Category Archives: Roane in Review

Path Forward for Education

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

As most everyone knows, the Roane County Commission in mid- February voted against funding the current school improvement plan. The vote for was two (2) for, eleven (11) against, with two passing. Now the question is, are we back to the drawing board? The Roane County School Board and the Commission met in a work session the end of February to discuss the issues of why there is limited support. My observation from the meeting focused on a few broad issues of why there is limited support:

1) Optimal Location
2) 
Importance of Community Schools
3) Increase Taxes
4) New Commissioners who have limited knowledge of the proposal plan

So where are we going? My office informed the school board of what we would propose as a path forward for the 2020 budget. First, a three (3) cent property tax is required for the Oliver Springs/ Midway project which has already been approved. I will propose to the Budget Committee an additional seven (7) cents in order to accumulate funds for debt service in order to help cash flow interest and principal payments. Since the school board is anticipating a successful financial year, I would recommend the school board transfer funds to their capital project fund to pay for some initial expenditures.

If approved, the County Commission shows a good faith effort to improve education. The school board shows support by putting their own investment into the capital project. We recognize that the ten (10) cent total is not enough and we would give options to the commissioners to increase their investment if they feel they have the support. Remember, the 2019 Budget gave the commissioners the opportunity to adjust the taxes if they supported the education improvement plan and no none made a motion to increase the funding.  This year a step in the right direction is being proposed by the Roane County’s Executive Office.

The math problem is simple. Currently, the 74 million dollar project has an estimated annual payment of 4.5 million dollars which requires approximately thirty-six (36) cents of property tax. The county has no current funds available to apply to the annual payment. A ten cent tax starts the accumulation of 1.3 million dollars of funds. In two years, approximately 2 million dollars of old debt will be paid off, and the current tax rate could be applied to the annual payment. The ten (10) cents plus the debt that pays off (sixteen (16) cents) is not enough for the present project, but the combined funds is a step in the right direction. Also, going forward we anticipate the successful rebuild of Oliver Springs High School. The small steps of success should help meet the educational needs of our students. We will wait and see what is approved for the 2020 budget.

Is Our Retirement Health Insurance Changing? – Feb 2019

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

If you are an employee, elected official, retiree or County Commissioner, you may want to make sure you have read “Impacts of Accounting Regulations” in the January 2019 newsletter. Could our retirement health insurance be changing? That will be a decision that the County Commissioners must make prior to March 31, 2019. The State Department of Finance and Administration in a Jan 18, 2019 letter establishes the deadline along with three basic options:

  • Opt-In: The county continues to offer pre-65 retiree health insurance.
  • Opt-Out: The county no longer offers pre-65 health insurance coverage.
  • Limited Opt-Out: Continues coverage for current retirees but will no longer cover future retirees.

The decisions made will impact employee benefits along with the county’s financial liabilities as noted in the previous article. The County Benefits Committee will meet in the near future to further discuss the county’s options. An executive summary will be posted on the county website.

A Partial View to DOE Activities – Feb 2019

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

In 1991, an agreement was reached between the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE) known as the Federal Facility Agreement (FFA). The purpose of the agreement was to:

  • Ensure that the environmental impacts associated with past and present activities at the [DOE] Site are thoroughly investigated and that appropriate remedial action is taken as necessary to protect the public health and welfare and the environment
  • Establish a procedural framework and schedule for developing, implementing, and monitoring appropriate response actions at the Site in accordance with Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability (CERCLA), the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution (NCP), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), appropriate guidance and policy, and in accordance with Tennessee State law;
  • Prevent, mitigate, or abate releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances from low-level radioactive waste tank systems under this Agreement prior to final remedial action at the [DOE] Site;
  • Facilitate cooperation, exchange of information, and participation of the Parties; • Minimize the duplication of investigative and analytical work and documentation and ensure the quality of data management;
  • Ensure that remedial action(s) at the [DOE] Site will be in compliance with applicable or relevant and identify appropriate requirements.
  • Expedite response actions with a minimum of delay; establish a basis for a determination that the DOE has completed the remedial investigation or feasibility study(s), remedial design(s), and remedial action(s) at the Site pursuant to CERCLA and applicable Tennessee State laws;
  • Coordinate response actions under CERCLA and this Agreement with RCRA Facility Investigations and corrective measures now being conducted under RCRA and applicable State laws;
  • Ensure that all releases of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants as defined by CERCLA and all releases of hazardous wastes or hazardous constituents as defined by RCRA are addressed so as to achieve comprehensive remediation of the Site.” (Federal Facility Agreement, 1991)

To reflect as “an extension” of the FFA, there was, subsequently, created a regulatory contract called the Tennessee Oversight Agreement (TOA) which was accepted and signed in 2011 (TOA, pg. 1). This agreement was between DOE and the State of Tennessee and was later broken down into three separate agreements. The details of those agreements will be addressed in another article at a later date. Presently, we will address the details surrounding the funding of the Oak Ridge Reservation Communities Alliance (ORRCA). ORRCA was established to educate the elected officials and general public on the environmental clean-up activities of DOE, as well as, emergency preparedness programs. The ORRCA website www.orrcatn.com hosts a wealth of information that assists elected officials and the citizens within the adversely affected communities in understanding the specifics of the environmental clean-up processes and progress. ORRCA also strives to educate elected officials to make more informed decisions for their community.

