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KCSO’s Harkins tosses hat into ring for red light camera ‘czar’ position

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed law enforcement for the Town’s planned automated red light camera enforcement at its meeting Thursday, June 25.

According to Interim Town Administrator Gary Palmer, the first traffic cameras at Campbell Station Road and Kingston Pike could be installed as early as September.

“Before that, we need in place an employee … to view these violations as they occur,” Palmer said.

Capt. Ben Harkins, Knox County Sheriff’s Office liaison to the Town, has applied for the job.

Harkins, who is retiring from KCSO in December, most likely would serve as an independent contractor until that time, then would become a part-time employee who reports directly to the Town Administrator or Interim Administrator.

“The original plan was to have an agreement with the Sheriff’s Office. In the interim period, Capt. Harkins has decided he is retiring … so that changed the way we were looking at the arrangement,” Town Attorney Tom Hale said.

The Board discussed the pros and cons of Harkins remaining an independent contractor versus becoming a part-time employee.

The main difference, according to Hale, was the Town would have a “degree of control” over an employee, except in the actual decision of traffic violations.

“One important thing I like about the photo enforcement program is … it doesn’t matter who you are. If you get a red light camera citation, you pay your $50 or you fight it,” Harkins said.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, who you work for, who you know,” he added.

Town Human Resources Manager Janet Curry reminded the Board that should Harkins become an employee, the Board would need to approve a job description and salary range.

“An independent contractor arrangement would probably need to detail and define quite a bit clearer what the job would entail … because once you’re an employee, to some extent, you’re subject to instruction,” Hale said.

That agenda item was for discussion only while a few minor issues in the contract were hammered out.

The Board also renewed two contracts with Rural Metro, one for fire prevention and public fire education and another for fire, emergency and environmental/hazardous materials response.

The contracts upped the amount of time Fire Marshal Dan Johnson will spend doing Town business: 90 percent instead of 75. The contract also allows the Town to purchase additional hours (at a $60/hour rate) if necessary.

“With more and more structures, we need more and more time,” Community Development Director Ruth Hawk said.

“Even though our actual new permits have slowed down, we still have fire education and the inspections of existing structures,” she added.

“You basically live here, right?” Mayor Ralph McGill joked with Johnson.

The contract also explicitly states Rural Metro is recognized as the fire department of the Town.

“Fire stations in the Town primarily serve just the Town. In addition, we have fire stations outside the Town that respond into the corporate limits,” Fire Chief Jerry Harnish said.

“At no time would the residents be without any emergency responders at all,” he added.

The Board unanimously approved both five-year agreements.

Alderman John Williams asked about subscription rates for Farragut residents.

“Traditionally, compared to the County as a whole, it has been quite high,” Harnish said, adding that was due to a number of reasons, including “the relative affluence of the residents.”


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