​Council Hears Strong Objection to Cell Tower

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
More than 25 residents attended the Jan. 28 Sewanee Community Council meeting to voice opposition to the cellular tower slated for construction behind the football stadium. The tower would greatly improve community cell phone service from Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. Currently, only AT&T service is widely available.
Dale Richardson, who, with his wife Leslie Richardson hold the lease on the property closest to the tower site, summarized many of the group’s grievances. Richardson pointed to possible health hazards from electromagnetic waves, noting many communities had band cellular towers. He also predicted a decrease in property values and argued the tower would disrupt the historical character of the location. “The football field is the oldest continually used football field in the South.”
Another complaint voiced by many was lack of communication about the project.
“The biggest disappointment was that there was no communication from the University or the Community Council,” said Peggy Peterson. Peterson and her husband hold the lease on the other property adjoining the site.
Peterson learned about the project from the Messenger report on the April 23 council meeting at which the proposed cellular tower and favored location were briefly mentioned. There was no discussion. Formation of the Parks Committee dominated the council’s concerns that evening.
As potentially impacted adjoining leaseholders, the Petersons and Richardsons received notice in the fall from the Franklin County Board of Zoning Appeals about a proposed zoning change in their neighborhood necessary for a tower to be erected there. The Richardsons attended the zoning board meeting. The board rejected the University’s rezoning appeal.
In December, the Franklin County Commission voted on a zoning rules amendment that paved the way for the project to go forward. The amendment allowed exceptions to the rule prohibiting towers when occupied structures were within the fall radius if “the proposed tower is needed for emergency communications.”
Speaking for herself and Johnny Hughes, the other District 5 commissioner, Helen Stapleton said, “We were happy to approve the rule change. We had no idea there was any opposition. We thought we were doing the right thing. I apologize.”
The Richardsons’ home will be 140 feet away from the 189 foot tower.
The Petersons and Richardsons were unaware of the proposed zoning rules change and did not attend the county commission meeting. They read about an upcoming January zoning meeting in the Messenger, received notice of the meeting from the zoning board, and attended the Jan. 3 meeting to protest proposed rezoning in their neighborhood. The rezoning passed.
Numerous residents asked why no other sites were acceptable.
Eric Hartman, head of University Risk Management, said other sites considered included the area of the Tennessee Williams Center for the Performing Arts, the baseball field, the baseball practice field, and the parking area at McCrady Hall. Hartman confirmed the contract with the wireless internet company Vogue Towers had been signed and the contract stipulated the location.
Verizon, the primary provider who will offer service at the new tower, selected the football field location as “the site that does the most good and the site we’re most interested in,” Hartman insisted.
Vogue Towers CEO Pat Tant explained Verizon’s choice was based on minimizing “the difficulty in penetrating stone buildings” and identifying a central location to maximize “propagation.”
“We need to hear from Verizon. They need to tell us why this is the perfect site,” argued Leslie Richardson.
Speaking in favor of the tower, University student Adam Foster said, “Just last night I got an email about a suspicious person on campus near Spencer Hall.” Foster expressed special concern for female students walking back to their dorm in areas where there was no cell service. “There is no service right here,” Foster stressed.
In addition to cell phone service providers, Franklin County Emergency Management will also use the tower to facilitate much needed improvement to communication in the Alto Road area, Hartman said.
Addressing the health hazard issue, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell noted that the cellular antennae “we have now in Shapard Tower emits these waves. Students living in the area and everyone who walks past is exposed. There are levels of risk one is willing to incur in every decision one makes in life.”
Citing the largely agreed upon need and benefit to the community, council representative Charles Whitmer observed, “If it’s not in your backyard it’s in someone else’s.”
Acknowledging the poor communication about the project, McCardell said, “There are things we might have done better. I’m grateful for the sincerity and passion of the residents who attended tonight’s meeting. These are our friends, neighbors and valued members of the community, and we should thank them.”

