Entire Harris campus up for sale

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Two of Bedford County Board of Commissioners' standing committees, which have been in sharp disagreement about the disposition of the old Harris Middle School property on Elm Street, brought their viewpoints to the full commission on Tuesday night.

The motion eventually passed by the full commission is closer to what was sought by the commission's courthouse and county property committee.

The county will seek bids on the full campus, including the annex building and the gymnasium, in order to judge the worth of the property.

The commission would still have the right to reject all bids and go back and dispose of the property piecemeal (or not at all).

The finance committee had supported giving the annex to the school system for use as an alternative school and possibly offering the gym to the City of Shelbyville as a bargaining chip in current city-county tax disputes. But valuable Elm Street frontage away from the campus and affect its sale value.

The motion passed Tuesday night allows athletic groups currently using the gym to continue to do so until some decision has been made about what to do with the property. At one point, commissioners talked about letting the school system use the annex in the interim as well, but it was deemed impractical to invite the school system in one month with the possibility of kicking it out the next month.

Nursing home: Meanwhile, commissioner Joe Tillett repeated the motion he tried unsuccessfully to pass during a meeting last month of the budget and finance committee: to take bids on selling Bedford County Nursing Home. Tillett said that he was interested in determining the nursing home's value, not necessarily in selling it, and his motion also included the option to reject all bids. But Commissioner Roger Brothers rose to a point of order, saying that Tillett's proposal was not on the commission's agenda. An attempt was then made to suspend the commission's rules, a common and perfectly legal technique for considering items not already on the agenda. A rules suspension would have taken a two-thirds vote but only five rose in support of it. So Tillett's motion was never voted on directly.

The nursing home was retained by the county last year when the county sold Bedford County Medical Center. Right now, both facilities continue to operate in their adjoining county-owned buildings on Union Street.

Once BCMC has built its planned facility on U.S. 231 North, it will move out of the Union Street location, leaving the county with yet another vacant but not-easily-remodeled building to worry about.

Also part of the BCMC campus is a doctor's building across Union Street. Commissioners voted Tuesday night to allow Community Clinic of Shelbyville and Bedford County to use the basement of that building, on a year-to-year basis, until and unless the county decides to sell the building.

Community Clinic is currently located in another building further south on Union Street but has had high maintenance costs and a high tax bill connected with that building, which is owned by Saint Thomas Hospital.

Com center: Commissioners voted Tuesday night to direct County Attorney John T. Bobo to draw up some sort of legal document ensuring that Bedford County Communications Center would be able to keep its facility even if the county sold the rest of the BCMC campus.

During the finance committee meeting, the committee voted to recommend a $2.2 million proposal to improve county radio communications, in part by building new towers and buying a tower site south of Shelbyville.

Currently, the county is largely dependent on a single, privately-owned tower site on Horse Mountain, and is at the mercy of the site's owners. The new system would use several different towers, coordinated with high-tech electronics so that they do not cause interference with each other.

The finance committee sent the proposal to the courthouse committee for its consideration and advised the courthouse committee that there is enough money in the debt service account to fund it.

BCEMS: Earlier this summer, the commission voted to borrow $4.2 million for new Bedford County Emergency Medical Service stations and fire trucks. That money hasn't been borrowed yet, and now the county may be able to borrow $1 million for the BCEMS portion of the project interest-free, through a health-care development program with which Duck River Electric Membership Corp. is affiliated. Commissioners approved Tuesday night trying to get the interest-free loan, which could save the county $200,000 to $250,000 in interest over the life of the loan.

Tennessee Rehabilitation Center: Commissioners had an item on their agenda to allow TRC to spend some excess construction funds on parking lot and gutter changes to the building. But it has since been learned that the money is not available, and so that request was withdrawn.