Preventable Injuries Fill Hospitals Each Memorial Day; Vanderbilt Doctors Urge Safety on Upcoming Holiday Weekend

With the Memorial Day holiday upon us, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is preparing for what is typically one of the busiest weekends of the year.

Victims of automobile, boating, motorcycle, swimming and all-terrain vehicle accidents flood Vanderbilt each year during this holiday weekend, which is considered the official kick-off to summer.

“Many of these accidents could have been prevented or significantly reduced in severity with proper safety precautions such as wearing helmets and seatbelts,” said Richard Miller, M.D., chief of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care at Vanderbilt. “Alcohol is also a big contributor to accidents and injuries. It is critical to stay hydrated, consume alcohol in moderation and know your limits. Taking the keys away from those impaired may save a life.”

On average, Vanderbilt LifeFlight makes about 40 flights over Memorial Day weekend, which is nearly double the flight volume of a typical weekend. Vanderbilt LifeFlight experienced the highest volume of flights in the program’s history over the 2012 Memorial Day weekend, flying 90 patients over the three-day period.

Among the 2016 Memorial Day weekend Trauma admissions, nearly half were motor vehicle collisions. Many of these car accidents were due to impaired driving, distracted driving and the overall heavy traffic over this weekend.

“One poor decision can impact the lives of many,” said Alex Jahangir, M.D., medical director of the Vanderbilt Center for Trauma, Burn and Emergency Surgery at Vanderbilt. “I would encourage everyone to make responsible decisions this Memorial Day and celebrate the lives of those who defended and protected the freedoms we enjoy today.”

Vanderbilt offers these reminders for the upcoming holiday weekend:

Fire: Properly clean grills, check for gas leaks and only use grills outside. Carefully monitor anyone who is near a fire of any kind, and properly extinguish fire pits when not in use.

Water: Never swim alone, closely supervise children, wear flotation devices when boating and be mindful of other boaters and skiers nearby.

Travel: Wear helmets at all times when riding a bicycle or motorcycle; wear seat belts at all times when traveling by car; obey the speed limit and other traffic laws; refrain from texting or other distracting activities while driving; and never consume alcohol while driving.

Sun: Temperatures across the Southeast are expected to be in the mid- to high-80s this weekend, making heat-related illnesses and sunburn a concern. Wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water. If feeling faint or nauseous, get into a cool, shady place immediately.

Alcohol: Limit alcohol intake, as it can impair judgment and intensify the consequences of heat exposure.

Tomahawk closed Memorial Day; early deadlines

Preview of the upcoming sports season in Johnson County The Tomahawk office will be closed Monday, May 29th for Memorial Day. Early deadlines for the May 31st paper are as follows:
Classified and display advertising deadline 12 noon Friday, May 26th;
News deadlines 4:30 pm. Friday, May 26th

Johnson County School Board wraps up business for 2016-17 school year

By Rebecca Herman

The Johnson County School Board met for their regular monthly meeting on Thursday, May 11; all members were present. The board began the meeting by recognizing the employee and students of the month.
Instructional assistant, Janet Townsend, was recognized as employee of the month. Townsend works at Laurel Elementary and according to Principal Leon Henley “is an example of someone that always is willing to go above and beyond,” for students and staff at the school. “In addition to her duties as an instructional assistant, or filling in as the secretary, nurse, RTI interventionist, lunch monitor, and the list goes on and on, she always does these duties without hesitation or complaint,“ Henley stated.
Next to be recognized were sixth graders, from Laurel Elementary who scored “exceeding” on one or more areas of the ACT Aspire Assessment. These students were Allen Forrester, Tristan Mains, Gabrielle Robbins, Aleena Summerow, Damon Thompson, and Christopher Williams.
Marly Eggers, student school board members, gave her final report on Johnson County High School. Eggers explained that seniors were excited that graduation was only days away and explained that underclassman would still have school Monday through Wednesday of the following week, with a half day on the 18th; report cards will be given out on the 18th as well. Eggers expressed her gratitude to the board and thanked them “for allowing me this opportunity, it has been an honor and I’m very pleased to have been able to participate. I know Chase (McGlamery) will do a good job next year and Renie Marrow the year after him.”
Board members approved an item that allows Edward Jones to be added as employee sponsor contractor. This will allow employees to choose between Edward Jones and Horace Mann for their match/benefits.
Barry Bishop addressed the board about two quotes for summer projects that needed approval. The first was from Keller Glassco Inc., who would be working on Mountain City Elementary’s entryway and a glass wall. The next quote was from Jones Hardwood Floors to replace the gym floor at Johnson County High School. Bishop explained that two companies sent in bids for the gym project, but Jones Hardwood Floors was the only company who could get the work done this summer. Bishop also explained that he and his crew would be pulling up the subflooring and that the price given included the artwork. The board approved both of these quotes.
School Finance Director, Tina Lipford, spoke about the budget. She explained that the system is on track and that they have worked hard to stay within the budget. She said that the county commission budget committee would be meeting in June and would want the school system’s 2017-2018 budget.
Director of Schools, Dr. Mischelle Simcox, ended the meeting with her system report. She told the board members that Principal Dana Smith, Shady Valley Elementary, was not present because she was being honored for coaching softball for 25 years. Each board members expressed gratitude to all the teachers and staff who made the 2016-2017 school year successful.
The next board meeting will be on June 8th at 6pm.

