The Macon County Committee of the Whole met Monday night, and the majority of discussion time was spent on security issues and improvements needed for local schools.
School officials have been meeting with local law enforcement and emergency management officials since the tragic school shooting in Sandy Hook, and have identified a number of areas needing immediate address.
One of the most urgent issues discussed is the school system’s shortage of SROs (School Resource Officers). Macon County currently has three: Terry Atkins is at Macon County High School, Ira Meador at Red Boiling Springs School, and Brian Carter at Macon County Jr. High School. They Board of Education held a special called meeting over the holiday, approving the hire of two new SROs, one to cover Westside Elementary full-time, and the other to rotate between LES, Central, and and Fairlane.
Sheriff Mark Gammons has already begun rotating officers in at those locations, and a final decision on who will permanently fill them should be announced in the next few weeks. They will be funded by the school system and allocated from the Sheriffs’ existing staff.
But at the Commissioners meeting, the need for two more officers was brought up. This would allow every school in Macon to have its own full-time officer.
Sheriff Gammons stated that if these additional two SRO’s are approved by the County Commission that he would assign them as soon as possible but that doing so would seriously deplete his available officers for patrol, and he would have to quickly find replacement officers.
The Sheriff also stated that he does not have enough vehicles for these extra two officers at this time but that they could be provided in the near future when the planned new vehicles are bought this year. The outfitting of these two extra officers with weapons, vests, radios and other required gear and training including their salaries would incur an approximate cost of $43,000 through the end of this school year.
As every SRO must go through a certification training, the sheriff has reserved 4 to 5 slots at the law enforcement academy which starts in a month or two, just in case he cannot find certified officers to hire to replace the extra officers assigned to SRO positions at the various schools.
Other safety needs discussed:
*Classroom doors in all schools can only be locked from the outside. The doors need to be modified with new locking systems to permit locking from inside and outside. The approximate cost for this is $45,000 for the 350 to 400 doors, which need to be converted.
*The schools also need a more effective “lock down” alarm system which can be activated from areas other than the main office areas. This will allow a immediate notification when and if an emergency event occurs, warranting the immediate “locking down” of the schools. The projected cost of this is approximately $13,600.
*Six of our schools are in need of entry “containment areas” where persons entering the school can be buzzed in and interviewed and verified BEFORE they have access to the interior school areas… the projected cost for these areas are $7000 per area or about $42,000 total.
*There is an exterior walkway at one school which is used by students and faculty when moving from one class is another… this area needs to be enclosed for security at a roughly estimated cost of $150,000 to $230,000.
*Finally, there is one school which is in serious need of some additional surveillance cameras and fencing enclosures.
The County Commission approved a motion to immediately fund the two additional SRO officers through the end of this current school year. They also agreed to fund the changing of the classroom door locks contingent upon the school system coming up with the money needed to procure and install the enhanced “lock down” alarm system.
The remaining items will be considered and plans to implement will be reviewed in coming meetings.
In other business:
Budget amendments which we merely moving money line items to proper places (no additional expenditures) were approved for EMS, Landfill, Industrial Development/THDA and Public Safety Projects –E911.
Approved: A Resolution to apply for Community Development Block Grant for waterline improvements in the county, Resolution to Consolidate Emergency Dispatch for Macon County and Resolution to recognize MCHS Cheerleaders.
Sheriff had engineering report on economics of installing LED lighting systems for the Justice Center. The engineering study indicates that a cost savings of around $5300 dollars per year is possible if the current lighting is replaced with LED system for those lights which burn continuously. The total installation costs would run approximately $100,000 which could possibly be funded about 80% by grant monies. The Commissioners agreed to allow the engineering company to proceed with the grant request and review the details of the study for further consideration if the grant is approved.
Mayor Linville reported that a petition had been received from residents of Hicks Hollow Road requesting that a 25 MPH speed limit be posted. The Commissioners approved this request for final consideration by the Committee of the Whole.
EMS Director Kirby discussed the revisions of the Ambulance Regulations which were required to comply with the new aspects of the Federal Affordable Care Act in regards to the operation of private or nonprofit ambulance services within Macon County.
All elected officials were reminded that their State of Tennessee Ethics filings were due this month.