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Committee talks of growing pains

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 11/27/21

Growing pains within a county aren’t always bad. It just falls on local officials to figure out how to best deal with the growth in a positive manner. 

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Committee talks of growing pains

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Growing pains within a county aren’t always bad. It just falls on local officials to figure out how to best deal with the growth in a positive manner. As well, the residual effects of COVID-19 are now being addressed by Bedford County Government.  

As had been widely discussed among county officials, Bedford County faces both an increase of residents but as well, a decrease of workers.  

“Everybody is struggling with staffing, nation-wide. It’s not just a Bedford or Tennessee problem,” said Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham at Tuesday afternoon’s financial management committee meeting. 

EMR program  

One of the areas affected by both the increase in population but the decrease in workforce is emergency medical services.  

However, a high school level program called emergency medical responder (EMR) is set to help with the labor shortage, county officials said.  

“To remind everybody, we worked on a strategy to these ups-and-downs with staffing. So, one of the things were doing— the huge one—is doing their own teaching, really giving them the opportunity to lean in on local folks...That’s exciting,” said Graham.  

EMR is the first step for getting into the EMT program. Those who pass those levels can easily transition into the emergency medical technician program right out of high school.  

“It’s almost like a dual enrollment situation,” said Graham, who served as director of Bedford County Emergency Medical Service before taking office. “They come right out of high school ready to go into that program, whether they’ve actually locked if they’re going to career technical education or further academics.”  

The programs at Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and the junior colleges are not meeting the demand that the system needs for EMT and EMTAs, said Graham, mostly due to scheduling conflicts.  

The Tennessee EMS Education Association wants to see it go from 15 pilot sites to 30, according to Graham.  

Assistant Director at Bedford County EMS, Brett Young, said during the meeting that they had a 100% pass rate on skills in the emergency medical program.  

Graham complimented their work saying, “One hundred percent pass rate as you just heard on the skills is phenomenal. That’s a very difficult challenge for any program.”  

The county’s EMS is short staffed by one paramedic and one EMT, according to Young. They were short around 10 employees at one point.  

“So, to be able to turn that around and actually ‘grow them at home,’ you might say, is huge and significant for our county, so we’re grateful for that,” said Graham.  

Commissioner Linda Yockey added, “The response time looks awesome. So, thank you.” The average emergency response time for the City of Shelbyville is 5:54, while the County is 10:49.  

The new ambulance is expected to come by June, Young said.  

“All this that’s been done by our team and this committee and commissioners has set us above a lot of what other counties are able to do and to keep us staffed. So we commend you for that, and just very thankful for the opportunity we have to serve,” said Young.  

New school and growth  

In other business items, a school board resolution was unanimously passed to go to the commission for funds for the new elementary school to be located near the 437 Bypass.  

“The resolution is so we can borrow money to pay the architects because that’s the first cost you’re going to have until we can get the bond issue,” said Bedford County Finance Director Robert Daniel.  

Bedford Schools superintendent Dr. Tammy Garrett said they have had to hire two more teachers at Cascade Elementary since the beginning of the school year.  

“So, we’re continuing to add teachers across the district with new students and, with what we hear, as they’re building new houses and things like that,” said Garrett. 

Area continues to grow  

Highway Superintendent Mark Clanton presented a grant opportunity from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to conduct a corridor study in the northern part of the county on U.S. 231 to U.S. 41A. The study would include traffic flow and road improvement studies.  

“That seems to be the area that is growing the most right now with all the industrial things we’ve got going on,” said Clanton. “That also helps with my conversation that I’ve been having with TDOT also about trying to make 231 five lanes — do away with the median in the middle — to be prepared for the heavy influx of traffic we know we’re going to have in the next two or three years.”  

Solid waste  

According to Diane Forbes, officer manager for Bedford County Solid Waste, thefts of metal material have occurred at the El Bethel locations.  

“Since metal is up so much, we’ve had some theft there. But that is basically the only one,” said Forbes.  

The solid waste department is also in the process of obtaining a safety grant for security cameras to be installed at each of the centers, primarily to monitor accidents. New compactors are scheduled to come in the first week of December.  

Archives 

Mayor Graham said they are “on track” to finishing up Courthouse renovations by spring.  

“They haven’t found any money in the walls that freaked them out yet,” Graham said. But they are struggling with getting supplies on time. For example, some of the technology supplies going into the courtroom are “all over the place” as “one minute there are too many of them and the next, nobody’s got one,” Graham said.  

Juvenile detention  

Bedford County Juvenile Detention Center has a projected annual loss of $175,000. At a previous financial committee meeting, the juvenile detention was losing some $224,000 annually.  

“I think one of the things that’s making the juvenile detention numbers improve or look some better is we went through a period where we weren’t taking any out of the county during the COVID, right? So, now were back to accepting,” Graham explained. 

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