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Archives 02-15-2011

News

LFD battles blaze on Main Street
Countywide nepotism policy stalls
State revenue $38.2M above budget estimate
Fire destroys home of water plant manager

 

LFD battles blaze on Main Street

Dewain E. Peek photo
Livingston Volunteer Fire Departments pumps a steady stream of water from two directions onto the home of Avis McDonald at the corner or Spruce Street and Main Street in Livingston. According to reports, the house was unoccupied when it caught fire Sunday, Feb. 13. Windy conditions and contents of the dwelling caused firefighters difficulty in battling the blaze. Firefighters were on the scene shortly after the call came in at 3:07 p.m. and remained until about 7 p.m.


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Countywide nepotism policy stalls
By Dewain E. Peek,
OCN staff

Passage of a uniform nepotism policy stalled without a vote during the Overton County Legislative Body regular monthly meeting held Monday, Feb. 14.

The measure was brought before Commissioners Jackson Carter, Frank Martin, Jean Moore, James Clouse, Darwin Clark, Bruce Ledford, Jesse B. Bowman, Glenn Honeycutt, Billie G. Phipps, Rick Moles, Ben Danner, Gregg Nivens, and Donna Savage for consideration. Commissioners Randall Boswell and Billy J. Parrott were absent.

As proposed, Overton County Employees Uniform Nepotism Policy Act of 2011 would prohibit the hiring of relatives by supervisors in any agency, authority, board, commission, department, system, school or any office that receives total or partial funding through county appropriations or allocated revenues within the Overton County government.
When County Mayor Ron Cyrus brought it up for discussion,

Commissioner Clark asked, “Why? Why has this come up, and has someone complained about it, why we’re trying to develop a nepotism policy?”

“No, nobody’s complained,” Mayor Cyrus said. “It’s just we feel it’s the right thing to do.

“There’s been some counties in the past that’s had some problems with this. Matter of fact, there’s one ongoing right now in one of the counties in the state of Tennessee.

“This is not to be construed as anything to be punishing anybody or anything like that. It’s just simply abiding by what most companies and the government does today. You go to any state agency, they have a nepotism policy.”

Commissioner Moles asked, “Has this been discussed and explained to all the agencies that would be involved with?”

Mayor Cyrus said he and the county attorney had brought it before the school board for their consideration a few months ago.

Moles asked if the county elected officials had been given a copy of it and been talked to about it.

Cyrus said, “I’ve not given them a copy of it, but we’ve discussed it once, most of them come in and told me they were against it.”

Commissioner Moore then asked, “Since there are no laws in Tennessee, no general law, that prohibit hiring spouses or relatives, in Overton County it doesn’t seem to have had a real problem with it in the past, and these people have run for constitutional offices and elected countywide, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling them who they can hire and who they can’t hire.

“And I feel like, the public, if enough people are upset about it, then they should vote them out of office.”

She then asked if this went through a committee.

“I’m not for it and just wonder how it came about,” she said.
Later in the discussion she was told that the Ethics Committee had approved it.

Commissioner Danner questioned if the County Commission was overstepping its authority by considering the policy.

Tax Assessor Larry King addressed the County Commission to tell them of a lawsuit he brought against the county and won after he was elected to the office in 1980.

“And I’ve got a court order saying that I have the authority to hire and fire personnel in my office,” King said.

Mayor Cyrus said, “This is not an issue of getting rid of anybody that’s currently, everybody would be grandfathered under this. This is for future hires.”

Danner asked, “Who would police it? I mean, are we going to have to look through every single applicant to see if they’re a cousin to somebody that’s in an office. I mean, I don’t understand how we would.”

Clark added, “Another thing we’ve got to look at too is that Overton County is a small county, and you know, 70% of Overton County is related, to some extent. You know, I can see how this could apply to a larger population,”

Commissioner Phipps spoke up to say, “I’ve talked to several different elected officials. I mean, I was for it, and I’m going to be honest, like I told some of them out here, I could live with it or without it. It doesn’t make any difference with me.

“I worked under it at Tennessee Tech for twentysomething years. It didn’t bother me at all. I couldn’t work with my immediate family under me. I understood that, had no problem with it.

“And there’s really no problem with it. But I think there’s an issue with so many people that don’t really understand how this is going, some county officials, and I’m going to make a motion to table it to a later date, until they can be more educated on the issue.”

Commissioner Honeycutt then spoke up to say, “When I first read this, and what I heard about it, I was in support of it, but if you have a county official that says that he took the county to court and won, then I’m not sure how we can tell him now who to hire.”

He then seconded the motion to table the matter.

Mayor Cyrus said, “Well, I think it’s a different twist on what he’s talking about in terms of hiring. He didn’t hire a relative at that time.”

Commissioner Ledford said he didn’t see that this policy tells anyone who to hire, as was the case that brought the lawsuit.

As the discussion went on, Commissioner Carter spoke up to say, “One, it’s not going to be retroactive. I don’t know if people fully understand that, that anybody that’s hired now, we’re not going to go in and try to remove them or intend on firing them.

“And the other point of, well, it’s going to hurt the school system, with as many schools as there are in this county, I don’t really see a problem if a new teacher wants to come in. I think the instances where they are a relative as defined in the policy wouldn’t cause much of a problem, if it’s in the line of direct supervision.”

The Act states: “Relative” means any individual (whether dependent or independent), such as spouse, children, parents, siblings, parents-in-law, step-children, step-parents, grandparents, grandchildren, sons-in-law, brothers-in-law, daughers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, or any persons that are living in same household as spousal unit.

