Lady Longhorns hold off Hampton

JC’s Taylor Cox (13) scores a left-handed layup against Hampton. Cox had 12 points in the Horns’ 47-43 win.
Photo by Tim Chambers.

By Tim Chambers

Very seldom can you use the phrase must win in a non-conference game, but that was the case on Saturday for Johnson County. The Lady Longhorns got back on the winning track by defeating Hampton 47-43 before a large crowd inside of VanHuss-White Gymnasium.
It was the second win of the season for Horns over their lake rival and came after a heartbreaking 55-54 overtime loss at Elizabethton on Friday. It was also their fourth game in six days.
Despite possible fatigue, they still managed to hold off the Lady Bulldogs after building a 15-point lead heading into the fourth.
Head coach Leon Tolley knew his team was in for a “dog fight” and warmed his squad going into the final eight minutes.
“We got the big lead, but you can’t keep a team that shoots the ball as Hampton does down the whole game,” said Tolley. “We were lucky to have the big lead. I told our kids when they came to the bench that it wasn’t enough. There’s a lot of magic inside this gym. I don’t care if we won by one or 30 we just needed a win. Just the look on the girl’s faces said it all. That’s what makes coaching so enjoyable.”

Longhorns dominate
first three quarters
The Longhorns got seven points from Sadie Stout in the first quarter that offset the two treys scored by Stephanie Campbell and Trinity Camillo. A late basket by Taylor Cox gave Johnson County a 9-6 advantage going into the second.
The Horns would pad their lead thanks to a three-point play by Cox that made it 14-6 after Stout’s bucket to start the second. Hampton got within five just seconds before the half, but a buzzer-beating three by Natalie Winters upped the Horns advantage at 23-15.

Momentum continues
for the Horns
Johnson County continued to expand their cushion with Cox and Stout leading the way. They both tossed in seven points each as the Horns doubled Hampton’s scoring total 14-7 in the quarter.
They appeared to have a comfortable 37-22 heading into the final stanza, but that wasn’t the case.
Campbell fired in nine points during the final eight minutes, and Guinn added another seven. Their 21 points output was one less than what they had scored over the first three frames.
The Dogs went on a 10-0 run late in the game to close the deficit to 43-40 with 1:25 remaining. The Longhorns put the game away behind some clutch free throw shooting by Emmy Miller who sank 5-of-6 in the quarter including three that came late that stretched the lead to six.
Stout had a big night with 17 points and five rebounds to pace the Longhorns. Cox added 12 points and five boards, while Winters contributed seven points and three assists. Taylor Parsons led the team in rebounding with seven and blocked three shots.
Campbell and Guinn had 17 and 16 points respectively for the Bulldogs.
It was a good win for
the Horns who went 2-2 during their four-game week. Tolley feels like his squad might now be on the right track.
“That’s the first time that we’ve put two good efforts back to back, so I tickled with the way we played,” said Tolley. “We played together, and we played for one another. We shared the basketball, and we picked one another up. We’ve dealt with some issues, but I think we’re better for it now. I hope our best basketball of the year is now in front of us.”

Johnson Co. 9 14 14 10 -47
Hampton 6 9 27 21 -43

Overnight fire destroys Crackers Neck Rd. home

The front porch and steps remain after an overnight fire destroyed the home located at 3939 Crackers Neck Road in Mountain City. It took 15 firefighters nearly three hours to bring the flames under control but not before the entire house was destroyed. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

An overnight fire that came during the coldest night of the season so far has claimed another home this week.
Assistant fire chief Sean Brown, who was on duty at the time, said that by the time Neva firefighters responded to the scene of a house located on 3939 Crackers Neck Road at around 1 a.m. Monday morning, the entire home was engulfed in flames.
Brown said that it took nearly three hours for the four agencies (five, with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office) including 15 firefighters before the flames were brought under control.
The home owned by Jerry Courtner was being rented by his daughter and son-in-law and was unoccupied as the couple was out of town at the time of the incident.
There is no reason given yet as to the cause of the fire, but Courtner said a wood burning stove was used to warm the home and keep the pipes from freezing up.
Brown emphasized that while wood burning stoves provide the perfect heating alternative, the
incident is a sad “reminder of important safety factors to consider such as keeping the chimney
clean and burning only seasoned firewood to avoid creosote formation.”
Other tips include:
Maintain the required distance between the stove and surroundings
Most fire safety codes required that a wood burning stove must be at least 3 feet away from drapes, furniture, and other items.

Light, small, bright fires
Burning a big pile of wood causes incomplete burning and can result in overheating of the fireplace and chimney.

Never burn paper or trash
Burning paper or trash in the wood burning stove may seem like a quick way to light a fire. However, this practice is dangerous because these substances are highly combustible and may emanate toxic gases.

Keep the area around the stove clear of household items
Avoid clutter around the wood burning stove. Embers from the fire can land on nearby items and ignite a fire. Keep books, toys, clothes, and rugs well away from the stove.

Dispose of ashes
After a fire has died out, collect the ashes in a metal container. You can wet the ashes to subdue any remaining embers. Dispose of the ashes outdoors, away from trees and plants.

