With elections behind them, sitting Hamilton County commissioners have started pledging discretionary funds to various projects, but the two newest commissioners need some time before the money starts flowing.
According to county records, commissioners have spent more than $115,000 from a combined $900,000-a-year pot since the fiscal year started in July. And more has been obligated but not yet recorded.
After 11 days on the job, Commissioners Sabrena Smedley and Randy Fairbanks have made no pledges. Smedley needs time to think -- and Fairbanks' account is empty.
Smedley, who campaigned as Sabrena Turner but is now using her married name, was left with $370 in discretionary spending and $72,001 in bond funding when Larry Henry left the District 7 post.
Henry is now the Circuit Court clerk, but before he left office he committed $25,000 of bond money to resurface tennis courts at Standifer Gap Park and $5,000 for band instruments at Ooltewah High School.
Smedley said Wednesday she didn't have any immediate plans for the funds, but she is looking at the district's needs.
"I'm going to step back and assess where it needs to go and put some thought into it. And very much, anytime I spend it, I will be leaning toward helping the schools. That's where I think it will make the key impact," Smedley said.
Smedley has been meeting with school principals in District 7, which includes East Brainerd, Westview and the southeast portion of the county.
But Fairbanks, who beat longtime District 1 Commissioner Fred Skillern in the May primary and defeated a write-in challenge in August, will have to wait until next July to fund projects.
Before leaving office, Skillern cleared his nearly $400,000 discretionary account on several projects he had been working on.
Skillern put money toward a running track at Soddy-Daisy High School, a football field at Sale Creek Middle-High and a fire hall in Soddy-Daisy. Online reports show $100,000 left in the account, but county Finance Administrator Al Kiser said it has been committed for a new entrance at Soddy-Daisy Elementary.
"That has been obligated, but it has not yet been spent," Kiser said. "The online reports are what we call a cash basis. That means if a check hasn't been written it wouldn't show."
Fairbanks said Thursday starting out with no cash is tough. But he thought all the projects Skillern put money behind were worthwhile.
Already, Fairbanks said, residents have come to him asking for help with various projects, and he's had to turn them away.
"It's not a desirable situation to be in, but it is what it is. Now, having said that, those projects are good for the district. I have no problems with that whatsoever, I've just got to wait between now and next budget year before I can get some money to help out with," Fairbanks said.
Each commissioner gets $100,000 a year to use on capital projects such as new construction, heavy machinery or renovations. The projects must be on public property and must last at least 15 years.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.