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GPD: Caution Urged With Seed Packets From China

The Greeneville Police Department cautions the public about unsolicited seed packets apparently mailed from China to some local residents.

“This is possibly some sort of attempt to harm the environment. Do not plant the seeds. The (Tennessee) Department of Agriculture is handling the situation with the seeds,” a post on the Greeneville police Facebook age said.

In recent days, officials in at least 27 states have asked residents to report receiving unsolicited seed packages that appear to have been sent from China. They warn the seeds may be invasive or otherwise harmful.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has been contacted by residents who received seeds in the mail that they did not order. It advises residents not to plant or even handle the seeds.

“The seeds appear to have been shipped from China, and in some cases, the envelopes are labeled jewelry or beads,” according to the Department of Agriculture.

“While we have no reason at this time to suspect that these seeds were sent with ill intention, we want to take every precaution to be sure an invasive or otherwise threatening plant species doesn’t take hold here,” state Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher said.

Hatcher said that imported plant materials “go through rigorous testing and inspection to ensure they are not carrying any plant disease or pests and do not pose any threat to health and environment.”

There is no evidence so far to indicate the unsolicited seeds have gone through appropriate inspection, or if they are even the type of seed they are labeled to be, Hatcher said.

He said U.S. Department of Agriculture officials believe the seeds may be a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

The Greeneville Police Department recommends sealing the seeds inside two plastic bags and mailing all packaging to: Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Attention Plant Certification, PO Box 40627, Nashville, TN 37204.

While mailing the seeds to the Agriculture Department is preferred, residents can also use an online form to notify the state agency about receiving the unsolicited seeds, then double-bag the seeds and all packaging and dispose of it in the trash. Lack of air, light, and water is a safe way to effectively dispose of the seeds, the state says.

The form can be found at .

If already planted, “dig them up or the sprouts and double bag and place them in the trash,” the GPD says.

For more information from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, go to

Brewing Storms

Board Of Zoning Appeals Denies Cell Tower Requests

The Greene County Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday denied requests related to the placement of a cell tower off of Stone Dam Road.

The board upheld a decision by the Greene County Building and Planning Office not to permit use of an “engineered fall zone” to meet cell tower setback requirements for the proposed project.

The board also denied a further request for front, left side and right side setback variances for the cell tower.

The cell tower was proposed by Verizon Wireless for property owned by Gary and Laura Smith at 435 Stone Dam Road. A large part of the parcel sits off the roadway and is currently undeveloped.

The decision to deny the use of the engineered fall zone to meet setback requirements was based on two sections of the Greene County Zoning Resolution.

The regulations require that the minimum distance from the base of a cell tower to any adjacent property, interior lot lines and street right-of-way shall be at least equivalent to the height of the tower plus 25 feet. The proposed tower was to be 160 feet fall, which would require a setback of 185 feet.

The engineered clear zone is addressed in regulations about structures inside the setback requirement area. No structures are allowed inside that area except for support buildings for the tower.

However, if a licensed engineer submits a certified plan or letter that a clear fall zone is less than setback requirements, the regulations do allow property owners to place structures outside the clear fall zone. A clear or engineered fall zone is the area calculated to include the base of a tower that would not fall in a wind or other event and the upper portion of the tower that would fold over or collapse.

The Board of Zoning Appeals agreed with the Building Official’s interpretation that the intent of the regulations was to provide the fall zone for placement of structures within the setback area and that the setbacks are meant to diminish the noise and visual impact from a tower in addition to providing protection to adjoining properties from the danger of a falling tower.

Verizon’s position was that the engineered fall zone could be used to provide setbacks that would meet requirements. Using the fall zone, they argued the setbacks can be decreased to almost 147 feet in the front, almost 160 feet on the right side and 143 feet on the left.

The related variance request was also denied. In lengthy discussions, it appeared that other locations on the property could be used for the tower.

In other business, the board granted a front yard setback variance for the Sherry Myers property at 35 Doak Hensley Road to allow the construction of an addition to the home that will be 45 feet from the street’s centerline, 10 feet less than regulations require.

The property is unusually shaped and other houses in the area have similar setbacks from the road centerline.

Local Virus Cases Increase For Eighth Straight Day

Greene County recorded an increase in new coronavirus cases for the eighth straight day on Thursday.

Eight new cases were recorded locally, bringing total cases of COVID-19 in the county to 324 during the pandemic, according to Thursday’s update from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Active cases now total 191, up seven from Wednesday. Another Greene Countian was added to the number of those identified as recovered from the virus, now at 128, according to the state report.

One person in Greene County was hospitalized with the virus in the 24-hour period covered in the state report. Twenty-one people locally have required hospital care due to the virus since the pandemic began.

The last day that no new cases were recorded in Greene County was July 22, one of three days in July thus far in which no new cases were added. The other two were July 1 and July 12, according to data from the state. On July 1, Greene County had a total of 85 coronavirus cases, and now has had 239 more.

For the past two weeks, Greene County is averaging just under 10 new cases a day. The state has recommended that long term care facilities not allow visitors if their communities are averaging more than 10 new cases per day for a two-week period. Earlier this week, the county was over that threshold.

According to state data, the age group with the most cases in Greene County are those between 41 and 50, with 69 cases reported. There have been 64 cases recorded for people in the 21-30 age group.

Two groups have each had 38 cases: ages 11-20 and 51-60, according to the state data. Thirty-three people between 31-40 have been diagnosed with the virus as well as 32 individuals between 61-70 years of age. Cases of children 10 years and younger total 22, with 21 cases for those 71-80. Seven people 81 or older have tested positive for the illness.

In counties surrounding Greene, Sullivan County had the highest number of new cases on Thursday with 34, Washington had 30 and Hamblen, 24. Hawkins County had 13 new cases and Cocke County, 6.

Washington County continues to have the highest number of active cases in Northeast Tennessee with 631. Hamblen has 460 active cases with 233 in Sullivan, 185 in Hawkins and 165 in Cocke.

Statewide, 2,049 new cases were reported by the Department of Health on Thursday. Tennessee has had 102,871 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. There are 37,604 active cases across the state.

Thirteen more deaths were reported state, bringing the total to 1,033. Listed as recovered are 64,234 statewide.

Most people who contract COVID-19 will become only mildly or moderately ill, according to health experts. However, for the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, it can cause serious illness and can be fatal.

Tests are being administered at the Greene County Health Department 9 a.m.-noon. Monday-Friday. No appointment is necessary, but it is recommended that people call 423-798-1749 to register to speed up the testing process on site.

Ballad Health asks anyone concerned they may have the virus to call the system’s Nurse Connect line at 833-822-5523 to be scheduled for testing at the individual’s nearest testing site. The line is active 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Testing is taking place at Greeneville Community Hospital East.

Those who need to speak to someone about mental and emotional challenges the coronavirus may be causing, can call Frontier Health’s 24-hour crisis line at 877-928-9062, Tennessee’s 24-hour crisis line at 855-274-7471, or the federal mental health services help line at 1-800-985-5990.