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Knox Commission meets in Farragut

Knox County Commission chairman Mike Hammond, formerly one of three commissioners representing the fifth district that includes Farragut, oversees the January Commission Workshop at Town Hall in Farragut Tuesday, Jan. 18. The Commission is holding it- Dan Barile/farragutpress
Although the first Knox County Commission work session of the new year was held in a different locale — Farragut Town Hall, rather than the City County Building downtown — not much of the discussion was new.

Oft-mentioned topics in recent months resurfaced, including the controversial Ten Year Plan to end chronic homelessness and the County’s stance on severance payments.

The TYP has garnered controversy over recent months in regards to its permanent supportive housing goal, which County Mayor Tim Burchett has taken issue with because it doesn’t regulate alcohol among residents.

“If we’re serious about helping the homeless, we’ve got to have programs [for alcohol abuse],” Commissioner Jeff Ownby, 4th district, said at the Commission work session, Tuesday, Jan. 18.

“I’m in favor of withdrawing all funding from the TYP if they don’t address this,” Ownby said about a position Burchett also has advocated.

“The least they could do is meet us halfway,” he added.

Last year, TYP administrators tried to build permanent supportive housing in Lovell Heights off DeBusk Road, but halted after intense community outcry.

“Nobody wants permanent supportive housing in their neighborhood,” Commissioner Amy Broyles, 2nd district, said. She asked that Commission Chair Mike Hammond schedule a workshop for the group to explain what, exactly, permanent supportive housing is. He said he would.

Vice Chair Brad Anders, 6th district, said it was important to separate the TYP from the providers of various homeless care, entities such as Volunteer Ministry Center.

“The housing is what upsets people,” he said.

But, Anders agreed, “Those who don’t hold people accountable should not receive public funds.”

The item was only for discussion.

Severance packages also dominated talk at Town Hall, after Burchett’s chief of staff, Dean Rice, presented Commissioners with Burchett’s new policy doing away with severance packages for the County’s executive branch.

The policy change followed another public outcry over severance packages former Mayor Mike Ragsdale handed out to three department heads who quit.

Any severance policy “needs to be clear, across the board, and consistent,” Rice said.

Burchett’s policy prohibits severance packages for anyone who resigns, is fired or laid off, but does allow for an incentive program for those who might choose to retire early if the County foresees a need for significant reduction in staff. In that case, those vacated positions would not be filled.

“This is a set policy. There is no favoritism,” Rice said.

Burchett can place the new policy in the employee handbook without Commission approval, but Rice said Commission could codify the policy so it would be lasting from administration to administration.


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