BMA moves ahead to allow beer sampling

BMA moves ahead to allow beer sampling

Published in Herald & Tribune Feb. 18, 2015 issue

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the first reading of a beer ordinance amendment that, if approved on the final reading, will allow customers to sample draft craft beers before purchasing from a convenience store or market.

The ordinance, Town Administrator Bob Browning said, will allow anyone selling draft craft beers the opportunity to obtain a permit.

The ordinance requires a $100 nonrefundable application fee for the off-premise retail sale beer permit, as well as an annual privilege tax of $100 to renew the permit.

According to the ordinance, the samples can be no more than 2 ounces in no more than a 5-ounce cup.

Only three 2-ounce samples can be provided during a 24-hour period from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The ordinance also states that every customer will have to provide a photo ID to ensure he or she is 21 years old.

The customer’s name, according to the ID, will then be entered into a sampling log that will show the day and time the sample was provided to that person.

All samples are to be consumed on premise and the server providing the samples must have an Alcoholic Beverage Commission server’s license.

The ordinance also states that the Jonesborough Police Department will review the sampling procedure before the convenience store or market begins offering samples.

Town Attorney Jim Wheeler said a few changes needed to be made before the second reading of the amendment.

He said the term “craft beer” needs to be defined, as well as “convenience store” and “market.”

Wheeler said the ordinance also needs to make clear that only three 2-ounce samples can be given to an individual within a 24-hour period.

He also said it must clearly state that it is mandatory that an ABC server must serve all the samples.

“We need to remember that any time we change a beer ordinance, we are asking our police department to enforce that,” Wheeler said.

“So, it has to be very specific and can’t leave it open to subject to interpretation.”

Mayor Kelly Wolfe said an amendment to the beer ordinance is under consideration because of a request that was brought forth by Roadrunner Markets.

“They have inside this structure a Chuggernaut where you can actually buy craft beers in a growler,” he said.

Growlers are large glass jugs traditionally used to transport beer.

“Quite honestly, I can see the value of that because it is hard to say I like something and why spend the money on it if you don’t know how it tastes and you never had it before,” Wolfe said.

Although the first reading passed with a 3-1 vote during the Monday, Feb. 9, meeting, areas of concern were voiced by the aldermen.

“I’ve been giving some thought about this,” Alderman Adam Dickson said.

“I think I feel fairly confident about my decision. I choose to vote against this.”

He said he has the utmost respect for Ryan Broyles, president and CEO of Mountain Empire Oil Company.

“I hope that my vote won’t be taken out of context,” Dickson said. “I really have some concerns in particular about the fact that this is a place where I frequent fairly regularly at the Roadrunner and I do see a lot of children coming in and out. I value the feelings of our chief and I know that the staff at Mountain Empire Oil and the Roadrunner store will do an excellent job and will abide by the rules. I just have some personal concerns.”

Wolfe told Dickson he understood where he was coming from, but right now Jonesborough’s liquor stores have the options of doing tastings.

“We have Depot Street Brewery (who) obviously has a license as a manufacturer in town and a license to allow them to have samples there. Currently, beer is sold in every convenience store just about in Jonesborough, if not all of them. Really, the only difference would be that sampling option,” Wolfe said. “Right now that beer at the Chuggernaut is on tap. They are actively filling those growlers right there. I have purchased a couple of them. It is a nice option and it is a matter of personal preference.”

He said if there is abuse, there are ramifications.

“I think we have a track record of mixed drinks being served in town now very successfully,” Wolfe said. “You are seeing people in Jonesborough take time in doing it right.”

Operations Manager Craig Ford said he can talk with the City of Greeneville’s Police Department and see if they have had any issues with beer samples since implementing their ordinance.

Browning said any of the restaurants that have liquor by the drink can provide samples to their customers if they choose. He said when Tennessee Hills Distillery becomes operational, you can have a family in there and have tastings.

“There is not an age limit to go into the distillery,” Browning said.

Alderman Terry Countermine said although he is a beer drinker, he is a little concerned about drawing 2 ounces of draft beer.

“The idea is that I am drinking it there to decide if I want to buy,” he asked. “I have concerns about the abuse of that.”

Wolfe said the idea is that an individual would be trying three different samples, rather than three of the same.

“One drink you should be able to say I like that one or not,” he said.

Discussion was also had about what the blood alcohol concentration would be after consumption.

Police Chief Matt Hawkins said although many factors, such as muscle mass and body weight, can sway the number drastically in either way, generally the blood alcohol level is at .05 after two 12-ounce beers.


“Thank you”

Fire Chief presents heartfelt thank you

Published in Herald & Tribune Feb. 18, 2015 issue

Jonesborough Fire Chief Phil Fritts believes two simple, yet powerful words — “thank you” — are all that is left to be shared after the community rallied behind one of Jonesborough’s sergeants who lost his battle to cancer last month.

“I knew that this community was special and the people were good, kind people,” Fritts said. “They are good honest, decent hardworking people. I really didn’t realize the extent of their compassion and kindness, I guess you can say.”

