All posts by Danielle Brown

Chamber Honors Record 145 Graduating Tennessee Scholars

{Allen Lutz, Education and Workforce Development Specialist}

At the Annual Tennessee Scholars Graduation Ceremony, the Roane County Chamber of Commerce and Roane County Schools, recognized 145 graduating seniors, 31.2% of the 2019 Roane County Graduating Class, as Tennessee Scholars at a breakfast awards ceremony on April 11.

Tennessee Scholars is a Chamber-led program conducted in partnership with Roane County Schools. The goal of Tennessee Scholars is to increase the number of students graduating from high school with a rigorous academic course of study, which includes advanced math and science classes, that prepares them for higher education and the workforce.

To be a Tennessee Scholar, students must complete a rigorous course of study, maintain an overall “C” average, have 95% or higher attendance, pass end-of-course tests, have no out-of-school suspensions, and complete a minimum of eighty hours of community service during their four years of high school.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Class of 2019.  A record of 145 graduates and the highest percentage of seniors graduating as Tennessee Scholar Graduates,” said Pam May, President/CEO of the Roane Alliance, as she welcomed the students to the ceremony.

At the ceremony, the seniors received a Tennessee Scholars certificate and a medallion to wear at their high school graduation ceremonies. Their high school diploma and transcript will bear the Tennessee Scholar Seal letting potential employers know the graduate has worked hard and maintained the standards of a Tennessee Scholar.

Project Breathe

The Invisible Fence Brand has been committed to saving the lives of pets since their first pet fence built in 1973. Their innovations not only help keep pets happy and safe in their yards but also safe from other hazards like house fires. Although the U.S. Fire Administration doesn’t keep an official statistic, industry sources estimate 40,000 to 150,000 pets die each year in fires. Most succumb to smoke inhalation. In most states, emergency responders lack the equipment to resuscitate and save pets.

That’s why Invisible Fence created Project Breathe a pet oxygen mask donation program designed to provide oxygen mask kits to fire departments and other first responders. Each kit includes a small, medium, and large mask; fire departments are eligible to receive one kit per station.

So far, the program has saved at least 201 pets from fire and smoke inhalation from the 25,170 masks that have been donated.

Each Roane County Fire Department is scheduled to receive a kit on May 14, 2019. at the beginning of the Fire Board Meeting at 6:15 p.m. The fire station will also be hosting a demonstration in the Qualls Commission room located on the 2nd floor of the Roane County Courthouse to show the community members and media how the kits work. We look forward to sharing our success stories and experiences with Project Breathe in the future!

You can find out more about the Project Breathe at
https://www.invisiblefence.com/why-invisible-fence/project-breathe

Midtown VFD
865.882.1118                          

Blair VFD
865.435.2032

West Roane VFD
865.354.8201

South Roane County VFD
865.376.3635

East Roane County VFD
865.376.4170

Roane County OES
865.717.4116

Jail Vocational Training Program Benefits All

Roane County News 04-12-19

By Danielle Brown, Roane County Executive’s Administrative Assistant of Communications

We have all made those decisions, a few steps too far in the wrong direction. For some, those decisions resulted in debt, a lost job, a lower grade, or ended a relationship. Others gave up their freedom. Regardless, yesterday has been spent, and today we reap our investment. We can choose to learn and evolve or do more of the same. Hindsight can redirect many paths, but what of the men and women whose mistakes cost their freedom?

A few years ago, the opiate epidemic flooded our jails with people who made a few wrong choices. Agencies worked overtime, and over budget towards solutions, we have yet to find. We lost sons and daughters, and the jails began accumulating a population of citizens freshly branded with a scarlet “F” for felony. Their full potential, forever limited by a checkbox found on nearly every job application. Long after their official sentence has ended, there will be a gap in their resume and a felony that must be explained. Even for those with the best intentions, choosing daily redemption will be that much more difficult. A statewide study of recidivism from 2010, by the Vera Institute of Justice, found that 46 percent of prisoners released in Tennessee were reincarcerated within three years. A costly cycle for the imprisoned and the society that pays for the prison.

