​Sewanee Vice-Chancellor Announces Plans to Step Down in 2020


Vice-Chancellor John McCardell, who has held that post since 2010, has announced his plans to step down in July 2020. He will remain on the University of the South faculty.

During McCardell’s tenure, Sewanee has enjoyed record applications to the College, growth in the reach of the School of Theology, and increasing recognition as a leading national liberal arts university.

Under his leadership, the Stronger Truer Sewanee fundraising campaign eclipsed its original $250 million goal last February, ahead of schedule. The campaign was marked by increased commitments for scholarships, academic support, construction of new campus facilities, and support for the School of Theology. McCardell has led several endeavors with the aim of making an excellent college education more accessible for more of the nation’s best students and continues to lead an effort to achieve the University’s goal of meeting full financial need for admitted students.

“John McCardell has served with great distinction as Sewanee’s 16th vice-chancellor,” said the Rt. Rev. Rob Skirving, bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina and chancellor of the University. “I am thankful for the leadership and vision he has shown during a remarkable chapter in the University’s history. I look forward to his continuing to teach in the College.”

Skirving announced that Joseph DeLozier III, a 1977 graduate of Sewanee and chair of the Board of Regents, will serve as chair of a representative search committee to guide the nationwide search for a new vice-chancellor. Margaret P. McLarty, the parent of two recent alumni and a member of the Board, will serve as vice chair.

“John will leave the University in a stronger position among liberal arts universities and Episcopal seminaries,” said DeLozier. “We have made great progress toward the goals of Sewanee’s strategic plan, especially in developing an exemplary learning environment and in extending the local—with thanks to the influence of Bonnie McCardell—and global reach of the University.”

“To have been entrusted with the leadership of the University of the South is a responsibility and an honor for which Bonnie and I will be forever grateful,” said McCardell. “Though the time has come for me to announce that this will be my last year as vice-chancellor, this is not retirement. My plan is to return, after a period of recharging, to part-time teaching in the Department of History. I very much look forward to that.”

​SUD Will Vote on Discontinuing Fluoride


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Aug. 27 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District (SUD) Board of Commissioners decided to vote on discontinuing adding fluoride to the drinking water supply. Ending the practice requires a 30-day notice to customers before the official vote. The board also decided to begin announcing service interruptions on Sewanee Classifieds in addition to official SUD communication channels, and discussed the 2020 Capital Improvement Budget.

“The number of water utilities that have stopped feeding fluoride has increased,” SUD manager Ben Beavers said. “When adding fluoride started in the 1940s and 1950s it was a boon, but the way food is processed has changed.” Research shows fluoride prevents tooth decay, but today many foods and beverages are prepared with fluoridated water. The SUD water plant operator responsible for adding the chemical suggested SUD discontinue the practice.

Fluoride feed costs SUD $6,000 a year, Beavers said, and corrodes equipment used for the process.

Board member Art Hanson said he’d observed most schools now provided children with bottled water, so continuing with fluoridation would likely not benefit children with well water at home.

The SUD commissioners unanimously favored a vote to end the practice. Customers will receive a notice inviting comments and announcing the October meeting vote. As required by law, Beavers will notify the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Health Department of the decision.

Commissioner Paul Evans suggested announcing service interruptions on Sewanee Classifieds. Evans said he was “taken aback” by a community member’s “definitive statements” on Classifieds about a SUD service interruption. SUD already announces service interruptions on Facebook and Twitter. “Classifieds is another avenue to reach the community,” Evans noted.

Turning to the proposed 2020 Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) budget, Beavers stressed the budget focused on “things that can save money in the long run.”

For 2019, SUD will come in under budget on CIPs, spending only $12,500 of the $13,500 allocated. “We can usually do $250,000 in capital improvements without increasing water rates,” Beavers said.

The 2020 CIP budget assigns $35,000 to leak detection equipment and surveys. The projected 2021 CIP budgets allocates $320,000 for replacing the deteriorating cast iron pipe on Tennessee Avenue. Beavers hopes by identifying the areas leaking that amount can be reduced by repairing only flawed areas of pipe.

Leak detection surveys “can pinpoint leaks down to a 10-inch section of pipe,” Beavers said.

Another cost saving measure for 2020 calls for new, more efficient Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) on pump motors at the water plant and Lake Jackson, cost $30,000. VFDs can decrease power consumption by 40 percent.

