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Budget Committee Meeting Minutes – April 10, 2023 (Approved)

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10 APRIL 2023


The Chair Commissioner Erin Curry opened the meeting asking Commissioner Matt Rubelsky to offer a prayer and lead the pledge.  The minutes of 3 March 2023 were moved for approval by Commissioner Mathew Hopkins, seconded by Commissioner Gayle Jones, and were approved unanimously.


First Agenda Item – Animal Shelter Request.  Morgan Sutton, Animal Control Officer, provided a PowerPoint presentation showing both existing and proposed additions to the Giles County Animal Shelter complex.  She presented several before and after pictures showing both cosmetic and enhanced capability of sheltering dogs.  Some of the newer additions she mentioned were 6 new kennels and one for more adoptable animals (for prospective owners to view) and a secured walkway.  She also mentioned a water flow problem leaving water pathways after rains.  Her proposed effort was to build both a building 7×7 storage building and a secure fencing around the shelter.  Commissioner David Adams asked about circumstances when cold, and Morgan replied that they use cedar chips and tarps for dogs that are more suitable for living outside.  Commissioner Adams then asked about capacity of dogs in the shelter and Morgan replied it depends on whether there are siblings (stored in same kennel) or puppies stored with a mother.  However, for full capacity there are times when you have to balance between adoption, and how quickly you can make that happen, and sometimes depending on the dog’s health, euthanasia.  Commissioner Adams said that he had been told that the shelter could not be reached by phone.  Morgan said she depends on parttime personnel availability, her own cell phone (although she may not be answering right away, she will when accessible), and there is an answering machine that is checked.  Morgan then discussed the proposed building/fencing and that she had contacted three contractors and was only able to get two to respond and one was having difficulty bidding for the building, although could do the fencing.  The Sands Fence company was shown, at $28,825, to be the most responsive company.  Commissioner Mathew Hopkins asked, if true, no matter how big, you would always be at capacity and Morgan answered yes.  Beth Moore-Sumners, Financial Management Director, discussed an informal set aside in general fund, originally at $100k, for a new building but with cost coming in great excess of that number, the building was never pursued. Some additional costs coming in reduced that informal number to $83,031.  Further she said the city of Pulaski provides an additional $50K every year.  Commissioner Hopkins commented on the cruelty court cases, and typically the abusers pay zero.  For him, he said, that is a big problem and they should be paying.  The County Executive asked what kind of funding the abusers might have, and Commissioner Hopkins said they have property.  Morgan said from her viewpoint, the goal is to surrender the animals (prosecution in hands of DA), and that surrender is a negotiation tool for both keeping the animals and no re-occurrence of that cruelty.  Commissioner Roger Reedy commented on both the facility and the amount of property that has to be patrolled and in particular attacks by groups of dogs on cattle.  He sees the need to improve the facility so that people who come will be more likely to adopt.  Commissioner Adams asked about the laws for roaming dogs, and Morgan said there are leash laws in the county.  Commissioner Joyce Woodard asked about the Humane Society and what is their contribution.  Morgan said they help with transport, help with some dogs at the shelter, have a foster program.  Commissioner Evan Baddour asked what percentage of the fund balance would the $28K be.  Commissioner Curry said on the 20th, the budget training had been rescheduled and that she had asked for a list of “dedicated items” within the fund balance.  Beth said the fund balance was coming in for more than originally budgeted and would be around $9.3M, including the fiber work, and the shortfalls from this year.  A motion to approve the $28,825 by Commissioner Gayle Jones, seconded by Commissioner Judy Pruett, was approved unanimously later after a continuing discussion.  That discussion considered number of quotes required, or bids, and Beth answered that anything over $15K you have to have quotes, and anything over $50K you have to have competitive bids.  Another question on Sands Fence Company capability in building buildings, being considered more a fence company, was answered by Morgan that they have built barns too.


Next Agenda Item – Bypass signal.  A previous committee discussion had addressed failures on certain traffic lights and whether the problem could/should be solved in the short time or for long term.  The County Executive (CE) Graham Stowe had researched and provided the following information.  For long term with a complete overhaul the cost would be approximately $250K.  For short term which would mean replacing three sensor loops for $15K and that would provide a fix for a few years, with the possibility of researching grants for the long term.  A motion by Commissioner David Adams, seconded by Commissioner Mathew Hopkins to approve was made and was approved with Commissioners Terry Jones, David Adams, Mathew Hopkins, Gayle Jones, Evan Baddour and Judy Pruett.  The Chair Erin Curry voted to abstain, given her employment would be involved through PES on the fix.


