Public Safety Committee Discusses Constructing Storm Shelter



The Public Safety Committee approved several important resolutions during its Friday, March 3 meeting at the Weakley County Detention Center’s conference room, including: a proposed storm shelter project, applying for opioid abatement funding, transportation of mental patients, WCSD and court equipment purchases, and the jail roof project.

Storm Shelter Project

Weakley County Emergency Management Director Ray Wiggington discussed the possibility of building a community storm shelter, should funding become available for it. He stated this is part of the county’s hazard mitigation plan developed in 2019.

Wiggington said the structure could be built with funds from a hazard mitigation grant. “The cost has gone up significantly from the original estimate we received,” he explained. “The original estimate was approximately $2 million, but it is currently $7.5 million.” He stated it could be downsized from 15,000 sq. ft. to 7,000 sq. ft., which would be about the same size as the Gateway Center in Martin. FEMA says it could hold about 1,100 people, but it would be standing room only.” Wiggington suggested it could be constructed in such a manner that would allow for it to be built onto later on.

“The Gateway Center was built by the City of Martin and without county funds,” Commissioner David Hawks said. “So, how do we justify spending this kind of money for a storm shelter in Dresden. What about Gleason, Greenfield and Sharon?”

Commissioner James Washburn stated that Dresden plans on including a storm shelter within its new municipal complex and this must be taken into consideration. He also mentioned that hazard mitigation grants are available for individuals to install their own storm shelters, with the grants covering 65 percent of the cost.

Committee Chairman Jack Vincent stated he thinks the storm shelter needs more discussion and study before moving forward with such an endeavor.

“Let’s take this under consideration and see what Dresden does, while continuing looking into it,” Chairman Vincent said.

Wiggington agreed to continue researching the matter and report back to the committee.

Opioid Abatement Agreement

The committee approved a resolution authorizing Weakley County to join the state of Tennessee and other local governments in amending the Tennessee State-Subdivision Opioid Abatement Agreement and approve the related settlements.

According to Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum, the resolution involves entering into negotiations with Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and other pharmaceutical distributors, concerning the opioid lawsuit settlement, which involves their prescribing and filling of opioid prescriptions, and the aftermath of those incidents.

“By approving the resolution, Weakley County will be listed among those filing for compensation, Mayor Bynum said. “This allows us to receive those funds from the State and the other providers, through the federal settlement.”

According to Mayor Bynum, in September 2022, the federal government distributed 15 percent of the total settlement to the states and Weakley County received 15 percent. He noted the county has a great deal of leeway in how this money is spent, including on things not necessarily related to opioid abatement. Of the remaining 70 percent in federal funding, 35 percent goes directly to the counties. However, there are restrictions on what the money may be used for. It is earmarked for items such as drug treatment, remediation and prevention. The expenditure of these funds must be documented. “We will probably receive our first payment within the next month,” Bynum said. “The State will disburse the remaining 35 percent in grants, which must be applied for.”

The committee also approved several General Purpose budget amendments for the current fiscal year. These amendments must go before the Finance, Ways and Means Committee and Weakley County Commission, before receiving final approval.

Mental Patients Transportation Funding

A resolution to budget monies received from the state to help offset the cost of transporting non-criminal patients to mental hospitals was unanimously approved. Sheriff McDade stated the WCSD has been transporting non-criminal patients to Western State or other mental facilities out of its budget for years.

The funds, provided by the state, reimburse the county for the cost of contracting with an ambulance service to transport these patients.

“This doesn’t take an officer out of the county,” Sheriff McDade said. “It’s paid for by the state. The state funding also provides $25,000 to purchase an unmarked vehicle to transport mental patients so violent the ambulance service refuses to take them.”

WCSD and Court Equipment Purchases

A resolution involving transferring funds within the WCSD’s budget to purchase equipment, including two laptop computers, was unanimously approved. The laptops will be used by those employees that register sex offenders.

Additionally, Sheriff McDade stated funds received from a gun auction go into the General Fund, but can only be used by the Sheriff’s Department. He requested these funds be placed into the WCSD budget. The committee approved the request by unanimous vote.

A resolution transferring monies into the General Sessions Court budget to purchase a recorder, received the committee’s approval. Circuit Court Clerk Courtney McMinn stated the old recorder no longer works and must be replaced.

Jail Roof Project

When asked for an update on the WCSD roof project, Sheriff McDade said, “Nobody in this building has reported any leaks today.”

Mayor Bynum said, “There were some leaks during the last rain.” However, he reported the project is 80 percent completed.

With no further business, the meeting adjourned.