Rep. Hill’s legislation on Healthcare passes House greeted with mixed reaction.

By Tamas Mondovics

Earlier this month, republican lawmakers approved Rep. Timothy Hill’s (R-Blountville) legislation of what he says “will empower Tennessee to lead on healthcare by creating a patient-centered system that addresses the unique needs of our citizens while lowering overall costs.”
House Bill 1280 calls on the Governor, acting through the Commissioner of Finance & Administration to submit a waiver to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to immediately provide assistance to the state’s TennCare population through the implementation of block grants.
Hill’s office emphasized that the legislation is “designed to transform healthcare through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients to ensure individuals and families can make all medical decisions instead of insurance companies or the government.”
Hill who represents Tennessee House District 3, which includes Johnson, and part of Carter and Sullivan Counties, stated that House Bill 1280 is “a major step that allows Governor Lee and his administration to negotiate with the federal government for these block grants so we can create a healthcare system that focuses on the patient.”
“This funding will create competition, and enhance overall transparency while lowering costs, and improving the quality of care for Tennesseans,” he said. “Our goal is to use existing resources to serve more people who need TennCare.”
Many, including Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center, Michele Johnson, who feels the House passed a bill to turn Medicaid into a block grant are convinced that House Bill 1280 will actually do more harm than its intended improvements.
“The effect will be to cut federal Medicaid funds,” Johnson said. “The heaviest cuts will fall on those who can least bear them – children with special health care needs, seniors in nursing homes and people with pre-existing conditions. A block grant will hurt patients, the healthcare infrastructure of our state, and our economy. Our elected officials need to solve the real-life problems that families face instead of playing politics with Tennesseans’ healthcare.”
Patrick Willard, with Families USA agreed when he said, “This proposal could end up cutting the safety net for some of the most vulnerable families, children and seniors in Tennessee. By putting a cap on Federal funds for TennCare, state officials will be choosing who can get health care, and who can’t.”
Andy Schneider, with Georgetown University Center for Children and Families added, “Every state has a Medicaid program. No state has a Medicaid block grant. There is a reason. Without the guarantee of a federal share, states would not have the resources to meet the needs of their most vulnerable populations. They would have to pit one group against another: ‘devil take the hindmost.’”
In response, Hill stated, “HB 1280 requires the governor to request for block grants for funding. If approved, the next step would be negotiations. In those negotiations, the issue of sustainability, service, and population, among many others, would be addressed. It’s not the intent to cut services or cut Medicaid funds, but serve more people by making TennCare more efficient.”
Anna Walton, Health Policy Associate with the Tennessee Justice Center, (TJC) noted the seeming confusion about what a block grant would do, including within the legislature, and that the main arguments she has heard have to do with state flexibility.
She then said, “TJC’s stance is that Medicaid is already an inherently flexible program with ample opportunity for innovation. A block grant would undermine consumer protections and guardrails that make sure beneficiaries get the proper care.”
House Bill 1280 now awaits action from the Senate, and its future effects for Tennessee’s most vulnerable remains to be seen.
Representative Timothy Hill is Chairman of the House Commerce Committee. Hill can be reached by email at or by calling (615) 741-2050.

$14.8 million broadband accessibility

By Jill Penley

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced $14.8 million in broadband accessibility grants that will expand broadband service to more than 8,300 households and businesses in 17 counties across Tennessee.
“I am pleased to announce that we are getting our rural areas up to speed and expanding broadband in the areas that need it most,” said Lee. “I am committed to ensuring connectivity in every corner of our state as broadband impacts our goals for health care, education, economic development and beyond.”
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as data transmission technologies that are always on and capable of simultaneously transporting multiple signals and traffic types between the Internet and end users. In January 2015, the FCC upgraded the definition of broadband speeds for downloading content from 4 Mbps (Megabytes per second) to 25 Mbps and for uploading content from the previous rate of 1 Mbps to a new standard of 3 Mbps. The FCC notes that with the revised standard, 13.1 percent of American households do not have access to broadband.
According to the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly 25
percent, or one in four rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. In addition to the $20 million included in Gov. Lee’s recommended budget for the fiscal year 2020, these grants will continue to close the access gap ensuring rural Tennesseans have the tools needed for growth and prosperity.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) is working with the 13 grantees who demonstrated a high need for grant funding. Recipients also demonstrated the ability to implement and sustain the project long-term with strong community support.
“Broadband is critical to the sustained economic success of a community,” said TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe. “By expanding broadband accessibility, we are extending the runway of possibilities for new industry and development right here in Tennessee.”
Grantees will provide
$20 million in matching funds for a combined investment of nearly $35 million across the state for the second year of funding. Infrastructure should be built
out within two years of receiving the grant funds. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire,
satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications law, regulation, and technological innovation
The Broadband Accessibility Grant Program is
designed to
offset the capital expenses
in the deployment of broadband in unserved areas. While the program’s goal is to facilitate broadb
and access to all Tennesseans, funds are generally targeted to areas that are unlikely to receive broadband service without grant funding.
The average download speed in Mountain City is 55.76 Mbps, which is 32 percent faster than the average in Tennessee and 23 percent faster than the national average. While there are eight internet providers in Mountain City, only five of those offer residential service. According to the FFC, Tennessee is the 25th most connected state in the U.S.