Community Council Honors Knoll
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Although discussion about the cellular tower dominated discussion at the Jan. 28 Sewanee Community Council meeting, the council also took up several other issues. Following the suggestion of resident Mary Priestley, the council voted to make the roadside cleanup project an annual event and to name the event after Arthur Knoll.
Knoll, a former county commissioner and University professor, actively promoted and supported the cleanup project for many years, Priestley said. Council representative Phil White will chair the cleanup initiative. Priestley coordinated the project last year and will do so again this year. The proposed date is April 20.
Vice-Chancellor John McCardell welcomed newly elected council representatives Anna Palmer, District 1, and Eric Keen, District 3. Palmer serves as the admission counselor at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. Keen is a visiting instructor of biology at the University.
Provost Nancy Berner announced a vacancy on the agenda committee. The committee reviews potential agenda items submitted for the council’s consideration to determine if the topic is one the council should address or if the subject should be referred to another entity, Franklin County or the University Lease Committee, for example. Berner asked council representatives interested in assisting with the agenda review process to contact her. Agenda items referred to other entities are announced at council meetings to keep the council informed of community concerns.
Council representative Cindy Potter announced the Community Action Committee will pay for the fees and equipment for any child who wishes to participate in youth sports and lacks the resources. For information or to recommend a child for assistance, contact Potter <cynthiadehondpotter@gmail.com> or the CAC (931) 598-5927.

The council meets next March 25.

​Monteagle Grapples With Need for Road Repair

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Lobbying for much needed road repair on Laurel Lake Drive, more than 50 residents attended the Jan. 28 Monteagle City Council meeting.
Laurel Lake Drive residents complained about potholes causing damage to vehicles and no shoulder on much of the road where crumbling road edges significantly narrowed the driving surface. Also troubling, in places resurfaced segments of the road abruptly rejoin unresurfaced segments with as much as a two-feet difference in the width of the roadway.
Another particularly dangerous concern is an area where water stands in the road. “Drivers need to cross the center line at a blind curve to get past it,” said Laurel Lake Drive resident Jessica Favaloro. “Someone is going to get killed.”
Twice since late 2018, Laurel Lake Drive has been closed due to washout of the road surface at an area where a culvert becomes blocked with debris and the water cannot flow into Laurel Lake.
“Water is rushing through the big rocks and washing away the crusher run gravel there,” acknowledged Monteagle Utility Manager John Condra.
Alderman Tony Gilliam suggested there should have been a bridge at that section of the road and proposed the section needed reengineering. “There’s nothing we can do right now with the type of weather we’re having.
Mayor David Sampley promised Laurel Lake Drive residents when the new budget allocation for paving was drawn up in June, “We’ll put you ahead of everybody else. The other worst case scenarios have been taken care of.”
Marion County does road repair for Monteagle with the town paying for materials. Sampley said he would contact the Marion County road superintendant and get an estimate on the cost.
In regular business, the council elected Gilliam vice mayor. The city charter states the council should elect a vice mayor from among the alderpersons. The council had been operating under the convention of the previous mayoral administration, appointing as vice mayor the alderperson who received the most votes in the election held the year the mayor was elected. Jessica Blalock acted as vice mayor since November of 2016.
The council also voted to amend the Beer Permit ordinance to bring it in line with state law. Two years ago the state amended the law applying to beer sales at markets and grocery stores allowing 8 percent alcohol by weight and 10.1 percent alcohol by volume. Monteagle’s unrevised ordinance capped the by volume alcohol limit at 5 percent by weight.
The Pilot Travel Center contacted city recorder Debbie Taylor about the discrepancy. “Pilot wanted to be legal, so they were pulling the higher alcohol content beer off the shelves,” she said.
In another state law related issue, the council voted to opt out of paying for city employees’ health insurance after retirement. The cost would have far exceeded the town’s limited resources from occupancy tax, gasoline tax and sales tax. Monteagle does not levy an income tax.
Addressing excavation costs incurred by the Clifftops gated community to investigate the cause of surface water bubbling up onto the road, the council concurred with Condra’s recommendation to reimburse Clifftops for the $4,797 expense.
“I think it’s only right,” Condra said. The water source turned out to be a leaking, no longer used city water system valve. The Monteagle water department removed the valve and repaired the line.
The council allocated $1,050 to pay for a DJ at the monthly Cruise-In events held from April through September.
The council will begin meeting for monthly workshops, time and date to be announced. The next regular council meeting is Feb. 25.