Fritts was referring to the outpouring of community support that flooded in after word went out that Sgt. Nathan Luke Story had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“I remember when we first learned that Luke was suffering from pancreatic cancer and the word started spreading through the community,” Fritts said. “It was almost immediate. We started getting phone calls and we started having people pop up and come in.”

Assistance and money, as well as food the day of the funeral, was offered from countless community residents.

Although the support was endless, there are two instances that left a strong impact on Fritts.

The first occurred while he was at a restaurant. He said a couple that lives in the community called him over to their table and asked him to tell them about the young man who has pancreatic cancer.

“I sat down and told them,” Fritts said.

The gentleman looked at Fritts and his wife and said, “Will Luke need treatment?”

“It was at the time when we were looking at maybe going outside of the area for treatment,” Fritts said.

The gesture that came next astounded him.

“He looks at me and says ‘Would $5,000 help?” Fritts said. “I said $5,000 would be marvelous. He wrote me a check for $5,000 right there.”

Another act of kindness happened at the station. Fritts said he arrived at work one warm day when a lady walked into the open bay doors. After the woman shared who she was and that she heard about Story, she handed him a few dollar bills.

Fritts said the woman told him that was all she had and all she could afford, but felt she needed to offer some money.

“That is very touching,” he said.

The outpouring of support continued with T-shirt sales, benefits and donations from other fire departments around the area.

“It just amazed me at the kindness that people have,” Fritts said. “They really didn’t have any other reason to do that other than it was the right thing to do.”

The saying “we are a family” that administrative staff, employees and town board share at every Christmas dinner is a feeling that Fritts understands fully.

“They proved that we are a family. That means a lot. You can hear the words, but actions will speak a lot better than words,” he said, adding that Town Administrator Bob Browning and Operations Manager Craig Ford were just fantastic. “They were generally concerned and they wanted to help.”

Story attended the December Christmas party where he sat and ate with everyone else. Fritts said that night Story received the Employee of the Year.

“Right up to a couple weeks before he passed away he was up walking around and then all at once . . .,” Fritts said. “It was easy to get into (the idea) that he’s got time.”

On Jan. 24, at 3:45 p.m. Story passed away at Johnson City Medical Center.

The support from area fire departments and the Jonesborough Police Department instantly began after the news was heard.

And when funeral plans were announced, Fritts said he began receiving phone calls from area fire departments asking what they needed.

The Limestone Volunteer Fire Department, EMS and Johnson City Fire Department all provided honor guards. Fritts said the fire chief from Greeneville offered to man their station during the procession and funeral.

“I don’t have anything really to say, but thank you. We felt like we did need to say something to people and let them know we saw you and we thank you,” Fritts said. “I want the community to know that we always do strive to do the best and we go the extra mile to help you and this department will continue to help them.”


Board looks at plans for Boones Creek school

Board looks at plans for Boones Creek school, top county building sites

Published in Herald & Tribune Feb. 4, 2015 issue

Beeson, Lusk & Street was selected as the architect to build a new pre-K-8 Boones Creek school with a 2017 projected completion date during a called Washington County Board of Education meeting last week.

“I have been very fortunate to work with the board since the early ‘80s. This by far is certainly the greatest opportunity that I have had and my office has had to serve Washington County,” said Tony Street of Beeson, Lusk & Street at the Jan. 28 meeting.

The new pre-K-8 school will have 1,100 students and will be between 138,000 to 145,000 square feet. Street said the overall square footage shifts depending on how many square feet is allowed for students or how much is allowed for square-foot cost.

Street said he used $150 per square foot and about 130 square feet per student, which may go up or down.

“You can’t hit that number exactly,” he said. “I think we are in pretty good shape at $20,625,000.”

The site preparation, which is based on a 50-acre site at $60,000 an acre, is estimated to cost $3 million. The kitchen equipment is estimated to cost $500,000; furnishings $600,000; contingency $1 million; and fees $1.2 million.

The athletic facilities are estimated to cost $2 million, and the land acquisition is estimated to cost $1,650,000.

The school-board-approved budget for the new Boones Creek school is projected for $30,575,000.

The amount does not include Smart Boards, computers, library materials and books. All of the wiring, infrastructure, power and electric, classroom furniture, media center furniture, administration furniture, cabinets and counters are all included in the price, according to Street.

A timeline, which is not set in stone, was presented to the board to give them an idea of when the school is projected to be completed.

“This is a very tight timeline,” Street said. “We are here in January 2015. We would hope that by the end of March we would have a programming session. We do need to get together with teachers, with department heads and talk about all the components that we are going to put into this new school.”

He said they are allowing a month for the preliminary design in April, which would be brought before the board for their comments, review and hopeful approval.

“At that point we would start our final drawings, contract document specifications for the final project,” Street said, which he is hoping to conclude by the end of August.

During that same time, he said, they would like to start a contractor qualification/selection process.

