Reuben E. Brigety II, dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University and former U.S. ambassador to the African Union, has been elected the University of the South’s 17th vice-chancellor and president.

The University’s Board of Trustees elected Brigety today following a national search that began in September 2019. He will begin his term as vice-chancellor on Aug. 1. Brigety succeeds John M. McCardell Jr., who will step down July 31, 2020, after serving 10 years as vice-chancellor.

“It is my honor and privilege to serve as the next vice-chancellor and president of the University of the South, an institution that holds a truly distinctive place in American higher education,” said Brigety. “During the search process, I got a glimpse of what makes Sewanee so special—an intellectual rigor coupled with an unparalleled sense of community, and a strong sense of place that is inclusive of everybody who finds their way here.”

“Reuben Brigety has spent his life in public service, as a naval officer, as a deputy assistant secretary of state, as an ambassador, and as an educator. Born as a child of the South, Reuben is now a man of the world,” said the Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina, chancellor of the University, and chair of the Board of Trustees.

“His service to this nation has taken him to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, the Middle East, and across Africa. Reuben will bring to Sewanee a rich global perspective and a strong record as a servant leader. I am very excited that Reuben has accepted this new call to service.”

As dean at GWU, Brigety has led a school of international affairs that is consistently ranked among the nation’s 10 best, and is one of the largest by enrollment. Under Brigety’s leadership, the Elliott School has created research institutes for every region of the world, launched an incubator for applied ethics education and leadership training, and increased support for student research travel and internships.

Prior to becoming dean in 2015, Brigety served as U.S. ambassador to the African Union for two years. In that role, he managed the strategic partnership between the United States and the African Union with an emphasis on democracy and governance, economic growth, and development. He also served as the permanent representative of the United States to the UN Economic Commission for Africa; and, earlier, as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of African Affairs, with responsibility for Southern African and regional security affairs.

“This is a great day. In Ambassador Brigety we have been fortunate to find a bold and thoughtful leader who will bring to Sewanee the gifts of insight and of compassion that propelled him to the global stage,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Jon Meacham, C’91, a member of the search committee. “Reuben’s remarkable journey has taken him from the U.S. Naval Academy to Cambridge, from Africa to Washington. Along the way Reuben has mastered the arts of diplomacy, of service, and of critical thinking.”

“Ambassador Brigety is a transformational leader who is well-positioned to help us build a distinctive, inclusive vision of our university that will appeal to a new cohort of globally-minded students,” said Andrea N. Mansker, professor of history and chair of women’s and gender studies at Sewanee, and another search committee member. “Proposing to ‘bring Sewanee to the world and the world to Sewanee,’ he will help us raise our institution's national and international profile as a model of excellence and advocacy in the liberal arts.”

Prior to his work in the policy arena, Brigety was an assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason University and before that taught international relations at the School of International Service at American University. Before entering academia, he conducted research missions in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch.

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Brigety is a 1995 distinguished midshipman graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and holds a master’s degree in philosophy and a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Cambridge. Brigety is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy, a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a recipient of the council’s International Affairs Fellowship.

Brigety and his wife, Leelie Selassie, M.D., have two sons.

​Council Learns Light Pole Cell Tower Specs

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Feb. 24 Sewanee Community Council meeting, Eric Hartman offered specifics on the modified proposal for locating a cell tower at the football field. In other business, the council approved on first reading an amendment to the constitution and agreed to a change in the meeting schedule.

Hartman, the vice president for risk management and institutional effectiveness, has served as liaison for the cell tower project. All cell tower sites satisfactory to cellular communications provider Verizon have met with community objections. At the January council meeting, Hartman presented a modification of the proposal to locate a cell tower at the football field. The modified proposal called for replacing one of the four football field lights with a monopole, and mounting the field lights on that pole. The infrastructure could be partly concealed beneath the bleachers. The proximity to the nearest home would decrease.

At the February Council meeting, Harman focused on answering questions raised in January about the size and logistics of the light pole cell tower option. The eight feet in diameter monopole would be located next to the bleachers and would be situated on a 15 feet by 15 feet pad enclosed in a black wire mesh fence. A structure beneath bleachers, likewise fenced, would house the infrastructure.

Compared to all the other proposals considered, the monopole next to the bleachers offered the best propagation, smallest footprint, and shortest tower, Hartman said.

