Work on a new fire station for the Town of Greeneville will be moving forward.
The new fire station will be located in the presently open field between Forest Street and Carson Street, and will replace the station sits at the intersection of Vann Road and the Asheville Highway that is over 60 years old.
The land for the new station was purchased from the Greeneville Adventist Academy a few years ago in preparation for the project.
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to accept a $3.7 million bid for the project at its meeting Tuesday.
Multiple bids were received for the project. The winning bid was submitted by Powell-based construction company Evans-Ailey.
According to Town Administrator Todd Smith, Evans-Ailey has experience with building fire stations and is ready to tackle the project.
Town officials also spoke with officials in other cities where Evans-Ailey had constructed fire stations, and those officials expressed satisfaction with the company’s work.
The $3.7 million bid is more than the $3.5 million budgeted for the project. According to Smith, that $3.7 million price tag is likely to decrease slightly as the town works with the contractor to decrease costs.
“I was really pleased with the bid we got, considering the current market we are in,” Smith said.
The project will be paid for with COVID-19 relief funding. The Town of Greeneville is expecting to receive between $3.9 million and $4.4 million in relief funding after discussions with the State Comptroller’s Office.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will wait until its next meeting to decide on instituting a 4% hotel tax in Greeneville.
The measure was tabled after its second reading and public hearing on Tuesday.
The measure would institute a 4% tax on accommodations for people staying in hotels or motels within the city limits.
Greene County currently has a 7% hotel/motel tax, but the state has instituted a policy change that will now allow municipalities to levy their own lodging tax on top of the county tax.
This means that, if approved, the combined hotel/motel tax rate within the Town of Greeneville would be 11%.
As a stipulation of the policy change, the state government requires that revenue raised through the tax be used to support and promote the tourism industry.
Aldermen Cal Doty expressed concern with the new tax and made it known that he had communicated with local hotel owners that fear their business will be harmed by higher taxes on hotel bills.
Doty also explained that if other communities do not raise their taxes, then Greeneville’s hotels may seem too expensive to travelers in comparison to other towns.
“We need to know where we stand,” Doty said.
CEO of the Greene County Partnership Jeff Taylor also shared the concerns of local hotel owners and how it may impact commerce and tourism in the town.
“There is a concern that we may outpace our market and lose business to Morristown of Johnson City. People are okay with paying more money, but they want the quality in return. We do not have a lot of inventory to back that up,” Taylor said.
Taylor brought up the possibility of instituting a gradual tax, rather than going straight to the 4% maximum allowed by the state.
Smith told the board that he would talk to surrounding governments in neighboring counties, and find out if they plan on instituting a new tax.
“I have heard rumblings that other communities will be doing the same thing in introducing a new tax,” Smith said.
Mayor W.T. Daniels closed the session by emphasizing the importance of public hearings on measures such as the hotel tax.
“If anyone’s got something to say, please come to the meetings and let your thoughts be known,” said Daniels.
Greene County Sheriff Wesley Holt has announced he will seek reelection to the office.
He made the announcement after speaking to the Greene County Republican Party on Monday.
Holt was elected to the office in 2018, defeating then-sheriff Pat Hankins.
The next election is in 2022.
In a news release, Holt noted he has over 30 years of experience in law enforcement, all with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. He served multiple roles in the department including corrections officer, patrol officer, and various supervisory roles including patrol captain, prior to being elected sheriff.
“My role as sheriff is to provide law enforcement to Greene County. I could not do this without the men and women of the department. I work with the finest group of people. They are the backbone of the department,” he said.
During his first term, Holt said in the news release, he has overseen additions to the department including body cameras for all officers, a body scanner for the jail to reduce the introduction of contraband into the facility, and handheld devices for officers for ease of reporting. He credited the County Commission for what he called “most exciting addition,” school resource officers in every school.
“I am excited to seek another term as the Greene County sheriff. My first term has been a blessing and it would be a true honor to serve a second term,” Holt said. “We have accomplished much during my first term in office, but we still have more to do in serving our great community. Protecting the citizens’ constitutional rights and the lives of our law enforcement officers will remain my priority.”
Holt added, “I have been very blessed to have the support of my family and friends, my fellow officers and elected officials, and the Greene County community. I am very humbled and honored by the encouragement and support I have received.”
The late eccentric journalist Hunter S. Thompson was a practitioner of what is labeled “gonzo journalism,” a kind of reporting in which the reporter does not remain invisible or detached, but instead is part of the story, often writing from a first-person point of view.
