Resolution to move Road Department accounting fails

Actions at the June Polk County Commission meeting included approval of a myriad of year-end budget amendments and the decline of a resolution to adopt all parts of the Fiscal Controls Act of 1957.County Executive Hoyt Firestone told the board the county had previously adopted two of the three parts of the Fiscal Controls Act of 1957, but were not following them. The resolution would have adopted all three parts. Firestone said the absence of central accounting resulted in yearly recurrent audit findings for the county. The fact that the budget for the Road Department did not fall under the County Budget Director has been cited as long as he had been County executive, Firestone said.

Commissioner Mark Bishop asked why the county did not go ahead and step up to the 1981 Act instead of the 1957 Act. That act would incorporate the school system into accounting. Firestone said that would be a significant undertaking, but they probably should in the future. Commissioner Karen Bracken said there was more to the ’57 Act and asked if passing the resolution meant they would restructure to budget committee. Firestone said yes. She asked if there would be a purchasing agent and where the jobs would be posted. Firestone said they were not required to post it. He said each department head could make the decision on how to solicit applicants.
Bracken asked why they would not want to advertise for jobs to get the most qualified person. Firestone said when you advertise for them, people start talking to commissioners about trying to get the jobs and politics becomes involved. Budget Director Kelley Morgan pointed out they would not get the most qualified applicants regardless because starting pay was $8.00.

Bishop said it didn’t make any sense to him to pull the Road Department Budget in. Commissioner Buster Lewis said if they were going to look into the ’81 Act, they should table the vote on the ’57 Act. He said the more he read the more confused he got. He said it looked like the ’57 Act had originally been voted in at a coffee shop in the seventies. Firestone said it was an actual meeting.

Bracken asked if the resolution was a product of the Audit Committee. Firestone said they recommended it, but that it was in the works anyway. He said it was strongly recommended because of the stricter internal controls. Bracken said she was going to abstain from voting on the resolution because the Audit Committee meeting was unlawful. She said there was not adequate public notice and it was against the open meetings act. Firestone said it was not a result of the Audit Committee. Morgan said Gary Hayes with CTAS would be at the budget committee meeting slated for July 7th and could clean up all the questions.

Bishop said it was a waste of time, and expressed anger at the state telling them they had to hire people. Bishop made a motion to decline the resolution; Gaddis seconded. They, Bracken, and Lewis voted yes. Waters voted no. Pippenger and Deal passed, but Pippenger later changed his vote to yes.

In other business, commissioners approved a drug-free workplace policy. Firestone said they could not just go in and test someone, and that if an employees was showing signs of drug or alcohol use, it needed to be corroborated by another person before testing. He said random tests could be done for road department or sheriff’s department employees. An annual resolution for the TDOT Litter Grant was also approved.

Road Superintendent Roy Thomason told the board he could purchase items through a federal bid agreement similar to that used in the state. He said it would be like buying from state surplus, and they could piggyback on the bids for better rates.

Polk Schools host Anti-Tobacco Essay Contest

Teacher Courtney Pippenger, 1st place Relyn Johnson, 2nd place Sarah Snyder, 3rd place Bobbie Mae Perkins.

Teacher Courtney Pippenger, 1st place Relyn Johnson, 2nd place Sarah Snyder, 3rd place Bobbie Mae Perkins.

The students in the Polk County School System had the opportunity to participate in an Anti-Tobacco Essay Contest during May. Many students wrote essays about the bad effects of tobacco and why young people should never start using it. There were many good statistics about the cost of buying tobacco and the cost of health care as a result of using it. Several students wrote about the effect it had had on their lives.
PCHD Director Jeannie Bentley, Principal Jill Franklin, 3rd place Joe Boggs, 1st place Chloe Parks, (not pictured Sapporiah Doss).

PCHD Director Jeannie Bentley, Principal Jill Franklin, 3rd place Joe Boggs, 1st place Chloe Parks, (not pictured Sapporiah Doss).

