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Firestorm brewing for Trousdale EMS

A firestorm may be brewing for the Trousdale County Emergency Management Services (EMS) as it faces critical personnel shortages and overworked employees.

At its meeting on Wednesday night, the Trousdale County Emergency Services Committee conferred on the issue and agreed that something must be done soon to give overworked EMS workers relief.

“In an interesting turn of events, Mr. (Trousdale County Emergency Management Agency Director Matt) Batey sent me one of his paramedics (last) week,” said Trousdale County Mayor Jack McCall.

“But I wasn’t sure why a paramedic was being sent to me. We had a lengthy discussion about overtime, and it was very enlightening to me, because I saw a man in my office who was just about burned out.

“At one time, back several months ago, he worked eight 24-hour shifts in a row. He has consistently worked four and five 24-hour shifts in a row, which not only puts the county at risk, but it puts his health at risk.”

Although EMS has recently hired new personnel, unfortunately, as the new employees have come on board, others have exited.

“We had a few people resign and move on,” said Batey. “So, we are back to where we (started).”

According to Trousdale County Emergency Services Committee Chair Leslie Overman, with the personnel shortage, employee overtime has become out of control.

“I just want to note on the emergency management services (EMS) payroll, all the overtime,” said Overman. “It looks like (overtime) is at 79.8% for the year.”

McCall added, “I don’t know if it is my responsibility to fix this, but we’re going to have to get some more help, even if we have to advertise for PRN (as is needed) at $25 an hour. It is to our advantage to pay that, rather than paying $30 an hour for 208 hours of overtime in a two-week period.”

The mayor went on to express his concern for the EMS workers’ health as well as the county’s liability regarding the issue.

“I’m telling you ... I’m worried about these guys,” said McCall.

“I am not so much concerned about the money that is being overpaid as much as their health and their family’s health and the exposure the county has to liability.”

Although no definite changes were implemented at the meeting on Wednesday night, the emergency services committee has agreed to continue discussing the EMS issues at its meeting next month.

Runaway roses

As Valentine’s Day came and went last week, local florists rushed to fill and delivery orders for bouquets and flower arrangements on one of the floral industry’s busiest days of the year.

Even veteran florists like Wendy Dallas, owner of Lafayette’s the Flower and Gift Shoppe, and Mary Hurst, the manager of Hartsville’s SaGrace Farms Florist, were no exception as they dealt with last-minute orders to meet the day’s high demands.

“We were busy,” said Hurst. “I am a twenty 20-plus-year veteran of the floral trade, so it’s not my first rodeo. Valentine’s Day is one of our biggest days of the year.”

Dallas added, “We were extremely busy, but we were blessed. We sold out of every flower we had in stock.”

With last-minute requests for flowers, especially red roses, area florists ran into shortages as they scrambled to get deliveries out the door.

“A lot of people don’t understand when the florists say (to) order early that we are trying to get things lined up for our deliveries, and when people come in at the last minute, it leaves us scrambling,” said Dallas. “By 10 a.m. on Monday, we ran out of red roses. We had people come in (on Valentine’s Day) wanting red roses, but we didn’t have any.”

Hurst added, “We had orders trickling in on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, because everybody had their mind on the Super Bowl, so we were very slow. But, then, on Monday morning, we started at 7 a.m. and didn’t stop until closing. We had plenty of fresh cuts, but of course, everybody wanted roses. So, we ran out of roses by 2 p.m.”

Following the Valentine’s Day rush, both Hurst and Dallas agreed that the next dash for fresh flowers will be on Mother’s Day, as both are quite demanding.

“Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are our two busiest days of the year,” said Dallas. “We are busy every day, but those days are much busier than normal.

“We probably filled between 350 and 400 orders during the (Valentine’s Day) crunch time. Altogether, we worked close to 200 hours in three days.”

According to Dallas, special days like Valentine’s Day help many local florists push through the slower times throughout the year.

“Our down time is through the summer, because people go on vacation and just don’t think about buying flowers,” said Dallas. “So, (the Valentine’s Day rush) really helps. What we make on days like Valentine’s Day helps pay the bills during the year.”

