For one Jonesborough artist, her love of nature is really TAKING ROOT

As a child, Jonesborough artist Peggy Root wanted to be a forest ranger or park naturalist. But she quickly discovered her passion wasn’t in talking about the natural world — it was in painting it.
Root grew up in South Florida, so when the opportunity to attend the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota came her way, she went, but she didn’t take it seriously at first.
“I come from an artistic family. My father is a painter,” Root said. “I didn’t want to follow his profession, but when I got in school and began to work in the various mediums, it felt right to me.”
Root is conscious of the place she is painting, especially since some of those places are hard to reach, very cold and sometimes rugged. But during successive two-hour sessions, that place begins to take shape under her brush, almost as a meditation, and she works quickly to capture the light and the experience of a moment on her canvas.
“I have always painted outside,” Root said. “I can’t get enough of being out with nature. Every day it is so different, and I want the viewer of my paintings to relate to the mood of what I have seen.”
When Root is working outside, she said she is constantly thinking about “the artistic elements of what I am committing to the canvas.”
“Those things are very specific, but if I am painting a Beech tree, the shape of that tree should reflect its natural form as well as what my eye sees,” she said.
Root has spent the past 30 years painting the landscape of the Eastern United States. Her artwork hangs in museums, businesses and homes all over America. For the last 17 years, she and her husband, artist Tom Root, have lived and painted in Jonesborough.
One of their collaborative efforts is the mural of Historic Jonesborough that hangs at the Historic Visitors Center.
“When I was pregnant with my son, my husband Tom and I painted the mural behind the counter,” she said. “He did the technical drawing and perspective, and when he was done, I filled it in. Together, we added the details that give it the special feeling that is Jonesborough.”
Peggy Root’s paintings of Jonesborough and the area surrounding including Telford, and Bowmanton/Leesburg, are on exhibit at the Johnson City Area Arts Council Gallery through Feb. 26. At Home, as the exhibit is called, represents some of Root’s ongoing experiments in open-air painting and showcases her ability to work in oil directly from life on location.
“The paintings represent my daily wanderings in and around our beautiful region,” Root said. “I am blessed to be able do this work. It is my refuge.”
Root will give a talk on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at the JC Area Arts Council gallery, which is located at 300 E. Main Street in downtown Johnson City. There, she will discuss the works on display and show additional pieces from her collections.
Her work can also be viewed online at
For more information, contact the JC Area Arts Council at (423) 928-9229 or visit its website at

Projects underway in downtown Jonesborough

Work on the public restrooms behind Jonesborough’s Main Street courthouse continues and Town officials expect the facilities to be up and running by spring.
As of last week, employees were laying one set of block on the bathrooms and when that task is done, will put the roof on, said Mayor Kelly Wolfe.
“Then they’ll begin working on the inside,” he said. “It looks like we’re on track to finish by the end of March.”
Town employees are also digging several ditches for underground utilities for both the bathrooms and parking lot lights, which will provide more decorative lighting as well as added security and aesthetics, Wolfe said.
When temperatures start to warm up, and the threat of snow finally vanishes, the next step for the courthouse renovation project will be paving the parking lot, laying curb and beginning landscaping.
Another Town project, the conversion of the old Booker T. Washington School into the McKinney Center, is moving along with some help from the state.
Town Administrator Bob Browning and Wolfe traveled to Nashville last week to meet with officials about a $100,000 Community Development Block Grant to make the school/arts center energy efficient as it is renovated.
The money, from stimulus funds, will go toward geothermal heat and air systems, energy efficient windows, and some insulation of solar shingles.
The Town is planning an “open house” at the school in a couple of weeks so those interested can see the interior, now that it is all cleaned out, Wolfe said.
After that, “we’ve got to come up with a layout based on what we’re going to do in there,” Wolfe said. “And we’ve got to find a funding mechanism.”

Town could get state grant money for continued sewer improvements

Jonesborough could get a little help funding its much needed sewer improvements.
Officials from the Town met with federal officials in Nashville last week to discuss the possibility of a loan-matching grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Mayor Kelly Wolfe.
“We met with the folks from Rural Development, and it looks like they’re leaning towards funding our sewer project for us,” Wolfe said. “That’s a pretty big deal to match that. If we borrow $4 million, we could get close to $2 million in a grant.”
The project would expand Jonesborough’s maximum capacity at its sewer plant and aims to fix any sewer overflow or effluent violations the Town has been experiencing.
In the past, Jonesborough has seen violations from heavy rain flow. The design capability of the facility is around 500,000 gallons, an amount that allows Jonesborough to treat the wastewater thoroughly. However, Jonesborough’s plant now averages over 700,000 gallons a day. With a higher ongoing flow, it is harder to meet treatment requirements, Town officials have said.
But the Town is capped at 500,000 gallons a day into Little Limestone Creek. As the town grows, it will have to deal with more sewage, but it can’t expand its connections until it has the capacity to deal with more gallons per day.
The Town has asked to move its outfall, or discharge permit, to the Nolichucky River, which can handle more than 500,000 gallons a day.
“It’s a matching grant of around 40 to 45 percent of what we’re going to borrow,” Wolfe said. “It could mean significant savings for the Jonesborough taxpayers.”