Some heart breaking stories concerned the students seeing members of their families suffering from the damages caused from tobacco use. One student wrote of seeing her much loved grandfather dying from tobacco use.
Coordinated School Health Assistant Wilma Jean Pippenger, PCHD Director Jeannie Bentley, 1st place Nakia Woody, 2nd place Darvee Deverell, 3rd place Miles Hawk.Principal Frances Bramblett.

Coordinated School Health Assistant Wilma Jean Pippenger, PCHD Director Jeannie Bentley, 1st place Nakia Woody, 2nd place Darvee Deverell, 3rd place Miles Hawk.Principal Frances Bramblett.

The students who did essays are to be commended on the excellent job they did. The funds for the prizes were funded by the state tobacco settlement and appreciation is given to Jeannie Bentley, Director of the Polk and McMinn Health Departments for her help with this wonderful project. Coordinated School Health Assistant Wilma Jean Pippenger worked with her in conducting this project and would like to thank all the school principals and teacher in each school for their help.
PCHD Director Jeannie Bentley, 2nd place Taytum Kidd, 1st place Riley, Assistant Principal Mr. Kidd, 3rd place Chance Rollins , Principal David Turner.

PCHD Director Jeannie Bentley, 2nd place Taytum Kidd, 1st place Riley, Assistant Principal Mr. Kidd, 3rd place Chance Rollins , Principal David Turner.

The essays were sent out of county to be judged and prizes and trophies were given to three students in each school. Coordinate School Health would also like to express appreciation to the Polk County News for helping us give recognition to the students who took time to enter the contest as well as all the other coverage it have provided for us.
PCHD Director Jeannie Bentley, Teacher Robbie Combs, 1st place Molly Broglin,  2nd place Cheyenne, Principal Ron Germen, (not pictured Hanna Rose).

PCHD Director Jeannie Bentley, Teacher Robbie Combs, 1st place Molly Broglin, 2nd place Cheyenne, Principal Ron Germen, (not pictured Hanna Rose).

Budget amendments questioned

Questions were raised about budget amendments submitted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department during the June meeting of the Polk County Commission. Commissioner Karen Bracken said she had “deep concerns” about some of the items, including pass through money in a salary supplement line and an increase in funds for guards. Joe Price was called to answer questions on behalf of the department, and was then asked to come to the meeting to explain. Bracken said it seemed odd to her that the 2015-2016 amended budget for guards for the Sheriff’s Department will equal the amount requested for the 2016-2017 line for guards. She said the new budget request includes an additional four guards. Bracken said the $20,935 amendment was coming from the fund balance, and something was not right.

After making a phone call, Commission John Hoyt Pippenger told Bracken the amount was for one payroll for the guards. Bracken said that was not true. She said an amendment to add a payroll because there was an extra week this budget year had already been done. Pippenger said the amendment was for three payrolls and should have been four. Bracken made a motion to approve all the amendment except the one for the Sheriff’s Department; Sheena Gaddis seconded the motion. She said she had multiple issues with the amendment. Commissioner Daren Waters asked what would happen if the amendment was not passed. Budget Director Kelley Morgan said there would be an audit finding. Pippenger pointed out the Sheriff would not get the finding, the County General would.
Price arrived at the end of the meeting to explain the amendments. Bracken said it was her understanding the salary supplements were a pass-through, and that $12,6000 had been paid out by October. She said $16,350 was paid between October and March, and asked what that was for.

Price said the pass-through money came from the state, and it didn’t come in until after the budget year last year. He said it was paid twice this year because it was not paid last year. Bracken asked about the amount paid to the guards. She asked how he could account for the budget being so far over, and why the amount equalled what they were requested this year for four more guards. Price said the number they submit in the budget is never finite. He said it was like overtime – they never knew exactly how much it would be. Price said there were some guards who made the maximum, and many guards who came in through the year at the lowest salary. He said they figure on an amount in-between.

