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Budget Committee Meeting Minutes – November 10, 2022 (Approved)

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10 NOVEMBER 2022


The Chair, Commissioner Erin Curry, opened the meeting stating the prayer and pledge had been offered in a previous same-day meeting.  The Minutes of 29 September 2022 were moved for approval by Commissioner Matt Hopkins and seconded by Commissioner Gayle Jones and were approved unanimously.


First Agenda Item – School Amendment.  Since members of the budget committee had heard the amendment discussed in a previous same-day school meeting, Commissioner Gayle Jones moved for approval and with Commissioner Matt Hopkins providing the second, the amendment was approved unanimously.


Second Agenda Item – County Amendment.  The Chair asked Beth Moore-Sumners, Director of Financial Management, to address this amendment.  The Director addressed each line item under the County General Fund 101 as follows:  OEM With the Office of Emergency Management being short staffed, the assistant Jennie Myers picked up more responsibilities and the amendment is to provide a one time bonus recognizing that initiative;  for the Jail amendment, the change is to address training and is an additional incentive for that training; for Accounting and Budgets the amendment is to cover an overlap of December through June for a back-up employee need caused by the retirement of Nancy Griffin and is a one-time cost for that period.  The amendment also covers Budgeting software (both back-up employee and budgeting software approved in the Financial Management meeting of 3 November).  The Director is in the process of getting additional quotes and checking with other counties and the amendment cost of $14,240 is to cover a December through June time period, with a potential cost of $24K for a full year in the following year with a small offset savings due to school inclusion.  A question by Commissioner Matt Hopkins about where data will be hosted which could cause liability was asked and the Director asked if the Commissioner might be available to assist with the technical aspects of the purchase.  The Director stressed this is for budget information only, not operational information; next amendment addressed the PES Broadband grant which has been awarded but the contract has not yet been signed and no funding has yet been received.  PES has asked that the $500K be released to them.  Commissioner David Wamble noted that the $500K was approved as the last dollar matching fund and was to be expended in total only if the PES grant was for 100% coverage.  The Director noted that the America Rescue Plan funding is included in the General Fund Balance and was identified as “Loss Revenue” (where the fund balance was to be the source of the $500K funding) and as such has no specific requirements as to how spent by the county.   The Chair said the PES funding would be out of discussion; the next item – the Waste Pickup Additional Litter Grant does not involved county funds.  The next item – Drug Enforcement includes funding for confiscated items as well as minimum court fees and this amendment is moving funds for operational expenses; and the last item Capital Projects Fund 189 was for the Tennessee Advanced Communications Network (TACN) equipment, discussed below.  A motion by Commissioner Gayle Jones, seconded by Commissioner Matt Hopkins to approve the County Amendments was made and was unanimously approved.


Next Agenda Item – the Tennessee Advanced Communications Network (TACN).  The Chair asked the County Executive Graham Stowe to provide a general overview, where he stated the importance of the TACN given the significant gaps in coverage and lack of interoperability among the several organizational first responders to any natural or other unavoidable casualty event.  He then introduced Mr. Alan Ruhl of Motorola (which has the state contract).  Mr. Ruhl said the TACN will give near 100% coverage with the mobile capability (in vehicles) around 95%+ and the portable (hand held) around 80%+.  The original cost was to be approximately $11M months ago, with a total of 11 sites for the county.  The sites are now to be six towers, with two of those being state towers, two with existing water towers, one in Pulaski, and one in the northwest of the county.  Commissioner Gayle Jones asked to see maps showing the tower locations, especially in light of future plans for the ambulance requirements.  Commissioner Shelly Goolsby asked about other operability, e.g., UT-Southern.  Mr. Ruhl said it could go to any system, and gave an example of a wreck on the interstate.  Commissioner Tracy Wilburn asked if the current price of $6.6M includes the radios and the answer was yes.  A question by Commissioner David Adams on using the towers as rental possibilities to cell phone supplier towers was answered would have to get TACN to sign off.  Commissioner Evan Baddour asked about the timing of the dollars and the County Executive gave 25% this year, 60 or 65% the second year, and 10% or 15% the third year Mr. Ruhl said with the possibility of discount if paid more timely (given inflation costs of materials).   Both Roy Griggs and Josh Young, Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Management Services respectively, discussed the need for some level of redundancy through maintaining the older system.  The Director discussed the 189 account’s history and the use thereof.  Commissioner Tracy Wilburn discussed the importance of being able to communicate during those times of disasters or other events.  A motion by Commissioner Evan Baddour, seconded by Commissioner Matt Hopkins, was unanimously approved.


