Foreign investors notification

The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) requires all foreign owners of U.S. agricultural land to report their holdings to the Secretary of Agriculture. The Farm Service Agency administers this program for USDA.
Any foreign person who acquires, transfers, or holds any interest, other than a security interest, in agricultural land in the United States is required by law to report the transaction no later than 90 days after the date of closing.
For AFIDA purposes agricultural land is defined as any land used for farming, ranching or timber production, if the tracts total 10 acres or more.
Failure to submit the AFIDA form ( FSA-153) could result in civil penalties of up to 25 percent of the fair market value of the property.
Disclosure reports are also required when there are changes in land use. For example, reports are required when land use changes from nonagricultural to agricultural or from agricultural to nonagricultural. Foreign investors must also file a report when there is a change in the status of ownership such as owner changes from foreign to non-foreign, from non-foreign to foreign or from foreign to foreign.
County government offices, realtors, attorneys and others involved in real estate transactions are reminded to notify foreign investors of these reporting requirements.
For more information contact the Johnson County FSA office at (423) 727-9744 or visit the office at 119 S Murphey Street, Mountain City, TN.

Prison guard fired over writing letter to judge in support of Potter women

By Becky Campbell

Johnson City Press

A Tennessee Department of Correction prison guard still within her one-year employment probation period was fired last week after an investigation into her writing letters in support of a mother and daughter serving life sentences in the so-called Facebook murders.
The guard, Maria A. Jackson, wrote a letter dated Dec. 23, 2017, that was sent to Senior Judge Don Ash in Murfreesboro about Barbara Potter and her daughter, Jenelle Potter.
The women were charged, tried and convicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree murder. They each received two life sentences that are being serviced concurrently in the Jan. 31, 2012, shooting deaths of Bill Payne, 36, and Billie Jean Hayworth, 23, inside that couple’s Johnson County home. Hayworth was holding the couple’s infant son when she was shot to death.
The dispute between the couple and the Potter family apparently stemmed from jealousy and ill feelings over Jenelle Potter’s affection for Payne. She was on the outskirts of the couple’s acquaintances and developed a hatred for Hayworth and her group of friends, according to trial testimony nearly three years ago.
After Ash received the ex-parte communication, he sent a copy to Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus as well as 1st Judicial District Attorney General Tony Clark.
Staubus’ office handled the most recent court proceedings in the case — a motion asking a trial-level judge to consider what the defense believed was evidence not turned over to them that was revealed in a book written by the lead prosecutor in the trial, Assistant District Attorney Dennis Brooks. Clark recused his office from that portion of the case.
Ash was appointed for the proceeding because the original trial judge, Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood is now retired from the bench.
Staubus wrote to TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker in a letter dated Jan. 16 stating he believed it was inappropriate for the guard to become involved in the case.
“It’s not a crime, but you’ve got a state employee whose a corrections officer trying to influence the judge,” Staubus said. “I characterized it as poor judgement. In my opinion it was an attempt to influence the judge. No matter what happened, it needs to be investigated.”
Tennessee Prison for Women Warden Gloria Gross fired Jackson Jan. 18. In the termination letter, Gross stated that Jackson admitted calling attorneys for Barbara and Jenelle Potter from her personal cell phone to tell the lawyers “that both inmates’ health issues were not being taken care of by prison staff, as well as passing on information regarding the delays in their appeals.”
The letter went on to say Jackson admitted knowing that she was putting her job on the line by writing the letters and making the phone calls.
“Additionally, you admitted to spending excessive amounts of time discussing both inmates’ criminal cases as well as pending appeals and writing at least three letters of personal referral to parole boards and judges to request four different inmates release from prison.”
The inmates’ names were redacted from the termination letter, but it was provided by Department of Correction Public Information Officer Robert Reburn after a direct request about the letter.
The termination letter cites two specific TDOC policies Jackson violated. One was a code of conduct to prevent fraternization with offenders, ex-offenders or offenders’ relatives or friends. The second violation was a requirement for employees to conduct themselves in professional matter when interacting with offenders.

Former deputy, Adam Guinn, indicted by grand jury on forgery charges

An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has led to the indictment of a former Johnson County deputy on forgery charges.
In April 2016, at the request of 1st District Attorney General Tony Clark, TBI Special Agents began investigating allegations of forgery against Adam Scott Guinn (DOB 8-18-81). At that time, Guinn was a deputy with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. During the course of the investigation, Agents learned that Guinn returned paperwork showing that he had personally served three individuals with subpoenas on March 5, 2016. According to TBI, further investigation revealed that Guinn failed to serve the subpoenas and notify witnesses as he initially claimed.
Last week, the Johnson County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Guinn with three counts of Forgery. Monday, January 30, Guinn turned himself in to authorities and was booked into the Johnson County Jail on a $5,000 bond.

