Copper Basin Medical Center’s Board of Trustees looks to update bylaws

The Copper Basin Hospital Board of Trustees members talked about the bylaws, payment for Dr. Siddiqui, and possible replacements for out-going member Randy Collins duirng their July meeting. Following the meeting, CEO Anna Clark responded to comments made at a county commission meeting that she was leaving the hospital. Clark said it was not true, and that if she was going to resign she would not do so via the rumor-mill.

A bylaws committee made up of Frank Shinpaugh, Jack Collins, and Doug Collins was formed during the meeting. Clark told the board the attorney said they could continue to operate as a district board and committees, but there were things that needed to be added to the bylaws. She said there were things like performance meetings that could not be done publicly. Shinpaugh asked if the attorney was going to tell them what changes needed to be made, or if they told the attorney what to do. He said they were taking over for the corporate board, and asked what happened to their bylaws. Jack Collins said the District Board was a standing board before the corporate board existed and their bylaws couldn’t conflict with the Private Act. He said it was up to the board to go look over both of them any eliminate any conflict.

Clark said they needed to decide if they were going to use Roberts Rules of Order or how they were going to conduct meetings. She said that needed to be included in the bylaws. Jack Collins suggested they collectively come up with ideas. He said Executive Assistant Carina Walker could come up with what was required by federal law.
Shinpaugh asked about attendance requirement for meetings. He suggested someone needed to “hold the bucket” of ideas. Shinpaugh made a motion to form a committee to meet to go over everything.

Doug Collins asked if that was a committee he could set up, or if they needed to utilize the executive committee. Shinpaugh said that was something else that should be in the bylaws. Collins read through the Private Act, which indicated there could be special committees. Mitchell Hicks suggested ideas from other board members could be sent to Walker to keep everything together.

“We’ve got to make progress,” Shinpaugh said. “We’re doing more things than we used to do. We need to have rules to protect ourselves,” Shinpaugh said. Shinpaugh asked if Walker could come to the bylaws committee meeting. Bea Tallent suggested Walker had information the board members did not.

Hicks asked if there had been a determination from the attorney in regards to questions brought up last month about the ER contract. Doug Collins said the attorney had the material but had not made a determination.
Collins said he spoke to Dr. Mahmood Siddiqui, asking him if he would want the ER contract back if something happened with the new contract. Collins said Siddiqui said he would not. Hicks said he thought Siddiqui wanted to get paid for the work he had already done.
Clark said she had spoken to Siddiqui, and an arrangement had been made. She said Siddiqui would be paid when they received TennCare money in September. Hicks said Siddiqui’s contract said it could not be amended unless agreed to by both parties, so it stood. Jack Collins said it had given them a black eye to lose Siddiqui. Doug Collins said he was still there, but was not referring anyone to the hospital. “Think about it Doug, do you blame him,” Hicks asked. Doug Collins said no, but that they needed to move forward for the sake of the hospital and people.

Jack Collins asked about the new ER contract and whether or not they were paying more now. Ron O’Neal said they (the new ER staff) were in the same boat as the hospital now. Clark said the hospital was coming out ahead.
Clark said the pro fees were $25,000-$30,000 a month from Dr. Siddiqui, and that the new ER staff had “skin in the game.” She said with the new ER staff, transfers were down by half and admits had gone up. Hicks asked if Clark could provide a report for the last twelve months to see how much came in; Clark said yes.
The board also discussed potential replacements for Randy Collins, who has turned in his resignation from the board. O’Neal said he had spoken with James Talley, who said he would come on the board. Jack Collins suggested Raymond Allison. Doug Collins asked Kathy Stewart to join. Stewart, who was on hand at the meeting, said Copperhill was part of it and she would be glad to serve. The names will be submitted to the county commission.

Sinpaugh told the board the financial committee had heard from the Tennessee Justice Center. He said they worked with other hospitals who were facing the same issues as CBMC. Doug Collins said they learned about what other hospitals had done and what not to do. He said when hospitals got desperate, folks are like wolves.
Sinpaugh said they learned that 1200 Polk citizens could be insured if Tennessee had participated in the Affordable Care Act. He said it all stemmed from the state not wanting to do it just for the sake of not doing it. Clark said she thought it would come up again in January.

