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The end of an era

After a century of being a center of medicine in Lebanon, the Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital (VWCH) McFarland campus will be ending patient care services by June 30.

“Having determined that renovating the outdated building is impractical and inordinately expensive, employees impacted by the change are being relocated to other VUMC locations and services,” VWCH Director of Community Relations Traci Pope said. “In the future, the facility will be used for non-clinical purposes.”

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center human resources department is working to help employees that provide patient care at the McFarland facility.

“Employees impacted by the change will be redeployed or will have priority if applying for open positions within the Vanderbilt Health system,” Pope said.

When Dr. Sam W. McFarland built the facility, the hospital originally included an operating room and 10 patient rooms. It was expanded in 1938 to include an additional operating room, X-ray rooms and eight more patient rooms. The hospital then grew throughout the 1960s to have 74 patient rooms.

The services at the McFarland campus will continue to be offered at the main VWCH campus.

“Clinical services currently offered at the McFarland campus include inpatient physical rehabilitation along with inpatient behavioral health,” Pope said. “Going forward, patients requiring these services will be seen at the main VWCH facility, at other locations within the Vanderbilt Health system, or by other area providers that VUMC works with regularly.”

The McFarland campus has been utilized to meet the need for mental-health services in Wilson County, which will continue through through VWCH.

“To accommodate the need for behavioral health services within Wilson County, a specially-designed area within VWCH will be implemented to assess patients with emergent psychiatric needs to determine the clinically-appropriate disposition,” Pope said. “Future needs for inpatient rehabilitation services will be addressed through Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital or other rehabilitation providers collaborating with the Vanderbilt Health system.”

Coming from a human place

A year’s worth of work led up to the moment that Tennessee Tech University (TTU) student and Wilson Central High School alumnus Ethan Johnson stepped in front of the judges to present his pitch at the Eagle Works competition.

“It was like Shark Tank,” Johnson said. “Each student goes up in front of the crowd, and we have seven minutes to pitch our ideas. We have a slideshow that will show our projections, our business models and outlooks.”

For Johnson, that hard work paid off when he won the Maverick Award from the Clouse-Elrod Foundation.

“Last year, I was in Eagle Works (in which students create innovative ideas and pitch them to a panel of judges for the chance to win), and I developed a tomato company where I just grew tomatoes and theoretically produced like 20,000 tomatoes, with only 16 of these machines,” Johnson said. “Last year I won the Rural Reimagined award, which was $750 awarded to me through scholarship. One of the questions that the judge asked was why don’t I sell the machines themselves?”

Johnson took that question and set out to answer it at this year’s competition.

“I came back this year to Eagle Works selling the CEA machines, the controlled environment agriculture units,” Johnson said. “Essentially, it’s like a grow tent or grow chamber. I wanted to use recycled plastics out of my environment. I’m in a class called urban agriculture, and we talk about growing food in urban environments.”

Johnson talked with the TTU Sustainability Office and modeled his machine off of one he observed a pair of professors making.

“I have these big plastic boards that I got from overseas, and there was only one company that I could actually get them through,” Johnson said. “It’s recycled, high-density polyethylene boards, and I assembled it the weekend before (the competition). I got it fully built the day of (the competition). I’m taking a lot of classes at this time, so every weekend I was focused on making the machines.”

Eagle Works Manager Andrea Kruszka talked with Johnson early in the Spring semester about ideas to get more funding for the things he needed for his prototype.

“He then brought (the prototype) to the competition in April,” Kruszka said. “It’s very impressive to see someone who’s still in college actually build this thing, bring it in and explain how it works.”

Kruszka said that it was incredible to watch Johnson go through the process of building the prototype.

“He’s independent,” Kruszka said. “He knows what he wants to do. Any time I see a student that competes one year and doesn’t win, but takes the judges feedback and improves their prototype, it’s incredibly rewarding. His project is about sustainable agriculture. It’s about helping to end food deserts. This is coming from a place of humanity.”

Johnson still has a semester or two ahead of him at TTU, but he has an idea of what he wants to do after graduation.

“I would really like to have a farm commercially, but in a different way that’s more sustainable,” Johnson said. “That’s kind of what this project is. It’s farming for the future and spreading awareness about healthy and fresh food to try and get the public to stand up and do (something about) their own food insecurity needs. A goal is something that should be achievable. I want to be a really good farmer. To do that, I have to do it my way, and I also want to help other people too.”

