Police chief addresses school bus safety

By Richard Rourk

Within the past week several children have been struck by vehicles throughout the United States while waiting on their school buses. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website, the greatest risk to a child is not riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one. The website is full of tips on how to get children to school safely.

To help prevent accidents for drivers, when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school. When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people. Slow down and watch for children and be alert.

“Paying attention is key,” Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said.

Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic. Learn and obey the school bus laws in Tennessee, as well as the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off.

Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

“It is absolutely imperative that we do not pass these buses,” Tilson told The Erwin Record.

Children should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

Parents should visit the bus stop and show children where to wait for the bus: at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb. Remind children that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.

Children may also want to wear bright colors and it may be a good idea to get a backpack that has reflective stripes.

When the school bus arrives, children should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens and the driver says it’s okay before approaching the bus door. Children should use the handrails to avoid falling.

Children should never walk behind a school bus. If a child must cross the street in front of the bus, they should walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street to a place at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing.

Children should also make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see them. If a child drops something near the school bus, like a ball or book, the safest thing is for the child to tell the bus driver right away.

In a release from January 2018, NHTSA reported between 2006 and 2016, there were 216 pedestrians killed in school transportation-related crashes.

Among the 216 pedestrians killed in school transportation-related crashes, 163 were struck by school vehicles and 52 were struck by other vehicles.

Towns’ voters elect aldermen

From Staff Reports

While casting their ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 6, for U.S. Congressional representatives and governor, Town of Erwin and Town of Unicoi voters also cast their ballots for seats on their respective town boards.

Erwin voters voted for three open seats on the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. According to unofficial results from the Unicoi County Election Commission, winning those three seats were: Mark Lafever with 1,279 votes; Michael Baker with 892 votes; and Gary Chandler with 864 votes.

Also running in Erwin were: Virgil Moore with 630 votes; Stephen Wilson with 497 votes; and Timothy Shelton with 461 votes.

***

Unicoi voters cast their ballots for two open seats on the Town of Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen. According to unofficial results from the Unicoi County Election Commission, winning those two seats were: Kathy Bullen with 577 votes and Wanda Wilson-Radford with 534 votes.

Also running in Unicoi were: Roger Cooper with 486 votes; Charlene Thomas with 470 votes; and Debbie Bennett with 369 votes.

All results are unofficial until certified by the Unicoi County Election Commission. Approximately 60 percent of Unicoi County voters cast ballots in this election.

For a full story of the Nov. 6 election, pick up a copy of the Nov. 14 issue of The Erwin Record.

United Way campaign continues

By Richard Rourk

The United Way of Unicoi County is off to a solid start in its annual campaign.

“We are approaching the 50 percent mark on our goal of $120,000,” United Way spokesperson Lynnsey Seagroves told The Erwin Record.

According to Seagroves, the United Way is still waiting for all of the partners to turn in the numbers so far. One partner has turned in the funds collected and it looks promising for the future.

“Pal’s in Erwin collected donations for us from Sept. 25-Oct. 8 and collected over $310,” Seagoves said.

This is the first year that Pal’s partnered with the United Way.

“This is a new partnership this year, and we’re so thankful for their support and our community’s generosity,” Seagroves said. “Pal’s efforts are proof that spare change can make a big impact.”

There are several other partners throughout Unicoi County that are accepting donations at their checkouts. Those businesses include the Plant Palace, Keesecker’s, Steel Rails Coffee House, Roller Pharmacy, Clinchfield Pharmacy, Baker’s Shoe Repair, Valley Beautiful Antique Mall, What’s the Scoop?, Hawg-n-Dawg, CHIPs Thrift Store and the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center. “We’d love for everyone to consider donating spare change if a box is spotted while they’re out in town,” Seagroves said. 

The donations go to support more than 22 local organizations.

“Through these agencies, $380,000 in United Way donations have impacted over 10,000 lives in Unicoi County over the last three years,” Seagroves told The Erwin Record.

The agencies include Unicoi County Public Library, Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Unicoi Shoe Fund, Unicoi County YMCA, Unicoi County 4-H Club, Contact 211 Ministries, Sequoyah Council, BSA, Monroe Foundation, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children, Children’s Advocacy Center of 1st Judicial District, Manna Storehouse, CHIPS Inc, Kiwanis Shopping Tour, Heritage Museum, Unicoi County Literacy Program, Unicoi County Student Backpack Program, Unicoi County Student Dental Program, Clinchfield Senior Adult Center, Tennessee Rehabilitation Center, Erwin Little League, and the Imagination Library. If more funds than expected come in, the United Way will help more organizations.

“We usually do more than our goal to help out more organizations, sometimes we are able to help up to 25 or more organizations,” Unicoi County United Way President Lee Brown told The Erwin Record in regards to past drives.

Pal’s becoming a partner wasn’t the only new addition to this year’s drive.

“Something else that’s new this year is our weekly ‘What United Way Means to Me’ features on our Facebook page,” according to Seagroves.

“What United Way Means to Me” is a way for organizations that have been supported by United Way to state the impact of the donations received.

“We’ve asked representatives from the agencies we support to share about how they’ve seen United Way donations make a difference firsthand and continued funding from the United Way is important,” said Seagroves. 

Going forward the United Way would love to see more stories on their Facebook page.

“We’d love for our community members to follow the Unicoi County United Way Facebook page and share these stories about how funding is making a difference in Unicoi County,” said Seagroves.

The campaign, which started on Sept. 25, runs through Dec. 6. If you would like to donate but can’t make it out to one of the locations in town, donations can be mailed anytime to Unicoi County United Way, PO Box 343, Erwin, TN 37650.

“Unicoi County United Way could not support these 22 worthy organizations without the generosity and support of our community and local businesses, and for that, we thank you,” Seagroves said.

‘Monument to the region’: New Unicoi County Memorial Hospital opens doors

Members of the community walk into the new Unicoi County Memorial Hospital for the first time following a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, Oct. 22. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Richard Rourk

On Monday, Oct. 22, Unicoi County Memorial Hospital opened its doors for the first public viewing.

“We are ready,” UCMH Administrator Eric Carroll told The Erwin Record on Monday about the opening of the new facility.

The doors to the new hospital officially opened to patients on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, which preceded an open house for the public, drew quite a crowd. On hand to welcome the innovative facility was Carroll, Ballad Health President and CEO Alan Levine, Unicoi County Memorial Hospital physician Dr. Joshua Puhr, Corporate Director of Spirit and Pastoral Care for Ballad Health Gary Metcalf, and U.S. Congressman Dr. Phil Roe.

Carroll recognized past and present hospital board members, as well as government officials in attendance.

Over the last three years, the vision was laid out for the new hospital in a 10-point plan.

“Our 10 guiding principles which are reflective of this hospital are patient and family-centered, safe and efficient, economically feasible, accessible and easy to navigate, able to optimize our resources, flexible and adaptable, supportive of advanced technology, environmentally friendly, attractive to health care professionals and supportive of higher education,” Carroll said.

Carroll then recognized the Ballad Health staff and what they mean to the new hospital.

“This hospital is just a building, the real Unicoi Hospital is made up of our team members and I couldn’t be more proud,” he said.

The new hospital will employ a staff of roughly 115 individuals.

Levine opened his remarks during Monday’s ceremony by recognizing a family that lost everything to a fire recently.

“The first act of this hospital will be to donate $5,000 to that family,” Levine said.

Levine then reinforced Ballad’s commitment to Unicoi County.

“This building today is a monument to the region,” he said.

Ballad Health was faced with a dilemma when they had to decide whether to invest in a rural hospital or not.

“We had to decide if we create a new path forward with a new vision of what a rural hospital would look like or do we simply let other external influences just decide for us what we should do,” Levine explained.

The board at Ballad Health decided to invest in regionalism.

“Our board decided to invest in Unicoi, and that is why we have the hospital we have here today,” Levine said.

When taking the microphone, Roe told a story that shows how far health care has come in this area.

“In 1980 I was the 75th doctor on staff at the Johnson City Medical Center,” Roe said. “There are now over 600 doctors.”

Roe hammered home the investment that Ballad is making in Unicoi County with this new facility.

“Alabama and Tennessee have had the most rural hospital closings in the United States and to be successful you have to have a good education system, which you have here in Unicoi County, and you have to have good healthcare, which you have in this building,” Roe said.

Several local officials were in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.

“This is a very nice addition,” Chairman of the Unicoi County Commission Loren Thomas said. Former Town of Erwin Mayor Russell Brackins reflected on his time on the board and what this hospital means for Unicoi County.