No injuries in accident at 421 and Main intersection on Friday

Garry Garoni, chairman of the board for STARLED Inc., and his wife, Lauren, were recently in a car accident on 421 in Mountain City. Fortunately, everyone from both vehicles was able to walk away from the accident. STARLED, Inc. manufactures LED lighting products for commercial and residential space, in addition to marine and automotive use. STARLED Inc. will be holding a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for this Tuesday at midnight at the spec building in Doe as they plan on beginning operations in Johnson County.

2018 is an election year for Johnson Countians and Tennesseans

It is election year in Tennessee once again. This year, elections will be held for both Tennessee state primary and Johnson County general elections on August 2, 2018. Winners in the state primary will move onto the general election on November 6th, 2018. The Town of Mountain City Municipal Election will also be held on November 6th, 2018.
This year’s seats on the ballot in the county general elections are Johnson County Mayor, Johnson County Trustee, Johnson County Sheriff, Johnson County Circuit Court Clerk, Johnson County Clerk, Johnson County Register of Deeds, Johnson County Road Superintendent and School Board Members for district one (the Laurel and Cold Springs region of the county) and district three (the Dry Run, Butler Doe and Shady Valley areas), as well as Johnson County Commissioners. Five positions for constable are also up for election. Elections for the Johnson County Tax Assessor will be held in 2020 and elections for judge will be held in 2022.
For those vying for positions in the Johnson County state primary and general elections, the first day to pick up petitions is January 5, 2018. In order to be on ballot, each potential candidate must receive a minimum of 25 signatures that will be verified. The qualifying deadline for county general election and the state primary is April 5, 2018 at 12:00 noon. The withdrawal deadline is April 12, 2018 at 12:00 noon.
The last day to register to vote in the State Primary and County General Election is July 3, 2018. The first day to receive a request for an absentee ballot is May 4, 2018 and the last day to receive a request for an absentee ballot is July 26, 2018. Early voting for the state primary and county general election is July 13th through July 28, 2018.
For those running in the general election on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, the first day to pick up petitions is January 5, 2018. The qualifying deadline (for offices on the August ballot) is April 5, 2018 at 12:00 noon, and the withdrawal deadline (for office on the August ballot) is April 12, 2018 and 12:00 noon. The last day to register to vote in the November General Election is October 9, 2018. The first day to receive a request for an absentee ballot is August 8, 2018 and the last day to receive a request for an absentee ballot is October 30th, 2018. Early voting begins October 17 through November 1,2018.
Elections for the Town of Mountain City Municipal Election will be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. The first day to pick up petitions is May 18, 2018. The qualifying dealing for the Town of Mountain City Municipal Elections is August 16, 2018 at 12:00 noon. The last day to withdraw from the Town of Mountain City Municipal Elections is August 23, 2018 at 12:00 noon. The last day to register to vote in the Mountain City elections is October 9, 2018. The first day to receive a request for an absentee ballot is August 8 2018 and the last day to receive a request for an absentee ballot is October 30, 2018. Early voting begins October 17th through November 1, 2008.
Sample ballots will be available in The Tomahawk newspaper, as well as at the election office.

Johnson County commissioners request hunting in preserve to curtail growing bear population

By Marlana Ward

The Johnson County Commissioners met in regular session on Thursday, January 18, 2018.  The meeting was well-attended with various department representatives and interested community members in the audience.
Quarterly reports from the various county departments were given to the commissioners ahead of the meeting for their review.  Time was taken for each department representative to stand and take any questions from the board.  Angie Stout, representative for the health department, updated the commissioners on the progress made toward the county receiving designation as a Tennessee Healthier Community.  She stated that reports had been submitted and the department would receive word in March as to the community’s official standing with the program offered by the governor’s office.  Stout shared that their work toward the initiative had already resulted in grant monies obtained by the department.  Some of those funds had been used to help spread awareness of the various walking/hiking trails located within Johnson County to encourage citizens to take advantage of the opportunities around them to get out and get active.  Stout added that maps were being printed that would outline the many trails making the information more accessible to those interested.  All quarterly reports were included and approved in a single motion by the commission.
Commissioner George Lowe brought up a concern to commission regarding the current bear population and resulting problems within the county.  Lowe requested the group’s support for asking the state to allow bear hunting within the current “bear preserve” area in Johnson County during our region‘s bear season.  Lowe mentioned how the increase in the bear population was causing issues with farmers and homeowners and that allowing hunters access to the currently restricted area would hopefully lessen the bear population and ease human/bear conflicts.  County Attorney Perry Stout informed the commission that the only way to allow hunting within a state preserve would be to have an official proclamation issued that allowed the exception.  Angie Stout, who had been in contact with the TWRA regarding the bear issues, spoke to the commission about information she had been given including that since 2016, 97 complaints had been made about bears and that the TWRA had issued over 40 permits allowing private home-owners to dispatch continually troublesome bears.  Commissioner Rick Snyder added that his family’s farm had been one of those issued a permit after bears destroyed corn crops and how the number of bears in the county was indeed a problem.  The motion was made and passed unanimously to request a proclamation from the state assembly.
Along similar lines, Commissioner Lowe also asked for the legality of the county offering bounties for the harvesting of coyotes to be investigated.  Lowe brought up how local farmers are having increasing problems with the wild canines killing livestock and how offering a bounty for the removal of the animals may be something the county should look into for the welfare of the farming community.

