A proposal to hire a county building inspector finally gained Lincoln County Commission approval Tuesday evening, giving planning and zoning officials a major win after having argued for the position for at least two years.
It may still be a while, though, before the inspector is in place, as the county must first transition from the state contract, adopt international building codes for residential and commercial structures, develop a job description and then fill the position.
After having rejected the proposal in each of the last two budget cycles, commissioners acquiesced Tuesday, even though it had come to them without an affirmative vote from county budgeters. Just two weeks earlier, the request failed in 5-3 committee vote.
“I do not concur with their vote,” said Commissioner Kate Guin Tuesday evening as she made a motion to approve hiring the building inspector. Her motion was approved in commission by a vote of 18-4, with one abstention and one commissioner not present.
Arguing that the projected annual cost of a county inspector is less than what the county sends to the state for inspection services, based on fees collected annually over the last five years, planning and zoning director Nancy Harris had said in committee that the position would not only save money but provide a higher level of inspections, include commercial construction, be more accommodating for builders and meet National Flood Insurance criteria.
The first year’s cost would amount to $91,518, including $32,200 in one-time start-up expense – recurring expenses would amount to approximately $60,000 per year. Over the last five years, the county has averaged sending $63,576 to the state for inspection services.
Rezoning approved despite opposition
Despite opposition voiced by one resident, commissioners approved rezoning 4.9 acres along the Huntsville Highway in southern Lincoln County from agricultural to commercial property, accommodating a planned used car lot across the highway from Palatec Manufacturing.
Perry Hall spoke out against the rezoning during the public hearing held just before the commission meeting and then again during the commission meeting itself, questioning due diligence in notifying area residents, the property’s use as a car lot and potential future uses once zoned commercially, its impact on residential property values, and issues such as traffic and access. Hall went on to ask that studies be done on drainage and erosion, as well as any potential impact on residential property values.
Bob Malone of BMA Properties also addressed the commission in favor of the rezoning. Noting that he is representing the developer, Malone said drainage issues had been addressed in plans and that the Tennessee Department of Transportation had reviewed access and traffic concerns as part of its approval process.
Ultimately, the commission gave the requested rezoning its unanimous approval.
Two outgoing county commissioners spoke in Tuesday’s meeting, offering their parting words as their terms came to an end.
Commissioner Darrin Simms was the first to speak, thanking his fellow commissioners for the privilege and honor of serving with them and going on to commend the implementation of school resource officers.
“Thank the Lord we’ve got them,” he said. “The force has already been seen – they’re out there and they’re doing a great job. Thank you, sheriff, for what you’ve done for that and helping to get that going.”
Simms went on to say the county must find a way to enforce its wheel tax in regard to residents who register their vehicles outside the county but yet send their children to our schools.
“I’d really appreciate it if this county commission, including the new commissioners, would step up and do something about this, because that’s a whole lot of tax revenue that we’re losing in this county, and we could desperately use this in our educational system and highway department,” he said. “As a school bus driver and teacher, I see it every day ... I see Franklin County, Moore County, Coffee County and a whole bunch of Alabama [tags] rolling in there and dropping kids off.”
Later, Sheriff Murray Blackwelder responded to Simms’ comments on the wheel tax, saying that while children’s school registrations are tied to utilities’ bills as evidence of residency, there should be a way to tie those some bills to wheel tag registrations.
Commissioner Rick Head also spoke, saying while they may not have always agreed on the issues at hand, it had been a pleasure working with his fellow commissioners.
“I realize the next few years will bring a lot of big challenges, and I’ll continue to pray for those of you who are continuing forward and for all of you who are stepping in,” he said. “I hope that in the future this new group of commissioners, along with you, will be guided by God’s wisdom in your decisions and that the best interest of all Lincoln County’s citizens will always be the guiding light for this legislative body.”
Going on to thank department heads and their staffs, Head noted that the night prior, 127 people had attended a Veterans Services Committee meeting at the courthouse. He challenged the commission to continue to move that committee forward, saying it is a well-founded committee and one that can do a lot of good work for the citizens of the county.
“Once again, let me say thank you to each of you and to the citizens of Lincoln County,” he said. “It’s been a privilege to serve. Good night and God bless our country and our county.”
Noting that several years ago the commission had rezoned property at the old scales on the Huntsville Hwy., Commissioner Chris Thornton asked the status of plans there – “There’s no dirt moving, and the sewer is out there,” he said.
Bob Malone was asked to respond and said that the developer is continuing to work with Croy Engineering out of Huntsville in putting together plans for the property, which will represent a half million to a million dollar investment initially.
At a glance
* Voted to hire a building inspector.
* Failed to approve $115,940 for reroofing the county building, where the city police department was formerly located, by a two-thirds majority.
* Agreed to fund one-third of the cost, not to exceed $17,800, matching the city and FPU, for replacement of conduits and wiring of historic light fixtures around the square’s inner-loop.
* Agreed to go with Option 2 for county employee health insurance premiums, keeping percentages at the 2018 rate in terms of what the county pays per employee. Overall, premiums increased by two percent.
* Accepted a 401(k) and 457(b) resolutions and agreements requested by Lincoln Health System.
* Extended the lease on USDA building by two years at a lease rate of $15 per square foot.
* Okayed general fund budget amendments, including $150,000 in required improvements to the USDA building and $735,456 in re-budgeted expense related to the courthouse improvement project, 95 percent of which is funded by TDOT. The project is expected to be complete in mid-September.
* Approved a $713,797 general purpose school fund amendment to establish the state e-plan voluntary pre-K grant budget, which includes a local match of $163,129.
* Re-budgeted $288,060 in capital outlay funds not spent at year’s end by the Highway Department to be used for equipment purchases.
* Approved the trustee’s bond at a cost of $10,000, which covers the next four years.
* Ratified a plan to transfer all cash from its public utility sewer fund to the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities once sewer operations are transferred on Jan. 1.
* Approved rezoning Huntsville Hwy. property. – 4.9 acres across from Jenkins and Hodge drives and adjacent to Palatec – from A1 (agriculture, forestry, rural residential) to C1 (general commercial) to accommodate the location of a used car lot there.
* Approved rezoning property at 3237 Huntsville Hwy. from A1 to C1. Owned by Russell Bradley, in care of The Broadway Group, the property is to be subdivided, with a Dollar General locating on the southern end where a house would be demolished.
* Called a public hearing for 5 p.m. Sept. 18 on rezoning property owned by Michael and Donna Decker on Hwy. 64 West, just east of Dollar General, from A2 (suburban residential) to A1. The change would allow a mobile home to be placed on the property.
* Approved using $13,000 from the sheriff’s drug fund for the purchase of a vehicle.
* Okayed $4,030 in clothing allowances for Sheriff’s Department staff.
* Requested that the IT director provide a cost estimate on moving from paper agendas to iPads.