Local constable helps with POTUS security

October 17, 2018

Dave Quave

Johnson County Constable Dave Quave poses in front of his motorcade vehicle. Photo courtesy of Dave and Susan Quave.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Most locals know Dave Quave. He runs security for Johnson County Schools, teaches vocational classes at Northeast Correctional Complex and serves as District 3 Constable. Recently, Quave got a remarkable opportunity from the United States Government. He joined forces with the Secret Service on October 1 to drive in the presidential motorcade during President Trump’s visit to the Tri-Cities.

Freedom Hall filled with people and the crowd kept coming. People gathered outside the site and stayed to watch from a screen prepared. According to U.S. Representative Phil Roe, there were 92,000 requests for rally tickets. Freedom Hall Director Lisa Chamness told the Johnson City Press that it was the largest crowd she could remember.

The opportunity came out of the blue. Quave received a phone call on Thursday, September 27 asking if he would be interested in participating. The caller asked for general information to perform a background check. Quave received an email from Washington, D.C. on Saturday, September 29 and a phone call later that afternoon confirming he was chosen for the job. He never thought that he would have this type of opportunity in his lifetime.

“It was an honor and an extraordinary experience,” Quave said. “I’m honored and grateful.”

Quave has 12 years of experience in Johnson County law enforcement and almost 30 years of total experience. However, he planned to retire from the service when he moved from Mississippi to Tennessee. According to Quave, his love of helping people keeps him committed to this career path.

“I don’t think you’re ever really prepared unless you do the job regularly or you’re employed by them,” Quave said.

The highlight of the experience was working with the Secret Service. Quave enjoyed getting to know some of the people from the US capital, learning what they do and how they do it. It was mind-boggling. He did not feel he should get into the job specifics for security reasons but mentioned an extensive protocol.

“To anybody who has an opportunity like this,” Quave declared. “Don’t pass it up.”

City responds to water pressure concerns

October 17, 2018

Mtn. City Council

The recent meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen gave the opportunity for Aldermen Kenny Icenhour to address a water pressure concern that was bought to his attention by a resident. Photo by Marlana Ward.

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

During the October meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Alderman Kenny Icenhour took the opportunity to bring forth a concern he had received from a customer of the town’s water department. Icenhour presented that a gentleman had contacted him and told him that recently when his wife went to get a glass of water from her tap, the glass was knocked out of her hand by the burst of air that came unexpectedly from the faucet.

It was reported that the water department had responded to the situation and that a recent treatment plant backwash was the primary cause of the incident. In a later interview, City Water Collection and Distribution Superintendent Chris Hook explained further: “A fall in water pressure then it’s return was at the core of this problem. We believe that a check valve had failed. The valve has been replaced, and we are waiting to see if this has remedied the problem.”

Hook also shared about the different types of pressure related calls his department gets from customers across the county. “There are around three to four pressure calls a week. These are indicators of problems in the system and important to our operation. If there is a sudden drop, we need to look for a leak or the cause of this sudden high demand in the area. If they experience an increase in pressure, there is most likely a pressure reducing valve not functioning correctly.”

A pressure reducing valve or PRV is a device that is installed directly after water meters and is responsible for the reduction of pressure from the main water line into a residential or commercial line. “Unless there has been a main line break or a pump house has gone down, pressure problems tend to be on an individual level,” Hook explained. “These are most often one of two problems, low pressure caused by a leak or a closed PRV. A PRV can open up when it fails and send full line pressure to the house at which time we can get a call of to much pressure.”

“The most common complaint with new construction is about too much pressure,” added Hook. “With that, it leads to the question of PRV types and where to get them. The complaints about low pressure on an existing line, again, are an indicator of a problem and we address those immediately.”

Low-pressure problems had been discussed at previous council meetings especially amongst residents in the Doe Valley area. “The city just recently put a new pumphouse on Pedro Shoun Lane to remedy a low-
pressure problem,” Hook stated.

Hook also expressed how homeowners can look to increase pressure to their homes if the issue lies between their home and the main water line: “If they would like to increase the pressure, they can purchase a booster pump. The high-pressure issue then returns to the PRV and its functionality.”

The topographical challenges of providing water to an area as diverse as Johnson County is also a cause of some common water pressure problems. “We are blessed to live in such a beautiful area, but these mountains bring the unique challenge of high-pressure valleys and low-pressure peaks,” expressed Hook.

When a water customer has an issue with service, the water department keeps staff on call to respond to concerns. “The Water Department always has people on-call,” Hook said. “When we get calls of water loss we respond immediately. Of course in the middle of the night, our operators are asleep so there is a delay as they get ready and mobilize but they check into it day or night.”

Mountain City democrats welcome Bredesen during Meet-and-Greet

October 17, 2018

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

A sizable crowd, pleased with its democratic candidate and former two-term governor, mayor, and businessman Phil Bredesen turned out in force on a chilly morning during a meet-and-greet event held last week in Mountain City.
Upon his arrival at the Mountain City Welcome Center, 716 S. Shady Street, Bredesen, who is vying for the upcoming vacant U.S. Senate seat received both cheers and lengthy applauds giving testimony to his current favored status in the race toward the fast  approaching, November 6th election.

After a few minutes chatting with those in attendance while sipping on a hot cup of coffee, Bredesen, 74, shared his well-rehearsed speech, focusing on what he deems worthy of addressing and changing. Healthcare and education on top of his list, Bredesen’s views are much welcomed by his supporters.

“I am not running to earn another title,” Bredesen said as he began his speech. “This is a huge commitment in my age, but I believe that it is important to turn things around in Washington. Our country has the potential to give its people what they need and deserve.”

Urging his supporters to do their part on Election Day and beyond, Bredesen emphasized that he feels the need as well as the desire to do the right thing by those gathered in the room.

“I want to accomplish what is best for residents of our state,” he said adding, I hope to be the best senator you have ever sent up to Washington.”

As for his top priority, Bredesen specifically addressed his take on the need to “make things work again” specifically healthcare, health education, Medicaid issues, and infrastructure. Among his supporters was Mountain City resident Harold Thornquest who did not hesitate to share his thoughts on the candidate when he said,” Phil Bredesen’s values are what the people of Tennessee want. That is why I am here showing my support.”

