County commission meeting covers public health and safety matters

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Williamson County Commission

The Williamson County Commission heard reports concerning public health and safety concerns in the county at its Monday meeting. 

The first Williamson County Commission meeting of 2020 featured a slew of reports from various county offices, providing a large load of information pertaining primarily to public health and safety. 

Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden began his report early in the meeting Monday evening, sharing that Creekside Elementary School will open on Jan. 22 and hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 26. 

During the superintendent’s report, District 3 Commissioner Keith Hudson explained some of his constituents have sent him photos of children standing on buses, concerned about overcrowding He asked the superintendent what the district is doing to draw in new drivers. 

Golden said children should not be standing on buses, and then explained much of Middle Tennessee is facing driver shortages, and the district provides many incentives for new drivers. 

Prospective bus drivers can receive the necessary training free through the district. In fact, they’re paid $10 an hour as they undergo training. Drivers are also provided health benefits despite the job’s part-time status. Golden said WCS attempts to recruit through job fairs and word of mouth. 

Williamson County Health Director Cathy Montgomery reported 232 flu shots were given at Fairview and Longview recreation centers and at the Williamson County Administrative Complex, and Franklin Special School District and Fairview schools administered 632 flu shots to students. 

She also said after completing a community health needs assessment a couple years ago with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, suicide has become a major health concern for the health department. According to Montgomery, from 2013 to 2018, Williamson County reported 143 deaths by suicide, and from July 2017 to October 2019, 257 attempted suicides and 552 suicide threats were recorded. 

She mentioned Franklin Mayor Ken Moore’s mental health panel as one example of community action, which is developing a plan to educate the public about signs of suicide, compile resources and create a referral plan for those struggling with mental health. 

“We’ve just recently on Friday submitted a grant to Vanderbilt so that we can do some education in the community,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to certify folks in ‘question, persuade and refer.’ It’s an evidence-based practice — QPR training.” 

Moore has said the panel plans to make its public debut in May of this year. 

The community’s concern for safety was also reflected in another agenda item Monday night. District 5 Commissioner Beth Lothers explained a resolution proposing an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would allow gated subdivisions and private streets in the county. 

“Some of you were here when I wasn’t in 2013 when it was taken out of the zoning ordinance,” she said. “Staff has responded and, I think, the planning commission also to citizens’ requests, to private property owners’ requests to bring you the gated option back in the zoning ordinance.” 

The commission passed the resolution, which requires the homeowners’ association of a gated subdivision to cover the costs of gate and private road maintenance. 

The commission provided funds for 15 replacement and six additional buses to account for growth in WCS and approved about $367,000 in startup costs for the soon-to-be-named middle school on Henpeck Lane (the WCS Board of Education will choose a name at its next board meeting on Jan. 21). 

The county also approved funds for a new vet tech at the Williamson County Animal Center, who will assist with microchipping and surgeries, primarily the spay and neuter program for cats. Ondrea Johnson, director of the Animal Center, explained at the budget committee meeting last week the center’s goal is to spay and neuter 2,020 cats this year after last year’s 1,400 from April to October. 

The updated five-year capital plan was adopted as a budgeting tool for the county, including projections for schools, public safety, roads and more through the year 2025. While each project must still undergo approval by the commission, this document shows a tentative timeline for capital projects throughout the county. 

The county commission will meet again on Monday, Feb. 10 in the Williamson County Administrative Complex at 7 p.m.

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