Former Herald & Tribune owner Jim Allen passes away

Local businessman, entrepreneur and former owner of the Herald & Tribune, James Allen, 81, of Johnson City, died Monday, Jan. 25 at his residence.
A native of Wetumpka, Ala., Allen had lived in Johnson City since 1954. He bought Griffith Motors and operated it until 1984 and also formed Southeastern Tile Distributors. He was one of the founders of Emersons Restaurants, having 43 restaurants in 16 states at one time.
Former business partner Bill Breeden, who once was co-owner of the Herald & Tribune with Allen, described him as “a fine person.”
“We worked together for 10 years,” Breeden said. “He was always fair and honest with me. I thought an awful lot of him. I always enjoyed his company.”
The two met when they were members of the same Sunday School class at Central Baptist Church in Johnson City. Breeden, who sold advertising for the Johnson City Press-Chronicle, also remembers calling on Allen at his car dealership.
“One day I was there, and somebody came in and laid a copy of the Herald & Tribune on his desk. I said, ‘boy, I’d really like to own that newspaper’. He looked at me and said, ‘o.k., why don’t we buy it?’”
It wasn’t long after that, Breeden said, they approached then-owner, Tim Pridgen, who sold it to them. The two co-owned the paper from 1961 until 1970 when Breeden bought Allen out and became sole owner.
In addition to his business endeavors, Allen was the Campaign Manager for Ray Blanton in his term as governor. He was a Founder/Director of Mountain Empire Bank. He served as a Director of the Chamber of Commerce, Johnson City Industrial Committee, Johnson City Country Club, United Way, American Legion Little League, The Civitan Club, President of the Pirate Club, member of the ETSU Foundation and Presidents Trust. He was an integral member of the establishment of ETSU Medical School and the ETSU Allen Family Scholarship.
Survivors include: four sons, Mike Allen, Keith Allen and Madison Allen, all of Johnson City, and Ronnie Allen, of Greenville, SC; his ex-wife, Jean Hackbarth, of Johnson City; three sisters, Mary Cox, of Durham, NC, Louise Petrusnek, of Tuscaloosa, AL, and Nell Roberts, of Tuscumbia, AL; six grandsons, Jordan Allen, Mitch Allen, Shae Allen, Lacey Allen, Whitney Allen and Nick Allen.
Memorials may be sent to The Mac Foundation, 27 Kershaw Court, Greenville, SC 29607 (
Online condolences may be sent to the Allen family via Morris-Baker Funeral Home and Cremation Service, 2001 Oakland Avenue, Johnson City, TN. 423-282-1521

Food in the Fa(s)t Lane: What you need to know to stay healthy

We hear it all the time — Americans are getting fatter by the minute. And while fast food may not be the only reason for obesity in the country, there is evidence that it has a lot to do with it.
Last week, the Johnson City Medical Center’s Health Resources Center Annex at the Johnson City mall was filled with folks concerned about their health. Some were diabetic, others had high blood pressure and heart disease, while still others wanted to learn more about how to live in a fast-paced society without destroying their health.
“My husband Will and I are missionaries,” said LeAnn Vinson, who attended the Food in the Fast Lane lecture. “We travel frequently, and we are interested in making healthier food choices.”
According to Jessica Gourley, the registered dietitian who led the discussion, there are at least 300,000 fast food restaurants in the country, all dedicated to helping Americans get food in a hurry. But what individuals may be trading for the convenience of fast food is their health, Gourley said.
“We all eat out, and fast food restaurants are on just about every street corner,” Gourley said. “Being able to make the right decisions about what you eat can be very important to your health.”
In addition to other issues surrounding fast food, the serving sizes offered up at such restaurants tend to be much larger than an appropriate serving size and contain more sodium and fat than a normal serving. This, Gourley said, leads to overeating.
“You need calories just to sit and listen, and they are in just about everything we eat,” Gourley said. “But if we eat more than we use, it gets stored as fat.”
While overeating can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many other health issues, Gourley said it is not necessary to skip eating out altogether — as long as individuals can make informed choices when they order.
According to Gourley, there are some simple ways to make better decisions when ordering fast food. Instead of a double cheeseburger, order a regular hamburger, she said. Also, skip the super-sized options for fries and a drink and you will have cut those excessive calories down from 1,800 to 625 in just one meal, she said.
Other tips include ordering a side salad instead of fries, using only half of the salad dressing packet provided, skipping out on condiments like mayonnaise and ketchup, and using the size of a hand to determine portion sizes.
To help with temptation, Gourley suggested knowing what you are going to order before you reach the window, and keeping your eyes off the fat-filled menu board.

