Some decisions left for new county board

Published 5:26 pm Thursday, October 23, 2008

You could almost smell the election in the air at Monday night&squo;s Polk County commissioner meeting with candidates up for re-election on one side and non-candidates on another.

As the election nears, commissioners decided to hold off on some decisions until the arrival of a new board, which may have a new majority for either the Republicans or the Democrats.

Issues commissioners put off Monday night included a water extension policy and water plan, funding for communication towers and a code of ethics policy.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Ted Owens and Tom Pack, Republican candidates up for re-election, seemed to want to push forward on those issues, while Democrats Tommy Melton and Warren Watson said those decisions should wait for a new board. Harry Denton, a Republican who was defeated in the primary this year, sided with Democrats wanting to wait for the new board.

With Denton&squo;s seat open, there will be at least one and possibly as many as three new commissioners on the five-member board following the Nov. 4 election. Owens and Pack are being challenged by three Democrats; Ray Gasperson, Ren´e McDermott and Cindy Walker, and and another Republican, David Moore.

Melton said a few times during Monday&squo;s 3&rac12;-hour meeting that since the board is going to change, with at least one new commissioner, the board should wait on some decisions to get the opinions of any newcomer.

The current board will have a tax revaluation workshop next Monday and one more regular meeting on Nov. 3 prior to the Nov. 4 election.

Communications towers

Commissioners were split Monday on a decision to fund $175,000 for the first phase of&bsp; new communication towers for law enforcement and fire departments. The county has been discussing the need to replace the 20 to 30 year old system for many years. Watson, Melton and Denton voted against funding the first phase and Pack and Owens voted to approve the funding. The county has $80,000 budgeted for communications and would need to take out $95,000 from fund balance to complete the first phase. The plan includes $606,000 for new towers and upgrades over the next four years. Pack and Owens urged the county to approve it for safety purposes. Watson, Melton and Denton said they don&squo;t disapprove, but said the decision should be made by the new board because it requires funding over multiple years. Pack said regardless of elections, the phased project will go through two boards of commissioners and every phase will help the communication problem.The item does not seem to be a dead issue and will most likely be re-addressed following the election.

Water extension policy

Commissioners also held off on approving a water line extension policy, but did approve a bid to run a water line to Blackwood Road off the Hwy. 9 water line connecting Broad River Water Authority with Inman Campobello Water District.

County board chairman Melton said this may be an issue that needs delay until the new board is seated and can possibly hold a work session to discuss how the county wants to proceed. Watson said he wants an attorney who specializes in water issues to look over the draft document with any suggestions. Commissioners decided to continue to discuss the water extension policy at each meeting.

Water system plan

Questions about whether the county has an overall water system plan hit a nerve with some commissioners. Pack said the county has a water plan that can be updated and Watson and Melton said Monday night was the first the board had ever discussed a water plan. Melton called Pack out of order twice in the discussion. Pack said the plan has always been there and commissioners who weren&squo;t aware of it haven&squo;t done their homework. Pack said the plan was updated by engineer Dave Odom in 2005 and includes all the main trunk water lines. Democrats seem to want the plan to be more specific, with Democratic candidates campaigning that the county needs a water plan, but Republican incumbents saying the county is following its water plan made a few years ago.

Code of ethics policy

Commissioners also agreed to delay approving a new code of ethics policy brought to the board by commissioner Owens. Owens agreed, at the request of Melton and Watson, to withdraw his motion to approve a new policy for all employees and appointed volunteer board members to sign until after the new board is seated.