BrightRidge completes phase one of expanded services

BrightRidge celebrated its expanded broadband services in downtown Jonesborough last Thursday.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

BrightRidge announced the completion of Phase One of its $64 million investment in  broadband services around the region last Thursday at Main Street Café in downtown Jonesborough.

“Here today, in the oldest town in the state of Tennessee, we’re launching the opportunity for a 10 Gb service,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said, “The fastest speeds known out there on broadband, for this area and this town.

“I want to thank Zac (Jenkins) from Main Street Café for being that first business customer to really step forward and say, ‘Hey, I want to have BrightRidge broadband. I want to be the first person to launch this out and to use it.”

According to a BrightRidge press release, “Jonesborough becomes only the sixth area in the country with 10 Gigabit residential internet services” as well as being the first provider to “launch with 10 Gb service available to all fiber customers in its service area”.

Jenkins, owner of the Main Street Café, said he was “tickled to death to be the first (customer) for the service, and it’s been a great service … We’re just thrilled that this little town is getting the fastest internet that’s known in the world. And that’s really cool. We’re up there with places like Los Angeles, Dallas, all those big cities. And then there’s little old Jonesborough and I think that’s a really awesome thing we’re doing.”

As the first customer of BrightRidge, Main Street Café has had the new fiber internet since the March and April time period.

“We were one of their beta testers, their first testers, and there was only one time where it went out for maybe 10 minutes, and then, boom, it was back up again and we haven’t had any more problems. And that was the first couple of days. It’s been great.”

Jenkins added that because of the age of the building that holds his business, they had been unable to fully utilize their internet capabilities.

“It’s helped because it’s reliable. We’re not using a cash register … we’re using a Point of Sale, and it’s connected to the internet. So my business relies on having internet capability to be able to take credit cards. It’s just a lot better and faster.”

Jenkins also was one of the first to subscribe to the residential services, and said that it has also been reliable and he has been pleased with it.

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest spoke at the ribbon cutting and told those gathered that BrightRidge’s broadband investment could yield positive results for many others.

“It gives Jonesborough an opportunity to attract residents who might want to work from home. Having this type of service is not going to just benefit business like Zac here at Main Street Café.

“It’s going to benefit others, we should have people searching for office spaces here. We’re excited about what high-speed internet can do for us here.”

Town brings in Pinnacle Awards

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

The 22nd Annual Pinnacle Awards, held last Friday at the Bristol Train Station and organized by the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, became a showpiece for the Town of Jonesborough as eight Pinnacle Awards were awarded to Jonesborough area individuals, groups or their accomplishments.

In order to recognize the tourism industry’s top performers in Northeast Tennessee, and as part of National Travel & Tourism Week, a panel of judges from the tourism and advertising industry associated with the Southeast Tourism Society ranked the top entry in 25 categories.

Much of Jonesborough’s success stems from the town employees who make up the team that provides publicity, advertising and much more for Jonesborough and the events throughout Jonesborough, as Town Administrator Bob Browning can attest.

“Our guys meet very often and we have a really good group. We wouldn’t be doing the kinds of things we do to win eight Pinnacles without there being a really good comprehensive interaction.”

Local winners included:

Advertising and Promotions, Brochure or Guide:

Jonesborough Visitors Guide

Advertising and Promotions, Rack Card:

Jonesborough Yarn Exchange Season Rack Card

Advertising and Promotions, Long Video:

Jonesborough Yarn Ex

BrightRidge ‘flips the switch’ on Telford solar farm

The first solar farm in the Tri-Cities was launched Tuesday in Telford.

From STAFF REPORTS

BrightRidge, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Silicon Ranch “Flipped the Switch” on the Tri-Cities’ first solar farm on Tuesday, May 7, formally inaugurating production from a FIVE-megawatt solar farm near Telford.

BrightRidge officials also announced that 87 percent of its community solar production has already been allocated to subscribing commercial and residential customers. BrightRidge offers customers a monthly or long-term lease.

“This was not a hard sell at all,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said. “Without an official marketing push, both commercial and residential customers jumped on this opportunity. It demonstrates real demand in our marketplace for a clean energy product that avoids the high cost of private commercial and residential solar installations.”

Under the BrightRidge Solar Community, 500 kW was set aside for commercial and residential customers. Currently, only 65 kW in capacity is left to purchase under the program.

Silicon Ranch, which built the 40-acre solar farm, generates up to 8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, with zero carbon emissions and zero water consumption. This is enough capacity to power more than 500 homes.

“The success of this community solar project demonstrates that BrightRidge represents the best of public power,” Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO Matt Kisber said. “BrightRidge Directors and staff deserve enormous credit for listening to those they serve and establishing the right partnerships to deliver what customers want and need. Silicon Ranch is honored to be part of the BrightRidge team.”

The entire project was developed in partnership with TVA under its Distributed Solar Solutions program.

“Partnership projects like the BrightRidge solar farm align to the mission of TVA,” said Chris Hansen, director, TVA Origination and Renewables. “Community solar combines energy and environmental stewardship to provide access to customers and businesses who support clean energy.”

BrightRidge, TVA and Silicon Ranch all agreed on the importance of readily available solar energy to power future economic development efforts.

“Clean energy is increasingly a factor in economic development, and equally important to many of our customers,” Dykes said. “Whether electric, broadband, solar or future products, we aim to deliver affordable, innovative products that offer value for all of our customers.”

The solar facility, owned by Silicon Ranch and constructed by McCarthy Building Companies, deploys 41,760 solar panel modules manufactured by First Solar. These modules are mounted on 2,262 single-axis piles guided by 174 trackers.

BrightRidge maintains a meter on its website at https://www.brightridge.com/home-service/programs-services/green-power/solar/ which shows daily production. For more information on the BrightRidge Community Solar offering, please visit www.BrightRidge.com or phone (423)952-5000 and select electric from the menu.

Heritage Fair to showcase Washington County’s history

From STAFF REPORTS

For Chad Bailey, this month’s Washington County Heritage Fair is about more than honoring the region’s history; it’s also about fostering a love for that history in its youth.

“Students interested in the region’s history stay here, spend money here and get jobs here,” said Bailey, president of the Jonesborough Genealogical Society that is sponsoring the event.

They also, he said, can become the future generation that helps preserve the rich and varied legacy found in Washington County’s past.

The idea for the fair originated last year as the JGS board was undergoing a transition. New board memberS had joined, as older board member stepped down. Members were looking for a new endeavor that could capture both young and old alike.

The Heritage Fair was borne, a three-part event that is open to the public, but specifically targets Washington County students. The event is intended to showcase local heritage and culture, is set for Friday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will include three parts: 1) a 5th-8th Grade Student Heritage Poster Competition, 2)  Individual/Organization Exhibitions, and 3) Living History Timeline.