The original football field proposal called for an 80 feet by 80 feet or an 80 feet by 60 feet pad. Because the installation next to the bleachers would be situated on a slight rise, the tower itself could be slightly shorter than the monopole originally proposed for the football field site. Hartman estimated the height at 175 feet. The football field site is the only site that would not require a lighted tower, because the location allowed for effective propagation with a tower under 200 feet in height.

Hartman also noted the modified proposal did not change much about foot traffic in the bleachers area and no tree cutting would be needed. William Shealy, University superintendent of landscape planning and operations, said the excavation needed would not disturb the tree roots, according to Sallie Green, superintendent of leases. Provost Nancy Berner pointed out the modified proposal would not require an access road.

Council representative Eric Keen asked if the nearby property owners had been consulted.

“We’ll talk with them one more time,” said Vice-Chancellor John McCardell.

Hartman stressed no contract had been signed, and the project would need to be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office. Last August’s meeting with the Historic Preservation Office to discuss mitigation at the football field site was canceled, Hartman said. “We decided we still had more work to do and alternatives to consider.”

Explaining the recommended constitution amendment, Provost Berner said the changes covered two areas. One amendment removed temporary language inserted to transition to new rules regarding elected council representation. The other amendment pertained to council representatives appointed to fill a vacancy and changed the term of service from “until the next election” to “the remainder of the term.” The second reading of the amendment will be at the April meeting.

In keeping with a suggestion by McCardell, the council will not meet in March and May, and will meet instead in April and June.

​Monteagle Appoints Fire Chief and Assistant Chief

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Feb. 25 Monteagle City Council meeting, Mayor David Sampley announced the appointment of Geron Brewer to the position of fire chief and Matt Underhill to assistant chief. In regular business, the council approved purchase of a used Tahoe and heard updates on road repair and roofing projects.

Both Brewer and Underhill hold multiple certifications. Brewer served on the Tracy City Fire Department for five years, two years as a junior firefighter when he was in high school. Brewer joined the Monteagle Fire Department three years ago. Underhill has served on the Monteagle Fire Department for four years. “I joined the day I turned 18,” Underhill said.

“Do you have all your firefighters back?” Sampley asked. Both Brewer and Underhill answered in the affirmative. Last week a number of firefighters resigned objecting to the council’s proposal to suspend Fire Chief Mike Holmes.

“We’re running with 10 firefighters now,” Underhill said, “a good core group. We’ll do everything in our power to keep the town safe and continue with the previous administration’s efforts to keep insurance down and work towards getting grants.”

Vice Mayor Tony Gilliam introduced a discussion about purchase of a used Tahoe, cost $16,000. The council approved the purchase. The vehicle will function as what Gilliam called “a motor pool car” for the use of city employees engaged in city business.

Utility Systems Supervisor John Condra reported the city had received a load of coal mix and would proceed with road repair “as soon as it gets sunny.” Condra said the new roof on the water plant was complete.

Asked about the library roof, Gilliam said, “The job has been awarded to Caps Roofing. The roof will be installed as soon as the weather is permissible.” There will also be a new roof on the post office. The job was bid in September.

Jessica Blalock, who oversees Parks and Recreation, announced the Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for 10 a.m., Saturday, April 4, at Harton Park.

​Local Black History: Freedom Riders Revisited

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the recent Cowan Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church annual Black History Celebration, 1960s Nashville activists Etta Simpson Ray and Mary Jean Smith brought the story of the legendary Civil Rights era Freedom Riders up close and personal.

Sandra Kennerly Brown, coordinator of the Black History event for more than 30 years, introduced the speakers with a brief history on the racially charged circumstances spawning the Freedom Riders. A 1960 Supreme Court ruling expanded a 1946 ruling banning segregation on interstate bus travel to forbid segregation in bus terminals, restrooms, and related facilities.

However, the ruling was not being enforced. To call attention to lack of enforcement, two Freedom Rider buses set out from Washington, D.C. for New Orleans. The journeyers met with beatings and brutality, and one bus was fire bombed.

Ray and Smith, both students at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College, signed on to join the renewed Freedom Ride effort that emerged in Nashville. Both young women had participated in stand-in protests. They would attempt to buy tickets at movie theaters that refused to admit blacks, be turned away, circle back to the end of the line and repeat the process, impeding sales to other customers. At one protest, Smith was arrested.