Clark said representatives from Erlanger did an on-site visit and would likely want another round of data. She said she thought there was still interest. Clark said Erlanger fit well in Bledsoe County and she hoped for the same thing here. Clark also told the board a new surgeon, Tom Ross, would begin working at the hospital on August 9th. She said patients were already lined up. Clark said Dr. Ross was from Ellijay, where a hospital had closed. She said Surgical Associated from Cleveland would not be coming anymore.

Polk County Budget Committee finalizes 2016-17 budget

Periodic outbursts marked the last two budget meetings, but the 72¢ raise for county employees is still in place, and no tax increase is slated. Mark Bishop said Polk County’s growth depended on our neighbors, and pointed out their tax rates were lower. He said $2.40 didn’t sound really bad, but when you add on city taxes it got pretty high. He said it would cost 30% more to get industry in the cities and that was hindering economic growth.
John Pippenger asked about the collection rate. Budget Director Kelley Morgan said they collected 98% of the 90% rate set in last year’s budget.

Commissioners voted to adjust the pro-ration on the sanitation, leaving them with a little more than $20,000 to cut from the budget. Pippenger made a motion to take that amount from the fund balance to balance the budget. Daniel Deal seconded the motion, but the motion failed. Bishop said they needed to get the budget finished and get it in the paper. He said if the State sets it, it won’t be pretty. Karen Bracken said if they dropped the raise down to 60¢ it would cover the amount left to cut. She also said the school system could be dropped down to a level 2 funding. Pippenger asked why Bracken didn’t make a motion if that’s what she wanted to do.
Brett Nelms asked Bracken if she had kids in the school system. Bracken said no.

“But you want to cut $76,000,” Nelms asked, adding that Bracken also wanted to bump down the raise. He asked if Bracken knew what the poverty level was and if she had ever had to live on $16,000 a year. Bracken said she had; Nelms asked what year that was. Nelms asked Bracken to explain why the employees only deserved 60¢ when they hadn’t had a raise in 15 years. Bracken said it had not been 15 years. Nelms asked if cutting education was really the right thing to do. He also asked what would happen if everyone walked out because of the low wages. Nelms asked Bracken how long she had lived here, and that he hoped people remembered this at the next election. Bracken said she didn’t base her decision on re-election. Pippenger said when Bracken was talking about Administration, she was apparently including people who were paid with grant money.

Bracken talked about the cost per pupil of the Director of Schools and Principals; Morgan suggested it be talked about when someone from the school system was there. Pippenger said he wanted to see a vote on dropping school funding and seconded Bracken’s motion. He asked for a roll call vote. The motion failed with only Bracken voting in favor.

Jail Administrator Teresa Hammons said the Sheriff authorized her to offer $26,000 in increased revenue from the jail budget in order to balance without cutting education or lowering the raises. Bishop made a motion to add that money to balance the budget.

Pastor David Smith from Living Free Community Outreach was on hand at the meeting. He said they opened in Ducktown a year ago and the biggest thing they have run into was that there is no place to live. Smith said they had a 96% ratio of getting out of addiction and they could find their clients jobs, but not housing. He said they acquired a van to go back and forth to the doctor. Smith said there was money going elsewhere for drug prevention and suggested some of that be given to them to help with rehab.

Ledford pointed out they had to want to be rehabilitated for the program to work. “You can give this man all the money you want, but they have to want it,” Ledford said. Cheryl Buehler asked what it was they actually did and if they were trained counselors. Smith said they were a non-resident rehab. He said they did 12-step programs, anger management, and family counseling.

Pippenger asked what drug prevention money Smith was referring to. He said the drug fund was used for maintenance of drug dogs and to pay for drug officers. Karen Bracken said it could be used for rehab. Pippenger said that was up to the sheriff. Hammons pointed out that everything mention was also done in the jail currently. She said they have had 13 graduates from their GED program, as well.

Jury in Waters triple homicide to come from Monroe County, TN

The trial date for George Steven Waters has been changed, and jurors will now be selected from a Monroe County jury pool. An order was filed July 11th by Criminal Court Judge Sandra Donaghy that set the trial to begin January 23, 2017. Waters faces murder charges for the August 17, 2012 triple homicide of Wanda Waters, Doug Waters, and Willard Waters. The State is not seeking the death penalty.

