The Blount County Commission’s Budget Committee on Thursday forwarded to the full commission a proposal to appropriate $1,259,400 toward a proposed transition center to ease jail crowding.

Two resolutions toward the transition center passed 5-0.

The Blount County Commission will vote on them in a special-called commission meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 20.

A transition center would house non-violent inmates and foster education and personal growth during inmates’ sentences, officials said.

Commissioners seem to be split on the issue.

While County Commissioners Rick Carver, Jackie Hill, Tom Stinnett and Robbie Bennett approved the motion to forward to the budget committee on Aug. 6., Commissioner Steve Mikels posted on his public Facebook page opposition to the transition center.

“There are plenty of private rehab centers for people who ‘want’ to change. We don’t need transition facilities, we need some tents and a big fence ... we already have a horseback mounted patrol,” Mikels wrote in an Aug 5. post.

The $1,259,400 will pay for property acquisition and associated costs, including funds for a road extension. This money also covers fees to assess needs for jail beds and programming area.

Russell Farm, formerly owned by Mac Russell and his family, has been chosen as the property for the transition center. A commission approval next week would give the county the go-ahead to purchase the land.

This location has been opposed by members of the Bungalow community.

Other Blount County residents praise the idea of a transition center.

Opinions from both sides were heard at a July 22 town hall meeting but have not been heard publicly since. Public input was not included during recent commission committee meetings.

The full commission will meet in a special meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the Blount County Courthouse, Room 430.

In other news, the Blount County Commission convened for its monthly meeting Thursday.

Commissioners voted on and adopted a medical design plan that allows county employees to choose from one of three health care plans.

Some school employees offered stout opposition.

“If the commission does this, there’s a good opportunity that the teachers will go to the state plan,” Commissioner Dodd Crowe said.

After a long discussion, and input from Mayor Mitchell, who assured commissioners that the new health care plan is “something we’ve been talking about for an extended period of time,” the measure passed 17-4. Commissioners Crowe, Brad Bowers and Nick Bright opposed the resolution. Commissioner Staci Lawhorn abstained.

The commission also voted on a telemedicine incentive that would encourage people to use a program that offers health care digitally. The incentive would require the county to pay half of the $10 monthly fees for the program.

Passing with a 21-0 vote, it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The last resolution regarding health care involved enforcing an 85/15% employee/employer split on health premiums.

Voting on reappropriations of funds from leftover money from the 2018-19 fiscal year and new increases in budgets took a majority of the evening.

The highway, recycling and probation departments, as well as the Blount County Emergency Medical Services board were unanimously granted their reappropriation requests.

Similarly, the appointment of Jose Ortega to the Library Board of Trustees for a three-year appointment was unanimously approved.

To conclude the meeting, a resolution to name the bridge on Blockhouse Road in Maryville the “Seaman, Second Class E. Howard Russell Memorial Bridge” passed.

Shelby is finishing up her master’s degree at the University of Memphis. She joined The Daily Times in 2019 as a reporter covering county government.


Shelby joined The Daily Times in 2019 as a reporter covering county government.

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