by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Jump Off residents lost ground in their efforts to oppose a sand plant locating in the Jump Off community. Nearly 150 concerned citizens attended the Marion County Commission meeting October 23, many carrying signs, “No Sand Plant.” More than 60 viewed The River 104.9 livestream of the meeting on Facebook. “You are our only line of defense to stop a sand plant from coming in,” said Jump Off spokesperson Jack Champion addressing the commission. “We’re asking you to help us.”
Champion supplied background on the circumstances. Tinsley Sand and Gravel had a 90-day contract, closing in December, for purchase of an 150-acre tract of land located in the Jump Off community. Champion pointed out in January the commission voted 12-2 to adopt a County Powers Act. At the time, some objected the Powers Act could prohibit and regulate agricultural practices. Champion noted the law exempted agriculture from Powers Act authority. However, by adopting a Powers Act, Marion County did have the authority to pass subsequent laws to regulate “nuisance” activities such as sand plants.
Champion insisted Jump Off’s narrow roads could not accommodate a sand plant’s “18 wheeler” truck traffic and silicone dust from sand plants caused lung cancer. “We’re asking you to help us,” Champion said. “What regulations do you have?”
County attorney Billy Gouger said the county never passed any subsequent Powers Act regulations.
Commissioner Don Blansett said passing “nuisance” rules might mean “trouble. What I think is a nuisance, [others] might not think is a nuisance.”
Gouger cautioned the commission, the Powers Act may not have been properly approved in January, according to County Technical Advisor Service attorneys, since the commission did not have a written copy of the Powers Act resolution to reference at the time of the vote. “I will respect whatever this body decides,” Gouger said. Gouger provided the commission with a sample Powers Act resolution and proposed sand plant regulations modeled after Grundy County’s rules. Grundy County requires a 5,000-foot buffer separating sand plants from residences.
Review of map data shows 27 residences less than a mile from the proposed Jump Off sand plant.
“The intent is not to stop sand plants, just to make sure they’re in the right spot,” Brandt stressed. Acknowledging “nuisance” could be broadly defined, Brandt suggested going forward the county require a referendum to make new Powers Act laws regulating nuisances. Attorney Gouger said requiring a referendum would require a state act.
“Grundy County is the poorest county in the state, and they help their people,” Champion said.
Dr. Arthur Davies who owns property adjacent to a proposed Grundy County Tinsley sand plant said, “You have the right to do what you want with your land, but you don’t have the right to destroy your neighbors land.” The court ruled the Grundy County Powers Act and subsequent regulation gave the county the authority to regulate the location of sand plants. Tinsley Sand and Gravel is appealing the decision.
“Before you pass any regulations, I want it locked in solid, it just affects sand plants,” said former commissioner Mack Reeves. “I understand you peoples’ concern. But I don’t want [the commission] to try to include something else two months from now.”
“[The Powers Act] is a broad stroke,” said resident Destin Hutcherson. “Who decides what is a nuisance? How do we define nuisance?” Hutcherson gave the example of a hayfield being regarded as acceptable by neighbors who might object to cows on the property.
“Everyone uses asphalt and concrete,” a resident maintained.
“Air and water are sacred,” another resident insisted. “That’s what this is about.”
Commissioners Blansett, Gene Hargis and Commision Chair Linda Mason expressed support for regulating sand plants, but expressed concern about the broad authority granted by the Powers Act.
Commissioner Paul Schafer stressed the county “needed to be able to control what is being built and what is being excavated.” Schafer formerly lived next to a rock quarry. “When they blasted, the house shook,” he said. Now the quarry had been abandoned and the site turned into a garbage dump. “The stench that came off of that stunk up the whole neighborhood.”
On the recommendation of Gouger, the commission decided to vote again on the Powers Act resolution so there would be no question about the county’s authority to regulate. Gouger explained adopting the Powers Act and any subsequent regulations needed to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the 15-member commission, meaning 10 members.
The vote was nine to four, one vote short of approving the Powers Act, with commissioner David Abott absent and Commissioner Jim Nunley abstaining. Commissioners Don Adkins, Blansett, Logan Campbell, and Peggy Thompson voted against approval.
At present, Marion County has no authority to regulate sand plants. The commission will continue the discussion at a workshop at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 7, in the Lawson Building, 300 Ridley Avenue, Jasper. At workshops, public comment is not allowed.
Clarification, Oct. 26, 2023. The vote was 9 to 3, not 9 to 4. Logan Campbell was also absent. -KGB
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Kentucky Avenue “is not safe,” insisted a Sewanee resident at the Oct. 23 Sewanee Community Council meeting. He lives on Kentucky Avenue, just a short distance from Tennessee Williams Center events, but always drove because he and his wife were afraid to walk on the narrow street with no sidewalks, no shoulder, and blind curves. Council representative Michael Payne brought the need to address danger to pedestrians on Kentucky Avenue to the Council’s attention.
Nationwide, pedestrian deaths were “at an all-time high,” Payne pointed out. On Kentucky Avenue construction vehicle traffic increased the danger to pedestrians, with construction vehicles typically 9-feet wide and Kentucky Avenue just 18 feet wide. Adding to the risk, motor vehicles typically traveled 30-40 mph, and not infrequently 50 mph, ignoring the 20-mph speed limit. Council representative Laura Willis concurred. Motorists used Kentucky Avenue to bypass University Avenue, Willis said.
On Payne’s suggestion, an ad hoc committee consisting of University, council, and law enforcement representatives will look into reducing the risk to pedestrians. Payne acknowledged sidewalks were “expensive” and proposed considering hard rubber “speed humps” like those in frequent use in Chattanooga. The Monteagle Assembly recently installed speed bumps a local resident said.
