July 22, 2014 - 14:45
Township facing cuts
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Chairman of the Township Board, said expenses are four times the amount being earned in interest, with more than $10,000 spent monthly on previous obligations.

The Fourth Fractional Township board has begun cutting expenses. When copper mining came to an end, the Township kept $1 million in the bank and used the interest to help schools in the township. After Ducktown closed, however, the cost of maintaining security began eating into the bank account.

When new Board members Craig Green, Ron O’Neal and Daren Waters took over in September, the assets were below $1 million. Waters, Chairman of the Township Board, said expenses are four times the amount being earned in interest, with more than $10,000 spent monthly on previous obligations. Waters said they will have to lay off some of the people who have been providing round-the-clock security on the Ducktown School building, but he added that security will continue. For now, they will also have to cut back on money given to the two schools.

Waters said the key goal of the Township officers is to turn the Ducktown School property into a source of income instead of a monthly debt. Grants have been applied for to help maintain the property and there has been talk of the possibility of leasing the building. Township commissioners are looking at all options. Waters said they want to get the bank account back up to $1 million and the commissioners asked that the public understand the cuts that will have to be made during these tough economic times.

Because of the unique history of the Fourth Fractional Township, there were times when it received $225,000 yearly and more in royalties from the copper mining industry.

The township concept dates back to the Congressional Land Ordinance of 1785, which provided for a regular, systematic development of the new nation’s western land into townships of six miles square. Each township was to be subdivided into 36 square-mile sections, numbered from 1 to 36. The 16th section of each was to be reserved “for the maintenance of public schools.” Following the Indian removal in 1835, the concept applied to the newly acquired Indian territory, including what is now Polk County. Later legislation allowed the states to sell this school land, but the Fourth Fractional Township in the Copper Basin has retained its ownership and governing commission. It’s “fractional” because it does not have the full 36 square miles due to the Georgia and North Carolina borders. Other townships in Polk County transferred their land to the Board of Education.

What set the Fourth Fractional Township apart was the fact that copper was discovered on the square-mile school section, located between Copper Basin High School and what was the Tennessee shaft of the Tennessee Chemical Company. A series of leases to copper mining companies followed.

Even before mining began, the township was guaranteed $10,000 yearly (later changed to $12,000) in prepaid royalties. The various mining companies paid the royalties for more than 50 years before mining actually began on the Cherokee ore body. The township’s first real royalties, coming in 1982, totaled $143,416. For the first full year of royalties, the township received around $225,000.

It appeared that the township would become a major source of educational funds for schools in the Copper Basin (Turtletown was not included because it is not located in the Fourth Fractional Township) but copper mining came to an end in 1987. At that point, the township commissioners decided to keep $1 million in the bank, using only the interest earned to help the schools in the township.

The most permanent accomplishment of the Township came in 1932, when it built Kimsey Junior College, the only architect-designed building in the Copper Basin. Although its intended use was never approved by the state, it has been used as both a high school and an elementary school.

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