County commission endorses Town ‘Courthouse Square’ zone

The Courthouse Square Revitalization and Tourist Development Zone that could result in $400,000 of annual sales tax revenue for the Town of Jonesborough was endorsed by the Washington County Commission on Monday.
“What we have here is a great opportunity,” said Town Mayor Kelly Wolfe, appearing before the commissioners to urge passage of the resolution for the zone. “Jonesborough has struggled to interest the state (in providing tourism dollars).”
If approved by the Tennessee Legislature, the act submitted by the town would provide a method by which the state portion of sales tax generated in the district would be returned to the town for projects in Jonesborough.
State Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) is the sponsor of the pending legislation that includes properties located within approximately 700 feet of the county’s courthouse on Main Street in Jonesborough, plus a public arts facility identified at the meeting as the former Booker T. Washington School.
According to Wolfe, various proposals have been made to get the state to provide more development dollars to the area, including a suggestion that a state park be established.
While the state park idea has been abandoned, suggestions made in an Interpretive Master Plan for Historic Jonesborough as well as in a Branding, Development and Marketing Action Plan indicate the need for major improvements within the zone for which the revenue could be used.
Those include improvements to the Jonesborough Visitors Center, development of a new Visitor Center annex and history museum adjacent to the 1779 Chester Inn, moving the Christopher Taylor Log House to a more suitable location, acquisition and restoration of the Jackson Theater, and the development of a Preservation Field School and a World of Stories Plaza at the International Storytelling Center.
Other possible uses of funding would include the restoration and development of interpretive areas in the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School, placement of interpretation panels in the downtown historic district, important landscaping improvements, and development of a Railroad Museum in partnership with the Watauga Valley Railroad Association.
“Jonesborough has a tourism base that is unique,” Mayor Wolfe continued in saying that the development zone would be a further example of County and Town cooperative projects. He cited the construction of rest room facilities and improvement of the parking lot behind the Downtown Courthouse as projects underway that will benefit both governmental entities.
The act as now proposed will not involve any money from the county budget and educational funds in the tax collections will go to Washington County Schools. When asked if the State of Tennessee had agreed to the diversion of the sales tax money, Wolfe answered that “No, convincing the state is about to begin.” He told commissioners that Tennessee has funded six Courthouse Square Revitalization Zones, none of which are located in Northeast Tennessee. Their vote Monday he said endorses the idea of allowing Jonesborough to receive sales tax revenue.
In other commission items, Washington County Schools Director Ron Dykes said work on gym floors at Jonesborough and Boones Creek Schools have been completed and that work is underway on the school roof in Gray. Construction on a new roof at David Crockett High School should begin soon. Dykes told the County Commission that Tennessee may receive as much as $500 million in Stimulus funds because of the “Race to the Top” bill passed recently at a special session of the state legislature. Of this amount, he expects that Washington County would receive $2.8 million for a Title I program and $1.5 million for “at risk” resources. Notification of the amount of the funding is expected to occur in April or May. Commissioner Paul F. Woodby told Dykes in closing that: “I expect you to tow the line (on costs).” Woodby commented that the County Commission had done all it could to meet the funding demands of the school system.
Resolutions were enacted that permit the Tri-Cities Regional Airport to accept grants for projects and asking the Tennessee Department of Transportation to serve Interstates 26 and 81 with “HELP” trucks for the next six months due to the closure of Interstate 40 as the result of a rock slide near Asheville, N.C..
In obtaining approval of the Health Department’s report, County Mayor George Jaynes said moving is underway to the department’s new facility. Also approved was a contract approving the paying of $450 per day for adult or juvenile court ordered evaluations conducted by the State of Tennessee. Failure to approve the contract would have resulted in a per diem assessment of $900.
In a County Attorney’s Report, John Rambo told commissioners he needed authorization to exempt the county from the Blind Commissary provisions of Tennessee law. Sheriff Ed Graybeal agreed that the County currently has a superior delivery system for prisoners needs than those offered by the state at an expenditure of $100,000. The commission approved seeking the exemption to resolve a dispute with the state that has continued for nearly six years.
Health care for county employees cost $5.1 million for insurance during 2008-2009, according to the Commercial, Industrial & Agricultural report given by Commissioner Frank Bolus. He urged the commission to consider some future funding for the Arts Council and Hands On Children’s Museum. The disposal of the Downtown Center Courthouse in Johnson City was a concern of Commissioner Mark Hicks, Jr. Mayor Jaynes told Hicks he could pursue an effort to find out whether The City of Johnson City is interested in purchasing the building. The Mayor said he was going to have a sign made and posted at the site stating the building was “For Future Sale.”
Each commissioner received a thick, multi-page Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. The report will be discussed at the commission’s next monthly meeting.
Several fund transfers were authorized Monday including $170,000 from unbudgeted revenue received from the County for paving for the Town of Jonesborough. The funds will be allotted as follows: $120,000 for asphalt purchases, $40,000 for rock and $10,000 for fuel oil purchased by the Highway Department. In addition, the department received $25,000 from their fund balance to purchase more salt that might be needed to combat adverse winter conditions affecting county roads.
The Commission voted an additional appropriation of $25,000 to the Animal Control Center to match funding from Johnson City. Commissioner Mark Ferguson urged the Control Center to check out locations in commercial areas of the city for a new animal shelter. Ferguson said he has read material that indicates animals at shelters are more likely to be adopted if the facilities are located in places that receive a lot of traffic from residents.
“Victoria Lee Way” was accepted into the county road system by commission action Monday. The road is 1,230 feet long beginning at A.A. Deakins Road and stopping at a dead end.

