County draft budget passes, Wells Hill construction sent back to committee


 Last week’s meeting of the Lincoln County Commission saw the passing of the draft budget for FY 21-22, an update on the construction at Blanche School, and deliberation over the challenges facing the new construction at Wells Hill Park, among other matters.

Dr. Bill Heath was the first to speak, noting that summer school has begun at Blanche and recommending that anyone interested in the construction completed at that facility watch the video tour available online. According to Heath, the construction at Blanche is nearly complete, with only a few sewer pumps and some paving remaining. Heath said it has been “a pleasure” to improve the grounds at Blanche.

Then, following the approval of the various committee minutes from the previous month, the commission then turned their attention to Houston Matthews of Croy Engineering, who appeared to discuss the developments at Wells Hill Park. For reasons undisclosed by Matthews, the original location at which they had intended to construct new restrooms was unfeasible, leading the contractors and the county to seek out a revision of the initial plan. The grant funding this project, however, proved to be quite stringent, prohibiting the deviations necessary to construct restrooms elsewhere. Moreover, the bids received by the county from private contractors indicate that the total price of the planned construction at Wells Hill Park will exceed the expected sum by a considerable amount. Considering these setbacks, Matthews advised that the county has three options moving forward: rebid for the construction, execute an agreement with architects in Huntsville to the same end, or temporarily terminate the project and reapply for the necessary grants when they are next available. When asked by the commission which of the options he thought was most advisable, Matthews implied that a temporary termination of the project was wisest. According to Matthews, rebidding is unlikely to yield a more favorable construction cost and the grants used to supplement the project can be attained at regular intervals.

Mayor Bill Newman added that he “doesn’t disagree” with Matthews’ assessment, and while other options such as private funding were discussed, the commission ultimately moved to delay action on the project and have the budget committee reassess the situation. The motion prevailed.

Numerous appointments and reappointments to committees followed. Sheila Allen, Doug Campbell, Ernie Qualls, Bill Newman, Ed Simms, Angel Wilson, Dexter Sullivan, Justin Moorehead, Dorothy Small, Dist. 1 Danny Walker, Dist 2 John Thorpe, Dist 3 Jack Atchley, Dist 4 Randy Bradford, Dist 5 Stephanie Britt, Dist 6 Tori Young, Dist 7 Glen Douglas, and Dist 8 Ronald Jean were appointed to the Redistricting 2020 Census Committee.

Josh Buchanan and Jack Fowler were reappointed to the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities. Their terms will expire in 2024.

Dr. Bill Heath then returned to the podium, representing Lincoln County Schools as three relevant motions were considered: the transfer of $500,000 from the General Purpose School Fund to the Federal Projects Fund for FY 2021; the budget amendment requisite for the change to occur; and a multi-year lease agreement with Lenova for school laptops. The latter of these three considerations would cost roughly $40,000 per year, according to Heath. All three motions were approved without conflict.

The commission then turned their attention to the consideration for approval of File # 2R2021-1 Amend Article 11. Sect 2.030 — Access to Public Streets or Private Roads. Prior to the county commission meeting, a public hearing had been held on this matter, yielding one request that the amendment be sent back to the Planning and Zoning Committee for the addition of language establishing a minimum number of addresses that can be had on such a road. A motion was made to send the amendment back to committee, but the motion had no effect with a result of 10 yes and 11 no. After some discussion, a motion to institute the amendment passed with a vote of 18 yes and two no.

Sandwiched between the above motions was a rezoning request or Alpesh Patel SW Corner of Huntsville Hwy and Simmons Circle, Fayetteville, Tennessee. The motion for this request passed unanimously.

Carolyn Denton of the Chamber of Commerce then spoke, informing the commission that copies of the new chamber directory, which features Camp Blount on its cover, are now available at the Exchange. Additionally, Denton noted that the June showing of Music in the Park went quite well. Upcoming chamber-sponsored events include the Celebration of Independence, which will take place on June 26, and Crusin’, which will take place on September 11.

Near the end of the meeting, the commission voted on the Draft Budget for FY 2021-22, which can be read in its totality in the previous issue of the Elk Valley Times. The budget passed unanimously.