Price pointed out the commission had cut the amount requested last year. He told Bracken that in her first year on the commission she suggested a $30,000 cut from overtime for the guards. Price said that cut meant there was not enough money in the pot. He said it was hard to account for exactly what they would need, and called guards in when they needed them. Bracken asked how many guards there were. Price said he was not part of that equation anymore, so it was not his job to know. He said guards were frequently hired throughout the year because of turnover. Bracken asked about the amount listed for insurance. Price said they relied on someone else to tell them the insurance number. Morgan said ti was hard to pinpoint that number, especially in the Sheriff’s Department. Bracken said they get the number in August and should know. Morgan said it was just now July.

Price said they had to take from here and take from there to cover things. He said Bracken was asking for specifics on things they did not have. He said it was not a finite beast. Bracken suggested it was poor accounting. Morgan said that was the second time Bracken had insinuated things were her fault. She said she did not do the Sheriff’s budget. Bishop said the commissioners were the ones who cut the budget. Gaddis said they had cut it by $40,000 and missed it by $70,000. She asked if it was the cuts and not the result of additional employees. Price said there were none that he knew of. Bishop said the turnover was people getting hired and it not turning out to be what they think. He said those who stay climb above the average. Price said he did not even try to learn their names until they had been there a few months.

Bracken’s motion to set aside the amendment failed. She and Gaddis voted yes. Gaddis said she trusted Price, but her vote was based on the fact that he could not answer definitely that no additional guards had been hired. Daniel Deal, Bishop, Buster Lewis, Pippenger, an Waters voted against setting aside the amendment. The motion to pass all the budget amendments passed, but votes going in the same way.

Shame on you. You do not speak for Polk County.

by Cheryl Buehler

Sometimes I wish I was not in this business. Sometimes, reporting the news is for the birds. This is one of those times. A resident of our beautiful county recently smeared every last one of us with the stench of bigotry, and I do not want to be one of the rabble of reporters and newscasters who have played right into his hand and given him the attention he seeks. It’s a precarious place to be.

Here in America, we have the freedom to believe whatever backwards bigoted shameful thing we want. That much is true. But what upsets me the most is that one single bigot stood on the backs of all of Polk County to selfishly spread his message of division. He wanted attention, and he got it. And it would appear he has no qualms about continuing to seek that attention no matter how upset Polk Countians are. What does that say about him?

I won’t even begin to get into the fact that he does it all while waving a Bible around, as though somewhere in there Jesus encourages us to strive to find bigotry in our hearts. I’ll never claim to be a Biblical expert, but I am certain that is not what Jesus had in mind.

One bigot took it upon himself to label us all bigots. And that is shameful. Our county opens its doors year after year to folks of all colors, creeds, nationalities, and beliefs. And that one bigot even made his living feeding them. And feeding the locals, too… though his parking lot is looking a little sparse lately. The locals do not take too kindly to having the stench of bigotry forced upon them. They’re good people, despite what one bigot would have the world believe.

I’ve noticed something throughout this process that no one else seems to have mentioned. While there were two billboards removed after public outcry, that outcry only came after the one in Polk County made Polk Countians mad. The other sign was in Bradley County. It had been there for several weeks. Had Polk Countians not been so utterly disgusted and horrified by a sign in Polk County, that Bradley County sign might still be there. Sounds to me like Polk County knows how to get things done.

The vast majority of our local economy relies on outsiders. In fact, our rivers draw in folks from all over the world and contributes to the economies of multiple counties and states around us. Our reputation is integral in drawing people to our county. We have been named the most popular whitewater destination in the country. And now, thanks to one bigoted sign, will we be known as the most racist whitewater destination? Time will tell. Luckily folks who come here and meet us know better. It’s the others – those who saw it online or on TV – who will now perpetuate the label that one bigot assigned to us.

Let’s take a moment to think about the purpose of the bigoted sign. The bigoted sign was promoting a candidacy. Someone who wants the job of representing an entire district cannot even see beyond his own desires for attention enough to realize he is putting a racist pox upon us all. And he wants to be the voice of the entire district. I think he has proven to all would-be voters he can’t be trusted to think of anything other than his own desires. It would just have been nice if he hadn’t taken us all down with him.