Former Washington County businesswoman arrested, charged with sales tax fraud

The Special Investigations Section of the Tennessee Department of Revenue conducted the investigation that led to the indictment and subsequent arrest of Christa Dawn Hess, 38, for sales tax fraud.
On Jan. 27, Hess, former owner of Stop-N-Go/Gas Haus, located in Johnson City, was arrested by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
On Jan. 11, 2010, the Washington County Grand Jury returned an 18 count indictment for evasion of sales tax in violation of Tenn. Code Ann. Section 67-1-1440(g), a Class E felony. The indictment charged Hess intentionally failed to report sales tax totaling $16,045.95 to the state from March 2004 through Sept. 2005.
“The Department of Revenue promotes voluntary taxpayer compliance by educating taxpayers, aggressively pursuing criminal sanctions and demanding accountability when taxpayers engage in fraudulent activity,” said Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr. “This investigation underscores our department’s ongoing efforts to enforce Tennessee’s tax laws.”
If convicted, Hess could be sentenced to a maximum of two years in the state penitentiary and fined $3,000 for each count.
This case was pursued criminally by the department in cooperation with District Attorney General Tony Clark’s Office. Citizens who suspect violations of Tennessee’s revenue laws should call the toll-free tax fraud hot line at (800) FRAUDTX (372-8389).

From the Hill: Lawmakers face budget balancing act

Contributed by Jonesborough’s State Rep. Matthew Hill
The 106th General Assembly resumed normal business last week, as we adjourned the Extraordinary Session. Committees held organizational meetings, heard testimony from department heads, and completed unfinished business held over from study committees. Monday, February 1, we heard the Governor’s budget proposal at a joint convention. The Finance, Ways and Means Committee and Budget Subcommittee will hold budget hearings Tuesday and Wednesday to update legislators on the newest numbers.
The state is facing an unprecedented projected revenue deficit of roughly $1 billion. Because the Tennessee General Assembly is constitutionally mandated to pass a balanced budget, lawmakers will face extraordinary challenges. In October, Tennessee fiscal analysts said $1.1 billion in baseline budget reductions will likely need to be made in order to keep the state finances afloat.
The 2009-10 budget, passed in June of 2009, anticipated revenue growth of approximately one percent, but revenues have been falling short of that mark. The most recent revenue numbers show a continual decline, meaning that for a record 19 months, Tennessee has seen negative revenue growth. Economists are saying that general fund tax revenues could be down to about $8.5 billion for this year, compared to $10.3 billion in the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
When the Governor presents his budget to the legislature this week, lawmakers expect to hear a call for departments to make 6 to 9 percent more in reductions. Overall, cuts of approximately $500 million to $750 million will need to be made in order to balance the budget.
Education and corrections will probably not be on the chopping block, and Republicans have said that departmental reserve accounts should not be tapped to cover recurring expenses. Most legislators do not want to drain the entire Rainy Day Fund, which currently stands at approximately $525 million.
The State Funding Board recently adopted preliminary budget estimates in December, and legislators will likely hear them this week during budget hearings giving lawmakers a better snapshot of the budget hole it is facing.
The Board will likely revise the estimate in late March or early April, as opposed to its practice of meeting in May, hopefully allowing the General Assembly to finish earlier in the year.
The Unemployment Trust Fund will once again be a significant issue early in the 2010 legislative session. Despite a $140 million infusion of federal stimulus funds into the system in 2009, the fund continues toward insolvency. If the state incurs a deficit, it will likely require a bridge loan from the federal government until the legislature can make other provisions in the Unemployment Trust Fund.
The legislature voted last year to save Tennessee’s Unemployment Trust Fund from federal intervention, saying that the move was necessary to keep the federal government from completely taking over the nearly insolvent fund.
The fund was approaching insolvency after the state unemployment rate jumped to 10 percent in 2009, and with the continuously rising percentage of Tennesseans out of work, the fund is being drained of resources.
The House Transportation Committee passed a bill that places certain contractual restrictions on local governments who utilize traffic cameras.
The move comes after months of study committee meetings examining the use of traffic cameras in communities across the state. The committee voted unanimously this week requiring contracts between local governments and companies operating the traffic cameras to contain a provision that requires the contract to be changed when state law is changed. Lawmakers are anticipating legislation this year that will restrict the use of traffic cameras in some way, or at least lessen their impact. Several legislators have already filed bills on the subject, ranging from the elimination of the cameras to reductions in fee payments.
I am looking forward to seeing each of you at one of my upcoming town hall meetings. I have two planned, February 11, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Cranberry Thistle on Main Street in Jonesborough. And February 12, 5:30-7 p.m. at Telford Diner on Mill Street in Telford. Please come out on share your concerns about the issues facing our State and community.

Jilton to seek re-election as Register of Deeds

Washington County Register of Deeds Ginger Jilton announced she will seek reelection in the Republican Primary on May 4.
Jilton has worked in the Register of Deeds office since 1974, served as chief deputy of the office for more than 20 years and has held the Register of Deeds position for the past three terms.
In 2008, Jilton implemented an e-filing system that enables the office to receive and record instruments by e-mail, to help accommodate the public. According to Jilton, she and her staff have finished scanning and indexing all documents of the last 46 years, which allows the documents available to be viewed on the Internet. Jilton is now in the process of indexing the oldest books of record the office, beginning in 1783.
If re-elected, Jilton has plans to finish scanning and indexing all the remaining years of records in the office.
“I am courteous, conscientious, cooperative and responsible to all who seek the services of my office,” Jilton said. “My door is always open and I invite those who are interested to come and visit with me and my staff.”
Born in Washington County, Jilton attended Lamar High School and completed business and real estate courses at East Tennessee State University. She is on the Washington County Republican Executive Committee, is a member of the Federation of Republican Women, charter member of the Tennessee Registers Association and a member of the Jonesborough Kiwanis Club.
Jilton is the mother of two daughters, Regina Jilton-Christensen of Johnson City, and Robin Jilton-Nagy, of New York, and the grandmother of Jackson and Ava Naga, also of New York.


