Erwin Beverage Board approves new wine sale permits

By Brad Hicks

Bottles are already on the shelves at one local grocery store, and the number of stores in Erwin offering wine to their customers is set to soon increase.

The Erwin Beverage Board, which is made up of the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, on Monday, March 13, approved granting permits which will allow the Roadrunner convenience store located at 519 Jonesborough Road and the Scotchman convenience store located at 1500 N. Main Ave. to begin selling wine.

With the approval of the permits, the number of stores within the town limits offering wine will increase to three. In January, the Erwin Beverage Board approved a permit allowing the Food Lion grocery store on North Main Avenue to begin selling wine. That store has since begun offering wine to its customers.

The three stores that have been issued permits by the town since the beginning of the calendar year represent the first three stores in Erwin to receive them since a referendum allowing for the sale of wine in retail food stores within Erwin’s municipal limits passed.

Voters residing within the limits of Erwin and the Town of Unicoi passed referendums during the November 2016 election to allow the sale of wine in retail food stores located within the limits of their respective towns.

In Erwin, more than 1,400 voted in favor of the referendum with around 650 voting against it.

A law permitting the sale of wine in grocery stores across Tennessee was approved by state lawmakers in 2014, and the law went into effect on July 1, 2016. While the law legalized the sale, it was left up to each county or city to have a local option election authorizing the sale of wine in retail food stores. Because of this, those wanting to see wine in their local grocery stores were required to collect signatures on petitions calling for a referendum to be placed on the ballot.

The referendums for voters in both the towns of Erwin and Unicoi appeared on the ballots because petitions that circulated prior to the November election received the required number of valid signatures.

The referendum petition distributed around Erwin received a total of 157 valid signatures. The number of signatures required on the petition was equal to at least 10 percent of the number of people in Erwin who voted in the 2014 Tennessee gubernatorial race. A total of 130 valid signatures was required in Erwin for the referendum to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Erwin Town Recorder Glenn Rosenoff said Monday that Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson had conducted background checks of both the Roadrunner and Scotchman stores and had found no issues with the board’s approval of the permits.

Both Roadrunner Markets and Scotchman convenience stores fall under the ownership umbrella of GPM Investments. Mike Emmons, vice president of operations and acquisitions for GPM, said employees at both local stores are “certified responsible vendors,” meaning they have received training on selling alcohol. Emmons said that training will be maintained and any new employee must undergo the training before manning a register.

The Beverage Board on Monday also approved the issuance of beer permits to the Roadrunner Market stores located at 519 Jonesborough Road, 1415 N. Main Ave., and 1068 N. Main Ave.

Although beer was already sold from each of these stores, the Board’s issuance of beer permits for the stores was necessary due to ownership of Roadrunner Markets recently changing hands.

In February, Richmond, Va.-based GPM Investments announced an agreement to acquire Mountain Empire Oil Company, Inc., which operates as Roadrunner Markets. The sale included all 92 Roadrunner Markets stores, as well as seven quick service restaurants, located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.

UCMH nursing home earns 5-star rating from CMS

From Staff Reports

The long-term care facility at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital recently received a 5-star rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Pictured, from left, are members of the staff: Barb Ambrose, CNA; Lisa Edwards, CNA; Karen Gingras, MDS coordinator; Sherry Gaddy, RN; Tammy Edwards, administrator; Julie Hickman, RN; Deb Baker, DON; Crystal Schmidt, RN; Chris Clark, LPN; Rachel Tilson, LPN; Debbie Wainwright, office coordinator. (Contributed photo)

The long-term care facility at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital recently received a 5-star rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Pictured, from left, are members of the staff: Barb Ambrose, CNA; Lisa Edwards, CNA; Karen Gingras, MDS coordinator; Sherry Gaddy, RN; Tammy Edwards, administrator; Julie Hickman, RN; Deb Baker, DON; Crystal Schmidt, RN; Chris Clark, LPN; Rachel Tilson, LPN; Debbie Wainwright, office coordinator. (Contributed photo)

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has recognized Unicoi County Nursing Home with a 5-Star overall rating.

The 46-bed unit is Unicoi County Memorial Hospital’s (UCMH) long-term care facility, and offers patients a comforting environment with high quality care, according to a press release issued by Mountain States Health Alliance, the health system that owns UCMH.

“I’ve lived here for over a year now, and it feels just like home,” said Kent Masters, resident of Unicoi County Nursing Home. “I like all the activities – especially playing ball – and the people here. They’re like my family now. It really is a great place to live.”

In addition to a 5-Star overall rating, Unicoi County Nursing Home also earned a 5-Star rating for staffing. The facility’s administration director, Tammy Edwards, attributes the 5-Star rating to team members always going the extra mile for residents.

“Unicoi County Nursing Home has the best team of caregivers, and everyone has been instrumental in helping us reach this milestone,” said Edwards. “We strive to give our residents 5-Star care, and it is certainly rewarding to have achieved this recognition.”

CMS created the 5-Star rating system to help consumers, their families and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily. The organization collects information through various methods, including onsite inspections, resident assessments and staffing levels. CMS’ Nursing Home Compare website https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html contains information for all 15,000-plus Medicare- and Medicaid-participating nursing homes and allows anyone to compare information about nursing homes.

The site features a quality rating system that gives each nursing home a rating of between 1 and 5 stars. Nursing homes with 5 stars are considered to have “much above average” quality, and nursing homes with 1 star are considered to have quality “much below average.”

“Our long-term care provides the best possible care for our residents,” said Eric Carroll, administrator of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital. “This honor is earned through many years of continuous high quality. It is not one we take for granted and we will work extremely hard to retain it.”

Tennessee celebrates Weights and Measures week

From Staff Reports

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is celebrating Weights and Measures week March 1-7, 2017. This year’s theme, Tradition and Technology Drive U.S. Standards for Trade, highlights the rapidly advancing technologies used to ensure fairness in the marketplace.

“Consumers and businesses alike should get what they pay for,” Commissioner Jai Templeton said. “We value our highly trained Weights and Measures inspectors who provide a crucial service for all Tennesseans.”

TDA is responsible for ensuring the specifications, tolerances and other technical requirements are met for weighing and measuring devices at 10,348 locations across Tennessee. These devices include 99,535 fuel pumps, 18,729 scales, 767 bulk meters, and 536 liquefied petroleum gas meters.

Inspectors also check signage, advertisements and price computations to make sure consumers are not misled. Additionally, they verify that the fuel being sold to drivers meets quality standards.

