Another EV Charging Station Coming to Monteagle

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The Monteagle Planning Commission approved the site plan for another EV charging station at the April 16 meeting. The single charging station currently located in Monteagle only offers service to Tesla vehicles. The commission also clarified language in an ordinance governing residing in recreational vehicles.

The commission previously rejected the site plan of the EV charging station company Owl Services. “We were unsatisfied with the location,” said Chair Ed Provost. Truck traffic “blocked” accessibility commented town planner Jonathan Rush. The new site, at the Pilot Travel Center just off I-24, will replace current parking in front of the drive thru lane at the Wendy’s. “It’s a much better location,” Rush said. But he pointed out, the site plan called for eliminating 248 square feet of landscaping. One tree would be moved and another tree planted providing “sufficient” shade Rush maintained.

The all-asphalt 240 square-foot site would have a 25-foot concrete pad, said Owl representative Gregory Helman, making it “difficult to add grass.” Commissioner Katie Trahan said she was “excited” about the project, but wanted the company to “soften” the appearance. Helman proposed adding another tree on the other side of the drive. The commission approved the site plan subject to the addition of a second tree. Both new trees will be American Hornbeams, a species from the list approved for this type of project.

The ordinance governing residing in recreational vehicles made an inaccurate reference to another ordinance, Rush explained. The commission approved an amendment correcting the reference. The amended ordinance governing residence in recreational vehicles stipulates, “RVs shall not be used for temporary or permanent occupancy outside of an approved campground except as permitted in section 537 governing temporary dwelling units.”

At 5 p.m., Saturday, April 27, at City Hall, Community by Design planners from the American Institute of Architects will present a growth plan for Monteagle, drawing on insight into the town gained from meeting with residents and business and political leaders. In February, the planning commission deferred a decision on allowing campgrounds in Commercial C-2 zoning pending the Community by Design group’s recommendations.

Saving Foster Falls: Staking Out Unique Ground

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“We’ve staked out unique ground,” commented Friends of South Cumberland Executive Director Ned Murray about the agreement reached with Tony Perry, developer and majority owner of the proposed Woodlands Preserve subdivision adjacent to Foster Falls. The Friends took a public stand opposing the project over a year ago. The proposed site borders Little Gizzard Creek for three-quarters of mile. The Friends argued the 135-acre, 79-unit development threatened the creek, falls and fragile eco system with the potential for septic tank run off; erosion; pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer runoff; flow disruption; as well as taxing already strained fire, police, and ambulance service. Nonetheless, Murray conceded, “The owner has the legal right to build there.” The Friends decided to try a different approach.

The agenda for the April 2, 2024, Marion County Planning Commission meeting called for a vote on the Woodlands Preserve preliminary plat. Two days before the meeting, Murray contacted Perry and invited him to tour the area, attend a School of Theology lecture “The Sacredness of Water,” and join the Friends for dinner at High Point appealing to Chicago-based Perry by pointing out the location was reputedly Chicago gangster Al Capone’s stopover.

Perry accepted the offer and changed his plans so he could stay another day. Rescheduling of the April 2 planning commission meeting resulted in the Friends having 10 hours with Perry. After attending the lecture, hiking Shakerag Hollow with Bran Potter, and touring Sewanee, Murray, Friends’ Board Chair Tom Sanders, Friends’ Land Conservation Chair Bruce Blohm, and Perry sat down to business.

“We explored all avenues,” Murray said. The Friends even offered to buy the area bordering the creek. The cost was unreachably high. But the Friends got Perry’s ear with the argument, “let’s bring science into this.”

The result: a higher level of protection and assurances than the Friends had hopes of achieving by any other means. An MOU outlining the agreement reached calls for an environmental impact assessment (with the Friends and Perry each paying for half); ongoing water testing of Little Gizzard Creek before, during, and after construction (both where the creek enters and leaves the property to take into account the possibility of runoff from other sources); buffer zones to protect the creek; measures to reduce soil impact during construction; and educational signage and literature to promote conservation. Post construction, responsibility for testing and remedying negative impact will fall to the Home Owners Association. A task force composed of representatives from the Friends and Perry’s company, A. Perry Homes, will oversee following through on the MOU’s provisions.

