​Local Area to Experience Near Total Solar Eclipse

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

On Monday, Aug. 21 at 1:31:35 p.m., the moon will obscure 99.1 percent of the sun from view for people living in Sewanee. Just 26 miles northeast, the moon will block the sun completely. The entire United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, will experience at least a partial solar eclipse, with 21 million people living in the path of the rare spectacle of the total eclipse.
The last total solar eclipse touching the United States occurred in 1979. It has been 99 years since the entire country had the opportunity to view a solar eclipse. In Sewanee, starting at 12:01 p.m., the moon will begin blocking a small then gradually increasing portion of the sun’s disk until only a small sliver is visible. For those in the path of the 70-mile-wide total eclipse shadow, the moon will block the sun entirely for about two minutes, depending on the location. Dunlap is the nearest town in the path of totality, and much of Savage Gulf State Park will experience a total eclipse.
Three circumstances need to coincide for a total solar eclipse to occur. The moon needs to be in the new moon or dark moon phase; this happens approximately once a month when the moon is between the earth and sun. Usually, though, because the moon’s orbit is tilted, the shadow the moon casts in the new moon phase is above or below the earth; for a total solar eclipse, the new moon’s shadow must fall directly on the earth, which only occurs twice a year. And finally, the moon, whose orbit is elliptical not round, must be at or near the point closest to the earth so the moon appears sufficiently large to block the sun entirely; this occurs every 27 and one-half days.
The three conditions necessary for a total solar eclipse only coincide every 18 months. In any given location, the phenomenon only recurs every 375 years!
But rightfully eager eclipse viewers should use caution.
Do not view the eclipse without approved eyewear. It’s never safe to look at the sun. The sun’s intense light can damage the retina causing permanent scotoma or ‘blind spot’ in the central vision. Normally people squint or blink when looking at the sun. During an eclipse the moon obscuring part of the sun makes the sun’s brilliance easier to look at, but the sun’s rays are every bit as dangerous.
Regular sunglasses don’t block enough light. Eclipse viewers need eyewear blocking all but 0.003 percent of the visible light. Welders goggles meet the standard, but eclipse glasses cost as little as $1. Look for NASA approved eclipse eyewear manufacturers—American Paper Optics, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. The American Astronomical Society also sanctions Baader Planetarium eclipse glasses.
The first thing those viewing the eclipse will see is a crescent shape beginning to obscure the sun. Bits of light called Bailey’s beads appear around the edges of the crescent because of the moon’s cratered and creviced rough surface.
Right before totality, the last glimpse of light from the sun gives the image a diamond ring effect with a glittering jewel at the apex.
The Space Science Institute distributed two million pairs of eclipse glasses to 4,800 public libraries. The Franklin County Public Library and Coffee County Manchester Public Library will host eclipse programs offering free eyewear beginning at 10 a.m. on Aug. 21.
Sewanee Elementary School has a variety of activities planned. All teachers, students, and staff will wear black in honor of the eclipse and don safety glasses to view the rare event.
The next total solar eclipse will begin over the Southern Pacific then pass across Chile and Argentina. The next total solar eclipse touching the continental United States won’t occur until 2024.

​Maintaining FC Property Tax Rate Approved

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

During a specially-called meeting of the county commission last month, the commissioners voted 10–3 in favor of an $800,000 increase in the general education budget. Prior to the vote, the school board fund balance was sitting at $5 million. The $800,000 includes covering an increase in medical insurance and half of the 2 percent salary increase for certified teachers and support employees.
The commission also voted unanimously to approve that the current 2.67 property tax rate be maintained.
Stanley Bean, director of schools and former commissioner, thanked the commission for what he said was a vote for the future of students in Franklin County.
“There’s two groups of people in FC we need to take care of—senior citizens and children. This vote was not a school budget vote. It was a children’s future vote. No matter how you think about it, what you voted on affects children’s futures. This money is going to be used for the futures of the children in Franklin County,” said Bean.
County Mayor Richard Stewart spoke to the commission in favor of the tax rate remaining the same.
“If you remember 2008 and thereafter, we got in a pickle. There are several projects that the county has already committed to. I don’t want to see any budget cuts, and I’d hate to see these projects tossed aside. The school needs their budget. When a middle school student has to be bussed to the high school to take algebra, that needs to be fixed. When a middle school athletic team can’t get to a football game because they can’t get a bus, that needs to be corrected. I’m all in favor of leaving the tax rate where it is,” he said.
“The thing we need to do with education is to expand to surrounding counties for different types of arts, music and cultural enrichment. There will be no growth if we go to the certified rate. We’ll be in trouble again.”
David Eldridge, seat A for the seventh district and member of the finance committee, said he has worked on eight different budgets for the county, but this year’s is the one he has thought most about. Eldridge said the general education budget is going to have to be increased every year, and that the approval of the additional $800,000 is just a first step.
David Van Buskirk, seat A in the third district, disagreed.
“The word from people in district three is they’re upset that we have an unassigned fund balance of $5 million. We need to see some results for the money you have. People are not happy about it in my district for the amount of money we have on hand and the lack of programming we have,” he said.
Iris Rudder of the first district agreed with Van Buskirk, saying she could not vote in favor of the increase.
“I look at this fund balance of $5 million, and I see an excess of $346,000. We know every budget is inflated—that’s to be expected. I can’t in good conscience vote to increase the budget by $800,000. It is a maintenance of effort situation we’ll be faced with year after year. I would like to see, in the next year, if some of the programs, like more advanced placement classes, could be implemented with that fund balance,” said Rudder.
Eldridge said the approval of the budget just makes sense when maintaining the current tax rate.
“If we retain the tax rate at 2.67 percent, the school, for the last appraisal period, has basically been held at $1.04 out of that 2.67 for their property. This $800,000 is less than what they would have gotten if that share had been maintained. They have, in essence, asked for less than their share of their value of the property,” he said.
The Franklin County School Board projected a total of $43.5 million in expected revenue for 2017–18. Estimated expenses for the 2017–18 school year are $45.5 million. By law, the school board has to keep 3 percent of its expected revenue as a reserve, which is maintained in case of unexpected expenses or lack of revenue. The fund balance for the 2017–18 school year is now at $2.8 million.
The next county commission meeting will be Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.

