Greene Countians utility and emergency crews have a history of answering the call to help those struck by extreme weather, and the threat of Hurricane Dorian is no different.
An ambulance crew from the Greeneville-Greene County Emergency Medical Service has been in Florida to assist crews there, and Greeneville Light & Power System teams headed out early Wednesday en route to South Carolina.
Where local responders will travel to assist will be determined by the storm’s path, which remains in flux. (See related story, page 8A.)
The ambulance crew is part of a Strike Team from Region 1 and Region 2 that left for Florida on Saturday.
To be eligible to respond, a Strike Team has to have five ambulances with two crewmen each as well as a support vehicle with other equipment like tents and supplies, explained EMS Director Calvin Hawkins.
To make the regional Strike Team, the Greeneville-Greene County EMS provided one ambulance and Sullivan County provided the support vehicle, while Knox County in Region 2 provided four ambulances and crews.
The crews were sent to Gainesville, Florida, for staging, Hawkins said. The local ambulance crew were sent to transport a patient from St. Augustine to a safer area in Jacksonville.
However, with the projected change in the track of the hurricane, the local crew and the others in the regional Strike Team were directed on Tuesday to travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, where they will be staged for responding to hurricane damage if needed.
“We don’t know how long they will be there or what they will be doing,” he said. “It depends on what the hurricane does.”
The Carolinas are also the destination for 10 GLPS crewmen. The volunteers set out Wednesday for South Carolina to assist as needed with power restoration.
GLPS President and CEO Bill Carroll asked that the community keep the local crews — as well as all the other utility crews and emergency responders — in their thoughts and prayers.
“Working away from home in an unknown area under adverse weather conditions is potentially dangerous,” he said. “As always, we are extremely proud of our crewmen and of the work they do here and elsewhere.”
The representative of Santee Cooper, a large utility in South Carolina, specifically asked for crews from GLPS in its request for assistance, he said. GLPS crews have assisted the utility in the aftermath of past hurricanes, such as Florence in September 2018.
Contract crews currently working for GLPS left late last week for Florida in anticipation of the hurricane hitting there, Carroll said. However, he has been told that they are to be relocated to an area that is expected to feel greater effects from the storm, but he has not heard where that will be.
On Sept. 3, 1794, the Rev. Hezekiah Balch’s dream to bring higher education to the East Tennessee frontier came to fruition with the chartering of a new college.
Two-hundred and twenty-five years later, that college, now known as Tusculum University, celebrated its founding with Charter Day, a campus-wide celebration Tuesday that brought students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, board of trustees members and community supporters together for fellowship.
“We could not be more delighted to have you all with us on this wonderful day,” Acting President Dr. Greg Nelson told the group assembled under two tents for the lunchtime celebration. “It is a remarkable moment in our history and one I think we should take note of.”
What is now Tusculum University is the oldest higher education institution in Tennessee. It is actually older than the state itself, Nelson noted, and older than what is now the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, whose predecessor was the second college chartered in the state.
“It is an honor for all of us to be here and to play a small part in this big endeavor started 225 years ago,” Nelson said.
The vision and ideals of the college founders are important for what Tusculum becomes, he continued.
“Our founders’ vision and mission will guide us in the future,” the acting president said. ““Our faculty, staff and students have worked hard over 225 years and continue today to provide an institution of higher education that East Tennessee and the Appalachian Mountains deserve. We have achieved great things together, and even brighter things are ahead in our future. Let’s always connect Tusculum’s future to our history and remember our roots, and our mission will guide us as we walk into the future.”
Tusculum has enjoyed support not only from its alumni and others related with the college but also through partnerships with the local community, Nelson said.
In the future, the university hopes to strengthen those relationships, and its leaders encourage both students and staff to continue working within the community to show how the institution is a benefit to the surrounding towns and reflect the impact that local and regional support can have on campus, he continued.
Looking at the Tusculum of today, Nelson noted the growth of the master of business administration program, particularly among adult students, and the College of Education’s partnerships with school systems. Another program he highlighted is the Niswonger College of Optometry, which is advancing toward accreditation.
