Poet Vievee Francis: Defined by Generosity


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

During the week of Oct. 11, The Sewanee Review will give Vievee Francis the Aiken Taylor Award, a gift for a gift. Discussing Francis’ selection as the honoree, Sewanee Review poetry editor Eric Smith called her “a top poet” among poets, reverence flamed by “the spirit of generosity that feeds the work.”

The annual Aiken Taylor Award has honored an American poet of merit since 1987. The Review staff reaches out to advisory editors and others in the poetry world for recommendations and then narrows down a long list of candidates. Adam Ross, who came on board as editor in chief in 2016, acknowledged the predominance of white male recipients historically. As editor, Ross set out to recognize “much of the dynamism in American literature came from women writers” and to “cast a wider net” in reviewing candidates for the award. Ross also prefers the award go not to poets at the end of their career, but to younger poets, “firmly in mid-career” who could benefit from the $10,000 prize. “Ten thousand can buy a few months quiet work,” Ross observed.

Speaking of the criterion for reviewing candidates, Smith said, “One of the things we look for is poets interrogating their own relationship with their work, who grow deeper in their own relationship with language.”

Smith described Francis’ first collection “Blue-Tail Fly” as “an excavation of the past.” Nearly all the poems speak in a first-person voice rooted in place where “connection to the land and tapping into origin stories…teach us about the past and our relationship to it.” A soldier stealing an egg feels “glad to have the power right there in your palm to take what you could not have made.” Human suffering and human denial of that suffering both speak. The reader hears from a mixed-race couple who fled to West Texas after the Civil War, native Americans pushed further and further west, presidents, and soldiers from both sides of the Mexican American War and Civil War. Through place, “Francis welcomes us into relationships in our own lives and shared history as Americans,” Smith said. She prompts us to ask “what can we do for one another and what do we owe each other.”

“In Horse in the Dark,” the reader begins “to see more clearly Vievee’s lived experience,” Smith said. Francis speaks of how as a dark-skinned child, she received from her teacher, “Not praise. But attention is almost the same. It puts you in the center.” The title poem “Horse in the Dark” shows Francis’ struggle with leaving the natural world of her west Texas roots, “the horse I was and I…How did words replace neigh?” The poem “Antipastoral” reads like a plea for a separation from self, from history’s pain, a plea for erasure.

In Francis’ third collection, “Forest Primeval,” the butterfly emerges from the cocoon. “Francis asks us to examine her experience as a black woman living in the 21st century asking important questions about the world around her,” Smith said. Continuing the “Antipastoral” theme, Francis writes, “I have fallen from the dream of progress.” In “Altruism” she calls “desire an abyss none can fill or fathom.” Here Francis’ poetry does what Smith calls its “magic trick…how the poet sees the world in a way no one else does and opens the world to all of us and turns the lens on ourselves and our experience. We’re asked to reflect on ourselves.” In “The Accountant” Francis’ observes, “There are secrets that won’t free you.” What would humankind be without spirituality, Francis asks in “Fallen.”

In keeping with tradition, the poet Phillip B. Williams will give a talk on Francis’ work in conjunction with Francis receiving the award. Ross noted the ceremony would occur in the fall, a first: the celebration of an exceptional poet an excellent introduction to Sewanee for incoming freshman. “For people who see poetry as important to who they are as people…the award is a way to say thank you for the artistic community here,” Smith said.

The Sewanee Review will publish new work by Francis and Williams’ lecture in an upcoming issue.

Fiber to a Computer Near You Soon


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

For the residents of Jump Off, Midway, and Monteagle, fiber optic internet service is now available from Ben Lomand Connect. For other Plateau residents, a fiber connection will be at their doorstep very soon.

“It’s exciting stuff for folks in this area,” said Bryan Kell, Ben Lomand marketing and public relations manager. Kell gave a timeline of progress and predicts all fiber connections will be up and running before the end of the year.