“I’ve been on and off the board for the past 30 years and this is great,” Brackins told The Erwin Record.

Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely and Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley were also in attendance to see the opening of the hospital.

“When you see all these rural hospitals closing and you see a facility like this, it’s a boom for our community,” Evely said.

“This hospital will bring in more growth throughout the Town of Erwin and Unicoi County and it’s a great day for us,” Hensley told The Erwin Record.

Carroll addressed further what this hospital will mean for Unicoi County.

“You need high-quality health care when you are deciding on a place to live and we can give that to Unicoi County,” Carroll said.

Looking to the future Carroll explained how growth looks going forward.

“We do anticipate growth and volume in both inpatient care, but especially in our outpatient care, with our updated diagnostics,” he said.

Levine explained what Unicoi County means to Ballad Health, saying: “Ballad is a regional health system and Unicoi is a critical part of our region.”

The new UCMH is equipped to offer imaging services including, ultrasound, bone density and 3D mammography. The X-ray machine delivers digital results for both inpatient and outpatient procedures.

“I can tell you that this X-ray machine is second to none,” Roe said.

The Cannon Radiology CT Scan is capable of 160 slices per rotation. Cardiology services, including stress tests, will be available seven days a week. The new nuclear medicine area allows for heart and lung exams. The MRI machine is the first in the state of Tennessee and the first Ballad Health facility to feature virtual theater, which allows the patients to bring in their favorite movies or music to be played while they are in the MRI machine.

Wings, Ballad Health’s air ambulance service made an appearance at Monday’s event, and the crowd was entertained by both the Unicoi County High School Marching Band and the UCHS Bluegrass Band. The public was treated to catering from Hawg-N-Dawg.

The new Unicoi County Memorial Hospital is located at 2030 Temple Hill Road in Erwin and features 24-hour emergency services.

Fires destroy homes, vacant building

A fire destroyed the home on Jim Jones Road on Monday, Oct. 22. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Fire departments from several counties responded to a fire in the early morning hours of Sunday, Oct. 21, at 5949 Unicoi Drive. When they arrived on scene they found the old Wiseman’s Feed and Seed building, which had been abandoned for some time, fully engulfed.

The crews battled the fire for more than six hours due to the windy conditions. One Carter County firefighter sustained minor injuries fighting the blaze.

“He’s doing well, he’s just bruised and sprained,” Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief Wes Hensley told The Erwin Record.

According to the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office Communication Director Kevin Walters, the fire is currently under investigation, therefore details are limited. There was no power to the building, so the fire more than likely wasn’t electrical.

“We haven’t had electricity in there for more than two years,” according to building owner Alyssa Hodge.

The fire could’ve been more devastating considering how close it was to a residential building, as well as Wiseman’s Clothing and Shoes.

“We are lucky that it didn’t reach Wiseman’s or our apartments up the hill, it could’ve been a lot worse,” Hodge said.

All of the firefighters that responded were able to save the surrounding buildings and for that Hodge was thankful.

“They did a great job, I just want to thank the firefighters, especially the one that was injured,” Hodge told The Erwin Record.

***

Early on Monday, Oct. 22, there was a fire at a residence on 3206 Unicoi Drive, Lot 6.

There were children involved in that fire, but no serious injuries reported. Sgt. Jacob Marshall and Deputy Cody Arnold with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department reportedly arrived to see the front porch was fully engulfed.

All four people, two adults and two children, were discovered safe outside of the fire. The sheriff’s department confirmed there were no one else in the home. The house was a total loss. “Cody Arnold and Jacob Marshall did a great job for us,” Unicoi County Investigator Harmon Duncan told The Erwin Record.

If you are interested in donating clothing to those affected by the fire the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Dispatch is accepting clothing at Family Ministries Resources Center 1119 N. Main Ave. in Erwin. The sizes for the two adults are for female 3x-4x and female 14-16 and the sizes for the two children are 6-9 months for a 5-month-old child and size 3 for a 2 and half-year-old child. A Gofundme page is being set up for financial donations.

According to Walters, this fire is currently under investigation as a possible arson case. If you have any information please contact the State Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017. The State Arson Hotline is open 24 hours a day and you may remain anonymous when providing information.

***

Also on Monday, around 10:30 a.m. firefighters responded to a fire at 524 Glenn Effler Road that destroyed a two-level house. No serious injuries were reported, but one firefighter needed medical attention for abrasions to his hands. Unfortunately, a family pet perished in the fire. Initial reports suggest this could have been a wiring issue.

Multiple firefighting units from around the area were on the scene with UVFD fighting the fire. The house was deemed a total loss.

New Unicoi County Memorial Hospital opens next week

Finishing touches are being done at the new Unicoi County Memorial Hospital ahead of its opening next week. A ribbon cutting has been set for Monday, Oct. 22. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Richard Rourk

Heritage, service, tradition and innovation are what drive the new Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, which will officially open to patients on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 7 a.m.

Ballad Health had the future in mind when they decided five years ago to build a new hospital, according to one representative.

“This shows Ballad’s commitment to Unicoi County,” said Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Administrator Eric Carroll during a tour of the new facility for media on Friday, Oct. 12.

Ballad Health will celebrate the opening of the new facility with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, Oct. 22, beginning at 11 a.m. Tours will take place following the ceremony.

The hospital, which currently employs roughly 115 staff members, will have a 24-hour emergency room. There will be 10 emergency exam rooms. UCMH will also feature 10 private inpatient rooms, all with mountain views. The rooms are also large and feature couches that can convert to beds.

“Patients’ families are a part of the healing process,” Carroll said. “We want the families to be able stay in comfort.”

The walls are lined throughout the hospital with local artwork. With all of the modern amenities, there are some historical artifacts that are prominently displayed as well – a heritage wall features a reel from Capital Cinema, a picture of the “Erwin Nine” and an actual Blue Ridge Pottery plate.

“The items on this wall represents the best of Unicoi County,” said Carroll during the tour.

Ballad brings many exclusive features to the new hospital. The hospital itself is the first hospital to be completed since the merger between Wellmont and Mountain States Health Alliance. UCMH was built to give the citizens of Unicoi County the option to receive quality healthcare close to home.

“All of the services that citizens used to travel for – the CT Scans, MRI’s and 3D Mammograms – can be done right here close to home,” Carroll said.

The MRI machine is the first in the state of Tennessee and the first Ballad Health facility to feature virtual theater. Virtual theater allows the patients to bring in their favorite movies or music to be played while they are in the MRI machine.

“This is a way to bring the stress level down in an already stressful situation,” Carroll said.

The MRI machine is extremely quiet compared to its predecessors.

“You can have a conversation in the room while the MRI is going,” said Carroll.

The MRI also has the largest bore available to allow for more room in the machine.

Another exclusive feature is the use of Epic, the technology platform that will connect all Ballad Health facilities in the future. All facilities that use Epic can communicate information back and forth to each other and to the patient. The Epic platform currently covers 200 million people, roughly two-thirds of patients nationwide.

Although Epic is already in use at legacy Wellmont facilities, it has not carried over to the legacy Mountain States facilities.

“Unicoi County Memorial Hospital will be the first legacy Mountain States hospital to go live with Epic,” Director of nursing at UCMH April Jones, RN, said.

The staff at UCMH finished Epic training last week. The tentative date for Epic to be available for all Ballad Health facilities is set for April of 2020.

The new hospital has many other new or upgraded additions, including a large trauma room and a second smaller trauma room. There is also a helipad that is available for Wings air ambulance service transport.

“This helipad makes it convenient for those that need emergency transport to another one of our facilities,” Carroll said.

Located outside of the trauma room is a unique design feature that allows all stations such as nursing, ER and labs to be joined in a central location.

“This design was made for efficiency,” stated Carroll.

This area also leads to easy access to the lab area within roughly 50 feet.

UCMH is equipped to offer imaging services including, ultrasound, bone density and 3D mammography. The X-ray machine delivers digital results for both inpatient and outpatient procedures. The Cannon Radiology CT Scan is capable of 160 slices per rotation. Cardiology services including stress tests will be available seven days a week. The new nuclear medicine area allows for heart and lung exams.

The new facility features a chapel, which was previously missing at the old UCMH. Although there is a cafeteria area in the current hospital, it wasn’t very easy to locate. The new cafeteria area is larger than its predecessor and is centrally located with both indoor and outdoor seating. The indoor area has Edison lamps and large window spaces for natural lighting. On the wall next to the cafeteria is a lit Blue Ridge Pottery logo.

“Your eyes are drawn to this artwork as you walk into the lobby,” Carroll said of the Blue Ridge Pottery logo.

