Photos by Tracey Wolfe
The Charlie Daniels Band helped celebrate 25 years of the Grainger County Tomato Festival with a performance during the Grainger County Tomato Festival Concert Series free concert.
The 2017 Year in Review
Grainger Today Editor
Recently elected Bean Station aldermen, Jeff Atkins and Patsy Harrell, were sworn into office, Jan. 2. Harrell is the first elected female alderman to serve in the Town of Bean Station.
After nine months of discussion, Grainger County commissioners voted to include Miller Road on the county road list. A motion to include the road on the list was made by Commissioner Becky Johnson and seconded by Commissioner Mike Holt. The motion passed in a 11-4 vote. Commissioners Johnny Baker, Darell Stratton, Scott Wynn and James Acuff voted against inclusion of the road on the county road list.
Bean Station resident Albert Samsel was added to the World War II Registry of Remembrances. Samsel served in the U.S. Army from 1944 until 1946. He received an Army of Occupation medal with Japan clasp; Asiatic-Pacific campaign medal; World War II victory medal; combat infantryman badge, first award; Philippine Liberation ribbon; two bronze stars; marksman badge; rifle star; good conduct medal; and a letter from President Truman, following his discharge.
Vice Mayor Elected
The Bean Station Board of Mayor and Aldermen elected Steve Winstead as the town’s vice mayor. Winstead and Alderman Jeff Atkins were nominated for the position. The vice mayor seat was previously held by former Alderman George Shockley.
Mourners celebrated the life of JoshuaJohn “JDub” Waldrop, whose battle with cancer ended Jan. 24. The community rallied around JDub and his family for the duration of his illness, which began in Oct. 2014, when he was 4 years old. JDub was named honorary chief of the Rutledge Police Department, honorary chief of the Grainger County Volunteer Rescue Squad and honorary member of the Grainger County EMS.
A Bean Station man was indicted on multiple charges related to the sale and delivery of Schedule II drugs and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Dana Christian Tenney, 68, was arrested after a Grainger County Grand Jury returned two true bills indicting him on seven counts of the sale of oxycodone and the delivery of oxycodone, one count of felony possession of oxycodone with the intent to sell or deliver and one count of felony possession of a handgun with the intent to go armed, during the commission of a felony.
A Knoxville woman was charged with selling methamphetamine, coercing a witness, soliciting aggravated assault and attempting to harm a witness. Tiffany Nicole Coffey, 22, was indicted by a Grainger County Grand Jury on charges of felony sale and delivery of .5 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and commanding, requesting or attempting to command, request or hire another to commit aggravated assault and attempting to influence a witness or prospective witness to testify falsely.
Property Tax Payment
Another option for the payment of property taxes was made available to Grainger County property owners when the Grainger County Commission approved a resolution proposed by Grainger County Trustee Rena Greer to allow property owners to prepay their property taxes. Property owners may choose monthly, quarterly or even a customized payment schedule of their choosing.
Washburn High School Senior Brandy Beeler was honored during the school’s senior night for achieving her 1,000th career point. Coach Daniel Bishop presented Beeler with a commemorative basketball in honor of her achievement.
Grainger High School Senior Larissa Copley was awarded a Roan Scholarship, East Tennessee State University’s premier award. Copley had to complete a rigorous selection process in which students are nominated by their high school and selected by the Roan Steering Committee based on their demonstrated excellence in four areas: Character, leadership, intellectual curiosity, physical vigor; as well as their overall leadership potential. The program is named after Roan Mountain, the highest peak in the area and a motivational sight, and symbol of the character, strength and idealism of the region’s people, according to roanscholars.org.
Blaine Alderman Jerry Childers passed away following a long battle with cancer. Childers retired from Freightliner of Knoxville after 22 years of service. He and his family established Blaine Power Pullers, which hosted lawnmower pulls to help families in need. Childers served a combined 15 years on the Blaine Board of Mayor and Aldermen and Blaine Planning Commission.
A school bus driver was suspended for 10 days after a student was left unattended on a school bus for several hours. The eighth-grader reportedly remained on the bus after the morning route was completed. The student was later found asleep on the bus.
Grainger County Schools closed three times within a two-week period in February due to illness. In the first instance, schools closed for two days due to illness after more than 400 students were reported absent throughout the school system. Custodial staff used the two-day closure to clean and disinfect school buildings. The second closure came within days of the first after classes resumed, due to a continued high number of absences. The third closure occurred when a high number of student absences was accompanied by a high number of school employee absences.
Chief on Leave
Mayor Patsy McElhaney advised the Blaine Board of Mayor and Aldermen Blaine Police Chief Jamie Winstead was placed on administrative leave to “deal with personal issues.” Winstead had been involved in a reported incident at his former wife’s home where he was alleged to have been intoxicated, and a report was filed by his former wife’s son.