Taking up the ongoing parking-shortage dilemma, the council reviewed what worked and what was learned from the strategies employed during the recent Family Weekend. “It was a good test of the system we’re working towards,” said Provost Scott Wilson. Sewanee hosted 2,500 guests. The lessons learned included the need for “more reliable and more frequent” transportation to and from periphery parking lots; blocking the Fulford Hall parking lot the night before events to guarantee availability the following day; and the need for another “low-speed vehicle” to transport people to and from periphery parking. Law enforcement officer Chip Schane cited the effectiveness of cones in preventing parking in bike lanes and suggested “more permanent” barriers. “It’s a work in progress,” Shane said.
“We’re working toward more permanent [parking] solutions,” Wilson said, “but those involve an approval process from the road commissioner, TDOT, and other regulatory agencies.”
Several residents complained about missing events because there was so little ADA compliant parking, stressing the hardship of walking long distances with a walker. The law required nearby ADA compliant parking, one resident said, and suggested bike lane traffic only be allowed during non-event hours. Another resident pointed out the University Avenue bike lanes were not wide enough for ADA compliant parking. Wilson said the solution under consideration provided for several ADA compliant spots. The law prohibited parking in bike lanes, Payne said, noting Sewanee had frequent bike travel before formal bike lanes existed. “Why do we need bike lanes?” Payne asked. Council representative Marilyn Phelps insisted cyclists on sidewalks endangered pedestrians. Council representative John Solomon and others pointed to vastly improved visibility on University Avenue since pedestrians were not crossing from between parked cars. The measures taken were “good for the short term,” Solomon said.
In regular business, the council approved two Community Funding Project grant requests, one conditionally. The council will award $3,642 to St. Mark’s Community Center to pay for installation of a sewage grinder pump. South Cumberland Community Fund donations paid for purchasing the pump. The council approved, conditionally, $5,000 for the cleanup and Phase 1 restoration of Woodlands Park, which would include a pavilion and barbecue grill. Phelps noted all the labor would be done by volunteers, with the funding paying only for supplies. Playground restoration will come later. The Vice Chancellors’ office also pledged $5,000 to the restoration effort. The Community Funding Project will withhold support pending Facilities Management approval, since Woodlands Park is on University property. The council administers awarding $10,000 annually for Community Funding Project grants to enhance the quality of life in the community. A new grant cycle begins in January.
Wilson reminded residents those with action items for the council should contact their council representative to be added to the agenda. Wilson welcomed and encouraged community involvement.
by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer
As Taylor’s Mercantile gears up for its 40th annual Holiday Open House this Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 28-29, owner Ken Taylor and his wife, Lynn, find themselves dreaming of the next stage of their four-decade saga: retirement.
“We’re starting to think about retirement,” Taylor said, “and it’s not going to be easy. We’re so meshed with the university. Lots of things are done differently here in Sewanee than they are anywhere else.”
Taylor grew up off the mountain in nearby Winchester.
“When I was young, we’d come up and peek around and see what the college kids were doing on party weekend, but other than that, we never came up here,” he said. “Sewanee was just a community in and unto itself.”
He was a sophomore pre-med major at Tennessee Tech when his parents moved to Sewanee.
“My mom was a nurse,” he said. “She worked at the old hospital, which is now a dorm. I just didn’t know a lot about Sewanee until my parents moved up here.”
When he didn’t get into med school after his graduation from Tech in 1976, Taylor’s advisor recommended he go to graduate school.
“Back then, it was almost impossible to get into med school,” he explained. “I took a two-year break and then went back to Tech and did research for a year and a half in the microbiology department.”
During that time, he also worked as an orderly at a local hospital. A pretty X-ray tech named Lynn caught his eye, and they quickly became friends. “Meeting her was the best part of going to graduate school,” he said.
He earned his master’s degree from Tech in 1980 and got into Vanderbilt with the stipulation that he’d work in a research lab for a year before starting medical school.
“I had just gotten out of a lab,” he said. “I had been in it for 16 months day and night. I drove up to Vanderbilt, got to the campus, sat in my car for an hour, and turned the car around and came back to Sewanee. I said, ‘I’m not doing it.’ I loved being outside, and I just couldn’t stand the idea of being in a hospital the rest of my life.”
Back at Sewanee, however, he needed to find something to do fast.
“I did a little X-ray work on the side when I was in graduate school, so I got a job at Sewanee Hospital — the new one,” he said. “I didn’t have enough knowledge to do it, so I’d have to call Lynn every day and say ‘How do you X-ray such and such?’”
Things changed when he bought the old Hamilton hardware store, which anchored the corner of U.S. Hwy. 41A and University Avenue, and opened Taylor’s Mercantile with his mother, Evelyn, on Jan. 1, 1984.
“I had no money and borrowed $10,000 from what was then Franklin County Bank across the street, and that’s what we started with,” he recalled. “I went to Chattanooga and bought some stuff — spent $10,000 — and filled up one little part of this whole store, and the rest of it was half empty with hardware.”
He and his mother didn’t quit their jobs at the hospital; instead, they divided their time between the store and the hospital.
“I worked the 7 to 3 shift, and she worked 3 to 11,” he said. “I’d get off and run down here and swap places with her. She’d go put on her nursing uniform and go to work. We did that for way too long.
“We about starved to death because back then a hardware store was a place where you’d go buy a nail or a piece of sandpaper for a dollar, and you just couldn’t make any money at it,” he said. “Slowly but surely, we built it up. I got to work from the University, so I started doing flowers — loved doing that — so we just stayed at it.”
Four years in, Taylor quit his hospital job to work at the store full time. He married his sweetheart, Lynn, in 1988.
