Topix a hot topic at budget meeting
Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 9:03 pm
By: Chris Menees, Staff Reporter
By CHRIS MENEES
Topix was among the topics Monday for the Obion County Budget Committee.
The committee voted to allow the Obion County Commission to consider a proposed resolution in opposition to the Topix website when the full commission meets March 21.
The resolution was presented for consideration by the Rev. Eddie Mallonee, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Union City.
“It’s probably one of the worst things I’ve ever seen,” Mallonee said of the website.
Mallonee said several people who have concerns about the Internet website have gotten together to research and discuss the matter and how it negatively affects Obion County. They are asking the county commission to approve a resolution which will be sent to Topix’s corporate headquarters in California, similar to action already taken by some other cities’ and counties’ governing bodies.
Mallonee claimed Topix is an embarrassment to the county and he explained that anyone is allowed to post anything anonymously on the website’s forums. He said several local churches have been slandered by posts and he said he is amazed that the website is so easily available for gossip and slander to be spread.
“It’s very disheartening,” he said.
In addition, Mallonee said the concerned citizens hope to speak with the district attorney about what course of action can be taken. He said while they know they cannot stop the website, they hope legal avenues can be taken to identify some computer IP addresses and some of the individuals who are posting harmful material.
“There is no accoun-tability, no repercussions,” he said.
Mallonee said he hopes the public will be more careful about what they post if they know there is a possibility their posts can be traced through IP addresses and they will be held accountable.
“It’s just nothing but trash,” he said.
According to Mallonee, the Topix website was originally meant to be used to post legitimate news and to search for information about a geographic area. He said local users of Topix are not using the website for that purpose, though, and are instead anonymously posting gossip, rumors, lies and other slanderous comments.
The proposed resolution states concerns about the negative comments allowed on Topix possibly discouraging corporations or other companies from opening businesses in Obion County, preventing potential tourists from visiting and preventing people from relocating to the county.
The resolution indicates Obion County is opposed to the Topix website allowing any further anonymous postings or forums concerning citizens or businesses located in the county and requests that Topix require the IP address of each person making comments on its site to be available “so that the source of any false or slanderous postings can be determined.”
“It is a coward who cannot sign his name to something,” Budget Committee chairman Danny Jowers said.
In other action during Monday morning’s hour-long meeting, which was opened with prayer led by Mallonee, the Budget Committee:
• Decided to wait until the county’s upcoming budget hearings to consider a proposal from Tim Smith, Obion County extension director, for the county to share an agent staff position with Dyer and Gibson counties.
Smith explained that agent Adam McCall, who has been on the job about a year at the local University of Tennessee Extension Service office, recently learned he is the casualty of budget cuts. His position, along with those of 47 other agents and area specialists and 12 state specialists, have been eliminated from the UT Extension program.
McCall’s work assignment carries 75 percent adult agriculture and 25 percent 4-H youth and junior livestock responsibilities. He will remain in his current position until the end of June.
Smith — who called McCall “a great asset” — presented a proposal that would allow McCall to continue on staff in a three-county area and allow the three counties to pool their financial resources to retain him. He said the plan has already been approved by the UT Extension Service and Dyer County’s legislative body and is pending approval in Gibson County next week.
Smith said the county’s share of the funding would come from next year’s budget and would be no added expense, with McCall’s duties to be split between the three counties. The county would need to sign a memorandum of understanding for the agreement.
Some commissioners expressed concern about continued state and federal funding cuts and said there may be additional cuts at the local level.
“We can’t pick up everything,” said commissioner Jerry Grady, adding that the local Soil Conservation Service has also inquired about the county paying one-third of the funding for an agent.
Commissioner Ralph Puckett asked about Smith’s request being addressed during the upcoming budget process and commissioner Dwayne Hensley made the motion to do so. Jowers said he understands the urgency with McCall’s tenure to end June 30 and he said the committee will address the matter as soon as possible.
Jowers said the county’s budget hearings will likely start in May since county officials are still awaiting word from state officials in regard to budget cuts.
• Voted to place on the full commission’s March agenda an item regarding the leasing of farm land around Everett-Stewart Regional Airport. The proposal for leasing the acreage to the top bidder has already been approved by the county’s Agriculture Committee, according to Smith.
• Approved recommending to the full commission approval of a grant for the second phase of improvements to the courthouse grounds.
Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire explained the grant will allow for the construction of a retaining wall to correct washing and draining problems within the low areas of ground around the courthouse. The $73,018 grant will have a 20 percent match for the county, making its portion $14,603.
• Approved placing on the full commission’s agenda reports from the Finance Committee concerning the PILOT Agreement with DuPont/Pioneer Corp. and concerning Green Plains Obion LLC.
• Approved recommending to the full commission resolutions to amend the County General Fund $35,495 to budget the costs for replacing the roof at the Obion County Health Department; to amend the Debt Service Fund $35,495 to pay for a one-day capital outlay note for the cost of the roof repair project; and to amend the General Purpose School Fund $306,129 to cover a one-time merit bonus for county employees, an insurance premium increase and an additional loan principal payment for the county.
• Approved placing on the full commission’s agenda a resolution to authorize the issuance, sale and payment of a capital outlay note to purchase law enforcement equipment for the sheriff’s department and jail and to replace the roof on the county health department. It includes $68,000 for patrol cars and $60,000 for a dispatch console for the sheriff’s department; $32,000 for the jail’s sprinkler system; and $36,000 for the health department roof.
The original resolution also included the county’s $43,785 share of matching funds for a FastTrack Infrastructure Development Grant for work on the Goodyear railroad crossing, but the Budget Committee voted to recommend to the county commission that the panel rescind its previous decision to match funds for the railroad crossing project and delete it from the budget.
Commissioners talked of waiting to see what Goodyear will do with paying its portion of the grant for work on the railroad crossing in light of the recent announcement that Goodyear will close its Union City plant by the end of the year.
• Approved in-house line-item transfers for the sheriff ($60), the jail ($2,000) and the county clerk ($180).
• Approved making a recommendation that the county’s share of the Port Authority’s GEMC note be made as a lump sum annual payment of $12,812.40 rather than monthly installments of $1,067.70 per month.
• Voted to recommend to the full commission a surety bond for Mary Sue Chilcutt at the highway department; appointments to various boards and committees, including the Joint Economic and Community Development Board (farming interests), Emergency Communications District (911 board) and Obion County Highway Commission; and notary public applications.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 3.8.11