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Commission approves ADA compliance moves, appoints Murrell as Co. Coordinator

The Rogersville Review - 12/20/2017

ROGERSVILLE - During its Monday evening, Dec. 18, meeting, the Hawkins Co. Commission approved an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) policy statement and named a county ADA coordinator and procedures for addressing requests for ADA accommodations, complaints and grievances.

The proposed action came after a explanation of the need for the actions from Alana Roberts, the county's facilities manager.

Roberts explained that the Federal Highway Administration has mandated that local governments name ADA coordinators, establish grievance procedures and take other actions to ensure compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

She noted that there was a Dec. 19 letter submitted indicating that the county has named an ADA coordinator and that some funding for the County Highway Department could be withheld should that deadline not be met.

Resolution 2017-12-05 indicated that Hawkins Co.Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Merrill was to be named the county's ADA Coordinator.

Roberts told the commissioners that Merrill had agreed to assume the additional duties with no additional pay.

The action came less than a month after the commission voted down a General Purpose School Fund budget request during its November meeting to allow county schools to transfer from their savings $437,000 to pay for construction of an elevator at Cherokee High School.

Construction of the elevator, which is needed, school officials said, to bring the school into compliance with the ADA, is continuing.

Although the ADA has been federal law for decades, Hawkins County apparently has not formally addressed its application previously in connection with local government programs and facilities.

State officials now are requiring local governments to take action concerning the ADA.

Commissioner Rick Brewer asked that if the resolution could be amended to ensure that as ADA Coordinator, Merrell, nor his successor, would be paid additional money.

Roberts replied that the duties of ADA Coordinator would be added to Murrell's job description with the understanding that no additional pay would result.

Speaking from the audience, Murrell said it did not appear to him that the additional duties would add greatly to his workload and that most county-owned buildings appear to already be ADA-compliant.

In response to a question, Roberts told the commissioners that the county schools are not covered by the county-appointed ADA coordinator.

When asked why she could not perform the duties of the ADA Coordinator, Roberts said she plans to retire soon and will not be available to carry out those additional duties.

Another commissioner wanted to know why County Mayor Melville Bailey could not act as ADA Coordinator.

Bailey said he is also planning to retire at the end of his current term and was appointing Murrell to the post of ADA Coordinator.

Why action needed

Resolution 2017-12-5, which was introduced by Commissioner Bob Palmer during the Dec. 18 meeting, says the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted by Congress on July 26, 1990, and "provides comprehensive civil rights protections to persons with disabilities in areas of employment, state and local government services and access to public accommodations, transportation and telecommunications."

Roberts said an ADA grievance procedure also will have be adopted by the commission in early 2018.

During comments, Roberts noted that a time schedule has been established by the state outlining what actions must be accomplished by specific deadlines. If deadlines are not met, federal agencies will withhold federal grants and federal funding.

Commission fails, again, to elect Chairman Pro-Tem

In other action, the Commission again failed to elect a Chairman Pro-Tempore, leaving Commissioner Danny Alvis in the post to which he was elected last year pending another attempt to elect a Chairman Pro-Tem in January.

On Monday night, the commissioners heard read-aloud competing resolutions calling for the election of either Commissioner Stacy Vaughan or Commissioner Alvis to the Chairman Pro-Tem post.

Commissioner Joe McLain was then nominated from the floor by Commissioner John Metz who indicated that he was nominating McLain because of what he had witnessed during an earlier Monday evening meeting of the Budget Committee.

Metz said he felt that currently there is a "void of professionalism" on the Commission and that he was nominating McLain for the Chairman Pro-Tem post as a result.

After Metz nominated McLain, Commissioner Mike Herrell withdrew his nomination of Alvis.

When a vote was taken, Commissioner Vaughan received 10 votes (one short of the 11 needed for election) and Commissioner McLain received eight votes.

Commissioners Brewer and Dawson Fields abstained from voting and Commissioner Linda Kimbro was absent due to illness.

2018 meeting dates, notaries approved

The Commission did manage to approve a 2018 meeting calendar, with all 2018 meetings to be held in the commission's meeting room in the Courthouse. The 2018 meetings are to be on: Jan. 22, Feb. 26, March 26, April 23, May 21, June 25, July 23, Aug. 27, Sept. 24, Oct. 22, Nov. 26 and Dec. 17, 2018.

The 2018 meeting calendar was approved on a vote of 20 in favor and one absent.

Finally, commissioners approved as notaries public Jody Fugate, of Capital Bank, Rogersville, and Kevin David Keeton, of Point & Keeton, PC, of Rogersville.


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