“If a discrepancy is found, our inspectors work with the retailer and provide guidance in fixing the problem,” Weights and Measures administrator Ed Coleman said. ”We will re-inspect to make sure the issue was corrected.”

The Tennessee Metrology Laboratory maintains and houses the primary standards of mass, volume and length for the state. A new metrology lab, which is under construction and on track to be completed by mid-September 2017, will include the most current equipment and testing capabilities.

Weights and Measures Week is celebrated each year to commemorate John Adams signing the first U.S. weights and measures law on March 2, 1799. Tennessee is a member of the National Conference on Weights and Measures. NCWM has developed national weights and measures standards since 1905. The organization works hard to keep pace with innovative advancements in the marketplace.

State officials, meteorologists promoting preparedness for Severe Weather Awareness Week

From Staff Reports

Tennessee’s Severe Weather Awareness Week is Feb. 26, to Mar. 4, 2017, and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), and the National Weather Service (NWS) are asking Tennesseans to make severe weather planning and preparedness a priority.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s Severe Weather Awareness Week proclamation is online at: http://tnsos.net/publications/proclamations/files/1159.pdf.

“One of TEMA’s priorities is to help Tennesseans have access to information to ensure they can prepare for any variety of man-made, natural, and technological hazards or disasters,” said TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan. “While severe weather, especially tornadoes, can occur any time in Tennessee, they are most common during the spring months of March, April, and May. We want Tennesseans and our visitors to pay attention to and understand the weather, ensure they have multiple ways to receive severe weather warnings, and have a plan to get  themselves and their loved ones to safety when severe weather warnings are issued.”

TEMA will be hosting a Facebook Live event at 10 a.m., CST, on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, as part of the agency’s effort to help Tennesseans understand the hazards and threats of severe weather.  TDH and NWS representatives will also participate in Facebook Live session atwww.facebook.com/TNDisasterInfo.

NWS Awareness and Education Events

NWS offices in Nashville, Memphis, Morristown, and Huntsville, Ala. are planning a series of education and training events, using each day of Severe Weather Awareness Week to focus on a different severe weather threat. Information on the NWS activities is available atwww.weather.gov/ohx/swaw2017.

“Although it seems the past two springs have been relatively quiet as far as severe weather, all Tennesseans know that it’s not if we’re going to see severe weather, but merely when,” said Krissy Hurley, warning coordination meteorologist at NWS Nashville.

A highlight of the week will be the statewide tornado drill NWS will conduct at 9:30 a.m., CST, on Wed., Mar. 1.  The drill will also include a statewide test of NOAA weather radios.

Be Ready, Make a Plan, Have a Kit

TDH urges Tennesseans to make emergency plans now before a flood, tornado, or other threat is imminent, so they have time to decide what actions they should take to protect themselves.

“Like the slogan says: be ready, make a plan and have a kit. We want to be proactive don’t we, taking a little time before a weather emergency is coming to start thinking about what we need to do to protect ourselves and the people and places we love?” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “That way we are ready whether we ‘saw it coming’ or not, and isn’t that the best way to keep everyone safe?”

TDH recommends thinking about the weather events in your area or while you travel and making a plan before the crisis comes. It is best to write it down but at a minimum, talk with your family about where you’ll meet, how you’ll communicate and where to go if you need to evacuate or can’t return home. Put an emergency kit together so you’re ready in the event of severe weather.

The most important preparedness tip for severe weather is to stay informed to its potential.  Listen to NOAA Weather Radio, watch TV or listen to the radio for weather updates and warnings.

Other severe weather awareness tips and resources include:

  • Never venture into high water, either on foot or in a vehicle.
  • If you’re outside and hear thunder, go indoors immediately.
  • Go to a basement or an innermost, first floor room in your home if you’re told to take shelter during a tornado warning.
  • Know the location of and route to your office or building’s tornado shelter.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado.
  • Have an emergency plan ready at places where your family spends time – work, school, daycare, commuting and outdoor events.
  • Emergency plans should include where to meet, and who family members should check in with, if you are separated from family members during a severe weather emergency.

At a minimum, emergency preparedness kits should include one gallon of water per-day, per-person, and per-pet, for three to five days. The kit should also have enough non-perishable food for each family member, and pets, for three to five days.

Other items that every kit should include:  flashlight, battery-powered radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, personal hygiene items, cell phone charger or solar charger, and copies of important family documents.

It is also very important that emergency kits contain extra supplies of medications, especially for those with chronic health conditions.

Online Preparedness Resources

A number of websites provide resources to help with the creation of emergency plans.  The website,https://www.ready.gov/ and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, https://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/kit/disasters/, have information, fill-in-the-blank documents, and other resources to help individuals and families assemble the basic components needed for personal emergency plans.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has emergency preparedness information for businesses atwww.sba.gov/managing-business/running-business/emergency-preparedness.  The Ready website also includes a workplace preparedness section at https://www.ready.gov/workplace-plans.

 

Uncorked: Food Lion receives first wine permit

By Brad Hicks

The first permit to allow the sale of wine in a retail food store located within the town of Erwin has been issued.

On Monday, Jan. 23, the Erwin Beverage Board, which is made up of the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, unanimously approved a permit which will allow the Food Lion grocery store located on North Main Avenue to begin stocking its shelves with wine.

Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley made the motion that Food Lion be granted the license to sell wine, with Aldermen Mark Lafever seconding.

Voters residing within the limits of Erwin and the Town of Unicoi passed referendums during the Nov. 8 election to permit the sale of wine in grocery stores located within the limits of their respective towns.

In Erwin, more than 1,400 voted in favor of the referendum with approximately 650 voting against the referendum.

State lawmakers in 2014 approved a law permitting the sale of wine in Tennessee’s grocery stores. That law went into effect on July 1, 2016. But, while the law legalized the sale, it was up to each county or city to have a local option election authorizing the sale of wine in retail food stores. Because of this, those wishing to see wine in their local grocery stores were required to collect signatures on a petition to get the referendum on the ballot.

The referendums for voters in Erwin and the Town of Unicoi appeared on the ballots because petitions disseminated before the November election received the required number of valid signatures.

The petition distributed in Erwin prior to the November election garnered a total of 157 valid signatures, exceeding the necessary mark. The number of signatures required on such petitions was equal to at least 10 percent of the number of people in each municipality who voted in the 2014 Tennessee gubernatorial race. A total of 130 valid signatures was required in Erwin for the referendum to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot for voters residing within the municipality.

