Marion County Commission Quashes Sand Plant Opposition

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

More than 200 people attended the Nov. 27 Marion County Commission meeting. Eight residents representing the Jump Off community had requested time at the microphone, hoping to convince the commissioners to protect their homes, health and water by passing a County Powers Act resolution to allow regulation of sand plants. Tinsley Sand and Gravel has a contract to purchase Jump Off property for a sand plant. Seventy-five homes and farms are located within a mile of the location. The commission voted nine to four to ignore Jump Off residents’ plea for help.

Cliff Huffman stressed the proposed sand plant’s “threat to wells.” Huffman said connecting to Sewanee Utility District water cost almost $5,000 for a tap plus the cost of the service line. Huffman also noted that Tinsley’s wet sand practices to avoid dust would require containment ponds for the contaminated water.

“Anything that goes on the ground at the top of the Plateau comes out at the bottom,” said civil and environmental engineer Maureen Handler. Water could travel the distance in as little as 12 minutes. “We need building materials quarries,” Handler acknowledged, “but there are already three or four quarries operating within 5 or 10 miles.”

Doug Cameron, who has logged 50 years of service for the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department, insisted Highway 156 which will provide access to the sand plant was not intended for heavy traffic. The road, built in the 1930s, was narrow and had no shoulder. Accidents were frequent. “We have to cut them out of their car and hope they live,” Cameron said. As an example of what Jump Off residents would have to look forward to, Cameron pointed to the deteriorated condition of Greenhaw Road used by Tinsley Sand and Gravel’s heavy trucks to access the quarry there. “I moved to Jump Off so I could do what I want to with my land and have peace and quiet,” said Cameron echoing the sentiments of many others who spoke.

Retired army Sergeant Bryan Willis served 21 years in the military and moved to Jump Off to get away from “too much noise … too many people close.” Willis dreaded the blasting the sand plant would bring. “Every time a blast goes off, you put people like me back in Iraq,” Willis said, drawing applause when he asked the veterans in the room to stand.

“People live in the Jump Off community for the freedom we enjoy, freedom from heavy industry, traffic and city problems … and for some veterans, freedom from PTSD,” said retired Colonel Ron Bailey who served 25 years in the military, seeing combat in the Middle East and Afghanistan. “We expect our elected officials to protect us from the things that will destroy us,” Bailey insisted. “You have the power to say where [sand plants] are located.” Bailey reminded the commissioners they voted in January to adopt a Powers Act, “but industry and local influences tipped the scales” leading commissioners to withdraw their support.

Tinsley Sand and Gravel provided the commissioners with documents promising to donate 50 cents per ton to Marion County for the first three years of operations, yielding $200,000-$250,000 in revenue. The documents also projected Marion County would receive $400,000 in property and sales tax revenue from the sand plant.

“Are you looking at the dollar signs or are you looking to represent your people?” asked Jump Off resident Jack Champion.

Tinsley Sand and Gravel representative Chris Hopkins insisted blasting did not impact well water “if done correctly.” Allaying concerns about damage to structures, Hopkins recommended residents neighboring the proposed quarry property have their homes inspected so damage could be verified. “If we did it, we’ll fix it,” Hopkins said.

Commission Chair Linda Mason allowed Tinsley advisor Terry Sossong to speak, despite Sossong not requesting permission to address the commission in advance, as was required.

Taking up the complaint about the deteriorating road used to access Tinsley’s Greenhaw quarry, Sossong said, “It takes time to fix things. All these things can be made very right … Why can’t a person buy land for his enjoyment when his enjoyment is to have a mining operation?”

At the outset of the meeting, Mason called for a vote on whether to allow Jump Off residents to show a PowerPoint presentation. Only commissioners Ruric Brandt and Steven Franklin voted in favor of allowing the PowerPoint. Mason did not allow any additional public comment or discussion after Sossong spoke. Nor did she call for discussion following the motion to adopt a Powers Act resolution, a required practice at county commission meetings according to the Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service.

Commissioners Don Adkins, Don Blansett, Logan Campbell, Jimmy Cantrell, Gene Hargis, Mason, Chris Morrison, Jim Nunley, and Peggy Thompson voted against adopting the Powers Act. Only Brandt, Franklin, Paul Schafer, and Sherry VanAllman voted yes.

SUD Approves 2024 Budget and Rate Hike

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Nov. 21 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners approved a 2024 budget reflecting nearly doubled-chemical costs and customer rate increases. In discussion, the board reviewed election protocols and the need for at least one more commissioner candidate for the January election. In responding to a question about supplying water to the proposed sand plant in the Jump Off area, SUD manager Ben Beavers explained SUD’s legal obligation and possible capacity limitations.

