Sullivan County seeks 'alliance' with city school systems

J. H. Osborne • Jun 18, 2020 at 11:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission on Thursday voted to create a committee “to discuss forming a working alliance of school systems in Sullivan County.”

The resolution, sponsored by Commissioner Todd Broughton and Commissioner Michael Cole, states the county “would like to form a committee to discuss collaborative actions and/or the potential for Sullivan County, the city of Kingsport, and the city of Bristol school systems to form a working alliance in an effort to increase student opportunities.”

The phrase “collaborative actions” was used instead of the word “consolidation.” Broughton agreed to amend the wording after a request to do so from Commissioner Mark Vance.

Broughton also agreed to amend the wording elsewhere in the resolution to make clear the involvement of proposed members is to be a “request.” Proposed membership on the committee “shall include” the director or superintendent of each school system; one board of education member from each system; three county commissioners; and the mayors or their appointees of Sullivan County, Kingsport and Bristol.

Broughton said the goal of creating such a committee is to save money, and the resolution, in part, states “state funding is based on the single system and it appears to be the best financial approach to educate the students to simplify the budget processes is to reduce redundancy ... and ... tax revenues will be lower, it may be deemed necessary to make many cuts to help balance budgets.”

In other business Thursday, the commission:

• Approved, by a vote of 23 yes and one absent a resolution, adoption of “The Sullivan County Financial Management System of 2020,” which will pull the county school system’s accounting functions into the county’s accounts and budgets office. The new system is the result of a private act approved by the Tennessee General Assembly specifically for Sullivan County at the request earlier this year by a majority of the Sullivan County Commission. It becomes effective on July 1.

• Approved an additional $5,500 for the county’s pauper burial account to finish out this fiscal year, which ends June 30. According to the supporting resolution, the county has received 40 requests for assistance in disposing of bodies of those who died indigent and when no one claimed them — but only 29 cases were funded. Although the term pauper burials continues to be used, the county switched several years ago to cremations, which are provided at a reduced cost by area funeral homes. The county’s first offer for disposition of indigents’ bodies is to send them to Restore Life USA, a firm that harvests tissue for research purposes and then provides cremation. During recent discussions of the issue, it was said that company had not been taking bodies recently. Thanks to the suggestion of Commissioner Hunter Locke, the county now has “the Body Farm” as its second option for disposing of the indigent dead. The Body Farm, at the University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Center in Knoxville, uses bodies for research. Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said the county already has sent bodies to the Body Farm. Cremations performed by local funeral homes at a reduced rate, paid for by the county, are now the third and final option for disposing of those who die indigent or whose bodies go unclaimed in Sullivan County.

• Agreed to spend up to another $50,000 to offset the cost of the ankle bracelet monitoring program — which has been used to help lower overcrowding at the county’s jail — for indigent inmates. According to the supporting resolution, $50,000 was initially approved and appropriated for the program in December 2013 and those funds have now nearly been depleted.

• Voted to name a new EMS station on the upper end of the county in honor of Sabrena Carrier and Phil Brown. Station No. 3 will be on River Road in Bluff City. Sabrena Gail Carrier, 38, of Bluff City, was involved in a car accident while on her way to work as a paramedic with Sullivan County EMS in December 2008. Carrier died the same day at a local hospital. Phillip Austin Brown, 65, of Bluff City and an employee of Sullivan County EMS, died in January 2016 after an emergency illness while on duty.

• Voted to name a new EMS station in Kingsport in honor of Carlos “Junior” Godsey. Station No. 8 is under construction on Gibson Mill Road. Godsey, 38, of Kingsport, gave his life in January 1998 while attempting to rescue persons trapped in their homes by flood waters in Carter County. Godsey was a paramedic and field training officer for Sullivan County EMS, a member of the Kingsport Life Saving Crew and a flight paramedic for Wings Air Rescue.

• Considered on first reading a resolution to give $62,500 to the Boone Lake Association to help the organization, made up largely by homeowners around the lake, to purchase a skimmer to clear debris from the Holston River Channel on the lake. According to the resolution to approve the move, Johnson City and Washington County have approved giving the organization $125,000 to purchase a skimmer for the Watauga River Channel that feeds the lake. The resolution is sponsored by Commissioner Hershel Glover and Commissioner Dwight King.

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