There are numerous USB and plugins conveniently located for patients and visitors to charge their electronic devices. One other unique feature is the gift shop, which offers locally curated gifts. The proceeds from the gift shop go to the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary which funds several local healthcare initiatives.

As employees and patients transition from the old hospital to the new one, there will be hours where both are operational.

“There will be no lapse in coverage while we transition,” Carroll told The Erwin Record.

As of right now, there are no new plans for the future vacated portions of the old facility. The Long Term Care unit will remain there for the time being. As far as what will become of the rest of the facility, there are no plans at this point.

“That is something we will have to discuss with the county,” Carroll said.

The new Unicoi County Memorial Hospital is located a 2030 Temple Hill Road in Erwin. To RSVP for the ribbon cutting, call 302-3042 or email unicoicountyhospital@balladhealth.org.

Apple Festival draws another large crowd

The 41st Annual Unicoi County Apple Festival was held Oct. 5-6 in downtown Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Richard Rourk

It’s official. The 41st Annual Unicoi County Apple Festival is over. The economic impact may not be tallied yet, but if the crowd was any indicator, it was a successful festival. The early consensus is that the Apple Festival numbers were up again this year, according to the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce.

“We felt really good,” Chamber Executive Assistant Cathy Huskins told The Erwin Record. “Our numbers were up. We actually had several vendors sell out and have to go home early. It was just a super weekend.”

The streets of downtown Erwin were filled with many faces on Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6. Some were familiar and some were visiting the festival for the first time.

“This is my first time here and I’m enjoying it,” Don Caudill told The Erwin Record.

Caudill, who made the trip from Gate City, Virginia, said he heard about the festival from friends that have come down before and decided to check it out for himself.

One of the more popular areas of the festival was the children’s area, which was sponsored by the Unicoi County Family YMCA and set up between Erwin Town Hall and the Post Office. The children, like the rest of the crowd, made their way downtown.

Devin and Danni Lingerfelt came all the way from Elizabethton to enjoy all of the inflatables and fun. Jennifer Bradley watched on as her son, Luke Bowman, climbed the rock wall. Young Porter Huskins had already passed up the children’s area and was shopping for a new belt from one of the leather vendors downtown.

Another popular attraction was the two musical stages. The music kicked off on Friday at noon over at the Love Street Stage, which presented some of the best gospel acts in the area. The Tucker Street Stage showcased a wide variety of musical acts.

“We play a little bit of everything, from a little bit of classic rock to a little bit of classic country,” Keith Oliver told The Erwin Record.

Oliver is the drummer of the band Broadstreet Station. This was the first Apple Festival for some of the acts, but according to Oliver, he had played the festival a few years back and had fond memories of the experience.

“It’s always been a good time, lots of good people here,” said Oliver.

Inflatables and bands weren’t the only attractions in the area. With 350 vendors, there was something for everyone. At the Steel Rails Coffee House, “business was good,” according to Lydia McNabb.

Another local vendor that was enjoying the festival was True’s Apples. Selling bags of apples ranging from $5-$15, Amy True had a steady line forming to purchase the featured fruit. Creative Canvas was downtown giving demos of their art and Mayor Doris Hensley was there checking it out.

“We’re glad you are here today,” Hensley told Angela Shelton and Patti Baker, two of the partners in Creative Canvas, which provide a unique experience as they bring the art studio to you.

Down on Union Street two new businesses that had opened the week of the festival were tending to the crowds.

“I love that they added the vendors down Union Street this year, it really has helped get people in the doors,” Union Street Gallery co-owner Jan Bowden told The Erwin Record.

Over at the Union Street Taproom, co-owner Michael Baker was serving up some of the best craft beers in the area, including a hard apple cider just in time for the festival.

Some of the out-of-town vendors were experiencing the same results as the locals.

“Business was going good,” said Melissa Hooper and Patti Garrett of Our Tribe Creations from Kingsport.

Another new vendor was giving items away this year. Geico who helped sponsor the Apple Festival brought the Geico Bus Experience to Erwin. The bus provided karaoke, air conditioning and several games where everyone was a winner of some kind of prize. Boomtown & Co. out of Johnson City were selling numerous local T-shirts, hats and other clothing. They were selling a unique Erwin T-shirt with a custom art print in honor of “Mary” the elephant.

“We are happy to be back and have a great spot here on Union Street in front of the Union Street Taproom,” Shane Evans told The Erwin Record.

As the 2018 Apple Festival came to a close, the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce is already looking to expand for the 42nd staging of the event.

“We are already looking at vendor information for next year,” said Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Delp.

APPLE FESTIVAL 

CONTEST WINNERS

Cooking Contest

Besides all of the entertainment, vendors, and of course apple offerings, there were other events that the Chamber of Commerce and their partners put on. One such event was the Apple Cooking Contest sponsored by the Mountain Harvest Kitchen.

The winners were announced by Mountain Harvest Kitchen Director Lee Manning, UT Extension Agent Rachel York and Town of Unicoi Director of Communications and Programs Ashley Cavender. The winners were Jordan Mallory with a chai apple pie in the pie category. Joe Schultz took home first place in the cake category with his apple pecan carrot cake. The savory category saw Nikki Willis winning with her apple vanilla bean tiramisu. The first place overall was Nikki Willis with her apple vanilla bean tiramisu. Willis also finished second in the pie category with her creamy chai apple pie. In the cake category, Ian Metcalf took home third with his fresh apple walnut cake and Nikki Willis took home second with her apple spiced latte cupcakes. In the savory category, Madelyn Field took home second with her apple pecan upside-down cake.

Miss Apple Festival Pageant

Held on Sept. 29, the Miss Apple Festival Pageant crowned several winners, who were announced to the festival crowd on Oct. 6. The new Miss Apple Festival is Kayla Calton. Crowned Miss Teen Apple Festival was Myra Burchett. Abagail Hensley was named Miss Jr. Teen Apple Festival. The Pre-Teen Miss Apple Festival title went to Savannah Waddell.

Winning the title of Princess Apple Festival was Tatum McAmis. The new Little Miss Apple Festival was Sophie Morelock. Taking home the title of Baby Miss Apple Festival was Sofiah Burgner. Emmalynn Garner was named Mini Miss Apple Festival. Lillian Waddell was crowned the new Toddler Miss Apple Festival. Olivia Greene took home the title of Ms. Apple Festival. Also crowned during the pageant was Christy Rach, who is the new Lady Apple Festival.

One of the big annual events that occur during the Miss Apple Festival Pageant is the receiving of pet food and kitty litter for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter. As part of the Miss Apple Festival pageant, participants raise pounds of pet food and kitty litter for the local shelter.

“We wanted to add a community service element to the pageant,” said Miss Apple Festival Pageant coordinator Whitney Allen Carr.

This year they raised more than 12,000 pounds. The top five Community Service Donors sponsored by Mountain Commerce Bank were: Laykin Tomlinson with 2,184 pounds; Paisley Bunting with 1,301 pounds; Meredith Cochran with 1,171 pounds; Leslie Carrilli with 1,113 pounds; and Neveah Eads with 1,103 pounds.

Apple Dumpling Contest

The annual Apple Dumpling Contest featured several children ages 5 and under from Unicoi County competing for a good cause. The Apple Dumpling Contest contestants raised money for Change is Possible (CHIPS) Family Violence Shelter, as well as multiple education programs of the Chamber of Commerce within Unicoi County.

Emmaline Olivia Drake was the Apple Dumpling of the Year. First runner-up was Colton Longworth. Aiden Stephen Howell was second runner-up. The Apple Dumplings raised a total of $2,064.50.

Ruby Apple Hunt

The annual Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce scavenger hunt, the Ruby Apple Hunt, kicked off on Monday, Oct. 1.

The daily winners of $50 were as follows: Day one – Sandra Parker; day two – Diana Saymaan; day three – Jeremy Greene and family; day four – Linda Hicks; day five – Kristen Banks. The $250 grand prize winner was Jeremy Greene.

Apple Festival begins Friday

By Richard Rourk

Included in the Oct. 3 issue was The Erwin Record’s 41st Annual Unicoi County Apple Festival Supplement. (File photo)

The Apple Festival is finally here.

The 41st staging of the annual event will be held on Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6, in downtown Erwin. Again coordinated by the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce, the 2018 event promises to be bigger and better than ever.

“We’ve added more booths down Union Street that will help showcase the newly opened Union Street Gallery and the Union Street Tap Room,” Chamber Executive Director Amanda Delp told The Erwin Record.

Partnering with the Apple Festival this year will be Geico Insurance.

