Election Commission Votes to Move Precincts, can’t for primary

The Polk County Election Commission voted in January to relocate both the Turtletown and Copperhill voting precincts to the Ducktown Community Center, but state law will not allow the move so soon. The Election Office later said there was a minimum of 45 days required before the first day of voting to move precincts. Early voting begins February 10th.

During their monthly meeting, Election Administrator Steve Gaddis said he thought the current Turtletown precinct was out of the picture. He said there was about a mile difference between the furthest Ducktown voter and the Turtletown voters from the Ducktown Community Center. Gaddis said they were not consolidating the precincts, just re-locating it until they could do something better. Gaddis said putting all three precincts together would save money, and said the commission had cut his money for election workers. He said they do all three precincts together for early voting, and it would be a repeat of that.

Mac York said all it would take to solve the issue would be to talk to Charles Hickey. York said everything Hickey owns would be left there and said Hickey was “one of you guys.” Gaddis said he was “not cooperating.” York said Gaddis seemed to be getting every bit of information from Hickey. Nathan Hitson said he got the lease from Register of Deeds Kandi Bramlett.

Anna Clark asked what the downside of putting the precincts together would be. She said when she was campaigning, the majority didn’t even know where they were supposed to vote anyway. York said sit was on their registration card. Several board members suggested not everyone had a card anymore. Gaddis said the boxes wouldn’t change. He said the only thing to change would be the amount of traffic through the building. He said they voted 300 people through the office in Benton during early voting for the sheriff’s race last year, and couldn’t imagine there being that may. Gaddis said they also had a lot more parking in Ducktown than in Benton.

York said there would be people standing around everywhere. Gaddis said campaigners would be the worst problem. Pete Davis said there wouldn’t be as many problems on election day as during early voting.
Hitson said there were 3900 registered voters and 20% voted during the last presidential primary.
Davis asked if there would be one returning officer for all three boxes. Gaddis said it would be whatever Nashville said. He said he did not want to run 3 precincts worth of staff, saying his budget was cut. Gaddis said there would be less problem if there was machine trouble because everything would be in one place.
York repeated that they could stop the whole turmoil by telling Charles Hickey they were having it there. Gaddis said they had nearly been sued over handicap accessibility there and that the bathrooms were not accessible. He said the building needed major repairs and he did not want a lawsuit. York said it had not been an issue in the past. York said he did not want to see people having to drive all over the county to vote, and pointe out some older people can’t drive and need to be hauled.

Clark said they were at the wire and something needed to be done. Gaddis said sooner or later something would need to be done with Springtown and Grassy Creek, too. He said most of our precincts were small and that Hamilton County had thousands of people per precinct. York said they were not rural. Davis made a motion to move all three precincts to the Community Center. He, Clark, and Ron Oneal voted in favor. York voted against. Freeman Curbow passed. Despite the vote to put all three precincts together, state law will not allow the move so close to election day. Precinct locations will remain the same for the March election.

Election Commissioners also put locks on absentee and early voting boxes and discussed the upcoming training session. Gaddis told the commission on Friday he had “fought war” over the the travel money.

Gaddis said meeting times for the training had been changed by Mark Goins in Nashville. He said they normally go in on a Sunday, and start the training on a Monday, so that is how he booked the hotels. Gaddis said he had been unable to get an agenda, but found out the meetings start on Tuesday.
Gaddis said he determined that if commissioners were driving to Pigeon Forge it was a full day of business, but that amount had been cut in half. He said they [the County Executive’s Office, which provides the checks for reimbursement] cut Monday off and took the hotel money away. Gaddis said he was cut a check for $1300 and it should have been $1900.

Gaddis said the rooms were already paid for on his credit card, so the commission would go up Monday anyway. He said he would take his loss, and asked commissioners to do the same. They all agreed to pay for their own rooms for the additional day. Freeman Curbow asked what the $280 given to them covered. Gaddis said that was their mileage and food per diem at $51/day. Gaddis said what flustrated him was that he turned in his paperwork and no one called him or said it was different or that there was a problem, they just “slam-bam” do what they want. He said it would hurt his budget.

