Scarecrows wanted for contest during Benton Arts & Heritage Day

Organizers of Benton Arts and Heritage Days have begun preparations for this year’s event, slated for October 29, 2016 from 10-5. Along with music, food, arts & crafts, petting zoo, bounce houses, tractors, blacksmithing, boots & hearts contest, and quilts, this year’s festival will bring back the scarecrow contest sponsored by Benton IGA. A new addition to the festival this year will be a Memory Walk in honor of those lost to tobacco, sponsored by the Health Department and Ocoee Health Council. Title

“Scarecrows can protect cornfields or scare visitors, and putting them together can be a fun experience for families or school groups,” said Melvin Bell, manager at Benton IGA. Bell said they were bringing the scarecrow contest back in the hopes of one day having scarecrows lining the streets through Benton. Scarecrows will need to be from 5’-7’ tall, and constructed for durability. They can take any form, such as a traditional scarecrow, cowboy, spaceman, princess, or anything than can be imagines.

“The goal is to generate goodwill and a festive atmosphere,” Bell said, adding, “And we’ve increased the prize money a bit this time in the hopes of encouraging more folks to participate.”

First prize for the contest will be $75. Second place is $25, and 3rd place is $10. There will be categories for businesses/organizations, families, and school groups. Entires must be received by October 24th. Entry forms can be picked up at Benton IGA. For more information, call Melvin Bell at 423-338-9233 or stop by the Benton IGA.

Vendor applications for food, art, and craft vendors are now available. They can be picked up at the Benton Municipal Building, Benton IGA, or Polk County News. You can also visit and download a pdf version.

Early voting begins October 19th in Polk County, TN

Polk County Election Commission members met Monday afternoon in Ducktown. Early voting dates were set, and ballot boxes were locked after the meeting in preparation for the election. Commissioners also discussed the two liquor referendums that will be on the ballot. Anna Clark asked about the wording of the referendums. Deputy Administrator Nathan Hitson said the wording was set by the state. Administrator Steve Gaddis pointed out that if the population of a city in the county was over 5000, they would have had to exclude city voters. He said they did not have to do that. Mac York asked about the referendums in the cities. Hitson said the referendums were countywide. He said none of the cities had to have a referendum to sell liquor. Hitson said cities could choose to have a referendum to opt out of liquor sales if the referendums pass. Gaddis said it would not be a vote of the city to opt out, it would have to be a referendum.

Early voting will begin October 19th at the Election Office in Benton. Early voting can be done any time during regular office hours in Benton. Clark suggested start times for early voting in Ducktown be the same as on election day so people do not get confused. Gaddis said the voting usually began at 9am on election day. Tommy Davis said people are usually lined up by 9am because they think it starts at 8am. Clark said it should just be consistent. She suggested 9-4. York said some don’t get off work until 3:30 or 4 and had to drive. Gaddis said he liked 9-5. Commissioners agreed to have early voting in Ducktown on October 21, 22, 26, 28, and 29 from 9am-5pm.

Gaddis said he thought they would have a decent turnout this year because of the presidential election and the referendums.

Two liquor referendums will appear on November ballot in Polk County, TN

The local election slate has been completed for the November election. Along with state and presidential candidates, city voters in Benton, Copperhill, and Ducktown will be voting for city commissioners and mayors. In Ducktown, candidates run for commission, then the commission selects a mayor. Voters will also have the opportunity to cast their vote on two liquor referendums – one for package sales and one for liquor by the drink.

In Benton, incumbent Mayor Jerry Stephens and Commissioners Joe Jenkins and Gene Pack all seek re-election. The commissioners face a challenge from Garry McDonald. Ducktown will not have much of a race, as two seats are up and two candidates are running. Doug Collins and Brad Miller are running. In Copperhill, three candidates seek the position of mayor – incumbent Kathy Stewart, Billy Brackett, and Jerry Gilliam. Running for city council seats will be Tara Akins, Scott Brooks, and Bill Standridge. Akins and Standridge.

Two petitions have been approved to appear on the ballot as liquor referendums. 352 signatures were required for each petition, and each received about 450 signatures, according to Deputy Election Administrator Nathan Hitson. He said the petitions must be signed by 10% or more of the registered voters voting for Governor in the last election. Each liquor referendum is a separate entity, and are voted on as such. For example, the referendum for package sales could pass, with the by-the-drink sales failing, or vice versa. Both could pass or fail entirely, as well.

