Bradley County Commission Votes 8-6 To Move Up Lake Forest Middle School Replacement By 1 Year Despite Warning From County Mayor

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Bradley County Commission, despite a warning from County Mayor Gary Davis, on Tuesday night voted 8-6 to move up by one year the work on a replacement school for Lake Forest Middle School.

The vote was to start paying off bonds on the school in fiscal year 2016-17 instead of what had previously been approved - fiscal year 2017-18.

County Mayor Davis said it was the first time in Bradley County history that a commission had committed bonds down the road before knowing the money was in hand. 

He said, "You are setting yourself up for a tax increase, and I won't be part of it."

Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones agreed, saying that due to commitments to such projects as Wacker, a veterans home and the LIC north and south projects that the first time bond funds come available for other projects is July 2017.

Joining her in voting no were Chairman Louie Alford, Ed Elkins, Mark Hall, Bll Ledford and Mel Griffith.

In support were newly elected Vice Chairman Adam Lowe, Jeff Yarber, Connie Wilson, Terry Caywood, Bill Winters, Brian Smith, Robert Rominger and Jeff Morelock.

Vice Chairman Lowe said the way Lake Forest was built was a mistake and its maintenance was costing millions of dollars a year. He said steps need to be taken as soon as possible to replace "an absolutely horrible school."

The resolution said proceeding with the bonds depended on first conferring with the county mayor and county finance director. But County Mayor Davis said the commission already had an answer from the two county officials - to hold up until July 2017.

He said for the first time in 15 years that some additional discretionary money may come available in upcoming budgets, but he said 40 county departments who have had their budgets frozen for years would be scrambling for it.

County Mayor Davis said there is a dire need to increase the county's rainy day fund from 12 percent of total funds to at least 15 percent. He said many other local governments are at a much higher ratio.

The vote was unanimous to return Mr. Alford for another year as chairman. Former Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber made the motion to name Mr. Lowe as the new vice chairman. He said he had been vice chairman for eight of his 12 years on the panel.

Commissioner Yarber said he objected to the way that Chairman Alford had appointed two commission members to an animal care ad hoc committee without conferring with other commission members or giving them a vote. He said one of the members should have been one of the three who was on the opposing side of the animal care vote (himself, Jeff Morelock and Brian Smith).

He also said he was upset that Chairman Alford set the group's first meeting for earlier in the day - before there could be a vote on whether the membership should change.

He said it all put him "at odds" with the chairman, who sits beside him on the dais.

Commissioner Yarber made a motion to put Commissioner Morelock in place of one of the Alford appointees - Commissioner Winters. The other appointee is Commissioner Peak-Jones.

However, most of the commissioners voted to keep the membership as is.

It was noted that there was no animal care committee meeting today after all due to a death in the family of Commissioner Winters. The first session will be Thursday.    

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