“The bidding and contract award is tentatively set to take place in September and October 2015.

The 20-month construction period has tentatively been set from November 2015 through June 2017. It would be followed by a one-month move in during July 2017.

“It’s not a good idea to get in a school over Christmas break, particularly a school this big. It does not work. We have got to hit this date or we are going to be (20)18. We are shoe horned in there right now.”

Board Member Todd Ganger pointed out that the good thing about it is the students are waiting for a school; they will be in a school if it did carry on.

Street said depending on what happens, the opening could go into 2018.

The board also discussed four different site selections for the new Boones Creek school.

The first site, which is owned by Carl Young, is 77 acres and is located on Boones Creek Road by the railroad tracks.

“This is in conversation with the mayor. There are plans to extend Knob Creek. There is potential that Knob Creek might be extended through that area, and if that happens, it would give the opportunity for access off of that into the site. Otherwise we would access off of Boones Creek Road,” Street said.

Some positive points about the property, he said, is it is big enough for a school, it is for sale and it only has one owner.

“There is a lot of developable land around this property and it might be very conducive for development for the county,” Street said.

He said they have done a little footprint on the site, which would include a two-story school, separate drives for bus and car drop off and pick up, athletic fields and probably a development of parks or public space of some kind.

“I have ridden the site and looked at it. There are parts of it that are very buildable and lay very well. There is a lot of potential here I think,” Street said.

The second possible site is also located on Boones Creek Road just north of the first site. It is 86 acres and has mutliple owners with Helen Carter Harrison, Dwight Hunt and David Hodge.

“This is a good piece of property that is well shaped,” Street said.

The third possible site is owned by John Glaze on Carroll Creek Road. The 65-acre site, Street said, sits back behind the existing middle school. He said there is a stream or branch in the corner of the property, as well as a ridge that becomes pretty steep.

The fourth site, which is on the north side of the interstate off of Roseview Drive, is currently farm land with cattle. The 40-acre piece of property is owned by Mary Edith Rose.

“It all slopes into a watering pond,” he said. “In short, I am not greatly impressed with this.”

The board voted in favor of giving Street permission to pursue any land opportunities for the Boones Creek school location within the price range given to them by the county mayor.

Street was also given permission to get soil borings of the site.


“Wonderful partners to the world of education”

County schools eye increased safety for upcoming year

Published in Jan. 14, 2015 issue

Additional cameras, as well as upgrades to existing systems, will be added to Washington County school campuses to further secure the schools and keep students safe.

The Washington County Board of Education approved monies for an additional 25 to 30 exterior cameras, as well as upgrading the existing 500 camera systems at its meeting last week. The money, $30,000 for additional cameras and $108,000 to upgrade existing cameras, was taken from the remaining safety money funds provided by the county commission. The county commission provided a total of $500,000.

The upgrades are a part of a security assessment study done with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the FBI and U.S. Marshal.

“They performed a systemwide security assessment for us a couple of years ago and made some recommendations,” Director of Schools Ron Dykes said.

The monies provided by the county commission helped to begin the implementation of those recommendations.

The upgrades will help bring the camera systems to a higher standard with increased camera resolution, greater ability for the camera to pan, tilt and zoom, as well as provide digital images. The surveillance capabilities, Dykes said, are also now remote.

“The patrol cars can literally log into the system, and they can see the activities in the schools remotely,” Dykes said.

The approved funds will also allow the purchase of additional cameras for the school campuses. Some of the cameras will be added to certain buildings where there are blind spots. Others will be added to longer hallways to shorten the camera views, as well as at some entrances and exits of the campuses.

“We continue to investigate and try to keep our buildings and campuses secure and our students as safe as possible,” Dykes said.

In addition to the camera systems, all Washington County schools have a priority access entry system to enter a campus. Dykes said if an individual goes to any of the WCDE buildings, schools in particular, there is a two-way communication before they can enter the building.

“You must buzz in now before you are allowed entry,” he said.

Other security enhancements include increased fencing, additional vehicle barriers, window tinting and additional security measures for the school buses. Dykes said each school bus has a GPS system, so its movement and behavior can be monitored throughout the day. All bus drivers also have cell phones in case of an emergency.

Safety will also be increased with the presence of School Resource Officers.

Dykes said by the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Washington County Schools will have 12 School Resource Officers, which are all full-time. He said in addition, they have two supervisors who often fill in when needed.

Dykes said six officers are stationed at a particular school full-time, while the other six rotate between schools.

“All schools are covered daily,” he said.

Three new SROs were implemented this school year in a staggered process. Dykes said two of the SROs have come on board already, and the third should be in place in a matter of weeks.

“That is due to the cooperation that we have with the sheriff’s office and willingness of the county commission to also understand the need to increase safety to this level,” he said. “We are very appreciative of the funding provided by the county commission, and the working relationship with the sheriff’s office is quite exceptional. They are wonderful partners to the world of education.”