The Daniel Boone High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC program hosted its thirteenth Annual JROTC Drill Invitational at the school’s campus on Saturday.
Competitions in platoon drill, squad drill, inspection, color guard, and individual and dual exhibitions took place all day at the school.
Twenty-five JROTC teams from Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina representing all four branches of the military attended, making this event the largest of its type in the Southeastern United States.
Above, the David Crockett High School Navy ROTC undergoes inspection.

Storey announces candidacy for county clerk position

Washington County Chief Deputy Clerk and office manager Kathy Storey has announced her candidacy for the office of Washington County Clerk in the May Republican primary election.
Storey is a lifelong resident of Washington County and lives in Johnson City in the Cherokee community. She is an active member of the Embreeville Church of Christ and has taught Sunday school and served in various capacities.
Storey is a 1969 graduate of Lamar High School and was Vice-President of the senior class and the Beta Club. She was also involved in Youth in Government. She is a 1973 graduate of East Tennessee State University and received a B.S. degree in Business Management.
She previously worked as a staff accountant for five years at a local accounting firm.
“The skills and accounting principles I learned while working there have proven invaluable,” Storey said. “I was hired by former County Clerk Roy Phillips as the accountant for the County Clerk’s office and then became office manager under the direction of County Clerk Doyle Cloyd. Both were great mentors, distinguished and personable.”
Storey has served as deputy clerk and accountant for the past 28 years. The last 16 years, she has served as Chief Deputy and office manager.
“I am responsible for reconciling the monies collected for vehicle titles and registrations, sales tax, business and marriage licenses, notary applications, various permits and then disbursing the appropriate fees to the State of Tennessee and the County Trustee,” Storey said. “ I have enjoyed helping people with title and registration problems over the years and have tried to treat them with the highest degree of courtesy and professionalism.”
If elected Storey said she will serve in “a very courteous and professional way.”
Others who have picked up papers to run for the county clerk position include Sheila Haren, Ron England, Scott Hyatt and Tony Fowler.

Ford, Flanary announce plans to run for same state legislature seat

After running unopposed in 2008, State Rep. Dale Ford now has a challenger in the 2010 race for the 6th District seat.
Kevin Flanary, a 38-year-old Jonesborough native and 1990 graduate of Daniel Boone High School, has announced his candidacy for the seat.
Flanary’s newcomer status is an “advantage” to him, Flanary said in a phone interview, and he cited his strong leadership skills from his service in the U.S. Army and as an officer in a supermax prison facility.
Ford, a Jonesborough native, has held the seat for four years. He served in the U.S. Army from 1959-1968, and was an umpire for Major League Baseball from 1974-2001.
Ford plans to pick up his papers to file this week, he said.
Flanary, who has never held office before, said the economy was one reason he decided to run.
“We’ve got a runaway economy right now and no one’s putting the brakes on it,” he said. “We need to stop the endless spending going on.”
Both Ford and Flanary touched on education as a “hot topic” in Nashville, and both mentioned giving power in the classrooms back to the teachers.
“There needs to be less government involvement in education and teachers need to be compensated for children showing improvement, rather than raises according to test grades,” Flanary said.
Ford also spoke of a need for improvement in
improve,” Ford said. “I don’t think the system will ever be what it could be unless we give control of classrooms back to teachers. I don’t want to do anything unfair to them. They’re dedicated and we don’t pay them as much as we should.”
While Flanary said he commends Ford for bringing water to Washington County residents, he said Nashville needs more new ideas.
One of his ideas is to start “public service announcements” that promote tourism in the area, and also draw businesses in with low taxes.
Flanary is opposed to the state income tax and is for keeping taxes low to attract more businesses into the Tri-Cities.
“I think the candidates with the best ideas should be leading the way,” Flanary said. “I don’t like money being an issue in campaigns.”
Ford said his work should show constituents what he’s capable of.
“I feel like I’ve done a good job, especially with the water projects and road projects that no one thought I would ever get,” Ford said. “I worked super, super hard. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. But it’s the most rewarding.”
If he wins, Ford said his goals are to make sure everyone in the district has access to utility water as well as do several more road projects such as bridge work and road widenings.
“I want to make sure when I’m done that our roads are in better shape,” he said.
Flanary served 20 years in the U.S. Army/Reserve with combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a 2009 ETSU graduate, and works as graduate assistant in criminal justice advisement at ETSU while pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice.
He is married to April Flanary and they have four children.
Ford has five children with his wife, Joyce.

