Commission bumps number of seats up to 15

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By Jennifer Caldwell

The third time seemed to be the charm for two issues that have made repeat appearances on the county commission’s agenda.

After voting last year to reduce the commission to 10 members in the 2010 election there have been two unsuccessful efforts to boost the number back to 15.

The most recent push came last month when Commissioner Scott Kitts made a motion to that effect. But after some debate about the cost savings of the five member reduction, estimated to be in the neighborhood of $70,000 by Finance Director Jeff Marlow, Kitts withdrew his motion.

In the same meeting Commissioner Rusty Orick resurrected the motion arguing that there was a slim crowd on hand to vote on the night the group made the decision to reduce the number of commissioners.

During the August meeting Orick explained that his motive for keeping the motion on the table was to determine where the majority of commissioners stood on the issue.

“I’m bringing this up for the simple reason that if you will remember there was barely enough here to pass the motion to start with,” Orick said of the vote that decided the number of commissioners would be reduced to two per district.

On Monday evening Commissioner Melvin Boshears decided to try his luck at overturning the previous action and he won, albeit with a little controversy.

As Boshears announced his intentions Commissioner Whit Goins voiced his objection to bringing up the issue again.

“We’ve done voted on this twice and it failed.  Are we going to vote on it every month,” Goins challenged.

Debate continued when the wording of Boshears’ motion became an issue of semantics.

While in his motion Boshears asked for the number of commissioners be increased to 15, Commissioner Adrion Baird said in order to effectively change the number of commissioners the group would have to vote to rescind the previous action which reduced the body to 10 members.

Baird attempted to derail Boshears’ motion stating that there was too much confusion.

“I think we have cause to table (the motion) because there is confusion about whether to rescind the previous action,” Baird argued.

Commissioner Lynn Letner disagreed with Baird’s suggestion that the issue be tabled stating that it had been properly placed on the agenda for discussion.

“It doesn’t matter,” Baird told Letner.  “What matters are the rules.”

Following the lengthy debate commissioners voted to increase the number of commissioners back to its current number of 15.

Commission Bobby White also took the opportunity to reintroduce a measure that had been defeated previously on two occasions.

A staunch proponent of the litigation tax, White has made repeated appeals to colleagues to enact a $25 increase in the tax that is assessed to those who find themselves involved in court proceedings.

White seemed unable to convince the group that the increased tax money, mandated to be used for jail improvements, would give the county the financial cushion needed when the inevitable addition to the existing jail is made.

On Monday evening Marlow helped drive White’s point home stating that due to the loss of sales tax revenue the litigation tax increase will now allow for the construction of a $7.3 million facility rather than the $8.21 million facility that was originally proposed.

When it came time for a vote commissioners passed the measure 11-4.

When Letner congratulated White on his persistence, White had a different explanation.

“I’m doing this for the county.  I’m not doing it for me,” White said of his efforts.

During the evening commissioners also cast votes for chairman and vice chairman.  With little fanfare or discussion the group voted to retain Commissioner David Young as chairman and Commissioner Ann Smith as vice chairperson.

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