Residents and visitors are asked to begin the day at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center and Emporium, 117 Boone Street, where participants can register and pick up a program of the day’s events.

In addition, the 5th-8th Grade Student Heritage Poster Competition and Individual/Organization Exhibitions will be displayed in the auditorium and classroom.

The 5th-8th Grade Student Heritage Poster Competition brings together 70 area students from Washington County’s public and private schools for a combined learning experiences where students’ knowledge of local heritage and culture are presented in a unique and creative ways displayed on a tri-fold board in three specific categories.

Each project will be judged by judicial panel. Winners will be selected by grade and category and announced during an Awards Ceremony at 2 p.m. in the Visitors Center Auditorium.

In addition, the teacher of the winner of Best in Show will receive a $500 cash prize provided through several organizations including the Jonesborough Genealogical Society, John Sevier-Sarah Hawkins Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Boones Creek Historical Trust, and the Fort Watauga Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution.

The Individual/Organization Exhibitions will bring together over 20 local heritage and cultural organizations and sites in the Visitors Center, giving participants an opportunity to engage with heritage and cultural sites, knowledge, and techniques they may have never seen or used before.

This exhibition provides visitors a taste of public and private heritage sites. In addition, organizations will showcase their missions, visions, programming, and projects to the public through the use of visual and oratory exhibitions.

Knowledgeable individuals will also have the opportunity to showcase their individual research, cultural work, and crafts to provide another perspective of learning to the next generation.

Other organizations will provide 45-minute presentations on local heritage and cultural topics in the Community Room of the Washington County-Jonesborough Library, 200 Sabin Drive, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

These include Anne G’Fellers Mason with the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, speaking on “Using Drama to Tell Your Story;” Langston Education & Arts Development (LEAD, INC.), speaking on “Brief History of Black Education in Johnson City and Washington County;” Deborah Webb with the Northeast Tennessee Community Help Center, speaking on “The Past, Present, and Future of the Northeast Tennessee Community Help Center;” Boones Creek Historical Trust; and others to be announced.

The Washington County-Jonesborough Library will also be doing a demonstration of the new scanning systems in the library’s Genealogy and History Center.

Finally, the Living History Timeline, which will be presented in Mill Springs Park, 104 Spring Street, and Jimmy Neil Smith Storytelling Park, 111 W. College Street, will consist of tradespeople and reenactors in two particular time period-based camps from pre-Revolutionary to early 20th Century regalia.

Beginning at the Jonesborough Visitors Center, partakers will move through time by walking the streets of Tennessee’s oldest town where they can view and learn about the town’s preservation efforts and past as well as delving into topics and experiences in the town’s historical façade with its storied-past.

Beginning at 9 a.m. at Mill Springs Park, participants will take part in six distinct stations of the Pre-Revolutionary to 1850s era, which will include the telling of the story of the Overmountain Men from Historical Interpreter, Steve Ricker, Programs Director of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, at the Gazebo at Mill Springs Park; Robert K. Rambo, portraying Cherokee Peace Chief Attakullakulla; Jackie Fischer, Park Manager of David Crockett Birthplace, speaking on the role of women in Cherokee Culture; Kings Mountain Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution’s period weapons tent; Starlet Williams, former historical interpreter of Ruth, the Cobb family’s cook, at Rocky Mount State Historic Site for 27 years, speaking on slave medicine; Doug Ledbetter, former president of the Nolichucky Chapter of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, demonstrating colonial woodworking and history of the Nolichucky area during settlement; and Debra Thompson, demonstrating basket weaving techniques.

Also beginning at 9 a.m. at Jimmy Neil Smith Storytelling Park, participants will take part in six distinct stations of the Civil War to early 20th Century era, which will include Civil War Historians Michael and Elizabeth Baird Hardy, demonstrating, speaking, and presenting the military, civilian, and gender roles of the war within three stations; David and Matthew Simerly, father and son living historians, will present a station on the Importance of the Doughboy and WWI; the State of Franklin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will present the 19th Amendment and Women’s Suffrage Movement; and the Storytown Brigade will demonstrate oral history techniques and collect stories from the day’s experience.

Other heritage sites will be open throughout town including the Washington County-Jonesborough Museum in the Jonesborough Visitors Center, 117 Boone Street; the Genealogy and History Center in the Washington County-Jonesborough Library, 200 Sabin Drive; the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum (116 W. Main Street) will open at 11 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.; the Chuckey Depot Museum (2nd Avenue) will open at 1 p.m. and close at 5 p.m.; the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School (103 Franklin Avenue) will open at 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.; and the Washington County Department of Records Management and Archives (103 W. Main Street) will open at 8 a.m. and close at noon.

For more information on the Washington County Heritage Fair, visit the Jonesborough Genealogical Society’s website at jgstn.org/annual-heritage-fair/ or pick up a copy of the Jonesborough Herald and Tribune and read the update and answer the trivia question each Wednesday up to the fair.

School board member arrested on new charge

David Hammond has been a school board member since 2015.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

A member of the Washington County Board of Education has been arrested for the second time in two months.

According to a Johnson City Police report, David Hammond was arrested on Thursday, April 18, and charged with violation of an order of protection, which resulted from the situation that resulted in Hammond’s arrest on Friday, March 22. Hammond was charged with simple domestic assault during the March arrest.

According to the report, police arrived at Hammond’s residence at 115 Beechnut St. on Tuesday, April 16, after Hammond’s girlfriend called 911, claiming he was holding her hostage. The report also says police found the two walking out of the apartment. She said she had been in contact with Hammond and came to his apartment to “spend time with him.”

Following the second arrest, BOE Attorney Scott Bennett released a statement saying that because the case is in the hands of the court and is not a board matter, Hammond “has all the rights and duties of any board member until a court declares otherwise.”

As for the board, BOE Chairman Keith Ervin said all the board can do is wait for the court’s decision.

“I do not like the prestige,” Ervin said. “The Washington County School System does not need that kind of press. We just have to deal with it.”

There has been no change in Hammond’s status as a BOE member. Ervin said Hammond has the option of resigning, but he has no requirement to do so.

“The attorney says we can tell him if we don’t like it,” Ervin said. “We can ask him to resign, but he wouldn’t have to if he doesn’t want to.”

According to state law, an elected official can be censured as a way of expressing disapproval or voters can create a petition for a recall of an election official’s position. TCA 8‑47‑101 states that county officials may be ousted from office for “committing any act violating any penal statute involving moral turpitude.”

Hammond appeared in court on Monday, April 22 and waived a preliminary hearing for the assault charge. He is scheduled to return to court on July 31.

Gray, Asbury find lead in water

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County School System is adding two more to the list of schools in the district with an excess amount of lead in two drinking fountains.

Gray Elementary School and Asbury Optional High School each had one water fountain containing an overage of lead according to state regulations. If a school drinking fountain contains 20 parts per billion or above in its water, the school system must remove the contaminated drinking source. Other drinking sources are allowed to stay in use.

