Kiwanis raises $22k for causes over 2009

The Jonesborough Kiwanis Club has been helping children in this area for over 50 years, and its president, Karen Clark said the organization is always looking for ways to give back to the community.
“Our focus is helping the children in our area,” Clark said. “We believe children are our future, and there are many children in this area who live at or below the poverty level who need our help.”
“Also, there is a wonderful sense of community in our club,” she continued. “We enjoy the people we work with and the new friends we make, as well as the worthwhile causes we support.”
Area Kiwanians take their mission seriously. They raised $22,000 this past year, all of which was plowed right back into the community by way of the projects and organizations they support, such as: Youth Services-Builder’s Club, Key Club, Washington County 4-H and the Boys & Girls Club, Good Samaritan Ministries, 2nd Harvest Food Bank, Children’s Advocacy Center, Community Health Center, Jonesborough Library General Fund, Jonesborough Days and the Christmas Parade Kiwanis Award and the recent Shop-With-a-Cop program.
The group holds several fundraisers each year to help raise money including their annual spaghetti supper which will be held at the Jonesborough Middle School February 27, 2010, and they have a booth every year at the Appalachian Fair in Gray.
“We are the first Kiwanis group in our district to have a Facebook page.” Clark said. “We are also the first to host an evening meeting.”
The group also gives couples an incentive to join Kiwanis, with one spouse paying the full cost and the other joining for half price.
Kiwanians enjoy a full country breakfast every Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m. at the Senior Center, but they recognize that many of today’s professionals can’t make it to early morning meetings. To accommodate the changing needs of the workplace, the Kiwanis now have an evening meeting every 2nd Thursday at the Red Pig in Jonesborough from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Go Fish

Things at the Jonesborough wastewater treatment plant are about to get a little fishy.
“What we’re trying to do is raise some fish here at the plant,” said Hugh Thomason, Jonesborough’s director of environmental services.
Thomason said the plan is to siphon off a portion of the effluent from the wastewater plant, the water that goes into Little Limestone Creek, and create a home for some different types of fish in three 500-gallon tanks.
“We’re still in the conceptual stage,” Thomason said, and the project is contingent on approval from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which also had to approve the project, saw the plans on its annual inspection visit to the wastewater treatment plant and gave it the go-ahead.
The fish would likely include fathead minnow, perch or bluegill-type fish, and maybe some catfish, Thomason said.
The species could change, depending on what TWRA has to say about native species in Little Limestone Creek. TWRA will also have to let the plant know if they can put the fish back into the creek, which is also a goal of Thomason’s.
“We don’t want to overpopulate. That throws the ecosystem out of balance,” Thomason said. “Whatever we do, we’ll keep it on the small scale.”
One benefit of the plan is that the Town will know how well its effluent sustains aquatic life, Thomason said.
The fathead minnow is what is used to bio-monitor the effluent in independent labs, so it’s a good “barometer” to how the plant is functioning, he said.
He may start out with a dozen or so of each fish species, and see how that population grows from there – if they are able to reproduce under those circumstances, he said.

Jonesborough plans for ‘Courthouse Square’ zone

Jonesborough officials are looking to implement a program that will allow the Town to receive some sales tax back from the state in order to make improvements in the downtown historic district.
Town Administrator Bob Browning is currently working on getting the state to create a zone around the Main Street courthouse that would provide Jonesborough with extra revenue over a 10-20 year period at no new cost. The state legislature must first approve the zoning for Jonesborough.
“What we can do is create a district around the [Main Street] courthouse and get taxes back that can be used for improvements,” Browning explained.
In the past, the State has created a few initiatives that have allowed state sales tax money to flow back into the community, Browning said. The areas were called “tourist development zones,” and legislation had to be passed so they could be created under certain circumstances.
The zones are more oriented toward large cities, and require major investment from the city and also from private investors, and are often centered around attractions like convention centers, Browning said. The state would then invest sales tax revenues that the state would normally keep back into the projects as an economic development tool. The amount of money generated over and beyond what has been collected before, based on a certain time period comparison, is given back to the locality.
Added to that zone was legislation in 2005 that started a courthouse square revitalization program, and the state started 6 pilot projects in counties with less than 120,000 people.
Almost all of the state sales tax – in addition to the local sales tax – comes back to the locality in a courthouse square district.
“That’s what we’re really interested in,” Browning said. “We’re creating sort of a combination thing.”
Jonesborough must lobby legislators to get the special district passed.
“The justification to the state is that we’re the oldest town and a serious tourist destination,” he said.
“The state funds state parks that have tourist components to it, but it doesn’t happen in Jonesborough and Washington County,” Browning said. “We don’t get any ongoing state allocation like other counties.”
The tourism component in Jonesborough is also highlighted in the Town’s Interpretive Master Plan and its branding plan, and the returned sales tax can be used for some of the projects outlined in the two plans.
“It’s pretty broad as to how you can use [the refunded sales tax,]” Browning said.
Those uses include infrastructure improvements, loans to private enterprises for façade improvements, interpretive spaces, or landscaping, for example.