The referendum permitting the sale of wine in retail food stores located within the Town of Unicoi passed on Nov. 8 with around 1,000 voting in favor of the measure and approximately 500 voting against.

The Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen has not yet had to consider the issuance of a permit to allow the sale of wine for retail food stores located within that town’s limits.

Lawmakers announce progress to reopen office

From Staff Reports

Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) and Representative John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton) announced on Monday, Jan. 23, that the Departments of General Services and Human Services have been working diligently over the past several months to create a new lease space to help citizens easily access services in Unicoi County.

The lawmakers are receiving regular updates regarding the lease execution, construction of the space and the eventual opening of the office, according to a press release issued by Crowe’s office.

“We are very pleased that we are finally seeing progress to get these offices relocated in Unicoi County,” said Senator Crowe. “This will be a tremendous help to our local citizens who seek access to services through the Department of Human Services.”

The contract for the space leased was approved Monday at a meeting of the State Building Commission at Legislative Plaza in Nashville.

The lawmakers said new space plans have been designed to co-locate the Department of Human Services and the Tennessee Highway Patrol staff in Unicoi County into a renovated office space. Although this process has taken several months, state officials believe that the new office will meet the requirements of these agencies.

“We have been advised that these offices will be completed and ready to serve citizens as soon as possible,” added Rep. Holsclaw. “The state is doing all it can to minimize the timeline. I am hopeful the new office can be up and running soon.”

New laws taking effect Jan. 1 impact variety of items

By Brad Hicks

The rolling of the calendar to 2017 brought with it a number of new laws in the state of Tennessee.

New legislation that took effect Jan. 1 impacts everything from handgun permits to the alcohol content of beer that can be sold and manufactured in the state.

Several new state laws pertaining to handgun permits took effect on Jan. 1. One reduces the fee of a lifetime handgun carry permit from $500 to $200 for existing permit holders. First-time applicants will be required to pay a one-time fee of $315.

The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam in April 2016.

The age required for some seeking a handgun carry permit was reduced in a law that took effect on New Year’s Day. This law lowers the age for receiving a handgun carry permit from 21 years of age to 18 for persons having been honorably discharged or are retired veterans of the U.S. armed forces or service members on active duty status.

Another handgun permit law now in effect reduces the fee for a lifetime handgun carry permit for certain federal, state and local law enforcement officers. According to the law, the fee will be reduced to $100 for retired law enforcement officers who served at least 10 years prior to retirement and were Peace Officer Standards Training-certified or acquired the equivalent training and retired in good standing “as certified by the chief law enforcement officer of the organization from which the applicant retired.”

Per the law, the applicant must have been a resident of the state of Tennessee on the date of his or her retirement and a state resident on the date the permit application was submitted.

A new law now in effect affects the sentencing for those who commit vehicular homicide while under the influence. Per the law, if this crime involves the use of drugs or alcohol, the defendant will be ineligible for probation.

Under state law, a criminal defendant is generally eligible for probation if the sentence imposed is 10 years or less. However, there are certain offenses that render defendants ineligible for probation despite the sentence, such as aggravated sexual battery, certain drug offenses and aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.

The new law added vehicle homicide caused by the driver’s intoxication to the list of offenses that render a defendant ineligible for probation.

Like most of the laws that took effect on Jan. 1, the new vehicular homicide legislation was signed by the governor in April 2016.

A law allowing for the sale of high-gravity beers in grocery stores throughout the state and eliminating the additional licensure requirement for the manufacture of higher alcohol beers by breweries in Tennessee also went into effect with the new year. This legislation essentially redefined “high content alcohol beer” as those having an alcoholic content of more than 5 percent by weight to an alcoholic content by weight of more than 8 percent.

This increased the state’s alcohol by volume limit from 6.2 percent to 10.1 percent. Higher gravity beers were available for purchase across the state prior to the law taking effect, but only at package stores and restaurants or bars with liquor licenses. Brewers previously had to obtain a distillery license to manufacture beverages more than the state’s 6.2 ABV limit. Breweries will also be allowed to sell the higher alcohol content beer they manufacture under the new law.

The legislation redefining beer actually passed in 2014 and was signed by the governor in May of that year.

Tennessee high school students will now be required to take a U.S. civics test before graduation, according to new legislation.

Per this new law, high school students will be required to take a U.S. civics test during their high school career. This test is to be prepared by the local education agency (LEA) and is to be composed of 25 to 50 questions from the 100 questions making up the civics test administered by the U.S. citizenship and immigration services to those seeking to become naturalized citizens.

Under the law, the LEA may prepare multiple versions of the test for use in different school and at different times. Students may be allowed to take the test as many times as necessary to pass, with a passing defined as the students answering at least 70 percent of the questions correctly.

The law as originally presented was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2015 and it was initially set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016. However, the legislation has undergone several amendments since it was originally proposed.

Initially, the test was to be composed of 100 questions and its passage would have been a requirement for graduation. Passage of the test was originally defined as a student answering 60 percent of questions correctly.

With the amendments, passage of the test will not be required for a student to graduate. A student with an individualized education program under which the civics test is determined to be “an inappropriate requirement for the student” shall not be required to take the test, according to the law.

If all students in a senior class required to take the civics test and receiving a regular diploma pass the test, that school will be recognized on the  Department of Education’s website as a “United States Civics All-Star School” for that school year.

Among other new state laws that took effect on Jan. 1 is eliminating the requirement that a person’s driver license be suspended for an additional period if he or she is convicted of driving on a suspended or revoked license.

Under previous law, those convicted of driving on a suspended license were subject to an extension of the original suspension period. Per the new law, the court will be given to issue a restricted driver license contingent on the person with a suspended or revoked license participating in a payment plan for fines and costs.

More stringent sentencing is now in place for those who rob pharmacies in order to obtain controlled substances. A new law creates a new sentencing factor for those who commit the offenses of robbery, aggravated robbery or especially aggravated robbery on the premises of a licensed pharmacy in order to obtain, sell, give or exchange a controlled substance, controlled substance analogue or other illegal drug.

New federal rules set for livestock

From Staff Reports

With the coming of the new year, livestock producers will have new federal rules to follow when feeding their animals.

Beginning Jan. 1, a licensed veterinarian must approve and supervise use of certain medications in livestock feed.