“We are trying to make arrangements for bottled water to be made available at the schools,” Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said. “Although we had sources of water that did not test (for an overage of lead), we understand if a child doesn’t want to drink from any of the fountains at this point.”

Gray’s contaminated fountain was at 104 parts per billion and Asbury’s was at 1,490 parts per billion, according to results from Wingfield Environmental Inc. Flanary said the group will re-test Asbury’s sample to make sure that count is accurate.

Last week, the school system found that Boones Creek Elementary and West View Elementary had excess lead amounts in three fountains as well, totaling five fountains in the county with an overage of lead. According to state law, once the contaminated drinking source is removed, the source must be re-tested within 90 days. Flanary said the required re-testing for the effected sources is currently scheduled with Wingfield Environmental Inc.

As for the other Washington County Schools, tests on each of those fountains are complete and received adequate totals. Testing at Grandview Elementary and Ridgeview Elementary was not required because the schools were built after 1998.

But school water testing isn’t finished just yet; Starting in 2019, all Tennessee requires its school systems to test for excess lead amounts in drinking fountains in all schools built before 1998. However, the requirement didn’t initially include kitchen sources. Now, those will be tested as well.

“We haven’t started testing the kitchens. Originally (the state) said, ‘you’ll just have to test drinking fountains” and then the attorneys with the state department determined we have to also test in kitchens. So that will happen when school is out.”

As a precaution, Flanary said he called for Boones Creek Elementary School, which is a prep kitchen for other schools in the district, to cut out any recipes that require added water.

“I told them not to use the water to cook at Boones Creek Elementary School from an abundance of caution,” Flanary said. “We do not know that there is an abundance of lead at Boones Creek Elementary School, I just thought it was a good idea that we stop using it.

“Our food service supervisor told us it was a simple matter to not use added water and some recipes. I told her because we only had so many days of school left, we would keep that protocol in place until after school’s out.”

County approves athletic project, industrial park plan

Commissioner Robbie Tester discusses payment in lieu of taxes plans in the county.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Commission was thinking of new ballfields and a potential new manufacturer when the group passed two motions approving plans at the Boones Creek athletic facility site and the Washington County Industrial Park.

The commission passed a resolution to use $150,000 for utility infrastructure construction at the Boones Creek athletic facility site in a 12-1-1 vote. Commissioner Danny Edens was opposed, Robbie Tester abstained from the vote and Mike Ford was absent.

“It was recommended we take some action on this because the children starting school in August,” Commissioner Phil Carriger, the chairman of the Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee, said. “Right now it’s nothing but red clay out there. We’d love to have some fields for them and some grass in.”

Commissioners Larry England and Jodi Jones, who are also part of the CIA Committee, added that doing the electrical work and utilizing the equipment while it is already on the site would be part of the preliminary plan.

The budget for the project is set at $3.2 million, which Carriger said would not be exceeded. Meanwhile, Edens asked that if the all money for the athletic facilities were not used, could those funds go towards the Jonesborough School project, which has been on hold for the past two years.

“They have a new school. I’m not against them having these fields, but our other schools don’t have this,” Edens said. “Jonesborough is probably the neediest school of all of them and we are struggling to figure out where we’re going to get the money, do we have the money, if we have the money where is the money. But we are building a sports complex at Boones Creek. I don’t know how we do that.”

Commissioner Jim Wheeler added that he thought the CIA Committee needed to consider the athletic facilities plan in conjunction with the other schools along with the Health, Education and Welfare Committee that has dealt with the Jonesborough School project over the past two years.

While the athletic facilities plan is a step closer to phase one, the county also took the next step to potentially welcoming a new company to the industrial park.

In a 10-4 vote, the commission passed the resolution approving the land grant to Washington County’s Industrial Development Board. The plan also delegates authority to the IDB to negotiate and accept the payment in lieu of taxes plan for the potential company.

The company is a German manufacturer that builds fans, motors and other heating ventilation and air conditioning components. However, the unnamed company is considering another space in Tennessee and another in Texas in addition to the potential site in Washington County. Should the company choose Washington County, 179 new jobs will be created along with a $37.4 million capital investment over a five-year period.

“The $1.7 million the county invested (in the industrial park) back in 2015 was to get us to this point,” said Alicia Summers, the vice president of business development for the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership. “We’re here. Now we just need to cross the finish line.”

The plan also includes a tax abatement at 100 percent during the first three years for the company, but the company would still pay the education portion, bringing in around $59,000 to the school system’s budget.

“In year one we are gaining around $59,000 for our schools that we don’t get at the moment,” Commissioner Freddie Malone said. “And that only increases each year in the future where in year four they start paying the real estate taxes and it incrementally increases following that period.”

However, Tester shared a few concerns regarding PILOT plans, adding that he felt companies that accept “these short-term incentives” seem to be more likely to leave.

“We are ultimately responsible to our constituents, not any company’s bottom line,” Tester said.

“These deals end up putting counties, cities, states in a never-ending bidding war. Taxpayers bare the cost and the companies benefit. Are these deals really the best we can do for our constituents?”

For other commissioners, offering the PILOT plan puts the county in the “game” for potential new companies.

“It is a game that is played by other communities,” England said. “And this company has visited our community in several instances just to go out among our people and our restaurants and our people. They’re doing their due diligence. It’s not just about the money. If we don’t compete in this game, the county does lose and they’ll go elsewhere.”

Company eyes Washington County Industrial Park

The company is considering this parcel in Washington County.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

A new company could soon be coming to Washington County’s Industrial Park.

Alicia Summers, the vice president of business development for the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, presented information to the county’s budget committee on the German manufacturing company that is considering a 67-acre plot at Washington county’s industrial park.

The committee passed the plan, which includes a purchasing price of $1.2 million for the 30-acre section. Should the company select Tennessee’s oldest county, they’re projected to create 179 new jobs over five years in Washington County. However, the HVAC manufacturing company is deciding between the location in Washington County, another in Tennessee and one in Texas.

“I am optimistic,” Summers told the committee. “One of the reasons why is originally, they were looking just for a site in an industrial park. They felt like they would need some almost immediate space to do some manufacturing. One of the advantages was that not only did we have the site we were looking for, but we had five buildings to show them as well. I think that kind of put us a little ahead of the other sites in the other communities.”

The company is considering the 67-acre section because the company is expressed interested in expanding in the future, Summers said. She also added that the industrial park’s site certification has been a draw for potential companies.

“What it means when you have a certified site is that all of the due diligence work has been completed on the site,” Summers said. “To a consultant or a company, that eliminates risk. That saves them both time and money.”

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy added that he felt the company seemed community-minded.