“The cost of chemicals went from $27,000 to $48,000 to treat the same amount of water,” Beavers said, comparing the 2023 and 2024 budgets. Health care insurance costs also increased. Material costs decreased by $30,000, but Beavers cautioned the decrease was “not sustainable” since the decrease reflected anticipated grant money paying for some materials in 2024. The budget includes a 4 percent wage increase for SUD employees. “We have good people and don’t want to lose them,” said Commissioner Doug Cameron in support of the raises. Citing SUD’s goals, Beavers said, “We want the district to succeed and to treat our customers well.” To meet the state requirement the budget shows a modest $5,000 increase in net position.

For SUD customers base rate charge for water service will increase $1.10 and water and sewer volumetric charges will increase 2 percent. For the average water-service-only customer the new rates will mean a $4.62 monthly increase; customers with both water and sewer service can expect a $9 monthly increase.

In January, SUD will elect a commissioner for a four-year term. Commissioner Charlie Smith will seek reelection. The board added former commissioner Randall Henley to the slate and is seeking at least one more candidate to meet the three-candidate requirement. All SUD customers are eligible to serve on the board. Customers wishing to be added to the ballot should contact a commissioner or phone the SUD office before the next meeting, Dec. 19. Voting begins Jan. 2, 2024 and continues through Jan. 23, at the SUD office during regular business hours.

Addressing a question about supplying water to the proposed sand plant, Beavers said, “SUD is obligated by law to supply water if they are able to.” SUD’s available capacity can limit the utility’s ability to provide water. Likewise, by law, once SUD reaches 80 percent capacity, the utility must draft a plan to increase capacity. If asked by a future customer to supply an amount of water that would put strain on SUD’s capacity, Beavers would bring the question to the board to discuss how much water SUD could provide.

In addition to the budget, the board approved the purchase of four new computers, cost $9,000, to enable SUD to meet minimum security requirements. SUD’s current computers use XP software and cannot be upgraded to Windows 11. Beavers hopes to recover the cost with American Rescue Plan Act grant money which authorizes using funds to purchase computers. At present, paperwork glitches have delayed the approval process mechanism.

Beavers reported continued frustration in finding an auditor for 2024. Of the auditors Beavers queried, two did not reply and one replied “no.” Beavers suggested contracting again with the company SUD used for the past six years. Beavers said he was “happy” with the service provided by the MG Group, but it was SUD’s practice to switch auditors every few years. By law, SUD must have an auditor under contract by Jan. 1, 2024. “That’s getting down to the wire,” said Commissioner Donnie McBee. The board authorized Beavers to negotiate a contract with the MG Group for 2024.

Frame Gallery Expands Space & Offerings

Frame Gallery has tripled its size by expanding into the vacant space next door at its location on Sollace M. Freeman Highway in Sewanee (near the intersection of Hwy. 41A and University Avenue in the Sewanee Station building). Within this larger footprint, the Sewanee Art Works studio is moving into Frame Gallery for its classes and workshops.

“I am beyond excited to welcome Sewanee Art Works into our expanded space,” said Frame Gallery owner Harriet Runkle. “Frame Gallery has hosted exhibits of these artists’ work for the past five years and they are an important part of our success.”

When Sells Sweets Bakery moved out of the space next door to Frame Gallery, Runkle started thinking about how this might be an opportunity for her and her business.

“Our space to do framing was very cramped,” she said. “And my retail offerings have expanded, creating an even greater space crunch.” Runkle said she started dreaming and imagining what could happen if she took on the additional area.

When she opened Frame Gallery, her goals were to continue to offer high-quality custom framing, provide a space for local artists to sell and show their work, and to provide art workshops, particularly for children drawing on her early childhood teaching experience. She knew the only way she could accomplish her third goal was to get more space and find a partner to help get art workshops going.

Artist and teacher Martha Keeble has given art lessons for more than 30 years, including for the past year at Sewanee Art Works, which was located in the old dry cleaners building that was home to Lumière restaurant.

After David Boyd Williams, owner of Lumière, died suddenly in May, his family allowed Keeble to stay in the building as it was put up for sale. “John Williams [David’s brother] has been so generous to me,” Keeble said, “but I knew the space could change at any moment. When Harriet started talking about her new space and invited me in, I knew this was the right next step for Sewanee Art Works.”

This collaboration comes after many years of friendship between the two women. Runkle has hosted shows of Keeble’s students’ paintings many times in the past five years. And the two of them would often sit at Lumière and dream about the future of the creative arts in the Sewanee business area with David Boyd Williams.

