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Commission OKs $100K for grant, does not discuss marriage resolution

A second attempt for the county to receive a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) offered by the state is moving forward following the Unicoi County Commission’s first meeting of 2016 on Monday, Jan. 25.
The Commission voted unanimously to commit $100,000 as a local match for the $525,000 CDBG, which will allow the creation of a waterline by funding the installation of infrastructure for Rocky Fork State Park. The project will also allow residents within range of the waterline to tap onto the line for free.

See video from the meeting.

The vote OK’ed the county’s second attempt to apply for the grant, which had been denied last year due to lack of community support, Erwin Utilities general manager Lee Brown told the Commission.
In addition to the $100,000 promised by the county, Erwin Utilities and the Joint Economic Development Board have also committed funds, bringing local contributions to the project to almost $195,000.
The local funding also assists in the $650,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant received in 2014. It was vital to try for the line a second time, Brown added, with the risk of the project being derailed entirely. Without support, the money offered by ARC would have been pulled away from the area and placed with a community which has items in place to use the grant.
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During the meeting’s time for citizens to voice opinions, local historian Chris Tipton expressed concern about the Commission considering to support the Family Action Council of Tennessee’s (FAC) request to join other counties in trying to pass anti-gay-marriage resolution.
Describing hearing about the Commission’s meeting with the FAC on Dec. 28 as a “bible study,” Tipton said the potential resolution has already incited types of hate speech in the community.
In response to Tipton, Commissioner Glenn White said the meeting with the FAC was just the Commission hearing from citizens, and not a bible study.
White added the resolution the county would look to pass is to show their support, and the support of the county, for the definition of marriage being between just one man and one woman. White cited the county’s majority support to keep the definition as between one man and one woman when the issue was placed on the ballot in the state. Tennessee Amendment 2, which was effectively a ban of same-sex marriage, was passed on Nov. 7, 2006, but was nullified following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in June 2015.
Even with the ability to pass the resolution, the item could fall on deaf ears at the federal level. An item was brought to the General Assembly last week to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling, but failed by a 4-1 vote. The resolution looks to remain lifeless by Tennessee officials due to the $8.5 million worth of federal funding that would be lost.
The Assembly vote was brought up by Heidi Davis during the citizen’s time to speak, adding that $6.5 million that would have been lost would come from TennCare with the other millions that would be taken out of feeding programs for children.
White said the resolution at the Legislature had already failed, so it didn’t mean much to be brought up and added that even with a resolution passage at the county level, it still falls on the “law of the land” at the federal level.
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On the heels of a busy meeting, officials voted to table a measure that would increase local Criminal Court fees to $45 to assist in funding the Children’s Advocacy Center, a service that works within the First Judicial District in Unicoi, Carter, Washington and Johnson counties.
Lemy Dao, a representative of the Children’s Advocacy Center, was on hand to answer questions by commissioners. She said that the increased fees would apply to Class A misdemeanors and above.
The increased fee would pump $3 back into the county with the remaining funds going into the Center. While receiving praise from the Commission, they elected to table the measure for further deliberation and adopt a resolution for next month’s meeting.
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Commissioners also voted to approve the RHSC contract for inmate healthcare needs during Monday’s meeting. The contract aims to be a cheaper alternative compared to other contracts offered to the county, Unicoi County Sheriff Michael Hensley told the board.
The sheriff’s department will also be looking at repairs to the garage located near the department’s office beside the courthouse in the coming months.
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In other business, the Commission:
• Approved the county’s road list while applauding the work of county road superintendent Terry Haynes during the recent weather in the area;
• Approved quarterly reports from offices;
• Voted to donate $500 to the Unicoi County High School Student Council;
• Approved budget amendments for the county mayor, sheriff and health departments;
• Elected notaries.