Next Agenda Item – Ambulance Bonus.  This proposed amendment was to provide a possible $6k bonus to each full time EMS employees with that bonus prorated for others based on time in service.  The proposed budget amount is $137.5K total, and is comparable to previous year bonuses expenditures.   Commissioner David Adams questioned EMS Director Roy Griggs on staffing and expectations of staffing.  EMS Director responded that he has one part time person as new employee but no possible future hire at this time.  Commissioner Matt Rubelsky said he would recommend getting away from bonuses.  The staff shortages are now causing increased overtime and more costly overtime hours where salary increases might be a better answer in retention.  Commissioner Dr. James Lathrop asked if a choice between bonuses and salary increases done by each employee might be possible.  Another suggestion by Commissioner Evan Baddour might be to incentivize high school students with the county covering their training costs.  Director Griggs mentioned some of that is already being pursued with Interim Director Josh Young, and Dustin Blade going into the schools and the county would cover going to advanced training and then paramedic training as well.  Financial Management Director said she sees staff shortages collectively across the county and the Sheriff’s department is losing two deputies with possibility of losing two more which is seriously troubling.  In addition, the schools are shuffling funding around, just to survive.  Any implemented salary increases would come from the fund balance and since all salaries are recurring costs would have to be maintained in the future.  She reiterated that the requirement for TACN is a commitment that would come from that fund balance.  Commissioner Goolsby asked if any one is doing exit interviews; going on the assumption that all are leaving for more pay may be misleading.  Commissioner Caleb Savage mentioned in his field he receives two and one-half times Giles County pay while working in Nashville so he believes 95% leave do leave for more pay; however, he also said the idea of exit interviews was great, that they should be mandatory.  County Executive mentioned that climate assessments are planned.  Commissioner Wamble recommended not cut bonuses out completely.  Commissioner Roger Reedy said that reward differs based on your time in life, i.e., the young want more pay, and the older look to benefits.  He said he had experienced the ambulance service and seen a great level of experience, which command higher pay then we give.  Commissioner Judy Pruett said over the last five years, she considered most of what the county has done is band aiding.  At some point taxes may have to be increased.  A motion to approve the bonus funding by Commissioner Tracy Wilburn failed due to lack of a second.  Commissioner David Adams asked for the annual cost of the proposed amendment, and the Nancy Griffin, Financial Management, said $137.5K like last year.  Commissioner Savage said that he did not agree to only cutting, without additional compensation since if you did lose the employee you may never get them back.  Commissioner Baddour said the commission must face the simple math, that if you – the county commissioner – lost your job by raising taxes you must do what’s best for the county.  He then made a motion to provide a $3K bonus to full time employees and prorate to the others based on time in job with the funding coming from the General Funds.  Commissioner Matt Hopkins seconded.  Commissioner Hopkins further said the bonus is a one-time thing and at budget time, the commission needs to think about the bigger staff shortage problems.  Commissioner Gayle Jones asked about waiting until a climate assessment could be conducted. Commissioner Joyce Woodard asked if the $3k would cover from now until 30 June (yes).  A role call vote was conducted with four yes (Commissioners Curry, Wilburn, Hopkins, Baddour) and three no (Commissioners Adams, Pruett, and Gayle Jones).  The motion was approved and recommend to fund will be provided to the full commission.