The other big-ticket item, a new tractor and loader, cost $25,000, comes with an attachment that will enable SUD to service the field roads at the wastewater treatment plant.

Addressing SUD’s ongoing concern with unaccounted water loss, the difference between the amount of water treated at the plant and the amount registered as sold on customer meters, Beavers said he recently learned there were two meters at Spencer Hall. One meter, which SUD was totally unaware of, was damaged and not recording water usage. The meter was evidently installed when Spencer Hall was constructed in 2008. SUD will replace the meter and get a 12-month usage estimate for reparation purposes.

Beavers announced plans to hire one or two employees. The water plant and wastewater treatment plant operators were both leaving, Beavers said. A current employee will train for the water plant operator position and licensing. The sewer plant operator position would be “a path for someone interested” to move into a higher paying job with more responsibility, Beavers pointed out.

​McNeece Apologizes; New Monteagle Police Chief Resigns


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Following the conclusion of regular business at the Aug. 26 Monteagle City Council meeting, former police chief Virgil McNeece addressed the audience and council apologizing for a racial slur allegedly linked to his being asked to accept a demotion. In the heated discussion that followed, newly appointed Police Chief Jack Hill resigned.

During regular business, the council approved the following: purchase of three tablet computers for the fire department’s new alert system, cost $627; a business permit for the California-based HVAC company Trahan Mechanical for a local consulting office; hiring Duncan Pack as a part-time police officer; and appointment of assistant police chief Hill to the chief position.

Given permission to speak, McNeece referenced four events occurring in the last few weeks.

On July 22, according to McNeece, Alderman Tony Gilliam gave him “an ultimatum to take a demotion, resign or be fired. When I questioned why, I was told I was not doing my job.”

On July 25, McNeece said “I sent a letter to the town explaining the situation since I was told I could not attend the July 29 council meeting.”

On July 31, McNeece said he received a letter from the council and the mayor offering him his job back, and he accepted.

On Aug. 15, McNeece said he received a letter from the city attorney, Harvey Cameron, “regarding a recording of me using a word considered a racial slur…[that could be] detrimental if brought to the public’s attention.”

“I used a word I’m definitely ashamed I used,” McNeece said. “I owe everyone an apology. I’m truly sorry. I coach with Grundy County football coach Tracy Hayworth. I’m not a racist. This was unusual for me and unbecoming of a professional. If the people of Monteagle and those in this room who support me feel I should resign over this, I will.”

The letter from Cameron also questioned whether McNeece had undergone a psychological evaluation several years ago following a shooting incident. Mayor David Sampley claimed he could find no record of the evaluation.

“I did go for the evaluation,” McNeece insisted. “I received a good report and approval to return to work.”

McNeece said he believed the letter from attorney Cameron was intended “to bully me into resigning.” McNeece pointed out the racial-slur incident occurred over a year ago.

“After 25 years of serving Monteagle, I’ve never had a complaint or corrective action taken against me. I know for certain there was nothing at the time Tony Gilliam threatened to demote or fire me.”

Rising to speak, Monteagle resident Doris Wiggins said, “At the last meeting [July 29], you guys said there was something Virgil had said and done that you were not going to make public since Virgil wasn’t here.”

“That’s right,” Gilliam said. “We should let Mr. Cameron handle this situation. He’s aware of what’s going on.”

Cameron confirmed that some of the information at issue came from the attorney general’s office.

“Virgil knows what the attorney general said to me, and I don’t think that needs to be discussed,” Cameron said.

Both Gilliam and McNeece offered to take a lie detector test regarding what grounds Gilliam gave for asking McNeece to accept a demotion.

“Everything that has been done looks like a personal vendetta against Virgil by one of the alderman,” Wiggins said. She questioned why there was no record in McNeece’s personnel file, “if you all knew something was going on.”

Hill stepped forward and said, “I’ve been thinking about this for two weeks. I’m not going to accept the chief position. I’d like to go back to nightshift patrol.”

Audience members called for McNeece’s reinstatement as chief. The language grew increasingly abusive, and Gilliam made a motion for adjournment.

Following the meeting, Hill confirmed that on Aug. 16, the day after McNeece received the letter from Cameron regarding the racial slur, McNeece delivered all his law enforcement gear to Hill and said he was resigning.