The Blaine Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopted an ordinance regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption after voters approved a referendum for liquor-by-the-drink during the November election. Approval of on-premises consumption is required prior to voters being able to vote regarding wine sales in grocery stores. The ordinance restricts alcohol sales to 49 percent of gross sales at restaurants and prohibits on-premises sales within 1,000 feet of schools, churches and day care centers.
The Grainger High School Grizzly basketball team won the District 2-AA championship in March. Justin Warner was recognized as the District Player of the Year, and Marquice Fifield, Ty Brooks and Nathan Hayes were named to the All-District team. Hayes was also named as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Brooks, Warner and Dalton Conn were named to the All-District team.
Grainger County schools received a donation of six solar panels from Appalachian Electric Cooperative to aid in the school system’s efforts at energy conservation. The AE- donated panels are part of AEC’s solar farm, located in New Market. The donation was estimated to provide the school system with more than 24,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy (an estimated value of $1,200) during the course of a 20-year guaranteed contract period.
Health Department Recognized
The Grainger County Health Department earned Interest Level Recognition in the annual Excellence in Tennessee recognition program, administered by the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence.
Lady Grizzlies Basketball Champs
The Grainger High School Lady Grizzlies won the Region One championship. Kaitlin Simon was named tournament Most Valuable Player, and Karli Combs, Sydney McCubbins and Haley Crowe were chosen as members of the All-Tournament team.
The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Division of Local Government Audit reported eight findings during an audit of Grainger County government for FY 2015-16. Four findings were issued for the office of assessor of property, including failure to maintain an adequate program of sales verification; failure to require new owners of property previously qualified as agricultural, forest or designated open space at the date of sale to file a new application in a timely manner to continue the agricultural Greenbelt classification required by Tennessee Code Annotated; failure to properly prorate improvements on new construction; and failure to mail mobile homes schedules to the land owner where the mobile home was located. A finding issued to the county mayor’s office related to failure of the office to written policies concerning the collection and sale of recyclable materials. A finding for the office of director of schools was related to a cash overdraft of $98,707, which resulted from the issuance of checks exceeding cash on deposit with the county trustee. Finding for the office of clerk and master said special commissioner fees exceeded the percentage authorized by state statute. A finding for the offices of circuit and general sessions courts clerk, clerk and master, register of deeds and sheriff stated duties were not segregated adequately.
A former Grainger County EMS paramedic filed a lawsuit against the Grainger County Ambulance Authority (GCAA) and Grainger County alleging he suffered civil rights and Americans with Disabilities Act discrimination while employed by the GCAA. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the former employee claimed he suffered harassment by a supervisor and the EMS director, and was fired due to his Jewish faith.
A lawsuit filed in 2015 against Grainger County, the Town of Bean Station and Grainger County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Nathan Cook was dismissed with prejudice by a federal judge. The suit, filed by Ray and Jane Neely, sought $1,600,000 in damages for claims the couple suffered civil rights violations at the hands of Cook, Grainger County EMS and Bean Station Police Officer Corey Stapleton. A memorandum opinion filed by Chief United States District Judge Thomas A. Varlin dismissed all federal claims with prejudice, meaning they could not be refiled later.
A suspect in a rash of auto burglaries that occurred between December 2016 and March 2017 was arrested by the Grainger County Sheriff’s Department. Brian Jamal Underwood, 36, of Knoxville, was arrested on 24 charges related to the burglaries.
The results of an investigation into Blaine Police Chief Jamie Winstead conducted by the law firm of city attorney Shelley Wilson were released in April. As a result of the investigation, four recommendations were made regarding allegations against Winstead. A recommendation regarding the failure of Winstead to report an incident in which he had discharged his firearm stated he should be disciplined in accordance with city policy. It was recommended the city address its lack of a vehicle take-home policy, and that Winstead continue to receive counseling for alcohol use as a condition of employment. The final recommendation was that Winstead should have a fitness-for-duty examination, also as a condition of employment.
Joppa Elementary School was evacuated due to a bomb threat, which was discovered written on a wall. Students at the school were bussed to Rutledge Middle School due to rainy weather, while law enforcement officials searched the school with the assistance of explosive-detection dogs. Students were fed lunch at RMS. They were returned to Joppa School at around 11:30 to 11:45 a.m. after a search of the school was completed.
Grainger High School senior basketball player Karli Combs was selected as an All-State player in the AA division for the second year. Combs set a record for free throw accuracy during the 2016-17 season, by connecting on 93 of 101 attempted free throws for a percentage of 92.1 percent, which was considered a big part of her being named to the All-State team.
Two individuals were arrested in April in connection with the reported kidnapping of a child from his home in March. Christopher Randall Prosise, 41, New Market, and Brittany Denielle Nidifer, 27, Mountain City, allegedly took the child from his home without permission and returned him a short time later. As the pair were leaving with the child, his mother reportedly attempted to stop their vehicle, and fell down in the driveway. The child was returned home by the time officers arrived on the scene.
