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EMA, county fire look to expand

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 1/25/22

County officials discussed the plan to move the Emergency Management Agency to the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center (TRC) building behind Shelbyville Central High School’s football field. Doing so would provide more space for Bedford’s EMA.  

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EMA, county fire look to expand

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During last Tuesday’s committee meetings, County officials discussed the plan to move the Emergency Management Agency to the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center (TRC) building behind Shelbyville Central High School’s football field. Doing so would provide more space for Bedford’s EMA.  

“As we grow, it’s going to be critical we have the right resources in the right places,” said Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham at last Tuesday’s meeting. Graham served as the County’s Director of Emergency Medical Services from 1997 to 2014.  

The TRC building was constructed by the County but leased by the State of Tennessee. Now, the County has collected “more than they paid for the building,” Graham said. The lease will be up by June 30. And with the state going more and more remote, they no longer need the space of the TRC building.  

Graham said it could support a “full-function, next generation emergency management system” as it currently sets with minimal renovations.  

“We think it makes a lot of sense that we can move our emergency management operation to this facility with the option that if 911 wants to come...they could add on to the side of the building,” Graham said as a possibility.  

More equipment, more space  

However, Bedford County’s Fire Department faces challenges as they require more space to house their equipment.  

Fire Chief Mark Thomas said at Tuesday’s meeting that the water rescue of Christopher Palmer, 22, who died after an apparent suicide in the Duck River on Jan. 17, presented a major concern for the first responders.  

Thomas said that the County is blessed to have diving equipment and trained first responders. People don’t have to wait for someone from Nashville for specialty rescues, Thomas said.  

“We didn’t need that particular diving equipment because we were able to recover the car without diving... But given that water current, we had to wait for the deck truck, so they could be tied off,” Thomas said. 

 But had the equipment needed to be used, Thomas said, “When you got stuff scattered over here and there, instead of it all being deployed at once, you got a 20- or 30-minute deployment.”  

Since outgrowing their original building, Thomas said he has equipment stored in Shelbyville, Unionville, and Wheel. Some of the equipment is “sitting outside.”  

“That diver equipment needs to be in climate control. I just don’t have anywhere to put it that can be accessible to us,” he said.  

The committee talked about the possibility of moving the fire department into the TRC building along with EMA, but Graham said the building is not configured to also house the fire department.  

“Having the other conversation with them, it’s actually getting that equipment under roof, climate controlled, and making sure highly trained professionals are with that,” Graham said.  

Graham explained that the majority of first responder training now is “highly technical,” while the equipment is calibrated and has to be “checked off and managed.”  

“It’s not like the old days when somebody would roll up with an SUV and pull out some flippers with duct tape and a hose, then jump in the water,” Graham said.  

Chief Thomas added, “The needs of the community have developed to where we have to have all this specialized equipment. I don’t know if anybody ever had the vision of 30 years down the road that we’d be here. But here we are.”  

Drug task force  

There were 11 drug investigations in Bedford County last December, mainly for crystal meth and marijuana, according to Sheriff Austin Swing. Crystal meth and marijuana are generally the top two drugs found in investigations for Bedford and most other Tennessee counties, Swing said.  

During last Tuesday’s law enforcement committee meeting, Commissioner Greg Vick asked Jason Sudberry, Director of Adult Misdemeanor Probation, if there were any type of educational opportunities afforded to those arrested on drug charges and whether they were taking advantage of those opportunities.  

Sudberry said for specific charges of DUI or a simple possession, there are Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment (ADAT) grants and Supervised Probation Offender Treatment (SPOT) grants, which officers fill out to get state funds to get the clients into rehab.  

But the client has got to want to go, Sudberry emphasized. He said it’s a 60-40 failure rate. Commonly, once the clients are in rehab, “two days later, they’ve skipped out,” Sudberry said. But “We try to push rehabilitation versus going to jail because as an officer we want to see success,” he said.  

USBR 121  

The Rules and Legislative Committee approved the resolution for the resolution of the U.S. Bike Route 121, a federal bike route that will connect New York to Florida. 

 “The bike route will come through Bedford County. It will be a great tourism opportunity. It will help consolidate and keep our areas in a unique position for maintaining the pristine areas,” said Commissioner Greg Vick.  

The USBR 121’s route is not official, but Commissioner Linda Yockey, who has headed this project, said it will come up Highway 130 and “meander” towards Flat Creek and Wheel. 

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