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 <>.

​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 . Interested nonprofits may also request an application by emailing the SCC at 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 or email

​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


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

​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 Interested nonprofits may also request an application by emailing the SCC at 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.

​SWC: the Art Behind the Legacy

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The 2019 Sewanee Writers’ Conference (SWC) marked the program’s 30th anniversary. Today, it is the most highly competitive conference in the country, admitting only one in 10 applicants. The SWC began as an unknown program at a small southern university funded entirely by application fees and tuition. Founding director Wyatt Prunty’s formula for making the magic happen: “Get the right people and then get out of the way.”

Tennessee Williams left his estate to the University of the South to foster creative writers and creative writing, but the will stipulated Harvard University manage the money. Hoping to persuade the executors to let Sewanee manage its own financial affairs, attorney Ed Watson recommended Sewanee get a program in place. Poet Prunty, just recently hired to teach and write, took on the challenge.

“It was very attractive to me to do this,” Prunty concedes, “as you’re bringing writers to your own town.”

Prunty used the allure of being among fellow writers to attract faculty. “You’ll enjoy being among friends,” he told colleagues from his former teaching post at John Hopkins University.

“Tim O’Brien didn’t even ask how much I could afford to pay him,” Prunty said.

In addition to National Book Award winner O’Brien, more than half the first year faculty had received or went on to receive the National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize—playwright Tina Howe, poets Mona Van Dyne and Howard Nemerov, and fiction writers Ellen Douglas and Robert Stone.

Prunty encouraged faculty to bring their family. “There were always children around,” he said. Prunty made it a point to “weave the little things people are interested in into the fabric of the program”—hiking, nature walks, birding.

The strong faculty attracted “students who wanted to know them,” Prunty explained.

Since the first year, the number of workshops has doubled from five to 10—four in poetry, five in fiction, and one in playwriting. The conference is considering adding another playwriting workshop or a nonfiction prose workshop, but Prunty expressed concerns about “losing the sense of community.”

For the faculty, another allure is interacting with and encountering “young people with talent,” Prunty said.

Applicants receiving fellowships must have published a book and scholars must have a history of publications in notable magazines and journals.

For many of the staff the first year, Prunty drew on his former John Hopkins students. For young people who aspired to a writing career, “it was a way to make a living midst a community of writers,” Prunty pointed out.

Cheri Peters, a first year staffer, came to the conference via the Sewanee English Department. “When I heard about Wyatt starting a conference, I said I was interested if there was a place for me.” Peters served on the staff for 20 years, most of those as associate director.

“Organizing the conference was huge,” Peters reflected. In the days before cell phones she would find herself “literally running from place to place” to confirm an arrangement or make one.

In 1990, Miriam Berkley was transitioning from a career in writing to a career in photography. Prunty knew Berkley from the Breadloaf Writers Conference where he taught for eight years and invited her to come to the fledgling Sewanee conference as the photographer.

Berkley has attended every year since. She cited vastly increased diversity as the biggest change. The first year the presence was “overwhelmingly white Protestant,” Berkley said.

Prunty is stepping down as conference director. “Thirty years is a round number,” he joked. “I’m satisfied with the quality of the students and faculty and the conference is financially stronger than it’s ever been,” said Prunty.

Harvard ultimately turned over the financial management of Williams’ estate to Sewanee, and the SWC puts half the Williams money in to an endowment. Today Williams is the most widely produced playwright in the world after Shakespeare with a literary legacy also including fiction and poetry.

Looking to the future, rising director Leah Stewart hopes to do even more to increase diversity and to step up sustainability by eliminating plastic at receptions and instituting carbon offsets for travel. Novelist Stewart worked on the staff 10 years. She shared a memory about playwright Romulus Linney leading a middle of the night skinny dipping outing. However, Stewart stressed, “The most important takeaway was the work.” She recalled Margot Livesey diagramming a short story on a blackboard. Today, Stewart uses the illustration in her classes.

“My top priority is sustaining what the conference does well,” Stewart said, “building community among writers and rejuvenating faith in literature.”

Rising associate director and short story writer Gwen Kirby began her affiliation with Sewanee at age 17 with the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference. “The challenge is to keep the conference as welcoming a place as I found it to be,” Kirby said, “while moving forward to be as modern and diverse as the world of writing is today.”

​Monteagle Police Chief Discussion Dominates City Meeting

The Monteagle City Council met in regular session, July 29. A discussion of why Monteagle Police Chief Virgil McNeece was no longer chief during the citizen’s comments took up most of the meeting.

In regular business, Vice Mayor Tony Gilliam announced the fire hall building would be delivered by July 31. The second week of November is the anticipated move in date.

Jack Hill announced that two other police officers had turned in their two weeks notice.

Hill said “Monteagle has four officers right now, and hiring additional officers is in process.” He said to be fully staffed is seven officers total.

Revisiting the discussion on the four structures in a state of disrepair, Codes Enforcement officer John Knost said “everything has been turned over to the city attorney. We are working on condeming the properties, or these owners will have the opportunity to do the repairs.”

Rusty Leonard, attorney at law, was granted a business permit for his office at 1016 W. Main St., Monteagle.

The council passed a motion to accept the sealed bid for three utility trucks from Al White Motors.