“It’s one of those generational moments in the history of Tusculum that future generations will look back and say, ‘We’re grateful to Tusculum not only for what it did for this campus but for what it did for this region,’” Nelson said.
As part of the celebration, Tusculum also had a “Day of Giving” to commemorate Charter Day. As of lunchtime, $2,188 had been raised to support the college and its programs. By the end of the day, $6,108 had been given as part of the special fundraising effort, according to the Tusculum website.
Support of the institution is needed, Nelson said, to continue bringing quality education to the region as well as for new programs such as the Niswonger College of Optometry to meet the ideas espoused by the university’s founders.
Nelson led a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Tusculum as the celebration began. The event was held in large tents on a grassy area between McCormick Hall and the Niswonger Commons, buildings named for the university’s two greatest benefactors, Nettie Fowler McCormick and Scott Niswonger.
As the program concluded, Jill Salyers, vice president for institutional advancement, communications and marketing, read a letter from Tusculum alumnus and State Rep. David Hawk (R-5). In the letter, Hawk congratulated Tusculum on its milestone and commented on its impact on the lives of generations of students, including himself.
“My experiences at Tusculum pushed me toward a career in public service,” he wrote.
On display at the celebration was the document chartering the institution in 1794. Called Greeneville College, the charter was enacted by the legislature of the Territory South of the Ohio River since Tennessee was not yet a state.
Balch’s college was located outside of Greeneville on what is now Old Asheville Highway. The current campus is an expansion of the Tusculum Academy, founded in the early 1800s by the Rev. Samuel Doak and his son, Samuel Witherspoon Doak, located behind what is now the Doak House Museum.
Following the Civil War, Greeneville College and what was then Tusculum College merged, with Greeneville College’s contribution to the merger its original library. The books from the library had been hidden by its trustees during the war and are now kept in the President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library, housed in the oldest building on the main campus. The college became Tusculum University last year.
Start dreaming of flannel and spiced drinks. Fall color this year has the potential to be vibrant.
“I am predicting a return to a much better fall foliage season than last year, which was a bad one,” Howard Neufeld, professor of biology at Appalachian State University, said in an interview with The Greeneville Sun this week.
Dubbed the “Fall Color Guy” by the Boone-based North Carolina college, there are some caveats to Neufeld’s calculation. Perhaps most important, there can’t be lots of heavy rain through next month. The toastier-than-normal weather northeast Tennessee is presently enduring also isn’t a good thing for vivid autumn color.
“The cooler and sunnier it is in September, the better the colors in October is the rule,” he said.
But the biologist said the region’s more normal temperatures from April through August have helped balance the current heatwave. The prediction for a captivating display of painted mountains and hillsides might surprise some given the above-average amount of rain in 2019.
It seems plenty of rain in the spring and summer paired with limited precipitation just before September makes for a pleasing autumn recipe.
“It has been rainy, but August in this area was dry,” he said.
As for when stunning yellow, red and orange hues will dot the local landscape, most predictors peg late October and early November as the peak time to view fall color in Greene County.
The interactive 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map, a chart on the tourism-focused SmokeyMountains.com, shows minimal color change through the first week of October. The county’s highest elevations will see more color by the second and third week of October, peaking around Halloween. The region’s lower elevations should see the best foliage from early-to-mid November, according to the map.
Neufeld’s projections are slightly different.
In the mountains, he eyes mid-October as the best time to spot the fiery show. In Greeneville, the peak will likely come around Nov. 1.
“If it is unusually warm, you might move these dates back by three-to-five days, as trees tend to color up later when it’s warmer,” he said.
As always, strong storms and heavy rain could put a considerable damper on the vibrance of fall. Hurricane Dorian spared eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, though forecasters predict a more active hurricane season through November. September and October are usually the height of hurricane season.
As analysts concede, accurately projecting when foliage will peak is just as difficult – perhaps more so – than describing if color will be good, bad or somewhere in the middle. Neufeld maintains that autumn hues will be lush if the weather pattern “persists and we don’t get excessive rainfall in September and October.”
“At this point in time, that is the best I can do,” he added.