County Mayor Larry Potter welcomed Star LED President Garry Garoni to the podium to update the commission about the company’s progress with the spec building in the industrial park and the companies future plans for expansion at the location.  Garoni first shared with the group some stats regarding LED use in America.  He stated that with less than 5% of the country having made the switch to LED, it is certain that LED manufacturing and installation would be rising in great numbers.  Garoni displayed the type of bulb the location in Johnson County would be manufacturing and demonstrated it brightness in the courtroom.  He shared that while traditional bulbs burned 400 watts at a temperature of 450° F, these new bulbs by Star LED used 80% less electricity and operated at about 90° F thanks to the onboard fan and aluminum radiator system.  The bulb was passed around the courtroom for commissioners and the public in attendance to handle and inspect.

In addition to demonstrating what the company plans to manufacture in the county, Garoni also shared his plans to further the company’s integration into the community by also locating its corporate headquarters and a distribution center within the industrial park area.  Garoni spoke of his admiration of the work ethic of the people of Johnson County and his enthusiasm at hiring more of the county’s hard workers with the additional space.  Commissioner Rick Snyder informed the commission that he as a private surveyor had been hired to map out the additional property desired by the company and that if the road front area adjacent to SR 67, were to be considered the “front yard” of the property, there would be no problems with the additional construction on the property.   Star LED was requesting to lease a second plot connected to the spec building acreage to accommodate these additions.  A motion was made to allow the county mayor to negotiate the lease for the second lot and to designate the property along SR 67 as the official “front yard” to the property.  The motion carried unanimously.

In regular business of the commission, the December minutes, six notaries, and budget amendments were all approved.  The previously reviewed Debt Management Policy which keeps the county in compliance with the state’s three-star program was also approved.

The next meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners will occur on February 15, 2018.  Meetings begin at 7:00 pm and are held in the upper courtroom of the Johnson County Courthouse.

No new trial for Potters

Barbara Potter

Jennelle Potter

Judge Don Ash denied an appeal this past Wednesday, January 17, 2018, that was filed by Barbara and Jennelle Potter. Mother and daughter were convicted in the murder of Billy Payne and Billie Jean Hayworth in 2012 in Johnson County. Both women requested a new trial, stating there was new evidence in a book written by prosecutor Dennis Brooks.
Marvin Potter and Jamie Curd were also charged in the homicides. All three Potters, Barbara, Jennelle and Marvin, are serving life sentences. Curd received a 25-year sentence.
In his ruling, Judge Ash denied their requests, stating there was overwhelming evidence of their guilt and there was no failure by prosecutor Brooks to disclose evidence.

Johnson County Schools receives good report card

The Board of Education recognizes members of the attendance review committee at this month’s meeting.