Public hearing on stream relocation draws a crowd, State gets earful of opposition

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation held a public hearing on Thursday to hear comments regarding an application to relocate a portion of a stream on property located on Highway 11-E across from Persimmon Ridge Road.
The applicants, John Molder and Sonja Bailey, are requesting the state water quality permit in order to construct a service station and convenience store on the northeast corner of New Hope Road and Highway 11-E. The proposed development would require the relocation of 245 feet of a stream on the property and would impact .094 acres of wetland.
Two dozen people attended the public hearing despite a bout of winter weather that created dangerous driving conditions by the time the meeting concluded. A handful of those in attendance chose to speak publicly against the stream relocation, airing concerns about potential pollution, possible loss of aquatic life and the unintentional loss of wetlands.
“The scope of this project is very large,” said Jeff Dupre, a Jonesborough resident. “It’s the establishment of a polluting business. We’re going to wind up with a lot of stuff going into that creek that we don’t want.”
Tim Tate, a resident of Meadows Subdivision, which is located directly behind the property in question, said he also had “grave concerns” about the proposed project.
“Things like this will certainly impact the water flow,” said Tate, who questioned whether an environmental impact study had been done on the property.
Jonesborough resident Charles Gutierrez said he was “opposed to any construction near a water source” and expressed concern over “piecemealing” the 4.4 acres of wetlands in that area rather than looking at them as a whole.
“This is one of our last wetlands in Jonesborough,” Gutierrez said. “It should be protected.”
Local environmentalist Frances Lamberts spoke at length about her concerns with the possible relocation of the stream, emphasizing the need for flow data and a stream assessment before a decision is made.
“Without prior data as to what we currently have, we cant really say, and I don’t think TDEC can say, that there won’t be any impact,” Lamberts said.
Robert Mumford, another resident of Meadows subdivision, wondered what the “unintentional” results of the project would be.
“Any time you change a stream, you are liable to do something unintended,” Mumford said. “I worry you’ll drain the wetlands above there.”
Several individuals who spoke expressed concern regarding the project’s proposed car wash while others questioned what would happen to water quality if a gas leak occurred. As it stands, the project map shows four gas pump stations located exactly where the stream currently cuts through.\The applicants’ attorney, Todd Wood, spoke on behalf of his clients, explaining the plan and its impact in an attempt to alleviate some of their concerns
He explained that the entire property is approximately 5 acres in size, with .2 acres of wetlands within its boundaries. That .2 acres is a part of 4.4 acres of total wetlands in the surrounding area.
In order to build the gas station, Wood said 245 feet of the 285-foot-long westerly stream needs to be relocated. However, Wood said the stream isn’t what a “lay person” might consider a stream.
“It’s a stream that is maybe about 12 inches deep upstream,” he said, noting that downstream, the body of water becomes more of a “ditch.”
“Where the wetland stops is where it resembles a ditch,” Wood said. “The only time it had water was when it was raining.”
According to the application, the stream will be rerouted into a 310-foot “meandering channel.”
Wood said the relocation of the stream would be beneficial, as it would “provide a better habitat” for aquatic life and it would “take a stream that is not of high quality itself” and make it better. He also said the project includes additional measures to protect the surrounding environment, including a retaining wall and drainage system.
The public comment period will remain open until the end of the business day on Jan. 22.
Following the closing of the comment period, TDEC officials will review the application and determine whether to deny a permit, issue one or issue a conditional permit. Should TDEC issue a permit to the applicants, those individuals who made public comment at last week’s hearing have the right to appeal the decision.

