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Kingsport man killed in local wreck

A Kingsport man lost his life last week in a car crash in Rogersville.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, at 1:26 on Thursday afternoon, a Freightliner tractor-trailer driven by Gregory Noe, 59, of Russellville had stopped at the traffic light at Highway 11W and Park Boulevard.

Nicholas Key, 23, was traveling the same southbound direction behind the tractor-trailer but failed to stop.

Noe was not injured in the accident.

Key’s 2021 Nissan Altima struck the trailer and ended up underneath it. No skid marks were visible at the accident.

Although the speed limit is 55 m.p.h. at the intersection, overhead signs warn of the traffic light before it is reached.

An additional report is expected to follow.

Cherokee High School celebrates prom night

Cherokee High School held its prom Saturday in downtown Rogersville. Below are Nathaniel Johnson and Silver Schneider, Madelyn Hogan and Hunter King, and Hannah Hammonds and friend.

CDC lifts requirements for fully vaccinated people

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released radical new guidelines last week for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those who are fully vaccinated (which in most cases means two injections, and a waiting period of two weeks for them to take effect), you can return to a normal life as you choose

“Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC stated in an official statement updated May 16.

Other exceptions to the guidance include healthcare settings, public transportation and special requirements for detention centers.

“If you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms,” the CDC recommends. Otherwise, people who are fully vaccinated don’t need to get tested or quarantined just due to being around someone who has COVID.

Although Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee allowed the county’s mask mandate to expire in September 2020, he has continued to encourage mask wearing and social distancing, but emphasizing it more heavily after he himself tested positive for COVID019 in December.

“As this virus rages,” Lee wrote on his Facebook page in December, “my positive test is a reminder that no one is immune from COVID, that following all precautions as I have done is not a guarantee, but it is what we know to be vital to stopping the spread of the disease and so I ask everyone to wear a mask, stay home as much as possible, socially distance yourself from those not in your household.”

Lee did not respond to a request for comment on the CDC’s new guidelines.

At press time, many major retailers, including the Rogersville Wal-mart, had removed mask requirements for fully vaccinated shoppers and employees, but most smaller businesses will be making individual decisions. For example, the Liberty Market in Rogersville has removed its signing requiring masks, while The Rogersville Review has not.

People are encouraged to keep a mask handy when visiting places outside their home or workplace, in case they are still required.

People who have not been vaccinated, including young children and those with compromised immune systems, should still wear masks and maintain social distancing of 6 feet, the CDC says, and those who can should get vaccinated.

The rate of vaccination across the United States has declined since March, with an estimated 60 percent of the population having received at least one shot.

Ashley Salyers made it 3-for-3 in qualifying for the state track meet in the girls triple jump in the sectional meet Saturday at Science Hill.

Heath Miller qualified for the state track meet with a third-place finish in the boys triple jump.

Sophomore Amelia Metz will compete in the state track meet after placing third in the girls discus.

Hawkins County Memorial Gardens now under new management

Broken contracts, broken promises and criminal theft have left many citizens of Hawkins County and their relatives distraught over conditions in Hawkins County Memorial Gardens, but a newly formed nonprofit promises to heal the wounds.

In early 2020, Hawkins County Memorial Gardens Inc. was incorporated as a non-profit, community-based organization with the sole intent and purpose of establishing, operating, and maintaining a community cemetery at the existing Hawkins County Memorial Gardens.

The board of directors has announced that effective May 13, 2021, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has transferred ownership of Hawkins County Memorial Gardens to the non-profit corporation HCMG Inc., who will immediately begin operating the cemetery.

Those owning cemetery plots in Hawkins County Memorial Gardens have suffered through an unimaginable decade of broken contracts, broken promises, and broken hearts. The fallout of the actions and inactions of the prior owners and operators of the cemetery are truly in the past, the HCMG board says.

On June 10, 2020, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance approved HCMG Inc.’s request to operate the cemetery as a community cemetery pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 46-1-106(b), subject to several specific conditions and subject to final approval of the court.

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle, in the Chancery Court for the State of Tennessee, Twentieth Judicial District, in Davidson County, on April 6, 2021, approved and executed an order authorizing the transfer of Hawkins County Memorial Gardens to HCMG Inc.

These actions were the result of a Dec. 2, 2014, Court Order granting the State of Tennessee the authority to place and hold the cemetery property in a receivership and also to sale/transfer or otherwise dispose of the cemetery subject to the court’s approval.

Effective immediately, the cemetery will be operated by an all-volunteer board of directors that will operate and maintain the cemetery in a manner to earn and maintain the trust of the community and those owning plots.