Johnson County man charged with attempted second-degree murder in late night shooting

Alfred William Pauley, 48

Staff Report

Johnson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a late night shooting incident on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 on Pine Mountain Road, in Johnson County, TN.

According to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, during the course of the overnight investigation facts were developed to lead to the arrest of Alfred William Pauley, 48.

Pauley was charged with Attempted Second Degree Murder. The victim was listed in Critical Condition at an area hospital at the time of this press release.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Ashe County North Carolina Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.

Pauley is currently being held in the Johnson County Jail with a $50,000.00 dollar bond.

More to come as information becomes available.




Nursery opens second location in Mountain City

Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping Home and Garden Center staff member Addie Henderson is busy unloading plants in preparation of opening the company’s brand new, second location in Mountain City. The business, which has been serving residents for three decades, is now proud to bring its outdoor living products and services to the heart of town located on U.S. Route 421, next to the Garden Barn. Photos by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

That Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping, LLC has successfully served the outdoor living needs of its costumers for decades and that it is no stranger to many in Johnson County, is nothing new.
What is new, however, is that the long-enduring business owned and operated by Harvey Burniston Jr., now welcomes its customers at a brand new second location right in the heart of Mountain City, offering services and products in landscaping, hardscaping, and outdoor living, while boasting of being one of the largest and most diverse container nursery in Johnson County.
Under an extended title of Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping Home and Garden Center, located on U.S. Route 421, next to the Garden Barn, Burniston has managed to bring his passion for outdoor living as well as offer his skills, expertise, products and ideas right to the doorstep of local residents.
With a master’s degree in agriculture education along with more than 30 years experience designing and creating beautiful landscapes under his belt, Burniston has every reason to be confident of his business’ future success.
“I Love what I do, and I have always wanted a garden center,” he said. “I am looking forward to serving our costumers with the same integrity and honesty as we have been for the past three decades.”
Over the years, Mountain View Nursery’s reputation has spread mainly by word of mouth advertising, while Burniston has earned a reputation of being honest, hardworking, and fair in his teaching profession as well as his landscaping business.

Of course, the business’ success has a lot to do with the talented crew that Burniston has managed to recruit including Nursery Manager, Holly Rominger, who will now oversee the daily operations of the new Mountain City retail location.
‘This is my dream job,” she said, adding that opening the new center is not only about growing the business, but “filling the need in the community.”

Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping Home and Garden Center manager, Holly Rominger, left, is assisted by Josena Aiello while setting up for a grand opening at the business’ new retail location on U.S. Route 421, next to the Garden Barn. Thanks to the arrival of warmer temperatures, the time is right to get busy planting and to bring the garden back to its spring and summer beauty. Please see more on home and garden solutions, tips, landscape, and hardscape ideas in this edition. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Rominger has plenty of skilled hands on deck to assist her, like Hardscape Manager, Ricky Hansen, a graduate of Tennessee Technological University with a BS Degree in Agriculture Engineering and Education. Hansen specializes in the hardscaping and irrigation portion of the business. With many more talented employees assisting costumers, there is little doubt about Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping Home and Garden Center’s impact on the community.
Providing a complete line of plants and materials, a display garden, indoor home, and garden center, coupled with landscaping design and installation
services while offering competitive prices without the need to drive far to get good service is a win-win for everyone.
“This is a little bit of paradise,” Rominger said, adding with confidence, “We have a lot to offer and we are looking forward to sharing a slice of it with all of our new and longtime costumers. So come by, enjoy, and take a piece with you.”