Grant opportunities and a partnership between Ben Lomand Connect, Duck River Electric, and the University of the South are responsible for making fiber a reality plateau-wide. On the University Domain, two of three phases are completed. “The final phase on Alabama Avenue heading toward Monteagle is still a couple months out,” Kell said. In the Sherwood Road area, the construction and drops are placed and ready for splicing. The Connectivity Grant timeline promised completion before the end of the year. Kell sees that as a realistic goal, provided the weather cooperates.

In Tracy City, construction is complete in the tiny homes community and Little Lake and Campbell subdivisions, Kell said. Clouse Hill and Summerfield roads are just a few weeks away from completion, and Kell projected the Freemont community would be online-ready in a month.

Conversion from copper to fiber internet service is free, said Kelly Burrows, Ben Lomand customer service representative. Ben Lomand offers three fiber internet speeds, 50 megabytes per second ($49.95 per month), 100 megabytes per second ($69.95 per month), and 1,000 megabytes per second, one gigabyte ($99.95 per month).

“That’s one gigabyte upload and download speeds both,” Kell said.

Residents living in a fiber-ready service area can make an appointment to connect to fiber by phoning the Tracy City Ben Lomand office (931) 592-2121.

Burrows said current customers using a Ben Lomand router will need to switch to a fiber compatible router. Customers can lease a fiber compatible router from Ben Lomand for $3 per month or purchase their own.

For customers who experience internet problems, Ben Lomand offers 24-7 around the clock technical support, Kell said, and also live online chat. On Sept. 1, Ben Lomand will officially launch the Ben Lomand Home program, which offers enhanced security and ability to manage in-home devices, including children’s screen time.

Ben Lomand plans an extensive outreach to notify residents fiber optic internet service is available to them, according to Kell. “We want to get as many people as possible hooked up to Ben Lomand fiber,” Kell stressed. “We want to give people a fantastic fiber experience with a fantastic price.”

South Cumberland Trail-marking System Completed


After 11 months and 85 miles of measuring the trails in South Cumberland State Park, the Friends of South Cumberland’s Trails Team has completed the posting of mile markers on every trail in the 31,000-acre park, officials have announced.

The 4-inch metallic medallions each feature trail mileage for the specific trail they mark, as well as a unique location code hikers can use to accurately report their location if they need to call first responders for help, according to Trails Team member Rick Dreves.

The markers are also color-coded to differentiate adjacent trails from one another.

“South Cumberland State Park rangers already report at least a half dozen situations where hikers, lost or injured after dark, located one of the new markers and reported the location code on that medallion,” Dreves said. “This not only gives rangers an exact fix on their location, but considerably shortens the amount of time it would take responders to reach them, and help get them to safety.”

Each marker is flanked by two high-intensity reflectors that can be illuminated by light from a smartphone screen at distances of up to 1/10 mile. The mile markers are spaced every half-mile on most trails, and at quarter-mile intervals on the park’s most popular trails, so hikers are never more than a few minutes’ walk from the nearest marker.

The project was funded by the Friends of South Cumberland, with additional support from the Tennessee Trails Association’s Highland Rim Chapter.

Three Tennessee Sales Tax Holidays


For 2021, there are three sales tax holidays. The Tennessee General Assembly has approved two more sales tax holidays in addition to the traditional sales tax holiday on clothing, school supplies, and computers. For complete information go to <https://www.tn.gov/revenue/tax...;.

Tennessee’s traditional sales tax holiday on clothing, school supplies and computers begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 30, 2021, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021.

During this time clothing, school supplies and computers may be purchased tax-free. Certain restrictions apply. Items sold online are also eligible. Items must be purchased for personal use, not for business or trade.

During the period beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 30, 2021, and ending at 11:59 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, food, food ingredients, and prepared foods are exempt from sales tax. This includes qualified sales of prepared food by restaurants, food trucks, caterers, and grocery stores.

Sales of alcoholic beverages are not included in items exempt during this period.

Gun safes and safety devices sold at retail are exempt from sales and use tax during the holiday period ending at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2022.