County commission endorses Town ‘Courthouse Square’ zone

The Courthouse Square Revitalization and Tourist Development Zone that could result in $400,000 of annual sales tax revenue for the Town of Jonesborough was endorsed by the Washington County Commission on Monday.
“What we have here is a great opportunity,” said Town Mayor Kelly Wolfe, appearing before the commissioners to urge passage of the resolution for the zone. “Jonesborough has struggled to interest the state (in providing tourism dollars).”
If approved by the Tennessee Legislature, the act submitted by the town would provide a method by which the state portion of sales tax generated in the district would be returned to the town for projects in Jonesborough.
State Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) is the sponsor of the pending legislation that includes properties located within approximately 700 feet of the county’s courthouse on Main Street in Jonesborough, plus a public arts facility identified at the meeting as the former Booker T. Washington School.
According to Wolfe, various proposals have been made to get the state to provide more development dollars to the area, including a suggestion that a state park be established.
While the state park idea has been abandoned, suggestions made in an Interpretive Master Plan for Historic Jonesborough as well as in a Branding, Development and Marketing Action Plan indicate the need for major improvements within the zone for which the revenue could be used.
Those include improvements to the Jonesborough Visitors Center, development of a new Visitor Center annex and history museum adjacent to the 1779 Chester Inn, moving the Christopher Taylor Log House to a more suitable location, acquisition and restoration of the Jackson Theater, and the development of a Preservation Field School and a World of Stories Plaza at the International Storytelling Center.
Other possible uses of funding would include the restoration and development of interpretive areas in the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School, placement of interpretation panels in the downtown historic district, important landscaping improvements, and development of a Railroad Museum in partnership with the Watauga Valley Railroad Association.
“Jonesborough has a tourism base that is unique,” Mayor Wolfe continued in saying that the development zone would be a further example of County and Town cooperative projects. He cited the construction of rest room facilities and improvement of the parking lot behind the Downtown Courthouse as projects underway that will benefit both governmental entities.
The act as now proposed will not involve any money from the county budget and educational funds in the tax collections will go to Washington County Schools. When asked if the State of Tennessee had agreed to the diversion of the sales tax money, Wolfe answered that “No, convincing the state is about to begin.” He told commissioners that Tennessee has funded six Courthouse Square Revitalization Zones, none of which are located in Northeast Tennessee. Their vote Monday he said endorses the idea of allowing Jonesborough to receive sales tax revenue.
In other commission items, Washington County Schools Director Ron Dykes said work on gym floors at Jonesborough and Boones Creek Schools have been completed and that work is underway on the school roof in Gray. Construction on a new roof at David Crockett High School should begin soon. Dykes told the County Commission that Tennessee may receive as much as $500 million in Stimulus funds because of the “Race to the Top” bill passed recently at a special session of the state legislature. Of this amount, he expects that Washington County would receive $2.8 million for a Title I program and $1.5 million for “at risk” resources. Notification of the amount of the funding is expected to occur in April or May. Commissioner Paul F. Woodby told Dykes in closing that: “I expect you to tow the line (on costs).” Woodby commented that the County Commission had done all it could to meet the funding demands of the school system.
Resolutions were enacted that permit the Tri-Cities Regional Airport to accept grants for projects and asking the Tennessee Department of Transportation to serve Interstates 26 and 81 with “HELP” trucks for the next six months due to the closure of Interstate 40 as the result of a rock slide near Asheville, N.C..
In obtaining approval of the Health Department’s report, County Mayor George Jaynes said moving is underway to the department’s new facility. Also approved was a contract approving the paying of $450 per day for adult or juvenile court ordered evaluations conducted by the State of Tennessee. Failure to approve the contract would have resulted in a per diem assessment of $900.
In a County Attorney’s Report, John Rambo told commissioners he needed authorization to exempt the county from the Blind Commissary provisions of Tennessee law. Sheriff Ed Graybeal agreed that the County currently has a superior delivery system for prisoners needs than those offered by the state at an expenditure of $100,000. The commission approved seeking the exemption to resolve a dispute with the state that has continued for nearly six years.
Health care for county employees cost $5.1 million for insurance during 2008-2009, according to the Commercial, Industrial & Agricultural report given by Commissioner Frank Bolus. He urged the commission to consider some future funding for the Arts Council and Hands On Children’s Museum. The disposal of the Downtown Center Courthouse in Johnson City was a concern of Commissioner Mark Hicks, Jr. Mayor Jaynes told Hicks he could pursue an effort to find out whether The City of Johnson City is interested in purchasing the building. The Mayor said he was going to have a sign made and posted at the site stating the building was “For Future Sale.”
Each commissioner received a thick, multi-page Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. The report will be discussed at the commission’s next monthly meeting.
Several fund transfers were authorized Monday including $170,000 from unbudgeted revenue received from the County for paving for the Town of Jonesborough. The funds will be allotted as follows: $120,000 for asphalt purchases, $40,000 for rock and $10,000 for fuel oil purchased by the Highway Department. In addition, the department received $25,000 from their fund balance to purchase more salt that might be needed to combat adverse winter conditions affecting county roads.
The Commission voted an additional appropriation of $25,000 to the Animal Control Center to match funding from Johnson City. Commissioner Mark Ferguson urged the Control Center to check out locations in commercial areas of the city for a new animal shelter. Ferguson said he has read material that indicates animals at shelters are more likely to be adopted if the facilities are located in places that receive a lot of traffic from residents.
“Victoria Lee Way” was accepted into the county road system by commission action Monday. The road is 1,230 feet long beginning at A.A. Deakins Road and stopping at a dead end.