Crockett student arrested for pill distribution, others suspended

An 18-year-old student at David Crockett High School was arrested last week after police say she distributed drugs to several students at the school.
Five other students were suspended and are facing disciplinary hearings for their alleged involvement in the incident.
Britney N. Yoakley, 689 Stage Coach Road, was charged with possession of Schedule IV drugs for resale on Jan. 20, after school administrators alerted Crockett’s school resource officer to the possibility that Yoakley had brought narcotics onto campus and was distributing them to other students.
Yoakley was brought to the school’s main office, where authorities say they found her in possession of 74 Alaprazolam tablets, commonly known as Xanax. The prescription drug is typically used to treat anxiety and panic disorders.
According to police, Yoakley gave the drug to eight different students before she was caught. Of those, four seniors and a sophomore have been suspended and are awaiting disciplinary hearings to determine their punishments, said Assistant Director of Schools James Murphy.
In order to suspend students in cases of drug allegations, Murphy said the school system must satisfy one of three stipulations: the contraband was found on the student, a staff member observed the student with drugs or the student confessed to having drugs.
All students to whom Yoakley allegedly gave Xanax were located and checked by medical personnel following the incident, authorities said.
According to Director of Schools Ron Dykes, at least one of the students had taken the drug by the time authorities learned of the situation. Authorities believe a handful of the kids had taken the pills by the time they were checked by medical staff.
Parents of those students involved were notified and met with police to assist with the investigation.
Authorities believe Yoakley got the pills from the medicine cabinet at her home where there were several old prescriptions belonging to Yoakley’s mother.
“Every once in a while, when a school system is policing their schools like they ought to, they’re going to find prescription pills that kids manage to get out of a medicine cabinet or somewhere like that,” Murphy said. “The Washington County school system addresses every situation we find, no matter how big or small. We want our children to be in an environment that is pill free.”
Yoakley, who was brought to the Washington County Detention Center and held on a $50,000 bond, was scheduled to make a court appearance late last week.
The five suspended students were scheduled to have disciplinary hearings within 10 days of their suspension.

A different kind of car ‘restoration’

Most people use their voice, or perhaps a pen, to tell their story. Not Rob Honeycutt.
Instead, Honeycutt tells his life story through his car — a vintage 1951 Chevrolet Styleline 2-door that he has named the ‘BR-51.’
“Jonesborough’s known for storytelling and this is my storyboard,” Honeycutt said, pointing to the vehicle. “I just pieced it together into a collage.”
Considered a ‘Rat Rod,’ which is a car that is generally stripped down to the bare bones and then suited up to match the owner’s attitude on life, Honeycutt’s low-riding BR-51 boasts a rust color that makes an ‘in your face’ statement right up front.
“Rat Rods can be built out of all kinds of things and they don’t have to be shiny. There can be rust, and it’s definitely a cheaper form of the traditional Hot Rod, and maybe a little more original,” said Honeycutt, a Johnson City native and graduate of Science Hill High School. “Rat Rods are the opposite of Hot Rods. They go against the grain.”
Honeycutt’s car has no siblings — it’s a one-of-a-kind, wacky work of art that you can’t look at without taking a second glance.
Powered by a 350 Chevy engine, it is carefully distressed and rusted clean through in some places, but that’s not from neglect. Virtually no surface on the BR-51 has been left untouched, adding a certain patina to what appears to be rust.
Two surfboards, one with a big bite taken out of it (Honeycutt tells people a catfish did it) adorn the roof of the car, and there are cane fishing poles with lures attached to the sides.
“I like to tell folks it’s a Hillbilly Surfer because my wife is from Florida and I’m from Tennessee,” he said. “I brought her up here and turned her into a hillbilly.”
A surfer doll riding a wooden wave that looks for all the world like the tail of a dragon, serves as the hood ornament, and a metal cluster of wheat taken from a defunct coffee table found in a dump is planted where the radio’s antenna used to be.
All of the lettering and artwork on the car’s exterior was done by hand with a spray can, right down to its Hillbilly Surfer Shop logo, which is an extremely stylized adaptation of a Mountain Dew soda label.
Meanwhile, the interior is classic tacky with hibiscus floral print side panels, and burlap feed sacks, purchased on EBay, for seat covers. Hawaiian hula dolls dance in the rear window and a comic painted piece of bamboo sits on a venerable wooden glider in the back.
“It didn’t have a back seat and I thought a glider would be fun,” Honeycutt said. “That was (a friend’s) grandmother’s porch glider. I used all of it – I like to recycle.”
Just like all the flavor he’s added to his Chevy ‘51, Honeycutt named his unique car after much thought and research.
“I was going through some old Science Hill annuals from ’49, ’50 and ’51, and found out there was a Sievers Bakery here with a ‘BR’ telephone number, and then the ’51 is for the year of the car,” he explained. “Of course, there’s Jr. Samples’ BR-549 number from the old Hee Haw TV show, and then there’s Bad Rat, or Big Rob or Bad Rob . . .”
Honeycutt said he enjoys doing “the opposite of what most folks would do” when it comes to restoring old cars.
“You can’t be stuck-up drivin’ a car like this,” he said. “I think the most fun I’ve had with it was at Daytona Beach when I got to drive it on the beach. There’s five thousand cars down there. I can park it next to a mint condition Corvette and the crowds will be around the BR-51 because there’s only one of these. My wife says it’s almost embarrassing the crowds that gather around it.”


The Daniel Boone High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC program hosted its thirteenth Annual JROTC Drill Invitational at the school’s campus on Saturday.
Competitions in platoon drill, squad drill, inspection, color guard, and individual and dual exhibitions took place all day at the school.
Twenty-five JROTC teams from Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina representing all four branches of the military attended, making this event the largest of its type in the Southeastern United States.
Above, the David Crockett High School Navy ROTC undergoes inspection.