To reach the finish line, Bredesen is running under the motto “Tested and Trusted,” reportedly spent his career working in the public and private sectors.  As former Governor, Bredesen is proud of and, relying on his experience that he says will be necessary to start working across party lines to fix the mess he says is in Washington and to “bring common-sense back to our government.”

“I love the people of our state of Tennessee,” he said. “We need and deserve something better than we’re getting from Washington right now. And we need and deserve a senator who can make that happen.”

While Bredesen enjoyed a warm reception by a group of clearly excited Mountain City and surrounding area residents, it was not without some opposition, thanks to a pair of hacklers hoping to take the warmth out of the visit on a seasonably cold morning.  The Bredesen campaign is open to all who wants to join at www.bredesen.com/action.

J.C. Farmers Market hires new manager

October 17, 2018

Bethany Anderson

Johnson County Farmers Market newly appointed manager Bethany Anderson, will take the baton from Jana Jones to manage the market starting with its indoor winter season. Submitted photo

By Jana Jones
Farmers Market Manager

At their annual meeting held last week, the Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) Board of Directors introduced the new Market Manager, Bethany Anderson. Anderson will serve as the manager for both the Winter Farmers Market as well as the outdoor Farmers Market for 2019, replacing Jana Jones.Bethany comes to JCFM having experience in marketing the Campbell, CA Farmers Market, event planning, social media marketing, camp and youth center administrator, and office managing.

Boasting of a list of attributes and qualifications of a manager for the market, JCFM is pleased with its choice sharing its sentiments of “could not have found a better replacement than Bethany, who brings the skills and personality to take the market to the next level of awesomeness.

“I am so excited to be a part of such a great community weekly event and am looking forward to bringing our market to the next level”, says Mrs. Anderson. “The board and vendors have all been so friendly and welcoming, and Jana has been a huge help guiding me during this transition.”

Anderson’s family is proud to call Mountain City their home. “With my background in management, event planning, and marketing, the opportunity for me to have a hand in such a well loved local event is just amazing to me. It’s basically my picture perfect job and I couldn’t be happier!”

Anderson will jump right in beginning to shadow Jones for the next two remaining Saturdays in October which will take place at Ralph Stout Park. The last Saturday, October 27th, being our annual Holiday Fair event. Then Mrs. Anderson will take full reigns starting with the November 3rd Winter Farmers Market which is held in the basement of the Johnson County Welcome Center each Saturday from 9 am until noon with the exception of the Saturday following Thanksgiving and Christmas.

JCFM obtained a grant this year from the East Tennessee Foundation to update its website. Anderson will be designing a new JCFM website in the next few months. Stay tuned by visiting the JCFM Facebook page to hear the latest updates or go to www.JohnsonCountyFM.org for basic information.

Prison gets new warden

October 10, 2018

New Northeast Correctional Complex warden Georgia Crowell, right, being interview by Tomahawk reporter, Megan Hollaway. Submitted photo

By Megan Hollaway
Freelance Writer

Local resident and former correctional officer for the Tennessee Department of Correction, Georgia Crowell has been appointed as the new warden of the Northeast Correctional Complex. Crowell began her career in prisons in 1984 until she working at the Northeast Correctional Complex in 1991 as an Inmates Relations Coordinator moving up to Unit management as an Inmate Counselor. By 2013 Crowell was made Unit Manager Health Administrator.
This was all under the supervision of the previous warden, Randy Lee who has recently retired from the warden position to be with his children and grandchildren.

Crowell’s appointment was followed quickly by a great achievement for the Correctional complex.The recent inspection and Audit, the first the Complex has had since the new warden stepped in, scored a 99.16 percent. The Correctional Complex houses 1,716 inmates, and they are offered six vocational programs as well as a GED program. It also provides intensive substance use and Anger Management counseling.

Georgia said, in relation to the quality of the complex, “It is considered the best in the State.”

When asked about the future of the Complex, and the mission she would take on as warden, Crowell spoke about the focus going forward for the Northeast Correctional Complex is to continue the way things have been- but redouble the safety for inmates, employees, and the community.

Crowell, who was previously the Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce of Johnson County and is still active with the group, brought up the importance of the labor provided by the inmates to the city and surrounding county she said, “Northeast is a great community resource. We strive to be public servants to the community, while the inmates strive to maintain the beauty of the area by keeping grass of the public areas mowed and clean of litter.”
Northeast is a resource for the community in another way as well, as it employs a large number of individuals from the county.

Crowell commented on employment at the prison, stating that, “We really do have the most amazing employees. They are always happy to come to work and do such a great job.”

New senior transportation program coming soon

October 10, 2018

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The Johnson County Senior Center plans to implement a program to make senior lives a little easier. My Ride Johnson County will be a non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) program for seniors age 60 and up. According to the CDC, many seniors become uncomfortable or unable to drive due to declining vision and cognitive functions. Reuters studies suggest that adults who no longer have the ability to be mobile freely have a much higher risk of depression. This program allows seniors to maintain their independence without undue risk.

“I’m so excited to receive this grant for the senior citizens of Johnson County,” declared senior center Director Kathy Motsinger. “I feel this will truly make a difference in peoples lives.”

My Ride Johnson County is a step towards a better future for Johnson County. Small areas such as Mountain City are seriously lacking in public transportation. Through My Ride Johnson County, seniors can get rides to pretty much anywhere in the county. Some examples include doctor’s offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, beauty shops and more.

My Ride Johnson County is akin to programs such as Uber or Lyft. The main difference is cost. My Ride Johnson County depends on a network of volunteers who provide this service to local seniors free of cost. The service is designed to benefit seniors regardless of financial means. Eliminating cost means that any senior can participate.
My Ride Johnson County is possible in part because of generous donations. Johnson County Bank recently donated $500 to the cause, and Farmers State Bank donated $1000. Not everyone is able to donate money. Locals can make a difference by donating time. My Ride Johnson County is in need of volunteer drivers. Special vehicles are not required however seniors may have trouble with certain types of vehicles. For example, a vehicle such as an SUV or truck with a high step would not be easy to enter.

