County Commission fills seat vacated by Walker; state senator attends meeting

On February 17, 2010, in News 2010, by Mark Norris

Dyersburg State Gazette February 17, 2010 Sam Hummer, a 60-year-old advertising salesman for the State Gazette, joined the Dyer County Commission on Tuesday night. He will fill the unexpired term of Steve Walker, who resigned his District I commission seat last month. Walker has since been sworn in as the Dyer County clerk and master. […]

Dyersburg State Gazette
February 17, 2010

Sam Hummer, a 60-year-old advertising salesman for the State Gazette, joined the Dyer County Commission on Tuesday night. He will fill the unexpired term of Steve Walker, who resigned his District I commission seat last month. Walker has since been sworn in as the Dyer County clerk and master.

Two commissioners represent each district. When a vacancy occurs, the second commissioner from that district nominates a new commissioner. District I Commissioner Connie Apple Evans nominated Hummer. Both represent the Hurricane Hill area.

Evans said no one contacted her about the position and she asked Hummer if he’d be willing to serve. She said she and Hummer worked together years ago at Home Beneficial Insurance. “I’ve known him a long time and I though he would make a good commissioner,” she said.

Hummer said he has lived in Dyer County his entire life and has lived in District I since 1974. “I look forward to working with all the committee members,” he said.

All of the commissioners face re-election in August.

Evans and County Mayor Richard Hill thanked Walker for his service as a county commissioner and congratulated him on his new job.

State Sen. Mark Norris attended Tuesday’s meeting and briefly addressed the commissioners. He said the county qualified for a transportation enhancement grant but the federal government has rescinded some of the grant monies. Norris told commissioners he is trying to make sure the county’s grant is not lost.

Norris said the state is looking at $1.7 billion in budget cuts for the 2010-11 fiscal year. This is, he said, the state’s 20th consecutive month of declining revenues. And, unlike the federal government, Norris said, the state’s budget must be balanced every year.

Norris also said he would be interested in the county’s response to a resolution calling for the repeal of a new state law. The law, which went into effect last year, limits the number of children each county may place into state custody. Any county that exceeds its limit will be required to pay the costs for as long as the child is in custody.

Under the new law, Dyer County may place in custody up to 102 abused or neglected children and up to 39 delinquent children without occurring additional costs.

Juvenile Judge Jason Hudson told commissioners he doubted Dyer County would exceed those numbers, but it is a possibility. Once a child is placed in state custody, the county has no control over how long that child is in state custody or what services are provided.

Hudson said he cannot take budgetary issues into account when deciding whether to place a child in state custody. His rulings must be based on what’s right for the child.

Mayor Hill encouraged commissioners to support the repeal request. He questioned why the state would establish such a law if it weren’t to the state’s advantage. “They may see something on the horizon,” Hill said, noting the costs of caring for juvenile delinquents is rising.

The county had been paying the McDowell Center for Children about $60,000 a year to make sure at least two rooms are available for temporarily holding juveniles. Hill said the fee rose to $150,000 this year.

“The law makes us provide a place to incarcerate them,” Hill said.

The county attempted to negotiate a lower fee with the McDowell Center, but the private company declined to consider it, Hill said. The county increased its McDowell Center payment to $100,000 and the city offered to pay the rest.

Commission Alan Burchfiel questioned whether the General Assembly would really repeal a law just because county governments opposed it. “I believe the law ought to be repealed,” he said. But, “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

In other business, the commission:

* Authorized the issuance, sale and payment of up to $125,000 in capital outlay notes to repair the courthouse elevator. Hill said he hopes the elevator repairs will be less than $125,000. The county recently paid off one of its obligations and should have no problem repaying these notes, he said.

* Re-appointed Steve Moore, David Agee and Kathy McLean to the commission’s Agriculture Committee.

* Approved the official bond for the county’s new clerk and master.

* Approved budget amendments recommended by the budget committee.

* Voted to re-open the old Mitchell Road in Finley. The 700-foot section will be called Bird Lane to avoid confusion with Mitchell Lane in the Middle City community.

* Learned that Alene Arnold’s presentation has been postponed until May. Arnold is director of statewide operations for Tennessee SCORE, or State Collaborative of Reforming Education. SCORE is an initiative by to jumpstart long-term educational change to ensure that every child graduates high school prepared for college or a career.