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.

Commissioners approve Skyline as sole provider of county offices Internet services

By Marlana Ward

Leases, budgets, and reviews were all on the agenda as the Johnson County Commissioners met on December 21, 2017.  Early in the meeting, the commissioners heard from individuals who had registered on the public comments sign-in sheet to present concerns to the assembly.  Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons came to the podium to first thank the commission for the continued cooperation between the city and county governments.  He expressed a hope that the two governing bodies will continue working together as 2018 is expected to be a tight year financially for the county and all city and county officials will need to work together to bring new businesses into Johnson County ensuring financial stability for the community.
Parsons also brought before the commission a proposed proclamation that would acknowledge the outstanding job done by the 2017 Longhorn Football team.  He stated that he would like the proclamation to be approved by both the city and county and for representatives from the commission to join the city council as they officially recognized the amazing year for the team at the January 9th Johnson County High School basketball game.  The commissioners unanimously agreed to accept the proclamation and echoed the mayor’s excitement and appreciation for the team.
In regular business, the November meeting minutes were approved and no committee reports were given.  Approved notaries for the night were Lisa M. Osborne, Janice Russell, and Kevin Parsons.  The monthly budget amendments had been given to the commissioners to review prior to the meeting and the budget committee had given its approval earlier in the evening.  In addition to the budget amendments given, the Headstart program’s budget of $556,000 dollars was approved by all in attendance.
Johnson County Accounting and Budget Director, Russell Robinson presented the next item on the agenda.  Robinson asked the commissioners for their approval to make Skyline/Skybest the county’s sole provider of telecommunications and Internet services for the county government, excluding the school system.  He explained that the county had already invested $75,000 in phase one of the upgrades to the county’s telecommunication systems and that more funds would be spent as the first upgrade in over 20 years continues to progress.  Robinson added that a $400 savings had already been noted in only one month of services provided by Skyline/Skybest.  County Purchasing Agent Dustin Shearin informed the group that he had already heard good things from the offices which had been using the improved system.  Attorney Perry Stout asked the commission to determine if they would like to make the change an official resolution or to simply enact the agreement by changing services over as allowed by contracts currently in place with other providers.  Thirteen commissioners voted to approve the simple, most direct method without a resolution with one commissioner passing on the vote.
Two community center leases were the next item on the agenda for discussion.  Commissioner Scott Mast brought forth the desire of the Forge Creek Community Center to extend their lease with the county for use of the old Forge Creek School.  He shared how many improvements had already been made to the location and that the group would like to continue improvements but would like to have an extended lease before continuing improvements.  Likewise, Commissioner Bill Roark informed the group that Trade Community Center also would like to extend their lease with the county for use of the building at the old Trade School.  He spoke of how the building receives a lot of use by the Trade community and improvements were continuing there as well.  Both commissioners stated that liability insurance was either already provided or would be obtained soon by the organizations using the buildings at no cost to the county.  It was discussed by the commissioners and county attorney that the leases could be one year or up to 99 years according to the will of the commissioners.  It was also mentioned that a clause would be added into the lease contracts that upon the discontinuation of use by the community groups, full rights to the locations would revert back to the county.  Additionally, the restriction of sub-leasing the buildings without the approval of the commission was also to be added into the agreements.  The commissioners voted unanimously to extend the leases 99 years upon completion of the new lease contacts.
County Mayor Larry Potter led the next few discussions regarding proposed road projects forecasted for the county.  The first was the First Tennessee Regional Planning Organization’s proposed improvements for Highway 91 scheduled to begin between 2019 and 2021.  Potter explained how the fuel tax law was supposed to guarantee that this project would be undertaken by the state.  Potter expressed his hope that with the a new governor being elected in 2018, the county would be able to establish a good, working relationship with the governor’s office and that plans for the road project would continue as it should under law.
Next, Potter excitedly shared about the state’s Tennessee Music Pathway program.  He reminded those in attendance about the county’s rich musical heritage and how it could boost tourism revenues within the county if the state program were to be embraced locally.  Qualifying locations with historical importance to Tennessee’s musical history would be marked with a guitar-pick shaped sign and added to a map of locations to visit for music enthusiasts.  Commissioner Mike Taylor stated that at least three locations within Johnson County were qualified to be included.  Both Taylor and Potter shared a few examples of musical heritage within the county.  Potter additionally spoke of how the state’s tourism director had visited the area and encouraged the community’s involvement with the program and its expected positive effects for the area.
Potter next updated the commission about the progress he had made trying to bring the Tennessee College of Applied Technologies (TCAT) to Johnson County.  He expressed his appreciation to the school system and Johnson County High School Vocational School staff for their cooperation in providing a feasible solution to the building needs for the school should it decide to offer classes in the county.  He also explained that he had taken driving times and mileage samples from various communities within Johnson County to the nearest TCAT locations and presented them to TCAT with an explanation of how travel difficulties dissuade potential students from being able to take advantage of the program.  The program has looked at bringing nursing, auto/diesel, and HVAC classes to the area. It is hoped that additional support from Tennessee State Representative Jon Lundberg will help see this project come to fruition with the next two years.
Lastly, Potter presented the commissioners with a list of grants and achievements made possible by continued cooperation between county offices, commissioners, and the community.  These included:  Community Block Grant to help local fire departments ($342,391); Economic Community Grant for Parkdale expansion project ($14.5 million); Appalachian Regional Commission Grant to help Mountain Electric infrastructure ($392, 603); USDA Grant to assist fiber optic upgrade to courthouse phones ($23,000); Job Corps assistance in road for building trades subdivision and Lady Longhorn practice softball field; Appalachian Service Project’s continued yearly assistance for some county residents;  TCAT at JC Vocational School ($1.6 million); Workforce Development’s assistance in allowing for a full-time employee to be available to assist county residents with various needs at no cost to the county; Home Grant ($500,000); Three Star Grant for Junior Appalachian Musicians program ($25,000); ECD Grant to assist with water/sewer plant improvements ($1 million); Butler Ruritan Park upgrade ($2,000); transfer station’s improved management savings ($90,000 yearly); Fast Track Grant to assist Star LED ($275,000); Assistance with Jones Hardwood Floors and Mountain Youth Academy expansions; Pursuing of safety improvement grants for the county ($250,000); and continued cooperation between all county offices and commissioners to find savings for the county.
The final item for discussion of the evening was the need to approve E-911 board members due to ending terms.  Commissioner Chris Pierce informed the board that he, Jeremy Brown, and Tom Neaves were seeking appointment or continuation of appointment to the board.  The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the three men for service to the board.
The next meeting of the Johnson County Commission will take place on January 18, 2018 at 7:00 pm at the Johnson County Courthouse.