Ray had endured being spit on at a bus stop and witnessed her father being a “Yes-sir man” with white employers. She later realized her father’s behavior was a survival tool. Her non-violence training for the Freedom Rider expedition emphasized non-reactive behavior “if you were burnt with a cigarette or had hot coffee poured on you.” Due to the brutality and violence Ray and her companions suffered on the leg of the journey to Birmingham, the driver refused to carry them on to Montgomery. They finally found a driver and Ray arrived in Montgomery to learn she had been kicked out of school. A&I College, which later became Tennessee State University, contributed 27 Freedom Riders to the effort, more than any other institution of higher learning.

Also expelled for participating, Smith signed on despite initial reluctance after hearing whites wishing ill on the first wave of Freedom Riders who survived the attacks. Her bus made it to the Mississippi state line. Officials offered the arrested riders a $200 fine or 67 days in jail. They chose jail and were transferred to the county facility. The guards took their mattresses and blankets for singing too loud. Authorities threatened transfer to the notoriously hellish Parchman Prison and made good on the threat. At Parchman, the guards routinely reminded them, “You’re 22 steps from the gas chamber.”

Smith spent 39 days imprisoned. For 25 years, she never spoke about her experience. She finally agreed to address a Sunday school class, which led to an invitation to speak at TSU.

For their role in bringing about meaningful change, Smith and Ray were inducted into the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Hall of Fame. The women traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with then President Barack Obama, and in 2010, TSU awarded Smith and Ray honorary doctorate degrees.

In closing the evening’s program, Pastor John Patton brought the Freedom Riders’ crusade into the 21st century. “We’re still experiencing segregation and struggle to this day. It is a struggle about the hearts of men,” Patton said.

​SCA Learns What Microplastics Are: Toxin Magnets

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The Feb. 20 Sewanee Civic Association (SCA) dinner meeting began with an update on the Community Chest and other projects. Martin Knoll gave a presentation on the insidious danger of microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic from grocery bags, packaging and bottles invading Tennessee waterways.

SCA President Brandon Barry announced the Community Chest had reached 57 percent of the $105,000 goal. This year’s campaign has pledged support to 25 local initiatives, among them Scouts, recreation opportunities, animal welfare, food and nutrition assistance, and help for the elderly. Join in enhancing the quality of life on the Plateau by contributing at or mail a check to P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375. One hundred percent of donations go to the programs awarded funding.

At the April 23 annual meeting, the SCA will elect officers, vote on a bylaws change removing language pertaining to parks, and approve the budget. The 2020-21 budget will remain the same as last year except for a reduction in insurance premiums due to the SCA’s release from responsibility for parks.

On March 21, at St. Mark’s Hall, 10-11:30 a.m., the SCA will host a Technical Support and Classifieds Q & A session led by Sewanee Classifieds Director Bentley Cook. The session will focus on safe use of the Internet.

Speaker Knoll took the audience on a tour into the world of microplastics following the journey of Andreas Fath, athlete and scientist, who swam the full length of the Tennessee River in the summer of 2017 to draw attention to a research study called TenneSwim. Knoll, professor of hydrology and geology, directed the project. Researchers took hundreds of water samples and tested for more than 600 chemicals. Two years before, Fath swam the German Rhine River with the same sampling done allowing for comparison of these similar-size rivers.

What did the Tenneswim researchers learn? Heavy metal levels were relatively low except around areas frequently using road de-icing agents. Herbicide and pharmaceutical levels were high, but the Rhine had even higher pharmaceutical levels. Knoll speculated this resulted because 10 times more people live in the Rhine watershed. High PFC levels in the Tennessee correlated with metal plating industry locals. In addition, artificial sweeteners’ concentration was higher in the Tennessee than the Rhine, possibly due to their use in animal feed.

Overall, though, the Tennessee River scored fairly well on water quality, Knoll said, except for one factor.

The Tennessee River had far higher levels of microplastics, plastic particles five millimeters or smaller in diameter. Tennessee samples showed 16,000 particles for every cubic foot of water compared to 200 for every cubic foot in the Rhine. The microplastics were primarily polyethylene, the stuff of grocery bags and packaging. The researcher sampled only the top two feet of water. Microplastics from PET products like bottles are heavier, Knoll said, and sink to the bottom.

