Early Voting for Primary now Underway

Early voting for the March 1st Primary is now underway and will be available through February 23rd. Primary elections for Polk County Assessor of Property and Road Superintendent will be on the ballot, as well as presidential primary elections. Republicans will also vote for presidential delegates.

There are two candidates in each of the Democrat Primaries this election. Democrat Incumbent Randy Yates is being challenged by Bob Ramsey for the Property Assessor job. Incumbent Road Superintendent Roy (Gene) Thomason is being challenged by previous Road Superintendent Harold Hood. Thomason beat Hood in the last Democrat primary for the job as road man.On the Republican side, William (Alley) Bruce seeks the nomination for Road Superintendent and has no opposition. He will face either Thomason or Hood in the General Election. For the Assessor’s job on the Republican side, Bill Trew faces Ginger Cole. The winner will face either Yates or Ramsey.

The Polk County News will be conducting candidate interviews in the upcoming week in order to provide insight into the local candidates.every vote counts

Constables will be on the ballot in the second and third district. Tim Tatum (2nd) and Jeremy Tipton (3rd) face no opposition. There is no first district candidate.

In the Presidential Primary, Democrats Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders appear on the ballot, but O’Malley has withdrawn from the race.

In the Republican Presidential Primary, options include Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump. Pataki, Graham, Santorum, Fiorina, Christie, and Paul have all withdrawn from the race.

A whole host of delegate options are listed on the Republican ballot. Each name on that section correlates to a specific candidate, which will be listed below the name of the delegate.

Empty Stocking Fund has Record Year

The West Polk Empty Stocking Fund and People Helping People had a record year, providing 132 children with wrapped Christmas gifts to open this year. Each child received toys and a winter outfit.
Included in that number were 14 teenagers who were given the opportunity to shop for their gifts at a local store.

A new Stocking Tree Program was implemented this year for those in dire need because of a recent family crisis. Recipients were provided with Christmas gifts from sponsors from local churches and our generous community.
That program was able to help 17 children at an unfortunate time in their lives have a Christmas.
People Helping People thank each person, organization, or group who joined together to help us during the 2015 Christmas Season.

A special thank you to the VEC Shares grant, the Boots and Hearts Pageant, and Rick Cooper with the Motorcycle Run!

Chilhowee Gliderport Named one of Tennessee Thrills

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development has released the highly-anticipated 2016 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide featuring international entertainment icon and native Tennessean Dolly Parton. The guide also highlights some of Tennessee’s most popular outdoor adventure attractions such as “6 Tennessee Thrills” on page 28, which includes sailplane gliding at Chilhowee Gliderport in Polk County. 

The Chilhowee Gliderport offers motorless flight over the beautiful Tennessee countryside and ridges. Since the early 1970’s Chilhowee Gliderport has offered rides, instruction, and towing. Gliderport owner, Sarah Kelly Arnold, is a internationally recognized champion glider pilot.

“Dolly Parton is a Grammy Award winner (10 and counting), a Kennedy Center Honoree, a Country Music Hall of Famer, and currently experiencing tremendous attention with the tremendous success of her TV movie, Coat of Many Colors,” states Commissioner Kevin Triplett, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “But she is first and foremost a Tennessean and provides unparalleled support of her home state.” 

Commissioner Triplett continues, “We have five pillars that we focus on in sharing with the world what our great state has to offer to its guests: scenic beauty, history, family, outdoors, and of course, music. Every city, every county, every destination in Tennessee falls under one or all of these pillars. As one of our top marketing tools, the 2016 Official Tennessee Vacation Guide celebrates each of these and what Polk County has to offer.” 

Additional highlights featured on the guide’s cover include the 150th anniversary of Jack Daniel Distillery, The Guest House at Graceland coming to Memphis, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Lightning Rod Coaster, 75 years of the Chattanooga Choo Choo song, the Battle at Bristol, Nashville – Music City, and Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.
Glider flight

Tourism partners and destinations across the state are provided with free listings in the guide each year and more than 550,000 guides are available to inspire potential guests worldwide to book a trip to Tennessee to experience the “Soundtrack of America, Made in Tennessee.” 

The 228-page guide is a compilation of stories, photographs, annual events, regional overviews, maps, and listings showcasing the state’s incomparable scenic beauty, outdoor recreation, history, family fun, the arts and spectacular culinary scene with accompanying handcrafted spirits. 

The Gliderport is a great place to come spend the day watching the beauty of soaring, hitching a ride, or the start point for a long cross-country flight. Rides are provided by FAA certified glider flight instructors. Additionally, you can get primary instruction for the new pilot or transition training for the current power pilot who wants to add “glider” to his or her ticket.

The guide is free at the state’s 14 Welcome Centers and to guests requesting the publication via tnvacation.com and 1.800.GO2.TENN. It is also available as an e-guide at tnvacation.com/guide. As in previous years, an iPad app of the guide will be available soon in iTunes offering additional rich media and interactive content, as well as links to all advertisers. 

VECustomers Share Program Awards Money to Polk County, TN Alumni Association.

VEC grant to Polk County Alumni AssociationPictured is Ed Lawson of the Polk County Alumni Association receiving a $1,500.00(one–thousand five hundred dollar) check from Mr. Bill Womac of the VECustomer share board. This money will be used to help fund the Polk County Alumni Association scholarship for a graduating Polk County High School senior. This scholarship of $1,500.00 (one-thousand-five-hundred dollars) will be awarded at the annual alumni banquet to be held this year on Saturday, June 4, 2016.
The VECustomer Share Program is funded by VEC members who allow their monthly electric/energy bill to be rounded up to the nearest dollar. The Polk County High School alumni committee recommends that ALL West Polk VEC members participate in this program. The amount rounded up is tax deductible. Any Polk County non-profit organization can apply for grants from this fund. Checks are awarded monthly by the VECustomer Share Board based on available funds.

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.