Ricky Hansen at Mountain View Nursery

Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping Home and Garden Center are now open Monday through Friday from 8-5 p.m. and Saturday from 8-2 p.m.
For more information, please visit

Champion of the Peace recipient visits Mtn. City

April 10, 2019

Guest speaker Kiran Singh Sirah meets with art center officials. Left to right: Assistant Director Temple Reece, Storytelling Director Kiran Singh Sirah, Executive Director Cristy Dunn. Photo by Meg Dickens

By Meg Dickens

“If the world is going to be saved, it’s going to be by the arts,” Evelyn Cook told the Johnson County Center for the Arts crowd as she introduced a special guest.

Mountain City welcomed International Storytelling Center Director Kiran Singh Sirah on Thursday, April 4. Sirah maintains that art connects everyone and that everyone carries art within them. He overcame adversity and has spent his life helping others connect through the arts.

“The arts are expressive forms in which we share our stories with the world,” said Sirah.

Storytelling enamored Sirah from the beginning. The education system in the form of teacher Len George finished the job. Mr. George’s stories inspired hope in Sirah, which he now emulates everywhere he goes. That hope continues to spread. Events such as Sirah’s Side by Side festival celebrating faith brings people together from different backgrounds, religions, and races to connect on a human level. Religious groups stand together and share their stories and cultures. Side by Side is now an annual event.

Sirah spearheaded the Bigger Busters program in Glasgow. This program set out to conquer the hate and fear between Catholics and Protestants. Children from both religions participated in activities together. Mothers bonded over loss. This shows that bonds are stronger than labels.

Sirah says that the world is full of storytellers sharing their tales. These combined stories make up this nation and are the shortest distance between people. He traveled to homeless shelters to hear the occupants’ stories and understand their concept of home. One occupant summed it up nicely. Home is a place in your memory where you are happy.

Programs such as Side by Side and Bigger Busters show that labels only have the power society gives them. Bigger Busters has had over 100 thousand participants so far.

Kiran Singh Sirah is a social justice warrior that uses storytelling to fight for equality. He was honored with an international Champion of the Peace award for his work using storytelling as a peacemaking tool and previously worked in conjunction with the Pentagon and US State Department to develop story-based methods for conflict resolution and PTSD.

Bureau begins jobs recruiting effort for 2020 Census

The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting thousands of workers for temporary jobs available nationwide in advance of the 2020 Census.
By visiting applicants have the opportunity to apply for a range of positions, including recruiting assistants, office operations supervisors, clerks, census field supervisors and census takers. The positions will be located across 248 Area Census Offices nationwide and offer flexible work hours, including daytime, evenings and weekends.

Available jobs:
• Recruiting assistants travel throughout geographic areas to visit with community-based organizations, attend promotional events and conduct other recruiting activities.
• Office operations supervisors assist in the management of office functions and day-to-day activities in one or more functional areas, including payroll, personnel, recruiting, field operations and support.
• Clerks perform various administrative and clerical tasks to support various functional areas, including payroll, personnel, recruiting, field operations and support.
• Census field supervisors conduct fieldwork to support and conduct on-the-job training for census takers and/or to follow-up in situations where census takers have confronted issues, such as not gaining entry to restricted areas.
• Census takers work in the field. Some field positions require employees to work during the day to see addresses on buildings. Other field positions require interviewing the public, so employees must be available to work when people are usually at home, such as in the evening and on weekends.
Applicants will be placed in an applicant pool for
2020 Census field positions for positions they qualify
for and will be contacted as work becomes available in their area. For more information, visit or contact 1-855-JOB-2020. Applicants may
also contact the Federal
Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339.
For more information, please visit or the Census Bureau’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages.

Taylor optimistic of new Watauga Resort impact on Johnson County

By Tamas Mondovics

Carter County Planning Commission chairman, Chris Schuettler, right, talks about the new 130-acre Watauga Lake Resort project in Carter County in the Butler Johnson County TN area. The project is promising a sizable economic impact for all surrounding counties, including Johnson County.
Photo by Tamas Mondovics

