Commission OKs $250,000 for CSCC

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 6/19/18

The Bradley County Commission has approved a $250,000 funding request from the Cleveland State Community College Foundation. Commissioners discussed the issue at length during their voting session on Monday.

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Commission OKs $250,000 for CSCC

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The Bradley County Commission has approved a $250,000 funding request from the Cleveland State Community College Foundation.

Commissioners discussed the issue at length during their voting session on Monday.

Commissioner Milan Blake, who is also chairman of the commission’s Finance Committee, said representatives from the CSCC Foundation on April 2 asked the county to consider a $250,000 contribution that would be 1) made over a three-year period, with contributions of $80,000, $80,000 and $90,000; 2) the county commission chairman would appoint a member to the CSCC Foundation board; and 3) the money would be used only for the grant matching funds.

Blake made the motion to grant the funding request.

Commissioner Rawls made a substitute motion to take the request to the Finance Committee and Building & Land Committee.

"This is not our building, this is not our property," he said. Commissioner Charlotte Peak seconded the motion.

Peak, who has been vocal in her concerns about the funding request, said the Finance Committee "has not hashed it out," and believes a $250,000 contribution is worthy of more discussion.

"I'd like to see all this in detail," she said.

Commissioner Howard Thompson asked if there is a time limit on approving the contribution request.

Cleveland State Community College President Dr. Bill Seymour said the Foundation is trying to raise $2.5 million in matching funds.

"This would be a state facility," he said, noting the Foundation is looking for a 10 percent match.

Seymour sees it as an investment in the community and said he is "pretty determined" to raise the matching funds and will do it "one way or another” because the state expects the matching funds to be raised.

Peak said she is not against the project, but wants to vet it more.

County Commission Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber said it is an important project and CSCC is "a vital asset" to the community. He added that $250,000 is "not a lot of money" for what benefits the county will realize from it.

Commissioner Terry Caywood said he wants to see this investment in the community.

"This investment beats a CD any day of the week," Commissioner Mark Hall added.

He also asked that the substitute motion be withdrawn because the members of the Finance and Building & Land committees were all present at the commission meeting.

"I think there is not a need to vet this," Commissioner Bill Winters said, adding it is a state project that the state is willing to invest $25 million in. "This is something we need to get on board."

Winters also asked who "the good old boys are," referring to a statement Peak issued to the Cleveland Daily Banner following last week’s commission work session in which she opposed the funding request. Peak said she said it "smelled" like "good old boys" because the county's departments were told there is no more money in the budget.

"We tell everybody we can't do things, but come up with the money," she said.

Rawls said no one is saying the project is not worthwhile, but all requests must go through the process. "I think it sets a bad precedent" not to go through the committees, he said.

Yarber said the request has been to the Finance Committee, which is part of the process.

The substitute motion to return the request to the Finance Committee and Building & Land committees failed 11-3, with Peak, Rawls and Commissioner Bobby Goins voting in favor of it.

Peak said if the commissioners are "going to rob the fund balance … I've got a list of things that need done," including updated camera systems for the schools, a county engineer, and improvements to the East Side Fire Station.

Peak made a motion to fully remodel the fire station this year instead of two years from now. The motion failed 12-2, with Peak and Rawls voting in favor of it.

In considering the original motion to grant the $250,000 funding request, it passed 12-2 with Peak and Rawls voting against it.

Peak then asked Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis where the funding for CSCC will come from.

"Today's the last day to vote to change anything in this budget," Davis said. He recommended making the contribution from the General Fund so that only that fund is affected.

The commission approved a motion to take $80,000 from the General Fund balance for the first of the three-year contribution commitment. The measure was unanimously approved.

Foundation member Jeff Morelock thanked the commissioners for voting to support Cleveland State, adding he also respects the position of those who voted against it. Seymour also “respectfully and humbly” thanked the commission.

Following the meeting, Peak said she believes the commissioners who voted to approve the funding are “setting up the new commission for a tax increase.”

“I also want the public to know that we did not have the funds available and the commission robbed the fund balance to do this and we do not hide money,” she said.

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