Next Agenda Item – Commissioner Compensation.  A Resolution handout was provided addressing that compensation.  Commissioner Terry Jones addressed the resolution, noting that most people are salaried, and that the commissioners do a lot of work outside of the meetings.  Rather than printing who comes, you could print who does not.  A solution for consideration was to use the CE’s salary and divide by number of commissioners i.e., 21.  Commissioner Terry Jones said he had brought this resolution so that it could be discussed, with no support for any potential solution.  Commissioner David Adams said he noted that the first thing commissioners ask is where is the signup sheet (identifies attendance and thus pay), and he though for his attendance and pay, should cover at least the gas required for driving to the location of the meeting and typically having to buy lunch.  Since he has attended almost all meetings, the solution would be a pay cut.  Commissioner Mathew Hopkins said he loses money coming in, and that the time being required takes away from his income and is more than he realized, so he at least would want his gas covered.  The Chair said she spends a lot of time beyond the meetings and since her time at work is billable, she sometimes works on Saturday to make up the time for lost work time.  Also, she mentioned in December there are typically no meetings.  Commissioner Matt Rubelsky talked about the budgetary process and with a salary payment the “fixed budget” would be administratively easier to plan.  Beth said she has not had to add to the budget for additional meetings, but given budget practices now, the fixed salary is better for her office.  Dr. James Lathrop suggested doing salaries for a fixed period of time to determine how effective.  Commissioner Terry Jones mentioned the one commissioner who has been out for a time due to health issues.  Commissioner Evan Baddour asked about the time required now to determine attendance and was told for Beth’s office a couple of hours, but for the CE’s office staff a paper process and taking more than a couple of hours.  Commissioner Evan Baddour said the salary might be construed to not motivate some commissioners to attend, they might just “phone in”.  And to further that, might encourage more informal conversations that could be considered violation of the sunshine law.  Commissioner Tracy Wilburn provided the information that currently the overall compensation budget for all commissioners, based on a budget year attendance, is $64720, and if basing on CE salary would be $69300 which would amount to a raise.  According to TCA which says the commissioners cannot vote in their own election term for a raise, this would be counter to that ruling.  Commissioner Gayle Jones said she thinks it helps attendance at meetings to be paid for that particular attendance.  The CE commented that if based on his salary, and with inflation he will receive a 5% raise, that the commissioners’ salaries would also be correlated annually.  He also said that salaried elevates the position as professional and given being a professional thought ludicrous to use pay when not attending as a factor in making this decision.  He gave examples in the business world where not attending meetings salaried people are paid anyway.  At this time the Chair said she votes yes to go to the full legislative body and let all 21 commissioners decide.  Commissioner Roger Reedy offered a different proposal with meeting at full legislative meetings every two months (gave some previous examples) and using the other month as a working meeting which could have flexibility in meeting times.  This would accommodate those commissioners whose working schedules conflict with commissioner meeting times.  Commissioner Adams commented that if we can’t vote our salary raise, why then vote for a decrease.  Commissioner Baddour commented that with a brief look at the Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) ruling the word “attending” is all over it.  The CE said the ruling provides three options, those being salary or by attendance, or a combination.  The Chair asked what are the wishes of the committee, and Commissioner Terry Jones made a motion for $257 per month.  That motion failed for lack of a second.


Next Agenda Item – IRS Guidelines for Non-Profit Political Activity.  A handout Resolution was provided on the Giles County Commission to not subsidize political activity.  The Chair asked about any differences from the approved application verbiage and the CE said it supplements that verbiage.  Commissioner Mathew Hopkins said the language should apply to any organization the county funds, not just the non-profits.  A motion by Commissioner Hopkins and seconded by Commissioner Terry Jones was made to approve and was later modified, by both, to state effective 17 April 2023.  Commissioner Evan Baddour asked why this is necessary since considerable time had been spent earlier on developing the application language.  The CE said the difference between a Resolution and the application, is that a Resolution stands until removed.  Commissioner Baddour asked who is this designed to be applied to.  Commissioner James Lathrop said we are looking forward, with Commissioner Gayle Jones saying some thought the library might have engaged in political activity.  Commissioner Judy Pruett said I need an example.  Commissioner Gayle Jones said a letter may have been involved stating political action on an issue, having to do with porn, and to lobby against that bill.  Commissioner Roger Reedy said he saw a copy of that letter and no one on that letter was a part of the library’s board, likened this to going out for a witch-hunt without any hard concrete evidence not just using slander, social media for example.  He stated if an organization has a charter they must follow and if not consequences.  Commissioner Shelly Goolsby said much of this is subjective, and who’s enforcing and that she has a different opinion on this than Commissioner Gayle Jones.  She thought this resolution is setting themselves up for headaches, and that the application covers this.  Commissioner Lathrop said this not a witch hunt, that every body that plays must follow the rules.  The Chair said already in our application, this is a redundant resolution.  Commissioner Tracy Wilburn said a moot point since can’t decrease the library’s funding given they are funded under a MoE, which means they continue to be funded at the same level, with Commissioner Roger Reedy noting unless not abiding by their charter.  Commissioner Shelly Goolsby commented that people’s minds are already made up on this issue, and this resolution has the appearance of slapping hands.  She noted there are informal meetings going on, which may violate the sunshine laws, and if doing this resolution, we should hold all of the commission accountable.  Commissioner Evan Baddour said the spirit of the application language is good and here we are doing again; seems retaliatory, not what we were sent here to do.  The CE said there was no retaliation in mind, that this is a long-term solution to setting the application in stone.  Commissioner Mathew Hopkins said we are moving forward and this is the criteria.  The Chair said she didn’t read it that way.  Commissioner James Lathrop said he sees it as non-party, pretty straight forward.  Commissioner Evan Baddour said when asked, the letter from the library came up.  Commissioner Terry Jones said from April meeting, and this comes up in review of non-profits.  A vote was called for by Commissioner David Adams and a roll call vote was taken.  Motion failed to approve the draft resolution with Commissioners Erin Curry, Gayle Jones, Evan Baddour, David Adams, Judy Pruett voting no and with Commissioners Mathew Hopkins and Terry Jones voting yes.