Sheriff Jack Stockton, never one to accept the unacceptable, directed Deputy Robert Sparkes to combine his 20 years of contracting experience with his seven years of law enforcement to train a few prisoners in what is now called the Vocational Training Program or VTP. Sparkes took a few well-behaved prisoners to the Sheriff’s Training Facility and got to work. The prisoners, tired of serving their sentence in windowless rooms, were eager for a chance to do something more active, not to mention eating home-cooked meals. The improvements have continued to this day. Now, counties and the FBI travel from all around to use the facility.

Since then, Sparkes has mentored a revolving team of prisoners by building community docks, painting walls, refurbishing county landmarks, all the while instilling skills that can’t be taught in a traditional classroom. Mrs. Whitney Moore, Midway High School science teacher, witnessed this firsthand when the Vocational Training Program inmates installed the new greenhouse for Midway High School. “It was just as much of an outdoor classroom for many of the inmates,” Moore said. She saw that Sparkes does more than “work with them to teach them how to do different things with concrete, electrical and construction work. ”He also empowers them to work as a team. “There were guys on site that had some previous knowledge, and it was neat to see those guys work alongside Sparks to teach the other inmates,” she said.

So much of recidivism can be attributed to the social stigma of being convicted, the lack of basic needs due to unemployment and zero to few community ties. Not only do participants of the program gain valuable trade skills, but they also develop relationships with community leaders such as Joe Eskridge, president of the Roane County NAACP, and Stacey Vance Whittenberg, director of the Roane County Animal Shelter.

When the NAACP meeting hall flooded, they knew who to call. “Had it not been for the inmates, the Roane County NAACP Meeting Hall would not look as good or be as useful. They were a godsend,” he said. Eskridge knows the men by name, and they all greet him with warmth. He is still in touch with some of the program’s alumni and continues to work with one former prisoner to help with maintenance.

The prisoners unanimously agreed that the animal shelter was their favorite place to work because they get time with the animals. Paying it forward, the NAACP donated their old sound system to the animal shelter. Now, thanks to the Vocational Training Program and in part to the NAACP, the animal shelter’s roof has been repaired and extended, the walls are freshly painted, the dogs are walked, and the staff bobs their head to music while they work. “I don’t know the words to explain what a blessing they have been to the animal shelter. They wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves, to help make things better. It changes the lives of the animals and the prisoners,” Whittenberg said.

One alumni of the program graduated with a new best friend by his side. As a part of his rehabilitation, he picked a dog from the shelter and named him Jip. Every time the men worked, Jip was there raising everyone’s spirits. The inmate even received special permission to take Jip out on weekends. This man’s family are ecstatic to have him home and have welcomed Jip to the family. Thanks to Jip and the rest of his family, this man has a reason to be responsible, a reason to stay out jail. Miss Maggie May, a new pup, has joined the team and will be loved and adored by every trainee by day, and at Maggie’s forever home with Deputy Sparkes by night.

Sheriff Stockton’s choice to begin this program began a series of reactions that have echoed through the jailhouse halls, into our local schools, non-profits, government organizations, churches, and out to local businesses inspired to invest in our county. The community’s involvement has allowed the program to run for three years with no budget. A few men chose to pay their debt to society working, rather than sitting and waiting for their sentence to end. In return, they gain skills, make connections in the community, find and inspire hope. Hope that can be seen in the army of volunteers that cooks for the program trainees and in the Kingston United Methodist Clothes Closet, who keeps the men warm with donated shoes, jackets and more. Not to mention, Scandlyn Lumber, Rogers Group, Twin K Concrete, and Rockwood’s Roger Daniels Trucking are just a few companies that have donated goods and services.

These particular actions have not only saved our community countless thousands in manpower hours, and in repurposed and donated goods, but it also invests in our county’s most valuable resource, its residents. Instead of taking men into a system and spitting them out worse off, we are sending out a higher functioning citizen; A new man with new skills, connections, confidence, and a better chance in life.

A local courtesy dock made possible in part by the Roane County Jail VTP.