The advent of the big-box stores did away with the hometown hardware business. Mom-and-pop hardware stores just couldn’t compete.
“We tried everything in the world to sell — to make a go, and we finally found the right mix,” he said. “People started hearing about us from Murfreesboro and Nashville and Chattanooga and started coming to shop. It just finally started to work, but it didn’t happen overnight.”
By the mid-90s, things were booming: then the economy fell through. “The bottom fell out,” he said. “We just tightened our belts and kept going.”
COVID hit the store hard too.
“We cancelled all of our orders, and we sold on the Internet,” Taylor said. “We sold on Facebook. People would drive up to the side of the building, and we’d load their things up in the trunk. By then, we didn’t have any debt. If we’d owed anything, we’d have been gone.”
Post-COVID, the store is doing great. Its elegant mix of gifts, home décor, custom flowers, and event design has garnered attention from Southern Living, The Knot, and Traditional Home.
The holiday season which kicks off this weekend, Oct. 28-29, with the annual open house transforms the store into a breathtaking Christmas wonderland — making it one of the best Christmas stores between Nashville and Atlanta.
For this special year, Taylor has secured the most incredible Christmas décor in the store’s 40-year history. He envisions the open house — complete with food, discounts, and door prizes — as a way to thank the store’s supporters for the last 40 years.
One nagging concern Taylor does have about his impending retirement is finding the right person to take over the business, which he and his family have poured themselves into over the last four decades.
“We’ll have to find somebody that wants to be that person,” he said. “It will take somebody a couple of years to figure it all out.”
His retirement plans include consulting at the store if the new owner wants him to as well as continuing to do work for the university.
“We may take a few weddings to do — and we may just stay home and sit on the porch awhile,” he said. “I’m yet to be able to even fathom what it’s going to be like.”
Taylor’s Mercantile, located at 10 University Avenue, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For this weekend’s Holiday Open House, hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m., Sunday.
After a successful mural installation on Tracy City’s Goat Pen Hostel in summer 2023, the Grundy County Mayor’s Office was awarded another Tennessee Arts Commission grant to add to local placemaking efforts in the 2023-2024 fiscal year. Tennessee’s South Cumberland Tourism Partnership (TSCTP), which is preserving the region’s culture through a multi-year oral history project, has been tasked with implementing the grant and engaged public art nonprofit DMA-events to project-manage the mural installation.
DMA will oversee the creation of a mural that pays homage to the South Cumberland plateau’s past, grabs the attention of locals and visitors and provokes interest in visiting the audio sites. The boundaries of this project extend community-wide, and the project will cultivate a sense of community pride in a new place.
DMA is seeking highly visible walls within the South Cumberland region that are brick, cinder block or stucco. All interested parties should email DMA president Kristin Luna at <firstname.lastname@example.org> with their business name and location, as well as a photo of the wall and its approximate size. The deadline to apply is Nov. 15, 2023. Factors that will weigh into the final location decision include visibility that will achieve maximum project impact, as well as wall size, condition and material.
TSCTP is a newly formed nonprofit organization working on both near and longer-term plans to help prepare the region to welcome visitors. The brainchild of Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady, the TSCTP identifies and promotes responsible tourism opportunities that can create and sustain new local businesses and local jobs.
The larger scope of the partnership’s oral history project centers on highlighting the region’s rich history that includes lived experiences of the Cherokee Nation, Swiss immigrants, “Zebra Law” convicts, civil rights activists at the Highlander Folk School and coal miners throughout the South Cumberland Plateau. Some of these stories are at risk of being lost forever. The tourism commission aims to engage visitors with the tour and oral history components of the project so they can better appreciate the roots of the vibrant community. In addition to directing people to historical sites that are oftentimes overlooked, the project will facilitate a more engaging and thorough recollection of the past.
Journalists Kristin Luna and Scott van Velsor started 501(c)(3) DMA-events in May 2018 as a catalyst to provide free access to art to rural communities throughout the South. All murals DMA has produced can be found here: <http://bit.ly/DMAMurals>;.
The Tennessee Arts Commission offers a variety of distinct funding opportunities to encourage participation in arts activities in communities across all 95 counties. By purchasing the arts Tennessee Specialty License Plate, you are supporting organizations, schools, communities and public art projects like these across Tennessee.
It is hard to believe the 2023 holiday season is already near. The hustle and bustle of holiday parties, travel, and, yes, cooking, can sometimes overwhelm. St. Mary’s Sewanee is here to help.
The excellent St. Mary’s Sewanee culinary team is offering Thanksgiving catering again this year. The menu includes turkey breast, homemade dressing, green beans, sweet potato casserole, gravy, cranberry relish, rolls, and various pies for dessert. An entire meal to serve as many as 6 guests can be ordered (pre-cooked, only reheating required) for $150. Partial orders can also be placed based on supply. Desserts can be purchased separately.
This offer is for a limited time only, so place your order early by contacting the Reservations office. The deadline for orders is Nov. 10 (or while supplies last). The last day for meals to be picked up is Nov. 22.
All orders must be paid for in advance. Please, no exceptions.
If you want to find Rest, Renew, and time for Reconnect this Thanksgiving Holiday, let us take care of the cooking for you.
To order, contact: Reservations at (931) 598-5342 or <Reservations@stmaryssewanee.org>.
by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer
Eighteen third graders from Sewanee Elementary School (SES) took a genteel stroll through the social graces at an afterschool etiquette camp last month sponsored by the newly created Plateau Etiquette Academy.
Lifelong Sewanee resident Jade Barry founded the academy along with Midway’s Sarah Rose Walker, her friend since the first grade when they were both students in Karen Vaughan’s class at SES. Vaughan, now a grandmother of two, actually helped her former pupils teach the camp.
