Polk Walks Celebration will be May 24th at Benton United Methodist Church

polk walks

Polk County Health Council members got local citizens running and walking towards health, getting fit, losing weight, and having fun with a new walking program called Walk Across Tennessee/ Polk Walks. Celebrate the end of the program May 24th with refreshments, a bounce house, t-shirts, and prizes.

The Polk County Health Council organized a 5 week walking competition starting April 11th. Prizes for the top 3 individuals, teams, and classrooms will be awarded Tuesday, May 24th at Benton United Methodist Church. All participants will receive Polk Walks t-shirts. Drop -m from 6-8; Awards at 7:30.

Polk Health Council is striving to provide opportunities for youth and adults in Polk County to enjoy physical activity together in a fun and meaningful way. Polk County has many beautiful outdoor areas for hiking, swimming, and other outdoor activities. The Health Council hopes to encourage local residents to be outside and active by sponsoring Walk Across Tennessee/Polk Walks.

Bid for ballfield lights at Ducktown Community Center higher than expected

Polk’s Board of County Commissioners met in Ducktown for their April monthly meeting. The Board discussed the appointment of a County Attorney, lights at the ballfields in Ducktown, water at the BMX park, and a request for Easley Ford Road. Commissioners also did a host of budget amendments in preparation for year-end. Commissioners decided to advertise the position of County Attorney before taking a vote. Attorney Eric Brooks, who has been working with the county for several years, was recommended by Commissioner Mark Bishop. Commissioner John Pippenger said he had nothing against Eric Brooks, but he had heard Brooks did not litigate. Bishop said retiring County Attorney Jimmy Logan has offered to continue to do litigation if needed.

Attorney Brooks was on hand at the meeting, and explained that he did some litigation, but that most attorneys now had specialties like doctors did. He said it was always best to get someone familiar with a particular matter or have more than one attorney. Brooks said having someone to do litigation based on the case was ideal. County Executive Hoyt Firestone said the county had previously called in other attorneys for tax litigation, and hired someone for help with tax appraisals. He said it was hard to find someone who was good for everything. Bishop said the county’s delinquent taxes were in better shape than they had been for years. He said Brooks had been checking every parcel before putting it in a tax sale, and had even sold a parcel that the county had for 39 years. Bishop said Brooks had gotten taxes current and had also worked with Bishop on subdivision stuff for the Planning Board.

“I’m happy to have him if Logan will litigate,” Bishop said. Commissioner Karen Bracken asked what would happen if Logan couldn’t take a case and at what cost it might be to find someone else.
Pippenger said he had no problem with Brooks if he was willing to litigate on smaller cases, but felt the position should be advertised at least in the local paper. Brooks said he would be happy to talk with any of the commissioners if they had questions.

Commissioner Sheena Gaddis told the board she had been contacted about a water hookup for the BMX park in Ducktown. She said the City of Ducktown was providing free electricity. Commissioner Daren Waters explained that in the past, someone had cut the line and hooked on to it, but the water board wanted a new meter put in. Firestone said if they did it, they would be providing water for a non-county function. He said they would be using local taxpayer funds for a service they have no control over.
Waters said it would be just as close for them to tie in to the subdivision at the back of the track and it would be a question for the water board. Gaddis said she would let follow up with them to let them know they would likely need to put in their own meter.

A bid for fencing around the impound lot at the Justice Center was approved. A galvanized fence will be installed for $9976. A black vinyl option for $11,930 was also provided, but Firestone pointed out the black vinyl fencing was actually a smaller gauge of fencing. Surplus vehicles from the Sheriff’s Department were approved for sale, with proceeds going back into the patrol car fund.