“They are bringing the Geico Bus Tour with the Karaoke Experience,” Delp said. “The Geico mascot will be here as well giving out prizes.”

The Geico Bus Tour will be located off of Church Street and Gay Street between the Commons Area and the Unicoi County Courthouse.

On the Southern Gospel Stage, which is located on the corner of Church and Love streets, the headliner will be Melissa Evans starting at 6 p.m. on Friday.

Other acts performing on Friday at the Southern Gospel stage include: The Glorymen and Tiffany performing at noon; Christian Trivette performing at 1:30 p.m.; The Vintage Quartet performing at 3 p.m.; and Russell Bennett at 4:30 p.m.

The schedule for the Southern Gospel stage for Saturday is as follows: Bless’d Ministries kicking things off at 10:30 a.m.; Russell Bennett performing at noon; The Foundations performing at 1:30 p.m.; The Pine Ridge Boys performing at 3 p.m.; and The Joyaires performing at 4:30 p.m.

The music will start on Friday on the Tucker Street Stage at 3 p.m. The headliner on Friday will be HAAL starting at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the line up is as follows: Broad Street Station opens up at 3 p.m.; taking the stage at 5 p.m. will be Hip Gypsy; and closing things out will be 7 Mile Mushroom at 7 p.m.

There will be a children’s area with rides, games, concessions and much more in the parking lot of Erwin Town Hall. On site will be attractions from The Fun Factory, Adrenalin Rush, Laser Tag, Bungee Run, Joust, Saber-Tooth Tiger Slide, Bungee Trampoline and Madagascar. Children and adults of all ages are invited to participate.

The selection of food ranges from traditional, Chinese, Greek, Stir-Fry to specialty items such as apple butter, fried pies, jams, jellies and other apple treats that will be available at this year’s Apple Festival.

The UT Extension Apple Cooking Contest will take place on Friday.

Runners from across the region will converge on the streets of Erwin on Saturday for the running of the Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. and YMCA Apple Festival 4-Mile Footrace and 3K Race Walk. Again this year, $100 will be awarded for setting a confirmed new state age group record. Race day registration is $25 for the walk and $30 for the run. Registration closes at 7:30 a.m. the day of the event. All participants receive a souvenir T-shirt.

Festival activities officially began on Saturday, Sept. 29, with the Miss Apple Festival pageant. As part of the event, contestants collected and donated more than 12,000 pounds of dog and cat food as well as kitty litter for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

“We wanted to add a public service element to the pageant,” said Miss Apple Festival Coordinator Whitney Allen Carr. “So we decided to partner with Jurnee’s Journey and the Unicoi County Animal Shelter to raise food and litter for the shelter.”

The pageant contestants received cash prizes that were sponsored by Mountain Commerce Bank.

Currently, the second annual Apple Hunt Contest is underway. There will be a daily $50 prize and on Saturday there will be a grand prize of $250 for those that find the apple medallions in town. The clues to the scavenger hunt will be posted on the festival’s social media page.

Festival merchandise is currently available at the Chamber office, located at the corner of Main Avenue and Gay Street in downtown Erwin. Merchandise will be available at a booth outside the Chamber office during the festival.

For a full schedule of Apple Festival events, visit the Unicoi County Apple Festival Facebook page, as well as unicoicounty.org. Details are also available in The Erwin Record’s special Apple Festival supplement included in this issue.

United Way campaign begins

Unicoi County United Way President Lee Brown kicked off the latest fundraising campaign at a breakfast on Tuesday, Sept. 25. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

It’s officially fall in Unicoi County. The leaves are changing, the nights are getting a little cooler, and Blue Devil Football is on a roll. It is also time for the local United Way chapter to kick off its latest campaign.

The United Way officially kicked off the 2018-19 drive on Tuesday, Sept. 25, with its annual breakfast at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center.

Unicoi County United Way President Lee Brown kicked things off by welcoming attendees to the breakfast.

“It’s hard to sum up what all United Way does, but I can tell you a single contribution has a chance to reach so many people,” Brown said.

Breakfast was then served and the guests were treated to a performance by the Unicoi County Blue Belles.

Unicoi County High School Principal Chris Bogart spoke on behalf of the Unicoi County Little League, which receives support from the local United Way. Projects such as replacing the fences and general upkeep of the field come from contributions from United Way.

“One of the great things that United Way does for Little League is provide scholarships for the children that come to play,” Bogart said. “We do charge a fee, it’s not a large fee, but if you have multiple children playing it can add up.”

Representatives from Riverview Baptist Church addressed the crowd and sent out a challenge. Pastor David Brown and his congregation collect socks and blankets for the homeless.

“A fire starts in one place,” Brown said. “The fire starts in one place, then it spreads much like the desire that resides in all of you to help those around you.”

He stated there are more than a hundred churches in this county. Riverview Baptist Church Representative Sue Webb added, “it is an honor to be here. And as Pastor Brown said, there are more than a hundred churches in this county and I challenge them to give.”

According to statistics provided by Unicoi County United Way, over the last three years, the United Way was able to raise more than $380,000 which funded 22 agencies to serve more than 10,000 Unicoi County citizens.

Ninety-three percent of contributions raised go back into helping the community right here in Unicoi County.

“We usually do more than our goal to help out more organizations,” Brown said. “Sometimes we are able to help up to 25 or more organizations.”

In closing President Brown went on to address what it means to give. “If we can feed a hungry child, what a blessing,” he said.

The goal for this year’s drive is $120,000. If you would like to donate, the Unicoi County United Way will have donation spots throughout the community. Pal’s in Erwin will have a donation box from Sept. 25 until Oct. 8. There is a donation box at Hawg N Dawg on Union Street in downtown Erwin as well.

You can also send a check to the Unicoi County United Way P.O. Box 343. You can keep track of the progress by visiting the Unicoi County United Way’s Facebook page.

There is also a banner outside the post office in Erwin that will track the progress.

The United Way victory event will be held Dec. 6 at the Clinchfield Senior Adult Center.

Clinchfield Federal Credit Union opens branch at UCHS for students

U.S. Congressman Phil Roe, right, joined Clinchfield Federal Credit Union CEO Sandy Lingerfelt and Clinchfield Federal Credit Union Board Chairman Paul Monk for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the institution’s new branch at Unicoi County High. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Students at Unicoi County High School welcomed a new service to campus on Monday, Sept. 17, as the Clinchfield Federal Credit Union is officially opened for business in the heart of Blue Nation.

Clinchfield Federal Credit Union CEO Sandy Lingerfelt was on hand to cut the ribbon with some very special guests. There was a group of more than 20 people to open the newest branch. Joining Lingerfelt and the students of Unicoi High School were members of Clinchfield Federal Credit Union’s Board, Unicoi County Schools Director John English, former Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch, and special guest U.S. Congressman Phil Roe. Also in attendance representing Clinchfield Federal Credit Union were Senior Vice President of Marketing & IT Allison Anderson and Business Development Representative April Simmons.

The ribbon cutting took place in the commons area of Unicoi County High School where the branch will reside. At this new location, the students will receive the same service that Clinchfield Federal Credit Union has been providing the community since 1947. Currently the credit union will be open on campus Thursday’s 11:30 A.M.-1:30 P.M.

“This is a great idea,” Roe said. “It is important to teach financial literacy as early as you can. I am actually working on a bill that would begin saving at birth. My idea is to put $2,000 away when a child is born. That money stays until retirement age for the individual. The most powerful thing in the world is compound interest.”

Roe wasn’t the only one who praised Lingerfelt’s idea.

“What a great idea,” English said. “We appreciate everybody at Clinchfield for bringing it to us. Anytime we can work together and teach the students things like financial literacy, it’s a good thing. Thank you again for your partnership and all that you do.”

The idea for the credit union on campus began when Lingerfelt began speaking with Joey Lewis’ personal finance class and realized there was a great need for it.

“They have credit unions in schools in areas like Nashville, but this in new to this area,” Lingerfelt said. “The plan is to utilize the facilities for educational purposes and to, in the near future, have the branch be led by the students.”

The credit union allows students to bank at school. By having the credit union there, students will be able to get cash when they need it most. If they need cash for a sporting event, field trip, or even lunch, they can just swing by. Students don’t have to be 18 to open an account either. As long as a guardian is willing to co-sign with the student, they can open an account.

According to Lingerfelt there may be more opportunities for even younger children to get exposed to financial education. She is currently looking at grants to start a program for elementary and middle school aged children to get a better understanding of financial stability. “We take piggy banks to the younger children and let them fill them,” Lingerfelt said. “We bring a coin counting machine in and let the children empty their piggy banks so they can see first hand how saving works.”

