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State, county officials meet at Hwy. 70 slide site for update

CLINCH MOUNTAIN — Almost eight months after massive mountainslides, triggered by torrential rainfall and flash flooding in February, caused the closure of two main thoroughfares between Hawkins and Hancock counties, both roads remain closed, but as officials said at the site of one of those slides on Wednesday, they are pleased with the work that has been done so far and are looking forward to both roads re-opening in early December.

“Blalock (and Sons), TDOT, everybody involved has worked with a really bad situation and, I’m telling you, they have done a lot of work here and we just want to say thank you,” Rep. Gary W. Hicks, Jr., said during an Oct. 2 tour of the Hwy. 70 site.

Also present for the tour were Tennessee Transportation Commissioner Clay Bright, Hawkins Co. Mayor Jim Lee, Hancock Co. Mayor Thomas Harrison, and Kyles Ford resident Dwight Snodgrass.

“I’m impressed with the work that I see,” Mayor Harrison said. “It’s taking a little longer than we first thought, but we want it fixed right. It’s caused a lot of irritation for people on our side, and we just want to be kept informed, to know where things stand.”

Hawkins Co. Mayor Jim Lee agreed, and said that people in Hawkins County are just as ready to have the road open again but also want it fixed correctly.

“You’ve got a great bunch of men working on this and we will be looking forward to the day you say its ready to go,” Lee said.

The Hwy. 70 project was let to construction on Feb. 27, to Charles Blalock & Sons, Inc.

A change order pending, but as of this week the estimated cost of construction stands at $8,721,569.71.

The most recent estimated completion date of Dec. 12 may be moved up to Dec. 4, pending no significant delays in hauling the remaining rock or weather-related issues, TDOT officials said Wednesday.

More than 152,000 tons of graded solid rock — amounting to 7,600 truck loads — were required to reconstruct the slope, most of it hauled from a quarry near Rogersville.

Nearly 25,000 linear feet of solid “concrete” nails were needed for soil stabilization on the steep slope that gave way in February, sweeping along with it two vehicles, the driver of one losing his life in the massive collapse.

The contract added a drainage system for storm water to prevent future failures.

“It’s an unbelievable difference in what you see here now compared to what it looked like on March 4 when we walked on-site,” a TDOT engineer said. “I know the public said ‘we weren’t working a lot’ but it was a process of excavate a little bit, stabilize, excavate a little bit more, stabilize it, and to have to get down nearly 150 feet before we stopped that stabilization. It was very time consuming and that put us into the middle of August.”

Not only that, a second, smaller failure, has occurred east of the main slide and TDOT has just completed design plans for that location, with the project slated to be let for construction in December.

“During that reconstruction, the department is committed to keeping the roadway open to one-lane traffic with a lighted signal controlling traffic in the work area,” TDOT said.

More than 200 feet of 42-inch drain pipe has been installed that will carry water from a small stream and rain runoff from the top of the slide area to more than 150 feet below where it will empty into a drainage ditch lined with rip-wrap rocks, underneath and across to the other side of the lower portion of Hwy. 70.

“If we didn’t treat that water flow, we’d be right back in the same spot at some point,” he added.

Based on the conditions at the site, only one activity could be completed at a time due to safety concerns and topographical constraints.

“We had to move carefully because we didn’t want to do anything that would have caused another part of that slope to give way,” an engineer said.

The contractor excavated down the huge slide area while a subcontractor worked to install the concrete soil nail shoring system above. It was during this process that unstable soil conditions were encountered — that were not anticipated in the original design plans — that had to be dealt with.

“That unsuitable soil had to be removed and additional soil nails had to be installed to properly stabilize the slope,” another added.

Kyles Ford resident Dwight Snodgrass, who accompanied Mayor Harrison at Rep. Hicks’ request, was present because Snodgrass “hears from a lot of people there in Kyles Ford and I wanted him to be able to ask questions and see for himself what you all have done so that he can share that with his community, which has been severely affected by this road being closed,” Hicks said.

“My question is, when can we get through here with

When the road re-opens, an engineer said, it will be when both lanes are complete because of safety concerns related to people travelling in one-lane while heavy trucks are still coming in and out of the work site.

