Hot topics fizzle at Hawkins County meeting

Jeff Bobo • Oct 22, 2012 at 10:05 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Two issues expected to be hotly contested during Monday’s Hawkins County Commission meeting were rejected without a peep, and the only “heated” debate was over approval of a new copier contract for the property assessor’s office.

Much of that heated debate over Property Assessor Jeff Thacker’s requested budget amendment for a new copier was in jest.

Thacker’s two years on the County Commission prior to taking over as assessor in September were marked by his regular heavy scrutiny of budget amendments made by officeholders.

He was warned during his last meeting as a commissioner in August that from now on he would be on the receiving end of that scrutiny.

His current copier machine lease is $64 per month, and the new machine will cost $117 per month.

Thacker explained that he inherited a copier that is insufficient for the needs of his office.

Specifically, the bed on the current copier is too small to hold the appraisal cards. He said the top of the card doesn’t copy, and when a customer comes to his office seeking an appraisal card copy, his staff has to go across the hall to the register of deeds office to make copies.

“It’s not only an inconvenience to my girls, but it’s also an embarrassment when you’re dealing with a taxpayer and you tell them I’ve got to run across the hall to make a copy because our copy machine won’t copy it,” Thacker said.

Commissioner Charlie Newton replied, “If it’s an inconvenience to your girls, wouldn’t you have time to run back and forth yourself?”

Newton then said, “I know you need it. I’m just giving you a hard time.”

Thacker’s request was approved 21-0.

Among the issues expected to be controversial was a resolution calling for any future spending of the county’s undesignated fund balance to require a two-thirds majority vote instead of the current simple majority vote.

Budget Committee Chairman Gary Hicks withdrew that resolution after it was discovered that Tennessee Code Annotated does not allow it.

Another issue that was expected to be controversial was Commissioner Charlie Freeman’s resolution calling for the county to eliminate health care benefits for county commissioners. Commissioners are currently eligible for the same insurance benefits that county employees receive.

Currently two commissioners — Danny Alvis and Thomas Wheeler — receive the benefit, which pays 65 percent of their health insurance premium, or $405 each per month.

Freeman told the commission he has no personal animosity toward any commissioner, but he believes the county shouldn’t be paying for their health insurance. Freeman’s motion to approve the resolution failed for lack of a second.

In other business Monday the commission:

• Reappointed members of the commission’s Ethics Committee including Commissioners Wheeler, Freeman and Joe McLain, as well as county Trustee Patsy Courtney and Nancy Barker from the Rogersville Chamber of Commerce.

Last week the Ethic Committee held its first ethics complaint hearing, and upon advice of County Attorney Jim Phillips, dismissed the complaint.

Commissioner Virgil Mallett made a motion Monday that any ethics complaint be dismissed if the person who made the complaint doesn’t attend the hearing.

Mallett later withdrew that motion after it was suggested that changes to Ethics Committee policy should be recommended by the Ethics Committee.

• Heard a report from Alvis, who also sits on the Humane Society board of directors, that the Humane Society has raised $2,500 toward construction of an addition to the facility in addition to the $10,000 contributed for that purpose by the commission.

Alvis said the Humane Society is currently seeking grant funding that might pay for an entirely new facility, and the existing $12,500 would be used to match the grant. He said if the project falls through, the $10,000 will be returned to the county.

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