What is the value of a volunteer?

By Denise Woods, Contributor
What is the value of a volunteer? It is unmeasurable. You may give your time or money to a person, cause or organization, but the true value of volunteerism is beyond any price. The state of Tennessee has set the standard rate for in-kind donations at the rate of $23.57 per hour. This rate is more than most make working a job. Volunteers are more valuable than the standard rate to the non-profit world.

Volunteers are important to the sustainability of a non-profit organization such as A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition. Although we are grant funded, we rely on volunteers to help staff do the work to reduce substance use. The Drug Free Communities Grant is a matching grant meaning we must show the federal government that we can match the amount of the grant given with monetary and non-monetary donations. It goes beyond this though, volunteers are important to the success of a drug-free Johnson County.

We would like to recognize those who have helped us over the past budget year, The Executive Board of ACTION (Mike Reece, Linda Moon, Mina Norfleet, James Bowman, Joey Norris, Mark Sijthoff, Chasity Trivette, and Patricia Scott). Your leadership helps us continue to combat this ever-growing problem in society. Members and parents of SADD of Johnson County from 2016-present, your investment in the club is helping other youth see that not everyone is using drugs and that you have a valuable voice in our community.

To our local law enforcement, Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and Mountain City Police Department, you have a big job to keep our community safe and with your help we can insure our citizens that drinking and driving, and drugged driving is unacceptable no matter who you are. To our local government including city council, county commissioners, mayors, and the beer board, your support for policy change when new issues arise help us to educate our community on drug awareness and prevention of future problems related to drug trends.

To our business sector including the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, your donations to projects for our youth help with leadership development and encouraging both large and small businesses to have a drug-free workplace is important for the growth of Johnson County.