Benefit for the University Farm

An Evening of Rustic Elegance will be held at the University Farm on Breakfield Road on Saturday, Oct. 12, beginning at 5 p.m. Enjoy cocktails with special guests Harvey Cotten, co-author of “Easy Gardens for the South,” and representatives of the Sewanee Herbarium, Food Hub, Cumberland Teaching Gardens, Americorps VISTA, and student participation in Farm programs. A few yoga goats are also expected to attend.

Raffle items featuring photographic, culinary, and decorative arts as well as Farm programs and partnerships will go to the lucky winners, and a few local vendors will be on hand to exhibit their products and discuss their relationship to the University Farm.

Carolyn Hoagland will put her work clothes away for the evening and share plans for a new or renovated University Farm facility and other exciting Farm developments.

A multi-course gourmet meal prepared by Chefs Rick Wright and Caroline Thompson assisted by the new University Culinary Club will be served by St. Andrew’s-Sewanee and University of the South students and staff.

Proceeds from this event will allow the Friends of the Farm to host workshops, enhance learning opportunities for all ages, and allow greater community participation in Farm programs.

A limited number of tickets at $100 per person will go on sale Aug. 30. For more information about this event or Friends of the Farm, please contact Kathy Solomon <krsolomo@sewanee.edu>.

​Community Chest Applications Available


Since 1908, the Sewanee Civic Association (SCA) has overseen the distribution of grants to nonprofit organizations across the Cumberland Plateau. Sponsored by the SCA, the Sewanee Community Chest (SCC) is pleased to announce the beginning of the 2019–20 grant cycle. All nonprofits that benefit the community are encouraged to apply.

The 2019–20 funding application can be downloaded from the website at sewaneecivic.org . Interested nonprofits may also request an application by emailing the SCC at sewaneecommunitychest@gmail.com. The deadline for submission is Monday, Sept. 16.

The SCC is a nonprofit organization and relies on funding from the community in order to support charitable programs throughout the greater Sewanee area. As the 2019–20 grant cycle begins, the SCC is also kicking off its yearly fundraising campaign.

The SCA urges everyone who benefits from life in this community, whether you live, work, or visit, to give generously. Donations are tax deductible. Contributions, payroll deductions and pledges are accepted at any time at P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375.

​County Commissioners Change Votes, Budget Approved


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Aug. 19 special called meeting, the Franklin County Commission approved the 2019-20 budget and the 20.5 cent property tax increase needed to support county expenses. Three weeks before, at the July 29 special called meeting, the commission rejected the same budget. Three commissioners changed their votes, giving the proposed budget the majority needed to pass.

On July 29, the commission voted to reduce expenses by $358,000. This reduced the tax increase needed from 24 cents to 20.5 cents. The budget still failed to receive enough votes.

On Aug. 5, the Finance Committee reviewed the budget and decided to return it to the commission unchanged from the July 29 version.

On Aug. 19, three commissioners who voted against the budget on July 29 changed their votes—Gene Snead, Lydia Curtis Johnson, and Carolyn Wiseman.

Prior to the vote, Snead said, “We received a letter today from the state comptroller stressing the necessity of and our responsibility to pass a budget so we can provide services to the citizens of the county.” If the county had failed to pass a budget by Aug. 31, the state would have intervened.

“The budgeting process has been arduous,” Snead said. Among controversial issues were the raises received by all county employees except school system employees. Snead suggested going forward, all county employees should receive raises. He also argued the percentage basis for allocating raises was unfair to “employees who make the least and have the most difficult time paying bills,” and he proposed the county consider not replacing employees who retired or resigned, reducing the number of employees by relying on technological efficiency.

Prefacing her vote, Wiseman said, “Because I am an employee of a Franklin County Department, I have a conflict of interest in the proposal about to be voted on. However, I declare that my argument and my vote answer only to my conscience, and to my constituents, and to the citizens this body represents.”

Commissioners Scottie Riddle and Chuck Stines, likewise county employees who voted for the budget, prefaced their votes with a similar conflict-of-interest statement.

Commissioners Johnny Hughes, Helen Stapleton, Barbara Finney, Doug Goodman, David Eldridge, and Dale Shultz also voted to approve the budget.

Commissioners Sam Hiles, Adam Casey, and Greg King voted, “no.” Commissioner Angie Fuller passed.