Install smoke alarms
and carbon monoxide detectors
Any home that uses a wood burning stove must have a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. These devices warn you in times of danger and can save your home and family. Also keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

Tenn. leads in Social Security disability denials

By Bethany Anderson

“You never get approved on your application, unless you hire a lawyer to fight it out for you,” said a 17-year Johnson County Army Veteran, (who has asked to remain anonymous) with physical and mental injuries to show for it, as he talked about the denial of his Social Security Disability application.
Sadly, Tennessee is reportedly posting the highest denial rates for disability applicants in the nation. A recent report based on USA Today Network/Tennessee investigation included such data as the ejection of 72 percent of all claims in 2017, as well as the national average for denials at 66 percent.
According to the report, experts along with former and current state employees have much difficulty in reviewing cases quickly, without making mistakes, which may reportedly lead to wrongful rejections of disability benefits.
The above-mentioned investigation examined more than five years of data for physicians and psychologists who review disability applications showing that between January 2013 and July 2018, some doctors raced through cases with more than half of all contract physicians outpaced the federal standard of 1.5 cases per hour, and that one out of every five doctors doubled that pace.
The investigation revealed that seven high-volume doctors billed for more than $1 million each between fiscal 2013 and 2018. These physicians’ annual payments range from $103,000 to $451,000. By contrast, the acting chief of the Social Security Administration, a Cabinet-level position, earned $240,000. For some physicians, this was not their sole source of income.
According to the investigation, staff doctors whose compensation is not tied to the number of cases they review take more time. These doctors reviewed cases at a rate that is in line with federal recommendations. They typically earned less than $150,000 annually, according to the state’s salary database. However, the state only employed a small number of staff doctors. Beginning this year, the state is reportedly terminating all doctors on salary and relying solely on contract physicians.
As reported recently by The Tennessean physician, Dr. Thomas Thrush, is one of dozens of doctors contracted to review applications for Tennesseans seeking disability. Anita Wadhwani and Mike Reicher, reported that the doctors are paid a flat rate for each application file they review. How much they earn depends on how fast they work. Thrush, like many of the doctors who contract with the state, works very fast.
In fiscal year 2018, he reviewed — on average — one case every 12 minutes. Thrush’s productivity has paid off. He earned $420,000 for reviewing the applications of 9,088 Tennesseans applying for disability during the year ending June 30. He has made more than $2.2 million since 2013. On average, 80 percent of the cases he reviewed were denied, the report said.  The Tennessean also reported that five current and former contractors and state employees believe disability applicants are wrongfully denied to process as many applications as possible. Most spoke to The Tennessean on the condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisal.
“It’s like a cash register,” said one contract physician. “From our perspective it’s unethical. From a consumer’s point of view, it can be a tragedy.”
“Who knows how many applicants for disability benefits have had their applications denied without justification,” said Dr. John Mather, a former chief medical officer for disability programs at the federal Social Security Administration.
A Johnson County mother of an autistic child who also suffers many physical health issues, said, “I applied on behalf of my daughter so that she can begin to get the help she will need. But after a long waiting period, she was denied with little to no explanation as to why.”
“My daughter has serious health concerns that need daily care and will soon require major surgeries as well as a lifetime of therapy,” she said adding, “How could they possibly deny her after so much medical proof of her conditions and her needs. I don’t understand. What are we supposed to do?”
The Johnson County Veteran quoted earlier said, “Well, this would explain a lot. No wonder they deny everyone so quickly when they don’t have enough doctors reviewing cases and those who are doing it are rushed or corrupt.”

 

City Mayor maintains innocence

Parsons

By Bethany Anderson and Tamas Mondovics

The recent arrest of Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons along with charges of obstruction of justice has once again stirred the community that is already dealing with its fair share of local leaders finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
The news about Parsons came in the wake of the arrest of Johnson County Schools Transportation Supervisor Barry Bishop who was arrested on charges of theft of more than $10,000.
While based on the report of the circumstances surrounding Parsons arrest as posted by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office seems to give a reasonable picture of events, Parsons is sticking to his story.
“I maintain my innocence of the charges and look forward to my day in court,” Parsons stated in a text to the Tomahawk. He later expressed his confidence in being “found innocent of the charges.”
As first reported on The Tomahawk’s Website and Facebook page last week’s City Council meeting had a bit of an unusual start with Parsons’ notable absence. The meeting was called to order and then subsequently led by Vice Mayor, Jerry Jordan. There was no explanation given for the Mayor’s absence, and the meeting continued as otherwise planned.
Thanks to social media, it didn’t take long to find out the reason for the Mayor’s absence as before the meeting, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office released a statement and photo on its Facebook page shortly after 8 p.m., explaining the strange turn of events.
According to JCSO at approximately 6:00 pm, on Tuesday, January 8, deputies executed a warrant service on Parsons, for obstruction of justice.
The charges stemmed from a traffic stop on December 22, 2018, when Parsons was pulled over on Hwy 67 West, for speeding.
According to the official JCSO report, upon approaching the car, the officer recognized and identified the driver as Mayor Parsons and advised him why he had stopped him.
The report states, “the officer then asked Mr. Parsons who the passenger was with him. He stated it was a friend. The officer having prior knowledge that Mr. Parsons brother-in-law had active warrants out of Johnson County and had been seen in that same vehicle asked Mr. Parsons what his friend’s name was. When Mr. Parsons refused to answer the officer, he then asked the passenger directly if he had an ID on him and he said no. He then asked the passenger twice for his name, and he would not respond either time.”
The report continued, “Sheriff Tester arrived on scene and asked Mr. Parsons if the passenger was his brother-in-law. Mr. Parsons responded saying, “I don’t know, I’m not at liberty to say that.” The Sheriff advised Mr. Parsons that his brother-in-law has active warrants on him and if that were him, then they would need to know. Mr. Parsons was then advised if it was him and he didn’t say, he could be charged. Again, Mr. Parsons said, “I don’t know. Mr. Parsons was asked one last time if he didn’t know the passenger could be his brother-in-law in which he finally said, “it’s my brother-in-law, yes.” The passenger exited the vehicle, and his identification was confirmed as well as the active warrants of failure to pay child support that was outstanding on Mr. Parsons’ brother-in-law, Kenneth B. Cornett. Mr. Cornett was taken into custody at the scene, and Mr. Parsons is being charged with obstruction of justice.”
Deputies said that Parsons’ bond was set at $2,500.00. His court date will be on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

Report finds more kids in Tenn. uninsured

Kinika Young, Director of Children’s Health at the Tennessee Justice Center. Online photo. 

Analysis shows the growth rate of uninsured kids in Tennessee is among the highest in the nation.