Committee formed to study feasibility of naming Johnson County EMS primary transport provider

By Marlana Ward

The Johnson County Commissioners met in regular session on May 18th, 2017.  All commissioners were present and eager to hear the business to be brought before them by the public, local businesses, and officials.  The meeting was brought to order at 7:00 pm by Mike Taylor.  Huey Long led those in attendance in prayer and roll was called by Johnson County Clerk, Tammie Fenner.
Following the order of agenda, Taylor began the public comments portion of the meeting by asking Jim Gilley and Janice Atkinson Russell to approach the podium and present the commissioners with their proposed business.  Russell began by expressing gratitude for Johnson County and the history that her family has had with the county for the past 50 years as owners and operators of WMCT, the only local radio station in Johnson County.  Russell explained how she hoped that her family’s legacy and tradition of serving the county would continue through her and now her daughter’s involvement with the station.  Russell shared how WMCT now simulcasts on the FM frequency of 102.9 as well as the well-known am frequency of 1390.
Gilley explained to the commissioners how the present location of their FM antenna was not ideal and that the residents of Johnson County were unable to receive the signal due to the manner in which FM frequency waves are unable traverse the mountainous terrain of our area.  It is the wish of WMCT to be permitted to move their FM antenna to the location of the Johnson County Sherriff’s Department’s radio tower to allow for better FM coverage and thus allowing more of the public to have access to the community information WMCT provides.  Gilley shared how they have had engineers visit the site of the department’s tower to explore the feasibility of the move.  Upon inspection by the engineers, the tower was found to need immediate repair to guidelines as well as other small repairs.  Russell stated that she would be very willing to help with the costs of the repairs to the tower in exchange for allowing WMCT to have their antenna placed there.  The costs were estimated to be under $1,000 for all repairs.
The commissioners asked Sheriff Mike Reece if he was aware of the needed repairs and he stated that he had not been made aware until Mr. Gilley and the engineer had visited the site.  He explained that Tri-Cities’ Communications, the county’s official radio service and maintenance providers, had been made aware of the needed repairs and would be visiting the site soon to provide their own estimate for the charge.   Sheriff Reece then assured the commission that regardless of what was decided about the WMCT antenna, the repairs would have to be made for the tower to be safely operational.
Christopher Pierce asked about the possibility of the antenna’s interference with county emergency services communications whose antennas and repeaters are also found on the tower.  Sherriff Reece as well as Gilley assured them that engineers have found that there should be no interference caused by the FM antenna.  The commission made certain that WMCT understood they would be responsible for any possible interference caused by their antenna.  Because the cost of the repair was estimated to be less than $1,000 and Russell‘s commitment to assist with the costs, the commission first voted to waive the need for the proposal of the antenna relocation to be presented before the budget committee.  The motion to allow WMCT the use of the tower was then made by Tommy Poore and seconded by Scott Mast.  The vote carried unanimously.  Mike Taylor thanked WMCT for their continued service to Johnson County.
April’s minutes, new notary applications, county bonds, and budget amendments previously given to the commissioners for review before the meeting were all accepted unanimously.
The next topic of discussion was the need for a new records policy and resolution for the Johnson County government.  County Accounting and Budget Director Russell Robinson informed the commission that as per the state, Johnson County must have a public records policy in place by July 1st.  The state is requiring that all counties have a clear procedure in place to make public records available for citizens who request the files to follow.  Robinson had previously given the commissioners a copy of the proposed resolution to review.  The resolution would cover all government departments with the exception of the school system.  The school system would be exempt from the policy due to the fact that they already have their own policy regarding public files in place.
The first concern voiced about the policy was the way in which businesses that regularly request records from the deeds or assessor’s office would be affected by this resolution.  It was expressed by Rick Snyder how this increase in paperwork could affect agencies that need to be able to provide records in a timely manner to local businesses with whom they do regular business such as surveyors and real estate agencies.  Robinson stated that while it was not the intent for the policy to replace a system that currently works well for those involved in those areas, it could be read in such a manner that would require further steps to access those files in accordance to the resolution.
It was asked if other county departments had been given the option of adopting their own policy such as the school system had done to exclude them from the resolution.   Sheriff Mike Reece stated that the sheriff’s department also had its own policy and procedure regarding the procurement of public records by citizens.   Robinson stated that he had been in contact with other departments and that no department had expressed a desire to be excluded.  After discussing the possible ramifications of the resolution as written, it was determined that the resolution should be tabled for the month and that each department should revisit the idea of implementing their own policy to ensure their office’s best option regarding the resolution.  The motion was made by Jerry Grindstaff and seconded by Scott Mast.  The vote was unanimous for tabling of the discussion and further work done to the resolution before adoption.
The last item on the night’s agenda was the request for a resolution made by Johnson County Rescue and EMS to be named the primary rescue provider/sole EMS provider for Johnson County.  This resolution would mean that no outside ambulatory service could enter Johnson County without being contacted by Johnson County EMS for dispatch.
The first person recognized to speak to the commission about the resolution was Johnson County citizen Ray Stout.  Stout came forward to express his concern that by allowing Johnson County EMS exclusive rights to medical transport within the county, that citizens would be forced to wait for extended periods when the emergency vehicles were busy with other calls.  He shared how the nursing home had to regularly reschedule doctor’s appointments for their patients because they were unable to secure transport by the EMS.  Stout further expressed how the resolution could be seen as a threat to free enterprise and how competition is good for any marketplace.  Stout’s final words were how he himself had worked for the EMS for 35 years and that a resolution such as this was not needed then and is not needed now.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.

