Polk eyes hospital, park, sanitation contract

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 1/18/19

The Polk County Commission had a full agenda – and a full house – Thursday evening in Benton.Between 60 and 70 people crowded into a Courthouse room to hear members discuss the hospital property …

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Polk eyes hospital, park, sanitation contract

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The Polk County Commission had a full agenda – and a full house – Thursday evening in Benton.

Between 60 and 70 people crowded into a Courthouse room to hear members discuss the hospital property at the top of the mountain in Copper Basin, the need to address a mini-emergency with Frank Hammons Park, and the east-west sanitation contracts with Santek and East Side.

Several other issues were confronted in the two-hour meeting, creating the need to schedule a follow-up meeting of the Buildings and Land Committee.

County Executive Robby Hatcher and Polk County Attorney Eric Brooks said the city of Ducktown is urging action on the hospital property.

Brooks and the county executive's office have been seeking a purchaser or a tenant for the former medical complex for several months.

Ducktown and the county have ownership, by virtue of guaranteeing a loan for the medical center before its closure. The county had 50 percent of the original loan, and Ducktown and the Copper Basin 25 percent each. 

With approximately $800,000, and payments overdue, the bank was planning to foreclose on the note.  To deter that action, the county acquired  half of the note (approximately $400,000), and Ducktown  a quarter ($200,000). When Copper Basin was financially unable to acquire it's fourth, Polk County assumed that $200,000 for a total indebtedness of $600,000.

A purchaser has been sought since that time, and there has been a minimum of interest. Brooks scheduled a sale on the courthouse steps but there were no bidders.

The attempt at disposition of the property has continued, and Brooks and Hatcher say some interest has been renewed.

The two Polk County officials have had talks with Coleman Foss of Tennova Healthcare-Cleveland in recent months, and it appeared there was some interest. Foss has since announced plans to leave the Cleveland medical center.

Brooks said some interest has been expressed by other parties, and they hope to disperse of the property in the near future, and get it back on the Polk County tax rolls.

• Another big issue Thursday evening was Frank Hammons Park, and the federal grant which provided funds for the recreation complex.

An inspector discovered a portion of the property is being used as an asphalt mixing and brush storage location by the Polk County Road Department,  which is not allowed in the terms of the grant. The park can be used for recreation only.

Hatcher forwarded the inspector's letter to Road Department Supervisor Roy Gene Thomason.

Hatcher and Thomason emphasized Thursday another location must be found for the department's needs, or it will negatively affect the county's ability to obtain future grant funds (state or federal). The Buildings and Land Committee will address the issue, and Brooks will continue to research the agreement.

• Another need for the called meeting is to meet with Alan Frosh of Whitewater Aviation, the lessee of the Polk County Airport.

Brooks said the initial lease agreement agreement was in 2007, by Frosh and a former commissioners.

He said there have been additional agreements since, but there is a lack of adequate paperwork. Brooks added that terms of the lease needs to be re-determined  with firm documentation.

There was a brief discussion of the $1,000 rental fee, and if the county might be able to generate additional revenue.

Former Chairman Daniel Deal, one of three returning commissioners to the nine-member panel after the recent election,  said it would be difficult to find anyone who would invest as much into the airport as Frosh has.

Frosh has agreed to attend the called meeting.

• Commissioners agreed to approved four-month extension on a portion of the two-way sanitation contract. The current contract with Santek is to end at the last of the month, and there is not adequate time to open the county service up for bids

Santek is asking a 1.5 percent increase (over the current fee) for the four-month period.

Representatives of the firm holding the second half of east-west sanitation contract could not attend Thursday's meeting, but according to Hatcher is willing to grant a four-month extension at the current fee. 

In other commission action:

• The Handbook Committee met prior to the regular Commission to discuss some concerns regarding compensation for holidays and sick days.

Some county employees, especially new hires, have questioned the method accrued time in noted in.

The committee approved a motion that accrued time will be shown in the final pay period of the month.

• Several budget amendments were approved. They involved Legal Services, the Trustee's Office, Clerk and Master, the Agriculture Extension Office, the library and Polk County Executive's Office. 

The only questions came from Commissioner James  Woody, who asked why an amendment was needed for workman's compensation for volunteer firefighters and Polk County deputies.

He was told some duplications were made  in determination of the number of fire volunteers, that the budgeted line items have been depleted.

• Commissioners tabled a request by Commissioner Samantha Trantham for the purchase of a security camera for the Road Department's fuel distribution site at Ducktown.

Road Superintendent Thomason said he understands the request, but does not want additional work time for his staff. More discussion is anticipated.

• Two requests were approved for County Clerk Jackie Rogers.

She is asking that personnel in her office be documented the same as other county employees. Accrued tim e and other incidentals have been lodged differently in the office.

A second request is for a decorations line item in her budget, at no cost to the county.

"Some people asked why we had no decorations displayed during the holidays, and offered to donate," she said. Commissioners approved the establishment of such a line item, and where all donations will be placed.

• Commissioners Woody and Deal were selected for vacancies on the Polk County Agriculture Extension Committee, replacing departed commissioners.

• Hatcher said the county is at an impasse in obtaining much-needed lighting for recreation center ballfields. He said it will be a $70,000 to $90,000 project, and Tri-State Lighting has said  it wants nothing to do with the project, due to liability and new requirements. Other options will be explored.




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