Mac York said they had not been turning in mileage when they go somewhere to eat. He said they should be writing their mileage down when they drive. Gaddis said they tried to take money away, saying the conference was feeding them. York said he would eat where he wanted to eat, what he wanted to eat. Freeman Curbow asked if the Election Office budget covered all of the money for the training or if it was county money. Gaddis said it was all covered out of his budget and wasn’t costing the county a penny. York was upset that his wife had been brought into it, saying he had never turned in anything to pay for his wife, and that he even drank water at meals to keep the price down.

Gaddis said he turned in a cover sheet with food, mileage, and hotel costs, “then the attack came.” He said he argued and fussed and was not going to give in. Gaddis said the trip was worthwhile and he was not going to let them force commissioners to lose their training.

Great Garden Experience starts in February

by Greg Paxton, Ext. Agent
Many School Children in January dream about snow, sledding, and cold winter fun, but for many gardeners spring can’t come soon enough!  You may be one of those who is dreaming of fresh vegetables form your garden or the smell of fresh cut grass from your lawn. To help that dream become a reality, The Polk County UT/TSU Extension office will be offering the Tennessee Great Garden Experience during the month of February and March.  This program is for beginning gardeners or those folks who need a little help in having a Great Gardening Experience.  UT-TSU Extension to offer Tennessee Great Garden Experience-Great Garden Class2

The Tennessee Great Garden Experience consists of five class sessions on the topics of Basic Vegetable Gardening, Soils and Soil testing, Basic Lawn Care, Annual and Perennial selection and care, & insect and diseases in horticulture. Classes will be Thursday night starting February 11th and ending March 24th.  All classes will meet at the Benton Municipal Building. Everyone is welcome to register and attend!  The Tennessee Great Garden Experience has a $30 registration fee for individuals or 2 for $50 for couples.
Participants will receive a certificate of completion from the University of Tennessee Extension, one free soil test, and a chance at winning door prizes at each session.  To register for the Tennessee Great Garden Experience contact the U.T. Extension Office at 338-4503 or drop by the UT/ TSU Extension Office at 6042 Hwy 411 in Benton.

School Board Eyes Field Trip Policy

Polk County’s School Board conducted mostly routine business for their January, 2016 meeting, with the only real discussion being about an update to the field trip policy. Joel Cox told the board they, and probably every district in the state, had several discussions about the policy following the news about assault allegations in Ooltewah during a school trip for that city’s basketball team.

Cox said the official field trip policy had not been updated in so long they hardly knew it existed, but that a set of guidelines had been worked up in 2003 and was what the schools were going by. He said it was voted on once in 2003, but was never approved on a second vote. Cox said the base policy given to the board was the guidelines they were using. Shawn Pritchett asked if there was anything about a curfew in the policy. He asked if the board could establish something, or if it was up to the teacher. Mark Williams said a curfew would make it difficult if there was a trip that required travel at night. Stan Howard said there were some instances where students might need to stay up late to work on projects. Jason Lamb said he worried about setting a curfew in stone.

PCHS Softball Coach Triplett, who had a trip approved during the meeting, said depending on when they played their games, they were looking to tour some schools and possibly attend a Nashville Predators game. Having a curfew would make that impossible. Howard asked what t the ratio of chaperones to students was. Cox said in elementary and middle school it was 5:1; in high school is is 10:1.Pat Suits said he thought whoever was in charge of the trip should have to come before the board before getting approval to go. He said the safety of the kids should come first.

LW Smith explained the trip sponsor goes first to the principal, then to the director, then to the school board. He said he didn’t think them coming before the board personally would affect anything.
Harmon Harden said you wouldn’t know sometimes a month in advance. He said if a team was going to the state, they might only know a week ahead of time. Suits said there could be some sort of executive action in that case; Smith said that’s what they do now. Triplett said on their last trip, they had 13 kids and 10 parents. He said they do room checks and the most responsible parents stayed with the girls.