Teacher evaluation methods in question

Gov. Phil Bredesen was in the Tri-Cities last week to announce that he will exercise his authority to call for a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly focusing on education, including both K-12 and higher education.
 At the heart of the session is Bredesen’s recommendation for a new way of evaluating teachers in Tennessee – a method that would use students’ test results as the main form of measuring educators’ success in the classroom.
The special session starts today, coinciding with the start of the regular legislative session.
Local educators are anxiously awaiting the decisions that come out of those meetings.
Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes called the test score method of evaluating teachers’ effectiveness “absurd.”
“Unfortunately, we have come to live and die by standardized testing,” he said. “How successful a student becomes is based on many things. They are with other influences 17 hours of the day while teachers are with them for only seven hours. It is absurd to base the effectiveness of teachers on that one day of testing.
“Teachers do no fear accountability, but they do fear having their accountability and effectiveness measured by inaccurate methods.”
David Crockett High School Principal Carmen Bryant said she welcomes a “more rigorous curriculum and standardization across the state so that parents and students know what is expected.”
But, she warned, using testing data as the main method of evaluation for teachers, “just isn’t good practice.”
Bredesen’s determination to affect change quickly in Tennessee’s educational system appears to hinge on the federal government’s Race to the Top competition where states will compete for a share for more than $4 billion in Recovery Act funds. Race to the Top applications are due on Jan. 19. The U.S. Department of Education has said the states that will be the most competitive will be those that already have policy changes in place at the time of application.
 In order to be competitive for those funds, Bredesen is advocating more vigorous use of student performance databases for teacher evaluation. In order to be in the running for a share of the federal Race to the Top money, the data would need to account for about 50 percent of the evaluation standards, he said.
The compilation of student performance data in grades K-12 was part of the “Value Added Assessment” system, which started in 1992 to try to measure, through standardized testing, the academic gains of students in every classroom.
However, in the past, and as a compromise with the Tennessee Education Association, the statute barred the use of the data as a means for evaluating teachers.
“The way the state evaluates a teacher’s performance right now is the TVAAS assessment – Tennessee Value Added Assessment System,” Bryant said. “When students take an end of course test, there is a score they are expected to get. If they are expected to get a 40, but they only score a 35, which may be passing, this will not score well for the teacher.
“But in other cases, a student who is expected to score a 30 may score a 50. And that is so far above what was expected, that it gives the teacher more points.”
Bryant called the current evaluation system “complicated and confusing” and said she believes a variety of factors lead to a student’s success. While Bryant agreed the current evaluation methods could use some work, “using the results of standardized tests is not a true indicator of how a teacher is doing,” she said.
“For instance, we have a lot of students coming up to the high school that are performing well below their grade level,” Bryant says. “Let’s say they’re performing at a 5th grade level when they get to the 9th grade, but by the end of the year, the teacher has brought them up to a 7th or 8th grade level. That is making wonderful progress, but that won’t be reflected in a standardized test. The standards aren’t a true test.”
Terry Crowe, Jonesborough Middle School principal, agreed that the 50 precent test score evaluation is unbalanced and suggested tracking student progress for at least three years.
“That way you can get a truer view of the student academic progress and all responsibility for their performance won’t land on one teacher,” he said.
Still, Bredesen is saying the time is right to bring student performance back to the table for teacher evaluation — a move, he says, which will offer Tennessee the opportunity to get its share of federal funds.
“Tennessee is really the envy of the national education community because we have one of the oldest and most robust databases of student performance anywhere in the country,” Bredesen said. “What we don’t do, however, is effectively use that information to help improve teacher quality and drive changes in the classrooms.”
The Bredesen administration is in negotiations with TEA to decide how much the data will be factored into teacher evaluation.

Bredesen’s plan:
–Use student performance data among the factors in deciding whether to grant tenure.
–Require student performance data to be used in evaluating teachers, accounting for at least half of the evaluation criteria.
–Require annual performance assessment of teachers.

