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Planning for inevitable growth

Posted on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 at 8:00 am


On Thursday, City Mayor Randy Carroll, members of the Shelbyville Planning Commission, the Shelbyville Power, Water and Sewerage System (SPWS), city department heads and concerned citizens met for a special called study session on city growth and development.

Is the city prepared? The general consensus based on the presentations is that the city is prepared. Featured speakers were Waleed Albakry, director of planning and community development for the city; Jason Reese, general manager; John Freeman, water/sewer engineer; and Jarrett Dickens, all of Shelbyville, Power, Water and Sewerage.

But during the meeting, which lasted a little more than two hours, there were moments of confidence, uncertainty, and some contentiousness prompting a lot of questions from some of the approximately 50 people in attendance.

The general theme was growth is already here in Shelbyville and it isn’t going to stop – so everyone needs to be ready.

“The City of Shelbyville’s elected officials and staff members work daily on decisions affecting our growth and development,” Shelbyville Mayor Randy Carroll said. “We are confronted with existing issues and new ones.

“Working together and listening to the needs of our citizens helps us make better decisions. Growth is inevitable and planning for that growth is an ongoing concern.”

The plans?

Planning was one of the major concerns expressed by some of those present. The general agreement was it was better to be proactive than reactive.

Council member Henry Feldhaus, a former Shelbyville Mayor and veteran City Council member, admitted the meeting was a good idea. But he thinks in order to develop a comprehensive plan to control and prepare for future growth, there needs to be a lengthy retreat centering on the subject.

“I appreciate the latest feedback from all of our departments,” Feldhaus said. “I have attended many of these two-hour sessions over the last few decades; especially, when we have newly elected council members or administration turnover. All of these sessions are good at creating a list of our current needs, and often we hear many complaints.

“However, we never arrive at possible solutions by focusing on solutions. I strongly urge, Mr. Mayor, to establish a goal setting session over several days to reach a consensus among all of us toward addressing the complaints, needs, and wants. I believe we need several days outside of Shelbyville and away from easy distractions to focus on the goals.”

Feldhaus referred to a meeting in 1993 which resulted in “Bedford by Design.”

“Bedford by Design” is an example where the community came together for three days at the Cossick Leadership Center at AEDC,” Feldhaus said. “We established goals and assigned people to follow-up tasks, but once the city administration changed, nothing happened.

“However, for several years, we had a consensus among the city/county leadership. The Rec Center was completed as a goal/outcome of the consensus.”

The future is expensive and Feldhaus wants to see a plan for those expenditures.

“I believe the biggest concern is the unspoken objective after hearing all of the needs and wants,” Feldhaus said. “The Mayor, City Council, and administration need to discuss the “how to pay for it” with a timeline. “

The needs

Reese, Freeman and Dickens are confident the SPWS will be able to fulfill the demands of additional population. There have been concerns about the amount of water the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) might allow the city to draw daily. Reese has met with TDEC and walked away confident the limits will not hamper SPWS.

“We are ready for growth,” Claudia Mallard, chairman of the SPWS board said. “Within the city limits and our service territory we are absolutely ready for growth.

“There has been a lot of chatter about a water shortage and that some of the developments are going to pose a problem with the water supply. But we’ve got the water and we can supply the sewer needs as well.”

There were questions about whether the state was going to extend and complete the State Route 437 bypass, a plan which many felt had been lost in the shuffle. Also addressed was the widening of roads such as Fairfield Pike which is going to be busier with the opening of Cartwright Elementary School.

Shelbyville Police Chief Jan Phillips, Fire Chief Matt Doak and Buck Vallad, director of public works, all talked about the needs of their departments which have already been affected by the growth spurt in the city and county.

Doak stressed response time as the city grows.

“There is nobody who is not somewhat challenged,” Doak said. “We have to plan for additional positions and manpower.”

Vallad also expressed a need for more employees and additional equipment.

“We have 35 employees,” Vallad said. “To have one for every 500 people in the city we need 47. There has been growth everywhere except in our department.”

Phillips is short two officers now.

“We are authorized 52 officers,” Phillips said. “At present, we have 50. The ratio of police officers is 2 per 1,000 citizens. Shelbyville’s population is approximately 25,330 so that puts us close to the current ratio.

“In the meeting it was shown there were an estimated 1,900 homes that could be built in the near future. Each residence would probably have three residents. That would be another 5,700 citizens. This would suggest that we would need another 10 officers to keep the department at the same ratio.”

With the addition of more high-density housing there will be more calls for service — domestic disturbances, thefts, burglaries, vehicle accidents, parking and animal control issues.

“Our response time at present is under six minutes from receiving the call,” Phillips said. “More residents create more traffic which in turn would create a longer response time.

“Our calls for service in 2022 were 22,344. In 2023 it was 25,232. An increase of 2,888. This number continues to grow each year.”

Carroll stresses everyone involved with the city administration is working to solve any future issues.

“All department leaders share in how Shelbyville’s needs are changing,” Carroll said. “Each department requires well thought out plans for now and for what is next so they can be prepared.

“Growth in population means more detailed management of employees needed and funding for those needs. Your city council, your mayor and staff are addressing each option for the city’s best existing and future requirements.”