TDH Expands Access to COVID-19 Vaccination in Rural and Underserved Areas

Thursday, January 28, 2021 | 03:47pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Health is expanding access to COVID-19 vaccination with a particular focus on rural and underserved areas. TDH is partnering with pharmacies and community health clinics to add more than 100 new vaccination sites across the state. Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan remains focused on equity to ensure those with limited access to health care resources will be able to receive vaccinations when they meet eligibility criteria outlined in the plan.

“We’re eager to launch these partnerships to help bring the vital resource of COVID-19 vaccines to Tennesseans in communities most vulnerable to serious and lasting social and economic challenges due to the pandemic,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP.

“These pharmacies and clinics are easily accessible to Tennesseans who have barriers to receiving health care, like lack of transportation or health insurance,” Piercey continued. “We’re bringing COVID-19 vaccines to familiar and convenient locations for residents of these communities to receive their vaccinations.”

These new COVID-19 vaccination sites include 24 federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and community health centers, 64 local pharmacies and 20 chain pharmacies with many sites in some of Tennessee’s most vulnerable counties. These locations will follow the Tennessee COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, administering vaccinations to residents in current eligible phases of the county in which the clinic or pharmacy is located. All vaccinations are to be given at no charge to the recipient.

These added COVID-19 vaccination sites are distributed across 51 counties covering every grand division of the state. COVID-19 vaccine supplies remain limited, and availability of vaccines varies by county and provider. These providers and facilities are expected to receive COVID-19 vaccines this week, and will handle their own scheduling processes for administering vaccinations.

TDH’s allocation of COVID-19 vaccine to provider partners is designed to ensure the most equitable and accessible distribution of scarce vaccine resources throughout the state, with a focus on Tennesseans most at risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19. Clinics now offering COVID-19 vaccine through this expansion effort are part of the state’s Safety Net serving particularly vulnerable or underserved populations, and will focus their COVID-19 vaccination efforts on their patient populations. These clinics will be reaching out to their patients as they become eligible for vaccination per Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.

Tennessee counties may progress through COVID-19 vaccination phases at different times depending on supplies of vaccines. Tennesseans can learn what phase of the vaccination plan they’re in at;

COVID-19 Vacccination Community Health Centers

COVID-19 Vaccination Community Pharmacy Locations

Monteagle Council Requests Planning Commission to Consider Rezoning Requests

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 25 Zoom format meeting, the Monteagle City Council approved on second reading a new zoning map and new comprehensive zoning ordinances. Adopting the new map, based on the 2016 map, resulted in several properties not having the requisite zoning, including a portion of the proposed RBT Enterprises travel center.

In discussion prior to approval of the comprehensive ordinances, Monteagle resident Will Foehring asked the council to consider providing “for conditional use versus permitted use” to give the council and planning commission more authority. Foehring pointed out the 2016 comprehensive ordinances addressing C-3 commercial zoning stipulated conditional use which “allows a determination to protect the publics health safety and welfare.”

City attorney Sam Elliott recommended consulting the town planner on adoption of a “conditional uses” clause.

Resident William Best took issue with the accuracy of the 2016 map. “It’s not good,” Best said. “There are changes that need to be made to that map…There are some admitted errors in that map, as well.”

“We’re not admitting to any errors on the 2016 map,” said Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman. “Because of the codification consultants through MTAS is the reason we chose to go back to 2016. That was a map we know was good. We found 34 errors [since 2016], plus four properties we’re going to have to address individually, three properties plus the RBT that have been done incorrectly.”

“If we’re adopting a new map,” Best said, “I would like the council to take into consideration the preservation of the character of the existing development…The houses are already here, the homes are here.”

The council passed a resolution asking the planning commission to proceed with rezoning two properties on the new map. Alderman Nate Wilson explained the council previously changed the property of a collision repair business from residential to commercial, but adequate public hearing notice was not given. Elliott said the other property owners, RBT Enterprises, had already applied for rezoning to bring the disputed residential tract into compliance with commercial zoning requirements for the travel center.

Following the Feb. 2 meeting where the planning commission would take up the two requests, a public hearing with two weeks noticed would need to be scheduled, Elliott stressed.

Rodman said, in keeping with the new comprehensive zoning ordinances, courtesy letters would be sent to adjacent property owners and signage posted on the properties proposed for rezoning.

Addressing a chat question, Elliott replied the planning commission would not take up the travel center site plan until the April 6 meeting.