“I’m still hoping to reach more volunteers,” said Motsinger. We are having a MyRide Launch Day at the Senior Center on Friday, October 26th at 1pm. I encourage everyone to come out and learn more about this program. We are hoping to start the transportation the first of November.”

My Ride Johnson County launches on Friday, October 26. Membership applications are available for both volunteers and riders at the Johnson County Senior Center. Find out more information about the program at 423-727-8883. The Johnson County Senior Center is a nonprofit organization that provides services for people 60 and older in the Johnson County area.

Long-awaited utility pole project completed

October 10, 2018

Mountain Electric workers are using bucket trucks to reach and work on the lines at the intersection of Church Street and Main Street in downtown Mountain City, during last week’s power pole replacement project. The company came out in force to ensure that the overnight work was completed before the morning rush hour. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

Employees from Mountain Electric, the Town of Mountain City, and local phone and cable companies worked through the night last week to perform much-needed improvements to the intersection of Main Street and Church Street. The nearly 11-hourlong project, which has been in planning stages for months saw the replacement of three poles and relocation of the traffic light control box on the southeast corner of the downtown intersection. The most pressing issue with the intersection was the utility pole that protruded into the street and was the scene for multiple traffic issues.

“That pole had been hit repeatedly by truckers trying to make that turn,” explained Public Works Director Gary Phillips. “You could see on the meter base where it had been hit several times by vehicles.”

A recent event with a commercial truck’s cargo becoming caught on phone lines and consequently dragging the wires off the pole also added to the urgency of repairs in the area. The troublesome pole on the Farmers State Bank side of the intersection was relocated three feet off the road. According to local officials, replacing a pole of this sort in Mountain City can present problems that workers in other areas of the country do not have to face.

“One thing about Mountain City is that we have to deal with rock and sand when we dig our holes,” said Bill Wilson, Mountain Electric Operations Superintendent. “We have to cut the pole off, pick it up, set it out of the way, dig the new hole and set the new pole. The holes sometimes fill in while we are digging them and we have to dig them bigger.”

During the project, workers took the opportunity to replace two other poles that were damaged and had needed replacing.

“One pole was broken underground, and another was also cracked,” Wilson stated.

The project required the intersection to be closed beginning at 5 pm Thursday afternoon and continued through the early morning hours Friday.

“We had everything accomplished by 3:30 am,” Wilson shared. “There were no problems, and everything went well. The Lord blessed us with a beautiful night.”

Those who traveled near the intersection most likely noticed the illuminated area as the workers toiled through the night.

“We had it lit up very well,” said Wilson.

It was a combined effort from employees of the town, Mountain Electric, and other utilities that made the project go so smoothly. “The phone and cable lines had to be moved before we could complete our part of the work,” Wilson added. “We helped them some and were able to get it done quickly.”

With the completion of the intersection project, the town’s utility pole work saw a major goal achieved as Phillips explained, “As far as poles needing to be replaced, there are a few others like perhaps Reece Avenue but none are as troublesome as that intersection.”

As for future projects, Mountain Electric has plans to continue improvements to areas of service that need attention.

“We have done a lot of work in Mining Town and are getting ready for a project at the Highway 167 intersection and half a mile down that roadway,” said Wilson. “We also have projects planned in the Antioch area. Wilson concluded. “We at Mountain Electric are always trying to increase reliability and safety.”

For more information about Mountain Electric please visit www.mountainelectric.com.

Mountain Electric Company workers are busy repairing and replacing several power line poles
last week in downtown Mountain City. The overnight project took nearly 11 hours to complete. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

City reviews water and sewer rates

October 10, 2018

city council

Members of the city council discuss a number of topics during its monthly meeting in Mountain City, including the proposed changes of water and sewer rates as recommended in a report from a state agency. Photo by Marlana Ward

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

The October meeting of the Mountain City Board of Mayor and Aldermen saw much discussion and some disagreement as the group addressed proposed raising and lowering of water and sewer rates as recommended in a report from a state agency. The State of Tennessee is requesting changes after recent audits found the utility to be operating at a deficit.

In an interview after the council meeting, City Recorder Sheila Shaw explained how the state came to be involved with the utility rate situation: “If during an audit it is found that we are operating in the red for two years in a row, the Water/Wastewater Finance Board meet and tell us what to do, she said. “That happened. We are under an order stating that we would have a rate study done and that we will look at tap fees and rate changes. MTAS did the rate study and gave us their new recommendations. They gave what they thought fees and rates should be to bring finances back to black.”

The rate changes proposed by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) included the following:

• Inside City Water Minimum Rate of $11.00 for up to 2,000 gallons. An increase of $0.93.

• Inside City Over 2,000 gallons rate of $5.00 per thousand. An increase of at least $0.35 per thousand gallons.

• Outside City Water Minimum Rate of $22.00 for up to 2,500 gallons. A decrease of $7.40

• Outside City Water Over 2,000 gallons rate of $7.00 per thousand. An increase of at least $1.70 per thousand gallons.

• City Sewer Rate of $8.00 for up to 2,000 gallons. An increase of $1.75.

• Outside Sewer Rate of $16.00. An increase of $2.00.

When asked about the seriousness of a state order of this type, Shaw stated, “We have been under an order in the past. They tell you what to do, and you do it, or they come in, and they do it for you. They have that authority.”
During the council meeting, City Mayor Kevin Parsons was the first and most vocal about opposing the increase of rates for city residents. “I think we could save money elsewhere,” he stated.

Alderman Jerry Jordan shared how he initially was against any rate changes but had seen some benefit to the commercial side of the proposal. “I was completely against this until the financial workshop and saw that big businesses are going to have to start paying,” Jordan said. “They have simplified the rates.”

Shaw echoed that by adding, “People that use more water will pay more.”

Jordan expressed that while he understood customers would not like the new rates, it was necessary as rates had not changed in several years.

“No one likes an increase, but we have to use common sense. We cannot pay employees more and have our equipment and not raise rates.”

Alderman Bob Morrison wanted to be very clear with the public as to why the board was considering these changes, “We are doing this because the state has told us we were operating in the red and we have to correct that.”

