Jonesborough moves forward with new garage

Town moves forward with new garage

Published Nov. 19, 2014 in the Herald & Tribune

The Town of Jonesborough will soon see some changes for the town garage, as well as its current property located behind the new Senior Center site.

At the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Nov. 10, board members discussed an agreement with the Community Design Assistance Center of Virginia Tech and the option to purchase land from Jean Rosenbaum for a town garage complex.

“We are going to be doing some things to increase the parking lot at the facility,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “But the entire time we have discussed the Senior Center, we have also discussed the impact of the city garage operation and, as it currently exists, on the surrounding neighborhood.”

According to town officials, Jonesborough has unfortunately outgrown the space for the town garage, leaving equipment being crammed into spaces too small, left outside uncovered in the elements and damaged due to restricted turning.

“The town garage could look a lot better than it does. It’s a vastly overcrowded operation,” Wolfe said. “We have grown leaps and bounds, tenfold probably since the time the current town garage was put into operation. We went from a 20×30 parking lot to the current town garage operation. It is probably time to move on.”

Wolfe went on to say that discussions several years ago targeted issues with town property maintenance.

“In my opinion, it is hard for us to insist that someone maintains their property in a neat and tidy manner if we can’t do the same,” Wolfe said. “Quite honestly, I think the town garage is a detriment to the neighborhood in which it is currently located. It’s not something that we have done consciously; it has just become so over time.”

Alderman Homer G’Fellers made the motion to approve the option to purchase land from Jean Rosenbaum for a town garage complex, which unanimously passed. Alderman Chuck Vest was not present.

The Rosenbaum property includes 19 acres between SR 353 and the railroad tracks in the western part of Jonesborough. The 2011 appraisal valued the property at $8,750 per acre, with a total value of $172,025.

“This Rosenbaum property that we are talking about, I think, because of its location to the sewer plant and its relatively flat topography, would give us room to expand and a good place that we could operate without being in a visible area, without impacting a neighborhood,” Wolfe said.

He said it provides an opportunity to not only take care of the town garage, but possibly have a couple of soccer fields or ball parks.

A motion to approve the agreement with the Community Design Assistance Center of Virginia Tech, which was unanimously approved, was made by Alderman Terry Countermine. The agreement includes a conceptual development plan for a proposed park area where the garage is now located and plans for a new town garage complex.

Wolfe said discussions have been made for a long time regarding a new senior park concept in and around the Senior Center. He said the concept would be a very welcoming asset to the community.

“I know the neighborhood would certainly benefit from it,” he said.

Wolfe told the aldermen that he has taken a look at some of the work that the Community Design Assistance Center has done.

“You could emphasize community gardens. You could have a pet park. You could have a young child playground park. You could have a park where seniors could walk around and enjoy the serene landscaping,” he said.

Wolfe believes a park is a great opportunity to complement the new Senior Center.

“We as a board and as a community and as a Parks and Rec Board and Tree and Townscape Board have a chance to have input to make this thing uniquely Jonesborough and make it something special,” he said.

“There are a lot of different potential concepts for us to consider here, and these folks at Virginia Tech have a very good handle on it. Very impressive.”

The proposal includes Forest Competitive Grant funds in the amount of $18,540 that will pay the Community Design Assistance Center for the costs in developing the plans for both projects. The fund, which is part of a Virginia Department of Forestry federal grant fund, has an in-kind matching requirement of $12,887.

“Our in-kind contributions come from surveying and (topography) and doing staff work to help the company, which we would do anyway,” Wolfe said.

“For all intents and purposes, we are getting (the conceptual development plans) for free, which is pretty awesome.”


‘Most effective schools in Tennessee’

I have always enjoyed interviewing educators over the years, especially when they are honored for what they have done for their students. This principal’s accomplishment’s were brought to my attention during a board meeting I was covering for the Washington County Board of Education in Jonesborough, Tennessee. After pitching the story idea to my editor, I ran with the story. Read what this Boones Creek Elementary School principal accomplished.

Boones Creek principal recognized by board for making a difference

Published in the Herald & Tribune June 17, 2014 issue

An educator of 44 years — 20 of which were spent at Boones Creek Elementary School as the principal ­ — was honored with the Director of Schools “Made a Difference Award” earlier this month.

Director of Schools Ronald Dykes said Boones Creek Elementary has been recognized by the Education Consumer’s Foundation as one of the most effective schools in Tennessee on seven different occasions.

The key to that award, he said, is Principal Teresa Leonard, who was the principal during those designations.

Dykes said they have never had any other school receive such a distinguished honor by the Education Consumer’s Foundation in the Washington Department of Education school system.

Leonard, who grew up in West Virginia, graduated from Marshall University with a teaching degree. The first year and a half of her career was spent in West Virginia. After moving to Tennessee, she was hired by the Washington County Department of Education and spent time working at the Boones Creek and Daniel Boone schools.

After accepting the award at the June 5 meeting of the WCDE board meeting, she recalled moving into an apartment close to Daniel Boone when she began teaching there as an art teacher.

Leonard said she earned her master’s degree in supervision and administration from East Tennessee State University, which helped further her career in Washington County.

She was the assistant principal at Boones Creek Elementary School for five years before becoming the principal.

“I always wanted to be a principal because I could affect the education of children more that way,” Leonard said.

One of the many highlights of her career was receiving the designation of the most effective school in Tennessee seven different times.

Leonard said the Education Consumers Foundation is a nonprofit agency that collects test score data in Tennessee. She said in order to be eligible, a principal has to be at the same school for five years.