Crockett student arrested for pill distribution, others suspended

An 18-year-old student at David Crockett High School was arrested last week after police say she distributed drugs to several students at the school.
Five other students were suspended and are facing disciplinary hearings for their alleged involvement in the incident.
Britney N. Yoakley, 689 Stage Coach Road, was charged with possession of Schedule IV drugs for resale on Jan. 20, after school administrators alerted Crockett’s school resource officer to the possibility that Yoakley had brought narcotics onto campus and was distributing them to other students.
Yoakley was brought to the school’s main office, where authorities say they found her in possession of 74 Alaprazolam tablets, commonly known as Xanax. The prescription drug is typically used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
According to police, Yoakley gave the drug to eight different students before she was caught. Of those, four seniors and a sophomore have been suspended and are awaiting disciplinary hearings to determine their punishments, said Assistant Director of Schools James Murphy.
In order to suspend students in cases of drug allegations, Murphy said the school system must satisfy one of three stipulations: the contraband was found on the student, a staff member observed the student with drugs or the student confessed to having drugs.
All students to whom Yoakley allegedly gave Xanax were located and checked by medical personnel following the incident, authorities said.
According to Director of Schools Ron Dykes, at least one of the students had taken the drug by the time authorities learned of the situation. Authorities believe a handful of the kids had taken the pills by the time they were checked by medical staff.
Parents of those students involved were notified and met with police to assist with the investigation.
Authorities believe Yoakley got the pills from the medicine cabinet at her home where there were several old prescriptions belonging to Yoakley’s mother.
“Every once in a while, when a school system is policing their schools like they ought to, they’re going to find prescription pills that kids manage to get out of a medicine cabinet or somewhere like that,” Murphy said. “The Washington County school system addresses every situation we find, no matter how big or small. We want our children to be in an environment that is pill free.”
Yoakley, who was brought to the Washington County Detention Center and held on a $50,000 bond, was scheduled to make a court appearance late last week.
The five suspended students were scheduled to have disciplinary hearings within 10 days of their suspension.

A different kind of car ‘restoration’

Most people use their voice, or perhaps a pen, to tell their story. Not Rob Honeycutt.
Instead, Honeycutt tells his life story through his car — a vintage 1951 Chevrolet Styleline 2-door that he has named the ‘BR-51.’
“Jonesborough’s known for storytelling and this is my storyboard,” Honeycutt said, pointing to the vehicle. “I just pieced it together into a collage.”
Considered a ‘Rat Rod,’ which is a car that is generally stripped down to the bare bones and then suited up to match the owner’s attitude on life, Honeycutt’s low-riding BR-51 boasts a rust color that makes an ‘in your face’ statement right up front.
“Rat Rods can be built out of all kinds of things and they don’t have to be shiny. There can be rust, and it’s definitely a cheaper form of the traditional Hot Rod, and maybe a little more original,” said Honeycutt, a Johnson City native and graduate of Science Hill High School. “Rat Rods are the opposite of Hot Rods. They go against the grain.”
Honeycutt’s car has no siblings — it’s a one-of-a-kind, wacky work of art that you can’t look at without taking a second glance.
Powered by a 350 Chevy engine, it is carefully distressed and rusted clean through in some places, but that’s not from neglect. Virtually no surface on the BR-51 has been left untouched, adding a certain patina to what appears to be rust.
Two surfboards, one with a big bite taken out of it (Honeycutt tells people a catfish did it) adorn the roof of the car, and there are cane fishing poles with lures attached to the sides.
“I like to tell folks it’s a Hillbilly Surfer because my wife is from Florida and I’m from Tennessee,” he said. “I brought her up here and turned her into a hillbilly.”
A surfer doll riding a wooden wave that looks for all the world like the tail of a dragon, serves as the hood ornament, and a metal cluster of wheat taken from a defunct coffee table found in a dump is planted where the radio’s antenna used to be.
All of the lettering and artwork on the car’s exterior was done by hand with a spray can, right down to its Hillbilly Surfer Shop logo, which is an extremely stylized adaptation of a Mountain Dew soda label.
Meanwhile, the interior is classic tacky with hibiscus floral print side panels, and burlap feed sacks, purchased on EBay, for seat covers. Hawaiian hula dolls dance in the rear window and a comic painted piece of bamboo sits on a venerable wooden glider in the back.
“It didn’t have a back seat and I thought a glider would be fun,” Honeycutt said. “That was (a friend’s) grandmother’s porch glider. I used all of it – I like to recycle.”
Just like all the flavor he’s added to his Chevy ‘51, Honeycutt named his unique car after much thought and research.
“I was going through some old Science Hill annuals from ’49, ’50 and ’51, and found out there was a Sievers Bakery here with a ‘BR’ telephone number, and then the ’51 is for the year of the car,” he explained. “Of course, there’s Jr. Samples’ BR-549 number from the old Hee Haw TV show, and then there’s Bad Rat, or Big Rob or Bad Rob . . .”
Honeycutt said he enjoys doing “the opposite of what most folks would do” when it comes to restoring old cars.
“You can’t be stuck-up drivin’ a car like this,” he said. “I think the most fun I’ve had with it was at Daytona Beach when I got to drive it on the beach. There’s five thousand cars down there. I can park it next to a mint condition Corvette and the crowds will be around the BR-51 because there’s only one of these. My wife says it’s almost embarrassing the crowds that gather around it.”

