County's priorities getting attention

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 3/27/19

The Bradley County Commission reviewed a list of priorities – which ranged from salaries, to infrastructure to reducing debt – at its work session Monday night.

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County's priorities getting attention

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The Bradley County Commission reviewed a list of priorities — which ranged from salaries to infrastructure to reducing debt — at its work session Monday night.

Chairman Johnny Mull said after he was elected as chairman last fall, he began to receive questions from constituents about the county commission’s priorities. He asked the commissioners to submit a list of three to five priorities they want to focus on, and reviewed that list Monday.

Mull said there were 70 responses and all 14 commissioners participated.

“It is things we all agree upon” to focus on and pay attention to, he said.

Mull presented the priorities list in both a graph of the top response categories and a “word cloud” where the size of the word increases based on how many times it is mentioned.

“The larger the word, the bigger a priority it was,” Mull said, noting the largest words in the “word cloud” are salaries, PIE Center and water/sewer.

The top response categories are:

• Salaries – 86 percent

• Education – 71 percent

• Infrastructure – 57 percent

• Economic development – 57 percent

• Building maintenance – 35 percent

• Reduce debt – 21 percent

Mull also introduced a list of individual priorities mentioned, including building demolition, school expansion, EMS personnel, inmate medical services, better road, mental health, animal control, homeless coalition, and others.

“We can see there’s a lot of things on our list where we see needs,” Mull said. “We need to take this out to our districts and share with our constituents.”

Commissioner Erica Davis said she is excited to have a conversation on county commission priorities, noting she asked her constituents about their top priorities which were: roads/infrastructure, public safety (police, fire, EMS), education, broadband and economic development. She said it is important “to stay focused on what our constituents want.”

“I am excited to see some real change for the future,” Davis said.

One area that garnered significant discussion not only from commissioners but also from members of the Bradley County Board of Education present for the work session, was the Partnerships in Industry & Education Center, or PIE Center.

Dr. Linda Cash, director of Bradley County Schools, told commissioners PIE Center plans are moving forward to develop a “warm dark shell” so the facility can be finished and put into use.

“I do think this is a huge community impact,” Cash said.

The PIE Center has received funding and support from Bradley County and the community, and most recently has received a $1 million funding pledge from Gov. Bill Lee, who included the funding in the state’s budget.

Cash said the cost of the “warm dark shell” is not yet known, but is being worked on.

Commissioners agreed that the PIE Center is a worthwhile venture, and important for the future education of Bradley County’s workforce.

Commissioner Milan Blake said when filling out his priorities list, he listed the PIE Center as priorities 1, 2 and 3.

“I have absolutely bought in to what you’re trying to accomplish,” Blake told Cash.

Commissioner Dennis Epperson told Cash he appreciates all her efforts with the PIE Center, noting it ties in with other County Commission priorities like infrastructure and economic growth.

“The PIE Center is going to fill a huge void in our community,” Davis said.

Audience members who spoke in support of the PIE Center included Ross Tarver, chairman of the Industrial Development Board; Stephen Wright with Wright Brothers Construction; Troy Weathers, chairman of the Bradley County Board of Education; and Gary Farlow, retiring president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

Tarver said Bradley County is at a pivotal point where it must start investing in educating its workforce.

“If we’re supporting the workforce, our county’s going to continue to grow,” Tarver said.

Wright said he is pleased to see leadership in the county commission, school board and Cash willing to support the PIE Center. He encouraged the commissioners to make the investment going forward.

Weathers said last week he paid $173 per hour for a diesel mechanic. He believes if the PIE Center works, students will have the opportunity to work in the lowest job to the highest job in their chosen field.

“I’m excited about what the PIE Center brings to our community,” Weathers said.

(Editor’s Note: Additional information about the County Commission’s priorities will be included in a future edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner).


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