Guidance from the CDC

When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

How to Protect Yourself and Others

Updated July 27, 2021

https://www.cdc.gov/coronaviru...

Friends and family grilling outside
  • If you are fully vaccinated, you can participate in many of the activities that you did before the pandemic.
  • To maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
  • Wearing a mask is most important if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. If this applies to you or your household, you might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission in your area.
  • You should continue to wear a mask where required by laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance.

band aid light icon If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, find a vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can do things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?

In general, people are considered fully vaccinated: ±

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

If you don’t meet these requirements, regardless of your age, you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.

If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be protected even if you are fully vaccinated. You should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people until advised otherwise by your healthcare provider.

What You Can Do

COVID-19_banner_when_fully_vaccinated_01

If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • To reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
  • You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested 3-5 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. You should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative. You should isolate for 10 days if your test result is positive.

What You Should Keep Doing

multiple images of people doing everyday things

For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses.
  • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others.
  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas of a conveyance (like on open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top deck of a bus).
  • Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested 3 days before travel by air into the United States (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay homeand away from others. If your test is positive, isolate at home for 10 days.
  • People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system, should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.

What We Know

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, including severe illness and death.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are effective against severe disease and death from variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 currently circulating in the United States, including the Delta variant.
  • Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant. When these infections occur among vaccinated people, they tend to be mild.
  • If you are fully vaccinated and become infected with the Delta variant, you can spread the virus to others.
  • People with weakened immune systems, including people who take immunosuppressive medications, may not be protected even if fully vaccinated.

What We’re Still Learning

  • How long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.

Want to learn more about these recommendations? Read our expanded Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.

± This guidance applies to COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J)/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines. This guidance can also be applied to COVID-19 vaccines that have been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (e.g. AstraZeneca/Oxford).



Governor Lee, Commissioner Rolfe Award ThreeStar Grants to 54 Tennessee Counties

  • 54 grants total $2.4 million
  • Funds support local workforce training, health and economic development initiatives

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced today that 54 counties will receive ThreeStar grants.

In total, TNECD is awarding $2.4 million in funding to Tennessee communities through this round of the ThreeStar grant program.

“I congratulate these 54 counties that are receiving ThreeStar grants and thank them for strengthening the quality of life and enhancing workforce development in their communities,” Lee said. “This will help local communities to make Tennessee an even better place to live.”

The funding will be used for a variety of local community development initiatives including education, workforce development, health, tourism, small business, entrepreneurship, and economic development programs, among others that were prioritized through a strategic planning process. ThreeStar promotes economic and community prosperity through collaboration to positively impact every Tennessean.

“The ThreeStar grant program is a valuable tool that assists counties focused on making strides in key areas,” Rolfe said. “TNECD is proud to assist these 54 counties as they develop asset-based strategic plans and invest responsibly in their communities.”

Ninety-four counties have completed the requirements to be certified ThreeStar counties. To be eligible for ThreeStar grants, each county must meet all certification requirements, develop an asset-based strategic plan and design a program to implement a goal from its strategic plan.

“The ThreeStar Grants provide communities with resources to make strategic improvements and support their priority initiatives,” said Jody Sliger, TNECD community development director. “I congratulate these 54 recipients on their efforts to build their economies today with tomorrow in mind.”

The grants have been awarded to the following counties:

Anderson$50,000Bradley$50,000
Campbell$25,000Maury$50,000
Cannon$38,000McMinn$21,000
Carter$50,000McNairy$50,000
Clay$50,000Meigs$25,000
Cocke$50,000Monroe$50,000
Crockett$50,000Morgan$50,000
Cumberland$50,000Overton$50,000
Decatur$50,000Perry$35,000
DeKalb$50,000Pickett$25,000
Dickson$50,000Polk$50,000
Fentress$21,000Putnam$20,100
Giles$50,000Rhea$50,000
Grundy$50,000Roane$50,000
Hancock$50,000Robertson$50,000
Haywood$50,000Scott$50,000
Henry$10,000Sequatchie$50,000
Hickman$50,000Sevier$50,000
Houston$50,000Smith$50,000
Humphreys$50,000Stewart$50,000
Jackson$50,000Sullivan$50,000
Johnson$50,000Sumner$50,000
Lauderdale$35,000Trousdale$47,500
Lewis$50,000Warren$25,000
Lincoln$37,000Washington*$50,000
Loudon$50,000Wayne$50,000
Macon$50,000White$50,000

*Washington County grant is a regional project impacting Carter and Unicoi counties.