Thankfully, true Polk Countians are strong, resourceful people who did not sit idly by while a bigot assigned racism to them. True Polk Countians instantly stood in defense of their county. And true Polk Countians will continue to welcome and love all who come across their paths. Anyone who feels otherwise can kindly move along to a place that actually agrees with them, and take the bigot and his billboards with them.

Local Polk County, TN citizens reject racist message

Local residents became outraged last week when a campaign billboard was erected on Hwy. 411 and became national news for its message. Residents took offense at what was instantly deemed a racist message.

Editor’s Note: I refuse to print a picture of the offending billboard, and will not be printing the message or the name of the person who posted the bigoted sentiment. Enough attention has been given to this abhorrent misrepresentation of Polk County already, and I will not play into the hands of someone seeking attention on the backs of our good community.

The billboard was removed the same evening it was put up, but sparked instant outrage. Locals and passers-by took and posted pictures on social media, causing the issue to spread like wildfire on a national level. An additional billboard was also removed from Hwy. 64 in Bradley County. That billboard had been in place for several weeks.

A statement released by County Executive Hoyt Firestone stressed that the messages on the billboard were the thoughts of one person, not Polk County. “Unfortunately the media coverage was not about one of the many things Polk County has to offer its citizens and visitors,” Firestone said. “Instead, the media coverage was about two billboard signs put up by a local resident running for US Congress.” Firestone said the messages were not made or approved by Polk County local government and should not in any way be construed to be a representation of the citizens of Polk County or its government.

Business owners, community leaders, and residents throughout the county have cut ties with the man responsible for the billboard, and many have vowed to boycott his business. “Due to recent statements and overtly racist billboards by the principal owner of the Whitewater Grill in Ocoee and himsel a declared Independent candidate for Congress, the Kiwanis Club of Ocoee will never meet there again. We are a civic club of inclusion and not exclusion and find these statements repugnant,” said Chris Newton, who helped bring a Kiwanis Club to Ocoee.

Mike Curbow, Chairman of the Polk County Commission, said Polk County was not a racist county and had come a long way to improve its reputation. He said the man responsible did not deserve his 15 minutes of fame at the expense of a county he did not represent.

Jenny Rogers of Welcome Valley Village said, “As the owner of a Polk County business dependent on tourism, the incredible amount of negative attention the billboards have drawn is troubling. But more importantly, as a long-time county resident, it’s very disheartening to know that that bigotry and hate-filled message have brought national attention to our county for all the wrong reasons. It makes me want to shout “This is not who we are!” to anyone who will listen. The vast majority of our residents moved past the dark days of extreme racism decades ago, and we have no desire to go back.” Rogers said the silver lining for her was seeing so many residents reject the appalling message outright. “You do not represent us. Our southern heritage is strong, but we have progressed far beyond the days when skin color determined human value,” Rogers said.

Adrian Lambert of the Polk County Chamber of Commerce said they had been getting a lot of calls, mostly from folks who wanted to express their anger. She said they had been explaining to people that neither the person who placed the billboard or his business were members of the Chamber, and that the Chamber did not support or condone his political or human views.

“The opinions of this one man absolutely do not reflect the opinions of this county. It is very unfortunate that the sign was placed, however it should be noted that it was removed within hours and that speaks volumes regarding how we feel,” Lambert said. She said they have been telling folks that him saying he represents his constituent base is simply false – he is not an elected official and has no constituents to speak of. She said the Chamber has been responding that Polk County has some of the most wonderful people on earth and encouraging them to visit us.

Just after the billboard went up last Tuesday, Ken Bishop, who owns the property where the billboard was placed, said he had nothing to do with the message and only rented a billboard. He said he did not know what the billboard was going to say, and he could not control what message was put on the billboard. On Friday, Bishop would only confirm it had been removed, but did elaborate as to why.