“Antibiotics are vitally important for fighting illness and maintaining livestock health,” state veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “However, we must make sure that drugs don’t develop resistance. These new rules will move us toward the elimination of antibiotic use for production purposes, while still allowing producers to use prescribed antibiotics to treat and control disease.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will require producers to have a veterinary feed directive (VFD) in order to feed certain antimicrobial drugs. Before a producer can obtain a VFD, their licensed vet of record must examine and diagnose the livestock in question. Producers must then provide the VFD to their feed manufacturer or supplier. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture routinely inspects feed manufacturers. Any mills that mix antimicrobials into livestock feed will be required to show proof of the VFD during inspection. Extra-label use of a VFD drug in an animal feed for weight gain or feed efficiency is prohibited.

More information is available at www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/ucm071807.htm.

Pending home sales 23 percent higher than November 2015

From Staff Reports

A gauge for residential home sales continued to show some seasonal slowing in November. At the same time, it was 23 percent higher than new pending sales for November last year.

The Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors reports there were 562 new pending sales in the 11-county region monitored by NETAR’s Trends report in November, down from 641 in October and up from 457 November last year.

New pending sales include accepted offers on single-family, townhome and condominium properties in Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Washington and Unicoi counties in Northeast Tennessee and Washington, Lee, Scott and Wise counties in Southwest Virginia. Sales typically close in 45 days to two months after signing.

The National Association of Realtors said last week that its pending sales index fell 2.5 percent from October. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economists, blamed the decline on a recent jump in mortgage rates combined with rising prices and a tight inventory.

NETAR President Marsha Stowell said the local market has 5.6 months of inventory is November. That’s the number of months it would take to exhaust active listing at the current sales rate.

“New listing were 6 percent better than November last year following two months of decline,” she added. The total active listings for November was down 21 percent from last year. “This time of the year we typically see about 4,000 active listings.”

In November, there were a little over 3,000 active listing in the region.

Stowell said the mortgage rate increases have not blunted demand all that much.

November’s average listing price was $234,000 compared to $210,000 November last year. The average sales price as a percentage of the average listing price in November was 95 percent, down from 96 percent in September and October.

Carter Railroad Museum features region’s best

Just one of the many exhibits on display at the Carter Railroad Museum. (Contributed photo)

Just one of the many exhibits on display at the Carter Railroad Museum. (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

On Saturday, Dec. 31, East Tennessee State University’s George L. Carter Railroad Museum’s monthly Heritage Day will showcase both Appalachia’s biggest steam engines and most colorful diesels. The exhibit is titled “Precision Transportation: Norfolk & Western and Norfolk Southern Glory.”

In 2012, Norfolk Southern railroad, once the Norfolk and Western, devoted a group of new locomotives to its corporate past. These engines were painted in historically-derived schemes similar to the ones featured on the predecessor lines, like the Interstate, Southern, Wabash and Central of Georgia.

The model trains running at the museum will include steam engines from the past and the Heritage-style modern diesels.

“The museum has honored this company, which still runs trains through downtown Johnson City, since the start of the Heritage Days program,” noted event coordinator Geoff Stunkard. “This was a great way to bring them to the forefront and should be a fun activity as New Year’s Eve entertainment for the family.”

The George L. Carter Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and members of the Mountain Empire Model Railroaders (MEMRR) club are developing the program on the club’s large 24×44 1:87 HO scale layout, one of four model lines that are housed in the museum. 

The Carter Railroad Museum is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed. The museum can be identified by a flashing railroad crossing signal at the back entrance to the Campus Center Building. Visitors should enter ETSU’s campus from State of Franklin Road onto Jack Vest Drive and continue east to 176 Ross Drive, adjacent to the flashing RR crossing sign.

To learn more about the museum, visit http://johnsonsdepot.com/glcarter/cartermuseum. Visit www.memrr.org to learn more about MEMRR, which helps demonstrate and maintain the model layouts, museum exhibits and other projects.

For more information about Heritage Day, contact Dr. Fred Alsop, museum director, at 439-6838 or alsopf@etsu.edu.  For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 439-8346.

United Way campaign exceeds fundraising goal

Lee Brown, Unicoi County United Way president, reports on campaign success. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Brad Hicks)

Lee Brown, Unicoi County United Way president, reports on campaign success. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Brad Hicks)

By Brad Hicks

Mission accomplished.

Unicoi County United Way President Lee Brown announced during Thursday’s United Way Victory Luncheon held at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center that the local United Way had not only met, but surpassed its loftier fundraising goal for its 2017 campaign.

The Unicoi County United Way has received donations and pledges totaling $139,066 for its 2017 fundraising campaign, Brown said. This is well above the $120,000 goal the organization had set for the campaign.

“Each year, the community rises to the occasion and, again, produces a successful United Way campaign,” Brown said. “This year is no different.”

On Oct. 18, the Unicoi County United Way kicked off its 2017 fundraising campaign. The $120,000 goal set for the campaign is up from the $105,000 goal the organization set for its 2016 campaign.

Last year was a record-setting year for Unicoi County United Way, as the organization raised nearly $148,000 during its 2016 campaign. This amount – the most ever raised during an annual campaign – prompted the local United Way Board to increase the goal for the 2017 campaign.

“Our board made a big leap of faith this year in raising our campaign goal from $105,000 to $120,000,” Brown said. “Typically, we’ve been a very conservative board and never made a jump quite of that nature. But we felt confident that our community would once again rise to the occasion and produce great results.”

The majority of the funding raised during the 2017 campaign -– $116,820 – will be provided to local nonprofit organizations to help them better serve the citizens of Unicoi County. Those set to receive this funding are:

• Children’s Advocacy Center of the First Judicial District – $2,000

• Change is Possible (CHIPS) Family Violence Shelter – $5,000

• Clinchfield Senior Adult Center – $25,000

• Unicoi County Public Library – $12,500

• Col. J.F. Toney Memorial Library – $5,000

• Contact Ministries, Inc. – $4,000

• Erwin Little League – $3,000

• Monroe Foundation – $2,500

• Second Harvest Food Bank – $5,000

• Sequoyah Council of Boy Scouts of America – $2,000

• Tennessee Rehabilitation Center – $5,000

• Unicoi County 4-H Club – $3,320

• Unicoi County Family YMCA – $12,000

• Unicoi County Health Department – $1,500

• Unicoi County Literacy Program – $2,000

• Unicoi County Shoe Fund – $5,000

• Unicoi County Student Backpack Program – $10,000

• Unicoi County Student Dental Program – $3,000

• Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) – $4,000

• Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County – $5,000

David Erickson, who serves on the Unicoi County United Way Board, also presented $17,500 in additional funding. Erickson said some years, the Unicoi County United Way is able to provide additional organizations and projects with contingency fund appropriations.

