Presenting the JCHS Class of 2019

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

JCHS held its 96th annual Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18, in the Ray S. Shoun Memorial Gymnasium before an audience of friends and family.
JCHS Principal Lisa Throop opened the ceremony by remembering Jacob Sluder, who attended Mountain City Elementary through third grade. “Jacob passed away at age sixteen due to an extended illness,” said Throop. “He would have been a member of the Class of 2019.” A moment of silenced was observed for Sluder before Throop introduced special guests including Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools, Dr. Stephen Long, Secondary Supervisor, JCHS Assistant Principals Leon Henley, and Marcus Dunham, School Board Chairman Howard Carlton, Board Vice-Chairman Kevin Long, school board members Gary Matheson, Mike Payne, and Jo Ann Reece. Throop also acknowledged Michael Eggers as graduation director and special guests from central office.
“I cannot wait to see what the Class of 2019 will accomplish,” said Throop. “Your determination and love for life will help you accomplish whatever you desire to do.”
Maelea Gaylon, former JCHS Assistant Principal, presented beautiful vocal performance of Humble and Kind before Principal Throop introduced the three 2019 Class Valedictorians: Renie Morrow, Noah Mullen, and Mason Stanley, who each took part in presenting My Resignation Letter, their collaborative graduation speech.
“I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we will all miss something about our time here,” said Noah Mullen. “However, we cannot stay here forever. This is only the start of a long and arduous journey that lies before us. Each of us will follow different paths, but that does not have to mean they diverge forever.”
Valedictorian Renie Morrow continued the stirring speech. “I want all of us to look back on life years from now with the sense of accomplishment to have known life’s passage would come,” she said, “and go just like these four years, and made every moment memorable.”
“Life after high school is full of so much potential for all of us,” said Valedictorian Mason Stanley. “If we ignore the differences we have and focus on the goals we share, we can accomplish miracles. So much about our Earth is left for us to discover and for us to protect.”
Stanley concluded by acknowledging parents, coaches, and teachers. “As we resign from our position here at the high school,” he said, “we accept a more responsible role as adults and here’s to hoping we get it right.”
Dr. Mischelle Simcox challenged the students one last time. “The future is yours,” she said while addressing the graduates. “You are about to start a new and exciting adventure.” She then gave them the following advice: “make the most of your life, live your dreams, follow your passion, stay true to yourself.” Finally, she added, “each of you can be and do anything you want, you just have to believe,” before pronouncing them official graduates of Johnson County High School.
Dr. Stephen Long, Johnson County Schools Secondary Supervisor, and GEAR UP Collaborative Project Director, individually announced the name of each graduates as they accepted their diplomas from school board members and administrators.
Senior student council member, Zach Peake, led the 128-member class in the traditional turning of the tassels before applause roared throughout the Ray S. Shoun Memorial Gymnasium one last time for this batch of seniors, who achieved so much over four years and now enter the world as JCHS graduates.

Your vote needed

Long Journey Home preparation kicks off with T-shirt design contest

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

Summer has not yet arrived, but organizers of Johnson County’s annual arts and music celebration Long Journey Home, held each year over Labor Day Weekend is already in high gear.
To get the community involved and prepare all music and arts lovers to get a chance to have a hand in contributing to the late summer festivities, event organizers have reached out to the community to assist in designing the logo for the 2109 or fifth annual Long Journey Home T-Shirt and win $100 under the event theme, This year’s Legacies.
“We are excited to have the community choose this year’s design,’ said Johnson County Center for the Arts Director Cristy Dunn.
The contest yielded two finalists, so organizers created a survey and now asking residents to vote by email at www.longjourneyhome.net for their favorite design, by midnight Friday, May 24.
While held every Labor Day weekend, in reality, Long Journey Home, celebrated year round.
Of course, during the event, there is no shortage of musical entertainment as a clawhammer banjo is played on the front porch of the Clarence “Tom” Ashley homeplace. Visitor can pay their respects at G.B. Grayson’s grave, the site where the infamous Tom Dooley was captured or reflect on the regions musical heritage at the location of the historic 1925 Fiddler’s Convention. A new mural is unveiled each year as the hills come alive with the sounds of Old Time and Bluegrass.
Dunn mentioned that while organizers are looking forward to this year’s festival and Musical Heritage Homecoming Tour, they are especially excited about a partnership with Appalachian Memory Keepers.
“They are producing a film called “Short Life of Trouble” about local music legend, GB Grayson, who first recorded Tom Dooley back in 1929. The film will be shown outdoors on busking night downtown.”
Dunn said that plans are already underway for the best year yet, mentioning that the region’s traditions “live on because they are passed on.”
This year’s murals will be a series of paintings of records by 20th century Johnson County musicians.
GB Grayson’s The Ballad of Tom Dooley will be included along with Train 45, as well as Tom Ashley’s Amazing Grace, Greenback Dollar, and House of the Rising Sun.
The legendary Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s and the Ballad of Finley Preston will round out the set.
For more information about the event and this year’s mural workshop for a chance to help paint one of the murals, please visit the Johnson County Center for the Arts or the website www.jocoartcenter.org.
Johnson County’s
Heritage Arts and Music Celebration is proudly sponsored by:

East Tennessee Foundation,
Johnson County Community Foundation,
Danny Herman
Johnson County Bank
Farmers State Bank
Mike and Temple Reece
The town of Mountain City
The Sunflower Festival
Positive Thinkers
TVA
Mountain Electric

