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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  • Blount County Commission - Thursday January 17th, 7:00 pm, room 430, Blount County Courthouse
  • Citizens for Blount County's Future - Tuesday January 15th, 6:30pm, Blount County Library

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Feel free to let me know your views on county issues
. Just send me an email at jimfolts@gmail.com, or give me a call at 995-9476.

The Blount County Commissioners

Citizens for Better Government

Current Information

December 2012 Report

County Finance Director Vineyard is telling any Commissioner who will listen, that Blount County is $5,000,000 short of balancing its budget for the fiscal year that starts next June. This could require a ten percent increase in the property tax to be imposed on our hard-pressed citizens. And, that does not include the inevitable budget increases that will be sought by irresponsible county department heads like Sheriff Berrong, Circuit Court Clerk Hatcher and a few others. Yet, there was still no discussion of the budget at the December Commission meeting. In fact, the Commission voted for several more budget increases.

No need to read contracts before voting to spend the money
The Commission must approve contracts obligating the county. Commissioner Burkhalter tried to bring some professionalism to Commission operations by making a motion that would require a copy of a contract to be made available for review by each Commissioner, before they cast their vote. That sounded like a very reasonable request to me. I seconded the motion. Incredibly, in the discussion, Burkhalter’s idea was attacked. Our fellow Commissioners argued this was a bad idea, because they had always voted on these contracts, without reading them, and saw no reason to change. Only Commissioners Burkhalter, Farmer, Hasty, Lail and myself voted for this common sense change.

When in Doubt - Spend
Against a background of major budget problems, the Commission passed a budget increase that will take more than $57,000 from the pockets of all county taxpayers to make an unused, one-lane bridge in Townsend into a covered bridge, which, some believe, will be a tourist attraction. An additional $280,000 will come out of the pockets of all state taxpayers for a total of more than $330,000.

The Commission was not presented with any factual data to support spending this money.

  • At first, the Commission was told that the bridge would fall down in the next few years, if a roof is not built over it, and that the clean up would cost more than $330,000. Later, Highway Superintendent Dunlap contradicted this information, saying the bridge was in no danger of falling down. The bridge has been in place since 1915.
  • Next, we were told that building a roof over the bridge would create an attraction for Townsend’s tourist businesses. I suggested that if this was the real reason for building the roof over the bridge, the money should come from the Tourism Authority and the hotel taxes, not from the pockets of our hard-pressed citizens.
  • No written estimate was made available to the Commission to support the supposed $330,000 cost of the project.
  • No written estimate for the cost of tearing down the bridge was available.
  • No analysis from an engineering firm was available to show that the bridge can support the weight of the proposed cover structure.
  • No report from an engineering firm was available to show how much longer the bridge is likely to last if the $330,000 cover is built.
  • No information was submitted to support the contention that the bridge, with a roof on it, would actually be a tourist attraction. In fact, a sketch of the proposed result was not even available.

I asked whether, in the face of more than a $5,000,000 deficit in the new budget, it is really fiscally responsible to be spending money we can’t afford, with almost no factual information on whether the project is viable? I don’t think many of our citizens would spend $330,000 for a house with little or nothing in writing.

I was the only Commissioner to vote against this nonsense. I was later told that this project was unstoppable because an ex-state governor, who lives near the bridge, wanted the project. This is an insult to the hard working citizens in other parts of our county. Townsend is the only part of the county permitted to dip into the taxpayer’s pockets for support of a private organization, the Heritage center. Townsend is heavily represented on the Tourism Authority, while other parts of the county have no representation. The Tourism Authority decides how the hotel taxes are spent. Little of this money goes to other parts of the county. Citizens have told me that they are tired of watching their money being doled out for projects to satisfy the rich and politically connected.

Campground Resolution Stopped - until next September
The zoning resolution to permit commercial RV parks in residential zones was finally killed for the rest of this session (until next September). This was the fifth time this issue came before the Commission. This resolution would have permitted more than 250 RVs to be located on just 10 acres, spaced just 10 feet apart. It would have permitted the RV residents to stay for up to 210 days. As one of my constituents pointed out, this resolution would not have fulfilled its stated mission of creating “quality designed RV Parks”. Instead, she said, it would have created RV ghettos. In the end, only Commissioners Wright, Kirby and Harrison voted for the ghettos.