According to the filing, the court will request a jury pool of 400 jurors to be summoned from the residents of Monroe County. Two hundred will be required to appear at the Monroe County Courthouse September 15th, and another 200 will be required to appear September 16th. Those who qualify to serve as potential jurors will be required to fill out juror questionnaires previously approved by the court, and copies will be distributed thereafter, the judge’s order says.

Individual Voir Dire of jurors having filled out questionnaires in September will be conducted November 21 and 22. General Voir Dire will be conducted January 17 at 8:30am at the Monroe County Courthouse. All those chosen as jurors will receive strict instructions from the court regarding discussion of and research into the case, and will be allowed to return home to make arrangements with employers and families. They will then report for jury service January 23 at the Polk County Justice Center in Benton. They will remain sequestered for the duration of the trial.

Hearings for all outstanding motions will be conducted September 20-22 at the Justice Center in Benton.

Polk County, TN employees could see 72¢ raise if budget passes

Polk County Budget Committee work included a motion to eliminate all additional employee requests and reduce the raise for county employees to 72¢ decreased the budget’s cut number from $905,000 to just over $52,000. Money added to the election budget on Monday raised that number a bit. Commissioners still need to eliminate $60,000 to avoid a tax increase. Mark Bishop motioned to set the county’s funding levels back to what they were at the beginning of 2015-2016, then add a 60¢ raise. Bishop said employees had not had a rise in a long time. He said the state gave 3% last year, but if they did a percentage it would keep broadening the gap. Sheena Gaddis asked if the Election Commission would go back to 2014-2015 levels.

Karen Bracken asked what the raise would cost. Bishop said 60¢ would be roughly $1248 per year for each employee. He said the commission should still look at the some of what the road department was asking for, and that the bridges could be paid for as a one-time expense. Bracken said it wouldn’t make sense to give up those matching finds and not take care of that. Hoyt Firestone asked about part-time workers. He said they did not always get the same raise in the past. Bishop said it would be the same increase but less hours. He said they should treat everybody the same. John Hoyt Pippenger made a motion to amend Bishop’s motion to a 75¢ raise. That motion failed. Mike Curbow made a motion to amend it to 72¢. That motion passed.

Bracken told the board they needed to add $18,000 to the budget for the Office of Elections. She said they could not give less money than they gave two years ago, the last time there was two elections. Election Administrator Steve Gaddis said he was good with what he got last year. Bracken said it didn’t matter what he was good with, it was what the law said. Gaddis said he was not showing a major difference in the two years. He said his figure was different than Bracken’s. Firestone pointed out there was a capital project for the Election office last year. Bishop said the budget for the election office was $243,304 in 2014-15. He said last year’s budget was $213,854 and this year was $215,177. He said it would be wise to go ahead and add the money for the second election, pointing out it was brought up when he made the motion for raises at the previous meeting. Pippenger asked if there would be any reimbursement from the presidential election. Firestone said that only came from Super Tuesday, not the November election. Gaddis asked if a new line item would have to be put in for liability insurance, which was brought up during the regular monthly commission meeting. Firestone said the premium was $3326, and a line would have to be added to that budget. Bishop asked how they would need to spread the money being put into the election budget. Steve Gaddis suggested putting it under contract services and election workers.

Bracken said the Sheriff’s Department line for guards had been amended last year for more than $60,000, but was set at the same amount this year. She said the line was being underfunded and they would pay the price at the end of the year with amendments from the fund balance. Bishop pointed out the sheriff’s office had exceeded what was budgeting for revenue, and brought in $100,000. He said they may have hit the fund balance, but the amount of revenue brought in covered the guards.
Bracken said 2.5 employees had been brought on at the sheriff’s department that were not budgeted. She said she looked at it ever different way possible, but the difference was $65,000, which was equal to 2.5 employees. Amanda Maples said they never added those employees. Bracken said unless Maples could show her differently, they were added. She said she asked Maples to sit down with her to review information she sent, but Maples never followed up. Maples said she sent Bracken a list of employees. She said some had been moved to part-time. Joe Price suggested Bracken should speak to the Sheriff since it was his department. Bracken said Maples never told her to talk to the Sheriff. Price said he was telling her now. Firestone said the county had added close to $3 million to the fund balance this year and they should leave the pennies alone. He suggested the commission give them a chance to follow their budget.

