Polk’s Board of County Commissioners met in Ducktown for their April monthly meeting. The Board discussed the appointment of a County Attorney, lights at the ballfields in Ducktown, water at the BMX park, and a request for Easley Ford Road. Commissioners also did a host of budget amendments in preparation for year-end. Commissioners decided to advertise the position of County Attorney before taking a vote. Attorney Eric Brooks, who has been working with the county for several years, was recommended by Commissioner Mark Bishop. Commissioner John Pippenger said he had nothing against Eric Brooks, but he had heard Brooks did not litigate. Bishop said retiring County Attorney Jimmy Logan has offered to continue to do litigation if needed.
Attorney Brooks was on hand at the meeting, and explained that he did some litigation, but that most attorneys now had specialties like doctors did. He said it was always best to get someone familiar with a particular matter or have more than one attorney. Brooks said having someone to do litigation based on the case was ideal. County Executive Hoyt Firestone said the county had previously called in other attorneys for tax litigation, and hired someone for help with tax appraisals. He said it was hard to find someone who was good for everything. Bishop said the county’s delinquent taxes were in better shape than they had been for years. He said Brooks had been checking every parcel before putting it in a tax sale, and had even sold a parcel that the county had for 39 years. Bishop said Brooks had gotten taxes current and had also worked with Bishop on subdivision stuff for the Planning Board.
“I’m happy to have him if Logan will litigate,” Bishop said. Commissioner Karen Bracken asked what would happen if Logan couldn’t take a case and at what cost it might be to find someone else.
Pippenger said he had no problem with Brooks if he was willing to litigate on smaller cases, but felt the position should be advertised at least in the local paper. Brooks said he would be happy to talk with any of the commissioners if they had questions.
Commissioner Sheena Gaddis told the board she had been contacted about a water hookup for the BMX park in Ducktown. She said the City of Ducktown was providing free electricity. Commissioner Daren Waters explained that in the past, someone had cut the line and hooked on to it, but the water board wanted a new meter put in. Firestone said if they did it, they would be providing water for a non-county function. He said they would be using local taxpayer funds for a service they have no control over.
Waters said it would be just as close for them to tie in to the subdivision at the back of the track and it would be a question for the water board. Gaddis said she would let follow up with them to let them know they would likely need to put in their own meter.
A bid for fencing around the impound lot at the Justice Center was approved. A galvanized fence will be installed for $9976. A black vinyl option for $11,930 was also provided, but Firestone pointed out the black vinyl fencing was actually a smaller gauge of fencing. Surplus vehicles from the Sheriff’s Department were approved for sale, with proceeds going back into the patrol car fund.
Road Superintendent Roy Thomason told the board a state road project on Easley Ford Road would replace the bridge there. He said it was currently a one-lane bridge, but the new proposed bridge would be two lanes. Thomason said if they changed the classification of the road to a “local route,” they could use more narrow 10-foot lanes. The road is currently classified as a “rural minor collector.” Thomason said this would reduce the cost of the project by $200,000-300,000. The project is estimated to cost about $2 million. Angie Sanford asked if they would be tearing down the bridge currently there. Thomason said it would be several years down the road. Bracken asked if there were any negatives to changing the classification. Thomason said no. He said the road was a connector road and did not have good access for larger vehicles anyway. He said it would still be a state aid road and nothing would change that. The commission approved the change.
Only one bid came in for lights at the Ducktown Community Center ballfields. The bid, for four 70’ concrete poles, 30 fixtures, electrical panels, and wiring, came in at $72,310. Firestone told the board any project going over $50,000 requires the hiring of an engineer, which would be an additional cost. He said the board could try to purchase the materials, then hire someone to do the installation. That could bring the bid under $50,000. Waters said if the county bought poles and fixtures, the rest could be bid. He said they could put up whatever kind of poles they wanted and did not have to do concrete. Waters said he had several calls from suppliers over the last couple days asking about the project, and thought they might want to bid.
The bid received did not contain a breakdown of costs. Waters said if they could get a breakdown they would know if it fell fall below the cost they needed. Mac York said five months ago he thought all they needed was the bids. He said the board was picking it apart like they had done for the last 15 years. York said the boys baseball field was the only field in the Basin with lights. He said it keeps getting put back and put back and it would go on for years. York said they had waited too long already and the kids needed it now.
“Tell me a field down there that doesn’t have lights,” York said. Bishop responded that Polk County High School did not have lights. Pippenger said it was citizens who had done the lights at the community fields in Benton. “Why don’t you just say you’re not gonna do it,” York said. Waters said they have said they were going to do it and were trying to work it out. Bishop reminded York that if he was going to bring up east side and west side, the west side did not have a community center or a pool. Waters suggested the board put out a new bid notice, then meet again May 12th to go over them and decide how to proceed. He said he wanted to do it as quickly as possible to get it done before the next commission meeting.
A small delinquent tax sale is planned for June 3rd. Attorney Eric Brooks told the board there was a parcel included in the Sassafrass Ridge subdivision that contained a man-made lake. During open bidding for property in a tax sale, if no one bids, the county does. Brooks suggested the county not bid on this parcel in the event it is available. He said liability and other issues made it better for the county not to own it. Jack Collins asked what happened to someone if they bought a piece of property at a tax sale, then flipped it, then they taxes were paid by the original owner. He said there was a redemption period for the original owner. Brooks said the redemption period depended on how far back the taxes went. As Collins and York attempted to illustrate a scenario in which the land was sold, Pippenger interrupted to point out the meeting had reached the 2-hour mark. Commissioners voted several months ago to end meetings at two hours. The resolution to not bid on the Sassafrass property with the lake was still read and approved.
Theda Bramlett told commissioners the 911 Board had hired Wes Davis as 911 Director, but he needed insurance and retirement, which the 911 Board was unable to offer. She said they could pay for everything, but it needed to run through the county in order of him to get his benefits. She requested Davis be paid through the Sheriff’s Department since the 911 equipment is there, and said the Board would drop the money into a new line item for the position up front.
Commissioners told Bramlett they would vote o the issue at the next meeting.