Next Agenda Item – Fiber Grants.   Commissioner Evan Baddour asked about the overall status, i.e., three grants have now been awarded, one being PES who has requested the $500K (from fund balance), United Health who asked for $1.5M, and Ardmore Telephone who has not asked for funding.  The County Executive said there will not be any funds provided until the contracts are signed which is expected around 30 November.  Commissioner Wamble reiterated that the county was only going to give a prorated amount, i.e. according to the overall grant coverage and up to $500K.  Several commissioners said they would like to see the coverage on a map.  The Chair said remember Ardmore did not ask, and that nothing has ever been negotiated.  The Chair said if Ardmore wants fundings (estimated $1.7M), they would need to show proof.  The County Executive said that more info is needed, however PES had asked and the commission would not meet until Jan 2023.  Commissioner Gayle Jones asked if it would be possible to see the contracts so as to verify.  The County Executive said if PES has a resolution, they could start buying material, and Commissioner Wamble said we want this broadband.  The County Executive said another resolution to square away for each could be done.   No action was taken on this issue.


Next Agenda Item – Dead Animal Pickup.  The Chair provided a handout showing information from South Central Development District which compared Jul 21- Jun22 to Jul 22 – Oct 22 deadstock pickup and the top ten users in the previous Fiscal Year.  This was included for discussion due to previous discussions on potential of charging a fee, per the Chair, although she did not recommend the fee system due to the possible environmental issue resulting from it.  Commissioner Wamble said one user represents more than 17% of the total cost of this service, where the fee would only be after the first five dead stock pickup which would eliminate most small farmers paying.  The actual cost of pickup is $80 per animal, and the recommended fee would be $50 per animal after the first five.  After Commissioner Reedy  gave personal experience with both small stock owners and the larger firms, such as Jeff Officer Farms, a livestock cargo company, and the biggest user of the service.  Per Commissioner Reedy regardless of paying a fee, that fee will be passed on in a form to the individual selling their livestock.  In addition with the 10 county consortium all would have to do same thing, i.e. do a fee, otherwise people will just use that county.  Commissioner said this is a business and all business produce some form of waste products and the county doesn’t pay that.  After more discussion the Chair decided, after a motion with no vote called, no further action was required.


The Chair asked for Old Business there being none, she asked for New Business. The County Executive said that he had continued to investigate the Agri-Park organization specifically that it is not a 501c3 but is instead a non-profit organization (tax implications), but he would like for the commissioners to keep that in mind.  The County Clerk, Carol Wade, addressed the need to hire another employee, and that she had a parttime employee who has six-year experience.  She currently has over $9K from title fees and a reserve of $22K where the salary would be $28K from now until end of June.  Several of the staff have left and she has 2-3 with less experience.  Commissioner Wamble asked if the commission had to approve number of employees, and the Financial Management Director said no, only for salary moves.  A motion to approve the new line item was made by Commissioner Gayle Jones, seconded by Commissioner Judy Pruett was unanimously approved.


Commissioner Tracy Wilburn moved for adjournment and with Commissioner David Adams providing the second, the meeting was approved for adjournment.


ATTENDEES:  Members of the Committee Chair Commissioner Erin Curry, Commissioners: Tracy Wilburn for Terry Jones (late arrival), David Adams, Matt Hopkins, Gayle Jones, Evan Baddour and Judy Pruett Other Commissioners in attendance:  Rose Brown, Brad Butler, Shelly Goolsby, Annelle Guthrie, Dr. James Lathrop, Roger Reedy, Matt Rubelsky, Caleb Savage, Joseph Sutton, David Wamble, Joyce Woodard, Maurice Woodard  Other:  County Executive Graham Stowe, Financial Management Beth Moore-Sumners, Department Heads Ambulance (Emergency Medical Services) Director Roy Griggs, School Superintendent Dr. Vicki Beard with Knox Vanderpool, Emergency Management Services Interim Director Josh Young, County Clerk Carol Wade, Members of the Public