Why are microplastics bad? The other toxic chemicals in the river—heavy metals, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, and PFCs—are drawn to the surface of microplastics, according to Knoll. The microplastics act like toxin magnets. Although the impact on humans is not known, in filter fish the toxin-laden microplastic impede digestion and cause endocrine disruption, which affects the expression of sex genes. Examination with a high-powered microscope showed microplastics clinging to the gills of carp and intestines of shad.

The TenneSwim research has prompted the Tennessee legislature to consider a bill banning all single-use plastic bags. Knoll stressed avoiding single-use plastic and practicing reuse. He pointed to Germany’s vigorous litter control and recycling as a model for how to clean up the Tennessee River, insisting, “We can get there.”

​WUTS No Longer on the Air

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

As of December 2019, the radio station WUTS is no longer licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This means for its listeners, WUTS is no longer on air at 91.3 FM—the station will stream exclusively online.

Issues arose late last year around the station’s compliance with the public file, which is required by the FCC to be kept at all pubic stations. With the possibility of upwards of $100,000 in fines, the University made the decision to relinquish the license.

WUTS, which has been on the air since the spring of 1972, broadcasts a combination of alternative and classic rock, jazz, blues and classical music, as well as more than 38 different radio shows created and hosted by students.

There are no plans to change any of the current programming, according to Laurie Saxton, director of news and public relations with the University.

“WUTS currently is operated by six student staff and approximately 50 DJs and streams music 24 hours a day with scheduled programming approximately 12 hours each day,” according to a statement from the university. Saxton said the statement was written collaboratively with input from two WUTS staff members.

The change in licensure comes amid an industry shift to online streaming. According to a 2019 report by MusicWatch, a company dedicated to marketing research and industry analysis for music and entertainment, 86 percent of teens listen to music using streaming services.

“WUTS has been both broadcasting and streaming for several years, and its audience is moving more and more to streaming. Recent surveys show that...less than half [of those surveyed] report listening to any music on broadcast radio.”

According to the University’s statement, the decision to relinquish the broadcast license was made after seeking both technical and legal expertise.

“Managing compliance with FCC regulations requires ongoing time and expertise that few current student organizations would be able to achieve. Noncompliance brings the risk of both financial and reputational consequences.”

The WUTS broadcast license no longer appears on the FCC website listing active broadcast stations, but listeners can still tune into the broadcasts by streaming online.

“[The University will] continue to support the student radio station with streamed programming... and the students and their faculty advisors will continue to share a love for music and enjoy the out-of-classroom experience together,” according to the statement.

Saxton added that though the format of WUTS will change, all programming would remain the same.

“WUTS programming has changed over the years as student interests and priorities change, but the current students’ experience and programming will not change solely because of the move to streaming-only,” she said.

WUTS broadcasts can be heard by visiting www.wuts.sewanee.edu

​Attorneys Recommend Suspending Monteagle Fire Chief

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Feb. 17 working session, the Monteagle City Council reviewed a letter from city attorney Sarah Bible Willis with Bible and Bible, P.C., recommending terminating the employment of Monteagle Fire Chief Mike Holmes. The letter cited “Holmes recent conviction for criminally negligent homicide,” stating “We find it problematic to allow him to remain in the fire chief position.” The law firm proposed suspension with pay until Holmes’ April sentencing.

Holmes was present for the subsequent discussion.

“We would prefer to pay you up until sentencing,” said Vice Mayor Tony Gilliam.

“Then what?” asked Holmes. Holmes said he was appealing the conviction and pointed out another felon worked for the city.

“He’s not in a supervisory position,” Gilliam said. “He served his time and probation.”

Alderwoman Jessica Blalock objected to suspending Holmes.

Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Blalock asked who would serve as chief.

“We want to talk with you about that,” Gilliam said. Gilliam explained the city could not pay him because his wife, Jessica Blalock, served on the council. Jeremy Blalock is a volunteer fire fighter.

“You tried to get me to resign,” Holmes said. “I already have an attorney hired.”

“If we don’t do what the city attorney tells us to do, we need to resign,” Gilliam said. “We don’t want any of the fire fighters to resign.”

Holmes and assistant chief Blalock walked out during the discussion. The council did not vote on Holmes’ suspension or termination.

According to city recorder Debbie Taylor, one of the volunteer fire fighters turned in his equipment the next day and most of the city fire fighters have resigned, but because they are volunteers, their official status is unclear. Taylor is contacting them to verify their status. Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Doug Cameron said SVFD would respond to Monteagle area calls if necessary.

