It was business as usual for the Blount County Commission last week as they convened for their organizational meeting and swearing in of commissioners for districts 2 and 4. Chad Trammell joined the commission replacing Mike Painter in District 2. He was sworn in by Oneonta Police Chief Charles Clifton. Nick Washburn was sworn in for his second term as commissioner for District 4.
After missing several meetings, including a special called meeting to approve the county’s budget, embattled District 3 Commissioner Dean Calvert was in attendance at the Nov. 11 meeting. Calvert is now into a months-long campaign to try and stay in office after a dash cam recording surfaced that recorded him in a telephone conversation making a racial slur about a local African American contractor, as well as misogynistic and sexist remarks. He has faced increasing calls to step down from fellow commissioners as well as other county officials.
With the Birmingham Water Works Board set to meet tomorrow, Nov. 19, to determine how to proceed with the security of Inland Lake, the continued use of Blount County sheriff’s deputies as that security force looks less likely. On Sept. 23, BWWB director William Muhammad proposed a resolution “that the BWWB discontinue employing Blount County sheriff’s deputies to work security at and around Inland Lake, and that the motion take effect 60 days after it is passed.” Muhammad stated, “I don’t want people in 2020 to think we go along with racism.”
Calvert then attacked the BWWB, claiming it has “bullied” Blount County. The lake is a major reservoir owned by the utility, and sheriff’s deputies have been providing security there for more than 20 years. There are two deputies working for extra pay at $30 an hour around-the-clock, every day of the year. In 2019, BWWB paid $551,000 for security for Inland Lake. Sheriff Mark Moon has said many of his deputies depend on that income to pay bills and put food on their tables. Plus, he said his department uses that agreement as a recruiting tool.
Commission chairman and probate judge Chris Green previously said he met with Calvert and said to him, “I think for the greater good of Blount County, you need to resign. The only way to resolve the conflict [with the BWWB and the community] is for you to resign.” According to Green, Calvert told him he has no intention of resigning.
As of press time, the only resignation from the county commission office remains that of county administrator John Bullard, who turned in his notice the prior week. It became official after the commission voted to accept his resignation at last week’s meeting. Bullard graciously thanked the commission as Green referred to Bullard as “the best of the best.” Green thanked him for the work he has done to advance Blount County. Bullard’s last day is Dec. 31.
In other business, the commission set its meeting schedule for 2021, which includes a couple of changes to the business meeting schedule. The commission voted to move business meetings to the second Tuesday of each month instead of Monday. Those meetings will take place at 9 a.m. with the exception of the first business meeting of each quarter.
Business meetings in January, April, July, and October will be held at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. While these evening meetings coincide with a few municipal council meetings, the commission hopes to see an increase in attendance. Work sessions will continue to be held at 9 a.m. on the Thursday prior to the second Tuesday.
These changes go into effect Jan. 1. The next work session will be Thursday, Dec. 10, with the business meeting taking place on Monday, Dec. 14. Both begin at 9 a.m.