As easy as sending a text

The city of the Lebanon will be launching the new TextMyGov program on May 15.

“We’ve been looking for ways to make it easier to get citizens information rather than having them go to the website,” Management Information Systems (MIS) Director Mike Collinsworth said. “This is one of the easiest ways to do that.”

The program will allow residents to text in their questions and requests to the city at the official TextMyGov number at 615-442-7970.

“We have keywords that we look for in the text thread, and if any of those keywords hit, the information is automatically sent back to them,” Collinsworth said. “It’s very simple and easy to use.”

Users will be able to access information on topics like billing and report issues more easily by using the program, which will be adding keywords as people make inquiries.

“We go through and add keywords that we think people would be looking for on the site,” Collinsworth said. “We have a log on our end that we see and check the dashboard periodically to see what keywords are being used and being keyed into the system, and we look for the words that repeat.”

Mayor Rick Bell approached Collinsworth about starting the program a few months ago.

“I asked if there’s any way that we can create a way for people to communicate with us better, not just us with communicating with citizens, but citizens communicating with us,” Bell said. “He said, ‘Yes, it’s TextMyGov.’ He said that it’s something he’s been wanting to do for a long time.”

The city council approved funding for the project.

“I think it’s going to benefit citizens in a number of ways,” Bell said. “At the moment, if people want to contact us, they call. Oftentimes, those calls go to voicemail, or they’ll have to be transferred to the right place. That’s always a hassle for anyone to do that. We also have an email system where people can email a situation to us, but that requires going to the website and looking for that. This really streamlines things.”

The TextMyGov program will help lessen the amount of steps residents have to go through to get information.

“You text the number, and it’s that simple,” Bell said.

County discusses school safety

Jeff Luttrell

Discussions on school safety and security upgrades continued during Monday evening’s Wilson County School Board meeting as parents addressed their concerns.

“I spent my life working as an auditor, where I’ve made a living assessing the likelihood and impacts of risk,” Mt. Juliet resident and parent Thomas Mace said. “From an analytical perspective, it’s easy to simply look at the number of schools across this country and conclude there was less than an 1% chance of a shooting occurring at one of our schools until it happens at one of our schools.”

Mace asked the board to be more specific in regard to school safety.

“While we appreciate the board and schools communications regarding safety, we’re growing frustrated that the messaging continues to be generic, high-level and contain boilerplate verbiage such as ‘safety is of our utmost concern,’ ” Mace said. “We have no visibility into what exactly you are doing outside of perhaps lockdown drills, and while these drills offer a small piece of training, can you ... can any of you honestly walk away feeling confident a bunch of 5 to 9-year-olds are going to learn muscle memory as it was put in a letter and not panic in the event of a real life catastrophe ... because I sure can’t. We as parents need to be engaged and build confidence that our schools are safe.”

Mace also asked the board how the school district would be utilizing its share of the $27 million laid out by Gov. Bill Lee for security upgrades to public and private schools.

“We don’t have the allocation of how much money we’re going to get,” Wilson County Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell said. “You’re going to see in budget talks beginning (Tuesday) about how much money we’re willing to put in without having our allocations.”

Wilson County Director of Operations Travis Mayfield shared some of what the district is doing to increase school security.

“We have met with two different representatives that with a 3M impact resistant film,” Mayfield said. “It’s not bulletproof glass, but it is a film that you put on the glass, and there’s an adhesive that bonds it to the frame. We’ve seen demos to where you cannot get through the door. It will take you 5-10 minutes.”

The glass is in the front entrances of some of the newer buildings in the district. The district is currently comparing vendor prices to add the glass to several other buildings.

“We’ve investigated the weapons detection,” Mayfield said. “We’ve investigated the weapons identification. Those are two different pieces. Detection is the walk through. Identification is the camera system.”

The district is also working on upgrading access control to buildings, cameras and interior door locks.

“We are looking at everything we can do to keep our schools safe,” zone 5 school board member Larry Tomlinson said. “There’s not a day goes by that our safety director and the police chiefs and the sheriff of this county are not in some kind of conversation with one another about school safety.”

Friendship Christian center-fielder Adam Gordon makes a lunging catch to end the fourth inning.