​Historic Houses of Sewanee Exhibit

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
In 1874, a little ways back from the corner of North Carolina and University Avenues, sat the Gailor House. The home had four rooms upstairs and four downstairs, and the four Gailor children grew up spending summers on the Mountain. The wide front porch was perfect for spending a summer afternoon in a rocking chair with a glass of iced tea, and its gabled roofs and shuttered windows look like they jumped off the page of a storybook.
“I read that Charlotte Gailor used to say that her parents, whenever the roof leaked, would add a room instead of having the old roof repaired,” said Molly Elkins, a GIS Technician in the Landscape Analysis Lab. “True or not, the way Charlotte describes her family dynamic and the way that they lived makes me laugh, and I think that’s what makes it my favorite historic house in Sewanee.”
Despite its beauty and history, in 1991, the Gailor House was demolished to make room for Chen Hall, the residence of the Vice Chancellor.
It is the aim of the Historic Homes exhibit to keep Sewanee’s history in the forefront, according to Mary O’Neill, who is in charge of the exhibit.
“I work in archives and have tried to update and make a database of all the images of historic homes in Sewanee,” she said. “I’ve been working on that for over a year, trying to document the year each home was built and who lived or lives there. I’ve been working with the Sewanee Trust for Historic Preservation, and they’ve been quite involved with this.”
The Historic Homes exhibit is scheduled for Feb. 4 and will run until the end of July at University Archives and Special Collections. An opening reception and talk on Thursday, Feb. 7, at 5:30 p.m. will feature Elkins, who organized a driving tour of the historic homes, along with homeowners Bran and Cindy Potter, Virginia Craighill and Nancy Cortner. Posters are for sale, and an opportunity to order a historical plaque for homes on the Domain will be available at the opening.
The Historic Houses tour includes one main route through central campus, and two much shorter alternative routes. Presentations on Feb. 7 will feature an interactive map of houses that are still standing, and those razed or burned, along with links to Omeka, a database which showcases more images and text about each house.
O’Neill said there are upwards of 75 homes in Sewanee with some historical significance. She hopes the work on the exhibit will provide to the community a look at what life may have been like in previous Sewanees.
“Each historic home has a rich and unique history, and once burned down or razed, these stories often become forgotten,” Elkins said. “And these homes are more than just about architecture—each home was a representation of the person or family that lived there. I think the best part about this exhibit is that you get to see what was important in the lives of the previous owners of the house, what they valued, what brought them to the Mountain and what might have ultimately made them leave.”
Normal exhibit hours are Monday-Friday, from 1–5 p.m. The University Archives and Special Collections is located between duPont Library and the Police Department. Parking is available on Georgia Avenue.

Interactive map is available http://lalsewanee.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewe...

Suggested driving tour available https://lalsewanee.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/in...

​6th Annual Dancewise Coming to the Stage

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
Dancers from the Theatre and Dance Department will take the stage this weekend for the sixth annual iteration of Dancewise, a production led and choreographed by University students.
The dance will feature faculty, 19 University students and guest artist Jenny Showalter of New York’s Treeline DanceWorks. Courtney World, assistant professor of dance, created Dancewise six years ago to give student dancers and choreographers the opportunity to work on a production that is similar to a professional contemporary dance concert.
“I come up with a theme for the production, and often, the theme is around something that I’m working on in my own work. I wanted to do something jazzy this year, and I was hoping to open the door to having more live music in the future. This year, Jenny Showalter came down from New York to create something with the students,” she said.
The students will perform Showalter’s “Flightless,” which was inspired by feathers and light.
“It’s abstract enough that everyone will discover something for themselves in it,” World said.
World said the inspiration for the theme “Body and Soul” was the classic dance song of the same name.
“I’ve always loved the jazz tune ‘Body and Soul,’ and that got me thinking, what is body and what is soul, and how do those two things relate and be so different for everyone? I tend to choose a theme that’s quite open so the choreographers can find their own way into exploring something related,” she said.
Student choreographer Robin Kate Davis said the first step to creating a dance is feeling the music.
“I’ll hear a piece of music and start picturing how I want to dance to it. So much of it is about how the song makes me feel,” she said. “My choreography is to a piece called ‘Dreams,’ and the subject of the scene is becoming aware that she can be a part of the dream as well. My inspiration was a soul connection rather than one to the body, and it’s about making oneself aware of that curiosity it takes to become part of the dream.”
Danielle Silfies, a senior theatre major, choreographed dances for the production of “Cabaret,” which she will be working to restage for “Body and Soul.”
Silfies said Sewanee has given her the tools she needs to create her own choreography as well as design costumes to accompany the dances.
Silfies is working with the Professor Jennifer Matthews’ costume design class to outfit all the dancers.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from being a dancer—it makes it easier to talk to other dancers about what they want for their costumes. They’ll give me a general idea of what they’re envisioning, and from there, you can take that idea and find historical pictures to create the pieces.”
New to Dancewise this year is student lighting designer, Krystal Fowler.
“Typically, we have faculty or an intern do lighting, but Krystal is doing the design for ‘Body and Soul’ as her senior project. She is meeting with every choreographer individually to plan for the show.”
“DanceWise: Body and Soul” will run at the Tennessee Williams Center’s Proctor Hill Theatre at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1; at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2; and at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 3.
Admission is free, but seating is limited. Ticket reservations are at <Eventbrite.com>.

