Eminent Domain Taken Off The Table

Citizen being removed from the courtroom by the order of Commission Chairman Monday Night - Staff Photo by Jeff Depew

Citizen being removed from the courtroom by the order of Commission Chairman Monday Night
– Staff Photo by Jeff Depew

The Jefferson County Commission held a Special Called Meeting on Monday, February 11, 2013 at the Historic Jefferson County Courthouse. The Meeting was Called to Order by Commission Chairman Mills. Absent from Roll Call were Commissioners Maples and Dockery.

Commissioner Barreiro made a Motion to set aside the rules and allow the Attorney for property owners opposed to the Megasite to address the Commission, as well as a representative in support of the Megasite project. 2nd Commissioner Tucker and Passed.

Scott Hurley, attorney representing property owners opposed to the Megasite, stated that he represents 1400 acres of the 1800 acres in the central footprint of the Megasite and that his clients are committee to keeping their property and have no intent to sell. He listed concerns regarding the Megasite proposal including the current number of megasites (181) that are vacant and the recent collapse of the nearly completed Clarksville, TN Megasite due to Hemlock pulling out of the area.

Jefferson County EDOC Chairman George Gantte addressed the Commission and explained the composition of the EDOC Board. He stated that the Megasite has the ability to diversify the tax base in the County and provide employment to the area. Gantte said that the push to bring in industry was a cross County effort that was driven by Building a Better Future.

Upon a Recommendation from Budget Committee Chairman Griffith the Commission Approved Unanimously Budget Amendment #14 from the County General Fund-101.

Facilities Committee Chairman Turner brought a recommendation from the Committee to approve a 5 yr lease with the Tennessee Highway Patrol for space recently vacated by the EMA/EMS in the low level of the Jefferson County Health Department. Chairman Turner stated that the agreement was for $600 per month and included utilities.  Following discussion regarding the possibility of attaching an inflation increase to the agreement, the Commission Approved the recommendation as presented.

Budget Committee Chairman Griffith brought a recommendation from the Committee to fund $442,311 from the Hospital Reserve Account and deposit with EDOC in pursuit of certification for the Megasite. Commissioners were given the opportunity to ask questions of EDOC Director Wagley and Blanchard and Calhoun representative Mark Senn. Questions included the option process for property owners, road upgrades trough Talbott-Kansas Road, possible rezoning of property within 3 miles of the site and the lack of proper notification for property owners.

Commissioner Scarlett offered an Amendment to the Motion that no funds, in part or whole, will be used in association with eminent domain for the Megasite project. 2nd Tucker

Scarlett stated that he was for property rights to the core and that taking eminent domain off of the table levels the playing field and allows property owners to have the choice of selling or keeping their property, whichever they choose. The Commission conferred with the County attorney Churchwell and he stated that the motion was in essence a statement by the County Commission that they would not use eminent domain. EDOC Director Wagley stated that in some instances property owners can benefit tax wise from eminent domain and request that it is used during negotiations.

Commissioner Tucker offer an Amendment to the Amendment that would allow, at the property owner’s request only, for the allowance of eminent domain. 2nd Tabor-Passed

The Scarlett/Tucker Amendment Passed

Commissioner Blevins offered an Amendment to the original Motion to change the funding avenue from the Hospital Reserve Fund to the County General Fund, citing an obligation of funds in the Hospital Reserve Account. 2nd Carmichael

Jefferson County Director of Finance Helton stated that he had reviewed County Commission Meeting Minutes and Resolutions and could not find anything definitive. Scarlett stated that the funds were obligated to pay for renovation bond costs at Jefferson County High School. Commissioner Estes stated that he had made the Motion and that various funds were listed as a funding source. Scarlett stated that the funding had to be assigned to an account per Commission rules, however noted that the minutes from that meeting (Spring 2012) had not yet been approved by the Commission and could be changed. Helton stated that there is enough in the General Fund to cover the requested funds and that the any funds in the Hospital Reserve Account can be moved to the General Fund. The Blevins/Carmichael Motion Failed.

The Original Motion to Fund $442,311 from the Hospital Reserve Account with the Amendment that no funds in whole or part be used for any eminent domain with the Megasite project and with the Amended Amendment that the property owner only could request eminent domain if it is beneficial Passed 14-4-1 with Barreiro, Blevins, Musick and Baxley Voting No and Solomon Abstaining. The Meeting was Adjourned.

Source: Eminent Domain Taken Off The Table