By Tim Woerner / Staff Writer

Knox County’s Fiscal Court responded to pleas for a reassessment of Sheriff’s Office financing Tuesday, unanimously approving a 2007 budget that raises the department’s salary cap from $315,000 to $568,352.

The vote at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled fiscal court meeting followed several months of wrangling over the lack of hazardous duty retirement pay – an issue sheriff’s representatives said put the department at a competitive disadvantage compared with other regional law enforcement agencies. Fiscal court members, however, asked whether the court could realistically afford to pay into a state retirement plan with predicted exponential increases in the share required from counties.

“They’ve been working on this for two weeks,” said District 5 Magistrate Giulio Cima. “As far as I understand it’s something that’s worked out. This is what they asked for.”

The arrangement works out to just over $1 million for the department as a whole, including equipment, supplies, maintenance and all other expenses, and should cover nine full-time deputies, two bailiffs and supporting personnel.

In other business, the Court approved a series of appointments and reappointments to the Knox County Utility Commission over the dissenting votes of District 3 Magistrate Jerry Reed Hamilton and District 4 Magistrate Doyle Gibson, 4-2. That subject arose after the legality of the previous board was called into question due to improper or missing bonds required of officials.

The board’s bylaws reference KRS 74.020(5) in specifying bonding obligations of its members – as well as providing for a fine or a vacancy in office upon failure to meet said requirements.

“They weren’t a functioning board,” said District 1 Magistrate Carson Gilbert.

Gary Eversole (one year term), Don Carter (two years), David Evans (three years), Phillip Ross and Marty Smith (four years each) comprise the newly appointed board. Eversole and Evans are reappointments.

In other action, the court:

• Changed the name of 28 Grippo Lane in Gray to 28 Superior Lane.

• Approved a municipal lease truck program and authorized Judge-Executive J.M. Hall to finalize agreements on bid specifications.

• Employed James Howard to replace Brian Lawson in the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and increased the pay of Ronnie Travis Hubbard.

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