Pritchett asked what would happen or who would be responsible if a parent seemed responsible and turn out not to be. Cox said the teacher, principal, director, and board would all be responsible. Pritchett asked if there was any kind of roll check that could be done. He suggested a checkoff list to record the time to cover themselves. Howard said he thought the principals could stress that to the leaders of the trips.

Williams said the county would restrict itself too much if there was too much in the policy. He said they already got info about how many were going and names. Pritchett asked if there was an itinerary required. He said they usually saw one, but didn’t think the board always got one. Cox said Dr. Jones always makes contact to get one. Smith said they should make sure there are two employees on each trip in case something happened that pulled one away, such as an injury. He said it wouldn’t have to be a teacher, but a school employee. Williams said they could have that added to the form.

Burglary Suspect Sought

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has made two arrests and is looking for a third person accused of allegedly burglarizing two homes in Ocoee. The Sheriff’s Office took out charges against Stephanie Kirksey and William Trammell of Tennga GA, and Joshua Huckeba of Ocoee for the burglary of homes on Bullens Road and Deer Ridge Trail. Trammell and Kirksey have been arrested; Joshua Huckeba is still at large. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of Joshua Huckeba please contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 423-338-8215. You may remain anonymous.joshua huckeba

Polk County Garbage Contract Settled… Barely

A special called County Commission meeting was held to discuss the county’s contract for sanitation services. Two votes were taken for the contract; one failed, one passed. During the December commission meeting, the board voted to offer a lesser amount for the West Polk sanitation contract than what was bid. The only bid for West Polk came from Santek, the company currently handing garbage collection and removal. County executive Hoyt Firestone told the board members in attendance that Santek did not accept their proposal. He said the current contract would expire on January 31st and he didn’t think there would be enough time to go through the bid process again.

“Unless you do something tonight, we’re not going to have a contract,” Firestone said. Commissioner Karen Bracken said her concern was whether or not they could legally change the RFP. She said other people could have bid, and pointed out one company sent a letter saying they didn’t like that the RFP set a limit. Commissioner Mark Bishop said he didn’t think they’d be able to get along with a company that told them how to do their bid. He said that company wanted five years on the contract, but the county wanted three.
Bracken asked if they could legally turn around and not follow the guidelines of the bid. Firestone said nothing was said about setting aside bids that didn’t. Bracken said the county was being held hostage and asked if they had advertised for bids. Firestone said they had sent it out to companies and put it in the paper.

Bishop said there were not that many providers to choose from. He said they had problems in the past with companies locking businesses out. Bishop said there were only a couple of large companies out there, and they had gone with a small company in the past and it didn’t work out. Kenny Fuquea with Santek said there had been no price increase for the last five years, and that they needed to know whether or not they had the contract so they could move their equipment elsewhere. If they were going to be staying, he said, he needed to put in an order for the new equipment that was promised to the county as part of the new contract. Bishop said garbage has always been a problem and that Santek had done a good job. He said one thing the county didn’t get anymore was information telling them how much tonnage went through each site. Fuquea said they could provide that.

Bishop made a motion to accept the Santek contract at $379,200. Buster Lewis seconded the motion, but it failed after no votes from Bracken and Daren Waters. Pippenger passed on the vote, but later changed his vote to yes. Commissioners Greg Brooks, Daniel Deal, and Sheena Gaddis were absent from the meeting. Waters arrived late, but was in time for the vote. Pippenger asked Fuquea if there was any room for negotiation. Fuquea said there was no where he could go with it.

Bishop told Firestone he should put an ad in the paper for the next few weeks to let people know where would be no garbage pickup after January 31st. He said people would be lined up outside the gates on February 1st.
A five-minute recess was called, during which time Fuquea called the corporate office to see if they would accept $370,000. They would not. Waters said he could not change his vote, but did not want to be the one commissioner from the 3rd district to stop the west side from having garbage service. Pippenger re-made Bishop’s motion. Bracken still voted against the motion, but it passed.

