Knox County Commissioners hear arguments on limiting Board of Health’s powers

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County commissioners wrapped up an hours-long work session Monday night.

One of the big topics of discussion? The county’s Board of Health.

It comes as two commissioners, Justin Biggs and Kyle Ward, co-sponsored a resolution to limit the board’s power.

Last week, the board decided to extend its alcohol sales curfew beyond bars making all businesses that serve alcohol end on-premises sales at 11 p.m. That rule went into effect Friday night.

At Monday night’s work session, public forum lasted more than an hour. Commission heard from several speakers pushing back on the Board of Health and the mandates its implemented.

“We can’t vote them out, but you can dissolve them. And it’s really important to dissolve them,” said one speaker at the podium.

“The only remedy afforded this county is to recognize that a county board of health is an unnecessary institution that might have served a purpose in an era of less sophisticated information systems, but in our digital age it is outlasted its value,” said another.

Not everyone that spoke out had those opinions; some praised the health board.

Commissioner Ward, who co-sponsored the resolution that was of particular interest, said he feels like it got misconstrued.

“The main purpose of the resolution is to cover the county liability-wise, so that we’re not getting sued. It does not take away from the board to be able make policy. It protects the citizens a bit more from being arrested and it also protects the county from being sued,” he said.

“The placement of this resolution was basically to show that we weren’t having knee jerk reactions, it was basically to show that we were going to have the opportunity to not have to dissolve the board of health, but we could all collectively come together for something,” said Biggs.

In the end, county commission moved the resolution forward without recommendation to next week. That means everyone agrees it needs more discussion, and it gives commission some time to vet it out and make adjustments before taking a vote, which is planned for next week.

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