I attended my first County Board Meeting last month, which I should have been active in our county affairs a long time ago. If I could make a few suggestions that hopefully will not be out of line.

First of all, our county officials should be on a microphone; there were audience members who were hearing impaired and could not hear clearly on what was said. Secondly, as they read through their agenda for the meeting, it was hard for audience members to follow.

Rather than say as example, a report was submitted by a department, maybe a quick scenario of what that report contained. May I suggest a copy of the agenda be available to audience members to follow if they so desire to have a copy.

I followed very closely on what was said about salaries of not only the Fire department but also the Sheriffs department and all county employees. In case folks were unaware, initial salaries for Cocke County employees in 2020 was 49% lower than the national average and 44% lower in the median salaries. Could this be one of the causes we are losing employees to other counties who pay more?

I know this is a sore subject but I am in favor of a wheel tax. This affects everyone, not like a property tax where renters do not pay. If you want to increase salaries of employees where there is no room in the budget to do so, the wheel tax is the answer.

Increase the wheel tax by $5.00 per vehicle, that is 1.4 cents per calendar day; I believe everyone can afford it. This generated money will go strictly for increasing salaries for mainly the Sheriff and Fire department employees. I am sure our county budget can increase salaries for remaining county employees.

We need to have deputies who can make sound and independent decision making skills throughout the day and be able to solve problems under pressure. We need deputies who can communicate with the public and hold their position to the highest standard, which the position is called for. In turn, they will be accountable for their actions, on and off the job, their job does not end after each shift of the day.

As for the Fire Department, maybe a closer look at staffing is needed, do we need that many on hand at each station? If a major fire, they could always be contacted to come in and assist.

Maybe look at being a salaried employee rather than hourly. If called upon on working overtime or their day off, they could earn comp time, which means taking a day off when available or add that time with their vacation, at the straight time rate of pay.

These are just suggestions and thoughts of my own, an outsider so to speak. I did this type of brainstorming in my job as a former Postmaster, looking for ways to make budget and eliminate as much overtime as possible.

Some of my former employees were living on overtime whereas I have always preached; overtime is not a given, do not bank your life on overtime. Some ignored and when overtime was gone, their way of life went downhill.

Cocke County has always had a reputation as being a “rough” county and the “good ole boy” system was in tact. I personally would like to change that way of thinking. I want Cocke County to be the best of all counties in East Tennessee. There is much improvement needed and it does not rest solely with our elected officials, it rests with ALL residents.

We need to get more involved with what is decided for the best of Cocke County. We have other serious issues such as building a new jail, our landfill; I could go on and on. Residents are going to have to realize that property taxes will have to be raised to pay for a new jail.

We can recoup some money when the jail is built and when we take in other inmates from other counties. Eliminate the wasteful spending such as being late in payments and having to pay a penalty, the extra money we had to pay each month to move our garbage out of the county.

The only time we hear what is going on is when our newspaper informs us. We need to start attending the board meetings and be informed how our tax dollars are spent; and when we see the whole picture, then we can voice our opinion.

We can stop trashing the roads and highways, we can look out for our fellow residents and report crimes when they see them happening. We can be attentive at our homes and practice safety measures to help eliminate possible fires. We can be kind with each other and always keep God in our minds each and everyday of our lives.

Sincerely

Phil Weidenburner

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