Looking back to 2019

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, January 1, 2020

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We have closed the chapter to 2019, the year that saw many ups and downs for our county. Here are a few reminders of what we have gone through as a community as we look forward to 2020.

Claiborne county residents remain divided on the prospect of a charter government. The July 3 edition of the Claiborne Progress informed our readers of the official filing of the 88 page document created by the 9 member charter committee.

The matter will be decided by referendum vote during the August general election.

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In 1979, the state enacted legislation to allow counties the option to establish a charter form of government. Shelby and Knox counties are the only ones to have chosen the option.

The May 29 edition of the paper detailed a proposal by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to revamp the U.S. 25E/Cedar Fork intersection. A full-capacity crowd attended the public hearing.

The original proposal was eventually scrapped by TDOT in favor of starting over with a clean blueprint that will better fit the needs of those who routinely travel that area.

Torrential rains plagued county residents for much of 2019, leaving floodwaters to battle in several areas. The Feb. 27 edition reported woes associated with what some residents in the Gap Creek area characterized as a lack of a “proper bridge.” Residents living along the road were reportedly trapped, on and off, for 3 weeks during the early part of the year.

Heavy rains throughout the year resulted in floodwaters barring Gap Creek residents from travel. Other areas of the county fared no better.

The Claiborne Commission recently voted to continue the Road Department wheel tax. Many residents seem to agree that some of the additional revenue should be funneled into repairing those areas that are prone to flooding.

The Progress reported in its March 6 edition about the establishment of a brick and mortar Family Justice Center. The project was in its early stages at the time of the report, with grant applications waiting for approval.

Jared Effler, attorney general for the 8th Judicial District, spoke about the issue during the February meeting of the Claiborne Commission.

“History is a great teacher. And, what that’s taught us through our Child Advocacy Centers is that we can do a much better job of serving child victims, if we can bring them under one roof where they can get all the services they need,” said Effler.

The county was successful in acquiring the funds and is currently in the process of fulfilling the requirements to open the facility.

The Claiborne Commission adopted a resolution in March of 2018 to erect signage honoring the late Douglas Wayne Tripp, the Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper who was murdered in 1991 in the line of duty.

The Claiborne Progress reported in its May 22, 2019 edition about the long-awaited dedication ceremony, held at the bridge that crosses the Powell River.

Tripp was 42 years old when he died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck and shoulder. He was sitting in his cruiser, in the process of writing up a speeding ticket, when the rifle shots cracked the stillness in the minutes before midnight on May 18.

Tripp was a 20 year law enforcement veteran, at the time of his death.

The Aug. 21 edition informed our readers that a plea agreement had been reached in connection with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) sting of the Claiborne Sheriff’s Office. The TBI came away with enough proof to warrant the indictment of then-sheriff David Ray, former jailer Larry Lee Martin and Justice Center employee Larry Allen ‘Fireball’ Roberts.

Roberts was initially indicted on two counts of official misconduct for using public property to acquire marijuana for personal use. He was sentenced to two years’ unsupervised probation.

Martin and Ray are reportedly still waiting on their individual days in court.

The same edition of the paper reported the work being done to complete Phase II of the Downtown Tazewell Revitalization Program. Sidewalks along Main Street were revamped to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Phase I focused on the portion of roadway from the Methodist Church to the Claiborne Election Commission Office and from the corner of Kivett Drive down the hill to Hardee’s Restaurant. Phase II took up where the first phase ended, running up the hill from the Methodist Church to the Claiborne Medical Center and from the Election Office past Tazewell City Hall to the end of the street.

Part of the funding went to exchanging existing street lights with power-saving ones and positioning benches and trash receptacles strategically along the street. Money from Phase I also allowed the installation of a decorative clock in the Rome Cardwell Memorial Park.

The Aug. 21 edition also carried a front-page story touting the tremendous work that had been done by students, faculty and administration that led the school system to be designated by the state as an ‘advancing district.’ According to the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE), this designation is just one step beneath the highest ranking that can be achieved.

The story also announced that Springdale Elementary and H.Y. Livesay Middle had been designated Reward Schools. This was the second time Livesay had achieved the honor.

The creation of the ‘Fresh Start Program’ – the brainchild of county resident Sherri Hoskins – continues to be recognized for its innovative approach by enticing jail inmates to achieve a brighter future.

The July 31 edition of the Progress highlighted the program, which continues to gain momentum.

Hoskins sweated over the particulars for two long years before establishing the program under the umbrella of Appalachian Promise.

She began the pilot program in February with 12 male Claiborne County Jail inmates.

The men work at Homesteader, Inc., where their salaries go directly into bank accounts to pay off court costs, fines, probation fees and, for those who owe them, restitution and child support.

The earnings also go toward the building of an “untouchable” savings account that will help pay for living expenses like rent and utilities, once the inmate is released. Another portion goes toward paying off any debts.

Instead of leaving jail and going immediately back to their old ways, the men now have the chance to change the directions of their lives, said Hoskins.

The program caught the eye of Tennessee governor Bill Lee, who is in the process of encouraging other counties across the state to copy Hoskins’ program.