Courthouse dome lantern plans discussed at commissioners meeting


MURPHY, N.C. – Restoration plans for the Cherokee County Courthouse lantern were discussed at length by the Board of Commissioners during their Tuesday, Feb. 19 meeting.

Specific action was approved by the board to move the lantern from the Western Carolina Regional Airport to the former Cherokee Well Drilling property located off of U.S. 64.

Of the restoration plans, Commissioner C.B. McKinnon stated, “In the quotes we got, there’s a lot of elaborate work on (the lantern) which is never seen. Nobody knows it’s there. The only people that’s seen it is if you’re brave enough to go up in a basket on the crane … Those decorative items, in my opinion, is what drives the cost up … So, I think this is a nice compromise to get the lantern back on the courthouse and aesthetically looking like it’s always looked.”

McKinnon later described the decorative items in question as a “drapery” base that is nearly flat after Commissioner Cal Stiles expressed concerns over replicating the original design.

“There’s no physical way to see it from the ground,” McKinnon added.

Chairman Dr. Dan Eichenbaum pointed out that welding students from Tri-County Community College (TCCC) would be  assisting with the project, and Vice Chairman Gary Westmoreland stated Charles Carry, welding instructor at TCCC would be overseeing the copper work restoration. Westmoreland further explained that Carry is “one of the best coppermen in western North Carolina.”

Currently, the estimated cost of the restoration work is projected to be around $50,000.

Sheriff Derrick Palmer presented the board with a proposal for legal services for the sheriff’s office. According to Palmer, the legal consultation service, Smith Rodgers PLLC, would be hired at a flat rate of $10,642 a year and the one-year contract would be begin July 1.

County Manager Randy Wiggins explained the service would be used as an enhancement to the county’s own attorney, giving the sheriff’s office 24/7 legal consultation.

“This group does not come out and represent the sheriff’s office in legal suits and things of that nature,” Palmer stated. “That’s for the county attorney. What they do is give that expert consultation when we need an answer right then and we’re calling, writing a search warrant or getting ready to go into someone’s home, we can call and say, ‘This is what we’ve got. What’s your expert opinion on this?'”

Commissioner Stiles explained he believed the service will save the county money in the long run stating, “In all probability, it’s going to cost us $10,000 if we’re having to pay our county attorney, at that point,to give you advice. That would eat into this cost.”

Of the expert consultation, Eichenbaum said, “Any consultation with them is much more efficient because they’ve dealt with it over and over and over again.”

The commissioners unanimously approved Palmer’s proposal with the caveat that Palmer approach Smith Rodgers about a pro-rated contract to take effect immediately until the July 1 contract begins. According to Maria Hass, BOC clerk and assistant county manager, after Palmer contacted Smith Rodgers later in the week, an arrangement was made for legal consultation services to begin Monday, Feb. 26, under a pro-rated contract for the amount of $3,645.

A new Caterpillar D6N dozer tractor for use at the Cherokee County Landfill was purchased by the board for the amount of $323,391.78 from Carolina Caterpillar of Charlotte. Commissioner McKinnon explained plans were previously made to repair the landfill’s existing dozer tractor for an estimated cost of $60,000. After agreements with the repair company fell through, however, the county studied the possibility of purchasing of a used tractor.

“That used tractor had 2,000 hours and it was (around $290,000),” McKinnon said, “and it didn’t have the landfill package on it. So, the used tractor was going to be a lot more than the new tractor by the time you put the landfill package (on it) that keeps the sprockets clear of the garbage and the safety things that go on it. So, that’s how we ended up at a new dozer tractor.”

McKinnon stated the new tractor comes with a five-year warranty. The board unanimously approved the purchase and agreed a future discussion would come as to what to do with the old dozer tractor.

The board approved an agreement for Ralph Robinson, lessee of the Hiwassee Valley Pool and Wellness Center LLC, to reimburse the county for electric and propane costs until the end of the fiscal year (June 30). After that, Robinson will have to negotiate his own contract for these utility services. Currently, the contracts for electric and propane remain with the county for the center.

Commissioners also approved a budget revision for use of the school Half-Cent Sales Tax in the amount of $41,672. The amount, approved by the Board of Education at their Feb. 8 meeting, will fund maintenance and repair costs at Hiwassee Dam, Murphy and Martin’s Creek elementary schools, The Oaks Academy, Andrews Middle School and Murphy High School.

The purchase of a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe was approved by the board for the sheriff’s office after the department lost the use of a patrol car due to engine failure. The cost of the Tahoe is $31,500 and the funds will be drawn from Sheriff’s Designated Fund balance.

The board approved a budget revision in the amount of $2,619 to purchase 10 animal waste receptacles and supplies for use at the Connahetta Park and Riverwalk area as well as the Andrews Recreation Park. The expenditure is funded from revenue from a North Carolina Community Conservation Assistance Program grant.

A proclamation declaring the 11th Annual Cherokee County Senior Games and Silver Arts Program to take place in Cherokee County April 28 through May 19 was issued by the Board of Commissioners. According to the proclamation, over one-third of the county’s full-time residents are 50 years of age or older, which puts Cherokee as one of the leading counties in the state in this category. The Senior Games and Silver Arts Program are “designed to inspire, motivate, and educate all citizens about their potential for good health and involvement throughout their lives.”


[Featured image:  Chairman Dr. Dan Eichenbaum, left, and Commissioners C.B. McKinnon and Cal Stiles vote to accept the agenda for the Monday, Feb. 19, Cherokee County Board of Commissioners meeting as County Manager Randy Wiggins looks on. Not pictured: Commissioners Ray Dickey and Gary Westmoreland.]


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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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