Grainger County’s first expungement clinic was held in April at Rutledge Baptist Church. Judge Lane Wolfenbarger heard motions presented during the clinic, while students from the UT Law Clinic and their professor, Joy Radice, helped with registration and seeing participants through the process. The clinic was limited to the first 50 people, and Wolfenbarger said it appeared at least 50 people had shown interest in the clinic. The possibility of holding future clinics was discussed.
Automated Clearing House (ACH) property tax prepayment began in April after the Tennessee State Comptroller’s office examined a plan by Grainger County Trustee Rena Greer to implement partial prepayments based on an estimated property tax amount prior to the tax rate being set by the county. Adjustments to payment amounts would be made after the tax rate is set if necessary.
Celebrate Recovery began in Bean Station at Bean Station Church of God, 171 Bylo Rd. The program was started by recovering addict Justin Walden. Meetings are held Monday nights at 7 p.m. at the church.
A Rutledge man was arrested after officers executing a federal search warrant for items related to the possession and distribution of child pornography and child exploitation material reportedly recovered drugs and drug paraphernalia from his residence. Seth Reynolds Hoover, 31, was charged with possession with intent to manufacture, deliver or sell a Schedule I controlled substance, possession with intent to manufacture, deliver or sell a Schedule VI controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a felony. Officers recovered about four pounds of marijuana, 150 grams of hashish and eight dosage units of other narcotics suspected to be LSD, $28,464.92 cash, scales, bags and a 2007 Honda Accord.
A month shy of a deadline agreed to in a court-ordered settlement, the city of Blaine gave developer Todd Claiborne a six-month extension to complete his project on the Fox Farm property, with the condition that he would shut down if he was not finished. A $1 million performance bond was also made a requirement of the extension. Claiborne had requested two more years to complete the project. A 2014 agreed court order gave Claiborne 30 months to complete the project. The six-month extension was a compromise suggested by Knoxville attorney Ben Mullins.
A Rutledge Middle School teacher was awarded a $25,000 grant from Oak Ridge Associated Universities for a classroom makeover designed to help students learn skills that will better equip them to be prepared for higher education. Kyle Roach, a seventh grade math teacher at RMS, said he planned to purchase Chromebooks with interactive apps that would allow students to apply learned standards in a real life setting. Video equipment to allow students to create math music videos was also planned for purchase.
A Rutledge man was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison following a federal investigation into drug trafficking. Lee Alan “Fluffy” McGoldrick pled guilty in United States District Court, Greeneville to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine. Upon release from prison, McGoldrick will be placed on supervised probation for 10 years.
County attorney Dirk Daniel passed away of an apparent heart attack, Thursday, April 27. Daniel practiced law in Grainger and surrounding counties for about 17 years. A graduate of UT Knoxville, he attended George C. Taylor College of Law. He was a member of the Grainger County, Tennessee and American BAR associations.
A Bean Station man was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. Ralph Franklin Gatlin Jr., 54, reportedly threatened to kill his sister and brother-in-law after they attempted to evict him from property they own. He also reportedly threatened to burn down another sister’s home. Gatlin, who had multiple felony convictions, was reportedly observed shooting firearms near his camper on multiple occasions. Officers reportedly recovered three weapons and multiple rounds of various types of ammunition Gatlin had in his possession.
A Bean Station woman was sentenced to serve time in prison as the result of an undercover investigation into the distribution of methamphetamine. Angie Michelle Rucker, a.k.a. “Dragon Lady,” was sentenced to 97 months in prison after she reportedly sold methamphetamine to a confidential informant on five separate occasions between June 2015 and January 2016. Rucker pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute 5 grams or more of actual methamphetamine. Upon release from prison, Rucker will be on supervised probation for four years.
The Town of Bean Station began its roundup of 30 individuals indicted for the sale and delivery of illegal narcotics. The 30 individuals sought by officers had been indicted on a total of 53 separate counts of sale and delivery of illegal narcotics. The operation, dubbed “Operation Spring Cleaning,” began in May 2016. The operation was the largest ever undertaken in the history of the town.
The Lady Grizzlies softball team won the District 2-AA softball tournament. The number one seed in the tournament, the Lady Grizzlies faced Chuckey-Doak and Greeneville twice, winning all games and claiming the tournament championship.
After granting a six-month extension and ordering developer Todd Claiborne to post a $1 million performance bond, to complete work at his Fox Farm project in April, the Blaine Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to give Claiborne three months from May 4 to fill in the hole dug on the property, and said he must show substantial progress by June 4 or be declared in default. A $300,000 bond was also required by the board. The original court-approved agreement between Claiborne and the town, in 2014, called for the property to be graded for an equipment storage pad while he attempted to market the property for development.