Barry and her husband, Brandon, grew up in Sewanee but had never had any formal etiquette training. Both felt that lack keenly when they left college and entered the business world.
“We were just country kids not exposed to learning the social norms,” she explained.
Years later, as established professionals, Brandon, an engineer, and Jade, a dietician, wanted to make sure that their young son learned those important social skills at an early age.
“It gives kids the tools of what to do in a given situation,” Barry said. “It provides them confidence if they know what to do when the time comes, so education is so important.”
Other parents in the area felt the same way.
“Sarah and I have been saying for years that we wished we had had etiquette instruction offered to us,” she added.
The two friends joined forces to make it happen. Their former teacher was happy to be part of the program.
“Everyone needs to know how to behave well,” Vaughan said. “Manners are important. A knowledge of etiquette can open doors, increase self-confidence, and have a positive effect on others. I enjoyed working with the parents, some of whom were former students. Their enthusiasm for creating kind and respectful young men and women is admirable.”
Another friend, Mandi Oakes, designed the academy’s logo, and Barry worked with Aaron Welch from Big A Marketing to design and print instructional materials, including a mini-etiquette passport and a detailed place setting.
Other volunteers in addition to the Barrys, Walker, Oakes and Vaughan were Courtney Ramirez, Steve Burnett, and Tyler Walker. St. Mark & St. Paul Parish Church in Sewanee provided space for the classes at no charge.
Lessons covered during the afterschool sessions included communication arts of kindness, courtesy, and poise; thank-you note writing and gratitude; and table manners. Participants celebrated completion of the camp with their parents at a final high noon tea.
During the communications-arts session, students rotated through stations to earn stamps on their etiquette passports. Stations included shaking hands, making requests, holding doors open, making introductions, apologizing, and moving to the right side of the sidewalk when someone approaches.
As part of thank-you note writing, each student received a packet of personalized stationery. Prior to this session, parents filled out a Google form with pertinent information to write the thank-you note.
“That way when they got here, they were ready to write,” Barry explained. “We learned how to address an envelope—where everything goes—and we had a formula for writing a thank-you card.
Stations returned for the table-manners session.
“We kept it as interactive as we could, and I think it was really good,” Barry said. “One station was just on how to hold your utensils and cut. We had apples, so they had to cut apples.”
Students also learned to pull out chairs, use napkins, pass dishes, and indicate when they were finished eating or going to the restroom.
“There was a whole session on just putting together a place setting,” she added.
Cost of the etiquette camp was $75 per child, but scholarships were offered for children who could not afford the cost.
“We wanted to make it very inclusive so that if anybody wanted to do it, they could,” Barry said. “I would never have been able to pay for this as a child, and I would have probably never had access to it—ever. The fact that there could be some sort of mission to teach good manners, to teach social norms, and to give kids the tools on what to do in a given situation—it’s so important. It provides them confidence that they know what to do when the time comes. Wouldn’t it be nice if this was a thing for every kid across the Plateau?”
Barry, who hopes to see that happen, is working with community agencies to secure funding to offer etiquette instruction at other schools in the area.
“There’s only positive results from it—it’s giving kids tools for success,” she said.
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Just off Monteagle’s Main Street, hidden from view by a grassy field that camouflages Cove Creek Farm’s existence, a magical world awaits visitors where agriculture, farming, and the food we eat take on a whole new meaning. Driving in visitors are greeted by 150 plump, white turkeys who have never known cages grazing in the field, the first hint of something unique in store. On Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Cove Creek welcomes families to join them in learning, exploring, and having fun.
A highlight of visiting Cove Creek is taking a hayride with farmer Matt Sparacio and learning about the farm’s nontraditional practices. “Our goal is to constantly be improving the soil and putting back into the soil, instead of taking away minerals and nutrients,” Sparacio explains to his wagonload of riders as they tour, pointing out the cattle grazing on the rear of the farm that day. “We rotationally graze our animals, so the grass gets time to rest, the manure gets incorporated into the soil, and we’re storing carbon long term. The goal is to leave the land better than when we got it. Rather than clearing the land for pasture, we’re developing 80 acres of silvopasture with five to eight trees per acre which provides shade for the animals during the day and enough sunlight for the grasses to grow.”
Cove Creek offers hayrides five times per day. After the hayride, guests can visit the petting zoo and lure the pony, donkey, and goats to become friends, feeding the animals alfalfa pellets and shortgrass for treats.
The vast play area features a 25-foot tall pirate ship with a swaying bridge and fireman’s pole for the seriously brave, a bounce pad (and, yes, parents can bounce too), ropes course, hay bale climbing tower, and more, for hours of fun. Cove Creek sought inspiration from materials used around the farm, turning tires into a jungle gym and using huge plastic culverts for human size hamster wheels, an unusual play activity popular with kids and adults alike.
The $12 general admission fee is for all day. Guests can leave the grounds for lunch and return. The farm has special group rates for school classes, birthday parties, weddings, and other events.
Cove Creek is open year-round. For December, Cove Creek has plans for a holiday lighting display, and in the spring, visitors will be able to bottle feed baby animals. This autumn until Oct. 28, Cove Creek is selling pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, including uniquely colored Cinderella pumpkins, especially sought after for pumpkin decorating contests.
Why did Matt Sparacio and his wife Laureen decide to “go public” with their farm? “The labor demands of regenerative agriculture are so high, the cost of labor eats most of your profits,” Matt said. “The profit margins on agritourism are much higher. It allows us the flexibility and freedom to use the practices we feel are important. We don’t have to compromise on those practices to make a profit.”
“And we get to teach people about regenerative agriculture and its benefits,” Laureen chimed in, sharing in Matt’s enthusiasm about the sustainable farming methods Cove Creek employs.
