Several Hamblen County Commissioners who have no competition also addressed the large crowd at Monday night’s Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum in the International Lyceum at Walters State Community College.
District 5 County Commissioner Louis “Doe” Jarvis said his priority is fiscal responsibility.
“I think we do a fairly good job. I think there are several areas that we can improve,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis took the task those using the $100,000 the County Commission gave to Morristown-Hamblen Foundation in exchange for a reduced rate on inmate healthcare as a political volleyball.
“One thing to sorta troubles me is everybody talking about the $100,000 we gave to MH Foundation. The return on that is about 18 percent, that is if it pays back in four years. If it pays back in two years its 36 percent,” Jarvis said. “And I think as a business person if you’re improving financially, that’s a pretty good return. Everybody would like to get 18 percent on their money that they have right now instead of half of one percent.”
Jarvis then discussed the TIF projects the commission has approved.
“I think the TIF projects that we have put together, that don’t cost us any money, and it improves our tax base. And the sales tax which goes to the schools. And it also improves our debt structure,” he said. “So the people that think, that say, we’re giving money to a certain elite group, I think they’re ridiculous. I think people that say the hospital is for profit—it is not. There is a full profit hospital in Morristown, Lakeway. Morristown Hamblen is a not for profit. I hope that those (people) open their eyes and see that to make money you’ve got to spend a little money.”
Joe Huntsman, who faces no competition for the District 1 County Commission seat, said locally, jobs are the county’s biggest problem.
“I feel that the No. 1 problem we have right now with Hamblen County is jobs. When jobs are lost, people don’t have the money to shop; people don’t have the money to buy. It affects everybody. We need to increase our jobs,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman said he has operated a variety of businesses in the Lakeway Area during the past 46 years.
“I am a people person,” he said. “I believe in dealing with problems in a structured manner. Do not postpone any problems. As a deacon at First Baptist Church I know how important it is to serve others. I am here to listen to all concerns and to serve you, the people of Hamblen County.”
Dana Wampler, uncontested County Commissioner for District 3, said it is not the county government that creates jobs.
“County commissioners can not create jobs, all we can do is support the chamber and industrial development,” Wampler said.
Wampler noted the jail is a major issue looming on the county’s horizon.
“Hopefully if we can get some jobs we could help our jail situation in the county. It’s not going to be an easy or inexpensive fix. I think everybody here knows that. I think everyone is prepared for what comes, its not going to get any better real quick.”
District 6 County Commissioner Tim Goins also faces no opposition.
“There are lots of issues facing the county right now,” Goins said. “The jail. People ask ‘well, are you going to build a new jail are you going to build a new justice center? What’s going on here?’ They complain that the jail is overcrowded.”
Goins then offered a different perspective on addressing the problem with jail overcrowding.
“But ask yourself this. What have we done to take care of the problems with the people going into jail? Most of them are for prescription drugs. If you don’t know we’re one of the largest pill pushers in the state of Tennessee, as far as prescription drugs go. A lot of issues that affects us right now is the jail, it is the roads … there are lots of this we need to address like ‘Where do we go from here?’”
“But we do not need to raise taxes on the people of Hamblen County,” he added.
Howard Shipley, County Commissioner for District 7, said he is proud to have kept county taxes low.
“During the last four years, I have worked with 13 additional commissioners in maintaining and improving services within our county without a tax increase,” Shipley said. “We made a major improvement at East High School and we are currently in the process of doing the same at West High School.”
Shipley said the commission has addressed some of the issues at the jail with some improvements.
“But we all realize that there are some major issues with our jail and we have authorized a Jail Study committee hoping to be able to use the results of that jail study to plan a facility which probably will be a new facility,” he said.
Shipley said that anyone who has been to the jail knows that a new facility is needed.
“But we need a facility that can be expanded in future years. We need one that will serve us for 20 or 30 years and we need a facility that is designed in such a way it will not cost us an arm and a leg to staff and there are such facilities around that we have visited and I’m looking forward to looking with the commissioners over the next four years to address that issue.”
Shipley then addressed some of the criticism surrounding non-profits funding by the county.
“I’m also proud that we have been able to work with several non profit agencies within our community and providing some very valuable services to our community,” Shipley said.
-From Staff Reports