Rutledge resident Seth Reynold Hoover, 31, was indicted by a federal grand jury on felony charges of distributing child pornography and possession of child pornography. Hoover was arrested on multiple drug-related charges when officers executing a federal search warrant for items related to the possession and distribution of child pornography and child exploitation material reportedly recovered drugs and drug paraphernalia from his residence.
Grainger High School graduate and valedictorian of the Class of 2017 Mason Watson enrolled at Harvard University. Watson had other options available, including Princeton and Duke Universities. He received a financial aid package that covered his tuition. Watson was also selected as a National Merit Scholar finalist. He intended to pursue a dual concentration in math and computer science.
A Blaine resident was killed in a shooting at the Clinton Walmart. Marshal Pinsly, 23, lived on Rutledge Pike in Blaine. A suspect in the shooting, Robert K. Moyers, 32, was initially taken into custody and underwent several hours of questioning before being released by police. He was later arrested and charged with second-degree murder after a special grand jury was convened to hear evidence in the case.
A Blaine man was arrested after he reportedly became violent, shooting a round into a door and stabbing one individual. David Edgar Crowder, 59, reportedly became upset when he and three other individuals were watching TV and one of the individuals pushed the wrong button on the remote control, causing the screen to go blank. He was charged with reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and felon in possession of a weapon.
A Washburn woman was arrested after she allegedly stabbed another individual multiple times. Amber Leach, 19, was reportedly charged with attempted second-degree murder in connection with the incident. The victim reportedly suffered stab wounds to the neck, back, shoulder and stomach, and was transported to a local hospital by LIFESTAR.
The Bean Station Volunteer Fire Department’s leadership changed when former Chief Ron Wonderly and former Assistant Chief Randy Meade stepped down from administrative duties. Then-Captain Cody Orrick and then-1st Lieutenant Luke Jarnigan were nominated and elected by the department to fill the positions.
Seven individuals were indicted by a Grainger County Grand Jury on charges related to the sale and delivery of illegal narcotics. Brandon Scott Collins, 32, Bean Station, was charged with two counts of the sale and delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance .5 grams or more, and one count of sale or delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance. Derek Wayne Jones, 22, Morristown, was charged with sale of a Schedule II controlled substance and delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance. Brand Wayne Smallman, 32, was charged with possession with intent to distribute more than a gram of a Schedule II controlled substance, two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, altered serial numbers and felony possession of drug paraphernalia. Brandon Lee Alexander, 33, Talbott, was charged with possession with intent to distribute more than a gram of a Schedule II controlled substance, two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, altered serial numbers and felony possession of drug paraphernalia. Paul Kelley, 24, Bean Station, was charged with sale of a Schedule III controlled substance and delivery of a Schedule III controlled substance. Shannon Chad Miller, 37, Bean Station, was charged with four counts of sale or delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance .5 grams or more. Andrea Jaye Houston, 41, Morristown, was charged with the manufacture/delivery/sale/possession of a Schedule II controlled substance.
Grainger County native Zach Long earned second team All-American honors for his 12th place finish in the 5,000-meter run in the NCAA track and field championships held at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, in Eugene, Oregon.
Grainger County Commissioners approved a resolution in support of the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s proposal for the improvement of the intersection of Hwy. 25E and Hwy. 131 in Thorn Hill. The proposal includes the construction of offset intersections, to be constructed at a distance of approximately 950 feet apart.
Approval of the county roads list failed due to lack of a motion after County Commissioner Larry Johnson said roads which had been added to the list by the county commission did not appear on the list commissioners received. Commissioners had voted to add Drew Road to the list in November, Miller Road in December and Convenience Center Drive in January.
Grainger County General Sessions Court Judge Lane Wolfenbarger agreed to serve as Grainger County’s attorney. Wolfenbarger succeeded attorney Dirk Daniel, who served as county attorney until his death in April.
Todd Claiborne filed a lawsuit, asking a judge to enjoin the city of Blaine from issuing a stop work order to prevent him from completing the development of the site. Claiborne claimed such a order would violate the terms of a 2014 settlement agreement for him to build an equipment storage pad on the site.
Earl Dunn was appointed Blaine alderman during the Blaine Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s June meeting. Dunn’s appointment filled the seat vacated when Alderman Jerry Childers passed away in January.
Bonnie Mills retired as city recorder and waterworks clerk for the City of Rutledge. Mills worked for the city for 36 years, and six mayoral administrations. Mills graduated Rutledge High School and attended Draughons Business College in Knoxville. She spent two years working for the FBI in Washington, D.C. She returned to Rutledge and worked at the Grainger County clerk’s office for 11 years. After a bid for county clerk in 1978, she began her tenure at the City of Rutledge.
Extension Agent Retires
UT Extension Agent Donald Ward retired after 21 years as Grainger County UT Extension agent, with a focus on Family Consumer Sciences. The four county Family Community Education clubs of Grainger County surprised Ward with a farewell retirement party at the Bean Station Senior Center.