By Bethany Anderson

A recent report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, shed some light on an issue affecting communities statewide as it focused on Tennessee experiencing one of the nation’s most significant increases in the uninsured rate of children.
By the numbers, the report showed that 71,000 or 4.4 percent of children were uninsured in 2017, making for a total of 13,000 more uninsured children than in 2016.
The number of uninsured children nationwide increased by about 276,000 children last year, the first significant increase in a decade. An estimated 3.9 million children were uninsured nationwide in 2017.
The report added that three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2017 live in states that have not expanded Medicaid.
Tennessee is among the states that have not expanded Medicaid.
“Tennessee’s choice not to expand Medicaid leaves our children and families behind,” said Kinika Young, Director of Children’s Health at the Tennessee Justice Center.
Young said that Medicaid expansion helps to get health insurance to more parents who had no coverage options before, and we know when parents have health coverage kids are more likely to as well.
“This helps kids get and stay healthy, so they can enter school ready to learn and succeed in life,” she said.
According to Young, another choice leading to tens of thousands of children losing coverage just in the past year is “Tennessee’s decision to forge ahead with redeterminations without a functioning computer system.”
“The state has failed to take any steps to protect children from getting caught up in this red tape,” Young said. “This increase in the child uninsured rate, particularly in states that did not expand Medicaid, is a warning sign to policymakers,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University research center and lead author of the report. Barring new and serious efforts to get back on track, there is every reason to believe the decline in children’s coverage is likely to continue and may get worse.”
Jayne Harper, the Johnson County Health Department’s Public Information Officer, emphasized that the Johnson County Health Department provides care to all eligible community members.
“Most of those eligible are children receiving services covered by TN Care, the name of Medicaid coverage in Tennessee.”
However, Harper added that Johnson County is not one of the facilities that provide primary care services, “Some local health departments throughout the state provide primary care services, but JCHD is not one of the departments providing primary care.” Harper said.
Officials admitted that with Johnson County Health Department not providing primary care services it is hard to get an accurate count of the County’s uninsured children.
Analysis also shows the growth rate of uninsured kids in Tennessee is among the highest in the nation.
The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving families in Tennessee. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit needy families statewide. TJC works to empower its clients by holding government accountable for its policies and actions.
TJC was established in 1996 and is located at 211 Seventh Avenue, North, Nashville, TN. For additional information about the Tennessee Justice Center and its services, call 615-255-0331.

Milk drinkers getting a raw deal?

Tennessee legislature seeks to prohibit using raw milk for personal consumption or other personal use, even if it is derived from one’s own stock. Photo by Bill Ward.

By Jill Penley

There was a time in the not so distant past when all one had to do for a refreshing glass of milk was visit a neighbor’s dairy farm. People reared in the mountains of East Tennessee, and surrounding areas have been drinking raw milk, straight from cows, sheep, and goats, for ages. Milk, which has long been one of the most nutritionally complete foods in the human diet, remains an important part of nearly every culture’s cuisine, but a bill moving forward in the Tennessee legislature seeks to prohibit using raw milk for personal consumption or other personal use, even if it is derived from one’s own stock.
“In Tennessee, it has pretty much always been illegal to sell raw milk,” said Bill Ward, who grew up on a local farm and is now with the Johnson County Assessor’s Office and Adjunct Instructor with King University teaching courses in Appalachian Studies.
It is not illegal to consume raw milk, but 20 states outlaw its sale for human consumption altogether. Thirteen states allow its sale in stores, 17 states allow its sale only on farms, and eight states — including Tennessee — allow it to be sold only through certain arrangements.
The current law regarding the consumption of raw milk in Tennessee, called the Herd Share law, allows multiple people to ‘own’ a cow or herd and by owning the share, allows access to the milk the cow produces. “Purchasing a cowshare, or herdshare, is buying an interest in a particular animal which entitles you to consume the products of that animal,” explained Ward. “It’s often referred to as an agister agreement and included is a legal bill of sale and a document that outlines the responsibilities of all parties involved.” Ward said that his agreement was set up by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund when he was still dairy farming several years back.
Sen. Richard Briggs, MD (R-Knoxville) introduced SB0015 in mid-December, which has now passed on first and second consideration. As introduced, it would prohibit a person who owns a partial interest in a hoofed mammal from using the milk of the animal for the person’s personal consumption or other personal use. The Knoxville senator, who is also a physician, introduced the legislation in the wake of a serious outbreak of E. coli this past summer in his district, which caused several children to be hospitalized. The outbreak was never directly linked to raw milk.
Proponents of herdshare strongly oppose the pending legislation. With many Tennessee farmers already struggling to be profitable, they question why a single, highly publicized incident should dictate policy. “Farmers should have the right to provide clean and safe food directly to the consumer,” said Ward. “Farms legally operating cowshare programs are meeting a need and filling a void in the struggling dairy industry. I have a lot more confidence in raw milk produced and handled properly by a local dairy farmer than lettuce from California.”
Other Tennessee small farm owners agree. “Even if you have no interest in ever drinking raw milk,” said Amanda Leigh Henson, of Miller Branch Farms in Bluff City, “we can all agree that the government has no right to dictate what we can and cannot eat or drink.”