Before the vote on the property tax increase, Commissioner David Eldridge, who serves on the Finance Committee, said, “Many commissioners were in favor of a sales tax increase rather than a property tax increase. A sales tax increase must be approved by a referendum. It is not off the table. It just wasn’t an option we could look at.”

The same commissioners who voted to approve the budget voted in favor of the 20.5 cent property tax increase, with Hiles, Casey, and King opposed and Fuller passing.

Property is taxed at 25 percent of assessed value. For a $100,000 home, 25 percent of assessed value is $25,000. For every $100 of that $25,000 the tax will increase 20.5 cents, for a total increase of $51.25.

Following the meeting Fuller, chair pro tempore, said she would have voted if necessary to achieve a majority. She stressed her constituents for the most part supported the 11 cents of the tax increase needed for the new middle schools and would have gone along with as much as a 15 cent increase, but 20 cents was too much. Citing objections to the budget, she pointed to $2 million being allocated to complete the new jail when only $700,000 was needed.

Rotaract Club in Action


by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Last year, the Rotaract Club of Sewanee had a goal of raising $20,000 for the American Cancer Society. After working for months to prepare for the event, the group was able to donate more than $37,000. Planning is currently underway for the second annual Relay for Life, which is scheduled for Oct. 26 on Hardee-McGee Field at Harris Stadium, Sewanee.

The Relay for Life honors those who have passed from or are battling cancer, cancer survivors and their caregivers. Though the club prioritizes planning for the relay, they are busy year-round working to raise money and awareness for other causes as well.

Last year, the club partnered with the Monteagle-Sewanee Rotary Club to support the work of the Hunger Walk. This raised more than $25,000 for the Community Action Committee (CAC) in Sewanee and the Morton Memorial UMC Food Ministry in Monteagle.

Jenna Land, who serves as the community service chair for the Rotaract Club, works to bridge the gap between the Sewanee community and those on campus. One of the projects she found to be a success is Treats for Troops.

Caroline Sweetin, president of the Rotaract club, said in the past, the club has raised money for Global Health Charities, which works to prevent deaths that occur in mothers and newborns who do not have access to hospitals, healthcare resources and clean supplies.

“I think it’s really important for younger generations to know the effects that cancer has on our families and friends and our communities. In a community as tightly-knit as Sewanee, it seems that it has a farther reach. They’re placing the emphasis now on research and preventative measures just so we have that knowledge and we know how deadly of a disease this is,” Sweetin said. “For us, being able to rally the community around work for the Relay for Life is huge.”

This year’s relay goal is $50,000. This event will take place from 4 p.m.–8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Hardee-McGee Field at Harris Stadium. For more information on how to donate, form a team or get involved, go to www.relayforlife.org/sewaneetn or email amasoek0@sewanee.edu.

​Health Care for Free


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The second Saturday of every month, the St. Thomas Health Foundation Mobile Health Unit pulls into the parking lot at Morton Memorial United Methodist Church to offer free health care to anyone and everyone. No insurance is needed, and there is no income qualification screening.

“Many hospitals are closing in Tennessee,” said St. Thomas Foundation volunteer Carol Titus. “It’s a way to get health care to places that don’t have much else.”

At last year’s area Hunger Walk, Titus met Community Action Committee Director Betty Carpenter and the Rev. Jodi McCullah, pastor at Morton Memorial. The CAC and Morton Memorial both host food distribution programs for those in need. Carpenter suggested the monthly Food Ministry at Morton Memorial would be a great venue for the St. Thomas Mobile Health Unit. The mobile unit began hosting second-Saturday clinics at Morton Memorial in January.

“The Food Mission clients often don’t have cars and need to work out transportation,” said volunteer Bill Titus, explaining the advantage of the two events coinciding. Titus pointed to a free St. Thomas medical clinic in Grundy County several years ago as “solidifying awareness of the need” in the area as well as the importance of addressing “the transportation component.”

“We served 160 families today,” said McCullah at the Aug. 10 Food Ministry. “People start arriving at six in the morning.” The mobile health unit offers services from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., sufficient time for the physician on staff to see eight to 12 patients. No appointment is necessary.

McCullah stressed most Food Ministry clients are “the working poor or the retired on a fixed income caring for grandchildren.”