If you are interested in finding out more about Clinchfield Federal Credit Union or you are interested in opening an account, please visit clinchfieldcu.com or stop by their 1038 North Main Ave. location.

Festival of Hope raises funds for Relay

The Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band performs for a crowd at the Barbecue, Bags and Bluegrass event. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Last Wednesday evening marked the midway point to the weeklong Festival of Hope and the party was not slowing down.

Previous events such as the Survivor Walk, the Building 429 concert, the Killin’ Cancer Volleyball Game and the Farmer’s Market Community Night had all been successful in raising money and awareness for the American Cancer Society. The Barbecue, Bags and Bluegrass event on Aug. 29 was no different, according to Renea Jones-Rogers, local Relay chair.

The Barbecue, Bags and Bluegrass event drew a large crowd for a great cause. The Unicoi County High School Bluegrass band kicked things off. During their performance, several citizens in attendance came up to pick with the band.

“This is the seventh year of the UCHS Bluegrass Band program and this year we are excited to have two bands, The Blue Devil Bluegrass Boys and the UCHS Blue Belles,” UCHS teacher and band sponsor Lori Ann Wright said. “The Blue Devil Bluegrass Boys are comprised of Connor Brackins, John Hilemon, Tate Kerns, Matthew Laws, Lucas Metz and Adam Street. Members of the UCHS Blue Belles are Hannah Edwards, Blake Hall, Sarah Grace Larkey, Emma Ledford and Macy Robinson. Lucas Swinehart and Olivia Rogers are sound technicians for this year’s band.”

This was the first performance for this group and the oldest member of the band is a sophomore. Some of the band have only been playing instruments for the past few years.

“John has been playing guitar for about two years, but just began playing bluegrass for about the past year,” said John Hilemon’s mother, Anjanette Hilemon.

What they lack in years, they more than make up for in hard work and tenacity, according to Wright.

The UCHS Bluegrass Band was actually started by the students.

“It all started about seven years ago when a student, Craig T. Shelton came to my room to pick with his friend Troy Boone,” Wright said. “I had a few girls in drama that could sing and pretty soon we had a bluegrass band.”

Shelton is now playing with East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass Band and Boone is currently a member of the band, Sideline. The UCHS Bluegrass Band has been successful in promoting members to the next level, according to Wright.

“We have about one student a year go on to play in the ETSU Bluegrass Band and we have a couple of students that have received a full ride to college,” Wright added.

The next scheduled event for the band will be in October for the Farm Bureau Insurance Dinner. There will also be a holiday event in December. Follow the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band on Facebook and Twitter for more information and upcoming events.

Also on Wednesday, the crew at Hawg-N-Dawg was busy keeping up with the hungry crowd. The smoke filled the air with the smell of the eatery’s signature barbecue.

“We were honored to be a part of this inaugural event,” Hawg-N-Dawg owner Lou Snider said.

The weather cooperated for the corn hole tournament last Wednesday. The players received T-shirts from the Relay For Life team for coming out and supporting the event. The winners of the corn hole tournament were the team of Jamie Hensley and Bobby Ramsey. Second place went to the team of John Bannister and Gary Swineheart.

Concluding the Festival of Hope were the Passport to Hope Dinner at The Bramble on Thursday, Aug. 30, which was sold out, and the Friday Night Lights of Hope on Aug. 31. There was a large crowd that braved the early storms to be a part of the Friday Night Lights of Hope. So far, the total amount received has been $41,000. Donations are still being made and can be made anytime at relayforlife.org/unicoitn. Jones-Rogers, on behalf of all with the Relay For Life, wanted to send out a thank you for all of the many faces that showed up for the events.

“We want to thank all of those who gave financial contributions or showed up to bring awareness,” she said. “It was great to see 100 percent of the community from the downtown businesses to the students at Unicoi County Schools come together to make this event a success.”

If you missed this year’s Festival of Hope and would like to support Relay For Life, please contact the local team at relayforlife.org/unicoitn to make a donation or check for upcoming events.

Relay For Life Festival of Hope begins

Cancer survivors begin the ceremonial Survivor Lap during the opening event of the Unicoi County Relay For Life held on Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Unicoi County High School track. Relay events continue this week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The annual Relay For Life event is officially underway. This year, the festivities will last all week long and is known as The Festival of Hope.

The festival kicked off on Saturday, Aug. 25, with the Survivor/Caregiver Walk for cancer survivors and their caregivers at the Unicoi County High School track. The survivors and their caregivers were led by the Unicoi County Middle School marching band and cheered on by the Unicoi County Middle School cheerleaders. Taking part in the walk, which has become a cornerstone of Relay, were more than two dozen survivors.

Following the Survivor/Caregiver Walk on Saturday, there was a presentation of awards. These awards acknowledged those who work hard to put on such an event. The winners for the Youth Recognition Awards were Gracie Tilson and Bella Bogart.

One of the major awards of the night was the Emma Smith Award, which is named after the founder of the Unicoi County Relay For Life. This year’s winner was Lesa Buchanan. Recognized with the Mike Clouse Award was local resident Bryon Wiggand. Nick Rogers surprised his mother, Renea Jones-Rogers, with the Heart of Hope Award for all the time and energy she has put into making this event a great success.

Saturday’s event had a wide array of activities. There were a variety of classic cars on display. A human foosball course was set up in the infield. Bands played on the main stage. There were multiple inflatables for the children in attendance. Dining options were made available by Trucky Cheese and Tri-A-Bite food trucks, as well as Grillin For A Cure’s fajitas. As the sun went down runners filled the streets for the annual Hope Run.

Relay coordinators said Saturday’s event was a tremendous kick off for the week. The message was clear that the community was not going to lay down to cancer. According to Renea Jones-Rogers, “through our efforts tonight, we will have more folks celebrating birthdays.”

If you missed Saturday’s event, please come join the Festival of Hope for a good time and a great cause. Remaining events include:

Wednesday, Aug. 29: Barbecue, Bags & Bluegrass Night

This event will take place in downtown Erwin on Union Street and will feature food from Hawg-N-Dawg, a cornhole tournament, and a chance to pick with the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band. There is a $10 per person tournament donation. The community is asked to dress in the color of the cancer that has impacted their lives. The event is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 30: Passport to Hope Dinner at The Bramble

The theme for this year’s event will be “A Low Country Experience.” There will be a low country boil, grits bar, desserts and much more. The dinner will start at 6 p.m. This event is almost full, so please call 534-1616 for ticket availability.

Friday, Aug. 31: Friday Night Lights of Hope

The Festival of Hope will wrap up at the UCHS football game. A parade featuring the teams, sponsors, survivors and volunteers will lead to the tailgate party.

The entrances at Gentry Stadium will be lined with the luminaria bags and the signature HOPE sign will be on display as UCHS takes on North Greene High School. At the conclusion of the night, there will reportedly be a special surprise in store for everyone.

Anyone going to the game is encouraged to wear the color of cancer that affects you and your community. The parade starts at 5 p.m. and the game starts at 7:30 p.m.

To check for a full schedule of events or to donate please visit www.relayforlife.org/UnicoiTN and help our area surpass their goal.

Unicoi: Where the buffalo roam – again

A herd of buffalo, including calves born in April and June, now call the Town of Unicoi home. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Town of Unicoi is living up to the name Buffalo Valley, thanks to Johnny Lynch.

As a wildlife artist, Lynch, who also serves as the town’s mayor, spent years searching the world for his inspiration. He decided that it would make more sense to find a place that already has natural beauty and expand on the wildlife there for his art.

What he and his wife Pat have created is Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens – a passion project that has been years in the making. Johnny Lynch has created a space where artists, nature lovers, students and an entire community can come celebrate the beauty that is Unicoi County. The Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens has music festivals, is open for tours and provides a venue for weddings or other celebrations. There is even a blacksmith and bakery on site. With all the unique features, one of the favorites is visiting the buffalo.

Centuries ago thousands of buffalo journeyed through the valley and created most of the paths that are used as roads today throughout East Tennessee. As they did in most areas, the large agile animals disappeared.

However, the American Buffalo roam in Buffalo Valley once again after the arrival of several buffaloes to the area. Most recently, three small calves were born in the Town of Unicoi for the first time in over 300 years. One calf was born in April and the other two were born in June.

Lynch said he brought the first buffalo back to the Town of Unicoi about three years ago. One of the biggest obstacles he faced was getting a fence that could hold the wild animals.

“Not only are they large and wild, but they are extremely fast,” Lynch said. “They can outrun a horse and stop on a dime.”