Body of murder suspect found on Copperhead Hollow Road

The body of a Damascus, Virginia man wanted for first-degree murder in the shooting death of his sister and brother-in-law was found Wednesday, May 17th around 8:00 pm on Copperhead Hollow Road in Johnson County, located in the Butler area of the county.
Johnson County authorities had been assisting in locating the deceased, 48-year-old John Anthony Able.   Police in Washington County had been searching for Able since the bodies of his brother in law, Jerry Wayne Hargrove and his sister, Debra Kay Hargrove were found in their home in Chilhowie on Tuesday. According to Chilhowie Sheriff Fred Newman, both victims were shot in the upper torso.
Detectives from both the Chilhowie sheriff’s department and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations had spent Tuesday into Wednesday morning investigating the scene.  By Wednesday afternoon, warrants were issued for Able.  He was initially charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of robbery and two counts of use of a firearm while committing a felony.  It was reported that Able took off with a 9mm handgun, a shotgun and a vehicle.
According to Sheriff Mike Reece, Able’s body was found after a call was received by the sheriff’s department stating there was vehicle located along Copperhead Hollow Road and the occupant appeared to be deceased. At this time, it is believed Able shot himself.
Johnson County local authorities were at the scene waiting for Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to arrive.

JCHS graduating seniors celebrate their achievements at Baccalaureate Service

First Baptist Church in Mountain City hosts the annual Baccalaureate Service for JCHS.

 

By Marlana Ward

As the class of 2017 prepares for their lives outside of high school and beyond Johnson County, representatives of the Johnson County Ministerial Alliance celebrated the graduates’ achievement with their annual Baccalaureate Service on May 11th.  Eighteen Johnson County High School (JCHS) seniors were in attendance along with supportive friends, family, teaching staff, and school board administration.
The evening began with Pastor Ricky Campbell of First Baptist Church, which served as the host church for the night, welcoming those in attendance and praying to begin the event.  Pastor Dwayne Dickson of First Christian Church then gave special recognition to guests from the school system who made it a priority to attend the service.
Cora Hayworth and McKenzie Robinson provided the music for the night by performing the contemporary Christian hits “I Will Trust in You” and “Oceans”.  Following the musical performance, Pastor Con Sauls of Mountain City Presbyterian Church took to the podium to introduce the guest speaker for the service, Haley Wherry.
Wherry serves as Executive Director of First Priority Blue Ridge.  First Priority is a non-denominational ministry that focuses on helping students with their Christian faith as they face opposition from the world.  Wherry carries a special burden for those in local colleges as he and his wife have two children of college age themselves.  By offering students a safe place to ask questions and study God’s Word, First Priority hopes to positively affect not only the lives of students seeking counsel but also the world as a whole.
The message of the evening was entitled “What’s N.E.X.T.?”.  The first point of the acronym was “N” for the fact that nepotism must die.  Wherry’s statement was that while an individual may be born into a Christian family, their parent’s beliefs was not simply bestowed upon them by association and would not provide salvation for the their own lives.  As the student enters into adulthood, their relationship with God would now be completely up to them to pursue and build.  Wherry used the passage Matthew 7:21-23 to show how even if you knew who Jesus was, you did not have the proper relationship with him unless you had accepted him as Savior for yourself.
Eagerly pursue Christ was the next point in the message as letter “E”.  Wherry explained to the students that as soon as they stepped onto a college campus, it would not be the Christian-minded groups or ministries pursuing them but rather the world pursuing them.  “The world pursues you and the world is relentless,” Wherry expressed.  “You must pursue growth of your faith yourself.”  He encouraged students to not become part of the statistic that shows between 60 and 80 percent of Christian youths lose their faith  during their years at university.  “The ones that pursue their faith are some of the most dynamic people I know,” added Wherry.  “They ask questions and find their faith.  Those that remain in faith are changing the world.”
The following point in the message was to expect exponential pressure and attacks on your faith represented by the letter “X“.  Wherry cautioned the future college students to be ready to withstand attacks on their faith from the world.  He shared how attacks may not always come in the form of an open enemy but may be brought by trusted advisors, professors, and other would-be mentors.  “You will experience challenges you have never experienced or thought about before,” said Wherry.  “When a professor is telling you that God does not exist, if you don’t have a relationship with God, they can convince you.”  Wherry pointed everyone to Romans 12:2 which states:  “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  Wherry also gave 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” to give hope that no matter what they may face, God is with them and will give them what they need to maintain and build their faith if they will seek relationship with Him.
The final letter of the message’s acronym was “T” which stood as a symbol for the cross.  Wherry shared how the cross was a symbol for execution and the fact that one must die to self and selfish, worldly lusts.  He used the scripture “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) to show how though God gives us freedom to choose what path we take, the ways of the world are not of God and should be abstained from.  Wherry encouraged the young adults to follow God’s plan and path as they set out on their lives being responsible for themselves with Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Following the message, Pastor James Bowman of First Christian Church and Pastor Joshua Giddings of Hammons Chapel Christian Church presented the graduates with a copy of the book Truth Matters as well as a notepad portfolio and pen from the Ministerial Alliance.  Upon receiving their gifts, each graduate faced the crowd and shared what their future plans were for college and career.  After the service, a reception in honor of the class of 2017 was held in the First Baptist fellowship hall.

Tornado touches down in Shady Valley, property damage but no injuries reported

 

By Paula Walter

According to The National Weather Service in Morristown, Tennessee, an EF-0 tornado hit Shady Valley this past Friday, May 12th.  Officials say the path of the tornado was approximately 40 feet wide, stretching out about 250 yards.
Tornadoes are rated on a scale from EF-0 to EF-5. According to the weather service, estimates are the highest wind speed from the tornado this past Friday was 80 miles per hour, falling into the EF-0 category. Despite the size of the tornado, it caused damage to the roofs of two homes, as well as destroying two sheds and a carport.  According to the Johnson County Emergency Management Officer, there were no reported injuries.
Local weather stations and phone alerts gave notice in advance of the possible impending tornado well in advance of the storm so people could take shelter.
The tornado warning came just as schools across the county were preparing to dismiss for the day, but students in Johnson County Schools are well prepared for disasters of all types. According to Dr. Mischelle Simcox, director of schools for Johnson County, the students prepare on a regular basis for different types of emergency situations. “We are required by the fire marshall to have so many drills each month,” Simcox stated. According to Simcox, the students practice drills for evacuations, tornadoes, and lock down procedures. “We are very prepared,” she added.

