Snead councilors demonstrate skepticisms

As covered in an abbreviated report in the Dec. 10 issue of The Blount Countian, the Snead Town Council reappointed Rae Ware as town clerk and Lee Netherton as fire chief. Members also tabled consideration of the reappointment of police chief Chuck McBrayer until their Dec. 22 regular meeting and approved a resolution requesting the state attorney general issue an opinion of the validity of Mayor Tim Kent’s holding that office while also serving as a deputy with the Marshall County sheriff ‘s office. The following article details more of that Dec. 8 session.

Snead councilors questioned police officer procedures regarding uniform allowances. Councilman James Campbell asked police chief Chuck McBrayer whether a recently hired officer received $800 of uniform allowances within a 30-day period. McBrayer acknowledged that such was true but asserted that the officer had received the first $400 for fiscal 2008 and then a second $400 on Oct. 1, for fiscal 2009.

Councilman Jack Freeman joined Campbell in questioning the appropriateness of the action. McBrayer emphasized that the second check would cover the period through September 2009. Both councilmen objected, Freeman opining checks should be issued on yearly employment anniversaries rather than with the beginning of each fiscal year.

McBrayer said he could understand council concern, but that nothing had been done improperly. He detailed the expenses officers face, which, at least initially, far exceed the yearly allotment. He did admit that a former officer had received his check and left the town’s employ soon after that. Councilman Phillip McHan, who coordinates police matters with the council, won approval of his motion to table further discussion of the issue until the next regular council session.

Before that discussion, McBrayer won permission to use Gil Portillo to open locked vehicles in the town. In the last regular session in November, the council approved purchasing vehicle lockrelease devices.

McBrayer said locksmith Portillo had contacted him and asked if the council would use him rather than the purchased equipment. Portillo said he would not charge in emergency situations and would charge customers less if officers contacted him than if individuals made the call. McBrayer recommended the action as a means of shifting liability away from his department.

The chief also reported a cruiser damaged during pursuit of a fleeing suspect. He said once the identified escapee is found and appears before a judge, he will ask the judge to charge the felon for damage to the vehicle.

Fire department

Fire chief Netherton reported he had purchased new batteries for two of his department’s vehicles. He explained the purchases exceeded his $300 authorization but were made under emergency situations.

He explained he will also apply for a grant to buy defibrillators for the depart- ment. He warned, however, that only 10 of the devices are scheduled to be awarded.

He received council approval to institute a $10 fee for fire reports. He noted the police department has long had such a charge. The fee applies immediately.

Senior citizens center

As work continues on the town’s new senior citizens center, town engineer Robert Nelson inquired if the council wished to reconsider the past administration’s decision not to pave the area behind the center. He acknowledged the decision as the council’s prerogative but explained the savings of authorizing the work while the company paves the front. The council agreed to the work at an estimated additional cost of almost $13,000. Clerk Ware said the town has money available for the work in its one-cent gasoline tax, earmarked for paving.

Utilities department

In a related matter, utilities department head Jeff Whited asked about paving over a replaced culvert on Pearman Road. The council approved having Whited and Freeman negotiate with Whitaker Contracting Corporation, the pavers, to do that work. Members delayed approving Whited’s request that the town participate in a revival of the Blount County ground water festival.

Other matters

Councilors accepted bids for new flooring in a police department room and septic tank work at the new senior citizens bulding. They also agreed to purchase holiday advertisements on the local radio station and in The Blount Countian.

All members attended the session. Councilors agreed to meet at 6 p.m. on Dec. 22 in the senior citizens building for a work session, an hour before their next regular meeting.

Administrative police clerk Peggy Hudson requested two corrections in the article for the Nov. 24 meeting. The town’s newest officer is A.J. Blethen, not Blevin. Chief McBrayer says he has asked to raise clerk Hudson’s pay to at least $8 an hour, rather than the $10 as reported.