Since the Food Ministry receives free USDA food from the Chattanooga Food Bank, clients must be below 130 percent of the poverty line or be enrolled in a government assistance program, said volunteer Rich Wyckoff.

However, since the mobile health unit is funded by a private donation to the St. Thomas Health Foundation, services are available to everyone free of charge. If a patient has insurance, St. Thomas will file the claim, but will cover all deductibles, copays, and related expenses.

Called “Ministry in Motion,” the mobile health project served primarily Rutherford County before expanding its service area to include most of middle Tennessee. St. Thomas also operates a free mobile mammogram unit, which travels to 26 counties, according to driver Jeff Patterson.

For patients needing prescriptions, an affiliated program Rx Outreach provides free medications by mail.

In October, the mobile clinic will offer flu shots, but Bill Titus stressed, “There are limits to what the doctor can do on the mobile unit.” The mobile unit is not equipped to do blood draws, for example. “The mobile unit can’t replace a patient’s existing primary care relationship or assume that role.”

In July, the mobile clinic had three emergency visits. August was calmer. Dr. Deseree Prentice did several well-child exams for children starting school, as well as seeing adult patients with mental health issues and diabetes symptoms. Prentice scheduled follow-up appointments for the adult patients at the St. Louise clinic in Murfreesboro, which serves the uninsured and underinsured at little or no cost. She made sure the patients had “reliable transportation” and that the appointment time fit their schedule “to increase the chance they’ll show up.”

“Diabetes patients need blood work done at least every six months,” Prentice explained. “People with high blood pressure need regular visits to make sure the medication they take isn’t having any side effects.”

“Once a patient is in the system we can determine how often they need to visit, adjust their medications, and that sort of thing,” Prentice said. “The important thing is to get people plugged into the system."

​New Menu Items at the Blue Chair Café


by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

A local favorite just got a bit of a makeover.

The Blue Chair Café and Bakery, which has been on the Mountain since 2000, debuted a new menu this month. Jimmy Wilson, who owns and operates the business with wife Sarah Wilson, said the partnership with Keri Downing of Octoπ is something he had been hoping for through the years.

Blue Chair favorites such as the Domain, the Tiger Bowl, the YSR! Omelet and the award-winning chicken salad are still available, but through a partnership with Downing, the menu has expanded to include homemade sweet cream biscuits and homemade gluten-free buckwheat waffles.

“To me, this collaboration is about keeping an establishment open that’s been open since 2000 that was started to help a social enterprise, The Blue Monarch. Our biggest competitor is the University, and the Blue Chair is kind of our Cheers here,” he said. “Now, the menu is more breakfast and brunch, rather than breakfast and lunch.”

Wilson said maintaining that Cheers vibe is important to him. The Blue Chair’s tagline is “Where Our Community Gathers,” but more importantly, it is crucial to the community.

“It costs a lot of money to have a place where everybody knows your name. We have been trying to survive in the Village and we are collaborative. We’ve lost Crust, Julia’s, Crossroads. The ones that are still here, we’re all hanging on by our nails until the bookstore opens up,” he said.

The community feel is important to Downing as well — she said the work is half cooking and half community, and without that aspect, she is not as interested.

“I started cooking at seven when my mom taught me how to fry and boil an egg and make toast — then she abandoned me in the kitchen. I love my mother, and she will tell you she cannot cook. I like to think I like to cook through sheer force of will,” she said.

“The biscuit came to use from me playing around with it and we had to do something with it. I wanted to see what we could do with a biscuit. In February, we decided we were coming up with something seasonal. I had never made a biscuit before, and that is exactly why I wanted to try. We sat down and tried that biscuit, and we knew we had something special.”

In addition to the community feel, Downing said to be able to honor the area’s Southern roots through the addition of dishes built around homemade sweet cream biscuits was exciting.

“The Blue Chair has always been this traditional southern place. You don’t want to mess with those roots. This is a place where the southern community gathers around southern food, and that is the heart of it. To give into that and explore it was what got me excited about this menu,” she said. “I was really excited about the Head Honcho because I love the idea of a barbecue biscuit. As the menu actually came together, the Here Kitty Kitty is definitely my favorite.”

The Here Kitty Kitty is a sweet cream biscuit, a stone ground grit-crusted catfish filet, homemade coleslaw and orange marmalade. Wilson said one of his favorites is the Music City Yard Bird, which is a boneless Nashville Hot Chicken thigh, homemade pimento cheese, spring mix and tomato atop a sweet cream biscuit and served alongside homemade ranch dressing.

