The Hamblen County Finance Committee unanimously approved allowing Covenant Health to issue bonds, which would include $10 million in new funds for improvements, renovation or expansion at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System.

The full bond issue would be for $500 million and cover the entire Covenant Health system, while $37 million would be to refinance existing bonds for Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System. Ten million dollars is slated for new projects at the hospital.

Gordon Lintz, president and chief administrative officer for MHHS, said Tuesday morning that no definitive plans exist on what improvements would be made at the hospital with the $10 million.

“We’re in the planning stages and have no specific plans,” he said.

The bond issue was approved by the Knox County Commission before coming to the Hamblen County Commission.

The finance committee approved the resolution during its business workshop. The resolution will go before the full commission next Thursday during the regularly scheduled meeting.

County Mayor Bill Brittain said the county had to approve the bond issue to meet state law requirements, but it is nonbinding.

“The county has no obligation, whatsoever, to pay on these bonds,” he said.

Brittain said the hospital is seeking to refinance $37 million in bonds to get a lower interest rate.

Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System and Covenant Health bought 38 acres of land south of Merchants Greene almost three years ago. At that time, there was talk of developing the property and consolidating all Covenant health systems in Hamblen County under one roof.

The land was purchased for $1.28 million. Since that time, though, there has been no development on the site. There has also been no indication that the land purchase is connected to the bond issue.

The audit committee of the commission also unanimously approved the Tennessee state comptroller’s audit from 2018-2019.

Findings of the audit included that former County Trustee John Baskette did not maintain county funds in interest bearing accounts, entered a contract without County Commission approval and had several other discrepancies that led to criminal charges being filed.

Baskette resigned from his position in the fall after facing numerous criminal charges related to his time in office and also personal items. He has pleaded guilty to some of the charges and is currently going through the court system for the charges.

New County Trustee Scotty Long told commissioners that eight non-interest accounts have been closed and all funds have been consolidated into interest bearing accounts. He said he expects the funds to earn anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 a year.

He also said an illegal contract had been terminated with a private company.

The public services committee also unanimously voted change to the existing ordinance related to automobile wrecker, junk and salvage yards.

Those salvage yards already in existence would be “grandfathered” in and not affected by any changes, planning officials said.

If any junkyard expands, it would have to conform to new standards, officials said.

Proposed changes include limiting stacking height to 12 feet and decreasing the distance between buffer trees surrounding the automotive yard – normally evergreens – from 20 feet to 10 feet.