|The new legal services agreement with the Rutherford County attorney could save up to $100,000 per year, County Mayor Ernest Burgess said.
At the Rutherford County Board of Commissioners on Thursday night, the body approved, in a 19-1 vote with Commissioner Ron Williams dissenting, a new contract with Cope, Hudson, Reed & McCreary to provide legal services for the county for the next two years, but will move the county toward creating its own in-house legal department.
“The agreement is one that provides substantial savings and plots a course for the development of an in-house legal department,” Commissioner John Rodgers said in a previous interview.
Cope, Hudson, Reed & McCreary is headed by Jim Cope, who has served as the county attorney for more than 20 years.
Under the new contract, the county attorney’s office will provide two types of legal services to the county – general legal advice to the county commission and departments and litigation services, Rodgers explained.
“The legal services agreement envisions these services will continued to be provided by the county attorney. … After two years, we envision moving the county attorney in-house,” Rodgers said.
Under the agreement, the county attorney will be paid no less than $6,000 per month (or $72,000 annually), but work done must be billed monthly. Any hours billed over the pre-set $6,000 will be reimbursed at an “adjusted downward” $250 per hour for Cope and $150 per hour for other associates in the firm, Rodgers said.
The county will also provide the county attorney will a full-time secretary and benefits and will provide 25 percent of the salary for a second secretary for the collection of delinquent taxes.
In 2008 Rutherford County paid Cope $108,000 plus benefits and funded two secretaries for the county attorney’s office. The county attorney also billed an unknown amount for hourly rates to consult on outstanding litigation.
“Total legal fees for the county, not just Mr. Cope’s office, through April 30 is … $1.2 million, almost $1.3 million,” Commissioner Ron Williams said.
The agreement provides for the county to create its own in-house legal department after two years, which will handle general legal advice for matters of government and county departments. In the next year, the county has the option to bring litigation services in-house also, Rodgers said.
The idea of developing an in-house legal department came up about three years ago, Rodgers said, when the county last looked to renew its contract with Cope’s office.
• Commission unanimously voted to approve changes to the county’s code for accessory dwelling units, or mother-in-law apartments.
Currently the county requires a conditional-use permit to construct an accessory apartment and has received as average of 26 requests per year since 2000.
The current resolution was amended to define the apartments more clearly, established consistent standards and restrict the number of apartments on single lots. It also requires off-street parking.
The apartments must be a minimum of 300 square-feet. The maximum square footage is determined by the square footage of the main home. Manufactured homes are excluded.
The apartments are now a use-by-right on lots of an acre or more. But if it doesn’t meet current design standards, a conditional-use permit is required.
The planning department proposed the changes because the apartments use the existing infrastructure, provide affordable housing and produce additional income for homeowners.
Some concerns included increase in rental properties and all the problems that implies, like parking issues, noise and demands for additional services.
• Commission voted unanimously to amend the county’s flood hazard district regulations.
The changes make the zoning resolution consistent with FEMA model, Rutherford County Regional Planning Director Doug Demosi said.
Other commission business:
• Voted to accept a $6,000 donation from Middle Tennessee Medical Center for a scholarship for an EMT to attend paramedic school.
• Voted to use $15,000 in stimulus funds to replace old equipment at Smyrna Middle School with a combi oven.
• Accepted land from the Rutherford County School Board for land at the Almaville, Rockvale and Leanna Community Centers. It also accepted a new lease for the Almavile and Leanna centers.
• Accepted land donations from Susan Lynch Gordon and another tract from Howard D. and Sally J. Wall.
• The commission also elected the following officers:
- Chairman Pro Temp, Gary Farley
- Commission Chaplain, Adam Coggin
- Chairman, Ernest Burgess
• All standing committees were also selected for the next year. Each committee is as follows:
- Budget & Finance
Joyce Ealy (Chair), Will Jordan (Vice Chair), Bob Bullen, Joe Frank Jernigan, Robert Peay, Steve Sandlin and Doug Shafer.
- Health & Education
Will Jordan (Chair), Jeff Jordan (Vice Chair), Carol Cook, Trey Gooch, Allen McAdoo, Ronald Williams and Bob Bullen
- Public Safety
Gary Farley (Chair), Doug Shafer (Vice Chair), Jim Daniel, Rick Hall, Jack Black, Robert Peay and Mike Sparks.
- Property Management
Anthony Johnson (Chair), Jeff Phillips (Vice Chair), Bob Bullen, Adam Coggin, Carol Cook, John Rodgers and Rick Hall.
- Public Works & Planning
Joe Frank Jernigan (Chair), Trey Gooch (Vice Chair), Mike Sparks, Anthony Johnson, Allen AcAdoo, Jim Daniel and Ronald Williams.
John Rodgers (Chair), Adam Coggin (Vice Chair), Jack Black, Jeff Phillips, Jeff Jordan, Gary Farley and Steve Sandlin.
Ernest Burgess (Chair), Doug Shafer, Carol Cook, Joyce Ealy, Trey Gooch, Allen McAdoo and Mike Sparks.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.