In regular business, the council approved a resolution to apply for a Community Development Block Grant to remedy inflow and infiltration into the sewer system. City engineer Travis Wilson said the city was also applying for an ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) grant for the same purpose. Asked if the town had adequate capacity for the travel center project, Wilson said any new development would use industry standards to determine if the capacity was sufficient to allow for connection to the system.

The council also approved an ordinance calling for establishing an updated occupational health safety program and a resolution to pursue applying for a Fire Prevention Safety grant.

In response to a request from Mountain Goat Trail Alliance Executive director Patrick Dean, the council approved a letter of support for an $80,000 grant project extending the trail from Main Street to North Scenic Road paralleling Dubose Street. The nonprofit Growing Roots will partner with the MGTA in a $3,500 project to create a Native Plant Garden along the new section.

The council appointed Alvin Powell to serve as alderman, replacing Jessica Blalock, who resigned. Powell previously served more than 6 years as alderman.

Rodman announced volunteers will manage the youth baseball program. A link to register will be posted on the city Facebook page. The booster club will run the concession stand.

To facilitate communication and conveying information, the council plans to vote on a plan for updating and maintaining the city website at the next meeting, Feb. 22.

SES Students Revisit 1960s School Desegregation (Please note correction)

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Sewanee residents Robin Bates and Doug Cameron recently joined Sewanee Elementary School fifth-graders for a virtual conversation about the desegregation of the Franklin County Schools. As students at the time of the historic lawsuit leading to desegregation, Bates and Cameron offered a first-person perspective.

Setting the stage, the two men recounted stories from a very different time. Commenting on the significance of segregated drinking fountains and theaters, Cameron noted there was no bottled water and no watching movies on TV. Bates recounted how when alternate swimming days for African-American and whites became a problem at Lake O’Donnell, the white community built a segregated swimming pool for black residents use to keep them away from the lake.

Driving home awareness separate schools were not equal, Cameron pointed out the white Sewanee Public School had eight teachers, a gym, and cafeteria. The black Kennerly School had two teachers and two rooms. Both schools educated students through the eighth grade, but the black school offered no instruction in Algebra and other areas according to Bates.

After integration, to remedy inequal education practices, Otey Parish operated a summer school and afterschool study hall, Bates said. The flush toilets came as a surprise to African-American learners with no indoor plumbing at home. Cameron credited substandard wages for the substandard living conditions of many African-Americans.

The historic lawsuit, with eight Sewanee families as plaintiffs, four black and four white, was the first integrated group of plaintiffs in the South, Cameron noted. Bates told how Ronnie Staten, a black student from one of the plaintiff families responded to being called “the N word” by smiling at his tormenters. The nonviolent strategy recommended by Ronnie’s mother Sarah worked. “All the aggression went out of the bullies,” Bates observed.

Talking about how he and his brother dealt with harassment of his black friends, Cameron admitted, “We harassed them back. We were counter bullies. I feel bad about that.”

Significantly, the four black families named in the lawsuit were all from Sewanee. “Sewanee was a bit of a bubble,” Bates said. “The KKK wasn’t as active on the mountain.”

Cameron related the experiences of black Sewanee student Juliette Taylor during the early days of integration. Taylor was an elementary school basketball star, but required to change in a separate room. The Tracy City team refused to play the Sewanee team and forced them to get back on the bus. Facing even worse harassment in high school, Taylor moved to the north to live with her aunt and finished high school there.

Franklin County Director of Schools Stanley Bean offered additional insight about the difficult times. In fifth grade when desegregation took place, Bean went on to become a teacher and coach. The practice of playing Dixie after touchdowns and waving the Confederate flag led black team members to boycott a game, Bean said. The players ultimately rejoined the team. Head coach Red Roberts took down all the Confederate flags.

“Our students are also living in a time where there is unrest,” said fifth grade teacher Laura Beth Merrell. “What advice can you give them?”

“We need to listen to one another, to acknowledge other people are valid. People are not just their opinions, not one dimensional. You need to try understand the whole of who they are,” Cameron said. “Sometimes you need to confront anger with being kind and continuing to listen…to smile.”


In the Jan. 29, 2021 issue of the Messenger in the “SES Students Revisit 1960s School Desegregation” article, we inaccurately reported that all eight of the plaintiffs were from Sewanee. Not all of the four black family plaintiffs were from Sewanee.

Doug Cameron notes “All of the black plaintiffs in the desegregation lawsuit were not from Sewanee. Emma Hill (Juliette Taylor’s mom) was from Winchester, and her first experiences were at Clark Memorial. She was playing basketball for them when they were sent home from Tracy City.”

