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J.P. Doodles

J.P. Doodles

GUEST EDITORIAL: Hawkins County has a TRUE balanced budget for FY2019-20

Thank you to Eric Buchanan, Hawkins County Finance Director, and to the Hawkins County Commission for approving a TRUE balanced budget on behalf of the taxpayers of Hawkins County. A budget without use of a penny of fund balance, no property tax increase, and a proposed “rainy day” fund balance of $5.9 million. The citizens of Hawkins County have a fund balance equal to 33% of general fund expenditures.

The 2019-2020 budget is right in the sweet spot of where we need to be and the words of the late Commissioner Virgil Mallet rings in our ears … “protect the fund balance”.

This budget provides a few targeted benchmarks that can be used to monitor our progress over the next three years. Now that we have some concrete benchmarks we will spend the next several months developing a Financial Planning Guide. This will assist in locating specific data to help pinpoint areas of potential weakness and guide future commissioners in expediting the learning curve of county finance. Passing a good budget is not an end to the 105 days of budget planning, but the start to 365 days of continual improvement.

Our current fund balance should not prompt a slash and burn tactic to cut revenue. We do not want to repeat the errors of 2011, the effects of which came to a head in 2015. Potential deficit spending in Solid Waste and a forced deficit spend on the Board of Education are revenue side matters of concern. By year’s end we hope to have measurable data to speculate increased local revenues available from the online local option sales tax. These increased dollars should help offset some potential deficits in those areas.

Mr. Buchanan, Mayor Lee and his staff, the County Commission, Department Heads and Team Members of our county government are commended on the good stewardship and service they provide the citizens of Hawkins County. As Budget Committee Chair, I stand behind the budget approved by this commission. I am willing to personally accept the disdain of those who disapprove, as I know the hours invested by this team have been with hearts of true public servants.

Thank you for your efforts.

(John Metz is a member of the Hawkins Co. Commission, serving District Five. He is Chair of the Commission’s Budget and Finance Committee, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, and Chair Pro-Tempore of the Commission.)

THE BOOKEND: A Damsel in Distress .. continued

Dear Readers,

Howdy! How are ya’ll today? I’m happy and good. A local videographer here in Greene County wants to film me telling two funny stories for a storytelling festival.

I am excited, all I really have to do is think of two silly and ridiculous things that I have done.

Easy as pie!

Well, last week I told you all that I would tell another damsel in distress story so here it goes, every bit of it is true!

This happened last winter when I was the legal assistant and office manager for a prominent attorney in the historic district of Greenville Tennessee. I’ll call the attorney, “Buddy.” He is an old friend of mine for at least 24 years, and my personal attorney.

The office is in a 120-year-old beautiful brick building. The ceilings are vaulted up at least 14-15 feet. The office is huge. The room for clients is where you first walk into the building with my office directly behind it. Then there is another room, a long hallway, the conference room, then the intern’s office, and finally at the end of the building the attorney’s office. The place is gorgeous and HUGE.

As I was basically working two jobs in one, most evenings I was working at the office long after the intern and Buddy were gone home for the evening. I would lock the door after they left and get back to work on tons of paperwork. I loved the peace and quiet. The only problem is usually with me around the quiet doesn’t last a whole lotta time.

When I hired on, Buddy decided that I was too sweet and kind for some of his clientele or previous clientele. He tried giving me lessons on how to cuss out someone who might come into the office with a grudge or mad as fire over the way his case went in court. I just did not want to cuss. I refused to cuss. It’s just not nice. He even offered me a hundred-dollar bill to practice cussing. That just further offended my sensibilities. So, Buddy decided this damsel in distress needed a gun for protection. Oh Lord!

He gave me lessons in how to shoot the gun. I was terrified, and politely declined gun lessons at first until he explained there may be situations come up where my life might be in danger. So, I paid closer attention to the instructions. It was a little tiny gun; I think it was a 22-caliber. I kept it in a drawer handy in my desk.

One dark evening I was engrossed in the billing process, which the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility monitors. I was always nervous and preoccupied doing the billing. I was in the office alone and had forgotten to lock the front door. Then I heard a noise in the back toward Buddy’s office.

The street was dark outside with the Old English lamp posts glowing. It was then that I realized I had not locked the door. I was gripped with fear. This was it! This was the moment Buddy had always said would happen! I was alone in the office with an evil criminal!! There wasn’t even time to call 911.

