County will not have a mask mandate

From the Office of Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank

Following the issuance of Executive Order 54 by Gov. Bill Lee, Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank announced that she would not exercise the authority of a mandate to wear face coverings.

“The people of Anderson County have been doing a wonderful job following the Governor’s guidance and I often express how proud I am of the job they’ve been doing throughout this COVID-19 pandemic,” Frank said. “I trust and respect the people of Anderson County and I believe it is through encouraging healthy behaviors, promoting prevention, and praising each other that we achieve the greatest health outcomes.”

Under T.C.A. § 58-2-10, known as the emergency management powers of the Governor, the “governor is authorized to delegate such powers as the governor may deem prudent.” In this particular case, Executive Order 54 notes in Section 2 that this delegation of authority to county mayors and executives is specific only to the issuing of “orders concerning face coverings.”

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Work on bridge over Market Street still on hold

A Norfolk Southern train crosses Market Street in downtown Clinton under the Tennessee 61 bridge, which is undergoing rehabilitation. The bridge work is currently on hold. - G. Chambers Williams III
Work to rehabilitate the Charles G. Seivers Boulevard/Tennessee 61 bridge over Market Street and the Norfolk Southern Railway in downtown Clinton is still on hold – as it has been for several months – and no completion date has been suggested yet for the project, the city of Clinton says.

The bridge work, which began in November and has blocked one eastbound lane of the bridge since then, was originally scheduled to have been completed nearly two months ago.

More-extensive deterioration of some bridge structures were found as the original work progressed, necessitating expansion of the then-$1.5 million project by an additional approximately $1.2 million, which would have to be awarded in a new contract.

That second part of the project is still awaiting approval and funding by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and the job cannot proceed until that is settled, said Lynn Murphy, project coordinator for the city.

Additionally, work to remove the old paint from the girders under the bridge deck and repaint them has stalled, pending resolution of a safety issue regarding the Market Street railroad crossing under the bridge, Murphy said.

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Loud and proud on the 4th of July

Lynn Fox holds the red cloth about to be lifted on the Liberty Pole - Collin Riggs
The Museum of Appalachia held its annual anvil shoot this past Saturday, July 4, hosting four separate shoots across the day, each pulling in more than 200 people.

More than 860 people visited the museum over the course of the day, enjoying the food and activities despite the heat.

Blacksmiths and beekeepers sold their wares, and the Boy Scouts of America set up saws so people could learn how pioneers cut large logs.

Multiple times throughout the day, the Daughters of the American Revolution and representatives of the Tennesseans for Living History organization paraded across the grounds. At the end of their processions, Lynn Fox, a member of the Tennesseans for Living History, stepped forward to educate the festival attendees on the tradition of liberty poles and the history behind the tradition dating back to the Sons of Liberty in the Revolutionary War. After the raising of the liberty pole, the procession moved on to the ringing of the liberty bell, where each of the first 16 states had their name and state mottos read aloud before the bell was rang.

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Local rail authority files appeal to feds to block abandonment of rail line

Both the bidder for the former Tennessee Railroad line through Anderson County and county Mayor Terry Frank, chairman of the North East Tennessee Railroad Authority, have filed appeals to stop the abandonment of the line over the past few days.

The appeals were filed with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which on June 26 denied a petition from Arkansas-Oklahoma Railroad Co. to purchase the line from the R.J. Corman Railroad Co., which would allow an immediate permanent closing of the 41.05-mile line.

In the appeal filed Monday (July 6) by the local railroad authority, and signed by Frank, at least three prospective customers were mentioned as potential shippers or users of the line, with the prospects of moving more than 1,000 rail cars a year on the line.

“NETRA [the railroad authority] asserts that the [STB] Director’s decision [to deny sale of the line] is based on a ‘clear error of judgment’ based on the new evidence of shipper need for rail service set forth herein,’” the mayor’s appeal began.

