ELIZABETHTON — The Carter County Commissioners received good financial news from Finance Director Brad Burke, who told them the refinancing of bonds for the construction of the Carter County Jail came in even higher than projected, saving the county $2.3 million in interest. Burke said that was $200,000 higher than the estimated savings from the refinancing.
Monday night’s meeting was another remote meeting using Zoom. The electronic meetings are intended to maintain social distancing and help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The meeting was a continuation of a meeting which began last Monday but was recessed because of the death earlier that day of Mayor Rusty Barnett.
Because County Commission Chairwoman Patty Woodby is the interim mayor for the next 120 days, the meeting was chaired by new Commission Vice Chairman, Travis Hill. As another contingency, the commissioners elected Mark Blevins to serve as the interim vice chairman for the 120-day transition.
The process of selecting the interim mayor past 120 days was also discussed. Initial plans are to take nominations for the two-year term in October. The group wants to have the nominees checked with the election commission to ensure all are eligible and to have a selection around December. The selection will be made by the 24 members of the County Commission, but any eligible citizens of the county could be nominated.
In other matters, the commissioners unanimously approved a recommendation from the Budget Committee and the Health and Welfare Committee to place in reserve $600,000 in unassigned fund balance to help encourage Internet installers to commit to an expansion of Broadband into mountainous areas of Carter County that do not have adequate Internet access.
Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Robert Acuff said the county will be unable to meet an Oct. 8 deadline for a state grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic Development, but he said there are other grants being awarded by the department at later dates that the county can apply for. The funds which have been set aside are to help attract partners on the projects.
Acuff told the commissioners that a partner installer has been found, but he would not announce the company until a memorandum of understanding has been signed. Other good news Acuff announced was the availability of a broadband trunk line to Roan Mountain. He said there is already a trunk line extending from Western North Carolina into Washington County and running right through Roan Mountain.
On another large transfer of funds, the commissioners voted unanimously to move half the Governor’s local grant. That was $587,499. It will be used to purchase asphalt for repaving county roads. Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said that was enough to pave 16 miles.
Colbaugh said that transfer will be helpful to the Highway Department because the normal funds for asphalt come from the state tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. That revenue fell drastically with the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19.
Several commissioners commented on the memorable funeral and graveside services for Mayor Barnett and about the beautiful setting of the small cemetery on Ripshin Mountain.