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Q & A with County Executive Terry Bell
Terry Bell Interview.jpg
Terry Bell

Southern Standard reporter JL Jacobs recently had a chance to interview Warren County Executive Terry Bell. Following is their discussion.

JL: You’ve been county executive for over a year now. What are some of the things you feel you’ve helped accomplish?

TB: I’m very proud we were able to purchase the mall. We’re going to get our health department put in where JCPenney was. I’m excited about the Senior Center and their thrift shop going in where Goody’s used to be. UCHRA, or U-carts, will also be in that part of the mall. It is my hope that the Senior Center may be up and running by May 1. It’s going to take longer for the health department because we’re still looking at plans; there’s a lot more paperwork involved and opening it up for bids. We may be able to open it up for bids in February or March. That will be closer to an 18-month project. UCHRA may take longer to get going as well because they are eligible for grants and there’s a longer wait time for that process, too. I’m hoping by the middle of the summer for that.

I’m also excited about the Warren County Employee’s Clinic. We hired into a partnership with the schools to provide a nurse practitioner. It’s open now and runs like a Fast Pace Health Clinic and it’s totally free for county and school employees. It’s operating behind Domino’s Pizza.

JL: Tell us more about the mall and that transition.

TB: The county owns everything from the old JCPenney down to Roses. Those stores already up and functioning like Cato or Bath and Body Works may continue to lease/rent as they did before with no change to that. We hope they all stay. Of course, Kroger, Dollar Tree and Sally Beauty will remain independent. This, of course, will affect things once we get around to paving the parking lot. Kroger actually owns an L-shape swath of land that includes their fuel station.

We do plan on repaving the parking lot. We have to take up the floor of the JCPenney building and that will have to be done prior to starting the paving project. We need to finish that before we pave due to getting those big heavy trucks in and out of there before we pave. 

I’m also ready to sign some papers with the architect to redo the roof where it’s leaking in that area around JCPenney. We got the bids, it took us a little longer than we thought, but we got that squared away. I expect to see some work starting on that right after Thanksgiving. Some of the mall’s roof has been replaced more recently and we won’t need to do that. Almost 29,000 square feet is what we intend to replace.

JL: What about the construction in front of the mall? Do you have anything to do with that?

TB: While I have heard a lot of complaints about this, the county nor the city government has to do with that. That is strictly a TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) project. While we know it’s a hassle and that it has affected some of the mall business, please know we can’t directly do anything about it. That’s a state project. I know they’re working as fast as they can.

JL: You had mentioned when you first became county executive that you’d like to see something done about syncing up the lights that run along the bypass. Any luck with that so far?

TB: What I have learned is that is a city issue, not a county one. I do know they have the right departments on it. They are looking to rework those lights. As someone who drives a tractor trailer or a big dump truck this can be a real problem. Most towns have their bypass traffic lights synced up to prevent the stop and start. 

JL: How’s the Warren County Animal Shelter going? There’s an expansion in the works?

TB: Yes, it’s coming on. We’ve actually cleared off the ground in front of the jail across the highway for the new building. A lot of people don’t realize that’s what’s happening there. We just got done last weekend and we have the pad cut for the building. We’re waiting on City Alderman Stacey Harvey to get his walls ready. They’ve actually donated the walls for this new building. We expect it to be close to 6,000 sq. feet. The current building is about 2,700 square feet. So this is going to be a big expansion for them. A lot of folks have complained about the shelter being full, so this is really going to help them.

JL: When people ask what are the differences in city and county taxes - why do we have to pay both if we live in the city - what do you tell them?

TB: Yes, there is some misunderstanding out there about that. I tell them city taxes pay for regular trash pickup including brush. City dwellers have a full-time, paid-for fire department. The county depends on volunteers. The city has a police department that can respond quicker due to distance and it needs to be funded, among other things.

JL: What are your Thanksgiving plans? Do you have a message for your constituents for the holidays?

TB: Most of my family gets together. My wife’s family will have a Thanksgiving, my mom will have a dinner. It’s just a good time when you get together with your family. My kids live within a mile of me.  I have three sons and a daughter, five grandkids and one due right before Christmas. I just hope everybody enjoys their family and has a good time during the holidays.