The Commission convened for a special meeting called by the Mayor on Tuesday, May 7th. The purpose of the meeting was to brief the commission on the latest developments from the attorneys regarding the purchase of the hospital. A management agreement with Progressive Health has been signed and is reported to be working well at our facility. The buyers (Progressive Health) have asked to extend the management agreement for one year in order to allow them to amass additional time of managing the hospital before executing the purchase agreement. This will allow Progressive to have a longer record of hospital management which will benefit their position in renegotiating insurance and vendor contracts. The Commission has agreed to this request as it will not delay any deadlines on payments for purchase from Progressive. The Commission had previously agreed to the purchase deal which calls for payout over 3 year period while realizing profit-sharing with Progressive for several years.
The next meeting of the Commission will be at its regular scheduled time on Monday, May 27th.
Decatur County Fire Chief / Flood Plain Manager
The Mayor proposed to the Commission a new compilation position which would address several needs of the county. This position is not “new” in that it required additional monies – it does not. Rather the position is restructuring several current responsibilities and jobs under one position. Mayor Creasy proposed that Commissioner David Whitaker be the nominee for this position due to his extensive experience in fire fighting and emergency services through his years of work with Memphis/Shelby County. If approved, the Commissioner would be required to relinquish his position as Commissioner in order to function as a full-time employee of the County.
The Commission discussed this proposal but did not come to an agreement on the need for this position. Several of the Commissioners voiced their concerns that these responsibilities have been handled by the EMA Director (one person) in the past and they did not see the need for an additional person. A vote was taken that failed 9-6.
After the vote, EMA Director Andrew Sparks spoke to the Commission explaining that they had not fully understood the need for this position. I attempted to re-address the issue but was forced to leave it until later.
After the meeting and in the days following, I have researched the necessity of the request and have uncovered more information that should have been brought forth during our meeting. I believe that because the Commission did not fully understand the new mandates being required by the State and Federal governmental agencies in regard to relief money, grants, etc. that they voted prematurely on this issue.
Below is my letter to the Commission to help better explain the need for this position. To me, it is evident that we should have asked further questions and understood the new requirements better before going to a vote. I urge you to read this and contact your commissioner to let them know your thoughts on this.
I want to bring some information to your attention that we were not fully aware of on Monday night. This is in regard to the proposed combined position of County Fire Chief or Fire Coordinator/Asst. EMA Director/Flood Plain Manager.
As you all know, I research for facts in order to make a sound decision. What I have discovered in looking at this proposed position is that there has been much change in the past several years that is different from the time that Commissioner Cagle held similar position. I will share the details below.
I agree with Commissioners Alexander and Cagle that we should always look at being efficient in saving money, especially in such a small impoverished community. However, in this situation, the sensible and most economical decision is to revisit our vote based on this new information.
In regard to a Deputy EMA Director (currently not filled in Decatur Co.):
As you would expect, TEMA and FEMA have updated their compliance standards and in order to qualify for certain grants that we have relied upon in the past years for operations, we must make some changes. One of these is in dedicating a specific person with a specific amount of time allocated to a given position. Andrew Sparks mentioned this on Monday night, but after we had taken the vote. In hindsight, I wish this had been discussed prior so we could have been better informed.
FEMA / TEMA offers us a $27,000 grant through the Emergency Management Performance Grant to maintain a local EMA office. To qualify for this full amount the county must spend an initial $54,000 (which we have been doing) and provide for at least two persons dedicated to this service. Two people allow for full coverage when one is out, sick or on vacation, etc. The percentage to which these individuals work can be assigned in order to maintain a 100% focus at any given time (i.e. 60%-40%, 70%- 30%, etc.). If we fail to provide adequate staffing for this, the County stands to lose an estimated $14,000 according to the State.
In regard to the position of a County-wide Fire Chief or Coordinator:
As you know, the County does not have a full-time professional firefighting staff; however, we are so very fortunate to have groups of volunteers that cover the County from top to bottom. Because our folks are only volunteers, they are not privileged to participate in daily or regular training and protocols. Governmental “red tape” has created a situation with reporting and maintaining records that is no longer able to be done on a part-time basis. Requirements for compliance with training have only increased and should not be expected to decrease over the next years. Additionally, taking steps to standardize all of our protocols, equipment, etc. throughout each of the fire departments, could be done more efficiently with a dedicated person to oversee the multiple parts. Assigning a County-wide Fire Chief or Fire Coordinator would solve these issues.
Decatur County has applied for three substantial grants:
· $247,000 – for turnout gear
· $230,000 – for breathing apparatus
· $345,000 – for new tankers
This is a total investment of $822,000 - a huge bonus for our small county!
All three of these grants require compliance with NFIRS, NIMS and ICS standards. It is my understanding that we currently are only at 50% compliant. This means more training and better record keeping. We cannot allow this much investment to slip through our hands. We must act now to meet the requirements and secure this money for our County and for the safety of our fire fighters. Further, we must make sure that we stay in compliance so that we can legally keep these funds and not be forced to repay grant money if we fail to meet the requirements.
