Category Archives: Community Partners

Roane County Environmental Review Board 

{by Mary Anne Koltowich}

Our Roane County Environmental Review Board (RCERB) was established in 1989 by Roane County Commission Resolution #1975. Under Resolution #03-11-12 purpose/responsibilities of this Board was clarified as “WHEREAS it is helpful to have a committee of qualified individuals to serve as an advisory group to study matters referred to it by the County Executive and the County Commissions, having the power only to make recommendations to the County Executive and the County Commissions after studying said matters.” The RCERB is authorized by the County Commission to be comprised of “five (5) to seven (7) general members and one (1) to two (2) student members, which shall be appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Commission”. Currently, the RCERB has seven (7) appointed volunteer general members and no student members. In addition, a representative from the County Executive and a representative from the County Commission interface with the RCERB. Its appointed volunteer members represent a broad professional knowledge experience base of technical and scientific knowledge, education, skills, and hands-on experience in a cross-section of environmental fields. This broad professional knowledge experience base covers the Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation activities, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) operations, aquatic ecology, remediation projects, hazardous/radioactive waste management, and chemistry – just to name a few.

The RCERB strives to maintain an awareness of environmental activities that affect or can affect Roane County. Some of the most intensive topics that members have been actively studying for the benefit of the Commission in order to provide recommendations include:

  1. A new DOE new hazardous waste landfill named the Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF) has been proposed that would house materials from the demolition and remediation of multiple contaminated Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) structures/facilities. There is a formal dispute over this facility’s design and operational basis between DOE, the Tennessee Department of Conservation (TDEC), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The dispute primarily concerns protective measures in order to prevent the release of contaminated waters from the landfill directly into the Bear Creek watershed (surface and groundwaters). There is a related on-going contaminated wastewater discharge problem with the current landfill, named the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), which has almost reached its capacity. 
  2. A mercury discharge into East Fork Poplar Creek that occurred at the DOE Y-12 facility in June 2018 which resulted in a large fish kill and continued over an extended (multi-month) period. Recent documentation indicates that fines for violation of groundwater quality regulations may be forthcoming as a result of this mercury release. This release is also related to the new proposed EMDF landfill where mercury-contaminated waste would be placed. There is increased concern over the proper handling of the mercury contamination constituent to prevent the creation of a potential new contamination source for releases into the Bear Creek watershed.
  3. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Coal Ash Spill has been the recent subject of legal action by site workers. Now there are concerns about the possibility of fly ash being present in and around the Swan Pond Sports Complex. The RCERB has been working with TDEC staff to develop and implement a sampling plan to test soils at multiple locations to determine if the fields and walking trails are safe for our community members and county workers.
  4. Non-native invasive aquatic plants are proliferating in Watts Bar Reservoir, along with several of the TVA river reservoirs. The County Commission named an Aquatic Weeds Committee that requested that a stakeholders group be formed to study the problem, research other affected relative bodies of water, acquire lessons learned from others with the same problem, and provide a report containing the needed information, research efforts, & recommendations as to how to proceed to address the problem. As a result, the Watts Bar Ecology and Fishery Council (WBEFC) was formed as a 501.c(3) non-profit organization a couple of years ago. A couple of RCERB members are also members of the WBEFC. The subject report was formally submitted to the Roane County Commission during its March 2019 meeting. The WBEFC is awaiting notification from the Commission as to a meeting to discuss this report. The WBEFC is also and just as importantly focusing efforts on preventing the migration of Silver (jumping) Asian Carp into the Chickamauga and Watts Bar Reservoirs.
  5. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plan Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA) was extensively reviewed with comments provided in relation to the expansion of the now used landfill to dispose of and store fly ash, bottom ash, and gypsum generated by the burning of coal.
  6. TDEC performed surface water sampling of creeks around Tiger Haven to determine the presence (or lack thereof) of e. coli bacteria that could affect the health of nearby citizens. Sampling has concluded, and a report from TDEC is in progress.
  7. The American Zinc Corporation (AMZ) has had a draft Title V permit in review with TDEC for the last few years. There has been a Public Meeting in the past with another one planned in April. The RCERB reviewed the recent permit update and provided recommendations to the County Commission. The Commission has accepted and forwarded the identified permit concerns to TDEC.
  8. TVA’s draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of almost 700 pages was reviewed with comments provided back to TVA and copied to the Commission. The IRP and EIS explore various strategies and scenarios about how TVA plans to meet the power demands of the future and to remain stewards of the environment.
  9. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released plans related to permitting TVA to build and operate Small Modular Reactors (SMR) at the Clinch River site (previously the old “nuclear breeder site”). Plans are to build one or more 150-Mw nuclear reactor power plants to generate electricity. The NRC has approved an early site permit that allows investigation and preliminary design.

