The Chester County Commission met Monday, Sept. 14, in regular session. Seventeen commissioners were present with Commissioner Johnny Garner absent.
Chester County Mayor Barry Hutcherson returned to serve as Commission Chairman following a short nomination period. Commissioner Jerry King nominated Hutcherson with Carolyn Higgins seconding. Dwight Bingham nominated Commissioner Barry Smith, however Smith declined the nomination, citing recent events within his family which will cause him to be unable to fulfill the duties of chairman in the coming months. Commissioner Jerry Lowe nominated Dwight Bingham, but with no second, the nomination failed. The lone nominee, Hutcherson was named Chair. In the election of Chairman Pro Tem, current Chair Pro Tem Tim Crowe nominated Renee Phelps, with Brenda Matthews seconding, and Carolyn Higgins nominated Anne Moore, with Jerry Emerson seconding. After three roll call votes, there was no majority, and the commission voted to table the vote until the next meeting. Until the point that a successor is elected, Crowe continues as Pro Tem. To note, the first vote was 8-7, with Commissioners Jerry Lowe, Barry Smith, Tim Crowe, Brenda Matthews, Todd Lewis and Ricky Hardy voting for Renee Phelps, and Moore and Phelps abstaining. However, a successful vote is required to be a majority of 10 votes. In the second vote, Moore chose to include her own vote for herself. A third attempt to complete the vote, resulted in the same 9-7 vote.
In discussion of budget amendments, Brenda Matthews called attention to the repayment of $6,000 which had been overpaid during the 2023 fiscal year to county employees due to a county error in a payroll change. In addition an overpayment to elected officials is being worked out through CTAS. The board voted to pull back the employee overpayments in small increments with repayment completion by the end of the fiscal year. The average overpayment was around $250-300, according to Gary Irwin, Director of Accounting and Budgets. Commissioner Edgin noted that the overpayments occurred in small increments, at no fault of the employees. The vote was 16 in favor with Bubba Edgin voting against. Agenda budget amendments passed with all in favor.
Commissioner Renee Phelps questioned whether commissioners who were also county employees should be voting on topics which directly affected them. Carolyn Higgins stated she did not believe employment was relevant.
The county has begun its payments to West Tennessee Healthcare for the EMS service, in the amount of $34,927 monthly, which Irwin pointed out comes to $144 more per year than should be. Irwin said he and Mayor Hutcherson have contacted WTH to correct this mistake. In regards to the $110,000 owed by WTH to Chester County for an ambulance, Hutcherson stated a check has been requested. The payment was reportedly previously misplaced at the hospital.
Amber Greene, director of CC Solid Waste, addressed the board concerning a $535,000 grant for two robotic arms and a building expansion. These will go toward increasing the kind and amount of plastics the facility is able to handle, increasing recycling revenue for the county and decreasing landfill costs. Solid Waste currently has a recycling fund balance of $851,000, which Green explained is restricted by the state to be used only for recycling operational costs. Green requested a transfer of $390,000 from this fund to the Solid Waste fund for the purchase of a used trackhoe to be used in packing recycling containers for shipping. The motion made by Phelps and second by Jerry Emerson, to approve the $550,000 grant application for two robotic arms, building expansion, educational and outreach, and the transfer of $390,000 from the sale of recyclables to a solid waste line item to cover grant match and purchase the trackhoe carried unanimously.
During the discussion, Commissioner Higgins addressed Commissioner Phelps concerning Phelps’ statement regarding commissioners making motions or voting on items which directly affect them – county employment payroll, etc. “I just don’t think they should,” Phelps had said.
“What difference does it make? He (Edgin) made a motion – it doesn’t make a difference.” Higgins asked. Mayor Hutcherson said state law says a county employee can serve on the commission. Phelps agreed, adding that there are some topics which county employee commissioners are not legally allowed to vote on, but others she felt they should not vote on from an ethical standpoint. Higgins again addressed Phelps near the end of the meeting.
The Commission heard from TCAT representative Brian Harris concerning a long-term lease for the TCAT facility. As the City of Henderson recently submitted a quitclaim to the county for the city’s portion of the property, the contract had been sent out and was not at hand for viewing by the county commissioners. Commissioner Ricky Hardy stated he felt it would be beneficial to see the contract before voting. Other commissioners agreed, and the item will be revisited on the next agenda.
County committees were approved with a 14/3 vote, McKinnon, Phelps and Bingham voting no.
Scott McCaskill requested the board consider the change the wording of a resolution which prohibits the retail sale of packaged beer within 2,000 feet of a school or church building, to read 500 feet. A motion was made by Dwight Bingham and seconded by Brenda Matthews to proceed. However, the motion was tabled with a motion by Ricky Hardy and seconded by Jerry King, until the next meeting to provide time to discuss the decision with area residents, with a 16/1 vote, Al McKinnon voting no.
Finally, the board unanimously approved an equipment list for the Chester County Highway Department.
The full meeting may be viewed on the Chester County Independent YouTube page.