Mayor Parsons reiterated his resistance to raising city resident rates. “The only way I will support this is if no increase is given to people inside the town.”

“Those in the city should have a little edge,” agreed Alderman Jordan. “Those that pay property tax and city tax should get some benefit.”

Mayor Parsons requested the ordinance discussion be tabled for further discussion next month after expenses could be reviewed in other areas to avoid raising rates. Shaw reminded the group that she had already requested an extension of the state order to allow for the study to be completed and she had to provide the state with an answer following the October Council meeting.

Alderman Jerry Jordan made the motion to approve the first reading of the ordinance with the condition that the proposed minimum rate increase of $0.93 be placed on the outside of city customers rather than city customers. A vote was taken with Mayor Parsons voting no but Aldermen Crosswhite, Icenhour, Jordan, and Morrison voting yes. The motion carried, and the ordinance will be presented for the second reading and public hearing at the next City Council meeting on November 13.

Following the meeting, Mayor Kevin Parsons offered the following statement regarding his stance on the MTAS proposal: ““I strongly oppose the water and sewer rate adjustments the city council approved as it produces higher water bills for city residents. This recommendation to us came from a state agency because they did not like our current rate structure, which does take into consideration that if it costs less to provide a product for a customer based on where they live then they should pay less. Common sense reasons that maintaining water distribution lines that are closer to the water source, which include city customers, cost less than say Butler or Dry Run, customers. We have county water customers because this same state agency forced the town to take over these old water systems including Pleasant Valley Utility, Dry Run Utility, and others because they were unable to continue operating. Many feels, part of the intent of living in town was to have access to an affordable public water supply making up for paying more property taxes than those living in the county. It would be nice to see a mandate coming from this or any state agency that recommends cost-cutting options over rate increases. As usual, I see this as another state mandate that puts more burdens on customers of cities, counties and many businesses all across Tennessee and I am not for it.”

Mountain City Council will hold its next scheduled meeting on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

Racing Dreamz one step closer to helping veterans

October 3, 2018

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

Local non-profit Racing Dreamz is closer to helping make veterans dreams come true with the recent acquisition of equipment and technology from a generous benefactor who wished to help the group fulfill their goal. While this donation has the potential to make a difference in many lives, Racing Dreamz still needs help from the community to be able to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Our most recent donation has been a ‘Kit Car’ company,” Racing Dreamz Chairman Ben Jones shared. “A gentleman that held the rights and all equipment, fiberglass molds, chassis jigs, etc., felt that he would not be able to carry on the business and he had heard about our organization. We spoke a few times on the phone, and he decided to donate the company to us.”

With the equipment donated, the challenge now becomes how to transport the items to Johnson County. “We have to raise the funding to hire a company to transport everything here,” Jones explained. “It will cost more than $1,000 in transportation fees.”

In the past, Racing Dreamz had seen support from the local county government, a relationship it hopes to see continue with the new administration in place. “This is why we moved to Johnson County as I have always heard that Johnson County is a great place to live,” Jones spoke of his experience in the county. “We have been in contact with Doe Mountain about allowing us to organize events there. We’ve been in contact with the Johnson County Mayor’s Office about organizing a motorsport event. We had previously gotten the county’s blessing, but at the time we did not have the one million dollar insurance policy that was needed. So, we’re doing what we can with what we got.”

Currently, finding a shop space and a location to build a track for racing experiences is a major focus of Racing Dreamz. “We’ve been trying now for four years to reach a landowner that has about 30 or more acres that they are not using to allow us to use their property to build an off-road race course,” said Jones. “We can use this for veterans and children as we also plan on building off-road racing karts for both adults and disadvantaged children.”

Work with veterans through racing Dreamz is close to the heart of Jones. “I’m a veteran of the United States Air Force (1977-1981),” expressed Jones. “My duty station was a regional military hospital right after the Vietnam war. I saw too many of our men broken and damaged with limited hope for their future. If a veteran has an interest in motor sports, we will try to help them get involved.”

“First and foremost, we want to bring a smile to the veterans who are interested in our projects and programs,” Jones said of the Racing Dreamz mission. “That’s what it’s all about. If there is a disabled veteran, if we can help them uplift their lives and emotions through motor sports, then we’ve done our jobs.”

Anyone wishing to learn more about Racing Dreamz or offer support to help the group and its work can reach the group at info@racingdreamz.org.

Cancer survivors come together to celebrate

October 3, 2018

By Meg Dickens
Freelance Writer

The Cancer Survivors’ Dinner drew a crowd to the Crewette building on Saturday, September 29. The number of guests nearly outnumbered the seating. The final guest count came in at 106 people. Guests ranged from young children to senior citizens. Some have fought their diagnosis for years while others were diagnosed as recently as 6 months ago.

Johnson County Bank employees greeted and signed in guests as they arrived. The Levi Retirees worked behind the scenes preparing a home-cooked meal. All involved went above and beyond to make the event a success. Several members of the Levi Retirees are cancer survivors. The disease has touched many bank employees as well.

Guests mingled with old friends and allies in the fight against cancer. Not long after, bank employees passed out blue and white balloons, and guests took to the street for an optional short walk around the block. Some guests had trouble with the walk but
persevered. This determination is just a glimpse of the strength these survivors exhibit daily.

The walk ended back in front of the Crewette building. Survivors paused while event coordinator Sandy Snyder turned the floor over to Johnson County Bank CEO Chris Reece who led the crowd in a moment of prayer. Soon the sky filled with a flurry of blue and white as survivors released balloons into the air. It is a common practice to release balloons in memory of those who lost their battle with cancer. The balloons floated away with a farewell of “bye-bye” from Mia Crews. Friends paused to take photos and hug on the way back into the building.

Guests formed a line to fill their plates. The meal included ham, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, slaw, rolls and a plethora of dessert options. Bank employees came around to collect empty plates and help anyone in need. When the plates were mostly clear, Snyder started passing out souvenir t-shirts. Each was wrapped with ribbon and a personalized nametag. Guests raised their hands when their names were called, and bank employees delivered the mementos. Guests exchanged hugs and goodbyes before heading out.

