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The County Commission approved by a 10-9 vote plans by the Water Department for a new office building to be located behind the County Administration building.

A new office building for Trousdale County’s Water Department barely received approval from the County Commission, passing by just one vote.

The County Commission held a called meeting on July 19 to discuss the proposed $1.2 million facility, which will be constructed just behind the County Administration building on Broadway. The Water Board had requested a called meeting in order to meet deadlines in the contract, which was awarded in June.

Members delayed a vote at June’s Commission meeting in order to further study the proposal, which required Commission approval as the facility is to be built on county property.

The discussion took nearly two hours and ended with a 10-9 vote to approve the resolution allowing construction. Voting yes were Beverly Atwood, Mary Ann Baker, Ken Buckmaster, Shane Burton, Rick Davis, Bubba Gregory, Richard Johnson, David Nollner, Amber Russell and Lonnie Taylor. Commissioner Rachel Jones was absent Monday.

Before the debate began, County Mayor Stephen Chambers addressed what he called a violation of Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act that occurred on July 8. Before a meeting of the Education Committee that night, five commissioners discussed the Water Board’s building plans for roughly seven minutes.

After consulting with County Attorney Branden Bellar, it was determined that the Open Meetings violation could be “cured” by addressing those same issues in a public forum.

“I’m trying to get this issue done in public, address these issues going forward so no one can say it wasn’t discussed in an open meeting,” the mayor said. “When five commissioners are speaking on something and the other 15 aren’t there, the public doesn’t get to participate in that discussion.”

The items required for discussion were whether a sewer line already constructed to serve the building site would also serve neighboring properties, including the Americolor print shop, whether the building was too small and unable to be expanded, how it would affect potential expansion of the County Administration building and whether other potential sites for a Water Department building had been identified.

Gary Claridy questioned whether the property was even owned by the county, as the County Commission had never voted to accept the property after the Water Board purchased it in 2018. On Bellar’s advice, commissioners unanimously voted to formally accept the purchase.

Those opposed to the building said they acknowledged a need for the Water Department to have its own facility, but said another location would be better.

“You’re not going to create one problem, you’re going to create two,” said Jerry Ford, arguing that the current location would make it next to impossible to expand the Administration building.

“My concern is the growth we’re going to continue to have,” added Bill Fergusson. “We may have two buildings jammed in there in a space that’s going to be growing in the future.”

Prior to the final vote, a motion by Gary Walsh to adjourn without making a decision failed by a 15-4 vote. Richard Harsh’s motion to disapprove the resolution also failed by a 10-9 vote.

Upcoming meeting: The Commission’s regular scheduled meeting will be held on Monday, July 26 at 7 p.m.

Three budget amendments are on the agenda: $9,000 toward a new Soil Conservation Technician position at the USDA office, $850 for a decal printer for the County Clerk’s office and $65,000 for rugged laptops for the sheriff’s patrol vehicles.

The latter two are internal transfers of funds already allocated, and the sheriff’s laptops will be funded by a TNCAMS grant received by the county last year as part of COVID-19 relief.

Five rezoning requests are up for votes. Two on second reading would move 1 acre on Walnut Grove Road from A-1 to R-1 and on McMurry Blvd. from C-2 to R-3. Those will also require public hearings.

The other three are on first reading: a lot on River Road from A-1 to R-1, property on Highway 10 from A-1 to R-1 and a partial lot on Highway 231S from A-1 to C-1.

The 231 rezone would allow the owner to move a towing business from Lebanon to the Trousdale property. A number of nearby residents attended Monday’s work session to express their disapproval of the request.

Resolutions will be voted upon to add Linda Lane, Rooney Lane, Tri-Star Lane and Triple Acres Lane to the county’s Official Road Name List, and approve of a request to apply for a TDOT Multimodal Grant for sidewalk improvements on Broadway.

One reappointment is on the agenda: that of Mary Ann Baker to a four-year term on the Planning Commission.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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