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Looking back at 2017

As we celebrate the ticking of the universal clock to another year, we look back at some of the local highlights from 2017.

Weather played a major role, as David Breeding, director of the Office of Emergency Management/Homeland Security, offered advice during a Local Emergency Planning Commission meeting.

“Had the F3 tornado that hit Speedwell been the one that hit Harrogate, then, there’s no doubt in my mind there would have been fatalities….Everyone thinks we’re okay because of the mountains, but if you remember, the one in Harrogate came over the mountain, out of Virginia,” said Breeding.

He recommended those with smart phones to acquire the ReadyTN or the FEMA app because of the use of the GPS system which will notify the public of any local storm warnings.

During that same meeting, Claiborne E-911 director Roger Hager warned of the tenuous grasp we have on computer network security.

“I don’t care what (security software) you buy. Somebody’s working against it before it ever hit’s the market,” said Hager, adding every Internet user should be aware of the risks for hacking every time they log on.

“It’s not just the professional organizations, anymore. It could be the 13-year-old kid that uses the ransom software. It’s a game to them. That’s how they get their kicks,” said Hager.

The Claiborne Commission spent a good bit of time mulling a health and safety standards resolution that, if adopted, would have forced many residents and business owners to clean up their junk.

The final vote came down to 19 against and two — Mike Campbell and Nicholas Epperson — in favor.

Prior to the vote, longtime resident and Claiborne Chamber of Commerce spokesman Rodney England spoke in favor of the resolution as a way to attract business and industry to the county.

“(Prospective residents) get out and ride around the county, and they leave because of the junk. It’s just too many places that are trashy,” said England.

County resident Joe Brooks, who came down on the other side of the issue, said in his blog that enforcement of the resolution would cost the county about $50,000 once salary, compensation, a vehicle, gas and insurance were added to the cost of retaining an enforcement officer.

The commission saw the official retirement of fellow board member Ann Shumate Bowling earlier this year. Stacey Crawford replaced the late Bowling on the commission.

Talk of increasing the county budget committee from nine to all 21 commissioners was scratched in favor of keeping salary costs down. Commissioner Steve Mason, who sponsored the resolution, gave no reason for pulling the item from the agenda.

County residents squeaked by without a property tax increase or another wheel tax, thanks to the due diligence of those who sit on the county budget committee. The committee even managed to include a two percent one-time bonus for county employees, which was in lieu of a raise in salary.

However, a last-minute amendment to the budget, proposed by commissioner Billy Johnson, failed by a vote of 13 to eight. The proposal would have continued the $100 cuts to the commissioner salaries.

The Claiborne school system saw a changing of the guard this year, as Connie Holdway retired from her position as director of schools. The seat was hotly contested as candidates were narrowed eventually to just four finalists.

Dr. Joseph Miller won the position, beating out local hopefuls Linda Keck, principal of Cumberland Gap High and principal Jim Shipley of Springdale Elementary.

The school board spent a good deal of time, over several meetings, mulling a proposed contract from PESG (Professional Educational Services Group) that, if signed, would have handed PESG the task of placing substitute teachers at the various campuses.

Although several board members said that PESG was a quality company, the school board decided not to move forward with the agreement.

Halloween night became a harrowing event for two women lost on a mountain. Local realtor Sherry Grant McCreary Neal and a client found themselves stuck while attempting to visit a property by ATV on Chumley Mountain in Speedwell. The two women were successfully rescued, but not before spending the night trekking over miles of untamed wilderness and making camp for the night on some rocks.

The women were found the next morning by a logger.

Reportedly, over 100 people joined in the extensive search.

The historic Davis Creek Primitive Baptist Church celebrated its 220th year in continuous operation during an event on Oct. 1. Fundraising continues for the needed repairs to the building.

The Claiborne Progress celebrated two milestones this year — its 130th anniversary and its purchase by Boone Newspapers, Inc.

Little has changed in the day-to-day operations. Local news continues to be gathered and distributed to eager readers of both the print and website versions of your historic weekly newspaper.