To our health sector, including all who participate in the Count It, Lock It, Drop It Campaign, and to the Johnson County Health Department, we are in this together and your support for a healthier Johnson County is greatly appreciated and needed to target the prescription drug epidemic. To those in the media sector, you are instrumental in helping us reach our community with information on current drug trends and issues.

To the religious sector, your participation in Red Ribbon Week shows your congregation that spiritual guidance is needed for all including those with drug dependence and addictions. To Johnson County School System, your support in reaching youth with drug education is a main part of what the coalition does as well as supporting SADD Clubs in the high school and middle school. Together we can make a difference in their lives so they can overcome anything in a world full of problems. To other sectors in the community not at the table, we welcome you to join us for a greater Johnson County.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members” ~Coretta Scott King. We have a great community that isn’t exempt from problems, but by working together for a common goal we can make our community a better place to live. The A.C.T.I.O.N Coalition would like to say thank you for all you do to help reduce substance use in Johnson County.

TCAT graduates 13 from phlebotomy program

The December 13 graduates of the Phlebotomy training program at TCAT Elizabethton, seated, from left, are Gabriela Amaro, Shanda Matheson, Amber Burke, Jaimee Hooper and Breelyn Bennett, all from Carter County; standing, from left, are Casey Lowery and Tyler Shaw from Johnson County; Kendra Reese, Sullivan County; Elizabeth Treadway, Greene County; and Heath Crum, Crystal Broadwater and Pamela Hyder from Washington County. Not pictured is Tammy Kinser of Carter County.
In 49 hours of study to be completed over four weeks, students learn how to draw blood via venipuncture or skin puncture. The course, taught by Loretta Eades, prepares students for the National Phlebotomy Certification Exam and employment as a phlebotomist.
To enroll, students must be at least 18 years of age and a high school graduate. The cost of the course is approximately $544, which includes tuition and fees, textbooks, materials, and required liability insurance. For additional information, telephone 423-543-0070 or visit for an application to enroll.