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.

Jonesborough OKs speed tables, drainage pipes

At its Jan. 11 meeting, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the installation of five speed tables on South Cherokee Street, hoping the move would reduce speeding and accidents on the road.
Accidents are common occurences at the intersection of South Cherokee and Woodrow Avenue, with motorists coming down the hill too fast and sliding into the guardrail, Town documents stated. Residents of the street also say speeders make it impossible or extremely dangerous to back or pull out of their driveways, according to the report.
One improvement the Town has already made is to put in skid-resistant asphalt, said Mayor Kelly Wolfe.
There have been no accidents on South Cherokee since the special asphalt was put in, said Jonesborough Police Major Matt Rice.
Still, officials decided more measures needed to be taken to reduce accidents.
With the approval of the speed tables, the BMA also approved the option to add more if needed, as well as the installation of an island just north of Green’s Hill subdivision, and the lowering the speed limit on South Cherokee and install signs.
Aldermen Mary Gearhart and Terry Countermine voted to approve, with Alderman Chuck Vest voting against the measure because of the number of speed tables.
He said he thought the number would irritate residents who had to go over the tables often.
“It’s not that hard to take them out if the locals are unhappy,” said Town Administrator Bob Browning.
Also at the meeting, the Town voted to proceed with a plan to improve drainage along McCoy Circle and Louise Lane.
Over the past few months, residents of those two streets have been coming before the BMA to voice concerns about drainage issues.
One main drainage ways for that area come through under Jackson Boulevard across from the car wash near the east entrance of McCoy Circle, and the other comes from under Jackson in front of Jonesborough Elementary School near the west entrance to the circle.
Recent large volumes of rain have brought those concerns to a head, especially with the drainage way that comes from the car wash area. Water from the Lowe’s and McCoy property come down this drainage way.
Because of the rains and the detention pond at Lowe’s (which was inspected and found to have no defects), water held in the pond is let out over a longer period of time.
“While it helps with the front-end volume, the multi-day flow of water after the rains have stopped can be aggravating,” a Town report said.
In the circle, the drainage way passes in front of a number of houses, where water often stands and makes it hard to care for lawns.
After Town officials and engineers examined the property, it was proposed that an 8-inch tile pipe be laid in the drainage way, and two of three 12-inch pipes in the curve under McCoy Circle be replaced with ones of better material.
But to go through with the plan, the Town must get property owners to sign easements to work on private property, an agreement which would hold the Town harmless for any unintended results.
The BMA voted to install two 8-inch pipes after several residents of McCoy Circle and Louise Lane said one pipe would not carry the water away fast enough. The project is contingent on the Town getting approval from all the residents affected.

Child of Alcatraz

Local resident Don Bowden spent time on Alcatraz in the 1950s, but not as a prisoner.
Bowden was just 13 when his family moved to Alcatraz so his father could work as a prison foreman there.
His memories of the three years he spent at Alcatraz are vivid, and the memorabilia in his possession is extensive.
Bowden has several Alcatraz Alumni Association yearbooks, a number of newspaper articles, a magazine containing an article about the children of Alcatraz and their daily trips to the mainland for school, boat schedules, the identification card that got him off the island to attend school every day, an old recipe book with a piece of the rock island attached, and much more.
Bowden said the cost of living on Alcatraz was reasonable – only $35 a month for his family to live in a spacious apartment overlooking the bay.
“That $35 also covered utilities and the laundry, but later, for $5 a month more, we moved into a new apartment with a view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge,” he recalled. “It was a beautiful place to live.”
Water was transported to the island by barge, and the inmates did the laundry. But using the prison laundry was not without risk. One of the letters in Bowman’s possession addresses the loss of a dress belonging to his mother.
Apparently an inmate damaged the garment beyond repair in an act of revenge against a shop foreman. The identity of the culprit was unknown at the time the letter was written, on Dec. 18, 1959.
The families lived on the far end of the island and were almost completely isolated from the compound where America’s most notorious criminals were housed. They were also physically isolated from the mainland, and had an extensive list of rules (a copy of which Bowden has in his possession) that had to be followed.
“Families of the prison guards had to live on the island,” Bowden said. “If there was an escape attempt, they had no way to get in touch with guards if they were living on the mainland and no way to get them back in time to be of much help.”
Children rode a passenger boat called the Warden Johnston to and from school every day in all kinds of weather.
some of Bowden’s favorite memories of his time on Alcatraz are of the big boat.
“All of the kids went to school in San Francisco,” he said. “Think about this: my brother started first grade in 1958 and he was probably 5 or 6-years-old. The first day my mother took him. The second day he gets on the boat with all the kids from Alcatraz, gets off at the long, curved pier out there, walks to the top of the hill there and crosses Bay Street and catches a city bus and rides half-way to Market Street and Bay Street, gets off the bus and walks about a block and a half to go to school in San Francisco, and then back that afternoon. There’s a scary thought, don’t you think?”
“And we rode through that heavy fog across the Bay with only a horn to let other ships know we were out there,” he continued, “but that is how we got to school every day.”
Named the Warden Johnston, the big boat transported employees, their families, and prisoners to the island, making fourteen trips a day, although Bowden doesn’t recall being on the boat at the same time as the prisoners. Passengers rode in a glassed-in cabin with a view, but prisoners were stowed below deck with only tiny portholes to see where they were headed, but he does remember seeing prisoners walking off the boat, their hands and feet shackled to prevent escape.
Some time ago, Bowden saw local model-builder Sandy Osgood on television, and was inspired to meet with him about building a model of the Warden Johnston.
“I saw him on TV and so I called him and later met with him to talk about the project,” said Bowden. “He said it would cost $600 to a $1,000 to build it, so I said, ‘let’s do it!’ Then I got in touch with the alumni association and told them about it and they said they wanted it and would buy it. Now I want him to build one for me, too.”
Bowden’s memories of Alcatraz have grown more precious with the passage of time, and he has returned to the island a number of times in recent years. He is active with the Alcatraz Alumni Association which includes former inmates, employees and their children. He is also a volunteer tour guide, taking visitors all over the notorious prison facility and sharing his memories of a remarkable childhood spent on the big rock in San Francisco’s Bay.

