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Commission meets; incumbents replaced

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 8/13/22

The current Bedford County Commission met for the last time Tuesday night. A slate of newly elected Commissioners will be sworn in later this month.Awards presentedA short presentation was given to …

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Commission meets; incumbents replaced

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The current Bedford County Commission met for the last time Tuesday night. A slate of newly elected Commissioners will be sworn in later this month. 

Awards presented 

A short presentation was given to recognize outgoing Commissioners as well as commissioners with 20 years of service. 

Commissioners with at least four terms under their belt include: Ed Castleman, Mark Thomas, Tony Smith, and Biff Farrar. 

Outgoing commissioners included Castleman, Brian Farris, Bobby Fox, Don Gallagher, Jason Sanders, and Jeff Sweeney. 

In addition, outgoing Commissioner John Brown, who was not in attendance, was awarded by U.S. Congressman Scott DesJarlais’ office for his 40 years of service. 

Newly elected Commissioners during last week’s County General Election were: Drew Hooker, District 1; Eric Maddox, District 1; Troy Thompson, District 3; Diane Neeley, District 4; Scott Johnson, District 5; John Boutwell and Jason Boyette, District 8. 

Pressing issues 

There were several pressing issues the Commission voted on, including adding five School Reource Officers to the elementary schools within Shelbyville, passing County budget amendment 1, and voting on an appointee for the 8th District school board seat recently vacated by newly-elected Commissioner John Boutwell. 

Three nominees were put on the floor: Shanna Boyette, Michael Taylor, and Rodney Thompson. Boyette received the 10 votes needed for the nomination, with Taylor coming in second and Thompson coming in last. 

Boyette is a former Shelbyville City Manager and currently works for Bedford County Government in the human resources department. Newly-elected District 8 Commissioner Jason Boyette is her husband. 

More SROs 

The Commission also held much debate on the motion to implement five SROs in Southside, East Side, Thomas Magnet, Learning Way, and Deery Eakin elementary schools. Cascade and Community middle schools have SROs which they can share with the elementary schools, School Superintendent Tammy Garrett said. 

Several Commissioners were concerned over payment for those SROs. Essentially, their salaries would come from the County’s selling of the EMA building, totaling about $75,000. 

Commissioner Brian Farris, who is an SRO, asked if they would be pulling patrol officers from the already short-staffed sheriff’s department in order to fill these roles. If not, new officers would require training. (According to Sheriff Austin Swing . . . 

This estimate for $378,000 to hire the SROs would not include training and equipment. “Of course, these are new positions, so they all would need a vehicle, a vest, a radio. There’s a lot of costs . . . .You’re probably looking at another $60,000 for equipment and training,” according to the chief deputy from the sheriff’s department. 

There is also no plan for how to pay for the SROs in the next year. “There is no plan other than, yes, it would have to be funded...through next year’s budget,” said Commissioner Linda Yockey who brought the motion before the financial committee last month. 

“I’m a little concerned, and this is part of the reason we are under the 81 Act. That we have commitments on a piece of property we don’t have contract on,” said Commissioner Jeff Sweeney. 

He said they are hoping to get $680,000 from the selling of the property. 

However, Sweeney said after sitting on the architecture meeting for the new EMA building, it’s going to cost about $550,000 to remodel. This is coupled with the $500,000 it will cost to put SROs in the schools. “So, we’re over $1 million. So, we’re already telling the taxpayers next year to add 7 cents to the property tax for something we haven’t even got sold yet. If that’s the kind of incompetence that we have on the finance committee, making situations to provide for what’s not there . . . .” he said. 

Commissioner Julie Sanders added, “I agree we need SROs. However, it’s not really a good idea to have a patch and do something one year and not really have a long-term plan.” 

The motion failed with 7 commissioners voting ‘yes’ and 9 voting ‘no.’ 

Budget amendment passes 

The county budget amendment 1, which includes the new property tax rate of $2.32, passed. Commissioners Bill Anderson, Anita Epperson and Biff Farrar voted ‘no,’ while Brian Farris, Adam Thomas, and Mark Thomas (who are County employees and therefore have a conflict of interest) abstained their vote. The remaining 10 commissioners voted ‘yes.’ 

Epperson said she was “torn” on the decision. 

“I’m very disappointed at the way we’ve arrived at all this . . . . I don’t agree with the property tax increase.” 

And with the new pay scale, she believes some of those salaries are high for Bedford County. 

Anderson said according to the new county employee payment scale, Bedford County Finance Director Robert Daniel would be making more than the mayor. “We’re giving him it looks like two raises to me,” said Anderson. “My question is how does he make more than you make . . . ? Do you know of any county whose finance director makes more than the mayor?” 

Daniel told the T-G, “Maury County is that way . . . . It’s not just here. And it’s not that I just do finance; I do purchasing, too, so instead of having a separate purchasing agent, I’m doing both jobs.” A County like Rutherford has a separate agent, according to Daniel. 

Rezoning for Dollar General 

Also, the rezoning of about 3 acres at the northeast intersection of Highway 41A and Highway 270 from agriculture to commercial was passed. The County agenda stated that there are plans to remove the existing structure on this property for the purpose of potentially putting a Dollar General there. The Commission has not voted to approve a Dollar General structure for that site. 

Art Monty, developer for Dollar General, spoke during the public hearing. “Based on some figures referenced at the last hearing . . . . I just want to set the record straight.” 

According to Monty, Dollar General brought in $60,000 in property taxes as well as roughly $150,000 in sales tax last year to Bedford County. 

Bedford County Trustee Tonya Davis confirmed that the numbers Monty cited were accurate. In fact, she said they were underestimates. 

“I would say that’s a piece of evidence of a good, forward citizen,” he said. 

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