Commission spends last of Kmart proceeds

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Money comes and goes.

And just as it came so went the last of the Kmart money on Monday evening.

After voting to spend all but $100,000 of the proceeds from the Kmart building during June’s commission meeting, commissioners agreed to finish off the last of the funds that were once earmarked for the purchase of industrial property.

With two causes vying to receive the bulk of the money the ideology of “first come, first serve” proved to be the determining factor.

As a result of his position in the roll call order Commissioner Adrion Baird was first in line to voice his opinion at the dwindling funds with his request.

In his resolution Baird made a motion to purchase two trucks and a walking trailer for the Environmental Services department at a cost of $88,500.

According to Baird, the poor condition of the trucks currently used to haul solid waste from the convenience centers to the landfill places the county in a precarious position should the equipment fail.

“If they (the trucks) break down they will not be able to move the solid waste from the various dumpsters around the county,” Baird reported.

Anticipating his own opportunity to introduce action that would require use of Kmart money Commissioner Whit Goins argued that the environmental services should be able to purchase its own equipment.

“They’ve (environmental services) got a way to generate money and I don’t understand why they don’t have the money to buy the trucks,” Goins challenged.

Jeff Marlow, county finance director, offered that the department did not have a surplus in its budget that would allow for such purchases as the monies generated during the first half of the year would be needed to cover operating expenses for the last half of the year.

Goins continued to debate the issue by questioning Tip Jones, environmental services director, regarding the truck used to pick up cardboard from local businesses.

“Why can’t you stop picking up boxes at business and have them (businesses) bring them instead,” Goins asked suggesting that the truck currently used for cardboard pickup could be used elsewhere.

According to Jones, the truck cannot not be used to replace one of the tractor trailers used to transport waste to the landfill.

Jones also reported that loss of either of the 1996 trucks currently in service would have detrimental effects on his department.

As the group prepared to vote, Goins made another attempt to sidetrack the measure.

“Well, he (Baird) done beat me to the punch because I wanted to ask for $50,000 for new chairs for the Valley View project,” Goins said.

Weighing in on the matter, Commissioner David Goins also lobbied his colleagues to consider saving some of the Kmart funds to purchase furniture for the six new classrooms at the newly renovated Valley View Elementary School.

“If it’s (purchase of the trucks) an emergency I’d be all for it, but right now we are in dire need to put seats in classrooms for the students to sit in,” David Goins said.

On the heels of David Goins’ comments Baird continued to argue the dire situation of the environmental department.

“If those two trucks were to break down I bet we would be back in here in a special session begging Mr. (Jeff) Marlow to find us some money to buy some trucks,” Baird countered.

Marlow warned commissioners that if Kmart funds were not an option they would be forced to borrow money to purchase the trucks should the existing ones break down.

Following an 8-5 vote in favor of purchasing the trucks and trailer Whit Goins was quick to make his play for the remaining $11,500 of the original $700,000 account.

As Whit Goins made his motion David Goins commented on the outcome of the previous measure.

“Isn’t children more important than garbage,” David Goins asked fellow commissioners.

Commissioner Bobby White took the opportunity to voice a question and comment of his own.

“Isn’t East LaFollette School full of desks?  I taught school for 34 years and I never had a new teacher’s desk sitting in front of me,” White said.

While Marlow, suggested that the $300,000 in the school system’s capital projects budget could be used for purchases such as classroom furniture for Valley View Elementary School, Dr. Michael Martin explained that the money had already been earmarked for another purpose.

“The bulk of that money is designated for the technology infrastructure throughout the system, which is part of a five year plan,” Martin said.

In response to White’s comments, Martin agreed that using used furniture is an option for the building.

“I can appreciate Mr. White’s comments.  If we don’t get any additional funding we will go borrow from other schools.  The students will have desks to sit in and we will not embarrass the Valley View community,” Martin said confidently.

In a last ditch effort to get a bigger share of the Kmart funds for Valley View Commissioner David Goins made a motion to rescind the previously approved purchases for the environmental services department.

Failing to get the needed strong majority, Goins was forced to accept the $11,500 that was left.

The estimated cost for furnishing the six new classrooms at the renovated facility comes in at around $100,000.  

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