The revealing of a 130-plus-acre resort in Carter County boarding the Johnson County line in the Butler area made headlines last week as well as prompting local officials to weigh in on the new facility’s local impact.
Following a lengthy discussion, the Carter County Planning Commission unanimously voted to approve the conceptual designs for the three-phase $30 to 45 million resort project that will feature a 22-room inn, restaurant, a community village, including cottages, condos, and vacation rentals as well as an ice skating rink.
The project located off Highway 67 near Butler is developed by California native and Carter County resident Daniel Goodhall.
While understanding the fact that its neighbor will feel the main impact of the new resort to the north, Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor was optimistic of the many potential economic benefits for Butler and
Mountain City area communities.
For starters, the new resort is located close enough for jobs,” Taylor said commenting on the 500-plus jobs that the new resort is promising to bring to the region.
Taylor emphasized the benefits including enhancement of local tourism for the Doe Mountain region as well as restaurants.
Regionally, it will be beneficial for all of us,” Taylor said.
Of course, as it is the case with all such projects, the new resort is not immune to concerns including those pointed out by residents from both counties.
One concern pointed to the resort affecting the natural landscape of the Watauga Lake shoreline and mountains.
Carter County Planning Commission chairman, Chris Schuettler, said that the resort would have a rustic look that will blend into its surroundings while not blocking views of the sunset off Watauga Lake.
“This will be more environmentally sound than if 200 or so homes were built in the same area,” he said. “Measures will be taken to protect against negative effects on the environment.”
Emphasizing the resort’s economic impact and benefits Schuettler said, “This will benefit all surrounding counties including Johnson County.”
One of the other concerns was the resort’s effect on traffic on Highway 321, which connects with Highway 67. Schuettler ensured that the impacts on traffic would be minimal on both Highway 67 and 321 but suggested that if the resident wanted a traffic-impact study to be done on the project that they would need to address the Carter County Highway Committee which can petition TDOT to do a study.
Commenting on the potential traffic issues, Taylor said he hopes that Carter County officials look at the road issues and that a traffic study will be done to address the issue.
“Over all and regionally this will be a benefit for all of us,” Taylor said.
Acknowledging that the project will “bring people right to our front door” Taylor emphasized that the project is an opportunity for Johnson County.
“This means that our work now is to capitalize on the opportunity we are given to benefit our county and our region.”
The first phase, the
22-room inn and Farm
Table restaurant is slated
for competition in late
spring and early summer of 2020.

City to read final liquor ordinance

By Jill Penley

While Johnson County voters made their voices heard in November, voting “yes” to on-premise consumption and package stores, the process of passing an ordinance establishing requirements and regulations has been complicated and time-consuming.
Per George T. Wright, City Attorney, the second and final reading on both beer and liquor ordinances is set for the May 7 meeting of the Mountain City Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting.
Prospective retail package store retailers would have to apply after the Town of Mountain City approves specific regulations regarding the retail sale of liquor, and if those are specifications are met, an Order of Compliance would be subsequently issued. At that point, an application can be made at the state level.
After a completed application for a retail store is received, the application must be placed on the agenda and approved by the TABC commission at a regular monthly commission meeting. Adherence to specific regulations is also required. For example, a retail store must be located on the ground floor with one main entrance opening on a public street with no other door or entrance for use by the public unless the store is located on the corner of two public streets. Under those circumstances, a retail store could have a door opening on each of the public streets.
Along with the repeal of Prohibition, the 21st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave individual states the right to control what parties can sell alcohol within the state, how the distribution of alcohol in the state would take place, and who would be able to possess alcohol within the state legally. States and even local jurisdictions have significant differences in who can legally sell, buy, and possess alcoholic beverages.
State law generally gives cities the authority to license and regulate the retail sale of intoxicating liquor once local option election results approve it. State statute regulates many aspects of local liquor licensing, though a local authority may, in some instances, supplement state statute with stricter standards via a local ordinance.
Additionally, retail stores are required to close on Christmas, Thanksgiving Day, and Easter. Hours of operation for retail package stores are also set.
Retail package store managers must hold a manager’s permit and employees of a retail store must be at least eighteen years old and must be certified clerks.
In addition to employee requirements, there are laws regarding ownership of retail package stores. For instance, an owner cannot hold any type of public office, or have any interest, either direct or indirect, in any other retail liquor store, wholesale license, or liquor by the drink license. There are stipulations for prospective retail package store owner with felonies. Under current legal scrutiny, is Tennessee’s residency requirement, which says one must reside in the state for a minimum of two years to obtain a retail liquor license and for at least ten years to get a license renewed.