Polk County, TN Courthouse graced by ugly sweaters

ugly cthse sweatersPolk County Courthouse officials and staff were in the holiday spirit the Monday before Christmas. They held an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” competition and decked themselves with boughs of holly. Amanda Hill’s sweater was deemed ugliest by a panel of highly esteemed judges. Other participants included Property Assessor Randy Yates, Beth Cronan, Ramona Price, Beth Cronan, Carey Russell, Ivy Deal, Tammy Smith, Alex Rogers, and Register of Deeds Kandi Bramlett.

CCC Old Pine Tree Camp – Camp 1432

by J.D. Clemmer
From a June 1933 Polk County News

The Old Pine Tree Company, No. 1432 on Sylco Creek near the Blue Ridge divide between the Mississippi valley and the Gulf of Mexico drainage system, has for its theme song, “They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree.” The company is living up to the spirit of the song by cutting down thousands of the descendants of the old pine trees.

Company headquarters is in a picturesque pine pole camp that was formerly a blacksmith and woodworking shop. The church chapel is roofed by the oak and hickory trees in a quiet spot across and under an old railway fill from the camp. Worshipers cannot see anything except trees and the speaker. The pulpit stand and all of the benches are beautiful lattice work of peeled, hewn, small poles, well nailed together. Ministers of different denominations preach there every Sunday.

The mountainside ice house across the valley opposite the 20-acre camp site is just being finished. It has double walls of small saplings hewn to hold thick walls of earth. Several hundred pounds of ice was cooling a 25 gallon can of buttermilk for the supper meal, and other eatables in proportion. The kitchen tables and counter and much furniture are of the same small pole lattice work construction. The outdoor dining tables are framed similarly, but have plank tops, with plank seats. Large tents are framed in natural round or hewn saplings. The hospital tent has a plank floor, screened sides and only three scratched, finger mashed or boil victims.

The bulk of the camp consists of regular army tents, each with six cots, bedding and personal belongings of occupants. Wooden barracks will be built before winter. These tent covers are wrapped about the center pole before 6 each morning, and sun and wind clean and purify between wash days until noon each day or longer. A large forestry tent is near headquarters and is well supplied with tables, maps and equipment. A large supply tent is near the kitchen tent. A tent for recreation has been built for letter writing, etc., and is to be lighted from the Delco system installed recently.

The post exchange is being enlarged, but the barber chair stands out in the weather, for haircuts are 15¢ each. The barber will not shave you for love nor money. Woe to the boys who do not shave themselves often enough, is hinted at by army officers — an old tradition in the army.
Our special guide, Lanier, said: “We have no army drills — the only times we line up are on paydays and for chow.”

The boys have named the athletic grounds “Bradley Field,” and the swimming pool is labeled “Bradley Lake,” both in honor of Lt. Wm. J. Bradley of the 6th Cavalry, who is ranking officer in charge of the camp. Bradley plays ball with the boys — the team has defeated Old Hickory camp twice and Conasauga once, in the three match games played.

Bradley lake has an artificial waterfall from a spillway over the earth and log dam. The clear, cold water pours over every man of the camp before they are allowed to plunge into the 7-foot deep pool above to take a long swim. Soap is not allowed in the main pool as swimmers must be clean before they enter it.

The kitchen with Albert Lewis, regular army cook, in charge and half a dozen student cooks assisting, is the pride of the entire camp. Screened from flies, cooking is done on two army stoves of 200 mess capacity and of 25 mess size, supplemented by a borrowed forestry range under a separate shed — this range is five or six feet square. Two mountain streams dammed furnish a large pipe of good water to the kitchen. The vessels suit the stoves in size — coffee pot holds 25 gallons, bread pans are about a yard square, and large dishpans hold pudding for dessert. The cooks prepare well cooked food for 240 hungry mean, who are well fed three times a day. Average menus: Breakfast – scrambled eggs (28 dozen), fresh fried potatoes, oatmeal, butter, coffee, milk, bread. Dinner – boiled wieners, sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, string beans, cabbage, slaw, sliced pineapple and bread. Supper – Sliced bologna, cheese, potato salad, cream pudding, bread, coffee and milk.

