As we start moving into October and finally see temperatures lower to a more comfortable average, I have started to look toward autumn and a whole new season of festivals, fairs and gatherings around Monroe County. From September to December, Monroe County has become one of the top destinations in our region because of the abundance of natural beauty we are so fortunate to relish in every year. As the leaves start to change and the Northerly winds start to blow, our natural environment starts to change from a sea of green as far as the eye can see to the vast arrays of yellows, reds and browns that signal the oncoming winter.

We are excited to announce our unemployment rates continue to decline. As of August 2019, it is 3.6% compared to 3.8% last month and 4.8% a year ago.

Last week, Monroe County received some great news. Gov. Bill Lee contacted my office to notify us that Monroe County has been awarded a Community Block Grant to purchase two new ambulances for the amount of $315,000. The current ambulances are getting worn and have developed many mechanical issues and are not as dependable as we would like them to be.

We have often had to cancel crews’ shifts due to no vehicle for them to operate out of. Without adding to the county’s tax burden, with the addition of these two units to our fleet, we will able to respond to any emergency situation in a more dependable unit, as well maintain and staff more units to service our citizens.

Also, the Monroe County Department of Tourism received a $17,000 marketing grant compared to $7,000 for the same grant last year. This grant will focus on bringing visitors into our beautiful county.

Monroe County, on Sept. 24, decided to buy into the Tennessee Valley Regional Communications System (TVRCS) which is a true Project 25 system. Our move to a true P25 compliant system will allow for us to apply for federal and state grants to help fund future radio needs. This system is monitored 24/7 by both the State of Tennessee and Motorola Solutions. Monroe County will be relieved of all maintenance responsibilities of the radio infrastructure and maintenance will be conducted by TVRCS and Motorola. Upgrades will be performed every two years to radios infrastructure.

We are proud that with this endeavor we will be able to establish a county-wide system that will benefit the Sheriff’s Office, EMA, EMS, E-911, Rescue Squad, Highway Department, Maintenance, GIS, IT, Solid Waste, property assessors and more. This system will also benefit the municipalities of Tellico, Vonore, Madisonville and Sweetwater’s fire and police departments. This also will include two bi-directional amplifiers to help insure coverage of Tellico and Sweetwater High schools.

Monroe County EMA has already received a $15,000 grant to go toward the system.

Monroe County is home to approximately 3,700 veterans made up of men and women who have called Monroe County home for a lifetime. Some have chosen Monroe County as a place to enjoy retirement while others chose Monroe County for work or to continue their education. Many of the veterans are members of service organizations, such as the VFW, American Legion, DAV and Vet to Vet, all of which share in a common mission to help and serve other veterans.

Throughout the generations, their sacrifices have preserved our unique form of government dedicated to human rights and respect for the individual. For many, that sacrifice has ended in permanent injury or death, yet their spirit remains in the continued preservation of our freedoms and the promise of liberty that has been established.

We owe a great debt to those who have served in defense of this great nation and we honor these dedicated men and women. We pledge our continued defense of our nation so that their sacrifice will stand before the entire world as a tribute to the spirit and determination of a people dedicated to the principles of freedom and democracy.

I am proclaiming Nov. 4 through Nov. 11, 2019, as Monroe County Bicentennial Salute to Veterans Week. I urge all citizens to acknowledge this time by displaying an American flag in honor of all veterans and encourage businesses to show their support by welcoming our veterans, displaying signs, windows dressings and offering discounts to those men and women who have given selflessly. As always, it is an honor and a blessing to serve as your mayor.

Mitch Ingram is the mayor of Monroe County.

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