“When they came in, they were interested in the site and that’s important. But they checked that off the list pretty quick and almost the balance of the intention was turned to workforce first and community second,” Grandy said. “The last time we knew they were here, they wanted to be left alone to be in the community for a day and a half to go to restaurants, shop a little, talk to people. One of the things that impressed me a lot with those folks so far is they seem to be community minded.”

Part of the focus on the community is reflected in the tax agreement, Grandy said; there would be a tax abatement at 100 percent during the first three years for the company, but the company would still pay the education part, putting $59,000 towards Washington County’s schools each year.

“When we presented this reduction of their tax abatement to go to our schools, they were immediately accepting of that understanding that education is important and education builds your workforce,” Grandy said. “So if we get these people here, they appear to be very community minded and should be great citizens.”

The county commission will vote on the plan at its next regularly scheduled meeting set for Monday, April 22, at 6 p.m. at the George Jaynes Justice Center, 108 W Jackson Blvd., Jonesborough.

School system reacts to lead found in water

 

 

 

West View (left) and Boones Creek Elementary (right) have been found to have excess amounts of lead.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County School System removed a total of three water fountains from two schools on Thursday after discovering the fountains contained an amount of lead in the water that exceeded the state’s limit.

Boones Creek Elementary School removed two fountains while West View Elementary School removed one following water testing results from Wingfield Environmental showing that the fountains contained too much lead according to state regulations.

The state law says if test results exceed 15 parts per billion but is less than 20 parts per billion, the school has to conduct lead level tests on an annual basis until a test confirms that the level is less than 15 parts per billion. At or above 20 parts per billion, the school system must remove the drinking source. One fountain at Boones Creek contained 17. 1 parts per billion, the other had 24.6 and West View’s lone contaminated fountain contained 34.2.

“First of all, our initial response was notification,” Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary told the Herald & Tribune. “We wrote a letter, composed it, signed it, got it out to principals and got it into kids’ hands. We also used various digital means, electronic means.”

If the limit for the lead testing is reached or exceeded, the school system must notify the commissioner of environment and conservation, the commissioner of health, the local department of health, the local governing body, and the department of education within 24 hours. The parents and guardians of students enrolled at the school must be notified within five business days of the test result.

To alleviate the problem, Flanary said the school system will have to locate the source of the contamination.

“So where did it come from? Was it right there where the cut off is? Is it further back in the wall?” Flanary said. “Is it further back in the main line? Is it underneath the floor? We have to continue to dig until we find the source. We’re going to start looking for the point source of the contamination. If it’s under the floor and we have to bust up the floor, we just have to do it.”

In the meantime, the schools are taking the necessary precautions.

Flanary said, in addition to removing the drinking fountains, the school system has received bottled water from Pepsi and coolers and ice from Food City. He also said a local Boones Creek church made donations to Boones Creek as well.

“Our business partners and our neighborhood friends have really helped out. So we’re out in front of it,” Flanary said. “The tests pointed out specific sources of lead contamination, although I can see how a child or an adult would not want to drink the water throughout the school. That’s why we kind of went beyond in bringing in bottled water.”

Apart from drinking, the school system had another concern related to the water results at Boones Creek Elementary; because the school also serves as a prep kitchen for other schools in the school system, the menu has changed to exclude any items that would require water in order to be prepared.

“(Boones Creek Elementary) sends food out to other schools — that’s a problem because we use water to cook,” Flanary said. “So we rearranged their menus to use no added water. We are not using that water to cook with anymore.”

Flanary clarified that the water at the two schools would not be cut off.

As for the other Washington County Schools, Jonesborough Elementary, Sulphur Springs, Lamar, South Central, Boones Creek Middle, Jonesborough Middle, the central office and David Crockett High School has have already been tested and received results within the state’s regulations.

Each school built before 1998 must be tested, meaning Grandview and Ridgeview are the only schools that will not undergo any water testing. Starting in 2019, all Tennessee school systems must test each drinking fountain in its older schools within two years.

“We have two years to get it done, but we’re just not going to drag our feet,” Flanary said. “We’d like to get it done the first six months the law is in effect and get it done. We are four months in and we’ve found three water fountains (above the state’s limits for lead). So I don’t know if that’s good, but it could have been more.”

Washington County Republican Party holds reorganization meeting

Turney Williams

From STAFF REPORTS

On Saturday, April 6, the Washington County Republican Party held its biennial reorganization at the Jonesborough Senior Center, with more than 300 people participating in support of the party.

According to many long-time members, event participation was by far the largest in recent memory. Delegates were elected from 30 precincts, giving them an opportunity to cast a vote for party officers.

The Washington County Republican Party wanted to thank the credentialing committee co-chairs Steve Darden and Freddie Malone, along with committee members George Heaton, Kent Harris, and Wayne Sowder for their work on informing members on reorganization process and procedures as well as overseeing the election of officers.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden was also present to observe the proceedings, providing clarification of state party bylaws and to ensure a smooth election process.

Each position within the party hierarchy was voted upon, and the Washington County GOP applauded each person who stood for leadership election as well as those members who took time out of their busy lives to help ensure the party continues to be strong in Washington County.

Elected to two-years terms at the meeting were Dr. Turney Williams, who starts his second term as party chairman. Also elected were: First Vice-Chair Carolyn Ferguson, Second Vice-Chair Brenda Jackson, Third Vice-Chair Kevin Cole, Secretary Liz Keesee, Treasurer Joe Hodges and Assistant Treasurer Frank Hawkins.

Next up for the Washington County Republican Party is the June 14 Lincoln Day Dinner featuring keynote speaker Liz Cheney. The event will be held at the Millennium Centre. Visit http://www.facebook.com/WashCoTNGOP for more information or email wandamaytn@aol.com.

BMA shuts down suggestion to expand 2019 Brews & Tunes

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Monday night to reject a suggestion to allow additional alcoholic beverages for consumption at the weekly Brews & Tunes event.

Alderman Adam Dickson spoke in favor of “slowing down” after Mayor Chuck Vest suggested the possibility of a language change in the event’s agenda presentation document from “beer” to “alcoholic beverages.”

“You have suggested that we include language in here for alcoholic beverages . . . I just think there’s worth if we would be patient and just walk with some people in Jonesborough that do not necessarily approve of this,” Dickson said.

Mayor Chuck Vest suggested the change initially.

“Something to consider, and I think it’s worth considering, that in the recommendation where it says ‘on premises consumption of beer,’ just changing the word ‘beer’ to ‘alcoholic beverages’ just in case you do wine or something like that you just cover all our bases.”

When Vest called for discussion on the subject, Dickson shared his concerns with the board.

“I certainly understand the world we live in. I just hope that we would continue to be proactive and harmonious and be proactive in bringing people to the table.  Instead of us just rushing something and then it coming back on us and be a slap in the face I think it would behoove us to kind of slow down a little bit.

