CC Notes – July 18th 2016
Commissioners Elbert Farley and Sonia Rimmer were unable to attend the July regular monthly meeting of the Cumberland County Commission. The Commission listened to many comments from those in attendance concerning the proposed wind farm in Crab Orchard to begin the meeting. The first item on the agenda under Unfinished Business was the proposed indoor recreational facility that was discussed as a joint venture between the City of Crossville and Cumberland County at last month’s meeting. You may recall that the City’s proposal was to have the county taxpayers to pay for the facility with a property tax increase. This would be accomplished via a public referendum. A motion was passed 15 – 1 to put the facility and tax increase on the ballot to see if the public would approve. I was the dissenting vote against the measure as there was no verbiage presented that would define what would be voted on by the public, and no outline of an agreement concerning where the land would come from, or how the recurring operational expenses would be paid. I also stated that I don’t believe that the fees on these types of facilities generally cover operational expenses, and I felt the measure was being rushed. The details of the proposal were presented to the Commission during this meeting. Even after seeing the Interlocal agreement, it was still clear that the County hasn’t seen or worked on any of the financial details or the planning of this project. The agreement called for maintenance to be split between the City and the County, including utilities, with the day to day expenses covered by the City. Interim City Manager Steve Hill did state he believed the resolution was incorrect and that it was his understanding that the City would pay for the utilities outside of maintenance as a part of operations. The resolution did not address how the fees collected for facility use would be split. I also believe that a short termination process is an issue considering the cost that would be incurred by county taxpayers. The final vote on the resolution was 12 – 4 to reject the agreement. I voted to reject the agreement along with Sabine, Isham, Hassler, Stone, Gibson, Lowe, Wilson, Turner, Claflin, Dutcher and Geisler. Scarbrough, Hyder, Davis, and Carter voted not to reject the agreement.
The first resolution of the evening was one submitted by Commissioner Dutcher of Fairfield Glade. The resolution involved giving the County Commission certain “police” powers to regulate private property use where the use is found detrimental to the health, morals, comfort, safety, convenience, or welfare of the residents. In essence, the resolution would have given the county the authority to tell private property owners what they could do with their property. Although this is not exactly zoning, it is additional “police” powers to the county that I do not support. I believe that if there are issues of such significance that they require regulation, those regulations should come from the State, not the County. I believe in freedom and liberty, which includes private property rights. The motion to pass this resolution, made by Dutcher and seconded by Geisler, failed 3 – 13. I voted against this motion. Commissioners Stone, Dutcher, and Geisler voted in favor.
The next resolution was one that simply stated opposition to the proposed wind farm. There was no actual authority behind the resolution other than a statement that the County opposed the wind farm. Although I do not agree with many of the points made by those in opposition to the wind farm, I do have a significant issue with the federal taxpayer subsidies given to these supposed ecologically friendly projects in the form of direct loans and subsidies. It was stated by one in attendance that the federal taxpayer subsidies alone amounted to $7,739 per hour. I don’t know how accurate that figure is, but I do know the subsidies are sizeable, and they are all that make the venture profitable. I voted for the resolution opposing the wind farm as did Commissioners Stone, Carter, Claflin, Dutcher, and Geisler. The vote failed 6 – 10.
The next resolution was action to void a lease with the Crab Orchard Senior Citizens club. The property is no longer in use by the County and the lease was dissolved in a 16 – 0 vote. The final resolution of the evening involved voiding the Youth Center lease and to declare it surplus property. The county entered the lease in 2001. The Youth Center is no longer operating under the terms of the lease agreement so the Building & Grounds Committee recommended lease termination. The few remaining events scheduled for the building will be able to be held. Upon termination of the lease, Highland Federal will take over operation of the facility.
The fiscal year of 2015 – 2016 ended with property tax collections at 101% of budget. Sales tax ended up 4% over projections and Ambulance collections came in above budget as well. Final Prisoner Boarding accruals are not complete, but we were on track to exceed our annual target.
Also of note, last month the Commission passed a resolution to refinance certain bonds. The estimated net savings was expected to be approximately $450,000. The new rate locked at approximately 1.6% resulted in a savings of $529,000 over the 12 year life of the bonds.
Thank you for allowing me to serve the 4th District and Cumberland County. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at any time.
Board of Commissioners
4th District Representative