If either of the votes for liquor passes, the school system and the county general fund will receive a percentage of the state tax levied on liquor sales. According to Tennessee Code, there are two related taxes for liquor by the drink. One is an annual fixed amount based on the type and size of the business, which does to the state general fund for state purposes. The second tax is a 15% levy based on the sales price of alcoholic beverages sold on premises.

Of the 15% liquor-by-the-drink tax, 50% will go to the state budget for education. The other 50% will come back to the county. Half of the money that comes back to the county will be expended for school systems in the same way county property tax is handled. The other half of the 15% liquor tax revenue goes to the county general fund, or to the city in which is was collected.

The last day to register to vote in the November election will be October 11, 2016.

Money found in budget for additional courthouse employees

Needed increases in courthouse office personnel were approved during a county budget committee meeting. The need to increase workers due to state internal controls regulations had been debated for several months. Pending approval of the county budget on Thursday, one full-time position has been added to the office of Budget Director, and the offices of Trustee, County Clerk, and Register of Deeds will have an additional part-time person. County Executive Hoyt Firestone told the board they had approved another person for that office eight years ago when Mike Stinnett was in office. Mark Bishop said Firestone campaigned saying it wasn’t needed. Firestone said he did, but we were six years past that. He said work had increased and that something new was added to them every time the legislature met.

Firestone said the state had put the internal controls on them. “They didn’t give us an option,” Firestone said. He said it doesn’t spell out in the statute what will happen if they don’t do it, but that there would be a separate audit for federal dollars. Kelley Morgan, Director of Accounts and Budgets, told commissioners she was having surgery on the 30th, and would be down for 10 weeks. She said she would not be able to do any work for 4-5 weeks. Buster Lewis asked who would be doing her work while she was out. “You tell me,” Morgan said.

Firestone said it was a matter of fairness to the offices. He said regardless of the surgery, Morgan needed backup. Morgan said she just wanted to be compliant. She said if they were not going to combine the Road Department with County General, she needed one person. Firestone said Morgan went back through the revenues and made adjustments after speaking with the auditors and reconciling the general fund. He said she was able to find enough to fund the full-time position as well as the position in the County Clerk’s office. Angie Sanford currently has a part-time bookkeeping position, and her request was to make it a full-time position in order to be compliant with the internal controls regulations.

Trustee Gina Burchfiel said she needed a part-time position, but that she would figure out a way to make it work in order to accommodate the needs of the other offices. She said it would be hard, but she was willing to try to find a way. Morgan suggested that $9000 could be pulled from the fund balance. Mike Curbow said if they were going to do one, they might as well do all three. Lewis asked if the current 1-day a week position in Morgan’s office would be moved to the full-time position and if Alicia would be able to do everything. Morgan said she would not be able to do everything, but would have access to certain things and could do the work while she was out.
Morgan said the internal controls were designed for different people to do different things. Sheena Gaddis said there was nothing wrong with cross-training. Firestone said they had to be familiar and capable. Gaddis said somebody needed to be able to do it.

Bishop said they should look at other ways to save money and suggested an outside company to collect hours. Morgan said the sheriff’s department was the only one to turn in hours. Firestone said payroll was farmed out when he came back into office and it was a mess.Daren Waters asked how much was in the undesignated fund balance. Morgan said there was about $3.8 or $3.9 million. Bishop said if they started using the fund balance the courthouse would fall apart. Firestone said there was $180,000 earmarked for courthouse repairs. Bishop said he didn’t know if that would fix it. Firestone said said it might not but saying they wouldn’t be able to fix it was a big jump.
Sanford said she had increased services in her office and the county took the money for them each month. She said she would have to cut services if she did not have enough people in her office.

Curbow made a motion to pay for two half positions in the Trustee and Clerk’s offices out of the fund balance. Morgan said it would be about $26,000 depending on insurance. She said between $100,000 and $200,000 went into the fund balance each year. Pippenger said that meant they were overfunding. Bishop and Gaddis voted against the motion; all others voted yes. Greg Brooks and Karen Bracken were absent. Curbow motioned to pay for the position in the budget office and half position in the Deeds office through the cuts Morgan found in the budget. Bishop and Gaddis both voted no; all others voted yes. Bishop said he preferred “pay as you go” instead of using the fund balance. Waters said a 2¢ tax increase would enable them to do that if that’s what they wanted.