“If we can get through this season of Brews & Tunes the way it is, maybe you can get to where you want to go.”

Alderman Stephen Callahan, proprietor of Tennessee Hills Distillery, said he believed that other forms of alcohol should be served

“I think you’ve got to have it all or nothing. I think that if you’re going to serve beer, let’s serve some wine and liquor, too. It’s an equality thing.”

Following the discussion, Callahan requested a 10-minute recess. Upon continuation of the meeting, he recused himself from further discussion and from the vote.

Alderman Dickson approved the motion based upon the original language using ‘beer’, while Alderman Virginia Causey seconded the motion. Alderman Terry Countermine was absent from the April 8 meeting.

Old school to receive new roof, new school remains in question

Jonesborough Elementary School will receive a new roof.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Commission didn’t come up with a clear direction at its April 1 workshop to discuss the Jonesborough School project funding options, but the group ended the night with an approved plan to re-roof Jonesborough Elementary School for $1.1 million.

The commission voted 10-3 to re-roof the elementary school after tabling the motion at its last regularly scheduled meeting on March 25. Commissioners Kent Harris, Danny Edens and Mike Ford were opposed. Bryan Davenport was absent and Robbie Tester abstained from the vote.

“The roof that is on the building now has actually outlived its usefulness,” The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, explained at the meeting. “We’re adding patches to patches. We are actually putting patches on top of a patch. The last patch we put on was two or three weeks ago and it 20-feet-by-20-feet.”

For some commissioners, the future of the round portion of the elementary school was a concern following talk of the school board potentially “tearing down the round” at the commission’s meeting last month.

“If that building is going to be utilized, we need to maintain that building,” Edens said. “We need to do whatever else we need to do to it if it’s going to be utilized … But also from that meeting I left with a lot of uncertainty on where the board actually stood on utilizing that building or not utilizing it at all.”

The school board’s chairman, Keith Ervin, told commissioners he wouldn’t vote to tear down a building if the roof was replaced.

While a decision was made regarding the school’s roof, the workshop offered the Jonesborough School project — which has been stuck in limbo between school board meetings and county committee meetings for the past two years — a presentation on potential funding timelines.

The county’s director of finance and administration, Mitch Meredith, said moving forward with the “Scheme 6” design plan to renovate and add on to Jonesborough Middle School to create a k-8 school would take the county’s outstanding debt to over $214 million by June 2019. He also said the potential debt would “put it somewhere in the top 10” of Tennessee counties with the most debt per capita.

He also said the soonest the county could build a Jonesborough School without borrowing funds would be 2028.

“It bothers me that we are talking 2028,” Commissioner Suzy Williams said. “This is 2019 going into 2020 and what we decide ought to fit the terms of the school board and the commission because we can’t determine what the next group of officials are going to do.”

Meanwhile, Chairman Greg Matherly suggested the county utilize pennies collected from the 2016 tax increase for the Boones Creek School once that project is complete along with some pennies for school maintenance needs.

“There is wiggle room in there but it would be what the school board would be willing to give up on their priority list,” Matherly said. “There are 19 cents really available. It’s just how you prioritize whether it’s a school, whether it’s a roof — it’s your priority list.”

Matherly also voiced his concern for unforeseeable maintenance needs should those pennies in the capital projects fund be moved over to debt service.

“We have to remember when we take that capital money and commit that to the debt service in borrowing, those pennies are never coming back to the capital fund,” Matherly said. “So then in a year or two when someone needs a roof, how are we going to pay for that roof or an HVAC system? We’ve gotten into that situation before.”

The county’s budget committee will consider the “Scheme 6” design plan at its next meeting on Wednesday, April 10. That meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in the first floor conference room of the courthouse in Jonesborough.

BOE member Hammond arrested on assault charge

From STAFF REPORTS

On Friday, March 22, Washington County Board of Education member David Hammond was arrested for simple domestic assault.

A report from the Johnson City Police Department says Hammond’s girlfriend said she and Hammond had been “having relationship trouble and that their fighting has been escalating” when police arrived at Hammond’s residence at 115 Beechnut St. Apt. B2, Johnson City on Thursday, March 21, at 11:15 p.m.

The report also says the victim had bruises on her arms and torso where she said he grabbed and pushed her two days before.

She also said the Thursday night argument was followed by confrontation “due to the suspect’s drug and alcohol consumption,” the report said. The report also said Hammond was not on the scene when police arrived, but called his girlfriend who let officers listen to the conversation.

The report said, “The suspect was heavily slurred and sounded extremely intoxicated.”

The police report said an unknown person peeked through the window and did not come to the door when police arrived at his home around 3 a.m. on Friday morning. Hammond was arrested at 12:45 p.m. on Friday with a $1,000 bond.

Hammond has been a member of the Washington County Board of Education for District 3 for nine years. There has not been a change in his status as a board member since the charge. The case is currently pending.

Commission hits pause on school roof decision

Phillip Patrick, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, talks over the potential re-roofing project with the county commission.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Commission tabled a resolution to re-roof Jonesborough Elementary School, but they’ll face the topic sooner rather than later.

At its Monday, March 25 meeting, the commission voted 10-4 to defer the project to the Monday, April 1, called commission meeting, which has been scheduled to discuss the Jonesborough School project. Commissioners Bryan Davenport, Larry England, Phil Carriger and Jodi Jones were opposed and Robbie Tester abstained from the vote.

Commissioners said they hoped Monday’s meeting could offer clarity in regards to the potential re-roofing, but Phillip Patrick, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, said delaying the roof replacement at the elementary school could set the re-roofing back and could take place while school is in session.

“We want to get a contract signed before school lets out so we can start the work on it in the summer. It would be really putting us in a tight spot,” Patrick said when asked if delaying the re-roofing by a month would cause an issue. “We can re-roof structures while school is going on. It’s just not ideal. It makes a lot of noise when you start to remove (material) and replace.”

Some commissioners were concerned that re-roofing the building, which includes both the rectangular and round portion of the school, could be money wasted if the school board were to decide to tear down the round. The school board’s Chairman, Keith Ervin, said at the commission meeting that he wouldn’t support tearing down the round if a new roof is placed on the building, though he was in favor of tearing down the round before the board voted to replace the roof.

“I will not vote to tear a building down if we put a new roof on it,” Ervin said. “I’m a tax payer and I do not want you all to spend a million dollars on a building and think I’m going to tear it down. I will not support that, but I’m only one board member. But it does need a roof.”

While the roof situation was put on hold, the option to purchase the property next to Jonesborough Elementary, the “McCoy property” was extended in a 13-1 vote. Commissioner Kent Harris was opposed while Tester abstained from the vote. This is the eighth extension on the option for the property.

Harris said he felt $777,900 was too much for a property that he said was appraised for less while Commissioner Suzy Williams asked if it would be possible to renegotiate the price. County Attorney Tom Seeley said that negotiating the price would open the property up to potential buyers.

