Saturday, September 18, 2021
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Fentress Highway Loan Denied After Supervisor Takes Hard Stance

The Fentress County Commission approved a $2.1 million dollar capital outlay note for the new agriculture pavilion Monday night.

The note did not include money for the highway department. Road Supervisor Joey Reagan asked for $1.5 million to upgrade county roads. Reagan was unwilling to budge on that number during the meeting.

“I believe he made the suggestion that he wanted $1.5 million or none,” Commissioner Larry Cooper said. “We were going to give him that offer at $750 (thousand) but that failed. And we did not come up with a compromise to offer to the highway department.

The budget would have been spent to upgrade gravel and tar chip roads across the county. Commissioners tried twice to make a motion to offer the highway department a lower figure but both failed. Cooper made the motion on the $750,000 outlay note. Reagan responded to Cooper’s motion, asking which of the five districts were going to get their road improvements cut?

Commissioner Lester Gooding made a motion after Reagan left the meeting to take out a $1 million dollar capital outlay note. That motion failed in a 6-2 vote.

Several commissioners expressed concern about the highway department being able to handle the payments on the $1.5 million loan and how would it get paid off in the event of an issue. Finance Director Tyler Arms said that in a perfect world, the note could be paid off in 12 years. However, he said there are many variables like natural disasters.

“If the highway department is ever in a financial pinch where they cannot cash flow the payment,” Arms said. “What I’m talking about is, they don’t have… not fund balance, I’m talking cash sitting in the bank account to make the payment. Then somebody’s going to have to make that payment and we have to budget that every year.”

“At some point you may have to move tax pennies or increase tax dollars in order to fund this payment if it ever got into a pinch.”

Cooper said commissioners simply wanted to cover all the bases.

“The $1.5 million due to his tight budget, it would at some point get him in a situation where Fentress County Government had to step in and help the payment,” Cooper said. “Probably would never have happened, but there’s always that slim possibility that it can.”

Cooper said that the consensus on the commission is that commissioners want to help the highway department. Cooper said if Reagan wants to address the department’s needs again, he is open to it.

“I’m sure we’ll reach out, I’m not opposed to working with anyone,” Cooper said. “Any organization, any county office or city, state it doesn’t matter. So if there’s any way that we can reach out and make a compromise, I’m 100 percent for it and I think the commission would be too.”

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