Road Superintendent Roy Thomason told the board a state road project on Easley Ford Road would replace the bridge there. He said it was currently a one-lane bridge, but the new proposed bridge would be two lanes. Thomason said if they changed the classification of the road to a “local route,” they could use more narrow 10-foot lanes. The road is currently classified as a “rural minor collector.” Thomason said this would reduce the cost of the project by $200,000-300,000. The project is estimated to cost about $2 million. Angie Sanford asked if they would be tearing down the bridge currently there. Thomason said it would be several years down the road. Bracken asked if there were any negatives to changing the classification. Thomason said no. He said the road was a connector road and did not have good access for larger vehicles anyway. He said it would still be a state aid road and nothing would change that. The commission approved the change.

Only one bid came in for lights at the Ducktown Community Center ballfields. The bid, for four 70’ concrete poles, 30 fixtures, electrical panels, and wiring, came in at $72,310. Firestone told the board any project going over $50,000 requires the hiring of an engineer, which would be an additional cost. He said the board could try to purchase the materials, then hire someone to do the installation. That could bring the bid under $50,000. Waters said if the county bought poles and fixtures, the rest could be bid. He said they could put up whatever kind of poles they wanted and did not have to do concrete. Waters said he had several calls from suppliers over the last couple days asking about the project, and thought they might want to bid.

The bid received did not contain a breakdown of costs. Waters said if they could get a breakdown they would know if it fell fall below the cost they needed. Mac York said five months ago he thought all they needed was the bids. He said the board was picking it apart like they had done for the last 15 years. York said the boys baseball field was the only field in the Basin with lights. He said it keeps getting put back and put back and it would go on for years. York said they had waited too long already and the kids needed it now.

“Tell me a field down there that doesn’t have lights,” York said. Bishop responded that Polk County High School did not have lights. Pippenger said it was citizens who had done the lights at the community fields in Benton. “Why don’t you just say you’re not gonna do it,” York said. Waters said they have said they were going to do it and were trying to work it out. Bishop reminded York that if he was going to bring up east side and west side, the west side did not have a community center or a pool. Waters suggested the board put out a new bid notice, then meet again May 12th to go over them and decide how to proceed. He said he wanted to do it as quickly as possible to get it done before the next commission meeting.

A small delinquent tax sale is planned for June 3rd. Attorney Eric Brooks told the board there was a parcel included in the Sassafrass Ridge subdivision that contained a man-made lake. During open bidding for property in a tax sale, if no one bids, the county does. Brooks suggested the county not bid on this parcel in the event it is available. He said liability and other issues made it better for the county not to own it. Jack Collins asked what happened to someone if they bought a piece of property at a tax sale, then flipped it, then they taxes were paid by the original owner. He said there was a redemption period for the original owner. Brooks said the redemption period depended on how far back the taxes went. As Collins and York attempted to illustrate a scenario in which the land was sold, Pippenger interrupted to point out the meeting had reached the 2-hour mark. Commissioners voted several months ago to end meetings at two hours. The resolution to not bid on the Sassafrass property with the lake was still read and approved.

Theda Bramlett told commissioners the 911 Board had hired Wes Davis as 911 Director, but he needed insurance and retirement, which the 911 Board was unable to offer. She said they could pay for everything, but it needed to run through the county in order of him to get his benefits. She requested Davis be paid through the Sheriff’s Department since the 911 equipment is there, and said the Board would drop the money into a new line item for the position up front.
Commissioners told Bramlett they would vote o the issue at the next meeting.

Additional county employees needed to be in compliance, Audit Committee told

Polk County’s Audit Committee met Monday night to go over findings from the 2014-2015 State Audit. Most of the findings related to the proper segregation of duties, an issue that has plagued the county for years. A material recurring finding has also been cited year after year because the Director of Accounts and Budgets does not handle the Road Department. Department heads were on hand to discuss ways to improve their offices.

County Executive Hoyt Firestone explained that Polk County adopted two parts of the Fiscal Controls Act of 1957, but was only doing pieces of the two. He said there was a time in the late 70s, early 80s when there was central purchasing, but there has never been central accounting. A third part of the ’57 Act relates to budgeting and provides for a committee and county executive to do budgeting. The county has not adopted that portion. Firestone said he supported adopting that portion as well, but the county commission would have to do so. The School system is not includes in the Fiscal Controls Act of 1957.