However, when work begins on the new, smaller slide area on the other side of the mountain, the work at the main failure will be pretty much complete, so, at that point, the road could open to one-lane traffic, an engineer added.

“So y’all are saying December 4,” Snodgrass said. “Are you real sure about that?”

Several of those present said yes, that they feel confident that Hwy. 70 will be reopen on or perhaps before that date.

Mayor Harrison said that there was no way to invite everyone whose work and school schedules have been disrupted by the road closures to come and share their comments with TDOT and the contractor, due to limited space at the site and safety concerns.

“Having Dwight (Snodgrass) and the newspapers here to see the scope of work, at least now you have explained what you are doing and it will make sense to people. Yes, they’re tired of detours but they want it fixed right. This right here will help to put out a lot of ‘fires’.”

In Hawkins County, Clinch School is currently on a four-day school week because of lengthy detours and the additional time required for students and faculty to travel to and from the campus.

“Well, if December 4 is your day, we want to invite all of you to come over to Kyles Ford and we will feed you,” Snodgrass said, drawing laughs and applause from those present. “I’m serious, we would like all of you to come over so that we can say thank you.”

Hwy. 66 slide project updateGraded solid rock is still being hauled to the Hwy. 66 construction site, with more than 156,000 tons applied so far at seven different locations spread over a mile-long stretch of highway.

That section of roadway also collapsed in late February. The $15,184,562 contract was let on March 1 to Summers & Taylor, Inc., and work began on April 18.

“When we were inspecting the slide area initially, we found several other areas that needed repairs while we were in there,” an engineer said. “Now, we have to mill the road and repave the smaller areas and those will be done.”

The larger portion of the slide area, however, is requiring almost as much reconstruction work as the Hwy. 70 site, he said.

“We have finished all soil excavation and soil nailing there, and about two weeks ago started hauling graded solid rock in there,” he said.

More than 125,000 tons of GSR — 6,500 truckloads — have been required to reconstruct the slope.

An unexpected “hiccup”, he said, was the discovery on Sept. 11, during the excavation process, of acid-producing pyrite rock, which is very uncommon to east Tennessee.

According to federal regulations, that pyritic material — some 40,000 tons of it — has to be removed and trucked to an approved landfill in Morristown that will accept it, at an estimated cost of $1.6 million.

“We have to get that (pyrite) out of there as well,” he said. “Right now, the contractor has 33 trucks in the loop, hauling that rock off and picking up GSR on the way back. Right now, its also looking like the first part of December to get that road (Hwy. 66) open again.”

There, he said, unlike the Hwy. 70 project, both lanes had to be completely reconstructed.

“We wanted to identify whatever needed to be addressed while we are in there,” one engineer said, “because we don’t want to have to re-do this again in five years. Those smaller five sites are not as critical, but if you don’t address them, they could end up something like this,” he said, waving a hand at the massive slide construction zone on Hwy. 70. “And I don’t believe anyone wants that.”

Another engineer said that TDOT will have its crews come in to both sites — hopefully before those roads reopen to the public, while traffic flow is limited — and do any necessary preventative maintenance, like cutting trees from rights-of-way, cleaning out ditches, and repairing shoulders and pavement damaged by heavy truck traffic.

ENSIGN ASHLEY BOWERY: Cherokee NJROTC commissions one of its own

ROGERSVILLE — On September 28, 2019, Cherokee High school’s NJROTC cadets participated in the commissioning ceremony of U.S. Navy Ensign Ashley Bowery at the American Legion Post in Rogersville.

Ensign Bowery is a 2015 graduate of Cherokee High School.

The cadets partaking in the Honor Guard were Cadet Commanding Officer Travis Baxley, Cadet Executive Officer Kameron Sauceman, Cadet LTJG Shannah Gray, Cadet Senior Chief Jade Owen, and Cadet Chief Katlyn Ramsey. The color guard consisted of cadets Senior Chief Zachary Eisenhuth, Senior Chief Brandon Yates, and PO2 Ian Stewart. The color guard was commanded by Cadet Senior Chief Noah Elkins. The National Anthem was sang by cadets LT Elizabeth Massengill and Chief Symon Mallory. The Cadet Chaplain Miguel Dominguez led the opening invocation and the Master of Ceremonies was Cadet Master Chief Kendall Chamberlain.