Polk County, TN Sheriff wants to add deputies to police force

Polk County Sheriff Steve Ross would like to add deputies in order to patrol the county better. According to Ross, there is currently one deputy on each side of the county during the hours of 3am-3pm. He said that was unsafe for the deputies and made it difficult to get everywhere. He said if a deputy was patrolling in Springtown and got a domestic violence call in Old Fort, they would just have to hope it didn’t get too bad before they got there.

An overall increase of more than $800,000 is reflected in the proposed budget for the Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Steve Ross said that included a $1.25 raise. He said he did not have to hire anyone new to comply with internal controls regulations, but he wanted to add new deputies and correctional officers.

Ross said they could increase the number of state inmates by 20 in order to pay for the new deputies, but they would also need to add correctional officers to deal with the increase. He said there would also need to be a one-time expense of about $40,000 to add bunks for the new inmates. There are currently about 138 inmates in the jail, and room for about 154. Ross said there are 30-50 locals. Ross also requested a one-time expense of adding computers to the patrol vehicles. He said if the officers were able to write and send in reports from their vehicles instead of having to go back to the justice center it would mean more of a presence.

Karen Bracken asked if there was really that much crime. Ross said they were trying to give better service, and quipped that the burglars knew they only had one officer on duty. John Hoyt Pippenger pointed out that it was also unsafe for the deputies not to have any backup. Ross said there was a recent incident where two citizens had to stop to help a deputy.

The new officers would also require patrol vehicles, which would be about $110,000. Mark Bishop asked if the new patrol vehicles would be cars or SUVs. Ross said SUVs were more expensive, but he was not sold on having only SUVs regardless. He said he did not want to see a chase down Hwy. 30 in a truck. He said the detective and sheriff vehicles did have 4WD.

Health Department grant will bring walking track to Benton, Tennessee

A grant for the Health Department will mean a walking track around the community ballfields in Benton. County Executive Hoyt Firestone said the state had multiple programs to provide money to governments and other non-profit organizations to get people healthier and combat diabetes. The funds were awarded, but county commissioners had to vote to accept them. Joyce Clem with the Health Department said the grant was for $30,000 and would come in two allotments of $15,000. The county will have to do bids for the project, but will not have to contribute money. Commissioner Mark Bishop told the board he was surprised they got the grant because it had been applied for several times before. He said people walk all the time during football practice at the fields.

Karen Bracken said the grant talked about people monitoring the use of the track and ask how that would be done. She also asked what would happen with maintaining the track once the grant funds went away. Clem said they did not have an exact plan for monitoring the use, but it was part of the plan and they wold figure it out. She said it would likely be members of the Polk County Health Council. She said often in these type of projects local people would contribute to the upkeep with donations. Bishop said in Cleveland people can buy a bench or a tree to help.

Donna Calhoun said there were multiple programs going on in the county to get people walking, and that participants in Polk Walks had just logged 5900 miles. Wild Jean Pippenger said there were walking tracks at Copper Basin Elementary and South Polk that had wonderful community support.

$1.5 million needed to approve budget requests; committee again questions unapproved election office employees

The County Commission is looking at an overall budget increase of at least $1.5 million this year if everything in the budget requests is approved. Commissioners looked at requests from several offices last week, including the Sheriff’s Department, Election Office, County Clerk, Register of Deeds, and Trustee. All offices put a $2.50 pay increase into the budgets except the Sheriff’s Department, which added $1.25.

The inclusion of part-time workers in the election office were questioned again this year. Two part-time office workers were paid from a line item for election day workers last year, but have been moved to their own line in this year’s submitted budget. Budget Committee Chairman Buster Lewis asked how the office ended up with two workers. Deputy Administrator Nathan Hitson said he did not feel comfortable answering that, and it was best to ask the Administrator. Administrator Steve Gaddis was not at the meeting.

Karen Bracken asked if they were there all the time or there because it was an election year. Hitson said they were there all the time. Mike Curbow asked if they were really needed all the time. Hitson said he could always find uses for them.