​School Board Resolution Opposes Vouchers

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At a Special Called meeting Jan. 25, the Franklin County School Board passed a resolution affirming opposition to “any legislation or other similar effort to create a voucher program in Tennessee that would divert money intended for public education to private entities.” The pending state legislation would allow students to use public education funds to pay for private school tuition.
The Tennessee School Board Association reached out to local school boards asking them to “offer opposition” to the proposed legislation, said Director of Schools Stanley Bean. The resolution points out voucher programs go by different names and are variously referred to as “opportunity scholarships,” “education savings,” and “tax credits.”
“Regardless of what you call it, it’s taking money out of public education and giving it to parents of students to do whatever they want to with it,” Bean said.
The resolution stressed, that “the State of Tennessee has established nationally recognized standards and measures for accountability in public education … Vouchers eliminate accountability, by channeling taxes to private schools without the same academic or testing requirements, public budgets or reports on student achievement, open meetings and records, and public accountability requirements in major federal laws, including special education laws.”
The resolution also noted, “vouchers have not been proven effective at improving student achievement or closing the achievement gap.”
“Who will benefit from a voucher system?” asked school board representative Sara Liechty. “It won’t be the children from poverty and inner city schools. It will be the upper middle class, wealthier children who would have been in private school anyway. The extra the parents get will take the family to the Bahamas for a vacation.”
“It would just be a supplement,” concurred Board Chair Cleijo Walker, emphasizing the amount parents received would not be nearly enough to pay for private school tuition. “Parents of kids in urban schools that aren’t performing will be the ones who are for this, but it’s not going to help them.”
Illustrating the impact on the public schools from loss of funding Bean said, “The buses would still need to travel the same routes regardless of how many kids they were picking up. And we’d still need the same number of teachers. If there were 23 rather than 25 students in a class, we’d be losing the money for those two students, but we’d still have to pay for the teacher.”
“Christian schools, private schools, home schooling—that’s a lawful right,” Liechty said. “But don’t ask the tax payers to pay for it.”

​Mountain Goat Trail Race Weekend Set for April 13-14

Mountain Goat Trail Race Weekend, sponsored by Mountain Outfitters, will take place April 13-14.

The sixth annual Mountain Goat Trail Run & Walk, featuring a 5-mile run and 2-mile walk, will be held on Saturday, April 13. The second annual Mountain Goat Trail Half Marathon will be held on Sunday, April 14. All proceeds will go to the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance (MGTA) to aid their efforts to complete the Trail.
“Last year’s race weekend brought the first official half-marathon to the Mountain, and the event was well-received, in spite of chilly weather. With the long-standing support of Mountain Outfitters, we plan to make this second Race Weekend even better,” said Patrick Dean, executive director of the MGTA.
The 5-mile run will begin at 10 a.m. in downtown Sewanee; the 2-mile walk will begin at 10 a.m. at Pearl’s Fine Dining. Both will finish at Mountain Outfitters in Monteagle. Prizes will be awarded for fastest men’s and women’s finisher. Drawings for outdoor gear from Mountain Outfitters and presentation of awards are planned after the finish of the run & walk.
The half-marathon (13.1 miles) will begin at 7 a.m. in Sewanee and follow the Mountain Goat Trail and approximately two miles of public roads before finishing on the newest section of the Mountain Goat Trail in downtown Tracy City.
Saturday night’s event features music and food at Baggenstoss Farms, in a collaboration between the MGTA and Friends of South Cumberland to raise funds for a connector between the Trail and the Fiery Gizzard Trail. More details and activities will be announced as they are added.
To learn more or to register go to www.mountaingoattrail.org/run

​University of the South & Vogue Tower to Bring Verizon to Sewanee

Franklin County has approved a proposal to build a cellular tower on campus behind the football stadium. While the proposal still requires the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and State Historic Preservation Office approval, construction plans are underway with an early summer completion date expected. In April 2018, the Sewanee Community Council was updated on the project; work on the details of the plan has continued since then. (See April 27, 2018 issue.)