Improvements, updates around town a priority

By Bethany Anderson

An important topic of discussion at the recent meeting of the Board of Alderman was the many improvements and updates needed around town with several projects mentioned.
Mayor Kevin Parsons mentioned that he would like the signage at the city limits to be updated to include recognition for local civic organizations such as the Kiwanis Club.
Public Works Director Gary Phillips stated that moving the existing Kiwanis Club signage closer to the city limit signage could be made quickly. Phillips made plans for his crews to do so and it has since been taken care of.
Chief of Police Denver Church requested a signage update for crosswalks around town, which included 12 signs at an estimated cost of $100 per sign. Alderman Bob Morrison made a motion for a budget amendment of $1,500 for the necessary signage.
The discussion on improvements continued in connection with the crosswalk light at Highway 421, and Highway 67, which according to officials is in much need of repairs. The estimated is $5,485.50 with $2,200 already paid for previous work and troubleshooting the issues.
Alderman Lawrence Keeble made a motion to move forward with this project, citing safety concerns for the town.
Alderman Jerry Jordan added, “I know Gary and his roads crew have been working on the crosswalks, and they look a whole lot better.”
Addressing a much talked about blight in town, Mayor Kevin Parsons made mention of a downtown building in disrepair.
“We’ve got a building in terrible condition here in town,” he said, speaking of the old Army Surplus building. “It could be a dangerous situation. Now that it’s vacant it would be a good time to do something about it.”
Parsons made mention that he had spoken to the realtor of the building and that there are currently plans for a new tenant to rent the building. He then said, “I’d like to have our building inspector and Fire Chief take a look at that.”
City Building Inspector Jesse Compton responded saying, “My biggest concern would be a child going in there.” He added, “We do have the right with building codes to go in and take a look.”
Plans were then made for Compton to meet with Fire Chief Gary Stout and schedule that inspection and address any concerns before the new occupants can
take possession of the building.
That the meeting was improvement oriented there was little doubt. Thanks to the recent momentum of growth in town and the county, the effort is welcomed by the community.

New business ventures spring up

Ribbon cutting at Mountain View Nursery and Landscaping Home and Garden Center new retail location on U.S. Route 421, next to the Garden Barn. Back, left, Ricky Hansen, Cody Graybeal, Holly Rominger, Maureen Burniston, Harvy Burniston; Middle, left, Nate Meyer, Jesse Compton, John Kidd; Front, left, Josena Aiello, Logan Church, Tony Church, Addie Henderson. Photo by Rita Hewett

Passenger injured in single-vehicle rollover crash

Mountain City Police officers examine an SUV that rolled over on U.S. Route 421 South near Forge Creek Rd. Monday morning. The crash occurred when the female passenger, Tammy Taylor pulled on a cell phone cord that was wrapped around the emergency brake handle, engaging the brake and flipping the car over. The driver Marvin Cook was not injured, but Taylor was transported to hospital,
while the roadway was cleared from debris.
Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Judge Rice sets trial date in JC School Transportation Supervisor’s case

By Bethany Anderson

Johnson County Schools’ Transportation Supervisor, Barry Bishop, 57, was back in court Friday, March 29 for his ongoing criminal case regarding the allegations brought forward after a joint investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.
The investigation led to his indictment of one count of theft over $10,000, followed by Bishop’s arrest on January 3, and arraignment on February 8.
During 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.
According to the comptroller—based on interviews—employees performed maintenance on their vehicles after normal working hours with parts and supplies purportedly purchased with their personal funds.
Bishop is currently out of jail on a $15,000 bond, while Case 2019CR1 has become an ongoing case with the Johnson County Criminal Court system, spanning several months so far.
The Johnson County School system remains compliant with all state recommendations and is maintaining a “business as usual” approach.
All of Bishop’s duties, caring for the “day-to-day” of busses including supervising bus employees are currently covered by Dr. Stephen Long, while Dr. Herbie Adams is covering Maintenance and Career Technical duties.
According to Dr. Long, “We cannot speak about any plans for a replacement or any other job details because it is all a part of the court case and open investigation.”
Judge Lisa Rice heard many criminal cases on Friday, but once Bishop’s turn came it all went pretty quickly. His attorney filed a motion to dismiss, which Judge Rice answered by saying, “I’ll have to respectfully deny that.”
There was then mention that a motion for discovery had already been filled and carried out. Dates were set for the pretrial and the trial. The pretrial motion date is currently set for June 3, and the trial itself is currently scheduled to last for two days on June 25 and 26, 2019.
Judge Rice warned both parties that all pretrial motions must be filed no later than May 30 in preparation for trial. Bishop and his attorney agreed as well as the prosecutor. All involved will no doubt be making their filings and preparing for the upcoming late June trial.

