Polk County, TN Boys and Girls Club Celebrates 8th Anniversary

On Tuesday, October 20th, over 200 supporters from around the community gathered at Ocoee Retreat Center to help celebrate the Boys and Girls Club of Benton/Ocoee Youth Center’s 8th Anniversary.
“We’re extremely proud of our accomplishments over the past 8 years,” said John Miles, retiring President of the Board of Directors for the Ocoee Youth Center. “When Cindy Hooker started the club 8 years ago, the children of Benton had no after school program. Our program not only allows these children to spend their afternoons in a positive and fun atmosphere, but it also focuses on character development and creates a safe place for our children to learn and grow.”

The program opened with John Miles thanking all those in attendance, then shared a brief history behind how the club got started. Benton Unit Director D.J. Grady delivered information on the number of children the club served and the many things children have an opportunity to experience while attending the club. He also went on to explain the Benton Club had reached maximum enrollment of the number of children the club could serve and explained to serve more children, there would have to be an expansion to the existing facility. He then stated there was an extensive waiting list of children hoping to attend.

Attendees were then entertained by as several members of the Benton Unit. Rayleigh Hawkins sang “Everyday” by Rascal Flats. The audience was then shown three short films made by club members sharing their story of what the club means to them.
Key note speaker, Matt Ryerson, Executive Director of United Way of the Ocoee Region, talked with the crowd about the importance of making a difference in a child’s life. The speech, “One face in the Crowd” talked about how it can take only one person to make a difference in a child’s life.
The evening ended with a live auction and raffle. Items auctioned were a club quilt made by Margie Ratcliff and a set of corn hole boards made by Willie Ledford. Each item featured painted handprints of the members of the Benton Club. The quilt was donated back to the Benton Unit and is on display in the main common area of the club.

The Benton Boys and Girls Club would like to thank the following sponsors for the 2015 Anniversary event: Artistic Landscapes, Benton United Methodist Church, Check Into Cash, Clear View Baptist Church, Community Fellowship Church, Crystal Geyser, Dina Moran, Dr. David and Jan Darden, Easy Living, LLC., First Volunteer Bank, Fresh n Low, John and Lisa Miles, Lions Club, Living Water Community Church, McDonald’s Inc. Smith Management, Ocoee Outdoors, Ocoee River Jam, Old Fort Tire, Pioneer Jewelry/Pioneer Auto Sales, Preferred Pharmacy, Polk County Chamber of Commerce, Polk County School Board, Polk County Sheriff’s Department, Silvers Family, Stinnett Family, Tarver Distributing, United Way of Bradley County and Woodmen Life/Adam and Rachel Lowe. Special thanks also goes to Matt Ryerson and the staff of United Way of the Ocoee Region for their continuous support of the Benton Unit.

New Technology and Services Now Offered at East and West Polk Libraries

New public access computers have recently been installed at the East and West Polk Public Libraries. Six new HP ProDesk 600 computers with 23” widescreen monitors have been added at the west library, and four have been added at the east library. The technology upgrade was made possible through a grant obtained by Friends of the Library from the Tucker Foundation.

“We are very grateful to the Tucker Foundation for their generosity and recognition of this need in our county” said Jenny Rogers, FOL representative. “We are striving to keep up with the demand for current technology on both sides of the county, and this grant has allowed us to make a big improvement in the access we are able to offer our residents. The new computers are already getting plenty of use.”

New Technology and Services Now Offered at Libraries3In the west library, the new computers replaced older models that were beginning to exhibit several problems. There are eleven total public-access adult computers at the west library. In the east library, the new computers were added to the existing public-access stations, bringing the total number of adult computers now available on the east side to nine. Both libraries also feature an additional computer strictly dedicated to searching Polk County’s current automated inventory for books and DVD’s. Both east and west inventory is shown, allowing residents to request an item from the either side of the county.
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Also new to both libraries is the recent addition of two state-of-the-art children’s computers. The purchase of these computers was made possible through a Library Services Technology Grant and a matching contribution from the Friends of the Library. The “Kids Learning PC’s” feature colorful keyboards and an extensive elementary learning software package featuring many popular games and programs. The software is geared toward children from age 1 to 12.
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In addition to new technology, the West Polk Library has recently added current subscriptions to: The Cleveland Daily Banner, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Southern Living Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, and Sports Illustrated. Both the east and west libraries have received The Polk County News for the past several years. Residents may view recent editions of these publications anytime the libraries are open.