Johnson County K9s take a bite out of crime

By Tamas Mondovics

It is safe to say that local law enforcement agencies such as the Mountain City Police Department and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office have no shortage of officers and deputies working hard to keep the community safe and protected.
The often less remembered members of such local law enforcement communities are the special individual units within the department such as the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office three-member, K-9 Unit.
The K9 unit currently consists of Deputies RJ Mink and his K-9 Gena, Adam Worley and his K-9 Mateo and TJ Brown and his K-9 Rico who had a major role in the arrest of a suspect and the finding of drugs and multiple pieces of paraphernalia, as well as firearms.
According to JCSO, deputies K9 Rico and Deputy TJ Brown stopped a vehicle for loud music on November 27, 2018.
The routine stop revealed that the driver had two active arrest warrants. Interestingly, according to deputies, the warrants were the least of the driver’s problem and a “little more than that to worry about.
The initial report stated that K9 Rico was alerted at multiple points on the vehicle and a search ensued. When Rico finished deputies discovered methamphetamine, multiple pieces of paraphernalia, many different packages of marijuana seeds, and a 12-gauge shotgun.
“I am proud of our deputies and our K-9 police dogs for their hard work and diligence serving Johnson County residents,” said Johnson County Sheriff Eddie Tester.
Tester emphasized that for now; the unit will remain as is with
its three deputies and their K-9 partners.
A police dog, known in some English-speaking countries as a “K-9” or “K9” (a homophone of “canine”), is a dog that is specially trained to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel.
Typically a dog joins the Sheriff’s Office when it is between 1-3 years old and must complete hundreds of hours of training with its handler/deputy to be certified as a law enforcement canine.
A police dog’s duties include: searching for drugs and explosives, locating missing people, finding crime scene evidence, and attacking people targeted by the police. Police dogs must remember several verbal cues and hand gestures.
The most commonly used breeds are the German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Bloodhound, and Dutch Shepherd. Recently, the Belgian Malinois has become the dog of choice for police and military work due to their intense drive and focus. Malinois are the smaller, agile version of the German Shepherd and reportedly have fewer health issues. However, a well-bred working line German Shepherd is just as reliable and robust as a Malinois.
In many countries, the intentional injuring or killing of a police dog is a criminal offense.
“These dogs will sacrifice themselves for you,” Tester said in a recent phone interview.
Such devotion and partnership is also one of the main reasons why all deputy canines end up as their handler’s pets after retiring.
During a recent contest, residents were encouraged to support their local law enforcement agencies by means of submitting their votes for their favorite K9 team in their pursuit of the Aftermath K9 Grant.
The Aftermath K9 Grant was founded to showcase, support, and reward the unique contributions made by law enforcement and their K9 units across the country. Indirectly, the K9 Grant raises safety awareness and community kinship throughout the neighborhoods that Aftermath and our law enforcement partners proudly serve.
The contest received more than 280,000 votes this year, with almost 40,000 coming from Instagram fans.
With the overwhelmingly positive response, Aftermath decided to increase the total grant given to $20,000 across 14 departments.
While the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office fell short to be among the grant recipients, it is by no means a negative reflection of its value, relevance, and success of protecting and serving the community.

New Year’s Day Hike sees large crowd at Doe Mountain

Alarge group of local residents gather for a photo during the First Day Hike event on New Year’s Day.

By Jill Penley

County Mayor Mike Taylor led a group of nearly 40 residents on a hike to celebrate the new year at Doe Mountain Recreation Area. The group, consisting of men and women of all ages, embarked from the adventure center being led by Mayor Taylor and Doe Mountain Recreation Authority Executive Director Tate Davis under partly cloudy skies and unusually warm temperatures at nearly 60 degrees. “Great way to start the New Year,” remarked Taylor. “I couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy the great outdoors.” Upon return, the group was treated to hot chocolate, coffee, and cider. Several door prizes, including Johnson County Farmers Market and local merchant gift cards, were also awarded.
Dubbed “First Day Hike,” the event was organized by the Johnson County Farmers Market in conjunction with the Johnson County Health Department and GoJoCo Healthier Johnson County Initiative. The route covered portions of new non-motorized trails recently funded from a Tennessee Asset-Based Development (ABD) Grant obtained by the Johnson County government. “The ABD grant funded two bridges, three segments of non-motorized trails, some additional picnicking areas and a canopy-level viewing platform overlooking Doe Valley,” explained Davis. “In early Spring 2019, DMRA plans to build a moderate hiking/biking trail extending almost four miles from the Harbin Hill Adventure Center to the historic Kettlefoot Fire Lookout Tower atop Doe Mountain,” Davis reports structural rehabilitation of the 60-foot lookout
tower was completed in December with final cosmetic work expected to be completed before this
summer. “Very few fire lookout towers have been preserved,” said Davis, “and the fact that DMRA has been able to open Kettlefoot to visitors is a testimony to the foresight of our state and local leadership and their strong commitment to enhancing adventure tourism opportunities in scenic Johnson County.”
With the number of visitors continuing to grow at Doe Mountain, DMRA expects to complete several other projects in advance of spring and warmer weather. When finished, Doe Mountain’s non-motorized trail system will feature a challenging route over rugged terrain for advanced hikers and a moderate route for less-experienced day trippers.
Visitors are invited to bring their ATV, UTV, dirt bike, or walking stick to enjoy and explore the 8,600 acres of rugged wilderness in the scenic heart of the Appalachian Mountains, featuring over 60 miles of multi-use recreational trails.

Unemployment rates drop in every Tennessee County

By Jill Penley

Each of Tennessee’s 95 counties experienced lower unemployment in November 2018 according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD). Ninety-one counties, including Johnson County, had an unemployment rate of five percent or lower during the month and only four counties had a rate higher than five percent.
“It’s very encouraging to have so many counties with unemployment rates below five percent during November,” said TDLWD Commissioner Burns Phillips. “That means more Tennesseans were working and taking home a paycheck as we headed into the holiday season.”
Williamson County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.5 percent, which was 0.2 of a percentage point lower than the previous month. Both Davidson and Rutherford counties had a rate of 2.6 percent in November, a drop of 0.3 percent for each county. Johnson County showed an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent unemployment, which was 0.1 of a percentage point lower than the previous month and 0.1 of a percentage
point lower than November 2017.
The annual “average wage” of a full-time employee in Johnson County in November 2018 was $759 per week, which would equate to an average yearly salary of $39,468. In 2017, the average annual salary of a full-time worker in the county was $32,994.
The counties with the state’s highest unemployment still experienced significant drops in their rates. While Lauderdale County had the highest jobless rate in November at 5.8 percent, that figure is a percentage point lower than the previous month. Bledsoe County’s unemployment rate dropped nearly a full percentage point from 6.1 percent to 5.2 percent. McNairy County went from 5.5 percent in October to 5 percent in November.
Tennessee’s seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate for November decreased from 3.7 percent to 3.6 percent. Nationally, unemployment held steady for the third consecutive month at 3.7 percent.