A new water utility was formed to serve the citizens of the northern part of the county. A petition was reportedly submitted to Grainger County Mayor Mark Hipsher’s office requesting the formation of the utility, and he signed a resolution for its formation after a public hearing was held. The “North Grainger Utility District” is authorized to furnish potable water, sewage and natural gas to residents of the district.
The Grainger County Commission approved the county roads list after roads previously omitted by the county road superintendent were added to the list. Road Superintendent Jimmy Renfro also told commissioners he would begin mowing Miller Road.
Blaine Police Chief Jamie Winstead was reinstated to his former position as Blaine’s police chief after returning to duty as a patrolman and being placed on probation pending completion of a rehabilitation program. Winstead had been placed on administrative leave for a time after allegations of misconduct resulted in his being investigated by city attorney Shelley Wilson’s law office.
The Mooresburg/Bean Station Junior Little League softball team won the Tennessee State Junior Softball Championship and advanced to the Southeast Regional tournament.
The city of Blaine granted its first on premises beer permit to El Paisaje restaurant. The vote to approve the permit was not unanimous, with Marvin Braden, Ronnie Kitts and Larry Edwards voting against it. Edwards said he voted against issuing the permit because there was no traffic signal near the location on Rutledge Pike to control entrance and exit from the restaurant.
A chancellor denied a request by developer Todd Claiborne for a temporary restraining order to stop the city of Blaine from enforcing a stop work order at the Fox Farm property. Chancellor Telford Forgety also granted a petition by the city to enforce the stop work order, which was issued July 14. Claiborne filed a motion in Chancery Court seeking a temporary restraining order after the city issued a stop work order on the property.
A man was killed and two others injured in a collision at the intersection of Hwy. 131 and Hwy. 25E in Thorn Hill. Ryan Hurst Carter, 27, was reportedly traveling northbound on Hwy. 131 and failed to yield the right of way to a vehicle traveling southbound on Hwy. 25E, driven by Thomas Rogers, 59, of Talbott. Carter died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. Rogers and a 31-year-old passenger in his vehicle were injured. Carter was reportedly wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision.
A historical marker was placed at the birthplace of Albert Miller Lea. The house, built in 1796 for Major Lea and Lavinia Jarnagin Lea, formerly known as Richland, is commonly referred to as the Fox Farm today.
About 163 people attended a meeting held at the Thorn Hill community building to discuss the intersection of Hwy. 25E and Hwy. 131 with representatives from TDOT. State Rep. Jerry Sexton asked TDOT representatives to attend the meeting following the death of a man in an accident at the intersection.
U.S. Rep John J. Duncan Jr. announced his plan to retire from the congressional seat he held for 28 years. Duncan cited the need to spend more time with family as a major factor in his decision to retire.
Four Grainger County veterans were aboard as HonorAir Knoxville completed its 24th flight. Edgar “Bo” Johnson, Howard Overbay, Roy Rich and Johnny Rosenbalm were among 136 Vietnam War veterans who visited World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Marine and Air Force memorials in Washington, D.C. The veterans were escorted by scouts from the Smoky Mountain Council when they arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport. Knoxville City Councilman Finnbarr Sanders and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett participated in a send-off ceremony, and a military honor guard from the Knoxville Military Entrance Processing Station honored the veterans as they moved through the terminal. Their plane received a water cannon salute as they prepared to depart.
Grainger County Commissioners voted to approve a resolution in support of the construction of an overpass at Hwy. 131 and Hwy. 25E in Thorn Hill as the result of a community meeting held in Thorn Hill Tuesday, Aug. 1, following the death of Karns resident Ryan Hurst Thursday, July 20, when his car collided with a truck in the intersection. Mayor Mark Hipsher said the resolution in favor of construction of an overpass at the intersection would not impede plans to construct offset intersections at the location, a project that had already been approved by TDOT.
A Maryville man was indicted after he reportedly threatened the life of a Grainger County judge. Drew Anthony Abbot, 36, was charged with one count of harassment after being indicted by a Grainger County Grand Jury. According to a press release issued by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), agents began investigating the threats made against the judge at the request of 4th District Attorney General James Dunn. Abbot had reportedly sent a letter to the judge threatening to kill him.
Track Team Donation
The track program at Rutledge Middle School received a $500 donation from Steve Longmire, owner of Tennessee Homegrown Tomatoes, in appreciation of help provided by members of the track team and others at the Charlie Daniels concert, during the third annual Grainger County Tomato Festival Concert Series.
