Jim Folts   Blount County Commissioner


“To stand in silence, when they should be protesting, makes cowards out of men” - Abraham Lincoln

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  • Thursday Nov. 17, 7:00 pm, room 430, Blount County Courthouse

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. Just send me an email at jimfolts@gmail.com, or give me a call at 995-9476.

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October Report

More Political Games

The political machine Commissioners continued playing their silly games in October.


You may remember that the Mayor tried to cut the budgets of political machine bosses like Sheriff Berrong. The Mayor also combined the position of Human Resources (HR) Director with another position, and saved the taxpayers $100,000 per year. The Mayor tried to get employees to pay less than $50 per month for their medical benefits, which cost the County more than $800 per month. These actions did not please the machine bosses and their Commissioner followers, most of whom are County employees, or have close relatives who are. And so the political games began.


Several months ago, the machine Commissioners decided that they would hire their own HR Director, and have that person report directly to the Commission HR Committee, where 9 of the 10 members are County employees or their relatives. This would take the HR authority away from the Mayor and put a Commission committee, dominated by employees, in charge of salary and benefit policies. In August, this action was determined to be illegal. Amazingly, this did not stop the stupidity. The machine Commissioners put the same illegal resolution back on the Commission agenda in September. Then, they postponed it until October. At the October Agenda meeting, I suggested that the Commission ought to be embarrassed to continue carrying an illegal resolution on its agenda. I made a motion to kill the resolution. I guess the machine Commissioners are incapable of being embarrassed, because they defeated my motion. Commissioners Carver, Caylor, Farmer, French, Gamble, Greene, Hasty, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lambert, Lewis, Melton and Moon all voted to continue carrying the illegal motion on the agenda. Only Burchfield, Murrell, Samples, Wright and myself voted to stop this nonsense.


The political games continued with a resolution to revoke the Mayor’s authority to allocate space in county buildings, and put those decisions in the hands of a new Commission committee. Commissioners Helton and Melton rushed forward with a motion to appoint a committee made up of friends of the political machine. Several other Commissioners, including myself, suggested that it might be wise to define the responsibilities and limits of the powers of this committee. Helton suggested that this was unnecessary and pushed the proposed committee, with unlimited powers, to a vote. I am happy to say that reason prevailed on this one. Commissioners Burchfield, French, Gamble, Greene, Lewis, Murrell, Samples, Wright and myself voted to insist on defining the responsibilities and powers of this committee, before its appointment. This is to be done within two months. All this nonsense was unnecessary, because Mayors have been doing this job in the county, for years. Unfortunately, the political clique is determined to extract their pound of flesh from Mayor Mitchell for trying to cut their budgets .


Bad Ideas That Never Go Away

A new zoning ordinance that would permit campgrounds to be established, on as little as 5 acres, in residential areas, was brought before the Commission for a public hearing last April. A number of citizens raised serious questions about the proposal. No minimum buffer distances to adjoining residential properties were specified. The proposed ordinance permits campers to stay for as long as 270 days. Several citizens suggested that this sounds more like a trailer park, or migrant worker facility, than a campground. The ordinance did not spell out any objective limits on noise or light pollution. Citizens did not warm to the possibility of campers playing loud rap music a few feet from their property lines. When the ordinance came up for a vote in April, a second could not even be found.


Unfortunately, a virtually identical campground resolution has been sent to the Commission again. Another public hearing is to be held on November 8. Several Commissioners thought it was a waste of the Commission’s and citizens’ time to be bringing up the same poorly drafted resolution. Commissioner French made a motion to postpone action on a new hearing until citizens’ comments from the April hearing could be incorporated. Only French, Gamble, Moon, Samples and myself voted to stop this attempt to cram this bad resolution down the throats of the citizens.


The Pellissippi Parkway Extension came up again. This $100 million project would extend Pellissippi from route 33 to route 321 in Walland, cutting up some of the most scenic farms in the county. The inevitable result will be more subdivisions along the route. Major additions to the crushing $220 million of county debt will be needed to pay for additional schools to serve those subdivisions. This will result in large future county tax increases, because the cities of Maryville and Alcoa have already announced their intention to annex the commercial development along the route. Several months ago TDOT held a public hearing, attended by hundredsof citizens. Approximately 30 people spoke about the project. Only one favored the road. TDOT surveyed more than 550 people. More than 65% opposed the project. At the Commission meeting, more than 15 citizens spoke. Only one, Bryan Daniels, head of the Industrial Development Board, favored the project. You would think that a $100 million project that is opposed by more than 65% of the citizens would be a no-brainer for the Commission. Think again! Commissioners Burkhalter, Carver, Caylor, Farmer, Harrison, Hasty, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lambert, Lewis, Melton, Moon, Samples and Wright all voted to ignore the citizen input and approve the project. Only Commissioners French, Gamble, Greene, Murrell and myself voted to follow the wishes of the citizens.


Both the Tea Parties and the Occupy protesters are sending the same message – it is time government started listening to the citizens. That listening needs to start here in Blount County – NOW. Please attend the next Commission meeting and tell your Commissioners it is time they started listening to you.


Only YOU can change YOUR government
PLEASE come to the Commission meeting Thursday, November 17th at 7:00pm in Room 430 of the Courthouse