​Summer Meal Program Served 7,800 Meals

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

The South Cumberland Summer Meal Program served 7,800 meals to about 700 kids this summer. That’s up 2,000 meals from last year. The number of kids served stayed at 700, according to Sarah Hess, a VISTA with AmeriCorps working in the area.
The purpose of the program, which ran from June 5 to July 28 this year, is to be supplemental to local kids during the summer when meals may not be as frequent as those provided at school. There were 20 different sites this year, each of which was run by a member of the community.
“The program is run through the USDA and the Tennessee Department of Human Services coordinates it. Because of the way the grant is set up, the program is funded month-by-month,” said Liz Sirney, Hunger Relief and Literacy Coordinator.
Sirney, a VISTA with AmeriCorps, just finished her second year working with the program. Her role as hunger relief coordinator is to coordinate the meal program.
“AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members bring their passion and perseverance where the need is greatest: to organizations that help eradicate poverty. An AmeriCorps VISTA member serves as a catalyst for change, living and working alongside community members to advance local solutions,” according to the Corporation for National & Community Service.
Though the program provides local kids with a meal and fellowship, it also provides a space for continued learning throughout the summer.
“A lot of the sites had programming, like the libraries and the summer reading programs. At two of the sites, we piloted this new thing called free play. We bought a bunch of materials—boxes, string, paint—and the kids would come and do whatever they wanted. It’s supposed to be child-led, and the adults aren’t supposed to tell them what to do,” said Sirney.
Sirney said her favorite part about working with the meal program is getting to know and learn from all the kids that come through.
“I don’t usually get to hang out with the kids, so it’s a really big joy to get out of the office and see them,” she said. “They’re always so excited and sweet and so happy to be there. That’s definitely my favorite part.”
Another of the biggest pluses that comes from the meal program is an increased sense of community.
“It’s inspiring to see the type of care this community has for each other,” she said. “I think people who otherwise wouldn’t really interact are able to meet through this program. Summertime can be kind of a drag for a lot of kids, especially in this rural area, so this provides something fun and something for them to do to learn throughout the summer. It’s really great to see the community supporting itself and supporting each other and filling in where there are gaps.”

​Monteagle Council Appoints Alderman; Addresses Town Beautification

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At its July 31 meeting, the Monteagle Town Council voted to appoint Anna (Susie) Zeman to fill the remaining vacancy on the board of alderman. The council also addressed town beautification issues and passed a telecommunications ordinance and a budget amendment.
The board of alderman vacancies resulted from the resignation of Rusty Leonard and Delores Knott earlier in the year. At the June 26 meeting, the council appointed Chris Ladd to fill one of the two vacancies.
In discussion leading up to the appointment of Zeman, a resident complained the community had “no say so” in the appointment of Ladd and questioned his qualifications.
Ladd replied he was a sheriff’s deputy. “I don’t think you need a college degree to know how to care about people,” Ladd said.
Mayor David Sampley noted the council had the authority to appoint aldermen to serve for the remainder of the term when vacancies occurred.
Zeman worked for the police department for 25 years and previously served two terms as an alderman.
In a related matter, the council passed on first reading an ordinance altering alderman’s terms from four years to two years and eliminating staggering the terms. Aldermen elected to fill seats coming open in 2018 will serve for two years, as will alderman elected to fill seats coming open in 2020.
Turning to town beautification, Monteagle attorney Harvey Cameron presented an ordinance requiring “fencing to screen from view” any vehicles, boats, trailers, etc. “in a junked condition.” The city already had a junkyard fencing ordinance, Cameron explained, but this expanded the ordinance to include residences, wrecker services and other commercial enterprises.
“How long do they have to erect the fence?” asked Vice-Mayor Jessica Blalock.
Cameron suggested giving those in violation of the ordinance 30 days to comply.
The council approved on first reading the amended ordinance stating from the date of notification of violation property owners had 30 days to begin erecting a fence and 60 days to complete the fence, which must be at least six feet tall. There will be no grandfathering-in excluding established businesses from complying.
A resident who recently received a citation for a property maintenance violation objected she had been unfairly “singled out” since a neighboring residence had not been cited.
Building inspector Earl Geary explained that notices of violation “don’t all go out at the same time. It depends on how long it takes me to get contact information and a mailing address.”
Geary asked to be relieved of property maintenance violation enforcement responsibilities, but said he would continue with the duties of codes inspections and issuing building permits.
A visitor reminded the council that at the June meeting he recommended the council appoint someone to assist Geary with property maintenance violation issues.
Sampley said the expense “had not been budgeted for.”
The council approved on second reading a budget amendment removing expenses for projects the council didn’t wish to continue and addressing unbudgeted expenses.
Sampley cited the example of the contested mayoral election, which cost the town $11,000. (Note: Judge Thomas Graham dismissed the case filed by mayoral candidate Marilyn Campbell Rodman when Rodman failed to meet deadlines set for the hearing.)
The council also approved on second reading an ordinance setting standards for telecommunication businesses seeking to locate in Monteagle. In 2016, Geary denied a permit to a telecommunications business with a history of poor performance.
The council meets next on Monday, Aug. 28.

Show more posts