In other business, Mountain Goat Trail Alliance Board President Nate Wilson presented the council with options for extending the trail along the section paralleling the Highway 41 South from the junction with Main Street to Ingman Road. The MGTA has a grant to complete the trail to Tracy City, Wilson said, and must spend a portion of the money each year. Construction will begin in April on the section from Summerfield Market to Cumberland Bible Chapel. Plans call for the section from Nickajack Trail/Scenic Road to Summerfield Market to follow Dubose Street, which runs parallel to Highway 41 South and use part of the street for the trail.

An individual holds a deed giving him ownership of Dubose Street, Wilson said. According to Gilliam, the county maintains the street. The MGTA offered the deed holder $3,000 an acre for the land, 1.46 acres, and the owner countered with an $80,000 price. Wilson said the property could be acquired with a Quiet Title since it was a public street.

“The city can’t pay for trail maintenance,” alderwoman Blalock said. Alderwoman Rebecca Byers concurred. “We can’t put any more on the city,” Byers said.

Wilson pointed out the city would own the section of trail beyond Summerfield Market to Ingman Road as well as the section of trail in town, and there would be “a disconnect” if the city did not own the Dubose section. “The trail will bring in a half-million dollars revenue annually to the town,” Wilson said. “You’re not interested in owning the street?”

The general agreement voiced by the council was, “no.”

The council also discussed ending the contract with E-911 and moving police dispatch to police headquarters as a cost savings measure. Mayor David Sampley explained the city was incurring excessive expense for E-911 operators’ overtime.

“Eighty-five to ninety percent of the calls are EMS,” said E-911 Director Wanda McDaniel.

“We’re running an ambulance service and not getting paid for it,” said Gilliam. “The police don’t have a dispatcher.” McDaniels will investigate the cost of radios, a generator, and security for operating dispatch from the police department.

​Wilder Play Reading ‘Looks Like Pretty’

Professional actors will read from Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s play, “Looks Like Pretty,” on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 4 p.m. in the Tennessee Williams Center. The play is a co-commission from the Sloan Foundation and Geva Theatre and will last for two hours with intermission. There will be a reception afterward.

In “Looks Like Pretty,” Charlie is in love with Shirley, the Kodak Color Girl. With fair skin and auburn hair, she is the basis by which all photographs are color balanced. But when Gloria, an African-American employee, asks for his help after the disappearance of her daughter, they both begin to question how we perceive light, color, and beauty. “Looks Like Pretty” examines who is seen and who is invisible, and how science and technology play a role in manipulating the narrative.

Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder is the Tennessee Williams Playwright-in-Residence. Her plays have been produced at the Royal Court (London), Denver Center Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Arden Theatre, Triad Stage, New Conservatory Theatre, and Hartford Stage, among others.

​Ward to Present Solo Organ Recitals

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Music has been a part of Geoffrey Ward’s life since he was young. Early on, his father demonstrated a deep appreciation for classical and church music. Ward said that is something he carried with him into his professional life.

Ward, who is the University’s organist and choirmaster, first began studying the organ as a student of Arizona State University. His background was initially in piano and trumpet, but during his studies at ASU, the organ became his focus.

Drawing inspiration from his father’s love of music, Ward went on to study trumpet, piano, pipe organ and conducting. Later this month, he will present an organ concert showcasing the works by Camille Saint-Saëns, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jehan Alain, Herbert Howells and Max Reger. The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28, in All Saints’ Chapel.

This recital precedes his performance with the Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City. Trinity Church is an inclusive Episcopal community focused on service to others, and Ward’s performance at the church is scheduled for 1 p.m., Thursday, March 12.

“The recital at Trinity Wall Street is part of their concert series called Pipes at One. The music program at Trinity is one of the best in the country. There is a professional choir in residence as well as many other choirs, orchestras and concert series,” he said.

Ward and his wife, Hilary, who works as a visiting professor of music and managing director of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival, have been in Sewanee for four years, and Ward said the inspiration for much of his work comes from people—those he interacts with on the Mountain and beyond.

“Having the opportunity to work within a diverse community and sharing the gift of music is always an inspiration, and this recital is a great opportunity to share the beautiful organ in All Saints’ Chapel,” he said.

Before making Sewanee home, Ward previously worked as the Healey Willan Organ Scholar at Saint Mary Magdalene Church in Toronto, Canada. He said that experience was formative in furthering his appreciation for liturgical music.

