Mayor calls letter to TDEC ‘an embarassment’

The Bradley County Commission Tuesday backed off plans to send the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation a letter urging the TDEC commissioner to fire three of his lawyers, cut salaries of other employees and spend the money instead on speeding up septic tank inspections.

So reports The Chattanoogan, adding that the decision came after County Mayor D. Gary Davis called the letter to Commissioner Robert Martineau “an embarrassment to Bradley County.”

The county mayor said, “We have to deal with the state on everything we do. It affects a lot of things we do. I sincerely ask you do not send this letter.”

Bradley Commission Decides Not To Send Letter To TDEC That County Mayor Called “Embarrassing To Bradley County”

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bradley County Commissioners on Tuesday night decided not to send a letter to Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Bob Martineau, asking him to cut top staff positions and shift the funds to aid local septic permit offices after County Mayor D. Gary Davis called the letter “an embarrassment to Bradley County.”

The county mayor said, “We have to deal with the state on everything we do. It affects a lot of things we do. I sincerely ask you do not send this letter.”

The letter said, “We, the Bradley County Commission, respectfully suggest that you consider eliminating three staff attorney positions, general counsel, director of legal services and deputy commissioner 1. We, the Bradley County Commission, also respectfully suggest that you reduce the compensation of the commissioner, commissioner 1 and deputy commissioner by $30,000 annually.”

Commissioner Charlotte Peak said, “I don’t like it when they tell us what to do so I don’t feel like we should tell them what to do.”

Commissioner Terry Caywood said if state officials got such a letter “they could get vindictive. They have the means to punish you when you touch an area they don’t want to be touched.”

Commissioner Thomas Crye said some of the TDEC attorneys mentioned are spread across the state, including one in Chattanooga. He said the state budget is already set. He said, “I am not in the business of micro-managing Governor Haslam’s budget.”

Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber, who drafted the letter, said the state continually under-funded the office that issues septic permits for Bradley and Polk counties. He said the letter was “a statement to a top-heavy government.”

He said the employees trying to keep up with the calls for septic permits “are not paid even a fourth of what they (top TDEC commissioners and lawyers) are paid.”

Mark Hall, who supported sending the letter, said, “I find it hard to believe that 14 county commissioners fear retribution.”

He said, “We’ve got a loose cannon down here with a poor attitude.” He said if Bradley County did not speak up, “We will continue to be the sacrificial lamb.”

Realtor Jim Davis spoke in support of the septic permit manager, Hank Thompson, saying he had always gotten excellent service from him. (Note: Some commissioners contend Thompson hasn’t approved permits fast enough; TDEC has defended him.)

…The original motion went down 11-3… The commission proceeded to put an ad hoc committee headed by Commissioner Caywood in place to study taking over the septic permit operation from the state.