As for the use of the property, Commissioner Jim Wheeler said he felt the property was vital to the students of both Jonesborough Schools.

“This school was built over 40 years ago and the kids at the elementary school have never been able to go outside and play anywhere except for the playground,” Wheeler said. “This is an opportunity to at least hold onto this property and keep it.

“We’re talking about multi-million dollar fields and recreational space at the Boones Creek School. Surely we can at least hold off on deciding what we’re going to do with this property. Vote for this resolution to look at that for these Jonesborough kids because once this property is gone, and they’re still at this school, they will never have a place.”

Though the Jonesborough schools were at the forefront of discussion, the commission also passed a resolution to purchase furniture for $600,000 at the new Boones Creek School. The vote passed 13-1. Harris was opposed while Tester abstained.

“We’re looking to build a school for Jonesborough, we’re looking to put a roof on Jonesborough, we’re looking to see if we can buy property for ballfields at Jonesborough, “Harris said. “Where does new furniture versus using furniture we have rate with these other things? Has there been any thought to using some furniture we already have?”

Tommy Burleson of Burleson Construction Co. said the school system and his team had gone through the furniture at the current Boones Creek schools multiple times and cut down the price by utilizing furniture from those schools. Patrick added that they will be bringing desks and other basic furniture.

“A lot of (what will be used at the new school) is old furniture,” Patrick said. “It  just seems like a shame to put old furniture in a new house.”

While the $600,000 for furniture isn’t included in the money allocated for the school project, the county director of finance and administration, Mitch Meredith, said $1.1 million was originally projected for kitchen equipment and furniture at the new school, but had not been allocated by the commission.

“The $600,000 is a number we’ve known about since this project came to fruition. It’s like any other piece of a capital projects plan. It does require specific approval before you pull the trigger on the contract issued to purchase (the furniture).”

The commission will meet for a workshop and special called meeting on Monday, April 1, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss funding opportunities related to the Jonesborough School project, followed by discussion on the option to re-roof Jonesborough Elementary. The meeting will be held in Courtroom 7 of the Justice Center, located 108 W Jackson Blvd., Jonesborough.

Budget committee approves re-roofing, tables design decision

Commissioner Larry England, Mayor Joe Grandy, and Commissioner Jim Wheeler consider school decisions at the latest budget committee meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Washington County’s Budget Committee approved a resolution not to exceed $1.1 million to re-roof the Jonesborough Elementary School building, but held off on a design decision for the Jonesborough K-8 School project.

Washington County Schools’ Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Patrick said the school system hopes to start the project, which includes removing and replacing the existing roof, as soon as school is out. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy asked during the Wednesday, March 13, meeting if the committee could hold off on the roofing decision until the county could hold a workshop with the Washington County Board of Education to discuss the Jonesborough K-8 School design plan, “Scheme 6”, to renovate and add on to the current Jonesborough Middle School building.

However, Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary told the committee that the process, which includes sending out and approving bids, is lengthy and holding off would put it all behind schedule.

“It’s a long process to get to the part where they can start construction,” Flanary said. “If it was September, I’d say no problem. We are in roofing season.”

County director of finance and administration and school board member Mitch Meredith added that the plan to re-roof the school had been on the school’s capital projects priority list for a while.

Meanwhile, Grandy mentioned that the cost for the re-roofing, which he said at one point was $700,000, had grown since then. Patrick said the cost of materials and labor had increased throughout the waiting period for a decision on the Jonesborough School project.

He also said the school board has no current plan to tear down the round portion of the elementary school, which leaves it as a county asset with or without student utilization.

“The school board has not made a decision to demolish the round building (at Jonesborough Elementary School), Patrick said, “which puts me in the position that I need to keep the building up. That’s where we are.”

Committee member Freddie Malone asked if the re-roofing project would take the capital projects fund to under $200,000. Meredith said it would, though that figure is the projected budgeted amount, meaning the funds for those projects are allocated, but are yet to be spent.

The committee didn’t discuss the Jonesborough School project design plan, which was tabled during last month’s budget committee meeting after the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee passed the design plan onto the budget committee. The committee plans to hold a workshop with commissioners and the school board to discuss the project on either Friday, March 29 or Monday, April 1. County officials said that meeting would be set for whichever date worked for the majority of commissioners.

The next county commission meeting — which will include the resolution to re-roof the elementary school as well as a resolution to purchase furniture for the new Boones Creek School for no more than $600,000 — will be held on Monday, March 25 at 6 p.m. at the George Jaynes Justice Center, located at 108 W Jackson Blvd., Jonesborough. To view the county’s current agenda packets and meeting calendar, go to http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/.

Board sends Boone baseball project to bid

Board members discuss the Boone baseball building project during the March 7 meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education might not have the money in hand for the Daniel Boone High School baseball building project, but the nine-member board passed a motion to begin the bid process anyhow.

Board member Chad Fleenor made the motion at the board’s regularly scheduled Thursday, March 7, meeting to bid out the Boone baseball building project in a 6-3 vote. The motion also included going ahead with the bid process only if it is legal to do so without the full amount for the project in-hand.

“I would like to send this out for bid pending they raise the extra money, which is legal. I checked on that,” Fleenor said. “This does not tie our hands to do anything other than we see how much it’s going to cost to do it.”

The project is estimated to cost $65,000. Fleenor said the baseball team had already raised $30,000 and that Boone’s athletic director planned to use $15,000 from the school’s athletic fund, leaving the project $20,000 short. The school system’s finance director, Brad Hale, said when the board sends out the bid, it would need to include that the bid is pending that the remainder of the funds are raised.

However, some board members had issues with the motion.

Board member Phillip McLain cited Tennessee Code Annotated 49-2-203 as his greatest holdback, which states that a construction project on school grounds must be performed by a qualified construction management service.

“I, for one, don’t want to see us break any laws that could ever put any of our children in harm’s way,” McLain said. “I get calls every week from people at Crockett saying, ‘If you do that over there at Boone, what are you going to do for us over here at this building?’ There’s no end to it.

“They’ve got someone chomping at the bit (at Crockett) to pour a concrete floor (for a multipurpose building). I can’t vote for that either because it doesn’t fit the TCA for what we’re allowed to do on a campus.”

Following McLain’s remarks, Fleenor attempted to amend the motion to take $20,000 from the school system’s fund balance to put towards Boone’s baseball building project. The motion for the amendment failed in a 3-6 vote. Fleenor, David Hammond, and Mitch Meredith were in favor. Annette Buchanan, Jason Day, Mary Beth Dellinger, Keith Ervin, Todd Ganger and Phillip McLain were opposed.

