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 October 18th, 7:00 pm, room 430, Blount County Courthouse
  • Citizens for Blount County's Future - Tuesday October 16th, 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





September 2012 Report



US DOJ Investigating Sheriff Berrong’s Possible Misuse of Drug Funds

You will recall from our June report, that Sheriff Berrong may have ignored some important zoning regulations in locating this “training” facility. This became a serious issue, when he began running raucous training exercises, involving cars, motorcycles, sirens, squealing tires, and high speed chases around his driving track, late at night, when most people want to sleep.

The neighbors, who enjoyed their peace and solitude before the Sheriff showed up, asked the Sheriff to tone things down. When things did not improve, they appeared before the Commission asking for relief. They even played a recording of the racket they had to endure. When the Commission did nothing, they sought relief under the county zoning ordinances. Finally, they sued the County.

At the June meeting the Sheriff requested a resolution authorizing the use of $235,000 of drug seizure funds to settle this lawsuit, by purchasing the neighbor’s home and land. At the time, I pointed out that this might be a violation of the US Attorney General’s rules on the use of drug seizure funds. Undaunted, the Commission went ahead and passed the resolution, with only Commissioner Murrell and myself voting against it.

When informed of this action, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering section of the US Department of Justice froze expenditures of drug funds by Sheriff Berrong, and launched an inquiry into the matter. This inquiry is still in progress.

Campground Zoning Hearing Cancelled – Unauthorized Changes Made
The Public Hearing on the Campground Zoning Resolution had to be cancelled after I raised a point of order at the opening of the hearing. There were major differences between the changes that were voted on by the Commission at the July meeting, and the changes that were published in the Public Notice for the hearing.

These changes would permit campgrounds nearly anywhere in the County, with almost no controls on noise, light, garbage or other pollution. Importantly, the proposal permits campground to be located off narrow, 18 foot wide, county feeder roads. RV’s can be 8.5 feet wide, with mirrors adding another 2 feet to the width. In addition, RVs cannot navigate some of the sharp curves in these roads, without crossing into the opposing traffic lane. If a truck, RV, or school bus is coming in the other direction, this could lead to a very serious accident.

This is the fourth time this resolution has failed to get Commission approval. Yet, the powerful special interests behind this effort have shown little concern for any of these problems. I have no doubt that this nonsense will come back to the Commission for a fifth time.

Employee Dominated Human Resources Committee – Reappointed
The Human Resources Committee presides over wage and benefit policies for county employees. The Commission again approved a ten member Committee, where eight of the members are county employees. The Commission seemed unconcerned about this obvious conflict of interest. I cast the lone vote against this cozy arrangement.

This is probably why Blount County employees have some of the best benefits in the state. Their benefits are far better than those available to most of our hard-pressed taxpayers. Where can you get free medical insurance these days?

Unfortunately, all this may come crashing down on the employees in the future, because the County’s costs are spiraling. For example, county employees can retire as early as age 50, with free medical insurance from the county until they reach Medicare age. But the county is not putting any money aside to cover this benefit. This creates something called an unfunded liablity, meaning the County has promised the benefit, but has not accumulated any money to pay it. This liability alone was more than $23 million in 2011. Worse, it grew nearly more than 20 percent in a single year. In addition, the unfunded portion of the pension plan for general county employees now exceeds $19 million. All this must be added to the County’s crushing debt of approximately $225 million. These kinds of unchecked costs and debt are leading some municipalities to bankruptcy. The employees in these municipalities and not faring well.

Will a committee, where 8 of the 10 members are themselves county employees, act to stem the bleeding?


Only YOU can change YOUR government

Please also attend the Commission meeting Thursday, October 18th at 7:00pm in Room 430 of the Courthouse
.