Dykes said the sheriff’s office essentially stops their world when they call to provide assistance. He said the school system has also engaged in such proactive activities as armed intruder training with the sheriff’s office.

“Our faculty has gone through three sessions of that over the last year and a half,” Dykes said. “We try to increase not only vigilance, but awareness and skills to better protect our children with the worst case scenario (that could) happen.”


“Embracing heritage”

Distillery ready to open in new year

Published in Herald & Tribune Dec. 24, 2014 issue

As of last week, Tennessee Hills Distillery can officially manufacture and distribute alcohol in the state of Tennessee, bringing the Jonesborough business one step closer to opening the doors early next year.

“I can’t believe it still,” Stephen Callahan, owner of Tennessee Hills Distillery, said of making progress in following his dreams and his moonshine roots. “Now we have to get our labels approved and wait on our first shipment of bottles and get our souvenir line in order.”

He hopes to open the doors if not by the middle of January, definitely by Feb. 1.

“I want to get the doors open, but want to make sure we can operate in a safe and efficient manner,” Callahan said.

The process of opening the distillery, which began in early 2014, has been steadily moving along. Callahan and his brother, David, have been working side-by-side turning the Salt House into the new home for the Tennessee Hills Distillery applying the business’ motto “embracing heritage” every step of the way.

“We built the stills in house, did renovations in the building specific to our needs. My brother and I did the iron gates, the tasting bar, the glass walls,” Callahan said. “Every piece of equipment, my brother and I fabricated in there.”

All the equipment needed to operate the business is now in the building.

The 300-gallon and 150-gallon copper stills were designed by Callahan.

“We built those in the Salt House pretty much right where they are sitting. I think that speaks a lot for our craftsmanship. We want equipment that is a work of art rather than just serving its purpose to make liquor,” he said. “We are really passionate about what we do. We want to get people a product made with passion and very high quality too.”

The still gives Callahan a wide range in terms of the product that can be made at the Salt House. He said he can make corn liquor that has a lot of flavor to vodka that has no flavor.

“We have a lot of versatility in the Salt House as far as the product,” he said, adding that everything will be made in small batches and hand-bottled.

The tasting bar was pieced together with chestnut that came from an old family barn that was more than a 150 years old.

“It was in really good condition in the barn,” he said. “I figured it would be a perfect place to put it on display.”

Callahan said the distillery is going to be a nice place to stop in, take a tour, have some tastings and hopefully buy a bottle of whiskey.

The outside of the building has also been enhanced with shrubs and a crosswalk. The loading dock, weather permitting, should be installed early next week.

“Jonesborough has been behind us 100 percent from the time I came to town and pitched my idea,” he said. “They helped us put in the crosswalks and have a nice venue.”

In addition to getting the Salt House ready for business, Callahan said they have already harvested crops for the operation. Eighty-eight acres or about 10,000 bushels of corn, were harvested from Callahan’s family farm in November and stored in a silo at Shell Mill in Jonesborough.

“That should last us hopefully for three quarters of the year, maybe the first full year,” he said.

Callahan said everything they are doing will be ground in an antique 1940s model stone mill because it adds to their businesses story.

“That’s pretty special,” he said. “We gave him (Mark Shell) a whole new business aspect. We are going to be using a lot of corn.”

Callahan said when crops are stone ground, they tend to keep a lot of their flavor profile.

The grains that are leftover, will feed the livestock on Callahan’s 100-acre family farm. He said they are getting ready to buy some more cattle to consume the access grain.

“It’s all going to be pretty personal and full circle,” he said of the process. “Everything is pretty much in Jonesborough and that’s how I like to keep it.”

He said they are waiting on barley to be delivered, which should arrive at any time.

The business will have a quick turnaround for their product due to grains being delivered to the Salt House every seven to 10 days.

Callahan said hopefully by March or April, they will have all of the flavors produced that are going to be released and available at the Salt House.

Callahan said he believes his business will be very well received once the doors are open.

“Our story, being from the oldest town, and being in a 174 year old building, and kind of preserving a historical site, and making it a functional historical building, is special to me,” he said. “That is being a part of history.”

Other articles about the distillery I’ve written:

January 2014

Distillery coming to Jonesborough?

Proposed distillery gets planning comission OK

February 2014

With one ‘no’ vote cast . . . Future downtown distillery clears next hurdle

March 2014

Board gives distillery final approval

“Stories permeate every aspect of our lives”

“Stories permeate every aspect of our lives”

Park to bear name of ISC founder
Published in Herald & Tribune Dec. 18, 2014 issue

 A man born right outside of Jonesborough in the Dry Creek, Lamar area was recently recognized by the Town of Jonesborough for his contributions as mayor, as well as for being the founder of the National Storytelling Festival.

In a meeting on Dec. 8, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved renaming Storytelling Park as the new Jimmy Neil Smith Park.

“I was surprised first of all,” said Smith, who is also the former president of the International Storytelling Center. “After the shock, I obviously had a great sense of honor and pride. I never thought about a park being named after me, but a park is a beautiful thing.”

