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Hancock BOE begins search for new Director of Schools

SNEEDVILLE — Come the next school year, Hancock County Schools will have a new Director of Schools.

Tony Seal, who has served in that role for almost five years, advised the Board of Education at its Dec. 5, 2019 meeting that he would not be seeking an extension of his current two-year contract which expires on June 30, 2020.

At the board’s Jan. 2, 2020 meeting, it was decided to advertise the job vacancy and to accept resumes from qualified persons until noon, Thursday, Jan. 30, and to meet at 6 p.m. on that date in a work session to review the applications.

Resumes may be sent by U.S. Mail to:

Tony Seal

P.O. Box 629

Sneedville, TN 37869


The Board’s next regular meeting is Thursday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m.

Sheriff's Safe Street Campaign nets more than $1,000 in donations

SNEEDVILLE — At the Jan. 13, meeting of the Hancock Co. Commission, Sheriff Brad Brewer and Deputy Eric Scott gave a report on the success of the department’s 2020 Safe Streets Campaign.

Both officers thanked those in the community who made donations of cash, equipment, or other support totaling $1,001.84 that will be used to educate the public about the dangers of operating vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and to purchase safety equipment for use while officers are conducting checkpoints.

“Our goal is to deter and prevent accidents from occuring, while focusing on locating and identifying violators of our state’s DUI laws,” Scott said. “The contributions provided by these businesses and citizens help us to keep our personnel safe during their enforcement efforts as they work towards preventing significant traffic accidents from occuring in our community.”

Equipment that the donations will fund include:

• An equipment trailer;

• Traffic cones;

• Traffic control signs;

• Generators;

• Lighting equipment; and,

• DUI reference materials.

“We are truly grateful for the support of the following 2020 Safe Streets Campaign partners,” Scott said:

• Discount Auto — Roger Shockley;

• Farm Bureau Insurance — Brad Seal;

• Greene’s Tractor Co., LLC — Mel Welch;

• Hancock Co. Farmer’s Co-Op — Joseph McDaniel;

• Hancock Co. Mayor Thomas Harrison;

• Harrison Farm and Home Supply — Phil Harrison;

• Keiferbuilt Manufacturing — David Greene, Sr.

• Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) — Kelley Hennsy Price;

• Protect 1*, LLC — Patricia Scott;

• Summers Taylor Concrete — Dale Hughes; and,

• Value RX — Ron Trent.

During the meeting, the Commission approved adding the donated funds to Brewer’s departmental budget as “new money” to be used for the stated purpose.

$2.5 million modernization of Hancock schools to begin soon

SNEEDVILLE — A massive $2.5 million renovation project at Hancock County Schools could begin soon, after the County Commission gave its stamp of approval on Monday evening for the local school system to proceed with the loan.

That loan, which will be obtained at an interest rate of 1.5%, will be repaid over a 16-year period — from the school system’s budget, at no additional cost to taxpayers — with savings realized from the project, which will replace all of the old, worn-out heating and air conditioning units, cafeteria freezers, lighting fixtures, and outdated bathroom facilities with modern new energy-efficient HVAC systems, freezers, LED lighting fixtures (which, along with the HVAC units, can be remotely controlled from principals’ cell phones or iPads®), and water-saving bathroom fixtures.

The loan has already been approved by the State Dept. of Education, through a U.S. Dept. of Energy initiative, but needed approval by the Commission in order to move the loan forward.

Director of Schools Tony Seal told the Commission at the Jan. 13, 2020 meeting that the project can’t begin soon enough.

“Everything we have is 20 years old,” he said.

A representative of Johnson Controls met last spring and summer, on several occasions, with the Hancock Co. Board of Education, to discuss the project.

The proposal, as presented by Johnson Controls, would guarantee the HCBOE an annual savings of some 48% on their yearly utilities’ bills, which currently run about $338,000.

With that savings in hand, Seal told the Eagle after that meeting, the board could afford to borrow and repay a low-interest loan from Tennessee Lottery funds and still save money by replacing all of its old, worn out equipment with new, energy-efficient equipment.

“With this new system, we can manage when we want the heat and air on in classrooms from our iPads,” Seal said in the April 11, 2019 meeting.

Now, heat, air and lights have to be turned on and off manually, and bathroom fixtures use far more water than is used by more economical modern units.

“Our schools are 19 years old, and equipment is wearing out,” he said in the April meeting. “We spend a fortune just trying to maintain what we have.”

In the May 2 meeting, BOE member Jack Mullins said that, “We’re going to have to do something and this is the cheapest way out that I see”.

A motion by Mullins, and a subsequent ‘second’, received majority approval to give Seal the authority to move forward with the project.

