Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

May 9, 2013

Panel reviews, suggests changes to county commission rules

By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County's Rules Committee approved several changes to the county commission's rules Monday evening after meeting and reviewing the policies over the past several months. One of the changes eliminates several defunct and abandoned committees.

"When we last looked at the rules and made changes a few years ago I came up with a list of all the committees I could. A lot of these committees simply haven't met for many years and are now defunct, or have been replaced with newer committees," Harry Sabine, 1st District commissioner, said.

Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, chaired the committee and spent several hours reviewing and recommending policies that needed tweaking or updating. Committee members reviewed the suggestions and also made suggestions on changes they would like to see take place. Committees to be disbanded include:

Crossville/Cumberland County Joint Projects Committee

Pay Scale Appeals Committee

Property Tax Freeze Implementation Committee

Cumberland County Recreation and Parks Advisory Board

Redistricting Committee

Cumberland County/city of Crossville Tourism Task Force

Vehicle Maintenance Committee

Veteran's Affairs Committee

Veteran Advisory Committee

Veteran's Service Officer Committee

The County Economic Development and Industrial Park Board will be superseded and replaced by the Cumberland County Joint Economic Development Board.

The committees can only be disbanded through a resolution that will have to be approved by the county commission.

One change that was suggested by 4th District Commissioner Allen Foster was changing the order of the agenda at the monthly county commission meeting to allow special recognitions, announcements and memorials to be held before unfinished business, or the main business of the county so those who were attending solely for that purpose wouldn't have to stay for almost the entire meeting before their special recognition.

Another item that was moved up in the order of the meeting is comments by the general public.

"If somebody wants to make a comment about something we are going to be voting on then it makes sense to hear them before we vote. I don't think it makes sense for somebody to wait through the entire meeting to make a comment after we've already voted," Foster said.

Another change will include having all meeting notices, agendas and minutes from committee meetings and the full county commission meetings placed on the county's website.

Lynch also asked if county employees who serve as commissioners should be declaring and reading a conflict of interest statement during the committee meetings as well as during the county commission meeting.

"It makes sense because that's when the majority of the decisions are made before going to the full commission," said Dave Hassler, 3rd District commissioner.

Sabine agreed and said, "It's state law that it should be read. I think it makes perfect sense."

The committee decided the conflict statement should be read by employees when voting on a matter regarding the department in which they work at both committee meetings and county commission meetings.

It was also clarified that pass votes are counted as no votes.

Travel expenses and reimbursements were also addressed and changed.

Mileage expense will now be reimbursed at the same rate as the federal government or IRS, which is currently 56 cents per mile.

Commissioners also adopted the current state rate for meal reimbursement for commissioners who are attending meetings and or training.

The previous maximum, set in 2004, was $28 per day, which was divided at $6 for breakfast, $8 for lunch and $14 for dinner.

"In some of the cities like Knoxville or Nashville and you have to eat at a hotel, this will hardly cover the expense now," Sabine said.

Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock reported the current state rate is $46 per day and is divided around $10 for breakfast, $13 for lunch and $23 for dinner.

"I would recommend we adopt the current state rate," Sabine said.

Parking costs were also addressed and the rate was set at $10 per day would be acceptable without a receipt. Anything over $10 will require a receipt for reimbursement from the county.

Brock reminded commissioners that any out of state travel reimbursements require permission from the financial management committee.

Several other items were tweaked in the rules including typographical errors and several items were dropped and sections were moved and the rules were renumbered in many places.

"This has been a big project and a lot of work and time went into this. Thank you Carmin for doing this," Caroline Knight, 2nd District commissioner, said.

The others on the committee unanimously agreed.

The changes made and printed in a draft labeled April 12, 2013, were unanimously approved by the committee after a motion was made by Sonya Rimmer, 8th District commissioner, and were supported by Sabine.

The changes will be typed and presented to county commissioners for them to review and the item will be placed on the county commission's agenda for the county commission to approve.

The rules will also be available for the public to view on the county's web site.

Roy Turner, 7th District commissioner, did not attend Tuesday's meeting, but was at prior rules committee meetings.

The rules should be up for review for the May county commission meeting May 20.