The Blount County Commission will convene for its April meeting this Thursday to discuss a resolution to make Blount County a “sanctuary” for the Second Amendment, the appropriations of state funds for a wheelchair-accessible playground, several grant applications and more.
All but one of the 20 commissioners present at last week’s commission workshop voted to forward a resolution declaring Blount County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”
The resolution is in response to a proposed bill in the state Legislature that would allow courts and police officers to restrict guns from people deemed an extreme risk. The state Legislature cannot discuss the bill until next year.
Under the bill, courts could be petitioned to issue an “extreme risk protection order” against an individual, prohibiting them from purchasing, possessing, or being in control of firearms or ammunition.
The petition can be filed by law enforcement officers or by those with a close relationship to the respondent, and must demonstrate evidence that the respondent poses a “significant risk” to themselves or others by possessing a firearm.
The Blount County resolution, filed by Commissioners Steve Mikels and Nick Bright, declares that commissioners “each took an oath to support and defend the United States Constitution and the laws which are not deemed unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
Mikels said part of his problem with the House bill is that it is “vague and loosely written.”
Commissioners Brian Robbins, James Hammontree and Mike Akard have added themselves as sponsors.
The Blount County Health Department is seeking recognition for $20,000 in state grant money to go toward a Friendsville plan to create a playground accessible to all children, including those with disabilities.
“Our goal is to design and create an inclusive playground for everyone to enjoy, one that addresses the needs of typically developing children as well as children with neurological, intellectual and physical disabilities,” the city’s website page for the project states.
The page continues: “While one child may not be able to climb or swing as high as another, an inclusive, accessible play area will still enable both children to communicate and learn about one another and from one another.”
The effort, called the Friendsville New Generation All Inclusive Playground and Pavillion Project, reportedly will go above and beyond the requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
An example brought up on the city website and in the grant application is playground surfaces. The proposal for an accessible playground would have surfaces that are easily negotiable by a child in a wheelchair, in contrast to the common playground surfaces of mulch, pebbles, or even sand.
An option to donate is available on the city website.
The total cost of the project, which the grant says will be built on one-ten of an acre, is estimated at about $243,000.
The county Highway Department is seeking permission to apply for a $450,000 state grant that would provide for outdoor infrastructure in the field next to the county’s Operations Center on Levy Street, where the county collects recycling.
With the grant, the field would host a new farmer’s market and outdoor exercise pavilion. It also would include a walking trail, playground and additional amenities.
No local funds would be required, the grant application states. The application also specifies that a proposed timetable would have the project completed by mid-2022.
At last week’s agenda workshop, county Highway Superintendent Jeff Headrick said he would expect to hear back from the state in three to four weeks on whether its application was approved.
In other business:
• The Blount County Animal Center is requesting $33,000 to purchase a new animal control vehicle. The center currently has two vehicles, but one has mileage nearing 300,000 and costs the center “several thousand dollars per year,” according to documentation provided with the request. The money would come out of the portion of the county’s fund balance earmarked for the Animal Center.
• The Sheriff’s Office also is requesting permission to apply for a number of state grants, none of which would require local funding. The grants would fund overtime for traffic units running sobriety checkpoints, distracted driving enforcement, and overtime for deputies patrolling “The Dragon,” a winding portion of U.S. Highway 129, during peak motorcycle season. Another grant would continue the Sheriff Office’s anti-litter program.
• Commissioners also will vote whether to approve appointments to the county’s Board of Construction Appeals. The proposed appointments include Steve McDaniels, David Roberts, Justin Flynn, William Steverson, Leon Williams and Chris Soro. Doug McLanahan is proposed for reappointment.