|Commissioners mull Amberly Court paving
Loudon County commissioners are hesitant to move forward with a request from Road Superintendent Eddie Simpson that would pave Amberly Court in the Amberly Meadows subdivision in exchange for forgiveness of $40,000 owed from purchasing a tractor with two mowing implements.
The possibility was considered during a Feb. 20 workshop. Simpson last year paid $40,000 and is scheduled to pay up to $40,000 this year and the remaining portion next year.
Commissioners in October 2016 agreed to let Simpson take funds out of General Capital Projects Fund 171 Subfund 600 so long as it was reimbursed within three years. The vote passed unanimously.
The cost was $94,000, Budget Director Tracy Blair said at the February commission workshop.
“This is in our second payback, which is due now, and I went to the budget committee and offered them a proposal which is (it) doesn’t gain me anything but five years ago they committed to Amberly Meadows to pave that up there for them and to take it in as a county road into the county roads system,” Simpson said. “I reluctantly agreed to do that if they would agree that they would pay that out of general fund because it happened because someone went bankrupt and they couldn’t supply what they were going to do.
“It shouldn’t have come out of the highway department funds and I told them it couldn’t at the time and it hasn’t thus far,” he added.
Although the road has not been paved under Simpson’s supervision, he said patchwork has been maintained.
The street was accepted into the public roadway system in August 2012, but Commissioner Van Shaver said there was no mention of the county giving Simpson additional funds for paving. The approved resolution mentions no source of payment.
“The commission funds his department,” Shaver said. “It’s Mr. Simpson’s decision which roads he paves. Our commission has no authority to tell him where to pave.”
Simpson said in 2012 there was no way to tell if the road was constructed to county standards.
“It was not up to our specifications and it’s up to me to core drill them or whatever it takes to make sure it’s built by our specs,” Simpson said. “We knew it was not built to our specs, therefore I didn’t feel comfortable spending taxpayers’ money on something I knew wasn’t up to specifications and that was the condition that we went ahead and took it as a county road based on the fact that they would pay for it out of general fund instead of out of my budget when it comes about.”
Commissioner Matthew Tinker believes the money should come out of Simpson’s budget.
“I wish everything in the county had new pavement on it, but it just needs to be on the list and work its way up,” Tinker said. “If it was next to be done then he can take it out of his budget, but the money to go to pay back the equipment just needs to continue as is. I don’t care anything about if it gets paved, I’m not against it getting paved, I’m just against it jumping up in front of others — if it has, if it hasn’t then fine. He’s got a budget for paving. There’s no reason to change that around.”
Simpson said the first round includes 10 resurfacing projects this year at a cost of $1.16 million, with about $500,000 of that coming locally. Approval from the commission would make Amberly Court the 11th project.
Loudon County Commission Chairman Steve Harrelson said voting on the matter at the next meeting was still to be determined.
“See, I gave them a list of the roads that I wanted to pave, which I pick, I choose,” Simpson said. “They don’t choose or designate roads to pave, the superintendent does, and I’ve chosen those. I gave them copies of it and I think what their fear was that we had pulled another road off from somewhere else and that’s not the case. I was literally just offering to take that $40,000 that they lent me and me pave Amberly Court with it rather than return it to them.”
Plans are to begin paving sometime after the asphalt plants open around mid-March, Simpson said. Once paved, Simpson said further paving on Amberly Court could come out of his budget.
“I get calls every week wanting to know when we’re going to pave it and my deal with county commission was that if they’ll take it out of general I’m ready to pave it anytime they want, but they haven’t yet,” Simpson said. “I just thought that was a perfect opportunity to say instead of me turning this $40,000 back over to you, why not use it to pave with and pave Amberly Court?”
For now, Commissioner Leo Bradshaw said his vote is “no” toward the forgiveness.
“I think I’m inclined that it needs to come out of his paving money that he already has without a doubt because that’s not a lot of money,” Bradshaw said. “... Hopefully he can find the money in his asphalt paving budget. In other words, I’m inclined not to forgive the $40,000 that he’s paying back on the tractors that he had bought.”
County balks at road paving
Loudon County Commissioners debated Monday the paving of roads in a Loudon subdivision, opting to let the county’s budget committee devise a plan.
At the heart of the discussion was $40,000 owed the county this fiscal year by Road Superintendent Eddie Simpson and a plan to improve roads in the Amberly Meadows subdivision.
Commission in October 2016 approved up to $120,000 for Simpson’s department to purchase a new tractor with two mowing implements. Simpson paid $40,000 last year and was scheduled to pay another $40,000 this year and the remainder thereafter.
Simpson recently asked for forgiveness of this year’s $40,000 to put it toward Amberly Meadows paving.
“What I did is I made the proposal because I understand it needs to be paved there,” Simpson said. “It needs it desperately, but it doesn’t meet the criteria to go above all the other roads in the county that needs to be paved today. We’re going to pave probably 25 miles this year. ... I don’t gain anything from doing this, but I had a tractor to burn and they were nice enough to loan us $95,000 to buy a new tractor in the middle of the year and I appreciate them doing that.”
Simpson said in 2012 during a workshop that he agreed to take the road as long as the county paid to get it to county standards.
Documentation could not be provided to verify or dispute Simpson’s claim. Minutes aren’t taken during county workshops.
“The highway department paves streets, and the county accepted the streets into the county road system in August of 2012,” Van Shaver, county commissioner, said. “... Essentially, those roads could have been paid anytime since August of 2012 up until today. We have never midstream come along and added additional money — given more money to pay for roads.”
