Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shannon Polen

It has been difficult to keep up with this story as it unfolds. It even crept into the national media.
And, to think, I did not even know of the arrest but for a telephone call I received from Jim Bellis of the Robertson County Times letting me know of the story he broke this morning:
Robertson County Commissioner Shannon Polen was arrested at his home Tuesday night by officials from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Special Investigations with the Tennessee Attorney General.
Polen was charged with three felony counts of theft of property and taken to the Davidson County Jail for booking.
Held on a total of $400,000 bond, Polen made news recently after three civil lawsuits were filed against him for what has been described as a “Ponzi Scheme,” by some. He will now appear in court on April 4 to begin to answer his charges.
The Times will continue to update as further information becomes available .
Here are the other outlets that I have been keeping track throughout the day:
MSNBC here.
WTVF – Channel 5 here.
WSMV-TV - Channel 4 here & here.
As your RCC Ethics Committee Chairman, rest assured the RCC is keeping close track of these allegations as they unfold. Many have asked just what action the RCC will take in the days and weeks ahead.
We must remember that these allegations are unfolding at this point, and that this is an evolving process. The RCC Ethics Committee is keeping eyes and ears open monitoring this situation but due to the nature of these unfolding investigations, we cannot become another investigatory entity.
County, State and Federal officials are currently at work on their own investigations.
Of course, this investigation, and the connotations of this investigation do not cast Robertson County in a positive light. It is a dark day for everyone involved. It is our hope that the civil and criminal justice systems will bring Robertson County swift justice.

UPDATE - 4/4/2011: Check out the update to this post - "Commissioner Shannon Polen Resigns"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Strategic Plan: Part II - Economic Development

In follow-up to last week's post regarding Robertson County's Strategic Plan, here is the 'Economic Development' portion of the plan.

I am in the process of securing the updates and suggestions generated out of Monday's meeting, and I hope to share those as they come in. With that said, there were not any significant changes to these goals.


GOAL: Maintain a strong local economy and position Robertson County for continued economic development by encouraging the expansion of existing business and industry and attracting diverse new enterprises.

Complete assessment of target industries for future recruitment.

Chamber Economic Development Director, Robertson County IDB, Springfield IDB, White House IDB
Development of new industrial park along I-24 Corridor


Chamber Economic Development Director, Robertson County IDB, Robertson County Commission
Expand marketing of Robertson County tourism asset related to Ring of Fire Trail

Chamber Economic Development Director, Tourism Adviosry Council, Local Governments
Develop county-wide “signature” event.


Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Advisory Council, Local Governments
Develop a meeting or conference center.

Chamber Economic Development Director, RCIDTB, JECDB, Chamber of Commerce
Expand Retire Robertson program to recruit retirees to Robertson County.
Chamber of Commerce, Retire Robertson Committee
Develop an Industry Appreciation event.

Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Economic Development Director

MY Minutes: 2011.3.21 - RCC Regular Meeting

Several folks have e-mailed me inquiring what the results were with some of the resolutions from Monday (from the Regular Meeting March 21st).
As always, here are results of the votes (in bold font), and my editorial comment (in italics).

Appointment / Library Board
Ms. Linda Thompson was nominated, and appointed to the Library Board.
I will look forward to serving with her.

Budget Amendments
The Highway Commission and Robertson County Schools had proposed Budget Amendments. Both of these resolutions passed without discussion.
Generating the most discussion of the night, the backpay for former EMS employees was taken up by the RCC.
You will recall, and you have probably heard talk of this throughout the County. It was not an easy vote, and quite candidly it was a very difficult decision for the body. Recall that this proposal has been discussion, re-discussed and discussed again.
This issue stems from some of the original turmoil coming from EMS as noted here.
In my humble opinion, what made this such a difficult issue was the allegations and rumors surrounding EMS. But, at the end of the day, the pervasiveness of these problems dictated the outcome that the RCC had to come to terms with – that the lack of oversight and adherence to polices & procedures created a low standard of accountability that the RCC was bound to in making this decision.
At the end of the day, the RCC could night change the” rules of the game” when it came to these employment matters. I underscore employment matters because notwithstanding the issues and concerns with EMS, the employment matters will be handled separately.
The RCC could not consider both.
That is what made this decision tremendously difficult.
At the end of the day, I did not like it, but I think the RCC took the right approach. It brings the County closure on this issue, and allows the EMS Committee to focus on much needed reform in EMS.
This reform is forthcoming.