Next Agenda Item – Agri-Park Status.  The Chair commented that she thought the budget committee was the wrong committee to start this discussion, that perhaps it should be the property or legislative committees.  However, if the committee chose, the discussion, within the budget committee, could take place.  The discussion was then initiated by Commissioner Matt Rubelsky, Chairman of the Board for the Agri-Park.  Background information provided:  There is a Board of Directors (BoD) that govern, and the park has been incorporated as a non-profit since somewhere in the 70’s.  The current BoD has approved newly rewritten rules and bylaws, the County owns the property, and the park has one employee Benny Birdsong.  Commissioner Rubelsky said he was proud of the BoD’s accomplishments but some major decisions must be made about the Agri-Park.  He referenced Commissioner Judy Pruett’s comments in an earlier meeting, i.e., is the Agri-Park a service for the community or is it a dollar making entity.  And another decision should the park function as a non-profit and if so, a Treasurer should be elected.  On looking at funds received at the park (not counting what some call sweat equity which is what the clubs typically provide, as well as the county), the amount of those funds is minimal in relation to the cost of supporting the Agri-park.  Accountability of those potential receipts of events was also discussed and how the county’s “portion” is determined.  And finally, a decision on how the county is represented on the BoD, with only five of the 21 commissioners represented and making final determinations.  The Chair noted it was true that not a lot of attention had been given to some of the potential decisions being discussed at this meeting, but the decisions bring up a lot of questions, e.g., making the Agri-park as a functioning non-profit event center could affect our grants which are government sponsored.  The CE said this may not require a vote today.  The Chair said she considers the site of the Agri-Park a great site for a new school.  Commissioner Joyce Woodard expressed her concern for Benny Birdsong given his dedication to the park.  Commissioner Terry Jones said he thought the county needed to get out of the business, and let them keep it an event park.  The CE mentioned for clarity, decide what you want for the future, could be something similar to the Fire and Rescue service in budgetary approach.  Commissioner Gayle Jones said this is one of the most important county owned property and she didn’t want to lose it(discussion on clubs leasing the land), but needed a check and balance after clubs hold events.  She recommended a local auditor take a look and come back to this body.  Commissioner Joyce Woodard said in her prior work, they had to give 20% of gate fee.  The Chair said she thought premature to vote on this.  Commissioner Matt Rubelsky noted nowhere to post minutes for the Agri-Park, no pay for commissioners attending, and per the Chair pay for minutes taken.  Commissioner David Adams mentioned the site could be good for the Ambulance service.  Commissioner Gayle Jones mentioned that Commissioner Matt Rubelsky had sent some info to members on the Agri-park BoD and Gayle asked if that information could be sent to everyone, with  Matt agreeing.


Old/New Business – Commissioner David Adams asked about having an SRO at these meetings, within the Courthouse annex.  The CE commented all the building which also houses county employees should be considered as well.


Commissioner Roger Reedy asked if CTAS could provide an orientation on the sunshine laws since during this meeting there was a difference of opinion.


Commissioner Annelle Guthrie asked about the budget training mentioned for Apr 20th and the time.  Beth Moore-Sumners mentioned that some of the date/time is working around CTAS scheduling since CTAS will be providing some of the training.


The CE asked that all look at handout on the process for filling a commissioner vacancy be reviewed afterwards.


A motion by Commissioner Mathew Hopkins to adjourn was seconded by Commissioner Terry Jones and was unanimously approved.


ATTENDEES:  Members of the Committee Chair Commissioner Erin Curry, Commissioners: Terry Jones, David Adams, Mathew Hopkins, Gayle Jones, Evan Baddour and Judy Pruett Other Commissioners in attendance:  Brad Butler, Shelly Goolsby, Tracy Wilburn, Dr. James Lathrop, Matt Rubelsky, Joyce Woodard, Annelle Guthrie, Roger Reedy  Other:  County Executive Graham Stowe, Financial Management Director Beth Moore-Sumners, Nancy Griffin, Shana Woodard, Department School Superintendent Dr. Vickie Beard, Morgan Sutton, Animal Control Officer and a member of the public