Suspects arraigned

Two persons wanted for aggravated kidnapping in Johnson County apprehended

By Tamas Mondovics

The search for the two suspects Willie Davis, Jr., 41, and Jennifer Jenkins, 42, of Sullivan County, involved with last month’s armed robbery in Johnson County ended last week following a pursuit assisted by deputies from Sullivan County.
The news of an armed robbery on Cold Springs Road residence just north of Mountain City, TN on the morning of Friday, December 28, 2018, alarmed the community and prompted a search led by local law enforcement.
Deputies from Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and officers and investigators with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office apprehended the two suspects, on the evening, January 1, 2019.
The couple’s vehicle was first spotted on Walnut Hill Road in Bristol at the end of the day of the robbery. A pursuit was initiated; however, both of the suspects got out of the vehicle and took off on foot.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office reported that thanks to a tip from a resident on the following day Davis Jr. and Jenkins were found to be on Big Hollow Rd. The couple was in a camper on the property. After a brief standoff and a fire of a camper, both subjects were then arrested without further incident or any injuries. Johnson County Sheriff’s Department transported the couple from the scene to Johnson County.
The Sullivan County and Avoca Volunteer Fire Departments reportedly responded to the scene to extinguish the fire.
“We would like to thank the Sullivan County Sheriffs Office for their time, efforts and assistance in the apprehension of these two subjects,” said JC Sheriff Eddie tester. All deputies involved did an excellent job.
While the incident shook up the community, Tester was pleased with the speedy closure of the case. “Catching the suspects was a nice way to start the New Year,” he said.
Both subjects are facing multiple charges with more charges pending and were arraigned on Wednesday morning, January 2, 2019, in Johnson County.
Preliminary information indicated that the duo went to the victims’ residence on Cold Springs Road and after a brief conversation they have forced their way into the home.
The victim was then locked inside another room of the home, but was eventually able to escape and flee to a residence close by to call for assistance, deputies said.
The victim was treated at an area hospital for minor injuries.
Davis and Jenkins are also charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and false reporting.

Credit card policy strengthened amid account concerns

By Bethany Anderson

During the last Johnson County Commission meeting of 2018, a rather important issue was brought forth by Johnson County Purchasing Agent, Dustin Shearin, regarding the current state of the various credit cards and accounts used by the Commission.
According to Shearin, there are currently four to five credit cards and store cards issued. “There may be more cards out there as well, but there’s just no way even to tell,” Johnson County Purchasing Agent, Dustin Shearin admitted during his informative speech to the County Commissioners. He also made it known that it was “impossible to know” just who had been issued cards in the past and who now may have access to them without further research into the matter, therefore making the issue very difficult to remedy fully.
With the full attention of the Commissioners and other County Staff present, Shearin also spoke to the issue of not being able to manage accounts effectively without the original account holder’s permission and that since those people are no longer employees, this was at times very difficult or even impossible. He also stated that the current policies and procedures in place to prevent these types of issues were not enough and needed to be strengthened.
Shearin’s recommendation was a new policy to centralize and safeguard credit cards as well as to prevent any issues with future cards and accounts. Although specifics were not spoken about by Shearin at that time, the new proposed policies will reportedly include safeguards to prevent the issues of account management as well as the problem of having unknown numbers of both credit cards and store cards issued and in circulation among current and even previous employees. All Commissioners were in agreement with these recommendations, and the motion was quickly passed with a unanimous vote from the Commission at their December 2018 meeting.
After the Commission meeting, Shearin clarified his previous statements about the issue and his intentions with the new policies. “My goal is to have a policy that is more robust to prevent issues from occurring,” he said adding, “I want to be clear that there is not an unknown number of cards floating around out there. We know how many cards are issued and where they are. The problem is that we are having difficulties managing some of the accounts that were issued to specific employees and not to Johnson County. We only have two credit card providers, but some of the accounts where the issued to are too specific employees and not just the county. This is from previous years before things changed to the way we currently do things. Now we have much better checks and balances in place to have more transparency and fraud prevention.”
He added that they are working on closing any of those older and unused accounts and that moving forward all new cards
issued will follow the new policy.
Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor was reached for comment on the matter and added the following: “It’s my understanding that this is
an update to the existing
credit card policy,” said Taylor. “I personally do not
have a credit card issued to
me. They are only issued to certain necessary county
employees,” added Mayor Taylor.
Taylor also wanted to make it clear that he has confidence that the added strength of the new policies “will surely remedy any current issues and prevent further problems from occurring.”
He also pointed out that Johnson County Purchasing Agent, Dustin Shearin, has things “under control” with
the new policy reforms in place and is sure that “this will not be an issue moving forward.”

Mountain City Mayor Arrested for Obstruction of Justice

 

By Bethany Anderson

Tonight’s City Council meeting had a bit of an unusual start with the notable absence of City Mayor, Kevin Parsons. The meeting was called to order and then subsequently led by Vice Mayor, Jerry Jordan. There was no explanation given for the Mayor’s absence, and the meeting continued as otherwise planned.

Thanks to social media, it didn’t take long to find out the reason for the Mayor’s absence, as, before the meeting, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office released a statement and photo on their Facebook page shortly after 8 p.m., which explained the strange turn of events.