“People start to understand why our meat prices are higher than the grocery store,” Matt pointed out.
The 179-acre farm extends all the way to the rest area on I-24. “The land has been a farm since 1907,” Matt said. “Touring the acreage, people can see the impact the chickens are having, the impact the turkeys are having. They see the grass coming back where the cows grazed last week. You can only see our cows every once in a while, from the highway, because it takes 60 days of rotation for the cattle herd to make it across the entire farm.”
Next year, Cove Creek hopes to have an on-site food truck offering burgers, pork bratwurst, and carnitas made with meat raised on the farm.
To learn more or to buy meat raised at Cove Creek, visit their website at <www.covecreekfarm.com>. Or better still visit, the farm and see what farming that cares about the earth and the animals is all about. You’ll be glad you did.
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
“I really sympathize. I know you’re scared,” said Tennessee State Representative Iris Rudder, R-Winchester, addressing more than 50 Jump Off area residents gathered at the Jump Off Firehall Oct. 5 to sign a petition and voice opposition to a sand plant locating in the area. Although details are unconfirmed, Tinsley Sand and Gravel recently took approximately 40 core samples on a Jump Off area parcel under contract to be sold, according to Charlie Smith, whose property joins the tract currently owned by the Grimes family. When Jack Champion, also an adjoining property owner, questioned Tinsley employees about the reason for the sampling, one allegedly replied, “If they’re looking for sand, they found it.” Several days later, Champion spoke with a member of the Grimes family who confirmed Tinsley Sand and Gravel had a 90-day contract to purchase the property. Jump Off residents only recourse to opposing a sand plant locating in the area hinges on the Marion County Commission’s vote in January 2023 to adopt a County Powers Act resolution.
Ronnie Hoosier, who also owns property adjoining the tract in question, expressed concerns about traffic from large trucks and blasting. “Many people here are still on wells,” Hoosier said.
Two county commissioners voted against adopting the County Powers Act, said District 1 Commissioner Ruric Brandt, who introduced the proposal in response to discussion about a sand plant locating near the Cumberlands at Sewanee, a South Pittsburg residential development. In counties without zoning, the County Powers Act authorizes the county to regulate nuisance activities. Brandt maintained the Farm Bureau and others representing agricultural interests opposed the resolution, expressing concern agricultural practices could be regulated as nuisances. County Mayor David Jackson sided with the opposition. Following the vote, the county attorney never formally drafted the resolution.
“It’s [the attorney’s] duty to write all resolutions. They just decided we’ll let this die on the vine,” Brandt said. “Marion County never passed any subsequent regulations to define what a nuisance is.” Brandt encouraged residents to attend county commission meetings and voice support for putting teeth in the Powers Act. “If they come and put pressure on my fellow commissioners, they can override the mayor’s veto and get it done.”
The County Powers Act, codified by the Tennessee legislature in April 2003, extends to counties without zoning the authority granted to municipalities to “Define, prohibit, abate, suppress, prevent and regulate all acts, practices, conduct, businesses, occupations, callings, trades, uses of property and all other things whatsoever detrimental, or liable to be detrimental, to the health, morals, comfort, safety, convenience or welfare of the inhabitants … and [to] Prescribe limits within which business occupations and practices liable to be nuisances or detrimental to the health, morals, security or general welfare of the people may lawfully be established … [a county must declare their authority to regulate] by adoption of a [Powers Act] resolution by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of their respective legislative bodies … Any such regulations shall be enacted by a resolution passed by a two-thirds (2/3) vote.” [T.C.A. § 6-2-201(22) and (23) and T.C.A. § 5-1-118]
Brandt modeled his County Powers Act proposal for Marion County on Grundy County’s Powers Act and accompanying regulations which stipulate a sand plant cannot operate within 5,000 feet of a residence. In court Grundy County prevailed opposing Tinsley Sand and Gravel’s intentions to locate a sand plant just off Clouse Hill Road. Tinsley is appealing the decision. [See Messenger Sept. 30, 2022; <https://www.tncourts.gov/courts/court-appeals/arguments/2023/08/02/tinsley-properties-llc-et-al-v-grundy-county-tennessee;] “If [Tinsley] puts the plant in Grundy, they would not be interested in the property in Marion, because they would not need two plants,” Rudder said. “But you’re very smart by being proactive.” Rudder shared background on a Tinsley quarry in the Alto area which took four years to earn the Franklin County Commission’s approval. Tinsley bought the adjoining property owned by those voicing strongest opposition to the quarry and the complaint lost force, Rudder maintained.
“People here won’t sell,” a Jump Off resident insisted.
“We have until December when the sale closes to make our voices heard at county commission meetings,” Hoosier said. “I’ll be there until the first blast goes off.”
The next Marion County Commission meeting is at 6 p.m., Monday, Oct. 23, in the Lawson Building, 300 Ridley Ave., Jasper. https://marioncountytn.net;.
“I don’t like zoning,” Brandt stressed. “[The County Powers Act] is the only way to do it. If someone wants to have a dilapidated shack, that’s their right. It’s different when a big corporation comes here and buys 600-700 acres and puts in a portal to hell.”
Sewanee Realty reported the status of the 150-acre tract Tinsley Sand and Gravel sampled is “under contract/accepting backup offers.” The listed price is $1.8 million.
Editor’s Note: Marie Ferguson and Patsy Truslow of Sewanee Realty released the following statement:
“Sewanee Realty is the listing agency for the property. As noted in the MLS and other forms of advertising, the property status is under contract/accepting back up offers.”
“We are not at liberty to disclose anything related to active contracts. As members of the Tennessee Association of Realtors, we must follow rules and regulations set forth by the Tennessee Real Estate Commission.”