County schools push back TCAPs

While the snow and cold gave Washington County students and their teachers several days off from school, some officials are concerned about the loss of instruction time needed to prepare for the upcoming Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAPs and year-end Gateway testing.
And partly to blame, the snow days will postpone the beginning of the TCAP testing.
TCAPS, which are currently scheduled for April 5, will be delayed until April 7, according to Director of Schools, Ron Dykes.
“We’re doing this because we can,” Dykes says. “We have the extra instruction time available in the schedule and we’re going to take it.”
With five days less instruction, Dykes says that he wants to give students a little more time to get ready for their tests.
“You know, we live and die by standardized tests anymore,” Dykes says. “The more days we can have to prepare, the better.”
“It puts us in a position to score higher. We strive for that all throughout the year. We are very protective of our instructional time.”
But, he adds, the only thing that overrides that is the safety of children.
“It is that and that alone that results in these inclement weather cancellations. We will never jeopardize student safety.”
Washington County has 13 built-in snow days. So far, only five days have been used.
But those missed days can be crucial, according to David Crockett High School principal, Carmen Bryant, who says she worries about the loss of valuable instructional days.
“Even though the high school doesn’t take the Gateway tests until the first week of May – I am still concerned, Bryant says.
“We started our new semester on January 4, and because of snow days, those classes that are just a semester-long – 18 weeks – haven’t even met yet. Those teachers still haven’t seen their students. That puts them a week behind already.
And as for the classes that are year-long?
“Those teachers are ready to come back to school,” Bryant says. “Especially the math teachers. They are always worried about being behind, so that is a serious concern.”
“When you’re out for Christmas break and come back, students’ minds are sort of shut down. It takes a few days to get things back to normal in the best of circumstances. But now, to come back and then miss a week of school – it’s going to hurt.”
Jonesborough Elementary School principal Lisa Lady, on the other hand, says she doesn’t think it’s time to “panic” yet.
“Our teachers do a phenomenal job,” Lady said. “And they have a complete ‘prescription’ of what they need to do in front of them. They know what is required to get the students ready for TCAPs.”
“But I hope we don’t miss any more school,” she adds. “If we do, we could have a problem.”

Beating the winter weather blues with Beulah

Beulah Maloney moved to Telford in 1942 and has lived there ever since. She lived through many storms and unusual weather events during all that time, but said she can’t remember a winter snow event that lingered like this recent one.
Maloney does recall a storm six or eight years ago though that produced at least six inches of snow that covered everything in sight and stayed on the ground for days.
“It was so heavy they had to get a ladder to get the snow off of the roof,” she said. “We were afraid the roof would cave in if we didn’t get it off. This time, it seems the snow has just kept on falling and has lingered on the ground even longer than usual.”
Maloney, who still has her driver’s license at the age of 91, said she doesn’t dare drive in the snow.
“I never have,” she said. “Well, I did once, when I worked at the Klopman Mills. It started snowing and I couldn’t stay over there, so I got one of the men to drive behind me all the way home. There’s not much you can do when you get caught out in it but try to make it home safely and once you are there, stay put.”
A dedicated member of the Telford United Methodist Church, Maloney has watched her town change over the years, and remembers Telford as a “nice little village” when she first moved there.
“Back then they kept the yards mowed, and the fences mended and painted,” Maloney said. “The porches and windows were kept clean and everybody had gardens with flowers and vegetables, but it’s not like that anymore.”
Maloney is one of seven children and was married for three decades before her husband died 40 years ago.
“I’m the only one left, and some times I wonder why I’m still here,” she said. “But I live for every day that I can get; I wouldn’t miss it for nothin’ in the world.”
Even the recent cold weather snap and never-ending snow haven’t dampened Maloney’s spirits.
“Don’t complain about the snow,” she quipped. “It’ll leave after a while.”