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies that help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. To grow and strengthen Tennessee, the department seeks to attract new corporate investment to the state and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. Find us on the web: tnecd.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @tnecd. Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/tnecd.



DHS Announces Extension of REAL ID Full Enforcement Deadline

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023, due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has significantly impacted states’ ability to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards, with many driver’s licensing agencies still operating at limited capacity. DHS will publish an interim final rule in the coming days to effectuate this enforcement date change.

“Protecting the health, safety, and security of our communities is our top priority,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “As our country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, extending the REAL ID full enforcement deadline will give states needed time to reopen their driver’s licensing operations and ensure their residents can obtain a REAL ID-compliant license or identification card.”

Beginning May 3, 2023, every air traveler 18 years of age and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at airport security checkpoints for domestic air travel.

All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four of five U.S. territories covered by the REAL ID Act and related regulations are now compliant with REAL ID security standards and are issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. However, many state licensing agencies have extended the deadline for renewing expiring licenses due to a widespread shift to appointment-only scheduling protocols during the pandemic that has significantly limited states’ capacity to issue REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. As a result, only 43 percent of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are currently REAL ID-compliant. DHS and various states also need time to implement requirements mandated by the REAL ID Modernization Act, including changes that will streamline processing by allowing the electronic submission of certain documents.

DHS continues to work closely with all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories to implement REAL ID Act requirements. For more information on REAL ID, visit https://www.dhs.gov/real-id

Public Notice, Monteagle City Council Meeting Rescheduled

Monteagle City Council

The Monteagle City Council Meeting for July 26, 2021 has been canceled and rescheduled for Monday, Aug. 16, 2021 at 6 p.m. in the Conference Room at City Hall. This is due to possible Federal Funding for the Fire/Police Departments.

No Disruption To The Vaccines For Children Program, COVID-19 Vaccine Availability


TDH Continues To Provide Information and Access
Thursday, July 15, 2021 | 03:19pm

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Department of Health assures families across Tennessee that information and access to vaccinations for children through state health departments continues and there has been no disruption to these services.

While misinformation has been circulated regarding the status of these resources, parents who need information regarding routine childhood immunizations can find resources here. Parents seeking the COVID-19 vaccine for children 12+ can find additional information here.

"There has been no disruption to the childhood immunization program or access to the COVID-19 vaccine while the department has evaluated annual marketing efforts intended for parents,” said Tennessee Department of Health commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. “The Tennessee Department of Health not only supports immunizations but continues to provide valuable information and access to parents who are seeking vaccinations for their children. We are proud of the efforts of our staff across the state and will continue to promote vaccination and the vaccination work of our partners.”

Tennessee has a long history of being one of the top performing programs in the country when it comes to childhood immunizations and this is due in large part to the efforts of rural and metro health departments across the state. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data on vaccination coverage:

• Tennessee ranked among the top 10 states for MMR vaccination coverage among kindergarteners during the 2019-2020 school year
• For more than a decade, Tennessee has had above 90 percent coverage of kindergarten students receiving childhood immunizations including DTaP, MMR, Polio, Chicken Pox, and Hepatitis B.

Additionally, based on an annual census survey of immunization status of Tennessee kindergarten students, 95.3 percent of 2020-2021 kindergarten students in the state were fully immunized.

“While we were concerned when childhood immunization rates temporarily dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are glad that we are seeing vaccination rates begin to rebound. We will continue supporting parents who are working to get their families’ immunization schedules back on track,” Piercey said.