“Emma Hill was the most active in civil rights with the possible exception of Scott Bates. She would go to Birmingham to march each weekend, facing dogs and fire hoses from Jim Clark. A very brave woman.”

We regret the error.

Plateau VISTAs Honor MLK Legacy

VISTAs investigate historical civil rights abuses at Tracy City stockade

Local VISTAs joined thousands of volunteers across the nation on Jan. 18, to participate in the national MLK Day of Service. Inspired by the Roberson Project at the University of the South, the VISTA project began by examining the practice of convict leasing in the state of Tennessee and throughout the South. VISTAs then transcribed records from Tracy City’s historical Lone Rock Stockade, where thousands of African American convicts were leased to the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company for forced labor in coal mines between 1872 and 1896.

As background, VISTAs attended presentations by professor Woody Register, Director of the Roberson Project, and by visiting assistant professor Camille Westmont, Director of the Lone Rock Stockade Project. VISTAs additionally viewed the PBS documentary titled “Slavery by Another Name,” which is based on Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same name.

VISTAs subsequently transcribed handwritten records for 913 prisoners incarcerated at the Lone Rock Stockade. Using FromthePage online transcription software, participants transcribed scanned-in, handwritten documents into easy-to-read typed text. “We accomplished an incredible amount today,” said Westmont of the event.

Participants in the virtual event included South Cumberland Plateau VISTAs, the VISTA management team, and VISTAs serving elsewhere in the U.S. “I commend you for making the most of a difficult situation and am grateful,” said Register, in reference to the VISTA cohort’s ability to adapt and serve meaningfully despite pandemic conditions.

The 913 completed transcriptions contribute to Westmont’s research of the Lone Rock Stockade, ultimately helping Westmont and her team to determine just how many convicts labored in Tracy City’s coal mines.

“It is too early in the transcription effort to know, but I expect to find the numbers lie between 5,000 and as many as 10,000 convicts forced into unpaid labor over the course of the stockade’s nearly 25-year history,” said Westmont of the record transcription effort.

Westmont’s research has already revealed that between 70 percent and 90 percent of stockade convicts were of African-American descent, while only an estimated 25 percent of Tennessee’s total population was of African descent at that time. “The stockade—one of several convict leasing prisons in Tennessee and throughout the South—was a blatant continuation of slavery under inhumane prison conditions. Leased labor greatly benefited the local economy and continues to, indirectly, even today. I suspect as a society we will struggle to reconcile these conflicts for generations to come,” said Westmont.

The transcription service project was inspired by the Roberson Project at the University of the South. Chartered in part with “shedding light on how slavery and its legacies have marked our local history,” the Roberson Project is focused on the history of the University, the town of Sewanee, and its people. Still the history of the South Cumberland Plateau and the University are inextricably linked. “Dr. Register, spoke to the VISTAs in December. His presentation sparked curiosity about convict leasing in Grundy County where many of our VSITAs serve,” explained VISTA Leader, Julianna McBee about how the project was developed. “Our MLK Day of Service was truly a success.”

MMUMC Receives Grant for Equipment

Morton Memorial United Methodist Church in Monteagle received a $2,500 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation, a ministry of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church. The grant was used to help purchase equipment needed for outdoor and online worship services.

In the early months of the pandemic, congregation members formed a COVID Task Force, staying up-to-date on pandemic-related numbers and recommendations by federal and state agencies.

“We have not met in our sanctuary since March 2020,” said Morton’s senior pastor the Rev. Jodi McCullah. “We realized we needed to come up with alternative ways to connect.”

At the time, the church had a website but nothing else in terms of an online presence. Because some members were unable to attend outdoor services due to illness or self-isolating, and newcomers wanted to check out sermons and worship services before attending, church leaders began learning about recording worship and posting it online.

“The pandemic nudged us, pushed us off the ledge actually, to get serious and figure out how to offer online worship,” said McCullah. “We have learned how to plan, film, and edit worship services. Thanks to cell phones, members can record themselves reading Scripture, offering prayers, leading liturgies, and even singing from their own home. These recordings are then edited into weekly worship services.”

To help cover the cost of equipment needed for outdoor and online worship services, the church’s Trustees Chair Janet Miller-Schmidt applied for a Golden Cross Foundation grant. Money from the grant was used to help purchase items such as microphones, a digital keyboard, PA system, tripod, and a computer and smart phone for recording and editing.

“We are grateful for the opportunities to meet outdoors, weather permitting, and to offer online worship services,” said McCullah. Thanks to the grant, we now have the technology needed to be seen and heard by folks both in person and online.”