TVA project temporarily closes powerhouse to the public

A TVA bridge repair project has been completed, and work now moves on to a construction phase at Apalachia Dam. TVA advises residents the work will have an affect on public access this winter and spring. According to Scott Fiedler with TVA, about 300 power cables that run from the Powerhouse to the switchyard at the power plant are being replaced. The project is now underway. It is expected to last from November 2015 – March 2016. Hydroelectric generation at the dam will stop during this period.

“This project is especially challenging because the cables run about 1,000 feet from the Apalachia Powerhouse to the switchyard which sits on a mountaintop several hundred feet above the powerhouse,” Fiedler said.

TVA is already in the process of building several hundred feet of scaffolding from the powerhouse to the top of the mountain. The project will lead to a lot of heavy equipment moving around. For safety, during construction the following areas will be closed to the public:
• The Powerhouse Parking Lot
• The Powerhouse railroad tracks (closed for pedestrian use)
• The Suspension Walking Bridge (that goes to the Powerhouse Parking Lot). TVA will close the bridge gate on the river side.

No adverse impacts to fisheries or other wildlife are anticipated during construction. All project plans have been reviewed and approved by TVA Environmental staff and U.S. Wildlife & Fisheries. TVA Environmental will be performing monitoring activities of the river during construction.
Fiedler said the bridge is popular with fisherman, and TVA wanted to be proactive to let the community know.

Benton Lions Club hosts dental clinic

Benton Lions ClubThe Benton Lions Club on behalf of the community, wish to thank Dr. Jason Nicholson, his staff, and Dr. Alfred Rowton for the service they provided to the residents of Polk County who were without Dental Insurance, with a free Dental Clinic to extract teeth. The Dental Extraction Clinic was held on Saturday the 17th of October at Dr. Nicholson’s office in Benton, during which they saw 45 patients and extracted 175 teeth free of charge. A number of canned food items were collected during the clinic for the Polk County Baptist Food Bank. Appearing in the photo from left to right are; Renee Rymer, Leslie Jones, Dr. Alfred Rowton, Breanna Curry, Dr. Jason Nicholson, Keri Adams, Karyn Porio, Terry Damron, Lindsey Hurst, Keena Dalton and Anita Ritenour.

Polk County, TN ranks 91st in Kids Count data

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth has released its Kids Count data, which includes county-by-county data on the well-being of children. Polk County ranks 91st out of 95 counties. While Polk County falls below the state average in the majority of categories, there are a few bright spots, including graduation rates and employment rates. The data are organized as they relate to indicators of outcomes we all want for our children – to be safe, healthy, educated, nurtured and supported, and engaged in activities that help them succeed in school and in life.The Kids Count Data Center is an easy to use resource available to anyone. kids count

According to the Kids County data, Polk County has a little over 21% of its population under the age of 18. It lists the county population at 16,687. More than 29% of those children are living in poverty. Information is divided into safety, health, and education, and also includes the number of children receiving benefits such as free/reduced lunch and SNAP.
Taken from 2013 numbers, the Kids Count report says more than 46% of Polk County children are on TennCare, compared to 41% statewide. 6.5% of children are without healthcare, compared to 6% statewide. Nearly 20% of all Polk County residents are on TennCare, compared to just over 18% statewide.

