Tag Archives: County Commission

Roane County Environmental Review Board 

{by Mary Anne Koltowich}

Our Roane County Environmental Review Board (RCERB) was established in 1989 by Roane County Commission Resolution #1975. Under Resolution #03-11-12 purpose/responsibilities of this Board was clarified as “WHEREAS it is helpful to have a committee of qualified individuals to serve as an advisory group to study matters referred to it by the County Executive and the County Commissions, having the power only to make recommendations to the County Executive and the County Commissions after studying said matters.” The RCERB is authorized by the County Commission to be comprised of “five (5) to seven (7) general members and one (1) to two (2) student members, which shall be appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Commission”. Currently, the RCERB has seven (7) appointed volunteer general members and no student members. In addition, a representative from the County Executive and a representative from the County Commission interface with the RCERB. Its appointed volunteer members represent a broad professional knowledge experience base of technical and scientific knowledge, education, skills, and hands-on experience in a cross-section of environmental fields. This broad professional knowledge experience base covers the Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation activities, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) operations, aquatic ecology, remediation projects, hazardous/radioactive waste management, and chemistry – just to name a few.

The RCERB strives to maintain an awareness of environmental activities that affect or can affect Roane County. Some of the most intensive topics that members have been actively studying for the benefit of the Commission in order to provide recommendations include:

  1. A new DOE new hazardous waste landfill named the Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF) has been proposed that would house materials from the demolition and remediation of multiple contaminated Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) structures/facilities. There is a formal dispute over this facility’s design and operational basis between DOE, the Tennessee Department of Conservation (TDEC), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The dispute primarily concerns protective measures in order to prevent the release of contaminated waters from the landfill directly into the Bear Creek watershed (surface and groundwaters). There is a related on-going contaminated wastewater discharge problem with the current landfill, named the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), which has almost reached its capacity. 
  2. A mercury discharge into East Fork Poplar Creek that occurred at the DOE Y-12 facility in June 2018 which resulted in a large fish kill and continued over an extended (multi-month) period. Recent documentation indicates that fines for violation of groundwater quality regulations may be forthcoming as a result of this mercury release. This release is also related to the new proposed EMDF landfill where mercury-contaminated waste would be placed. There is increased concern over the proper handling of the mercury contamination constituent to prevent the creation of a potential new contamination source for releases into the Bear Creek watershed.
  3. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Coal Ash Spill has been the recent subject of legal action by site workers. Now there are concerns about the possibility of fly ash being present in and around the Swan Pond Sports Complex. The RCERB has been working with TDEC staff to develop and implement a sampling plan to test soils at multiple locations to determine if the fields and walking trails are safe for our community members and county workers.
  4. Non-native invasive aquatic plants are proliferating in Watts Bar Reservoir, along with several of the TVA river reservoirs. The County Commission named an Aquatic Weeds Committee that requested that a stakeholders group be formed to study the problem, research other affected relative bodies of water, acquire lessons learned from others with the same problem, and provide a report containing the needed information, research efforts, & recommendations as to how to proceed to address the problem. As a result, the Watts Bar Ecology and Fishery Council (WBEFC) was formed as a 501.c(3) non-profit organization a couple of years ago. A couple of RCERB members are also members of the WBEFC. The subject report was formally submitted to the Roane County Commission during its March 2019 meeting. The WBEFC is awaiting notification from the Commission as to a meeting to discuss this report. The WBEFC is also and just as importantly focusing efforts on preventing the migration of Silver (jumping) Asian Carp into the Chickamauga and Watts Bar Reservoirs.
  5. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plan Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA) was extensively reviewed with comments provided in relation to the expansion of the now used landfill to dispose of and store fly ash, bottom ash, and gypsum generated by the burning of coal.
  6. TDEC performed surface water sampling of creeks around Tiger Haven to determine the presence (or lack thereof) of e. coli bacteria that could affect the health of nearby citizens. Sampling has concluded, and a report from TDEC is in progress.
  7. The American Zinc Corporation (AMZ) has had a draft Title V permit in review with TDEC for the last few years. There has been a Public Meeting in the past with another one planned in April. The RCERB reviewed the recent permit update and provided recommendations to the County Commission. The Commission has accepted and forwarded the identified permit concerns to TDEC.
  8. TVA’s draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of almost 700 pages was reviewed with comments provided back to TVA and copied to the Commission. The IRP and EIS explore various strategies and scenarios about how TVA plans to meet the power demands of the future and to remain stewards of the environment.
  9. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released plans related to permitting TVA to build and operate Small Modular Reactors (SMR) at the Clinch River site (previously the old “nuclear breeder site”). Plans are to build one or more 150-Mw nuclear reactor power plants to generate electricity. The NRC has approved an early site permit that allows investigation and preliminary design.

Each member of the RCERB expends many hundreds of hours on studying topics, performing online research, reading subject-related procedures/permits/regulations, attending public meetings to gather firsthand information, documenting feedback for public comment requests, and more each year. These services come at no cost to the taxpayers of the county and have saved taxpayers millions of dollars during the RCERB’s years of existence as a result of not having to hire outside consultants or establish a full-time staff to perform this work effort. In fact, RCERB input is now actively being sought by other outside area environmental groups and by state regulatory agencies. In the interest of public safety and environmental protection, the RCERB provides a very valuable function to Roane county government and its citizens. RCERB meetings are held monthly, open to the public, and public comments are welcomed.