Post pandemic, when in-person worship resumes in the sanctuary, church members plan to continue online services. This will allow those who are unable to attend to be able to worship and feel connected with the congregation.

Summer Food Service Program Helps Communities Bounce Back From the Pandemic

Tennessee is seeking program sponsors to support their communities by feeding children
Tuesday, January 26, 2021 | 03:42pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is providing another resource to help communities bounce back from the pandemic with the launch of this year’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The goal of the Summer Food Service Program is to ensure children 18 and younger, who benefit from meal programs at school, continue to have that same access to nutritious meals outside of school.

Each year TDHS partners with sponsors across the state to provide these meals. The program traditionally runs from the end of May to August when the next school semester begins. This year sponsors will be able to begin serving meals as soon as they’re approved, and they’ll have the flexibility to provide “grab and go” meals to children along with meal bags containing more than one day’s worth of food through the end of June.

Organizations, governmental institutions, schools, and religious entities interested in learning more about becoming SFSP sponsors are encouraged to register online for this year’s virtual Summer Summit to be held January 27, 2021.

“We have forged strong working relationships with our Summer Food Service Program sponsors over the years and those relationships have been even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said TDHS Commissioner Clarence H. Carter. “This program provides supports to strengthen families and grow their capacity to bounce back from the challenges of the last year.”

This need is especially important in rural counties in Tennessee and those designated as distressed. TDHS is hoping to recruit sponsors willing to serve those counties and additional sponsors for every county in the state to help their communities during this time.

In addition to children of school age, adults 19 and older with a mental or physical disability are eligible to receive free meals if they participate in a school program established for individuals with disabilities during the prior school year.

Applications will be accepted until May 1, 2021. If your organization is interested in becoming a SFSP sponsor or becoming a feeding site under an existing sponsor, please contact the TDHS by e- mail at For more information on the Summer Food Service Program, please visit the TDHS website.

In accordance with Tennessee and Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights 1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3) email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Parents interested in finding a Summer Food Service Program feeding location close to them are encouraged contact the TDHS Summer Food Service Program main line at 615-313-4749 or contact their local school.

In addition to children of school age, adults 19 and older with a mental or physical disability are eligible to receive free meals if they participate in a school program established for individuals with disabilities during the prior school year.

Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

TDOE & T-Mobile to Provide Districts Access to Over 200K Student Connectivity Devices

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 | 01:13pm

Partnership Providing Free Access to Mobile Wi-Fi for Tennessee Families

Nashville, TN—Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced a new five-year partnership, T-Mobile Tech for TN Students, to provide school districts across the state with access to over 200,000 student connectivity devices, or mobile Wi-Fi hotspot device, to provide directly to families at no cost to them.

Through T-Mobile's nationwide initiative, Project 10Million, the department will provide participating districts access to student connectivity devices to provide mobile Wi-Fi to households across Tennessee, with more than 40,000 devices available this year. Districts have three tiers of service to choose from, with 100GB of data per device per year available for free.

"As our school districts have navigated through a global health pandemic over the past year, we know access to technology and the internet remains an issue for many students,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We are grateful that T-Mobile launched this nationwide initiative and that we are able to partner to open opportunities for districts to secure free Wi-Fi hotspots for their students and their families to use at home.”

Each year over the next five years, more than 40,000 additional devices from T-Mobile will become available statewide and will be distributed directly to districts by T-Mobile according to economic factors including amount of Title 1 schools, distressed county designations and National School Lunch Program eligibility rates. Districts interested in participating will complete an online application and contract, and student connectivity devices are CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) compliant.

Through this partnership, districts that choose to participate have three tiers of service to support virtual instruction and the needs of their families:

  • Free: Allows for up to 100GB per year per device
  • $12 per month: Allows for 100GB per month per device
  • $15 per month: Allows for unlimited data per device

"Over the past several months, COVID-19 has presented significant challenges for families across the state, especially in rural areas where access to quality internet services is lacking. We are grateful to the department for providing access to these critical Wi-Fi devices so our students can continue to learn at home when virtual school is necessary,” said Dr. Versie Hamlett, Director of Fayette County Schools. “This program will allow us to bridge the connectivity gap and continue providing essential services to our students.”

Additional information on T-Mobile Tech for TN Students, including the online application, FAQ, and more, can be found here.

“Access to the internet means access to opportunity and T-Mobile believes every single child is deserving of that access,” said Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for Business. “We are so proud that over the next five years Project 10Million will make free, reliable connectivity accessible to over 200,000 students all across Tennessee, including those in critically important underserved rural areas without high-speed internet.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the department has provided multiple districts with additional resources and funding related to technology, including $50 million in device funding grants and $15 million for districts to pursue connectivity options for students.

