Tracie Ford is the county’s full-time environmental health specialist, but she also gets assistance from other environmental specialists from the state’s regional office in Chattanooga, or from another regional health facilities.
Ford has a workload of more than 300 permitted facilities. She performed more than 800 complete inspections last year, and more than 300 follow-up inspections.
Environmental inspectors from a 10-county area share the load with Ford. The state currently has an opening for a second Bradley inspector — which it hopes to fill this year.
The Division of General Environmental Health is responsible for overseeing 14 programs in Bradley County.
Recently, the Bradley County Health Department recognized National Public Health Week, and Ford was a part of that celebration.
The county’s inspector is a graduate of Soddy-Daisy High School, with a degree in biology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She began her job with the Tennessee Department of Health 18 years ago in McMinn County, then came to Bradley County in 1997.
Her husband, Keith, is also a Soddy-Daisy graduate and works with M&M Mars. The couple live in Birchwood and have two children, Patton, 11, and Blair, 7.
Ford says most of the business, industries and individuals she works with remain in compliance. “They know we’re going to respect and protect the public, as well as their business and livelihood,” Ford said.
“We have a very good team of inspectors in the region (under supervisor Eric Coffey),” continued Ford.
She said her responsibilities are split pretty much between inspections and clerical needs in the office. “I answer a lot of phone calls,” she said.
According to Coffey, the Southeast region field office manager in Chattanooga, the state’s Department of Health performs inspections on food facilities, hotels/motels, swimming pools, bed-and-breakfast establishments, child care facilities, school plants, campgrounds, tattoo and body-piercing establishments and correctional facilities.
Ford is also responsible for tracking animal vaccinations, investigating animal bites (although animal control officers handle much of this in Cleveland and Bradley County), enforcing the Non-Smoker Protection Act, and permitting food vendors at temporary events.
She said there are a number of wild animals that will bite people, including raccoons, groundhogs, foxes, coyotes and bats — in addition to cats, dogs and other domestic pets.
The health department programs occur in all 10 counties of Southeast Tennessee, which includes counties from Polk to Franklin (excluding Hamilton County).
There are some interesting statistics dealing with Bradley County, which is the largest health department (other than Hamilton County) in this area.
n Bradley County has 947 permitted facilities, and permits require inspection by Ford. There are 642 food facilities which require two inspections each year. There are 60 permitted pool facilities (public) that require monthly inspections when they are operational. Private pools do not require an inspection.
n A surprising statistic is there are about 35 tattoo and body-piercing facilities and operators that require an inspection every three months.
n Bradley County has 18 temporary events on the inspection list this year, and the state will probably permit around 200 food vendors. Temporary events are permitted if they occur over two days or more or are planned monthly at the same location. A few of these include the MainStreet Cleveland Cruise-In downtown, the Nillie Bipper Festival and the Apple Festival.
n Coffey says his office usually responds to around 100 different animal bite calls in the region during a year, collects and tracks animal vaccinations and helps with various vaccination clinics and other rabies programs such as the raccoon baiting program.
Inspectors also check for compliance and handle complaints about the Non-Smoker Protection Act.