Hamilton County Commission recessed meeting -- Feb. 28, 2008
EPB could avoid paying about $1 million in taxes to Hamilton County if the utility’s plan to provide Internet, telephone and cable television service is unsuccessful.
The Hamilton County Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to give EPB the tax break.
“I feel confident that they will not ever need this,” Commissioner Curtis Adams said. “I feel like they’re going to do great.”
EPB President Harold DePriest told commissioners EPB’s Fiber to the Home plan and improvements to the electric system would provide the county with about $2.3 million in additional tax funds.
Mr. DePriest asked that commissioners vote to give EPB the option to avoid paying the portion of those taxes that would not go to the schools — a little more than $1 million — if the initiative is unsuccessful.
He said EPB’s regulator, TVA, asked EPB officials to request the tax break from both the county and the city of Chattanooga as a condition of a $60 million interdepartmental loan.
On Tuesday, the Chattanooga City Council approved that loan from EPB’s electric system so the utility can provide Internet, cable and telephone services. That vote also included a similar tax break on the $1.5 million in taxes the utility pays to the city.
Commissioner John Allen Brooks asked who would determine whether the plan is successful.
“Who’s going to decide if you have the money?” he asked.
Mr. DePriest said the Chattanooga-owned utility’s books are open and county auditors could check records at any time.
“We would never come to you and say we’re going to withhold taxes without going through and opening our books and showing you everything we’re doing,” he said. “If we have the money, you get it.”
Also on Thursday, County Commissioner Greg Beck pressed a point he made several weeks ago concerning the need for an interim sheriff.
“We are doing OK, and we should keep it like it is,” he said. “If we pick somebody else, it would be tantamount to a very expensive doorkeeper.”
Mr. Beck said he heard nothing in last week’s interviews of the 10 interim sheriff candidates to make him think the county should pick an interim.
Commissioners Curtis Adams and Larry Henry agreed that the sheriff’s department should stay like it is now.
Commissioner Jim Coppinger said he believes county officials must pick an interim sheriff, noting that state law says county officials “shall” pick a replacement.
“It’s incumbent upon us,” he said.
The commission is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the interim sheriff position.
BY THE NUMBERS
$60 million — Loan amount from EPB’s electric system
$2.3 million — Extra taxes county would get from new EPB programs
$1 million — Amount of tax money that would not go to schools
$230 million — Bond proposal EPB delayed due to court challenge from Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association