Ganger asked Hale if Boone would have enough left in its athletic fund to cover the rest of the school year’s athletic expenses if $15,000 of it is used for the baseball building. Hale said he thought so. Ganger also added that he felt putting $20,000 in reserve funds towards the project set the wrong precedent.

“They haven’t even come and asked for it. They were going to do fundraisers for it,” Ganger said. “We’re setting a terrible precedent for this stuff. You have to look beyond what’s going on now. You give money to one organization and you have three more coming behind them. They were willing to fundraise and do it and you sat here tonight and said they’d probably have the money by next month. Now you’re making a motion for us to pay for it.”

While some had concerns for the project and the bid process without the full amount for the project in-hand, Hammond said he was ready to see the process started for the project.

“I understand everyone’s concerns, but we keep kicking this can down the road and it’s a legitimate need,” Hammond said. “There have been sports organizations come to us before that raised funds and we’ve matched those funds. I think we have to take it as a case-by-case basis and see where we are fund-wise at that time. Let’s move this along and at least get the bids out there and see where they stand.”

Some felt the fund balance dollars could be better spent on in the classroom.

“When we start just dropping $20,000 here and there, can we not just drop $20,000 on some tablets for some kids that need them and some of those things if we have money like that?,” Day said. “Is it the same money? If it is, I say let’s put it in some classrooms.”

The board can use the fund balance reserves to its discretion, but must keep around $2 million in reserve funds. The most recent audit report lists the school system’s general fund balance at $6,129,043.

Fleenor mentioned that back in November, the board voted to put purchase lights for the softball field at Crockett for $150,000, which came from the fund balance. Fleenor and Ervin both voted in opposition to that motion in November.

“I’m not saying they didn’t need it, but we didn’t turn around and say, ‘$150,000 goes to Daniel Boone to do whatever they want.’ I’m just saying let’s get this project going, the bids will come in back and then you can okay it then. Why do we keep railroading something when Coach Hoover has worked to raise $30,000 for that project?”

Ganger and McLain both added that the softball lights had been an issue for at least 10 years. Meanwhile, board members also voiced a desire to step away from the Crockett or Boone mentality. 

“I really wish we could get away from that and just look at each project and remember we’re Washington County,” Hammond said. “All nine of us represent all of Washington County. Every board member up here cares about every student in this county whether they’re at Boone or they’re at Crockett. So we need to leave that off the table.”

School officials push to re-roof Jonesborough

The Jonesborough Elementary School building could soon receive a new roof.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

For the new Boones Creek School, it’ll be furniture. For Jonesborough Elementary, it’ll be a new roof.

At its monthly meeting on Thursday, March 7, Washington County’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee unanimously approved a motion to allocate $600,000 for furniture for the new Boones Creek School as well as a motion to reroof Jonesborough Elementary School for $1,100,000. Those resolutions will go on to the county’s next budget meeting set for Wednesday, March 13 at 9 a.m.

County Attorney Tom Seeley said the furniture amount for the new K-8 school is not a part of the cost for the Boones Creek School project and is yet to be approved by the county commission.

“The $600,000 has not been appropriated by the county commission so it has not been appropriated before,” Seeley said. “This is new money that was not previously appropriated by the county commission. This is in addition to (the money appropriated for the the BCS project.)”

As for Jonesborough Elementary, it’s all about keeping what — and who — is already in the school dry.

The $1,100,000 reroofing project would cover the entirety of the elementary school building. It does not include roof repairs or replacements at the Jonesborough Middle School building.

Commissioner Greg Matherly asked if the school system had already patched all they could on the elementary school building’s roof. The school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said that has been done for the past few years.

“I’ve been patching (JES) for over three years,” Patrick said. “An indication of how we are patching now: the last patch was 20-feet-by-20-feet. That’s substantial. So the board has decided it’s become an important issue.”

Commissioner and Committee Chairman Danny Edens asked how the reroofing would play into the “Scheme 6” design plan to renovate and add on to the current Jonesborough Middle School building to create a K-8 school. That plan is yet to be approved by the county’s budget committee.

Director of Schools Bill Flanary said the re-reroofing is separate from the design plan. Patrick added that no matter what happens with the design plan, the elementary school building would experience more damage without a roof replacement.

“We’ve got 80,000 square feet of that building and it will not be a good building if we don’t keep it dry regardless of what we use it for,” Patrick said. “We have to keep it dry. That is regardless of what happens with Scheme 6.”

The county’s budget committee will meet on Wednesday, March 13, at 9 a.m. in the first floor conference room at the courthouse located at 100 E Main St., Jonesborough.

Getting technical: Could Boones Creek Elementary become a new TCAT site?

The Boones Creek Elementary School building could be a new site for a Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The new Boones Creek School is slated to open its doors in 2019, but new life might be restored in the soon-to-be vacated Boones Creek Elementary School site.

At it’s Wednesday, Feb. 27 meeting, the Washington County Board of Education unanimously voted to offer the elementary school site and property to the state to develop a Tennessee Center for Applied Technology. The motion also stated the sale of the property will be subject to the execution of a formal agreement that is yet to be discussed.

TCATs offer post-secondary education and technical job training. The site, should it come to fruition in Washington County, would act as a satellite location to the TCAT in Elizabethton.

“What they have planned at the Boones Creek Elementary site would be for very close area labor market needs,” Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said at the BOE meeting. “I see it as a job creator.”

Though school and county officials say a new technical training facility could be beneficial in the county, a TCAT at the round school building on Christian Church Road has not officially been decided.

“We are in a process to hope that this becomes a reality. I don’t want to get too far out in front of where we are,” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said. “The board of education took the first step in terms of hurdle clearing in making what will soon be known as the former Boones Creek Elementary School site offered to the state to be used for this TCAT.”

Grandy said the site wouldn’t completely duplicate what’s offered at the Elizabethton site but would supplement it, adding that it would be more convenient to Washington County students.

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger asked during the BOE meeting if Washington County students would have preferential treatment in terms of admission into the technical school. Flanary said he didn’t expect them to.

Though the board unanimously voted to turn the property into a TCAT site, board member Jason Day said he felt the board should “protect” the property while working with the state on the project.

“I think working with them would be great,” Day said. “But I don’t think we ought to give our building away and then our kids won’t have first right. It won’t be just Washington County students.

“I just think we need to protect our property at the end of the day. Work with them any way we can, but protect our property.”

Flanary added that the Tennessee Higher Education Commission indicated it had no interest in leasing the property and aimed for ownership. The director of schools also said as long as the building is used for education, the state would own it, but if it is no longer used or used for anything other than a school, the property goes back to the school board.

Flanary added that the old Green Valley Developmental Center site in Greene County was also being considered as a TCAT location.

Apart from adding workforce eduction opportunities to the area, county and school officials are also hoping to see the “economic engine,” as Flanary called it, in Tennessee’s oldest county.

“(The TCAT would be) a real economic engine. I keep saying that,” Flanary said. “We talked about how stagnant Washington County’s economy has been for so long.