Grainger County Sheriff’s Department received a supply of Narcan (naloxone HCI) through a Blue Cross Blue Shield grant. Narcan is a drug that is used to halt overdose of narcotics. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can reverse an opioid overdose by counteracting life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system, allowing someone to breathe again. Law enforcement officers were trained in the administration of naloxone in November 2016, during training hosted by the Town of Bean Station, in partnership with the Grainger County Anti-Drug Coalition.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury issued an investigative report detailing an investigation it conducted into allegations of malfeasance related to the Grainger County Emergency Communications District. According to the report, district employees were allowed to purchase personal cell phones and incur monthly service charges through the district’s Verizon account. The district paid the account statement balances, and employees reimbursed the district for the phones and monthly service charges via payroll deductions. Grainger County E-911 Director Randy Holt said the investigator advised him the problem was the district did not have a written policy in place regarding the cellular phones and hotspots, and the district was advised to implement a policy.
A Bean Station church was destroyed by fire Friday, Sept. 1. Flames spread to Mountain View Missionary Baptist Church after an RV located behind the church caught fire with a man inside. According to reports, the victim said he woke to find the RV ablaze. The fire spread to the church, resulting in a total loss of both the RV and church.
A 30-year-old Michigan man reportedly drowned during an outing on Cherokee Lake in the Bean Station area Friday, Sept. 1. According to TWRA, Andrew Ehrman, Plymouth, Michigan, was out on a pontoon boat with friends, when the group decided to go for a swim. Ehrman and three of the friends reportedly went swimming from the boat, but once in the water decided water conditions were too rough to be safe. The friends reportedly decided to swim back and re-board the boat, but the boat had drifted away. As they swam to the boat, its operator reportedly attempted to maneuver it closer to them. Three of those swimming were able to board the boat, but Ehrman was reportedly unable to reach the boat.
Classes at Grainger High School were disrupted for more than two hours Friday, Sept. 1 as law enforcement responded to a bomb threat found in a girls’ restroom. Students returned to the classroom after the threat was deemed to be baseless. Because of rain, students were transported to other schools to wait out the search. Freshmen went to the elementary school. Sophomores, juniors and seniors went to the middle school.
Coach Steps Down
Adam Wolfenbarger was selected as the head coach for the Grizzly boys basketball team after boys basketball head coach Derrick Combs stepped down from his coaching duties in order to spend more time with his family.
Grainger County school officials worked with the Grainger County Sheriff’s Department in an effort to solve a rash of bomb threats that disrupted education at more than the schools where the threats occurred. Grainger High Principal Mark Briscoe said access to restrooms at GHS were being limited, where written threats were found.
A Blaine man was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm. David Edgar Crowder was charged with reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and felon in possession of a weapon charges in May, when he reportedly became upset because someone pushed the wrong button on a television remote control, causing the screen to go blank. Crowder was indicted as a felon in possession of a firearm due to having previously been convicted in a court of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year.
State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visited Rutledge Primary School as part of her statewide tour to visit every school district in the state during her term of office. She observed Melissa Williams’ kindergarten class, Amanda DeBord’s pre-K class and Ashley Kincer’s first grade class. During a question and answer session with faculty members, she asked teachers what they might need to improve learning in the classroom and what might be done to make kids more ready to begin learning when they enter school for the first time.
The fifth bomb threat of the year occurred at Grainger High School Thursday, Sept. 14. Four threats were discovered at GHS during the month of September, while another threat took place at Joppa Elementary School.
Destiny Simpson was presented the Student Recognition Award by the Tennessee School Board Association at its fall district meeting. She was the first student at Grainger High School to receive the award. She was competing against students from 23 other East Tennessee school districts.
More than 100 people were in attendance for free dinner and a movie hosted by the Town of Bean Station. The town hosted the free event as a way to give back to the community. Attendees dined on hotdogs, chips, Little Debbie cakes, popcorn, bottled water, coffee and hot chocolate, provided by the town free of charge. The free movie was the 2005 PG-rated movie “Dreamer,” about a family whose strained relationships are healed through their shared love of horses, when they work together to help an injured racehorse to heal.
The Grainger County Sheriff’s Department conducted a roundup of 17 individuals indicted by a Grainger County Grand Jury and additional 14 individuals with outstanding warrants.
John Sewell was named the boys basketball coach for the Washburn High School Pirate basketball team. Sewell coached with three Hall of Fame coaches; Ken Sparks as a football assistant at Farragut, two years at the University of Georgia, with women’s coach Andy Landers, and one year with Joe Ciampi, the girl’s coach at Auburn University.
A lawsuit led against Grainger County and Grainger County Highway Department Superintendent Jimmy Renfro by a former Grainger County Highway Department employee Martin C. Nicely in April 2015 was settled. The suit, filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greenville, alleged Nicely’s employment with the highway department was terminated in violation of his rights under the First and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. Nicely claimed he was fired in retaliation for his support of Renfro’s opponent in the May 6, 2014 Republican Primary.
A Washburn man was charged with felony theft, among other charges, in connection with the burglary and theft of multiple items from a storage building in the Black Fox community. James Williams, 30, was charged with felony theft of property over $250,000, vandalism and burglary.
