published Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Rhea debates nuisance ordinance

By Tom Davis/Correspondent

DAYTON, Tenn. — Rhea County commissioners will consider a proposed nuisance ordinance at their meeting Tuesday despite a board member’s concern it infringes on property rights.

Commissioner Tracy Taylor questioned the proposed $50-per-day fine that could be levied in cases where nuisances — overgrown lawns, trash, junk cars — are not abated. If the fine is not paid, the amount would be issued as a lien against the property.

“I have a real concern that this is next to zoning,” Taylor said. “We have dealt with zoning before, and the people are against that. I have a concern about taking property from people who can’t afford to clean up” their lots.

But Commissioner Jim Reed, who was chairman of the committee that proposed the new regulations, defended the plan. While he said he respects the rights of property owners to do what they want with their land, the county might be seen as liable if something happened on property that’s overgrown or a health hazard.

“If we do nothing for health and safety of the county, it becomes a Catch-22 issue for the county,” he said. “If we’re not going to have regulations, that’s fine and good, but this is the most lenient regulation in the state.”

Commissioner Ron Masterson responded, “Put it on the agenda and see how it shakes out.”

In other matters, Commissioner Emmaly Fisher asked if the commission should adopt a resolution supporting construction of a new high school.

Reed objected to the resolution, saying, “We haven’t even decided if the school system can afford the added expenses” of staffing and operating a new building. “There’s a lot more to consider than just saying ‘let’s build.’ I want to see the school and jail or justice center, but I want to see us able to pay for it.”

Taylor added, “I think we’re at the point of needing a joint meeting [with the school board] to ask how much personnel, maintenance and support people they need.”

Commission Chairman Ronnie Raper said he expects to hear from project manager Steve Hewlitt within the next few weeks about the guaranteed maximum price for a high school, now estimated at $35 million.

They also discussed but took no action on a suggestion by Reed to instruct county employees and officials, with the exception of the county executive, commission chairman, finance chairman and budget chairman, not to give statements to the news media.

Tom Davis is based in Dayton. Contact him at tsdavis@volstate.net.

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