Project 10Million is a nationwide initiative from T-Mobile with the goal of offering free internet access and mobile hotspots to 10 million eligible households. Learn more about the initiative here.

For additional information on the department’s COVID-19 and school reopening related resources, please visit

Historic Session to Help K-12 Tennessee Students Comes to a Close

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. McNally, Speaker Sexton and members of the General Assembly closed a historic special session to address learning loss and the negative effects on student proficiency in reading and math marked by time away from the classroom due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has severely disrupted education in Tennessee. Our decisive action to intervene on behalf of Tennessee students will equip them for success, educating our kids better in the future than before the pandemic,” said Gov. Lee. “I thank the General Assembly for their swift passage of legislation that will benefit our students.”

In addition to interventions for Tennessee students, the passed legislation increases the salary component of the education funding formula by 4%.

“I am grateful for a productive and efficient conclusion to a legislative session focused on helping children, parents and teachers,” said Lt. Gov. McNally (R-Oak Ridge). “Tennessee has made tremendous improvements in education over the last decade. The coronavirus public health crisis began to put all of that at risk. The steps we took this week will reverse the learning loss that has taken place and prevent any further erosion of our progress. I appreciate Governor Lee calling this special session to draw our attention to the pressing needs of education in this state. The House and the Senate came together to ensure our progress continues. I appreciate the efforts of each and every one of my colleagues for their efforts this week on behalf of our students, teachers and parents.”

Gov. Lee’s slate of education priorities included learning loss, phonics-based reading instruction and accountability measures to inform student progress.

“This is a momentous day for Tennessee, for our students, and for our parents because our General Assembly has drawn a line in the sand, and we have said we can no longer accept that only one third of our students are proficient in reading and in math,” said Tennessee House Speaker Sexton (R-Crossville). “We want to be number one in education; I appreciate Gov. Lee for his vision, as well as Lt. Gov McNally, and the House and Senate for their partnership as we all have worked together this week to transform educational outcomes for Tennessee students.”

The passed legislation includes the following measures:

Intervening to Stop Learning Loss – SB 7002/HB 7004

  • Requires interventions for struggling students including after-school learning mini-camps, learning loss bridge camps and summer learning camps, beginning summer 2021
  • Program prioritizes students who score below proficient in both reading (ELA) and math subjects
  • Creates the Tennessee Accelerated Literacy and Learning Corps to provide ongoing tutoring for students throughout the entire school year
  • Strengthens laws around a third grade reading gate so we no longer advance students who are not prepared

Building Better Readers with Phonics – SB 7003/HB 7002

  • Ensures local education agencies (LEAs) use a phonics-based approach for kindergarten through third grade reading instruction
  • Establishes a reading screener for parents and teachers to identify when students need help, well before third grade
  • Provides training and support for educators to teach phonics-based reading instruction

Accountability to Inform – SB 7001/HB 7003

  • Extends hold harmless provisions from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year so that students, teachers, schools and districts do not face any negative consequences associated with student assessments
  • Provides parents and educators with assessment data including TCAP testing to provide an accurate picture of where Tennessee students are and what supports are needed to offset any learning losses

TDH Updates COVID-19 Vaccination Plan

Vaccination Reporting Dashboard to be Updated Monday-Friday
Friday, January 22, 2021 | 02:00pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health has updated Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan as the state continues to prioritize Tennesseans most at risk of illness and death from COVID-19.

Protecting Medically Fragile Children and Adults
Tennessee has added people living in households with medically fragile children to Phase 1c of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. Vaccination of their parents, caregivers and other household residents will help protect these children, as at this time no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in children under age 16. Phase 1c also includes people age 16 and older who have medical conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. This group is further defined in the updated plan, and occurs earlier in Tennessee’s plan than in federal vaccination recommendations.

Correctional Officers and Jailers in Phase 1a1
Tennessee correctional officers and jailers have been added to Phase 1a1 of Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. These Tennesseans work in settings and roles that require frequent direct public exposure through close contact in confined spaces, placing them at high risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Prioritizing Age-Based Risk
Age-based criteria run concurrently to the phases in age brackets beginning with those aged 75 and above.


The estimated timeline and phases of Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan are preliminary and subject to additional changes pending further recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and other federal and state partners.

Tracking COVID-19 Vaccination
Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting dashboard is available online at This dashboard will be updated Monday – Friday each week beginning Jan. 22.