10 Commandments Resolution
The resolution I mentioned in the couple of weeks leading up to this meeting PASSED.
It passed overwhelmingly.
I do not mind sharing with you that I voted against this resolution. I did, for several reasons. Most notably, I see no reason for the RCC to take such a position on such an issue spontaneously. It is spontaneous for this is but a special interest matter of a handful of folks. We do not have an existing monument or placard here in the County that is currently under attack by some outside group.
Now, we have drawn a line in the sand.
I just hope that no one was watching when we did.

Law Enforcement / Sheriff’s Department
There were several proposals brought to the floor by way of the Robertson County Sheriff’s Department.
-          28-Day workweek: This proposal will give way to allow the RCSD to change the way that they schedule their shifts. The Sheriff hopes that it will allow them more flexibility in the way they schedule a work-week, by moving to 12-hour shifts. Further, over time, the objective will be a cost saving measure since it will likely decrease the amount of overtime.
-          Inmate Booking Fee: Relatively self-explanatory as it assesses a fee for the booking process in the Robertson County Detention Facility.
-          Inmate Medical Payment Plan: Relatively self-explanatory as it assesses a fee for medical payments incurred while an inmate is incarcerated.

The Week of March 28th

March 28, 2011 – April 1, 2011:

Date & Committee/Board                                 Time                          Location
Monday- March 28                                                          
Finance Committee                                               3:30 P.M.                 Finance Office
Building & Grounds                                               5:00 P.M.                County Mayor’s                                                     
Tuesday- March 29
Wednesday – March 30
Safety Committee                                                   8:30 A.M.                C.M. Office                     
Thursday- March 31
Fire Committee                                                       5:00 P.M.                RCOB                          
Friday-April 1

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Strategic Plan: Part 1 - 2010-11 Goals

The RCC will be discussing this on Monday at a meeting at the Robertson County of Chamber.

This vision, this plan…this was something that continued to come up over and over again by folks last summer on the trail.
“Where is the County going?” // “What goals do we have?” // “What goals do you have?” // It seems like the County is floundering, now what do we do?” – These, and countless other questions as I knocked on doors - were posed to me. Speaking with other commissioners and other candidates, these questions were frequent and from vast amounts of folks. Folks just like you. Anyone and everyone asked, and asked frequently.
Well, here it is. Here is the answers to the questions.
Part of what drew me to the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce when I first came here to Springfield and Robertson County was the fact that it as a group and the folks that comprised the Chamber – were one of the only vibrant groups that worked towards goals and had a vision for this County.
Well, here is a challenge to each of you, and any others. I am going to go through the aspects of the ‘Strategic Plan’ and I am going to ask for feedback. I know that some folks may not feel comfortable expressing things in a public forum, so any way to get back with me is encouraged. Reason I ask, it is your County.
First, here are the 2010-11 goals.
2010-11 Goals with Action Steps:
Improved transportation infrastructure in Robertson County.   
- Establish transportation committee through Robertson County Chamber.
- Pursue county-wide membership in MPO
- Begin development of plan for a 4-lane connector from I65 to I24 through         Springfield.      
- Continue support of exit for TN/KY industrial park off  of I65
Develop comprehensive growth, land use and transportation plan for Robertson County
- Continue meetings of Quality Growth Advisory Committee.
- Map out steps for growth plan development.
- Educate stakeholders on importance of growth plan.
- Obtain funding to cover costs of developing growth plan..
- Preserve farm land and support agribusiness.
Cooperation between all three water districts in Robertson County on a future county wide water plan.
- Officially form advisory council with representatives from all three water districts.
- Have advisory council develop a strategic plan fr improving connectivity and providing adequate water supply for future growth.
Improved relationships with, involvement of, and support with existing industry.
- Develop updated existing industry guide.
- Meetings with each existing industry to evaluate needs and future plans
- Begin work to development an “industry appreciation” event.
- Fully implement LIFE program at Springfield HS’s CTE Center and grow involvement of local industry.
Develop marketing plan for attracting new business & industry targeting higher wage jobs.
- Design and develop marketing collateral for recruitment of new business and industry.
- Redesign economic development web site and update online inventory of available land and buildings.
- Begin process to identify target industries for future recruitment.
- Continue work to develop Industrial Park on I24 corridor.
Develop and market Robertson County’s tourism assets.
- Complete tourism asset inventory
- Develop Tourism Advisory Council with existing businesses and venues which have an interest in increasing visitors to Robertson County.
- Leverage the upcoming roll-out of the “Ring Of Fire  Trail” by state tourism department to increase marketing of Robertson County tourism venues.
- Begin work on developing a  county-wide signature event .
- Explore options for the development of a large event space.
 Develop Beautification/Recycle program for all of Robertson County.
- Increase beautification and anti-litter efforts.
- Develop  committee and identity
- Increase access to recycling county-wide.
- Develop anti-graffiti program with citizen and business involvement.
Launch Education Initiative to promote business and school partnerships
- Create strategy to improve public perception of Robertson County schools.
- Continue to survey businesses, industry, teachers and parents to measure satisfaction with education
- Distribute funding for  Renaissance program at all five high schools and mini grant program for teachers
- Begin work on a jobs/internship clearinghouse for high school and college students.
- Secure sustainable funding for the Robertson Education Initiative for the 2011-12 school year.
- Expand Arts Council involvement in public schools.
Increase interest in  Robertson County as Retire TN Community
- Develop a “discovery tour” for Robertson County to market at Live South trade shows and through website.
- Improve process of receiving and working leads provided by Retire TN program.
- Begin study of feasibility of new retiree communities in Robertson County.