The park is located directly behind the International Storytelling Center.

The park is located directly behind the International Storytelling Center.

He said the park, which he had a hand in making happen through funding and work with the designer, is a special park in Jonesborough.

“It’s very attractive and very welcoming,” Smith said. “It’s a good location for activities.”

Mayor Kelly Wolfe said when the Town of Jonesborough acquired the storytelling building, they also acquired part of the Storytelling Park. He said in that acquisition, he made sure the negotiations for the naming rights of the new town park would be reserved for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“It has been on my mind for quite some time,” Wolfe said during the meeting. “We as a town should honor the life’s work of another resident, and that is Mr. Jimmy Neil Smith.”

That honor is in part for his work in founding the National Storytelling Festival more than 40 years ago.

Wolfe said when town officials were applying for various grants and seeking various programs through the state legislature, they had a business analysis done to talk about the economic impact of the National Storytelling Festival. That analysis revealed that the festival has a $10 million annual economic impact on the area.

“You think about the power of storytelling and you think about how it relates to all of us on the most basic level. Your kids learn about who they are by the stories we tell at the dinner table. Grandparents pass on things that they have learned to their grandchildren through stories of what life was like growing up. We are entertained through stories,” Wolfe said. “Stories involve music; stories permeate every aspect of our lives. Jimmy was somebody many, many years ago who had the wisdom to capture that basic art of our humanity and bring it to Jonesborough and stake claim to it and make us the Storytelling Capital of the World.”

He told the board that he thought it was fitting to name the park in honor of Smith, especially considering the proximity of the park right next to the International Storytelling Center.

Wolfe said he would like to proceed in appointing a mayor’s Special Studies Committee to bring back recommendations on the most fitting way to honor Smith in the park, possibly with a statue.

“We would put a group together that would aggressively tackle this issue and come back to you with all the questions answered and monies needed,” he said.

When Smith was 2 years old, his father, who was a school teacher at the time, was elected superintendent of schools, which brought his family out of the Lamar area and into Jonesborough. He attended Jonesborough Elementary School and Jonesborough High School, as well as East Tennessee State University for a degree in journalism.

“I started working at the Herald & Tribune when I was 17 and became immediately interested in media. (I) then went on to report for the Johnson City Press and I did several different areas,” Smith said, adding that he worked on a history column that was well received.

When he graduated from ETSU, he began teaching at Science Hill where he spent half of his day devoted to teaching journalism and the other half developing a communication program to let the community know what was happening in the school.

Science Hill had a “nice tabloid newspaper” that was printed at the Elizabethton Star. On one of those trips, Smith and the students were listening to Jerry Clower on the radio.

“Jerry Clower was a humorous country comedian storyteller and he was telling one of his very funny stories,” Smith said. “We were all laughing and enjoying that story.”

At that moment, he turned to the students and said wouldn’t it be nice to bring people like Clower to Jonesborough to tell stories. The students did not give much of a response.

In the early 1970s, Smith said Jonesborough was a dying town. He said the infrastructure was in poor shape in downtown Jonesborough and the buildings were sitting empty.

At that time, Smith was sitting on the planning commission when discussions about planning a big event for the four seasons took place. That’s when the idea resurfaced of having a storytelling festival in October.

Smith said he wanted to preserve the old stories about each other, the community, history and the region, through a festival.

“My dream is to see us celebrate our stories because so many of our stories are dying,” he said. “What the festival did was to ignite a revival of storytelling across America and many parts of the world and it began in little Jonesborough quite by accident.”

The festival began on an old wagon with five or six storytellers.

“I invited people to come up on stage and tell their stories,” Smith said. “I think everyone recognized it was something special.”

Smith was also the mayor from 1978 until 1984. During his administration he began the town’s tourism program, the recreation program, the Senior Center program, built the Visitors Center, Town Hall and the current water treatment plant.

“It was a communitywide effort,” he said.

“It’s not for kids”

Park Proposals

Community meets to discuss land possibility near new senior center

Published in Herald & Tribune Dec. 10, 2014 issue

Although some members of the community voiced their concerns about the proposed park behind the new Senior Center being opened to everyone, including children, others at last week’s workshop wanted to incorporate elements that they could enjoy with their grandchildren.

“This is a community input meeting. It’s an opportunity for people within the community to give us ideas,” Town Administrator Bob Browning told the crowd of about 20 people that gathered Dec. 4 at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center.

The Community Design Assistance Center out of Virginia Tech led the session, which began with a power point presentation before splitting into two smaller groups to give individuals an opportunity to have discussions of what they would like to see at the park.

“Although I cannot give you a timetable on it,” Browning said of when the park would be completed, “It is our intention to change the area behind the new Senior Center building where our municipal garage is currently located.”

That space, Browning said, is approximately 3 acres, with some of the acreage being incorporated into parking for the Senior Center.

