Polk County Commissioners had a long agenda for their monthly meeting last Thursday, including appointing a Chair and Vice-Chair, discussion about the Benton dump site (see separate story), a per diem increase for employees (see separate story), roof bids for the Election Commission, drug dog, work on the WPFR building, Copper Basin softball field, resolutions on declaring surplus property, supporting local determination of broadband, and supporting the defunding of Planned Parenthood (see separate story). A 3rd District School Board member was also appointed.
Second District Commissioner Mike Curbow, who was absent at the meeting, was appointed Chairman. First District Commissioner John Hoyt Pippenger made the nomination, saying Curbow had been serving as Vice-Chair. Second District Commissioner Karen Bracken nominated First District Commissioner Mark Bishop. Bishop declined the nomination, saying he was fine with Curbow, and didn’t really want to be Chair.
Pippenger was appointed Vice-Chair, nominated by Second District Commissioner Greg Brooks. Bracken nominated Third District Commissioner Sheena Gaddis. On Pippenger’s appointment, Bracken voted against and Gaddis passed.
Pat Suits was appointed to fill the School Board vacancy left when Stephanie Loudermilk resigned after moving out of the county. Suits and Sonya Standridge were the only applicants for the position. Suits will fill the position until the next election, where the seat will be filled for the two remaining years on that four-year term.
Suits said he was the other candidate in the election where Loudermilk was elected. He said he had kids in school, was active in sporting events, and took part in school activities. Suits said he wanted to do what is best for the kids.
Third District Commissioner Daniel Deal made the motion for Suits to be appointed. He said he received several calls about the position, but pointed out there were two more seats open in the next election. Deal said if they could run for those seats if they were really interested. He said Suits had at least already run.
Third District Commissioner Sheena Gaddis nominated Sonya Standridge. One the nomination for Suits, Commissioners Bishop, Deal, Buster Lewis, and Pippenger voted in favor.
Bids for the placement of lights at the Copper Basin Softball field will be taken if the specs previously done can be found. Third District Commissioner Daren Waters said specs had been done twice by TVA on behalf of Tri State Electric. Waters said he had been assured the specs would be found, but if they weren’t bids would have to be done for them. Pippenger suggested the recreation committee take bids for the project if the specs could be found.
Waters motioned to have bids done as soon as the county had the specs. Deal seconded. Commissioners decided bids would be accepted until November 9th.
One bid was received for a drug dog for the Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Steve Ross said the dog would be for detection of drugs only, no a bite dog. He said they had received a private donation for the purchase of the dog, and the donation had been put into the drug fund. He said food and care for the dogs would be paid out of the drug fund. Bracken asked where the dog would live. Ross said it would live with the officer, and that Deputy Greg Price would be the officer taking the dog. Tarheel K-9 submitted the bid, which was for $9495. Ross said the dog would be between 2-4 years old and trained. He said there would be a two-week transition period between the trainers and Price. Commissioner approved the bid.
The county’s building committee will be taking bids for a new roof on the Election Commission office. Administrator Steve Gaddis said he and Nathan Hitson spent some time repairing the roof and beams, but they were not roofers. He said they patched it and it was good for a few weeks, but then water broke through again. Gaddis said a ceiling tile had fallen in, damaging the screen on one of the election machines, which are covered with a tarp to try to avoid water damage. Bishop asked how much the election machines cost. Gaddis said they were bought with grant money for about $153,000. He said the company was sending a replacement screen for the damaged machine. Gaddis said it wasn’t major, but could have been. Bishop said it was a lot of money if the county had to replace them.
Bishop asked if moving to the third floor of the courthouse was a possibility. Gaddis said it was, but he didn’t like the access. He said there would also be issues with boundary lines. Gaddis said he had been in the courthouse when they had no heat and when water was everywhere, and it would be just moving from one disaster to another.
Gaddis said they had two roofers come look at their building, and there was not much cost difference between re-doing the rubber roof and getting a metal roof. He said he preferred the metal roof. He said drains on the roof were higher than the roof and more work would have to be done for the rubber roof. Pippenger, who as acting-chair for the meeting due to the absence of Mike Curbow, appointed the building committee to take bids. Bishop said if they couldn’t afford it, the election office would have to move.