The estimated savings of some $130,000+ per year would be used to repay the loan from the Tenn. Lottery Foundation.

Apparently, from the board’s discussion last year, Johnson Controls’ fee for services rendered in connection with the project will amount to $400,000 over a 16-year period, or $25,000 per year.

There would also reportedly be an “up front” cost of about $35,000 to the system, as stated in the April 11 meeting.

In other school-related matters at Monday’s meeting, the Commission — following a vote by the Board of Education at its Jan. 2, meeting — agreed to have an easement drawn up so that two families who are now using an existing water well at the old Kyles Ford School property can continue to do so.

The easement will be transferrable, if the property is ever sold, until such time as it becomes unusable or no one lives there.

Right now, Seal told the Commission, it is still uncertain who owns the well — the County or the School System — but either way, the easement is the right thing to do.

If it is determined that the Commission owns the property, the County would grant the easement, or, if determined otherwise, the School Board would sign it.

Hancock Commission approves purchase of AR-15 rifles for Sheriff's Dept.

SNEEDVILLE — The Hancock Co. Sheriff’s Department will soon have modern new, state-of-the-art AR-15 rifles for use by its officers in the event of a emergency situation, thanks to a decision by the County Commission on Monday evening.

At the Jan. 14, 2020 meeting, the board approved — unanimously — allocating $13,428.40 from its General Fund for Sheriff Brad Brewer to use in purchasing the rifles, scopes, ammo clips, a stockpile of ammunition, and also a supply of bullets for officers to use while practicing with the new weapons.

At an earlier meeting in 2019, Brewer brought to the Commission’s attention the dire need of his department to have new, standardized rifles for deputies.

Monday evening, the Sheriff and Deputy Eric Scott said that deputies currently have a “hodge-podge” of rifles, of varying ages, calibers and models, and that some officers are even providing their own rifles, which could at some point become a serious liability issue for the department.

“We had an incident in 2019 where we came into a situation where we could have been outgunned,” Scott said.

In that particular incident, deputies found machine guns, weapons with silencers, explosive devices, and “controlled dangerous substances”.

“What we are trying to do is to get all of our officers equipped with the same type of rifles that use the same caliber of ammunition,” Scott said.

That, he added, would make it far easier for the department’s officers to exchange weapons or clips of ammo if they are in a situation that requires heavy fire, and could potentially save lives.

“We have 19 full-time officers and three rifles,” Scott said.

Scott said that he researched pricing and availability from multiple vendors, and the best pricing of $13,428.40 for the various pieces of equipment listed below was obtained from Palmetto State Armory and G.T. Distributors:

• 12 16-inch AR-15 rifles, .223 caliber;

• 51 magazines;

• 17 Vortex Optic scopes;

• Approx. 5,000 rounds of training ammunition; and,

• Approx. 5,000 rounds of duty ammunition.

Sheriff Brewer and Deputy Scott both said they made numerous calls and visits trying to keep business local, or in the area, but that the main problem was, local/area dealers do not stock the rifles in sufficient quantity.

“In the event something were to happen, I want all of my guys to have the same caliber weapons and ammo,” Brewer said. “We finally got all new shotguns, but those aren’t as expensive as the rifles.”

The AR-15 rifles are considered to be the best for law enforcement work, Scott said.

Responding to a question from a commissioner, Brewer said that he could count on the fingers of one hand the times over the past few years when local law enforcement has encountered a situation that would require such firepower.

“But we are not dealing with the same situations we were dealing with 25 years ago,” Brewer warned. “Twenty-five years ago you never heard of a school shooting. Now, you hear of one every time you turn the TV on.”

Referring to the incident from last year, Brewer said that 25 years ago, law enforcement in rural counties like Hancock didn’t run into situations where there was a “cattle trailer load of ammunition and hundreds of guns” found in a residence.

“You are not dealing with many of the problems that you were back when I first got into law enforcement,” he said. “I hope and pray that we never have to use these weapons, that we never have to get them out of a car, but I don’t want my kids, your kids, or anybody else’s kids in this county have their lives endangered because we don’t have the right weapons. If we had a school shooting here today, we might as well have a handful of rocks as going up against a shooter with our pistols. I’d rather have the rifles and not need them.”

Brewer also said that “there’s a lot more that goes on in Hancock County than people may realize”, and that it is far better to be safe than sorry.

The sheriff also said that he has not been able to find any grants that provide assistance for weapons’ purchase, and the few that do exist are so competitive that small, rural departments usually don’t stand a chance.

“This Sheriff’s Department is basically starting from scratch,” Deputy Scott said. “We’re trying to get protective vests with steel or ceramic plating that will stop a rifle-caliber bullet. We’re trying to get helmets which we don’t have, communications equipment, and all of those things we are fighting for under Department of Justice grants. And it is a fight, a real fight, for that grant funding.”

