By Scott Robertson
A marathon four-plus hour-long meeting saw the Washington County Commission tackle several issues Monday night. None was debated more stridently than the resolution from the Reapportionment Committee proposing to cut the size of the commission from 25 members to 15. The plan put forth by the Reapportionment Committee would also reapportion the population to create 15 districts, each to be represented by a single commissioner. Currently the county has 10 districts, with only one being represented by a single commissioner, while the other nine districts have either two or three commissioners each.
In introducing the resolution, Joe Grandy, committee chair, said, “This resolution will better align the district representation in two ways. First, it makes it a priority that all citizens are represented by an equal number of commissioners. Second, it provides the means for significantly lowering the statistical deviation which currently exists across 10 districts.”
Grandy reminded the commission that it had ranked cutting the size of the commission among its top three priorities when the new commission was seated last fall, and that the 15 commissioner–15 district plan fell within the preferences more than 70 percent of commissioners had expressed when polled by the committee about prospective changes.
“The 15 districts would average approximately 8,200 citizens,” Grandy said, “This saves Washington County over $45,000 per year in commission expense.”
After Grandy moved the resolution for approval and Commissioner Joe Wise seconded the motion, Commissioner Mike Ford asked, “What about the litigation issue? The way I understand it, there’s supposed to be something wrong.”
County Attorney Tom Seeley advised the commission to adjourn into executive session if it planned to discuss any potential litigation issues, and the commission did so for roughly half an hour, during which it also discussed whether to join in the Washington County School System’s lawsuit against Johnson City (the commission later would vote 18-5 to do so).
When the commission returned from executive session, Commissioner Danny Edens moved to send the resolution back to committee. That motion failed on a 13-10 vote. After some discussion, the commission then, on an identical 13-10 vote, approved the resolution.
In other actions Monday night, the commission voted to accept a proposal by TIS Insurance Services, the county’s insurance broker, to make changes to the plan offered to county employees, after hearing from Ben Kelly, a TIS representative.
The commission also heard from the CIA committee that there are no restrictions on any possible sale of the county farm, following a document search dating back more than a century-and-a-half.