Infant mortatily rates for Polk County babies is higher than the state average. According to the KidsCount data, 12 births per every thousand in Polk County result in death in the first 28 days, compared to 4.2 statewide. Birthweight for Polk County babies is higher then the state average. A little over 7% of Polk babies are underweight, compared to more than 9% statewide. Child death rates of 148.5 per 100,000 are listed for Polk County, compared to 19 per 100,000 statewide. Teen violent deaths are listed at zero, compared to more than 37 per 100,000 statewide.

In Education, a little more than 45% of students are considered proficient/advanced on math TCAP testing, compared to about 50% statewide. 43% are considered proficient/advanced in reading, almost 55% in science, and over 80% in social studies. High School graduation rates for Polk County are higher than the state average. Polk graduates more than 90% of students; the state average is just over 86%. Special Education rates are on point with the state and just over 11%. Dropout rates are lower than the state average. A little more than 74% of students participate in free or reduced lunch programs, compared to a little less than 60% statewide. 40% of children and more than 24% of residents overall participate in the SNAP program. Statewide, 36% of students and almost 21% of residents overall participate in the program. 67% of Polk children are on the WIC program; almost 34% participate statewide.

Youth employment rates for Polk County are much higher than the state according to the 2013 KidsCounty report data. More than 40% of Polk youth is employed, compared to just over 25% statewide. There were 26 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect in Polk County, a rate of 7.4 per 1000. The statewide rate is 4.9 per 1000. Twenty kids were remanded to state custody, and 11 remained in state custody. The percentage of Polk youth abusing illicit drugs or alcohol was 6.7%, compared to 6.2% statewide. Neighboring Monroe County ranks 63rd, McMinn County ranks 26th, Bradley County ranks 39th.

Grape Escape is November 7th

Final plans are under way for the third annual Ocoee Grape Escape. Set to take place on Saturday, November 7th from 1-6 pm, this event promises a great time. Three wineries in the Ocoee region- Savannah Oaks Winery, Morris Vineyards and Ocoee Winery- are once again partnering for a coordinated wine trail experience. In addition to tasting award winning wines, event goers will have the opportunity sample local fare, listen to live music, tour vineyards and meet the winemakers- all while being surrounded by the fantastic display of fall color.

Agricultural producers such as Apple Valley Orchards, Appalachian Bee, Rafting Goat Cheese and Sweetwater Valley Farm, along with local caterer G’ Daddy’s BBQ, will participate in the event by offering samples of their delicious food products. The Polk County Chamber of Commerce and First Volunteer Bank will provide hors d’oeuvres.
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The Ocoee Grape Escape was created by the Polk County Chamber of Commerce as a means to promote and enhance agri-tourism and the local agricultural economy. “Southeast Tennessee has a flavor of its’ own and we want folks to experience that” says Chamber Director and event coordinator, Adrian Lambert.

While each winery along the “Escape” boasts an impressive wine list, each offers a different experience as well so spend as little or as much time as you want each venue.

Take in the stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains at Morris Vineyards in Charleston while listening to performances by Skelton Key. You can also stroll through row after row of grape and muscadine vines on a self-guided vineyard tour.

Sip wine and relax on the front porch of Savannah Oaks Winery, in Delano, while looking out over the Cherokee National Forest and listening to the musical talents of local favorite Tim Poteet.

Enjoy mountain views and BBQ on the deck at Ocoee Winery in Cleveland, where “FROdaddy” Jeff Rentfro will be taking requests and keeping your toes tappin’.

Chamber Vice-President, Suzanne Akins says “It doesn’t matter where you start your “escape” or where you end the evening as each winery will have music, hors d’oeuvres and wine tastings for your enjoyment. This should also be the peak of the fall colors, so the short drive from one winery to the next will be beautiful.”

Tickets are $25 per person and include a commemorative wine glass. Tickets can be purchased at the participating wineries or at the Polk County Chamber of Commerce. You must be 21 years old to purchase a ticket, I.D. required. Please drink responsibly. For more information call (423)338-5040.

