County to sell old SCHS/HMS building

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bedford County Board of Commissioners voted in principle Tuesday night to sell the former Shelbyville Central High School / Harris Middle School building on Elm Street.

However, the unnamed potential buyer who had expressed interest in the building has apparently dropped out of consideration.

"They disappeared," said County Mayor Eugene Ray. "We haven't had anybody else since then."

Commissioners may have resigned themselves to selling the building for less than its appraised value. Commissioner Billy King proposed requiring any buyer to pay taxes based on the appraised value rather than the sale price. County Attorney John T. Bobo said he saw nothing that would prevent the county from making that a condition of the sale.

The county only wants to sell the main school building, while keeping the old annex -- which now houses Bedford County Learning Academy, the county's alternative school -- and the gymnasium, which is used by the county for storage. A survey will be required in order to subdivide the property.

Commissioner Jimmy Woodson said that the full commission should be called upon to approve any sale before it becomes final.

After several different additions to the original motion, Commissioner Linda Yockey said it was becoming too complex and proposed a stripped-down version, just stating that the county intends to sell the building. That allows the commission's finance committee to proceed with surveying the lot and obtaining an appraisal as it discussed last month. King's issue of requiring the buyer to pay taxes based on the appraised value can be considered at a later point, once the commission has a better idea of the building's worth.

Yockey's amendment became the main motion, which was then approved by a unanimous 18-0 roll call vote.

Ethics committee

Ray called for a suspension of the rules to consider the appointment of a county ethics committee. There was little explanation, but the committee was said to be required as a result of the lawsuit against the county by Grady Cunningham over zoning issues. The county, bowing to complaints from residential neighbors, refused to rezone property Cunningham owned on U.S. 231 North as commercial so that Cunningham could move his business there.

It wasn't made obvious how the creation of an ethics committee relates to the lawsuit.

Ray appointed commissioners King, Don Gallagher, John Brown and P.T. "Biff" Farrar, along with County Clerk Donna Thomas, to the committee. Ray said it was required that at least one member of the committee not be a commissioner. Thomas is not a commissioner, but she is the wife of Commissioner Mark Thomas.

The commission approved the creation of the committee and confirmed Ray's appointments by voice vote.

Following Tuesday night's public meeting, the commission held a closed attorney-client session, which was also related to the Cunningham lawsuit. Although governing bodies in Tennessee are normally required to meet publicly, the courts have created an exception for attorney-client consultation. A governing body can meet with its attorney in private, although any decisions about what to do based on the attorney's advice are to be made in public.

Public Records Committee

Ray appointed John Jones to a vacancy on the Public Records Committee. Ray noted that he is the uncle of Commissioner Billy King.

"We will not hold that against him," quipped Yockey.

The commission confirmed Ray's appointment.

Courtroom video

Assistant District Attorney Mike Randles had been asking for video screens to be used when presenting evidence during court proceedings. The initial discussion was for such screens at the county's new judicial center, but in the interim, the commission wants to go ahead and install them in the current courtroom. Yockey said this would also benefit county government meetings, such as zoning meetings where maps or site plans can be displayed.

County IT director Josh Carney said he was able to get quotes on equipment totalling $2,685, including two 60-inch flat screen TVs, but he did not yet have a quote for labor for installation. Power would have to be run to the places on the courtroom wall where the monitors would be hung.

Yockey asked whether Carney could have an estimate of labor costs by the time the Financial Management Committee meets in two weeks, and Carney said he could.

Yockey moved to defer action on the screens and refer the matter to the finance committee. The motion was approved by voice vote.

Financial reports

The commission unanimously approved quarterly financial reports for the last quarter of calendar 2016.

Commerce Park

Commissioner Chuck Heflin, one of the members representing the county on the governing committee for the new Commerce Park, said that the bid for Phase 1A of park development has been awarded to Wright Paving. He said the committee will meet March 2 to set up a construction schedule. He said the committee hopes it will be able to add phase 1B to the contract at the same time.

Heflin said several potential tenants have already expressed interest in the park.