Mayor Thomas Harrison said that he and members of the Sheriff’s Department recently went to a regional meeting for the DOJ grant proposals, and that the needs of Hancock’s department totaled more money than was available for grants in that eight-county region.

“That’s just how much we need,” Mayor Harrison said.

It appears that the department may be in line to get at least some funding that could be used toward the purchase of helmets and vests, Harrison said, but it will be later in 2020, or possibly even 2021, before those funds are available.

Sheriff Brewer also told officials that about three months ago, a woman showed up at the Early Learning Center with a loaded handgun.

“We’re not asking for what we want, we’re asking for what we need,” Brewer said.

One bright spot is that through several regional alliances with other law enforcement agencies, the local department is benefitting from donations of equipment that other, better-funded departments, do not need.

“They’re trying to help us catch up so that we’re on a level playing field,” Mayor Harrison said.

Grants are useful, the Mayor said, but anytime a grant is applied for, even if successful, the county probably won’t see a dollar of that money for sometimes two or three years.

“Most of my kids are grown,” he said. “I’ve got one who’s a junior in high school, and I’ve got grandchildren coming along in schools, and when you watch TV, its more and more commonplace to see these situations. Our children are our future, our children are our investment, and I think its better to have the rifles and never need them.”

The Mayor said that people who get into trouble in larger areas are moving more and more to small, rural places like Hancock County.

“What would you do if something happened up at the high school?” the Mayor asked the Commission. “Some of you have kids there, and at the elementary school, or that will be in kindergarten the next two years. I’m sure you’d like those Resource Officers to have a good rifle if something were to happen there. I think it’s better to be prepared than not be.”

Whether potential trouble happens at school or at some other location, Scott warned that in today’s world, “drugs are a business, a big business” and that equates to a “commodity”.

“At some point in time, our officers are going to engage with these individuals,” he warned. “Narcotics are coming through this area, narcotics is a trade, its a business, meth, ‘coke’, marijuana, heroin, it is a commodity to those dealers, and that equates to these people making money, and how do they protect that money? With guns. We’ve already had an incident here where we basically got lucky, where we went up against individuals where we were outgunned. Fifty-caliber, fully automatic, with silencers. We were outgunned. We just won one that day. It would behoove us to be prepared, in case we don’t get lucky and we have to engage. Its not a good feeling to have a handgun in your hand while someone is coming toward you with a shotgun, or a rifle, or is shooting out of a house at you, and all that you have at 50 yards is a handgun and hopefully a tree to hide behind to catch those rounds they are throwing at you, hoping someone gets there with a weapon that you can compete with.”

In other matters at Monday evening’s meeting, the Commission:

• Discussed and approved financial reports submitted by Director of Schools Tony Seal for the months of November and December.

• Discussed and approved financial reports submitted by Road Superintendent Henry Shockley.

• Discussed and approved Sheriff Brad Brewer’s report for the month of December.

Brewer reported that a “surplus” Ford Explorer advertised for sale on www.govdeals.com had sold at auction for $1,565. He requested, and the board approved, adding that amount back to a line item in his budget to be used toward the future purchase of a new vehicle.

Brewer and Deputy Eric Scott also gave the board an update on the department’s 2020 Safe Streets Campaign.

(See a more detailed story on this report elsewhere in this issue.)

New column, "Hymn Notes", debuts in this issue

ROGERSVILLE — The Rogersville Review and The Hancock County Eagle are pleased to announce a new weekly feature with commentary and background on some of the most popular Christian hymns that are sung in churches across our region.

Ralph Petersen’s “Hymn Notes” will highlight one hymn each week with a short introductory commentary.

Ralph and his wife, Kathy, are new residents of Rogersville, and the owners of Olde Towne Emporium, a new shop located at 212 E. Main Street, in downtown Rogersville, featuring antique and vintage furniture, collectibles, and ‘period’ clothing. They have two married daughters and eight grandchildren (one of whom is married).

“For the past ten years, it was my pleasure to lead my church family in their singing every week,” he said. “The hymns and songs I selected had to be doctrinally sound, God-centered and appropriate for worship.

“Many of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don’t engage our minds or penetrate our hearts,” he added. “I, like Paul the apostle, wanted my church family to ‘sing with understanding’.”

Ralph said that it became his practice to highlight one hymn each week with a short introductory commentary, “so that the congregation might be more informed regarding the origin, the author’s testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the songs we sing”.

“Now it is my pleasure to share those hymn stories with you, here, one each week,” he said.

Readers who wish to contact Petersen may email him at ralphmpetersen@gmail.com.

Lexi Linden is met by a Lady Eagle defender.