Frame Gallery is now poised to achieve all of Runkle’s goals for the business.

With help from artist Connie Keetle, who does custom framing, Runkle is focused on strengthening the services she currently offers and bringing on some new ones.

“Custom framing is the foundation of the business, and we continue to enjoy framing up our customer's art and the creative challenges they bring to us,” she said. “Having local artists in the shop and hosting events to celebrate them has also helped build our customer base and a meaningful connection to the community." By adding art workshops to her offerings, she knows that she can live into her commitment in providing a space for art to thrive.

For the new year, Runkle also wants to grow her upholstery offerings from custom pillows and cushions, which she currently offers, to furniture repair and larger upholstery projects. “I am grateful to live in a community that loves and appreciates art, and I am eager to see how Frame Gallery can continue to support that love.”

Sewanee Christmas Tree Lighting

Join us as we light the Sewanee Christmas tree on Friday, Dec. 1, in front of Convocation Hall. There will be music, fellowship, holiday-inspired treats, and of course St. Nick.

Festive treats and music will be from 4–5:30 p.m. St. Nick and his Elf will visit from 4–5 p.m. The University Choir performs at 4:30 p.m. The Tree lighting is at 5:15 p.m.

Afterwards, follow St. Nick and Vice Chancellor to Angel Park in downtown Sewanee to continue the festivities. All are welcome.

Franklin County School Board Criticizes Proposed Legislation

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“It’s a push against public schools in favor of privatization,” said board member Sarah Marhevsky at the Nov. 13 Franklin County School Board meeting reviewing law changes being considered by the Tennessee State Legislature. Board members spoke out agreeing with Marhevsky’s assessment, criticizing legislative proposals to refuse up to $2 billion in federal education funding and to adopt a voucher program that siphons money from public schools.

Supporters of House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s federal-funding proposal maintain Tennessee would not have to follow unwanted federal restrictions if they give up federal funding. The opposition asks why, if Tennessee has enough money to fill the gap, the state is not already putting more money into education. Tennessee “is almost 50” in state spending on education, board member Sara Liechty pointed out, and even without federal funding, the state would still need to comply with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). At present IDEA programs are largely funded by federal money. “[The IDEA] is federal law. We have to meet the needs of those students,” Liechty insisted. “[Federal money] also funds a large portion of our nutrition program. Children need to be fed … [without federal funding] it will fall on the local tax payers to make up those differences.” Currently, the school district spends almost $5 million on special education, said board Vice Chair Lance Williams. “That’s almost 10 percent of our budget.”

The proposed state-wide expansion of Tennessee’s voucher program would help “underprivileged” students according to its proponents. Parents who homeschool or send their children to private school would receive voucher funding. Liechty maintained “The voucher program doesn’t do what it proposes to do.” She cited research showing parents who homeschooled or sent their children to private school could afford to do so and would do so, with or without a voucher supplement. Meanwhile, funding to public schools would be reduced due to decreased enrollment. Liechty urged board members and concerned residents to contact House Representative Iris Rudder and Senator Janice Bowling about the proposed legislative changes.

Reporting on district finances, Deputy Director of Finances Jenny Phillips said the first month of available reporting on the statewide “sales tax holiday” showed school revenue down 2-3 percent compared to last year. “All in all were not doing bad,” Phillips said. “It’s still early.”

Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster updated the board on staffing. “There isn’t as much turnover as in previous years,” Foster said. Cowan Elementary needed a PE teacher and Franklin County High School needed an English teacher for the spring semester. The district also needed two full-time custodians and bus drivers. “There are always openings for both,” Foster observed, echoing Transportation Department Director Jeff Sons. Sons said he had openings for six bus drivers. The manual and long training process often discouraged applicants, Sons acknowledged, but encouraged interested drivers to contact him.

The board approved Tennessee School Board Association policy recommendations governing fundraising and credit cards. The TSBA recommended Fundraising Policy allowed “crowd funding” if the district had sufficient “internal controls” in place to oversee the practice. Former Finance Director Cindy Latham, who is currently advising the bookkeeping staff, said at present the internal controls were insufficient and advised the district not to allow crowdfunding “at this time.” The new credit card policy allows use of credit cards “maintained by the Director of Schools/designee through procedures maintained by the district office … The School Principal is the only employee allowed to apply for a credit card on a school’s behalf, and only after the Board approves the Principal’s request.”

Monteagle: Dubose Property Rezoned, Three Streets Abandoned

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Nov. 7 meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission voted to rezone the Dubose Conference Center property from Institutional Development to Commercial C-2 and to abandon three roads in the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly (MSSA). By a single-vote margin, the commission again refused the Hideaway developers request for a full-access entrance on Wren’s Nest Avenue.