Local concerns on November ballot

October 3, 2018

SignPetition

Petitions to the Election
Commission need signatures from at least 10 percent of the residents that voted in the last gubernatorial election.

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Anyone not planning to vote in November’s state and federal general election should know the ballot will include two referendums that will affect every Johnson County resident. One involves the sale of alcohol locally and the other increases the local sales tax rate. While petitions have been noticed in some local restaurants and businesses the past few months, the person, or persons, initiating the petition distribution remains very “hush-hush.” State law directs the county election commission to include the referendum question upon receipt of petition with at least as many valid signatures as would equal 10 percent of their residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election which would be 337 signatures, and evidently enough certified signatures were garnered as the referendum has made it on the ballot.

The effort was enough to give voters an opportunity to decide if liquor by the drink should be allowed in Johnson County. Local government jurisdictions, such as counties and cities, in Tennessee, are dry by default, meaning the sale of alcohol and alcoholic beverages is prohibited or restricted. Beer sales are not considered in the distinction of wet versus dry. To allow for liquor-by-the-drink sales and retail package stores, the law must be amended, and this referendum is the first step in doing so. The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission says.” Liquor-By-the-Drink” licenses allow businesses to sell beverages with an alcoholic content at or above 8 percent. If approved in November, officials say businesses will have to pass a state screening process and meet a list of requirements to sell liquor by the drink.

Johnson County remains one of 13 counties in Tennessee designated as “dry.” Neighboring counties of Carter County, TN and Washington County, VA allow the sale of packaged wine and liquor and bars and restaurants are permitted to serve alcohol. While unincorporated areas in Watauga and Ashe Counties in NC prohibit the sale of packaged alcoholic beverages, the cities of Boone and West Jefferson permit the sale of packaged liquor every day but Sunday. In 2009, the Town of Mountain City voted against allowing liquor sales in the city limits, and the supporters and opponents of the measure offer the same conflicting viewpoints this go-round.

Advocates suggest by passing the resolution, more restaurants and businesses will locate to Johnson County thereby creating more jobs and producing more tax money.

“The economic justification for this is abundantly clear,” wrote Dennis Shekinah, owner of R&D Campground, in a letter to this paper’s editor. “The objections for this idea have historically been voiced from constituents who believe that sales of beer and wine are equated with a disintegration of our moral character as a county. We should all realize that people, locals and tourists alike, who enjoy wine with their dinner or a cold beer with pizza will end up giving their money to an adjoining county that allows it.”

Opponents, however, argue that possible safety issues could offset any increase in tax revenue and tourism and an increase in under-age drinking.

Unlike laws dealing with the sale of beer, which is governed by the local beer board, and since liquor by the drink is governed by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, prospective restaurants and their owners and servers would be required to undergo a licensing procedure before liquor sales can be allowed.

The “consumption on the premises referendum” is worded: “For legal sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in Johnson County,” or “Against legal sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in Johnson County.”

The second referendum involves raising the sales tax. The Tennessee state sales tax rate is currently seven percent, but county and city tax based tax rates vary depending on the rate passed. Depending on local tax jurisdictions, the total sales tax rate in Tennessee can be as high as 10%. The average local sales tax rate across the state is 2.45 percent making the Volunteer State’s sales tax rate one of the highest in the country with an average tax levy on purchases of 9.45 percent statewide.

The combined sales tax rate for Johnson County, TN is 8.5 percent, which is the total of state and county sales tax rates. The Tennessee state sales tax rate is currently 7 percent. The Johnson County, sales tax rate, is 1.5 percent. Washington County 9.5 and Carter and Unicoi Counties 9.75.

The combined sales tax rate for Abingdon, VA is 5.3 percent, which is the total of state, county and city sales tax rates. The Virginia state sales tax rate is currently 4.3 percent. The Washington County, sales tax rate, is 1 percent.

The “sales and use tax referendum” asks, “Shall the Resolution passed by the Johnson County Commission on May 17, 2018, published in The Tomahawk, a newspaper of general circulation, and as authorized by the be levied and collected pursuant to the Retailer’s Sales Tax Act and the 1963 Local Option Revenue Act and pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated, sections 67-6-701, et seq., which will increase the local sales and use tax rate from one and one-half percent to two percent (2.00 percent), except as limited or modified by statute, become operative?”

Proposed Ag center plans move forward

October 3, 2018

Ag center

The new Ag Center will be located in the field across from the entrance to the county transfer station. The new facility will include banquet seating for over 200 as well as state of the art audio/visual equipment.
Photo by Marlana Ward.

 

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

The September meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners saw a large turnout of those in the agricultural community as the group of officials approved plans to construct a new facility for use by local organizations. The unanimous vote was the culmination of two years of research and discussion by county groups and officials.While no official time frame is available for the construction of the facility, the commitment from the county to move forward with the project has been a major move towards the manifestation of plans and ideas.

“We’ve been planning for the Ag. Center for the past couple of years,” said Rick Thomason, County Director & Extension Agent III with the UT/TSU-Johnson County Extension Office.

When asked about why the agricultural community has sought the construction of an Ag Center, Thomason answered: “Because we don’t have a facility to host large groups for educational meetings and events for farmers and youth (4-H & FFA). Agriculture has a tremendous economic impact on our county. According to a recent study conducted by the University of TN Ag Economics Department, agriculture has an economic impact in Johnson County of $191.2 million, while 1,149 jobs are generated.”

As currently proposed, the new handicapped-accessible facility is planned to include a seating capacity of around 200, banquet style tables and chairs to use for meal functions and award programs, state of the art audio-visual equipment to use for presentations, and kitchen and bathroom facilities. As discussed, the building will be open to be used by county groups and organizations.

“It will be available to all organizations in the county through reservations,” said Thomason.

The Ag Center will be built on a parcel of land located along Highway 67 across from the entrance to the county transfer station. Officials chose this location due to the property already being owned by the county. The reported cost for the facility will is approximately $500,000.

“We either have applied for will be applying for funding through the TN Department of Agriculture, USDA Rural Development Community Development funds, and Farm Credit,” Thomason explained. “In addition, we will be seeking grants from other state and federal agencies along with local funding sources such as Farm Bureau. It should be noted that by tapping into these funding sources, the
Ag Center will not affect the tax rate in Johnson County.”

