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Commission talks pay raises, meeting dates, CARES funds

By Richard Rourk

Several Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department jailers will be receiving a pay raise.

According to Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely, during the Unicoi County Commission meeting on Monday, Oct. 26, the budgeted amount for a pay raise that was approved last month by the panel would be lower than expected. 

“After talking with the attorney, the $105,683.68 for deputy (jailers) raises will go to the sheriff’s budget and will bring the employee’s pay up to $12 an hour,” Evely said. “The actual funding that will be moved from the general fund into the sheriff’s budget is $105,683.68 and not the $107,556.50 that we approved last month.”

During last month’s commission meeting, the county’s governing body voted 8-1 to raise the wage for the part time jailers to $12 an hour following a request from Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley. 

“This has been something I have fought with for several years,” Hensley said during the Sept. 28 meeting. “There’s no question we need to operate two jails. It’s hard to get officers so we better take care of the ones we got.” 

Moving on, Evely addressed the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the region. 

“You have probably seen the newspapers that COVID-19 numbers are on the rise in our region,” Evely said. “Seven to eight percent of the expected cases in the coming weeks are expected to be hospitalized. This is the second wave of this virus and we really have to be prepared for it. We have to maintain our distances, wash our hands and wear masks to help protect our families.”

Evely also announced that Vice Chairman Jamie Harris has inspected a new compactor for Unicoi County solid waste. 

“I have also found a USDA grant that may offset some of the costs and I will be bringing this request to apply for the grant up at the next commission meeting,” Evely said. 

Improving Unicoi County Solid Waste sites with grants is something that Evely and Harris have been doing since taking office. 

“We are always looking for grants to stay ahead of the game in regards to our solid waste sites,” Harris previously said.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the commission approved the meeting dates for 2020-21. 

“We will continue to meet on the fourth Monday of each month at 6 p.m.,” Chairman Loren Thomas said. 

Moving on, the commission unanimously approved to name Unicoi County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Erwin to the Unicoi County Ethics Committee. 

The commission also voted unanimously to purchase a new vehicle for Erwin, who also serves as Unicoi County Coroner. 

“Funding for this will come from a state grant,” Thomas said. “This is a state bid for the vehicle and the equipment.”

Evely announced that the former blue truck that served the previous Coroner and Emergency Management Director Ed Herndon is not in running condition. 

“We will sell the old blue truck once we receive a new vehicle,” Evely said. “The sheriff is currently allowing us to borrow a vehicle until the new one comes in.”

In conclusion, the commission voted unanimously to apply for funds and grants from the CARES Act. The amount applied for is unknown at this time, but will come from funds that have been generated by the state to counties during the pandemic. 

“I am really proud of the hard work you put in to secure these grants,” Harris said. “I’m tickled because these grants really save the citizens of this county.”

Commissioner Marie Rice agreed with Harris. 

“I’m so appreciative of our state and federal government for providing these funds,” Rice said. “These grants are like a windfall that this county has never seen before and really helps during these hard times.”