Each member of the RCERB expends many hundreds of hours on studying topics, performing online research, reading subject-related procedures/permits/regulations, attending public meetings to gather firsthand information, documenting feedback for public comment requests, and more each year. These services come at no cost to the taxpayers of the county and have saved taxpayers millions of dollars during the RCERB’s years of existence as a result of not having to hire outside consultants or establish a full-time staff to perform this work effort. In fact, RCERB input is now actively being sought by other outside area environmental groups and by state regulatory agencies. In the interest of public safety and environmental protection, the RCERB provides a very valuable function to Roane county government and its citizens. RCERB meetings are held monthly, open to the public, and public comments are welcomed.

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

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.

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.

Health Department Thinks Outside of the Box to Save Lives

{Laura Conner, District Director of Roane County Health Department}

Despite aggressive awareness campaigns to communicate the importance of getting flu shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say far too many people are not getting vaccinated. As a result, influenza leads to nearly 200,000 hospitalizations and between 3,000–49,000 of flu-related deaths.

Beyond public health, the flu is an expensive drain on our community. The 2017-2018 flu season cost U.S. employers an estimated $9.42 billion in sick days. Over $10 billion is spent every year on flu-related hospitalizations and doctor visits and nearly one-third of flu sufferers spend $250–$1,000 on treatment.

Prevention is not only a healthier option, but it is also more cost-effective. That is why this flu season Roane County’s health department held special “FightFluTN” free flu shot drive-through events. These events made it easier for our residents to pack the family up, and drive them through to trained medical providers. Thank you to all who participated!

Learn more about fighting seasonal flu at www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/prevention.htm

Census is Coming. Are We Ready?

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

Not only does the data collected in the 2020 Census determine how many congressional seats will represent our way of life; it is the deciding factor in how much of the 675 billion dollar budget the Federal government will spend on Roane County. The 2020 Census will affect highway construction, public education, emergency services and so much more. If Roane County isn’t accurately represented, we will lose funding to other counties and states.

In preparation for this massive data gathering project, the Roane County Census Committee (RCCC) was formed on February 12th during a two-hour training and strategy session. The RCCC’s purpose is to ensure every Roane County resident is accurately represented.

The RCCC members are nominated from a wide diverse group of Roane County Community leaders:

  • Government Subcommittee – Carolyn Granger, former Roane County Commissioner
  • Education Subcommittee – Allan Reed, Roane County Schools Data Management Assistant.
  • Media Subcommittee – Corinne Shaw, United Way Community Impact Coordinator, and Hugh Willett, Editor of Roane County News
  • Faith-Based Subcommittee – Joe Eskridge, NAACP President
  • Business Subcommittee – Chamber of Alliance
  • Community-Based Subcommittee – Laura Conner, District Director of Roane and Morgan County Health Departments

Things have changed dramatically since the first census in 1790, but the need for accurate data remains constant. One major change and a potential challenge for this decennial’s census is the decision to shift to a predominantly online self-response system. Considering how great it is to retire in Roane County the RCCC will need to focus on helping our retired community navigate the new online process. Keep an eye out for future articles in the Roane County Newsletter to the Community and the Roane County News for pertinent information.

What Does Roane County United Way Do – Nov 2018

{Dina Jackson, Roane County United Way}

What Does Roane County United Way Do and Why Should You Care?

I’m approached every so often with “I know United Way helps folks, but what do you all do?” Roane County United Way (RCUW) is first committed to improving the lives of the most vulnerable people in our community by supporting efforts that provide basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and services that keep them safe and healthy. We work with programs, partnerships and agency services that invest in information services, transitional shelters and housing, food programs and emergency assistance. We focus on Education, Health and Self -Sufficiency of our citizens that want the opportunity to better themselves through:

Education: We keep track of kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading proficiencies, and employment success. We support programs that promote: school readiness, workforce skills development and disabled children reach milestones.

Health: We’re improving the health of our entire community through resources, support, and investment in nutrition and fitness, mental health services and preventative screenings and leading the way in service gaps such as dental services for working adults with no insurance.

Self Sufficiency: Stable employment and financial literacy provide a solid foundation for families and individuals to thrive. We’re helping individuals and families build strong, stable foundations through resources and programs that enable them to achieve stable employment and financial literacy.

We do this by partnering with local nonprofit organizations, supporting them through grants, providing workshops, and guidance when needed. This past year our community volunteer panel (made up of individuals from various experienced backgrounds) reviewed financial reports, service models and service impact of partner organizations. This panel recommended that the RCUW financially support 22 programs that met with our mission. We organize the Teacher’s Supply Closet, host a MyFreeTaxes site, provide networking opportunities through our interagency meetings and more.

Why Should You Care? Roane County United Way inspires and creates positive movement for non-profits and the community. By providing training, professional development, and collaboration, RCUW pushes our community forward into innovative thinking-helping our “home” to move forward and to be successful. So please consider supporting the Roane County United Way.

GIVE. ADVOCATE. VOLUNTEER.