Once the fence was in place, the buffalo followed. The females were brought in from Paint Bank, Virginia, and the bull was brought in from Wolcottville, Indiana. Lynch stated that it is currently mating season, which can run up until October. If the mating takes, then in 9 months there may be new residents in the Town of Unicoi.

Due to the size of the buffalo, the birthing process occurs naturally with no outside help. The mother will separate from the herd to give birth. After the calf is born, the mother will keep the calf away from the herd for a few days to get acclimated. The calves are cinnamon colored when they are born and eventually become a darker shade of brown.

The first born calf in the Town of Unicoi, which was born back in April, is already a dark brown so it shouldn’t be long before the calves born in June to start to darken. The proud father, Sammy, is happy to come take a photo while the mothers and calves are a little more reserved. The buffalo live to be around 30 and the oldest ones on site are right around 3 years old.

There are many other features besides the main attraction to see while visiting Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens. Roaming around the land are numerous peacocks, bees, otters, rabbits, groundhogs and many organisms that live in the pond. The peacocks have just shed their feathers, but will regrow them sometime before the end of December.

Classes from all over, including East Tennessee State University, come to study the ecosystem. Not far from the pond is a bakery, complete with an earthen oven. Inside the bakery, Pat was baking fresh bread and cinnamon filled the air.

For more updates and schedule of events, please visit the Facebook pages of both the Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens and the Town of Unicoi.

Dunkin’ Donuts coming to Erwin

The former home of Huddle House on Second Street in Erwin will be the new home of a Dunkin’ Donuts location expected to open this winter. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Kendal Groner

Dunkin’ Donuts has confirmed that they have chosen Erwin as the location for one of their new stores. The popular breakfast eatery, bakery and coffee shop will be moving into the former Huddle House building at 519 Jonesborough Road.

Guy Rudiger, a public relations specialist for Dunkin’ Donuts, said the store has tentative plans to open sometime this winter. According to Erwin building inspector Brian Tapp, Dunkin’ Donuts have turned in their civil documents and are currently under review.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be a really good opportunity for Erwin and Dunkin’ Donuts,” Tapp said. “We’re excited to have them, especially in the location they are going in on the Jonesborough Road and Second Street corridor. A lot of business is starting to build up in there.”

Broyles Hospitality, a subsidiary of GPM Investments, LLC, issued a statement to The Erwin Record expressing their excitement regarding plans to open a Dunkin’ Donuts location in Erwin.

“We hope to open the doors of our brand new Dunkin’ Donuts this winter – just in time for the cold weather and coffee season,” said Arie Kotler, CEO of GPM Investments, LLC. “The Erwin Dunkin’ Donuts will be conveniently located just off of Interstate 26 at exit 37 adjacent to our Roadrunner Markets convenience store allowing us to serve both locals and customers on the go.

“We have enjoyed serving customers at our other  Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Eastern Tennessee and know that our store in Erwin will be no exception. We feel that by offering the quality of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwiches, we can help keep Erwin running on Dunkin’.”

Tapp said he has already approved Dunkin’ Donut’s signage, and added that the building design follows the look of other stores in the area such as those in Jonesborough or Bristol.

“In their plans, they are showing a drive-thru, which will be convenient for the citizens and customers,” he said.

Broyles Hospitality also shared that they are looking for “friendly, energetic team members” and wish to invite anyone with interest to their three-day hiring event on Aug. 29-31 from 10 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Erwin Town Hall.

Voters choose Evely as county mayor

From Staff Reports

According to unofficial results of the Aug. 2 election released by the Unicoi County Election Commission, Garland “Bubba” Evely will be the next mayor of Unicoi County. Evely, the Unicoi County Republican Party nominee, received 2,133 votes to defeat independent candidates Johnny Day (611 votes) and Richard Preston (629 votes).

The Unicoi County Republican Party nominees for three seats from the Second District on the Unicoi County Commission also won their race. Jason Harris (741 votes), Matthew Rice (700 votes) and Glenn White (705 votes) will represent their district for the next four years. Harris and White have previously served on the Commission; Rice is a new member.

Independent candidates Rob Martin (248 votes) and Lisa Brewington White (247 votes) were also on the Aug. 2 ballot.

Results in uncontested races in the Unicoi County General Election are as follows:

District Attorney General: Kenneth C. Baldwin – 2,522

County Commission District 1:

Jamie Harris – 608

Marie Shelton Rice – 533

Loren Thomas – 592

County Commission District 3:

Stephen Hendrix – 777

John W. Mosley – 742

Todd Wilcox – 912

County Trustee: Paul Berry – 3,082

Sheriff: Mike Hensley – 2,838

Register of Deeds: Debbie Tittle – 3,008

Circuit Court Clerk: Darren C. Shelton – 2,991

Superintendent of Roads: Terry Haynes – 2,946

County Clerk: Mitzi Bowen – 3,076

Unicoi County Board of Education (District 1):

Cathy Thomas – 569

Tammy Edwards Tipton – 617

Unicoi County Board of Education (District 3):

Steven W. Scott – 1,013

Steve Willis – 861

Constable (District 1): Arthur Metcalf – 720

Constable (District 2): Wayne Edwards – 975

Constable (District 3): Timmy Lewis – 1,045

***

In addition to electing a county mayor and three new Second District commissioners as part of the Unicoi County General Election, Unicoi County voters also cast their ballots in Tennessee Republican Primary, Tennessee Democratic Primary and voted for other uncontested offices in the Unicoi County General Election.

Unicoi County results in the Tennessee Republican Primary are as follows:

Governor:

Diane Black – 798

Randy Boyd – 523

Beth Harwell – 343

Bill Lee – 1,397

Basil Marceaux, Sr. – 7

Kay White – 57

Tennessee Senate (District 3): Rusty Crowe – 2,668

Tennessee House of Representatives (District 4):

John B. Holsclaw Jr. – 1,108

Tim Lingerfelt – 1,708

United States Senate:

Marsha Blackburn – 2,202

Aaron L. Pettigrew – 436

United States House of Representatives (District 1):

Mickie Lou Banyas – 180

James Brooks – 122

Todd A. McKinley – 421

Phil Roe – 2,230

State Executive Committeeman (District 3): Todd A. Fowler – 2,188

State Executive Committeewoman (District 3):

Sharon Fletcher Boreing – 911

Anita Hodges Taylor – 1,062

Betty J. Ziesel – 201

***

Unicoi County results in the Tennessee Democratic Primary are as follows:

Governor:

Karl Dean – 240

Craig Fitzhugh – 69

Mezianne Vale Payne – 24

United States Senate:

Phil Bredesen – 302

Gary Davis – 27

John Wolfe – 14

United States House of Representatives (District 1): Marty Olsen – 292

State Executive Committeewoman (District 3): Debbie McClaskey – 263

The above county results are unofficial until they are certified by the Unicoi County Election Commission.

Erwin Planning Commission reviews plans for new Food City store

Jeremy Fields, vice president and general manager of Appalachian Design Services, presents the preliminary site plan for the new Food City to the Town of Erwin Planning Commission. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

Quick progress continues to be made in preparation for the new Food City in the Town of Erwin. A preliminary site plan was approved for the supermarket during the Wednesday, July 25, Erwin Planning Commission Meeting.

Food City representatives, including Jeremy Fields, vice president and general manager of Appalachian Design Services, the architectural engineering company for the project, attended the meeting to clarify any questions from town officials. Fields said after speaking with town building inspector Brian Tapp and Erwin Utilities, he believes there will be no issues complying with the town’s regulatory zoning ordinances.

“I think we’ve got everything in line for meeting the regulations,” Fields said.

Erwin City Recorder Glenn Rosenoff asked if there is any part of the site plan that will come before the commission at a later date. Fields said a site lighting plan is still underway and documents related to signage will come from the signage manufacturer.

“We do locate the signs on the site plan, but we do not have the specifications on the signs at this time,” he said. “There are notes on there that the signs are to be per the town ordinance on the signage.”

Tapp said once the site lighting and signage plan is presented to him, he will bring those back before the planning commission for approval.

In discussions on traffic flow for the new store, Fields reported that he spoke to the company’s truck engineer, who expects 30 percent of incoming traffic to go down North Industrial Drive.

“The total maximum load that would do is 63 cars in the peak times … around 5:30-6:30 p.m.,” said Fields.

The main entrance at the intersection of Second Street and North Industrial Drive will be signalized by the town, which Rosenoff said is currently in the planning phase, a requirement of the Tennessee Department of Transportation. He added that TDOT has also made a recommendation regarding North Industrial Drive and he is waiting on those comments.

