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Peterson chosen as interim assessor

A new assessor of property has been selected.
In a 5-3 vote during a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, April 27, the Unicoi County Commission chose Wayne Peterson to complete the unexpired term of previous assessor Patsy Bennett.
The search for a new property assessor began after the resignation of the previous assessor Patsy Bennett. Bennett cited health concerns as the reason for her resignation which became official on April 2.
Peterson and one other candidate, Rene Arwood, were considered by the Commission during Monday’s meeting. Prior to voting on each candidate, the panel was required to define the process by which they would vote for the assessor.
The panel first opened the floor to nominations and received only two. Commissioner Walter Garland expressed his support for Arwood and nominated her. Jason Harris nominated Peterson. It was then decided that commissioners would vote on each candidate individually by alphabetical order.
During a time for citizen’s comments Bill Gaines, who served as the county’s assessor for 36 years, voiced his support for Arwood, citing her 16 years in the office and experience.
Arwood received three “yes” votes – from Chairwoman Marie Rice and commissioners Bridget Peterson and Walter Garland. Because Arwood did not receive the required five “yes” votes needed to be named interim assessor, the Commission then voted on Peterson.
Peterson did receive five “yes” votes – from commissioners Loren Thomas, Kenneth Garland, John Mosley, Jason Harris and Glenn White.
Following the meeting, Peterson, who has worked in the assessor’s office for seven years, said he is ready to serve the county in his new role.
“I felt good with the vote,” he added. “I am looking forward to working with each commissioner. I look forward to the chance to make changes.”
These changes include a new computer system for the office, Peterson said, as well as bringing a new level of transparency to the office.
“The office will be more transparent than it has ever been,” he added.
Bennett’s term was set to expire in 2016.
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In other business, the Commission unanimously approved the $1,100 purchase of land for the Upper Higgins Creek bridge project.
During the work session held prior to the regularly scheduled meeting, Road Superintendent Terry Haynes said the county’s portion of the purchase is two percent of the cost. The remaining 98 percent will be funded by the state. The total cost of the land acquisition is $55,000.
Attorney Jim Pate said during the work session the property in question appraised for $35,000. During negotiations with the property owners, Pate said they agreed to sell the land for $50,000.
Pate advised the commissioners that accepting the $50,000 offer would allow Haynes to continue working on this part of the bridge project in the coming weeks; however, if the panel did not accept the offer, a lawsuit would have to be filed, which could delay the project at least one year.
Because there was a renter living in a house on the property in question, Pate said the county is required to pay moving expenses and provide the renter with a rent supplement for a period of time. The renter agreed to a sum of $5,000 for the expenses and supplement, according to Pate, bringing the total to $55,000.
Haynes said the $1,100, or two percent of the total, will be paid out of the highway department budget. He also said the bridge project will greatly benefit the south end of Unicoi County. Thomas and Haynes both mentioned the possibility that a convenience store could be opened in that area if the project moves forward.
Haynes, Thomas and Rice reminded the panel that the construction of Interstate 26 led to the closure of the stores which once served the south end of the county.
“We need something up there,” Rice said.
The project will also address safety issues with the road, according to Rice.