By Scott Robertson
Monday night’s meeting of the Washington County Commission was one of the more unusual July meetings in memory. That, in large part, was because the budget has already been approved. In recent years, the July meeting was the one in which there was much back and forth finger-pointing over ‘why isn’t the budget ready?’ and ‘you’re just exploiting the late budget for political gain.’
This year, lo and behold, the budget is already in place. That made for a very short meeting Monday in which the overall feeling was a laid-back, semi-bored sort of, ‘what do we do with ourselves?’
To illustrate just how relatively little there was in front of the commission, the packet commissioners receive (which is available to the public) several days before each meeting was 165 pages long this month. The June packet had been 326 pages.
Even the public comment session was short and sweet. At the beginning of each meeting, individual county residents are allowed three minutes to speak on any topic before the commission. There was only one speaker Monday. He brought his own egg timer and didn’t use his full three minutes.
This is not to say there were no moments of note during the proceedings. The Mullican appropriation was approved (see page 5).
Recently retired Director of Schools Ron Dykes was honored by the commission for more than 40 years of involvement and service in the county school system. In a departure from tradition, County Mayor Dan Eldridge stepped aside and Commission Chairman Greg Matherly read the proclamation recognizing Dykes. Sheriff Ed Graybeal also presented Dykes with a plaque of appreciation.
Commissioners also met Dykes’ successor, Kimber Halliburton, who had no formal report for the commission, but stood to introduce herself and her husband, who were attending their first commission meeting. No mention was made of the impending crisis over location of a new Boones Creek K-8 school. If the school board fails for the third consecutive month to choose a location for the school, then it will likely be another year before students will be able to move into it once construction is finished.
County Health Director Jim Carson was half-jokingly put on the spot by Commissioner Pat Wolfe, who asked Carson his opinion on water supply fluoridation. The fluoridation of the water supply in the town of Jonesborough has been a subject of much debate in town government (though not in the county government). Carson said he supports fluoridation. Commissioner Wolfe’s son, Kelly, is the mayor of Jonesborough.
The commission also began authorizing check-writing for some of the sizable items set forth in the budget. The mayor was authorized in a 24-1 vote to make a $572,000 payment to Johnson City for a radio communication system for use by the sheriff’s department, volunteer fire departments and constables.
The mayor also got the go-ahead to pay the $1.675 million for replacement of the roof and HVAC system at West View School. There was not a peep of dissent. “Ho,” the commission and all in attendance seemed to say, “hum.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Commissioner Joe Grandy noted that Commissioner Katie Baker had announced her engagement to be married. The commission offered its congratulations and best wishes. Baker will be the second commissioner to wed this term. Robbie Tester was the first.
The most unusual thing about the meeting was only noticed afterward. The sun had not yet set. So here’s to budgets done on time, long days and short meetings. May they all become July traditions.