JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – Mayor E.L. Morton pushed county commissioners Monday night to move forward on a grant application to provide broadband service to some of the mountain areas of Campbell County, inviting a state official with the Office of Community and Economic Development to attend a meeting of the communications committee to answer commissioners’ questions.
Brooxie Carlton, the state’s ARC project coordinator, explained how the state is eager to dispense $474,000 in ARC grant money for broadband expansion into Campbell County, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.
Commissioner Rusty Orick had several questions involving the terms of local matching funds and whether Highland Telephone Cooperative, which has proposed to provide the construction and engineering, can legally qualify for the match. County Attorney Joe Coker pointed out that Highland wanted their own engineers to handle the design but are not properly licensed to perform services for public entities.
When Coker asked Carlton if ARC would give Campbell County legal certification that such an arrangement would be acceptable, she replied “that is a really good question. I can run it by our attorneys.”
It was finally determined that the county would need to follow three steps before they would be legally committed: vote to apply for the ARC grant, then enter into a contract with ARC and finally a contract with the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Scott Kitts then jumped to offer a motion to approve the project, insisting “The people of rural areas need broadband.”
Ralph Davis, who represents the mountainous fifth district, voiced doubts, pointing out, “A $474,000 grant, if it turns out to be illegal, would come back to bite us. I can’t answer yes or no.”
It was then determined that Kitts needed to rescind his motion and replace it with another version, simply applying for the ARC grant with no further contractual agreements until more information is available. That motion passed the committee and was later approved by the full commission.
During the regular meeting the commission also approved a revised group life insurance plan that would increase coverage for county employees and their families.
Finance Director Jeff Marlow sent out a memo earlier this month, informing commissioners that following the unfortunate passing of an employee’s child, Marlow “discovered that the death benefit for a child of a county employee only amounts to $2,500 which is significantly less than the average cost of a funeral.”
Marlow obtained a quote from insurance provider USAble for a revised group plan that would increase death benefits from $25,000 to $35,000 for an employee, $5,000 to $15,000 for a spouse and $2,500 to $10,000 for a child. The total additional cost to the county would be $26,500 a year.
Orick made a motion to approve the revision, seconded by Zachary Marlow and it passed unanimously.
At the outset of the meeting, Chairman Johnny Bruce announced that Orick has been elected to be the next president of the state County Commissioner’s Association, while two commissioners, Kitts and Marlow, have both been elected to the state association’s education committee.
In addition to approving all budget amendments, the commission also unanimously approved the $4 million bond resolution to provide funding for a number of roof and HVAC projects at county schools.
One of the few motions to not receive a unanimous vote was to approve the travel credit card bills for the previous month. Scott Stanfield cast the single “no” vote on the motion. Later, the commission voted to make several changes to the travel card policy, decreasing the number of authorized credit cards to two, only one for the mayor’s office, and eliminating coverage for out-of-county meals.
The commission also voted to approve an increase in fees charged by the planning commission for reviewing applications, from $25 to $35 per application and $10 per each lot. Robert Higginbotham voted “no” as the motion passed 13-1. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 11/19/2019 – 6AM)