“We have agencies that we help on a regular basis, but there are agencies that come to us with special requests throughout the year,” Erickson said. “So when there are funds available, it’s always good to be able to help those organizations, and this is one of those years we can do that.”

Those organizations receiving contingency fund appropriations were the Unicoi County Little League, which received an additional $12,000 to help complete a fencing project; the Erwin Kiwanis Foundation, which received $4,000 to support its annual Christmas Shopping Tour; and the Imagination Library, which received $1,500.

Brown said remaining funding from the 2017 campaign will be put toward upcoming projects and programs.

Erickson and Brown also recognized the Unicoi County United Way’s campaign partners. Those recognized were NN, Inc., Regal Beloit/Morrill Motors, Specialty Tires, Impact Plastics, Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, Unicoi County Schools, Unicoi County Gas Utility District, Nuclear Fuel Services, United Steel Workers and Erwin Utilities.

Brown also expressed his appreciation to all who had made contributions during the Unicoi County United Way’s 2017 campaign. He said another successful year would not have been possible without the community’s direct support.

“Thank you to each and every one that has had a part in raising funds or just making your own personal contribution,” Brown said.

Brown concluded Thursday’s Victory Luncheon by quoting missionary Amy Carmichael, who once said, ‘You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.’

“Our community generosity displays what great love of community that we have,” Brown said. “It’s something that I don’t think you find everywhere else.”

State urges Tennesseans to heat homes safely

From Staff Reports

The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) reminds Tennesseans to keep safety in mind as they heat their homes during the winter season. Residents are urged to use extra caution with the use of alternate heat sources, such as portable heaters.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of following safety precautions when heating your home during the colder months,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “Employing just a few basic steps this winter can help ensure that your family is kept as safe as they are warm.”

Heating equipment is a major cause of home fire devastation. According to State Fire Marshal’s Office data, from 2011-2015, Tennessee fire departments responded to 2,572 home structure fires that involved heating equipment. These fires resulted in 53 fatalities. Heating equipment fires accounted for 8 percent of all reported home fires and 13 percent of all home fire deaths during that time period.

Some simple precautions can prevent most heating-related fires from happening:

• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.

• Never use your oven to heat your home.

• Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

• Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.

• Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

• Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.

• Burn only dry, seasoned wood in fireplaces and woodstoves. Never burn garbage or use flammable liquids to start a fire.

• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.

• If the pilot light of your gas heater goes out, allow 5 minutes or more for the gas to go away before trying to relight the pilot. Follow manufacturer’s instructions when relighting the pilot. Do not allow gas to accumulate, and light the match before you turn on the gas to the pilot to avoid risk of flashback.

Don’t forget to install smoke alarms on every level of your home and test them monthly. Develop and practice a home fire escape plan with everyone in your home. The plan should include two ways out of every room and a designated meeting place outside.

Tennesseans in need of a smoke alarm can utilize the SFMO’s online alarm form to request a free installation.

Official: Rain ‘may not signal end of the fires’

By Brad Hicks

Rain is in the forecast, but the wet weather may not quell the threat of forest fires within the Cherokee National Forest.

“I don’t want to minimize the fact that this rain is really good news, it’s just that it may not – and it would be nice if it did – but it may not signal the end of the fires,” said Peter Frenzen, public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service. “That will just depend on what lands where.”

According to the National Weather Service, there is a 100 percent chance of showers today in Unicoi County, with a 50 percent chance this evening. There is also a chance of local showers forecast for both Saturday and Sunday.

Frenzen said about an inch of precipitation is predicted to fall throughout the northern portion of the Cherokee National Forest with the rain event occurring over the next day or so. But he said the impact this rainfall could have on dry conditions depends on just how much rain actually falls and the area receiving it.

According to a release from the Forest Service, the rainfall total from midnight Tuesday to late Tuesday morning for the Unaka Ranger District was 0.74 inches, and for the Watauga Ranger District was 0.82 inches forecasted to occur Tuesday afternoon.

“Fire officials are looking forward to more forecast rain through the end of week but, will wait and see how much actually falls and on how wide of an area,” the release states.   

Due to recent dry conditions, the Cherokee National Forest Watauga Ranger District went on “severity” in mid-October in anticipation of wildfires. Along with extended hours for Forest Service personnel responsible for monitoring potential and ongoing wildfire situations, the severity designation also leads to Forest Service districts receiving additional resources, such as out-of-state fire crews.

Frenzen said due to the recent dry conditions, a wildfire’s fuel – particularly the leaves, grass and wood found throughout a forested area – has gotten down to a “kiln-dried lumber” state, meaning it is even more susceptible to burning. Frenzen said a sustained period of rain is needed to dampen the natural fire fuel. He added even if the area receives “a good shot of rain” over the next few days, wood may quickly dry out, meaning the Cherokee National Forest would thrust back into a fire season once the rain passes.

In response to the dry conditions, the U.S. Forest Service earlier this month issued a fire ban for the Cherokee National Forest.

“The U.S. Forest Service is implementing a TOTAL FIRE BAN for the Cherokee National Forest in east Tennessee due to the extremely dry conditions, very high fire danger, and little chance of rain in the immediate forecast,” a notice issued by the Forest Service states.

The ban restricts the building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, charcoal or stove fire inside or outside developed recreation sites, and it restricts smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, or developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.

“The total fire ban was necessary because of current conditions and the potential for wild fire,” Cherokee National Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris stated. “I want to remind national forest visitors that this ban applies to all areas of the Cherokee National Forest, including developed recreation areas. Your understanding and cooperation is appreciated.”

Days after the Forest Service issued this ban, Gov. Bill Haslam issued one of his own. Haslam declared a regional ban on burning in 51 counties in response to the ongoing drought and wildfires throughout middle and east Tennessee. Unicoi County is among the counties listed.

“Effective immediately, residents in counties covered by the regional ban are not permitted to conduct any open-air burning,” a release announcing Haslam’s declaration states. “The ban includes campfires, and burning of brush, vegetation, household waste or construction debris.”

This ban will remain in effect until Dec. 15.

Frenzen said the fire ban for the Cherokee National Forest remains in effect. Depending on the amount of rain the area receives and how long it fell, both Forest Service and county officials will reassess the total fire ban.

“We’ll be watching how much rain falls where, and then looking at how that affects the fire severity situation, fire danger situation, and the Forest Service and the counties, as well, and will reassess as that situation changes,” Frenzen said.

But Frenzen urged citizens to continue to heed the fire and burn bans. Even with the rain, he said, the threat of fire will remain present.