At the rescheduled Marion County Planning Commission meeting April 9, Murray appealed to the commission to use the tools at their disposal to regulate and oversee development. “Anything that discourages people from visiting our parks – or that diminishes the visitor experience – is detrimental to our community and the economy,” Murray insisted. “The benefits of more tax revenue must be balanced against other sources of economic impact from tourism, jobs created, and public relations, not to mention the potential costs to the county for various kinds of maintenance, repair, and cleanup.” In closing, Murray said, “We don’t want to work with developers. We want to work with you. We hope that our work on this project with Mr. Perry … will be an example for you, a model for moving forward.”

The planning commission had previously reviewed the subdivision’s preliminary plat in March. “The majority of recommended changes had not been addressed,” said Marion County planner Garrett Haynes. At the April 9 meeting, the commission voted against approval. “[To move forward with the project] it’s a matter of them making the changes necessary to meet the minimum requirements and resubmitting. I expect they will,” Haynes acknowledged. However, a more serious problem may confront Perry, water supply. Haynes is investigating whether Tracy City has sufficient water to serve the subdivision as the plat proposes. Engineering would be needed to determine if wells are a feasible option. Perry did not respond to an inquiry about his plans.

“The Friends do not believe that a housing subdivision is the best and highest use of that sensitive land,” Murray said. But he stressed, “An environmental impact assessment will provide a higher level of scrutiny than what the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation requires. Mr. Perry has offered a significant number of assurances and commitments intended to prevent and mitigate impact to the land and water during construction and long afterwards. Because we’re at the table, we can monitor progress. We’ll know when and what moves are made.”

Imagine Monteagle: This Plan Is for You!

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

What does Monteagle want to be when it grows up? Monteagle has a complex history — the summit of the trail crossing into Georgia in the early 1800s, a stopover point for the Mountain Goat Railroad fostering commerce in the mid-1800s, the home of the educational initiatives Fairmont College and the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly in the late 1800s, and in the mid-1900s the home of Highlander Folk School teaching strategies for nonviolent change to up and coming civil rights leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet for all that, Monteagle has always had a small-town vibe. At the present, though, Monteagle is experiencing heavy commercial and residential development pressure, an explosion in real estate activity coupled with an explosion in outdoor-based recreational opportunities. Imagine Monteagle! What is Monteagle’s future? What are the hopes and desires of the residents? At the Imagine Monteagle planning event, Thursday, April 25, from 5:30-7 p.m., at City Hall, representatives from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) will meet one-on-one with residents to learn the answers to those questions and draw up a road map for Monteagle’s future.

Tennessee Annotated Code requires towns to “develop a general plan on which to base zoning and land use decisions,” said Monteagle Alderman Nate Wilson who spearheaded the effort to engage the AIA group to assist Monteagle in the planning process. “Every town that has zoning is required to have a general plan to guide how a town develops.” According to Wilson, Monteagle had a plan when the town adopted zoning in the mid-1980s, but the plan has since been lost.

“Some of the town’s regulations reference a general plan,” said Mayor Greg Maloof. “In the past there has been great debate on points when we didn’t have one to guide us.”

At the planning event, AIA Community by Design professionals will host focus-group tables to talk one-on-one with residents about topics key to determining the town’s future: land use; place making (historical preservation, urban design, and understanding a place to make it a better version of itself); downtown development; economic development; and recreation-based tourism.

“Monteagle and the Plateau are changing rapidly,” Wilson insisted. “If residents don’t take control of the process, things may not develop in ways they appreciate.” Confiding his personal thoughts on economic development and tourism, Wilson said, “If you create a great place where people want to live, people will want to visit. Economic development and tourism will happen on their own.”

