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.”


“We are reigniting that flame”

ISC sets seven-point plan for the future

Published in Herald & Tribune Oct. 29, 2014 issue

A mission that encouraged one executive director to move to Jonesborough continues to thrive, growing communities through new partnerships dedicated to continuing the oldest art form – storytelling.

“When you can bring 11,000 people together, it fosters a sense of community,” International Storytelling Center Executive Director Kiran Singh Sirah said. “That community spirit creates a better world.”

The center released “A Story in Progress,” which is the name of its strategic plan, last week highlighting seven steps: innovate, engage, grow, connect, educate, communicate and earn.

The communicate step is off on the right foot with a new digital communication strategy, which recently enhanced bringing the storytelling movement to the next generation.

“Google approached us because our name is getting out there,” he said. “They recognized us and wanted to give us recognition for the work that we are doing. That is because people have experienced things while they are here and they have gone out and told people.”

The partnership with Google’s Cultural Institute will help in sharing the story and history of the 42-year-old storytelling festival. The partnership places ISC among the White House, the British Museum and other cultural institutions that have had historical moments by making it accessible to online visitors.

The project, Sirah said made ISC assessable to 9million people instantly across the world.

He said by working with the Google team, they have created an enhanced street view of the center through Google Street View, as well as a tool to go into the ISC. When the Google team visited Jonesborough, they captured around 90,000 images for the panoramic navigational tool.

Another digital aspect occurred for the first time during this year’s International Storytelling Festival through live stream. That stream reached every arts agency in the United States, as well as Asia, east Africa and Europe.

“The National Endowment of the Arts made sure the information went to all 50 states,” he said.

The festival was also live streamed to hospitals, so people  not able to make the festival for different reasons could access access storytelling.

He said 3,000 to 5,000 people viewed the live streaming.

“These are people that may have never heard of Jonesborough,” Sirah said.

Some schools across the nation, he said, brought out the big screens to watch the festival while having live screening school parties.

“We planted seeds for a flourishing future,” he said.

Sirah said a new seed has been planted for the International Storytelling Center, one in which will not only enhance excellent storytelling programs, but also impact tourism in the Town of Jonesborough and Northeast Tennessee.

The “connect step” was also greatly enhanced through a new partnership.

ISC recently established a partnership with Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, which is scheduled to open in summer 2015 just minutes away from the theme parks.

The idea of opening the resort stems back to the childhood memories Dolly Parton had on her family’s front porch, telling stories.

“Dolly Parton’s newest hotel is to create a storytelling destination,”Sirah said.

The partnership with Dollywood initially came from communication Jimmy Neil Smith had years ago.

When Sirah started the position at ISC, he wanted to revisit that communication, which recently turned into establishing a formal partnership.

“It’s a kind of partnership based on mutual respect with each other,” he said. “If we can bring people to this region year round, think of the impact. It creates a stronger economic push for the Town of Jonesborough and the region as a whole.”

The partnership will include ISC assisting with training, performances and other special activities.

Dolly Parton,has her own “rags to riches” story that turns into giving back to the community.

“I like working with the idea of what Dolly Parton has done,” he said.

This year, Dollywood sponsored the family tent at the International Storytelling Festival.

The sponsorship focused on helping to nurture the next generation of storytellers, Sirah said, by fostering a sense of how stories can unite generations.

The oldest art form is flourishing again and creating a movement that has united storytelling across the world, according to Sirah.

“ISC is a great comeback story,” he said.“We are reigniting that flame.”

One of Sirah’s dreams, which coincides with the educate step, is to make storytelling assessable in every classroom through digitizing. By digitizing the work, he said, classrooms can see the link between such disciplines as technology and faith because stories tackle and explore them all.

“By using the digital process, it makes it available to classrooms across the world,” Sirah said.

The center is also working on an annual program with the National Endowment for the Arts, which could potentially include the annual winner of Poetry Out Loud at the annual festival.

The youngest storyteller, Anita Norman, performed at the festival this year. Norman was the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

“When you give young people the mechanism to have a voice and recognize what they have to say is important, it offers a sense of validation and recognition that they give and contribute in great ways,” he said. “When you recognize young people it gives them a pathway to have a voice.”




