County to vote on park funding
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Nov 27, 2012 | 1044 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Doug Berry
Doug Berry
The Bradley County Commission will vote on funding for the proposed industrial park and establishing a local tracking of Constable training at its next voting session.

The county will vote on approving a memorandum of understanding with the city of Cleveland, Cleveland Utilities, Bradley County and the Industrial Development Board to fund the purchase of land for an industrial park. All other parties have already approved their portion of the funding.

In September of last year, the Commission passed a resolution in support of the project if key issues could be addressed.

One element the resolution listed was the requirement for a certificate of public purpose and necessity from the state.

Doug Berry, Cleveland/ Bradley Chamber of Commerce vice president for economic development, said this element has been included in the agreement because the state board will not meet until after the local bodies have their meetings. Berry said he expects the state board to meet on Dec. 14 to make a decision. If the Commission agrees to funding its portion, but the state does not approve the certificate the purchase of the property will not go through.

The county will pay one-third of the $6 million needed funding. The city of Cleveland has agreed to borrow the money needed for the purchase. Berry said the city will not require any payments from the county until 2016.

“The $6 million is a request, which would enable us to purchase the property at $5 million, would reimburse the Industrial (Development) Board for about $155,000 in expenses we’ve incurred to do the necessary studies, to put together the certificate of public purpose and necessity ... the remaining funds would be used to create the interstate tie in to a new local interstate connector,” Berry said.

Some commissioners expressed concerns about infrastructure costs to develop the industrial park.

Berry said an estimated cost for complete infrastructure was around $12 million. Berry said he included as many potential costs as possible in the scenario, so that the Commission would have a realistic idea.

“The intent as it has always been would be to leverage grant and other monies to help off-set those expenses,” Berry said.

One way the infrastructure costs could be off set would be working out a reimbursement agreement with Cleveland Utilities for individuals and businesses that tie into the pipes that the project brought to the area, Berry said. Federal reimbursement and other grants are also being pursued and secured.

Third District Commissioner Jeff Morelock asked if this was something that should go back to the finance committee before the Commission votes on it. The possibility was discussed, but the issue was left on the agenda for the next voting session.

Berry said there has already been some interest from industries to locate to such a park; however, these industries needed space sooner than the industrial park would be ready.

A decision needs to be made by the Commission before the end of December because that is when the current option to purchase the land expires, Berry explained.

“We need to move expeditiously because there are other counties that are in competition (for industry),” 7th District Commissioner Bill Winters said.

Also during the meeting, the Commission heard clarification on the state requirements for county constables from State Rep. Eric Watson.

“A constable is required to complete 40 hours of in-service training within 12 months of that officers election or appointment,” Watson, chairman of the state house judiciary committee, said. “And that means every four years they are elected within 12 months after they are elected they have to complete a 40 hour in-service course.”

Watson said training and requirements were not being tracked in a central local location. Training is recorded by the Tennessee Constable Association and the Tennessee Constable Council. Individual Constables also keep track of their own training.

Watson said he had recently received approval from these associations to offer 40 hours of in-service training to Bradley County’s constables, Watson said he would move forward with this plan pending Commission approval.

“A lot of these guys are not required to do it,” Watson said.”They’ve been serving for 30 years, so they are grandfathered in.”

First District Commissioner Ed Elkins suggested that the Commission appoint someone to also keep track of this information so that it would be easily accessible. This will be voted on at the Commissions next meeting.

Any constable who was first elected before July 1, 1993 is exempt from these training requirements under state law, Watson stated.

“However, it is highly recommended by the Tennessee Constable Association that each constable be certified each year by a certified firearms instructor prior to carrying a firearm in an official capacity,” Watson said.

Commissioners Terry Caywood, Jeff Yarber, Mark Hall, Charlotte Peak-Jones thanked the Constables for their work.

“These Constables are noble people,” Hall said.

Constables in Bradley County are elected officials, “peace officers” who serve the county without receiving compensation, according to Tennessee Code Annotated. In Bradley County there is one Constable per district. These officers serve alongside local, state and federal agencies in their district that ask for their assistance. They also serve legal paper work (such as subpoenas or evictions), provide escorts for visiting politicians and help direct traffic.

“Our constables in Bradley County are really a blessing to have,” Watson said. “They operate with no cost to the taxpayers. They operate with their own money. They buy their own uniforms.”

Concerns of rumors to do away with constables across the state were addressed. Watson said this is a move the judiciary committee would never make as long as he was the committee chairman. He emphasized that Constables are under the jurisdiction of the Commission not the state.