Firestone said the state had enacted a statute last year regarding internal controls, and the county had to have a plan by June 30th. He said they internal controls would mean better accountability and more transparency. Firestone said Polk County had good, honorable people in office, but that other areas had problems which led to the need for the changes. Internal control measures specify who can do what in regards to money coming in and going out of offices.

Committee Chairman Gary Silvers asked if combining the Road Department’s accounting with the Director of Accounts and Budgets would do away with the finding. Firestone said it would. Firestone said they would need someone designated as a Purchasing Agent. Director of Accounts and Budgets Kelley Morgan said the internal control process would take care of the segregation of duties issue because she would have people under her. She said it would require 2 1/2 to 3 new employees to do it. Karen Bracken asked about the budgeting process for the Road Department. Morgan said the Road Superintendent would begin to turn in a budget request the same way the other offices do instead of doing his own budget.

County Clerk Angie Sanford said she only had two options to be in compliance with the new internal controls. She said she would like to have a full-time bookkeeper who did not work at the counter. She said right now everyone works at the counter. In order to be compliant, the bookkeeper cannot also handle money at the counter. Sanford said the only other option was to cut services, and she did not want to so that. She said she currently had a part-time position in her budget, but would need it to be full-time. Sanford pointed out that in Meigs County, where there was no satellite office and they did not do driver’s licenses, there were four deputies. Polk County currently has three. One of them goes to Ducktown twice a week. Silvers said the Clerk’s Office was so busy it was like a stump full of granddaddy spiders. He said having the ability to get a driver’s license was great for the county.
Sanford said the other finding, that deposits were not always made within three days of receipt, had been dealt with.

Connie Clark, Clerk of Courts, said a finding about an overdraft was just an error and had been taken care of. She said they were never over or under, it was just an error. She said the office was working on the segregation of duties and would not need an additional staff member. Sheriff Steve Ross said they had changed a few things around and gone through the checklist given to them at the training. He said they have worked out the segregation, but still needed to write out their plan. Register of Deeds Kandi Bramlett said there was already a part-time person in her budget. She said because of the economic downturn they did not have as much work, so she had not filled the position. Bracelet said she used to do the deposits, write checks, and reconcile the account, but that Ivy Deal would now do deposits, she would write checks, and the new person would reconcile the bank statements.

The Audit Committee will meet again Monday, May 23rd, at 6:30 pm, when office holders will submit their plans in writing.

PCHS Students Take Three First Places

Almost 1,500 Future Business Leaders of America student members from across the state gathered in Chattanooga last month to compete in Business and Technical areas taught in high school. Polk County High School participated with three different teams in Computer related programming areas and took 1st place in all three.

The website competitions involve the students creating programs or websites simulating businesses that may be real or fictional. The computer game competition involved creating an E10+ game. Andrew Marshall and Mason Tolzmann took 1st place in Computer Game and Simulation Programming with his Computer Game simulating non-military drones assisting with search, rescue and assistance.
Dylan Brackett and Mason Tolzmann took 1st Place in Web E-Business where they created a website renting out services and products of a banquet hall to be used for wedding receptions, engagement parties, and any type of celebrations or business presentation meetings. Peter Kenney, Rebecca Bartlett, and Anastasia Fultz took 1st place in the state in the Webmaster competition with a Gluten Free Restaurant Website with elements typical of a restaurant, including but not limited to Menus, Contact Information and Hours of Operation, Make a Reservation Online, About Us, Preferred Customer Loyalty Program and Reviews.

“The students did an exceptional job this year. The competition has really stepped up with 20 teams across the state competing in Web Design, but our students were able to stand out with their programming skills. These skills are paying off, not only at the competitions, but as extra income as several students have earned money creating websites for businesses in our area.” said PCHS Computer teacher Dewey Esquinance.

Participating and winning at these competitions have a tremendous effect on students. “Participating in these competitions has really increased my confidence and self-esteem. Not only have I learned how to create websites, I have learned how to present and communicate effectively to groups.” said Mason Tolzmann, PCHS student.

