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COUNTY OFFICIALS NEGOTIATE LEASE

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By PETER SAWYER

JACKSBORO—County officials voted down a $1,200 lease agreement for three satellite offices, which provide vital government services to Jellico, citing high cost and an unfair division of payment obligations.
The county rents a building in Jellico from Cherry Artis for $900 a month, where it operates several governmental services.  The lease expires June 30.
A new agreement would have increased the county’s monthly rent by $300, but the motion to approve it only received six yes votes—two shy of the required majority. Commissioners Beverly Hall, Tom Hatmaker, Sue Nance, Rusty Orick and Bob Walden voted no.
Commissioner Steve Rutherford didn’t cast a vote. Commissioners Wendell Bailey, Terry Singley and Marie Ayers were absent.
Campbell County Mayor William Baird plans to renegotiate the lease with Artis and continue operations there.
While cost may have been a factor for some, Hall expressed disapproval of how rent payments have been divided among the elected officials who use the building—County Court Clerk Debbie Wilson, and Property Assessor Brandon Partin.
“It’s just not right for Debbie to pay and Brandon to not,” she said.
The County Court Clerk’s office pays $500 and the County Mayor’s office pays $400, according to the current lease. Originally, the new lease said the County Court Clerk’s office would be responsible for $665, and the County Mayor’s office would be responsible for $535, but it was amended to not specify how much each office was expected to contribute towards monthly rent.
“If I’m paying it, Mr. Partin should have to pay it, too,” Wilson said. “I feel like everybody who’s in that building should pay their part.
But Partin doesn’t believe he should pay as much as Wilson, because his office space isn’t worth as much as Wilson’s.
“What it boils down to is location and access,” Partin said Tuesday.
Wilson’s office is located at the front of the building, with the entrance facing Main Street. Partin’s office is located in the back, and the entrance faces Commerce Street.
Wilson’s office also has more than twice the space as Partin’s, Partin said.
“Both of those (factors) would dictate a higher rent,” Partin said. “Anytime anybody looks at renting a retail space like that, they will be looking at those factors. Why should they pay as much to rent a space as someone who has a superior location?”
Originally, the County Court Clerk and the County Mayor were the only elected officials to use the building.
In 2011, Wilson offered Partin space in her office, Partin said. But she eventually asked him to leave. Campbell County Deputy Mayor David Young contacted Partin, suggesting he use the room in the back—which was part of the County Mayor’s portion of the building. Baird sent Wilson a letter in October 2011 informing her he was allowing Partin to use this space.
Partin said he agreed to split the rent with the County Mayor’s Office.
“That’s what’s supposed to be being done,” he said.
Whether the money comes from Partin’s budget or the County Mayor’s doesn’t matter, according to Young. Campbell County is the client, and taxpayers fund the lease, he said.