Get Ready to Save: Three Sales Tax Holidays in 2021


Friday, July 23, 2021 | 12:15pm

NASHVILLE - Get ready to save! There are three sales tax holidays in 2021.

The Tennessee General Assembly approved two new one-time holidays for this year, in addition to the traditional sales tax holiday that takes place annually. During these holiday periods, Tennesseans can save nearly 10 percent on qualifying items.

“We are proud to return money to hardworking Tennesseans,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of these savings.”

“We’re happy to help Tennesseans save money and provide some tax relief,” Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano said.

The details of the sales tax holidays are:

  • Clothing, School Supplies, and Computers: Friday, July 30 – Sunday, August 1, 2021: During this weekend holiday, clothing priced under $100, school supplies priced under $100, and computers priced under $1500 are exempt from sales tax. Online purchases are included. Read more about the traditional sales tax holiday here.
  • Food, Food Ingredients, and Prepared Food: Friday, July 30 – Thursday, August 5, 2021: During this week-long holiday, food, food ingredients, and prepared food are exempt from sales tax. This includes qualified sales of food and prepared food at grocery stores, restaurants, and food trucks. Takeout food is included in the holiday; however, alcoholic beverages are not included. Read more about the food, food ingredients, and prepared food holiday here.

Learn more information about the three sales tax holidays by visiting www.tntaxholiday.com . You can also email revenue.support@tn.gov or call 615-253-0600 with any questions.

The Department of Revenue is responsible for the administration of state tax laws and motor vehicle title and registration laws and the collection of taxes and fees associated with those laws. The department collects about 87 percent of total state revenue. During the 2020 fiscal year, it collected $15.1 billion in state taxes and fees and more than $3.2 billion in taxes and fees for local governments. To learn more about the department, visit www.tn.gov/revenue.



Pandemic-delayed, the Civic Association Doubles Honors


by Kevin Cummings, Special to the Messenger

The Independence Day celebration in Sewanee marked a much-anticipated community reunion after the pre-vaccine isolation of the past year. The Sewanee Civic Association utilized the re-emergence to pass out 2020 quarantine-delayed awards along with current honors for community service.

“…A Zoom meeting is really not the place to present an award in the proper fashion,” said Brandon Barry, immediate past president of the Association. “Since Sewanee has such a great Fourth of July and a great gathering of people, we thought, as the Civic Association, it would be a great time to present these awards while everybody is in town.”

Beneath a white canopy in Angel Park, amidst tables replete with watermelon slices, champagne, cookies and cheese, ornamented with flowers like bee balm and bachelor’s buttons, the Association honored people who spread community good.

The Mountain Mask Initiative earned the 37th annual Community Service Award for the hundreds of hand-sewn masks created for businesses, individuals, and essential workers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when masks could be scarce.

“We know without a doubt that this group made a positive impact to the health and safety of the greater Sewanee area,” Barry said. “Their efforts of service in a time of dire need well warrants this award.”

Two of the organizers and seamstresses of the Mask Initiative, Rachel Lynch and Sally Hubbard, accepted the honor.

Another community leader who stepped up amidst the pandemic, Kerstin “Kiki” Beavers, garnered the 38th annual Community Service Award for spearheading two projects to raise money for pandemic-strapped Sewanee businesses and organizations. Beavers, current co-president of the Sewanee Civic Association and publisher/owner of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger, stated she was “humbled and honored,” noting that many people worked in the effort. The projects raised more than $101,000.

The Association also recognized the past work of Bonnie and John McCardell with the 2020 Summa Cum Laude Award for community service. John served as vice chancellor of the University of the South from 2010 to 2020, and Bonnie was past chair of the South Cumberland Community Fund, among numerous other philanthropic endeavors.

“We love all of you and it’s great to be back…,” John told the dozens of people gathered in Angel Park

In the most emotional presentation of the afternoon, Janet Graham, community volunteer and former publisher of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger, accepted the 2021 Summa Cum Laude Award from good friend and former co-publisher Laura Willis.