Re-Districting Timeline

The 2010 Census does not just provide us with information the best way to manage our resources, and plan for the existing and coming growth to Robertson County.
Immediately, we will begin work on how to re-district our commission districts. Here is a brief outline of what the RCC will be doing over the coming weeks and months – this information provided by CTAS(the University of Tennessee’s County Technical Assistance Service):
Our offices will not receive the 2010 census population date until April, therefore, the actual work involved with redistricting will not begin until June or July. The statutorily deadline to complete redistricting is January 1, 2012. Depending on when the census maps and population data are available, you will only have between five and six months to develop and finalize a new county commission district plan. As a result, we recommend that local officials
·         Establish a redistricting committee;
·         Review your current districts
·         Review private acts in your county
·         Read the manual that will be sent out
·         Appoint a technical lead or point of contact person in your county to avoid confusion
I am looking forward to this process.
Again, I cannot help to keep pointing this out for it allows us to strategize as opposed to merely reacting.
I would be curious to hear your thoughts and your perspectives.

The Week of March 21st

It appears to be a very busy Monday evening. Numerous committee meetings, and there are several that I would like to attend.
Not only are there numerous meetings listed, I would also note that the commissioners have been invited to the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce for a presentation on our “Three Star Strategic Plan.” Here is the note  that we received from Executive Director Margot Fosnes:
The Robertson County Chamber of Commerce serves as the lead organization in certifying Robertson County each year as a Three Star Community for the TN Dept  of Economic & Community Development. A large part of this process is creating and updating a Five Year Strategic Plan for the county.  We are asking all of our county commissioners and city mayors to attend a meeting to review and update the priorities in our plan on Monday, March 21 before the regular county commission meeting.
I plan on attending this update.
March 21 - 25, 2011
Date & Committee/Board                           Time                                      Location
Monday - March 21
EMS                                                                6:00 P.M.                             Juvenile Courtroom
Ethics                                                             6:30 P.M.                             Juvenile Courtroom
Nominating                                                    6:30 P.M.                             Juvenile Courtroom
County Commission                                       7:00 P.M.                             Juvenile Courtroom                                                                       
Tuesday - March 22
Wednesday - March 23
Thursday - March 24
Appeals Board                                                 6:00 P.M.                             County Office Building
Highway Commission                                      7:00 P.M.                             Highway Offices              
Friday - March 25

2010 Census: More Notes & Picture Graph

This post on the 2010 Census results last week was a very popular post here at ‘From the Blackpatch.’
More and more data continues to emerge as relates to population information. TCCA Executive Director David Connor had a follow-up post on more census data.
Check out the link to this picture-graph. It shows the percentage growth for counties in Tennessee. It is quite interesting to note the growth in and around Middle Tennessee. It is one of the first that I have seen to picture Robertson County’s growth.
I would expect the trends to do nothing but continue in the next ten years here in north middle Tennessee.
Will we plan for this growth, or will we react to this growth?

