LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (WHNT) — To charter or not to charter? That is the question for Lincoln County residents. When voters go to the polls on August 7th, they will have the option to vote either for or against a home rule charter for their community. A charter commission was established in 2012 and now, the commission is presenting a charter for residents to consider adopting. If the charter is approved, the county would change its current form of government from deriving its authority from state statutes to getting its authority from the charter.
“I got concerned when I started reading the document because it was obvious by some of the lack of content that there hadn’t been a legal review of this document done,” said Rick Head. Head is the chairman of the Commission for Citizens Against Home Rule Charter.
“There’s been no formal legal review but there have been attorneys that have looked at different sections as well as the entire document,” argued Daryl Luna. Luna is the chairman for the Lincoln County Charter Commission.
You can’t avoid it. Signs for and against the charter are all over Lincoln County. But what is in the document? A lot of information to process.
“There are a lot of legal issues that we’ve talked to some attorneys about,” said Head. “We’ve gotten some official words from some of the higher officials in the State of Tennessee, including the attorney general, that there may be some issues within this document.”
A hot topic in the charter is the number of county commissioners. Right now, there are 24 in Lincoln County. The charter proposes cutting that number down to 9. Head is running for a seat on the County Commission. He told WHNT News 19 that he’s worried because in Lincoln County, being a commissioner isn’t a full time job. Most commissioners work several hours a month and they each have counterparts to help in their district. Head thinks the charter’s limiting the number of commissioners will tremendously increase the workload on the commission.
“It’s a part time position, but there’s other counties in the state where it’s just like Lincoln County where it’s part time position and they have many less commissioners,” said Luna. Luna believes limiting the number of commissioners to 9 increases accountability for the commission.
The charter also addresses term limits, nepotism, and voters to approve tax increases by referendum. However, some say that the charter needed to be fine tuned before it was released to the public.
“The ideology was wonderful,” said Head. “I won’t cast any dispersion on the group that’s trying to do this, none at all. This was a good thought, a good process, but it needed to be worked through a little more clearly and defined a little better before it was presented to the public to vote on.”
If you want more information on the charter, there are two meetings you can attend. The group, “Citizens Against Home Rule Charter” is holding an informational meeting this Thursday night, July 10th. It’s at 7:00 p.m. on the second floor of the county courthouse. You can also meet with the Charter Commission at the Municipal Auditorium at 6 p.m. on July 14th.
WHNT News 19 is continuing to track down the latest on the proposed charter in Lincoln County.