By Meg Dickens

The Johnson County Board of Education met on Thursday, January 11th for their monthly meeting. All members were in attendance and ready to start the new year on a good note. The meeting was called to order at 6:00 PM and began with a moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Chairman Kenneth Gregg gave the floor over to Dr. Mischelle Simcox and Edna Miller for employee recognition. This month’s honorees are members of the attendance review committee. This committee helps review student cases of five unexcused absences or more. The following men and women were recognized: Johnson County High School (JCHS) Assistant Principal, Maelea Gaylon; Mountain City Elementary Assistant Principal, Mary Ann Robinson; Laurel Elementary Principal, Leon Henley; Johnson County Middle School (JCMS) Assistant Principal, Mechelle Arney; Roan Creek Elementary Assistant Principal Jessie Lang; Shady Valley Principal Dana Smith; Doe Elementary Principal Teresa Stanberry; Courtney Guizzotti from the Department of Children Services, and Courthouse Youth Officer, Cole Gladden.
The agenda from last month’s meeting was approved and the floor was handed over to Chase McGlamery for an update on the high school. Second semester classes have started back this week. On the sports front, baseball practice is back in swing and the basketball teams are all doing well in their conference. Both JCMS and JCHS robotics teams are heading to Kingsport to compete to qualify for the state competition. Both schools already have a team that has qualified. On the educational front, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department members are working hard towards their goal of offering technical college (TCAT) classes during the evening. The high school has also been informed that they are eligible to reapply for the Gear-Up grant.
The floor was handed over to Dr. Stephen Long for his presentation on the state report card. End of Course (EOC) scores showed Johnson County making great improvements in several areas. More recent data from this fall shows that improvement in Chemistry is continuing to skyrocket. Johnson County’s Three-Eight Percentage on Track was excellent. This is testing given to elementary through middle school students.
Both English Language Arts (ELA) and Science scores beat state averages by approximately four percent and all listed schools except Elizabethton. It is thought this increase is because the American College Testing (ACT ) practice tests are being implemented as early as the eighth grade.
JCHS graduation rates have reached an impressive high. 2017 numbers show a 96.5 percent graduation rate with 60.3 percent of graduates going on to college or technical school. ACT scores dropped slightly due to an increased number of students taking the test. Based on junior day and senior retake day data, 2018 projected scores come in at an average of 21. The number of students scoring a 21 or above this year has gone up by 4.3 percent. This is important because these scores qualify students for the Hope Scholarship.
The board moved on to the final reading of the policy updates. Mike Payne raised a concern about the early graduation policy in relation to CTE jobs. The policy states that these jobs must be 40 hours for the students to be eligible while the average job is 32 hours. This is under principal discretion and has not stopped students from graduating. With this concern settled, the policies were unanimously approved.
The floor was turned over to Tina Lipford to speak about the budget. The numbers for this past month and total expenses were discussed. December sales taxes were down while property taxes were increased from last year. An additional $6,000 was also collected from prior taxes. The board believes that the Abingdon Walmart may be detrimental for sales tax but the KFC and Taco Bell coming to Johnson County would be beneficial.
The board moved on to more general topics. Cameras were installed in five locations around local schools. As of now, they have been installed in all schools except Laurel Elementary, Roan Creek Elementary, and Mountain City Elementary and that will be rectified soon. The bridge at the high school is not making much progress. The crew did not expect the weather. The new bridge has been made and unloaded but the old one remains in place. More will be known after the meeting with TDOT at the end of the month. Chairman Gregg read a thank you card regarding teacher raises then thanked the board for all they do. Board members expressed general well wishes and then the meeting was adjourned.

Johnson County Schools answer audit findings concerning commercial driver’s license testing

By Angie A. Gambill

The annual state financial report for Johnson County for the year that ended June 30, 2017 came out last month.
According to that report, the Johnson County Office of Director of Schools was found to have “deficiencies in a contract for commercial driver’s license testing.” The findings are referring to a long-standing contract with the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to provide commercial driver’s license testing in Johnson County.
The report states that the fees charged for this service were not remitted to the county and run through proper channels but were retained by the examiner. Johnson County Director of Schools Dr. Mischelle Simcox responded that the testing was not performed during work hours and did not necessitate being on the county or school payroll records. Schools transportation director Barry Bishop administered the majority of the CDL testing and echoed Simcox’s comments.
Simcox and Bishop also rejected claims in the report that estimated the fees collected at slightly more than $60,000 for more than 800 tests given during the period from January 1, 2015 to May 19, 2016. Stating the terms of the contract, auditors calculated $75 for each test administered to reach that figure. In addition, they cited a figure of $50 for use of school equipment which could be charged.
Bishop did not have the actual figure available at the time of The Tomahawk’s interview, but was adamant that it was nowhere in the vicinity of $60,000. He said the report did not take into account that there were no charges to school, city or county government employees. The $50 fee for school equipment use was never charged since those not employed by local agencies must use their own cars for testing.
Both officials were surprised that the issue had come up on the audit as the contract has been in place since 2003. Dr. Simcox is the third director of schools in Johnson County since the inception of this contract and practice.
The school director and the board maintain their support of Bishop and the other employee that administered a lesser portion of the tests.
“We fully support our two employees that perform the CDL testing, which is a service that has been provided since 2003. This is a benefit not only to our school system but to our county and surrounding counties. They are able to provide CDL testing at no charge to school employees, county government employees, city government employees and the TN Department of Correction,” Simcox said on behalf of the board in a statement on Friday.  “They do this at a minimal charge for anyone else seeking a CDL endorsement that might improve their employment opportunities.  Without this service provided close to home, individuals would have to travel to Knoxville and the cost would be much more expensive.  Our employees do the testing on their own time and not during work hours and this has not cost our county or city tax payers any additional money, in fact it saves the tax payers money by giving these tests for free.  Individuals who do not work for us or our local agencies must provide their own vehicle to be tested in.  In light of the recent audit finding, we are meeting with a state auditor to ensure that this type of miscommunication does not happen in the future.”
A couple minor violations were noted for the Office of Circuit and General Sessions Courts Clerk that were responded to by Circuit Court Clerk Melissa Hollaway. According to the report, the first item found in noncompliance was a cash shortage of $298.50 that showed up as a difference in receipts and bank deposits. Another finding in the audit was that funds were not deposited within three days of collection and bank statements not accurately reconciled with the general ledger in a timely manner. According to the report, Hollaway liquidated the cash shortage from her personal funds on June 29, 2017 and responded that she is in agreement with the findings and that a new bookkeeper had been hired and additional training conducted. Additional dates were added to the deposit schedule and additional segregation of duties was enacted. Bank statements will now be reconciled on the day the statements are received from the bank.
All other Johnson County offices were found to be in compliance with the audit report.