Chief Warrant Officer Clyde Shumate read a speech he prepared, stating in it that he sees a bright future laid out for Bowery, and that he knows she will work hard and earn her position in the Navy.

Next, Bowery’s parents, Chad Bowery and Jennifer Stroupe, pinned her shoulder boards on while her brother, Victor Bowery, presented his sister’s officer’s cover.

Bowery was then sworn in by Chief Warrant Officer Clyde Shumate. She was presented her officer’s sword by Midshipman Heather Whitt from the University of Memphis.

Chief Warrant Officer Shumate presented her commissioning certificate signed by the President and the Secretary of the Navy.

Ensign Bowery the received her traditional first salute by an enlisted service member from Chief Gary Stidham, Cherokee High School Naval Science Instructor. In honor of tradition and respect, Bowery paid her silver dollar for the “First Salute,” which is also known as the “Silver Dollar Salute.” The “Silver Dollar Salute” is a long-lasting tradition that dates back to the 19th century. A silver dollar is presented by the new officer to the enlisted service member. It’s said that the new officer must pay for their first salute, but they will earn every salute from that point forward. The newly enlisted officer salutes someone they respect or look up to.

Volunteer’s Josie Stapleton (3) goes up for the kill.

American Legion honors families of Hawkins County POWs, MIAs

ROGERSVILLE — “We’re here to honor the family members of our MIA’s and POW’s,” began American Legion Post 21 Commander Dennis Elkins at the Sept. 20 ceremony. “You’re the reason that we’re here. Your parents, grandparents, husbands, wives and all the POW’s and MIA’s are the reason that we have the privilege of being here today, and we certainly appreciate it.”

In addition to the families of the Hawkins Co. POW and MIA’s, State Representative Gary Hicks, former Congressman Bill Jenkins, Terry Harris of U.S. Congressman’s Phil Roe’s office and members of the Cherokee High School JROTC program were in attendance.

The program began with a special addition as Blair Aderhold stood alongside Elkins to lead the group in the pledge of allegiance. Aderhold is the granddaughter of POW Sgt. Howard B. Flowers who was honored during the ceremony.

Vice Commander Jim Weart also explained the symbolism in the POW/MIA table, which was set up at the front of the room.

Former Congressman Bill Jenkins presents certificates to family membersJenkins and Hicks presented certificates to the gathered family members of several Hawkins Co. POW’s and MIA’s. Jenkins actually knew many of the POW’s and MIA’s as well as their family members, so he told the gathered crowd a little bit about each person that he remembered.

— POW’s Sgt. McCauley Price and his brother Pvt. Kay Price were the first to be recognized, with their niece, Jean Napier, representing them.

“I knew both of these people, and I knew them very well,” Jenkins said of the Price brothers. “Jean and I were also at Rogersville High School at the same time about four centuries ago.”

— POW Pvt. Lee S. Charles was the next to be recognized and was represented by his sons Kenneth and Gerald Charles.

“I also knew Lee Charles very well,” Jenkins said. “My family lived in Stanley Valley where they lived. Their father came home in really bad physical condition because of his treatment as a POW.”

He also noted that several of Lee Charles’ brothers served in the military as well, though they did not all serve in WWII as Lee Charles did.

— POW Pvt. Ross H. “Dinky” Mayes was set to be represented by his daughters Brenda Gladson and Joyce Thomas and son Bill Mayes. However, Elkins noted during the ceremony that the family was unable to attend due to a member’s health problems.

— POW Pvt. Jessie M. Carpenter was represented by his brother Gale Carpenter, who Jenkins also noted was a combat veteran in the Korean War. The family also had another brother, Guy Carpenter, who served in WWII and a first cousin who was killed in WWII.

“I’d just like to say that I thank God,” Carpenter said. “There was three of us that fought, and God saw fit to let all three of us come back him. I know it was through Him. It wasn’t what we done, and I want to thank Him.”

— POW Sgt. John Huff, who Elkins noted sadly passed away the day of last year’s event, is survived by his son John Huff Jr. and daughter Debbie Bacon who were unable to attend the ceremony.