“This one is for Tim,” Graham said, dedicating the honor to her husband, an active Sewanee community volunteer who died in April 2020.

The Sewanee Civic Association traces its roots back to Sewanee men’s and women’s community service groups in the early 1900s, before officially becoming the Civic Association in 1942, according to the organization’s website. The group’s primary philanthropic effort is the Sewanee Community Chest, which has provided financial support of more than $1 million to area organizations in the last decade.

For more information, visit <sewaneecivic.org>.

SUD: Asset Value Hurdles, Meter Testing, ARPA


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the July 20 meeting of the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners, manager Ben Beavers introduced a discussion about the difficulty in assigning asset values for planning purposes. Beavers also updated the board on large meter testing results and SUD’s application for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

In an earlier long-range planning discussion, Commissioner Ronnie Hoosier suggested using the asset list to predict what would need replaced when. Beavers printed the list, but after review decided “The list won’t serve as a very good template,” he told the board. Many entries on the list pre-date Beavers’ tenure as manager. Listed water mains are found by cost but not location, offering no information on which main the entry refers to. Beavers also gave the example of a section of sewer pipe that cost $10 section of sewer pipe that burst costing $100. “How do we restate the value of an asset?” Beavers asked. A 1992 entry listed the cost of the dams as $34,000. “The dams are older than that,” Beavers said, “And we all know they cost more than that. What does that [figure] mean?” Taking up the question of depreciated items, Beavers asked, “If it’s fully depreciated, do we have to assign a value for it when obviously there is no salvage value?”

Beavers proposed consolidating items into categories, then figuring a value for each category. “The trouble is there are some things that don’t fit into a merger category,” Beavers said. Beavers set a goal for the year of devising a workable system and list.

Turning to a related project, Beavers updated the board on the results of large meter testing. Beavers hoped the testing would help identify unaccounted for water loss (water produced at the plant, but not registering as sold on customer meters). The large meters “are not the source of our unaccounted for water problem,” Beavers said. The worst performing meter was 98.7 percent accurate.

Next, Beavers plans to test residential meters with total flow ranges from 10,000 to 3 million gallons of water to determine how wear affects meter accuracy. SUD replaced all residential meters eight years ago. The meter reading electronics have a projected life of 12-15 years; the batteries are guaranteed for 10 years. Beavers said when the meters are replaced again, the new technology will be “branched and the nexus of the entire thing will be right here [in the office]. If someone gets a leak, it pops up on the computer instantly.”

Beavers also updated the board on his request for ARPA funds. Marion County will receive $5.6 million, and Franklin County will receive $8.2 million. The funds are distributed to counties based on their population. “We should get a share of that money based on the population we serve,” Beavers said. Federal guidelines state the acceptable use of the money includes water, sewer, and fiber infrastructure. SUD requested money from the county mayors for cyber security, water security and sewer upgrades. Marion County replied they will use their ARPA allocation to extend water service to underserved areas rather than projects SUD identified.

Board President Charlie Smith said he talked with Franklin County Mayor David Alexander about SUD receiving ARPA funds and “he [Alexander] was fairly positive about it.”

“It’s the best chance we’ve had at receiving grant money since I’ve been here,” Beavers said.

The SUD board meets at the district office on the third Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m.

Sewanee Airport Committee Established by County Commission


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the July 19 meeting, the Franklin County Commission passed a resolution establishing an advisory committee to review the budget of the Franklin County/Sewanee Airport and offer recommendations in disputes. The action was prompted by neighboring Midway landowners’ objections to how the University handled the need for tree cutting to clear runway entrance and egress.

The University operates the airport; Franklin County owns the airport and must approve all grants. With the airport’s licensure and ability to apply for grants compromised due to the need for tree cutting, the University sought avigation easements from neighboring landowners. In the past, the University negotiated with the landowners to carry out the tree cutting. (See Messenger, June 25, 2021.)

