Three uniformed police officers were inside the chamber with at least two more in the hallway during Monday night’s regular county commission meeting.  At least five undercover plain-clothes officers were inside the office to hold the public at bay in the event of a crisis at the county level.  The meeting, however, never turned into a life and death struggle to fret over.

During the committee reports:

The budget committee met the same afternoon as the commission meeting.  Mr. Clabo, head of the budget committee, announced that they would bring before the full commission the desire to lease county property to Gatlinburg-Airport Authority through 20,002.  They also recommended stationary bonds renewals.

Transportation committee headed by Tommy McGaha met Monday September 15th.  This committee set the speed limit on North Ball Hollow Rd. to 20 mph and Obes Branch Rd. to 25 mph.  The group also determined to sell surplus highway department equipment and vehicles through a government web-site; however, the web-site name was never given.  An old unused portion of Dripping Springs Rd would be recognized as a county road and subsequently closed.

Education committee headed by Commissioner Gary Cole reported.  The meeting was attended by all members of the school board as well as Dr. Parton.  Committee was presented with enrollment data.  Mr. Cole reported that the county had a pressing need for a new high school.  Mr. Cole did not mention to the commission that the enrollment data shows that the Sevier County High School has been severely overcrowded since 1991.  He did mention that enrollment was in a state of decline.  Mr. Cole cited that the sales tax referendum would cost the county $50,000 to hold a special election.  Mr. Cole mentioned no discussion on finding ways to cut the current budget or ways to address funding to the county commission.

Beer Board headed by Max Watson met to discuss permit for Ernesto Morales for a Mexican Restaurant where Bob's Mountaineer restaurant in Seymour is currently located.  A church existed within the 2000 foot threshold of the restaurant, so the permit was denied.

Sevier County record committee reported a change in the fees for accessing publicly owned records.  The committee will allow a $1.00 charge for the 1st copy of a document and $.50 will be charged for subsequent copies.  The committee also established a rule that the records must be maintained.  Ms Godfrey, chair of the committee, determined that the government retains the right to refuse access to records without proper staff accompaniment.  If necessary, the government can force citizens to set appointments to view public records.

Ms. Kim Pierce was offered a chance to address the commission.  After experiencing technical difficulties with the microphone, she proceeded without one.  Her opinion was that Mayor Waters should step down as chairman of the commission in an effort to separate the executive branch from the legislative branch of government.  Her reasons focused on factual occurrences: 

His (Mayor Waters) obstruction of investigations of the sheriff's department over the Paul Lintner situation.

Refusing to stop a citizen from holding two full-time paid positions within the county.

Reckless spending

Ethics violations for allowing his relative's company to have the county's printing business

Changing the rules for addressing the commission

Charging (in violation of state law) to simply view public records

Appearance of impropriety

A public hearing on rezoning followed. 

One citizen stood and was recognized.  He referenced item #8 for rezoning.  A log cabin development, Smoky Cove, was trying to claim this person's property by way of a rezoning request.  The citizen simply asked that the commission not move on this action while it was under litigation.  The property was held while other properties were approved for rezoning. 

For the election of the chairman of the county commission, Mr. Bill Oakes and Mayor Waters were nominated. Oakes asked to have a moment to address the commission in the form of a campaign speech.

Oakes acknowledged that any and all commissioners could hold the position of chairman.  He was complimentary and gracious to the entire group.  He even declared support and respect for Mayor Waters.  Oakes did state he received phone calls from other commissioners stating that they could not vote or support him in his efforts. He stated that government should be separated into its individual branches “after all, we would not invite an esteemed judge to hold this position.”  He feared further fragmentation.  He mentioned that change is difficult. 

Mr. Waters proclaimed his own fairness.  He acknowledged that other counties have Mayors who serve as commission chair.  He declared that he did this job without compensation.  He was unconcerned with separation of powers of government; while those who wish for separation are “radicals”. 

These reasons were sufficient for 17 to vote for Mayor Waters to be the Mayor of Sevier County and the Chairman of the Legislative Branch of county government at the same time.

Mayor Waters appreciates the county for being willing to settle for this lack of separation of governmental powers.  He is disturbed that any public official would have to tolerate any form of dissent.  “This county is a well-run county,” stated Waters.  He posed these unquestionables that his leadership brought about this progress: our schools and highways are among the best; We’re building a library; We're going to have a new hospital and ambulance service; Our waste technology is some of the best; and water is provided to all citizens.

Mr. Oakes did not toot his own horn and called for unity at the end of the voting.

Mr. Temple was nominated and elected for chairman pro temp.

During discussion of the Airport lease, it was determined that problems between the airport authority and the county could arise over land ownership but would be worried about on a later date.

Other business began with a discussion of the lawsuits targeting Sevier County.  The county lawyer, Jerry McCarter, was asked who was suing and for what reason.  He would not answer commissioners' questions.  He answered with platitudes and name calling.  McCarter appeared uncertain and unfocused about what the lawsuits were about but was charging county taxpayers $150 an hour to attend the meeting and answer commissioners’ questions. 

Mayor Waters tried to interject humor at this point about his holding a second office in his church while already being a deacon.  The Gong Show called and they want their joke back.

Jerry McCarter reiterated the frivolousness of the lawsuits without declaring any specifics.  Commissioner Watson and his district were disrespected by Mr. McCarter’s refusal to answer his questions about ANY lawsuits currently pending in the county.  In fact, all commissioners as well as the tax-paying public were disrespected by this attorney.  He refused to answer any of the questions concerning legalities for or against the county.  However, Mr. McCarter still receives a check from this commission that he brushed off.

In closing, Commissioner Delius declared a need for people to stand up and disagree openly and requested separation of powers.  He declared this was not a malice driven statement but that we had grown to a position to need separation. 

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