“We are in the process of developing an acquisition of property at the west end of town that we are going to try to move to. But in the meantime, we also wanted to plan for what happens when we leave that space,” Browning said. “We feel like we owe it to the neighborhood and the new Senior Center to develop a really nice park area or something that would be an asset to that community around there.”

The presentation showed such ideas as multi-use trails, different kinds of seating, various structures, games, shaded areas, water features, outdoor performing space, area for outdoor classes and plants that would attract birds and butterflies.

During the presentation, some members of the audience asked if the proposed park was a community park or a senior park.

“All of these pictures you are showing have children on them,” Stacy Rush, a Senior Center Advisory Board member, said of the slideshow presentation.

Rush said the way he understood the paper, was that the park would not be for children, it would be for seniors only.

Lead Landscape Designer Jen Jessup said they are starting off as a community park because that is how they generate ideas. She said if they see that the park is mostly going to be seniors utilizing the space based on everyone’s input, then it will be more of a senior park.

“But we have not got to those stages yet to call it a senior park,” she said. “We are trying to be all inclusive to the neighborhoods surrounding it and trying to get an idea of what the needs of the park are. If the needs of the park are to be a senior park, and strictly a senior park, that will be one of the concepts.”

Once the crowd broke into two smaller groups, they had an opportunity to write down what they wanted to see at the park, which was then displayed for everyone to see.

Such ideas as walking trails, shaded areas, pavilions, water features, restrooms, raised garden beds, places for children to play, swings for sitting and benches with backs, grilling area and a lending library were among some of the ideas.

After Community Design Assistance Center Director Elizabeth Gilboy asked her group if they wanted to bring their grandchildren to the park, a discussion broke out. Many of the members of the group agreed that the park should be used only by senior citizens, which did not sit well with one member of the group, who collected her belongings and left.

Rush said if the space is turned over to allow children to play at the park, senior citizens are going to get run over and possibly knocked down.

Rush said if you put a teeter totter in, the kids will come.

“I haven’t been working this whole time to put in a children’s park,” he said. “We may not be able to put a sign up, but people need to know ahead of time, it’s not for kids.”

Carol Jernigan, who was a registered parish nurse at the Senior Center, said although some members of the community voiced their concerns about the park being used by children, she did not have any trouble with children accessing the space. Jernigan said she does, however, understand why they would like it geared toward a certain age.

“As a population, I don’t think they are anxious to mingle,” she said.

Rush said he would like to see such elements as a shuffle board area, restrooms and places to sit, preferable benches with backs.

Jernigan said she attended the meeting because she has been interested in seeing the Senior Center have a raised garden bed. She said it would be nice to bring seniors together in an outside setting.

“There is plenty of need for fresh food and fresh vegetables,” she said, adding that senior citizens are always looking for inexpensive food opportunities.

Jernigan said she thinks the park is a great idea because it would create a stopping place with extended walkways through town for gathering and recreation.

The ideas from Thursday night’s meeting will be made into two conceptual designs and brought back to the community at the end of January 2015. From there, feedback and comments will be taken into consideration and brought back to the community in March.

‘Lure of the dance’

Lure of the dance: Society thrives as community learns to step to the music

Published in Herald & Tribune Nov. 26, 2014 issue

The Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center was lit up with smiles one recent Saturday night as dancers of all ages swung from one partner to another, all to the beat of the three-man band.

Before the Nov. 15 contra dance began, a workshop was held by nationally renowned dance caller Diane Silver to help newcomers become accustomed to contra lingo and dance steps, as well as provide a refresher for the seasoned dancers.

A large circle surrounded Silver, with men and women in pairs as they went through such steps as pass through shoulder to shoulder with a new neighbor; ladies pass right shoulders while looping around a gentleman; and balance and swing, pull and swing around.

Georgia Mason of Asheville and Jeff Waddell of Jonesborough, dance. Photo by Charlie Mauk

Georgia Mason of Asheville and Jeff Waddell of Jonesborough, dance.
Photo by Charlie Mauk

Betsy Campbell, a resident of North Carolina, said the 30-minute beginner workshop typically includes seasoned dancers who help newcomers get the steps down. She said in contra dance, the seasoned dancers are encouraged to dance with new people.“The fact that everybody helps each other, so you don’t feel left out” is something Campbell thoroughly enjoys about contra dance.

Once the workshop ended, the Visitors Center came alive with sounds of the fiddle, guitar, mandolin and foot percussions from the band, Pete’s Posse, as the dancers moved from partner to partner, all while further mastering the contra dance steps.

New friendships blossomed as men and women asked each other to dance, which oftentimes left the seats that lined the wall of the center empty.

“I have always wanted to learn,” Campbell said. “Now that I’m retired, I can go to the dance classes.”

The Nov. 15 dance, marked Campbell’s 12th contra dance overall and her fourth time participating in the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society dance. She said she sees a lot of the same people at the different dances she attends, which can be as far as 45 minutes away from her home.

Campbell continues to attend the dances because she enjoys the variety of age groups that participate.