Benefit for Steve Johnson January 20th

There will be a benefit supper for Steve and Cathy Johnson on Sat., Jan. 20th from 4 to 8 pm at Riverview Community Center in Creston, NC. This benefit is to help with medical expenses for a condition that Steve needs treatment for and they have no insurance. The menu will consist of pinto beans, coleslaw, cornbread, dessert, and drink. $8 per meal and children 12 and under $4. There will also be a silent auction and gospel singing. For more information contact Anthony Roark at 336-977-6663 or Rose Price at 336-385-1137. Any help monetary or donations for benefit will be greatly appreciated.

NAP applications are being accepted

The Johnson County Farm Service Agency will be accepting applications for the Noninsured Assistance Program (NAP) for cabbage, greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, and onions through January 31, 2018. The sales closing date for alfalfa, and mixed grass for hay and pasture will be February 15, 2018. Applications for sunflowers with an intended use of seed will be accepted through February 28. Coverage will be for the 2018 crop.
Acreage reports are required for crops covered under NAP. The acreage reporting date for alfalfa and mixed grass for the 2018 crop year was November 15, 2017. The acreage reporting for sunflowers and NAP crops with a sales closing date of January 31 is July 16, 2018.
NAP crops are commercially grown crops that can be insured for $250 per crop with the maximum cost being $750 per county. For 2018 additional coverage levels ranging from 50 to 65% of production is available at 100 % of the average market price for most crops. Producers who elect additional coverage must pay a premium in addition to the service fee of $250.00 per crop. Limited resource producers may request a waiver of the service fee.
FSA uses acreage reports to verify the existence of the crop and to record the number of acres covered. If a crop is affected by a natural disaster the producer must notify the FSA office within 15 calendar days of the disaster occurrence or when losses become apparent.
NAP covers the amount of loss greater than 50 percent of the expected production based on the approved yield and reported acreage.
Further information on the NAP program is available at the Johnson County Farm Service Agency at 119 S Murphey Street, Mountain City, TN or by telephone at (423) 727-9744. Information is also available on FSA’s website at