Polk County, TN School Board discusses air conditioning, spring water for Basin fields, lights at South Polk

Polk County’s School Board met at Chilhowee Middle School for their regular August meeting. Agenda items included the election of James Davis as Vice-Chair, purchase of several air conditioner units, and amending a lease with the Township. Board members also discussed possibly using a spring to water fields at Copper Basin High School, and the need for lighting at South Polk. Jason Bell told the board state testing will be done with paper and pencil this year.

Board members agreed to pull about $70,000 from the fund balance for the purchase roof air conditioner units at Benton Elementary, Copper Basin Elementary, South Polk, and Copper Basin High School. A hotel type unit will be purchased for Polk County High School. Joel Cox told the board they’d hoped to get by with just replacing one at Benton Elementary, but once school started up, they discovered otherwise. Stan Howard asked if bids were taken, or if there had not been enough time. Cox said it was an emergency situation, but that Dr. Jones said they had a service contract with Higdon Heat and Air. LW Smith pointed out there was a $175 travel fee when Higdon went up to Copperhill. Shawn Pritchett suggested revisiting the service contract and taking bids since it had been so long. Pat Suits said the bidding process wouldn’t be fair because the other companies would know what Higdon was charging.

Smith told the board the 4th Fractional Township property line ran through the middle of the new ballfield at Copper Basin High School. He said he had talked with the Township about adjusting the land lease to add 1500 feet on the south, and 1000 feet on the east and west. Howard asked if it might be possible to trade footage from another section if they did not want to add to the lease. Smith said he didn’t see where there would be a problem adding the extra footage. Mark Williams asked if there would be a right-of-way to access it. Smith said there already was. Cox said the Township would most likely enter into another 50-year contract with the board.

Smith also suggested the board utilize a spring to water the Basin sports fields. He said there was spring below the practice fields that would give them free water. Smith said the only field that currently had a water meter was the football field, and it cost them $1500-$3000 a year. He said using the spring for all the fields could save them $5000 a year. Smith said he’d spoken with Randy Collins, who suggested it would cost about $16,000 to set the system up, install a pump, and get everything ready. Suits asked if they knew whether or not the water was good, and if they were going to use it for anything other than the fields. Davis said they used the spring when he worked in the mines. Smith said they would use the water for the fields. he said if there could be some sort of filtration system put in they might be able to utilize it in the restrooms. He said if they staggered and alternated the use of the spring on different fields, they would make their investment back in a few years.
Williams asked where they would be able to pull the money from. He suggested tabling the idea for a month since they just had to pay so much for air conditioners.

Frank Brown addressed the board about putting up lights at South Polk. He said the new walkway and playground had no lighting at all. Brown said they could get with VEC about putting up some dusk-to-dawn lights for just a few dollars a month.Cox said he had spoken with Aaron Hood at VEC, who gave him two options for lighting. 70-watt LED lights would be $20-25 a month and 400-watt metal lights would be about $32-38 per month. Both options would have a 1-time transformer charge of $400. Pritchett said having lights would be good for folks who want to use the walking track in the evenings after work. Brown said if people are out there trying to walk and unable to see, they could step off the walkway, fall, and break a leg, then sue the school system. He said there were also kids out there at night climbing all over the school. Brown said lighting up the school would help that. Brown was instrumental in getting a donation from the Railroad to put up an awning and handicap ramp at PCHS. Cox asked if there was railroad money for the lights. Brown said whatever was left from the handicap ramp project could be used for the lights. Howard asked if they would be able to use solar lights. He suggested investigating that option.

A soccer supplement for Chilhowee Middle School soccer coaches was approved. Several board members said they thought it had already been done. Cox said the middle school had never had supplements for soccer. He said it would be about $1200.

Cox addressed the board about the Read 20 initiative. He said the purpose was to improve reading. Cox said within 10 years they wanted to have 90% of all third graders reading at or above their grade level. He said it is now about 48-49%. Cox said the teachers were beginning to get excited about the initiative, and they wanted to get the community excited now. He encouraged anyone who has a baby to read to the 20 minutes a day. Cox said it may not seem like they are listening when they are young, but it makes a difference. Cox also told the board Copper Basin Elementary and South Polk Elementary were the recipients of a McGraw Hill research grant that would send trainers in for 1st grade teachers. He said there was no charge to the school system, and they would come in and work with teachers all year long. Cox said it was a proven program with a 30-year track record.

