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Hancock baseball team "strikes out" tobacco

SNEEDVILLE — The Tenn. Dept. of Health, in conjunction with TNSTRONG, recently invited baseball teams to take a leadership role in helping to keep the state’s youth tobacco-free.

On April 2, 2019, the Hancock County High School Baseball Team took the tobacco-free pledge, promising not to use ANY tobacco or electronic cigarette (vape) product, including cigarettes, cigars, chewed tobacco, e-cigs, JUUL™, or any other vape products.

TNSTRONG, which is an acronym for stands for “Tennessee Stop Tobacco and Revolutionize Our New Generation”, is a youth-led initiative to take down tobacco in the state. TNSTRONG works to increase awareness about the harmful effects of all kinds of tobacco products, to prevent youth initiation of their use and offer support to youth who want to stop using tobacco.

According to one report, youth cigarette use in Tennessee declined from 21.6% in 2011 to 9.4% in 2017. Youth vaping use in Tennessee is at 11.5% compared to 13.2% in the United States.

“If you or someone you know needs assistance with quitting, please refer them to our Tennessee Tobacco Quitline — 1-800-QUIT-NOW — or online at,” a spokesperson said. “People seeking to quit will be paired with a ‘quit coach’ who supports them through the process.”

The QuitLine also provides two weeks of nicotine replacement therapy patches at no cost to assist in helping people quit.

To learn more, readers can visit or call the Hancock Co. Health Department 423-733-2228.

Several hundred homes in Treadway area getting broadband internet

SNEEDVILLE — A $1.3 million grant from the State of Tennessee is allowing Sunset Digital Communications to provide new fiber-optic broadband internet service to potentially up to 700 homes in Treadway and other areas of southwestern Hancock County, and in neighboring Claiborne County.

In addition to the grant, Sunset Digital added $1.1 million of its own funding to the pot, bringing the total investment to $2.4 million.

“Sunset Digital is currently running fiber throughout the Treadway area, based on the grant we received from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development,” Tim Long, Sunset’s Economic Developer, told the Eagle.

The $1,341,000 grant, which was announced in January by former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, is making possible state-of-the-art broadband service to customers in rural, underserved areas, some of whom may never have enjoyed broadband internet in their homes.

“In communities across Tennessee, broadband is an essential service that will increase economic investment and growth to help businesses, families and individuals thrive,” Haslam said. “With the assistance of these grants, underserved communities will now have access to broadband that will benefit not only the communities themselves, but the state as a whole. These grants are a step in the right direction for our state and will help Tennessee reach its full potential.”

The grant was made through the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, which is designed to offset the capital expenses in the deployment of broadband in unserved areas.

Crystal Ivey, Broadband Director with TDECD, told the Eagle that she was in Hancock County last week to monitor the project’s progress.

“I met with Sunset Digital and Mayor (Thomas) Harrison,” she said. “The project is going smoothly, and they have started connecting customers in the grant area.”

Since broadband deployment projects involve construction, coupled with weather-related delays, they can take time to complete, she said, adding that Sunset Digital anticipates finishing up the project within the year.

Ivey is overseeing the grant and making sure that state funds are reaching out, as intended, to citizens in the service area.

Sunset Digital Communications, Inc., is a tier-two, next-generation, fiber-optics services company headquartered in Duffield, VA, with branch offices in Kingsport and Tazewell, TN.

Sunset provides broadband internet, private data, internet protocol television, and telephone services to residential customers, small business, medical facilities, banks and other internet service providers.

Readers who are interested in the new broadband service may contact them through their website,, or call 276-821-6100 or 276-698-3210.

School Board members to get pay hike .. eight years late

SNEEDVILLE — Members of the Hancock Co. Board of Education will be getting a pay increase as of their new budget year, which begins July 1, 2019 ... a salary hike that is apparently eight years overdue.

At the April 11, 2019 meeting, Director of Schools Tony Seal said that when the County Commission voted itself a pay raise some eight years ago, School Board members were supposed to be included in that action.

They apparently weren’t.

As a result, even though Commissioners have been earning $233.68 per month for the past eight years or so, BOE members remained at their old rate of pay, Seal said.

“You need to decide if you want to do this, and I think you had a plan that needs to be made clear before you do it,” Seal said to the board prior to the vote.

Board members said they had previously discussed voting to raise their pay to the amount allowed by law, and contributing “everything above what we are getting now” into a special fund to help students go on field trips or take part in other special activities.

The special line item would have to be added to the BOE’s budget as of July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, Seal said.

A motion was made, and approved unanimously, to include the pay increase in the FY 2019 budget, with all current BOE members agreeing to voluntarily contribute $100 each per month to the special activities fund.

It was agreed by all that the current board’s decision regarding voluntary contributions to the activities fund would have no binding effect over future BOE members who might choose to not take part in donating a portion of their salary for that purpose.

Hawkins, Hancock discuss mutual use of towers for radio 'repeaters'

ROGERSVILLE — A proposed agreement regarding the use of an emergency radio communications tower between the Hawkins Co. Emergency Management Agency and Hancock County’s 911 could be mutually beneficial for both agencies, officials say.

At the April 17, 2019 meeting of the Hawkins Co. Commission’s Public Safety Committee, EMA Director Gary Murrell said that he had been approached by Jamie Stanifer, of Hancock County’s 911, about the agency using an existing radio tower on Clinch Mountain as a site for placement of a ‘repeater’.

A radio repeater is basically a combination of a receiver and a transmitter that picks up, or receives, a radio signal and then re-transmits it so that two-way conversations can be carried out over a wider area.

This is especially critical in areas like Hawkins and Hancock counties where the rugged, mountainous terrain and remote valleys interfere with radio signals, thereby putting at risk the lives of both the public and the first responders who are attempting to help them.

Murrell told the committee that the Hawkins tower site on Clinch currently houses only one county radio, and that in his opinion, it would be mutually beneficial to grant Hancock County the use of the site for a repeater.

Stanifer, who was present at the meeting, said that Hancock County is working on a grant for some new equipment.

“We’re trying to get a second repeater and if we could get the use of your tower it would save us from having to build a new tower,” he said.

Murrell said that Hancock County has a radio tower site on Newman’s Ridge that could possibly be used for placement of a repeater for Hawkins County’s own emergency communications use.

“It would be a great plus if we could agree on something like that,” Murrell said. “This would be beneficial for both counties.”

If approved, Hancock County would be responsible for the installation and maintenance of its own equipment at the Hawkins tower site.

The committee said the two agencies just need to work out what they want in an agreement and let County Attorney Jim Phillips review it and prepare a draft for consideration by the committee at a later date.