Sunday dinner is fried chicken, brown gravy, cream potatoes, string beans, tomato and lettuce salad, bread, iced tea and ice cream. Menus are signed by Corporal J.W. Sutherland, mess steward.
Capt. Rolland S. Abrahams of Nashville is second in charge of the camp, and is responsible for much of the efficiency of the detail work of the camp. Lt. Theodore McCammon of Knoxville surely has a well-filled supply tent, especially of appetizing eatables. Nashville boys compose most of the enlisted men for six months service, six Memphis boys are here, and 18 from Murfreesboro. Twenty-four work foremen were out with as many crews of men working on roads or detailed jobs around camp.

The one way forestry road, called officially a “truck trail” back toward Benton has been widened and improved across the Sylco mountains, nearly two miles, is yet dangerous for meeting cars along the mile or so 500 feet above the Baker’s creek arm of the Parksville lake. The road from the Sylco estuary of the lake, through the camp to the Georgia line, toward Doogan, Ga., is being improved. Half mile of the old road up to the former Dutch settlement called Vineland has been reopened. A steel bridge is being torn down near Conasauga, where a new concrete one replaced it, and will be erected across Jack River into Alaculsey valley.

Most important of all road work locally is a road located by Will Chable, a Polk county boy, now “truck trail locater,” will be built to the top of Big Frog mountain 5 miles east of camp. To make the 3,000-foot climb, eleven miles is necessary. The new road will leave the Sylco road in Tennessee near the Jack river and will climb up the old lumber road built by Tasker Lumber Company, then take the Van Arthur trail from Georgia into Tennessee to the divide between the river systems. Eastward along this divide from peak to peak along knifeblade-like ridges, where the ridge will be lower to make it wide enough for cars to pass will lead to the summit 4,350 feet above the seas.

From the tower on top of the Big Frog, nearly all of the 100 square mile game refuge can be seen where by the last of July over 400 fawns are expected to arrive by nature’s ways, to cause the number of deer to pass the thousand mark in the refuge. The forester in charge at all Polk County camps is George K. Stephenson of Parksville. Other foresters at Old Pine Tree camp are A.P. Sibold, W.P. Sylcocks, H.L. Thiene and E.V. Brewer.

County Commission Meetings to Pick up the Pace

County Commission meeting might be getting a little more succinct following a vote at the November meeting to limit the meeting to two hours. First District Commissioner John Pippenger said he was as bad as anyone, but that a 2-hour time limit had been put in place several years ago. He said they had gotten away from it.
“We’re doing less is more time,” Pippenger said. He said in the past, after tow hours there would be a recess, and the meeting would continue later. Second District Commissioner Karen Bracken asked about items that were not done. She pointed out there was not always information with the packet to explain what things were ahead of time. Pippenger said it was their job to do their homework before taking the test. He said some questions can’t be answered before the meeting, but it was their job to be prepared.

Commissioner Mark Bishop asked if it would be better to adjourn the meetings instead of recessing them for the sake of the clerk. He said she could not finish the minutes if they kept recessing meetings. Bracken said she had no problem with two hours as long as debate and discussion was not shut down. She said a visitor she invited to a previous meeting had been told to keep his presentation to 10 minutes, and apologized that he didn’t. Bishop said the chairman could call a vote at any time and said when he had been chairman in the past, he cleared the room out by doing so when things got out of hand. All commissioners voted in support of the motion except for Third District Commissioner Daren Waters, who did not like the idea of the limit.

In other business, commissioners talked about the issue with the Turtletown voting precinct. Members of the Election Commission were on hand to explain the problem. Election Commissioner Mac York said a man claims to have a lease to the building, but that the building is owned by the county after reverting back to the Copper Company when the Ruritan Club disbanded. When the company went into bankruptcy, the building was given to the county. Bishop suggested the county attorney do a title search. Pippenger said they had a quitclaim deed, and the County Executive had the authority to start the eviction process. York said the man had no right to be in the building at all. He said Firestone told him the commission would have to vote on the issue. Freeman Curbow said he just wanted it on record that it was not just the Election Commission that wanted the man to leave.

