Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Panel rejects paying 911 OT bill

In a special called meeting Monday, the Unicoi County Commission voted against paying half – or approximately $16,561 – of a $33,122 overtime bill accrued by 911 dispatchers during the previous fiscal year.
The commission also voted to not supportz a legislative proposal to weaken Tennessee’s “Sunshine Law.”
The motion to pay the employees was made by Bill Hensley, and seconded by Dwight Bennett; Commission Chairman Sue Jean Wilson was the only other commissioner to vote with Hensley and Bennett to pay the county’s half.
Commissioners Doug Bowman, Kenneth Garland, James Howell, Loren Thomas, and Gene Wilson voted against.
After the vote not to pay the county’s half, Bennett left the meeting, and was soon followed by Hensley.
The board of directors for the local 911 district voted on Dec. 5 to pay the other half of the bill, which accrued when dispatchers began clocking several hours of overtime per pay period after a change made by Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris last July that placed dispatchers and patrol officers on 12-hour shifts instead of eight, 911 Director Pat Ledford had said.
Sue Jean Wilson attended the 911 board meeting earlier this month and addressed her concerns about accrued overtime.
Wilson pointed out that the most current budget for the 911 district still reflects $13,000 allocated for dispatcher bonuses, which board members agreed to cut once county commissioners approved salary raises for county employees.
In addition, Wilson noted that the $183,571 allocated to pay the director’s and dispatchers’ salaries included a 3-percent raise for those employees, rather than the 1.6-percent raise approved by commissioners, meaning the other 1.4 percent could be used toward overtime compensation.
“In my mind, 911 should help the county to pay this overtime so that we don’t have to end up covering that entire burden,” Wilson had told board members.
Commissioners also voted to go on record against making changes to Tennessee’s “Sunshine Law.”
The motion to not support the changes was made by Howell and seconded by Hensley. Bowman cast the lone vote against the motion.
On Nov. 28, the panel joined other county commissioners in the area in taking the first steps toward supporting changes to Tennessee’s “Sunshine Law,” which currently prohibits officials from meeting in secret to discuss or deliberate public business.
Bowman, first-district commissioner, brought the matter up in a planning session that took place just before the Nov. 28 regular meeting.
“I think our county commission needs to discuss supporting that,” Bowman had said of a resolution to weaken the 37-year-old law.
Bowman said examples of matters that need to be discussed in secret include property acquisitions, in order to keep sellers from inflating sale prices upon learning the county may be interested in buying, as well as negotiations with prospective businesses seeking to locate in the county.
Bowman specified at that session that he would like to see a resolution that only supports secret meetings in those circumstances.
However, actual changes to the law being proposed at the state level by Williamson County Commissioner Bob Barnwell call for the elimination of the quorum rule, which would allow for any number of commissioners, up to a quorum, to meet behind closed doors without public notice.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission voted in favor of county-road status for Homestead Estates Road, which runs along a newer subdivision off of Sciota Road in north Unicoi County.
Unicoi County Road Superintendent Terry Haynes spoke before the vote, and said that roads have been brought up to the county’s standards.
According to Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch, the issue with the subdivision has been “going on the better part of five years.”
“Mr. (Lester) Orsburn came before the planning commission and there were some challenges to the county’s subdivision regulations,” Lynch said previously. “He had gotten an indication that his subdivision would be approved. He thought he met qualifications for the county to take over the road.”
Lynch said Orsburn was told before that he needed to have work done to the road to meet county specifications on drainage, guttering and curbing. Orsburn indicated he believed he had met all of those specifications.
When the county still did not grant Orsburn’s subdivision admittance, Orsburn took the matter to court, where a judge ruled that Orsburn needed to complete more work in order for the county to accept the road, pending a final inspection by Roads Superintendent Terry Haynes.
According to discussion at the previous county commission meeting, Haynes had inspected the road and determined that it now meets all of the county’s subdivision regulations.
Commissioners were still skeptical of accepting the road, however, because some of them don’t feel that it meets the guttering and curbing requirements called for in the county’s subdivision regulations.
“I can see both sides of it, but we need to, in my opinion, go ahead and accept that road,” Lynch said previously. “I think it would behoove everyone involved.”
Lynch said that the county’s ability to move past the issue will hopefully help “get some more development going up in that area.”
The Unicoi County Commission canceled its regular meeting for Dec. 26.