Gilliam said a title search had been completed on the easement by Shan’s Chinese Restaurant. “We assumed we [the city] had an easement on the property, and we do not,” said Gilliam. This road is used to access the ballfield and helipad. Gilliam said the helipad may eventually have to be moved.

The audience pressed for an explanation of why McNeece was no longer police chief of Monteagle. At the July 22 workshop, Gilliam had announced McNeece resigned. Gilliam declined to comment further at that meeting.

McNeece had been with the Monteagle Police Department for 25 years. He was appointed police chief in 2006.

Jack Hill, assistant chief under McNeece, was announced at the workshop as the acting police chief. Hill has been with the police department for 10 years.

Concerned citizens wanted to know why this happened to McNeece during the July 29 meeting, and “why after 25 years he just up and quit.”

“I can’t sit here and talk about any employee,” said Mayor David Sampley. “He is not here to defend himself. As it is right now, Virgil quit.”

Gilliam said, “Yes, he did quit. No one got fired.”

Members of the council said a letter of resignation from McNeece had not been received. However, a letter of explanation from McNeece was received. The council members did not verbally acknowledge having a copy of McNeece’s letter at the city meeting.

Alderman Jessica Blalock said the whole council did not know about this. “I didn’t know, and David was out of town. Virgil never had a complaint,” said Blalock. “There is nothing in his personnel file.”

“If he was to be fired, there would have been a vote” said Gilliam.

“We will talk to city attorney and talk with Virgil to work out a public meeting,” said Sampley.

On Aug. 1, in a telephone interview, Debbie Taylor, city recorder, said that Virgil’s wife brought the letter to City Hall on July 25, “and I date stamped and signed that I received it.”

Blalock said she had no idea what went on, except from the city meeting and the workshop.

“I received a copy of Virgil’s letter on Friday (July 26) before the city meeting,” Blalock said. “Honestly I have no idea what is going to happen next or what the next step is,” she said.

In a telephone conversation on Aug. 2, Sampley said there was not much to talk about at that time. “I talked with Virgil today and things may work out. He may come back as the police chief,” said Sampley. Sampley said there would not be a special called meeting in August.

Virgil McNeece declined to comment.

The council is scheduled to meet next at 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 26., at City Hall.

—reported by Kiki Beavers, Messenger Editor

​First Sewanee Village Independent Project: Bodyworks Youniversity

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Introducing Bodyworks Youniversity owner Kim Butters, Frank Gladu said, “Kim’s been working on her project three years now. I’ve never met anyone with more persistence and commitment.” Gladu oversees the Sewanee Village initiative charged with guiding and directing long-term development in downtown Sewanee. Butters Pilates studio will be the first independent project completed in the Village. Butters spoke at the Aug. 6 Sewanee Village update meeting.

Butters began offering once-weekly Pilates classes at the Fowler Center in 2007. By 2014, her classes were so popular she moved her Jasper-based business to Sewanee and began teaching here full time. Unable to find a suitable building for a studio, Butters decided to build her own. She persuaded two leaseholders to relinquish a section of their leases to create a new downtown lot for her business.

Located between Beauty by Tabitha and Sewanee Realty, the building’s country schoolhouse design and the business’s name, Bodyworks Youniversity, reflect Butters philosophy on Pilates instruction.

“I want you to learn about your body,” Butters said. “Pilates can be done by anyone.” Her clients range in age from 19 to 92. “People leave class pain free or with greatly reduced pain.”

In addition to a full studio on the first floor, the building features several rooms for practitioners of related disciplines. Butters envisions massage therapy, acupressure, and similar offerings. The second floor space will be available for rent, probably on an hourly basis. Possible activities include yoga classes and group music instruction given the interest expressed. Butters also hopes to host health related seminars.

Bodyworks Youniversity is expected to open next spring.

Turning to updates on other Sewanee Village initiatives, Gladu said the Tennessee Department of Transportation had incorporated the Mountain Goat Trail into the US Hyw. 41A road-narrowing project. The multimodal path will run along the highway at the front of the development lot where the Sewanee Gardeners’ Market is held.

When the lot is developed, Gladu expects the market will move to the Village Green proposed for the current Sewanee Market lot. Asked if farmers would be allowed to drive their trucks onto the Green, Gladu said, “We’re trying to figure out how to transition the farmers’ market into the space.”

Plans call for locating the new Food Market Building at the current site of the Hair Depot. “We’re trying to achieve a small Whole Foods rather than a large convenience store,” Gladu said describing the type of market hoped for.

The second floor of the proposed 7,000 square foot building will have six one-bedroom apartments and six studio apartments. The project developer BP Construction will host a “Come and See” event in mid-September inviting the community to learn about apartment and housing visions.

Discussing use of the nearly $25,000 from the Tiger Tuesday fundraiser earmarked for augmenting amenities downtown, Gladu said free Wi-Fi was now available in Angel Park. Other enhancements under consideration include banners, flags, signage and landscaping.

Stressing the importance of increasing visitor activity, Gladu said, “The current population can’t support retail growth.” The Carey Fellows of the Babson Center for Global Commerce at the University of the South and Middle Tennessee State University tourism majors are expected to undertake projects examining visitor activity in Sewanee, Gladu noted. He also pointed to the new South Cumberland Tourism initiative of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as a resource.

The next Sewanee Village update is scheduled for Sept. 3. There will be two sessions, 10–11 a.m. and 4:30–5:30 p.m.

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