County approves mutual aid agreement to assist flood-stricken counties

Published 12:10 pm Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Bell County Fiscal Court met in regular session on Tuesday, approving an Emergency Mutual Aid and Assistance Agreement between Bell, Harlan, and Lee counties.

Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock addressed recent flooding in the state.

“With all the flooding that occurred to our north, our neighbors basically got bombed,” Brock said. “Some of the pictures that I’m sure we’ve all seen…reminded me of the pictures we’ve seen of 1977 here in Pineville. We all locally know what kind of hardship that was on the community.”

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Brock said he reached out to neighboring counties, discovering Lee County was possibly hit the hardest.

“Lee County’s a much smaller county than us,” Brock said. “We were able to send a couple guys up there and they worked Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and really helped them out a lot.”

Brock mentioned other counties including Harlan County sent crews as well.

“We needed to get this mutual aid and assistance agreement with them,” Brock said. “We normally have those, we’re updating the one with Harlan, we’ve got one with Knox that was updated.”

Brock explained the agreement allows the different counties to assist each other in case of occurrences such as a flood.

Brock said Bell County was blessed by not suffering extensive damage during the recent floods as occurred in other counties.

“We were just really lucky,” he said.

The court approved the agreement, retroactively effective from March 1.

The court also addressed the question of using work release inmates for cleanup work around the county.

“That’s a big issue,” Brock said. “It’s not just garbage…one thing COVID has done is put us hopelessly behind on getting limbs cut out of the road and trash picked up. It’s created a mess, it’s embarrassing when you drive by. The state inmates are who we’ve predominantly used for that. We would get a crew of 10 every day and split those up into two groups of five. We covered a lot of real estate with that, we picked up a lot of garbage, kept our parks clean, mowed grass, trimmed brush, we did it every day five days a week. And we relied heavily on those state inmates for that, because they’re a little more skilled.”

Brock said no state inmates are available for work release at this time due to COVID-19.

“The state, as of my last conversation with them, they’re nowhere close to ready yet,” Brock said. “They want to let them out, because it’s a revenue stream for them and it helps keep the peace on the property. It’s not that they don’t want to let them out, its just that presently the administration at the state level is saying no.”

Brock mentioned the state may not allow work release until vaccinations are completed.

In other court activity:
• The court accepted the 2020 annual settlement and excess fees in the amount of $130,000 from Bell County Clerk Debbie Gambrel;

• The court approved a motion to pay bills and make necessary transfers;

• The Bell County Treasurer’s financial statement for last month was accepted;

• The court approved the 2020 4th quarter fee account report from Bell County Clerk Debbie Gambrel;

• The court approved the 2021 amended fee account budget for Bell County Clerk Debbie Gambrel;

• Emergency budget amendment #2 for COVID-19 Relief Fund was approved;

• Checks from Bell County Sheriff Mitch Williams in the amount of $107,464.14 were accepted;

• Checks from Bell County Clerk Debbie Gambrel in the amount of $12,912.62 were accepted.