Library to host new writers club for autobiographers

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

A new writing club at the Johnson County Public Library is in the making next month to encourage and help people become autobiographers to share their life stories.
The club is appropriately named Johnson County Autobiographers Club (JCAC) facilitated by Brenda Turner who explained that her goal is to help encourage others to share their stories with family members, loved ones, or just for themselves.
“Our group will be welcoming, supportive, and a good environment for everyone from first-timers to more experienced writers.”
Johnson County is home to many who have lived their whole lives here as well as those who moved to the area for a variety of reasons. Each resident has their own unique story to tell, and Turner hopes that this group will help to encourage people to do just that.
“I want people to feel like they can attend when they are able to and not feel obligated to return,
but of course it would be great if they enjoy it and come back,” she said.
Turner added that JCAC is a group, not a class, so there are no mandatory
writings, nothing will be graded, and nobody will be forced to share anything with the group that they don’t want to. I want to be able to help people find their voice to share their life stories.”
The JCAC will meet each Monday from 1-3pm in the library’s conference room. It is free and open to all ages and skill levels. The first group meeting is on Monday, June 3, and all are invited to attend.
For more information about the Johnson County Autobiographers Club (JCAC), you can email
jcacwriters@gmail.com
or call group facilitator
Brenda Turner at (317) 316-7336.

JCFM “Main Street Market” moves forward

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) may finally have found the permanent home it has been seeking since its inception more than ten years ago.
Recently an opportunity presented itself for the market to take advantage of a series of events that would lead to a permanent home in downtown Mountain City that many agree would be ideal for several reasons.
The most obvious being that the market would no longer need to relocate seasonally.
The JCFM has had many locations and has continued to grow and thrive at each one. Most recently the market has been held at Ralph Stout Park during the summer months and indoors at the Welcome Center during the winter months to provide a “year-round” market.
According to Mountain City and Johnson County officials, the opportunity for a JCFM permanent location involves the Johnson County Airport that has been awarded a grant to help make improvements to the airport. The plan includes removing and replacing some of the older hangars.
The hangars that are to be removed would then be available for a variety of uses by others. One idea has been the topic of discussion between the Johnson County Farmers Market, The Johnson County Tourism & Development Council, The Johnson County Board of Commissioners, The Mountain City Board of Alderman, and a local landowner (who wishes at this time to remain anonymous).
The plan is for the airport to gift a hangar to Johnson County, which will in turn gift it to the Johnson County Farmers Market.
The parcel of land proposed for this project is currently vacant and is located along Main St (between the former Sassy Cats location and Cornetts store) in the heart of downtown Mountain City.
The land to place the hangar on would come from the town of Mountain City and would be available as a “multi-use” location for many possible uses beyond the Farmers Market.
The money to make all this possible would come from a $75,000 Tourism Enhancement Grant from the state of Tennessee. The joint effort is enthusiastically endorsed
by both Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor and Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons. When it was brought to a vote at this month’s County Commission Meeting, the motion to endorse this project passed unanimously.
County Mayor Mike Taylor said, “If we can get this downtown, I believe this would be a good start to revitalize our downtown.”
Airport manager David Garris added, “I’m glad to be able to give back in some way.” He also said, “I’d hate to see it (the hangar) just thrown away.”
Mayor Kevin Parsons said, “I’ll take this to the council and see what they say, but I’m excited to get this going. It could be really good for our town.”
Next moves involve Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons presenting this to the Board of Alderman for their official vote regarding the land. Once that happens, the project will move forward as quickly as possible,
given the multiple steps that will need to occur with all parties participating in the project.
“Farmers markets play a vital role not just in generating real income for farmers, but in forming a healthy, prosperous food system,” says Jen Cheek, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Coalition. “By providing the opportunity for farmers to connect directly with consumers, markets serve as education centers. Vendors are teaching customers about agriculture and sharing recipes and new foods with their neighbors. Markets are making people and communities stronger and healthier.”
For more information on the Johnson County Farmers Market, visit their website at johnsoncountyfm.com or email johnsoncountyfm@gmail.com

Area works together for $1 million grant

State Senator Jon Lundberg addresses the Mountain City town council in support of the $1 million grant offered by the Governor’s office. The grant requires a $50,000 commitment from the town of Mountain City. Photo by Bethany Anderson

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

Doe Mountain Recreation Area Improvements are on the way thanks to a joint effort by DMRA, Johnson County Board of Commissioners, and now the Mountain City Board of Alderman.
Many were in attendance to show their support of the joint effort to gain a possible grant offered by the Governor’s office. Notable supporters and speakers included DMRA’s Frank Arnold and Tate Davis as well as Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor and State Senator Jon Lundberg (R from District 4). There were even some impassioned pleas from the crowd of supporters who spoke to their hopes of a partnership with the city to help achieve the grant.
The grant from the state would total $1 million and would require a $50,000 commitment from the town of Mountain City in addition to the money already committed by both the county and DMRA. The money could be paid out in installments of $12,500 per year for 4 years.
Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons expressed his concerns saying, “I think the town is looking for a return on our investment from sales tax dollars.”
Johnson County Mayor Taylor responded by saying, “My goal and my vision is to get those people in town and to the cash registers.”
According to DMRA Executive Director, Tate Davis, sales are up significantly this year as compared to last, and new related local businesses have been created and others have benefited from DMRA and their customers.
With the grant proposal due by May 14, the deadline is looming pretty soon. Mayor Parsons noted, “We have our budget meeting coming up and I’d recommend that we go ahead and support this.”
Alderman Jerry Jordan had a few questions asking, “4 years at $12.5, is that negotiable at all?” He then
added, “We want to work together, but how many years until we get that back in sales tax?”
Alderman Lawrence Keeble also expressed some concern saying, “We have so many other pressing issues that I’ll be frank, I can’t put this at the top of my list.” He also said, “With all the other things that we need in our town – pay raises for city employees, street repairs, and other things, I just can’t put it at the top of my list. I’m sorry.”
After more discussion and input from speakers, Mayor Parsons made a motion to commit the $50,000 clarifying, “If we can break that down in our budget.” The motion went to a vote and passed with all but Alderman Keeble voting “yes”. A crowd of those in attendance then broke out into applause and cheers, clearly happy with the resulting partnership between DMRA, Johnson County, and now the town of Mountain City.