As Imagine Monteagle bonus attractions, the first 150 residents attending can enjoy free barbecue, and there will be a bounce house for kids.

“We especially want input from young families,” Wilson stressed, “They are the ones who will most immediately reap the consequences of the planning.”

The Community by Design planners will incorporate the information from the Imagine Monteagle event and from an earlier visit last October into a first-draft general plan for the town. Friday will be spent brainstorming and strategizing. At 5 p.m., Saturday, April 27, at City Hall, the planners will present the plan to the public. Here, again, input will be welcome. A final draft will follow. The plan will then go to the council for a vote and possible further revision.

“We’re very thankful for the hard work the AIA steering committee is doing on this project,” Maloof said, “and for the individuals and organizations hosting them.”

Under Wilson’s direction, Monteagle submitted a detailed application requesting planning assistance from the AIA. The AIA does not charge for the planning services the organization provides. The only cost to Monteagle is transportation, food, and lodging. A grant from the Lindhurst Foundation helped offset some of the costs, and residents and businesses too numerous to mention have stepped forward as hosts and helpmates, the Edgeworth Inn, Morton Memorial Methodist Church, Mountain Goat Market, the Smokehouse, and High Point, to name just a few.

“Monteagle has a lot of positive trajectory,” Wilson said. “This is about making sure we acknowledge our past and involve our residents in the trajectory forward.”

SUD Good News

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the April 16 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners received good news about PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and about resolution of a years-old agreement with the University promising to reimburse the utility for expenses incurred as a consequence of narrowing Highway 41A. In new business, the board took up a request for a water-bill adjustment and discussed the possible need for upsizing sewer lines serving the eastern section of the district.

“We were part of an EPA test for PFAS,” said SUD manager Ben Beavers. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals used in carpeting, apparel, upholstery, food paper wrappings, cable coatings and more. PFAS health risks include cancer, suppressed immunity, increased cholesterol levels, developmental disorders, and decreased fertility. “It’s not in our water,” Beavers reassured the board. “We don’t have any of it.”

Narrowing Highway 41A evolved in conjunction with the University pursuing its Sewanee Village Plan for the downtown area. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) took on the project, and because narrowing the highway was a TDOT project, SUD was financially liable for the water and sewer infrastructure changes required. In the summer of 2020, the University verbally agreed to help offset SUD’s expense, but SUD never received reimbursement for the substantial costs incurred. “[Vice Chancellor] Rob Pearigen sat down next to me at the recent fire department reunion,” said SUD Board President Charlie Smith, “and Rob told me, ‘We’re prepared to write a check for the road project.’” Pearigen also mentioned the University’s intention to follow through on the agreement to Beavers. Pearigen said his assistant Nicky Hamilton would contact Beavers to finalize the arrangements.

After careful consideration, the board rejected a request for an adjustment from a customer with a $450 December water bill for over 18,000 gallons of usage. The customer, a part-time resident, said SUD notified her of the high usage, and a neighbor subsequently shut off the water under the house. A plumber found no leaks, making the customer ineligible for leak-insurance reimbursement. Beavers suspected a running toilet caused the excessive usage. Smith pointed out a faulty toilet flapper could also be the cause. Customers with leak insurance who had leaks from frozen pipes during the subzero January temperatures were reimbursed by the insurance company, Beavers said, but toilet problems do not count as leaks. Beavers offered to have the meter tested and refund the bill if the meter was faulty, with the stipulation, if the meter was not faulty, the customer would pay for the $50 meter test. The customer declined the offer. “Please tell her we’re sympathetic,” Smith said.