Storey announces candidacy for county clerk position

Washington County Chief Deputy Clerk and office manager Kathy Storey has announced her candidacy for the office of Washington County Clerk in the May Republican primary election.
Storey is a lifelong resident of Washington County and lives in Johnson City in the Cherokee community. She is an active member of the Embreeville Church of Christ and has taught Sunday school and served in various capacities.
Storey is a 1969 graduate of Lamar High School and was Vice-President of the senior class and the Beta Club. She was also involved in Youth in Government. She is a 1973 graduate of East Tennessee State University and received a B.S. degree in Business Management.
She previously worked as a staff accountant for five years at a local accounting firm.
“The skills and accounting principles I learned while working there have proven invaluable,” Storey said. “I was hired by former County Clerk Roy Phillips as the accountant for the County Clerk’s office and then became office manager under the direction of County Clerk Doyle Cloyd. Both were great mentors, distinguished and personable.”
Storey has served as deputy clerk and accountant for the past 28 years. The last 16 years, she has served as Chief Deputy and office manager.
“I am responsible for reconciling the monies collected for vehicle titles and registrations, sales tax, business and marriage licenses, notary applications, various permits and then disbursing the appropriate fees to the State of Tennessee and the County Trustee,” Storey said. “ I have enjoyed helping people with title and registration problems over the years and have tried to treat them with the highest degree of courtesy and professionalism.”
If elected Storey said she will serve in “a very courteous and professional way.”
Others who have picked up papers to run for the county clerk position include Sheila Haren, Ron England, Scott Hyatt and Tony Fowler.

After 15 years, Washington County Election Commission’s website gets a facelift

For the Washington County Election Commission, a lot has changed in the way they’ve done business during the last 15 years.
But it seems at least one thing has managed to stay the same — its website.
Even that is changing now, thanks to a much-needed facelift to the site.
“It’s the first time it’s been messed with since the mid-1990s,” said Washington County Election Commission Administrator Connie Sinks of the organization’s newly launched site, “We wanted to give it a new look and give people more access.”
A web designer has been working on the site for the last six months to give it an updated look and more value to the citizens of Washington County.
“The guy doing it has won awards for other work he has done,” Sinks said. “I think it’s going to look really nice when it’s all finished.”
Already the site is a vast improvement from its former self, Sinks said.
“But it’s not done yet,” she said. “We’re going to put a lot more information up there and links to what the state is doing.”
Currently the site provides Internet viewers with a list of deadlines for upcoming elections, a list of elected and appointed officials in Washington County and several other bits of information.

Kiwanis raises $22k for causes over 2009

The Jonesborough Kiwanis Club has been helping children in this area for over 50 years, and its president, Karen Clark said the organization is always looking for ways to give back to the community.
“Our focus is helping the children in our area,” Clark said. “We believe children are our future, and there are many children in this area who live at or below the poverty level who need our help.”
“Also, there is a wonderful sense of community in our club,” she continued. “We enjoy the people we work with and the new friends we make, as well as the worthwhile causes we support.”
Area Kiwanians take their mission seriously. They raised $22,000 this past year, all of which was plowed right back into the community by way of the projects and organizations they support, such as: Youth Services-Builder’s Club, Key Club, Washington County 4-H and the Boys & Girls Club, Good Samaritan Ministries, 2nd Harvest Food Bank, Children’s Advocacy Center, Community Health Center, Jonesborough Library General Fund, Jonesborough Days and the Christmas Parade Kiwanis Award and the recent Shop-With-a-Cop program.
The group holds several fundraisers each year to help raise money including their annual spaghetti supper which will be held at the Jonesborough Middle School February 27, 2010, and they have a booth every year at the Appalachian Fair in Gray.
“We are the first Kiwanis group in our district to have a Facebook page.” Clark said. “We are also the first to host an evening meeting.”
The group also gives couples an incentive to join Kiwanis, with one spouse paying the full cost and the other joining for half price.
Kiwanians enjoy a full country breakfast every Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m. at the Senior Center, but they recognize that many of today’s professionals can’t make it to early morning meetings. To accommodate the changing needs of the workplace, the Kiwanis now have an evening meeting every 2nd Thursday at the Red Pig in Jonesborough from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Go Fish

Things at the Jonesborough wastewater treatment plant are about to get a little fishy.
“What we’re trying to do is raise some fish here at the plant,” said Hugh Thomason, Jonesborough’s director of environmental services.
Thomason said the plan is to siphon off a portion of the effluent from the wastewater plant, the water that goes into Little Limestone Creek, and create a home for some different types of fish in three 500-gallon tanks.
“We’re still in the conceptual stage,” Thomason said, and the project is contingent on approval from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which also had to approve the project, saw the plans on its annual inspection visit to the wastewater treatment plant and gave it the go-ahead.
The fish would likely include fathead minnow, perch or bluegill-type fish, and maybe some catfish, Thomason said.
The species could change, depending on what TWRA has to say about native species in Little Limestone Creek. TWRA will also have to let the plant know if they can put the fish back into the creek, which is also a goal of Thomason’s.
“We don’t want to overpopulate. That throws the ecosystem out of balance,” Thomason said. “Whatever we do, we’ll keep it on the small scale.”
One benefit of the plan is that the Town will know how well its effluent sustains aquatic life, Thomason said.
The fathead minnow is what is used to bio-monitor the effluent in independent labs, so it’s a good “barometer” to how the plant is functioning, he said.
He may start out with a dozen or so of each fish species, and see how that population grows from there – if they are able to reproduce under those circumstances, he said.

