NEWPORT—County Legislative Body members met Monday evening where they discussed several items including the new industrial park.
For months the body has considered three possible names for the new park.
During Monday’s meeting commissioner Gary Carver made a motion to use the name Great Smoky Mountain Innovation Park.
A quick vote was held were six commissioners voted for the name, while five others voted against the suggestion. The motion failed due to the lack of a true majority.
Commissioner Gayla Blazer spoke briefly, as she has in previous meetings, saying Cocke County needs to be the focal point in the park’s name.
“I think we need to focus on this county and all of the people that are working to make it a better place,” Blazer said.
Commissioner Pete Bright made a motion to use the name Cocke County Center of Industrial Innovation.
Some discussion was had over the usage of the word industrial as many commissioners see more than manufacturing based companies locating in the park.
They hope to attract technology centered businesses in addition to the industrial side of the spectrum.
A vote was held with the majority of the commissioners supporting the new name.
The name will now be considered by the Industrial Development Board of Newport and Cocke County. Once approved the new signage and branding materials can be created for the park.
Another item discussed by commissioners was the renewal of the county jail’s medical contract with QCHC (Quality Correctional Health Care).
Derrick Woods, Chief Deputy of the Sheriff’s Office, told the body Cocke County’s contract with QCHC recently expired. He approached the board asking them to allow Mayor Crystal Ottinger to sign the contract renewal with the company.
Woods provided some monetary figures on what QCHC has saved the county on medical costs for inmates. After adjustments of bills, QCHC has saved the county nearly $2.6 million according to Woods.
The company also provides an on-call nurse, doctor and practitioner 24/7.
“Recently we were billed $150,000, but after it was adjusted by QCHC the bill came down to $42,000,” Woods said.
Commissioner Forest Clevenger agreed with Woods that QCHC has saved the county money, but his issue is with the 15% premium the company charges.
Clevenger argued that the county could create agreements with surrounding hospitals to be billed at the prorated amount set by Medicaid. In doing so QCHC would not have to adjust the medical bills before they are sent to the county, which would remove the 15% premium.
Commissioners saw the saving as too great given the current contract and voted to renew with QCHC.
During the reports portion of the meeting Mayor Ottinger updated the body on several items including the roof work at the annex and courthouse.
Work has concluded on the annex roof, but work that was being done at the courthouse caused a leak, which damaged the courtroom.
Ottinger said RCR Roofing will replace the carpet, tile and other items damaged by the leak.
A recent meeting was held for county residents to express their interest in receiving water lines to their residence. The county hopes to receive a grant to help support the expansion.
Ottinger said that Parrottsville showed a significant need that would exceed the total amount of the grant. She hopes to apply for a separate grant that would cover the expenses.
Ottinger was happy to announce the county has received a grant for almost $900,000 to help support opioid abuse programs. An additional $500,000 in state funds may be awarded to the county to help support these new programs.
The county is currently working to make buildings ADA compliant with funds provided by the CARES Act.
Bids will be taken soon for bathroom updates and shields will soon be placed in the windows of the Property Assessors and Circuit Court windows.
The overall appearance of the courthouse has become a point of contention with many commissioners hoping to see updates to the facade of the structure.
Commissioner Clevenger is concerned with the overall upkeep and lack of cleanliness, while commissioner Terry Dawson wants new windows for the building.
Finance Director Heather McGaha said the county hopes to secure a grant to replace the windows.
Chief Deputy Woods said that glass has been replaced in the third floor windows multiple times, but they are always broken by inmates.
The Sheriff’s Office considered covering the windows with metal, but that is not possible due to a statute that says inmates must be provided with a source of light.
Sheriff Armando Fontes is currently in charge of all county buildings, but commissioner Clevenger wants Mayor Ottinger to oversee the courthouse.
He hopes to see a report on what needs to be done as well as what has been done once updates and repairs are made.
A General Committee meeting will be set to further discuss issues with the courthouse.
Before the end of the meeting commissioners were provided updated plans for new trash compactors by Green For Life (GFL).
The company provided cost estimates for a five and 10 year plan for payment of equipment.
Some commissioners are reluctant to remove all dumpsters from county convenience centers in favor of compactors. They have asked GFL to provide a per dumpster cost to calculate leaving a select number at each center.
The body hopes to make a decision on the proposals by December.
That meeting will be held on Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Cocke County High School auditorium.