— POW Pvt. Lawrence Shoemaker, as Elkins noted, also passed away just shortly after last year’s ceremony though members of Post 21 were able to present his family with a certificate in a hospital ceremony last year shortly before his passing.

— MIA Pfc. Heiskell M. Williams is survived by his brother Don Williams, who was unable to attend the event.

— MIA Pvt. Lewis E. Price is survived by his granddaughter Rhonda Price, who was unable to attend the event. Elkins noted that Price’s remains were identified in 2018 using DNA and were finally interred beside his parents in Rogersville’s Highland Cemetery in December of that year.

— POW Pfc. Lloyd Delph was represented by his sister Cleo Bean, who was unable to attend the ceremony, and his daughter who accepted the certificate on his behalf.

— POW Cpl. James C. Greer was represented by daughters Sue Davis, Wilma Bledsoe, Betty Sandidge and Sarah Clifton.

“Your nation appreciates what he gave for this country,” Jenkins replied when one of the daughters expressed her appreciation. “Everybody who is participating is proud of you, your family and everybody else who has sacrificed in this way.”

— POW S/Sgt. Ralph C. Marshall was represented by his daughters Barbara Gibbons and Elizabeth Potter.

— POW Lt. Raymond E Horne Jr. was represented by his sister Dottie Heck and brother Steve Horne. Jenkins noted that Heck, unfortunately, passed away just a few months ago.

“He was in the Army Air Force, and his plane was shot down over Germany fairly early in the war,” Jenkins said of Horne. “He was a POW, but he stayed in the military and retired as a full Colonel.”

— POW Pvt. John Kyle Bentley was represented by his daughter Sherrie Davis, who was unable to attend.

“I knew Kyle well,” Jenkins said. “His sister, Eunice, was in our class along with (Post 21 member Charlie) Freeman here, who graduated from Rogersville High School at the same time. I saw the parade when John Kyle Bentley came home, and, in later years, I was able to help repay him a little bit while I was serving as Commissioner of Conservation for the state of Tennessee. He was hired and retired from the Department of Conservation after many years of service. He was a wonderful human being. He came home in pretty bad physical shape. I remember in the parade, there were two of them (who were returning POW’s)…and they sure did need some gravy and biscuits to get them going again.”

— MIA Pfc. James E. Begley was represented by his nephew Rick Begley, who was unable to attend.

— MIA S/Sgt. Marion Gale Collier was represented by his brother Ken Collier.

— POW Sgt. Howard B. Flowers was represented by his daughters Nancy Padgham and Jane Rhodes along with his granddaughter Blair Aderhold.

“Howard Flowers and my father were very best friends,” Jenkins said. “Howard was already in the army before WWII started…Howard mailed him a Christmas card from the Philippines before he was captured. It’s a beautiful card. My mother kept it after daddy died and gave it to me.”

Jenkins showed the Christmas card to the gathered crowd and presented the family of Howard Flowers with a copy of it. He explained that the card was mailed from Manilla, Philippines on Nov. 12 1940 and read “From far away Philippines with sincere wishes for a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.”

Elkins also presented Aderhold with a certificate of participation for leading the Pledge.

Names of POW’s and MIA’s are read aloudTerry Harris of Rep. Phil Roe’s office read the names of the county POW’s and MIA’s whose family whereabouts are unknown.

Those POW’s include Pvt. Kyle Jones, Pvt. Horace Lee, Pvt. James R. Richards, Pvt. Audley E. Wyatt, S/Sgt. Frank V. Lee, Pvt. Paul E. Gibson, Pvt. James Potts Jr., Cpl. Dee V. Collier, Pfc. Talmadge C. Burrell, Pvt. Emory Johnson, Pfc. Elidga Housewright, Cpl. J.D. Britton and Pvt. Ira Shelton, Jr.

Those MIA’s include Pvt. Robert K. Looney, Pvt. Eugene Walker, Pvt. William Sensabaugh, Cpl. Elmer Smith, Cpl. D.V. Collier, Pfc. Edgar A. Edens, Pfc. Horace Woods, Pvt. Chas R. Bledsoe, Pvt. Fred McDonald, Lt. Sherrell Davis, T/Sgt. Griffeth Fort, Pvt. Sherman Willis, T/Sgt. J.C. Trent, Pvt. Noah Gilliam Jr. and Pfc. Vean Cavin.

