BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The divide created in the Greene County Commission by August's county property tax increase continued to be evident in Monday's meeting at the Greene County Courthouse.
This divide surfaced in an issue related to county employee compensation rates and in a citizen petition designed to undo the property tax increase approved by the commission on Aug. 13.
In other business, the commission approved the continuation of "Operation Roundup," as well as a number of budgetary resolutions and an amendment to the rules of procedure for the County Commission's committee meetings.
SOLID WASTE QUESTION
Commissioner Jan Kiker raised an issue related to salaries for Solid Waste Department employees.
The issue first came up in public discussion during the commission's budget workshop during the summer, at which the commission's divide on the property tax issue created a tense meeting.
The Solid Waste Department reduced their employees' hours earlier this year from 40 to 32 per week. However, the employees' base rate of pay did not change.
County Mayor Alan Broyles has explained that this step was not something he sees as a raise, but rather as an opportunity to make Solid Waste employees' salaries comparable to those for other county employees working, for example, in the Highway Department, and doing much the same tasks.
Some county commissioners, including Kiker and Commissioner Robin Quillen, objected to this action, however, saying that it was coming at a time when the county's spending is under close scrutiny because of the needed property tax increase.
Kiker insisted that such practices could quickly make the county "go bankrupt."
Broyles, however, again pointed to the discrepancy that had existed between pay in the neighboring Solid Waste and Highway departments.
He also pointed to numerous other changes that are taking place in the Solid Waste Department, all on a trial basis.
"We're going to have some major things going on with Solid Waste," the mayor said, adding that these coming changes will be presented to the Solid Waste Committee for consideration as money-saving efforts.
In an interview following the meeting, Broyles provided specific pay comparisons between the departments.
With the recent changes, a Solid Waste employee hired a couple years ago is now making $12.95 per hour to operate heavy machinery, while the Highway Department employee hired that same year makes $13.46 per hour, according to the information the mayor provided.
In another example, a Solid Waste employee hired about 15 years ago now makes $13.91 per hour, while a Highway Department employee hired around that same time makes $13.21 per hour.
An average of the two departments shows that Solid Waste is still slightly below Highway, he added.
In another example of the divide on the property tax increase reaching even into the community, Ronnie Lintz, of Glenn Renner Lane, presented a petition requesting that the commission find some way to undo the property tax increase.
Lintz explained that he understands it is now legally impossible to rescind the vote, but said he felt some resolution could be formed to address the matter appropriately.
Lintz estimated that approximately 1,500 signatures were on the petition.
Broyles accepted the petition and told the commission that he would make it available for their viewing.
Matt McCloskey also spoke to the commission, explaining that he will serve as director of the Community Center of Hope, to be located at 5035 West Andrew Johnson Hwy.
McCloskey noted the abuse, drugs and certain teen issues that occur in Greene County.
"We want to assist in all of these things ... that plague our county," he said.
The center will include a chapel and meeting house, a 24-hour hotline, a teen and young-adult center, and other services.
McCloskey estimated that the meeting house will open in November, with the full center opening by February.
The commissioners also heard from Larry Parman, of Rolling Hills Road, who said that the public opinion of the commission is very low. He also cautioned against excessive spending.
The commission last updated its rules of procedure in September 2011 at the recommendation of Commissioner Nathan Holt.
Holt made a similar recommendation on Monday in regard to the commission's committees.
Some alterations were made to the resolution during Monday's meeting at Commissioner Robert Bird's request to preserve a commissioner's right to vote on his or her own nomination for a committee office.
The resolution's amendment to the rules and procedures also clarified that, for committees:
* the chairman has all the same rights as other committee members, including the right to vote, but may not count his/her vote twice to break a tie;
* a majority of committee members must be present in order for the committee to conduct business, but only a voting majority of those present is needed to pass motions or elect officers ; and,
* those members abstaining shall not be counted toward a majority vote.
The resolution passed 13-3, with Commissioners Margaret Greenway, Phil King and Rennie Hopson absent.
Commissioners Quillen, Kiker, and Jimmy Sams voted against the resolution.
Commissioners were also divided in their vote in regard to an allocation of $1,383 from the county's Capital Projects Fund to cover the cost of twice having had to rent lifts to survey extensive water damage to the Greene County Courthouse and present the situation to bidders.
Commissioner Tim White questioned if any work had been done to address the problem. Mayor Broyles said only temporary patching was needed at this time.
Meanwhile, Broyles said the county needs to first address a leaking roof at the Greene County Detention Center, which he said is allowing water to "pour" into the building.
He indicated that the county is taking bids for the project.
White also questioned the length of use for the lifts. Purchasing Agent Diane Swatzell said that both rentals were for half-days.
"$650 per half day is pretty steep," White replied.
The commission voted 15-2 in favor of the allocation, with White and Commissioner John Waddle voting against the measure.
In other business, the commission unanimously approved the following budgetary items:
* allocation of $145,873 in carryover funds from a 2010 Federal Homeland Security Grant to the Greene County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) for equipment, supplies and training;
* allocation of $48,436 in carryover funds from the 2011 Federal Homeland Security Grant to EMA for equipment;
* acceptance of a $9,371 Appalachian High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Subrecipient Grant for overtime payments for undercover and other drug investigations;
* allocation of $16,480 for the Sexual Offender Registration reserve, which comes from fees to recover the costs associated with updating the sexual offenders' fingerprints, palm prints, photograph, and TBI registration form; and,
* reapproval of $5,500 for the pouring of two concrete slabs for new compactors at what will be the new site of the Hal Henard Road Convenience Center.
The money had been appropriated in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, but the project was delayed when the County Commissioners approved moving the center for safety reasons.
The funds moved back into the Solid Waste Department Fund Balance when they were not used in the prior fiscal year.
The commission also approved a resolution to correct two spreadsheet calculation errors related to the costs of increasing county employee salaries by 2 percent, as approved by the commission as part of the recent property tax increase.
County Budget Director Mary Shelton explained that the error did not increase the salary of a part-time employee in the Agriculture Extension Service Department -- as should have been done -- but did increase the salary of a paraprofessional in the Inspections and Regulations budget by 4 percent -- as should not have been done.
The resolution deducted the extra $180 from the paraprofessional and transfered it to the part-time employee to correct the problem.
Finally, the commission appointed Commissioner Lloyd "Hoot" Bowers to serve as secretary of the Kinser Park Commission to fill the vacancy created by the death of Commissioner Brenda Grogan earlier this year.