‘I just find time’

I pitched a story idea to my editor after attending the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting last week in Jonesborough, Tenn, which she loved. This woman was recognized for her dedication to the community.

This morning I woke up to a wonderful email from Dona. This made my day.   

“Meghan, Thank you for the nice article about me.  It was as though you knew me personally!!  I heard so many nice compliments from friends and other readers.” – Dona Lewis

Town declares Feb. 14 as ‘Dona Lewis Day’

Published Feb. 18, 2014 in the Herald & Tribune

Last week, the Town of Jonesborough recognized Dona Lewis for her countless hours of service to the community by dedicating Feb. 14 as Dona Lewis Appreciation Day of Jonesborough.

“You are a very special person, someone that embodies the spirit of Jonesborough and a person that loves her community,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said during the Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting on Feb. 10.

Lewis said she was surprised about the proclamation.

“I was humbled; I think it was very nice for him to do it,” she said.

She said Wolfe had asked her to attend the BMA meeting, but she thought it was because of her involvement in the Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association.

“Kelly did a beautiful job as he always does,” Lewis said of the proclamation.

She also said her volunteer work is not done alone.

“I am heavily involved, but I don’t do it alone. There is always someone working with me,” Lewis said. “It takes a village.”

She moved to Jonesborough in 1995 from New Jersey after visiting the area since 1981. She said her and her husband, Chuck, started traveling to Jonesborough because her brother had lived in the area at the time.

“We started to come for visits and for storytelling and just fell in love with the area, but having my brother here helped. He was the draw,” she said.

The sense of community that the Town of Jonesborough provides is what she really enjoys.

“I just love the small town atmosphere and the fact that everyone knows everyone else,” Lewis said. “I just love this town. I love the people in it. It’s been very good for us to be here.”

The acceptance she felt from the Town of Jonesborough started in the early 1980s and has produced friendships of 30 years.

The Lewises opened Franklin House Bed and Breakfast in 1997, seven years after they started working on the business. The house that dates back to the 1840’s has three rooms, plus a guest apartment on the lower level.

Her favorite part about owning a bed and breakfast is meeting people.

“We have met the nicest people here,” she said.

In addition to running her business, she also finds time to be involved in the events that JAMSA hosts. Some of those events include the Taste of Jonesborough, a chili cook off contest and the turkey toss.

“The idea is to help bring business into Jonesborough by running events and working with the merchants,” Lewis said.

She’s also involved in Friends of the Library, as well as being a committee member for Music on the Square and Main Street Jonesborough.

“I just find time,” Lewis said of juggling everything. “It’s a little stressful at times, but I can do it. It’s amazing how you can sort your time out.”

Distillery coming to Jonesborough?

 This is my big article for this week’s Herald & Tribune. Tonight I am covering the Jonesborough Planning Commission meeting to see what unfolds for this craft distilling company.

Distillery coming to Jonesborough?

Published in Jan. 21, 2014 Herald & Tribune

If all goes according to plan, a craft distilling company may come to downtown Jonesborough later this year.

Stephen Callahan, 26, a native of Jonesborough and a David Crockett High School graduate, is looking into opening a craft distillery as one of his business opportunities in Jonesborough.  It would call the Salt House off Fox Street home.

A graduate of Emory and Henry College, Callahan now works at Eastman Chemical Co.

“Jonesborough is home to me and I feel like it deserves to have a good business that could offer a lot to Jonesborough, and have a lot to offer to us, too,” he said.

Callahan is looking into the distillery business because making whiskey has a deep heritage in the Appalachian Mountains.

“It fits what I do well. I am a chemistry geek,” he said. “It’s something I feel that I am good at.”

Callahan said with the craft distillery business booming across the nation, he thought it would be a unique opportunity for Jonesborough.

“We are really excited to work with the Town of Jonesborough to get this thing off the ground,” Callahan said.

Mayor Kelly Wolfe agreed that it has become quite clear that craft brewing and craft distilling are popular around the country.

“We were approached by this young man about him starting a craft distillery here in Jonesborough and have spent quite a bit of time discussing the subject with him,” Wolfe said.

“For a town dependent upon the tourist trade, this represents an excellent opportunity to add yet another attraction to draw folks to town.”