Midway High School Greenhouse

Miss Maggie May

Planning Ahead for Roane County

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

The county has recently taken some progressive steps in planning the county’s future. If one feels that nothing has been accomplished we understand, but below the surface, work has been going on, plans have been formulating, and execution of plans have taken place and/or are ready to take place. So, what plans are we talking about?

First, I think more of our county leadership recognizes that Roane County is not an industrial mecca. As an industrial agent recently said, “More than half of our proposals are put in the waste can because we are in a high wage, low unemployment area and new companies do not want to compete for the workforce.” The high wage, low unemployment is due to TVA, DOE, and related contractors. Slowly, a shift in thinking is taking place. What are our county’s assets? Great climate, a beautiful water system of rivers in Tennessee, Emory and Clinch, and friendly cities and communities. Maybe investments should be made in our recreation and tourism industries?

The county has been putting plans together for years for recreation and tourism development and as noted in last month’s newsletter, has hired master planners to complete the process. This year the county is eligible for a $250,000 recreation grant but we must match $250,000 local funds. The county does not have $250,000 but has taken the needed steps in the 2020 Budget to secure a large portion. Further, the county is applying for Tennessee RiverLine 652 project from the University of Tennessee. More details about this will be discussed in a future article.

The county is further working with Legacy Park Foundation and the National Park Service as the Manhattan Project Historical National Park is coming online in Roane County.

New trail systems, (both land and water), a National Park within Roane County, new courtesy boat docks on the reservoir, enhancements to Riley Creek Campground, and other recreation assets are helping Roane County lay the foundation for a vacation, recreation, and tourism destination.

More to come…

Roane Alliance 2018 Annual Report

{Pam May – Interim President & CEO, The Roane Alliance}

Much of the work the Alliance does is behind the scenes or promoted outside the county, making it a challenge for residents to really know what the Alliance does or who we are. Each year the Alliance publishes an annual report, providing a snapshot of the prior year’s projects and accomplishments. In addition, this year’s report also provides details about the Alliance and its staff and how the team works to increase economic prosperity for Roane County and its residents.

The report is now available online at RoaneAlliance.org/report or for a copy call 865.376.2093

Here are just a few of the highlights from the report:

  • Roane County had the lowest unemployment since 2004, and within 0.1% of the national average;
  • There were 383 jobs grown in our industries, providing one of the largest net job growths in over a decade;
  • 143 Roane County graduates became Tennessee Scholars – a new record;
  • Every middle school teacher in Roane visited five participating industries through the Educators in the Workplace program, and not only a first for Roane but also for the state
  • Roane was awarded the Seal of Approval from the American Association of Retirement Communities (AARC);
  • Visitors spent $69.82M in Roane County, an increase of $2.33M over the previous year;
  • Chamber event attendance increased by 59%, with more than 1,500 Chamber members and customers coming out in support of other members;
  • Expansion and remodel of the K-25 Overlook – to be open very soon;
  • Watts Bar Lake was featured on Fox 43’s Knoxville Weekend and in a full-page editorial in Travel South Magazine;
  • Bradbury Community Club and the John Muir Fest were featured in Ohio Magazine; while
  • 1,474 social media posts promoted events and attractions throughout the year.

Staff Retreat and Visioning

{Bonnie Angus, Roane County Executive’s Administrative Assistant}

The Directors of Roane County met on March 13, 2019, for their 6th annual staff retreat and visioning meeting. The focus of this meeting was to discuss our vision for Roane County’s future and what goals we need to meet in order to be successful. Ron Woody, (County Executive), asked, “What do we want to be or where are we forced to go?”

A director from each county department presented slideshow presentations about what their focus points and current goals for the next 5-10 years such as building improvements to the county courthouse, better coverage and response time for Emergency Medical Services, and the completion of the ADA Transition Plan with Building Codes, and Zoning. Roane County has many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead but with each department working together we are confident our goals and visions for a bright future will be met.