“This was truly the greatest experience of my life up until this point. I hardly made any money, and I was constantly busy learning as much as I could from the multiple choirs, priests and the director of music. Saint Mary Magdalene has two choirs for their principal liturgy every Sunday. There is a male chant choir that performs from the front of the church and an SATB motet choir that sings from the balcony. Healey Willan established the tradition of music excellence at this church from 1921 to 1968 and it continues to this day. The beauty of the liturgy and the community of this church live with me to this day.”

The concert is free and open to the public. Ward’s performance at Trinity Church will be at Saint Paul’s Chapel and will be live-streamed on the Trinity website https://www.trinitywallstreet.org


​SUD Elects Officers; Reviews Water Loss Metrics

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Feb. 18 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners elected officers for the coming year. To educate the board on an issue critical to public water utilities, SUD manager Ben Beavers presented an overview of water-loss metrics, how water loss is calculated, and the financial ramifications.

The meeting opened with the swearing in of new commissioner Doug Cameron. Board President Charlie Smith welcomed Cameron back, “We’re glad to have your expertise on the board.” Cameron previously served two, four-year terms on the SUD board, five of those years as president.

The board elected Smith president, Cameron vice president, and Paul Evans secretary.

In discussing water-loss accountability, Beavers referred the board to the annual water audit report, a benchmark reviewed by the state comptroller in the annual audit assessment of public water utilities.

Of the 109 million gallons of water SUD produced in 2019, 30.3 million gallons counted as non-revenue water, or water not paid for. Non-revenue water includes water from three categories: water produced at the plant and used by SUD in its operations; water lost due to theft, meter inaccuracies, and other data system errors; and water loss from identified leaks, such as line breaks, unidentified leaks, such as aging, deteriorated water lines; and hydrant flushing.

Translated into dollars, of the total cost of producing water, 6.1 percent was for non-revenue water. “Actually,” Beavers said, “that’s very good compared to other water utilities of our size. SUD is in the top 25 percent statewide.” Some water utilities’ scores showed nearly 50 percent of their cost of production resulting from non-revenue water.

Beavers has a threefold strategy for reducing non-revenue water loss. SUD is replacing inaccurate dorm meters, upgraded to a new device to test meter accuracy, and this spring will conduct a sonar leak detection survey.

SUD will postpone the survey until the weather improves. “The ground needs to be fairly dry to transmit sound,” Beavers said. “If we have the survey data by the end of July, that will give us plenty of time to plan for the 2021 budget.”

SUD recently completed a waterline replacement project to eliminate leaks from aging cast iron water lines, and financed the project by drawing on cash reserves rather than taking out a loan. “By mid-year, cash reserves should be up to where they were before SUD undertook the waterline replacement project,” Beavers predicted.

Based on a country wide assessment of water utilities of SUD’s size, once SUD’s water loss from unidentified leak sources falls below 10.6 million gallons per year, finding the leaks can cost more than the lost revenue from the leaks Beavers pointed out.

The SUD board meets next on Tuesday, March 17. The board decided to change the regular meeting day from the fourth Tuesday to the third Tuesday.

​Middle Schools: A Glimpse of the Future

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

On Feb. 15, project construction manager Gary Clardy led a group of school board members, administrators, and teachers on a tour of the under-construction new South Middle School. In January 2019, after three years of contentious debate, the Franklin County Commission voted to allocate $48 million for the construction of two new middle schools at the sites of the two current schools.

“These will be schools our community can be proud of,” said board member Sarah Marhevsky. “We’re doing right by our kids.”

The gyms at the existing schools have been retained and renovated. The gyms have new membrane roofs, new flooring, digital scoreboards, coaches’ offices, air conditioning and locker rooms with showers for both the home team and visiting teams. Previously, visiting teams had no place to change and the lack of air conditioning made visiting schools dread sports events at the middle schools.

The spacious auditoriums seat 440 with features including a projection room and dropdown screen on the stage.

“The new construction at both schools is the same,” stressed Director of Schools Stanley Bean. At North Middle School, which has more students, the existing eighth-grade wing will be retained. The new schools have energy saving LED lighting throughout.

Designed to maximize security, the new classroom wing offers full visibility from the single access point. Soon to be installed lockers will fill the recessed niches in the hallway.

