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“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

December 27, 2017

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Vo-Tech, TCAT and the BoE

October 26, 2017

 

In a T-G article Oct. 19, 2017 Jason Reynolds reports, Board member Chad Graham asked for an update on selling the Shelbyville Central vocational building to the state for a Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Shelbyville expansion. "I thought we had talked about starting conversations" on footprints and related topics, he said. Jason also reported that “Board member Amy Martin said it is her understanding the board must declare the vocational building as surplus first.” Superintendent Don Embry said, “That is a Commission decision.” Mr. Enbry is correct, the BoE does not have the authority to declare a property surplus or to designate to whom such property may be sold.

 

In anticipation of the coming demands by the BoE to declare the current SCHS Vo-Tech 50,000 sq, ft, building surplus in hopes of selling it to TCAT, I want to review my understanding of the proper procedure to sell County owned property.

 

Laws and Rules governing the Acquisition, Control and Disposition of County Property:

 

First I look to Tennessee Code Annotated.

 

TCA 5-5-121 The county legislative bodies have power to erect or control, and dispose of public county buildings, as provided in chapter 7 of this title.

 

TCA 5-7-102  All deeds, conveyances or grants that have been, or may be, made to any officer or person for the use or benefit of the county, vest in the county the title as fully as if made to such county by name, but such conveyances hereafter shall be made to the county.

 

TCA 5-7-101  Each county may acquire and hold property for county purposes, and make all contracts necessary or expedient for the management, control and improvement thereof, and for the better exercise of its civil and political powers, and may make any order for the disposition of its property.

 

This simply means the full authority to purchase, maintain and control, and dispose of all public property lies with the County Commission. That the title to all County property resides with the County and not with any particular person or department. Only the County Commission may decide which property to sell. The various departments and boards may request for property, real or otherwise, to be declared surplus, but the final authority lies with the Commission to establish the status of all property.

 

The County Attorney has stated in his letter dated Aug. 9, 2017, the Financial Management Act of 1981 is the controlling statute on disposition of property

 

 TCA 5-21-118 (within the ’81 Act)

(a) The director or a deputy appointed by the director shall serve as the county purchasing agent and shall assist the committee in developing policies and procedures for implementing an economical and efficient purchasing system.

(b) The following shall be the responsibility of the director:

(1) The contract, purchase, or any obligation of the county for supplies, material, equipment, contractual services, rental of machinery, buildings, or equipment, transfer of materials, supplies, and equipment between county offices or agencies;

(2) Supervision of storeroom or warehouse;

(3) Contracts for building construction and the purchase of land; 

(4) Public sale of all surplus materials, equipment, buildings and land; and

(5) Any other created obligation of the county.

 

I disagree. the ’81 act (TCA Title 5, Chapter 21) defines the responsibility to publicly sell surplus property as belonging to the Finance Director in his role as Purchasing Agent. I believe the controlling statute is TCA 5-7-101 for the declaration of the status of property as surplus and then to the Finance Director in properly disposing of such property which has been deemed unneeded and thereby surplus.

 

The County Commission has established and adopted the Local Rules of the Board of Commissioners of Bedford County, TN (latest edition Jan 2017), and these rules establish and control the local Standing Committees, which are designed to be recommending committees to the full Commission. The Standing Committees are defined along with their purposes and duties in Rule VI. 

 

Rule VI, Section F:

 

AUTHORITY OF COMMITTEES: The role and jurisdiction of a Board of Commissioners Standing Committee is to investigate and study matters, provide information and to present recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, as generally described in the title of the Standing Committee and as more specifically defined in the subject areas listed under the title. Should any question arise as to the jurisdiction of any Standing Committee, it shall be referred to the Rules and Legislative Committee for determination, subject to an appeal to the Board of Commissioners at its next regular meeting.

 

Per this rule, and the established actions of the Commission in the previous years, the Courthouse and Property Committee is the proper committee to hear requests from boards and departments on declarations of surplus property and to make recommendations on the disposal of such property to the full Commission. Only after an affirmative vote from the Commission declaring property surplus may the Finance Director begin the process to publicly sell the surplus property.

 

In defining what is and is not “surplus”, I look to Mirriam-Webster’s dictionary

 Definition of surplus

1  a :the amount that remains when use or need is satisfied

    b :an excess of receipts over disbursements

2  :the excess of a corporation's net worth over the par or stated value of its stock

 

In this context, it would be improper to declare a building that is in full utilization and for which there is no immediate replacement as “surplus”.

 

Since the Financial Management Committee, under the ’81 Act, has the duty and authority to establish the policies and procedures for the Finance Department, I also referred to the latest version (July 2016) of the BEDFORD COUNTY FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES MANUAL for directions for the disposal of surplus property. Interestingly, there is no section in the Table of Contents referencing surplus property. A careful review of each page of the document reveals some interesting statements.

 

Chapter 4: GENERAL ACCOUNTING at the end of the first paragraph of Section 4.2   No individual within the County has the authority to legally b