Roane County High School Band is Heading to Nashville

{Zackery Williamson, Roane County Schools}

The Roane County High School Wind Ensemble (Band) has been invited to perform at the 2019 Tennessee Music Education Association State Conference, to be held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville April 10-13, 2019. The band has also been asked to be the performing ensemble at the 2019 Tennessee Bandmaster’s Hall of Fame Concert. The band’s performance will be held in the Tennessee Ballroom CD on Thursday, April 11th at 9:00 p.m. With this performance coming up the band has had a special guest visiting their rehearsals. Colonel Thomas Rotondi retired Commander of the United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” in Washington, D.C.; Colonel John Bourgeois retired Commander of the “President’s Own” United States Marine Band; Dr. John Culvahouse retired Band Director Univ. of Georgia and Kennesaw State Univ.; Roy Holder retired Band Director Lake Braddock High School, Virginia; Joseph Hermann current President of the American Bandmasters Association and retired Director of Bands Tennessee Tech Univ., just to name a few. People are welcome to come and visit a rehearsal at Roane County High School as we prepare for this performance.

Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

{Brian Matthews, Roane County Highway}

Creedence Clearwater Revival wanted to know, “Have you ever seen the rain?” Yes, yes Roane County has seen the rain. We have been dealing with working thru the recent damages caused by the rain. We have taken the county commissioners to see the damage and we were visited by TEMA and FEMA to check on the storm damage, too. Right now estimates of damage are $7,660,000.00 and climbing. We are working closely with Tim Suter and his staff to make sure things are back to normal as quick as possible. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at 865.882.9782.

Commissioner Flood

Tanglewood

Winton Chapel Before

Winton Chapel After

Swan Pond Sports Complex and Roane County Park

{Mike Beard, Director of Roane County Parks and Recreation}

Swan Pond Sports Complex

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Department of Health, along with TVA are finalizing the sampling plan. For the SPSC. Based on a timeline submitted by the TDEC it appears that the SPSC will be closed throughout the summer and hopefully the interpretation of the sampling will be completed by the Fall. We have our fingers crossed for a Fall season. Sampling has not begun yet.

AYSO has found other suitable locations for the spring season and this could be the case for the rest of the year. TDEC and the TN Department of Health have submitted a preliminary timeline for the necessary work. This timeline will conclude in early Fall 2019.

Happening In Roane County Park

Our Roane County Park volunteer groundskeeper asked for new mulch for this Spring’s planting. Your Parks and Recreation staff was happy to comply.

TVA visits the Caney Creek Recreation Area footbridge location as part of the permitting process.

Tennessee Elevates to a Level 3 – State of Emergency

Numerous rounds of heavy rainfall and flash flooding moved across the state starting February 6th. This rainfall set new records across many locations in Tennessee for the month of February and nearly the entire state received between 10”-20” of rain. Flooding during this time caused widespread damages to roadways, homes, farms, infrastructure, and communities.

Roane County’s Office of Emergency Service responded to support the local fire departments, law enforcement, EMS crews, Roane County Highway Department and the Roane County Rescue Squad to deal with the immediate threats to life and property. Communication with local governments, utilities, and county departments started early to assess the damages caused by the rainfall.

Estimates are approaching $10M to repair the losses in Roane County. New hillside slides are still being identified creating major safety concerns on our roadways so this number could continue to grow. We established an e-mail address Roane.EMA@roanecountytn.gov for residents to self-report damage to their homes or businesses in addition to our crews being out completing damage assessments. All of the information is compiled and reported to TEMA on a daily basis. Seventy-six of our county residents have reported some level of damage to their homes. Residents are urged to call the TEMA Assistance Hotline at 1-833-556-2476 for flood damage assistance.

While flood waters have largely resided across the state, the Tennessee River still remains at the action and minor flood stage, the Mississippi River remains at a minor flood stage, and the Obion, Hatchie, Cumberland, and Stones Rivers remain at action flood stages. Locally, we continue to see new slides along our roadsides. Our Highway Department is working hard to make our roads safe as quickly as possible.

The State of Emergency is still active and the danger is still present. Please do not move safety barricades or signage. Public safety is of the utmost importance. Roads will be opened as soon as they are safe.