Commission Resolves Mental Evaluation Bill Issue
by Ashley Murphy
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The Bradley County Commission met last night for a voting session, in which only one agenda item was up for vote. The mental health evaluation outstanding bills was the main topic of discussion with several commissioners throwing out various ideas on how to handle this unfunded mandate that the State of Tennessee has passed down to local governments.
Before even reaching the agenda item, Commissioner Connie Wilson made a motion to pay a portion of the $4,200 in bills from a designated line commission line item. By only paying a portion of the bills, this would leave $2,900 to remain in the line item for allocated sound system money.
Chairman Louie Alford suggested that the bill be paid out of $41,000 the County should be receiving from the City in reimbursements form the Minnis Road Project. Wilson stated that the $41,000 has not yet been billed out to the city and none of those funds have yet to come in. However, it was suggested that the money could be replaced into this line item from the $41K once it came in and the remainder of the bills could also be paid from city reimbursement money.
Commissioner Jeff Yarber said he will still disagree if this is part of the motion. Yarber's idea was to the bills back to the State, say the county wants nothing to do with them, stand up to the State and make them pay for these bills.
Commissioner Ed Elkins presented a contract in which he claimed Mayor D. Gary Davis signed obligating the county to pay for such mental health evaluations. This contract also discounted the fee charged for the evaluations.
After a heated exchange between Davis and Elkins, County Attorney Joe Byrd clarified the matter by telling Yarber the unfunded mandates aren't fair, but the county has no choice but to pay them. This was at no fault of the Mayor, but rather an attempt by the Mayor to lower the bills once the State made it mandatory for counties to pay these bills on their own, continued Byrd. He said the county is obligated by law, not by the contract to pay these bills, and if the county refuses, the District Attorney would get involved and only make the matter more stressful. At that time, due to the county not abiding by their portion of the contract, the bills would come back to the county at full price and not the negotiated lower price.
Commissioner Bill Winter's made a substitute motion to Wilson's original motion to pay the entire $4,200 out of the Finance's original suggested line item, then replace those funds with unobligated funds once they become available. The motion passed with commissioners Yarber and Mel Griffith voting against the motion.
The budget document is available online through the Bradley County website at bradleyco.net.
The next commission meeting will be held on Monday, November 8th at 12 p.m. in the Bradley County Courthouse.