The Drivers Testing Center will remain open for one more year.
McMinnville’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 4-3 to enter into an agreement with the state, agreeing to pay $4,000 a month in rent for the next 12 months.
Mayor Jimmy Haley, Vice Mayor Ben Newman, and Aldermen Kate Alsbrook and Ryle Chastain voted for the agreement. Aldermen Everett Brock, Mike Neal and Steve Harvey voted against it.
Neal urged against the move, but was unable to sway one vote.
“It’s a matter of principle," said Neal. "When the state of Tennessee has a $37 billion budget this year and they cannot find a way to pay the rent of $48,000 for our local Driver’s Center, this is not acceptable to me. The predicament that we find ourselves in lies solely on the backs of Gov. Haslam, Sen. Janice Bowling, Rep. Judd Matheny, and Rep. Paul Sherrell. All Republicans.”
Warren County’s elected individuals were unable to restore funding to the center in the state’s 2017-18 fiscal year budget. Neal said that is ineffective representation.
“This situation begs us to look at the effectiveness of our state elected officials,” said Neal. “We have three in Nashville supposedly looking out for the best interest of Warren County. Yet, they cannot secure what can be considered as pocket change in a budget of this size. I believe we have ineffective representation.”
Despite it not being included, the state’s budget drew support.
“While the effort was made on the Senate side of the legislature to include this in the budget, no effort was made in the House,” said Neal. “Yet, it appears our entire delegation voted in favor of the governor’s budget, even though it excluded this request. It appears this measure is important political fodder, but it is not important enough to vote against a budget which did not include it.”
Neal took issue with the presence of both Bowling and Sherrell at prior board meetings.
“I found it hard to digest that our state elected officials have come here endorsing our spending of local tax dollars on state services to which they cannot deliver,” he said. “I think the reason they have come here and endorsed this measure is maybe it helps their other constituents as much, if not more, for us to bare the financial burden for all. If we pass this measure tonight we will be allowing them to put a feather in their hats among their other constituents for their own ineffectiveness in their representation of the residents of Warren County.”
Paying the rent also sends a message to Gov. Haslam, said Neal, that McMinnville will tolerate this type of governing. Neal expressed “a lot of disappointment” at the situation and urged the residents of Warren County to hold state officials accountable during the next election cycle.
When it comes to funding, Warren County has approved a measure to reimburse the city half its expense. Also, city officials contacted government leaders in surrounding communities that would have been affected by the closure of the Driver Center and inquired about financial support that would be used to reimburse both local governments equally.
None of those communities contacted, said Haley on Tuesday night, have offered assistance in retaining the Driver Center for their citizens.