 

Supporting local heroes

JCB officials and staff as well as members of Johnson County law enforcement and emergency fire and rescue personnel join Johnson County Bank president Bonnie Reece, front left, last week during a Johnson County first responders appreciation ceremony. As a way of saying thanks, JCB donated $2,600 divided equally between 13 departments including JC Sheriff’s Office, Mountain City Police Department local volunteer fire departments, the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency, and Rescue Squad. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

Hot dogs, cupcakes, balloons and, of course, a whole lot of “thank-you’s” greeted members of local law enforcement, rescue squad, volunteer fire departments, and emergency management during a first responders appreciation celebration.
The event hosted last week by Johnson County Bank in Mountain City honored the men and women who are first on the scene of an
incident or emergency, often putting their lives on the line.
“This is the first time we have hosted this event, which includes the donation of $2,600 to our local first responders,” said Megan McEwen with Johnson County Bank.
McEwen, herself a volunteer firefighter with the Doe Valley fire department and is a Johnson County Commissioner, explained that the money was divided up equally between the 13 departments, including the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Mountain City Police Department, the nine volunteer fire departments, the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency as well as the Johnson County Rescue Squad. All received $200 each.
“We just can not thank you enough for all that you all do for our community,” said Johnson County Bank president Bonnie Reece. “We appreciate all of you and the hard work you do on behalf of the community and us.”
Representing the Laurel Bloomery volunteer fire department and Johnson County Emergency Dispatch Center (E 911) assistant director Kevin Colson expressed his appreciation for the recognition by JCB as well as the entire community when he said, “We are grateful for what the community is doing for us. It is nice to be recognized and appreciated. It really made our day.”
Whether it’s a car accident, a fire, or a health emergency, when trouble arrives, first responders are the highly skilled and trained local heroes who come to the rescue. These men and women are often the first contact and are the first on the scene.
The majority of funding for Johnson County 911, which is governed by a board of directors, comes from the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, or TECB fund allocation.
More than half comes from the 911 fee charged on landline and cell phone bills at $1.17 per phone. The rest comes from the TECB, and they allocate these funds. Johnson County provides 14 percent of the funding, and the Town of Mountain City provides 11 percent of Johnson County 911 services.
Residents are urged to value, respect and support these heroes as they diligently work to get the job done and save lives in the process.

Area flea markets cater to repeat customers

Visitors browse at the Roan Valley Flea Market, 5235 Highway 421 South, near Mountain City, Tennessee. Thanks to the conveniences offered, including covered rental spaces for vendors as well as restrooms, the event venue has proved to be a favored weekend destination for many. Photos by Dedi Knerr

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

For many and, for as long as anyone can remember, flea markets have been helping residents to find just the item they have been looking for.
For some it’s a weekend ritual coupled with not knowing what they may find; all in the hopes of stumbling onto a treasure.
Mountain City and surrounding area has the pair of such flea markets or “swap meet” as known by many, providing space for vendors to sell previously-owned merchandise including collectibles, antiques and vintage clothing.
In most places a flea market is often seasonal, but in recent years there has been a development of ‘formal’ and ‘casual’ markets that divides a fixed-style market (formal) with long-term leases and a seasonal-style market with short-term leases.
While flea market vending is distinguished from street vending in that the market itself, and not any other public attraction, brings in buyers, location may be the key or at least significantly add to its success.
One of the area markets that has been enjoying some recent recognition is the Roan Valley Flea Market, located at 5235 Highway 421 South, near Mountain City, Tennessee.
Thanks to the convenience of a pavilion style setup, venders and buyers as well as all their merchandize can stay dry when the weather isn’t exactly ready to cooperate. .
“People are friendly and helpful at the market,” said longtime vender Debi Knerr of Mountain City “Because we are under a roof and out of the hot sun or the rain, the market can stay open and operate rain or shine. Since we also have lights at each space, not to mention public restrooms, the market is a great place to visit and support.
“My husband and I want everyone to know how wonderful it is to set up at Roan Valley Flea Market,” Knerr said. “For $6 a day, we can set up on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays or all three days if we want to,” she said.
Knerr emphasized the benefits of being under a roof at the market, which became a deciding factor in leaving the other market closer to town.
“We had a bad experience at the glove factory,” she said. “We set up, and it started raining and we couldn’t get everything loaded quickly. Several of our items got ruined. That made our decision easy to set up at Roan Valley Flea Market. We knew our items would not get ruined if it rains.”
One large table is provided, to each vender, but one can also bring tables as long as it fits in the designated area.
An additional benefit is breakfast featuring biscuits and gravy, bacon, egg and cheese on a biscuit and more is available for both venders and buyers.
“They serve breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday, from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. so you don’t have to drive anywhere. You just walk across the parking lot to the kitchen.
As one of the many regular visitors Geneva Clawson, summed up her experience at the market, when she said, “Great place to find about any item your looking for. Nice and friendly group of people”
For more information about the Roan Valley Flea market please call (423) 727-5574.