Beavers introduced a discussion about the possible need for “upsizing” the sewer line from the manhole in front of the proposed University apartments to Baker’s Lane. “The [line] takes all the sewage east of the University and St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School,” Beavers said. “It runs at full capacity during heavy rain.” Beavers partly attributed the situation to inflow and infiltration of ground water into the sewer line, but stressed “this is more of a capacity problem.” The 10-inch line increases to 16 inches at Baker’s Lane and continues as a 16-inch line to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. In addition to the University apartments, sewage from the proposed SAS development and Arcadia senior living facility would flow into the line. “Growth pays for growth,” said Smith, citing SUD policy that requires residential development projects to pay for needed infrastructure upgrades. Beavers proposed “the most equitable” resolution would be “cost sharing” among the three development projects depending on the amount of increased capacity each required. Beavers said he suggested “upsizing” the line at the time of the highway project when upgrades were already underway, which would have made the undertaking less costly. The University did not respond to his suggestion. Evaluation by an engineer will be needed to determine if upsizing is needed and by how much.

Becky Buller Band Headlines 2nd Annual Benefit Concert for SCCF

South Cumberland Community Fund (SCCF), serving a tri-county area on the Cumberland Plateau, will have its second annual Benefit Concert at The Caverns in Pelham, Tenn., on May 2. Doors open at 5 p.m., with music starting at 6 p.m. Local food trucks will be available for the audience. Tickets are available at the Fund’s website: <>.

Ten-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) award winner Becky Buller headlines the evening alongside local school children who have been studying old-time music in Grundy County schools and choral music in Monteagle, thanks to a partnership between the SCCF, The Caverns, and the Paul S. McConnell Fund.

“We are really excited that Becky Buller and her fantastic band were willing to share their music to help advance our mission of fostering hope and prosperity in the Plateau community,” said Tom Sanders, executive director of the SCCF. “Our goal is to make this an annual event.”

Buller is as passionate about roots music education as she is performance.

“There is such a rich tradition of roots music in Middle Tennessee and all throughout Appalachia,” she said. “In supporting old-time music instruction particularly, the SCCF and their partners are connecting these students with their own heritage. We have to know where we come from to know where we’re headed and music builds bridges, bringing hope and healing like nothing else can. The band and I are very much looking forward to sharing the stage with these kids.”

Buller is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter from St. James, Minn., who has lived in Manchester, Tenn., for the last 15 years. She has written songs for Grammy award-winning albums by Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, The Travelin’ McCourys, and The Infamous Stringdusters.

Her many accolades include the 2016 IBMA Fiddler and Female Vocalist. She is the first woman in the history of the awards to receive the Fiddler nod; she is also the first person ever to win in both vocal and instrumental categories. In 2023, Buller was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall Of Fame.

For complete tour dates and to connect with her on social media, visit her website: <>.

South Cumberland Community Fund launched in 2012 to foster hope and prosperity on the South Cumberland Plateau. SCCF has made over $1.5 million in grants in the tri-county area — the highland portions of Franklin and Marion County as well the entirety of Grundy County.

In addition, SCCF has invested over $700,000 in community development work and helped leverage funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service for AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers working across the Plateau as well as in Manchester, Tenn. These programs have focused on building capacity of community organizations such as nonprofits and municipal and county governments to accomplish their work.

Currently, SCCF is convening people and developing partnerships to address housing shortages, lack of transportation, and community health. Funding priorities for SCCF are health, education, and economic development.

For more information go to <>.

20th Anniversary of Trails & Trilliums

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

The roots of Trails & Trilliums go back more than two decades when Margaret Matens, then the newly hired public relations director of St. Andrew’s-Sewanee (SAS), decided to revive a spring parent event.

Matens combined forces with Priscilla Fort, president of the St. Andrew’s-Sewanee Parent Club, to brainstorm what they could do.

“Miriam Keener of Sequatchie Cove Farm had started growing native plants,” Matens recalled. “At that time, nobody was growing native plants. I asked Miriam, who was a parent at the school, to bring up some of her plants, so we could have a native plant sale. We called it Trails & Trilliums.