The board intends to operate and maintain the cemetery in a way as to honor those already interred and those that will be in the future, a board statement said. “This is a place of reflection, memory, and respect. The board intends to make every possible effort within the limited means to see that the cemetery is properly mowed and maintained in order to be attractive and respectable.”

The cemetery can now offer the remaining plots (approximately 3,000) for sale to the public. This has not been possible since the cemetery was placed in receivership. A fee schedule has been established, approved, and enacted by the Board. All funds placed in the Perpetual Care trust by the prior owners remain in the Trust.

In order to operate the cemetery in an attractive, efficient, and safe manner, rules have been enacted by the board.

“These reasonable fees and rules are in the interest of all concerned so that the cemetery may always be a place of respect, abiding beauty, and a source of continual satisfaction to all who have interests and ownership in Hawkins County Memorial Gardens,” the statement says.

All plots presently owned by individuals will not be affected by the transfer of the cemetery to HCMG Inc.

The available vacant plots owned by the Hawkins County Memorial Gardens and the previous owners are now property of HCMG Inc. and will be sold as described earlier. The net proceeds from these sales and other fees collected will be utilized only for the operation, maintenance, and upkeep of the cemetery, the plots, and common areas including the access road and monuments.

HCMG Inc. will not and cannot honor any pre-need contingency contracts for grave openings (services) or outer burial containers or markers (merchandise) purchased through its predecessors. Those claims are separate from HCMG Inc. and will continue to be addressed by the criminal court of Hawkins County.

Most members of the all-volunteer board have relatives already interred in Hawkins County Memorial Gardens. These volunteer board members recognized the severe need and were compelled to take these actions in order to properly preserve the cemetery with the dignity and honor that is required.

“This is truly a new day and this organization needs the support of the owners of the cemetery plots and the entire community,” the board statement reads. “The purpose of this endeavor is to serve the public as a truly community-oriented, community-owned and -operated cemetery committed to serve in a trustworthy and open manner.

“We, the board of directors, ask for your prayers, patience, and cooperation as we all move forward, together in an effort to heal and build a new legacy for Hawkins County Memorial Gardens.”

For further information, contact: HCMGcemetery@mail.com

Surgoinsville Vice Mayor insists 2021-2022 town budget include employee raises

Though the Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Aldermen did approve the first reading of the proposed 2021-2022 town budget at their May 10 meeting, Vice Mayor Bob Jarnigan noted that he will not vote for the final proposed budget unless money is allotted for employee raises.

When Mayor Merrell Graham explained that there was currently no money allotted in the budget for these raises, Jarnigan replied, “there’s got to be.”

Jarnigan explained that the town’s revenue will actually increase by roughly $10,000 during the 2021-2022 fiscal year, as it was recently discovered that some Surgoinsville businesses’ sales tax revenue was mistakenly going to other jurisdictions.

For example, the town only recently discovered that the sales tax from Hilltop Towing and Auto Repair had been paid to Rogersville and Hawkins County instead of the town of Surgoinsville. However, Jarnigan noted that “there are more businesses out there” whose sales tax revenue is going to the wrong jurisdiction.

When errors such as this are discovered, the state allows the shorted municipality to recover only one year’s worth of revenue. As a result, Surgoinsville will receive roughly $4,200 from Rogersville and $5,500 from the county as a one-time payment of exactly $9,779.

“We’re getting about $10,000 back, and that would more than take care of a raise for the employees,” Jarnigan said of the recovered sales tax revenue.

He then noted that it has been around six years since the town has offered a raise for its employees, though some employees have received bonuses.

“If we had given them 25 cents an hour (extra) for the last six years, that would have been $1.50,” he said. “We shouldn’t have let it gone this long. I worked in a factory for 41 years, and, in that 41 years, I don’t guess there were two years that I didn’t get some kind of raise.”

Graham suggested that the board discuss a proposed employee raise with the intention of including the raise within the second draft of the budget.

“I’d like for it to be at least 25 cents on the hour,” Jarnigan said. “That doesn’t sound like much, but, over a year’s time that’s $520.”

“Our funds are in very good shape,” Graham said. “It’s the best shape probably since I’ve been in town.”

“There’s a lot more than the pay raise,” Alderman Matthew Somers said of the budget. “There’s a lot of stuff we need to go over line by line.”

City Recorder Pamela Mullins noted that the town has roughly $640,000 just in the general fund and around $30,000 in savings.

The budget’s first reading was approved 4-1 with only Somers voting no. The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. on May 24 to discuss the final draft of the budget, which will be up for final approval on June 14.