Erwin man helps Bowden remember his days at Alcatraz

By Mark A. Stevens
Erwin Record Publisher
[email protected]
Erwin resident Sandy Osgood’s hobby has taken him to an unlikely place – the nation’s most notorious prison.
It’s not anything illegal – but rather his skills as a shipbuilder that have led him there.
Osgood recently completed a 32-inch-long replica of the Warden Johnston, a boat that, from 1945 until 1963, made 12 trips a day between San Francisco and the infamous Alcatraz island prison.
“It’s exciting to have something I’ve built placed there,” Osgood said. “It’s really nice.”
Once completed, Osgood’s replica of the Warden Johnston was sent to be put on display at Alcatraz, which is, today, managed by the National Park Service. More than a million people visit the island fortress each year for tours of the prison that once held Al Capone and hundreds more of the nation’s most notorious criminals.
The chance for Osgood to have his work on display for tens of thousands to view came about after Don Bowman, a former Alcatraz resident who currently lives in Jonesborough, heard a television report about the Erwin “shipbuilder,” known to many as “Captain Easy.”
Bowden has lived in Jonesborough for about seven months, but when he was growing up, he was one of hundreds who lived on Alcatraz with family members. Ira Bowden took a job on the island as a general administration foreman and brought Don and the rest of the family to live there in the apartments provided for families.
Their only transportation to the mainland of San Francisco for shopping and for schools was aboard the Warden Johnston.
Bowden became interested in having a replica of the Warden Johnston built after seeing Osgood featured in a “Cable Country” segment on WJHL-TV.
“I was watching the news and saw Sandy,” Bowden said, “and I said, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I could get that guy to do a re-creation of the boat.’”
A few days later, Bowden and Osgood met at a café in downtown Jonesborough and worked out the details that would bring the Warden Johnston – albeit on a much smaller scale than the 65-foot boat that sailed the rough waters of San Francisco Bay – to life once again.
Both men agreed that Osgood would probably earn only about a dollar an hour for the task at hand, but both also said it was more about preserving a piece of history than making money.
“It will certainly be noted that Sandy made the model and acknowledge Erwin, Tenn.,” said Bowden, who lived on Alcatraz from 1958 to 1960.“There will be a lot of interest in a replica of the Warden Johnston.”
Osgood, a retired sea captain who has lived in Northeast Tennessee for the past decade, took up model shipbuilding only in recent years.
“I build boats that don’t have a kit,” the 70-year-old said.
Osgood originally began creating the Warden Johnston from nothing but old photos of the boat, but he eventually was able to obtain original blueprints of the ship, which helped him get the details just right.
“I’ve been a modeler for about 10 years now,” he said, “and I guess I’m getting pretty good at it.”
Every inch of Osgood’s model represents about two feet of the original 65-foot diesel-motorized boat that was built in 1945 and continued its daily transportation until the federal prison closed in 1963.
But for people like Bowden, the boat was more than a means of transportation. It was a way of life and a link to the mainland. It was as essential to the island residents of Alcatraz as were cars, buses or cable cars to the people who lived in San Francisco.
The Warden Johnston ran almost hourly from 6:30 a.m. to just after midnight each day to the Rainbow Pier at the foot of Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. On each trip, the boat could transport about 65 passengers, which consisted of correctional officers, family members and even inmates.
“It was really cool to ride,” Bowden said. “At the time, we all liked riding the boat. It wasn’t just fun, though, it was our connection to the island.”
Bowden said Osgood’s model will bring back special memories for the alumni association’s members.
“Think of it this way,” he said. “A lot of people have fond memories of a favorite car from years ago. Well, to us, this was our car.”
Bowden, now 64 years old, was 13 when he and his family moved to Alcatraz. When his father took another job, the family left behind their island home when he was only 16 in 1960 – three years before the prison was closed.
Apartments were available to workers for only $40 a month, which included all utilities and even laundry service. After hours, family members enjoyed parties and social time. There was a community hall, a bowling alley, Ping-Pong table and a playground.
Osgood said he’s happy to be involved in a project that will mean so much to people like Bowden.
“If I ever get out to California,” Osgood said, “it’ll be nice to see something I’ve done on display for so many people to see.”