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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Cocke County Finance Committee
Members of the Cocke County Finance Committee meeting Monday evening agreed to recommend a modification of plans for a road and to construct a construction pad at the planned new industrial park on Highway 25E. In October the committee was told that Blaylock Construction had estimated the project would cost $378,000. But committee Chair Forrest Clevenger announced that the firm later determined that the estimated cost was for the road construction only, and the shovel ready pad would add an additional $400,000 to the cost. The problem is that only $372,000 will be available in the current industrial site fund for that project. So Clevenger announced that Hommel Construction has agreed to build the road and the pad for a total of $482,000, with $125,000 to come from next year's budget. He added that constructing the road and pad will open the area up for grants, proving to the state that the community is serious about recruiting jobs. Commissioner Gary Carver suggested the move may open the project to future state grants to extend the road further into the 700 plus acre project. Hommel reportedly is ready to move ahead on the project however Partnership President Lucas Graham reported he has sought bids from other firms as well but has not yet received them. The committee will recommend that the full Cocke County Legislative Body(CLB) move ahead with the project. Chairman Clevenger also argued for a plan to reduce the overtime costs in the fire department. Mayor Crystal Ottinger who oversees the department said when the department was established, the powers and duties were delegated to the department. She said the department is to be headed by the fire chief, and if the CLB chooses to run the department, "I would ask that you not discriminate, that you also take the other departments that were formed the same way. That way it doesn't look like you are singling out the fire department or discriminating against animal control or the veterans services office." Clevenger has been a critic of the department primarily because of the amount of overtime that is paid. He said the current budget earmarks $292,000 for overtime and the department this fiscal year has already spent $127,000 for overtime. The chairman said his intention is not to disband the fire department, but to bring it in line with the other fire departments in the state. "I've done research and found 12 paid county fire departments in the state of Tennessee. Out of 95 counties, we are ranked number two as far as fire protection spending. There is one county in the state that spends more money, and that is Madison County with a population of 100,000 people. They have 17 fire stations that they operate with a budget of $1,137,000. We spent $1,038,000." Cocke County Training Officer captain Robert Cashen to maintain the current ISO rating requires five firefighters on a shift. Clevenger suggested cutting costs by putting firefighters on call or implementing a volunteer program. Commissioner Gary Carver said a fire department is important to provide fire protection to large industry that is outside the city limits of Newport. Mayor Ottinger said the department is subject to federal law which regulates the overtime issue. "They are federally required to pay overtime after so many hours of their tour of duty. If we can't compensate for those hours, then they can't work. So that would take the five man shift down to three each. A reduction of manpower could result in a reduction of service and even though we rely on volunteers, there could be a delay in response time." The mayor also suggested if there are fewer firemen, the ISO(International Organization for Standardization) rating likely would increase, raising insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses, or may end insurance coverage. She admitted that overtime in the department is high, but the department currently has three vacancies. And to reduce overtime costs, the mayor said the lowest paid firefighters are being assigned to overtime. But she added,"We don't want calls to go unanswered or the cost of coverage to go up. The mayor said planning is underway to reduce the overtime in the next budget, and ask CTAS(County Technical Assistance Service) to come in and do an overtime and best practices audit. The mayor pointed out that many county fire departments have fewer issues with overtime costs because they charge a fee for fire coverage. The committee also will recommend to the full CLB that it approve a plan to lease/purchase 15 patrol cars over a four year period. Chief Deputy Derrick Woods said each car will cost $605 per month for a total payout of $9,075 per month. After four years the county will pay one dollar each, to own the cruisers. The committee agreed to the plan with the cost not to exceed $115,000 annually. Sheriff Armando Fontes said Drug Fund money will be used to equip the cruisers with emergency equipment.

Return to Today's News Stories - Front Page

Monday, August 19, 2019

  • Jefferson County fatality
  • Cocke County pursuit
  • Weisend assault

    Friday, August 16, 2019

  • Governors Rural Opportunity Summit
  • Motorcycle crash
  • Cocke County fire and marijuana
  • Jobless numbers in July
  • West is executed

    Thursday, August 15, 2019

  • Carver's Apple House damaged
  • Cocke County Grand Jury
  • Inmates charged
  • Governor's Rural Opportunities Summit
  • Endangered Species Act

    Wednesday, August 14, 2019

  • Newport City Council
  • Cocke County Finance Committee

    Tuesday, August 13, 2019

  • Williams injury
  • Large barn/apartment destroyed by fire
  • Tennessee tourism continues to grow
  • Gas prices continue to drop
  • Hembree incident
  • Abortion bill

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