“As owners of Sewanee Realty, we care deeply about this community and are committed to providing professional service.”
EDITED FOR CLARIFICATION ON Oct. 13, 2023. In the story “Power to Effect Change: Another Sand Plant?”, the comment attributed to Commissioner Brandt should have read “Marion County Farm Bureau Vice President James Haskew…opposed the resolution,” not “the Farm Bureau…opposed the resolution.” The Farm Bureau organization has not publicly expressed an opinion on the Powers Act. - KGB
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Oct. 10 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners reviewed the rules governing the upcoming commissioner election. During discussion, the board grappled with the question of capacity concerns at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) resulting from two proposed residential developments.
In January, SUD will elect a Franklin County Commissioner. Board President Charlie Smith will seek reelection. The board must present a slate of three candidates. SUD customers wishing to appear on the ballot should contact the SUD office and ask to be added to the slate. SUD customers can also have their name added to the slate by presenting a petition signed by 10 SUD customers. Voting will begin when the slate of candidates is approved at the December meeting and will continue until Jan. 16, 2024, during regular business hours at the SUD office. Write-in votes are allowed. The board recently received word the state legislature modified the rules allowing commissioners of rural utilities to serve unlimited consecutive terms, allowing Smith to seek reelection. Smith will verify the accuracy of the ruling on term limits with the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts attorney.
Looking to the future, Smith said two proposed residential developments in SUD’s service area could stress the capacity of the WWTP. An 18-unit apartment complex on University property is being considered and a residential development on St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School property with more than 100 lots. “If the University and the St. Andrew’s project come through, we would be pushing the sewage treatment plant to the max, which would mean we would probably be forced to go to drip irrigation. That would buy us some more square footage, some more acreage so far as the state [regulations] go. I don’t know how much that would actually get us, but it would be pretty significant as you must have a pretty good buffer with a spray field.” Spray application requires a buffer to prevent overspray onto adjoining property. [See Messenger, July 21, 2023]
Commissioner Doug Cameron commented once the WWTP reached 80 percent capacity, the state required a utility to “come up with a plan.”
Discussing the pros and cons of drip application of wastewater versus spray application, Commissioner Clay Yeatman pointed out with spray application there were benefits from evaporation. Cameron agreed, but noted spray application was “out of synch” with student presence, since the primary benefits of transpiration occurred in the summer when heavy foliage covered the trees.
“We have a very finite area at the WWTP. There’s really no room to expand,” Smith said. “The St. Andrew’s project is more growth in one place than I’ve seen in serving eight years on the board.”
“SUD had to tell the engineers the utility could supply water and sewer treatment for the projects,” Cameron said. “It would push us close to the 80 percent capacity limit.”
Taking up another challenge, Smith said SUD was having difficulty finding an auditor. Of the half dozen firms SUD contacted, one declined to serve as SUD’s auditor, and the others did not reply. The search to identify an auditor will continue.
The board meets next on Nov. 21.
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Oct. 9 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved two policy changes adopting Juneteenth as a holiday and reducing the days the Extended School Program would operate. The board also received an update on staffing needs.
Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster said the state of Tennessee officially recognized Juneteenth as a holiday this past April. In August, Franklin County followed suit, recognizing June 19 as the day commemorating the end of slavery, coinciding with Major General Gordon Granger’s 1865 order to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, which due to its remote location had not surrendered until June 2. “We did not observe Juneteenth last year,” Foster commented. Responding to a question by board member Sarah Marhevsky, Foster said teachers were paid for 10 vacation days and two holidays; only full-time classified staff were paid for holidays.
Going forward, the Extended School Program, providing care for children during non-school hours, will only operate in the afternoon, 3–6 p.m., during the regular school year when school is in session and during summer months from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. when school is in session. There needed to be enough students attending to pay the staff, Foster stressed. The program will no longer offer care in the morning and during holiday breaks. “The change is not because we wanted to do it, but because we cannot staff ESP,” Foster said.
Director of Schools Cary Holman explained, “The ESP program is a self-funded program. There are no dollars allocated to the program. Having employees is a huge component of the program functioning. Inconsistency results from parents saying our child will attend during the holidays, but then when the holidays come, they do not show up, and the program is stuck with costs to cover the hourly staff.” Marhevsky suggested staffing the ESP program with parents during holidays. “Parents would have to go through the approval process of being fingerprinted and things of that sort,” Holman replied. “And the reliability of that source could present additional challenges.” In support of the change, board member Sara Leichty observed, “Stating in the ESP policy these days are not going to be covered is better than getting a morning phone call saying, ‘We don’t have enough people to offer the program today.’”
Updating the board on personnel, Foster reported Cowan Elementary School needed a PE teacher by Nov. 1. “That’s our biggest challenge,” Foster said. In addition, Rock Creek Elementary and Sewanee Elementary needed full-time custodians and Clark Memorial had a part-time custodial position open. Foster urged those interested in applying for the teaching and custodial positions to contact the central office immediately.
The University of the South is celebrating the Installation of Robert W. Pearigen, Ph.D. as its 18th vice-chancellor and president with a series of events on campus and in the Sewanee Village beginning on Wednesday, Oct. 18 and running through Friday, Oct. 20.
Featured Installation Activities*
Wednesday, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.,The Sewanee Symphony Orchestra Concert, in Guerry Auditorium.
Thursday, Oct. 19, 9:30 a.m., “Thinking Anew: A Conversation on the Interplay of the Liberal Arts, the Church, and Civil Society” with Dr. Rob Pearigen, C’76, Jon Meacham, C’91, H’10, and the Rt. Rev. Phoebe Roaf, H’20, Bishop of West Tennessee, in Guerry Auditorium.