Jason Bell gave the board a testing update. He said after the online testing debacle last year, the state would be doing paper and pencil tests this year. He said there were two parts to testing last year, with one earlier in the year. Bell said that would not happen this year, and there would be only one testing window. Bell said testing time had been reduced, and he was glad the state had listened to complaints and made changes. Testing will take 2 1/2 hours less this year. Bell said the state was looking at a 3-year window to get back to online testing, and might phase some in next year. Williams asked if students were being re-trained to take written tests this year since they had put for so much effort to train them to do online testing. Bell said they were.

Daniel Kelly convicted in 2011 bank robbery in Delano, TN

Daniel Kelly has been found guilty of the Aggravated Robbery of First Volunteer Bank in Delano in August, 2011. Kelly was tried in front of a jury on July 26, 2016. According to Captain Brian Fields of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, Kelly was done in by the fact that he knew details about the crime that only the robber would know. He and Detective Kevin Cole both testified that Kelly gave them a confession, and he made statements that only the robber would know. Fields said certain details were withheld from the press and the public at the time of the robbery, and Kelly hit on those details.

Bank Teller Misty Burgess testified to seeing Kelly enter the First Volunteer Bank armed with a handgun. She said he was holding the weapon near his face, and told her to give him all the money. Burgess testified that she gave him the money and he fled the bank headed north through the wood line of the parking lot.
Dickson City officer Zack Donegan testified to making contact with Kelly in Dickson County in 2014. He said Kelly made statements about the bank robbery in Polk County.

John Fortuno, Kelly’s attorney, argued that his client had not made a true confession and that his client did not resemble the video footage of the robber taken by bank security camera. District Attorney Andrew Watts and Drew Robinson prosecuted the case with Defense Attorney John Fortuno representing Kelly. Judge Andrew Freiberg presided.

Following the testimony and closing arguments the jury deliberated and then returned a verdict of guilty for Aggravated Robbery to Kelly. Judge Andrew Freiberg said the sentencing range for Aggravated Robbery is 8-12 years and moved sentencing to November this year.

2016 Polk County Fair Coming

FairDaysHeadingC0407_L_300_C_YThe annual Polk County Fair is just around the corner. Cows shows, talent contests, pretty babies, and the crowning of the Fairest of the Fair will take center stage again this year. The Fair will be held September 5-10th. Exhibits can be entered September 3 & 4.

Organizers are encouraging more folks to come out to enter exhibits this year. A full listing of categories for entry will be listed in the Polk County Fair catalog, which will be published next week. Categories include vegetables, fruit, plants, pictures, artwork, sewing, quilting, honey, eggs, and much more. All are welcome to submit entries, and there are categories for youth and adult.

This year, the newly-formed local AmVets Post 911 will be performing the fair’s opening ceremony. The flag will be raised at 6 p.m. on Monday, September 5th. Also on Monday will be the first night of the Pretty Baby contests. Pretty babies finish up on Tuesday Night, when rides will open up at 6 p.m.

Wednesday night is church night at the showbarn, and local churches are invited to participate. Gospel singing and preaching will welcome all. For more info, contact Joyce Stafford at 423-715-3975.

Copper Basin Medical Center’s Board of Trustees looks to update bylaws

The Copper Basin Hospital Board of Trustees members talked about the bylaws, payment for Dr. Siddiqui, and possible replacements for out-going member Randy Collins duirng their July meeting. Following the meeting, CEO Anna Clark responded to comments made at a county commission meeting that she was leaving the hospital. Clark said it was not true, and that if she was going to resign she would not do so via the rumor-mill.

A bylaws committee made up of Frank Shinpaugh, Jack Collins, and Doug Collins was formed during the meeting. Clark told the board the attorney said they could continue to operate as a district board and committees, but there were things that needed to be added to the bylaws. She said there were things like performance meetings that could not be done publicly. Shinpaugh asked if the attorney was going to tell them what changes needed to be made, or if they told the attorney what to do. He said they were taking over for the corporate board, and asked what happened to their bylaws. Jack Collins said the District Board was a standing board before the corporate board existed and their bylaws couldn’t conflict with the Private Act. He said it was up to the board to go look over both of them any eliminate any conflict.