RCS volleyball team recognized, Rep. Hicks receives Friend of TOSS award

ROGERSVILLE — State Rep. Gary Hicks, who is also a member of the faculty at Rogersville City School, was presented with an award Tuesday evening during the Oct. 1, 2019 meeting of the RCS board by Dr. Dale Lynch, the Executive Director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.

“I have worked for the past three years with legislators in Tennessee who support public education, and we don’t have a better friend and supporter of public education than what you have here in Representative Hicks,” Lynch said. “You don’t ever need to take that for granted.”

Lynch said that as the 14-member TOSS board looked at every legislator in the state, there was no doubt as to who would be the best choice for the group’s annual Friend of TOSS Award.

The plaque reads: “The Friend of TOSS Award recognizes those individuals who share our core beliefs in public education and the foundation it provides for our great state. They have given selflessly of their time and support to help us carry out the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents’ work.”

“Congratulations, Representative Gary Hicks, and thank you for what you do here, for the City of Rogersville School District, and for the entire state of Tennessee,” Lynch said in presenting the award.

Consent agenda items approvedThe board, with no discussion or dissension, approved several items listed in the “Consent Agenda”:

• Approved the minutes dated September 3, 2019;

• Approved of the contract between RCS and Lucia Price to provide interpreting services during the 2019-2020 school year.

• Approved policy updates on 2nd reading:

1.101 Role of the Board of Education

1.202 Duties of Board Members

1.2021 Boardsmanship Code of Conduct (TSBA is switching policy 1.1061 to 1.2021.

• Approved the following fundraisers for the 2019-20 school year:

Beta Club, Pizza Plus Sticker Cards, Oct. 2 – Nov. 30;

Beta Club, Strawberries, Jan. – Mar. 2020;

Beta Club, Slushies , 3-4 times during school year; and,

Beta Club, Halloween Dance , Oct. 24.

Approved the following field trips for the 2019-20 school year:

Pre-K, Three Rivers Rambler , Dec. 6;

4th Grade, “The Mystery of the Dinosaurs of the Deep”, at NPAC in Greeneville, April 3, 2020; and,

Beta Club, NETCO Food Show, Oct. 24.

Old BusinessDirector Rebecca Isaacs said that while she had hoped that the board would have been able to approve, at the Oct. 1 meeting, bids for the ventilation renovation project in the 1970s portion of the building, but because the engineer had additional work to do, those bids will now be presented to the RCS board at a special-called meeting on Monday, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m.

Isaacs said that three potential bidders attended a “pre-bid” conference last Friday to review specifications and look at the site.

“That meeting was not mandatory, and the fact that three potential bidders came was significant,” Isaacs said.

All bids will be presented to Facilities Systems’ engineers on Oct. 9 for review.

“They will then make a recommendation to the board of whom they believe is best suited to do the project,” Isaacs added.

The project is slated to take approximately 120 days to complete since much of the necessary materials are not available “off the shelf” and must be built to custom specifications to fit the existing ventilation system in that portion of the building.

Superintendent search process continuesIsaacs, who is retiring at the end of the current school year, said that Dr. Wayne Qualls, whose firm was chosen by the board to search for candidates for the job, has expressed a desire to meet with members of the board at the annual TSBA Leadership Conference and Annual Convention in Nashville, Nov. 14-17.

Isaacs said she attended the annual superintendents’ conference recently and heard “a lot of interest expressed in my position”.

Qualls’ firm headed up the search last year for a new Director of Schools for the Hawkins Co. Board of Education.

Director’s ReportIsaacs noted that the school has received $14,870 in Safe School Grant Funds, and that some of the items that the money will be used for will include new walkie talkies, tinting the bottom portions of windows around the building, and another electronic entry pad.

Enrollment at RCS is now at 630 students, she said, which is still down from last year but does show a slight gain since the beginning of the new school year.

The school will again host a City Employees Appreciation Luncheon on Friday, Nov. 1, the same day that Parent-Teacher Conferences are planned.

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 5 p.m.