“It’s more I think the exiting out of the Food City or the gas station or the other retail onto North Industrial and down to Second Street … which would be a lot more traffic than normal,” Rosenoff said.

At the suggestion of Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley, Rosenoff said he will gather more information on the possibility of widening part of  North Industrial Drive into three lanes to allow for a separate turning lane. Rosenoff threw out the possibility of allowing entry into Food City from North Industrial Drive, but making all vehicles exit onto Second Street, as opposed to the preliminary plan’s entrance and exit onto both Second Street and North Industrial Drive.

However, as a design rule, Food City traditionally has two entrances and two exits to prevent traffic congestion. Hensley also said that the neighboring traffic from Pal’s restaurant is something that should potentially be factored into the plan.

“I can see we’re going to have to do something, but we’ll attack that later,” said Hensley.

Tapp said he and Food City representatives had discussed the possibility of adding additional signage for traffic control if needed. With the majority of the traffic coming through the signalized intersection, one or two delivery trucks for Food City will come up North Industrial Drive each day and utilize the wider western entrance to the store.

Hensley made a motion to approve the plan, and her motion was seconded by planning commission member Betty Chandler before it unanimously passed.

• • •

In other business, the planning commission also approved an ordinance amending the zoning ordinance for the industrial district to require the use of a buffer strip or screen for any new or expanding uses.

According to the ordinance, a buffer strip is to be made of plant material such as shrubs or trees to provide an obscuring screen. The shrubs or trees are to be spaced no more than five feet apart and will grow to at least five feet in width and six feet in height after one full growing season. Screening will be comprised of a six-foot solid visual barrier fence for all frontage along a public street and visual areas from the street, or adjacent to residential properties. Any other method or screening or buffering must be brought before the planning commission for approval.

Rosenoff said the new ordinance was spurred by continual issues regarding industries with storage yards or storage buildings, which have posed aesthetic concerns for some.

“We’ve had issues back and forth a lot of times over storage and it not being screened, or it being unsightly … it’s nice and neat and not rusted or is it rusted and dilapidated … it’s just a back and forth,” he said. “Whereas this provides some provision for the planning commission. This covers us to at least have some sort of powers to required screening.”

Hensley voiced her approval for the ordinance and the benefits of adopting such standards now rather than later.

“I think it’s a very good idea we have this in place,” she said.

Hensley made a motion to approve the ordinance and recommend it to the Erwin Board of Mayor and Alderman. Her motion was seconded by Chandler before it unanimously passed.

• • •

Following the Erwin Planning Commission, the Erwin Board of Zoning Appeals met to discuss a variance request regarding an erected and illuminated sign at the Burnout BBQ & Grill, located at 857 Rock Creek Road.

The board had previously granted a variance request for a sign at the property back in June. Tapp said he brought the new variance request back before the board due to regulations prohibiting the use of illuminated signage in a residential district.

“With this being a non-conforming property, I was trying to determine whether or not the sign would fall under the same nonconforming use or not,” Tapp said.

He also stated that the older sign was most likely built prior to the town’s illuminated signage ordinance. After sending letters to receive options from abutting property owners, he stated that he did have one complaint from a neighbor who felt the current sign was sufficient and that the illuminated sign could cause issues and distractions. After reaching out to previous business owners, Tapp said he was unable to find out when the sign was last used.

“To my knowledge, this sign hasn’t been used, based on what they told me, in the last 10 years,” he said.

Hensley made a motion to deny the request due to the concerns of abutting property owners. Her motion was seconded by Chandler before it unanimously passed.

Food City deal approved

Stephen Spangler, vice president of real Eestate and president of Marathon Realty, a real estate subsidiary of Food City’s parent company KVAT, addresses questions from Unicoi County Industrial Development Board members have in regards to the economic impact plan for the new Food City. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

After months of hopeful anticipation, it became official this week that Food City has in fact chosen the Town of Erwin as the location for one of the company’s new stores. The deal became official following Monday, July 23, meetings where the Unicoi County Industrial Development Board, (IDB) the Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Alderman and the Unicoi County Commission approved a tax increment financing (TIF) plan of up to $600,000 to support the deal, which includes approximately $20 million in total projected sales annually.

For grocery sales alone, $13 million is projected, with an additional $1.9 million from fuel, another $3 million for pharmacy, and $2.75 million from the additional in-line stores.

According to Stephen Spangler, vice president of real estate for Food City and president of Marathon Realty, a real estate subsidiary of KVAT, Food City’s parent company, Food City is looking to invest $11.5 million over the next six months. The storefront will be 44,000 square feet, with an additional 7,500 square feet of in-line retail shops.

“We’ve looked at Erwin and Unicoi County for multiple years and we have a certain amount of capital expenditures we can allocate for projects from four different states,” Spangle said. “It’s been pushed off and pushed off and our leadership asked us to take a renewed look at the project.”

As Tyler Engle, director of the Unicoi County Joint Economic Development Board explained, under the tax increment financing plan, taxes would not be abated, but instead there would only be a commitment of the incremental increase in value to the project. The current base tax of the property as it currently is, which generates $22,151 to the Town of Erwin and $41,084 to Unicoi County will still be collected.

Once the new Food City store has been constructed on the 6.5-acre tract located behind Pal’s, Bojangles and Taco Bell on Jonesborough Road in Erwin, a total of 145 jobs will open up, with 40 being full-time and 105 being part-time. Another 35 jobs are projected within the 7,500 square feet of additional retail space that will open alongside the new supermarket. Gross projected revenues include a total of $210,487 for the Town of Erwin and another $210,487 for the Unicoi County School System.

“Our demographics and their needed workforce match up really well,” said Glenn Rosenoff, Town of Erwin city recorder. “The number of young folks and retirees still looking to work … it’s a pretty special combination and I know the payroll is anywhere from minimum wage to up to six  figures for those such as pharmacists.” 

During their meeting, the members of the Industrial Development Board passed two resolutions, the first of which approved the economic impact plan for the proposed development, which falls within the Erwin Gateway Development Area.

“We appreciate your consideration of this request of a TIF. This is a tight project for us … we absolutely need this participation in order to justify the project,” Spangler told the board.

Prior to the city and county meetings, the IDB was required by Tennessee law to open the floor to citizen’s comments on the proposed economic impact plan. Robert Kagely, IDB chairman, opened the floor to any citizens who wished to speak on the matter.

“I understand the investment and great addition this will add to our community,” said Lee Brown, manager at Erwin Utilities and chairman of the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County. “I certainly will voice my approval for this project and TIF.”

Ted Hopson, IDB member, made a motion to approve the resolution; his motion was seconded by IDB member Jerry Ramsey before unanimously passing.

The second resolution authorized the execution of any documents pertaining to a tax increment financing to assist with eligible public improvement costs relating to the development.

“The plan approves sort of the outline of a loan, and that loan is secured by a pledge of incremental tax revenues,” said Jordana Nelson, senior public financial attorney with Bass Berry & Simms, the law firm representing the IDB. “In connection with that loan, in order to document it, the board will have to issue a promissory note to the lender, which in this case is also the developer, and then also a pledge of the tax increment revenue and a short document explaining how those revenues will be paid.”

Spangler shared that the proposed interest rate would be five percent, with a maturity of 15 years. He added that plans are to break ground in September and to move quickly with construction.

“April is kind of the target date to open, but obviously weather factors may impact that one way or another,” he said.

IDB Vice President Garland Evely made a motion to approve the second resolution, and his motion was seconded by board member Paul Monk before it unanimously passed.

• • •

The members of Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Alderman swiftly and unanimously passed a resolution in support of the economic impact plan for Food City before attending the Unicoi County Commission meeting to further voice their support of the plan.

During the Unicoi County Commission meeting, commissioners Gene Wilson and Kenneth Garland expressed their concerns that the addition of Food City could detract from other local businesses.

“My opinion, I don’t think we need another grocery store,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he had heard citizen concerns that once Food City opened, the local Food Lion would be forced to close due to lack of business.

“They also said Walmart would shut down Food Lion, but it hasn’t,” said Unicoi County Commissioner Todd Wilcox.

Spangler also reported in the Unicoi County Commission meeting that property taxes were “significant” and they were looking to spend approximately $4.5 million of qualified personal property tax revenues.

Of the 145 new jobs, Unicoi County Commissioner John Mosley asked Spangler what percentage he anticipated to be from Unicoi County or the Town of Erwin.

“I would hope a majority of them,” Spangler replied.

