Polk wants state fees from hunting, fishing

By BRIAN GRAVES brian.graves@clevelandbanner.com
Posted 4/21/17

DUCKTOWN — What happens when a county asks a state agency to leave?

Polk County may be about to find out.

The Polk County Commission voted 7-0 Thursday night to adopt a resolution …

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Polk wants state fees from hunting, fishing

Posted

DUCKTOWN — What happens when a county asks a state agency to leave?

Polk County may be about to find out.

The Polk County Commission voted 7-0 Thursday night to adopt a resolution requesting the state Legislature to allow the county to collect and keep all hunting and fishing fees that would normally be paid to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Commissioner Mark Bishop was absent from the meeting and Commissioner Daren Waters abstained from voting.

The resolution was sponsored by Commissioners Greg Brooks and Daniel Deal.

The document, which is blunt in its wording, says the county “has reviewed the current satisfaction with the performance of TWRA and the substantial fee increases, making Tennessee one of the most expensive places to hunt and fish of any of the surrounding states in the Southeast.”

It also states Tennessee “provides fewer hunting and fishing opportunities than any of the surrounding states.”

“Whereas it is believed by the legislative body of Polk County that there may be harassment to youth and senior citizens by TWRA inspections — whether intentional or not,” the resolution reads.

The commissioners are requesting the state allow Polk County to collect hunting and fishing fees and keep them, “furthermore allowing the county to work with the sheriff’s office to enforce game laws; the fees furthermore being used to fund biologists to conserve for preservation of all fish, wildlife and game.”

The resolution also states any extraneous funding from fee collections would be returned to the state general fund within 120 days within the end of the county’s fiscal year, with such pilot program lasting for a minimum of three years.”

Brooks noted should the county be able to take on the program, it would add extra funding to the sheriff’s department.

“There would be lots of additional funding,” he said. “It’s a game changer.”

“In other words, you are wanting TWRA to leave Polk County,” asked Waters.

“Yes,” Brooks responded. “But, it’s just a pilot program. We’d review it after three years.”

Brooks acknowledged it might take up to a year before the Legislature might be able to take action on the request, adding “We’ve got to start somewhere.”

“We have the highest percentage of any county’s population that purchases licenses,” he added. “It’s about 70 percent of our population that buys hunting and fishing licences. This won’t cost the county anything.”

Brooks said the genesis of the resolution was having the higher fees “rammed down everyone’s throat.”

“There was about 90 percent in a survey that objected to the fee increases and they did it anyway,” he said. “The only success story in Polk County is there has been several state record spotted bass caught at Parksville Lake. They keep breaking the old state record and they’ve got a $2,500 reward and [other fishermen] trying to find out how they got there. That’s the truth.”

“We at least feel like we can do a better job,” Brooks said. “We can try this pilot program.”

He noted there are 17 other counties preparing to look at the Polk County resolution to consider the same action.

Commissioners also voted to accept the offer of the Bradley County Commission to take possession of the old Ocoee Post Office, which now sits on the Primitive Settlement property.

Polk County will accept requests for proposals to determine the cost of moving the structure.

Bradley County has requested it be moved within 60 days, so Polk County will cede the building back to Bradley County, should the cost of moving the building be prohibitive.

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