Sentenced: Davis gets 20 years for aggravated robbery on Cold Springs Road

By Tamas Mondovics

One of the defendants following the incident on December 28, 2018, where a victim in the Cold Springs community had her home broken into by two individuals and was locked in a room of her house, has pled guilty.
According to law enforcement officials, Willie Davis, 41 of Bristol Tennessee, pled guilty in Johnson County Criminal Court on Friday, March 29, 2019.
Not mincing any words, Judge Lisa Rice sentenced Davis to 20 years to be served at 100 percent.
The incident was investigated by Johnson County Investigators, assisted by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
Initial reports stated that two suspects including Willie Davis and Jennifer Jenkins, 42, of Sullivan County were involved in an armed robbery and aggravated kidnapping in Johnson County, which ended after a pursuit, assisted by deputies from Sullivan County.
According to police reports, the victim was locked inside one of the rooms of the home but was eventually able to escape and flee to a residence nearby to call for assistance. The victim was then treated at an area hospital for minor injuries
Davis and Jenkins were apprehended on January 1, 2019.
“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 following the suspects’ arrest. “All deputies involved did an excellent job.”
With more charges pending, Davis and Jenkins were arraigned on Wednesday morning, January 2, 2019, in Johnson County.
Davis and Jenkins were charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, and false reporting.

Ariel shot by child with pellet gun

By Tamas Mondovics

Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) concluded its investigation of the recent shooting incident in Johnson County, Tennessee involving 2-year-old Ariel Salaices, of Laurel Bloomery.
In a press release on Monday morning, Johnson County Sheriff, Eddie Tester stated, that as a result of an investigation into a shooting incident in Johnson County Tennessee on March 15, 2019, investigators have resolved the case.
“During the course of the investigation, investigators determined that 2 year old Ariel Salaices was shot by another child who was playing with a pellet rifle,” Tester said. “At the recommendation of the District Attorney General and due to the fact that the incident occurred
as a result of a tragic accident, no charges will be placed.”
Tester emphasized that the incident was investigated by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and assisted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
As it was reported last month, the bullet that hit the back of Ariel’s head ricocheted off of a metal post on the swing and slide set located in her back yard. Ariel was first flown to the Johnson City Medical Center for treatment before transported to Knoxville.
The incident is by no means unprecedented. Organizations such as awareness group, Bullet Free Sky has been advocating against celebratory gunfire and unlawful discharge of a firearm for years.
According to a Facebook post this morning, “Ariel is STILL breathing on
her own!! She had a restless night, but she is doing
better with the adjustments they made for her breathing . She is resting but still
very agitated. Going to
replace her feeding tube
today. Ariel is doing
well and progressing. Keep praying!
To reach the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, please call 423-727-7761. Anyone who would like to donate to help with the Salaices’ expenses can do so on Ariel’s GoFundMe page

Taylor Parsons crowned new Miss Tennessee Outstanding Teen

Taylor Parsons, 16 of Mountain City, reacts to her being crowned as the new Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen last Saturday, at Gallatin High School. Parsons will now represent Tennessee
in July at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition in Orlando.
Photo submitted by Richard Suter

By Tamas Mondovics

Mountain City, resident Taylor Parsons, 16, was chosen as the new Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen last Saturday evening, at
Gallatin High School.
The competition featured 24 candidates from around the state of Tennessee before Parsons was crowned enjoying the spotlight and receiving a well-deserved title.
According to competition officials, as Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen, Parsons received a $3,000 College Scholarship and the opportunity to compete for the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen title in Orlando, Florida on July 23-27.
Currently a student at Johnson County High School, Parsons hopes to use her scholarship winnings through the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Program pursue a career as a Pediatrician.
Moments after being selected, Parsons reportedly shared her excitement about winning the title. “I am already looking forward to my duties this year – traveling, meeting new people and getting the word out about my platform, “The Color Red,” said Parsons. During her year as Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen, Parsons will travel throughout the state of Tennessee advocating her platform issue. Parsons wants to be a Pediatrician, so the process of Blood donation is close to her heart.
“I entered MAO Teen Tennessee to advocate the importance of blood donation,” Parsons said. “Not only will it help to promote my platform but the preparation for competing has helped me with my interview skills for future employment and has developed me to be a better leader not only in my church and school but now for our state.”
Parsons hopes to talk to various government representatives, business leaders, community groups and citizens-at-large, urging them to get involved in the fight for Project Red.
Hollie Alexander and Elisabeth Reef, Co-Executive Directors of the Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen, commented on the new Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen.
“Taylor Parsons embodies the qualities a role model for young women and girls should have,” Alexander said. Reef added, “She’s talented, ambitious and accomplished. We are excited about working with her this year.”
Parsons did not shy away from expressing her feelings about having the opportunity to represent her state.
“One of my goals this year is to put Mountain City on the map,” she said, adding, “I am only the second Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding from East Tennessee. I feel so honored to have been chosen by the prestigious panel of judges to take home this crown. It is my dream job, and I plan to do my best and give God the rest. I look forward to traveling to Florida to compete for the national title in July and the many other places and events in which I will be representing our state not just in Tennessee, but all across the country. There are so many opportunities that I have been given a chance to experience over the upcoming year with this title, and I can’t wait.”
Pleased with his daughter’s accomplishment, Kevin Parsons said, “This is a big deal for Mountain City. Taylor has worked hard for this because she knows it will help her to promote her platform ‘The Color Red’ better. She will be representing over six and a half million people who live in the state at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen held in Orlando Florida in July.”
MAO Teen Competition has made available more than $9,400 in scholarships and cash awards for 2019 for the 24 young women throughout the State of Tennessee.
Taylor Parsons will represent Tennessee July 23-27 at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Orlando.

