice Center in Bristol the “Ralph P. Harr Justice Center” was on first reading Monday and expected to come for a vote next month.

Sponsor Mark Vance said he is working with Purchasing Agent Nelda Fleenor to get cost estimates for signs bearing the new name and hopes to have estimates in the next few weeks.

In other business Monday, the commission:

•Approved spending up to $411,000 for repairs to the historic Sullivan County Courthouse, where the commission meets and where various county offices are located. The county’s current budget already included $100,000 for such work. Commission action on Monday transfers another $311,000 from general fund surplus to that renovations account.

Work to be done with the money will reinforce the upper structure of the courthouse (the roof sags and leaks) with steel beams and wooden rafters larger than ones in place now, and remove and replace water-damaged mortar on the building’s brick exterior.

•Finalized health insurance offerings for county employees for the 12-month period beginning Jan. 1. Coverage will continue through CIGNA, the provider for employee health insurance since July 1 of last year.

There are three levels of coverage available, each with differing benefits and costs to the employee: silver level coverage; platinum level coverage; or a new option — a high-deductible health savings plan.

Another change will be categories of coverage: individual; employee plus child(ren); employee plus spouse — which costs more than employee plus child(ren); and employee plus family.

Employees now pay 10.7 percent of the premium for the basic “silver” level of coverage, and the county pays 89.3 percent. The commission’s Insurance Committee recommended hiking the employees’ share to 15 percent.

Citing the two-pronged increase in costs already headed toward employees’ pocketbooks — already higher premiums due to the overall 35 percent cost increase for CIGNA’s contract, coupled with higher out-of-pocket costs due to decreased benefits — Commissioner Darlene Calton pushed to “meet employees halfway” and make it an increase to 12.8 percent. Commissioner Randy Morrell seconded the move.

Commissioners Cathy Armstrong, Terry Harkleroad and Bill Kilgore voted against doing so, but 18 other commissioners voted “yes” and the motion carried.

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