A request for a donation of $1000 to Living Free Ministries was tentatively approved. The money would go toward a TV and DVD player to have Friday night movies and play games on Saturday afternoons. Doris Wise said it would be a good way to keep the kids off the streets. Pippenger asked if the kids would be there at separate times from when the rehab programs were going on. Wise said they did classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays for that, and the kids would be coming on Fridays and Saturdays. Board members tentatively agreed to the donation, but will have to run a notice of intent in the newspaper before than can officially make the donation. A financial disclose will also have to be turned into the county clerk.

Waters told the board he had gotten the specs for the lights at the community ballfields, and suggested the recreation committee meet to go over everything. Bracken pointed out that Copper Basin Medical Center was up to $3.7 million in the hole now. She said it was $3.2 million in March, and suggested they should be concerned that the debt increases with every report.

Polk County News Editor Cheryl Buehler suggested the board utilize the calendar put into the new county website to include committee and other meetings. She said the website was supposed to provide information, and said it would be useful to her as well as the general public to know when meetings were.

Lodge Benefit Helps Boys and Girls Club

For the third year Conasauga Lodge #396 has hosted a Turkey n’ Dressing benefit fund raiser to help with Christmas for local families in the area.This year the lodge raised $1,678 from this event which was turned over to the Boys and Girls Club- Benton Unit who then identified and shopped for the families, made all the arrangements, wrapped the packages, made the deliveries and still had enough left over from the donation to buy 30 pair of shoes for the B & G Club members which helped complete their Christmas shoe project at the site.
This fundraiser has been fully funded by the members of Conasauga Lodge #396 for the past two years, but the members had welcome assistance this year from both First Volunteer Bank of Benton and Volunteer Energy Cooperative Customer Share Grant program (V.E.C.-C.S.). The lodge appreciates the work of Joe Waters from the bank and Bill Womac from the V.E.C.-C.S. Board, which together helped fund approximately half the event, cost. The lodge members would also like to thank V.E.C. for continuing to support area organizations through the Customer Share Program which allows V.E.C. costumers to round their electric bill up to the next dollar to provide needed funds and assistance in the V.E.C. service areas.

West Polk County Garbage Contract Unsettled

County Commissioners voted on sanitation contracts for both sides of the county during the December monthly meeting, but is still without a contract for the west side. The current contract will expire at the end of January. Santec, who currently provides waste services for west Polk County, submitted a bid to continue the service at a rate that is $55,000 higher than the old contract. Bids were requested to contain no overages, so the amount being paid as overages was averaged into the bid. There is an additional $17,000 increase on top of the inclusion of overages.

The cost for services on the west Polk side has been the same since 2012. Santec representatives said they would also be upgrading all the equipment. First District Commissioner Mark Bishop asked if it would be possible to put a third compactor at the site in Benton. He said it wouldn’t change the amount of garbage, but would help the flow of traffic, especially on the weekends.

First District Commissioner John Pippenger said the original motion to take bids was that they did not exceed $362,000. He made a motion to allow County Executive Hoyt Firestone to enter into a contract at that amount. Pippenger said if that was a dealbreaker they would have to go back and re-bid the contract. Santec was the only company to submit a bid.

All commissioners except Second District Commissioner Karen Bracken voted to approve the bid at the reduced rate. On Monday, Firestone said Santec did not accept the bid, and a special called meeting would be held Tuesday, December 29, in Ducktown.

A bid from Advance for the east side of the county was approved. The bid came in at the same price and did not contain overages. Third District Commissioner Daren Waters said there was an issue at the school with the dumpsters not being picked up. He said he was told a representative informed the school it was not in their contract anymore to pick it up. A short recess was help, during which time Third District Commissioner Daniel Deal placed a call to the Advance representatives, who said it was in the new contract and they would continue to pick up the dumpster at the school.