The Williamson County Board of Commissioners received verbal reports from three heads of county offices at its first monthly meeting of 2022 Monday evening.
County Mayor Rogers Anderson, Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden and Williamson Medical Center CEO Phil Mazzuca updated the board on new projects and business underway in their departments.
Anderson reported that the Williamson County Election Commission's daily operations are now being conducted at its new office located at 405 Downs Blvd. in Franklin. Staff has moved into the building, and the business section of the Williamson County Clerk’s Office will also be moving to this location once renovations are complete.
Anderson then presented a proposal for an additional county commission meeting in the month of February due to a recommendation from the comptroller.
The county will receive a total of $43 million from the American Rescue Plan. It received $23 million in August, and further guidelines to receive the rest of the funds will be released by the United States Treasury on Friday.
The county has been discussing how to disperse the funds with different agencies, with a priority placed on expanding the county's broadband access in the more rural parts of the county. The funds could also go towards utilities projects, as approved by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
"It's 437 pages, so we're looking through that now," Commissioner Paul Webb said. "In the short term, we've been gathering the different agencies that can benefit from the [American Rescue Plan] fund.
"This will potentially enable us to reach the unserved and underserved residents, primarily in the southwest part of Williamson County. ... There are lots of options that these could be used for."
Webb said further plans will be presented to the commission in February or March.
Williamson County Schools
After Anderson left the podium, Golden reported that WCS’s student population swelled over the holidays. Since the district reopened, the student population has increased by 167 students.
"Usually, we have a significant jump [in the winter] that's smaller than the summer," he said. "That gives you a picture of how many folks moved in, basically, over the holidays."
He also noted that the district continues to experience staffing shortages. There is a low number of qualified candidates applying, and retention rates for new staff have decreased.
"We've actually had a net gain in total teachers this year. Our challenge is ... historically, we pay lower than many of our neighbors," Golden said. "Our per-people expenditure is below the state average ... and that is reflected in our salaries.
"Tennessee colleges are producing fewer teachers than the growth demands, and so, the competition is more fierce than it used to be. ... What we're most concerned about long-term is there are fewer teachers in our candidate pool than in the 15.5 years I've been here. That is largely because there are fewer teachers available."
Williamson Medical Center
Mazzuca reported that Williamson Medical Center has seen a recent surge in patients admitted with coronavirus. On Dec. 23, there were 11 COVID-19-positive patients in house, and this number increased to 53 over a period of two weeks on Jan. 5. Mazzuca said the number stabilized at 40 cases Monday.
"When we looked at some of the information we received, it was anticipated that for our region, we would be peaking somewhere around late January to early February," he said. "I'm hoping that information is wrong, because I'd hate to see it jump back into the 50s and 60s.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have treated over 5,000 positive COVID cases, we have hospitalized 1,761 cases and we have performed about 37,000 COVID laboratory tests."
The hospital will also begin construction on emergency room expansions and renovations in mid-March.
The commissioners also passed a number of resolutions Monday night.
Most importantly, the board unanimously approved $8.4 million in funds to be used for WCS teacher and staff raises. They also approved $2,519,700 for the purchase of 23 buses for the 2022-2023 school year.
Other resolutions amended the budgets of the Williamson County Public Library and the Williamson County Parks and Recreation Department.