STRONG Act: Tuition Assistance for TN National Guard

NASHVILLE – Soldiers and Airmen in the Tennessee National Guard who are pursuing their first bachelor’s degree can now receive tuition assistance due to the passing of the Tennessee STRONG Act on May 3.

The Tennessee STRONG (Support, Training, and Renewing Opportunity for National Guardsmen) Act provides educational opportunities for members of the Tennessee National Guard and supports Governor Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative that launched in 2013. The goal of the initiative is for 55 percent of Tennesseans to have a degree or certificate by the year 2025.

“The STRONG Act provides the necessary funding our current members need to further develop themselves and prepare for future challenges in life,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Mark Harris, the command chief master sergeant for the Tennessee Air National Guard. “We must continue to lead in innovation, readiness and development; education is a critical part of doing this.”

“In addition to strengthening the Tennessee National Guard, the STRONG Act will strengthen our workforce and economy,” according to a One Pager about the Act found on TN.gov.

Diosana Gutierrez from Mountain City, Tennessee, Makes the Spring 2017 Merit List at Brenau University

GAINESVILLE, GA (05/09/2017)– Diosana Consuelo Gutierrez from Mountain City, Tennessee, achieved Brenau University’s Merit List Honors for the spring 2017 semester. Gutierrez is a class of 2017 student majoring in business, marketing.

Merit list students must maintain a 3.5 grade point average while carrying 12 to 14 semester hours of course work with no grade lower than B in that semester.

Founded in 1878, Brenau University is a private, not-for-profit nationally prominent comprehensive institution of higher education that enrolls students in graduate and undergraduate studies on campuses and online. Gainesville, Georgia-based Brenau includes the residential Women’s College, which represents the academic and philosophical underpinnings of the liberal arts university. Brenau also provides coeducational opportunities through the doctoral level, including on-ground programs in Gainesville and other Georgia locales: Augusta, Kings Bay, Norcross and Fairburn, as well as Jacksonville, Florida. Brenau University offers doctorates in nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy, a terminal M.F.A. in interior design, specialist in education, master’s, bachelor’s and associate’s degrees as well as professional certifications. The Women’s College boasts 14 nationally competitive intercollegiate Golden Tigers sports teams, national honor societies and national sororities with dedicated residential facilities on campus. The university provides outlets for artistic expression and community service for all students. Brenau possesses an extensive and distinctive permanent collection of art and presents year-round programming that includes art exhibitions, lectures, debates and literary readings, and theatrical and musical performances. www.brenau.edu

 

Attorney General Files Lawsuit against a Network of Pain Management Clinics

Attorney General Files Lawsuit against a Network of Pain Management Clinics

Lawsuit alleges $7 million in fraudulent TennCare claims

 

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced the filing of a lawsuit against an organization of pain management clinics owned and operated by Michael Kestner and his business partner, Dr. Lisabeth Williams. Kestner is the primary owner of MMi, which operated at least 18 pain management clinics throughout Tennessee.

The civil action, filed in Williamson County Circuit Court, alleges millions of dollars in fraudulent claims to TennCare dating back to at least 2006.

 

MMi Pain Clinics and their providers purport to treat people suffering from chronic pain. According to the lawsuit, defendants conducted a fraudulent scheme that involved regularly subjecting patients to unnecessary medical procedures.

 

“These clinics put profit over patients,” General Slatery said. “Even more disturbing than the millions of dollars in fraudulent claims to the State is their lack of compassion for those coming to them for treatment.”

 

The most common example is with patients who return each month for a new narcotic prescription. In exchange for the prescription, patients were subjected to superficial back injections known as “trigger-point injections.” Providers typically performed 6-20 injections and in some cases as many as 50 injections per visit. It is not unheard of for a medical provider to perform multiple trigger-point injections in a single patient visit, but never in the volume used by MMi. Regardless of the number of trigger-point injections, billing to TennCare is limited to a single unit per patient for reimbursement.

To circumvent TennCare’s reimbursement policy, the lawsuit alleges MMi billed for trigger point injections as though they were “tendon origin insertions” even if patients were never diagnosed with tendon problems. Tendon injections are commonly used to treat inflammation in tendons of the arms and legs, such as the condition often referred to as tennis elbow. Since there is an expectation that these injections would not be performed in volume, there is not a limit on the number of units allowed for TennCare reimbursement. By calling these injections tendon origin insertions and presenting claims to TennCare with an improper code, MMi providers and defendants were able to subvert – through fraud – the billing limitations on trigger-point injections.

The complaint alleges Mr. Kestner and Dr. Williams, through their providers, knowingly filed false claims for their own personal financial gain. The State estimates for an average TennCare patient visit, MMi received at least six times more in injection reimbursements due to the submission of false claims. Additionally, the State alleges Mr. Kestner coerced MMi providers to perform medically unnecessary injections on their insured patients by rewarding them with financial bonuses or by threatening to fire them if they did not perform more procedures.

 

The State is seeking an estimated $7 million in damages plus civil penalties, which could triple that amount.

 

Full Complaint: http://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/attorneygeneral/filings/mmicomplaint.pdf

 

Brownlow Utility District wins Region One Best Tasting Water Contest

(Left to right) Mary Short (USDA Rural Development), Ben Simcox (Brownlow Utility District), Bill Forrester (First Tennessee Development District), Jill Salyers (Sen. Bob Corker’s office).