Pippenger said if they raised the percentage of collections to 91% they could cover the amount left to cut in the budget. Bracken suggested lowering the raise to 60¢ would compensate for the difference. Pippenger asked if there was a request for Parks and Rec. Bishop said Diana Burris had asked about one, but he told her it was too tight this year. He said he thought with the walking trail coming in there would be more traffic at the ballfields and it might cut down on the vandalism. Bishop said work needed to be done on both sides, and suggested the area around the pool in Ducktown needed work.

Pippenger made a motion to raise the percent of collections to 91% to cover the $60,000 needed for the budget, and give $19,800 to Parks and Rec. Cheryl Buehler asked what percentage of collections had been coming in. Pippenger said a little more than 90%. Buehler asked if the $19,800 would cover the requested library position; Pippenger said no. Jenny Rogers said money for Parks and Rec was great, but that public libraries give people opportunities to find jobs, improve their skills, get training, and achieve a better financial situation. She pointed out that Polk ranks 95th in the state for funding. She said the county that ranked 94th spent almost double what Polk spent.
Rogers reminded the commission they had two library facilities the county did not pay a dime for. She said Friends of the Library paid for maintenance, and the only thing the county had to pay for was salaries.

Nicholas Lewis said the library request was a minute number compared to the rest of the budget. He asked when the last time the Governor’s wife rolled in to the county, pointing out she came to visit the library. Lewis said the county had held stagnant and it was time to move forward. He said he came back to the county after college and wanted to fix things. He said it was time not to just hold the tax rate the same. Lewis said the county needed to build education and build industry. He said more education meant more productive people. Bracken asked what advantages there would be to having a library director. Rogers said they would be able to take the time to apply for grants. She said the two part-time librarians now were too busy checking out books and doing their jobs to do anything more. Rogers said they ask year after year for help with the libraries and that we could not improve if not given opportunities.

Rogers said the library was losing patrons because they did not have anyone there to work with people one-on-one. She said people struggle every day with computers and they could offer classes to teach them. Rogers said she wished the board would go into the libraries and see who all came in.
Rogers said the two libraries had four part-time librarians. She said a library system can’t be run that way. Lewis said Polk spent $4.83 per capita, and surrounding counties spent $10.48 per capita. Both Rogers and Lewis said they understood Polk would never be able to afford that, but that the library was the life blood of every county. Bishop suggested there were teenagers who needed service hours who could teach classes at the library. He said the county needed to bring in industry.
Kayla Curbow said she used to worked at the Cleveland Public Library and had seen how much people love their library. She said teenagers were not reliable and would stop as soon as they got their hours. She said coming from college there were people who don’t know programs like Microsoft Word, and couldn’t learn from their parents because their parents didn’t know. Curbow said libraries helped more than just kids.

Pippenger pointed out his motion to give money to Parks and Rec was because the county could give one-time funding, and the library position would have to be included continuously. Rogers said industry would look at the adequacy of public libraries, pointing out that the third question asked by Saturn when they moved to Spring Hill was about public libraries. Sheena Gaddis asked if the raise could be adjust to 60¢ to fund the library position. Rogers said she didn’t want to take from the raises and the employees needed a living wage. Gaddis said she didn’t like the gap in pay or want to have to do a huge increse, and thought doing multiple small increases would be better. The motion to raise collections to 91% and fund Parks and Rec failed. Buster Lewis made a motion to increase the tax 4¢ and give 3¢ to the road department and 1¢ to the libraries. That motion failed. The committee is slated to meet again Tuesday, July 26th.

Yates, Thomason win countywide races

Randy Yates will hold onto the job of Property Assessor after defeating a challenge from Bill Trew. Yates received 1420 votes to Trew’s 1237.

For Road Superintendent, Roy Thomason, Jr. defeated Alley Bruce by a margin of 1491 to 1131.

David Green and Jayson Lamb were the victors in First District School Board.

Shawn Pritchett will hold his 2nd District School Board seat.

David Goode, Robbie Cole, and Mush Davis will represent the 3rd school district.

Seth Bishop, Shawn Lewis, and Jeremy Tipton will be constables.

Top vote getters in the 4th Fractional Township were Daren Waters, Ronnette O’Neal, and Dennis Trantham.

More information and precinct totals will be available in next week’s Polk County News.

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.