Spangler said the $600,000 tax increment financing would be utilized for improvements such as engineering testing, site grading, site storm drainage, extension of the public water services, expansion of the public power and communications, site surfacing for the access drives in connection with the infrastructure.

“Those exceed $600,000, and again this $600,000 is a significant commitment and we appreciate that, but it’s paid over 15 years with no net loss for the county,” Spangler stated.

Aside from the public improvements made by Food City, the Town of Erwin is working towards installing a traffic light at the intersection of North Industrial Drive and Jonesborough Road.

Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley addressed the commissioners and pleaded with them to not pass up the opportunity.

“This is an improvement to our city and our county,” she said. “The school system is the one that’s really going to benefit from this. I beg you, please don’t let this fall by the wayside.”

In speaking with Spangler, Hensley said efforts are being made to move sales tax generators such as restaurants or a package store into the additional 7,500 square feet of retail space.

Unicoi County Commissioner Loren Thomas also pointed out that with the new Food City, retail leakage from citizens shopping outside of the county can be decreased.

“I’ve heard a lot of our citizens drive to the Food City in Johnson City, so it’s good to keep those tax dollars here,” said Thomas.

Thomas made a motion to approved the resolution in support of the tax increment financing plan; his motion was seconded by Wilcox before it passed. Out of the five commissioners present, Wilcox, Bridget Peters, Wilson, Thomas, and Mosley voted in favor. Garland voted in opposition.

Industrial Development Board to consider impact of new retail project in Erwin

By Kendal Groner

The Industrial Development Board of Unicoi County issued a notice last week regarding a special meeting and public hearing that will be held on Monday, July 23, at 4 p.m.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss an economic impact plan regarding a proposed commercial development along the intersection of North Industrial Drive and Jonesborough Road.

“We have been working on this deal since March,” said Tyler Engle, executive director for the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County.

The proposed economic impact plan will be submitted to the Unicoi County Commission and to the Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen. If the plan is approved by both governing bodies, tax incremental revenues would become available to the Industrial Development Board to promote economic development, pay eligible project costs, or pay debt service on bonds or other obligations related to the project.

“The bond board has to consider a $600,000 tax increment finance package and so that will be considered by the Industrial Development Board, and then if that’s approved, that measure will go to both the Town of Erwin and Unicoi County,” Engle said.

Tax incremental financing is utilized as a public financing method in which municipalities will divert tax revenue increases from a specific area towards some sort of public improvement or economic development project.

“The way I describe it, there will be no change in collection to the base tax, the amount being received by county and city right now will not change whatsoever,” Engle said “What will happen, if the package is approved, the amount by which the value of the property is increasing, the difference in the improvement and the base value, that’s the amount that will fund the note.”

In regards to the potential development project on the approximately 6-acre tract of land behind Pal’s restaurant, Engle was unable to reveal the name of the developer. However, when asked about the economic impact of the project, he stated “a pretty substantial amount” is likely to be invested.

“The public dollars that are going to be used for the increment that’s committed to this project isn’t going to go and build someone a store, this is committed to public improvements such as water lines, sewer lines, utility lines, roads and sidewalks,” Engle said. “This is really important public infrastructure that belongs to the public. These are publicly-owned things we are improving.”

In the specific location, Engle said the board has had preliminary dealings with a few interested developers; however, this is the first serious project in recent years.

“We are really intentional and careful when we commit public dollars to anything,” said Engle. “When we are helping the company, we always look at job totals and payroll totals. We anticipate a strong, positive impact both in terms of jobs and in terms of net sales tax.”

The offices of the Industrial Development Board where the July 23 meeting will take place are located at 100 North Main Ave. in Erwin.

Erwin Farmers Market opens for season

Unicoi resident Tomy Bennett became a vendor at the Erwin Farmers Market for the first time this year. He is pictured with the beets, potatoes and squash he brought to sell. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

It’s that time of year again – the time when farmers markets all across the country are buzzing with customers, eager to pick up their farm fresh produce perfect for outdoor grilling, refreshing summer salads, baked goods and much more.

The Town of Erwin kicked off its farmers market season on July 3 as small crowds came and went throughout the evening to see what their local growers had to offer. Now in its third year, the market is coordinated by RISE Erwin young professional group. Jamie Rice, president of RISE Erwin and communications specialist for the Town of Erwin, spoke about the importance of allowing people to become more connected to their food and where it comes from.

“I think knowing where your food comes from has really taken a front seat to our food culture in a way,” Rice said. “We don’t want things that have been shipped thousands of miles and we don’t always know where our food comes from or whether it’s full of preservatives or sprays of pesticides. It’s so nice to be face to face with the grower.”

By purchasing produce at the market, Rice said customers have the opportunity to get to know the farmer and also ask them about their farm, its location and what kind of farming practices they utilize.

“It creates a sort of intimacy with where your food comes from,” she said. “Most of us don’t have gardens in our backyards anymore and so this is the next best thing. Even the farmers can give you tips and tricks on how to cook the produce they are selling.”

Rice said getting to witness the camaraderie of the vendors and the community – all while helping to support a healthy lifestyle – is one of the most exciting parts of market season taking off again.

“It’s more than just getting your fruits and vegetables, it’s about developing those relationships,” she said.

Kale, swiss chard, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, beets, mushrooms, fresh eggs, local meat, canned goods and refreshing summer drinks were all available at the market last week. In addition to the food vendors, several craft vendors were selling items such as handcrafted jewelry, bath bombs, clothing, decorating items and live plants.

“Everybody was really happy with the turnout and we had a great turnout in vendors,” Rice said.

“When we first started we only had two or three vendors and now we have around 15. We’ve pretty much tripled in size.”

To fend off some of the summer heat, RISE Erwin set up a small mister station alongside the market, something Rice said they will definitely continue using.

“The kids and the grownups both loved that and I think that will be a hit the rest of the summer,” Rice said.

Aside from shopping, market attendees can also check out the local food trucks, attend a yoga class and participate in some of the many activities planned to help foster a happy and healthy community.

Each week, yoga classes taught by Bret Forney with the YMCA and other activities, such as a community bike ride organized by RISE Erwin, a splash dance facilitated by the Erwin Fire Department, learning opportunities with the health department, and face painting and barrel trains, are all planned to take place in the coming weeks.

“We’re really happy that the health department is going to sponsor one of those activities each month,” said Rice. “I think they will be doing some nutrition and cooking type demonstrations. It’s all a really fun time.”

The Erwin Farmers Market is held on Tuesdays from 5-8 p.m. in the Unicoi County Courthouse parking lot. For more information about the market, contact riseerwin@gmail.com, or call 743-6231 or 423-220-7624.

Unicoi County Relay For Life, ACS announce new Festival of Hope

(Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

In August, Unicoi County residents will join together in the inaugural Festival of Hope. It all starts on Aug. 25 at the traditional Relay For Life of Unicoi County to help the American Cancer Society attack cancer from every angle. This year’s Relay For Life event will feature traditional elements, as well as new which will lead to a week full of events that everyone in the community can participate in.

“We are so excited about this year and our new Festival of Hope in Unicoi County,” said Jessica Poff, community development manager for the American Cancer Society. “We are all looking forward to bringing the entire county together through different events throughout the week that will have something for everyone. We are thankful for the support of our community and volunteers to make this possible and we can’t wait to see it come to fruition.”

The American Cancer Society is the cause fighting cancer on every front; standing shoulder to shoulder with cancer patients and those supporting them. Funds raised help the American Cancer Society attack cancer in dozens of ways, each of them critical to achieving a world without cancer – from developing breakthrough therapies to building supportive communities, from providing empowering resources to deploying activists to raise awareness.

The Festival of Hope will feature community-wide awareness activities in addition to the track event. The Sunday focus will be faith-based and feature a community church service and a huge benefit concert with award winning Christian artist, Building 429. Tickets for the concert may be purchased at itickets.com and feature general admission as well as reserved seating.  During the week, events such as a Unicoi County High School volleyball game, Caregiver Café and children’s activities, “Passport To Hope” celebrity waiter event at The Bramble, a barbecue and cornhole tournament night, and more before the week ends at the UCHS football game on Friday night.

The annual Survivor Luncheon is scheduled for Sunday, July 8, at 1 p.m. at Unicoi United Methodist Church. Anyone who has ever heard the words “you have cancer” and a guest are invited to attend. An R.S.V.P. is requested by calling Tina at 743-9136.

In addition to the support of the community, the Festival of Hope is also supported by many local businesses and organizations. To find out how you can get involved, please contact Poff at jessica.poff@cancer.org or visit www.RelayForLife.org/UnicoiTN. Together, we can beat our biggest rival.