Weathering the storm

With 900 miles of roadways to maintain, Washington County Roads Superintendent Johnny Deakins has a big job to do every day of the year. Add the multiple inches of snow that fell throughout the last month, and it suddenly becomes an even larger job.
Deakins’ road crew includes 89 employees who help run 32 snow plows throughout the county during a snow event like the one last week.
However, the county doesn’t run plows at night and cannot pre-salt before a snowfall because there is not a budget for it, Deakins said.
“We have to wait until we know a snow event is coming,” he said. “We are reactive rather than proactive, and we pretty much have to play it by ear. But when we get three or four inches of snow falling in a day and laying on the ground, we are on the road with the plows.”
Similarly, the Town of Jonesborough’s reaction to a snow is determined by the “totality of the event,” according to Craig Ford, town operations manager.
“(Last Thursday night), the snow came late in the evening and was a dry snow,” Ford said. “Our crews spent all night pushing it and then spreading salt, but it wasn’t really effective until Friday. This week’s snowfall is packing, which causes a sheet of ice to form underneath and it is extremely dangerous. That’s when the salt really helps.”
Another winter storm, this one in December, had county, town and state crews scrambling to clean up the 8 to 9 inches of snow that blanketed the region’s roadways.
Deakins said his crew worked 32 hours straight, spreading a mixture of raw salt, additives and limestone in order to clear the county roads. The town’s crews also worked around the clock to keep the roads safe for driving. During the December storm, area highways like Interstate 26, which is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, saw road conditions that left motorists stranded for hours. The weather was so dangerous it even forced the local mall to shut its doors for a part of the weekend before Christmas.
“That snowfall on Dec. 18 was wet, deep and heavy and it caused tremedous problems,” Ford recalled. “We were overwhelmed with the number of accidents from that one. It was late Friday afternoon when that one hit. There was a lot of traffic on the road, and it turned bad really fast.”

Jonesborough company creates new ‘Germ Terminator’ for shopping carts

Lines of shopping carts rest only a few steps from the front entrance of supermarkets and department stores. Customers maneuver them from aisle to aisle, and by the time they’ve finished, shoppers have left more than just their fingerprints behind.
At the ETSU Innovation Laboratory, carts containing hidden viruses, pathogens, and other common germs enter one of the labs. Seconds later, they come out germ free.
Inside that room is the Germ Terminator, a new shopping cart sanitation system developed by Fleet Cleaning Supply, a company based in Jonesborough.
Though it is referred to as a “system,” the actual device occupies only 4×6 feet of floor space.
One might say it is similar to a small car wash, but the Germ Terminator doesn’t use water, soap, or other chemicals. Instead, it has four ultraviolet fixtures with a total of eight UV bulbs that do all the work.
Paul Stamm, chief financial officer for Fleet Cleaning Supply, describes the sanitation process as “simple.”
After the carts are gathered together, they are pushed through the Germ Terminator and expelled through a set of self-closing doors and are then ready for customer access.
“The unit provides the user with a germ-free cart in a matter of seconds,” said Fleet Chief Executive Officer Danny Glenn. “This green technology has no effect on environmental conditions.”
During the development phase of the device, faculty members from East Tennessee State University’s Department of Environmental Health tested and certified the carts and determined that the Germ Terminator kills 99.9 percent of all pathogens, viruses, molds, yeast, and algae.
The Germ Terminator is available for purchase, and a patent is pending. For more information, contact Fleet Cleaning Supply at (423) 753-4096 or 956-3450.

Fowler announces candidacy for County Clerk of Washington County

Tony Fowler announced his candidacy in the Republican primary for the office of County Clerk of Washington County.
Fowler is a lifelong resident of Washington County and currently lives in Telford with his wife, Darlene and their 5-year-old daughter, Terra.
He is a 1988 graduate of David Crockett High School.
Fowler served as a bail bondsman in the First Judicial District and is a licensed private investigator in Tennessee.
He currently serves as the regional sales manager of an automotive marketing and consulting firm.
“Having worked for the past 15 years in the automotive industry, I feel that I bring a wealth of experience to the County Clerk position,” Fowler said. “Being the general manager of a major automotive group brought the challenges of being responsible for various transactions concerning proper documentation, customer care, managing employees and keeping the company viable while working under a budget.”
Fowler said his experience has taught him that customer satisfaction is an important key to success.
“I will use my years of experience to serve the citizens of Washington County in the friendliest and most respectful way possible,” Fowler said. “I will also serve the citizens with professionalism and gratitude for enabling me to serve them as their county clerk. When elected I will be accessible at all times.”
The Republican primary is set for May 4.
Others who have picked up papers to run for the county clerk position include Sheila Haren, Ron England and Kathy Storey.