Thursday, Oct. 19, noon, The Installation of Robert W. Pearigen, Ph.D., Livestream in Guerry Auditorium
Friday, Oct. 20, 12th Annual AngelFest sponsored by the University and the Sewanee Business Alliance. 5 p.m. Kids Fun & Games; 7 p.m. Entice, at Angel Park.
*Full schedule available at <sewanee.edu>.
The Sewanee Civic Association is inviting individuals, local groups and businesses to help collect donations of nonfood items for the Community Action Committee (CAC). This collection will augment the services provided by the CAC food pantry. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits cannot be used to purchase any nonfood items, which includes pet food; cleaning supplies; laundry pods; paper products; shampoo; household supplies; detergent; menstrual products; diapers; adult diapers; or other personal care items.
This is where you can help. Collect nonfood items through Oct. 12, and deliver them to the CAC at 216 University Ave., Sewanee. Individuals may also take their nonfood donations through Oct. 12 to donation bins located around the University campus in Sewanee. For those who wish to make monetary donations, cash or checks are accepted through Oct. 12 at Taylor’s Mercantile. Please make checks payable to the CAC.
There is also an Amazon Wish List from the Sewanee Community Chest for those who want to order nonfood items. These will be delivered to the CAC. The Amazon link is https://a.co/ec8cKHc;.
The CAC will oversee the distribution of the donations to those in need. The CAC is an outreach ministry of the Parish of St. Mark and St. Paul, with generous support from the Sewanee Community Chest, other organizations and individuals across the Mountain. For more than 49 years, the CAC has provided food, financial assistance, and educational support for persons in the greater Sewanee community.
This is part of the Sewanee Civic Association Treasures for the Chest initiative, a campaign to help promote community-wide service of giving time, support and donations. Volunteers are needed. To volunteer contact <email@example.com>. The event is sponsored by the Community Action Committee, the Office of Civic Engagement, the Sewanee Civic Association, and the Sewanee Community Chest.
The University of the South, Sewanee will observe its first Indigenous People’s Day on Oct. 9, 2023 with three events. The Indigenous Engagement Initiative, a subcommittee of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the University, along with the Diversity & Reconciliation Committee of the School of Theology, are collaborating to host educational, reflective, and commemorative activities.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes the Indigenous communities that have lived in the Americas for thousands of years. Initially instituted in 2019, the date was formally initiated by President Biden in 2021, who said Indigenous People’s Day is intended to “honor the sovereignty, resilience and immense contributions” that Indigenous People have made to the world.
In 2022, 16 states observed or honored the date: Alaska, Minnesota, Vermont, Iowa, North Carolina, California, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Virginia, Oregon, Texas, and South Dakota. Indigenous Peoples’ Day has became increasingly popular as a replacement for Columbus Day, which was meant to celebrate the explorer who sailed with a crew from Spain in three ships, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, in 1492.
an Indigenous sunrise service at 6:45 a.m. at Angel Park with Indigenous songs and Cherokee 7-direction prayers, co-led by Sewanee alumni of Cherokee descent (The Rev. Dr. Bude VanDyke and Myra Ryneheart Corcorran);
Native labyrinth exhibitions and walking meditations with drumming with Daniel Hull, Ojibwa Elder, from noon to 2 p.m. on the Quad;
and an evening of Reflective Remembrance on the Trail of Tears with native flutes at 6:30 p.m. on the Mountain Goat Trail (Hawkins Lot), with a brief history of the Trail of Tears that runs through Sewanee, by Dr. Stuart Marshall.
by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer
Theatre Sewanee’s production of “She Kills Monsters,” a quirky fantasy mix of geeks, evil succubi cheerleaders, and Dungeons & Dragons, delves into grief and sexual identity.
Add in life-size puppet monsters, and University of the South Theatre Department Chair Jim Crawford thinks it’s a combination that will entice even the most reluctant theatergoer.
“There’s something about the Dungeons & Dragons angle of the play that is so fun theatrically,” Crawford said. “I think it will appeal to students and get them to come — students who aren’t convinced theater will interest them.”
“She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen runs through Sunday, Oct. 8 in the Tennessee Williams Center.
Performances are set for 8 p.m., Oct. 6; 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7; and 2 p.m. Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 in the Proctor Hill Theater in the Tennessee Williams Center located at 290 Kentucky Avenue in Sewanee.
As always, there is no charge for tickets, but patrons are asked to reserve seats online at https://eventbrite.com/e/she-kills-monsters-by-qui-nguyen-tickets-719393755087?aff=oddtdcreator;.
Assistant Professor Sarah Lacy Hamilton directs the 90-minute play.
“It follows the story of two sisters, Agnes and Tilly,” she said. “Agnes is the oldest sister. When her younger sister was in high school, her sister and her parents were both killed in a car accident. The play takes place later on when Agnes is an adult, and she finds her sister’s Dungeons & Dragons’ notebook. She decides to play it to try to reconnect with her sister even after death. That is what transports us into this really fun and playful and exciting fantasy.”
In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world—New Landia—created by the younger sister, Tilly, all of the characters are queer.
“It’s revealed that in real life Tilly was bullied for being queer, and she’s created a kind of beautiful, almost utopian, place for her and her friends to have freedom of expression,” Hamilton explained. “Being able to be joyful in challenging or even trying circumstances, I think, is a really revolutionary act, and that’s something I hope to capture with this production.”
For Olivia Millwood, a senior theatre major from Bristol, Tenn., it’s her first time as assistant director. She also is movement director for the production.
“Being an assistant director has been such a wonderful, informative experience,” Millwood said. “I am able to be involved in so many aspects of the show and really see it build from the ground up. I get to take part in creative decisions and see that take form on the stage.”