Seth Parker, a Greeneville resident, began contra dancing about a year ago after he heard about the dances. The 16-year-old attends the dance with other friends from the Greeneville community.

What started off as a group of four friends has expanded to as many as 15 on any given dance night in Jonesborough.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said, when asked why he brings so many new people. “I have improved a lot as a dancer. I’m glad I found it.”

Dave Kehs, a Johnson City resident, found out about contra dancing one Saturday when he was attending an art exhibit at the center in December of last year. He decided to attend the next upcoming dance.

“It’s something different to do,” he said, adding that he enjoys dancing with people from all over.

Organizer David Wiley said contra dances are about building the community by using traditional dance and music. He said nine marriages have stemmed from the dances during the nine years they have been held.

The beauty of those marriages, Wiley said, is they started off with two people not knowing each other before they attended a dance.

Wiley said because of social media, the dance community continues to grow.

He takes pictures of every dance and posts them on Facebook, which gives the dance participants opportunities to tag themselves in the photographs. Wiley said new friend requests are made, which sometimes turns into invitations to carpool to other contra dances outside of Jonesborough.

Wiley said the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society, a nonprofit organization, was chartered in the fall of 2005, and the first dance event was held in January 2006.

“We are finishing up our ninth year,” he said.

Wiley said the idea to form the organization came from a desire to round out the arts programs in Jonesborough because there were lots of storytelling, theater and Music on the Square events, but no dance.

“Folk dance was a big part of our region for a long time,” he said, adding that with popular culture, a lot of it was pushed out of the way for more modern leisure activity.

Since dance was once a focal point of a community, the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society was formed to bring it to the forefront once again.

“With the prevalence of social media, digital media, TV, internet . . . a lot of people are choosing to withdraw and disconnect from community,” Wiley said. “Realizing how important community is, I felt like the contra dance, traditional folk dance, would be a good vehicle to try to build a community around.”

In 2008, Wiley said, they put the wood floor in the Visitors Center auditorium.

“Our organization donated that floor to the town of Jonesborough,” he said. “We had been dancing on concrete with tile over it for two years.

“Amazingly, we still got people to come.”

By laying down a new floor, the organization took the dance to a professional level, which brought more people to the area.

“It is a professional-grade dance floor,” Wiley said. “It allowed me as an organizer to go out to dance communities similar to ours all over the country.”

Wiley said they hold 30 events a year and made the national country dance map in a relatively short time.

The Contra Dance nights are held on the first and third Saturday of the month at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.

The next dance will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6, with the band Toss the Possum. A beginner’s class will start at 7 p.m., and the dance will be held from 7:30-10:30 p.m.

For more information, call Wiley at 534-8879, visit or like its Facebook page.


Boy seeks very special dog

Boy seeks very special dog

Published in Herald & Tribune Nov. 5, 2014 issue

A young boy who had his first seizure at 11 months old is in need of the community’s support to help his family raise money for a seizure response dog.

Misty Royston, said her son Justin, who is now 8 years old, had his first seizure at a graduation party a friend of theirs was having before he was a year old. She said she knew instantly what was happening because of a family member who has epilepsy.

After he was taken to the hospital, the doctors said they would keep a close eye on him and see what happens. He was diagnosed with epilepsy and has Tonic Clonic seizures, also known as grand-mal seizures.

Misty said Justin has always had extended seizures that last anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, which always results in a visit to the emergency room.

When Justin was 3 years old he began taking speech pathology, which he still continues today because of the affects his epilepsy has had on his brain.

The young Sulphur Springs School 3rd grade student is now on medication to help with the seizures.

The family travels to Child Neurology Services in Knoxville twice a year for check-ups and testing because it is the closest pediatric neurologists. Once a year, Justin has an EEG test done to monitor his brain’s electrical activity.

In July, the test showed an increase in abnormal activity in Justin’s brain while he is sleeping, which has raised some concerns. The doctor had asked Misty if she had noticed any jerking or twitching while Justin was sleeping. Misty said she had not because she too was sleeping.

“They don’t make equipment to alert us if he has one in his sleep,” Misty said of his seizures.

After hearing of the results, Misty had a conversation with her friend who has a diabetic alert service dog for her son. She said her friend encouraged her to look into getting a service dog for Justin.

“I think I spent weeks on the computer looking at different organizations seeing the benefit,” Misty said.

Through the research, she stumbled upon Dan Warren of Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers. Having a service dog would keep Justin safe, as well as notify someone to get medicine if needed.

After signing a contract with the nonprofit organization, the family was placed on a six to eight month waiting list.

Misty said the organization tailors a Labrador puppy specifically to Justin’s needs. The specific tailoring is made possible by the family filling out a questionnaire regarding Justin’s activities, hobbies, how he deals with school and how receptive he is to everything going on around him.

The Royston’s have to raise $25,000 to obtain a service dog. The price tag includes the dog, training and travel expenses for the trainer to come to Jonesborough. Once the family receives a dog, they will receive a full week’s training.