NACo Features Commissioner Ron Berry

The National Association of Counties (NACo) represents county governments in the United States and improves the public’s understanding of county government, assists counties in finding and sharing solutions through education and research, and provides services to save counties and taxpayers money. NACo represents 3,069 counties and chose to feature Commissioner Ron Berry to give members an opportunity to learn more about its members from across the country. To read Commissioner Berry’s profile go to:
https://www.naco.org/sites/default/files/documents/CN_04152019_LO_72.pdf  (pg. 22)

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.

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.

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.

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)

Roane County P&R Citizens Advisory Board – Feb 2019

Our Parks and Recreation (P&R) services are not mandated statutorily but by tradition. Since 1961, the TVA RLR-35188 and other resolutions have directed the path for Roane County P&R. As we approach sixty years of P&R services, the County Commission created the Roane County Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Board (RCPRCAB) to bring a citizen’s perspective on the development of various Roane County P&R policies, priorities, and objectives.

This RCPRCAB is designed to ensure a diverse development of health and recreation offerings for our citizens. Its formation brings the experience and knowledge of six P&R Directors, three private citizens, six student representatives, and two county commissioners to the drawing board. The RCPRCAB convened for the first time on January 24th, fulfilling a Tennessee Local Parks and Recreation Grant (LPRF) requirement for public input and communication. The newly formed board recommends the development of a new master plan.

Mike Beard, the Roane County P&R Director, is enthusiastic about the recent appointment of the RCPRCAB, “Roane County’s potential is as abundant as its beauty. It is vital to seek wise counsel, to effectively wield its charm.” He believes, “Each P&R director’s unique perspective and knowledge will lead us to a more cohesive and complementary master plan.” Furthermore, “The high school students are given the opportunity to partner with community leaders and older generations to learn how to be a positive and effective force in the community. In return, their elders and community leaders are given a chance to be invigorated by the unbridled creativity and enthusiasm of youth.” To learn more see Executive Summary 17h.

No Tax Increase – Aug 2018

We are operating under the fiscal 2019 Budget. Thank you to the Roane County Budget Committee members: Darryl Meadows, Carolyn Granger, James Brummett, and Mike Hooks for their hard work on the fiscal 2019 budget. Many improvements have been made over the years in budget planning and preparation with the county establishing a solid financial foundation to help make long-term decisions. The Budget Committee held a public hearing, followed by a budget committee meeting and finally a County Commission work session. The County Commission unanimously approved the Appropriation Resolution and Tax Resolution.

Some highlights of the budget include:

  • A 2% raise for general government employees
  • Approval of the Seventh Capital Improvement Plan for the general government
  • A continuation of the multi-year debt budgets
  • Allocation of funds to purchase the final property for the jail improvement project
  • Plans for a Rockwood ambulance station

Topics of Continued Deliberation Include:

  • We anticipate the school improvement plan discussion will continue in the coming months
  • The Wheel Tax will be considered on the November ballot

The county continues to purchase assets from current revenue instead of debt financing. This allows for the necessary replacements of ambulances and patrol cars as they approach obsolescence. Stay tuned to further Roane County Newsletters, as we will be announcing further improvements budgeted for the Office of Emergency Services and animal control.

A Path Forward Make Roane County Better – July 2018

We are finishing the 2019 Budget with hopefully an adoption by Commission on July 9th. A new Commission will be elected on August 2, 2018, which will consist of at least five (5) new commissioners. We welcome two (2) new commissioners who are running unopposed: Shannon Hester will be replacing Carolyn Granger, and Ben Gann will be replacing Todd Fink. Not seeking re-election are Peggy Collier, Renee Kelley, and Chris Johnson. With a number of new commissioners, a new fiscal year and a number of initiatives the staff has been working on are some of the items we are going to be addressing. We hope to have an orientation and planning session in mid-September for the newly seated Commission.

Briefly here is a list of items we are working on:

  • Jail Phase II
  • School Improvement Plan
  • Old Caney Creek Campground
  • Riley Creek Campground
  • Ambulance Stations

Operational Issues/Concerns/Consideration of Policy:

  • Property and Liability Insurance-Market or Pools
  • Health Insurance State Plan or Market Plan
  • Workers Compensation – Self Insurance Performance
  • Opioid Crisis
  • Back Tax Property Management
  • Ambulance Department
  • Consolidation on Partnering of Municipal Services
  • Potential Impacts of School Consolidation
  • Management of Swan Pond Sports Complex
  • Asset Management (Back Tax Properties)
  • Solid Waste Collections and Disposals

We are pleased to have put into place a financial infrastructure that helps us have a long term planning process. The planning of making County government begins with a “Vision,” and twice a year internally we aspire to create or refine our previous visions. We encourage you to help us in the process. Give us a call or send us an email of what you think can make our communities better.