“That was the very first one,” she said. “We had the plant sale, hikes, and children’s activities. It was at SAS for seven years, and it just got bigger every year. We kept thinking of new things — we started getting people to come in to be speakers.”

The festival’s emphasis on nature and the environment drew the interest of the Friends of South Cumberland — many of its members including naturalists Harry Yeatman, Mary Priestley, Bran Potter and Mack Pritchard became featured festival speakers.

“With Jim Harmon, who was running the Monteagle Inn at the time, we started an event called Wine & Wildflowers — which we still do — it was an evening reception with wine and cheese that people loved,” she said.

In 2007 at Wine & Wildflowers, Yeatman, a University of the South professor, received the first Yeatman Environmental Education Award, which since has been awarded annually to an outstanding nature educator. A Trails & Trilliums Tribute Award was added to honor organizations that promote the stewardship of nature.

One important aspect of those early days to Matens, who is a certified wildlife rehabber, was the focus on children’s activities whether it was hayrides, nature talks, or a wildlife petting zoo.

“I do a lot of education with my wildlife,” she said. “I run a nature program with my critters in the summer at a girl’s camp — that’s one reason that I wanted to be sure that we had children’s activities. That’s been part of our mission all along — connecting children with nature. We were able to do a lot of fun outdoor things with the kids — that still has remained a big part of Trails & Trilliums.”

When Matens retired in 2010, SAS’s new headmaster decided to discontinue the festival.

“When the Friends found out, they decided they would like to pick it up,” said Matens, who’d already agreed to serve on the Friends’ board. “It didn’t miss a beat. Once it became a vehicle for the park, it gave us a different slant on things.”

The guided hikes shifted from Shakerag to Fiery Gizzard.

“What’s interesting to me is that a lot of people want to go on guided hikes,” she said. “They don’t want to go out by themselves — they just don’t feel comfortable. Besides which, when you have Bran Potter leading the hike, you’re learning as you go. You’re getting to go on the hike, not worrying about getting lost, and then you have this wonderful teacher — that’s probably been everybody’s favorite part.”

The festival’s homebase shifted to the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, where it flourished during its time there, attracting nearly 600 visitors a weekend and raising $17,000.

A 2018 move to the South Cumberland State Park Welcome Center off Highway 41 in an effort to link the festival more closely to the park proved disastrous because of bad weather and lack of infrastructure. The following year, the festival moved to DuBose Conference Center, where it remained through 2022. When rumors of DuBose’s closing began circulating, festival organizers looked for a new site.

“We decided to do it at Beersheba Springs Assembly, and that was the year they divided South Cumberland State Park into two and made Savage Gulf the newest state park,” Matens said, noting it was purely coincidental but also perfect.

Organizers worried that the distance might affect attendance, but many visitors opted to stay in the rooms at the retreat center.

“Then it was even more fun,” Matens said. “Everybody’s eating breakfast in the dining hall and visiting — it actually really changed the event when you have those three days of camaraderie. I think last year people were incredibly enthusiastic about the location — they just loved it.”

Another recent change was rebranding.

“We used to call it a festival,” Matens said. “Two years ago, we changed it to being a nature rally. It is more really what it is about — it’s for people who love to be outside, and I think the other wonderful thing about it is all these people who still want to learn. It also helps you connect with this place. When you go out on a walk and you know something about the geology that’s under your feet and the wildflowers that you’re seeing and all those things, it just enriches your appreciation of this beautiful place.”

Trails & Trilliums Naturalist Rally, is April 19-21. For registration and more information go to

Play in Angel Park April 16-20: ‘Tilda Swinton Betrayed Us’

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

University of the South senior Olivia Millwood, C’24, makes her directorial debut with the play “Tilda Swinton Betrayed Us” at 7:30 p.m. April 16-20 in Angel Park.

“Weather pending, it is every night,” Millwood said, “We planned a longer run this year because we learned from last year — we cancelled half of the performances because of the weather.”