At approximately 6:00 pm, this evening (Tuesday, Jan. 8) deputies executed a warrant service on Parsons, for obstruction of justice.
Charges stemmed from a traffic stop on December 22, 2018, where Mayor Parsons was pulled over on Hwy 67 West, for speeding.
According to the official JCSO report, upon approaching the car, the officer immediately recognized and identified the driver as mayor parsons and advised him why he had stopped him.
The report states, “the officer then asked Mr. Parsons who the passenger was with him. He said it was a friend. The officer having prior knowledge that Mr. Parsons brother-in-law had active warrants out of Johnson County and had been seen in that same vehicle asked Mr. Parsons what his friend’s name was. When Mr. Parsons refused to answer the officer, he then asked the passenger directly if he had an Id on him and he said no. He then asked the passenger twice for his name, and he would not respond either time.
Sheriff tester arrived on scene and asked Mr. Parsons if the passenger was his brother-in-law. Mr. Parsons responded saying, “I don’t know, I’m not at liberty to say that.” The Sheriff advised Mr. Parsons that his brother-in-law has active warrants on him and if that were him, then they would need to know. Mr. Parsons was then advised if it was him and he didn’t say, he could be charged. Again, Mr. Parsons said, “I don’t know.”
“Mr. Parsons was asked one last time if he didn’t know the passenger could be his brother-in-law in which he finally said, “it’s my brother-in-law, yes.” The passenger exited the vehicle, and his identification was confirmed as well as the active warrants that were outstanding on Mr. Parsons’ brother-in-law, Kenneth B. Cornett. Mr. Cornett was taken into custody on the scene, and Mr. Parsons is being charged with obstruction of justice.”
Deputies said that Parsons’ bond was set at $2,500.00. His court date will be on Wednesday, March 20, 2019.

JOHNSON COUNTY SCHOOL DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEE ARRESTED ON THEFT CHARGE

By Tamas Mondovics

 

A joint investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has led to the indictment of the Johnson County Board of Education Transportation Supervisor.

In May 2018, at the request of 1st District Attorney General Ken Baldwin, TBI Special Agents began investigating allegations of theft involving Barry Lawrence Bishop, 57.

During the course of the investigation, TBI agents developed information that between January 2015 and May 2017, Bishop used his position as the transportation supervisor for the school system to perform skills testing for commercial driver’s license applicants.

The investigation further revealed that Bishop collected nearly $50,000 in fees associated with the testing but failed to give the funds to the Johnson County Trustee.

Johnson County Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox issued this statement to News Channel 11:

“Johnson County Schools learned of Mr. Barry Bishop’s arrest when he was taken into custody on January 3, 2019. The school system was later told that Mr. Bishop’s theft charge stemmed from a joint investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. Johnson County Schools has and always will remain transparent with the Comptroller’s Office, and the school system will certainly cooperate in any way with the authorities in relation to this matter.”

The Johnson County Grand Jury returned an indictment this week charging Bishop with one count of theft over $10,000.

He was arrested and booked into the Johnson County Jail on a $15,000 bond.

Tennessee Marine remembered after fatal aircraft collision

Ross

By Tamas Mondovics

It took sometime to make what many feared true to be official that U.S. Marine Corps Corporal William “Carter” Ross of Hendersonville was declared deceased by the Marine Corps on December 11 after five days of search and rescue operations attempting to find five Marines involved in an accident between two aircraft off the coast of Japan on December 6.
Ross was recognized and remembered for his service and sacrifice during a recent ceremony by State officials including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder.
”All Tennesseans should be proud of this decorated U.S. Marine who made the ultimate sacrifice to help keep all Americans safe,” Haslam said. “We extend our condolences and prayers to Carter’s parents, his younger sisters and his friends.”
Ross, 21 a Sumner County native worked in aircraft maintenance and refueling with the intention of becoming a crew master in the Marine Corps.
According to officials, the KC-130 Hercules was assigned to the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. The F/A-18 Hornet was assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242.
Ross was in the flight crew on the KC-130 at the time of the collision, which is currently under investigation.
The young Marine comes from a legacy of military service that dates back to World War I. After attending Hendersonville High School, Ross graduated from Aaron Academy in 2015 and enlisted in the Marine Corps a year later.
“Although the life and service of Corporal Ross were cut short by this tragic accident, his legacy will live not only with his grieving family but as a driving
force of our Volunteer spirit,” Grinder said. “We join his family in mourning the loss of Carter and respectfully pause to recognize their sacrifice for our country.”
Ross is survived by his parents Todd and Michelle Ross as well as his sisters Katherine and Sarah.
Memorial service for Ross was held on Saturday, December 22, 2018, in Hendersonville, TN.

Volunteers welcome

Volunteers assisting the Upper East Tennesse Human Developement Agency during a food distribution event.
Submitted photo

By Tamas Mondovics 1/3/2019

Lend a hand at annual Johnson County Commodity Food Distribution

The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency is once again hosting its annual Commodity Distribution planned for Tuesday, January 22, 2019, at the National Guard Armory 1923 S. Shady Street.
The event will also give local volunteers to assist and to be available to help the elderly and disabled persons carry their commodities.
According to UETHDA officials, items will be distributed on a first come first served basis to income-eligible households until all commodities are gone.
“All recipients must be residents of Tennessee,” said Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency Communications Manager, Haley White. “This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.”
White explained that each recipient must now have a purple colored commodity ID card to pick up his or her commodities.
An ID card is obtained by completing an application at the Neighborhood Service Center.
“We strongly encourage each recipient to complete the application before January 18, this will be helpful in reducing wait time,” Haley said.
As it has been the case in the past, staff will be available on site during the distribution to assist in acquiring a commodity card. If picking up an order for someone, ID card, as well as an authorization on the application, is required; limits to pickup are five (5) orders.
The distribution is now scheduled for 11:00 am and will end at 1:30 pm, or earlier if food is no longer available.
The event is hoping to see local volunteers to assist those with need.
A word of caution is that misrepresentation of need or sale or exchange of USDA commodities is prohibited and could result in a fine, imprisonment, or both.
USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program is available to all eligible recipients regardless of race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability.
Headquartered in Kingsport at the VO Dobbins Complex, UETHDA has been providing the tools, education, and support for a better life for over 50 years.
The agency is one of the thousands of Community Action Agencies in the United States operated by the National Community Action Partnership. UETHDA serves eight counties in northeast Tennessee: Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Hancock, Johnson, Sullivan, Washington and Unicoi.
UETHDA has a variety
of programs from emergency assistance to more long
terms paths for self-sufficiency, including national programs such as Head Start, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and more. UETHDA operates nine neighborhood service centers in those eight counties.
To learn more visit www.uethda.org.

