BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Commission on Monday approved a $425,000 Fast Track Infrastructure Development Program grant application for water infrastructure improvements to benefit industrial growth in the western area of the county.
The commission met at 6 p.m. in the Greene County Courthouse to consider the grant application, a rezoning matter and other business. The session followed two other meetings during the afternoon. (Please see articles on Pages ??? and ???).
The $425,000 state grant would come at no cost to the county, Commissioner Robin Quillen emphasized.
US Nitrogen has pledged a $75,000 match for the grant because its plant, now under construction in Midway, will benefit from the improvements, although the grant itself is being applied for on behalf of Huf Tennessee's recently-announced $20 million expansion in the Mt. Pleasant Industrial Park, Commissioner Hilton Seay explained during the pre-meeting Republican Caucus.
The commission approved the grant application in the only unanimous vote of the evening.
In other business, the commission also considered a rezoning matter on Quillen Shell Road.
The property, at 80 Quillen Shell Road, is zoned A-1 (General Agriculture), with a proposed change to B-2 (Central Business District) made by the property-owner, American Patriot Bank.
The bank originally requested the change on behalf of a business, MC Septic Service, the owners of which had expressed interest in purchasing the property to relocate and expand their company's operations.
The property is within the Town of Greeneville's planning area, prompting the request to come before the Greeneville Regional Planning Commission before being referred by the planning commission to the Greene County Commission without a recommendation.
The referral came without a recommendation largely because of an error in the way the rezoning request was described in the planning commission's state-law-required advertisement of the request.
Unexpectedly, Mark Collins, owner of MC Septic, told the commission during the public hearing Monday that, as of that evening, he was no longer seeking the rezoning because the bank had found a lien on the property that would make it impossible for the bank to sell at this time.
"I'd like to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this rezoning," he said.
Collins had explained during the previous County Commission meeting that he desired the zoning change in order to move his business to the Quillen Shell Road site from its current location by his home.
He said that his equipment is in working order and that there is no exposed sewage to create an air quality problem.
However, when the issue first came up before the Greeneville Regional Planning Commission, several Quillen Shell Road residents voiced their objections, related to potential increased traffic in the neighborhood, air quality concerns, and aesthetic concerns related to the equipment used by the business.
Two Quillen Shell property-owners, Ron Hall and Chuck Dyer, spoke during the public hearing to issue such objections to the rezoning, although Collins had already declared the matter a non-option.
County Commissioner Robert Bird, who noted Monday that the proposed zoning change was in his district, had commented during the last meeting to Collins that, "It sounds like you just want to move your mess from your place to another place."
Cindy Collins, Mark Collins' wife, also spoke during the public hearing to re-emphasize what she said was the clean, organized appearance of their business.
"I took great offense at [Commissioner Bird's comment]," she said. "You should be proud and supportive of small business in this town that's growing and prospering."
During the Republican caucus meeting at 5 p.m., County Attorney Roger Woolsey stated that to table the rezoning resolution or not consider it would cause it to be considered approved.
He said that, in order for the request not to be approved, the commission must vote to deny it. He also recommended that the commission request that he send a letter to the Greeneville Regional Planning Commission asking that a recommendation always be offered when a rezoning request is forwarded to the County Commission.
To not offer a recommendation sets a bad precedent, he said.
"You all need to go on record as saying, 'Planning commission, you need to do your job,'" Woolsey said.
After a long period of confusion about Roberts Rules of Order and how to properly make such a motion and/or amendment, the commission finally voted 18-0 to deny the rezoning request, with Commissioners Rennie Hopson and Bill Dabbs abstaining and Commissioner Anthony Sauceman absent.
Also during the public hearing, the commission heard from Larry Parman, of Rolling Hills Road, who cautioned against building a new jail after investing millions into the jail and courthouse already in place. He asked instead that the current facilities be renovated.
Road Superintedent David Weems also spoke at the request of Commissioner M.C. Rollins concerning the success of the county's new asphalt plant.
Since May 29, 2012, the plant has produced about 51,000 tons of asphalt and paved nearly 44 miles of road, Weems said.
He estimated savings at $25 per ton from the current private-industry posted price of $72 per ton, resulting in what he said would be $1,275,000 in savings.
The commission also approved the following items:
* expending $25,000 for the cost of a psychological health evaluation of an individual, as requested by the courts. Woolsey explained that this amount was negotiated down from somewhere around $200,000 and that the state has since passed a bill limiting these charges;
* budgeting $1,000 to the Sheriff's Department's budget for law enforcement equipment from a donation of $1,000 by Walmart;
* budgeting $228 from the sale of recycled materials for county building improvements;
* appointing Charles G'fellers and Margaret Greenway to the County Zoning Appeals Board; and,
* reimbursing the Unicoi County Highway Department $8,500 out of the County General Fund for labor and equipment cost incurred by the Unicoi County department in assisting Greene County after the 2011 tornadoes.
Budget Director Mary Shelton provided the commissioners with a breakdown of costs related to the tornado damage, including amounts to be paid by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).
Greene County is responsible for paying a total of $263,000 for its 12.5 percent share of the costs, she reported.
In response to a question by Commissioner John Waddle, she noted that FEMA decided not to allow in-kind volunteer work to count toward Greene County's total.