Addressing the commission on July 19, University Treasurer and Vice President for Finance Doug Williams explained the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conversation recommended acquiring avigation easements since it would be “cheaper than negotiating every 10 years.” Williams said surveyors are not required by state law to obtain permission to access landowners’ property to establish easement value; only a notification letter is needed. Williams stressed, however, the University was unaware the surveyors would come on landowners’ property unannounced, a primary objection of landowners neighboring the airport.

Matt Hughes, representing Midway landowners, said Mayor David Alexander requested a 10-year operations budget from the University. The budget, received after a five-week delay, lacked much information. Williams attributed the delay to the need to review the data before releasing it. The budget did not have information on fuel sales and hanger rent because the University contracted with Elevation, Inc. to manage the airport. As part of their compensation, Elevation, Inc. received a percent of fuel sales and hanger fees. Williams said he did not know the amount, but “I will do everything I can to get the information.” The contract with Elevation, Inc. has ended and the University is seeking a new management firm.

Hughes said the Midway landowners wanted the county to require the University sign avigation easements to facilitate tree cutting on University airport property. Williams contended the purpose of easements was to avoid repeated negotiations, and “There are no repeated negotiations of the University with itself.”

“You don’t own the airport,” Commissioner Greg King said.

“We (the county) need something in writing,” Commissioner Lydia Curtis Johnson concurred.

Hughes also asked for three amendments to the resolution: one, an annual airport audit of the airport; two, transparency about future plans and growth; three, a clause stating the county can refuse to consider airport grants if budget information is not provided.

Williams said he had consulted with the University attorney and approved of the resolution as written. “It [the committee] is advisory and provides for transparency…That is a good thing.” Williams said, however, before approving the amendments, he would need to verify they were consistent with the agreement between the University and the county governing operation of the airport.

Alexander proposed the commission approve the resolution establishing the committee, arguing the committee could in turn deal with the easement and amendment questions.

“I wish we could cut the trees and forget about the easements, and let the landowners go ahead and live their lives,” Commissioner Johnny Hughes said.

The unanimously approved resolution stipulates the committee includes two county commission representatives; two Midway residents; and two University personnel.

The commission selected Johnny Hughes (District 5) and Greg King (District 4) as commissioner representatives. Johnny Hughes and King in turn selected landowners Kevin Gilliam and Matt Hughes as the Midway representatives. The committee will meet at 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 2, in the Community Room at the Franklin County Annex.

Free Tax Webinar on 2021 Legislative Updates Happening July 27


NASHVILLE - Join us in one week for the Department of Revenue’s latest free tax webinar covering 2021 legislative updates. The webinar will take place July 27 at 9 am Central time. You can register here.

Participants will learn about important legislative updates from the 2021 legislative session that pertain to taxes. They can also ask department staff any questions they may have.

The July 27 webinar is part of a series of webinars the department offers each month to give the public an opportunity to learn more about tax topics. The recorded sessions and dates for future webinars are also available on Revenue’s website.

The Department of Revenue is responsible for the administration of state tax laws and motor vehicle title and registration laws and the collection of taxes and fees associated with those laws. The department collects about 87 percent of total state revenue. During the 2020 fiscal year, it collected $15.1 billion in state taxes and fees and more than $3.2 billion in taxes and fees for local governments. To learn more about the department, visit www.tn.gov/revenue.

TDCI Reminds Consumers About August 15 Enrollment Deadline for Coverage Through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace


Visit HealthCare.Gov to Learn More and Enroll

NASHVILLE – Ahead of the August 15, 2021 deadline for enrollment, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) reminds consumers that additional savings and increased tax credits are available when they apply or enroll for healthcare coverage on the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) for the 2021 calendar year during the Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently said over 64,000 uninsured Tennesseans are eligible for tax credits and over 70,000 would be eligible for zero-dollar benchmark Marketplace coverage. Consumers can choose to enroll in plans that cost more or cost less than the benchmark plan, but the amount of their tax credit is based on a percentage of their income and the cost of the benchmark plan’s monthly premium.