Hwy 67 road project open to new bids

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

Senior Project Manager, Dean Helstrom from Vaughn & Melton Consulting Engineers was on hand at the last City Council meeting earlier this month to go over a submitted bid for the now infamous, and already lengthy construction project along Highway 67 and Pedro Shoun Ln in the Doe Valley area.
A bid from King General Contractors of Bristol, VA was the only one submitted at this time.
Helstrom said, “Based on the bid received, the project is $347,490.93 more than the proposed construction budget. We recommend the Town of Mountain City reject the bid and advertise the project to open bids on June 11 contingent upon TDOT concurrence of the advertisement of the bid.”
The entire Board of Alderman nodded in agreement to reject the bid from King with many noting how unhappy they were with the town’s past dealings with King.
“It’s a lot of money given that you’re not going all the way to the city limits,” said Mayor Kevin Parsons as the discussion quickly shifted to cost of the project.
Parson added, “With the issues that we’ve had with this contractor, our only option is to reject the bid and rebid.”
City Recorder, Sheila Shaw mentioned, “The only thing about rebidding is that we’d be in November or December pouring concrete out in the cold.”
Mayor Parsons made a motion to formally reject the bid from King and reopen to new bids on June 10 or 11. The motion passed unanimously, so the town will soon be accepting new bids for the completion of the construction project.

Johnson County students earn presidential award

Mountain City Elementary School students gather together after the ceremony. Left to right: Tara Schoolcraft, Ghania Baig, and Ariana Spencer. Photo by Meg Dickens

By Meg Dickens
Freelance Writer

Students and proud family members made their way to Johnson County High School on Monday, May 6 to celebrate a momentous achievement. Sixty-five local students qualified for the Presidential Academic Excellence Award.
Qualifying students sustained a 3.5 – 4.0-grade point average, have no suspensions during the school year, achieve test scores in the 85th percentile or higher, and maintain a rigorous curriculum.
Students have three opportunities to receive this award: on the 6th, 8th, and 12th-grade level.
“The Presidential Academic Awards Ceremony is one of my favorite nights of the year. It is so nice to see the entire school system come together to recognize the high academic achievement of our students,” said retiring JCHS principal Lisa Throop. “I also love that we recognize their parents during the ceremony. They deserve it! The students all look forward to it. I am especially excited because my son, as a senior, has met the criteria for this honor this year.”
This event started 33 years ago by Mrs. Minnie Miller, and the Positive Thinkers sponsor and host the event reception annually. Special guests in attendance included School Board Chairman Howard Carlton, School Board Vice Chairman Kevin Long, School Board member JoAnn Reece, State Representative Timothy Hill, County Mayor Mike Taylor, City Mayor Kevin Parsons, and Positive Thinkers President Amy Lewis.
Each award winner received a plaque donated by Maymead, a certificate, a pin, and a letter from President Donald Trump to commemorate their achievement. A small group of students received this honor for the third time. Troy Arnold, Blake Atwood, William Butler, Isabella Miller, Noah Mullen, Hannah Osborne, Zachary Peake, Lindsey Wills, and Kaylee Wittenberg all received this award on every level.
Although this is an academic award, arts and creativity were also featured. Event programs featured original artwork by JCHS senior Rebecca Nowak. Emily Brown, Julia Jenkins, and Will Smith provided musical entertainment. The JCHS Band performed outside of the gymnasium, ushering guests inside before the ceremony.
Event coordinators went out of their way to thank everyone who had a part in the recipients’ success. Anyone who would like to see the ceremony can watch the archived live stream on Johnson County Schools’ YouTube channel. See the award recipients listed below.

JCB honors first responders

JCB officials and staff as well as members of Johnson County law enforcement and emergency fire and rescue personnel join Johnson County Bank president Bonnie Reece, front left, last week during a Johnson County first responders appreciation ceremony. As a way of saying thanks, JCB donated $2,600 divided equally between 13 departments including JC Sheriff’s Office, Mountain City Police Department local volunteer fire departments, the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency, and Rescue Squad. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

Hot dogs, cupcakes, balloons and, of course, a who lot of “thank-you’s” greeted members of local law enforcement, rescue squad, volunteer fire departments, and emergency management during a first responders appreciation celebration.
The event hosted last week by Johnson County Bank in Mountain City honored the men and women who are first on the scene of an
incident or emergency, often putting their lives on the line.
“This is the first time we have hosted this event, which includes the donation of $2,600 to our local first responders,” said Megan McEwen with Johnson County Bank.
McEwen, herself a volunteer firefighter with the Doe Valley fire department and is a Johnson County Commissioner, explained that the money was divided up equally between the 13 departments, including the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Mountain City Police Department, the nine volunteer fire departments, the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency as well as the Johnson County Rescue Squad. All received $200 each.
“We just can not thank you enough for all that you all do for our community,” said Johnson County Bank president Bonnie Reece. “We appreciate all of you and the hard work you do on behalf of the community and us.”
Representing the Laurel Bloomery volunteer fire department and Johnson County Emergency Dispatch Center (E 911) assistant director Kevin Colson expressed his appreciation for the recognition by JCB as well as the entire community when he said, “We are grateful for what the community is doing for us. It is nice to be recognized and appreciated. It really made our day.”
Whether it’s a car accident, a fire, or a health emergency, when trouble arrives, first responders are the highly skilled and trained local heroes who come to the rescue. These men and women are often the first contact and are the first on the scene.
The majority of funding for Johnson County 911, which is governed by a board of directors, comes from the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, or TECB fund allocation.
More than half comes from the 911 fee charged on landline and cell phone bills at $1.17 per phone. The rest comes from the TECB, and they allocate these funds. Johnson County provides 14 percent of the funding, and the Town of Mountain City provides 11 percent of Johnson County 911 services.
Residents are urged to value, respect and support these heroes as they diligently work to get the job done and save lives in the process.