“It appears the long-term outlook for this region is dryer than normal, so this rain event will certainly bring some relief, kind of like a pause in things, but it’s likely that eventually that will dry out again,” Frenzen said. “How soon that is depends on how many of these shower events you get and when dry air comes again to start drying it out again. But the feeling is that, at least in the long term, it’s not over.”

And the smoke that has recently descended upon Unicoi County may not be over.

Wildfires continue to burn throughout the region, including in western North Carolina and Gatlinburg. Unicoi County has seen and felt the effects of these fires. Smoke from multiple wildfires burning just across the state line in western North Carolina blanketed the county on Nov. 8.

Heavy smoke was again prevalent throughout the county on Nov. 23. Frenzen said that smoke was the result of wind coming up from the south, pushing smoke from fires burning in North Carolina and Georgia into the area. On both Nov. 8 and Nov. 23, the atmosphere was stable, Frenzen said, and which, along with a layer of cooler air, causes the smoke to be “capped” in the valley, leaving it with no place to go.

When the wind shifted to come out of the north and west, it pushed the settled smoke out of the area, Frenzen said. Winds are again coming up from the south but the atmosphere has changed, and it is now classified as unstable, Frenzen said, meaning there is a greater possibility for thunderstorms and strong winds. This may lead to smoke blowing through Unicoi County rather than lingering.

“So we may get smoke just kind of moving through like on a big conveyor belt,” Frenzen said.

And because wind can cause even the smallest of fires to spread quickly, officials will continue to monitor it.

“All eyes right now are on the wind,” Frenzen said. “That seems to be the big concern.”

Smoke in the region has led the National Weather Service to recently issue air quality alerts for the area.

Frenzen also offered some tips for those driving through heavy smoke. He said drivers should slow down and utilize their vehicle’s headlights. He said if visibility is greatly impacted by the smoke, drivers should pull over and activate their hazard lights.

Community invited to adopt children from ‘Tree of Hope’

From Staff Reports

The Unicoi County Clerk’s office is hosting its annual Tree of Hope program this Christmas season. The tree benefits children across the county, according to County Clerk Mitzi Bowen.

Children in need have been added to the tree and people are encouraged to stop by the clerk’s office and pick one of the ornaments off of the tree.

“This will be our 11th year sponsoring the Tree of Hope,” Bowen said. “We realize that everyone has difficult times in their lives and this is our way of helping them. It could be your neighbor, the person you sit by in church or maybe your best friend or family.”

Bowen’s office adopts out all of the children at Christmas time and Bowen said that the program has grown so much that program is now able to provide food boxes for each family.

“It’s unreal how much our little county will give,” said Bowen.

Each ornament has a particular child’s needs. People then go shop for the child and return the presents to the office to be presented to the child on Dec. 17. On each ornament pertaining to each child, it will have sizes for coats, shoes, pants and a toy that child likes.

The deadline to have all of the packages into the clerk’s office is the week of Dec 12. Pick up day for the families is Dec. 17. Donations can be contributed for the tree any time before then and may be taken to the county clerk’s office.

“I want to thank all of those who have donated this year,” said Bowen. “It’s amazing how heartwarming this little county is. So come one, come all, and adopt a child from the Tree of Hope and let’s make a lot of children’s Christmases magical this year.”

Department of Agriculture: Shop for farm goods this Small Biz Saturday

From Staff Reports

Small Business Saturday is November 26 and in Tennessee, many of those businesses focus on products found on the farm.

A year-round interest in local products means plenty of options for holiday gifts from the farm. When you purchase from a farmer, you create an economic ripple that encourages and strengthens rural communities.

Gift baskets with artisan cheeses, meats, sauces and jellies, local wines, handmade chocolates and other festivity-friendly foods are easy to find. Baskets are a great choice for family, friends who like to entertain and business associates.

Goat’s milk, honey and beeswax-based beauty products, like soaps, lotions and balms are readily available at farmers markets and retail stores that specialize in artisan farm offerings.

Some gifts need to be really special. Farmers like Karl and Jan Heinrich of Long Hollow Suri Alpacas have increased production on their farm to meet demand for items that are local and luxurious. The Heinrichs, who process the alpaca wool right on their Gallatin farm, take their business from the field to the fashion runways of New York. Shoppers in their farm store can choose gifts to warm the heart and hands, ranging from cozy gloves and wraps to beautiful yarns and couture dresses.

Find farm-related businesses across the state through the Taste of Tennessee Online Store at www.PickTnProducts.org. Shoppers can click on links and connect to a business or producer site. The products are then purchased directly from the producer.

Pick Tennessee Products is the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s program to connect consumers to farms, farmers and farm products. Now in its 30th year, Pick Tennessee lists more than 2,500 Tennessee farmers and farm direct businesses with almost 10,000 products.

State Fire Marshal: Cook safely this Thanksgiving season

From Staff Reports

As families prepare to gather for Thanksgiving Day feasts this Thursday, November 24, the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) urges Tennesseans to avoid careless cooking habits that can lead to fires.

Cooking safety is a key component to the SFMO’s recently launched holiday safety campaign, developed in response to an annual increase of home fires during the holiday season.

“The excitement of a Thanksgiving get-together can lead to distractions for holiday cooks,” said State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “We encourage Tennesseans to cook with care this Thanksgiving to avoid a devastating fire. Pay attention in the kitchen, and if using a turkey fryer, take all necessary safety precautions to protect yourself, your family, and your property.”

National and state statistics show Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment. An estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Here in the Volunteer State, 29 percent of reported home structure fires in 2015 involved cooking equipment. Those 2,077 fires resulted in seven fatalities, 44 civilian injuries, and over $11 million of direct property damage according to the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System.

The SFMO offers these safety tips as a reminder to cook smart this year:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling. If you have to leave the room, even for a moment, turn off the burner.
  • Use a kitchen timer when boiling, simmering, baking, or roasting to remind yourself that you are cooking.
  • Use caution with turkey fryers. Oil-less models are available that use infrared heat, rather than oil, to cook the turkey.
  • Never leave a turkey fryer unattended. Most fryer units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer, even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot for hours after use.
  • To prevent spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is thawed and dry before cooking. Ice or water that mixes into the hot oil can cause flare-ups. The National Turkey Foundation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of weight.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease or oil fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department by dialing 911.

For more information on making your home fire-safe, download and print the State Fire Marshal’s home fire safety checklist. Tennessee residents can request a free smoke alarm by visiting www.tn.gov/fire.