Haints and History
The Grainger County Historic Society held it’s second annual Haints and History Night at the Olde Jail in Rutledge Saturday, October 7. Walks began at the Olde Jail and continued to the Nance House, the courthouse back lawn, Henderson Chapel and ended at the Rutledge Presbyterian Church. Amy Aarons prepared and presented the Valley of Independence Volumes 1 and 2 for participants to view before or after their walk. Along the way, attendees heard stories told by Adrian Cameron, Roe Baker, Sherry Beeler, Ken Coffey and Lisa Ray.
The Blaine Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to proceed with discussions to settle the long-running controversy with Todd Claiborne about development of the Fox Farm property. The action followed an executive session with City Attorney Shelly Wilson and Ryan Jarrard, the attorney retained by the city to handle the litigation. The motion by Alderman Marvin Braden was approved unanimously and without discussion.
A second suspect was arrested in connection with the burglary and theft of multiple items in the Black Fox community. Danielle Nicole Williams, 31, Washburn, was charged with theft more than $250,000.
Tonia Reagan was recognized for her countless hours of service to the community during Modern Woodmen’s October monthly luncheon, Thursday, October 12. Reagan was honored through Modern Woodmen’s Hometown Hero Program for her active efforts to help seniors in Grainger County in all areas of service provided by the Grainger County Office on Aging. The Blaine Modern Woodmen Chapter presented Reagan with a certificate and a $100 award grant. Reagan selected Grainger County Office on Aging to receive the donation. Reagan was also presented with a necklace from the senior citizens in appreciation for all she does.
For the first time, the Grainger County school district was designated an Exemplary School System by the State Department of Education. In addition, Bean Station Elementary was recognized as a Reward Progress School, and Rutledge Elementary exited the Focus watch list as a result of their performance on the 2017 TNReady standardized tests.
Grainger County Board of Education approved a revision to the system’s alcohol policy to reduce the number of days a student is assigned to alternative school for “unknowingly” violating the policy. In a unanimous roll call vote, the board approved a 20-day assignment to alternative school for the unknowing use of alcohol during school events or on board school vehicles. The penalty for knowingly using alcohol remained 45 days.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appointed James L. Gass of Dandridge as special judge for Circuit Court in the 4th Judicial District. Gass was appointed to fill a temporary vacancy due to the illness of Circuit Court Judge Richard R. Vance. The 4th Judicial District serves Grainger, Jefferson, Cocke and Sevier counties.
During its October meeting, Grainger County Board of Education recognized Larissa Copley, a 2017 graduate of Grainger High School, for being the first student from the county to be awarded the Roan Scholarship at East Tennessee State University. Copley was the 2017 class salutatorian.
The Grainger High School Marching Band ended the 2017 marching season on a high note, winning first place in its class at the Walden Ridge Invitational at Harriman High School. The band took first place out of seven bands in its class, and fifth place overall out of 15 bands marching in the competition. The band and Drum Major Elijah Chaffins each received a rating of Superior, and the color guard and percussion sections each received a rating of Excellent.
The Grainger High School football team pushed its overall record to 7-3, setting a school record for wins in a season. The win also moved the Grizzlies into the first round of the postseason playoffs.
Wendy Leedy was recognized by the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance Friday, October 27 during a special ceremony held at the Children Defense Fund’s Alex Haley Farm in Clinton. Leedy was awarded for use of her talent to help preserve Grainger County history. Leedy’s artwork has been featured in a total of 60 calendars, published for Citizens Bank & Trust Co. of Grainger County and the Grainger County Historic Society (GCHS).
CEASE Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Inc. opened in Grainger County. In observance of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, CEASE held its ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, October 30 at its new location at 8730 Rutledge Pike, Rutledge, adjacent to Edde Chevrolet.
A Nashville man was killed Saturday, October 21, after he reportedly walked out in front of a car traveling northbound on Hwy. 25E in Bean Station. According to reports, A.D. Barker, 66, attempted to cross the road in the path of a northbound Hyundai Veloster, causing the vehicle to strike him.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Carter S. Moore of Cosby as Circuit Court Judge for the 4th Judicial District, which serves Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier counties. Moore replaced retiring Judge Ben W. Hooper II.
Grainger County Tomato Festival Concert Series concert organizer Steve Longmire, owner of Tennessee Homegrown Tomatoes, announced the headline entertainer for the fourth annual Grainger County Tomato Festival Concert Series will be country music star Trace Adkins. Adkins’ recordings include a list of hits such as “You’re Gonna Miss This,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” “Songs About Me,” “Every Light In the House,” “Just Fishin’” and “Hillbilly Bone,” recorded with Blake Shelton.
Kathy Bull passed away after a battle with kidney cancer and congestive heart failure. Bull was a former teacher in the county school system, businesswoman and member of the Grainger County Board of Education. She and her late husband, Dwight Bull, owned the Down Home Restaurant for many years. They later owned Bull’s Family Restaurant.
