published Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Hamilton County Commission votes to increase school board budget

ALSO WEDNESDAY

In other business, commissioners agreed to:

• Accept a $47,575 bid from Freightliner of Chattanooga for a high-top van for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department.

• Approved a $36,925 bid from Hanel Storage Systems for an automated storage system for the Hamilton County Election Commission.

• Extended a contract with BB&T Bankkard for processing credit and debit cards for Hamilton County and some of its constitutional officers.

• Agreed to increase a contract with Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corp. by $27,902 to install automatic lighting in the county's 21 elevators. The lights will have motion-detecting devices and will turn off after 15 minutes of inactivity. Once installed, the lights are expected to save the county up to $1,100 a month.

Thanks to last week's weather, the Hamilton County Commission pulled double duty Wednesday.

The commission called off its scheduled agenda session last week, since many roads in the county and Chattanooga were impassable because of ice and abandoned vehicles.

Instead of canceling Wednesday's regular meeting and disrupting the commission's calendar, Chairman Fred Skillern opted to merge the two meetings.

Commissioners met, discussed and voted on a measure to increase the county board of education's budget by $12 million and agreed to accept more than $290,000 from the state and other agencies for various programs at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

The $12 million coming to schools isn't all new money, but some is, said Christie Jordan, director of accounting and budgeting for the school system.

She said $6.4 million is federal/state money awarded last year in grants that last longer than 12 months. The bulk of that is Title 1 and special education money the school system regularly receives. And much of the rest of the new money is already slated for specific projects, such as $3.8 million marked to install energy-efficient lighting in all the county's schools, she said.

But Jordan was enthused about $1.4 million that will go to toward upgrading technology infrastructure systemwide.

"That's wiring, wireless access points -- with these schools, you have to have more than just one wireless access point to have internet access everywhere. This isn't for devices, but devices aren't worth much if you can't connect," Jordan said.

She expects that project to be completed by June.

Commissioners also approved four grants for the health department, including $39,700 for a tobacco use prevention program and $40,000 to fund rape prevention education. A third grant comes from the March of Dimes and will bring in $20,000 over two years to help prevent birth defects. The final and largest grant is for $191,000 to help the department manage HIV/AIDS cases.

After the meeting, Skillern said he would not usually combine the meetings.

"This is not the way we normally do business, but because of the emergency [situation], we did combine the meetings today," Skillern said. "I do want everyone to know that hundreds of hours were spent [in the last week] on the telephone with the mayor's staff."

Skillern said commissioners received the proposed agenda from Mayor Jim Coppinger's office and had a week to get questions answered.

Commissioner Joe Graham, chairman of the commission's finance committee, said during the meeting that his committee hadn't met to discuss the agenda items, but all members were asked to bone up on the information.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said the meeting Wednesday was properly advertised. And according to county records, the agenda was posted publicly on the county website on Jan. 28.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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