Brownlow Utility District was recently awarded top honors at the Region 1 Best Tasting Water Contest sponsored by the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts (TAUD).  The competition took place on April 27 at the Econo Lodge in Greeneville.  The drinking water samples were judged on their clarity, bouquet, and taste.
TAUD Region One consists of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties.  In addition to Brownlow Utility, the other utilities participating in the competition were the City of Bristol, Cold Springs Utility District, the City of Elizabethton, Erwin Utilities, Greeneville Water System, City of Kingsport, Lakeview Utility District, and Sneedville Utility District.
Participating as judges for the competition were Mary Short of USDA Rural Development, Bill Darden with Congressman Phil Roe’s Office, Jill Salyers with Senator Bob Corker’s Office, and Bill Forrester with the First Tennessee Development District.
TAUD conducted the Best Tasting Water in Tennessee Contest in each of the Association’s 11 regions over the past several months.  The winner of each region will participate in a statewide competition at TAUD’s Business of Running a Utility Conference at the Gatlinburg Convention Center on August 11.  The statewide winner will represent Tennessee at the Great American Taste Test held in conjunction with the National Rural Water Association Rally in Washington D.C. in February 2018.
Founded in 1957, The Tennessee Association of Utility Districts celebrates 60 years in 2017 as the state’s first source of training, technical assistance, and advocacy for more than 400 water, wastewater, and natural gas utility members throughout Tennessee.  For more information, please visit our website at www.taud.org.

Skating rink, farmer’s market and more discussed at May Mountain City council meeting

By Rebecca Herman

Mountain City Council members met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 2; all members were present.
The meeting began with city council members approving a Chiari Awareness Walk to take place on September 16, 2017 at Ralph Stout Park. The request was brought to the city council by Tina and Amy Curd. Amy explained that her son has been diagnosed with this condition and that she has found at least eight others in the community who also have Chiari. “We want to bring awareness about this disease,” said Amy. “There may be more people who have it, we just don’t know.”
Alderman Jerry Jordan briefly discussed a small business owner who approached him with a request to promote Mountain City. According to the business owner, Mountain City does not have much of a social media presence and there could be an increase in business if the city were better promoted. Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons said that it would be looked at “in the budget meeting to see what we can do.” City Council Alderman Bob Morrison mentioned that there is work being done on a branding for the county and on the Chamber of Commerce website.
City Council Alderman Kenny Icenhour asked if the crosswalk lights had been fixed. He was told that one had been fixed, and the crosswalk light at the Rite Aid intersection still needed work. Icenhour said that he would like the light to be fixed soon, “before someone gets hurt.”
According to Mayor Parsons, the city will be working on ordinances dealing with dilapidated structures and high weeds and grass. “We are going to be aggressive with these ordinances,” said Parsons.
City Recorder Sheila Shaw asked if the city council members wanted to change the date of the July meeting to the 11th, since the regular meeting would fall on July 4th. They agreed to change this date. Shaw also explained that the bridge project at Fairground Lane and Circle Drive has been pushed back to August.
City Council members heard from Robert Genaille and Jana Jones about a location for the farmer’s market. Alderman Icenhour was concerned with the location that was picked out because of its proximity to homes.
“Folks aren’t going to want a building in their backyard,” Icenhour said.
“We have an opportunity to get a building that will be paid for by a grant, so we don’t want to lose this,” Genaille expressed. He also explained that the farmer’s market would only be using the building for three hours a week and only during May through August, so the community would be able to use the building the rest of the time and that the current design would allow for much more picnic space.  Mayor Parsons suggested another location, one that had previously been discussed and suggested that the decision be tabled another month until they can look at a different location.
Next, council members discussed the audit contract with Blackburn, Childers and Steagall for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. The firm is willing to negotiate a price that is $6,800 cheaper. City council members approved.
The Goose Creek Trail engineer informed the council that he would not ask for additional money if the council approved a time extension. The council agreed to approve this request.
Mayor Parsons explained that the lease on the proposed skating rink had been obtained and is being finalized. City Attorney Steve McQueen told council members that he had a copy of the lease for them to review. Work on grants for the skating rink is also moving forward.
The council also discussed the need for a building inspector. They decided to look within the Public Works Department to begin with; if no one was interested in becoming a building inspector, then they would advertise to find one.
The next meeting will be June 6 at 6:30 pm.

Upcoming blood drives in area

Blood Assurance Regional Blood Center will conduct public blood drives at the following locations

  • Friday, May 5th, 9:00a-2:00p, Hampton Elementary Community Blood Drive, Hampton, TN
  • Monday, May 8th, 10:30a-3:30p, Food City, Lebanon, VA
  • Tuesday, May 9th, 9:30a-4:00p, Franklin Woods Community Hospital, Johnson City, TN
  • Tuesday, May 9th, 2:30p-5:30p, Coomes Recreation Center, Abingdon, VA
  • Wednesday, May 10th, 11:00a-4:00p, Alo, Telford, TN
  • Wednesday, May 10th, 1:00p-4:00p, Food City, Abingdon, VA
  • Thursday, May 11th, 10:00a-5:00p, ACT-Fairview, Johnson City, TN
  • Thursday, May 11th, 11:30a-4:30p, Smyth County Community Hospital, Marion, VA
  • Friday, May 12th, 9:00a-4:00p, ACT-Fairview, Johnson City, TN
  • Friday, May 12th, 9:30a-3:30p, Johnson City Medical Center, Johnson City, TN

Donors also welcome at Blood Assurance Donor Centers:

  • 16000 Johnston Memorial Dr., Medical Suite 110, Abingdon, VA
  • 100 Linden Square Dr., Bristol, VA
  • 1 Professional Park Drive, Suite 14, Johnson City, TN
  • 300 Clinchfield St., Kingsport, TN

Donors must be at least 18 years old (16-17 years old with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. The process usually takes about 30 minutes and includes a complimentary gift and snacks. Donors should eat a healthy meal and drink plenty of fluids -avoiding caffeine- prior to giving blood.