COVID-19 vaccine supplies remain limited, and availability of vaccines varies by county. Tennessee counties may progress through COVID-19 vaccination phases at different times depending on supplies of vaccines. Tennesseans can learn what phase of the vaccination plan they’re in and register for an appointment when they are eligible at

Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan is available online at Find answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination at

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. Learn more about TDH services and programs at

What’s in a Name: St. Mark, St. Paul, Otey?

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

In December, the vestry of Otey Memorial Parish petitioned the Diocese of Tennessee to confer upon the parish congregation a new name: the Episcopal Parish of St. Mark and St. Paul on the Mountain. Discussion about the naming of Otey Memorial Parish began in January 2019. The racially charged atmosphere of this past summer prompted the formation of a committee to give careful consideration to questions raised.

James Hervey Otey is the parish’s namesake. “Bishop Otey was a devout churchman,” said Karen Keele, who chaired the committee. Information from the committee’s research, Otey rector Rev. Rob Lamborn, and Otey records flesh out Bishop Otey’s story. Otey traveled widely starting many congregations, was instrumental in establishing the Diocese of Tennessee, and served as both the first bishop of Tennessee and first Chancellor of the University. The first building of the University and first place of worship was Otey Hall. Otey opposed seceding from the Union, but Otey supported slavery and owned from three to 16 slaves.

Also pertinent to investigating the parish’s name is history about buildings and worshippers.

In 1868, the University completed St. Augustine’s Chapel. Soon afterwards the University and local residents recognized the need for a parish church. The church consecrated in 1875 at the site of Sewanee Elementary School served both white and African-American parishioners who held services at different times. The white parishioners called their congregation St. Paul’s-on-the-Mountain. The African-American parishioners called their congregation St. Mark’s. The church provided schooling for both black and white children.

For reasons not entirely clear, according to Lamborn, in 1891 a new parish church was constructed across the street, a more durable, partially stone building. There was nothing to suggest the first church was in poor condition. The plan was for the white parishioners to worship at the new church and the African-American parishioners to worship at the old church. At the vestry’s request, Bishop Quintard, who succeeded Bishop Otey, recommended to the Diocese honoring Otey by changing the name of St. Paul’s to Otey Memorial Parish. The Diocese, instead, approved the name Otey Memorial Church. “The record doesn’t state whether or not this was intentional,” Lamborn said.

Nor do historical records reveal how parishioners from the two congregations felt about the naming or the more segregated worship practice. Soon afterwards, though, the St. Mark’s worshippers began calling themselves St. Paul’s. When the church fell into disrepair, the congregants repurposed salvageable materials and in the 1930s built a new church on Magnolia Avenue. Name: St. Mark’s.

In the 1960s, Otey chose to integrate. “Integration wasn’t 100 percent successful, though,” Keele acknowledges. “Blacks felt welcome at Otey, but they didn’t feel like they had a role.” St. Mark’s continued to serve worshippers until 1968, when the bishop closed the church at the congregation’s request.

The 1971 Otey Centennial Committee pondered the naming “inconsistency” and considered renaming the parish. As recently as 1979, records occasionally refer to Otey as St. Paul’s-on-the Mountain, Lamborn pointed out. Curiously, the St. Paul’s name referenced an entity that no longer existed in any official capacity.

What should Otey be called in 2021, the year of the sesquicentennial? “What it comes down to is how to best serve God,” Lamborn said. Keele noted naming a church after a person from the fairly recent past was unusual. Far more typically churches are named for biblical figures or events. The congregation—the worshippers—are typically known by the name of the church.

“From 1891 to 1962 the black and white congregations were segregated in worship,” Lamborn said. “The name changed before and changing it again would be a way to bring things together…We want to acknowledge and celebrate the history of the African-American and white congregants both.” Double names are not uncommon and usually result when two churches combine.

In addition to recommending the parish name change, the seven-member committee proposed a plaque on the church recognizing the building was dedicated to Bishop Otey, a street-side historical marker telling the story more fully, and changing the name of St. Mark’s Hall to Kennerly Hall honoring the African-American community leaders and educators John and Gertrude Kennerly.

The Diocese will vote on the request to change the parish name to St. Mark and St. Paul on the Mountain on Jan. 23.

Monteagle Council Approves Map, Zoning Ordinance

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 18 special called meeting, the Monteagle City Council approved on first reading adopting an official zoning map and adopting a new set of zoning ordinances to provide for planning. The council also approved on second reading an ordinance changing the number of planning commission members. At a workshop prior to the meeting, the council took up convenience center issues, new hires, and replacing a council member who resigned.

Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman explained the 2016 zoning map would be used as the reference point since “that’s when MTAS did the compilation on the ordinance book and made that the official timeline for the town.” The ordinance calling for adoption of the 2016 map excludes a parcel whose zoning is being challenged by RBT Enterprises, with the zoning to be decided by the courts. Rodman said the council had received a verbal decision on the disputed parcel. The council will meet with the city attorney to discuss the decision.

Alderman Nate Wilson said the council had identified another parcel rezoned since 2016 which did not correspond with the new map.

“The landowners have been notified,” Rodman said. “We’ll deal with that on the 25th.” On Jan. 25, the council will meet prior to the regular meeting to approve on second reading the new map and ordinances.

The 2021 Zoning Ordinances differ only slight from the ordinances approved in 2018 and determined to be of questionable validity due to inadequate meeting notification. [See Messenger, Jan. 25, 2021]. Changes include notification practices for zoning changes and husbandry on agricultural property, Rodman said.

Ordinance 03-21 approved on second reading provides for increasing the number of planning commission members to seven, and calls for staggered terms.

In the workshop, the council discussed Police Chief Jack Hill’s recommendation to hire a part-time officer to replace an officer called to service in Washington, D.C. for an undetermined time period. The council also discussed hiring Heather Smartt to replace 911 supervisor Wanda McDaniel who will retire Jan. 29 after 22 years of service. Smartt, a current 911 department employee, holds the necessary certification and was the only applicant for the position.

Rodman announced alderwoman Jessica Blalock resigned. Blalock cited “changes in her life and family things” according to Rodman. Appointing a replacement to serve until the next election falls to the council. Rodman proposed appointing Alvin Powell who previously served six and a half years as an alderman.

Alderwoman Dorraine Parmley brought to the council’s attention a complaint by a resident stopped from dumping insulation and pipe at the convenience center. Rodman said commercial dumping was never allowed. Many businesses had their own dumpsters. Rodman pointed out the city rented a dumpster for the Community Center’s use. Wilson said the Marion County landfill allowed commercial dumping for a small fee, with Grundy County businesses receiving the same rate as Marion County businesses.

Turning to another convenience center issue, Rodman said the cardboard compactor owner had removed the compactor after being asked to provide a contract and insurance documentation. Franklin County will provide a container for recyclable cardboard.

Utility manager John Condra brought to the council’s attention that the Sprint antennae service wires were obstructing the ladder on a water tower. Rodman said Sprint contracted for use of the tower and would be required to address the problem. Condra also called attention to deterioration of the wet well.

The council will meet to discuss baseball sign ups.

SUD Progress on Consecutive-Terms Issue

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 19 meeting of the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners, Commissioner Doug Cameron reported on a promising interchange with Tennessee State Senator Janice Bowling about the board’s long-standing efforts to modify the consecutive-terms clause in the SUD charter. The board also reviewed financial reporting documents and approved the election of commissioner Charlie Smith to a second term. Smith ran for reelection unopposed.

In early 2020, Board President Smith reached out to Tennessee State Representative Iris Rudder who agreed to introduce legislation to the Tennessee legislature on SUD’s behalf. The charter that established the utility limits commissioners to two consecutive terms. Smith asked Rudder to petition the legislature to change the language to allow for unlimited consecutive terms. The change would allow commissioners with accumulated knowledge of the utility to continue serving and also address the difficulty of finding SUD customers to serve as commissioner.

Smith has not received a reply from Rudder on his request for progress on introducing the legislation. Cameron met with Bowling in a virtual meeting to discuss fire flows at a women’s shelter. Following the meeting, Cameron sent a note thanking Bowling for her help and took the opportunity to speak on SUD’s behalf. Cameron brought up the consecutive-terms dilemma. In her reply Bowling said, “The issue of getting competent people to serve on these boards is prevalent across rural Tennessee.” Bowling committed to introducing legislation “to correct the problem” and to work to get it passed.

Smith suggested contacting the Winchester Springs water utility and encouraging them “to get on board.” Winchester Springs previously contacted him about being confronted with the same problem.

Also in the arena of long-term significance, the board reviewed two documents on financial reporting prepared by Commissioner Paul Evans, who compiled information from multiple sources.

“This is a good synopsis on what to look for and not overly technical,” said SUD manager Ben Beavers. Beavers recommended including the documents in the information packet provided to new commissioners.