For more information, call 423-338-5040 or visit the event’s Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/events/974203415977108/

Inaccurate plats concern Planning Board

Polk County Planning Board members talked at length about plats located in the failed Hiwassee Preserve subdivision last Tuesday. Two residents of the area brought up the issue because those lots are due to be auctioned off by the Chancery Court next month. The concern is that unknowing purchasers will be unable to build on the lots as they are now. Thirty-three lots have been listed in an upcoming delinquent tax sale. Rob Barnett said he owns a cabin and 5 of the 1/4 acre lots. He told Planning Board members he wasn’t sure if anything could be done about the issue, but he wanted to be educated on the process.

The subdivision plat was initially approved in 2006. A drip field for septic was supposed to service what would have been the first phase of the development. Ocoee Utilities initially serviced the drip field, but the permit was dropped in 2013. The drip field was located on private property, and has since been sold. Register of Deeds Kandi Bramlett said the plats were approved subject to the drip field. Planning Board Vice-Chair Gary Silvers said lots had to be 1/2 acre to get a septic tank, and pointed out many of the lots were below the flood plain and would not likely ever be approved. He suggested the current lot lines would have to be scrapped, and larger lots be created, before anyone could ever build.

Surveyor Jimmy Richmond pointed out the plat had also been approved with no road. Silvers said the plat needed to be voided because it was not even a legal document. Richmond said it was a legal document because it had been recorded. Barnett said he had lots 12-16 and had the soil tested on lots 12 and 13. He said he could only get approval for a 1 bedroom cabin if it had an interceptor drain. Planner Mark Bishop asked who had sold the drip field. Barnett said it was the “guys from Florida.” Several LLCs have owned the property over the years. Most recently, the idea was to create townhomes on the lots. Board Member Arnold Hambright said the drip field should have been community property.

Bishop suggested the plats needed to be pulled from the sale. He said that as a county commissioner, he would be afraid to sell the property and could see a lot of problems and the potential for a lawsuit. Bishop said the drip field wasn’t designed for the entire subdivision. He said someone who bids on the property will think there is a drip field because that’s what the plat says/ Bishop said that was false information, and the road was, too. The plat also indicates there is city water coming from Hiwassee Utilities, which is not true. Bishop said he would talk to the County Executive to see if the property could be pulled from the sale.

In other business, a variance was approved for a plat with a 25’ wide flag stem. Subdivision regulations call for a 50’ wide flag stem on properties where the length exceeds 250’. Surveyor Jimmy Richmond said the property didn’t need any more access than if it was 3/4 acre. He said there were fences on either side of the flag stem that would have to be moved if the flag had to be wider. Silvers said he didn’t see any other way to do it. He said his property is on the other side of the lot. He said the property couldn’t be landlocked and had to have a right of way. He said if the lot was ever divided there would be trouble, but that the existing house was in the center of it, and the property dropped off behind the house, so that was unlikely.
Hambright asked why they could just say there was a 50’ easement and leave the fences. Richmond said it wasn’t an easement, it was a flag strip. He said the fence would be encroaching if they did 50’. Richmond said there would also be issues with a water line currently going to some chicken houses. Hambright made a motion to grant a variance because it would cause undue hardship to move the fence and water line. Bishop voted against the variance, all others voted yes. The plat was approved with Bishop voting against.

New officers were elected for the upcoming year. Ivy Deal declined a nomination to continue as Chair, but agreed to be Secretary in order to sign plats that come in to the Deeds office. Daniel Deal was elected Chair, Silvers is Vice-Chair.

Heritage Festival starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 31

The 5th annual Benton Arts and Heritage Day is this Saturday, October 31st, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. with activities for both young and old. The courthouse square in downtown Benton will be closed to vehicles to allow vendors to set up and visitors to browse the offerings and listen to music throughout the day.

The annual quilt show returns again this year, with new and old quilts alike. Entitled “Quilt Court” because it is held in the old courtroom of the Polk County Courthouse, it offers local folks an opportunity to show off their skills.
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A scarecrow contest hosted by Benton IGA has been added to the Benton Arts and Heritage Day festivities this year. Benton IGA will also host a car show and a tractor show, and give away a $150 gift certificate during the tractor show. Anyone wishing to decorate a scarecrow for the show is asked to call Benton IGA at 423-338-9233.