Newspaper “personal columns” such as this one have some “gonzo” characteristics, in that I, as the writer, can directly address you, the reader, as I’m doing in this very sentence.
Thus, I’m also free to tell you directly not just that a panel discussion about addiction in our community occurred Monday evening at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, but also that I was highly impressed by it. I learned a good deal from being there, and realized that we in this community have many intelligent people among us who not only do their jobs, but think analytically about what they do.
The panel discussion at Monday’s “One Story At A Time” event was preceded by a presentation from visiting author/teacher/parenting specialist Jessica Lahey, who handled her task well. But the local panelists who joined her on stage for the final half of the event were, in my perception, equally as thought-provoking and insightful. Whoever put that panel together is to be congratulated. The Greene County School System and Apex Bank sponsored the presentation, and in my opinion deserve plaudits for a job well done.
Some panelists were more talkative than others, but all who spoke did provided content worth hearing. A few surprised me with how articulate they were, especially quiet and soft-spoken Teddy Lawing, South Greene High School’s gentle giant of a school resource officer, or SRO.
Toward the end of the evening, the panelists on stage were asked to comment on what parents and teachers can do to help young people who may have have gotten off-track along the way, or are heading that way – how to have those “hard conversations.” Each panelist’s reply was worth hearing, but Teddy spoke so sincerely, in his quiet, Greene County-accented voice, that I felt compelled to tell him after the program that he’d provided one of the best comments of the evening.
Here’s what he said, as best as I can reconstruct it from my memory and notes: “Have that hard conversation (with your young people), and just love them. And if they mess up, help them get through it, then love them some more.”
“Love them some more.” Well-said, sir.
Others who spoke also made an impression. Lawing’s South Greene associate, Principal Lori Wilhoit, urged teachers and parents to communicate with the young people they love about the small matters of daily life and daily struggles, because those more mundane conversations open doors.
“If your kids will talk to you about the little things, they’ll talk to you about the big things,” she said.
Juvenile Court Judge Ken Bailey, who day after day deals in his courtroom with young people (and their parents) who have “messed up,” spoke to the question of how best to react when one realizes a son or daughter seems to be drifting into addiction.
He said, “The first step is to take a deep breath. Don’t react immediately, but take it seriously. Realize that this is serious, and your child needs help now.”
He and others on the panel also emphasized the importance of parents not resisting the outcome if their child is sent by the court into a treatment program. “You’ve got to be supportive of the treatment plan,” he said.
Law enforcement representatives on the panel emphasized that the ultimate goal of law enforcement is to help young offenders get back on track, and that no pleasure comes from incarcerating a young person trapped by addiction. “Sometimes charging a child might not be the best thing,” Lawing said.
Judge Bailey also pointed out a truth that may be uncomfortable for some parents. “Kids know when their parents are using (drugs),” he said. Parents may think they have hidden their own drug use from their children, he noted, but children almost always know more than parents realize.
When children see their parents using or abusing drugs, it is easily perceived by those children as permission to do the same, Bailey said.
If a youngster fails to find a supportive familial relationship within his or her home, Bailey and others said, a substitute for the family will be sought out, sometimes in a peer group with the wrong sorts of values and behaviors.
A healthy family relation must involve honest communication, Bailey urged, including those “hard conversations” about alcohol abuse, drugs and addictions.
“Do you want the first conversation your child has about drugs and alcohol to be on the bus?” he asked.
Lawing spoke up in support of Bailey’s point, urging families to habitually have supper together at the same table, no cell phones or electronic distractions allowed.
Sitting in with the panel, keynote speaker Lahey in turn backed up Lawing’s advice, pointing out that studies have shown that family suppers at the same table, without distractions, provide one of the most proven and powerful defenses against young people drifting toward addiction.
So also do extracurricular school activities such as clubs, sports, and so on, multiple panelists pointed out. “Keep them busy,” one panelist summarized.
Monday evening’s panel discussion was moderated by regional television personality Sarah Diamond of WJHL television, Johnson City. Representing Apex Bank at the event was Tammy Kinser. David McClain, director of Greene County schools, spoke for the school district, and said he hopes to see similar presentations become a regular part of the school system’s community offerings.
Some panelists at the event were substitutes for those originally listed. Represented on the panel were agencies and entities including the county school system, county law enforcement, the regional Drug Task Force, Frontier Health, Ballad Health, and Ballad’s newly developed Strong Futures program.