Clark said they needed to decide if they were going to use Roberts Rules of Order or how they were going to conduct meetings. She said that needed to be included in the bylaws. Jack Collins suggested they collectively come up with ideas. He said Executive Assistant Carina Walker could come up with what was required by federal law.
Shinpaugh asked about attendance requirement for meetings. He suggested someone needed to “hold the bucket” of ideas. Shinpaugh made a motion to form a committee to meet to go over everything.

Doug Collins asked if that was a committee he could set up, or if they needed to utilize the executive committee. Shinpaugh said that was something else that should be in the bylaws. Collins read through the Private Act, which indicated there could be special committees. Mitchell Hicks suggested ideas from other board members could be sent to Walker to keep everything together.

“We’ve got to make progress,” Shinpaugh said. “We’re doing more things than we used to do. We need to have rules to protect ourselves,” Shinpaugh said. Shinpaugh asked if Walker could come to the bylaws committee meeting. Bea Tallent suggested Walker had information the board members did not.

Hicks asked if there had been a determination from the attorney in regards to questions brought up last month about the ER contract. Doug Collins said the attorney had the material but had not made a determination.
Collins said he spoke to Dr. Mahmood Siddiqui, asking him if he would want the ER contract back if something happened with the new contract. Collins said Siddiqui said he would not. Hicks said he thought Siddiqui wanted to get paid for the work he had already done.
Clark said she had spoken to Siddiqui, and an arrangement had been made. She said Siddiqui would be paid when they received TennCare money in September. Hicks said Siddiqui’s contract said it could not be amended unless agreed to by both parties, so it stood. Jack Collins said it had given them a black eye to lose Siddiqui. Doug Collins said he was still there, but was not referring anyone to the hospital. “Think about it Doug, do you blame him,” Hicks asked. Doug Collins said no, but that they needed to move forward for the sake of the hospital and people.

Jack Collins asked about the new ER contract and whether or not they were paying more now. Ron O’Neal said they (the new ER staff) were in the same boat as the hospital now. Clark said the hospital was coming out ahead.
Clark said the pro fees were $25,000-$30,000 a month from Dr. Siddiqui, and that the new ER staff had “skin in the game.” She said with the new ER staff, transfers were down by half and admits had gone up. Hicks asked if Clark could provide a report for the last twelve months to see how much came in; Clark said yes.
The board also discussed potential replacements for Randy Collins, who has turned in his resignation from the board. O’Neal said he had spoken with James Talley, who said he would come on the board. Jack Collins suggested Raymond Allison. Doug Collins asked Kathy Stewart to join. Stewart, who was on hand at the meeting, said Copperhill was part of it and she would be glad to serve. The names will be submitted to the county commission.

Sinpaugh told the board the financial committee had heard from the Tennessee Justice Center. He said they worked with other hospitals who were facing the same issues as CBMC. Doug Collins said they learned about what other hospitals had done and what not to do. He said when hospitals got desperate, folks are like wolves.
Sinpaugh said they learned that 1200 Polk citizens could be insured if Tennessee had participated in the Affordable Care Act. He said it all stemmed from the state not wanting to do it just for the sake of not doing it. Clark said she thought it would come up again in January.

Clark said representatives from Erlanger did an on-site visit and would likely want another round of data. She said she thought there was still interest. Clark said Erlanger fit well in Bledsoe County and she hoped for the same thing here. Clark also told the board a new surgeon, Tom Ross, would begin working at the hospital on August 9th. She said patients were already lined up. Clark said Dr. Ross was from Ellijay, where a hospital had closed. She said Surgical Associated from Cleveland would not be coming anymore.

Polk County Budget Committee finalizes 2016-17 budget

Periodic outbursts marked the last two budget meetings, but the 72¢ raise for county employees is still in place, and no tax increase is slated. Mark Bishop said Polk County’s growth depended on our neighbors, and pointed out their tax rates were lower. He said $2.40 didn’t sound really bad, but when you add on city taxes it got pretty high. He said it would cost 30% more to get industry in the cities and that was hindering economic growth.
John Pippenger asked about the collection rate. Budget Director Kelley Morgan said they collected 98% of the 90% rate set in last year’s budget.