“I’m obsessed with the light,” said North Principal Holly Eslick commenting on the abundance of windows enhancing the spacious ambiance of the large classrooms. Each classroom will have its own thermostat to allow for customized heating and cooling.

The extra-large science classroom will accommodate student desks and lab setup within the same classroom space and allow two or more classes to inhabit the room to hear guest speakers. The STEM classroom has a double-wide door leading to the outside so equipment can be brought in. Long tables will enable seated students to view demonstrations and pursue their own projects in the same workspace.

The art room includes a kiln for firing pottery. The vast choir room and huge band room feature noise reducing ceilings to control disruptive reverberation and background racket that make it difficult for musicians to hear what they’re singing or playing. Adjacent practice rooms provide a place for individual musicians and small groups to rehearse.

During free time, students can congregate in the secure interior courtyard. A small concrete stage will provide a setting for bands and speakers.

“These state-of-the art facilities will open up opportunities for students and offer an incentive for people considering moving to Franklin County to want to be part of the school system,” said board member Caycee Roberts. “People will be excited to be here.”

The main office is located just inside the front entrance. An array of adjacent offices will house staff attending to administrative and guidance needs.

Eslick said she was particularly pleased with the CDC [Comprehensive Development Classroom] facilities. “Our CDC students have a variety of different needs,” Eslick observed. “We’ll be able to meet those needs now.”

Commenting on construction delays, Clardy said, “We’ve really fought with the weather and rain.” On any given day, six days a week, 40-50 construction workers are on task at each site. The South site required patching and filling three sink holes, with one more sinkhole yet “to deal with,” according to Clardy. Demolition of the old schools will begin in June. Clardy is confident the new schools will open on schedule Aug. 6.

​Extended School Program Changes; Schools Budget Proposals

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Feb. 10 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved a revised fee schedule for the Extended School Program (ESP). The board also gave a nod to plugging in wage increases in several categories to determine how the cost would impact the 2020–21 budget.

The revised ESP fee schedule proposed by program Coordinator Kim Nuckolls eliminates variable rates for students participating in the program on a part-time basis. The new rate is $20 per day for full-day attendees and $10 per day for afternoon after-school attendees. If more than one child from a family attends, the second and third child receives a $2 discount. North Lake Elementary offers breakfast for an additional $5 per day. In all cases, parents must register in advance indicating the days children will attend. Parents will be billed for these days even if a child does not attend. In the case of snow days, scheduled afternoon attendees who attend all day will be billed for a full day.

The board also approved Nuckolls’ proposal to increase the minimum number of participating children from 12 to 15. “Cowan and Broadview may not have a program,” Nuckolls acknowledged, “but children from those schools can attend another program.”

Board member Sarah Marhevsky observed not having an ESP program could pose a hardship for parents. Marhevsky asked if the total number of participating children countywide could be used to determine an average per school to avoid closing some programs.

“If we don’t have 12, it doesn’t cover the cost of what we’re paying our workers to come in,” Nuckolls explained.

The new pricing becomes effective beginning with the summer 2020 program.

Turning to the 2020–21 budget, Assistant Superintendent Linda Foster proposed several wage increases.

Foster noted 188 certified teachers employed for more than 20 years received no wage increase whatsoever last year. All other certified teachers received step increases based on years of service. Foster will calculate the impact of step increases for teachers in the 20-plus years category.

“This might be an incentive for veteran teachers to stay with us longer,” observed board member Sarah Liechty.

Foster will also figure the cost impact of giving across the board two percent and three percent salary increases to all certified employees.

“We have a lack of teacher applicants,” Foster stressed. “I’ve never posted teacher positions for the coming year in January before.”

In the classified employees’ category, Foster recommended a starting salary increase and years-of-service increases for bus drivers. “We’ve had two openings for sometime,” Foster said.

“I don’t know how we have any drivers at all,” said board member Lance Williams. New-hire bus drivers earn only $13,860 annually before taxes. However, Foster noted, as an incentive the school system pays 90 percent of bus drivers’ health insurance.

Looking to the area of maintenance, Foster suggested new hires be evaluated after three months for a possible wage increase if the employee had specialty skills the school system needed, such as carpentry, painting and plumbing.

Foster said 65-70 percent of the school system’s annual budget was allocated to personnel and benefits.

