Bradley County Commissioners on Tuesday night decided not to send a letter to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Bob Martineau, asking him to cut top staff positions and shift the funds to aid local septic permit offices after County Mayor D. Gary Davis called the letter "an embarrassment to Bradley County."
The county mayor said, "We have to deal with the state on everything we do. It affects a lot of things we do. I sincerely ask you do not send this letter."
The letter said, "We, the Bradley County Commission, respectfully suggest that you consider eliminating three staff attorney positions, general counsel, director of legal services and deputy commissioner 1. We, the Bradley County Commission, also respectfully suggest that you reduce the compensation of the commissioner, commissioner 1 and deputy commissioner by $30,000 annually."
Commissioner Charlotte Peak said, "I don't like it when they tell us what to do so I don't feel like we should tell them what to do."
Commissioner Terry Caywood said if state officials got such a letter "they could get vindictive. They have the means to punish you when you touch an area they don't want to be touched."
Commissioner Thomas Crye said some of the TDEC attorneys mentioned are spread across the state, including one in Chattanooga. He said the state budget is already set. He said, "I am not in the business of micro-managing Governor Haslam's budget."
Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber, who drafted the letter, said the state continually under-funded the office that issues septic permits for Bradley and Polk counties. He said the letter was "a statement to a top-heavy government."
He said the employees trying to keep up with the calls for septic permits "are not paid even a fourth of what they (top TDEC commissioners and lawyers) are paid."
Mark Hall, who supported sending the letter, said, "I find it hard to believe that 14 county commissioners fear retribution."
He said, "We've got a loose cannon down here with a poor attitude." He said if Bradley County did not speak up, "We will continue to be the sacrificial lamb."
Realtor Jim Davis spoke in support of the septic permit manager, Hank Thompson, saying he had always gotten excellent service from him.
Commissioner Dan Rawls said he would support the letter if it was phrased so it would ask the state to consider the cuts.
A motion to send the letter under that format failed 10-4 (Yarber, Goins, Hall, Rawls).
The original motion went down 11-3 (Yarber, Goins, Hall).
The commission proceeded to put an ad hoc committee headed by Commissioner Caywood in place to study taking over the septic permit operation from the state.
An amendment was approved that would allow the move to go forward only if the operation was revenue neutral and no property tax money was used.
On another issue, District 1 Constable Gary Moore said the seven constables get no pay, but would ask that they be allowed government tags.
He also asked that the constables, who are elected, be provided new radios.
Officials said a couple of the constables on their own have purchased new radios that work on the 800 megahertz system.
Constable Moore said the sheriff's office is giving fewer and fewer papers to the constables to serve. "We are not being utilized," he said.