After Heated Discussion, County Budget Passed

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Following quite a bit of controversy, the Cannon County Commission passed the budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 Tuesday night.

However, the contentious issues had nothing to do with approving the appropriations and setting the property tax rate.

Before those items came up on the agenda, County Commissioner Clint Higgins asked Cannon County EMA Director Faye Morse some questions about Homeland Security grants and budgets from previous years.

Higgins inquired of Morse about the amount spent on miscellaneous items in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which totaled over $180,000. Morse responded that expenditures were determined by a regional Homeland Security task force. 

Higgins next asked about a mobile command vehicle purchased in June of last year. A similar vehicle had been purchased in 2006, and Higgins wanted to know what had become of it.

Morse responded that the vehicle bought in 2006 had blown an engine and was traded in as part of the purchase for the one bought last year. 

Then Commissioner Jim Bush wanted to see the rest of the equipment list from the EMA. Director Morse said she didn't have enough time to put together a complete list because of personal situations.

Morse explained to the Commissioners that the list was close to being complete and accurate, but that if they were looking for something specific that wasn't on the list, she should be able to explain the situation.

Commissioner Bob Stoetzel expressed concern about the amount of emergency response items being stored at Morse’s home in Gassaway. He said they should be stored at a central location. Commissioner Bush suggested the 911 Center on Jim Cummings Hwy. 911 Director Roy Sullivan stated there was space at the facility to store many of the items, such as trailers.

After a heated exchange between Commissioner Bush and Morse, during which Morse wondered whether she was being questioned so strongly because she is a woman, Bush then read the contents of an email that he had received from Ricky Harris of the State Fire Marshall's office in July.

In the letter, Harris noted that the County Volunteer Fire Departments recognition by the State expired on Sept 30 of 2010, and after several notifications were sent had still not been renewed.

Therefore, until an application has been completed and notarized and returned with a $50 renewal fee, the State does not recognize the County Fire Departments as being valid. This means that it is illegal for any of the County Fire Departments to do any fundraising until this matter is resolved.

Adding to that Morse, who was appointed County Fire Chief in 1995, had her certification expire in April of 2009 and it will not be renewed until she attends a 16 hour Fire Chief orientation course given by the state as required by law. 

The next class is not until October 27th and 28th at the Fire and Codes Academy in Bell Buckle.

Director Morse countered that claim, saying that she was told that she did not have to certified as she had been “grandfathered in” when the new regulations took effect in 2008. 

Gary Farley, former chief of the Murfreesboro Fire Department, who was in the audience and also works for the State Fire Marshal's Office, speculated that he didn't think to his knowledge there was a grandfather clause in effect with this issue. 

Doug Bodary, the county’s CTAS advisor, will check with the state Wednesday morning and talk with Ricky Harris about this issue and what needs to be done in order to comply with state regulations.

The Commission called a special called meeting for Tuesday, September 4th to address any regulations that hasn't been taken care of between now and then.

In other items before the Commission, they voted to approve the appropriations for the fiscal year of 2012-2013.  One of the key items of the budget was the 3 percent raise for all County employees. The Commission also voted to approve the tax rate to fund the appropriations. The property tax rate stays at $2.44.

Commissioners Bush and Kevin George, who serve the Hollow Springs community, will work with Mrs. Audrey Cawthorn on getting Historical signs to mark the community since most of the historical landmarks are gone.

Glenn Steakley presented the Cannon County Audit Committee findings and recommendations. The biggest recommendation to the Commissioners at this time is for the departments to begin establishing written process procedures to assist in controlling and supporting department operating processes. The audit committee will also work with county departments as it prepares a study on implementing a centralized form of budgeting, accounting and purchasing for the county.

The Capital Outlay Project to provide the funding for 5 Cannon County Sheriff Patrol Cars was approved. The bidding will be open soon for local banks and the state pool to bid to finance the loan for these vehicles.

The issue of increasing the local option portion of the state sales tax issue was brought up but it was moved to the September 4th meeting in order for the public to be better notified of the matter. 

The Beer Board will meet September 4th to discuss Short Mountain Market's desire to obtain a license to sell beer. The market is near a church, closer than the 2,000 feet limit set by state law. The beer board and the full commission have the option of lowering the distance requirement.

Farley, who is Director of Contract Inspection Services, explained to the Commission about the Residential Building Permit and Inspection Program. The program had been voted down in previous commissioners meeting the last two years. It was noted that each time there is a change in the Commission the program has to be brought up again. It was explained to Farley that there wouldn't be a decision about the matter at this meeting and it would be brought up at a later date. 

The next meeting of the Cannon County Commission will be the special called meeting on Tuesday, September 4.
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