“There’s such a wonderful explosion of flavors and textures. It’s just a really special dish, and it’s a little less spicy than somewhere like Prince’s or Hattie B’s so more folks can enjoy it,” she said. “With most of my food, the inspiration comes from ADD and just being obsessed with food. I spend way more time than any human should thinking about food, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Blue Chair is currently operating from its new menu and invites the community to come sample the new creations. The Blue Chair is proud to provide the cafe and tavern facilities, as well as financial support, to Coffee with Coach, Tuesday Night Trivia, Sewanee Spoken Word, Thirst for Knowledge, Sewanee Business Alliance, Village Development Update and more. The Blue Chair is operated in support of The Blue Monarch and The OUTsideIN.

For more information or with any questions about the new menu, call (931) 598-5434.

​Schools Policy Changes; Cell Phone Policy Unchanged


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Aug. 12 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved 14 of 16 Tennessee School Board Association policy recommendations. The board will take up the student-cell-phone-use policy pending committee review. The board also discussed budget concerns, the Sherwood community center renovation, and progress on the new middle schools.

“The cell phone policy now is ‘no cell phones,’” stressed Director of Schools Stanley Bean. “The policy needs to be enforced.” Bean said some teachers allowed cell phone use in their classes creating controversy.

Bean will convene a committee to access where the cell phone violations occur, when, and how many students were sent to Alternative School for cell phone violations. Board member Linda Jones will serve on the committee.

Board Chair Cleijo Walker said according to students she met with, “The violations are overwhelmingly occurring in the cafeteria.”

Board member Chris Guess predicted an increase in cyber bullying with a more lenient cell phone policy.

Most of the TSBA policy recommendations were verbiage clarification or involved only minor changes said Assistant Superintendent Linda Foster. Foster provided an overview of significant changes and additions.

The Testing Programs policy now calls for career assessment testing in the seventh or eighth grade. The policies addressing Separation Practices for tenured and non-tenured teachers provide for the board requesting suspension of a teacher’s license. The Family and Medical Leave policy added “paternity leave.” The new Students from Military Families policy provides for special circumstances related to relocation and deployment. The Attendance policy added a clause allowing attendance to factor into credit or promotion denial.

Taking up the Bus Safety and Conduct policy, the board discussed possible ramifications in allowing parents to view video footage from bus cameras when used. Confidentiality agreement laws require the schools to protect the identity of other students in the video, Foster pointed out. “I’m not sure how we’ll deal with this.”

The Graduation Requirements policy added the requirement of passing the civics test. Secondary Supervisor Diane Spaulding said students would be allowed to take the exam until they passed.

In discussion about the Emergency Preparedness Plan policy, Guess suggested removing the word “armed” from the requirement for “armed intruder” drills. Foster will research the legality of removing the word “armed.”

“We’ve never done a drill with an armed intruder,” said Athletic Director Mark Montoye.

The Fundraising policy requires the board to approve all fundraisers. Foster will research whether approval could be assigned to the director of schools.

Turning to enrollment for the 2019-20 school year, Foster said an additional teacher would probably be needed at Decherd Elementary.

Bean pointed out that when making budget cuts, “We took out the $200,000 for hiring additional teachers.”

“We don’t have any elementary applicants,” Foster added. “It’s really scary.”

The school board plans to hold a workshop in October to look at possible budget cuts for the 2020-21 school year.

Guess said he expected the percent of property tax money the schools received would probably decrease again next year.

Kathy Pack addressed the board on behalf of the Sherwood Crow Creek Community Center board. Pack said Don Spanos who was overseeing the renovation was taking care of the surveying requirements. Bean said the lease contract would also need to address maintenance of the well, which serves both the community center and convenience center. The community center was formerly the Sherwood Elementary School. The county drilled the well when the school was built.

Updating the school board on the progress of the new middle schools, Construction Manager Gary Clardy said addressing sinkhole problems at South Middle School “was an expensive process. Fortunately we have money set aside for things like this.”

Clardy said the project was “on budget and on schedule.” He acknowledged getting the gyms ready by mid-October “will be a struggle because we had to wait on things.”

