Mayor responds to allegations regarding a grant

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, July 18, 2019

Following an allegation made from a community member at Tuesday night’s Middlesboro City Council meeting, Mayor Rick Nelson took the opportunity to state the facts.

Thursday morning, Nelson took to his Facebook page to make the following statement:

“At our last council meeting, an individual accused me of refusing to accept a grant of ($50,000) from Middlesboro Appalachian Regional Hospital for our pool. Of course this was untrue. Mr. Michael Slusher, who is the CEO of the hospital, also heard this and has provided a letter of documentation that there was never an offer. I debated on whether to even mention this, but I felt it was more important to clear up an untrue allegation like this.”

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During the public comments section of the agenda, community member Patsy Sullivan Pierce stepped up to the podium in response to a previous explanation made by Councilwoman Judy Grandey.

“We have our mentoring grant that we received from the National Parks and Recs Association valued at $110,000 over a three-year period,” Grandey explained. “The onsite meeting with the National Parks and Recs will be Aug. 6.”

Grandey explained that they want to see local schools, local parks and talk about the use of the community center for mentoring meetings as well as start activities for the youth in the area.

“I’m really excited for the potential of this program and the sustainability moving forward after the grant is over that we will continue to use and utilize this program to do some positive things with our community and our youth,” Grandey said.

“I had a comment to make, but I got an inquiry about the grant you was talking about,” Pierce said as she pointed toward Grandey. “Wouldn’t you all like to use that grant to open the pool up?”

“It can’t be,” Grandey explained. “There are certain regulations. It’s a mentoring grant, and the reason that we received it…”

“You can’t mentor kids in the pool?” Pierce asked interrupting Grandey speaking.

“It has specific guidelines that we have to follow in order to receive that grant,” Grandey continued trying to explain to Sullivan that the grant has specific guidelines that have to be followed in order to keep the grant. “That is a great point, and we did think about that and that is on our list of questions to talk to them about.”

“I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not,” Pierce continued to say. “I’m curious about this. As you all know, several people has went above and beyond over this pool deal trying to donate money and trying to help. I was going to try myself, and I was told no. But, I don’t know if you know that the mayor had a meeting with the administrator of the hospital here just not too long ago, and he declined a $50,000 grant, does anybody know that?”

“I didn’t know it,” said Nelson as he leaned forward to speak into his microphone.

“I talked to the man myself,” Pierce responded to Nelson while pointing at him with a pen in her hand. “Don’t call me a liar on that one. There was a rumor, and I went and talked to the man myself so I couldn’t be called a liar while I was standing here this evening.”

“Who was supposed to give us a grant, Patsy?” Nelson asked.

“The hospital talked to you and they wanted to use the Middlesboro pool as a physical rehab and the citizens, you know, the citizens and kids in our community use the pool the other time,” she stated. “And you declined the $50,000 grant. I talked to the man myself.”

“Mike Slusher?” the mayor asked. Pierce didn’t respond and he asked again. “Mike Slusher?”

Finally, Sullivan responded and said, “You know who it was. I talked to the man myself, so that way I could not be standing right here and be called a liar.

Sullivan stated that she doesn’t live on rumors, she lives on facts.

“That’s not fair to the kids. This guy over here is over parks and recreations. I didn’t know if you knew that was declined or not. The kids could be enjoying the summer right now, and it was declined. The mayor declined that,” she concluded she turned and walked out of council chambers.

Pierce is running for the seat that is currently occupied by Councilman Bo Green in the upcoming November General Election. Green was appointed to the seat when Kevin Barnett had to relinquish the seat due to his appointment as street department superintendent.

Prior to the meeting adjourning, Nelson addressed the public as well as those in the audience at the meeting.

“I want to let each of you know, because I love grants, that there is no way that I’ve turned down a grant of $50,000 to keep the pool open, that’s silly,” he said. “To be honest with you, I will give you an update on the pool.”

According to the mayor, the pool is repaired thanks to two or three local businesses that gave them enough money to complete the repairs. Barnett found another place that had to have silicone to repair it. The pool is currently filled with water because the pool company recommended that it be done to protect the lining of the pool.

“To say that anybody turned down a $50,000 is kind of silly,” Nelson said. “So, I just want to let you know that I don’t know how this stuff gets started. I am going to call Mr. Slusher tomorrow and find out what the deal was.”

Other items that were included in the meeting Tuesday were the approval of Willis Paving being awarded the blacktop bid, the discussion of entering negotiations for tax collection with the Bell County Sheriff and Bell County Clerk, and the approval of the mayor’s appointments to the Board of Variance.

Councilman Boone Bowling wants to invite everyone out to an upcoming community event.

“I’m going to try to put together a community barbecue,” he explained. “I’ve got a date of Aug. 10, and we are going to start at 2 p.m. and it’s going to take place at Southside Park. I encourage everybody to come out. We’re going to have a tent and corn hole.”

Bowling also said he is going to begin work on the basketball courts and getting those striped up and cleaned up to be more inviting to the community.

The next council work session will be Aug. 13 and the next regular council meeting is Aug. 20.