Local News

Story published: 07-30-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Committee on Committees members remain

By Karen Sells
Assistant Editor

Mayor Dan Eldridge’s call for a change in the Committee on Committees was ignored during last week’s commission meeting when the same members were elected to serve for the fourth consecutive year.

Receiving 15, 14 or 13 votes from the 23 commissioners present were Doyle Cloyd, Mark Ferguson, Sam Humphreys, Richard Matherly and Gearld Sparks.

The Committee on Committees is elected in July and appoints members to the commission’s standing committees, which County Attorney John Rambo listed as commercial, industrial and agricultural; public works and planning; general health and welfare; public safety; zoning administration oversight; rules; county-owned property; solid waste; legal services oversight; and joint education.

After Chair Greg Matherly opened the floor for nominations, Commissioner Mark Ferguson made a motion to keep the membership the same, which was seconded by Commissioner Doyle Cloyd.

Commissioner Lee Chase objected on a point of order and referred to rules of procedure 8A, which outlines the process for elections and states a commissioner may nominate only one person.

Matherly read the rule and determined Ferguson’s motion was out of order.

In addition to the five elected, the following commissioners were nominated for the Committee on Committees: Mark Larkey, George “Skip” Oldham, David Tomita, Joe Grandy, Pat Wolfe and Lee Chase.

Eldridge asked to address the commission while a ballot was prepared, and no commissioners objected.

“I feel like I have something to say as you consider the Committee on Committees,” he said. “As you put names on the ballot, consider the opportunity to restore credibility to the committees and the commission.”

Using the County-Owned Property Committee as an example, Eldridge said the meeting agendas have nothing to do with the business of Washington County, and are instead motivated by personal and political agendas.

He referred to information he provided to members prior to the June 19 meeting regarding renovations to the district attorney’s office in the George P. Jaynes Justice Center, an item he wanted to discuss when the committee convened.

“Somehow this email was disregarded,” he said. “What we had in the meeting was an orchestrated circus where I was accused of lying and providing wrong information.”

Ferguson questioned Eldridge’s estimate of $300,000 from architect Tony Street for the project, saying he also spoke with Street who gave a range for the cost beginning at $50,000.

During an interview last week with the Herald & Tribune, Street confirmed he gave the $300,000 figure to Eldridge.

“When Mayor Eldridge called and said he needed a number for a bond, I said I haven’t really gotten into any plans, but I know you need a figure,” Street said. “I did a quick estimate in my head and told him $300,000. I told him that was on the high side, but I’d rather be too high than too low.”

Also during the June meeting, committee members voted to halt renovations on the second floor of the downtown courthouse, accusing Eldridge of misleading them on the cost which was sure to top $1 million before the project is completed. Costs as of June 25 were $179,600 from the approved budget of $255,500.

County-Owned Property Committee members are unhappy with the progress of the downtown courthouse renovations and have insisted on two reviews by the Zoning Department, neither of which have turned up anything awry.

“We’ve been fooling around forever with people in jail. We need supervision,” Commissioner Alpha Bridger said during last week’s commission meeting, referring to Washington County Detention Center inmates who have received their fair share of criticism from committee members. Follow-up with Sheriff Ed Graybeal confirmed none of the committee’s claims regarding the inmates’ conduct, lack of supervision and performance on the job.

“My opinion is by having a different Committee on Committees, we have an opportunity to remake the committees and have a better representation of the commissioners,” Eldridge said in a later interview.

Based on the recent election, Eldridge does not foresee a lot of differences during the upcoming year. “I expect they will change some seats, but I don’t think the complexion will change,” he said.

The biggest opportunity for improvement, according to Eldridge, is for the individual commissioners to analyze the information provided and come to the meetings prepared to make their own decisions.

While the Committee on Committees membership did not change, Eldridge was encouraged by commissioners insisting on a formal election and submitting new names for consideration. “They didn’t just rubber stamp it,” he said. “I thought that was a positive sign.”