Budget time in Lewis County

By Becky Jane Newbold,

Managing Editor

Reconvening from a recess, the Lewis County Board of Commissioners met last Thursday, June 27, 2019 to finalize end of year budget amendments and to discuss other business.  Commissioner Jim Grinder was absent and Commissioner Aren Ragsdale arrived late, after voting had taken place.

Budget amendments for the Board of Education’s General Purpose Budget at $24,035 and $94,500 for the Food Service Fund Budget were unanimously approved by roll call vote.

Year end budget amendments were approved unanimously following discussion.

County Mayor budget amended to include $2,000 for pay as Highway Board Chair.

Commissioner Connie Sharp questioned the move, requesting to be made aware when someone is being paid rather than waiting until the end of the year for an amendment.  Mayor Jonah Keltner said the budget committee had been aware and had requested the amendment be held to the end of year.

Budget Committee Chairman Ronnie Brewer noted the last mayor did not take the extra pay.  “I think it should be removed,” he added.  Highway Commissioner Joyce Holt addressed the Board letting them know that since 1996 this has been a way for the county to contribute to the Highway Department.

General Fund Balance was amended $1,433.08 for data processing services; Election Commission budget amended $6,951.72 for part-time personnel and election commission expenses; the General Fund Balance was amended $213,420.76 to cover maintnence and repairs to the War Memorial Building roof ($176,000), a new fire alarm system ($12,154), the Election Commission office new restroom ($9,750) and electrical work on the HC-TEC generator ($11,500).

Amended was the Trustee’s budget in the amount of $215.83 to cover training; County Clerk $500 for data processing; $2,433.40 for General Sessions part-time personnel; $300 for Chancery Court legal notices; $3,085.66 for Sheriff’s Department personnel; $70,106,41 for Jail personnel.  This was reported as not being a General Fund expense as the Sheriff’s Department was actually under budget for the year; $10,440.25 was amended from the General Fund to pay Civil Defense expenses.  “The overage  is due to the fact that the city had been billing us incorrectly since January 2018,” a note on the resolution read.

An additional $10,000 was amended from the General Fund to pay for additional autopsies for the year.

To correct an inaccuracy, $3,966.52 was moved to the School Resource Officer account.

Contributions to the Health Department were amended at $10,836.50; and the library account was amended at $1,070.96 for an outstanding backorder; A Soil Conservation salary was not budgeted correctly, resulting in an amendment of $39.

A State of Tennessee Aeronautics grant was received by the county and amended in at $257,119.88; a commission for the Trustee’s office was amended at $72,791.27; the transfer station budget was amended at $10,237.86; with other amounts listed as $36.88 and $75.41 for employee benefits.

A Drug Enforcement amendment in the amount of $1,597.63 along with the Trustee’s commission of $28.26 was included.

Capital Projects for engineering was amended at $32,810.72.

Receipt of a CBDG grant in the amount of $448,100 was amended.

The above amounts were unanimously approved by roll call vote.

Year end budget amendments for the Highway Department totaled $62,903.79, no new money, were also unanimously approved by roll call vote.

In new business, a resolution deferred last month was met with a lengthy discussion. The resolution discussion regarding a bid to construct a 12 feet by 56 feet gable awning over a tire recycling trailer at the landfill resulted in Commissioner Michael King calling for the question, seconded by Commissioner Timmie Hinson.  A unanimous roll call vote of approval was received.

Funding for the awning was approved next with an amendment that moved funds within the budget at $10,000.  The amendment was unanimously approved by roll call vote.  A total bid of $17,500 was accepted from B & R Contracting.

Mayor Keltner reported an unclaimed property resolution was to net the county approximately $14,000 and a $10,000 elevator repair will be covered by insurance.

Commissioner Jason Fite presented information regarding obtaining drinking water assistance for residents of Indian Creek and Swan Creek.  He provided an update of work being done on the project.

A discussion of closure of the Lewis County Court House on July 5 met with opposition from some and support of other members of the board.

Commissioner King admonished members of the Board who had participated in a group text thread discussing the approved days off for county employees.

“This comes close to a violation of the Sunshine Law.  I think some of us need to be more careful how we conduct our business,” Commissioner King stated.

“We need to decide what our policies are and then enforce them,” Commissioner Sharp commented.  Noting people are required to conduct business at offices within the courthouse.  “I agree with Connie,
Commissioner Fite added.

“Put your big boy pants on and run for office then,” Commissioner Hinson commented from across the room.

An opinion from the Attorney General for the State of Tennessee regarding paid holidays in Morgan County was shared.

Commissioner Fite pointed out the final paragraph which stated “no general authoridty exists for county elected officials to designate dates not listed in Tenn. Code Ann. 15-1-101 as holidays when their offices will close…thus, an elected county official is not authorized to close his or her office on a day not listed…”

The discussion continued briefly before adjournment.

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