Jonesborough plans for ‘Courthouse Square’ zone

Jonesborough officials are looking to implement a program that will allow the Town to receive some sales tax back from the state in order to make improvements in the downtown historic district.
Town Administrator Bob Browning is currently working on getting the state to create a zone around the Main Street courthouse that would provide Jonesborough with extra revenue over a 10-20 year period at no new cost. The state legislature must first approve the zoning for Jonesborough.
“What we can do is create a district around the [Main Street] courthouse and get taxes back that can be used for improvements,” Browning explained.
In the past, the State has created a few initiatives that have allowed state sales tax money to flow back into the community, Browning said. The areas were called “tourist development zones,” and legislation had to be passed so they could be created under certain circumstances.
The zones are more oriented toward large cities, and require major investment from the city and also from private investors, and are often centered around attractions like convention centers, Browning said. The state would then invest sales tax revenues that the state would normally keep back into the projects as an economic development tool. The amount of money generated over and beyond what has been collected before, based on a certain time period comparison, is given back to the locality.
Added to that zone was legislation in 2005 that started a courthouse square revitalization program, and the state started 6 pilot projects in counties with less than 120,000 people.
Almost all of the state sales tax – in addition to the local sales tax – comes back to the locality in a courthouse square district.
“That’s what we’re really interested in,” Browning said. “We’re creating sort of a combination thing.”
Jonesborough must lobby legislators to get the special district passed.
“The justification to the state is that we’re the oldest town and a serious tourist destination,” he said.
“The state funds state parks that have tourist components to it, but it doesn’t happen in Jonesborough and Washington County,” Browning said. “We don’t get any ongoing state allocation like other counties.”
The tourism component in Jonesborough is also highlighted in the Town’s Interpretive Master Plan and its branding plan, and the returned sales tax can be used for some of the projects outlined in the two plans.
“It’s pretty broad as to how you can use [the refunded sales tax,]” Browning said.
Those uses include infrastructure improvements, loans to private enterprises for façade improvements, interpretive spaces, or landscaping, for example.

Jonesborough OKs speed tables, drainage pipes

At its Jan. 11 meeting, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the installation of five speed tables on South Cherokee Street, hoping the move would reduce speeding and accidents on the road.
Accidents are common occurences at the intersection of South Cherokee and Woodrow Avenue, with motorists coming down the hill too fast and sliding into the guardrail, Town documents stated. Residents of the street also say speeders make it impossible or extremely dangerous to back or pull out of their driveways, according to the report.
One improvement the Town has already made is to put in skid-resistant asphalt, said Mayor Kelly Wolfe.
There have been no accidents on South Cherokee since the special asphalt was put in, said Jonesborough Police Major Matt Rice.
Still, officials decided more measures needed to be taken to reduce accidents.
With the approval of the speed tables, the BMA also approved the option to add more if needed, as well as the installation of an island just north of Green’s Hill subdivision, and the lowering the speed limit on South Cherokee and install signs.
Aldermen Mary Gearhart and Terry Countermine voted to approve, with Alderman Chuck Vest voting against the measure because of the number of speed tables.
He said he thought the number would irritate residents who had to go over the tables often.
“It’s not that hard to take them out if the locals are unhappy,” said Town Administrator Bob Browning.
Also at the meeting, the Town voted to proceed with a plan to improve drainage along McCoy Circle and Louise Lane.
Over the past few months, residents of those two streets have been coming before the BMA to voice concerns about drainage issues.
One main drainage ways for that area come through under Jackson Boulevard across from the car wash near the east entrance of McCoy Circle, and the other comes from under Jackson in front of Jonesborough Elementary School near the west entrance to the circle.
Recent large volumes of rain have brought those concerns to a head, especially with the drainage way that comes from the car wash area. Water from the Lowe’s and McCoy property come down this drainage way.
Because of the rains and the detention pond at Lowe’s (which was inspected and found to have no defects), water held in the pond is let out over a longer period of time.
“While it helps with the front-end volume, the multi-day flow of water after the rains have stopped can be aggravating,” a Town report said.
In the circle, the drainage way passes in front of a number of houses, where water often stands and makes it hard to care for lawns.
After Town officials and engineers examined the property, it was proposed that an 8-inch tile pipe be laid in the drainage way, and two of three 12-inch pipes in the curve under McCoy Circle be replaced with ones of better material.
But to go through with the plan, the Town must get property owners to sign easements to work on private property, an agreement which would hold the Town harmless for any unintended results.
The BMA voted to install two 8-inch pipes after several residents of McCoy Circle and Louise Lane said one pipe would not carry the water away fast enough. The project is contingent on the Town getting approval from all the residents affected.