​Morton Memorial Benefits from the Hunger Walk


by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Reverend Jodi McCullah is just beginning her second year with Morton Memorial United Methodist Church, but despite the security she now feels on the Mountain, she said it wasn’t long ago that she needed help.

“For a lot of people, it’s easy to see yourself in a person that needs help and easy to recognize the potential for being there yourself. Most of us know we’re not that far from being in that position, and I hope to God if I need it, there’s someone who could help me. I’m not there right now, but I’ve been there. I’ve used food stamps, and it was very difficult to admit that I was working but still needed help,” she said. “There was a lot of shame involved in that, but there doesn’t have to be.”

McCullah came to MMUMC last year when the food pantry was in full swing. Morton Memorial United Methodist Church is one of the benefactors of the fifth annual The Hunger Walk, a fundraiser that supports local food assistance programs. Last month, the food pantry served 178 families.

“Almost everybody that comes in here is a working person, they just don’t make a living wage,” she said. “It’s rare that we don’t have at least 20 new folks a month. Each month, some folks fall away and new ones come, and especially for the new ones and really young ones, it’s very upsetting the first time or two because you don’t like the idea that you need help.”

But McCullah said the community aspect of visiting with neighbors and catching up with others at the church provides a crucial aspect that normalizes the process and removes the shame that can be associated with needing food assistance.

“People from the church seem to have a way of making people feel welcome,” she said. “They sit in our sanctuary for a couple of hours, and for a lot of them, it’s a social time. They catch up with us or with each other, or one or two of them may know about something others need to know about or they may be in similar situations. It’s a good chance to get together to talk about life, what they’re needing and where they are finding other resources as well.”

In years past, the Hunger Walk has raised upwards of $20,000. For the folks who come to visit with friends and shop MMUMC’s food pantry each month, that money can go a long way.

“Last month, we had a woman who said if it wasn’t for us, she wouldn’t have been able to afford to get new glasses. She was having to make a choice, but because she was able to come get groceries, she could spend the money to get her new glasses so she could see to drive,” she said. “We’re all in this together — someone may need help this month and not the next month, or maybe they need help for a long while. It’s here. We’re here.”

For more information about the food pantry, call (931) 924-2192, and to get involved with the fifth annual Hunger Walk, which is scheduled for September 28, visit http://www.thehungerwalk.com/


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Communications Tower Meeting Postponed

Communications tower meeting on Aug. 13, 2019, has been postponed.

Vogue Tower has postponed the meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 13, regarding the proposed communication tower behind Hardee-McGee Field (Harris Stadium). Vogue Tower, Verizon, and the University continue to collaborate on other possible tower locations. Once a specific proposed site is identified, more information will be shared.


​FC Arts Guild Makes Sleep Mats for the Homeless


Something most of us probably never think about is how uncomfortable it can be for people forced to sleep outdoors. Bedding materials get wet, and people get wet and cold. In the summer, pavement gets hot. These conditions can be dangerous for people who already struggle and may have health problems as well.

A dedicated group of ladies in the Belvidere Family & Community Education (FCE) group that meets at the Extension Office on Joyce Street in Winchester started this project in their monthly meeting. They have been crocheting mats that can be used by anyone who sleeps outdoors. The mats are easy to make, lightweight and waterproof, and provide cushioning as well.

Joyce Adams and Pat Underwood expanded the efforts and refined the process. They took this on as a weekly project and started an ongoing workshop to create more mats.

This past Friday at the reception for the “Selves” art show, seven mats were given to Pastor Marion Pope of the Journey Church in Winchester. Others will be distributed to a homeless mission in Nashville by Harmony Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Winchester. Each mat comes with a prayer and a piece of artwork done as a community project at the gallery.

Those interested in participating can come to Art Wednesday at the Artisan Depot Gallery in Cowan, 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome. You can donate your plastic bags. They must be clean and dry. It takes 100 bags to make a mat.

For more information about the project, call (931) 962-0280 or visit www.franklincoarts.org.


​Community Chest Applications Available


Since 1908, the Sewanee Civic Association (SCA) has overseen the distribution of grants to nonprofit organizations across the Cumberland Plateau. Sponsored by the SCA, the Sewanee Community Chest (SCC) is pleased to announce the beginning of the 2019–20 grant cycle. All nonprofits that benefit the community are encouraged to apply.