The developer’s plans for the Dubose Conference Center property call for a restaurant, boutique hotel with one- and two-bedroom units, hiking trails, racket-sport courts, and event space in the former chapel. Dubose Partners representative Trevor Cross stressed buildings with National Historic Register designation and other buildings with historic significance would be preserved. Town Planner Jonathan Rush said Dubose Partners was not an “institution” and could not develop the property unless the zoning was changed.

The Assembly had acquired all the property on Sunset Rock, Sunset Bluff, and Warren’s Point roads, said Executive Director Scott Parrish, explaining the reason for MSSA asking the city to abandon the roads. As the campus expanded, the assembly wanted to encourage walking and limit vehicle traffic. Acknowledging the public enjoyed visiting overlooks accessed by these roads, Parrish said visiting would not be restricted, and visitors could enter through the main gate. Two of the four residences on the property will be “returned to nature” and the other two will be used as guest homes. By the stipulations agreed on in abandoning the streets, the Assembly will assume responsibility for maintaining the water line. Commissioners Mayor Greg Maloof and Chair Ed Provost recused themselves from the vote since they reside in the Assembly.

Presenting his request the commission reconsider the unanimous March vote to limit the Wren’s Nest Avenue entrance to emergency access only, Hideaway developer Tom Kale said the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) claimed the proposed roundabout would address traffic congestion at the Wren’s Nest-Main Street intersection. TDOT called for construction to begin in 2026. Commissioner Dan Brown expressed concern the roundabout would not sufficiently resolve traffic issues. Maloof said it was his “understanding” the roundabout would slow traffic, but he was uncertain about the timeline. A resident also questioned whether the residential development and roundabout project would coincide. Kale conceded he could not predict how long it would take for all the lots to sell. Kale added, without a Wren’s Nest entrance, the 82 property owners would be “trapped” if the Highway 41 entrance was blocked. A resident expressed reservations about the commission voting with three commissioners absent. City attorney Sam Elliot said he was “uncomfortable” with delaying the vote another 30 days” since the project had been stalled since March.

Maloof and Commissioner Dan Sargent voted in favor of allowing full access at the Wren’s Nest entrance, with Black, Brown and Provost opposed. “Nothing has changed my mind,” Black said explaining his decision. Brown said he was “not convinced” the roundabout changes would address traffic concerns. Provost maintained, “The initial [restricted access] proposal was reasonable and in the best interest of the community.”

In October, the commission rescinded the recommendation to make 800 square feet the minimum residence size city wide and requested more information from the town planners. The minimum residence size for R-1 is 800 square feet; for R-2 and R-3, the minimum is 600 square feet. However, Monteagle did not define apartment size in R-3 multi-family dwellings, Rush said, noting studio apartments could be as small as 300 square feet. The average apartment size in Monteagle is 420 square feet. Apartment size was “market driven,” Provost said. He proposed an 800 square foot minimum for single family homes and not specifying the size for multifamily units. The planners will draft an ordinance incorporating Provost’s proposal.

Tracy City Free Clinic Celebrates Anniversary

Since opening on Nov. 1, 2022, the Tracy City Free Clinic has welcomed 185 patients and conducted 518 medical visits. The Clinic is in the Littell-Partin Center (the old high school) in Tracy City and is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dr. Thomas Phelps, Medical Director, is the primary care physician and Beth Sperry, NP, practices women’s health on Tuesday mornings. Maggie Parmley, Medical Assistant, supports the providers and Marilyn Phelps is the office manager. Students from the University of the South assist in the clinic as well.

Uninsured patients from all locations are welcome. All visits are free of charge and most medications are either free or deeply discounted. Due to the high prevalence of Hepatitis C in the area, the Clinic applied for and received a grant from the South Cumberland Community Fund to pay for patient testing. Hepatitis C treatment is funded by grants from pharmaceutical companies. As a result, testing and treatment of Hepatitis C is free to TCFC patients. Hepatitis C is typically unnoticed without testing until the disease is in its later stages; however, it is curable with correct diagnosis and medication.

TCFC patients have not had insurance for eight years on average and therefore have had little access to healthcare other than the emergency room. Now that the clinic is open, patients have a medical home and can receive primary care and women’s health treatment without medical bills. “We lag way behind in vaccination. Tobacco use remains too high. Malnutrition is common,” observes Dr. Phelps. “I am certain that persistent support from the South Cumberland Community Fund and other kind donors for meaningful programs will make generational improvement in the lives of people who live here. I am grateful that I can be a small part of that effort.”