Child of Alcatraz

Local resident Don Bowden spent time on Alcatraz in the 1950s, but not as a prisoner.
Bowden was just 13 when his family moved to Alcatraz so his father could work as a prison foreman there.
His memories of the three years he spent at Alcatraz are vivid, and the memorabilia in his possession is extensive.
Bowden has several Alcatraz Alumni Association yearbooks, a number of newspaper articles, a magazine containing an article about the children of Alcatraz and their daily trips to the mainland for school, boat schedules, the identification card that got him off the island to attend school every day, an old recipe book with a piece of the rock island attached, and much more.
Bowden said the cost of living on Alcatraz was reasonable – only $35 a month for his family to live in a spacious apartment overlooking the bay.
“That $35 also covered utilities and the laundry, but later, for $5 a month more, we moved into a new apartment with a view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge,” he recalled. “It was a beautiful place to live.”
Water was transported to the island by barge, and the inmates did the laundry. But using the prison laundry was not without risk. One of the letters in Bowman’s possession addresses the loss of a dress belonging to his mother.
Apparently an inmate damaged the garment beyond repair in an act of revenge against a shop foreman. The identity of the culprit was unknown at the time the letter was written, on Dec. 18, 1959.
The families lived on the far end of the island and were almost completely isolated from the compound where America’s most notorious criminals were housed. They were also physically isolated from the mainland, and had an extensive list of rules (a copy of which Bowden has in his possession) that had to be followed.
“Families of the prison guards had to live on the island,” Bowden said. “If there was an escape attempt, they had no way to get in touch with guards if they were living on the mainland and no way to get them back in time to be of much help.”
Children rode a passenger boat called the Warden Johnston to and from school every day in all kinds of weather.
some of Bowden’s favorite memories of his time on Alcatraz are of the big boat.
“All of the kids went to school in San Francisco,” he said. “Think about this: my brother started first grade in 1958 and he was probably 5 or 6-years-old. The first day my mother took him. The second day he gets on the boat with all the kids from Alcatraz, gets off at the long, curved pier out there, walks to the top of the hill there and crosses Bay Street and catches a city bus and rides half-way to Market Street and Bay Street, gets off the bus and walks about a block and a half to go to school in San Francisco, and then back that afternoon. There’s a scary thought, don’t you think?”
“And we rode through that heavy fog across the Bay with only a horn to let other ships know we were out there,” he continued, “but that is how we got to school every day.”
Named the Warden Johnston, the big boat transported employees, their families, and prisoners to the island, making fourteen trips a day, although Bowden doesn’t recall being on the boat at the same time as the prisoners. Passengers rode in a glassed-in cabin with a view, but prisoners were stowed below deck with only tiny portholes to see where they were headed, but he does remember seeing prisoners walking off the boat, their hands and feet shackled to prevent escape.
Some time ago, Bowden saw local model-builder Sandy Osgood on television, and was inspired to meet with him about building a model of the Warden Johnston.
“I saw him on TV and so I called him and later met with him to talk about the project,” said Bowden. “He said it would cost $600 to a $1,000 to build it, so I said, ‘let’s do it!’ Then I got in touch with the alumni association and told them about it and they said they wanted it and would buy it. Now I want him to build one for me, too.”
Bowden’s memories of Alcatraz have grown more precious with the passage of time, and he has returned to the island a number of times in recent years. He is active with the Alcatraz Alumni Association which includes former inmates, employees and their children. He is also a volunteer tour guide, taking visitors all over the notorious prison facility and sharing his memories of a remarkable childhood spent on the big rock in San Francisco’s Bay.

Erwin man helps Bowden remember his days at Alcatraz

By Mark A. Stevens
Erwin Record Publisher
Erwin resident Sandy Osgood’s hobby has taken him to an unlikely place – the nation’s most notorious prison.
It’s not anything illegal – but rather his skills as a shipbuilder that have led him there.
Osgood recently completed a 32-inch-long replica of the Warden Johnston, a boat that, from 1945 until 1963, made 12 trips a day between San Francisco and the infamous Alcatraz island prison.
“It’s exciting to have something I’ve built placed there,” Osgood said. “It’s really nice.”
Once completed, Osgood’s replica of the Warden Johnston was sent to be put on display at Alcatraz, which is, today, managed by the National Park Service. More than a million people visit the island fortress each year for tours of the prison that once held Al Capone and hundreds more of the nation’s most notorious criminals.
The chance for Osgood to have his work on display for tens of thousands to view came about after Don Bowman, a former Alcatraz resident who currently lives in Jonesborough, heard a television report about the Erwin “shipbuilder,” known to many as “Captain Easy.”
Bowden has lived in Jonesborough for about seven months, but when he was growing up, he was one of hundreds who lived on Alcatraz with family members. Ira Bowden took a job on the island as a general administration foreman and brought Don and the rest of the family to live there in the apartments provided for families.
Their only transportation to the mainland of San Francisco for shopping and for schools was aboard the Warden Johnston.
Bowden became interested in having a replica of the Warden Johnston built after seeing Osgood featured in a “Cable Country” segment on WJHL-TV.
“I was watching the news and saw Sandy,” Bowden said, “and I said, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I could get that guy to do a re-creation of the boat.’”
A few days later, Bowden and Osgood met at a café in downtown Jonesborough and worked out the details that would bring the Warden Johnston – albeit on a much smaller scale than the 65-foot boat that sailed the rough waters of San Francisco Bay – to life once again.
Both men agreed that Osgood would probably earn only about a dollar an hour for the task at hand, but both also said it was more about preserving a piece of history than making money.
“It will certainly be noted that Sandy made the model and acknowledge Erwin, Tenn.,” said Bowden, who lived on Alcatraz from 1958 to 1960.“There will be a lot of interest in a replica of the Warden Johnston.”
Osgood, a retired sea captain who has lived in Northeast Tennessee for the past decade, took up model shipbuilding only in recent years.
“I build boats that don’t have a kit,” the 70-year-old said.
Osgood originally began creating the Warden Johnston from nothing but old photos of the boat, but he eventually was able to obtain original blueprints of the ship, which helped him get the details just right.
“I’ve been a modeler for about 10 years now,” he said, “and I guess I’m getting pretty good at it.”
Every inch of Osgood’s model represents about two feet of the original 65-foot diesel-motorized boat that was built in 1945 and continued its daily transportation until the federal prison closed in 1963.
But for people like Bowden, the boat was more than a means of transportation. It was a way of life and a link to the mainland. It was as essential to the island residents of Alcatraz as were cars, buses or cable cars to the people who lived in San Francisco.
The Warden Johnston ran almost hourly from 6:30 a.m. to just after midnight each day to the Rainbow Pier at the foot of Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. On each trip, the boat could transport about 65 passengers, which consisted of correctional officers, family members and even inmates.
“It was really cool to ride,” Bowden said. “At the time, we all liked riding the boat. It wasn’t just fun, though, it was our connection to the island.”
Bowden said Osgood’s model will bring back special memories for the alumni association’s members.
“Think of it this way,” he said. “A lot of people have fond memories of a favorite car from years ago. Well, to us, this was our car.”
Bowden, now 64 years old, was 13 when he and his family moved to Alcatraz. When his father took another job, the family left behind their island home when he was only 16 in 1960 – three years before the prison was closed.
Apartments were available to workers for only $40 a month, which included all utilities and even laundry service. After hours, family members enjoyed parties and social time. There was a community hall, a bowling alley, Ping-Pong table and a playground.
Osgood said he’s happy to be involved in a project that will mean so much to people like Bowden.
“If I ever get out to California,” Osgood said, “it’ll be nice to see something I’ve done on display for so many people to see.”