The 2019–20 funding application can be downloaded from the website at www.sewaneecivic.org. Interested nonprofits may also request an application by emailing the SCC at sewaneecommunitychest@gmail.com. The deadline for submission is Monday, Sept. 16.

The SCC is a nonprofit organization and relies on funding from the community in order to support charitable programs throughout the greater Sewanee area. As the 2019–20 grant cycle begins, the SCC is also kicking off its yearly fundraising campaign.

The SCA urges everyone who benefits from life in this community, whether you live, work, or visit, to give generously. Donations are tax deductible. Contributions, payroll deductions and pledges are accepted at any time at P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375.

​Commission Approves School Budget, Rejects County Budget


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the July 29 special called meeting, the Franklin County Commission approved the revised school budget, incorporating it into the countywide budget. The commissioners then rejected the countywide budget. The vote was 8 to 7, one vote short of the majority needed.

Presenting the revised school budget, Director of Schools Stanley Bean said the Finance Committee rejected the three previous budget drafts. The school board cut $700,000 from expenses. The budget eliminated raises for most certified employees, all noncertified employees, and all contract bus drivers.

“The budget leaves out raises for the most vulnerable employees,” objected county commissioner David Eldridge.

Eldridge made a motion to give 2 percent raises to all school system employees, cost $289,000, by taking the money from the schools’ reserve fund balance.

“It’s folly to take recurring expenses out of a savings account,” said commissioner Greg King. The school budget as presented already called for a $1.6 million draw on the fund balance, leaving just $2.4 million at the end of next year.

Bean recommended approving the budget as presented then discussing the possibility of the county funding the raises. The proposed county budget did not allocate any additional money to the schools for 2019-20.

The commission voted 12 to 3 against Eldridge’s motion to give raises to all school employees by drawing on the fund balance. Commissioners Eldridge, Angie Fuller, and Don Cofer voted in favor of the proposal. Commissioner Chuck Stines was absent.

The commission approved the school budget recommended by Bean, with only Eldridge and Fuller opposing.

Turning to the countywide budget, many commissioners spoke in opposition. The budget called for a 24 cent property tax increase and included 2.8 percent raises for solid waste and highway department employees and 2 percent raises for all other employees, excluding school system employees.

“If we’re going to be that tight on the educational system, we need to be tight everywhere else,” said commissioner Adam Casey.

Commissioner Scottie Riddle suggested all departments cut their budgets five percent.

“That’s not feasible,” said Finance Director Andrea Smith. The budgets of some departments included only wages, Smith noted.

Smith explained 11 cents of the proposed tax increase would go to fund the new middle schools and 13 cents, $1.3 million in revenue, would go to the county general fund.

“The majority of the $1.3 million will go to pay for the additional corrections officers being hired for the jail expansion and to fund the pay raises,” Smith said.

Commissioner Helen Stapleton asked if the school employee raises could be funded by increasing the property tax rate 25 cents.

Smith said that was not enough. Smith said the cuts in the county budget proposed by Eldridge at the recent workshop were sufficient to fund the pay raises.

The commission approved the proposed cuts, total $358,000. The savings reduced the necessary property tax increase to 20.5 cents.

However, even with the cuts, none of the commissioners was willing to introduce a motion to approve the revised budget.

King made a motion to eliminate raises for all county employees, cost $200,000. The additional savings would have reduced the necessary tax rate increase to 19 cents. King’s motion received no second.

Stapleton made a motion to approve the revised budget suggesting the savings could be used for the school system raises.

“We’re not there yet,” said County Clerk Phillip Custer, explaining the revised budget needed to be approved first.

The budget failed to receive the needed majority of nine. Commissioners Fuller, Sam Hiles, Gene Snead, Lydia Johnson, Casey, Carolyn Wiseman, and King voted in opposition. Commissioners Riddle, Dale Shultz, Johnny Hughes, Stapleton, Barbara Finney, Doug Goodman, Eldridge, and Coffer voted to approve.

“Most of my constituents are okay with 11 cents to fund the middle schools,” said King, “but they’re not okay with 13 cents for everything else.”

Fuller said she couldn’t approve the budget without all school employees receiving a two percent raise.

The finance committee took up the budget again Aug. 5. The Franklin County Commission will have a special called meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 19, at the courthouse. If the county cannot approve a budget by Aug. 31, the state will intervene.

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