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County Department Heads Report to Council

Daniel Prince

New fire coordinator gives good news on radio repairs

In some of the other highlights from last week’s Union County Council meeting, Katherine Pendergrass presented council members with a framed certificate in appreciation for their support of ReGenesis Health Care.

Amy Palmer was honored for 25 years of service with 911 as a dispatcher; Brad Woods celebrated his 20th anniversary with the Union County Sheriff’s Office; Albert Roark was honored for five years with public works and recycling; and James Jennings celebrated 5 years with the Clerk of Court’s Office as a bailiff.
In department reports, Finance Director Ann Boggs said expenses are on target with where they should be for this time of year.

Sheriff Jeff Bailey said his office is close to being fully staffed. Three deputies are in pre-academy now, and one just graduated last week and is on the road now. He thanked County Council for the pay raises for the employees, which he said has made a big difference in morale. He said there is still a major problem in the county with overdoses, mostly from fentanyl. He said his office is partnering with others at the state federal levels to try and address it. He said drugs are many times a direct link to property crimes, and he mentioned the rash of catalytic converter thefts from church vehicles and others. He noted his office has solved some of those cases. He noted the Department of Public Safety has awarded his office a $68,000 grant for body cameras and storage.

Rusty Snider at Public Works stated his department is fully staffed now. Neil McKeown didn’t have anything to report from the detention center, but he did thank the 9-11 Committee, the sponsors, and all those who attended the ceremony. Tax Assessor Jake Black stated the new aerial photography for the county is finally online for everyone to access. He stated those trying to access it will need to click on the box for 2020 aerials.

Ronnie Wade thanked everyone who has been working together to build the building at the Timken Sports Complex. A number of county departments have collaborated, and inmate labor has been used extensively to help with the project. He noted the need for a tractor and 10’ bush hog for the airport property, which he said he will be requesting from CARES Act funding. Wade stated he wants to approach the FAA about relocating a small cemetery on airport property. He stated there are four graves that they know of, and there is grant money available that could help. He stated he would need permission to use a different engineering firm than the one the airport currently uses to do that project.

Eric Harold with Union County EMS says call volume is way up from last year, with 3737 calls so far this year, compared to 3325 in all of 2020. He stated some of the increase is due to COVID, and another part is the increase in overdoses, with as many as five in a single day. He said response time is 9 minutes, 40 seconds. They have one paramedic opening and one EMT opening, both of which they hope to fill by next month.

Kathy Jo Lancaster updated council on the proposed County Comprehensive Plan. They have produced a three-minute video for use on social media and websites that will be available sometime this week. She will appear on WBCU’s morning show this Thursday to talk about the plan, as well. First reading is scheduled at a special meeting on September 27, with a public hearing and second reading at another special meeting on October 4th, with final reading at the council’s regular October meeting on the 12th. A copy of the plan is posted on the county website, and a physical copy is located at 103 West Main Street.

Curtiss Hunter with the Tourism Commission stated that she is reapplying for the parks direct grant they applied for last year and has received a soft commitment for it. She noted the fairgrounds will host a livestock show from September 23-25. She stated she is compiling a report on the success of the Bluegrass and BBQ event.

New Fire Coordinator Dennis Merrifield updated council with some good news on the radio communications issues the fire departments have been plagued with over the last several years. He said he worked extensively with Motorola, and no part of the radio system has been left untouched. With a final tower climb and repairs to equipment up there, he stated the radio system for the county’s fire departments should be operating the way that it did when it was first installed in 2013. He stated the county needs to look ahead and plan to update and upgrade the technology in future years, because the system will become obsolete and unserviceable. He stated one glaring problem with the existing system is that there is no way to monitor its performance. He stated parts can break down and no one be aware of it until it is needed and someone can’t get through. He stated he is excited to move beyond this immediate problem and begin to plan for the future of fire service in Union County.

Supervisor Frank Hart stated he wants all Union County Council committees to plan meetings before the end of the year, because there are issues that have been referred to committee that have languished over the past several months for lack of meetings, and they need to get those issues moving again.

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