To schedule a blood drive at a local business, school, church or civic/community organization, please contact:

In Tennessee, Mike Patterson, 423-298-4335, MikePatterson@bloodassurance.org

In Virginia, Anne-Lewis Vowell, 423-635-3441, Anne-LewisVowell@bloodassurance.org

Tennessee Highway Safety Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, AAA, Vanderbilt remind drivers to look twice during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

TENNESSEE – On Wednesday, May 3, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) hosted a press event with the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), AAA – The Auto Club Group, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to kick off Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The event took place in conjunction with the Seventh Annual Music City Police Motorcycle Skills and Training Competition, hosted by the THP’s “Falcons” Motor Unit at Opry Mills in Nashville. Click here for event photos: https://goo.gl/photos/mLK55Ki2s6Cex7dG7.

“The purpose of this initiative is to educate drivers and keep riders safe,” said Vic Donoho, Director of the THSO. “The weather is beautiful, and we want everyone to enjoy it. So, we ask all roadway users to exercise safety, drive sober, stay alert, and look twice for motorcycles.”

According to Dr. Bradley Dennis of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, there is often a spike in motorcycle-related trauma this time of year in Tennessee. Three types of injuries most commonly seen associated with motorcycle crashes are orthopedic injuries (i.e. broken bones and dislocations), significant road rash, and traumatic brain injury.

“Traumatic brain injuries are the most dreaded injuries and can be fatal,” said Dennis. “These are almost always the result of riding helmetless or with an inadequate helmet.”

According to the Tennessee Integrated Traffic Analysis Network (TITAN), Tennessee experienced 3,116 motorcycle crashes statewide last year, resulting in 147 motorcyclist fatalities. Eight motorcyclists killed in 2016 were not wearing helmets.

The most common causes of motorcycle crashes are drugs and alcohol, speed, and other drivers, said Dennis. Driving a motorcycle requires full attention to the road and surroundings. The winding roads of the Cumberland Plateau and East Tennessee are some of the most scenic rides in the country. These are popular destinations for motorcyclists. Too much speed, however, can ruin a ride very quickly.

“Remember, a motorcycle is not forgiving,” said Major Tony Barham of the THP. “If you are speeding, riding recklessly, or riding under the influence, then you are increasing your chances of being involved in a serious crash. As riders, we must take responsibility for our actions and ride responsibly.”

Here are motorcycle safety tips provided by AAA – The Auto Club Group and Tennessee Highway Patrol:

Passenger Vehicle Drivers

  • Always look twice. Know that motorcycles are on the roadways. Actively look for and expect them.
  • Always give motorcyclists plenty of room. They need as much space as passenger vehicles. Increase that distance when the weather or road conditions are poor.
  • Limit distractions at all times while driving.
  • Enlist the help of other passengers to watch, and listen for motorcyclists.

Motorcycle Riders

  • Keep your head on a swivel. Constantly scan traffic ahead of you, both approaching and traveling in the same direction. Check your mirrors to observe traffic approaching behind you. Use extra caution as you approach side streets or enter into an intersection. Allow yourself space to react to hazards.
  • Upgrade your motorcycle’s brake lights to bright LED lights. LED lights are much brighter than standard, factory-issued lightbulbs.
  • Upgrade your front and rear turn signals with LED lights.
  • Install a brighter headlight that provides you with more of a visual presence to oncoming motorists during the daytime. This will also allow you to observe the road better at night for foreign objects or curves in the road.
  • Make sure that you are wearing a DOT-approved helmet. Skull cap helmets are not DOT-approved and do not provide sufficient protection.
  • Wearing proper clothing is a just as important as your helmet. Wear a jacket and protective leather chaps to prevent road rash.

For more information about motorcycle safety or the THSO, please visit www.tntrafficsafety.org.

Free skin cancer screening at Boone Dermatology Clinic on May 19th

Boone, NC (May 5, 2017) –  Boone Dermatology Clinic will partner with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System to offer a free melanoma cancer screening on Friday, May 19, 2017 from 10 am – 2 pm.
Participants may request either a full body exam or spot checks for suspicious areas. Screenings will be first come, first served, so please plan accordingly. Participants will be seen by the first available provider.

Boone Dermatology Clinic is located at 169 Birch St, Boone, NC. For more information, call Boone Dermatology Clinic at 828-264-4553. To learn more about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System visit https://apprhs.org/.

Reunions planned for ETSU Class of 1967 and Golden Fifties members

JOHNSON CITY – Graduates of East Tennessee State University’s Class of 1967, as well as all previous Golden Fifties Club inductees, are encouraged to attend the spring reunions on May 5-6 during the Spring Weekend extravaganza.

On Friday, May 5, registration and a reunion brunch will be held at the Millennium Centre beginning at 8:30 a.m.  During that time, the reunion attendees will be honored and members of the Class of 1967 will be inducted into the Golden Fifties Club, which is comprised of individuals who graduated from ETSU 50 or more years ago.

After the brunch, the reunion groups will take tours of the campus and the Johnson City area to see all the changes that have taken place since they left the university as new graduates.  Class photographs will also be taken, and an afternoon reception will be held at the Reece Museum.

The reunion groups will also be honored at the annual ETSU National Alumni Association Awards Banquet and Annual Meeting that evening.