The tower project is a collaboration led by the University and Vogue Tower and includes Franklin County, Verizon, and Franklin County Emergency Management. The effort aims to bring Verizon and other cellular providers, such as Sprint & T-Mobile, in addition to improved emergency communications, to the community.
The location of the tower will be tucked away in the rear tailgate area of Sewanee’s Harris Stadium (football stadium) on the far side of the shotput area. The location was selected in partnership with Verizon engineers to maximize on-campus and Domain coverage and to address the needs of Franklin County emergency communications, and in consideration of environmental and FAA regulations. Several locations were explored and proposed as part of the process, and this location was selected to maximize coverage. While there is no perfect location for a cell tower, a water tower, or a power line, wireless connectivity has become a basic utility that is needed for the safety and connectivity of the community.
The proposed tower will be approxmately 189 feet tall, with a 60 feet by 60 feet fenced area and landscaping around the open side of it. The tower will not be lit. The tower company is responsible for maintenance, repairs, and liability related to the tower.

​‘Dancewise: Body and Soul’

The University of the South Department of Theatre and Dance produces the sixth annual performance of DanceWise under the artistic direction of Courtney World. Performances of “DanceWise: Body and Soul” will be given at the Tennessee Williams Center’s Proctor Hill Theatre at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1; at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2; and at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 3. Admission is free, but seating is limited. Ticket reservations at <Eventbrite.com>.

This dance concert will feature performances by 19 Sewanee students, as well as choreographic premieres by Courtney World, assistant professor of dance, and student choreographers Robin Kate Davis, Julianna Morgan, Ashlin Ondrusek and Danielle Silfies. Student dancers will perform the premiere of Flightless, choreographed by guest artist Jenny Showalter, artistic director of New York City-based company Treeline DanceWorks, and World will perform a solo version of “Tintal” (1972), a seminal work by distinguished choreographer Bill Evans.
“DanceWise: Body and Soul” includes a variety of dance styles that celebrate humanity–body and soul–through movement. This year’s concert theme draws inspiration from the jazz standard “Body and Soul” by Johnny Green, and appropriately contains several jazzy numbers, including a reprise of dances from the department’s fall production of Cabaret.
Student dancers are Darja Bienenson, Taela Bland, Annie Corley, Caroline Gurek, Robin Kate Davis, Margaret Deane, Paige Greenberg, Karen Guevara, Victoria King, Isabella Klitzke, Julianna Morgan, Cameron Noel, Ashlin Ondrusek, Julia Peacock, Danielle Silfies, Julia Thompson and Seriah Wyatt. Students including Bram Atkins and Sarah Mixon will make special musical appearances.
Costume design by Jennifer Matthews, professor of theatre, and student designers Danielle Silfies, Kate Schumaker and Suzanna Yancey. Lighting design by Krystal Fowler, C’19.