Public hearing on stream relocation draws a crowd, State gets earful of opposition

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation held a public hearing on Thursday to hear comments regarding an application to relocate a portion of a stream on property located on Highway 11-E across from Persimmon Ridge Road.
The applicants, John Molder and Sonja Bailey, are requesting the state water quality permit in order to construct a service station and convenience store on the northeast corner of New Hope Road and Highway 11-E. The proposed development would require the relocation of 245 feet of a stream on the property and would impact .094 acres of wetland.
Two dozen people attended the public hearing despite a bout of winter weather that created dangerous driving conditions by the time the meeting concluded. A handful of those in attendance chose to speak publicly against the stream relocation, airing concerns about potential pollution, possible loss of aquatic life and the unintentional loss of wetlands.
“The scope of this project is very large,” said Jeff Dupre, a Jonesborough resident. “It’s the establishment of a polluting business. We’re going to wind up with a lot of stuff going into that creek that we don’t want.”
Tim Tate, a resident of Meadows Subdivision, which is located directly behind the property in question, said he also had “grave concerns” about the proposed project.
“Things like this will certainly impact the water flow,” said Tate, who questioned whether an environmental impact study had been done on the property.
Jonesborough resident Charles Gutierrez said he was “opposed to any construction near a water source” and expressed concern over “piecemealing” the 4.4 acres of wetlands in that area rather than looking at them as a whole.
“This is one of our last wetlands in Jonesborough,” Gutierrez said. “It should be protected.”
Local environmentalist Frances Lamberts spoke at length about her concerns with the possible relocation of the stream, emphasizing the need for flow data and a stream assessment before a decision is made.
“Without prior data as to what we currently have, we cant really say, and I don’t think TDEC can say, that there won’t be any impact,” Lamberts said.
Robert Mumford, another resident of Meadows subdivision, wondered what the “unintentional” results of the project would be.
“Any time you change a stream, you are liable to do something unintended,” Mumford said. “I worry you’ll drain the wetlands above there.”
Several individuals who spoke expressed concern regarding the project’s proposed car wash while others questioned what would happen to water quality if a gas leak occurred. As it stands, the project map shows four gas pump stations located exactly where the stream currently cuts through.\The applicants’ attorney, Todd Wood, spoke on behalf of his clients, explaining the plan and its impact in an attempt to alleviate some of their concerns
He explained that the entire property is approximately 5 acres in size, with .2 acres of wetlands within its boundaries. That .2 acres is a part of 4.4 acres of total wetlands in the surrounding area.
In order to build the gas station, Wood said 245 feet of the 285-foot-long westerly stream needs to be relocated. However, Wood said the stream isn’t what a “lay person” might consider a stream.
“It’s a stream that is maybe about 12 inches deep upstream,” he said, noting that downstream, the body of water becomes more of a “ditch.”
“Where the wetland stops is where it resembles a ditch,” Wood said. “The only time it had water was when it was raining.”
According to the application, the stream will be rerouted into a 310-foot “meandering channel.”
Wood said the relocation of the stream would be beneficial, as it would “provide a better habitat” for aquatic life and it would “take a stream that is not of high quality itself” and make it better. He also said the project includes additional measures to protect the surrounding environment, including a retaining wall and drainage system.
The public comment period will remain open until the end of the business day on Jan. 22.
Following the closing of the comment period, TDEC officials will review the application and determine whether to deny a permit, issue one or issue a conditional permit. Should TDEC issue a permit to the applicants, those individuals who made public comment at last week’s hearing have the right to appeal the decision.