Reviewing Priorities and Adjusting – Feb 2019

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

In our last newsletter, we discussed the planning steps of putting together the 2020 Budget. During this past month, we checked off the first step by reviewing with our departments their 2019 capital plans and budgets and worked with the budget committee on a few adjustments. This important process allows the departments to review priorities and make needed adjustments which then sets a clean tablet for the 2020 capital budget and the following 19 years. Our department heads and commission understands the importance of reviewing your goals and objectives and making the needed changes.

One of the most significant changes was the realization that the county recreation master plan probably needs updating. As we reviewed the recreation capital plan, we asked the question, “When was the last masterplan?” The plan exceeded 15 years. Thus it had been 15 years since the general public had an opportunity to make formal comments on the county recreation plan. The recreation plan includes current and potential recreation services for Roane County Residents and the county tourism industry. Since the last plan the county has taken over a TVA campground (Riley Creek), leased and built the Swan Pond Sports Complex, and the State Department of Transportation has built a multi-use crossing that connects the Roane State Community College Expo Center and Walking Trails to a potential walking trail, horse trail, or campsites at the Old Caney Creek campground area of 60 acres. Keep up with the formal recreation planning process in our future newsletters as the county recreation advisory board, and park and recreation committee begins their work.

What’s up for the New Calendar Year? – Jan 2019

What’s Up for the 2019 new calendar year (Jan-Dec)? We are halfway through our 2019 budget year (07/01/2018- 06/30/19). The six-month offset between our calendar year and our budget year allows us to evaluate the county and understand what is needed to keep Roane County on the right trajectory. For the next several months our Accounting Department with the County Executive’s Office will be working with our departments putting together our capital plans and capital budgets. We are now working out our 20-year capital plans.

The Capital Plan proceeds accordingly: During the first of the calendar year, we began focusing on our capital plans: 1) To understand what assets need to be purchased, maintained or replaced according to local, state, and federal legislation and objectives. 2) Next, we incorporate the capital need with our county operational budgets which are implemented on the first of July. 3) Finally, the Capital and Operations Budgets are adopted.

Here are a few of the capital issues under consideration. You can learn more about them in previous newsletters or read about them in upcoming issues here:

  • Schools (replacement or consolidation of physical assets)
  • Jail Expansion (property is purchased and preliminary designs are being reviewed)
  • Poplar Creek Rd (funding is approved and plans are being designed)
  • Recreation Programs (currently working with a 17-year-old master plan)
  • Caney Creek Bridge Replacement (TDOT project with local impact)

Additional Plans in Development:

  • Riley Creek Campground future plans and operations
  • Courthouse/Jail Parking
  • Ambulance Service Expansion into service area of Rockwood
  • Enhancement of County Fire Services (study underway)
  • Industrial Certified Site Development (reviewing inventory)

Through the planning process, we have identified a few matters which will impact our path forward:

  • Kingston TVA Ash Spill
  • Involvement with the DOEs plans of reindustrialization, future federal missions, community, business, industrial impact on Watts Bar Reservoir
  • Roane Academy, now known as the Youth Opportunity Center for Success and Independence or Youth Opportunity found in the Roane County Industrial Park
  • Asian carp and aquatic weeds
  • Accounting issue with Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) – See “Impacts of Accounting Regulation” 
  • US Census (Roane County must start initial work in February 2019)
  • More to come…

So buckle-up, Roane County ’s, $100,000,000 budget works begin now.

Impacts of Accounting Regulations – Jan 2019

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

What do Employee Benefits and landfills have in common? Impacts of Accounting Regulations. This article may appear boring at first but it is of utmost importance that we understand the major changes that will impact our county’s financial standing. Roane County signed a contract with the State of Tennessee in lieu of performance bond for $4,565,334 in February 1998. To my knowledge, this was the first acknowledgment of our landfill liability for landfill post-closure care costs. The next year the county had to spend around two million dollars to close the landfill. The liability was real and the money was real. Each year, for the past 20 years, the liability is reexamined and the county still has liability around $200,000. Every year the county spends current property tax money on a landfill that is not generating revenue. This year our cost will be around $100,000.

Health Insurance, due to retirees being eligible to continue to participate now the county has a liability noted on the county’s financial records. Current liability estimates the county general government is $4,284,000, school liability is $12,648,000 split with the state portion $4,939,000, and the county portion $8,709,000. The liability will be an outlay of money.

The State’s November powerpoint begins the county’s process of understanding and addressing the issue and can be found in the OPEB Liability and Local Government Plan in Executive Summary #65a. There will be more to come as the county begins considering and addressing this liability.