​SUD Considers Legislative Action on Term Limits

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Jan. 22 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District (SUD) Board of Commissioners discussed pursuing legislative action to remove the stipulation barring a commissioner from serving more than two consecutive terms. Difficulty in finding candidates to run for commissioner in the recent election and low voter turnout prompted the debate.
Commissioners Randall Henley and Ronnie Hoosier ran for reelection unopposed. The call for candidates was published monthly in the Messenger beginning in September and announced since October on customer bills. No other candidates stepped forward.
Equally disturbing to the board, only three votes were cast in this election.
“Three votes is not acceptable when something as critical as water production and wastewater treatment is at stake,” said Commissioner Paul Evans.
Henley and Hoosier were both elected for a second term. Law bars them from serving another consecutive term, although they could seek re-election after sitting out for a full four-year term.
“How do we get people to serve as commissioner without dragging them into the process?” asked SUD manager Ben Beavers.
If no candidates step forward to serve as commissioner, appointment of commissioners falls to the county mayor. The mayor can appoint anyone who lives in the county. The appointee would not need to reside in the Sewanee Utility District and would not need to be a SUD customer.
Commissioner Art Hanson pointed out that by “keeping commissioner selection as an election process” the customers had a voice.
Evans questioned whether reducing the term length from four to two years might make people more willing to serve on the board. Changing the term length would also require a legislative action.
A year ago, Board President Charlie Smith consulted with then State Representative David Alexander about removing the two consecutive term stipulation. Alexander advised Smith “broad public support” would be needed to usher in a change.
Given the apparent apathy, Smith proposed a more effective strategy would be to rally the water utilities struggling with the same issue. Of more than 200 water utilities, only eight are governed by elected boards. All others boards are appointed.
In a related discussion, Smith encouraged the commissioners to support the Tennessee Utility Political Action Committee (TUPAC), the lobbying group for public utilities.
“TUPAC looks after our interests,” Smith said.
Beavers noted that without TUPAC’s influence the legislature would have “changed how SUD elects commissioners and made all water boards appointed.”
Updating the board on the waterline replacement project, Beavers said all the main lines had been tested and passed inspection. He anticipated all taps would be tied in by the end of next week and clean up and seeding would take an additional two weeks.
SUD undertook the $666,835 project without taking out a loan by drawing on cash reserves. Aging, constricted, leak prone cast-iron water lines on South and North Carolina Avenues, Clara’s Point Road, and Florida Avenue were replaced.
SUD’s long term budget projects tackling the aging, leak-prone waterlines on Tennessee Avenue in 2020. “That will give the cash reserves a chance to recover from the current project,” Beavers said. Again, SUD intends to complete the project without a loan.

The next SUD board meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 26. Go to the website at https://www.sewaneeutility.org

for more information.

The Frame Gallery: A Year in Art

by Sarah Beavers, Messenger Staff Writer
On Jan. 22, Harriet Runkle celebrated the one-year anniversary of opening the Frame Gallery. She bought the frame shop, formerly known as Corners, from Mindy Melton, and expanded the business beyond framing.
When opening the Frame Gallery, Runkle set out with three goals to accomplish: to provide a place for custom framing, a gallery space for local artists, and a place for children to create art.
In her first year, Runkle has accomplished the first two goals and seeks to expand hosting activities where children can create art. While an elementary school teacher in Arlington, Va., and a preschool teacher in inner-city Memphis, she encouraged her students to be creative and would host shows of student’s work for their parents. As an educator and artist, she opened the Frame Gallery with the vision of providing a space for local artists of all ages to exhibit their work and celebrate the creative tradition in Sewanee.
After a year in business, the “Framing Gals” (Harriet and Rea Mingeva) have restored art, hosted painting groups, installed gallery walls in homes, and worked with the Sewanee Elementary School and the Sewanee Children’s Center students to upcycle/recycle art.
Other shows that have graced the front wall included the photography of John Willis, a pop-up art sale with a variety of works from the local community, and Martha Keeble’s painting group, which highlighted how many artists there are in the area.
“I am so appreciative of the support from the community and the University,” Harriet said. “I am grateful to live in a community that loves and appreciates art.”
It is clear from the warm and happy atmosphere in the shop, and Harriet and Rea’s passion for art and fostering creativity, that the Frame Gallery is a true gem.
All are invited to enjoy the local art at the Frame Gallery whether you need a frame or not, and take advantage of the monthly showings in the front room. For the month of February, Mary Priestley will be showing illustrations from her new book “Sewanee Wildflowers in Watercolor.” At the opening reception from 5:30-7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 1, there will be a book signing, and prints and note cards will also be sold.

The Frame Gallery also specializes in archival framing and restorations, art consulting and installation. The Frame Gallery is located at 12569 Sollace M. Freeman Hwy., Sewanee. The frame shop and gallery’s regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

