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Sanctuary county, broadband tops Health and Welfare Committee discussions

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
The Carter County Health and Welfare Committee met via Zoom for its regularly scheduled March meeting with two items in particular drawing discussion from the committee.

Committee chairman Dr. Robert Acuff after approving the agenda and noting no citizens were present to speak moved to the first piece of business of the meeting and that was to address Carter County becoming a sanctuary community as a symbolic means of supporting the United States Constitution and the Bill of RIghts.

“William Whitley approached me asking for us to consider becoming a sanctuary community,” Dr. Acuff stated.

The reason for the request according to Dr. Acuff was that since the new administration has come into office there have been 52 executive orders signed into law.

“It would behoove us to take the two documents very, very seriously,” said Dr. Acuff. “I think that we need to stand behind the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

During the comment section, Dr. Acuff asked for county attorney Josh Hardin to share his thoughts on the committee taking the requested steps toward becoming a sanctuary community.

“It is a symbolic gesture,” Hardin said. “We still live in America for the moment. This says that Carter County does not approve of what is going on at the national level now.”

After the discussion concluded, Commissioner Daniel McInturff made the motion to approve which was seconded by Commissioner Isaiah Grindstaff.

The vote was unanimous for approval.

Moving on to the discussion surrounding broadband internet, Dr. Acuff noted that Brad Shields, COO of RidgeLink, LLC who is working on the internet project for the county, in a recent update showed that from the surveys that have been sent out and returned that potential plans have been mapped out for the county.

Dr. Acuff also said that pre-engineering for District 6 has already started. Currently, RidgeLink has positioned itself to begin the grant writing process for the county.

“During our budget hearing, we need to roll over the $600,000 that has been approved to next year’s budget so we can have some matching funds for the grants,” Dr. Acuff advised the committee.

Commissioner Brad Johnson asked if the county would have to wait for the announcement to be made by Governor Lee before the grant could be submitted.

“RidgeLink will apply for the grant,” Dr. Acuff advised. “By spring to mid-summer, the grants will be ready to be submitted to the Governor. Carter County fits all the criteria for rural broadband.”

On Friday, Gov. Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced that $14.9 million in broadband accessibility grants will expand service to support 17,800 unserved Tennesseans in 7,120 homes and businesses.

“Every Tennessean should have access to the same high-speed broadband, no matter what zip code they live in,” said Gov. Lee. “Our continued investment in internet connectivity will help level the playing field for rural communities across our state, and I thank these 13 providers for partnering with us to help nearly 18,000 more Tennesseans get connected.”
Dr. Acuff also brought to the committee an issue shared by Commissioner Austin Jaynes.

The issue stemmed from a Carter County employee being exposed to COVID-19 but still reporting to work.

“If an employee has been around an immediate family member who has the virus, that employee shouldn’t come to work,” stated Dr. Acuff.

The end decision was that Dr. Acuff will get with county attorney Hardin and come back with a policy to review.