For more information, please contact the clinic at (931) 592-4000.

WMTN Radio Wins Best in Show Awards

WMTN 93.1 & 103.1 at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School captured two “best-in-show” awards Nov. 4, at the national competition for high school broadcasting called The Drury Awards. Winners were announced at North Central College in Glen Ellyn, Ill. The John Drury High School Radio Awards were created to recognize outstanding excellence in high school radio broadcasting. The awards are named in honor of award-winning ABC-Chicago news anchor, John Drury. Over 150 high school stations participated in the contest.

WMTN took home top honors in two categories — Best Radio Drama, and best Podcast. Additionally the students received a second place win in the Best Talk Show category. The win for Best Radio Drama came for the show “The Lodger.” Students included Luke Baird, Elliott Boyd, Kendall Elder, Thomas Billups, Charlie Relford, Cameo Smith, and Reagan Vaughan. Best Podcast honors went to Cameo Smith and Kendall Elder for their podcast titled “Sun & Moon, Episode 2.” The station also picked up a second place award for Best talk show for “Ask Elliot-holiday edition!” Students included Elliott Boyd, Kendall Elder, Thomas Billups, and Luke Baird. Honorable mention also went to Kenneth Simmons for his show “Music out of Time” in the the category of Best Specialty Music Show.

WMTN faculty sponsor J.R. Ankney was elated at the recent announcement. Ankney said “Our only goal for the first year was to enter and possibly secure one nomination. I was stunned when we received four national nominations. I am speechless that we managed to actually win in two of the most competitive categories and place second overall in a third category. The 2023-24 station manager Alex Colón said “I’m so proud of the student team that contributed to the shows. It came together beautifully, and I know that we’re only climbing higher.” Former station manager Luke Baird — who in his own right was instrumental in getting the new station off the ground — said, “WMTN is much more than a high school radio station. It’s a unique place where everyone can express themselves artistically, technically, and creatively. I’m excited to watch as WMTN radio continues on its journey.”

WMTN-LP has been on the air since 2004 at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School and has experienced a renaissance in the last two years. Currently WMTN is on the air twenty four hours a day broadcasting a variety of music, shows, and news. The station is on the air at 93.1 & 103.1 locally and streams live at <>. Future plans for the “Voice of the Mountain” include an upgraded signal with a new antenna that will reach even more local listeners, more local programming, remote broadcasting, and the inclusion of voices from the members of our mountain community.

For more information about St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School and WMTN radio visit <> and <>.

Annual Christmas Tree Lighting, Dec. 1

The Sewanee Business Alliance is pleased to announce the 2023 Sewanee Village Tree Lighting at 4:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 1, in Sewanee Angel Park.

The evening will begin with Christmas caroling by the Monteagle Elementary, Sewanee Elementary choirs, and Children’s Choir of St. Mark and St. Paul. Then, Santa Claus will arrive to light the tree and officially usher in the holiday season.

In addition to the tree lighting, there will be hot drinks and refreshments for everyone, and children will have the opportunity to meet and take pictures with Santa. The event will also be a collection site for unwrapped toys, food, and money for Operation Noel and the Community Action Committee (CAC), so please bring along a donation if you are able.

“The Sewanee Village Tree Lighting is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season and celebrate our community,” said Sewanee Business Alliance President John Goodson. “We encourage everyone to come out and join us for this special event.”

The Sewanee Village Tree Lighting is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit the Sewanee Business Alliance website at <>.

Operation Noel

In just a few weeks, it will be Christmas. While many are already planning about gifts to buy and food to eat, there are those not so fortunate. In our area, there are children who may not get presents and families that may not have an abundant holiday meal.

Operation Noel is a group that was formed many years ago by Fire Chief David Green to provide help for families in need. They provide food and/or toys during the Christmas season. Local volunteers organize the purchasing and distribution of goods.

To be eligible, everyone must fill out an application. Every family needs to fill out a new application whether you have received from us before or not. An application will ensure that we have all the pertinent information so we can provide for everyone in need.

The deadline for returning applications is Friday, Dec. 15. Families eligible for Chief David Green’s Operation Noel must live on top of Sewanee Mountain in the following communities: Sewanee, Midway, Jump Off and on Sherwood Road. Please see page 11 in this issue for the application.

To donate money, nonperishable food items or new toys, please take items to the Sewanee Police Department located behind duPont Library, Print Services located in the old Beta House, or the CAC located at St. Mark and St. Paul (formerly Otey Memorial Parish). Checks may also be mailed to Sewanee Operation Noel, 138 Lake O’Donnell Rd., Sewanee, TN 37375. Please donate by Monday, Dec. 18. Donation bins are also located around campus.