​Historic County Commission Vote Approves Middle Schools

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 15 meeting, in a historic 14 to 2 vote, the Franklin County Commission overwhelming approved allocating $48 million for the construction of two new middle schools.
“It’s a great night for Franklin County,” said District 5, Seat A commissioner Johnny Hughes. “I’m so proud of my fellow commissioners who voted for it. The kids and the parents are the winners tonight, the future.”
More than three years ago, the school board authorized the capital building planning committee to engage an architectural engineering firm for advice on renovating the middle schools. Long debate followed with public opinion and the board ultimately favoring building over renovation, and two schools over a single large consolidated school.
In July of 2018, the county commission allocated $1.8 million for drawing up design plans, but uncertainty about whether the commission would allocate the funding for construction left the project in jeopardy.
Chief among problems at the 52-year old middle schools are chronic roof leaks, resulting from the flawed design of those buildings.
Echoing the sentiments of other commissioners, District 4, Seat B commissioner Chuck Stines said, “The problem started in 1968. It’s not the fault of any commissioner here or any school board member and not the fault of the officials who authorized the construction of the buildings in 1968. They didn’t intend to leave us a problem. We’ve kicked the can down the road for 51 years. We need to decide. There will be a property tax increase. Will we be the commission that does the right thing, or will we sit here and bang our heads against the wall?”
District 4, Seat A commissioner Greg King pointed out repairing the leaking roofs on the schools would cost $5 million each. King acknowledged operation costs would be less for one school, but stressed the delay and expense in drawing up a new design “would eat up the savings.” King also expressed concern the delay might result in a lawsuit or court ordered closing of the schools, which are infested with mold.
King also recommended “holding the line on the county budget spending, including raises until the new high school is paid off to minimize the property tax rate hike.”
Five commissioners spoke preliminary to the vote. All advocated authorizing $48 million for construction of two new schools.
Following comment by the commissioners, Commission Chair and County Mayor David Alexander asked, “Are there any tax payers that want to speak?”
Nearly every seat in the courtroom was filled. No one came forward.
Following the vote, the audience rose in a standing ovation.
“I think it’s significant that in a packed room, there was not a single person who came up to speak against it,” said District 5 School Board Representative Adam Tucker.
“It’s been a team effort,” said Director of Schools Stanley Bean. “The school board has been solid in support of the project. If not, the county commission wouldn’t have confidence in us. That’s what made the difference, everyone sticking together.”

​Why Two Middle Schools, Why Now

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The Thursday before the Jan. 15 County Commission vote on funding for two new middle schools, South Middle School (SMS) Assistant Principal Holly Eslick met with community members at Sewanee Elementary to talk about why a “yes” vote was so desperately needed. The Sewanee Parents Organization sponsored the event.
Leaking roofs top the problem list at the 52-year-old schools, Eslick said. Lacking sufficient receptacles to catch the water, teachers and administrators take up mops. The students shrug and say, "We’re used to it."
Thousands of dollars spent on the roofs have failed to eliminate the problem, which results from obstructed drains at the expansion joints between the pods, Eslick explained. Correcting the problem would require “ripping out everything,” and the problem would recur since the root cause is the connected-pod design.
Mold proliferates inside the schools. “Just looking at it makes your lungs hurt,” Eslick conceded expressing special concern for “fragile” special needs students. Two SMS teachers have been diagnosed with chronic pulmonary lung disease according to special education teacher Ruth Jordan.
The school system has spent $1.3 million on routine maintenance at the schools since 2009. Replacement and repair parts for the 1960s heating and air conditioning units are no longer available. The gyms have no air conditioning.
The schools have an excessive number of entrance doors—40 at SMS—creating a security risk by making it easy for outsiders to infiltrate the schools. In the design for the new schools, classrooms can only be accessed from within the building and a sprinkler system eliminates the need for fire escape doors.
Attempting to meet 21st century computer age standards, exposed wires run along the ceilings and teachers string together extension cords resulting in citation by the fire marshal.
There are no rooms for art instruction, technology labs, and individual musical instrument practice, and no rooms for ESL and speech therapy classes.
Currently only SMS offers Comprehensive Development Classes forcing many special needs students to travel long distances to attend school.
Excessively long travel would become the norm for far more students if the county addressed the middle school crisis by building a single middle school, County Commissioner Johnny Hughes stressed. “It’s a big county.”
“We already have kids that are exhausted by the time they get to school,” Eslick agreed.
Hughes argued parents’ increased transportation costs in a one school scenario could exceed the small property tax increase they’ll pay in a two-schools scenario—$27 on a $100,000 home.
Speaking in favor of the smaller school environment, Eslick said, “We’re people to the kids, not just a figure or a title. Kids are comfortable talking with us.”
Hughes pointed out that smaller schools also offered more opportunities for students to participate in activities like team sports and band where limited spots were available.
Acknowledging that maintaining one school would cost less, District 5, Seat B County Commissioner Helen Stapleton asked, “Are we going to do it the cheapest way or do what’s best for our kids?”
“We can’t afford to wait,” Eslick said. “The cost of construction will increase, and we’ll end up putting band-aids on band-aids just to survive the next couple years.”

