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EMA budget, taste in shades scrutinized

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

Roane County’s proposed emergency management budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year is $592,355.

In contrast, Loudon County, which has two interstates crisscrossing it, has an emergency management budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year that’s less than half that.

“The data is going to tell you if you need to look further into something,” county executive candidate Ron Woody said. “What the data tells me is we need to look closer at our emergency management.”

Election Day is Thursday. Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Woody faces incumbent Mike Farmer and Miles Ledbetter Jr. in the race for Roane County executive.

Emergency management’s budget for 2010-11 has been approved by the budget committee, but it has yet to be passed by the full commission.

Emergency management has been a hot topic during the campaign. Last year, the department moved into a new state-of-the-art facility.

“Having all those flat-screen televisions over there and all those computers, they have made themselves stick out like a sore thumb,” Woody said. “I will look at that emergency management.”

One of the issues brought forth by Woody has to do with some sunglasses purchased by the department. In an ad in the Roane County News, he says he “will not approve the purchasing of 10 $150-per-pair sunglasses.”

“I think it’s a slap in the face to the hardworking people of Roane County that we would be so extravagant in our spending,” Woody said. “You got a neighbor that’s unemployed, under employed or concerned about losing a job, and then you’ve got the government spending money on unnecessary items.”

Emergency management is under the county executive’s supervision.

“We always have to make sure that we are good stewards of the county’s money,” Farmer said. “Are there instances where we didn’t exactly achieve excellence? There may be, but we are looking at and reviewing transactions.”

Emergency management director Howie Rose said the sunglasses were the result of a mistake he made on a purchase order.

“We had a blanket purchase order from Galls,” he said. “We buy things like chemical protective coveralls, boots, hard hats, safety glasses, things like that. I was making a blanket order. I put the wrong part number in there. It's my fault. I didn't pay any attention to it.”

Rose said he wasn't aware that the sunglasses had been ordered until he was informed about it by county budget director Alva Moore.

“I simply wrote down the wrong part number,” Rose reiterated. “I was probably doing more than one thing at a time.”

He also said there were six pair, not 10.

“We sent them back and that money was credited to the county,” Rose said.

Farmer said Roane residents should feel proud about the county’s emergency management department.

“I think our emergency management department is one of the best in the state,” he said. “Any time there’s an issue in the state, we get called.”

Members of the emergency management department helped out other counties impacted by the floods that hit the state earlier this year.

“The state thinks it’s good enough that it’s something they ask for all the time, too,” Farmer said.

Loudon County has two full-time employees in its emergency management department.

Roane County has four.

“We’re probably one of the highest staffed per capita anywhere in Tennessee,” Woody said. “Do we need that many people? That will be looked at.”

Farmer said Roane County faces emergency scenarios that other counties don’t.

“We’re probably the only county that has this,” he said. “We have to have exercises because we have a DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) nuclear facility in ORNL and then the legacy material from K-25.”