On Saturday, May 6, the Class of 1967 and all Golden Fifties Club members are invited to lead the Class of 2017 into the 10 a.m. graduation ceremony.  Following an 8 a.m. breakfast at the Reece Museum, participating alumni will don golden caps and gowns and be escorted to the ETSU/Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center (Minidome) for the ceremony.

For more information, contact the ETSU National Alumni Association at 423-439-4218 or alumni@etsu.edu.  For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

Elected officials address audience at the Johnson County Legislative Breakfast

State Rep. Timothy Hill (left) and State Senator Jon Lundberg at Friday’s Legislative Breakfast.

By Paula Walter

A legislative breakfast was held this past Friday at the Crewette Building.  Following a hearty breakfast prepared by the Levi Retirees, Johnson County’s local, state and federal representatives addressed the crowd with updates on each level of government.
Lana Moore with Senator Lamar Alexander’s office spoke of the success of the No Child Left Behind program in the state. According to Moore, legislation was passed last year that provided money to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.  “It’s no secret we have a huge problem, she said. “We gave $1 billion to states to fight the epidemic.”  Of this money, approximately $14,000,000 was given to Tennessee in the first round of distribution of funds.
Representative Alexander is the chairman of the committees on Health, Education, Labor and Pension, in addition to sitting on the Appropriation Committees, along with committees on Aging, Natural Resources, Rules and Administration.
According to Moore, the health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act are on the verse of collapse.  There could be as many as 245,000 people that may have no insurance or limited options under the current plan.  If insurance is not available, there will be waivers for penalties that may arise should someone not be able to find health insurance.
Senator Bob Corker is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and sits on the committees for Banking, Housing, Urban Affairs, as well as the Budget and Special Committee on Aging. According to Jill Salyers, representative from Senator Corker’s office, Corker has put forward the bipartisan Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015.  “Twenty-seven million people are enslaved across the world,” she said. “That’s an atrocity.  This bill puts forth legislation to end slavery.
According to Salyers, Senator Corker talks frequently with President Trump.  Corker also does a lot of travel to and from the Middle East talking to both regional and United States leadership. According to Salyers, Senator Corker remains committed to standing behind Tennesseans.
Congressman Phil Roe represents the First District in Tennessee, which includes Johnson County. Roe’s first topic to address was the current healthcare plan.  “It cost too much,” said Roe.  “It’s too expensive.  According to Roe, the cost was too high and young people got out of the plan.  “Premiums skyrocketed,” said Roe. “ With insurance companies pulling out of the current healthcare act, out of pocket expenses and copayments have risen and there is no place for many to buy health care insurance. “We’ve got to get a replacement bill done,” Roe stated. According to Roe, families need to decide their own healthcare insurance needs.
According to Roe, plans are in the works to simplify how Americans would file taxes.  Tax returns would be the size of a postcard.  According to Roe, he would like to see corporate tax rates decrease from 25 percent to 20 percent.
“Korea is the most dangerous place in the world,” Roe stated.  According to Roe, he believes the biggest challenge for the United States is terrorism.  “I hope it doesn’t come onto our shores again,” he said.

For the rest of the story pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk on sale now.

ACTION Coalition says 70% of people polled do not want Sunday beer sales

By Rebecca Herman

All members of the Johnson County Commission were present at the regular monthly meeting on Thursday, April 20.
The meeting began with public comments; the first and only speakers was Liberty Foye, who is a doctoral candidate from East Tennessee State University and is currently finishing an internship at A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition, presented a statistical report showing the potential impact of beer sales on Sunday in Johnson County. According to the information presented to the commissioners, the estimated revenue from beer sales to the county would be around $11,000. The report also showed that there was an increase in alcohol-involved crimes and DUIs in many counties that have started selling beer on Sundays. The report also noted that, “The cost of one aggravated assault is $8,641 and one serious car crash is $8,510. If Johnson County had even two more crimes this would negate the tax revenue increase.” A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition also polled 108 Johnson County citizens through Survey Monkey and paper surveys determined “that 70 percent of people polled were opposed to beer sales on Sunday.” The information was presented to the commission or further review.
Next on the agenda was the approval of notaries: Julie K Colon and Malon Lynn Gentry. The commission also approved a bond for Gerold “Jerry” Stephan Jordan, 911 Director, in the amount of $40,000. Budget amendments were also approved.
All county government quarterly reports were approved. The airport reported that there would be a new sign up, per federal statute, stating that all firearms or weapons have to be checked at the door. The health department received a level one-excellence award and the solid waste department said that the new contract for transporting trash from Johnson County to Bristol was “going perfect.”
Purchasing Agent, Dustin Shearin, spoke to the commission about upgrading the communications technology and service for county government offices. Shearin explained that over the past two and half years, he had been through financial documents, contracts, and checking out technology issues. He has determined that the technology being used, specifically phone systems and equipment, and the Internet speeds are “not good enough for what is required by the state.” Shearin explained that by applying for a USDA Community Facilities Grant, which offers 35 percent matching funds, that the county could upgrade the systems and create one contract with a vendor to supply Internet and phone service. Currently there are several providers being used, which is costing more money than if the county went with one vendor. This upgrade would help the system be more cohesive and would better serve the community. Shearin explained that there have been issues with crackling phone lines, calls being dropped, no voicemail for some offices, and fax lines being down for days at a time. “The technology is over 20 years old,” said Shearin.
Four bids have been placed for the technology upgrade. The best value was around $65,000, which includes labor, equipment, installation, and warranty. There would also be a 60-month contract with the vendor, which includes maintenance. The recurring monthly charge for internet, Wi-Fi, and phone service would be around $3,200, which is less than what is currently being paid.
The commission ended the meeting by approving the Highway Department to sell surplus trucks and approving the sale of a 0.037 acre right of way to the state for safety improvements on Highway 67.
The next commissioners meeting will take place on May 18 at 7pm.

