Bedford County Board of Commissioners' rules and legislative committee debated Tuesday night whether to make an appointment to the District 2 commission seat being vacated by Bobby Vannatta.
Vannatta, who has had to miss a number of meetings in recent months, announced last week that he's retiring due to illness. He requested that his son-in-law Ralph Edwards be appointed to his seat.
But any appointment would be only until the next countywide general election, which is in August, so someone appointed in May would serve at the June, July and August commission meetings before being re-elected or leaving office.
Commissioners discussed the pros and cons of just leaving the seat open and letting the voters decide how to fill it. But Vannatta was a long-serving and well-respected commissioner, and several speakers Tuesday night said they don't want to ignore his wishes. A third option, suggested by commissioner Jeff Yoes, might be to wait until after the June 8 qualifying deadline to make an appointment; if there's only one qualified candidate for the seat in the August election, the commission could go ahead and appoint that candidate at the June 12 meeting.
In cases where a commissioner dies in office, it's traditional to appoint a spouse or some other person recommended by the commissioner's family. But commissioners noted that this is a resignation, not a death, and so they weren't sure whether that same tradition should apply. Linda Yockey noted that Vannatta would be around to endorse his favored candidate during the August election process.
Commissioner John Brown noted that whatever the commission does could set a precedent for future situations.
"Bobby has served well," said commissioner Billy King, one of several who said Vannatta's request should be honored. King said it would be "a slap in the face" not to do so.
"I think his wish should be fulfilled," said King.
Several commissioners indicated they did not want a first-time commissioner taking Vannatta's seat on the Financial Management Committee, and commissioner Jimmy Patterson asked if the commission could juggle committee assignments to place an existing commissioner on finance and Vannatta's successor somewhere else. Ray said the commission could make whatever committee assignments it liked.
There are two commission seats from each district. Tony Smith, the other commissioner from District 2, was asked to comment on the issue during the committee meeting but declined.
Commmissioner and Bedford County Fire Chief Mark Thomas, responding to a question from Commissioner Linda Yockey, reported on the ongoing review of the county's fire coverage in hopes of getting an improved Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating for residents outside Shelbyville. ISO ratings factor in to homeowner's insurance premiums, so an improved ISO rating should mean lower costs for people served by the fire department.
Thomas said an ISO reviewer will visit the county in September. Thomas said he's had to visit every business in the area served by the county fire department, checking their size, distance from the nearest hydrant, and so on.
Thomas said some business owners have been suspicious and reluctant to cooperate.
"We've been trying to tell them that this is to save them in the long run," said Thomas.
After the visit in September, a second visit will be made to inspect the county's equipment.
Thomas said the county should know its new ratings by January 2013.
In the past, all of the rural county would have had the same ISO rating; now, addresses within five miles of a fire station will have different ISO ratings than addresses further away.
Thomas said recent equipment purchases have helped the county's prospects. He praised Normandy Volunteer Fire Department for donating a surplus tanker, paid for by volunteers, to the county to be placed at the Frank Martin Road station. The county fire department uses bays at the Bedford County Emergency Medical Services station on Frank Martin Road.
There have been discussions of stationing a truck in the Rover area, since it has significant population and is more than five miles away from the station in Unionville.
The committee placed vacancies on the Emergency Communications District board (District 1) and the Bedford County Agriculture and Education Center board (District 7) on the full commission's May 8 agenda. County Mayor Eugene Ray will make nominations for both seats.