Food and toys will be available for pickup in the large parking lot beside Cravens Hall, 435 Kentucky Ave., on Saturday, Dec. 23 from 9 –11 a.m. Please stay in your vehicle. Volunteers will be there to assist in loading of the items. Food and toys will not be delivered. They have to be picked up.

If you have any questions, please call (931) 598-0040 and leave a message, or call (931) 308-6534.

Annual Holiday Studio Tour, Dec. 2 and 3

Tennessee Craft-South invites the public to its annual Holiday Studio Tour on the mountain, 10 a.m to 5 p.m., CST Saturday, Dec. 2, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., CST Sunday, Dec. 3. Tennessee Craft-South is the regional branch of Tennessee Craft, the state-wide organization which supports and promotes all handmade crafts in Tennessee.

Local and regional artists will show their work during the weekend: textiles, sculpture, jewelry, pottery, glass, paintings, metal work, and woodwork. Sewanee artist studios open to the public include those of Bob Askew, Pippa Browne, Ben Potter, Claire Reishman, and Merissa Tobler. Other Sewanee locations are the American Legion Hall, Spencer Room at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School, Locals Gallery and The Frame Gallery. Monteagle locations include Cheryl Lankhaar’s studio and Hallelujah Pottery. Light refreshments will be available at most locations.

There is a group exhibition of multiple artists’ work in the St. Andrew’s-Sewanee Art Gallery, located in the center of the Simmonds Building at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. While many sites host individual artists’ work, the SAS Art Gallery presents an exhibition of Tennessee Craft-South members’ work as well as that of SAS faculty and students.

A special third year addition to the Tour is the Empty Tables project, an artist initiative sponsored by Tennessee Craft South — partnering with Sewanee Locally Grown, the Community Action Committee, Grundy County Food Bank and Morton Memorial Church — designed to address local hunger. Participating artists will set aside time to create art celebrating the growing, serving, and eating of food: bowls, plates, napkins, paintings, candlesticks, etc. These art pieces will be available at the American Legion Hall, in exchange for a donation. All proceeds will be used to purchase food for those in need.

There are six sponsors for the Holiday Studio Tour this year: The Blue Chair, The Lemon Fair, Locals, Mooney’s, Shenanigans, and Bill Nickels Insurance Agency. Studio Tour brochures are available at each of these local businesses and at all participating studios.

Bright yellow signs mark the tour route and maps are available at all locations on the tour as well as at all sponsors’ locations, in the Sewanee Messenger, and on the Tennessee Craft website <;.

64th Annual Lessons and Carols

On Christmas Eve, 1918, the Chaplain of King’s College, Cambridge took a Cornish Christmas tradition and brought it to the world. Weaving together biblical readings with seasonal music, the service prepared participants to hear the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ. For over 60 years, Sewanee has hosted its own service, and coming as it does at the end of the Advent semester, the gathering becomes, for many, the Christmas celebration of the University. In addition to the students, staff, and faculty of the University, the service is open to the broader community in Sewanee and beyond.

We look forward to welcoming the extended Sewanee family back into All Saints’ Chapel in 2023. With seats for more than 1,000 guests, we anticipate being able to seat every person who comes to worship in All Saints’ Chapel. Two services — Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3 at 4. p.m. — feature walk-up seating, and doors will open an hour in advance of the service. The 7 p.m. service on Saturday, Dec. 2 will be live-streamed for friends and family who are unable to attend in person;. Go to <; for more information.

Marion County Attorney Unpacks Sand-Plant Regulating

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Nov. 7 Marion County Commission Workshop, county attorney Billy Gouger schooled the commissioners and more than 40 concerned citizens attending on the County Powers Act and other options for regulating sand plants and like nuisances. Only commissioners were permitted to comment and raise questions. At issue is the possibility of a sand plant locating in the Jump Off community.

Gouger said the county had three options for regulating nuisance activities: one, zoning, which must be adopted county wide; two, adopting a Powers Act and subsequent regulation of activities the county defined as “nuisances”; three, filing a lawsuit to “abate” the nuisance. Gouger gave the example of Chattanooga filing a lawsuit to successfully close a motel housing homeless people.

Gouger said private individuals could also file a lawsuit to collect damages, but he expressed little confidence in the tactic. Jasper homeowners with cracked walls from blasting at a nearby rock quarry failed to collect damages. “It’s difficult to prove,” Gouger cautioned.

Chair Linda Mason asked about the county lawsuit option in the case of a sand plant. “Having a court declare a quarry a nuisance under [state] law, which is different from County Powers Act regulation, would be difficult if not impossible to do,” Gouger said. “A quarry is a recognized legitimate business activity.”