Premium tax credit calculations for the Marketplace on HealthCare.gov are now adjusted so that most consumers qualify for more substantial advance payments of premium tax credits. Many Americans who purchase coverage through the Marketplace will see their premiums decrease, on average, by $50 per person per month and $85 per policy per month. An average of four out of five consumers currently enrolled in a plan through HealthCare.gov will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month with the newly expanded financial assistance under the American Rescue Plan.

Additionally, after advance payments of the premium tax credits, an average of three out of five uninsured adults eligible for coverage on HealthCare.gov may be able to access a zero-premium plan and nearly three out of four may find a plan for $50 or less per month on HealthCare.gov.

Tennessee’s health insurance carriers and coverage areas for 2021 are as follows:

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee: Statewide coverage.
  • Bright Health: Coverage in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville areas.
  • Celtic/Ambetter Insurance: Coverage in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Jackson, Memphis and Tri-Cities areas as well as select cities in West Middle Tennessee such as Columbia, Dickson and Lawrenceburg.
  • Cigna: Coverage in Chattanooga, Jackson, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and Tri-Cities areas.
  • Oscar Health: Coverage in Nashville and Memphis areas.
  • UnitedHealthcare: Coverage in Chattanooga, Jackson, Memphis and Nashville areas as well as select cities in West Middle Tennessee such as Columbia, Dickson and Lawrenceburg.

To aid consumers in understanding their coverage choices, TDCI created a video outlining Tennessee’s insurance coverage areas.

Current enrollees should review their application, make any changes needed to their current information, submit their application and select a plan, or reselect their current plan, to receive the increased advance payments of premium tax credits for 2021 Marketplace coverage.

Consumers who want to enroll in coverage and see if they qualify for more affordable premiums can visit HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov to view 2021 plans and prices and, if eligible, enroll in a plan that best meets their needs.

If desired, consumers may instead choose to make a new plan selection, but should consider how much they have already paid toward the deductible when deciding whether or not a change in plan makes sense. When a consumer changes plans, the amount they’ve already paid towards meeting their prior plan’s deductible and annual limit on cost sharing may be reset to zero, and they would need to start over paying out of pocket expenses to meet their new deductible and to reach the annual limit on cost sharing on their new plan.

If they have made significant payments toward their current plan’s annual limit on cost sharing, consumers should check with their insurance company to see how it might impact them and what options are available to keep credit toward what they have already paid.

In order to use this SEP, current enrollees will need to step through their application and make any changes if needed to their current information and submit their application in order to receive an updated eligibility result that provides the SEP before continuing on to enrollment.

This SEP opportunity will not involve any new application questions or require consumers or enrollment partners to provide any new information not otherwise required to determine eligibility and enroll in coverage. In addition, consumers will not need to provide any documentation of a qualifying event (e.g., loss of a job or birth of a child), which is typically required for SEP eligibility.

As always, consumers found eligible for Medicaid or CHIP will be transferred to their state Medicaid and CHIP agencies for enrollment in those programs.

Before enrolling in a plan, TDCI reminds consumers to remember the following tips:

  • Carefully review plans when shopping on the exchange during the SEP. Review a policy to ensure it provides the coverage for services you are seeking. While it may be tempting to enroll in a plan with the lowest premium, consumers should take into account other potential costs such as co-pays and deductibles.
  • Ask questions and contact the carriers about their plans. Consumers can learn more details about individual plans, get contact numbers for carriers and view a statewide map of insurance carriers’ coverage areas at TDCI’s website.
  • Research premiums, deductibles, co-pays and cost-sharing along with reviewing each insurance carrier’s networks for their most accessible and/ or preferred providers and hospitals. To avoid unexpected or ‘balance bills’, always visit in-network providers.

Additionally, consumers can call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318- 2596, which provides assistance in over 150 languages. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Consumers can also find a local assister or agent/broker in their area: https://localhelp.healthcare.gov.

Eligible consumers can apply through HealthCare.gov through August 15, 2021 to gain access to the Special Enrollment Period to change or update their plan choices.

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