Wolfe said with much already being done with the Depot Street Brewery operation, they hope to create an overlay zone that will allow this business and others to choose to come to Jonesborough.

“He is proposing to locate the business in a historic building with a whole lot of character on its own, the Salt House, and from what I understand, is going to invest a considerable amount of money to make the craft distillery educational and technologically advanced,” Wolfe said. “This would certainly be unique to the area.”

Before Callahan can obtain federal and state permits for a craft distillery business, he must receive approval to open a facility in Jonesborough.

The Jonesborough Planning Commission will have a meeting Jan. 21 to establish an ordinance creating a distilling company overlay zone.

According to the Town of Jonesborough, the Tennessee Code allows the manufacturing of intoxicating liquors in municipalities with approval for retail liquor stores and liquor-by-the drink by referendum. Liquor manufacturers must be permitted by the federal government and must have a Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission license.

Samples of the distilled product on premise without cost to individuals of legal drinking age can be served by the manufacturer, as long as it is provided on location within the premise permitted by the federal law. Retail can also be sold on premise if the manufacturer meets the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission criteria for sales through a wholesaler.

If the overlay zone ordinance is approved, the commission will recommend it to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The ordinance will have to be approved through two readings by the BMA, including a public hearing. If the ordinance is adopted, Callahan will have to submit an application and site plan for the Planning Commission to approve.

If all goes well, Callahan hopes to have the business open later this year with his partner Logan Wise, his roommate in college who live in Knoxville but hopes to settle in Jonesborough.

“He went the business route and I went the chemistry route,” Callahan said.

‘A substantial increase in safety’

Here is another article that was published in this week’s Herald & Tribune, a weekly newspaper I contribute to in the Town of Jonesborough, TN. The renewal of traffic cameras was an agenda item during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen January meeting. Many residents who attended the meeting spoke in favor of the cameras. It was an interesting article to write.

Article published in the Dec. 17, 2013 Herald & Tribune

Town approves traffic cameras for five more years

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has approved the renewal of a five-year agreement with Redflex Travel Systems, the company that operates Jonesborough’s traffic camera enforcement system.

“The result, what we feel like, has been a substantial increase in safety,” said Town Administrator Bob Browning of the decision reached during the board’s monthly meeting on Dec. 9.

The system was installed five years ago and, according to information supplied by Browning, the number of accidents has decreased since the cameras’ installation. While accidents throughout town have grown by 19.3 percent since 2008, the three signaled intersections with cameras have only seen an increase of 2.1 percent in accident rates during the same period.

The cameras were installed with photo enforcement signs at the intersections of Boone Street and 11E, Forest Drive and 11E, and Headtown Road and 11E. They will remain at those locations.

The renewal period will commence on Jan. 1, 2014, and run until Dec. 31, 2018. The town has the option of extending their renewal term for up to two additional consecutive and automatic three-year time periods following the 2018 expiration date.

At the meeting, many citizens spoke in favor of renewing the system, saying it left them feeling safer with the cameras intact.

Mayor Kelly Wolfe also commented. “The popularity of a camera system depends on where you live,” Wolfe said. “Folks who live outside of the town really don’t like the cameras.”

Browning said town staff looked at Jonesborough traffic flows during a transportation study five years ago. They reviewed where people were coming from and the volume of traffic through the town. From that study, the Tennessee Department of Transportation recommended the town review signal intersections for a traffic safety study.

It was during that time period that town officials began talking about traffic cameras because they found that in other locations, the installation appeared to decrease the number of accidents.

About 3,200 vehicles travel Boone Street and 11E each day through Jonesborough, Browning said, and that’s a tremendous amount of traffic.

“Anything we could do to reduce accidents and speeds was something that we felt like we needed to look at,” he said.

Browning attributes the increase of safety in the three intersections to citations given for speeding and running red lights.

If a motorist goes through one of the intersections with cameras installed at 56 mph or more, he or she receives a citation, he said.

Officers have also indicated that they can see people going closer to the speed limit while traveling through the photo-enforced intersections. The Redflex system has shown that 90 percent of people going through the intersections from Boone Street to Headtown Road are either going above the speed limit by 5 mph or less than the speed limit, Browning added.

“That’s a really good situation as far as safety is concerned,” he said.