Our Sister Counties: A National Perspective

This is a survey I came across on NACo (National Association of Counties).
Sobering, because it is definitely one of those surveys where you know what the results will be, but when the numbers leap from the page it is almost like a slap in the face. Check it out and see what I am talking about.
Economists say the national recession is over. But local governments are still feeling the aftershocks of the economic slowdown, according to a new NACo survey released at the association’s Legislative Conference.
The published report, The Recession Continues: An Economic Status Survey of Counties, highlights the continuing impact of the sluggish economy on county budgets and the actions counties are taking to cope with decreased revenues.
"After multiple tough budget cycles, counties appear to be settling into the ‘new normal’ of revenue and staffing levels," said NACo President Glen Whitley. "However, the budget cuts have become increasingly more severe and are affecting more Americans."
Among the key findings:
Declining revenues from the state are the number one contributor to lower revenue for counties (46 percent);
Counties used rainy-day funds (40 percent), made administrative changes and adjusted personnel to help keep their budgets balanced; and
More than half of the counties surveyed (53 percent) have fewer county staff than they did in 2010. Seventy-one percent of counties with fewer employees lost up to 5 percent of their workforce.
Five hundred counties with elected or hired administrators from 44 states responded to the survey, conducted in early February, making it the most comprehensive in the series of seven economic surveys NACo has conducted since 2007. The largest counties had populations of 1 million or higher; the smallest, less than 100,000.
The survey shows that counties are cutting services and employees to a greater degree, rather than the less painful budget adjustments reported in previous NACo surveys, such as delaying purchases and across-the-board budget cuts.
Consistent with earlier surveys, only a small percentage (15 percent) of counties reported increasing property tax rates, and only 2 percent have increased their local option sales tax rates to make up their shortfalls. Of responding counties, 50 percent said their states cap their ability to raise taxes, and 6 percent have county caps.
Instead, most counties have adjusted their budgets through actions such as follow (Counties were asked to indicate all actions taken):
47 percent have delayed purchases and repairs
47 percent have postponed capital investments
45 percent have frozen salary or pay
41 percent have instituted hiring freezes
40 percent have dipped into rainy-day funds
37 percent have imposed employee travel restrictions
31 percent have delayed construction, and
24 percent have laid off county workers.
Other actions by counties include scaling back employee benefits (22 percent) and offering early retirement to eligible employees (9 percent).
The survey data shows that "counties are not out of the woods," Whitley said. "Additional state aid cuts are looming, increased energy and operating costs are nearly certain, and increasing demands for public services remain."
It is not anything that we “want” to hear, that is for sure. Yet, so quickly how we in government forget just how dire the situation is for all of us.
I am told over and over again how “different” this recession. I try to be a student of history, and it is odd in the sense that it is a “working” recession for there are so many folks. It is difficult at times to remember just how close we are to edge. We must be diligent to see ourselves chart a different course.
I know Robertson County will as we head into our own budget process this spring/summer.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Montgomery County 28% Growth Rate

The headline says it all. I just thought this was a staggering rate for our neighbor.

1,100 Strong!

I thought pass along an update on the Relax & Ride program.
ROBERTSON COUNTY, Tenn. - The first two weeks of the new bus route between Robertson County and Nashville are proving to be a huge success.
About 25 people have been riding those buses for every one of their four daily routes, and officials at RTA said that is a high enough number to keep this route in operation.
From March 1 through 15, nearly 1,100 passengers have made the 45 minute trip from Robertson County into Nashville and home again.
It's a money and time saver for those who have to make the daily commute.
A round trip ticket only costs $3.50 and with gas prices on the rise, riders are happy to see public transportation options expanding into surrounding counties.
There are two round trips that leave Robertson County every morning beginning at 5:40 and 6:20 a.m. The return trips leave Nashville at 5:10 and 6:15 p.m.
It's not just residents in Robertson county eager to ride the bus. Public transportation use is up 23-percent over last year. Officials said the increase is partly due to the rise in gas prices.
Remember, this was the initiative the County passed back in December. I am glad that there has been such an interest and demand in this initiative.