And finally, the issue of a Flood Plain Administrator:
This position has not been filled in the past five years; and we have seen first hand how important this is during the recent floods. It has taken many unpaid hours and many volunteers to deal with the many responsibilities we faced during this emergency. However, none of those hours of volunteers can be considered a “plan” to address future flooding emergencies. The state and fed require that we assign a dedicated person to administer the programs from which we will receive money for reconstruction of our infrastructure.
There is an urgency in this qualification as our deadline is July 1 in order to qualify for the federal/state program. Again, this money is extremely important to rebuilding and we cannot allow this to slip away.
A secondary importance of this Flood Plain Administrator position is that by meeting qualifications for programs, the citizens who own property along the river and in the flood plains are eligible to apply for the National Flood Insurance Program. Without filling this position, none of our people will be able to take advantage of this program. I have already spoken with several people who have significant investments along our river and they are very concerned with this issue. In my opinion, we would be negligent in our duties to our citizens if we fail to act and cost them the opportunity for this vital insurance.
All of these facts together paint an entirely different picture than what many of us had previously understood. Our vote this week was taken in good faith of saving the County money and being frugal with our tax dollars. However, this new information changes the dynamic of that decision and begs for us to re-examine our earlier decision. Because the Mayor has shifted money from various line items in order to accommodate a salary line for this compilation position, we are not spending any additional money in trying to fulfill the necessary compliance to receive these monetary benefits. Rather, we would be losing money if we chose not to act to fulfill this position.
I urge each of you to check out these facts for yourselves and discuss this new information. I believe that it is in our best interest to re-address this issue with new eyes and make a better-informed decision. Time is of the essence due to deadlines, so I suggest that we consider a special called meeting for this matter or combine this with our hospital issue in a special called meeting for both issues.
Thank you all for taking time to read this long epistle. I look forward to hearing from each of you.
Commissioner – District 8
The Decatur County Commission met on Monday, April 22nd at the Courthouse in Decaturville for its regular monthly meeting. On the agenda were the following items:
Updating the Policy for Title VI Compliance.
The Tennessee Title VI Policy deals with discrimination and states that “no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, as provided by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity.” In order to receive government funded grants, loans or programs, a county must have a policy about complying with this law and must include such in its operations.
This policy is to be updated as necessary and the Commission affirmed the updated language to be included in various policy references. In Decatur County, the individual who has been tasked with overseeing this compliance is EMA Director Andrew Sparks.
If you feel that you have been unlawfully discriminated against by a department or agency of Decatur County, you may file a formal complaint. The complaint must be in writing and filed with the county’s director, Andrew Sparks, within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory occurrence. You may contact the Mayor’s office for further information at 731-852-2131.
2019-2020 Litter Grant Resolution
The Commission approved a resolution which authorizes the county to apply for a Litter and Trash Collecting Grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation. This grant is estimated to be for $44,200 and will be administered by the Decatur County Clean program.
Bath Springs Volunteer Fire Department Request
The Bath Springs VFD has requested that the County donate a parcel of land (1.72 acres) to them in order to expand their facility. The Commission granted this request.
The commission approved various inter-departmental money transfers in order to pay for certain expenses. Note that these requests for transfer are not NEW monies.
· D.C. Senior Center – transfer $1,350 to cover travel expenses ($300) and utilities ($1050)
· Trustee – transferred $4,245 to cover new office equipment.
· DC Highway Dept – Transferred $2,400 to cover new employee costs through June 30, 2019.
· DC Library – Transferred $1,400 of funds to correct accounting entries for grant received.
· DC EMS – Transferred $21,800 to cover fuel, overtime and payroll costs.
· Register of Deeds – Transferred $4,100 for BIS (gov. computer access) fees.
The next list of transfers deal with different types of requests – some of which is new money being requested. All of these were approved by the Commission:
· Sanitation Management Dept – requested a new accounting line for inclusion of the new truck purchased last month. $160,940 will be placed on the books to be paid in monthly increments for this purchase. Requested by Mayor Creasy.
· Sheriff’s Dept – requested transfer of grant monies of $26,245.62 received by County be transferred to their account for reimbursement of costs. This was for the purchase of new equipment.
· Sheriff’s Dept / Jail – requested for temporary payment of bills ($23,664.35) for medical/dental services for state inmates which will be reimbursed by the State’s Dept of Corrections.
· Mayor’s Office – requests transfer of funds paid to County for warrant services be moved to new line item. ($5,000)
· Solid Waste Dept – request for payment for retroactive bill for insurance (Mar-Dec 2018) to correct accidental dropped insurance benefits for employee. Requested by Mayor Creasy.
· DC EMS – requested credit to account for reimbursement from insurance company for unused premium balance.
· Mayor’s Office – request payment on account for legal fees regarding hospital. County paid $100,000 on the current billing from Sherrard Roe Voight & Harbison Attorneys.
· Mayor’s Office – request payment on account for legal fees regarding landfill. County paid $25,000 on the current billing from Sherrard Roe Voight & Harbison Attorneys.
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