BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
A resolution reaffirming the Greene County Commission's support of the state and federal constitutions, and specifically for Second Amendment-related gun rights, failed in a sharply divided vote on Tuesday.
The resolution failed on a 10-5 vote, with five commissioners abstaining.
The commission met at the Greene County Courthouse to address a full agenda, including this resolution, plus reimbursement to the Greeneville Police Department for emergency aid, and numerous other items.
Members also approved re-roofing the Greene County Detention Center and heard a brief update concerning the crowded conditions at the jail. (Please see related article, on Page A-1.)
Commissioners Ted Hensley and Robert Bird sponsored the resolution in response to concerns from local citizens over potential federal gun control legislation.
Although the commission chose not to discuss the resolution during the 10 a.m. commission meeting, it was heavily debated during the Republican caucus meeting held at 9 a.m.
Democratic commissioners also attend and participate during the Republican caucus.
Hensley and Bird defended the resolution for its role to "reaffirm" the oath the commissioners, as elected officials, took upon entering office.
"It is our responsibility to see that [the Constitution] is upheld," Hensley said, noting that that would be the case even if it became an international document through the United Nations.
On the other side of the issue, Commissioner Robin Quillen said, "I've had several calls on this, and they are very much against us voting for this."
Others objected to clearly stating that they would uphold an amended Constitution.
Commissioner Nathan Holt said that he was uncomfortable with language in the resolution that indicates commissioners would agree to perform duties under any amendments.
"No one expects there to be some kind of constitutional amendment," Hensley said.
He argued that such amendments to the United States Constitution would take a heavy majority of the states voting in favor.
"We would have no choice at that point," Hensley added.
"If that happens, we could resign," Holt replied.
Commissioner Hilton Seay also noted language referring to an "emotional reaction" and "responding to a demanding public."
Others, such as Commissioners Fred Malone and David Crum, said that they have already taken this oath and still stand by it -- leaving no need for this resolution.
Following this discussion in caucus, no further discussion took place during the meeting, but the result was a 10-5 vote against the resolution, with another five commissioners abstaining.
Commissioners voted on the matter as follows:
* In favor of the resolution were Republicans Wade McAmis, Rennie Hopson, Hensley, Bird and Bill Moss;
* Opposed to the resolution were the commission's five Democrats (Malone, Tim White, John Waddle, M.C. Rollins and Bill Dabbs), as well as Republicans Quillen, Holt, Seay, Jan Kiker and Margaret Greenway;
* John Carter, Lloyd "Hoot" Bowers, Phil King, Anthony Sauceman and Crum abstained.
In other business, the commission voted 17-3 to reimburse the Greeneville Police Department $23,500 for the use of cruisers during the 2011 tornado emergency response.
Budget Director Mary Shelton reported that, of the approximately $2 million expended in relief efforts, about $250,000 is the county's responsibility, $250,000 the state's, and the remaining is to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA has yet to reimburse about $410,000, Shelton reported.
FEMA officials indicate that it will be another 10 months to two years before the final inspections and reimbursements will be made, she said.
The county may count volunteer work, such as that done by churches, the Red Cross, and volunteer fire departments, as an "in-kind" contribution for the county's share, she explained.
On mutual aid projects, such as where the Greeneville Police Department provided aid upon request, the county serves as fiscal agent to receive and transfer out these funds, she said.
The town has been the first to send an invoice requesting reimbursement, but Shelton said she anticipates that Greene County will receive similar invoices from Unicoi County's Highway Department and a couple of other "smaller" agencies.
With the county lacking a major portion of FEMA's reimbursement and no information immediately available on how much of that reimbursement had come in for such mutual aid projects, some commissioners expressed hesitation at approving this request.
"I think this is a cesspool of trouble," White said.
White, Sauceman and Waddle voted against the resolution.
(Crum, who works for the Greeneville Police Department, confirmed for the record with County Attorney Roger Woolsey that he had no conflict of interest in voting for the resolution.)
Several other items also received the commission's approval:
* allocating $3,000 in supporting funds for the Landair Ladies Classic basketball tournament from the county's hotel/motel tax;
* movement of $303,182 previously budgeted in the Road Department's Highway and Bridge Maintenance category into the Asphalt Plant Operations category for reimbursements related to work performed under the State Aid Program, per recommendation by county auditors;
* authorizing submission of an application for a litter and trash collection grant from the state Department of Transportation;
* allocating $11,000 from the sale of equipment to the Sheriff Department's motor vehicle line item;
* allocating $11,200 from the sale of equipment to the Road Department's building improvements line item;
* allocating a $1,500 increase to the Civil Defense Reimbursement Grant made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the Greeneville-Greene County Emergency Management Authority; and,
* approving the operating agreement for the Kinser Park Baseball Complex between the Kinser Park Commission and the Greeneville Marlins Association, Inc.