All of these students have now qualified to compete in the National FBLA Competitions this summer. Polk County High School students have placed in the top 10 in the nation in some computer area for the past 9 years including 3 National Championships. Individual and businesses that would like to help with the expenses involved in sending these students to the national competition are encouraged to contact the school. Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) is the largest career student organization in the world. Each year, FBLA-PBL helps over 214,000 members prepare for careers in business.

Newspaper locked out of Polk County Election Commission meeting

A reporter from the Polk County News was denied access to an Election Commission workshop last Thursday. The meeting was initially slated for last Monday but was moved to Thursday. Upon arrival, reporter Rich Clayton was asked what he was doing there and told he could not stay. According to Clayton, Commission Chairman Ron O’Neal, Commissioner Freeman Curbow, and Election Administrator Steve Gaddis told him the meeting was closed and asked him what he was doing there. Clayton said Commissioner Mac York was in the bathroom at the time.

“They said it was not public because it was a workshop, and that I was not allowed in there,” Clayton said. Clayton said he stepped outside to make a call to the newspaper office, and the door was locked behind him. Polk County News Editor and Publisher Cheryl Buehler said she received a call from Clayton right at 3 p.m. Thursday, when the meeting was scheduled to begin.

“He said they locked him out, and I started making phone calls,” Buehler said. “I first called the Sheriff, thinking the police could inform the board what the law said about open meetings,” Buehler said, “but that did not work out.” Buehler said she was told the police could not intervene because the Sunshine Law was civil, not criminal. “So I decided to call the State Election Commission for help,” Buehler said.

According to Buehler, once she was able to get State Election Coordinator Mark Goins on the phone, she explained her reporter had been locked out. Goins agreed they could not do that, and said he would attempt to make contact with the board, Buehler said. “Several minutes later, Mr. Goins called back to tell me he had instructed Mr. Gaddis to unlock the door,” Buehler said. “I then sent a message to Rich that the door should be open.”

Clayton said he went back to the door, which was still locked, and knocked. Gaddis unlocked the door, Clayton said. O’Neal instructed him where to sit then promptly left. Clayton said it was clear the meeting was over because York, Curbow, and Gaddis were making idle chit-chat.

Gaddis told Clayton if he wanted to print something, “There aint no precincts closing. All we done was talk about possibilities the other day, and Cheryl took all the possibilities and made a big long commentary and made us look like crap, so, there ain’t nothing closing, never was no intent on closing.” Curbow added, “We can’t do it now, it’s too close to an election and we aint got time to transfer everybody.”

Buehler said she was looking into the process needed to file a Sunshine Law violation claim.

School Nurses, Telemedicine Lauded in Polk County, TN Schools

Polk County Coordinated School Health recently celebrated School Nurses Week and providing information on programs in the Polk County School System. The school nurses are a vital part of the school program and are available to help students who get sick at school or who might be injured. One of the major benefits in the Polk County School System is the Tele-Medicine Program that allows students to be seen by a physician at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger using the equipment in our schools.
A child who is sick or hurt can get medical care without the parent having to pick them up and take them to the doctor. Parents who want to take advantage of this program must fill out a consent form.
This program allows a child who is sick or hurt to be seen by having the nurse to connect with the center in Chattanooga by using technology she has available. The physician can make a diagnosis and call any prescription into the pharmacy indicated on the application.
Shannon Allen is the nurse at Copper Basin Elementary School and has a very successful program going there with fourteen students using the program last month. Kathy Silvers is the new nurse working with Tele-Med at Benton Elementary\Chilhowee Middle School, and South Polk Elementary School. Two students have been seen at Benton Elementary School this month. This program is funded by Children’s Hospital of Erlanger, Ronald McDonald Charities, Tennova Healthcare and grants from the United Way. Ocoee Regional Health Corporation generously donated a telemedicine site for Polk County Schools.
The program spans 3 school systems including Bradley County, Cleveland City, and Polk County Schools. Students from Pre-K-12th grade and school staff members are eligible to be treated at the clinics via telemedicine during the school day in Polk County Schools or visit the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile in Cleveland. Enrollment in our school system is not mandatory. Students from Pre-K to 12th grade are eligible. Insurances are accepted. This program is a free service for Tenncare and the uninsured. Staff members of the school systems are also eligible for services. Telemedicine applications must be completed and signed by the students’ parent/guardian and returned to their teacher/nurse.

