Unicoi County Commission Chairwoman Marie Rice recognizes outgoing Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch for his many years of service to the county during the Monday, Aug. 25, meeting of the governing body. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Monday’s Unicoi County Commission meeting was bittersweet as several members were attending their last meeting in their current roles. The new faces that will be sworn in later this week were also present for the meeting.

A major item on the agenda for this meeting was the passing of the county’s 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

“We were able to balance the county budget without a tax increase,” County Commission Chairwoman Marie Rice said. “The tax rate will remain the same at $2.6838.”

The $2.6838 rate is per $100 of property value.

The commission approved the Unicoi County operating budget for the fiscal year of 2018-19 unanimously. The panel also voted unanimously in regards to setting and approving the county property tax rate for the fiscal year 2018-19.

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Another issue discussed at the meeting was in regards to the underpayment of PILT payments for fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017. The request was for the county mayor and the county attorney to take the necessary steps to include Unicoi County in a class-action lawsuit.

Outgoing Mayor Greg Lynch stated that PILT payments were underpaid until recently. According to Mayor Lynch, “the payments were as follows: in 2012 the payment was for $54,000, in 2017 the payment was for $83,000 and in 2018 it was for $149,000.”

This money is used primarily for the school system. If any money is received over the amount given to the school system it is used for other needs, such as fire control.

“The federal government is already making adjustments, but this lawsuit is to recoup the money for the interim part,” Lynch said. “I recommend that you say yes to this.”

The motion to approve was made by Commissioner Loren Thomas and seconded by Commissioner Gene Wilson. The motion passed.

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County Commissioner Kenneth Garland started off by stating during the reading of the minutes, that he wanted it on record that he voted against Food City coming to town.

“I’m not against Food City, I just don’t want to see other businesses in our area suffer,” Garland said.

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Regarding the budget amendments on the agenda, Garland recommended that they be tabled and addressed by the new Commission. There was no opposition in regards to tabling the issue until next month.

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Closing the evening, Rice recognized the outgoing officials, including Lynch. Rice listed Lynch’s accomplishments while in office.

“He was adamant in protecting Rocky Fork and the environment,” Rice said. “He truly believed in keeping the valley beautiful. We appreciate his service.”

“It’s been an honor serving and I look forward to the transition in getting the county moving forward,” Lynch said.

Also receiving plaques during the closing were outgoing commissioners Bridget Peters, Gene Wilson and Garland.