Thomason expressed his appreciation to those in the community as the project has been pursued, “I app

reciate the support we have received for the Ag. Center and look forward to this dream becoming a reality for our county.”

Credit card skimmers in northeast Tennessee gas pumps arrested

skimmer

Credit Card skimmer attached to a gas pump.

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

Two co-conspirators in a wire fraud and aggravated identity theft conspiracy involving credit card skimmers were sentenced by the Honorable Leon Jordan, U.S. District Judge, earlier this month to serve time in federal prison. According law enforcement officials, Ricardo Viera, 49, of Homestead, Florida, was sentenced, to serve a total of 40 months. Luis Raul Hernandez-Ugando, 37, of Coral Gables, Florida, was sentenced to serve a total of 48 months. TBI officials reported that in May 2018, Viera and Hernandez-Ugando each pleaded guilty to three counts of an August 2017 federal indictment. Details of the scheme are currently outlined in the plea agreements on file with the U.S. District Court.

According to these plea agreements, Viera and Hernandez-Ugando, installed “skimmers” on gas pumps at various gas stations in northeast Tennessee to steal hundreds of credit card and debit card account numbers. The report said that the men then re-encoded that stolen account information on gift cards, effectively changing the gift cards into stolen credit cards. After re-encoding the gift cards with the stolen credit card and debit card account information, Viera and Hernandez-Ugando used the newly encoded cards to make purchases at various retail outlets in Greeneville, Johnson City, Kingsport, Morristown, Elizabethton, and Rogersville, Tennessee and elsewhere.

Viera and Ugando also admitted to engaging in these same schemes in other states throughout the country, including Virginia, Ohio, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

On July 10, 2017, police approached Viera and Hernandez-Ugando while they were swiping unlawfully re-encoded credit cards at a Walmart in Kingsport, Tennessee. Officers arrested Viera, who was in possession of numerous re-encoded credit cards. Hernandez-Ugando was also arrested after a pursuit.

Upon their release from prison, each will be supervised by U.S. Probation for three years, officials said adding that additionally, both Viera and Hernandez-Ugando were ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1943.76.Federal investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and Kingsport Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney TJ Harker represented the United States in court proceedings.

Doe Mountain increases local tourism dollars

Doe mtn

Doe Mountain Recreation Area is increasing tourism to Johnson County.Photo Courtesy of Doe Mountain Recreation Area

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

You may have seen them dining in the local restaurants, or perhaps you have enjoyed the serenity of a campfire together. Maybe you have even followed their tracks up the scenic winding trail, or just noticed a few new folks around town. At any rate, anyone paying attention knows Doe Mountain Recreation Area (DMRA) is bringing visitors to the beautiful mountains of East Tennessee.

Since the purchase of Doe Mountain by the state and the creation of the DMRA in 2012, the area has become a favorite of riders and visitors whose numbers continue to increase. According to Tate Davis, DMRA Executive Director, revenue from permits has increased from $38,645 in 2016 to almost $60,000 in 2018.

“We are excited about the increase in tourism to Johnson County,” said Donna Walker of Doe Creek Campground, who advises many of their customers come to the area to enjoy local destinations. ”We have a good number of customers that come to ride on Doe Mountain,” she said. “We have a large number of repeat customers, who may come for riding the mountain but once they find out the many other things that are in the area they come back again.”

Walker lets customers know all of what Johnson County has to offer.

“Not only do we sell DMRA passes and provide DMRA maps delineating the trails,” she said, “We also provide each guest a list of local restaurants, and places of interest such as Watauga Lake, Backbone Rock, the Johnson County Center for the Arts, the Watauga Lake Winery and the golf course.”

“It is our desire to bring attention to those things that are right here in our area,” said Walker. “We have history museums, Heritage Hall presenting top-quality plays and musical events, historic sites, wilderness areas, eco-agricultural locations.”

Considering Johnson County is one of the top scenic counties in the entire state, it is quite bewildering why the county ranks 71st of Tennessee’s 95 counties in economic impact of travel as compiled by the U. S. Census Bureau in 2017.

While most local leaders agree to tout what this area has to offer could be better, tourism generated $590,000 in State tax revenue and $780,000 in local tax revenue in 2017. In fact, according to the census report, if it were not for state and local taxes generated by tourism each Johnson County household would pay $198.12 more in taxes.

Weather event preparedness takes center stage after Florence

A NASA image shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station this week as it threatens the US East Coast.

A NASA image shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station this week as it threatens the US East Coast.

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

It is safe to say that for the past 10 days Hurricane Florence was the minds of many residents on the coastline as well as locally prompting residents to revisit their storm readiness and disaster preparedness. Members of the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency located at 216 Honeysuckle St. in Mountain City, led by JCEMA Director Jason Blevins and Operations Officer Michael Sumner, were on alert to make sure area residents are cared for before, both during and after a storm

Fortunately, other then a couple of rainy days Johnson County and surrounding communities were mostly spared, although some local waterways did see some increased level and possible flooding in some areas are not yet ruled out.  While making its way toward the US coastline, Florence was downgraded from a category 4 (Major), hurricane to a category 2, with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. The storm, however rightfully earned its ‘monster’ categorization thanks to the expected amount of rainfall and the subsequent flooding forecast.

AccuWeather meteorologists believed that the storm would survive long enough to bring rounds of heavy rain and the risk of flooding to the central Appalachians and the northeastern United States including the North Carolina high country. Florence’s widespread torrential rainfall and significant flood risk remained in southern Virginia on the south and expanded inland heading northeastward. At the end officials estimated Hurricane Florence damage at $17 billion to $22 billion, which they said, “could go higher.”

As of Monday evening (9/17) officials have linked 32 deaths to the storm, most of them in North Carolina, a number that had nearly doubled since a day earlier. State officials

stressed that the storm’s dangers had not relented even as it moved away from the state.
Florence swept across the Carolinas prompted a widespread emergency across all of North Carolina, from the ocean east to mountain west. Floodwaters, thanks to torrential rainfall in some parts of the Carolinas reaching 30 inches and more, pushed many rivers to all-time highs.