Commissioner Clouse said, “Everybody I’ve talked to said, ‘great idea.’”
The motion was voted on and the nepotism policy was tabled.

A $3,195 grant from Wal-Mart for Overton County Sheriff’s Department for education was approved. The funds are to be used for the purchase of teaching tools from Fatal Vision to be used in schools and the community.

The grant requires no matching funds.

Resolution No. 0211, No. 0211.2, and No. 0211.3 were adopted for the Certificate of Public Purpose and Necessity for the spec building, to allow Upper Cumberland Development District to administer the grant, and for the required wetlands study. Commissioner Danner voted against the resolutions, and was also the only vote against approving the engineering and design contract for the building.

Danner said, “I voted against spending money for it, I can’t vote for this stuff too.”

Highway Department Budget Amendment #2, which included moving $7,000 for salt, and County General Budget Amendment #8 were approved.

The following were appointed to the Joint Economic and Community Development Board: Toni Johnson, Michael Meadows, Marty Maynord, Dr. Tom Piech, and Jimmy Johnson.

Overton County’s quarterly report, ending December 31, 2011, was approved.

Overton County Schools Quarterly Report, ending December 31, 2010, was approved, as was a budget amendment.

The following were approved as notaries at-large: Richard Bryce Evans, Charlotte Jonell Speck, Sheryl S. Beatty, Diana P. Stallman, Towana Lynn Hammock, Kathy Smith, Tony Walker, Teresa N. Stringer, Karen Sue Hensley, and Russell A. Gray.

Minutes of the January 13, 2011 meeting were approved.

The meeting adjourned.


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State revenue $38.2M above budget estimate
Tennessee tax collections continued an upward trend in January, reflecting December consumer spending, including the holiday buying season.

Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes announced Thursday, Feb. 10 that overall January revenues were $997.3 million, which is $38.2 million more than the state budgeted. It’s the sixth month of positive growth this fiscal year, with sales and corporate tax collections once again contributing heavily to the growth.

“January is the tenth consecutive month in which sales taxes have recorded positive growth,” Emkes said. “Holiday sales brought positive growth across the state and the nation, and although it’s modest growth, it leads us to believe Tennessee is slowly recovering from the worst recession on record.

“Going forward, we’ll monitor state spending and work closely with the legislature in order to end the fiscal year with a balanced budget as required by the state’s constitution.”

On an accrual basis, January is the sixth month in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

The general fund was overcollected by $36.6 million, and the four other funds were overcollected by $1.6 million.

Sales tax collections were $20.1 million more than the estimate for January.

The January growth rate was positive 4.33%. For six months, revenues are overcollected by $76.6 million. The year-to-date growth rate for six months was positive 3.87 %.

Franchise and excise taxes combined were $19 million above the budgeted estimate of $141.2 million. For six months revenues are overcollected by $56.7 million.

Gasoline and motor fuel collections for January increased by 4.57 % but were $184,000 below the budgeted estimate of $70.2 million. For six months revenues are overcollected by $10.8 million.

Tobacco tax collections were $3.3 million below the budgeted estimate of $22.2 million, and for six months they are $1.8 million under the budgeted estimate.

Inheritance and estate taxes were overcollected by $328,000 for the month.

Year to date collections for six months are $11.5 million more than the budgeted estimate.

All other taxes were overcollected by a net of $2.3 million.

Year-to-date collections for six months were $137 million more than the budgeted estimate. The general fund was overcollected by $114.9 million, and the four other funds were overcollected by $22.1 million.

The budgeted revenue estimates for 2010-2011 are based on the State Funding Board’s consensus recommendation of April 7, 2010 and adopted by the second session of the 106th General Assembly in June. They are available on the state’s website at
http://www.tn.gov/finance/bud/budget.html.


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Fire destroys home of water plant manager


Lyndon Johnson photo
Monroe volunteer firefighter Brian Franklin clambers down from the fire truck while responding to a structure fire at the home of Johnny and Sharon White on Reed Mill Lane in the Independence Community Monday, Feb. 14. The home was a total loss.

By Lyndon Johnson,
OCN staff

A structure fire quickly morphed into a grass fire that scorched a field and nearly burned into a wooded area yesterday afternoon near the Independence community.

According to Monroe Volunteer Fire Department Chief Wayne Huckeby, his crew was dispatched to the vicinity of 162 Reed Mill Lane. When they arrived, the home of Johnny and Sharon White was engulfed in flames.

Johnny White is the supervisor of the water treatment plant for the Town of Livingston.

Embers from the structure fire quickly blew across the narrow road into the field of Keith Vaughn, who urged fire crews to attack the flames in the field to stop them from spreading to other homes in the vicinity. His own home and his son’s home were situated on either end of the field.

“The way the wind was blowing, it liked to got real bad,” Huckeby said.

“It got about 10 feet from some woods at the back of that field, but we got it stopped.”

The home did have a chimney, but according to homeowner Sharon White, she and her husband hadn’t had a fire burning for at least two days because they put out their fire when they went to visit their daughter in Knoxville over the weekend. Upon returning home, temperatures were warm enough
outside that they didn’t need a fire, White said.

Responding to the scene were Monroe, Alpine, and Taylor’s Crossroads volunteer fire departments, a Tennessee Forestry fire crew, Overton County EMS, and Overton County Sheriff’s Department.

 

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