Although Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are significant days in the floral business, both well-established flower shops continue to serve the surrounding communities throughout the year as well.

“SaGrace has been open since 2017,” said Hurst. “It is a family-owned, full-service florist. We do (flowers for) events and weddings throughout the year, or someone can just come in and grab some flowers.”

Dallas added, “We were not a pre-existing shop when we opened up in 2001. We started from the beginning. We are very, very blessed with our community and how they have supported us. We took a chance back in 2001 and opened up. Then three days after opening, 9/11 hit. So, we were scared, not knowing what to expect. But the community has really rallied around us and has kept us in business, and we are so grateful for them.”

Woodard resigns

On Feb. 14, Trousdale County Fire Chief Jay Woodard turned in his resignation to Trousdale County Mayor Jack McCall.

Woodard, who came from Nashville to take the position as chief a little more than two years, made the decision to retire.

Woodard’s decision to leave the fire department now requires the mayor to select an interim fire chief until the position can be permanently filled.

“Effective (Feb. 14), chief Jay Woodard resigned as fire chief,” said McCall. “I will try to appoint an interim as quickly as I can, hopefully, within the next two weeks.

“But until I have a chance to meet with the firefighters next week and get a pretty good feel for what they’re thinking and what their wishes are, I’m not going to appoint anyone as interim.”

Although McCall’s plan is to move quickly in his appointment, according to Woodard, until that time, the mayor will serve as the acting fire chief while he considers who he will select as interim.

“Until the mayor appoints somebody, he is considered the fire chief,” said Woodard.

McCall added, “According to the chain of command, until I appoint an interim, I guess (the position) goes to the mayor. I’m not sure that I would make a very good interim fire chief. I don’t have a lot of experience in fighting fires.”

As stated by McCall, an interim chief will likely be chosen from among the current volunteer firefighters.

“I think I’ll almost have to appoint (an interim) from within,” said McCall. “We don’t need to go through a lengthy process to pick an interim. I think I just need to talk to (the firefighters) about it and make sure everyone’s on the same page for the short term, and then go from there.”

Nevertheless, Woodard looks forward to his retirement. “You come to a point where you have to take care of yourself,” said Woodard. “I am going to enjoy my retirement.”

Deadline approaches for Summer Learning Camp

Discussions continued on Thursday night at the Trousdale County School Board meeting regarding Tennessee’s Third Grade Literacy Law. As one part of the new legislation, students who score below grade level on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) will be required to attend Summer Learning Camp in order to be promoted to fourth grade.

According to Trousdale County Elementary School Principal Demetrice Badru, Summer Learning Camp is a good safety net for students who are wavering between working on or below grade level, and she encourages parents to take advantage of the opportunity for their children.

However, though multiple efforts have been made by Badru to communicate to parents the need to sign students up for Summer Learning Camp, only 17 families have responded so far.

“Although no one is able to predict how a student will perform on one assessment (TCAP), it is essential that parents take advantage of all the information, tools, practice opportunities, and safety nets so that our students can read at grade level upon the completion of third grade,” said Badru. “Summer Learning Camp is one of the best opportunities that we have available to help get our students promoted to the fourth grade.”

Trousdale County Director of Schools Clint Satterfield added, “We are asking all of our third-grade parents to register their students online for Summer Learning Camp by March 3 in order for us to provide the highest quality learning experience necessary to get our students promoted to the fourth grade.”

Because TCAP scores will be available after the Summer Learning Camp registration deadline, Satterfield encourages parents to err on the side of caution and register students soon.

“Due to the delay of TCAP results, student report cards will not be mailed home to parents until June 2,” said Satterfield. “Should a student be retained, this late notice will not allow the parents and the school enough time to plan a high-quality learning experience to support our students. Therefore, it is essential that parents enroll their third-grade students now to ensure a placement in the Summer Learning Camp.”

Summer Learning Camp will run for four weeks during the month of June, but in order for students to attend, they must be registered prior to March 3.

“(Summer Learning Camp) will be held June 5-30,” said Satterfield. “Parents may drop their student (from Summer Learning Camp) at any time, but placements will not be available in May and June.”