Two talented sophomores have lead roles: Sofia Tripoli plays Agnes, and Victoria Ryan is Tilly.
“Agnes has been such a fun character to explore because of her genuinely stubborn personality,” said Tripoli, a creative writing major from Greenville, South Carolina. “Her need to reconnect and understand her past allows her to be driven out of her comfort zone. I admire her willingness to face her faults and be vulnerable with other people. She has shown me that no matter how strong you are, it is ok to ask for help. There’s no fun completing your adventure alone.”
Ryan, a theatre major from Nashville, Tennessee, feels equally connected to her character, Tilly.
“Tilly reminds us of how lonely and alienating it can feel to live in a world that doesn’t accept you,” she explained. “The bullying Tilly faced when she was alive led her to create and devote herself to a fantasy world—all so she could feel like she belonged somewhere. I think the way in which Tilly copes with how the world is and how people are is something that deeply resonates with me; it is so heartbreaking and real.”
Director Hamilton echoes that sentiment.
“This show is very funny, but it’s also really touching,” she said. “There are some lovely, heartfelt moments in it, so I think it gives you the best of both worlds. I hope people will leave with a little more joy in their hearts and an appreciation for the people in their lives that they love. I also hope that they leave with a little bit of courage to play pretend.”
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
“Our collective memory is tainted by what is and isn’t remembered about Waco,” said Lee Hancock, on-site reporter for the Dallas Morning News during the 51-day standoff where four federal agents and over 60 Branch Davidian religious cult members died, including 25 children. Hancock addressed the Sewanee Civic Association at the Oct. 2 meeting, posing the question, “Why does Waco matter?” Although the tragedy occurred 30 years ago, “What happened in Waco is still driving conspiracy theories, militia groups, and the divisive politics we’re living through right now,” Hancock insisted. The “what matters” theme was also reflected in the SCA update on current projects.
For the SCA 2023 marks 115 years of improving the quality of life on the Plateau, with the current Community Chest fund drive goal of $120,000 the highest ever and the first stages of the Mountain Goat Trail Welcome and Heritage Center scheduled to become a reality by Homecoming.
In addition to reporting on Waco, Hancock covered the subsequent trials and investigation. Netflix contacted her to serve as a consultant for the recently released “Waco: American Apocalypse” documentary. Hancock stressed the importance of understanding “What actually happened” at Waco. With flawed and inaccurate information abundant, “conspiracy stories become established truth,” Hancock said. One documentary nominated for two Oscars contained gross inaccuracies. What happened at Waco did not originate as a government plot “to take away everybody’s guns and second amendment rights,” Hancock insisted. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had learned the Waco Branch Davidian cult was manufacturing illegal firearms and had ordered parts for grenades. The federal government’s plan: a Feb. 20 raid to arrest cult leader David Koresh and seize the illegal weapons. The cult learned about the raid beforehand, and the largest firefight since the Civil War ensued with four federal agents and five cult members dead, and many wounded, including Koresh. Koresh promised to come out the next day. But 51 days later the cult remained holed up inside the compound. The FBI had tried to intimidate the Davidians by crushing their vehicles with army tanks and attempted to wear them down with sleep deprivation, night-long blasting the compound with loud music and bright lights. Finally, the FBI decided to penetrate the building with tanks and to teargas the interior to drive out the cult. Hancock described the mood among the media as “almost excitement—they would come out now.” The tank and teargas assault began at noon, but almost immediately smoke began pouring from the building. FBI listening devices smuggled in with milk for the children later verified what had occurred. At 6 a.m. that morning the Davidians began spreading gasoline throughout the compound. The inferno that followed when the Davidians lit the fires and the arsenal inside exploded fulfilled Koresh’s prophecy of imminent “apocalypse.” Most cult members burned alive, although some died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
An informant warned the ATF the Davidians knew about the initial raid and advised the bureau not to proceed, Hancock said. She calls Waco an “absolute failure of communication.” Following the tragedy, the FBI declined to discuss the incident and issued no official statement, making matters worse by opening the door for conspiracy theory explanations. Hancock cites “lack of transparency” and “not appreciating the level of commitment” of the cult members as significant tactical errors. The tragedy taught hostage negotiators the importance of “understanding the other.” The Montana Freeman standoff several years later lasted longer, but the cult members all came out alive.
Hancock observed aficionados of “extreme ideas” frequently cite Waco, among these 1996 Summer Olympics bomber Eric Rudolf, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, and the January 6 rioters who stormed the U.S. Capital. Presidential candidate Donald Trump held his first campaign rally at Waco this past April. Hancock recently signed on as associate producer for an upcoming documentary on the Oklahoma City bombing, another tragic event she reported on in her commitment to tell “the complicated truth.”
During the business meeting, SCA President Kiki Beaves introduced Community Chest cochairs Stephen and April Alvarez and Emily Puckette and John Benson. The SCA Board made “tough choices,” selecting 16 organizations for funding this year.
In the recent Sewanee Elementary School Supply Drive, the SCA raised $2,000 in donations and received $7,000 worth of supplies.
The fall Nonfood Supply Drive cosponsored with the Community Action Committee began Oct. 2. Bins are located at the CAC office for depositing items such as pet food and cleaning products those in need cannot purchase with SNAP benefits.
The SCA’s current headliner project, the MGT Welcome and Heritage Center, located on the former Hair Depot lot, will feature outdoor information racks and picnic tables. The SCA hopes eventually to incorporate the building into the project to offer handicap accessible restrooms.
The Sewanee Business Alliance AngelFest gala, scheduled for Oct. 20, will include food trucks, music and children’s games. Vendors wanting to participate should contact Ed Hawkins by Oct. 13.
The SCA meets next Nov. 6.