Five newly elected county commissioners were introduced to their new jobs by enduring a marathon commission workshop lasting well past 9 pm on Monday night as the commission was introduced to the local efforts to combat the opioid crisis, as well as hearing the usual list of complaints concerning roads and misbehavior.

Judge Shayne Sexton spoke to commissioners about the work of the Recovery Court, a five county effort to get help for non-violent addicts who land in jail for drug use but not other charges.

Such individuals are diverted to rehab services and up to 70 percent of those people have a chance of recovery and not repeating their drug offenses, Sexton pointed out.

He added that he was not asking the commission for funding, but wanted county officials to be aware of the problem and the efforts being made to address it.  The commission last month allocated a one-time request for $25,000 to the drug task force, as well as authorizing the courts to sell property seized in drug arrests and apply those funds to the drug task force.

Sexton introduced one woman, a recovering addict from Fentress County, who said she had been into heavy drug use for five years before being sent to the Shepherd’s Home Recovery Center in 2016.  “I now have my child back and am leading a normal life,” she said.

Charles Turner from the Health Department also told commissioners about their NAS Prevention efforts to treat and prevent Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in newborn children of addicted mothers.  Other speakers described various programs such as Tennessee Mountain Recovery and Connection to Recovery, focused on going into jails to treat addicts.

Judge Sexton encouraged the commission to consider forming a committee on drug addiction and invited commissioners to attend a session of Recovery Court, which convenes at 8:30am every other Friday.

Another speaker described a Caregiver Support Group that meets but gets very little monetary support.  New commissioner Lisa Lester, who is a teacher at the Campbell County Alternative School, pointed out that 65 percent of Campbell County’s school children are being raised by grandparents or are in the foster care system.

The commission also voted to re-elect Mayor E. L. Morton as chairman and Johnny Bruce as vice chairman.  Those votes will have to be repeated at the regular commission meeting, along with approval of the committee that was announced.

The commissioners from each district huddled for fifteen minutes and announced their nominees for each committee.  One moment of levity occurred when the Second District committee nominations were announced.  New commissioner Scott Kitts had ended up volunteering for a total of 15 committees out of 19 openings.  When the other commissioners broke into laughter, Kitts simply replied, “I’m ready to work.”

The commission also voted to appoint former commissioners Marie Ayers and Lonnie Weldon to the two open citizen positions on the Planning Commission.  New Commissioner Zachary Marlow asked why the commissions did not re-form a Road Committee, but quickly received an education about the inability of the commission to asset any control over the Highway Department due to state law.

Several commissioners stated that they would vote against any motion to re-establish a Highway Committee and the subject was dropped.  Instead, the commission as a whole will have to endure complaints about roads during the public input sessions at workshops.

This month, the complaints included a repeat from last month about ATV riders abusing private property on Ivydell Road.  On a suggestion from Rusty Orick, the matter was referred to the Recreation Committee for further discussion of possible solutions that won’t close off access to state ATV trails but address the problem.

Ralph Davis brought up the topic of constructing a new county office building in Jellico to house the various clerical satellite offices as well as the ambulance service.  Davis explained that the City of Jellico owns land that the city would lease to the county for one dollar on a 50-year lease.  Davis added that the money the county would save by not having to pay rent on the current satellite office would pay for the construction costs.

Davis also asked that the County Mayor begin accepting applications for a new Director of Environmental Services.  Davis first asked Mayor Morton to confirm that current Director Walt Sutton has turned in his paperwork to retire effective in January.

Morton confirmed Sutton’s plan to retire and added that he thought a new director should be hired by December 1 in order to have time to learn the responsibilities of the job.  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 09/12/2018-6AM)