TDOT halts lane closures on Tennessee highways during Thanksgiving holiday

From Staff Reports

Thanksgiving travelers will not be delayed by construction on Tennessee roads during this busy travel holiday, according to a press release from the state. TDOT will halt all lane closure activity on interstates and state highways in anticipation of higher traffic volumes across the state. All construction related lane closures will be stopped beginning at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 23, through 6 a.m. Monday, Nov. 28. 

“Over a million travelers in Tennessee are expected to drive to their holiday destinations this year,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “This is the most traveled holiday of the year. Halting road work during this busy time will provide maximum capacity on our roadways and help alleviate congestion, especially during the predicted peak travel days of Wednesday and Sunday.”

While all lane closure activity will be stopped, workers may be on site in some construction zones. Long-term lane closures will also remain in place on some construction projects for motorists’ safety. Motorists are reminded to drive safely and obey the posted speeds, especially in work zones. Drivers convicted of speeding in work zones where workers are present face a fine of up to $500, plus court fees and possible increased insurance premiums.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and TDOT are partnering with law enforcement across the state for the I-40 Challenge, with the goal of having zero fatalities on the 455 miles of I-40 in Tennessee. On the peak travel days of Wednesday, Nov. 23, and Sunday, Nov. 27, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will have troopers stationed every 20 miles on I-40, along with increased law enforcement on all highways.

AAA predicts 48.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday, an increase of 1 million travelers over last year. Driving remains the most popular mode of travel for the holiday. An estimated 1,086,352 people are expected to travel by automobile in Tennessee. Nationwide, more than 89 percent of all travelers will drive to their destinations.

From your desktop or mobile device, get the latest construction activity and live streaming SmartWay traffic cameras at www.TNSmartWay.com/Traffic. Travelers can also dial 511 from any land-line or cellular phone for travel information, or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TN511 for statewide travel.

As always, drivers are reminded to use all motorist information tools wisely and Know Before You Go! by checking travel conditions before leaving for your destination.  Drivers should never tweet, text or talk on a cell phone while behind the wheel.

Chamber announces holiday events

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce will be ringing in this holiday season with a full lineup of special events.

Erwin Christmas Parade on Saturday, Nov. 26

The first holiday event on the Chamber’s calendar is the annual Erwin Christmas Parade on Saturday, Nov. 26, at 10:30 a.m.

This year’s parade, which is themed “A Magical Christmas,” will feature floats and exhibits that will help participants and attendees get into the holiday spirit. The parade will begin at the Erwin Village Shopping Center, travel down Main Avenue into downtown and end at Erwin Utilities on Love Street.

“The holiday season is a special time for making memories and celebrating traditions,” Chamber Executive Director Amanda Delp said. “The Chamber takes pride in coordinating an event that allows the community to come together in celebration of the holidays. The parade is one of our favorite events each year.”

Cline Floats will be supplying professionally designed floats again this year for local businesses to sponsor, according to Delp. These floats will travel the parade route along with various other floats, the Unicoi County High School Band, the UCHS Junior Air Force ROTC, vehicles of all sorts and the special finale, Santa and Mrs. Claus. Churches, civic organizations and individuals are encouraged to enter homemade floats in the parade.

Groups wishing to participate in the 2016 Erwin Christmas Parade should call the Chamber at 743-3000 to receive an application. 

All participants must complete an application form in order to participate in the parade, Delp said.  Applications must be received by the Chamber office by Monday, Nov. 21.

There is no entry fee for the parade. All participants operating motorized vehicles in the parade must provide a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance at the time of registration.

Annual Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 1

The 12th Annual Chamber Dinner will be held on Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Erwin National Guard Armory. Delp said this event is being sponsored by Nuclear Fuel Services and is themed “Magic Is in the Air.”

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will include a formal dinner program and entertainment by Azure Aerial Arts.

“The evening promises to light the beginning of your holiday season with a showcase of great entertainment and food,” Delp said. This event is open to the entire community, so join us for a fabulous dinner guaranteed to satisfy your holiday appetite and a wonderful program including a magical performance by Azure.”

Delp said the event will also include a look ahead to 2017 from the Chamber, the presentation of the President’s Award and a presentation by NFS.

“We invite you to enjoy all that is truly bright and wonderful about Unicoi County,” Delp added.

A silent auction will once again be part of the evening. Guests are invited to arrive early to browse the auction items, which will include tickets for regional attractions and events, specialty baskets, business-benefit packages and much more. Doors will open at 5:45 p.m. for the silent auction.

Tickets for the event may be purchased at the Chamber office for $25 each, or you may reserve a table of 10 for $225. Reservations must be made by Monday, Nov. 28. Call the Chamber office for more information.

Erwin Tree-Lighting Ceremony on Friday, Dec. 2

Next up is the 13th Annual Erwin Tree-Lighting Ceremony on Friday, Dec. 2, at Erwin Town Hall.

“With the holiday season just around the corner, we know there is no better way to ignite the holiday spirit than to join friends and neighbors for an evening of community festivities in downtown Erwin,” said Delp.

The tree-lighting ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. with remarks by Chamber and Town of Erwin officials. Attendees will be invited to join with the community choir in singing popular Christmas carols as the tree is being lit.

Activities will then move inside Erwin Town Hall for the reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Santa will then make his appearance. Again this year, The Erwin Record will be on hand to take individual photos of children visiting with Santa.

“We are happy to capture a special memory of the holiday season for local families,” Publisher Keith Whitson said.

The first 100 children will also receive a special gift from Santa and hot chocolate will be served during the ceremony, according to Delp. 

Gingerbread House Contest Entry Deadline on Monday, Dec. 5

The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce and Farm Bureau Insurance have teamed up for the 3rd Annual Gingerbread House Contest during the holiday season.

There is no fee to enter the contest. All entries must be dropped off at the Chamber of Commerce office by 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 5. Winners will be announced on Saturday, Dec. 10. The entries will be taken to Farm Bureau following the judging on Dec. 10 and will remain on display there until Jan. 2, Delp said.

This year’s theme is “A Magical Christmas” and all materials used in building the gingerbread house, including decorative items, must be edible (except for the base).

“Elaborate or simple, big or small, nothing gets you in the holiday spirit like building and designing your very own gingerbread house,” Delp said. “This is the perfect opportunity to start a new tradition and it’s never too early to begin working on this awesome event. Also remember that your holiday masterpiece doesn’t have to be a house; it can be a barn, church, school or other structure. Let your creative imagination take hold.”