Lundberg helps resolve Goose Creek Trail issues for town

By Marlana Ward

Freezing temperatures couldn’t dissuade the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen as they met on January 2, 2018 to discuss town business and concerns.
The mayor and councilmen all welcomed Vice Mayor Jerry Jordan back to Mountain City Town Hall as he made his return after being injured. He had only been able to attend the meetings via phone for the previous two months.  Jordan thanked everyone for the welcome and expressed gratitude for the prayers and concern that had been shown throughout his recovery.  Jordan also updated everyone about the progress he and Mountain City Town Recorder Sheila Shaw had made concerning the Goose Creek Trail project.
The project has continued to have outstanding problems that needed to be addressed, including driveways at businesses that did not meet Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) standards, as well as disputes with the contractors who completed the work.  According to Jordan, upon reviewing initial specifications and plans by the state inspectors and comparing those with the final reports given by the state, it was noted that specs had changed over the course of the project leading to the failed inspections.  Jordan had asked Shaw to send an email to Representative Timothy Hill and Senator Jon Lundberg asking them to assist the town in reaching an agreement with the state inspectors.  The result of Shaw’s correspondence was quick cooperation with Lundberg’s office to reach an agreement where the state offered to cover 80 percent of the costs to reach state standards and the town only needed to pay 20 percent of the cost.  Jordan informed the board that he had instructed Shaw to move forward with the needed paperwork to get the work finished and contractors paid under this agreement.  The mayor and councilmen all voiced their appreciation. Councilman Kenny Icenhour asked for an update concerning the red light situation at Shouns Crossroads.  Public Works Director Gary Phillips stated that Ben Chambers had once again visited the site but had still been unable to find an issue with the loop systems. However, one problem had later been found and repaired, though the traffic signals on one side were still not operating as expected.  Chambers had also reviewed the crosswalk signals at the intersection of Highway 421 and Main Street but could not find the reason why one of the pedestrian signals was malfunctioning.
While at the podium, Phillips went on to inform the board about continuing issues as the public works department continues to attempt to have their garbage truck repaired.  The department has been in a continuous cycle of drop-offs, pick-ups, and tows back the garage that is currently used for repairs with the town’s truck.  What started as a $7,000 repair to fix an oil leak has lead to another $4,000 to fix bad injectors, in addition to two more visits due to brake issues untreated by the mechanics at the repair location.  Phillips said that he had been in contact with the regional manager of the garage and had told him of the continued issues with the company.  The manager had assured Phillips that the truck would be repaired correctly this time at no cost to the town.  Phillips and the board all expressed the desire to seek out other repair companies when the next need for repairs on heavy equipment arises due to dissatisfaction with the present one.
Next to speak was Councilman Bob Morrison who informed the board of plans underway with the Goose Creek Trail Committee regarding the update of signs along the park’s disc golf course.  Morrison spoke of an action plan within the schools and community to encourage more active lifestyles.  This plan may include a grant in which the signs would be updated with those funds.  Mayor Parsons stated that he hoped that grant funds would be made available so that a sign could be installed listing all the facilities available to the public within Ralph Stout Park.
Parsons was the next to update and bring forth concerns to be discussed by the board.  The first item he brought for discussion was the Tennessee Improve Act, which is the lowering of taxes by the state, equating to a loss of $69,960 to the town’s budget.  Parsons informed the group that Representative Doss had a proposal in which the losses in tax revenue would be spread across the state, lessening the town’s hit to approximately $26,000.  Parsons also informed the board there is a proposed increase in the E911 fees charged to phone bills in Tennessee to help municipalities’ emergency services.  He mentioned that a committee was being formed from across the state to discuss the proposed increase. Parsons suggested Vice Mayor Jordan as a representative from Mountain City due to this familiarity with the local emergency service systems.
Parsons then asked local resident Donald Snyder to come to the podium and share ideas that they had discussed regarding the proposed city youth activity center.  Snyder explained to the board that he had been to the property the town was looking at to house an activity center and shared what he saw as necessary steps to making the plan viable and successful.  He stated that what he saw as the best option for the property would be to not try and rehabilitate the current structure but begin anew, bringing in enough dirt to raise the property to highway level. They would then construct a larger, steel building which could house not only a skating rink but also a small bowling alley and possibly an arcade and laser tag.
Snyder expressed his family’s wish to enter into a partnership with the town and to help see the project realized. He informed the board that he currently had enough bowling alley equipment to furnish eight lanes and extra materials to ensure repairs and upkeep for several years past construction.  Snyder also said that he had the equipment for a 12-person laser tag game including the vests, guns, and main controls.  He estimated that the bowling equipment he possessed was valued at $25,000 per lane, the laser tag valued at $15,000, and that he had the fill dirt for the location, which would be valued at $60,000.  Snyder stated that he and his family were ready to bring the $280,0000 worth of equipment and materials into the project if they and the town could reach a partnership agreement. The town approved the project and gave the go-ahead to proceed.
The board asked questions concerning the size and cost of the proposed steel building. Snyder provided a drawing as a possibility for the project.  Snyder said that he was still waiting for a final estimate due to the steel company’s engineers being out for the holiday season. He stated he had been told that the company liked to assist small communities with special pricing and that he hoped to get a good price for the board to consider.
All in all, Snyder said he saw the total investment being around $500,000 for the project.  He again expressed his willingness to bring his $280,000 of the expense in through his family’s resources. Parsons shared that he hoped the town would be better able to obtain grants toward the project if they could show that they had a partnership with the Snyder family and an availability of resources to contribute to the proposed activity center.  Snyder also expressed his understanding that it would take time before the activity center brought a profit, but that he was prepared to be invested in the project as a partner with no return until the center begins to bring a profit.  Mayor Parsons thanked Snyder for his dedication to the project and more updates would be available as estimates come in.
The next item for discussion was the continuing pump house project at Pedro Shoun Road.  Shaw informed the board that an additional $25,000 was needed for the project due to missing items in the original bid.  Collection-Distribution Superintendent, Chris Hook, explained at the time of the original bid a final location had not been chosen for the pump house improvements and a building location had not been taken into account.  The location for the pump house that was donated to the town by the county had trees that needed to be cleared. It also needed to be filled with dirt to bring to specifications.   While this cost was unforeseen, the additional cost for pump house electronics was simply overlooked by the original state engineers during the bid process.  The motion was made and unanimously approved for the additional funds to be paid.
City Attorney George Wright had an update also concerning the Pedro Shoun water situation.  Wright stated that some progress had been made obtaining easements but that one resident had raised questions about the easements requested and current easements already owned by TDOT in the same location.  Wright said that the resident had personal attorneys looking at the easement maps and that the town would need surveyors to come out and determine if the easements overlap, which would result in the town needing to move their easements further from the road.
When department supervisors were invited to address the board, Public Works Director Phillips came forward to ask the group for permission to place a bid for a tractor on  Phillips explained how the town needed a tractor better capable of mowing right of ways, as the town’s current tractor was too small to operate the proper equipment.  He said that the Town of Jonesborough had a tractor up for auction on the site and that he had sent town mechanics to inspect the tractor.  The men had found the machine to be in good condition with proper maintenance records available since Jonesborough had bought the machine new.  Phillips requested permission to bid up to $7,500 for the machine and it was unanimously approved with the condition that if it were won, the city’s current tractor would be sold to recoup part of the cost.
Phillips also informed the board that the animal control officer had submitted her end of the year report and that she had handled 412 animals for the town.  Phillips also stated that of the 412, only seven had to be euthanized resulting in an impressive euthanasia rate of only 1.9 percent.
According to Parsons, the new police officer candidates’ training had been pushed back to April.  Police Chief Denver Church explained that there was an unexpected waitlist for the academy and that the trainees were currently riding along with officers on patrols for training until they could begin the academy.
In the new business portion of the evening, Shaw informed the board that an increase in wastewater flowing to the treatment plan had led Brian Fredrick, the town’s engineer, to request permission to do a preliminary report that would be required due to the increase and the threat of fines if a moratorium concerning the reaching of maximum levels is not begun.  Shaw stated that the report would cost $40,000, but that it would have to be done so that a plan could be in place.  The report was approved to begin unanimously.
In other new business, the low bid from Lord and Company for the PLC Press Controller, a programmable controller for the sludge press in the water treatment system, was unanimously accepted at the recommendation of Fredrick.  The joint proclamation between the city council and county commission recognizing the successful season by the Johnson County Longhorn Football Team was approved and scheduled for presentation at the January 9th Johnson County High School basketball game.  Finally, the budget amendment needed for the previously discussed sanitation department truck repairs was approved in the amount of $12,585.
The next meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen will meet on February 6th at 6:30 pm.