TNReady audit examines failures

By Tamas Mondovics

One of the most talked about issue that has made headlines as it affected many across the state
last year was the 2018 TNReady test.
According to a recent press release from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office a performance audit of the Tennessee Department of Education has detailed many of the problems that led up to the difficulties in executing the spring 2018 TNReady tests.
As most already know the online student assessment tests were plagued with numerous
issues including login delays, slow servers, and software bugs. The first signs of trouble began on April 16, 2018, and continued through the end of the month.
The issues occurred are primarily credited to Questar Assessment, Inc’s performance and updates to the student assessment system.
Auditors also found the Department of Education’s oversight of test administration fell short of expectations the Comptrollers Office said in a release.
Nine findings show five issues surrounding TNReady including the department’s lack of sufficient, detailed information on its Work Plan with Questar rendered it less effective as a monitoring tool to ensure Questar met all deadlines.
Questar’s decision to make an unauthorized change to text-to-speech software without formally notifying the department is also said to have contributed to the online testing disruptions.
Questar’s failure to sufficiently staff customer support, resulting in lengthy call wait times and high rates of abandoned calls; a failure to track, document, and provide status updates to districts to let them know when students’ tests would be recovered, leaving districts unaware if their students completed the required tests, and inadequate evaluation and monitoring of internal controls implemented by external information technology service providers, such as Questar completed the list.
The Tennessee Comptrollers Office stated that “over the course of the audit, the department and Questar worked constantly to address the issues that caused or contributed to the spring 2018 testing problems. On October 1, 2018, Questar and the department signed a contract amendment introducing new requirements and accountability measures for Questar. The department also made adjustments to improve its contract management.” The Comptroller’s Office presented its audit findings to  the General Assembly’s Education, Health, and General Welfare Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations.
To view the audit report online, visit www.comptroller.tn.gov.

Agricultural Complex plans move forward

Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor concludes the December County Commission meeting with holiday well wishes for all in attendance. Photo By Bethany Anderson

By Bethany Anderson

The Johnson County Commission held its final session for the year last week in the Johnson County Courthouse with the planned Agricultural Center building project taking much of the time for the evening.
Following the routine, the meeting opened with a prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, roll call, and a call to order and a call for any public comments was then issued. Meeting minutes from the previous November County Commission meeting were unanimously approved.
Amongst the Commission’s various agenda items for the evening were the approval of Eric Nordmark to be hired for Architectural Services for Agricultural Center construction, authorization to execute an Archeological survey for the Agricultural Center site at the cost of $5,500 and approval of Resolution and Policy for credit card usage within The Commission.
The planned Agricultural Center building project was of great importance as the Budget Committee had recommended that the architect should be approved only after he submitted an estimate of the finished project. The County Commission, however, unanimously voted to approve the hiring of Nordmark to provide the architectural services needed for the planned Center construction.
Motions to approve a soil study and to apply for a septic system application were granted as well followed by an archeological study at an estimated cost of $5,500.
The project’s next phase is set to be requesting various versions of a preliminary design from the architect for the complex including those with and without different office spaces available for
rent.
One such office space would be to house the current Johnson County location of the University of Tennessee Extension Office, now located at 212 College St in downtown Mountain City, which would mean the relocation of those offices. Commissioners pointed out that the move is something they may or may not “be happy about.” It was then pointed out that because their current office space is considered a donation, they do not currently pay rent. The UT Extension Office could potentially be asked to move to the new complex with or without their approval.
Attempts to reach the Johnson County University of Tennessee Extension Offices for comment was unsuccessful due to Holiday hours. However, the issue will undoubtedly be followed by the public as well as future reports.
The USDA has already expressed interest in leasing some of the other proposed offices, and any additional office space would be available to lease out to other potential applicants to offset the costs of such a complex.
A motion to formally congratulate new Tennessee Governor, Bill Lee on his election was approved, as well as the issue of a statement to him assuring him that the local Northeast Correctional Complex would always remain a State Prison. Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor concluded the Johnson County Commission’s evening meeting by wishing all those present a “Very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.”

ACTION Coalition seeks community support in 2019

Members of the Johnson County A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, Program Coordinator Kandas Motsinger, Program Coordinator Roxanne Roedel, Executive Director Trish Burchette and Prevention Coordinator Denise Woods celebrate the Coalition’s accomplishments and reflect on its future goals and mission in serving the community. Submitted photo

