New Commission, new committees

Tuesday, September 27 was a milestone night for me and eight new County Commissioners, when we participated in our very first County Commission meeting. I didn’t know an event could be both exciting and humbling, but that’s how it felt, and I thank you again for giving me this incredible opportunity to serve. I am also extremely grateful and honored that Commissioners elected me to the post of Chairman.
Commission meetings are probably what you picture when you think about what Commissioners actually do, voting on issues that could affect your life.

Meetings are usually short and simple, and Tuesday night’s was no exception. Our agenda included matters we take care of every September to set the stage for the year ahead.
The best example is approval of Commission committees. Committee meetings are the heart of a Commissioner’s job, the place where we fully discuss matters that may or may not end up on the agenda of a bimonthly Commission meeting. Meetings like last night’s are short and simple when the system works as it should.
Committees focus on particular subjects – Budget, Human Resources, Safety, Economic Development, and so on. Commissioners appointed to a committee cast votes in those meetings, but every Commissioner is welcome to attend and join the discussion. Committee meetings are announced through local media so the public can attend as well.

This year we added a new committee to the list: Emergency Services. I am a member, along with Commissioners Shane Eaton, Will Burnett, Roy Hagan, Barry Luffman, Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Shelton Barnett, Lawrenceburg Fire Chief Jay Moore, and Lawrence County Fire & Rescue Director Tyler McDow.

I developed this committee to examine Lawrence County’s emergency services and make sure our growing community continues to get the best service possible. We need to make the best use of our facilities and equipment, but most importantly, our people.

Lawrence County is blessed to have highly-trained first responders, both paid and unpaid, who take care of us in our most urgent times of need. These include employees of the ambulance service, city fire and police departments, and the Sheriff’s Department. Volunteers work as reserve officers, with our 14 Volunteer Fire Departments and Box 50, a unit that brings hydration and medical care to first responders at prolonged rescue operations.
Salaried and unsalaried first responders continually work to increase their skills. Several volunteer firemen are now trained to provide emergency medical care when they arrive at a scene before an ambulance.

The Jason Dickey Memorial Training Center promises to offer basic and specialized training to first responders from Lawrence County and across the region. We are incredibly fortunate to have 20 Lawrence Countians who are state certified instructors and can lead training equal to that offered at Bell Buckle’s Tennessee Fire Academy.

Resources are always limited, but our first responders do amazing work with what they have. There are five specialty teams in our county that are equipped and trained for swift water, high angle, low angle, and grain bin rescues, and for dealing with hazardous materials.

Our volunteers also work as grant writers, securing funds from agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Ethridge Volunteer Fire Department recently received $68,200 in grant funding for a fill station, cascade unit and compressor to fill SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) bottles, and a turnout gear washer and dryer cabinet. Crossroads VFD has been awarded $377,000 to replace their aging fire tanker, which is used to haul water to fires.
With the anniversary of 9-11, we were reminded just how much first responders are willing to sacrifice. We saw the same in our own community, and the Jason Dickey Memorial Training Center honors the friend I lost. Our new committee’s intent is to develop a strategic plan to provide equipment upgrades, explore new funding sources, recruitment, and training, all to help first responders continue do their very difficult job with excellence.