Evans created a 10-point summary of items that needed to “be tracked to ensure financial health.” The top three points were: maintaining an operating cash reserve equal to 12.5 percent of the annual operation and maintenance budget; maintaining a capital cash reserve equal to the replacement cost of critical components of the water system (i.e., major pumping or filtration equipment); and rates should not exceed 1.5 percent of median household income.

At the next meeting on Feb. 16, the board will elect officers and set meeting dates for 2021.

New Features Added to Tennessee COVID-19 Website

Updates to Interactive Map, County-specific Pages Simplify Use
Friday, January 15, 2021 | 02:59pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee’s Unified Command Group have added new features to the website to make it easier for users to find county-specific information and request an appointment for COVID-19 vaccination.

The website provides a simple tool for Tennesseans to find their phase in Tennessee’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. Updates to this tool make it easier for eligible users to request a vaccination appointment with their county health department. Find the tool at

The website also offers an interactive map where Tennesseans can select their county to learn the risk-based and age-based phases currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and how to request a vaccination appointment. New county-specific pages offer information including current local vaccine availability. Find the map at

A new video explains the registration process for users. Find the video tutorial at

The website also offers dashboards and daily reports with state and county-level information including case counts, hospitalizations and tests conducted. This site serves as a resource Tennesseans can use in making decisions about activities for their families, businesses and communities as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

COVID-19 vaccine supplies remain limited, and availability of vaccines varies by county. Tennessee counties may progress through COVID-19 vaccination phases at different times depending on supplies of vaccines. Tennesseans can learn their phase for receiving vaccine at

‘Mine 21’ Now Available to View Online for Free

“Mine 21,” the award-winning documentary about the Marion County coal mine explosion which took 13 lives in 1981, is now available to be viewed for free on the director’s website and on the Alexander Street online platform. Interested viewers can access the video by clicking the link on or by going to <https://video.alexanderstreet....;.

Located in the Griffith Creek area between Palmer and Whitwell, Mine 21 was the largest underground coal mine operated by the Grundy Mining Company. Its tragic explosion on Dec. 8, 1981, was the worst mining disaster in modern times in Tennessee. Investigation of the causes of the explosion went all the way to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy, and resulted in the enactment of numerous measures that have saved the lives of many miners since.

The documentary tells the story of a deadly explosion by following two University of the South students from Grundy County—Kelsey Arbuckle and Alexa Fults—as they learn more about the disaster. Arbuckle’s grandfather, Charles Myers, was one of the miners killed in the explosion. Her grandmother, Barbara Myers, testified before Congress in the 1987 federal lawsuit.

“Mine 21” was directed by University of the South alumnus Stephen L. Garrett and produced by Professor Christopher M. McDonough. Local screenings in Monteagle, Whitwell, and Sewanee drew audiences of more than 1,400 people in 2018. The following year, the film won the Erikson Institute Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media from the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Mass. In March of 2020, the Appalachian Studies Association recognized the film with the Jack Spadaro Award, given annually to recognize “the best nonfiction film or television presentation on Appalachia or its people.” The film has also aired three times on Knoxville’s East Tennessee PBS station, to popular acclaim.

“We have been looking for a distributor for the past year, and are very happy to be partnering with Alexander Street,” said McDonough. Alexander Street is a publisher of numerous online collections and videos for scholarly research, teaching, and learning.

“Because this is such a significant historical event, we wanted our documentary to reach audiences across the country,” he said. “But it was equally important to us to avoid any pay-walls, so that ‘Mine 21’ could be watched at no cost by people in our community, whose heritage this story represents.”

May Justus Library Named a Star Library

May Justus Memorial Library in Monteagle was named one of America’s Star Libraries in Library Journal’s December publication. The ratings are based on fiscal year 2018 data from the Public Library Survey annually filled out for the state. The survey measured successful retrievals of electronic information, physical circulation, library visits, program attendance, public internet computer use, and Wi-Fi sessions. This year, 5,608 U.S. public libraries qualified to be rated in the Library Journal’s index. Two hundred and sixty-two Star Libraries were recognized, each receiving a 3 -Star, 4-Star, or 5-Star designation. May Justus Memorial Library received a 3-Star designation with a service population of 2,823 and an operating budget of $16,646. Only three libraries in the state of Tennessee were recognized by Library Journal’s Index of Public Library Service and Star Library ratings.

Kate Huddleston, Assistant Director of Stone River Regional Library said “We are happy that the Library Journal finally recognizes that our smaller libraries in the state can do tremendous services for their communities on the limited funding available to them. We are so proud of Library Director Karen Tittle’s commitment to her community and recognition of excellence and all the work the Grundy County Library Board and local governments have done to promote and support the Grundy County libraries.”

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