Commissioners also discussed the old jail building, which was donated to West Polk Fire and Rescue. Bishop said WPFR had been working on the building for several years using donated money. He said the group had secured $750,000 worth of trucks and equipment through grants, but were unable to house them in the fire station because the roof was not high enough. He moved to appropriate $50,000 from the fund balance to get the roof finished.
Bishop said WPFR had been working hard and were doing a great job. He said the $750,000 worth of trucks came at no cost to the county, the they needed to do their part to maintain it.
Pippenger said WPFR needed to clean up outside the building. He said he had gotten several calls during the week of the fair about the way it looked. Bishop said there were 100+ members of the rescue squad, and that n the past the average age was 55. He said it was now 36. Pippenger asked how much of the membership responded to calls. He asked if there were more than 5 on the last call. Keith Jeske with WPFR said there were 13 on the last call.
Pippenger said he was hearing there was a drop in membership and that multiple vehicles were not being used. Jesse said most of their members held jobs for their income and could not always respond during the day.
Pippenger said they would have to run notice in the paper if they intended to donate money. Sheena Gaddis said she was all about helping the fire department, but that was $50,000 and the election office needed $20,000 for a new roof, so they needed to make sure there was enough money. Bishop said if they put the $50,000 into the WPFR budget there would be accountability and it would not have to be put in the paper. On the motion to add $50,000 to maintenance and repair, Deal, Gaddis, and Waters passed.
An issue regarding “arrogant comments” made in regards to Polk Countians was brought up by Pippenger. Pippenger said he had been informed of a comment referring to Polk and Bradley Countians as inbred made by Paul Moisan. He said he was told an apology had been made, but he had not seen it. Pippenger said he just wanted people to be aware of what was being said. He said he had asked Moisan what his degree was to say who was inbred and who was not, and asked where he was a citizen of because he did not think he lived in the county. Pippenger said Moisan responded he was a citizen of the United States. Bracken said there was no law against being arrogant or rude. She said she did not think it was an issue for the commission. Bracken said if a Facebook page didn’t want him to comment, they could block him. Pippenger said it was not on his page. He said he had been asked if the county could sue Moisan for defamation; County Attorney Jimmy Logan said that would not be successful.
Logan said some of Moisan’s comments accused a violation of state statute in regards to a member of the school board being a School Resource Officer. Logan said it was his job as county attorney to investigate those claims, and that there was “absolutely no merit to the legal claims.” Logan said Sheriff Ross’s handling the SROs was completely above board and legal.
A resolution was passed to support allowing counties and municipalities to decide whether or not to allow utility companies to provide high-speed internet services outside their service area.
Commissioners voted to declare the property currently housing the Baptist Association to be surplus property in order to sell it. Bishop asked if Logan had looked into the legitimacy of the contract between the Baptist Association and the county. Logan said it would have no bearing on the item. Pippenger said the Baptist Association had asked if the county would be willing to reduce the amount they would take for the property by the same percentage the Baptist Association reduced their price for the building. Logan said the answer to Bishop’s question would affect that, and also did not have any bearing on the item. The commission also voted to declare the 35 acres donated to the county by Judge Bill Balls as surplus property in order to sell it.
Commissioners suspended the rules to vote on an item not on the agenda. Logan said the Copperhill Police Department would be ceasing operations, and an agreement needed to be put in place with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department in the city limits. Logan said the contract would be for $1333.33 per month.
Sheriff Ross said the county would not be writing citation for city code enforcement. He said that would be done by the city. Bracken asked it if would spread the police thin; Pippenger said the county already had jurisdiction in the cities.
At the end of the meeting, Logan told the commission her knew they would be looking to appoint the county attorney for another year, and he wanted to encourage them to appoint someone else. Logan said he was “knocking on the door” of 70, and had family and a home in Birmingham, where he planned to be spending more time.
Logan said he loved Polk County and loved the people of Polk County. He said he was proud to have worked with the county and would be available for consultation and guidance