A whole host of activities are on tap for the day-long event. Aside from bluegrass and gospel music all day, Benton Arts and Heritage Day offers bounce houses and a petting zoo with a wide variety of animals, and a Birds of Prey demonstration by State Parks.

A blacksmithing demonstration will be available on the south lawn of the courthouse. Sons of the Confederacy and United Daughters of the Confederacy members will be on hand in period dress throughout the day. Vendors will be offering locally made products and artwork, from bee products to baked goods, jewelry to paintings, crochet, soaps, jams, jellies, wreaths, purses, sugar scrubs, and a whole lot more.

Because it is Halloween, vendors are encouraged to have candy on hand for the kids, but there will be plenty of food, snacks, and treats available from food vendors. BBQ, hot dogs, nachos, candy apples, baked goods, hot dogs, hamburgers, fresh apple cider, and a whole lot more will be among the offerings.

The first annual Boots and Hearts contest will take place on the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn. Contestants will wear country-western-themed outfits of their choice and compete in categories for ages birth-6 years for boys, and birth-19 years for girls. Entry fee is $15, and any proceeds above the cost of the contest will be donated to the West Polk Empty stocking Fund.

Drawings for prizes offered in a raffle will be given away during the Boots and Hearts contest. For more information, contact Sanna German at 423-716-0785.

Artwork celebrates the healing Copper Basin

A Louisville, Kentucky artist is utilizing the Copper Basin, TN area in a series of work titled “Healing the Earth.” Joanne Weis utilized her chosen media, hand-dyed and printed textiles, for each of the nine pieces. “Copper Basin,” as well as the other pieces, represents a location where significant environmental damage has occurred but where individuals, private organizations, and government agencies are partnering to restore an ecologically sound environment. In planning this series, Weis put out a request to artist friends around the country, asking if they were aware of locations in their vicinity where environmental restoration efforts were having some success. Marie Spaeder Haas, of Ocoee, suggested the Copper Basin as a location that fit the criteria.

Untitled-1“Rather than producing landscapes, though, I am trying to create a sense of place through choice of color, shape, texture and materials,” Weis said. While the two artists have yet to meet in person, Haas and Weis have been enjoying a friendship via email correspondence for several years. Weis will come to visit Haas and the Copper Basin area later this year. “To invest the time and energy to make what I consider good art, I need to be committed to and value the content,” Weis said, adding, “I prefer that my pieces are celebratory rather than making a political statement.” Weis said some of the restoration work gave her a glimmer of hope regarding the environment, which led her to think that might make a nice series. 

“Early 2015, I was beginning to think about my next art when I learned of a couple of places where some real work was being done relive to restoring environmental damage. At the same time I received an invitation to do a solo show in 2016.  This gave me time to do some nice work so I accepted the invitation and they accepted my proposal for  “Healing the Earth” series,” Weis said. With her series in mind, Weis sent out an e-request to various artists she knows around the country, asking if they knew of any places this type of repair was occurring.

“Marie Haas was one of those who responded, suggesting the “Copper Basin,” Weis said. “I wasn’t aware of this spot but on research it is exactly what I was being drawn to.” Weis and Haas share a friend in Louisville. Weiss said the friend encouraged her to look at Haas’s website, and they began to correspond after that. “Artists work in such varied media and Joanne has taken work in fiber and fabric to new and creative heights.  She is able to interpret reality, not by replicating what she sees and experiences, but by really looking into her experiences and sharing her insights visually, Haas said, adding, “I find her work so beautifully textural and thought-filled.”
In her piece “Copper Basin,” Weis has tried to tell the story of the land.

