Tullahoma now has two guaranteed seats on the seven-member Public Building Authority (PBA), the board that owns and operates the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center.
The Coffee County Commission voted April 9 to specify the residential location of members serving on the PBA.
The commission also voted to appoint Claude Morse to the board, replacing Richard Dix.
Morse said he’s looking forward to serving on the board. Morse is involved with several nonprofit organizations throughout Coffee County, including Honor Flight, Project Appleseed and the Arnold Community Council. He is the president of the local Arnold Air Force Association, which runs a scholarship program for military members and their dependents and provides grants to promote science and math education in schools.
According to an opinion issued by County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS), which advises county government on legal matters, two Manchester City appointees – Richard Dix and Jewell Noblitt - were sitting on the board unlawfully, having been appointed last year without the approval of the county commission.
In March, the county commission voted to remove Noblitt from her unconfirmed Manchester seat and confirm her replacement, Zach Lowry, to represent rural Coffee County. However, the commission delayed its decision on Dix as it reviewed the PBA’s revised bylaws.
Last year, the PBA voted to revise its bylaws to give Manchester City an extra seat on the board at the expense of county representation. Under those revised bylaws, the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen would appoint three members to the board to represent Manchester and the Coffee County Commission would select the remaining four members from anywhere within the county.
Once again, CTAS issued an opinion. While the Manchester City Board could certainly make recommendations, only the Coffee County Commission could appoint members to the PBA. This decision rendered the new PBA bylaws ineffective.
Commissioners voted April 9 to specify the residential location of members serving on the authority. The cities of Tullahoma and Manchester would be represented with two members each and rural Coffee County would be represented with three members. All members would be appointed by the county mayor and subject to confirmation by the county commission.
With his appointment confirmed by the commission, Morse replaced Dix on the PBA board.
The board now consists of Tullahoma representatives Chairman Stan Teal and Greg Sandlin; Manchester representatives Morse and David Pennington; and rural Coffee County representatives Lowry, David Pate, and Patricia Pinegar, who was appointed to the board when her seat was designated at-large.
“I’m disappointed that Mr. Dix is no longer with us,” Teal said, adding that he meant no disrespect to Morse. “More than that, I am disappointed in the way it was handled.”
“Mr. Dix was our longest-serving member,” Teal said. “Mr. Dix had experience and knowledge of the operations that really can’t be replaced … but I will say that I’m very proud of this board and the progress that we’ve made in the operations of this conference center over the challenging times that we’ve been through. I’ve said many times that we’re not where we want to be, but we’re certainly closer than where we were. We’re going in the right direction.”
Teal added that Dix has been instrumental in helping PBA get to this point.
“Mr. Dix is in this building at least twice a week and spends hours in this building going over operations and financing and the handling of things,” Teal said. “That being said, if he needed to be replaced, he needed to be replaced.”
Elena Cawley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.