Shaver worried if the county agreed to move forward with giving additional funding, it would set a precedent.
“There is a process, we finance the highway department,” Shaver said. “It’s local money, federal money and state money is what it operates on. If he wants to come at the next budget process and ask for an increase in funding, that’s his option. This coming to us and saying, ‘Give us more money to pave the roads,’ is just not the process that works.”
Commissioner Harold Duff said the county needed to consider a “missing link” in that the line of credit the developer set with the bank expired, and that it was partially county representative Russ Newman’s responsibility to keep up with lines of credit for developments. The developer left years ago.
“Because that is a county employee’s responsibility, I think it’s our responsibility here as a county commission,” Duff said. “... If it is our responsibility then I think that we need to take the proposal that’s laying here before us that’s on the agenda tonight for a vote.”
Commissioners Earlena Maples and Kelly Littleton-Brewster agreed with Duff.
County attorney Bob Bowman claimed the responsibility fell on the developer, not Newman, Shaver said.
Even so, Duff felt the county was held partially responsible.
“I think it needs to go back on the 19th to the budget committee,” Henry Cullen, county commissioner, said. “Eddie Simpson comes in, we can get a hold of the county attorney and find out what information he has. There’s just some more things we need to know.”
Amberly Meadows residents were present and expressed their worries.
“We’re concerned that we’ve got elderly people that live in that community and emergency services has to get in and out of there — ambulances, fire trucks — and these are good, tax-paying elderly people that we really need to make sure that we can secure that roadway back into there,” Kurt Zimmermann, resident, said.
Amberly Meadows resident Randy Davis said the road’s base was eroding “bad.”
“It just is not a wise decision to procrastinate on top-coating this and get it sealed off much longer,” Davis said. “It’s presenting a hazard, and it’s only going to get worse.”
Commissioner David Meers said the plan is for it to go through budget committee and possibly vote at the April meeting.
Cullen motioned and Meers seconded, with the vote passing 8-2. Duff and Brewster opposed.
Commissioners considered and ultimately passed the transfer of $150,000 from General Purpose School Fund 141 to Education Capital Projects Fund 177 Subfund Adequate Facilities Tax to offer additional funding for North Middle School’s construction of a fine arts facility and additions to the basketball locker rooms.
Last year commission agreed to give $550,000 for the new room.
“You want to spend $600,000-$700,000 for a middle school band room and you’ve got the elementary school across the street having a fundraiser selling jump up and down tickets to try to buy school supplies. We got a serious problem,” Shaver said. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing this board can do about it, that’s the school board. The school board is who is responsible for that kind of spending, not us.”
Commissioner Bill Satterfield disagreed.
“Just like the fine arts room at North Middle, I think I’d be correct that’s probably the highest enrollment school in the county as far as number of students,” Satterfield said. “They have outgrown what they’ve had. ... All of a sudden now the whole project becomes tainted because there’s an athletic element to it.”
Satterfield and Commissioner Leo Bradshaw motioned and seconded, respectively, with the vote passing 10-0.
More jail funding
A rising inmate count resulted in Loudon County Sheriff’s Office representatives seeking $130,000 in new money and $52,850 from its sheriff’s department budget to transfer into the jail budget.
Commissioners Shaver and Matthew Tinker motioned and seconded, with the vote passing 9-1. The sole opposing vote was Brewster because she worried about the amount of overtime presented. Commission agreed to vote on County General Fund 101 separately from other budget amendments because of the jail.
“Missing the figure by that much, 101 hours overtime monthly, I mean that’s quite a bit a month,” Brewster said. “To me it just sounds like there’s a budget, there’s a scheduling problem in there or something for it to come up as 101 hours overtime monthly.”
Approval includes about $10,000 for medical, $77,000 for drugs and medical supplies, $30,000 for food service and about $35,000 for deputy overtime.
In other news, Loudon County Commission:
• Approved applying for a grant through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for household hazardous waste. No local match was required.
• Rezoned 3.3 acres from A-2, Rural Residential District, Planned Unit Development to A-2, Rural Residential District, Planned Unit Development with 2.5 units per acre density referenced by tax map 016, parcel 397, located at 4607 Beals Chapel Road, Lenoir City.
• Moved forward with an application and acceptance of $8,800 for a Tennessee Department of Transportation grant for railroad crossing improvements on Morton Road. A 10 percent match is required from Highway Department Fund 131.
• Approved application and acceptance of Pettway grants of $1,250 for Loudon Library and $3,000 for Lenoir City Library. No match is required.
• Passed amendments to Recycling Center Fund 116, Highway Department Fund 131 and General Purpose School Fund 141.
• Approved three resolutions authorizing sale of the Tellico Village delinquent lots for $2,227.26 each. Local attorney Joe Ford asked commission to pass the motions to avoid complications with the sale of lots. Shaver said it was to satisfy the need of a title company to be able to write title insurance. Commissioner Leo Bradshaw made the motion for all three actions, including the sale of tracts 1-139 to TV Holdings LLC for $2,278.26, each payable in credit toward assessments. Tinker seconded the motion. Bradshaw motioned for finding that is impossible to sell tracts 140-203 for a total amount of taxes, penalty cost and interest. Cullen seconded the motion. The third vote approved the sale of tracts 140-203 to TV Holdings LLC for $2,278.26 each. Cullen seconded the motion. Ford said he would be back in 6-9 months for disposal of the remaining lots.
• Passed a resolution showing support for state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, to work toward resolving an issue with the county not having the final say in payment in lieu of tax agreements through industrial development boards.