Thompson Resigns; Storm Clean-Up Dominates Commission's Discussion
by Ashley Murphy
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
During last night's County Commission meeting, another shock was given to Bradley County. Commissioner Howard Thompson resigned as 4th District County Commissioner. According to Thompson, this was to be his last meeting.
The resignation comes almost five months after Thompson came under investigation by the Bradley County Sheriff's Office for allegedly, and knowingly, selling stolen goods at his Highway 64 flea market. Those allegations later turned into charges of attempted theft of over $1,000 and filing a false report.
It was because of the investigation and charges that Thompson resigned last night. He called the people of Bradley county and his fourth district constituents "members of [his] extended family." Thompson continued by saying this "is one of the most important things in [his] life" and that he has "made mistakes" and is doing the right thing like he said he would do.
Before turning the discussion back over to the Chairman to continue the meeting, Thompson apologized to residents he represented in the 4th District saying, "I apologize for the mistakes which I have made which have interfered with my ability to continue to represent you."
A plea or assignment date was announced on April 26, 2011 and has been set for Thompson on May 12th in Bradley County Criminal Court.
Commissioner Adam Lowe said he already has a plan together. The commission will start taking applications immediately for those who feel they are qualified. During the next voting session on May 16th, Lowe said he plans to make a recommendation for Thompson's successor.
This meeting of the Bradley County Commission also came less than a week after the devastating storms that swept through the area beginning at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 27th. Each emergency department head came to give the most recent updates to the commission. Below are those accounts in addition to further press release information.
Road Department Superintendent Tom Collins said his crews had been working non-stop since the storms hit Wednesday, and he offered the weekend off, but told employees that volunteers were greatly appreciated. Several road department employees showed up for work this weekend to continue the efforts, and to Collins best knowledge, all county roads now have at least one lane open.
Director of Parks and Recreation Paul Wyrick updated the commission on damage out at county owned Blue Spring's Park. He said scoreboards and concession stand roofing was ripped away, in addition to the extensive damage the bleachers received. Wyrick was hopeful, however, that with plenty of volunteer work, the park would be useable again by this weekend.
Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for the park's neighbor, Blue Springs Elementary. Troy Weathers, Bradley County Board of Education Chair, said Blue Springs Elementary may never be a school again as it received the most substantial amount of damage and has already been repaired from tornado damage one time before. Michigan Avenue Elementary was another county school that was hard hit, having the gymnasium roof ripped off.
Due to these circumstances, and also some county schools being without power still, Bradley County Schools will remain closed through Friday, May 6th. Director of County Schools Johnny McDaniel says he will review the status of the power and road conditions on that Friday and determine if school will open on Monday, May 9th. For the safety of students, Blue Springs Elementary will finish out the rest of the school year by attending their classes at Waterville Elementary School. Michigan Avenue Elementary will finish out their school year at First Baptist Church.
McDaniel is also planning to appeal to the state education commissioner to forgive the missed school days. If that appeal is denied, the missed days will be added onto the end of the school calendar year.
Bradley County Emergency Management Director Troy Spence reported at least six tornadoes came through Bradley County on Wednesday, with the first coming through at 9 a.m. that morning. As of today, damage assessment stands at 285 Bradley homes completely destroyed, 195 received major damage and 176 had minor damage. Spence estimates that the area received $48 million in home damage. Also, last reports place storm fatalities inside Bradley County at 9.
Debris still littering yards, fields and roadways comes to about 500,000 or 600,000 cubic yards. Spence said about half the debris is vegetation and the other half is construction materials from homes and other buildings. This could cost up to $10 million to clean all affected areas.
However, Bradley County has been declared as a federal disaster area by the federal government and could receive up to 75% of these funds from the government. After the state takes there share of expense, Bradley County's responsibility in the clean-up costs is 12.5%. In addition to helping with clean-up costs, the commission passed a resolution to reduce the building permit fee by 75%. This is to help all residents who will be rebuilding their homes that were lost during the massive storm.
The Bradley County Commission will meet again next Monday, May 9th at Noon for a work session.