Friday, May 10, 2019

Cocke County Finance Committee
The Cocke County Finance Committee continued Thursday to look at requests in the proposed 2019/20 budget. The Landfill has been closed because of issues with efforts to expand the facility, and as a result all waste now is being hauled to the Waste Industries site in Lowland. Committee Chair Forrest Clevenger said the problems developed because the county did not utilize an engineer in the expansion process "and now the county has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars." At the suggestion of Commissioner David Veridal the committee voted to recommend that the county hire a diesel mechanic to do an inspection of all the landfill equipment to determine its condition. Clevenger also was critical of the overtime funding in the proposed budget for the fire department, saying three new firefighters have been hired and so the needed overtime should be reduced. Fire Chief Keith Large said he cut the overtime to near the level it was at when he was appointed chief of the department several years ago. On a related note, Commissioner Terry Dawson argued for money in the budget for the volunteer fire departments."We will have to do something for them," he told the committee. Clevenger suggested the establishment of fire districts pointing out that his district is in the city and Newport has its own fire department. Today, he said, city residents, are paying for both a city and county fire department. And he said state law does not mandate a paid county fire department. He suggested looking at the entire proposed budget "is very troubling," adding that it appears that employees are "getting what they want, when they want it, without being questioned." The committee chair also questioned the salary of Finance Director Heather McGaha. He said the director position previously was paid $70,000 but the new budget proposes a salary of $80,000. Clevenger said he was told the position is to be paid the same as the county trustee but he has determined the law says the salary of the finance manager is not to exceed that of the trustee. There also have been issues with a new protocol for kids to sign up to play ball in the recreation department. The signup was confined to Monday through Friday, during daytime hours when most parents are working. Mayor Ottinger said the plan was developed with the assistance of a state auditor in an effort to prevent an audit finding.

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