County Commissioner Michael Shane Wilcher’s stand against a forceful land acquisition attempt by West Warren Viola Utility District has become an uphill battle.
Last month, Wilcher requested the county attorney, the firm of Larry Stanley and Robert Bratcher, to draft a resolution “denouncing the unlawful acts and actions by West Warren Viola Utility District in attempting to take private property from the Jarrell family in Coffee County.”
Wilcher says his emails were returned.
“My emails to Stanley and Bratcher have been getting kicked back to me for about two weeks now,” he said. “That wasn’t the norm in the past.”
After his request went without response, Wilcher wrote his own resolution using the format used by the county in one supporting Caney Fork & Western Railroad, and he attempted to have his resolution placed on the County Commission docket to be considered Feb. 16.
His attempt received a response from Stanley. According to County Executive Herschel Wells, the resolution was rejected by legal counsel.
“Pursuant to your emailed request for your resolution regarding the West Warren Viola Utility District to be added to the February court docket, county attorney Larry Stanley has reviewed the document and advised that the resolution should not be included on the docket,” said Wells.
The following reasons were cited:
• The resolution has not been through committee.
• The body of the resolution is outside of the caption.
• The resolution would subject the county and its commissioners to a defamation lawsuit by calling the utility district and its board fraudulent.
• The resolution clearly violates the Tennessee Constitution, which would put each commissioner in jeopardy of his or her oath.
“Mr. Stanley further advised that if you wish to pursue presenting your resolution, you may follow procedure to amend the docket,” said Wells.
While Wilcher’s resolution will not be placed on the Feb. 16 docket for consideration, commissioners are allowed to amend the docket and add an item. However, the resolution must receive a motion and second to the motion, as well as majority vote, before it is added and considered.
The resolution is an attempt by Wilcher to stop the utility’s ongoing efforts to take the Jarrell family property by eminent domain, a legal term that means the right of a government or its agent to take private property for public use with payment or compensation.
“It’s wrong to take the Jarrell’s land by force,” said Wilcher.
Over the past three years, the utility has been embroiled in a bitter land dispute with the fami-ly. The source of contention is a 5.75-acre portion of land near Manchester atop Flat Mountain. While the utility determined it would be the ideal location to improve water supply to Morrison and to en-courage future expansion at Mountain View Industrial Park, the family does not want to sell land that has been in the family for six generations.
To date, courts have ruled against the utility district’s attempts to take the land by force on three occasions -- May 2013, August 2013, and June 2014. The utility was ordered to pay the Jarrell family’s legal fees.