Other winners include:
1st Runner Up Chloe Warren, Miss Sumner County’s Outstanding Teen winner of a $2,000 College Scholarship.
2nd Runner Up AnnaLee Story, Miss Middle Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen winner of a $1,500 College Scholarship
3rd Runner Up Amanda Simmons, Miss Jackson’s Outstanding Teen winner of a $1,000 College Scholarship
4th Runner Up Kinsey Burchett, Miss Music City’s Outstanding Teen winner of a $500 College Scholarship
Teen Competition has made available more than $9,400 in scholarships and cash awards for 2019 for the 24 young women throughout the State of Tennessee. Taylor Parsons will represent Tennessee July 23-27 at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Orlando.

JC joins Select Tenn Property Evaluation

By Tamas Mondovics

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) announced last week the five counties chosen to participate in the latest round of the Select Tennessee Property Evaluation Program (PEP), which originates from the department’s Select Tennessee Certified Site Program.
Each round of PEP selection is based on the demonstrated local need for industrial properties and the county’s ability to assemble viable properties with market potential.
The timing of the news could not have been any better for the region, as the momentum in Johnson County and Mountain City is about as noticeable and welcomed as it can get.
“With our industrial park now full, we are in much need of more properties to serve as industrial sites,” said Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor. “Being approved to participate in this round of the PEP will make it possible to fund the cost of evaluating potential in our area.”
Taylor confirmed that he had submitted four pieces of properties (two on Highway 91, North and two on U.S. Route 421 South) that may potentially be suitable for evaluation.
Started in 2015, PEP is designed to improve the inventory of industrial sites and buildings in Tennessee.
“PEP helps local communities attract and grow businesses in Tennessee and creates high-quality jobs in the process,’ said Gov. Bill Lee. Thanks to PEP, we’re identifying even more opportunities for Tennesseans to both build a career and build up local economies in our state.”
TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe agreed when he said, “One of the best things a community can do to promote economic growth is evaluating and improving their sites for market. I congratulate the five communities on being chosen for this round of PEP and look forward to what is in store for them in the future.”
According to officials, the program evaluates potential properties, advising counties on where investment may be most beneficial and how sites can be improved to attract prospective companies. Before this round, 47 counties have participated in PEP.
PEP originates from the department’s Select Tennessee Certified Site Program. With the assistance of site selection firm Austin Consulting, PEP benefits participating counties by providing guidance on site planning for future industrial development projects.
For counties selected to participate, PEP includes an on-site visit by Austin Consulting and TNECD, an educational webinar on the site selection process and a comprehensive assessment addressing the strengths and needs of a community’s inventory of industrial sites. This assessment also offers recommendations for communities to improve marketability.
The application process typically begins with the submission of a letter of intent, which is accepted at any time. Upon receipt of the letter, interested communities will be provided with the PEP application. A new round of communities will be accepted into the program in the fall of 2019.
For more information, please visit, Follow on Twitter and Instagram: @tnecd,

Johnson County Sheriff conclude Laurel Bloomery 2-year-old girl shot by another child with pellet gun

By Tamas Mondovics

Johnson County, investigators, the JC Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation concluded its investigation of the recent shooting incident in Johnson County, Tennessee involving 2-year-old Ariel Salaices, of Laurel Bloomery.

In  a press release this morning, Johnson County Sheriff, Eddie Tester stated, “As a result of an investigation into a shooting incident in Johnson County Tennessee on March 15, 2019, investigators have resolved the case.

During the course of the investigation, investigators determined that 2 year old Ariel Salaices was shot by another child who was playing with a pellet rifle. At the recommendation of the District Attorney General and due to the fact that the incident occurred as a result of a tragic accident, no charges will be placed.

This incident was investigated by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and assisted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.”

According to a Facebook post this morning, “Ariel is STILL breathing on her own!! She had a restless night, but she is doing better with the adjustments they made for her breathing . She is resting but still very agitated. Going to replace her feeding tube today. Ariel is doing well and progressing. Keep praying!