“This is a way you could create tax dollars.”

A meeting to discuss the potential project was held between Flanary, Grandy, TCAT, and  Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Tuesday, March 5 after press time for the Herald & Tribune.

The county’s Health Education and Welfare Committee is also slated to discuss the potential project at its Thursday, March 7 meeting at 1 p.m. at 100 E Main St., Jonesborough.

The school board will also hold its regularly scheduled meeting on March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.

Local business warns against scams

A recent scam has prompted a local Jonesborough business to warn its customers.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

A common feeling for folks every year around April 15, Tax Day, is one of stress.

But along with the stress of filing taxes comes the relief or perhaps joy of receiving a nice refund.

While tax season is prime time for these types of technological criminal acts, the rise of social media has turned any time of the year into a potential windfall for the criminal.

Gail Stallard at the Packet-N-Post has seen her share of folks convinced of the legitimacy of these fake social media personalities and other similar types of scams. In the time the shipping store has been in business, over a year and a half, she said there had been at least 10 attempts to send funds to fraudulent online acquaintances.

One experience she shared recently demonstrated the potentially severe nature of such scams.

A local woman received a friend request through Facebook from a gentleman in Nigeria claiming to be a shipping executive for Exxon, Stallard said. Over time the overseas huckster, by utilizing his “mother” to also contact the resident on Facebook, was able to convince her that he was a legitimate suitor who needed money from her in order to travel to meet her.

When the victim decided to send money, Stallard said, she tried to talk her out of the situation.

“He had her convinced that he’s a big-timer at Exxon and all his money is tied up and he needs that money to get to her; she’s 85 years old!” Stallard said.

The Packet-N-Post employee was able to contact a family member who told Stallard that the relative had already sent a large sum of money to the gentleman.

Eventually the victim recognized her predicament and stopped payments, but Stallard added that she believes some folks caught in similar situations continue paying in order to avoid embarrassment.

While many have become aware of the “Nigerian Prince” type of scam, some folks not well versed in current technology can also fall victim to online criminals.

“Technology made scams easier to conduct,” Jonesborough Chief of Police Ron Street said recently, “because you’re not dealing face to face with people as much.”

As tax season approaches, the specter of refund checks filling pockets with cash is a tempting opportunity for criminals to scam the innocent.

“There’s all kinds of scams going on now. The big one in this area now is Internal Revenue Service (scams),” Street said.  “And it’s usually someone with a Nigerian or Indian accent saying that you owe money and you have to send it, they want a certain type of credit card or they want you to get money cards and send it to them.

“The IRS doesn’t work that way. They’re going to communicate with you in writing and setup a meeting in person to deal with. But so many people are vulnerable and they fall for these things.”

Street added that anybody soliciting money in the name of the IRS or any other entity or corporation is most likely trying to pull a scam.

Those who are unfamiliar with technology tend to be easier targets as they may feel that their computer, laptop or network is secure or they may not be aware of the security settings that make that technology secure.

“One is that something is wrong with your computer and you’ve sent them notice that something is wrong and they will fix it if you give them access to the computer,” Street said.

Once the access to your computer has been established, all the personal information or contacts are wiped from the computer and potentially used to empty your bank accounts or perhaps create false identities, among the many possibilities.

Both Street and Stallard said that being extremely cautious of what you share online may be the best, or possibly the only, way to avoid such situations.

“It’s going on everywhere. I mean it’s huge. The scamming world is huge,” Stallard added, “But the main thing is to make people aware.”

County votes ‘no” on city TIF, John Sevier building proposal

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

After discussing the topic for several months, the Washington County Commission finally came to a vote regarding the Johnson City Development Authority’s redevelopment and urban renewal plan for downtown Johnson City and the John Sevier Center.

The resolution for the plan failed in a 7-7 vote on the JCDA’s tax increment financing. The second JCDA resolution to use TIF to finance the acquisition of the John Sevier Center also failed in a 7-7 vote. Commissioners Larry England, Freddie Malone, Suzy Williams, Phil Carriger, Jodi Jones, Gary McAllister and Jim Wheeler were in favor. Commissioners Steven Light, Kent Harris, Jerome Fitzgerald, Danny Edens, Bryan Davenport, Robbie Tester and Mike Ford were opposed. Chairman Greg Matherly was absent.

The amendment to the JCDA redevelopment and urban renewal plan included taking the plan from an assessment-base model to a tax-base model and also raising the plan’s debt ceiling by $11 million. For Harris, the amount of debt was a primary concern.

“This is a large amount — millions of dollars more — that they are asking this commission to take on in that TIF area,” Harris said. “It’s actually going to be up to an amount that never ends because it’s based on a percentage of the value of the property in that TIF area that they can borrow on. I for one am against that.”

The resolution included that the JCDA would have to bring any project over $25,000 to the commission. JCDA board member Craig Torbett added that if commissioners were concerned about the debt climbing, they would have the opportunity to vote against the projects that would be presented to them as part of the plan.

“It does not in any way increase the debt on the books at any point,” Torbett said. “At any point that you feel the debt has reached a level you don’t want it to, you can simply disapprove that project.”

For some commissioners, the decision came down to growth for the area. Carriger asked commissioners if they were “for growth and jobs or for doing nothing” while McAllister said he felt the investment in downtown promoted the area as a whole to other businesses.

Meanwhile, numerous commissioners commented on the poor conditions in which the John Sevier Building residents live. The JCDA’s plan includes relocating those residents elsewhere before remodeling the historic building and placing it on the market.

Malone said he felt change would eventually be happening for those living in the John Sevier building one way or another and the commission should consider whether that will be change brought by a local or a national corporation.

“A lot of times people do not want change and they fear the change that might come in the future,” Malone said. “But things for those residents at the John Sevier Center are going to change. The question is do we address that change on the local basis or do we allow that to happen outside of our hands?”

Cantler said the property is currently for sale. Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership’s CEO Mitch Miller added that the JCDA planned to use TIF for the John Sevier project. He agreed with Tester that after the commission voted down the motion for the TIF amendment, the John Sevier project discussion was a “moot” discussion.

Jones said she felt the commission should discuss what possibilities there were for the JCDA and the John Sevier Building project in light of the failed TIF motion.

Carriger added that he felt the commission needed to vote on the John Sevier Building resolution in order to hold the commission accountable.

“Are we going to be a part of the solution or are we going to be a part of the problem?,” Carriger asked the commission. “We spent three (Commerce, Industry and Agriculture) meetings, we spent a tour of the John Sevier Center, we spent three hours and 20 minutes going over all this.

“I really feel for the people of the John Sevier Center. That is very, very poor conditions that they live in. I think it’s a shame their county commission evidently doesn’t care about them. I think this body needs to be on record and tax payers hold them accountable.”