County awarded litter grant funding

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

More than 4,332 illegal roadside dumps were cleaned up in the state last year as part of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Highway Beautification Office’s Litter Grant Program. Through the Litter Grant Program, county governments across the state removed roughly 23 million pounds of litter from 529,736 miles of Tennessee roadways and 9.2 million pounds of that roadside debris was recycled.
According to Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor, the county board of commissioners approved the grant for the fiscal year at the April board meeting.
Russell Robinson, Director of Accounts & Budgets for Johnson County explained that the County receives $44,200 from state TDOT funds administered through the highway beautification office for litter prevention and control.
According to Robinson, these funds provide a full-time litter control officer and provide funds for education, supplies, and materials used in conjunction with litter pick-up and removal. The contract requires 20 percent, or $8,840, of the total grant to be used on educating the public on the importance of keeping Tennessee beautiful.
“Education includes supplies, materials, staff training and activities that help the community better understand the how and why of litter control, prevention and the importance of recycling,” Robinson said.
Since 1983, the tax revenues have funded TDOT Highway Beautification Office’s Litter Grant Program. The law gives TDOT discretion on how to best use the funds to clean up and prevent litter, and matters related to litter, such as recycling or litter in storm water runoff.
Litter Grants, which are available to all 95 counties, support a variety of programs and activities that help reduce litter throughout Tennessee. The specific amount of funding a county receives is determined by a formula based on population and road miles. Through the efforts of collaborative county partners, the Litter Grant Program is responsible for removing an average of 11,300 tons of litter each year. Over the 34-year
history of the program,
this equates to the removal of more than 321,000
tons of litter from our roadways.
Recycling efforts, such as the recycle center, are funded from local funds and are excluded from litter grant funds.
Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTNB), which provides litter prevention education, litter law enforcement, community enhancement through beautification, and volunteer recruitment and management, is the cornerstone partnership of TDOT’s litter prevention education and outreach program.
TDOT spends a significant amount of money each year on litter pick up and prevention activities. To reduce those costs, Tennesseans need to understand the negative impacts of litter on
their quality of life, the negative effect on the scenic beauty of Tennessee, and the financial costs associated with litter.
Citizens are invited to report acts of littering from motor vehicles. TDOT maintains a toll-free hotline at 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837). Citizens may also report littering online at www.tn.gov/tdot/environmental-home/environmental-highway-beautification-office/litter.html.

Bicycle Pump Track coming to Ralph Stout Park

Submitted

MOUNTAIN CITY, April 29, 2019 – Not only do low taxes make a town attractive to residents and potential newcomers but having a modern infrastructure in place also increases its attractiveness. Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons continues to work on improvements to the town to achieve this goal and stated, “Our plan is tailored not just for our young people but for our senior citizens and everyone in between and I am thrilled to announce that one of the new phenomena on the rise and fits to this plan is a bicycle pump track and we will be adding that to our list of activities here soon.”
A pump track is a small, looping trail system that you can ride continuously without pedaling. Your speed along the pump track is dependent on your ability to gain momentum by “pumping” the tight terrain transitions of the track. The Town of Mountain City along with the county received a grant to install a pump track inside Ralph Stout Park. “City Council approved moving forward with this project several months ago and I am happy to say that the pump track has been ordered and we hope to have a ribbon cutting to open the pump track in early Summer. What makes this project even sweeter is the fact it will be paid for entirely with grant money.” Said Parsons. “A lot of my focus as mayor has been and will continue to be working on issues to help our youth. I am really excited about this project because it can be used by both the young and old.” Kids, beginners, amateurs, pros, and senior citizens on bikes, skateboards, inline skates
and scooters will be able to take advantage of the pump track. Parsons continued by saying “I am constantly looking for new opportunities to help our town grow. I have a great
relationship with our County Mayor Mike Taylor and we speak almost every day looking for ways to work together for the overall good of our community we live in. I invite anyone with ideas or who might want to offer their assistance in making the town a better place to live and work to drop off a note at city hall to my attention or to email me at mountaincitymayor@gmail.com.”

$20K Grant awarded to update park

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County Health Department was awarded a $20K Grant Health through Healthy Active Built Environments. With this grant, Cunningham Park will get some much-needed upgrades to their pool, playground, baseball fields, and other areas in need.
The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) has increased its primary prevention efforts over the last few years, with the understanding that they cannot rely on health care alone to improve health outcomes. County and metro health departments continue to provide essential clinical services but are also working alongside health care and non-health care partners outside the clinic walls to build healthier, more equitable and more livable communities.
To that end, TDH offered the first round of the Rural Access to Health through Healthy Active Built Environments grants in 2017. The grants support cross-sector work that enables people to make healthy choices where they “live, learn, work, play and pray.” They are intended to encourage collaboration between local health departments, local governments, and other stakeholders to plan, develop, implement and assess projects and programs which increase public access to physical activity and healthy eating.
Renamed the Access to Health through Healthy Active Built Environments grants are offered to all counties in Tennessee.
The 2019 grants are to help communities improve health outcomes by enhancing programming for and access to physical activity, particularly for young children who may have no or few other opportunities.
The grants also assist in enhancing the built and natural environments of public places and spaces so that people have access to healthy food, and access to safe places for physical activity, time in nature, and socializing; and enabling shared learning about the projects and programs among leaders
and communities across the state.
By supporting targeted and sustainable physical activity and healthy eating programming and active and healthy built environments, communities will create a culture of health and provide opportunities for social and community engagement. Additional benefits may include enhancing the attractiveness, pride and economic strength of the community by providing opportunities and amenities that are valued by residents and businesses.
The 2019 Health through Healthy Active Built Environments Grant Program has enabled Mountain City to plan some much-needed upgrades in town. This grant will be utilized to purchase at least two pieces of playground equipment for Cunningham Park, which houses a playground, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a little league baseball field.
“I am just thrilled!” said Flo Bellamy, Mountain City’s Community Center Director.
The funding will also be used to purchase non-skid flooring for the pool areas
and bathroom, install water to the bathroom/shower area, and install new ventilation fans in the shower/changing area.
It is not known yet who will complete that work or when it will start. But once that information is available, it will be covered in future reports.
These improvements will make Cunningham Park a safer place for the youth our Mountain City to enjoy for many more years to come.
For more information on Cunningham Park and
it’s facilities, call Gary Phillips, Superintendent at (423)727-6651.