Teacher evaluation methods in question

Gov. Phil Bredesen was in the Tri-Cities last week to announce that he will exercise his authority to call for a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly focusing on education, including both K-12 and higher education.
 At the heart of the session is Bredesen’s recommendation for a new way of evaluating teachers in Tennessee – a method that would use students’ test results as the main form of measuring educators’ success in the classroom.
The special session starts today, coinciding with the start of the regular legislative session.
Local educators are anxiously awaiting the decisions that come out of those meetings.
Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes called the test score method of evaluating teachers’ effectiveness “absurd.”
“Unfortunately, we have come to live and die by standardized testing,” he said. “How successful a student becomes is based on many things. They are with other influences 17 hours of the day while teachers are with them for only seven hours. It is absurd to base the effectiveness of teachers on that one day of testing.
“Teachers do no fear accountability, but they do fear having their accountability and effectiveness measured by inaccurate methods.”
David Crockett High School Principal Carmen Bryant said she welcomes a “more rigorous curriculum and standardization across the state so that parents and students know what is expected.”
But, she warned, using testing data as the main method of evaluation for teachers, “just isn’t good practice.”
Bredesen’s determination to affect change quickly in Tennessee’s educational system appears to hinge on the federal government’s Race to the Top competition where states will compete for a share for more than $4 billion in Recovery Act funds. Race to the Top applications are due on Jan. 19. The U.S. Department of Education has said the states that will be the most competitive will be those that already have policy changes in place at the time of application.
 In order to be competitive for those funds, Bredesen is advocating more vigorous use of student performance databases for teacher evaluation. In order to be in the running for a share of the federal Race to the Top money, the data would need to account for about 50 percent of the evaluation standards, he said.
The compilation of student performance data in grades K-12 was part of the “Value Added Assessment” system, which started in 1992 to try to measure, through standardized testing, the academic gains of students in every classroom.
However, in the past, and as a compromise with the Tennessee Education Association, the statute barred the use of the data as a means for evaluating teachers.
“The way the state evaluates a teacher’s performance right now is the TVAAS assessment – Tennessee Value Added Assessment System,” Bryant said. “When students take an end of course test, there is a score they are expected to get. If they are expected to get a 40, but they only score a 35, which may be passing, this will not score well for the teacher.
“But in other cases, a student who is expected to score a 30 may score a 50. And that is so far above what was expected, that it gives the teacher more points.”
Bryant called the current evaluation system “complicated and confusing” and said she believes a variety of factors lead to a student’s success. While Bryant agreed the current evaluation methods could use some work, “using the results of standardized tests is not a true indicator of how a teacher is doing,” she said.
“For instance, we have a lot of students coming up to the high school that are performing well below their grade level,” Bryant says. “Let’s say they’re performing at a 5th grade level when they get to the 9th grade, but by the end of the year, the teacher has brought them up to a 7th or 8th grade level. That is making wonderful progress, but that won’t be reflected in a standardized test. The standards aren’t a true test.”
Terry Crowe, Jonesborough Middle School principal, agreed that the 50 precent test score evaluation is unbalanced and suggested tracking student progress for at least three years.
“That way you can get a truer view of the student academic progress and all responsibility for their performance won’t land on one teacher,” he said.
Still, Bredesen is saying the time is right to bring student performance back to the table for teacher evaluation — a move, he says, which will offer Tennessee the opportunity to get its share of federal funds.
“Tennessee is really the envy of the national education community because we have one of the oldest and most robust databases of student performance anywhere in the country,” Bredesen said. “What we don’t do, however, is effectively use that information to help improve teacher quality and drive changes in the classrooms.”
The Bredesen administration is in negotiations with TEA to decide how much the data will be factored into teacher evaluation.

Bredesen’s plan:
–Use student performance data among the factors in deciding whether to grant tenure.
–Require student performance data to be used in evaluating teachers, accounting for at least half of the evaluation criteria.
–Require annual performance assessment of teachers.

County schools push back TCAPs

While the snow and cold gave Washington County students and their teachers several days off from school, some officials are concerned about the loss of instruction time needed to prepare for the upcoming Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAPs and year-end Gateway testing.
And partly to blame, the snow days will postpone the beginning of the TCAP testing.
TCAPS, which are currently scheduled for April 5, will be delayed until April 7, according to Director of Schools, Ron Dykes.
“We’re doing this because we can,” Dykes says. “We have the extra instruction time available in the schedule and we’re going to take it.”
With five days less instruction, Dykes says that he wants to give students a little more time to get ready for their tests.
“You know, we live and die by standardized tests anymore,” Dykes says. “The more days we can have to prepare, the better.”
“It puts us in a position to score higher. We strive for that all throughout the year. We are very protective of our instructional time.”
But, he adds, the only thing that overrides that is the safety of children.
“It is that and that alone that results in these inclement weather cancellations. We will never jeopardize student safety.”
Washington County has 13 built-in snow days. So far, only five days have been used.
But those missed days can be crucial, according to David Crockett High School principal, Carmen Bryant, who says she worries about the loss of valuable instructional days.
“Even though the high school doesn’t take the Gateway tests until the first week of May – I am still concerned, Bryant says.
“We started our new semester on January 4, and because of snow days, those classes that are just a semester-long – 18 weeks – haven’t even met yet. Those teachers still haven’t seen their students. That puts them a week behind already.
And as for the classes that are year-long?
“Those teachers are ready to come back to school,” Bryant says. “Especially the math teachers. They are always worried about being behind, so that is a serious concern.”
“When you’re out for Christmas break and come back, students’ minds are sort of shut down. It takes a few days to get things back to normal in the best of circumstances. But now, to come back and then miss a week of school – it’s going to hurt.”
Jonesborough Elementary School principal Lisa Lady, on the other hand, says she doesn’t think it’s time to “panic” yet.
“Our teachers do a phenomenal job,” Lady said. “And they have a complete ‘prescription’ of what they need to do in front of them. They know what is required to get the students ready for TCAPs.”
“But I hope we don’t miss any more school,” she adds. “If we do, we could have a problem.”