Three divisions will be featured this year: group entry, adult and youth (ages 12 and under). There will be $100 in prize money awarded in each of the three divisions.

“Farm Bureau Insurance was eager to jump on board with sponsoring this community event when the idea was discussed a couple of years ago,” said Mark Peterson, agency manager with Farm Bureau. “We have been pleased with the participation and believe this can be an event that continues to grow each year. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit and have some fun being creative.”

Delp said the Chamber is “excited” to partner with Farm Bureau for the contest.

“As a devoted longtime community steward, Farm Bureau makes community events like this possible,” she added.

Breakfast With Santa on Saturday, Dec. 10

The Chamber invites children of all ages to a “Breakfast With Santa” on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 9 to 11 a.m. at The Bramble, 206 Gay St., Erwin.

Delp said a pancake breakfast will be served. There will also be dancing with the elves, face painting, music and photos with Santa by The Erwin Record.

Tickets are now on sale at the Chamber office. Children 6 and under are $5; all other tickets are $8.

“Seating is limited, so purchase your ticket today to make sure you enjoy this new holiday tradition,” Delp said. “Tickets must be purchased in advance.”

For more information about these events, call the Chamber at 743-3000.

MSHA: New services coming to county hospital

By Keeli Parkey

Two new services are now being offered at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital.

According to a press release issued by Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA), the health system that owns and operates the Erwin facility, lung cancer screening and home sleep testing are now available.

“One of our goals at Unicoi County Memorial Hospital is to continually find ways to better serve our patients and our community with the services we offer,” UCMH Administrator Eric Carroll said. “Both the lung cancer screening and the home sleep tests are great examples of that.”

MSHA described the low-dose CT lung cancer screening as “simple” and “painless.” This method is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and uses a CT machine to create images of the lungs. It is covered by most insurance providers, according to the press release.

“Early detection is so important with lung cancer,” Carroll said. “Since November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to remind people to be proactive. We’re really glad we can offer this service because it’s something that can save lives. A lot of credit goes to our radiology manager, Michael Slemp, and his team for bringing this service to the community.”

According to the health system, the leading cause of death among adults is lung cancer. Of those diagnosed, 25 percent will not have symptoms. MSHA called early detection “critical for the chance at successful treatment.” There is a reported 54 percent, five-year survival rate for lung cancer when the disease remains in the lungs.

“However, only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage,” the press release stated.

The CDC advises individuals who currently smoke, have smoked heavily in the past, smoked during the past 15 years and are in the 55- to 77-year-old age range to get screened for lung cancer.

MSHA also reported that the following are risk factors for lung cancer: Cigarette, cigar or tobacco use; secondhand smoke; radon; asbestos; air or environmental pollution; radiation therapy to the chest; arsenic in drinking water; and family or personal history of lung cancer.

For more information about the CT lung screening, call 743-1222.

• • •

The Sleep Center at UCMH is now offering home sleep testing, according to MSHA.

“A home sleep test is exactly what it sounds like – a sleep test you can administer at home,” the press release said. “The test consists of a small device that a patient picks up from the hospital and then returns the next day. The home sleep test is designed to evaluate the severity of snoring and apnea, and also monitors oxygen levels during sleep.”

A physician may order the test when a patient reports issues about their sleep patterns, snoring or concerns they may have sleep apnea. Diagnosing sleep disordered breathing is the purpose of the test.

After the patient has taken the test and returned the device to UCMH, a sleep technologist and a board-certified sleep specialist will review the results. They will then send the results to the referring physician – a process that takes approximately one week.

For more information about the home sleep test, call 743-1291.

Industrial Drive repairs underway by TDOT

By Brad Hicks

A crew with Summers-Taylor installs a portable traffic signal along South Industrial Drive. Construction on the roadway will continue throughout the next several months. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Brad Hicks)

A crew with Summers-Taylor installs a portable traffic signal along South Industrial Drive. Construction on the roadway will continue throughout the next several months. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Brad Hicks)

A long-planned project to rehabilitate the road that serves several local industries is now underway in Erwin.

Crews are working to repair South Industrial Drive, which serves the town’s industrial park. According to Mark Nagi, Region 1 community relations officer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the project consists of the removal of the roadway’s old asphalt courses and stone base course and the installation of a new stone base course and new asphalt courses.

The under-construction project was awarded for approximately $1,011,000, and the Elizabethton-based Summers-Taylor Inc. is the prime contractor. The project, which is being overseen by TDOT, is 100 percent funded by the state, Nagi said.

Work on the resurfacing project recently began. Around two weeks ago, erosion and sedimentation control was installed at the site. Early last week, crews began milling along South Industrial Drive.

“They’ve got the traffic control stuff out and they’ve got the milling machine,” said Erwin Public Works Director Riki Forney. “They’ve started milling the first phase of it.”

Nagi said the South Industrial Drive resurfacing is a phased project in which the contractor will close one lane at a time and have travel in the open lane controlled by portable traffic signals. The project is made up of two phases with two “parts” to each phase, one for each lane.

“That way, they didn’t have to do an entire shutdown on the road and, that way, they could keep traffic flowing to make sure those businesses have a way to get their traffic coming in and out of it,” Forney said of the phases.

Forney said traffic along South Industrial Drive – particularly heavy truck traffic – has taken its toll on the road over the years. He said the repair project will allow the road to better accommodate the traffic going to and from businesses in the industrial park.

“There’s a lot of industrial traffic, a lot of truck traffic and, unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough substrate right there to handle that style of traffic,” Forney said.

Forney also previously said the project will widen the road and create a shoulder for better two-way traffic.

Due to the close proximity of South Industrial Drive to a section of the Erwin Linear Trail, a portion of the trail will be closed for the duration of the work.

“We’ve blocked off the trail to create a safer environment, so we’re just asking our folks don’t use that section of the Linear Trail until it’s completed,” Forney said.

Nagi also said motorists traveling on South Industrial Drive should pay attention to the construction signage and portable traffic signals.

The length of South Industrial Drive under repair is 0.813 miles, and the project has a completion date of May 31, 2017, according to Nagi. Forney said the contractor is hopeful the project can be completed sooner.

The project has been in the works for some time. In the fall of 2011, the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved an agreement with TDOT for the South Industrial Drive repair project. Plans and environmental studies were subsequently completed.

“We are very fortunate and we’re very happy that TDOT has partnered with us on this,” Forney said. “It’s going to make the road just easier to maintain and it’s going to be a lot safer, and it’s going to help all those businesses down there. So we’re excited about it.”