North Carolina authorities have reportedly confirmed 25 deaths there by Monday evening, including at least three children between the ages of three months and one year. The punch Florence delivered as it moved inland was by no means unprecedented. Hurricane Hugo, in September 1989 was one of the strongest hurricanes in South Carolina’s history and was at the time the most costly hurricane ever in the Atlantic Ocean. Even seven hours after its final landfall, Hugo still produced hurricane-force winds across the western Piedmont and foothills of North Carolina. In all, Hugo was responsible for at least 86 fatalities and caused at least $8 to $10 billion in damage [unadjusted 1989 dollars; some sources quote higher damage and fatality statistics].

Hugo attained hurricane strength on September 14, then turned west-northwestward early on September 15 as it quickly strengthened into a rare category five hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 160 mph. The storm caused major widespread flooding across several states as it made its way western North Carolina before northward and moved through the mountainous terrain of Virginia and West Virginia, still producing wind gusts of 40 to 55 mph east of the storm’s center.

“We are dedicated to care for our residents first before we use our resources to assist other areas affected by the storm,” Blevins said.

All of this, of course, hopefully reminds area residents to be prepared and ready for the upcoming fall and winter season, which will bring its weather related challenges.
“Be prepared and be ready,” Blevins said.

Breakdown of type of damage each category of storm can do:

• Category 1: Winds 74 to 95 mph (Minor damage)
• Category 2: Winds 96 to 110 mph (Extensive damage — Can uproot trees and break windows)
• Category 3: Winds 111 to 129 mph
(Devastating — Can break windows and doors)
• Category 4: Winds 130 to 156 mph
(Catastrophic damage -— Can tear off roofs)
• Category 5: Winds 157 mph or higher (The absolute worst and can level houses and destroy buildings)

Crowd applauds Ag Center decision

By Marlana Ward
Freelance Writer

The September meeting of  the Johnson County Commissioners saw great attendance and response from the public as new faces joined the governing body and plans for the county’s future were made. As newly elected Mayor Mike Taylor took his place at the table with other county officials, the commissioners chose who would serve as their Chairman and Vice Chairman for this term. Commissioner Rick Snyder, who has served previously as Vice Chairman, was elected Chairman and Commissioner Jerry Grindstaff was elected to serve as Vice Chairman. Their peers elected both men unanimously. With the new commissioners coming on board, the group also approved changes to various committees for future discussions. The group approved all changes to committees unanimously.

The courtroom was filled with those from the agricultural community all anxious to see what this newly elected group of officials would decide about the future of an Ag Center in Johnson County. The proposal for seeking grants and funding for a county agricultural center has been a hot topic of discussion for many months, and at the August meeting, it was tabled one last time to allow the new commissioners an opportunity to review the information and make a final decision.

The decision was made to move forward with the Ag Center proposal, and every commissioner voted in favor of the project. “The courtroom was full of farmers awaiting the decision,” reported County Clerk Tammie Fenner. “When it was approved, they all applauded and were very excited to see this move forward.”

Fenner also shared how the Johnson County High School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) group was also in attendance to show support for the planned center. “The courtroom was completely full,” Fenner added.

The first grant deadline for the Ag Center is October 1.  Officials stated that with the proposal officially approved and the county committed, more grant applications and
specific plans pertaining to the center would be pursued soon.

The next meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners will be on October 18 at 7 pm. Meetings are held in the Johnson County Courthouse upper courtroom and are always open to the public.

Homecoming provides a special atmosphere

By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
TomahawkSportsEditor@gmail.com

Homecoming 2018 was a huge success for Johnson County on the football field. It was also a great success in many other ways. The stadium had several alumni who came back to be a part of the festivities. Young and old could be found all around the stadium wearing their maroon and white attire. The homecoming week began on Monday, but planning has been going on for several weeks. Casey Southerland, a teacher at the high school, is in her sixth year of overseeing it. She touched on how the game and date was decided.

“We always try and pick a date against a team that we can get all our fans inside,” said Southerland. “We want it to be on a night where you don’t have a lot of out of town people.”

The planning stages helped because Paul McEwen Stadium was a season of maroon during the ceremonies.,Jada Gentry was crowned homecoming queen for 2018. Chloe Capps was selected as the underclassmen princess. Savannah Bumgardner was tabbed as the senior princess.

“All the girls worked so hard,” said Southerland about the field. “We have so many people who have made this possible. Farmers State Bank had the tailgating party and served hot dogs and had the live radio feed. Johnson County Bank is always supporting the cause too with a free tee shirt and lots of other stuff. I’m always amazed as to how our community pulls together. They always rally to make homecoming a special event.”

The week kicked off with several things chosen by the student body to do by way of voting. Dress up day started out the week along with America Day and Pajama Day. Stoplight day was the clincher. It was like an old Sadie Hawkins dance where if someone wore green they were available. Wearing yellow meant that they could be looking. The youth league football players and cheerleaders were part of the homecoming parade that included the junior high football team and cheerleaders. The parade started at First Baptist Church and ended at the high school.

Katie McCulloch along with Capps represented the freshmen class as homecoming queen contestants. Cindy Jones and Sadie Stout were tabbed for the sophomore class. Sydney Souder and Isabella Furchess represented the junior class. Renie Morrow stood tall for the senior class along with Bumgardner and Gentry who were tabbed as princess and homecoming queen respectively.

But not everything involved beautiful dresses, a parade or the football game. Some of the best food ever could be found cooking high above the football field. Longhorn fans enjoying tailgating and Friday’s participants went the extra mile.
The grills were fired up, and the smokers were smoking. Nathan Winters and his tailgating crew treated me to some delicious ribs and world-famous baked beans. More offers came from various tents, but even a stomach like mine can only hold so much. I’m trying to watch my figure. Five chicken wings, three ribs, baked beans, and a dessert equals 10 pounds for me, so I skipped the dessert. Homecoming is unique for many reasons.

These are just a few of them.

Candidates set for November election

I voted sticker

State to elect new governor, choose U.S. congress, senate, Tennessee Representative; Town of Mountain City will fill two alderman seats.

