By Scott Robertson
The newest Washington County Commissioner wears a familiar face. Dr. Paul Stanton, East Tennessee State University president emeritus, was unanimously elected by the commission Monday to fill the unexpired term of Tom Foster, who resigned two months ago.
Stanton was the only nominee for the seat. The public has the right to nominate candidates to fill unexpired terms, but no nominations came from the gallery. In fact, in the first meeting held under the new rules for expanded public comment, no one from the gallery spoke on any agenda item.
Commissioner Tom Krieger, who also represents the sixth district, nominated Stanton. Commissioner Joe Grandy seconded the nomination.
“I had spoken to both the mayor of Jonesborough and along the way to Tom Krieger and Joe Grandy about my interest in what I call paying back in service,” Stanton explained after the meeting. “I’ve lived in Washington County for 31 years come January. In my retirement, I have the time to devote to this. So when Tom Foster indicated he was stepping down, Tom Krieger called and asked if I was still interested in being involved.”
Stanton said he is interested in serving on the Health, Education and Welfare Committee and the Budget Committee should that be possible.
One of Stanton’s first votes was to authorize the county to spend up to $1.172 million to build a road and conduct site grading work in the Washington County Industrial Park.
Prospects have considered locating businesses on available land in that park 16 times in the last 18 months. All 16 times, they took their business elsewhere. Mitch Miller, CEO of the Washington County Economic Development Council told the commission those failures happened because, “We’re selling a cow pasture.”
Commissioner Joe Wise was more charitable in his assessment, calling the land, “a non-productive asset.” Wise said funding the work could help create jobs and economic development on land that will otherwise lie fallow.
“Time is money,” Miller told the commission, noting that businesses will not wait for the county to build a road after they choose to come here. The road and the pad-ready site have to come first.
The good news, Miller said, is that TVA is highly likely to put $300,000 into the $1.771 million project and that the EDC will put $250,000 in as well. The state of Tennessee will be solicited for support as well.
Miller said no other 60-acre tracts of pad-ready land exist in Tennessee this side of Morristown, so it’s very likely a tenant will be found once the work is done.
In other action, the commission approved a $45 fee to be charged to felons and those found guilty of certain misdemeanors to help fund the proposed Family Justice Center, a clearinghouse for victims’ services.