Beating the winter weather blues with Beulah

Beulah Maloney moved to Telford in 1942 and has lived there ever since. She lived through many storms and unusual weather events during all that time, but said she can’t remember a winter snow event that lingered like this recent one.
Maloney does recall a storm six or eight years ago though that produced at least six inches of snow that covered everything in sight and stayed on the ground for days.
“It was so heavy they had to get a ladder to get the snow off of the roof,” she said. “We were afraid the roof would cave in if we didn’t get it off. This time, it seems the snow has just kept on falling and has lingered on the ground even longer than usual.”
Maloney, who still has her driver’s license at the age of 91, said she doesn’t dare drive in the snow.
“I never have,” she said. “Well, I did once, when I worked at the Klopman Mills. It started snowing and I couldn’t stay over there, so I got one of the men to drive behind me all the way home. There’s not much you can do when you get caught out in it but try to make it home safely and once you are there, stay put.”
A dedicated member of the Telford United Methodist Church, Maloney has watched her town change over the years, and remembers Telford as a “nice little village” when she first moved there.
“Back then they kept the yards mowed, and the fences mended and painted,” Maloney said. “The porches and windows were kept clean and everybody had gardens with flowers and vegetables, but it’s not like that anymore.”
Maloney is one of seven children and was married for three decades before her husband died 40 years ago.
“I’m the only one left, and some times I wonder why I’m still here,” she said. “But I live for every day that I can get; I wouldn’t miss it for nothin’ in the world.”
Even the recent cold weather snap and never-ending snow haven’t dampened Maloney’s spirits.
“Don’t complain about the snow,” she quipped. “It’ll leave after a while.”

Weathering the storm

With 900 miles of roadways to maintain, Washington County Roads Superintendent Johnny Deakins has a big job to do every day of the year. Add the multiple inches of snow that fell throughout the last month, and it suddenly becomes an even larger job.
Deakins’ road crew includes 89 employees who help run 32 snow plows throughout the county during a snow event like the one last week.
However, the county doesn’t run plows at night and cannot pre-salt before a snowfall because there is not a budget for it, Deakins said.
“We have to wait until we know a snow event is coming,” he said. “We are reactive rather than proactive, and we pretty much have to play it by ear. But when we get three or four inches of snow falling in a day and laying on the ground, we are on the road with the plows.”
Similarly, the Town of Jonesborough’s reaction to a snow is determined by the “totality of the event,” according to Craig Ford, town operations manager.
“(Last Thursday night), the snow came late in the evening and was a dry snow,” Ford said. “Our crews spent all night pushing it and then spreading salt, but it wasn’t really effective until Friday. This week’s snowfall is packing, which causes a sheet of ice to form underneath and it is extremely dangerous. That’s when the salt really helps.”
Another winter storm, this one in December, had county, town and state crews scrambling to clean up the 8 to 9 inches of snow that blanketed the region’s roadways.
Deakins said his crew worked 32 hours straight, spreading a mixture of raw salt, additives and limestone in order to clear the county roads. The town’s crews also worked around the clock to keep the roads safe for driving. During the December storm, area highways like Interstate 26, which is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, saw road conditions that left motorists stranded for hours. The weather was so dangerous it even forced the local mall to shut its doors for a part of the weekend before Christmas.
“That snowfall on Dec. 18 was wet, deep and heavy and it caused tremedous problems,” Ford recalled. “We were overwhelmed with the number of accidents from that one. It was late Friday afternoon when that one hit. There was a lot of traffic on the road, and it turned bad really fast.”

Jonesborough company creates new ‘Germ Terminator’ for shopping carts

Lines of shopping carts rest only a few steps from the front entrance of supermarkets and department stores. Customers maneuver them from aisle to aisle, and by the time they’ve finished, shoppers have left more than just their fingerprints behind.
At the ETSU Innovation Laboratory, carts containing hidden viruses, pathogens, and other common germs enter one of the labs. Seconds later, they come out germ free.
Inside that room is the Germ Terminator, a new shopping cart sanitation system developed by Fleet Cleaning Supply, a company based in Jonesborough.
Though it is referred to as a “system,” the actual device occupies only 4×6 feet of floor space.
One might say it is similar to a small car wash, but the Germ Terminator doesn’t use water, soap, or other chemicals. Instead, it has four ultraviolet fixtures with a total of eight UV bulbs that do all the work.
Paul Stamm, chief financial officer for Fleet Cleaning Supply, describes the sanitation process as “simple.”
After the carts are gathered together, they are pushed through the Germ Terminator and expelled through a set of self-closing doors and are then ready for customer access.
“The unit provides the user with a germ-free cart in a matter of seconds,” said Fleet Chief Executive Officer Danny Glenn. “This green technology has no effect on environmental conditions.”
During the development phase of the device, faculty members from East Tennessee State University’s Department of Environmental Health tested and certified the carts and determined that the Germ Terminator kills 99.9 percent of all pathogens, viruses, molds, yeast, and algae.
The Germ Terminator is available for purchase, and a patent is pending. For more information, contact Fleet Cleaning Supply at (423) 753-4096 or 956-3450.

Fowler announces candidacy for County Clerk of Washington County

Tony Fowler announced his candidacy in the Republican primary for the office of County Clerk of Washington County.
Fowler is a lifelong resident of Washington County and currently lives in Telford with his wife, Darlene and their 5-year-old daughter, Terra.
He is a 1988 graduate of David Crockett High School.
Fowler served as a bail bondsman in the First Judicial District and is a licensed private investigator in Tennessee.
He currently serves as the regional sales manager of an automotive marketing and consulting firm.
“Having worked for the past 15 years in the automotive industry, I feel that I bring a wealth of experience to the County Clerk position,” Fowler said. “Being the general manager of a major automotive group brought the challenges of being responsible for various transactions concerning proper documentation, customer care, managing employees and keeping the company viable while working under a budget.”
Fowler said his experience has taught him that customer satisfaction is an important key to success.
“I will use my years of experience to serve the citizens of Washington County in the friendliest and most respectful way possible,” Fowler said. “I will also serve the citizens with professionalism and gratitude for enabling me to serve them as their county clerk. When elected I will be accessible at all times.”
The Republican primary is set for May 4.
Others who have picked up papers to run for the county clerk position include Sheila Haren, Ron England and Kathy Storey.