JCHS football field getting a $35K makeover

Heavy equipment sits quietly earlier this week at Johnson County High School’s Coach Harold Arnold field inside Paul H. McEwen stadium in Mountain City. Work on the field was halted for a few days due to heavy rains over the weekend but is now back on track of the renovation project’s scheduled completion date next month. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Beth Cox
Freelance Writer

While the demolition of the old Shouns School on South Shady Street last month drew much attention, the recent renovation of the Johnson County High School football field seems to have received equal consideration.
According to head football coach Don Kerley, who is responsible for the upgrade of the field, which something he wanted to do for quite a while.
“The field needed repairs for years due to drainage problems,” Kerley said. “Every time it rains it hurts the field, so to protect the field and keep our kids free from injuries, the renovation was needed.”
Before Kerley taking the reigns as a head football coach, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA), sanctioned JCHS for having a muddy, dangerous football field.
“There were plans in the past to have the repairs done, but it just never came to fruition,” Kerley said adding that he was grateful to the school board for understanding the importance of the repairs and approving the project.
The is project is undoubtedly important to the whole community as the field serves not only the high school football team but also the middle school and the little league football teams.
The two-phase project consists of digging up the field and fixing the drainage system followed by the replacement of the sprinkler heads. Kerley mentioned that he would also like to move the goal post so the Longhorns can have more room on the sidelines.
Jimmy Phipps excavating is handling the doing the fieldwork assisted by Sammy Icenhour, who is said to be working on the main lines of the drainage system.
Phase two of the project will include the laying sod. Kerley wants to see Bermuda grass as he feels, “it is the best choice for the football field. Bermuda sod lasts longer and is more durable, but will not be available for purchase until June 1.”
The estimated cost of the upgrade is reportedly around $35,000, but Kerley isn’t using school funds. The project is making use of money from the sale of banners, gate sales, and other funds from the JCHS Booster Club. Farmers State Bank is also making a generous donation to help complete the project. Kerley is hoping for completion by June 15.
Considering the overall safety of all those that use the field, Kerley emphasized that he was well aware of the upgrade’s necessity and is promising to work diligently to get the job done by the mid-June deadline.
“We will be doing much of the work ourselves to cut cost, so if anyone wants to volunteer or make a monetary donation to the help would be greatly appreciated,” he said.
For more information or to support the project, please contact Don Kerley at 423-444-9724. The banner and brick sales are going on now, which will directly go to
help with the football field project.

Local cafe to “Turnip the Beet” on May 11

By Bethany Anderson

Local cafe and catering company, The Pickled Beet, upgraded from their food truck located at the Crossroads in Shady Valley to the building of a former coffee shop in Downtown Mountain City in the winter of 2018.
Since then, the cafe has been embraced by the community as a more elevated dining experience than the many fast food options around town.
While Chef James Wright’s creations have been welcomed by patrons who frequent the café, the “front of house” is run by Wright’s wife Timbra, adding her own sense of style to the business.
The two have known each other since their days at Johnson County High School and started dating in college. James attended AD Tech, and Timbra studied nursing at ETSU. The two spent the next few years “bouncing around here and there” between different internships and job postings including an internship for major resort group Discovery Land
Co and later management of the Old Mill in Damascus, VA.
The two bought a food truck after the birth of their son. When thinking up a name, they sought inspiration in James’s love of music and his pet project, Cathouse Productions, which put out a mix tape called “Pickled Beets.” Timbra drew the logo, and it all took off from there.
Once the building, which used to house The Coffee House Cafe, became available, they contacted owner Craig Slueder and drew up plans for their new restaurant. Doors opened on December 1, 2018, with a tasting of
their menu available for all to try out the “new guys in town.”
Since it’s opening of the cafe, many have become not only fans, but also regulars. Their past shows through in their love of food and Chef’s abilities in the kitchen. Timbra keeps the desserts and drinks interesting and one-of-a-kind while Chef James keeps the menu varied and full of local flavors.
“He’s always been such a passionate influence in the kitchen,” says Timbra of her husband, Chef James Wright. “He’s seen both sides of it from cooking over a campfire to cooking in state of the art kitchens.”
When asked about their plans for the future the two were excited to share. “We’re planning on a food boat on Watauga Lake,” said James. “It would serve gourmet hot dogs and other artesian takes on simpler foods.”
“We’re also looking into the idea of a kind of Sunday Supper Club.” added wife Timbra. “Longer term–like way, way in the future–we’re looking at plans for our dream of owning a resort style brewery outside of town.”
Timbra added, “One of our favorite things to eat out is tapas style food. James wants to do what he’s calling “Appalachian Tapas” at our place.”
The Pickled Beet Catering Co. and Cafe is shut down for a few weeks while making a few changes to the menu including their addition of more locally sourced foods and ingredients.
Grand re-opening playfully called, “Turnip The Beet” is on Saturday, May 11. Another menu tasting open to the public is also scheduled so that everyone has a chance to try new things and interact with the chef and other staff. There will also be live music to make it a welcoming event for all.
The Pickled Beet Catering Co can be found at 122 S Murphy St in Mountain City, TN. You may reach them by phone at 423-727-0317 or via email at thepickledbeetcateringcompany@gmail.com.