Gouger explained adopting a Powers Act gave a county the authority to regulate “nuisance” activities, such as sand plants, but not to prohibit them. A county with a Powers Act must decide what activities were nuisances and how to regulate them. The Powers Act could not be used to regulate agriculture and surface mining. Surface mining pertained only to “minerals.” Sand was not considered to be a mineral, Gouger said, so sand plants could be regulated.

Asked about how to enforce Powers Act regulations, Gouger said counties were limited to levying a $50 fine unless the county filed suit against the violator.

In a current lawsuit involving Tinsley Sand and Gravel’s intention to operate a sand plant in violation of Grundy County Powers Act regulations, Gouger said the ruling handed down was only a summary judgement denying Tinsley’s request to dismiss the case. The court had not handed down a decision on the arguments heard in August. Gouger stressed the case lacked legal precedent in Tennessee, and attorneys had to seek supporting arguments from out-of-state sources.

Gouger also noted Grundy County’s regulations prohibited sand plants within 5,000 feet of a residence, but the measurement was done “property line to property line.” He urged caution in drafting the wording of any regulations the county adopted.

Asked about road damage from heavy trucks serving a Jump Off sand plant, Gouger said most of the impact would be on Highway 56 which fell to the state to maintain. Regarding the “agricultural” property listings of the Jump Off tract Tinsley Sand and Gravel was considering purchasing, Gouger said Marion County had no zoning, and the “agricultural” denotation was for tax purposes only.

“We’ve got to help [the Jump Off] people,” Commissioner Ruric Brandt said. “People in Jasper say they have cracks in their walls from blasting, but Jasper has water. They don’t have water up there. Put these peoples’ shoes on. What would you want the county to do for you?”

“You [commissioners] answer to the people who put you in that chair,” Mason said. “You’ve got to make your decision based on their wishes. I’m torn. It’s a horrible situation.”

“We make decisions every meeting that affect the whole county,” Hargis said. “Not just [our] district.”

“I don’t want zoning,” Brandt said. “The Powers Act is the only tool we have.”

To allay concerns about unwanted Powers Act regulations being passed, Brandt suggested Powers Act regulations be adopted only by county-wide referendum. Gouger said state law stipulated Powers Act regulations be adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the county commission, and the law would need to be changed to make a special exception for Marion County. Gouger added referendum would be “a cumbersome process,” since it required a county wide vote and county elections only occurred every two years.

At the October meeting, the commission voted 9-3 to adopt a Powers Act, one vote short of the super majority needed to put a Powers Act in place and allow the county to regulate sand plants. A revote is expected at the next commission meeting Nov. 27.

SCA: Special Friend Rob Pearigen’s Vision

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Some people manifest a rare combination of warmth, humor and honesty that makes others feel as though they’re in the presence of a special friend. At the Nov. 6 Sewanee Civic Association meeting, special friend and new University Vice Chancellor Rob Pearigen talked about how he experiences Sewanee, his vision for the University, and what community means to him. During the business portion of the meeting, SCA President Kiki Beavers updated members and guests on Community Chest progress and offered a glimpse inside the proposed Welcome and Heritage Center building.

“It means so much to the University to have a community behind it,” Pearigen said citing the SCA’s work and the example of the players rushing into the stands after a recent woman’s soccer match to hug the community members who cheered them on. Sewanee was unique for encouraging students to interact with the community in research and outreach work and unique, as well, for a faculty who embraced serving in three roles, as “teachers, scholars, and mentors.” When Pearigen mentioned to a friend, his role in Sewane included being “mayor,” the friend cautioned him, “You don’t know anything about being a mayor.” “I’m still learning the mayor role,” Pearigen joked, then conceded, “I’m still learning the vice-chancellor role, too.”

A Sewanee graduate, after receiving his PhD from Duke University, Pearigen returned in 1987 to teach political science and serve as Dean of Students and Vice President of University Relations spending 23 years in Sewanee. His wife Phoebe was an adjunct professor of Theater and Dance and founded the community-centric Perpetual Motion dance program. “Phoebe taught every little kid in Sewanee to skip,” Pearigen said with a chuckle. The Pearigens recently returned again, with Rob Pearigen tapped to serve as Vice Chancellor. Over the course of his long affiliation with the University, he has met eight decades of alums, nine decades if the count includes a 1939 alum Pearign met recently. Over the past three months, Pearigen has attended 20 Sewanee Club events as the University’s ambassador traveling coast to coast, from Richmond to Los Angeles.