Commissioners voted to adjust the pro-ration on the sanitation, leaving them with a little more than $20,000 to cut from the budget. Pippenger made a motion to take that amount from the fund balance to balance the budget. Daniel Deal seconded the motion, but the motion failed. Bishop said they needed to get the budget finished and get it in the paper. He said if the State sets it, it won’t be pretty. Karen Bracken said if they dropped the raise down to 60¢ it would cover the amount left to cut. She also said the school system could be dropped down to a level 2 funding. Pippenger asked why Bracken didn’t make a motion if that’s what she wanted to do.
Brett Nelms asked Bracken if she had kids in the school system. Bracken said no.

“But you want to cut $76,000,” Nelms asked, adding that Bracken also wanted to bump down the raise. He asked if Bracken knew what the poverty level was and if she had ever had to live on $16,000 a year. Bracken said she had; Nelms asked what year that was. Nelms asked Bracken to explain why the employees only deserved 60¢ when they hadn’t had a raise in 15 years. Bracken said it had not been 15 years. Nelms asked if cutting education was really the right thing to do. He also asked what would happen if everyone walked out because of the low wages. Nelms asked Bracken how long she had lived here, and that he hoped people remembered this at the next election. Bracken said she didn’t base her decision on re-election. Pippenger said when Bracken was talking about Administration, she was apparently including people who were paid with grant money.

Bracken talked about the cost per pupil of the Director of Schools and Principals; Morgan suggested it be talked about when someone from the school system was there. Pippenger said he wanted to see a vote on dropping school funding and seconded Bracken’s motion. He asked for a roll call vote. The motion failed with only Bracken voting in favor.

Jail Administrator Teresa Hammons said the Sheriff authorized her to offer $26,000 in increased revenue from the jail budget in order to balance without cutting education or lowering the raises. Bishop made a motion to add that money to balance the budget.

Pastor David Smith from Living Free Community Outreach was on hand at the meeting. He said they opened in Ducktown a year ago and the biggest thing they have run into was that there is no place to live. Smith said they had a 96% ratio of getting out of addiction and they could find their clients jobs, but not housing. He said they acquired a van to go back and forth to the doctor. Smith said there was money going elsewhere for drug prevention and suggested some of that be given to them to help with rehab.

Ledford pointed out they had to want to be rehabilitated for the program to work. “You can give this man all the money you want, but they have to want it,” Ledford said. Cheryl Buehler asked what it was they actually did and if they were trained counselors. Smith said they were a non-resident rehab. He said they did 12-step programs, anger management, and family counseling.

Pippenger asked what drug prevention money Smith was referring to. He said the drug fund was used for maintenance of drug dogs and to pay for drug officers. Karen Bracken said it could be used for rehab. Pippenger said that was up to the sheriff. Hammons pointed out that everything mention was also done in the jail currently. She said they have had 13 graduates from their GED program, as well.

Jury in Waters triple homicide to come from Monroe County, TN

The trial date for George Steven Waters has been changed, and jurors will now be selected from a Monroe County jury pool. An order was filed July 11th by Criminal Court Judge Sandra Donaghy that set the trial to begin January 23, 2017. Waters faces murder charges for the August 17, 2012 triple homicide of Wanda Waters, Doug Waters, and Willard Waters. The State is not seeking the death penalty.

According to the filing, the court will request a jury pool of 400 jurors to be summoned from the residents of Monroe County. Two hundred will be required to appear at the Monroe County Courthouse September 15th, and another 200 will be required to appear September 16th. Those who qualify to serve as potential jurors will be required to fill out juror questionnaires previously approved by the court, and copies will be distributed thereafter, the judge’s order says.

Individual Voir Dire of jurors having filled out questionnaires in September will be conducted November 21 and 22. General Voir Dire will be conducted January 17 at 8:30am at the Monroe County Courthouse. All those chosen as jurors will receive strict instructions from the court regarding discussion of and research into the case, and will be allowed to return home to make arrangements with employers and families. They will then report for jury service January 23 at the Polk County Justice Center in Benton. They will remain sequestered for the duration of the trial.

Hearings for all outstanding motions will be conducted September 20-22 at the Justice Center in Benton.