“New” was the theme of Tuesday’s Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
A new aldermen took his place on the board; an initial step was taken toward a possible health clinic for use by town employees; and new patrol cars are to be purchased for the Greeneville Police Department.
Cal Doty, who was elected to represent the 1st Ward in the recent Greeneville municipal election, was administered the oath of office by Mayor W.T. Daniels at the beginning of the meeting. This is the first public office for Doty, who took his seat on the board following the oath and participated in the remainder of the meeting.
Oaths were also administered to Buddy Hawk, who was re-elected to his sixth term as 1st Ward alderman, and Johnny Honeycutt, who was re-elected as an at-large member of the Greeneville Water Commission. Honeycutt has served on the commission since 2007.
In action items, the board approved a proposal from Corley’s Pharmacy to supply pharmaceuticals to a proposed employee clinic.
The town has been exploring establishing an employee clinic in partnership with Greeneville Light & Power System and Ballad Health System, City Administrator Todd Smith explained to the board.
“This will take our wellness program to the next step,” he said. “Our wellness program has been successful. But, we have gotten to a plateau with the wellness program. Now there is a need for a clinic to address long-term health issues.”
The clinic could help employees with such conditions as high blood pressure and diabetes, he said. A possible site for the clinic, which would be convenient to both town and Greeneville Light & Power employees, has been found — the former occupational health office near Greeneville Community Hospital West.
As part of the clinic, Ballad Health would distribute pharmaceuticals to employees, and the town sought bids for the supply of these medicines, he said.
The bid from Corley’s Pharmacy was the only one received, he said. Alderman Scott Bullington asked the procedure the town used in seeking bids.
The typical procedure of advertising in the newspaper and on the town’s website was followed, Smith said.
After discussion of the procedure, Daniels said if the aldermen wish to discuss changes to how bid submissions are sought, it would be a good topic for the board’s upcoming work session.
In other business, the board approved the purchase of 13 Ford Interceptor sedans and equipment for each. Assistant Police Chief Mike Crum explained that the department had budgeted the purchase of five vehicles during the current fiscal year.
However, the department has an opportunity to purchase 13 vehicles now, which will result in an estimated $56,000 in savings, Crum said.
The total cost of $523,747 will be taken from the town’s unassigned funds, with the police department paying the amount back over a 3-year period using revenue from litigation fees, he said.
The new patrol cars will be fitted to use propane, resulting in fuel cost savings, Crum said.
With the purchase of the 13 vehicles at once, officers will be able to take a vehicle home, he said. The department is instituting a policy regarding officers driving the vehicles to their homes.
Benefits from allowing officers to take patrol cars home include a faster response to emergencies and ensuring that the officers have the equipment inside the car that would be needed in a given situation, Crum said.
Allowing the officers to take patrol cars will also reduce their use and reduce maintenance costs, he said. Currently, patrol cars are used 24-hours-a-day as they are driven by officers on each shift.
The board received a report about the progress of the dog park/disc golf course on Whirlwind Road. Parks and Recreation Director Butch Patterson said an agreement has almost been finalized with an adjoining property owner in regard to right-of-way to create a safety entrance into the park.
Fencing installation should begin in the next two weeks, Patterson said, and work continues to design the 18 holes in the disc golf course.
The board also authorized the mayor to sign a contract with the state for the Local Historic District Survey Project Grant, which will then be subject to final approval by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation/Tennessee Historical Commission.
The grant, provided through a federal program, will fund a survey of the Local Historic District. The grant provides $12,000, with $8,000 in matching funds from the town, for a survey of the properties inside a district, which has not been done in the past.
The board approved the appointments of Hazel Bible, Patricia Elmore and Velma LaRoche for the Roby Fitzgerald Adult Center Advisory Board.
The board also approved a special event request for the dedication of the new Christian Life Center at Holston United Methodist Home for Children. The ceremony will result in the closure of Wesley Avenue from noon to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 19.
A special event sign request was also approved for signs for Gifts for Kids registration.
Action was tabled on a annual stormwater procedures report that will be posted on the town’s website this month.