Director of Schools Stanley Bean updated the board on the impact of school closings due to excessive rainfall. Three roads were blocked, Bean said, and several others on the verge of flooding. As of Feb. 11, all but one of the school closing days built in to the calendar had been used. Bean suggested the school system might be able to make up one day by eliminating early dismissal on Wednesdays.

​Knoll to Present ‘Microplastics’ at SCA Meeting

The Sewanee Civic Association (SCA) will meet on Thursday, Feb. 20, at St. Mark’s Hall, Otey Parish.

Dinner begins at 5:15 p.m., followed by a business meeting. The dinner is free and open to the public. This year, free children’s activities will be available. Please send a reservation in by Friday, Feb. 14, to <sewaneecivic@gmail.com>, and while helpful for planning purposes, is not required.

The program will be presented by Martin Knoll, professor of geology at the University of the South. The topic will be “Microplastics in the Environment: Potential Impacts on People and Animals.”

The menu is roasted red pepper soup with summer squash croutons (gluten free/vegetarian), hearty beef and vegetable soup, deconstructed caesar salad, and gluten free rice krispy treats. Wine, water and tea will be served.

This year, the SCA is celebrating 112 years of service in the community. The association brings together community members for social and service opportunities. The Civic Association is the governing body for the Sewanee Community Chest, the charter organization for Cub Scout Pack 152, the sponsoring organization for the Sewanee Classifieds, and the selection committee for the annual Community Service Award. Any adult who resides in the area and shares concerns of the community is invited to participate.

For more information, go to sewaneecivic.org.

​Mountain Goat Trail Race Registration Open

Join us on April 11, for the Mountain Goat Trail Race, sponsored by Mountain Outfitters.

The run/walk on Saturday is the same route as the first 6 great years. This year’s half-marathon on Sunday starts in downtown Tracy City and ends at Mountain Outfitters.

The seventh annual Mountain Goat Trail Run & Walk will be held on Saturday, April 11. Online registration is through UltraSignup https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=74819 until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 10. Event-day registration Saturday morning will be at Pearl’s (walk) or Angel Park in downtown Sewanee (run) between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. Online entrants will need to check in at the start.

The 5-mile run will begin at 10 a.m. in downtown Sewanee; a 2-mile walk will begin at 10 a.m. at Pearl’s restaurant. Both will finish at Mountain Outfitters in Monteagle. Prizes will be awarded for fastest men’s and women’s 5-mile times. Prize drawings and presentation of winners are planned after the run. All proceeds benefit the Mountain Goat Trail.

Registration for 2- and 5-mile distances is $25 for students; adult registration is $40 until April 10 and $45 on the day of the race. Registration includes Technical T and food at the finish at Mountain Outfitters.

The third Mountain Goat Trail Half Marathon will be held on Saturday, April 11, the same day as the seventh annual 5-mile run and 2-mile walk. Online registration is through UltraSignup until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 10. Event-day registration Saturday morning will be in downtown Tracy City between 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. Online entrants will need to check in at the start.

The run will begin at 8 a.m. in downtown Tracy City, joining the Mountain Goat Trail and finishing at Mountain Outfitters. The race will be timed, and prizes will be awarded. The race route will be announced soon. Prize drawings and presentation of winners are planned after the run. All proceeds benefit the Mountain Goat Trail. Shuttles will be available both days to return runners to the start.

Registration is $35 for students; adult registration is $50, or $60 on the day of the race. Registration includes Technical T and food at the finish at Mountain Outfitters.

​Early Voting Continues

Early voting for the Tuesday, March 3 presidential preference primary and county primary continues through Feb. 25. The last date to request an absentee ballot is Feb. 25.

Early voting takes place at local election commission offices or at another location designated by the election commission. Some counties also offer early voting at satellite locations. Early voting hours are Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m.–noon in Franklin County.

For early voting locations, hours, and sample ballots, contact your local election office. Contact information for election offices can be found at https://sos.tn.gov/elections

Tennesseans voting early or on Election Day should remember to bring valid state or federal photo identification with them to the polls. For information about what types of ID are acceptable, visit <GoVoteTN.com> or call (877) 850-4959.

Voters can also download the GoVoteTN app. Voters can find early voting and Election Day polling locations, view sample ballots, see names of elected officials and districts, as well as access online election results through the application.

On Tuesday, March 3, Election Day, residents vote at their local precinct, 7 a.m.–7 p.m.

The voter registration deadline for the Aug. 6 state primary and county general election is July 7.

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