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Judge tells magistrate he’s a ‘liar’

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Sparks fly on fiscal court as Conway, Barnett, Montgomery argue over Case Road extension

By Ben Carlson

The Anderson County Fiscal Court approved for a second time an extension of Case Road following a heated exchange during which the judge-executive called a magistrate “a liar” and another magistrate being accused of not doing his job.
The decision came during the court’s meeting Monday morning, which also included unanimous approval to spend $319,000 to construct a recycling building, and nearly $30,000 for new windows in the county courthouse.
The Case Road issue has bubbled for several weeks and surfaced when Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway told magistrates in a previous meeting that a property owner there was erecting a fence that would eliminate the spot where county highway equipment can be turned around on the dead-end road.
Magistrates voted then to approve the request, and did so again Monday by a 5-2 vote. Voting no were magistrates Buddy Sims and Kenny Barnett. Voting yes were Conway and magistrates Forest Dale Stevens, Juretta Wells, David Ruggles and David Montgomery.
On Monday, Barnett objected to the extension, saying the fiscal court refused to take over the entrance leading into the Mallard Cove subdivision and should “treat everyone the same.”
Conway told Barnett there’s a considerable difference between the two, including that the county needs a safe place to turn around equipment and school buses on Case Road, and added that the county had not performed any maintenance on the Mallard Cove entrance in decades.
“You told me you put rock on that road,” Barnett countered, asserting that Conway had, as a magistrate, voted to approve fixing the entrance.
“No, I didn’t,” said Conway.
“Yes, you did,” countered Barnett.
No, I didn’t,” Conway said. “You’re a liar.”
After the meeting, Conway reiterated his statement, saying that the only time any improvements were made to that entrance came when Anthony Stratton was judge-executive. He said no vote was taken on the improvements, which were done solely to allow emergency vehicles to enter Mallard Cove.
That exchange was followed by one between Barnett and Montgomery, whose district includes Case Road.
Montgomery chided Barnett for injecting himself into the issue, saying he met with David Boggess, another Case Road property owner who attended the meeting and objected to the extension without his knowledge and that Barnett never informed Montgomery of the meeting or his concerns.
During the exchange between Conway and Barnett, Conway told him he “didn’t need to speak about another magistrate’s roads.” Barnett responded he was doing so because Montgomery “wasn’t doing his job.”
Montgomery objected to that comment, but said he wasn’t going to “get into it” during the meeting.
Instead, he and Barnett had what appeared to be an animated exchange during a break in the meeting, which ended with Montgomery returning to his seat and shaking his head.
The extension of Case Road, which formerly connected to US 127 but was removed from the county’s road list years ago, includes adding nearly 700 feet of maintenance and property owner Mark Scott deeding over a 100-feet by 100-feet section of land to be used for a turnaround.
Conway said several weeks ago that the turnaround is needed to because another property owner, Davis Boggess, is erecting a fence along the side of the road in an area currently used to turn around county equipment.
On Monday, Boggess said he’s not erecting a fence there and that extending the county’s portion of the road isn’t necessary.
Boggess said Scott, the other landowner, has spent years trying to get the county to extend the road to his property, which was denied by former judge-executive Steve Cornish.
“[Scott] will do whatever he can to get that extension,” Boggess alleged. “This deal sounds like it was made behind closed doors.”
Montgomery rejected that notion, saying it’s not “a good old boy thing.”
“The only reason we got into this was that Mark Scott asked if we needed a place to turn around,” Montgomery said, adding that Scott’s property is better suited for a turnaround because, unlike Boggess’, it’s flat and will require very little effort or taxpayer dollars.
Magistrate David Ruggles also entered the fray, asking Boggess if he would be willing to deed over property for a turnaround. Boggess said he would allow a turnaround to be built, but would not deed the land to the county “at this time.”
“I was told that you wouldn’t, but I wanted to hear this from your own mouth,” said Ruggles, adding that he “resents the good old boy stuff” and that he voted previously for the extension because highway foreman Bill Powell Catlett said it was needed.

Recycling building
Magistrates unanimously approved spending $319,000 to construct a recycling building at the county highway facility.
Ruggles, who chairs the county’s solid waste committee, said, in essence, that the county would have been better off had the fiscal court approved mandated trash and recycling pickup a year ago, but since the court has opted instead to “get into the recycling business,” approving a new building is necessary.
Ruggles said the building is designed to allow previously purchased recycling bins to be emptied directly into a pit, where items will be compacted.
He said visits to other recycling centers showed him that many are poorly designed and require unneccessary staffing because items are dumped on the floor and have to be placed by workers into a compactor.
He said Anderson’s new building will need much less staffing and will be able to be operated by a single person.
He said by eliminating one $10 per hour staffer, the building will pay for itself in 10 years, half that time if two workers are eliminated.
The building will also include a cardboard bailer.
Once constructed, the county will end curbside pickup of recyclables and place bins in areas around the city.
It will, however, continue to pick up cardboard, Conway said, and currently provides that service for 37 businesses.
Conway told magistrates that the county’s compactor truck needs between $5,000 and $10,000 in repairs, and sought permission to bid on a truck being disposed of by Versailles, which recently voted to end its recycling program in lieu of mandatory pickup by a private trash hauler.
Magistrates approved entering a bid after Conway said the bid will likely be no more than the cost of the repairs. The truck being bid on is a 1998 model with 126,000 miles.

New courthouse windows
Magistrates also unanimously approved a $29,989 bid from Scott Brothers Construction to install 23 new windows in the county courthouse.
It was one of four bids received, including a $42,725 bid from Kearns and Stratton; a $37,362 bid from Dadisman Builders; and a $39,150 from WR Cole and Associates.
Conway said he expects 74 percent of the cost will be covered by the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts.