District 1 Commissioner Allen Armstrong opposed Moving Blount County Forward (MBCF), the county 1- cent sales tax referendum, before it ever had a name, starting about mid-year last year or a little earlier.
Last week, the people of Blount County approved the increase on the ballot by a healthy majority of 13,147 to 10,076 – 57 percent to 43 percent. It was only the second time county officials could recall that Blount County citizens voted to levy a tax on themselves. The only other time anyone could remember was when citizens approved a 2-mill ad valorem tax in the 1950s to construct Blount Memorial Hospital.
The Blount Countian spoke to Armstrong last week to get his reaction as the county commission prepares to levy the tax in response to the referendum. His answer:
“I opposed it, and I have my reasons, but it passed, and I’m going to do my job and make sure the roads get done that they chose to include in the paving plan,” Armstrong said. (Editor’s note: District 1 roads included in the MBCF paving plan are County Road 4, County Road 7, Wallstown Road and Armstrong Loop, Joy Road, and County Road 22, Dean’s Ferry Road.)
“I’ve had several people come ask me already, “Since this passed and y’all got this money, when are you gonna come and do my road?’ I’ve had to tell’em that this doesn’t apply to their road,” he said.
“They should have included a complete list of all the projects the money was going to be used for – including the school projects – when they were giving these presentations around the county, but they didn’t. The whole thing to me was very deceiving. They should have answered questions honestly about how far the money would go, and the answer is not very. They weren’t very honest with people,” he said.” He added that Hayden schools would see very little of the money disbursed to Blount County Schools for at least three or four years, and even then, the amount allocated to Hayden would not be proportional to its size, relative to the rest of the system.
Armstrong was critical of the District 1 roads chosen for inclusion in the MBCF improvement plan, arguing that about half of those chosen were not the roads that needed paving the most. As examples, he said he had repaved county Road 7 last year, and that he had done substantial paving on Armstrong Loop twice in the last four years.
“Meanwhile,” he said, “there are other people living on roads not re-done in 20 to 30 years. “
Asked and re-asked if he had not had direct input into which District 1 roads were chosen for inclusion in the paving plan, he said he had not. Asked how the roads were chosen if not by consultation with him as District 1 commissioner, he replied, “You’ll have to ask the ones that did it.”
Concluding, Armstrong said, “I’m not disgruntled. I’m not mad at anybody. I oppose it, but the people voted, and I’m going to do my job. I’ll make sure those roads get done.”