Citizens for Better Government
Blount County Tennessee
More Waste - $250,000 for a Driving Track for the Sheriff
Last month the Financial Management Committee raised very valid questions about the Sheriff’s use of taxpayer money to purchase a $17000 phone. Due to deficiencies in our county purchasing policy there was nothing the FMC could do to stop that expenditure.
Even as he complains that he does not have the budget to pay his deputies properly, the Sheriff again came to the County Commission seeking a budget increase of $250,000 to finance a major, unbudgeted, capital project – the construction of a so-called driving track
In most organizations, a request of this magnitude for unbudgeted funds, could be expected to be accompanied by a document offering extensive justifications for the proposed expenditure. Unfortunately, the Sheriff offered no justification for this project. In fact, he did not even tell the Commission what the total cost of the project might be – the $250,000 was just to cover the cost of materials. The request did not even say whether this was the cost of all the materials. The request gave the Commission no idea of what the cost of labor might be. The Sheriff also does not give the Commission any idea what it will cost the Blount County Taxpayers to staff and maintain such a project.
The Sheriff proposed to take money from the Drug Fund to finance this project. The Sheriff made no attempt to show that - of all the possible uses of this money – a driving track provides the most benefits for the taxpayers, or for that matter, for his own employees.
The Sheriff sought to transfer this money into a cost center that was already nearly $100,000 over its budget for the full year. Further investigation has shown that the cost center was over budget because the Sheriff appears to have issued the purchase orders for the track material long before he requested the approval of the Commission for the necessary budget increase. This seems to be a violation of the law - but such details don’t seem to bother the Sheriff.
To summarize – the Commission had no idea whether the driving track was the best use of taxpayer money; had no idea what the total cost would be; had no idea what the on-going cost would be to staff and maintain it; and, had no idea what the benefits to Blount County taxpayers would be.
Incredibly, the Commission approved the Sheriff’s the $250,000 expenditure at their December meeting. Commissioners Burchfield, Farmer, French, Hargis, Harrison, Hasty, Helton, Keeble, Kirby, Lail, Lewis, Melton, Ramsey and Samples voted for spending this money. Only Commissioners Ballard, Graham, McCulley, Murrell, Proffitt, Pitts-Reeves and Walker had the courage to stand up to the Sheriff on this waste of money.