The latest data recorded on the foundation’s website was for the yearly achievement gain between 2011 and 2013. Boones Creek Elementary School was ranked third in the state of Tennessee, behind Mcpheeters Bend Elementary School in Hawkins County and Dresden Elementary in Weakley County. The growth index for Boones Creek was 10.95.

“I’m thrilled because you are all the time thinking you are doing what is right, the best you can, but until you get that wonderful feeling that (the students are showing) three times as much growth, that let’s you know that you are on the right track,” Leonard said.

Leonard said one of the things she was told was principals in successful schools have high expectations.

Throughout her time at Boones Creek Elementary School, Leonard promoted the concept of working as a team.

“We work together and I guess that is probably what makes us a little different,” she said.

Her teachers have a common planning time for each grade level where they discuss lesson plans for that day. Leonard said every day is different, and sometimes lesson plans have to be altered to revisit yesterday’s lesson on phonics.

“It’s like a ball team. Everyone works together and that is important,” she said.

The teamwork was also accomplished through an accelerated reader goal of 15,000 points for all of the students. Leonard said this past year, her students reached 15,500 points, surpassing the goal by 500 points.

The principal’s promise, another school-wide team working strategy, is what Leonard pledges she will do if the goal is met. This year she was the lifeguard for the dunking machine, which put the assistant principal sitting on the ledge above the water in the dunk machine.

“It helps motivate them as a whole school,” she said of the principal’s promise.

In years past, Leonard said, she promised to kiss the top of a pig’s head, stay in a jail located in the lobby of the school and be slimed by the students.

“The teachers said that school-wide goals get everyone excited and everyone works together,” she said.

Every Friday, the students participate in a Math Fun Fact timed test, which tests them on subtraction, addition, multiplication and division.

“These are the things you are going to remember the rest of your life,” Leonard said. “We shouldn’t have to use a calculator to estimate the number of chairs in a row.”

The results from the weekly test are given to Leonard by each teacher, so she can review them and praise the students who knew the answers so quickly.

She said it has also been important to her to review all of her 500 students’ report cards, so she can be familiar with the students’ academics and their names.

“To me, that makes you familiar with every student and the needs — as far as an administration — to help teachers with a certain subject,” she said.

To help raise grades, after school tutoring for math and reading are offered, which Leonard oversaw.

After a fulfilling career, Leonard retired at the end of the school year. She said her and her husband will have more time to travel now that she is retired.


“It’s a huge victory”

A few weeks ago I attended the final meeting concerning the craft distillery coming to Jonesborough. With the support of the Mayor and Aldermen, Stephen can continue to pursue his dream.

An email I received from Stephen after the article ran in the Herald & Tribune:

“I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you and everyone else involved how much I appreciate the positive articles pertaining to my distillery. The articles that you have written portrays us well and that will carry the distillery very far in the local markets! If I can do anything to assist you in any way please feel free to ask. Thanks again and I hope to hear from you soon!”

Board gives distillery final approval

Callahan gets ready to realize dream

Published March 18, 2004 in Herald & Tribune

With the final approval from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Stephen Callahan is now ready to continue his dream of opening a moonshine craft distillery in the Town of Jonesborough.

“I think it’s a huge victory, not only for us, but for Jonesborough,” Stephen Callahan said last week. “We have something to give Jonesborough. We are really happy that Jonesborough decided to allow us to come to town.”

The Board of Mayor and Alderman approved the second and final reading amending the Jonesborough Zoning Map, which establishes the location of the Distilling Company Overlay District Zone, during the March 10 meeting. The zone includes the manufacturing zones in the Depot Street area and in the Salt House, Parsons Table parking lot and the Parsons Table/Widow Brown’s lot area.

The BMA also approved the second and final reading for the Distilling Company Overlay District zone, which allows a liquor distillery to be located in certain areas in Jonesborough.

Alderman Homer G’Fellers was not present.

“I am really satisfied,” Callahan said. “I really appreciate all the support that everyone has expressed throughout the process, especially the city officials and the people of Jonesborough.”

Although the only opposition the craft distillery received was from G’Fellers, Callahan said board members had been very open-minded and willing to work for the best throughout the process.

“They are inceptive to our idea,” he said. “That shows us that we have a future here in Jonesborough. That tells us where we can be as a company in the next year. We have a big support group and a town behind us. That is what it is going to take to get this business off the ground; local support and we have that.”

With the proper zoning approved from the Town of Jonesborough, Callahan hopes to open the craft distillery by this fall.

“It’s a big process to take on and we are going to take it one day at a time,” Callahan said.

A formal lease has been worked up and completed with Doug Lowrie, the owner of the Salt House.

Renovations to the Salt House should be done before the end of the month.  Once the equipment comes in later this summer from Confederate Stills of Alabama, Callahan said finishing touches will be made.

The equipment will include a peanut oil boiler to cut down the energy usage, making Callahan’s distillery the first in the country to have that specific still.

“Now that we have a formal lease we can go ahead and start getting our bonds and file for our federal license,” Callahan said.

The process typically takes about six months to complete.

“We are at the mercy of the government in terms of licensing,” he said, adding that it could be less or more than six months.

The craft distillery also received its trademark for its name, Tennessee Hills Distillery LLC.

“This thing has the potential to go nationwide and the potential to outgrow our capacity fairly quickly,” Callahan said. “We already have plans to build a production facility. As long as we are in business, we will always have the Salt House as our store front. That is still our history and that is where we will be as long as we are in business.”

His hope is to eventually collaborate with other distilleries in a 100-mile radius, so everyone can help each other out.

“We all have a passion to do one thing and that is to make good alcohol,” Callahan said.

He said he also wants the Town of Jonesborough to know he will operate the distillery with respect for the community and willingness to work with others.