“Once the dog is placed with us we receive two years of additional training,” Misty said.

The family began their fundraising efforts in September and has raised $5,000 for the service dog.

“We have received a lot of support,” she said from the community.

The support has come from local businesses, individuals, several anonymous donations and fundraisers.

The 3 Minute Ultimate Shine Car Wash, located in Johnson City and Greeneville, is donating 30 percent of each car wash when individuals use the promo code 899 until Nov. 20.

Lollipop Shop and Ruby Tuesdays is also donating a percentage of the sales when customers show a flyer until Nov. 20.

For more information about the flyers, send Misty an email at

The next fundraising event will take place at Capone’s in Johnson City on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 8 p.m. The benefit concert will feature Bonnie Blue and Southern Rebellion. There is a $5 minimum cover charge.

To follow Justin’s story and fundraising efforts, like his Facebook page “Your Change Can Make a Change for Justin.”

“Justin is very excited,” Misty said. “I don’t think he fully understands everything 100 percent, but he knows he is getting a puppy that is all his and is supposed to help him and watch over him.”

Individuals can also make a donation at


“He left an impression”

 Jonesborough resident plans trip to France for dad’s WWII honors

Published in Herald & Tribune Sept. 3, 2014 issue

A Jonesborough resident will travel to France the second week of September to attend a special ceremony for his father who served in the U.S. Army in World War II.

“It is really an honor to have a street named after your dad,” Bill Chapman said.

Chapman will leave for France with his youngest son, brother and his wife and two children, on Sept. 7. The following Sunday, Sept. 14, the ceremony will take place in honor of his father, Robert Chapman.

“He left an impression and a lot of memorabilia behind,” he said of his father. The memorabilia included such items as his wallet and flight jacket.

Chapman said a group of WWII historians who dig up wreckages found the memorabilia left behind, which will be used for the presentation.

His father was raised in central California, attended San Jose State University on a basketball scholarship before leaving school in 1942 when he decided he wanted to serve his country and be a part of the war effort.

Chapman said his father had wanted to fly his whole life, but results from a physical showed that he was color blind. That prohibited him from flying an airplane.

“He wanted to stay in the Army Air Corps and become a radio operator,” Chapman said, adding that his father was assigned to a B-26 Mark Marauder named Pistol Packing Mama that held a crew of six.

The crew had a year of training before they were sent overseas. By Aug. 6, 1944, Chapman said, they had lost their bombardier, and a new man was assigned to the plane.

“They were supposed to have flown a mission on the sixth,” he said.

The new guy had only been trained on a B-17, Chapman said, so his father who had become a bit of jack of all trades, spent an hour the they were waiting for clearance to fly because of the weather to teach the new man how to drop bombs out of the B-26.

The crew flew the mission without a hitch, but on Aug. 9, 1944, the tables turned even though the sky was crystal blue that day. The airplane took a hit right behind where Robert was sitting. The airplane began to spin slowly as the pilot gave a signal to evacuate the airplane.

Robert and another crew member exited the airplane.

“My dad was parachuting down towards the French countryside,” Chapman said. Bullets bullets being shot by the Germans were going past him. “He managed to get down without being shot.”

Robert landed in a farmer’s field in a little town in France, Gui Pavas.

Chapman said some French farmers picked up his father and took him back to the farmhouse and hid him there for a better part of a week while the Germans were looking for him.

The other gentleman who exited the plane broke his leg upon landing. The Germans picked him up and took him to hospital to reset the leg before abandoning him at the hospital.

Robert was turned over to the French underground and was kept for a period of a week. Chapman said once you were taken by the French underground you were released from the service after returning to the states.

His father spent two more weeks in the region, however, because he did not want to miss any of the war.

In November 1944, Robert was released of his duty. In 1974, he died of a massive coronary.

“When I heard some of the stories, I was too young to really comprehend exactly what he was saying,” Chapman said. “I never really got a chance to probe in great detail.”

Fortunately, Chapman had the opportunity to connect with the man who was the bombardier on the airplane. He said he written a book about the events.

“Being able to talk to one of the guys in the flight crew was particularly gratifying,” Chapman said.

He said he heard that his father was the happy-go-lucky jokester of the crew, which is how he lived most of his life.

While Chapman is in France, he will have the opportunity to visit with the farmer’s family, Abily, who took in his father.

Although this will be the first time meeting the family, he said his son visited the family in France three years ago.

“They had 200 people turn out to welcome him,” he said.

A re-creation was done while his son was in France of his grandfather in the back of a jeep when he got picked up. Chapman said they took an Army surplus jeep and painted it with the same numbers as the one his father was in all those years ago.

He said his son also received a key to the town. The son is named Robert, after his grandfather.

When Chapman’s father was shot down, there was a woman on the farm, who was 17 years old at the time, who was also present when his son visited three years ago.

“The Abily family said he really loved wine and eggs,” Chapman said.