Proposed changes at Persimmon Ridge intersection include signal, gas station

A pair of plans for property near Persimmon Ridge Road could have its intersection with Highway 11-E seeing major changes if approved.
Last month, Town officials moved forward on a contract with the Tennessee Department of Transportation in which TDOT agrees to do $270,000 worth of safety improvements at the intersection of 11-E and Persimmon Ridge Road.
“This is a much-needed project, and as you may know, we are trying to develop an even better plan that will reduce safety issues with Ben Gamble Road and New Hope Road,” a Town report states. “Signalization is part of this project, which is much needed at the intersection.”
Plans are also in the works to align Ben Gamble Road and New Hope Road with Persimmon Ridge to help with safety issues.
Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said the Town has had discussions with the people who own property around the intersection about how their land will be affected.
The Town will most likely have to purchase the triangular piece of land at the corner of Ben Gamble, which officials have discussedwith the owner, Wolfe said.
On the other side of the intersection, at the northeast corner of New Hope Road and 11-E, is a piece of property that could also see changes if proposed plans for it move forward.
A convenience store and service station is proposed for the southwest corner of that lot. But first, the applicants – John Molder and Sonja Bailey – must get a permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation because putting a service station in the area, which is 0.094 acre, would require the relocation of a small tributary of Little Limestone Creek, a move which some Jonesborough residents are protesting.
“It is indeed a very small stream. I’ve walked it several times,” said local environmentalist Frances Lamberts. “It’s tiny and there is not year-round flow. Part of the channel is interrupted.”
But the issue, Lamberts said, is not the size of the stream, but its job in a larger water system.
“It contributes to a whole stream development there,” she said. “It’s part of the headwater of streams that confluence later, and it brings much-needed clean water to Little Limestone Creek, which has already had its burden of pollution.”
The TDEC document announcing a Jan. 7 public hearing on the permit describes “two unnamed tributaries,” and the one to be moved as “the westerly stream” with “little flow in a fairly straight channel with essentially no canopy.”
Of the westerly stream, 245 of its existing 285 feet would be moved into a new 310 feet of “meandering channel,” the TDEC document states.
Molder said he can’t really comment on the matter at hand, adding that the decision is in the state’s hands.
“We’re not moving a stream,” he said. “All it is, is runoff from a stream…People have misunderstood and thought it was a stream. We are relocating runoff.”
Wolfe noted that he and Town officials have seen no plans for any gas station, but he is aware there has been a request to alter part of the stream that runs through the property off Persimmon Ridge.
Whether to grant the property owners permission to alter the tributary’s path is a TDEC matter, and no part of that decision belongs to the Town, Wolfe said.
“At this point, until someone files a formal request with the Town, it’s not a matter we’re addressing,” Wolfe said.
The main impact may not necessarily come from the re-routing or re-engineering of the stream, but from covering up and putting asphalt over the 0.094 acre of wetland, Lamberts said.
She noted that from Headtown Road to Persimmon Ridge Road, approximately a 3.2 mile-stretch, there are seven gas stations, which equates to one every 80 yards.
Lamberts reiterated that the Town should have some say in what develops at that intersection.
“Fifty yards away, there are six acres ready to be developed,” she said. “If the Town could mediate, there must be some way to move the gas station across the road without an impact on the developer.”
It doesn’t look like the convenience store lot would be affected by any traffic signalization; in fact, the signal may make it easier and safer for traffic to get to the proposed gas station and convenience store.
“We have an obligation to look out for the safety and welfare of the people of Jonesborough,” Wolfe said. “Once plans are presented, which they have not been yet, we would be happy to assess the situation.”

But, to say the Town needs to stop this type of development at this point is “definitely premature,” he added.

“There’s obviously a concern over private property rights and the ability of folks to utilize the property however they want,” he said. “That needs to be kept in mind.”

