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Fate of highway county commission unknown

Fate of highway county commission unknown

The future of the Weakley County Road Board now lies in the hands of the state.
At Monday afternoon’s meeting of the Weakley County Commission, commissioners unanimously voted to pass Resolution 2012-08 to dissolve the Weakley County Road Board with only two commissioners –Mike Medling and Joe Farmer – voting against the resolution and Commissioner Bob Bell passing on the vote.
“I’m going to have to vote ‘no’ because I believe a lot of people who want to dissolve the board live on city streets and highways,” Medling remarked. “I and  a lot of other people live on county roads. In Weakley County, there are 586 main roads and 932 miles of roads. If you stretch that out, you can go from Memphis to the farthest corner of the state and back. There are 215 bridges. This board was set up to get out and meet with individuals who have problems on these roads and report them back to Mr. (Kermit) Hopper. That’s a cost of $10,800 a year. What percentage of the highway budget does that make up? Not even a quarter percent – .2 percent. That’s a bargain. I don’t want to take away people’s right to be represented.”
 This isn’t the final step in the process, however, as it now needs presentation by Sen. Roy Herron and Rep. Andy Holt before the Tennessee General Assembly to receive state approval and official passage.
Resolution No. 2012-08 is a request for the Tennessee General Assembly to amend chapter 640, Private Acts of 1949, as amended governing the highway commission in Weakley County.
This particular chapter establishes and provides for a three-member highway commission in Weakley County. The road supervisor is an elected official voted on by electors of the county.
A fact sheet on the highway commission reveals that 30 of 95 counties in Tennessee have elected highway commissions. Greene County dissolved its highway commission in 2011 and Coffee and Humphreys counties currently have legislation in place to dissolve the highway commission. Twelve of the 30 counties have appointed highway supervisors.
History shows that the first road commission in Weakley County was created in 1901, when the county court was authorized to appoint one commissioner from each district to oversee roadwork in his or her district.
In 1927, the commission appointed a county highway supervisor, but it wasn’t until 1934 that the highway supervisor “who would have the general control and management of highways” was elected. In 1945, the highway commission was appointed by the county judge and the present method of an elected highway commission started in 1954.
In the early 1900s, highway commissions in Tennessee, consisting of one from each civil district, were created and appointed by the county court to have general supervision over all of the public roads, bridges and overseers in their district.
Later, they were authorized to hire someone to supervise the work on all of the roads in the county.
The fact sheet goes on to say that, “with modern technology, communication and transportation and the passage of the Uniform County Highway Law of 1974, there is little or no need for elected county highway commissions. They serve as another level in the bureaucracy that impedes progress and efficiency. The highway commission has little or no authority which is now vested in the elected highway supervisor.”
As 10 counties in West Tennessee have highway commissions and all of them now recommend the highway supervisor to the county commissions for appointment. Only four of them have an elected highway supervisor and highway commission. The county commission approved the resolution that attempts to dissolve the Weakley County Highway Commission.
Specifically, as “they no longer work or oversee the work on the roads and since the passage of the County Uniform Road Law of 1974, their duties are advisory only,” recommendations include:
• The present highway commission be phased out by not electing one in 2012, another in 2014 and another in 2016.
• The Weakley County Public Works Committee be designated as the committee to respond to public problems, suggestions, concerns and complaints from the citizens.
• This would provide for a six-member body being paid $75 per meeting attended instead of a three-member board drawing a $300 per month salary whether attending meetings or not.
• This would modernize the structure of the county road system as 68 percent of other counties in Tennessee have done.
The office of road supervisor would not be affected, however.
As one road board commissioner is up for election in August 2012, the commission is hoping for passage of this resolution by the State as soon as possible.
Several other resolutions were addressed and passed as well. They were discussed in length and approved at committee meetings held prior to the commission meeting. They included:
• Resolution No. 2012-05 to establish an audit committee for Weakley County. This was discussed at length in a rules committee meeting in August.
The committee will consist of three members including county commissioners, citizens of Weakley County or both. No committee member will be an elected official, employee, spouse of an official/employee or person who co-mingles assets with an official/employee of Weakley County.
Members should be in possession of sufficient knowledge and experience in finance business and accounting and they will be appointed by the commission for staggered three-, two- and one-year terms with subsequent appointment to be for three-year terms.
• Resolution No. 2012-06 to adopt rules regulating the procedures of the board of county commissioners of Weakley County.
• Resolution to adopt a reapportionment/redistricting plan for Weakley County.
This was also discussed at length and passed unanimously with the rules committee in August. It is an action that must be addressed every 10 years so that commissioners can represent substantially equal populations in the specific districts.
The resolution provides for an 18-membered legislative body representing nine districts with two commissioners per district. The same rules follow for a board of education.
Commissioner Bob Bell made a motion to amend the map to loop 152 people around Lackey and Hinds roads out of District 8 into District 4, which would have still met requirements, but the motion failed, 12-6. The original motion passed unanimously, 14-4.
• Resolution No. 2012-09 to amend the interlocal agreement between Weakley and Obion Counties involving the Everett-Stewart Regional Airport.