November Was Another Busy Month for County Government – Dec 2018

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

The first week of the month had many County Commissioners at the Roane Alliance Gala. The Roane Alliance is the county’s economic development organization. This year’s Gala was once again well attended and supported by our local business and city governments. The Alliance was established in 2001 and has been led by four CEOs over the years. The Alliance is once again in search of a new leader as Wade Creswell has taken a position at Oak Ridge National Lab. Best wishes to Wade and thank you for your public service. The second week the commissioners honored a group of eight new Roane County Treasures. Roane County Treasures is a program started in 2007 that honors men and women who lived and contributed to the betterment of Roane County. A list of Treasures can be found on a plaque on the first floor of the Courthouse.

In the third week, County Commissioner Charlotte Bowers and Executive Ron Woody joined Oak Ridge Representatives at an intergovernmental meeting. They met with the Department of Energy (Oak Ridge Office and Washington DC Office), Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and State Legislators to discuss the environmental clean up of the Oak Ridge Reservation and the challenges of cleaning the legacy DOE site.

The commission met the fourth week of November to approve a significant resolution that starts capital improvements for our county schools. For the first time in eight years, the county approved issuing debt. The debt may only be issued for large projects, and school building project qualifies as a large project wherein 7.1 Million in bonds were approved. We anticipate construction will start on the Oliver Springs Middle School conversion to a Middle and High School will begin in late Spring early Summer. This project is estimated over 5 million and another one million was approved for a new sewer plant to service the Midway elementary, middle and high schools. Part of the bond’s proceeds will be shared with the Oak Ridge School system for their county projects.

The County Commission further discussed possible legislation regarding the TVA ash spill at the County Commission meeting. More to come on these issues as a special meeting will be held on December 4th. The commissioner’s plates are full with the TVA Kingston ash spill issues, potential jail construction, and further capital education improvements. Stay tuned.

Founders Day – Nov 2018

{Amber Cofer, Assistant to the County Executive}

Pause and Honor Our County’s Treasures
Roane County was officially founded on November 6, 1801. In 2007 Roane County began celebrating Roane County’s Birthday with the Founder’s Day Celebration by naming a Class of Roane Treasures each year. Every year we pause to honor the individuals who have shaped Roane County into the county it is today. These individual have made tremendous contributions not only to our county but also the state and nation. The Treasures are individuals who have helped shape the county’s history through different endeavors.

Roane County will be honoring the following individuals at this year’s Founder’s Day Celebration:
Roane Treasures (70-90 years old): James Little, Dillard Moore, Earl Nall, Jessie June Raby Nelson, and Alton Richards.
Golden Treasures (90 years or older): Gerald Lay, Charles Harris, and Warren Kocher We welcome all to celebrate Roane County’s 217th birthday as we honor the Twelfth Class of Roane Treasures.

Among those honored will be the first African American coal tester at TVA in Kingston, a senior fitness instructor, Boys and Girls Clubs mentors, military veterans and a WWII POW survivor.

New Agribusiness Loan Program – Nov 2018

{Jamie Kinard – Roane County Executive’s Office Grants Coordinator}

The East Tennessee Development District (ETDD) received funding from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TGA) to start a new agribusiness loan program. These low-interest revolving loans are to stimulate farm and agribusiness income. The offer is to aid in the purchase of machinery and equipment that create, retain jobs or produce new markets for locally produced farm products. This new loan program is operated by the ETDD with oversight by the TGA. The max loan amount set is $25k. All loans have a minimum interest rate of 4.0% (2% below prime) for a max of 7 years.

Applicants must be a Tennessee resident and 18 years or older as of the first of the year. Applicants must operate a farm or agribusiness and demonstrate ability/ financial capacity to operate.

Tennessee farmers can procure buildings, greenhouses, remodel projects, aquaculture production ponds, harvesting, and processing equipment, beehives, coolers, irrigation, permanent fencing, livestock equipment, and grain storage. Tractors, property, travel, and salaries are a few of the ineligible criteria. More details will be available in December.

Roane County Legislative Body is Changing – Sept 2018

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

Roane County Legislative Body is Changing: Seven new commissioners will join eight incumbent commissioners to lead our county for the next four years and beyond. We are also welcoming a new Trustee, and County Clerk. A profile of the incoming commissioners and new officials will be in the October Roane County Newsletter. Upon initial review, the freshmen commissioners lower the average age of the Commission. We anticipate a fresh perspective and vision for our community. Our new Commissioners have recently attended County Officials Orientation Program through the University of Tennessee to help their understanding of government functions and operations. A county orientation will be presented to our new and existing Commissioners. The public is invited to the orientation on September 6th at 6pm. The presentation will be available on RoaneCountyTN.gov under the County Executive’s Summaries under the Executive Summary 61. The orientation will address the function of government, responsibilities, and the authority of the legislative body, challenges, and opportunities for the future.

Roane County Planning Commission Looks at a New High School site location: County Executive Ron Woody formally requested the Roane County Planning Commission to use all available planning tools such as census data, traffic patterns, growth patterns, utility availability, and any other pertinent tools for planning in order to ensure the most optimal location for a potential Roane County investment. (County Executive Letter to the Planning Commission 7.31.18)