Possible Fire Boat coming to Watauga Lake

Elk Mills Poga Volunteer Fire Department wants to ad a 27-foot Maycraft fire boat to the Johnson County Fire Department
equipment. It would be stationed at Pioneer Landing Marina on Watauga Lake. Submitted photo.

By Bethany Anderson

The Elk Mills Poga Volunteer Fire Department would like to add another layer of protection to their fire department in the form of a fireboat. The boat would be a part of the Johnson County Fire Department equipment but would be stationed at Pioneer Landing Marina with nearby Lakeshore Marina having already agreed to do any needed services for the boat.
Benefits to our area would be many. The proposed boat would be equipped with a mounted pump, “deck gun,” as well as a portable floating pump. The boat will also have a first responder medical bag and AED. With the additional benefit of the fireboat also being able to fill tanker trucks closer to fires that are not on the lake.
According to Mark Dunn from the Poga Volunteer Fire Department, “Having a boat in the water at this end of Watauga Lake should help to speed the response times to lakeside fires.” Adding, “The damage to marina fires such as that to Lakeshore Marina in 2007 and Fish Springs Marina in 2012 could be reduced significantly.”
A 27-foot Maycraft boat that fits all of their needs has been located for sale at a reasonable price, and they are currently in agreement with the boat’s owner on a purchase price.
Officials said that the main pump, floating pump, and additional equipment (including lights, paint, etc.) would be supplied by the Elk Mills Poga Fire Dept at no additional charge.
As of now, they have only raised $275 of the needed $25,000 but are hopeful that they will gain more donations with community involvement once those in our area are informed.
Dunn said, “We will be doing fundraising events in the near future at Pioneer Landing and Elk Mills VFD. But we also hope people donate through our GFM link.” The group has set up a GoFundMe page which can be found at:

Sink Mountain Rd. closed indefinitely due to ‘major slide’

By Jill Penley

Many National Forest System Roads (NFSR) were heavily impacted by record-breaking rainfall received this winter, and Cherokee National Forest visitors should be prepared for poor driving conditions on some NFSR’s and use caution while using these roads due to changing road conditions because of weather.
This area’s storm damage has forced the closure of several National Forest System Roads in
the Cherokee National Forest, including Sink Mountain Road (NFSR No. 298) to Sink Mountain Boat Ramp in Johnson County, where huge boulders create a barrier to entry.
According to a national forest spokesperson, due to a “major slide” on Sink Mountain Road, there is “no estimate of when it might reopen.”
In addition to Sink Mountain Road, three other forest service roads in the Cherokee National Forest are closed by weather-related damage. Those are Paint Mountain Road in Greene County and All Top Road and Brush Creek Road in Cocke. County.
With spring on the horizon, this is most unfortunate for Johnson County as this is the only “public” boat ramp.
Boaters are encouraged to utilize Little Milligan boat ramp, located in Carter County on Moody Road off Highway 321, to access the lake until repairs are completed. There are also private marinas along the south shore of Watauga Lake.
For more information about these sites visit or call the Watauga Ranger Station at (423) 735-1500.

Tenn Arts Comm grant leads to soup supper

By Tamas Mondovics

The Johnson County Arts Council was pleased to announce its success of securing a grant through the TN Art Commission as well as the offering a pottery course at Nature Speaks Pottery Studio operated by Jean Ann Savery.
According to Mountain City Rotary Club member, Geneva Taylor, “the grant provides an opportunity to expand artistic appreciation and expression throughout the community and to integrate the results with community service.”
Savery and her students teamed up with the Mountain City Rotary Club to raise funds for local scholarships, by means of creating more than 80 soup bowls to be sold at the Rotary Club’s Soup Supper on Saturday, March 30, 5-7 p.m. at the First Christian Church’s new Fellowship Hall. Each bowl was handcrafted and signed by the local artisan.
The Super Soup Supper offers a choice of three soups (homemade), a cornbread muffin baked by the JCHS Culinary class, a dessert (homemade) and drinks for $7.00.
“For $15.00, in addition to the traditional Soup Supper, you get to select and take home one of the handcrafted bowls,” Taylor said.
A special creation, “Darwin’s Bad Dream” will also be on display, but is not for sale.
Randy Dandurand will be there to entertain with his mellow voice and guitar and his incredible collection of popular music.
Every year Rotary awards Scholarships to graduating students who live in Johnson County. To raise funds for these scholarships the Rotary Club, in addition to the Soup Supper, hosts and a golf tournament in late Spring and a spaghetti dinner in the Fall.