Greer arrested on carjacking and kidnapping charges

Devon Greer was recently charged with especially aggravated kidnapping, carjacking and criminal trespassing, according to a report received from the Johnson County Sheriff’s office.
On December 30, 2017, the Johnson County Sheriff’s office was notified of an incident where a younger male ran past the driver’s side of car driven by a female. It was reported by the witness that he beat on her window with his fist, then ran to the passenger side and entered the vehicle. She believed he was carrying a gun.
According to the witness, there had been multiple posts on Facebook describing recent similar incidents. Greer was identified and charged.

Worley Hall VFW meeting January 6th

Worley Hall VFW Post 6908 and Auxiliary will meet Sat., Jan. 6th at the VFW Building on Depot St. at 7 p.m. Members start gathering in about 5:30 and a carry-in meal is served at 6 p.m. The meeting will follow. All members are urged to attend and any veterans eligible for VFW are invited. VFW Post 6908 is an alcohol and smoke free club. For further information call James (Don) Payne, Commander at 727-7362.

Johnson County Farmers Market provides gathering spot during the bleak days of winter

By Richard Calkins

With short days and frigid temperatures, “cabin fever” becomes a common phenomenon this time of year. Not only do we spend most of our time indoors, we rarely have an opportunity to stop and chat with friends and neighbors, catching up on what’s going on. Fortunately, the newly-established Johnson County Winter Farmers Market provides a warm and welcoming venue for doing just that. It’s available from 9 am to noon every Saturday between now and the end of April.

In addition to fresh local produce, pasture-raised beef and pork, jams, jellies and local honey, farm-fresh eggs, breads, pastries, and other baked goods, and a variety of locally-produced crafts, the Farmer’s Market Café features hot coffee, hot chocolate, and tea (for a small donation), and comfortable seating, where you can “sit a spell” and chat with folks you may not have seen since the leaves started to fall.

Located in the lower level of the appropriately-named Johnson County Welcome Center on Route 421, the Farmers Market also features local musicians, whose melodious renderings add significantly to the ambience. Johnson County’s own Maggie Aldridge, for example, is booked for the first Saturday of each month.

But wait – there’s more! Market Manager Anna Timmerman, in collaboration with Johnson County Extension Office’s Sarah Ransom, will be providing a special table for kids’ activities each week. This coming Saturday, for example, will feature no-bake cookies. And, most Saturdays, one of our vendors will be doing a cooking demonstration, with free samples. Recent demos have included kale chips, breakfast sausages, and stir-fried bok choi. This coming Saturday’s demonstration will be bratwurst by Old Beech Farms.
So make sure that cabin fever doesn’t get YOU down: call up some friends and neighbors and invite them to join you at the Farmers Market Café this Saturday morning. In fact, why not make it a standing date — “See you Saturday around ten at the Farmers Market Café”.

Country breakfast for United Way on January 13th

There will be a Levi Retiree country breakfast Jan. 13th from 6 to 10 a.m. Homemade biscuits and gravy, sausage, eggs, potatoes, grits, jam, coffee and orange juice. Cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children. Carryouts available. Proceeds go to Johnson County United Way.