Pavusek and Longhorns keep defying all odds

JC’s Bradley Livorsi (19) tossed a 3-hit shutout in their win over Hampton. He also added two hits and a bases-loaded triple.
Photo by Tomahawk Sports

Tomahawk Sports

Johnson County’s baseball season could be best described using a few lines from the Gomer Pyle show. The fruitcake marine would say, “surprise, surprise, surprise” or “shazam” when he was amazed by something.
It’s been just that kind of year for the Longhorns who continue to defy the odds and “amaze” the naysayers who picked them to finish last before the season begin. And they saved the best for this past week.
The Longhorns swept Unicoi County 5-1 and 11-5 on Tuesday for the first time in head coach Pete Pavusek’s 24-year career. The 2012 squad had a pair of wins over the Blue Devils but not a regular-season sweep.
Getting overlooked is nothing new for Pavusek who currently has 335 career victories to his credit; the most among active coaches in Northeast Tennessee and all have come as the Longhorns’ skipper. Having the field named in his honor is something that should have been done long ago because he’s given Johnson County 24 years of his life and has to compete with the likes of football and basketball, which gets overlooked sometimes by the marquee sports like football and basketball but not this past week.

Longhorns sweep
Blue Devils
It all started in Erwin on Tuesday when they shocked the Big Blue Nation with a 5-1 victory.
Jayden Joiner was dynamite on the mound allowing just one run, six hits while recording ten strikeouts and walking only one.
Weston Throop hit a home run in the sixth inning to put the game on ice. He had two hits in the game along with freshman first baseman Asa Lewis. The Longhorns’ defense played mistake-free baseball behind the battery of Joiner and Petie Pavusek.
Throop had three RBI’s in the game while Stacy Greer and Ben Howard added key base hits that drove in a run.
But the fun had just begun.
Horns follow up with an 11-5 win.
They came back on Wednesday and beat them again 11-5 after Unicoi County had jumped in front 3-0.
Senior Reese Stout was driving with four RBI’s and three base hits. He had a mammoth double in the fourth inning and singled in a couple of insurance runs in the sixth.
Ben Howard, freshman Ethan Icenhour, and Petie Pavusek all had RBI base hits in the game. Icenhour’s single plated two runners.
Howard was a force on the mound allowing four hits and five runs in his complete-game effort to earn the win. The Longhorns banged out 15 hits with Jayden Joiner, and Stout who had three each. Asa Lewis and Bradley Livorsi chipped in with two apiece.
Head coach Pete Pavusek summed up the two wins with some classic quotes.
“These two wins were for all the people that faced the heartache against Unicoi County baseball all these years,” said Pavusek. “It’s for all the current players and the past players and their families. It’s a sweep milestone for Johnson County baseball.”
Longhorns add icing on the cake 7-0 win at Hampton
The Longhorns rode the excellent pitching performance by Bradley Livorsi to victory in their win over the pesky Bulldogs. The junior righty allowed only three hits with nine strikeouts and only one walk.
The Longhorns used singles by Stacy Greer, Livorsi, Ben Howard and Jayden Joiner to account for two runs in the fourth inning to break a scoreless deadlock.
They added four more runs in the fifth that extended their lead at 5-0. Livorsi ripped a three-run triple scoring Petie Pavusek who was hit by a pitch and Reese Stout and Weston Throop who drew walks.
Ben Howard then singled home Livorsi for a 6-0 advantage.
The Horns added an insurance run in the following frame after Stacy Greer singled and later scored.
The Bulldogs under the guidance of Johnson County’s native Coach Nick Perkins got a stellar pitching performance by freshman Caleb Royston who allowed just three runs and five hits in four-plus innings.
Howard, Livorsi, and Greer had two hits each for the Longhorns. Pavusek was 1-for-2 with an RBI and run scored.
Josh Owens, Landon Street, and Caleb collected one hit apiece for the Dogs.
District Tournament time
The Longhorns (6-6, 13-8) will play Unicoi County on Friday in the first round of the District Tournament at Joe O’Brien Field in Elizabethton. Game time is at 7:30 p.m.

Longhorns squeak
past Holston 6-5
Nothing could be any better than snatching a win out of the jaws of defeat such as Johnson County did Monday afternoon on senior day. Ethan Icenhour delivered a walk-off single that allowed them to win a dramatic 6-5 contest over neighboring Holston High School.
The Longhorns trailed 5-4 going into their final at bat but rallied to score two times.
Holston scored three times in the sixth inning to go up 5-4. Levi Price, Chase Taylor and Chandler Long all drove in runs that allowed them to erase a 4-2 deficit.
Stacy Greer got hit by a pitch to start the Longhorns’ seventh. Greer later scored on Bradley Livorsi’s fielder’s choice to tie the game at 5-5. Icenhour then drove home Livorsi with the winning run with two outs.
Ben Howard pitched the final four innings to earn the win. He allowed five hits, three runs and struck out four.
Jayden Joiner started the game for the Longhorns going three innings with three strikeouts and allowed two runs before giving way to Howard.
Asa Lewis had a remarkable day going 3-for-3 with an RBI and run scored. Icenhour, Weston Throop, Howard and Reese Stout had the only other hits for the Longhorns.
Seven players had one hit apiece for Holston.

Manhunt ends with arrest of Johnson County Rape suspect

By Tamas Mondovics

After an intense search, a man wanted on multiple counts of aggravated rape in Johnson County was arrested last Friday, April 26, in Sullivan County, according to a release from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
Johnson County Sheriff, Eddie Tester, said that upon his arrest and transport back to Johnson County, John Ross Gray was accused of holding a woman hostage and sexually assaulting her. Gray was wanted on seven counts of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated kidnapping.
The U.S. Marshal’s Service, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabethton Police Department, and Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office assisted Johnson County in the investigation.
Sheriff Tester “would like to thank all agencies who assisted in this Investigation.”According to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, deputies began a search for Gray as the result of the incident that involved the female victim whose name is not being released.
Investigators said that over “a period of time” Gray held the victim against her will and raped her multiple times before fleeing the area on foot on Thursday, April 25, 2019.
Aircraft was quickly called in and utilized in the search for Gray, who was able to elude deputies for nearly 30 hours resulting in the search that lasted until the evening hours the following day.
Gray reportedly has ties to Carter County Tennessee as well. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Carter County Law Enforcement assisted in the Investigation.
For more information please call the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office 423-727-7761.