Budget Director Kelley Morgan said one of the workers had been there since the last election and the other was brought in during May of 2015 for two weeks when Hitson was on vacation, but has been there ever since. Curbow said Gaddis did not go to the commission to ask if he could add part-time employees. Morgan said they talked about it last year at a budget meeting. Bracken said they were already there; Morgan said that was the point, adding she had been “beat up” by Bracken via email all day about her request to add employees. Bracken said it was her job to ask questions.

Lewis said Gaddis’s employees were county employees and he was supposed to come before the commission before adding them. Sheena Gaddis said it was Steve Gaddis’s job to be over his personnel as a state employee. Morgan said they were county employees, which had to come through the commission. Bishop asked if all of his $58,700 was paid by the state. Hitson said a potion was.

Sheena Gaddis asked if all the election workers would have to come through the commission in that case. Morgan said they were temporary and that was different. Sheena Gaddis asked if it was in the handbook that hiring had to come through the commission. Morgan quipped that everyone should just hire whoever they wanted to, then. She said they beg every year and it had always been done that way. Sheena Gaddis said there were a lot of things always done that needed to be looked at. Mark Bishop asked about reimbursement from the state for the presidential election. Hitson said it would be roughly $20,000 but they did not have it yet.

The budget request for the Register of Deeds is up about $9000. Kandi Bramlett said she has had a 1-day part-time person in her budget, but it may need to be 2-3 days a week to meet the regulations for segregation of duties.

The budget request for the county commission will remain about the same depending upon insurance costs. County Clerk Angie Sanford requested commissioners look into purchasing a sound system for the meetings so that she and the audience could hear what is being voted on.
The budget request for the County Executive’s office decreased by $4200.

The request for the Assessor of Property went up about $33,000. Randy Yates said that was mostly the raises and step increases. He said there was $9000 for a large printer/plotter, and would also need to replace a computer that was so old it did not run the software any more. Pippenger said those expenses could be taken out of the budget and amended in as one-time expenses.
Yates said there was a county-wide reappraisal coming up and he would be coming back to the commission to ask for part-time help to prepare for that in January. He said the state had cut back on the helpers available. Bishop said the state cuts and cuts and then come in to say people have to be added. “They come in and tell a rural county they have to spend $700,000 or they will withhold money,” Bishop grumbled.

In the Trustee’s Office, Gina Burchfiel looks to make a part-time position into a full-time position. She said her spreadsheet on segregation of duties only worked properly when that person is there. Burchfiel said they also had a satellite office, but that person could not take the deposits if they handled money. Karen Bracken suggested another person in the building could take the deposit. County Executive Hoyt Firestone said that wouldn’t work. Bishop said he would not want someone else handling his money.

Bracken said different spreadsheets could be used depending upon how many people were in the office at any given time. Morgan said the whole purpose of being segregated was that everybody was doing something different. She said it was not segregated if everybody was still touching the same thing.
Sanford said her budget made a part-time position into a full-time position, but she would check with the state to make sure different spreadsheets could be used on different days. Firestone said that was not what the spreadsheets were about. Bracken said she asked Gary Hayes if people could be pulled form other departments and he said they could. Buster Lewis said Gary Hayes would tell everybody everything they wanted to hear.

Morgan said there was no way she was going to pull Ivy out of Kandi’s office and ask her to make journal entries when she did not know what she was signing off on. She said she also did not want to be responsible for taking a million-dollar deposit to the bank for the Trustee’s office.
Sanford said the full-time position would be for a bookkeeper that did not touch the money. She said each person in her office was doing things they were not supposed to do according to the spreadsheets. Sanford said she also had two very old computers that needed to be replaced, but had designated money to do it.

The Circuit Clerk’s office will not need to add anyone to comply with internal controls. Their budget contains an increase in jury fees due to an upcoming trial where the jury will likely be sequestered. Connie Clark said it was up in the air if the trial would be in Ducktown or Benton.
Clark said the state reimbursed $1000/day for a sequestered jury, but that the rooms were $69.99 a night and jurors would have to be bussed to the courtroom.