Local author James uses storytelling background to write his suspense novels

When reading the Patrick Bowers’ novel series by local author Steven James, be warned: Don’t try to second guess him. He may make a move and catch you off guard.
Steven James is a tall, thoughtful man who expresses himself beautifully, so much so that one might never guess what is really going on under that calm exterior.
James is a writer of suspense novels, books filled with complicated situations and bloodthirsty characters. He is also an oral tradition storyteller with a master’s degree in fine art from East Tennessee State University. Storytelling influences his work, making it fast-paced, vibrant and full of imagery.
“My first degree taught me how to think, but my degree in storytelling taught me how to talk,” James said. He lives in this area, but travels extensively teaching writing and storytelling workshops, telling stories and gathering material for his suspense novels.
Believable, and sometimes horrid, characters strengthen his suspense novels. Some are so real that the hair on your neck may rise just thinking about them.
Standing beside those wretched fiends, however, are equally believable people you’ll want to know better — vulnerable characters who want to do right, but find themselves tempted to join the other side at times — all stuff right out of the world of storytelling, which is not just for children.
“Storytelling for me is creating characters that you can care about,” James said. “The struggle is to find balance. My characters are multidimensional people who need to solve both their internal and external problems and I want them to grow into people you can identify with.”
Consider Pat Bowers, the protagonist in the series. Bowers is an FBI criminalist whose knowledge of state-of-the-art law enforcement technique elevates him to an elite status in the world of crime investigation.
He’s also a widower and step-dad to a daughter he loves but barely knows. It’s all very complicated, but when Pat Bowers is on the scene, everything will turn out alright.
“The things that make a great story are characters we want to see overcome struggle,” James said. “I always try to create characters that I care about and want to see succeed, then I take them deeper into the situation they are dealing with. The resolution is a surprise.
“These books (the Patrick Bowers series,) are about death, good and evil,” he said. “But they are also about relationships. I try to keep them believable and still surprise the reader. My task is to climb into the characters, even the antagonists, get to know them and get back out.”
Read about the series, which includes The Pawn, The Rook, and The Knight, which came out last month,at The Bishop will be on the shelves in 2010, adding to James’ interesting lineup of 25 publications.
James will teach a ‘weekend of in-depth instruction and manuscript critique’ at Emmanuel School of Religion February 25-28. The workshop will accept only ten writers, so if you have a novel in the works and want some up close and personal advice, go to for more information.

County must replace road signs by 2015

By Kate Prahlad
Assistant Editor
Washington County will have to spend around $200,000 on a federal unfunded mandate to replace the county’s 10,000 road signs by 2015.
The current signs will either have to be replaced, or refaced, in order to make them a higher reflectivity, said Johnny Deakins, superintendent of the Washington County Highway Department.
“I guess they got a panel of people together who decided since the population was getting older in the United States that signs needed to be seen better at night at a longer distance,” Deakins said.
By 2010, the majority of the U.S. population will be 45 years and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
All states that receive federal funding have to replace the road and street signs with higher-visibility ones by 2015, and all street-name signs must be replaced by 2017.
3M is the only company that makes the high-reflectivity signs, Deakins said.
“We can reface old signs,” Deakins said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of that.”
In November, the county transferred $76,000 to the County Highway Department to pay for the sign replacements in two county zones. There are five total zones in the county.
“We’ve got three zones left to do,” he said. “[For replacements in the next three zones], it’s going to cost us around $200,000 to $225,000.”
Replacement should start in early 2010, he said.

ACS offers scholarships for young survivors

Young cancer survivors preparing for higher education may be eligible for scholarships from the Mid-South Division of the American Cancer Society.
The Society’s Mid-South Division will award $1,000 scholarships to eligible individuals who have fought cancer and are attending an accredited university, college or vocational/technical school.
Awards for the 2010-2011 academic year will be announced in April 2010.
“Childhood cancer survivors have faced incredible challenges,” said Angel Strange, quality of life director for the Mid-South Division of the American Cancer Society. “Awarding these scholarships is our way of helping the students to build a promising future.”
To be eligible, applicants must be under 25, have had a cancer diagnosis before age 19 and be a resident of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, or Floyd or Clark counties in Indiana and a United States citizen.
Candidates must also have a GPA of at least 2.5 or GED equivalent and been accepted to an accredited school.
Since 2001 the American Cancer Society Mid-South Division has provided more than 1,500 college scholarships to childhood cancer survivors.
Through this program, the American Cancer Society has invested more than $1.5 million back into our local communities.
Applications must be postmarked on or before February 1, 2010, for consideration for the upcoming academic year.
Scholarships will be awarded based on financial need, leadership, academic achievement and community service.
For more information on the scholarship program or to obtain an application, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit