By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Finance Committee met last week, and the controversial proposal to lease part of the Duke Energy building from Anderson University once again dominated the agenda.
The proposal to lease space for the County’s emergency operations center stirred up a tempest at the last County council meeting, when a confused and confusing series of procedural decisions left the final decision in question.
At that meeting, the proposal was tabled by a vote of 4-3, including Council chairman Tom Allen. District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd subsequently left after that vote, in which she also voted to table the motion for further study.
Following a ten minute recess, during which Floyd left the meeting, Chairman Allen called for a reconsideration of the issue, and the proposal passed on a 5-1 vote. However, removing an issue from the table and returning it to the floor for discussion or action is a different matter than reconsidering a vote taken previously.
Finance committee member Eddie Moore asked that the issue be placed on the finance committee agenda for further debate. After a twenty five minute delay while the committee waited for Moore to arrive from a prior Appalachian Council of Government board meeting, the meeting began.
The manner in which the matter was handled at the Council meeting made up much of the discussion; but Councilwoman Floyd, who is not a member of the committee, asked to be allowed to raise her concerns again. She was allowed to do so, and began to question many of the same points she had raised at the Council meeting.
Council chairman Tom Allen and Council members Tommy Dunn and Ken Waters were also on hand, but sat in the audience and did not participate. Ms.Floyd sat at the administrator’s table with administrator Rusty Burns, but the Council never convened officially.
Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, who had stated at the beginning of the meeting that she had a previous commitment that would require her to leave at 2:30 offered a motion to place the issue on the agenda for the next meeting of the full Council with the stipulation that Ms. Floyd’s questions be attached for discussion. She also suggested that Council tour the existing County facilities that might be suitable instead.
Ms. Floyd complained that she was being cut off and not allowed to participate, despite Wilson’s repeated explanation that she wasn’t the one who was late and that she had clearly stated she would have to leave at a specific time. Councilman Moore then stated that he had asked to be put at the top of the agenda instead of near the bottom, a request no one else remembered, and one of limited value in light of his late arrival.
Moore was late because he also had a finance committee meeting after the ACOG board meeting.
In other business, the committee approved a proposal to apply for a federal infrastructure grant under the Tiger IV grant program,. Those funds are made available for infrastructure designed to promote economic development. The county proposed increasing its match for the funds from twenty to forty percent, a proposal that Burns conceded was “audacious”.
County grant writer Steve Newton reported that most Tiger VI applications that were successful offered at least a forty per cent match, with many of them approaching a fifty fifty split. Newton added that if received, the funds would be used to create roads to support the Keystone site, at Highway 81 and I-85.
Wilson voted to approve the increased matching fund offer after learning that the funds could be provided over two fiscal years instead of one.