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A conversation about safety, football, and community support

Anderson County High School “Home of the Mavs” Athletic Director Gary Terry speaks to The Courier News’ editor, Ken Leinart, about the recent TSSAA decision about delaying the 2020 high school football season until the end of Gov. Lee’s COVID-19 related state of emergency orders. The start of football and soccer seasons are delayed until after the order expires Aug. 29. Other non-contact sports are scheduled to begin as normal. What follows is a transcript of that interview, edited for length but not content with only Gary Terry’s comments.

Governor Lee’s extension

It was certainly a surprise for the TSSAA, and I guess a bigger surprise for us — we know Gov. Lee extended the order there, the extension order.

We were all expecting to go back next week after or our two-week dead period and get back to some football ... But we’ve been dealt this and we’re going to do the best we can with it; continue on like we did in June with the same practice schedule and times and things we did in June and just continue to do that in July.

Normally in July anyway … We can have some seven-on-sevens normally, but we’re not going be to able to do that this July … and by the end of July would be some scrimmage time and we’d get to put some kids into live action because you know a lot of kids look really good without the pads on and when you put the gear on a lot of that stuff changes sometimes. And you get to find out which kids can go out there with gear on and do the things you ask them to do.

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Clark will continue role as Audit Committee chairman

Dave Clark
The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference has announced that outgoing Executive Committee President Dave Clark, who serves as the Seventh-District attorney general, will continue in his role as Audit Committee chairman.

“It has been a huge honor to serve as the president for the Executive Committee and as chairman of the Audit Committee,” Clark said. “I am thankful to have the opportunity to continue serving in the chairman role and am looking forward to a successful year.”

“Beyond serving as president this past year, Clark has filled many leadership roles for the conference over the years,” said Guy Jones, who was recently elected executive director of the conference.

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TBI releases two crime data publications

On July 6, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released two publications detailing the volume and nature of hate crime in Tennessee, along with one detailing violence directed toward the state’s law enforcement officers.

Among the findings of the report, “Tennessee Hate Crime 2019”:

• Overall, the number of incidents indicated as bias-motivated decreased by 36-percent from 2018 to 2019.

• Property crime offenses accounted for 21.5-percent, with the remainder of bias-motivated crimes being those designated as being “Crimes Against Persons.”

• Assault offenses were the most-frequently-reported bias-motivated offenses in 2019.

• Race/ethnicity/ancestry bias was the most-frequently-reported known bias in 2019 at 72.1-percent, with anti-black/African-American composing 48.8-percent of the total reported number of hate crimes.

Among the findings of the report on “Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted -- 2019”:

• In 2019, there were a total of 2,416 victims reported across Tennessee.

• The number of reported offenses increased by 29.3-percent from 2016 to 2019.

• The most frequently reported offense was simple assault, at 57.6-percent.

“I am very proud of the efforts of all participating law enforcement agencies to provide the data necessary to produce these reports,” said TBI Director David Rausch.

“Our combined efforts have resulted in a successful program that continues to give our state helpful insight on the volume and nature of crime.”

Both of these reports are available for review and download on the TBI’s website:

Roane State’s online Reconnect program provides flexibility for busy students

Angelia Cooper and her husband, Greg Bliss, operate the nonprofit organization Reptile Bliss and are pictured with one of their tenants.
Angelia Cooper lives just a half-mile from Roane State’s flagship campus in Roane County, but she’s too busy to go to classes. Instead, she attends class online and is completing her associate’s degree through the Tennessee Reconnect program, where adults can return to college or start their studies tuition-free.

She works two jobs, one as an internal auditor for a financial firm. Some might think her other job cringe-worthy. She takes care of snakes, including a 16-foot-long, 120-pound Burmese python named “Bertha.”

For five years, Cooper and her husband, Greg Bliss, have operated a nonprofit facility called Reptile Bliss. They care for neglected or surrendered non-venomous snakes – about 100 of them – along with lizards and a tortoise.

“A lot of people are terrified of them,” Cooper said of those slithering tenants. Some have been surrendered for relocation or are staying with them while their owners are overseas in the military. Most snakes are very docile, she said.

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