I stealthily opened my drawer and got out the little gun. I was shaking all over as I crept silently down the long dark hallway holding the gun. As I passed each office I would look inside. No criminal. As I got to the last office, Attorney Buddy’s office I held my breath. I had to be tough. I had to be strong. I wasn’t feeling real tough, but I was trying. The office light was on and I knew I hadn’t left it on. I came up to the French doors that went to the office, I hollered, “Who is in there??!!”

And then I heard him, Kenny ... Attorney Buddy’s 17-year old son. I immediately put the gun down and went into the office. I said, “Kenny!! You scared me to death!! I thought a criminal was in here!” Kenny said, “I said ‘hi’ to you as I came by your office.”

I never heard him because the Board of Professional Responsibility and I were doing the billing. Gosh almighty, talk about a possible nightmare situation. And I love Kenny, I used to babysit him when he was two, back before he became a big strapping football star for the Greeneville Devils.

I was pretty shook. And I decided guns and I were just not a match. Lord help!

Kenny and I laugh about it now, I’m glad he has a sense of humor about it.

I resigned soon after because the work was too hard on my heart since I have heart conditions. I’ll stick with column writing because, so far, I don’t need a gun for that.

This damsel in distress will have to look for someone else to rescue me.

Until next time, have a good week, and have a literary week!

MY VIEW: Goodbye Summer of 2019, hello Autumn!

Labor Day is coming up on Monday ... a day when America salutes its working men and women, and when many of us will hit the roads, beaches, campgrounds and do whatever it is that we typically do to say a formal last hoo-rah to the Summer of 2019.

Although, with Hurricane Dorian brewing in the Caribbean and — as I write this on Thursday morning — barreling on a west-northwest trek toward the Gulf of Mexico and a landfall somewhere in central Florida, probably not a good idea to plan a deep south holiday weekend getaway that involves areas along coastal Alabama, Florida, Georgia or Mississippi.

But if your family has a get-together this weekend — barbecue, family reunion, fishing trip, etc. — send us some snapshots for our Facebook page. We might even use some of the best photos in the print edition.

I love summertime, but I’m not sorry to see this one go for a variety of reasons. Fall is just flat-out my favorite season, always has been.

I love the early mornings and late evenings best. I like to get up early, fix a pot of coffee and walk around outside on my deck to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a new autumn day. There’s quite a flock of wild turkeys — mostly gobblers — that make the rounds in my neighborhood, and its always nice to sit and watch them nonchalantly pick around my yard for bugs.

I love the crispness in the air in the early mornings and sitting out in my front porch swing listening to the sounds of the night.

I love the crazy-quilt of colors that God uses to paint the mountainsides and valleys of northeast Tennessee in the fall.

The air smells different in the fall, too … a potpourri combination of scents ... falling leaves, muscadines and scuppernongs ripening, late crops of hay being baled for the coming winter, and wood smoke from nearby fireplaces to drive off the slight chill of the evenings.

Folks, I have said this many times before and its worth repeating ... I love it here. This is my home now and I wouldn’t trade it for any other, and I mean that sincerely.

I love my job and take very seriously my commitment to you.

I love the newspaper business and enjoy what I do for a living. I love visiting in the community and meeting people. I love covering the day-to-day events that affect and shape our lives.

And while covering the “bad news” is also a part of that responsibility, I certainly do not love that part of the job and take no pleasure in doing so.

Which brings me to a point ... with Labor Day coming up, may I get personal? I have been doing this work for 40 years now and suffice it to say that in four decades I have seen more than my share of wrecks in which innocent people were maimed and/or killed by drunk, drugged or distracted drivers.

Let me tell you, having to get up at 2 a.m. and make photos at the scene of a wreck in which some stoned-out-of-their mind drunk or drugged-up driver has driven head-on into a car, killing or disabling entire families, never gets any easier.

The sights, sounds and smells of those horrific events are far different from those of autumn that I described earlier.

These are the sickening sights, sounds and smells that haunt you forever; that keep you awake at night; and that you wish you could forget but can’t.

So, during this long holiday weekend, if you choose to indulge in whatever legal substance that brings you pleasure, go for it! Just do so in moderation and if you drink, have enough common sense and compassion to keep your inebriated self OFF THE ROAD because the life you save could be your own ... or that or a friend or loved one.

Enjoy the weekend, just enjoy it responsibly because, believe me, we have no wish to print photos next week of fatal accidents that could have been prevented had someone just stopped to THINK before taking that DRINK and getting behind the wheel (on land or sea).

Have a happy and safe Labor Day!