Blood drives at various locations in area including Shady Valley

Blood Assurance Regional Blood Center will conduct public blood drives at the following locations:

  • Thursday, April 20th, 8:00a-3:00p, Unicoi County High School, Erwin, TN
  • Friday, April 21st, 9:00a-2:30p, Northwood High School, Saltville, VA
  • Friday, April 21st, 10:00a-3:00p, Lowes Home Improvement Store, Johnson City, TN
  • Monday, April 24th, 12:00p-5:00p, Story Strong Memorial Blood Drive to honor Luke Story, Jonesborough Visitors Center, Jonesborough, TN
  • Monday, April 24th, 11:00a-4:00p, Saltville Elementary School, Saltville, VA
  • Thursday, April 27th, 9:30a-3:00p, Shady Valley Elementary School Community Blood Drive, Shady Valley, TN
  • Friday, April 28th, 9:30a-11:15a, Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, VA
  • Friday, April 28th, 1:00p-4:00p, Home Nursing Service, Abingdon, VA

Donors also welcome at Blood Assurance Donor Centers:

  • 16000 Johnston Memorial Dr., Medical Suite 110, Abingdon, VA
  • 100 Linden Square Dr., Bristol, VA
  • 1 Professional Park Drive, Suite 14, Johnson City, TN
  • 300 Clinchfield St., Kingsport, TN

Donors must be at least 18 years old (16-17 years old with parental consent), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. The process usually takes about 30 minutes and includes a complimentary gift and snacks. Donors should eat a healthy meal and drink plenty of fluids -avoiding caffeine- prior to giving blood.

To schedule a blood drive at a local business, school, church or civic/community organization, please contact:

In Tennessee, Mike Patterson, 423-298-4335, MikePatterson@bloodassurance.org

In Virginia, Anne-Lewis Vowell, 423-635-3441, Anne-LewisVowell@bloodassurance.org

Johnson County School Board approves resolution opposing vouchers

Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox and Herbie Adams, CTE Director (right) honor Lester Dunn as Employee of the Month.

By Rebecca Herman

The Johnson County School Board members met on Thursday, April 13 for their regular monthly meeting; all board members were present.
April’s employee of the month was chosen from the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center at Johnson County High School. Lester Dunn, who works as the night security guard was honored. “He is always there for our teachers and students regardless of the need, from unlocking or jumping off cars to making sure that we are secure at night, Lester is there. Lester is definitely one of the most faithful and loyal employees that we have and we are very fortunate to have him,” said Herbie Adams, CTE Director and assistant principal.
Also honored were the CTE students who had just come back from the FFA state convention. Receiving state FFA degrees were Philip Dugger, Austin Gentry, and Taylor Long; Long also received an East Tennessee Star in Agribusiness. Rebekah Dugger was the East Tennessee winner in Proficiency in Diversified Horticulture and Nominating Committee Selection for Tennessee State Officers, and Dawson Cress was the East Tennessee Winner on Proficiency for Specialty Animals (Aquaculture).
The board approved a resolution to oppose any legislation to create voucher programs in Tennessee and briefly discussed the importance of having the policy that deals with charter school requests. “We did not get an application for any charter schools, but if we receive one, we know the procedures and steps,” said Dr. Mischelle Simcox, director of schools. Simcox also said that she and the board appreciated Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons coming to March’s meeting and showing support in the disapproval of a voucher program.
The board also approved the purchase of Extreme Networks tech support and warranty replacement service using the ALCOA City Schools purchasing cooperative agreement. Rob Sutherland, Technology Coordinator, explained that the contract has not been renewed in previous years, in order to save money. This would be a one-time charge for a one-year contract. The board approved the request.
Next, board members approved the summer work list and an alternative teacher’s salary schedule. Dr. Simcox asked several administrators how many teachers had come forth who were not happy about this new schedule. They explained that only a handful of teachers did not like it. Overall, teachers were pleased because the earning potential would be greater, especially after the 20-year mark, which previously had been capped at 20 years. Now teachers have the opportunity to increase their salary every year based on evaluation scores.
Student School Board Member, Marly Eggers, spoke next. Eggers told the board that the juniors had just received their ACT scores and that the average score had increased from last year, with the average score being 19.32, “We had more than 50 of them score over a 21,” said Eggers. “We are very proud of our juniors.” The National Honor Society had their spring blood drive on April 5 and was able to get 120 units of blood donated, which exceeded their goal of 105 units.
Eggers also announced that since school ends in four and half weeks, there are many end of the year activities, including the National Technical Honor Society inductions on April 19; the FFA Ag Olympics on May 5 followed by the 41st FFA Awards Banquet and the Student Council Banquet May 8.
There was an addendum to the minutes for the approval of a purchase of cabinets for the CTE house in the amount of $16,900 from Marshall’s Custom Cabinets; this price includes the cabinets and having them set. Adams explained that there were three bids and that they wanted to go with Marshall’s based on the price and quality of work that Marshall’s has previously provided. He explained that the money will be taken out of the CTE house fund. The board approved this request.
Dr. Simcox ended the meeting with some upcoming important dates. JCHS Prom will take place on Saturday, April 29; Presidential Academic Excellence Awards, May 1; Teacher Appreciation Day, May 4; students last full day is May 16 and the last half day is May 18, with a teacher workday on May 17. JCHS Graduation will be Saturday, May 13 at 10am.
The next school board meeting will be May 11 at 6pm.