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 August 16th, 7:00 pm, room 430, Blount County Courthouse
  • Citizens for Blount County's Future - Tuesday August 14th, 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

July 2012 Report

Two bad ideas, firmly rejected in the past, were brought up, again, at the July Commission meeting. The first item was the Sheriff’s attempt to turn Maryville into another Brushy Mountain penitentiary town, by adding a major expansion of the jail. The second item was the zoning regulation to permit campgrounds in R1 residential zones.

Jail “Overcrowding”
Sheriff Berrong claims there is an overcrowding problem at the jail. His friends on the Commission sponsored a resolution to form a committee to make recommendations on solving the “problem”. Of course, the committee consists of two members appointed by the Sheriff, and four Commissioners highly friendly to the Sheriff.

The fact is, there really is no major overcrowding problem at the jail. The Sheriff is keeping approximately 100 Federal prisoners at the jail. The County is under no obligation to keep these prisoners. The Feds pay the County approximately $1.2 million per year to house these prisoners. However, the County’s cost of keeping these prisoners also approaches $1.2 million, so this arrangement is little help to the taxpayers.

There is no need for a committee to define the choices facing the County. We can get rid of the 100 Federal prisoners. Or, we can add another $10 million to $15 million to our debt, build another pod on the jail, and continue the Sheriff’s effort to turn Maryville into another Brushy Mountain. The Sheriff and his supporters love the idea of adding an expensive new pod, because it means they control more jobs (jail guards, medical staff, etc), and with those jobs, comes control of more votes for the political machine.

More importantly, this resolution shows how some members of the Commission are ignoring the priorities of the citizens they are supposed to represent. Our schools are struggling and are dipping into their reserve fund for more than $2 million this year. We are more than $40 million short of funding the pension and retirement medical benefits already promised to our county employees. We have the highest per capita debt of any Tennessee county of our size. We can’t reduce our interest costs on this debt, because the County faces more than $25 million in cancellation charges on the interest rate swaps that ex-Finance Director David Bennett recommended. We don’t have any committees studying these issues. Does anyone really think our citizens want the Commission to put jail overcrowding ahead of all these other problems?

I was the only Commissioner to vote against this nonsense.

Campgrounds in R1 Residential Zones
This campground zoning proposal has been voted down three times in the last year by this Commission. The last time, not a single vote was cast in favor of this proposal. Even the sponsor of the resolution, Commissioner Gordon Wright, voted against it.

The latest proposal makes no effort to incorporate the serious problems that our citizens brought to our attention in the three previous public hearings. Why should campgrounds be permitted in R1 residential zones, when many other counties restrict them to commercial zones? The proposed regulation places no limits on noise pollution – think of rap music being played at high volume, just over your back fence. It permits as many as 700 to 1000 people on just 10 acres. It places no limits on light pollution – think of bright lights on high posts next to your property. It contains no requirement for the campground operator to control the odors from the garbage of 700 to 1000 people, sitting in the dumpsters near your fence.

It seems there is no limit on how many chances, special interests with money, get to push their favorite legislation? Only Commissioners Burchfield, Farmer and myself voted against giving this issue yet another public hearing.

The public hearing will be held on September 11, at 6:30 pm in room 430 of the Courthouse. It will take another large showing of citizens at this hearing to, again, beat back the special interests. 

Only YOU can change YOUR government

Please also attend the Commission meeting Thursday, August 16th at 7:00pm in Room 430 of the Courthouse