Parents are welcome but not required to be present at a visit. This is convenient for parents that work. No payments are due at the time of service. The practitioner will contact the parent directly when the visit is completed. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile has been available to Polk County School students for a few years. The addition of telemedicine will help us provide quality healthcare coverage to the students in the school setting and provide services through the school nurses. The partnerships represented will continually help to increase school based health service programs for Polk County schools.

Savannah Oaks hosts Agri-Tourism Sampler

Tourism partners in Southeast Tennessee gathered to celebrate agri-tourism in the region with an Agri-Tourism Sampler on Tuesday, April 12, at Savannah Oaks Winery in Delano, Tenn. The Sampler took place prior to the quarterly meeting of the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association, part of the Southeast Tennessee Development District working to promote tourism within the 10 counties of region.
Agritourism Sampler-Kacie Fiber
The Sampler was open to agri-tourism partners working in the region to merge agriculture and tourism through experiences, produce and products authentic to Tennessee. Individuals and businesses were invited to set up displays and provide samples to showcase their projects and venues to other tourism partners within the region.
The following agri-tourism businesses participated in the event:
Julie Walker, AgCentral Co-op (Athens)
Diane Ravens, Appalachian Bee (Ocoee)
Andrea Jaeger, Crabtree Farms (Chattanooga)
Kacie Lynn, Fiber Farm (Tracy City)
Bill Collins, Hiwassee River Weddings (Delano)
Mayfield Dairy’s Visitor Center (Athens) – ice cream sandwiches donated
Mack Haynes, Rafting Goat Cheese (Old Fort)
Jim & Jeannie Ruthem, Pathways Studio Harps
Sandy Hood, Sannie Mae’s Heirloom Foods (Benton)
Betty and Bruce Davis, Savannah Oaks Winery (Delano)
JD Dalton, Tsali Notch Vineyard (Madisonville)
University of the South at Sewanee, University Farm (Sewanee)
Claudia Walker, artist (Sweetwater)

Bruce and Betty Davis, owners of Savannah Oaks Winery in Delano, Tenn., donated the use of their event pavilion for the event. Nearly 50 people from across the region were in attendance, including Polk County Mayor Hoyt Firestone, Sequatchie County Executive Keith Cartwright, and Beth Jones, Executive Director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District. Polk County Mayor Hoyt Firestone welcomed the group to the county and offered his support of agri-tourism in the region.Agritourism Sampler-Jenni

To learn more about tourism in Southeast Tennessee, visit www.SoutheastTennessee.com or contact Jenni Veal, Tourism Coordinator with the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association, at jveal@sedev.org.

Ducktown Basin Museum to get Interpretive Signs, Brochures via USDA Grant

The Ducktown Basin Museum is among several organizations in the region to receive Rural Business Development Grant Money. USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode visited the Museum last Wednesday to award the grant, which includes funds for interpretive signs, maps, and brochures. Rural Development funds will be used to support targeted technical assistance, training, and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in designated rural areas.

The Ducktown Basin Museum received a $14,630 RBDG grant and $7,130 Community Facilities grant to install interpretive signs and print maps and brochures that will be used to guide visitors on a trail along museum grounds as they view historical artifacts. Because tourism is a major industry in Polk County, this project will benefit surrounding businesses in the area.

The Ducktown Basin Museum is located on the historic Burra Burra mine site, which was the headquarters for Tennessee Copper Company and Cities Service mining operations from 1899 through 1975. The 16 structures remaining on the site include virtually all of the original mine buildings and outbuildings except for the headframe, which was demolished after the closing of the mine in 1958. Museum Director Ken Rush said he thought the signs would enhance the experience for people who visit the museum, but would also be useful if someone comes when the museum is closed.