This deletes the $5,000 cap in the purchases section of the agreement and replaces it with “the amount provided for by Tennessee state law.” Additionally, amendments must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the governing body of each participating governmental entity and if either county wishes to withdraw from the agreement, a one-year notice prior to July 1 must be given.
• Resolution 2012-10 authorizing budget amendments to the school federal projects fund. These are Race to the Top funds that must be spent out before Sept. 30.
• Resolution 2012-11 authorizing amendments to the Weakley County personnel handbook.
• Resolution 2012-12 affirming compliance with federal Title VI regulations relating both to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987.
• Resolution 2012-13 authorizing submission of an application for a library computer grant from USDA rural development and authorizing the acceptance of the grant for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. This grant, in the amount of $2,042, will be used to purchase computer equipment and computer furniture and will be used to provide electrical connections for the computers to the Weakley County Ned R. McWherter Library.
• Resolution 2012-14 approving the economic impact plan for the Skyhawk Parkway economic development area located in the City of Martin.
The Martin Industrial Development Board intends to borrow $300,000 from the City of Martin to pay for the costs of a project to construct a road for water and sewer access for the strip mall to be located off Skyhawk Parkway and wanted to seek commission approval on the project to use all taxes allocated to the IDB pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 7-53-312(h) to pay incremental costs to reimburse the company for is payment of all or a portion of the costs of the project.
This was amended to limit the county’s portion to $150,000.
• Resolution No. 2012-15 to define municipal and regional emergency service zones of emergency departments providing service within Weakley County, set out the procedure to amend emergency service zones and authorize the setting of rural response fees.
This passed unanimously with the public safety committee.
Guidelines adopted to implement emergency response zones and an emergency response plan will include:
• Emergency service zones for primary response fire departments operating within Weakley County as currently drafted and recommended by the Weakley County Fire Chief’s Association are hereby adopted and implemented by the Weakley County Board of Commissioners.
A map designating the emergency service zones is currently on file and maintained by the Weakley County Emergency Management Agency. Any request for changes and/or modifications to emergency response zones within Weakley County shall be submitted to and reviewed by the public safety committee of the board of commissioners with said committee to receive input from the FCA and other interested parties prior to recommending any changes or modifications to the board of commissioners for final approval.
• Weakley County Rescue Squad will serve as a mutual aid agency for fire response in Weakley County and shall provide a mutual aid response to those primary response fire departments within Weakley County requesting assistance inclusive of the State of Tennessee Forestry Service.
• Weakley County Rescue Squad is designated as the primary response agency in Weakley County for providing rescue services, vehicle extraction and other specialized rescue in those incorporated municipalities within Weakley County not providing rescue services and for all areas outside the incorporated municipalities of the county.
• Weakley County Rescue Squad may enter into mutual aid agreements as authorized by Tennessee statute or under the Tennessee mutual aid plan with such other municipalities or emergency response agencies deemed appropriate to assist in the provision of rescue services either within municipalities not providing rescue services or outside the municipal boundaries of the county.
• Any fire department operating as a primary response within Weakley County shall be certified and maintain certification as a certified fire department as set out under the provisions of the Tennessee Fire Department Recognition Act, T.C.A. 68-102-301.
• Primary response fire departments operating within Weakley County and servicing a designated emergency service zone are authorized to establish and collect reasonable subscription fees for fire service within their designated emergency service zone outside the established municipal boundaries of any city in the county in their designated zone.
Primary response fire departments further are authorized to establish and collect reasonable fees for the response to fire calls outside the established municipal boundaries of any city in the county in their designated zone in which the owner of the property or caller has not paid a subscription fee.
• No established fire department or emergency response agency may compete for subscriptions for fire service in any emergency response zone except the one for which the department or agency is the designated primary response or lead agency.
Several elections, appointments and confirmations were held and included:
• The re-election of Westbrook as chairman and Roger Stewart as chairman pro-tempore.
• Finance, Ways and Means 2011-12 – Roger Stewart, Earl Wright, Eric Owen, Westbrook, Tommy Jones and John Salmon.
• Nursing home 2011-12 – Stewart, Dale Overton, Kevin McAlpin, Julia Rich, Joe Farmer and Larry Taylor.
• Public safety 2011-12 – McAlpin, Scott Fortner, Salmon, Bell, Jack Vincent and Wright.
• Personnel, legislative and intergovernmental affairs 2011-12 – Fortner, Sam Sinclair, David Hawks, Rich, Jones and Andy Holt.
• Health, education and economic development 2011-12 – Westbrook, Owen, Vincent, Medling, Overton and Hawks.
• Public works 2011-12 – Holt, Sinclair, Bell, Taylor, Farmer and Medling.
• Financial management 2011-12 – Stewart, Owen, Vincent, Westbrook, Director of Schools Randy Frazier, Road Supervisor Kermit Hopper and Weakley County Mayor Houston Patrick.
• Rules committee 2011-12 – Westbrook, Wright, Taylor, Salmon, Bell, Owen, Stewart, Sinclair and Jones.
• Beer board 2011-12 – McAlpin, Medling, Jones, Owen and Overton.
• County service officer 2011-12 – Ronald Cheatham.
• County safety officer 2011-12 – Jamison Peevyhouse.
• Emergency management director 2011-12 – Jamison Peevyhouse.
• Everett-Stewart Regional Airport board member (for a two-year term ending Aug. 31, 2013) – Westbrook.
The next meeting of the Weakley County Commission will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 21. 

WCP 9.20.11

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