Pearigen’s fourfold vision for the University begins with students. “Everything we do needs to be centered around the students,” Pearigen insisted. Following closely in suit, his second goal emphasized the importance of “strengthening the already strong curriculum” to prepare students for leadership roles in the mid and later 21st century. Third, but clearly a priority, Pearigen stressed, “We need to look more like the diverse world where we live. We have work to do.” He pointed to a recent dinner attended by 89 international students from 39 countries, including students from South Ameria, Pakistan, Ukraine, a student with family who recently evacuated Gaza City and another student with two brothers in the Israeli armed forces. Offering the international students reassurance, Pearigen’s message was, “You’re safe here, and we as a community will be here for you.” Pearigen’s fourth goal celebrated the “power, magic, and majesty” of the 13,000-acre domain that serves as “our laboratory, playground, and sanctuary.” He envisions every curriculum incorporating the domain as part of the learning experience, reminding his audience, the village was part of the domain as well.

Updating the SCA on the Depot Welcome and Heritage Center project, Beavers said the former Hair Depot building “redo” called for a deck, an ADA compliant ramp and restroom, and a permanent home for the Historic Downtown Sewanee exhibition currently on display at the Archives. The renovation’s estimated cost of $124,000 did not include repair to damage caused when pipes burst last December, Beavers said. On a positive note, the University class of ’73 raised more than $100,000 for Phase 2 of the project.

The SCA recently concluded two projects. The Nonfood Supply Drive held in conjunction with the Community Action Committee collected household necessities the financially challenged cannot purchase with SNAP benefits, such as cleaning supplies. In collaboration with Folks at Home, the SCA sponsored a vaccine clinic where 50 people received flu shots and 20 received COVID booster vaccines. The Community Chest fund drive, currently underway, supports quality-of-life enhancing programs and activities on the Plateau. To donate to this year’s $120,000 goal, the largest ever, visit
or mail a check to P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375.

10th Annual DanceWise Performance Nov. 16-19

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

In the 25th anniversary year of the Tennessee Williams Center, the University of the South’s Department of Theater and Dance is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of DanceWise.

“DanceWise is a dance concert in line with professional concert dance rather than a studio recital,” said Associate Professor of Dance Courtney World, who was hired to build a dance minor at the University in 2013.

Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18, in the Proctor Hill Theatre in the Tennessee Williams Center. An additional performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 19.

The concert spotlights 12 dances, including tap, contemporary modern, contemporary ballet, and Afrofusion.

“I think everybody could enjoy this,” World said. “There’s a lot of variety — there’s something for everyone.”

The concert, under World’s artistic direction, features choreography and performances by students, faculty, alumni, and guest artists.

“I develop a concept and put out a call for student choreographers—they’re selected based on proposals that are related to the theme,” World explained.

This year’s theme is Traces, which explores the concept of “leaving your mark.”

“Just as the human body inscribes the space with trace forms resulting from pathways, lines, and shapes as we dance, we all leave traces of ourselves with the people and places we encounter,” World said.

The seven students selected to choreograph performance pieces this year are Suzanne Cole, Talia de la Cruz, Amelia Gauthreaux, J.T. Michel, Olivia Millwood, Lily Oakley, and Kate White. Additionally, World and two alumni dance minors, Dr. Fridien Tchoukoua and Karissa Wheeler, have also choreographed pieces.

World is excited to have alumni participating in this year’s concert.

“The first six dance minors to graduate from the University of the South have come back to celebrate their contributions to the ever-evolving legacy of dance at Sewanee and to engage with our current students who are developing their own artistry and leaving their marks on this place,” World said.

In addition to the two alumni choreographers, the four alumni dancers who performed in some of the very first productions of DanceWise include Alyssa Holley, Arthur Ndoumbe, Ashlin Ondrusek, and Danielle Silifies.

Guest Artist Adrienne Wilson of Auburn University will perform with World. Additionally, 25 University students are dancing in the production.

“Some of them are dance minors, but most of them are studying all kinds of other things,” World said. “They are very passionate about dance and are spending a lot of their time in rehearsals and dedicating themselves to this art because they can’t live without it.”

The 10th anniversary is meaningful for World.

“This is a celebration of how dance has grown at Sewanee, especially overcoming the hump of the pandemic,” she said. “Dance took a hard hit because we couldn’t be together.”

She recalled that the seniors dancing the pandemic year had to dance in six-foot squares and couldn’t touch each other. DanceWise had 30 people — masked and distanced — in the audience that year, and the production was livestreamed.

“This feels like a triumphant return and a growing and a celebration of where we’ve been and where we’re going,” she said.

Admission is free, but seating is limited. To reserve tickets, Go to <>.

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