Bracken said a decrease in membership in the schools would enable commissioners to save over $100,000 in funding for the school system. She said membership was based on the number of students in periods 2, 3, 6, and 7, and each period was weighted differently. Bracken said they could lower the amount given to the school system to 69¢ instead of 73¢ and commissioners should take that into consideration.

West Polk Fire & Rescue to finish project at Station 1

West Polk Fire and Rescue should be on the way to finishing work on Station #1 in Benton. Polk County, TN Commissioners previously voted to donate $50,000 to finish the work needed to get the trucks under cover. Of the three bids that were opened during the May commission meeting, Fire Chief Steve Lofty said two of them did not meet specs. The third bid, from Premier, was accepted. Lofty said $35,000 would be to erect a building, and $14,000 would be for concrete and labor.

Pippenger said he thought the previous vote to donate $50,000 was to finish work on the building. Lofty said it was going to cost less to erect a building that will connect. Bishop said he brought it up initially, and the intent was to get the trucks under cover. He said the original plan would have meant the roof had to come off, walls extended, and the roof replaced.

Lofty said 30 feet would come off the building, but there would be an additional 1500 feet once the new structure went up. Bishop said he didn’t see any difference in how they did it as long as the apparatus was in the dry. He said the trucks were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Pippenger asked if the new building would hook onto the back of the current one. Lofty said it would. He said there would then be two bays on the back and three bays facing the highway.

Lofty said they’d hoped to get it done before the end of the budget year, but could not. He asked how the appropriation of money would work. Bishop said they money allowed this year would fall into the fund balance, and it would be re-appropriated. Lofty thanked the board for all their support. He said he thought that before he retired next year the county would be getting some good news about how high the fire department was ranked.

Polk County, TN is desperate need of Library Director, Budget Committee told

County budget work for the 2016-2017 fiscal year is underway. Jenny Rogers told the board the library was again asking for a Library Director. She said the county would never be able to break the cycle of economic struggle if they were not able to provide residents with the same opportunities for learning other counties have. Rogers said Polk County was the only county without a Library Director since the 1980s.

According to Rogers, adding a Library Director would enable the libraries to have year-round programs based on what the community needed. She said there was a huge influx of folks coming in to the libraries to do research for jobs, and they could potentially provide classes for excel spreadsheets, word, quickbooks and others. Rogers pointed out there were a large number of people who did not have computers or access to the internet other than the library.

Rogers said a Director would supervise, develop programs, engage with the community about what they wanted, and seek out grants. She said there was a grant that could pay for 80% the library’s internet, but it had to be done by an employee. She said the librarians had their hands full doing their jobs, adding that having one librarian on staff in a library our size was unheard of.

The position is being requested according to the county’s payscale. A request last year was made at a higher level of pay. She said they would be limited on who they can get at that pay level, but would look for someone enthusiastic, good with computers, and good with people. Rogers said the only other change to the library budget was a $600 increase in supplies. She said they were stretched to the limit and would be needed to replace fluorescent lights this year.

Programs available at the library are done by volunteers, but a Library Director would bring more.

Programs available at the library are done by volunteers, but a Library Director would bring more.

Arthur Bigham explained that the library board was like any other board and could no go into the library and tell them how to do anything. He said they could not settle issues or serve as a supervisor and that would fall on the County Executive, who had better things to do. He said a Library Director would be able to manage the libraries.

Amanda Stiles, who volunteers at the West Polk library, said they did everything piecemeal. She said one person does one thing and another does something else. Stiles said she works full-time and was only off 8 weeks a year. She said there were 95 kids at the Christmas program held last year and the community was starving for those types of programs.

Rogers said things were falling through the cracks but that is was no one’s fault because it was no one’s job. She said Meigs County had 17 teens involved in programs and Polk County had nothing for teens. Stiles said they had programs for younger kids, but not teens. She said the need was there and the public wanted it.