The Greene County Commission has authorized the 911 Emergency Communications District to secure a federal grant and loan for new radio equipment.
The commission’s action on Monday lets Greene County 911 seek a $30,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and low-interest USDA loan to pay the remaining cost of the upgrades. Loan figures reported in July were about $404,500 with a five-year term and 3.5% interest rate.
Greene County Attorney Roger Woolsey explained at this week’s meeting that, even though 911 is an independent entity under state law, Tennessee Code Annotated requires that any of the emergency communications district’s bonds or indebtedness be approved by the county’s governing body.
The county would not be obligated in any way for repayment of the loan, Woolsey said.
Commissioner John Waddle, who also serves on the 911 Board, said that the resolution is a formality in the process required of 911 to secure the USDA grant and loan.
Original plans called for radio equipment manufacturer Motorola to finance the upgrade. When seeking the USDA grant, however, 911 Director Jerry Bird learned the federal agency would also finance the equipment purchase at a lower interest rate of 3.5%, Waddle said.
The lower rate will save 911 about $7,000 annually in payments, he said.
Commissioners approved the resolution unanimously, but several expressed concern about 911’s finances and its ability to repay the loan.
A phone surcharge, collected and distributed by the state, is 911’s primary source of revenue. That surcharge has not changed in almost a decade.
Last month, commissioners approved a resolution supporting a proposed increase in the surcharge at the state level, along with changes to how the revenue is distributed to 911 districts statewide.
The county and Town of Greeneville governments also provide annual budget appropriations to the agency.
Commissioner Teddy Lawing, who also serves on the 911 Board, said that the emergency communications district has a budget deficit this year, as it has the past few years. He said 911’s financial condition is unlikely to improve unless changes are made.
Although the county is not responsible for payments should 911 default, Lawing said the county and municipalities will eventually have to address its financial difficulties if changes are not made.
A plan for 911 funding needs to be formulated by the county and the municipalities before there is an emergency financial situation, he said.
Commissioner Josh Keterson said that the local governing bodies do have some responsibility for 911’s finances.
“We put the cart before the horse,” he said. “They came to us proposing central dispatch and we told them to pursue it without giving them any extra funding.”
Greene County 911 and local law enforcement have been in the process of establishing a central dispatch site to route all calls for local law enforcement and emergency agencies. The change aims to increase efficiency and decrease emergency response times by reducing the number of times a call must be transferred or otherwise re-routed.
The Greene County Sheriff’s Department and Greeneville Police Department have historically dispatched the calls for their respective departments.
Now, a Greeneville Police Department dispatcher is at 911 in training for the transition to a central dispatch system. A sheriff’s department dispatcher will begin training in January.
In other business, the commission approved a resolution authorizing the Register of Deeds Office to charge a $2 electronic submission fee for each document filed using the registrar’s electronic filing portal on the internet. The charge would be in accordance with state law.
Register of Deeds Joy Rader said that the additional revenue would be used to address operational needs in the office.
The commission also appointed Heather Sipe as interim Emergency Management Agency director. Longtime EMA Director Bill Brown announced his intention to retire effective Sept. 1 after 31 years of service to the county.
Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison said he expects the process to select a director may take six months. The county will accept resumes from interested individuals and candidates will be interviewed and recommended to the commission.
The addition of Sugar Cane Lane to the official Greene County road list was approved on first reading. The road is under construction. Woolsey explained that once the road is completed, its addition to the road list must be considered on second, final reading
Definitions for billboards and off-premise directional signage were approved as additions to the county’s zoning regulations. County Building Official Tim Tweed said that neither had been previously addressed.
A budget amendment for the Greene County Sheriff’s Department was approved to a reflect a $7,000 donation from the Greene County Literacy Council for educational resources and $701 in sales of recycled materials.
A resolution to allow the Highway Department to use $171,000 in its unassigned fund balance to replace obsolete and well-worn equipment was also authorized.
Both drivers were injured in a crash about 5:55 p.m. Wednesday on U.S. 11E near Oakdale Drive South in Limestone.
A Tennessee Highway Patrol preliminary crash report said that 20-year-old Michael Sayers, of Limestone, was northbound on Oakdale Drive South in a 2001 Ford F-150 pickup truck before crossing the westbound lanes of the highway.
The truck struck a 2015 Nissan Altima driven by 21-year-old Raheem Young, of Greeneville.
Both vehicles burst into flames after the collision, sending up a cloud of black smoke visible for miles.
Both drivers were taken to Johnson City Medical Center. Their conditions were not available Thursday morning.
The report did not specify whether a passenger in Sayers’ truck, 20-year-old Tyler Dillard, of Fall Branch, was injured.
Both drivers were wearing seat belts.
The rush-hour crash tied up westbound traffic on U.S. 11E until the scene could be cleared.
In addition to the THP, first responders on scene included the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, Limestone Volunteer Fire Department, Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad and Greene County-Greeneville EMS.
The Greene County Commission will continue exploring options to pay for electronic monitoring bracelets for indigent defendants released on bond and awaiting trial.
The commission approved a resolution to continue to participate in a state program that in the past has provided all the funding for the monitoring bracelets for the indigent.
Those deemed able to pay for the monitors are responsible for the cost.
A judge can order bracelets as a condition of release on bond.
In May the state announced that it would no longer pay the entire cost of monitors and would require counties to share half of the expense. County Attorney Roger Woolsey explained the situation to the Greene County Commission on Monday.
The cost for the county was reported as $100 per bracelet monitor.
Woolsey said that the counties are required to inform the state by Sept. 15 if they want to continue participating in the program.
Since that would be prior to the Commission’s next meeting and it had not been included on the agenda for the August session, the commission voted to suspend its rules to consider the resolution this week.
Woolsey explained that the resolution allows the county to stay in the program, but it does not obligate the county to pay the other share for the bracelets.
However, if the resolution is not passed by the September deadline, the county would no longer be eligible to participate in the state program and receive partial funding for the bracelets, Woolsey said.
By passing the resolution, the county keeps the option of participating in the state program while having time to look at options available, Woolsey said.
State officials who oversee the program have said other counties have purchased bracelets to provide indigent individuals while others have contracted with vendors to lease bracelets.
The bracelets are monitored by the company that provides them, Woolsey said.
The current county budget includes $50,000 for costs related to the monitors due to the state’s May announcement, but none will be spent without commission approval, Woolsey said.