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

With political campaigning in full swing, in just a few short weeks Tennesseans will choose a political and governmental leader, as the state and 35 others, will holding an election for governor in 2018. In the August primary, voters chose the Republican and Democratic candidates to face off in November’s general election to succeed Gov. Bill Haslam, a two-term governor who has led the state for the past eight years. Republican Bill Lee and Democrat Karl Dean won their respective party nominations.

Governor
Lee, 57, of Williamson County, businessman, chairman and former CEO of Lee Co., a full-service home services, facilities and construction company founded by his grandfather in 1944, defeated five other republican candidates. Former Nashville mayor, Karl Dean, an attorney, will face Lee. He served as mayor of Nashville from 2007 to 2015. Also, on the Nov. 6 ballot will be a U.S. Senate seat, a U.S. House of Representative seat for the first Congressional District, Tennessee House seat to represent the third Tennessee House of Representative District, and a state executive committeeman and committeewoman.

U. S. Senate
Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen handily defeated Gary Davis and John Wolfe in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator for Tennessee on August 2, 2018. Serving as U.S. Representative from Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District since 2003, Marsha Blackburn defeated Aaron Pettigrew in the Republican primary for U.S. Senator for Tennessee. Prior to her election to the U.S. House, Blackburn served in the Tennessee State Senate.

U.S. House of Representative seat for the first Congressional District
Voters will elect nine candidates to serve in the U.S. House, one from each of the state’s nine congressional districts. Republican Phil Roe, incumbent, is seeking re-election to serve the first Congressional District. Prior to his election to the U.S. House in 2009, Dr. Roe was active in local government having served two years as mayor of Johnson City. Marty Olsen, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary in August, is facing Roe to represent Tennessee District 1 in U.S. House of Representatives. Dr. Olsen, a professor in the Department of obstetrics and gynecology since 1992, frequently treats pregnant women addicted to opioids. Also seeking the seat and running as an Independent is Michael Salyer, a 1985 Volunteer High School graduate and professional truck driver.

Tennessee House of Representatives District 3
Incumbent Timothy Hill (R) is running unopposed in the general election for Tennessee House of Representatives District 3. Before being elected in 2012, Hill worked as a radio host, an Audio/Visual Director, Press Secretary and Communications Director for Tennessee’s 1st congressional district, and as the founder and owner of his own small business.

Alderman, Town of Mountain City
On a local level, the citizens of the Town of Mountain City will elect two from a field of four to fill alderman seats. The field of four qualified candidates includes incumbent Bud Crosswhite, former Mountain City mayor Lawrence C. Keeble, Robert A. Blackwell, a retired business owner, and Jason Panganiban, former Mountain City Police Officer.

In Tennessee, it is easier than ever to register to vote. To register online visit https://ovr.govote.tn.gov. One can also download and complete a voter registration application and mail it to the county election commission, pick up a voter registration application in person at the county election commission office, county clerk’s office, public libraries and register of deeds office. Voter registration is also offered during transactions at the health department (WIC program), Department of Human Services, Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Department of Mental Health, Department of Safety (motor vehicles division) and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 6 election is Oct. 9. Early voting is available Oct. 17 through Nov. 1.

No flags to fly on vehicles on campus

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

The primary focus of any school system should be to provide a safe, learning environment for all students and often that involves tackling some sensitive issues such as flying flags on vehicles. While there is no formal policy regarding the display of flags on campus, social media was abuzz when a Johnson County High School student reported he was made to remove the American flag from his vehicle last week. According to school officials, flags are not banned, and the school system does not have a policy or objection to displaying the American flag.

“The flag policy is not a written policy,” explained Mischelle Simcox, Johnson County Director of Schools. “It is simply a practice to not cause disruptions to the learning environments.”

Board policy does require all students and parents respect the learning environment of the school and refrain from causing disruptions on school grounds. Unlike other governments, school districts are allowed by law to restrict student speech if it interferes with the learning process. However, they also must be mindful of students’ constitutional rights. Simcox clarified that the incident in question involved flying a flag on a vehicle.

“Students can’t fly any flags on their vehicles, and this procedure has been in place and enforced for many years,” she said. “During homecoming week, flags were proudly carried within the building on America day, and students wear apparel in support of our nation almost daily.”

Simcox also stressed that the high school has flags proudly hung on campus, in every classroom, and in the gym. “We play the national anthem at every event, and we start the day at every school pledging the flag,” she said. “Also, we require our football team to be on the field for the anthem which no other school in our area does.”

Simcox insists patriotism is alive and well in Johnson County Schools

Safety and security, main topic

School board

The Johnson county school board discusses the new security measures at Johnson County High School. Photo by Megan Hollaway

By Megan Hollaway
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County School Board met last week to reflect on the new school year, and to discuss new funding and policy changes. To start things off, students from Doe Elementary were recognized for displaying excellence for the new school wide motto: The Seven Habits; The Leader in Me.

After the recognition of the students and educators, followed by roll call of the School Board members, the meeting continued with the reading of policy changes recommended by the Tennessee School Board Association. According to school officials, changes include revisions to the school district planning and the timing for policy changes, which must be done now every two years; as well as a new policy, which intends to ensure that there is no lead in the school districts water. There will now be routine checks on every faucet in the schools every two years, school officials said.

One set of the items up for approval was the new safe school’s application, which resulted in the amount of $26,690.00 for the Safe School Grant, and an additional $66,730.00 from the School Safety Grant and the Save Act Compliance. After a unanimous vote in favor of the agenda item, a discussion ensued about what the grant money will actually mean for individual schools.

All of these grants, the Safe School Act, the School Safety Grant, and the Save Act Compliance are to deal directly with school security, and will improve the high school, after a long-awaited renovation, will receive new security doors and security cameras.

“Doe Elementary will also receive new security doors,” Simcox said. “In addition to these changes, the grant will allow for the hiring of a new School Resource Officer. Another School Resource Officer will be a great asset to the community, and the schools of Johnson County in particular.”

As the meeting drew to an end, the School Board reminded that the TRUST appreciation day of this month is for the Bus Drivers of the county, to be held on September 20, 2018.