Johnson County Board of Education named Board of Distinction

By Meg Dickens

The Johnson County Board of Education met on Thursday, December 14th for their monthly meeting. There was a bustling crowd and no shortage of Christmas spirit in the boardroom. Several board members were decked out in Christmas attire from their Christmas party. The meeting was called to order at 6:01 PM and began with a moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Johnson County Board of Education was recognized for its excellent performance with the Board of Distinction Award. The plaque was presented by Tennessee School Boards Association’s Northeast Director and Washington County Board of Education Member, Todd Ganger. The Award of Distinction is a prestigious award based on excellence in four key areas: planning, policy, promotion, and board development.
The board planned a surprise musical program from Shady Valley Elementary. However, the students were unable to make it due to illness. In place of this, Lorie Plank and Stephen Long lead the room in a verse of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.
Chairman Kenneth Gregg turned the floor over to Emogene South for employee and student recognition. This month’s spotlight was on outstanding Response to Intervention (RTI) math and language specialists and their most improved students. The RTI program exists to help struggling students reach their potential. The following specialists were recognized: Missy Timbs from Doe; Dana Smith from Shady; LaDonna Trivette from Laurel; Linda Mendenhall and Carol Stout from Mountain City; Shelly Henson from Roan Creek; Tamra Taylor from Roan Creek for English Language Arts (ELA); Kristie Chausse from JCMS; Aleta Gentry, Teresa Neimann, and Beverly Gambill from JCHS. The following students were recognized for their hard work and excellence in the program: Rain Williams, Allison Sutherland, Amiliana Salvator, Serenity Jones, Abigail Dickens, Sarah Morris, Ridge Buff, Emily Potter, and Preston Logan Miller.
The agenda was approved and the floor was then turned over to Chase McGlamery for an update on Johnson County High School. The students were active as always. The annual FFA dinner and auction brought in approximately $3,600. Several clubs, such as the National Honor Society and Student Council, are sponsoring families in the community for Christmas. The last day of school for this semester was December 15th and second semester schedules are now available to students. The basketball games will continue throughout break.
The board did its final reading of the recommended policy changes discussed last month. All passed unanimously. Discussion moved on to approving a contract between Johnson County Schools and Scribbles Software (ScribOrder). This software simply brings transcript capabilities into the 21st century. Transcripts would be free to current students. Dr. Simcox highly recommended it due to its efficiency and ability to bring money back into the community. Recommended updates to the Instructional Services Policy and Students Policy were read and discussed. These included an updated social media policy, an amendment to the early graduation guidelines, and an update to the attendance policy regarding notes. An additional salary lane pertaining to nurse practitioners was proposed and approved.
The floor was turned over to Tina Lipford to address the budget as the numbers for this past month and total expenses were discussed. Discussion moved on to the Pre-k and Headstart calendar budget approval and it was approved unanimously. A decision was reached on how to use the UTRUST grant funds. After extended outside discussion, it was determined the funds would be best used by replacing outdated teacher computers.
The board is working to get a technical college (TCAT) in Johnson County. Stephen Long met with Senator Lundberg about the possibility on December 13th and it reportedly went very well. The school would operate from the current vocational school and offer classes in HVAC, electrical, welding, nursing, and auto/diesel. Numbers show there is already a large portion of the students needed for these programs. Senator Lundberg has added a lane onto the coming year’s budget for this cause. Due to Tennessee Promise, students could attend for free. Not only is this school great for young adults, it is also a benefit to the community. Our sister school currently running in Elizabethton shows a minimum of 88 percent in job placement and 100 percent placement of program graduates. The Career and Technical Education Program has provisionally been approved for a partnership with Mountain States Health Alliance. Students will have access to site based learning and travel expense compensation.
The final point covered was the Tennessee Department of Transportation bridge construction at Johnson County High School. Adam’s Construction placed signs around the surrounding area, including the church. Due to confusion, steps were taken to scale them back. The barriers were placed for construction but it seems unlikely that demolition will start until after Christmas. There is still a lot of work required to complete construction.
The meeting wrapped up with more discussion of the Award of Distinction. The members were thanked for all their hard work and Serena Warren was thanked in particular for her part in handling the paperwork. The members wished everyone a Merry Christmas and the meeting was adjourned.

Six-hundred-pound bear kills donkey in Shady Valley

By Paula Walter

Tom Sharpe, of Shady Valley, recently reported a large bear attacked his 300-pound pet donkey. The incident was caught on security camera. According to Sharpe, the bear was able to climb into the fenced-in area, attack the donkey several times before managing to drag the animal over the fence and off into the woods. “It was a very vicious attack,” said Sharpe.
An official from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), who responded to Sharpe’s phone call after discovering his donkey was missing, estimated the bear weighed over 600 pounds. “This attack was close to home,” Sharpe said. “It was a mere 50 to 75 feet from a window in the house.”
This isn’t the first bear attack on Sharpe’s property as he believes his goat was attacked and killed several months ago. Sharpe raised concerns that a large, 600 pound bear could attack humans. “I want people to understand there’s a potential for bears to be pretty dangerous,” he added. “People need to be aware.”
According to Sharpe, bears are not normally meat eaters, as they mostly consume nuts and berries. However, that’s not enough food to satisfy a 600-pound bear. During the winter months, Sharpe explained that bears wake up, go look for food before heading back into their den for more sleep. According to Sharpe, bears have been known to destroy crops for the cattle in Shady Valley. “They go into a cornfield,” he said. “They just sit and eat.”
According to Sharpe, he has been issued a kill permit by the TWRA to shoot one black bear on his property valid until January 6th. Permission to shoot the bear was given to six avid hunters who were named on the permit Sharpe received. “The bear has to be shot on my property,” he explained.
Sharpe explained that at one time, bears were relocated from the Gatlinburg area of the state and reintroduced them into the wild. According to Sharpe, others living in Shady Valley have also spotted black bears in the area and are concerned. One neighbor reported a bear came right up to her door and she discovered it peeking into a window. It has also been reported that bears have been spotted on the porches of some residents living in Shady Valley. Sharpe is hopeful that a representative from TWRA will come out and talk with local residents concerning the increase in the number of bears being spotted in Shady Valley.
“I’m a little reluctant as I used to wander in the woods,” Sharpe stated. “I’m a little bit cautious now.”