Touring the "mine" at Ducktown Basin Museum.

Touring the “mine” at Ducktown Basin Museum.

“If they come when we are closed, they can walk the grounds and learn a little about things from the signs, then come back again when we are open,” Rush said. Rush said the Museum Board had discussed doing the 33 signs themselves, one at a time, but it was not something they were able to afford.
While on site, Goode, along with Area Director Joe Woody and other members of Rural Development, toured the Museum and spoke with Rush about how it came into being. Rush explained how a grassroots organization started the Museum in 1978. He said their first location was in downtown Ducktown.
According to Rush, the Company had abandoned the property where the Museum now sits, and the Museum Board approached Cities Services about utilizing it. He said they moved onto the 17-acre site in 1982.
The site was acquired by the state in 1988 and became a state-owned historic property. The land and buildings are owned by the state, and the non-profit Museum administers the Burra Burra Complex. Rush said the Tennessee Historical Commission provides a portion of their annual budget, and have to approve anything done on the property. The site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1983.

Rush said 4800 people had come through the Museum last year during regular work hours. He said a little under 7000 visiter all together, including those who came during special events and festivals, customer appreciation days, or the annual yard sale. USDA Rural Development is moving investments to rural America with housing, business and infrastructure loans and grants to create jobs and strengthen rural economies with an emphasis to assist areas of persistent poverty.  Since 2009, the agency has assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 230 communities in all 95 counties of Tennessee, investing more than $6.6 billion through affordable loans, loan guarantees, and grants.
For more information on USDA Rural Development programs available in Southeastern Tennessee contact the Chattanooga Area Office at 423-756-2239.  Visit us online at www.rd.usda.gov/TN.
 dtown  basin meseum presentation

Haynes named Teacher of the Year

tch of yr-haynesPolk County School Board members met Monday night at PCHS for their regular monthly meeting. Along with the approval of school handbook changes and adoption of textbooks, the board discussed a contract for internet services. Teacher of the Year plaques were presented for each school, and Sarah Haynes from South Polk Elementary School was named Teacher of the Year for the county, as well as the Southeast Tennessee Region.

At Copper Basin High School, Keith Millard was named Teacher of the Year. tch of yr-millardDr. Jason Bell said Millard was humble, but very deserving. Melissa Fugate was named Teacher of the Year for Polk County High School. tch of yr-fugateBell said he was blown away by Fugate’s enthusiasm and said she had gone above and beyond for the drama program.

tch of yr-maughanAt Copper Basin Elementary, Gena Maughan was named, and cited for her ability to successfully teach math to elementary school students. Courtney Pippenger was named Teacher of the Year at Chilhowee Middle School. Pippenger was lauded for spending nearly 24/7 at the school and for caring for the students.tch of yr-pippenger Benton Elementary did not namr a Teacher of the Year..

A banner presentation was also made to Ron German, Principal of Polk County High School, in honor of PCHS being named a Reward School. German said it was not his award, it belonged to the teachers and staff. Ryan Goodman presented the banner, commenting that he was proud to have attended and taught school at PCHS.

School Board members agreed to join a Nashville Metro consortium for internet service at all the schools. Director of Schools Dr. James Jones explained that the school system was previously in a Sweetwater consortium, but it has now dissolved. According to Jones, in order to get government funding for internet at the schools, it is necessary to be in a consortium. He said the Nashville Metro consortium contained 137 school systems and had never been turned down for funding. A problem arose last year with the Sweetwater consortium not getting funding, resulting in a lawsuit that is now at the federal level. Jones said the cost for the internet would be about the same, but the services would be upgraded.

The board also heard from Jeff Burchfiel, who talked about recent victories by the auto mechanics team during a competition held in Athens. Burchfiel said the school always participated in the Ford AAA competition, but it no longer exists.