By Trish Burchette

Drug overdose rates from opioids misuse are at a crisis level in the United States and according to www.tn.gov overdose rates from Opioids have steadily risen in the East Tennessee region from 2013 to 2017.
The Federal Government is taking much-needed steps to combat the problems this drug is causing for local communities and many others in the Appalachian area, which is targeted as an epicenter for the epidemic.
The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioids Crisis stated that one of the most effective ways of fighting this epidemic at the ground level is working with local anti-drug coalitions.
In part the report read, “To achieve the desired ultimate outcome — reduction in drug use — the campaign needs the support of locally implemented evidence-based prevention programming. The campaign’s messaging needs to be integrated closely with local efforts and amplified by them. Local partners could include community coalitions, such as ONDCP’s Drug-Free Community grantees, schools, hospitals, law enforcement, businesses, religious institutions, and local government.
The Johnson County A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition has been working in the community to fight drug use and misuse along with substance use disorders for more than a decade.
Funded by a Drug-Free Community Grant, the organization has sought to garner the support of all sectors of the community and will continue to do so in 2019.
Unfortunately, they will no longer be receiving grant funds from the Drug-Free Community Grant program after September 2019.
Coalitions are only eligible for this grant for a maximum of 10 years, and A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition is in its tenth year and is actively seeking additional grant funding to continue this work in the community.
The organization is kicking off a membership drive in January 2019. Meetings will be held on the third Thursday of each month at the First Christian Church Fellowship Hall at noon.
Some of the meetings will be in the evening to allow community members to be able to attend. Membership is free and open to anyone that lives in Johnson County.
“ACTION is a resource for everyone, from informing youth to the dangers of opioids use and what happens to the brain and the body to distributing conversation starters and lock boxes for medication to parents and grandparents,” said Denise Woods Prevention Coordinator. “We have a range of ways we can help our community tackle this epidemic.”
Project coordinator, Kandas Motsinger, further shared the vision of ACTION Coalition when she said, “We have to stand together for change to be brought about in our community. By educating our children and youth at an early age about the dangers of drug misuse, we can equip them to make better choices to live a drug-free lifestyle and break generational cycles of
substance use disorders. It is my hope to see my son grow up in a drug-free community.”
New project coordinator Roxanne Roedell, stated “I believe if we empower the youth and give them a platform, a new movement will take place among the youth of Johnson County and they can indeed become a drug-free generation. It’ll take a community, or as the saying goes a village, working together to combat this crisis and we hope the entire community will make 2019 the year they get involved.”
For more information on the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, please visit our website at www.actioncoalition.org visit our Facebook page@actioncoalitionTN or call us at 423-727-0780.

Gas prices remain high at local stations

Mountain City resident, Steve Howd keeps an eye on the price while getting gasoline at a local filling station. Howd is just one of many area motorists who have noticed that gas prices in town remained high, while they have seen a considerable drop per gallon in the state, and across the country. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Gas prices have been dropping and are predicted to fall another 5-15 cents for the holidays.
The average driver saves $10 on a full tank of gas, compared to summer

By Tamas Mondovics

Mountain City residents could not ignore a strange phenomenon affecting gasoline prices within city limits.
While gas prices, which are already at 2-year lows for this time of year, and are predicted to drop even lower, have fallen considerably all around the region except in town at the four main gas stations.
“It is already painful to spend so much on fuel,” said Steve Howd of Mountain City. “Prices should be a lot cheaper. It is much cheaper everywhere else. From Boone to Butler, and Abingdon,
prices are nearly 20 cents less. It is enough to get just a
couple of gallons locally and get a full tank somewhere else.”
While gasoline prices have been gradually dropping for the past few weeks not to mention another drop after the price of oil and wholesale
gasoline tumbled on Thursday.
According to AAA, gas prices in Tennessee are 14 cents less than the average rate on Christmas Day 2017. In a recent press release (the day of this report sent to press) the state average was $2.09 per gallon. Tennessee motorists are also finding pump prices well below $2 a gallon at various filling stations throughout the state, including Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.
As of writing this report (other than Williamson County at $2.42), Johnson County gasoline prices remained the highest in the state at $2.30 per gallon.
Filling stations in Mountain City maintained the rate prompting many residents to wonder why the second poorest county has the highest fuel prices in the state
On average, Tennessee drivers are reportedly paying $10 less for a full tank of gasoline, compared to when prices peaked last summer. During the past ten weeks, pump prices plunged an average total of 60 cents.
Officials said that the state average could shed another 10-15 cents, before fully adjusting to recent crude price drops.
Ad to that are AAA’s forecasts 2.5 million Tennesseans will take a road trip between now and New Year’s Day puts things in perspective. An additional 123,000 drivers are expected on the road, compared to last year’s holiday season. That does not include travelers from out-of-state.

MyRide is here

Geraldine Miller gets a helping hand from Johnson County’s MyRide volunteer driver, Robert Wilson. The MyRide program has enjoyed a great start, with more than 30 rides completed since its official launch on Monday, November 5. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Johnson County’s new MyRide service gets off to a great start,  seeks more volunteers.

By Tamas Mondovics

It is safe to say the volunteer spirit in Mountain City is healthy and alive reaching many corners of the region assisting the young as well as the old many of them dealing daily, with various challenges.
One such program, appropriately named MyRide Johnson County, clearly enjoys the support of the community and the spirit of self-sacrifice, care, and kindness.
The service has made a considerable difference in the lives of many local senior residents who are calling the new program “God sent.”
According to MyRide Johnson County Transportation Coordinator Danae Marshall, riders have all been appreciative, and the volunteer drivers are enjoying the opportunity to serve seniors across the county.
“So far we have 19 seniors that have signed up for the program, and we are proud to say that we now have 21 volunteer drivers,” Marshall said.
Whether riders would like to wander around town and stop in the different shops or visit their favorite restaurant, the program is there to lend a hand.
Following the launch of MyRide Johnson County last month, one of the first riders was senior resident Valerie Edes who did not shy away from praising the program and speaking highly of its benefits.
“After my first experience with MyRide, I went home happy and filled with thoughts of planning my next day out,” Edes said in a letter to The Tomahawk last month. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Kathy Motsinger for bringing this transportation program to the Johnson County Senior Center. Hiring Danae
Marshall has been wonderful as the MyRide Coordinator. She goes above and beyond to help you. The driver was very courteous and helpful with carrying my shopping bags to my doorstep. It
was a great experience. What more could one ask for?
It was a day not having to
do something but doing whatever “floats my boat.” I highly recommend this
program – try it, you will like it.”
While the program itself is off to a positive start, Marshall emphasized the need for more volunteer drivers when she said, “Of course, we can always use more.”
All of which, of course, means that the program is working as well as promising a consistent service in 2019.
Area residents who are interested in becoming volunteer drivers or those that would like to make good use of the program are asked to please call 423-460-6012. Applications are available for pick up at the Johnson County Senior Center or can be mailed out.
Riders must be ambulatory and 60 years or older. Rides are within Johnson County only at this time.