Johnson County Winter Farmers Market on Saturdays

The Winter Farmers Market is open for business from 9 am to noon on Saturdays in the lower level of the Johnson County Welcome Center. To make this event fun for all ages we will have an activity table set up for New Years No Bake Cookies. This week we are featuring: fresh produce (kale, spinach, salad mix, bib lettuce, scallions, parsley, collards etc.); pasture-raised beef and pork products; freshly-baked breads, pastries, and cookies; farm-fresh eggs; boiled peanuts; jams and jellies; and raw, local honey. We will also have a variety of craft vendors that bringing their art, such as stained glass, woodcarvings, and more! Our café makes meeting friends fun and easy with fresh coffee and comfortable seating. Maggie Aldridge will provide the music this week. Please stop by – Support your local farmers and craftsman!

March 2017 in review

Johnson County School system is proud to announce another outstanding student who is making history as the first senior to be named a U.S. Presidential Scholar. Spencer Stanley was nominated for this great honor by his principal, Lisa Throop, and counselor, Priscilla Davis, who have seen Stanley grow in academics and character through the past four years.
Mountain City Mayor and business owner Kevin Parsons has been involved in an ongoing battle with the Tennessee Department of Revenue for almost four years now. The Retailer Accountability Program (RAP), a law dealing with the assessment of sales taxes owed to the state by convenience stores, went into effect in 2013. As the owner of Parsons Quickshop, Parsons is in vehement disagreement about the amount assessed as due from his store.
The Johnson County Middle School Robotics Team has brought great recognition to not only themselves but to all Johnson County with their recent performance at the VEX Robotics Competition in Brentwood, TN on March 3rd and 4th. The determined team of teenagers brought home the VEX Excellence Award which qualifies them to compete in the VEX World Competition in April. Competition was intense with 38 schools from Tennessee competing in the robotics challenge. Some of the other schools competing had great advantages over the new team from JCMS.
On Saturday, March 18, a local team of karateka, practioners of karate, left the high grounds of Mountain City for the urban sprawl of Charlotte, North Carolina to compete in the AAU National Championship Qualifying Competition.
The team hailing from Yama Dojo, the karate school in

February 2017 in review

Johnson County is the recipient of two state grants that will provide funds for the preservation of local archives that will be housed by the Johnson County library. The grant monies will be awarded by the State of Tennessee on Friday, February third, at the Johnson County Library. The local archives development grant is in the amount of $7,000, and the state board programming grant that will provide funding to hire someone to start on the preservation project is the in the amount of $4,500. According to Johnson County librarian, Linda Icenhour, the first order of business is to move the archives, mostly court records and deeds, to another location.
The Johnson County Middle School Robotics Team brought home two top awards at the competition this past week in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first was the design award, which is awarded strictly on the engineering design journal documenting the engineering design Process, engineering methods, and teamwork. The teams were also awarded the judges award that is based on judges interviews. Teams were scored on how well they answered judges’ questions regarding individual contributions to the engineering design process, teamwork, and professionalism.
Representatives from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and a number of the Johnson County Commissioners came together February 7, 2017 to discuss the department‘s overcrowding situation and future revenue possibilities. Presently, the county jail houses approximately 57 state inmates at any given time. The Tennessee Department of Corrections pays the county $37 per day to house these inmates. Housing costs run close to $5 per day, giving the county revenue profit every day a state inmate is kept in county custody.
The Johnson County Health Department has earned Interest Level Recognition in the annual Excellence in Tennessee recognition program administered by the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence (TNCPE). TNCPE is Tennessee’s only statewide quality program and is patterned on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the national standard for recognizing role model performance through innovation, improvement, and visionary leadership.

January 2017 in review

Johnson County’s chances for a technical school became slimmer recently when the Tennessee Higher Education Commission denied a grant request to open a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) campus in the county. Although county officials and TCA administration had worked together to make plans for a satellite office, funding was not approved and any plans will have to be on hold until funds from other avenues can be found.
The Johnson County Circuit Court will soon begin collection efforts in order to recover some of the outstanding monies from court fines that are due to the court. “There’s never been a collection effort that I’m aware of, “ said Johnson County Circuit Court Clerk, Melissa Hollaway.
The Johnson County Courthouse Security Committee is in the process of making changes to the courthouse that will increase security measures. Tennessee law states each county will for a security committee to determine the security needs of the courtrooms in order to provide a safe and secure facility.
No game-winning shot or slam-dunk could have ever captured the applause that a Johnson County High School student did on homecoming night inside of Ray Shoun Gymnasium on Tuesday.
Melinda Rozier won the hearts of every fan there by making one of the biggest assists ever before a capacity crowd and it didn’t involve passing a basketball. Instead, she passed on her homecoming princess crown to Becky Reece who is battling cerebral palsy.