Tennessee school vouchers pass House and Senate

By Jill Penley

Do school vouchers raise test scores or lower them? Do they help or hurt students over the long term? Do they damage public schools or push them to improve?
Since the Tennessee School Voucher legislation passing in the House last week, only time will tell.
Working its way through the state legislature, the voucher bill is causing quite a stir as it is said to provide state funds for parents to send their children to private schools.
Commonly known as school vouchers or Education Savings Accounts, ESA is supported by Governor Bill Lee. Under the bill, parents would be allowed to withdraw their children from public schools and receive a deposit of public funds of up to $7,300 into government-authorized accounts. The money could be used to cover everything from private school tuition and tutoring to homeschool materials and online learning programs. It is expected to cost Tennesseans $25 million for five years for a total of $125 million.
According to Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Johnson County Director of Schools, the school voucher legislation will not impact Johnson County as it is currently written. “It will only impact the four largest counties in Tennessee,” explained Simcox. “However, I am very disappointed that this legislation has passed in the House. Anything that takes money away from public schools is a disservice to our students.”
After a brief deadlock, the House voted 50-48 in favor of House Bill 939. The state Senate followed suit Thursday morning passing the governor’s controversial voucher proposal 20-13 but limiting the voucher program to just the metro Nashville area and Shelby County.
Proponents of school vouchers say that parents should have the right to choose their children’s education and many argue that vouchers create a free marketplace, which could lead to better student performance. For some, it is considered an innovative option for children who are being failed by the public school system.
Opponents say that vouchers violate the separation of church and state; that vouchers financially harm already-struggling public schools; that vouchers disadvantage special needs students; and that vouchers lead to worse academic performance.
Also, vouchers do not always cover the full costs involved in a transfer. Many voucher payments fail to fully cover the total cost of tuition, much-less transportation costs, mandatory fees, books, uniforms, and school supplies.
“Vouchers have not succeeded in any other state,” stated Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini. “To have them in Tennessee is a travesty and illustrates that Republicans are willing to abandon the absolute duty our government has to ensure a high-quality public education for every child in Tennessee.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee campaigned on the issue in his successful 2018 race for governor, and told reporters after the Senate vote, “I’m very encouraged today. I certainly believe that today was a historic day given that the House and Senate have never before both passed an education savings accounts bill. Mostly for me, it’s an important day for the children of Tennessee.”
The program would be limited to 5,000 students in the first year, increasing by up to 2,500 students annually. The House and Senate bills will have to be resolved in a conference committee before going to the governor’s desk.

Water war ends in rate increase

Town water and sewer dilemma settled in front of State Board.

By Tamas Mondovics

Following an order to appear — in person — before the State Water and Wastewater Financing Board (WWFB), all five members of the Town of Mountain City Council including Mayor Kevin Parsons and Aldermen presented its compliance to raise water and sewer rates effective this summer.
The council’s appearance before the board was a result of a subpoena and was a final step to end the drama about local water and sewer rate changes recommended by State Water and Wastewater Financing Board following an audit late last year that found the utility to be operating at a deficit.
Directed by the State, the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) did the rate study and gave its recommendation of a water and sewer rate increase inside city limits, a decrease of water and an increase of sewer rate outside city limits.
After expressing his opposition to as well as changes to the MTAS recommendation, Mayor and the Aldermen received a letter
stating WWFB’s rejection of the town’s proposed
changes. The State ordered an immediate action of compliance by the Mayor and
Aldermen, which also included the city hire a state-approved expert to conduct another service study at the cost of $15,000 paid by the town.
Unable to meet the required steps, the five-member City Council found itself in front of the State Water and Wastewater Financing Board during its March 14, 2019, meeting, which gave Mountain City officials the opportunity to explain the rate adjustments they have made and provide evidence the new rates (initially recommended by MTAS four months earlier) is sufficient to sustain the water and sewer system going forward financially.
After four months of back and forth, a decision to approve MTAS’ first recommendation and an unnecessary trip to appear before the State, the drama is now officially over. Mountain City residents will now see a water and sewer rate increase, which according to City Recorder Sheila Shaw also includes an annual one percent increase which will begin in July 2019.
“Based on the proposed rate increase it will take at least three years to get out of the red,” Shaw said.
Shaw added that the Town of Mountain City is also required to give an update every six months to assess the town’s water and sewer rate status.
“Our case was one out of seventeen other systems that were on the Water and Wastewater Financing Board’s March agenda,” Parsons said. “Our appearance was due to not complying with
their order that the town
hires a qualified expert to complete a comprehensive cost of service study of the Town’s water and sewer system.”
Parsons emphasized that he explained to the Board the difference between inside and outside city rates, if “we have a repair in the town limits we might be looking at five miles round trip to correct the problem whereas if a repair needs to take place outside the city limits we might be looking at up to nearly a one hundred miles round trip to make the repair.”
The Board ordered the Town to send financial updates to Board staff by March 1 and September 1, of
each year, beginning September 1, 2019, until the Board releases the Town from its oversight.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help in locating a fugitive

According to Johnson County Sheriff Edward Tester his officers are searching for Darrell Edward Dugger.

Dugger is wanted for five counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery on a minor.
According to information, Dugger, 49, has a Johnson County address, however it is believed that he could have ties to Virginia.

Dugger is described as a white male 5’ 11”,  220 pounds with brown eyes and black hair.

If you have any information on Dugger’s location,  please contact the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office at 423-727-7761