​School Board Approves Sherwood Property Deed Change

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 14 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved amending the deed that granted the Sherwood community use of the old elementary school site for a community center. The school board also authorized use of $100,000 in budgeted funds to begin construction of a bus garage.
In December, Don Spanos, plant manager at Lhoist, a Sherwood crushed stone manufacturer, addressed the board about Lhoist taking the lead in refurbishing or rebuilding the Crow Creek Community Center located at the former Sherwood Elementary School site. The building’s leaking roof made it unsuitable for community use. The deed stipulates the Sherwood community can use the property only for a community center and if the community failed to properly maintain the site Franklin County Schools could take the property back.
Lhoist’s attorneys recommended removing the paragraph about revoking permission to use the property if the site wasn’t properly maintained.
“That could mean something minor as the grass not being mowed after we spent a lot of money fixing it up,” Spanos speculated. But Spanos acknowledged, “I’m not that concerned about the school board taking it back. If we don’t get the change in the deed, that won’t stop me. I want to get the building usable for the community.”
Thirty Sherwood area residents attended a Dec. 18 meeting to discuss the community center’s future. Opinion leaned toward tearing the building down and using the foundation for a new structure, Spanos said.
“The community center board voted six to zero in favor of tearing the building down,” said District 5, Seat A commissioner Johnny Hughes, who represents the Sherwood area.
The school board agreed to the deed revision, and authorized Director of Schools Stanley Bean to sign the document so the project could move forward.
“We want to get moving on it as soon as the weather improves,” Spanos said.
The board also approved Transportation Director Mark Montoye’s request to begin construction of a bus garage with the $100,000 allocated for that purpose in the 2018-2019 budget. Montoye estimated the total cost at $200,000-$250,000.
“Having a bus garage will save us money in the long run,” Montoye said. “We have to sub out our oil changes and all our mechanic work.”
The 5,600-square-foot prefab metal building will have two bays and be located on the old Franklin County High School lot.
By “doing the work ourselves” rather than hiring a contractor, Montoye projected the school system would save $50,000 or more.
Updating the board on the proposed new middle schools, Bean said he recently consulted with school principals about furnishing the STEM labs, bus traffic, and location of security cameras.
Addressing a question about security at the new schools, construction manager Gary Clardy said, “All the main doors will allow access only by entry card or FOB, no keys. There will be plenty of security cameras. The courtyards will be boxed off, and you’ll only be able to access the main part of the school by coming through the office. There are no classroom doors to the outside, since the buildings are fully sprinkled for fire protection. The new schools will be far more secure than anything else you have in the county.”

​François Clemmons to Give Concert Jan. 20

François Clemmons, founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble and a professionally trained operatic tenor, will present a concert at 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 20, in Convocation Hall on the Sewanee campus. Clemmons is perhaps best known for the role of Officer Clemmons, a friendly neighborhood policeman, on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning children's television show “Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.” He learned traditional spirituals from his mother, who sang as she worked around the house.

After earning a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University, Clemmons joined the company of the Metropolitan Opera Studio, playing more than 70 classical and opera roles around the world. Clemmons has performed his favorite role, Sportin’ Life in “Porgy and Bess,” more than 200 times, earning a Grammy award for his recording of the role. He founded the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble to showcase the spirituals he first learned as a child. It is dedicated to “preserving, sustaining and commissioning new and traditional arrangements of American Negro Spirituals for future generations.” Clemmons retired a few years ago as Artist in Residence at Middlebury College, and continues to perform regularly in America, Europe, and Asia.

​MLK Day Community Celebration

The 34th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Community Celebration will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 21, in Upper Cravens Hall, 435 Kentucky Ave. The program celebrates the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Everyone is invited to bring their favorite dish and join the annual community potluck dinner.

Vice Chancellor John McCardell will share opening remarks. Students will host the program and share poetry and dance. The School of  Theology Choir, under the direction of Kenneth Miller, will share musical selections. The Sewanee Praise Choir, under the direction of Music Professor Prakash Wright, will perform selections from their songbook.
François Clemmons, an African-American singer, actor, playwright and university lecturer, will attend the gathering. He has agreed to help lead us in song.
The evening is a great community celebration. Join us for good company, inspiring music, and nourishing food. Remember to bring your favorite dish.
The Sewanee Black Student Union, the Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace, the School of Theology, the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs, and the Office of Student Life are the co-sponsors. The event is free, open, and everyone is invited.

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