A citation is issued if both sets of wheels of the vehicle are not behind the stop bar when the traffic light turns red and the motorist continues through the intersection.

To help prevent this from occurring, the yellow caution light is set at five seconds, the maximum length of time according to state law, providing motorist traveling at 45 mph with more than 300 feet to stop at the light.

“We felt that was important that we were providing everyone the opportunity to abide by traffic regulations,” Browning said.

While town officials maintain the camera system has shown to be highly accurate, Browning said if there is a discrepancy in terms of being able to see the license plate number or what happened in the intersection, the town errs on the driver’s side.

“The Town of Jonesborough ultimately determines if a citation is issued or not,” Browning explained. “Someone at the sergeant level or above reviews the videos and the potential citations.”

Wolfe encourages folks to be safe, smart and to slow down while driving and take a deep breath.

“Don’t endanger your life and those around you in the Town of Jonesborough,” he said.

‘Win-Win Partnership’

I began covering the monthly Mayor and Aldermen board meetings for the town of Jonesborough recently as one of my beats for the Herald & Tribune. The farmers market, which was on the agenda for the two meetings I had to cover, was approved this past week. I’m excited to visit it once it’s up and going.

Article published in the Dec. 17, 2013 issue of the Herald & Tribune

Lease paves way for Boone Street Market

The Town of Jonesborough and the Jonesborough Farmers Market was approved during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting last week, paving the way for the opening of the Boone Street Market sometime next year.

“If you are talking about a win-win partnership, this is your prototype,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe said.

He said the market needs a little help, and the town has the perfect space for it.

“I predict this Farmers Market to do really, really well with this location,” Wolfe said.

The lease agreement was made for a location on Boone Street once used as an Exxon gas station. The lease will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and will terminate on Jan. 31, 2017.

“The individuals involved in the Farmers Market are very passionate about their pursuit, and that is one of the key ingredients for any successful venture in Jonesborough,” Wolfe said. “This space is the logical choice for a very successful Farmers Market operation.”

The market has agreed to pay $1 per year subject to meeting the following criteria: increase sales opportunities for local farmers; provide farmers the use of a commercial kitchen to make additional, salable products from their harvest; offer visitors and residents ready access to fresh, locally-produced food; and support the economic development of Jonesborough through a year-round, six-day-a-week business in downtown.

The agreement states that the Town of Jonesborough may review the financial records prior to the expiration of the lease to determine whether the market has the financial capacity to pay some reasonable amount of rent and, therefore, make an adjustment in the rent. That must be done in a 90-day written notice to the market.

During the first two years of the lease, the Town of Jonesborough will pay one-half of the utility payments for electrical, gas and water associated with the operation of the building. After that two-year period, the arrangement will be reviewed to determine if an adjustment needs to be made.

The Boone Street Market will offer produce, meats, eggs, cheese, dairy, pasta, baked goods, processed foods and ready to eat foods that are grown within 100 miles of Jonesborough.

The lease states the market will have a minimum schedule of operation from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 12:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Store Project Coordinator Karen Childress said she thinks the lease is great and a generous offer. She said she is incredibly thankful for the support the town is putting behind the market to make it work.

“We have been working on this for months now,” Childress said. “This is the end of a long process. There were no surprises.”

The plaza the market will occupy, she said, is a beautiful public space, and the location is both visible and inviting to the public.

With the lease in place, funding is being sought in order to renovate the building, which is estimated to cost roughly $142,000.

The first donation of $3,500 has been offered by Farm Credit Services, and will be presented on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

“It’s really exciting that Farm Credit Services is interested in this project,” Childress said. “They stepped up to get the ball rolling.”

The Town of Jonesborough will keep track of all donations and contributions for the market, which will be tax-deductible.

Town Administrator Bob Browning is working closely with Childress on generating some funding through grants.

“We think it’s a really good thing,” he said of the market. “It provides an opportunity for those sales to go on at least six days a week.”

Browning also said the agreement has ramifications for healthy eating for area residents and the ability to support those who are trying to generate income from growing quality produce locally.

“The (Farmers Market) board has really top-notch people, and the business plan is well thought out,” Browning said. “They spent time doing research and making good decisions. We are impressed.”

Browning went on to say he has every reason to think the outlet store will be successful.