Grainger County commissioners voted to appropriate $40,000 for paving Miller Road and the entrance to the Bean Station convenience center. County Commissioner Mike Holt made a motion for the county to take a $40,000 capital outlay note to pay for the repairs. Commissioner David Collins seconded the motion. Grainger County Road Superintendent Jimmy Renfro advised commissioners he would pave the road if the money was appropriated to purchase the needed asphalt.
Attorney Lu Ann (Hatcher) Ballew announced her candidacy for Circuit Court judge, Part I, for the 4th Judicial District in the Republican Primary May 1, 2018. A vacancy was created by the retirement of the Honorable Ben W. Hooper, II. The Circuit Court judge presides over civil and criminal cases in Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier counties.
A lawsuit seeking an amount no more than $2,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, and the removal of a Grainger County Deputy from his office, was filed in Grainger County Circuit Court against Grainger County, Deputy Nathan Cook and Sheriff James Harville. The suit, filed by Jessica Greenlee, claims she “suffered pain, bruising, embarrassment, fear, emotional distress, loss of faith in law enforcement, has recurring dreams and on each occasion she sees law enforcement she has racing of her heart in fear,” after being arrested by Cook. She was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. A jury trial was requested.
Jacob Bunch earned Grizzly football season records in rushing, number of touchdowns scored and the total number of points scored in a season. For the 2017 season, Bunch rushed the ball for a total of 1,781 yards, scored 24 rushing touchdowns and added 12 two-point conversions.
A male juvenile was arrested in connection with the sixth bomb threat to occur at Grainger High School during the school year. The threat occurred shortly before the end of the school day, and students were escorted to the football stadium to wait for the school buses.
A third suspect has been arrested in connection with a burglary and theft case in the Black Fox community. Dustin Lynn Collins, 28, New Tazewell, was the third individual to be arrested in connection with the theft of multiple items from a residence on Black Fox Road. The theft was reported to the Grainger County Sheriff’s Department by the victim September 30.
A Grainger County school bus driver was taken off the job pending completion of an investigation of a wreck near the intersection of Rutledge Pike and Indian Ridge Road. The results of drug and alcohol tests had to be received before Joey Hodge could be cleared for duty again. Hodge was charged with failure to yield by the Tennessee Highway Patrol after pulling out in front of an empty logging truck.
A Bean Station woman and her 3-year-old child were killed in a motor vehicle accident in Knoxville, at approximately 2:59 a.m. Wednesday, November 29. The woman’s 1-year-old child was reportedly transported to UT Medical Center with potentially life-threatening injuries. Sabrina Mae Brown, 32, was reportedly traveling west on I-40 in a Volkswagen Cabrio and changed lanes, clipping the front of a semi traveling in the same direction. The Cabrio came to rest sitting across the outside lane of I-40 and reportedly then hit by a Ford F-150 pickup truck on the passenger side.
TDEC issued a notice of violation to Claiborne Hauling, LLC and ordering Todd Claiborne to immediately cease all construction/ development activities on the site of a proposed limestone mining operation in the Joppa area. The order was issued following an inspection of the property that was conducted as part of an application for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Division of Water Resources for the discharge of treated wastewater and stormwater into Richland Creek. According to documents submitted as part of the permit request, limestone mined from the quarry would be stockpiled and transported to another facility for processing. An exception to the cease work order from TDEC was extended for a bridge being constructed over Richland Creek, because a permit has been issued for work there.
A Blaine man was arrested after reportedly shooting at his wife, Saturday, Dec. 2. James Herman Doane Jr., 55, Blaine, was charged with aggravated domestic assault in connection with the incident. The victim reportedly told officers Doane was drunk the morning of the incident, and called for her to come downstairs, then shot at her with a pistol while she was still upstairs. She allegedly told officers Doane had also shot at her a few months prior.
Lady Pirate head coach Daniel Bishop was honored for the 100th victory in his Lady Pirate coaching career after the Washburn High School Lady Pirates scored a 52-21 victory over Tennessee School for the Deaf.
The Grainger County Board of Education voted to give every employee in the Grainger County school system a $100 bonus as a reward for the county being recognized as an Exemplary School System by the Tennessee Department of Education. The designation was a result of improvement shown in scores on the 2017 TNReady tests. It was the first time the system had been so designated.
Judge Duane Slone was awarded for his efforts to make a difference during the 13th Annual Recovery Court Drug Conference held Dec. 6 through Dec. 8. The event was hosted by the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Grainger County schools were awarded four grants for the 2018 Read To Be Ready summer reading program by the State Department of Education. The grants would allow the system to serve a maximum of 60 students at four locations: Bean Station Elementary School, Rutledge Elementary School, Joppa Elementary School and Washburn School.