“The shape of the piece itself, 50” H and 17” W, represents the deep and narrow mine shafts,” Weis said. She said the lower section is dark brown, conveying the darkness of underground mining while the mid section represents the furrowed, sterile dirt on the surface. The blue/green rectangles are actual pieces of copper salvaged during the restoration of the Louisville Cathedral’s bell tower.
“Completed before the Civil War, this roof copper could actually have come from the Tennessee mines,” Weis said. The rectangle is repeated with stitching, pervading the piece as copper pervaded the communities surrounding the mines. The top section of the piece is much brighter with chaotic inclusion of colors from the lower two sections. Flowers, grasses and other vegetation are gradually taking root, shown through the loose hanging threads, as are trees and other flora, such as the black locust represented by the printed leaves.

“This was once a thriving community that supported people and families and businesses,” Weis said. “Technology and lessons learned have brought us to the point of reclaiming this piece of the earth. To the credit of the community, they have preserved one small section of the Copper Basin in its most desolate condition, reminding future generations of the damage that had been done and could be repeated. However, nature is winning out and natural pollination is beginning to cover those 300 acres with vegetation.  In a way this is promising. I love it,” Weis concluded. The “Healing the Earth,” series also includes pieces reflecting the Narrow River, in Narragansett RI; Journey of the Monarchs – eastern US to Mexico; Kentucky Prairie, the Parklands, Louisville KY; Lake Onondaga, New York; Red Thistle Farm, Livermore California; The Everglades, Florida; PPG Public Park, Mt. Vernon Ohio; and Valle de Oro, Albuquerque NM.

Copperhill, TN police force officially dissolved

by Joe Gaskill

Kathy Stewart is now the Mayor of Copperhill, and Tara Akins has been appointed to the council. Former Mayor Eric Waters has resigned, and the Copperhill City Police Department has been officially disolved.

The Copperhill city council met Monday September 21st, 2015. All members were present with the exception of Alderman Bill Standridge and Alderman Robbie Payne. Items on the agenda included the swearing in of two city officials, dispatch contract, sheriffs’ contract, the sewer plant project, and a discussion over city codes enforcement. Mayor Kathy Stewart swore in City Recorder Suzzane Hughes and Councilwoman Tara Akins. Following former Mayor Eric Water’s resignation, Stewart assumed the Mayors position and Alderman Ray Tanner assumed the role of Vice Mayor.

The second item of new business follows the city councils recent decision to dissolve the Copperhill City Police Department. Prior to the closing of the police department the city had an existing contract with the county’s dispatch office. Mayor Kathy Stewart explained that due to a new contract with the Polk County Sheriff’s office the dispatch contract was no longer needed. Vice Mayor Ray Tanner made a Motion to cancel dispatch contract. The motion was seconded by Alderwoman Tara Akins and approval followed. Another Motion was made by Vice Mayor Tanner to approve the new contract with the Polk County Sheriff’s office. The new contract will provide coverage for the city at a rate of $1,333.33 a month. Alderwoman Tara Akins Seconded the Motion with final approval following.

In other business Mayor Stewart announced that W & O Construction had won the bid for the City’s Sewer plant’s grinder project. A Short discussion was held by the council regarding the city’s ability to afford the project. Mayor Kathy Stewart reported that the bid was now within the range of the initial grant the city had received for the project. Vice Mayor Ray Tanner Motioned to accept the bid and Alderwoman Tara Akins seconded.

The Council also heard a presentation from city employee Chris Soto regarding a plan for city codes enforcement. Mayor Kathy Stewart advised that she had asked Chris to look into city codes enforcement. Chris Soto explained that the city could enforce their charter through a mail process involving sending certified mail informing resident of city code violations. Mayor Stewart then explained that Chris Soto and another city employee Jimmy Hemmy would be willing to take on the extra role of enforcing city codes. The Mayor also expressed gratitude for their willingness to fulfill the role and for all city employees’ hard work. In Council reports Vice Mayor Ray Tanner reported that the city’s garbage truck was now up and running again. With no further business on the agenda and no public comments the meeting was adjourned.