Tickets, as always, are free, and may be reserved at <;. Runtime is about 35 minutes, and patrons should bring their own chairs or blankets.

“Olivia Millwood has done just about everything in our department — danced, choreographed, done the lighting design for a mainstage production, and stage managed two mainstage productions,” said Professor Jim Crawford, Theatre and Dance Department chair, “I’m delighted that she’ll be able to finish up her time at Sewanee directing a production of her own. She’s earned the trust and respect of the faculty and her fellow students. I’m really looking forward to seeing her work on this production and to see the trail she blazes beyond Sewanee.”

Millwood actually selected this year’s play.

“‘Tilda Swinton Betrayed Us’ is about this intense fan club,” she said. “The play is about a meeting that they have at the end of the year 2016 when Tilda Swinton has done something very controversial, and they meet to decide whether or not they need to disband.”

The controversy is based on a real-life incident involving Swinton in 2016.

“In Marvel’s ‘Dr. Strange,’ she played a character called The Ancient One, which in the original comics was an old Asian man,” Millwood explained.

Swinton, a white woman playing this particular role, caused an uproar.

“It started this controversy of Tilda Swinton defending whitewash casting — her defense was they didn’t want to create a negative Asian stereotype by casting an Asian person in this magical Asian old man role,” Millwood said.

Swinton took the brunt of the criticism after her emails with Margaret Cho, a prominent Asian comedian and actress who’d reached out to Swinton expressing concerns with the casting decision, were released to the public.

The real-life event served as a catalyst for the play’s Asian author, A. Rey Pamatmat.

“A lot of times what we see — very much like what happened with ‘Dr. Strange’ — is that there is Asian representation onscreen, but, as someone Asian myself, I can very much tell it was written by a white person and that all the decisions were made by white people, so I really think this author has a very unique perspective of looking at it,” Millwood noted.

“I think the play challenges the audience — no matter the age — to think about what their beliefs are, and it challenges them to change their perspective,” Millwood said. “This play does a really great job — there’s no like straight antagonist, there’s no like villain of the story. Everyone has such a valid point, and I think plays like that are really interesting where you don’t have someone to root against or you don’t have someone to really root for.

“It’s great insight and conversation that really deals with race and racism and representation in Hollywood and what that means to people and whether or not all representation is great representation or if more negative representation is making it worse for everyone in the world.”

The play’s cast includes 10 actors.

“I think a wonderful part of this play also is there are no leads — there’s only ten characters, and they all are pretty equally spread, and they’re all just fantastic,” Millwood said. “I think this cast has such a wonderful energy — such a youthful, refreshing energy.”

Initially planning to become a lawyer, Millwood, who is from Bristol, Tenn., started at Sewanee as an English major with a dance minor.

“One of the requirements of a dance minor is to take a theater production class, and it kinda stuck,” she said. “I really landed on stage management and directing.”

She will graduate in May with a theater degree and hopes to eventually travel with a theater company.

“One of my main goals in life is to be part of a company or an artistic team that brings theater to smaller towns because I grew up in a small town in Tennessee that didn’t have a lot of theater — that’s why I didn’t get into theater until I got into college,” Millwood said.

Millwood will definitely miss the sense of community in Sewanee’s Theatre and Dance Department after she graduates.

“I am going to miss being a part of this team and everyone around here because it has such a wonderful energy,” she said.

Franklin County Schools: Huntland Baseball, Vouchers, Thanksgiving

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the April 8 meeting the Franklin County School Board approved two requests for purchases for the Huntland Schools’ baseball program; learned about inequities in the governor’s proposed Education Freedom Scholarship Act; and authorized changes to the Thanksgiving vacation dates in the 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 calendars.

The Huntland hitting facility will be paid for with money raised by the Dugout Club, said Principal Lisa Crabree. The 32’ by 80’ metal building, intended for indoor practice purposes only, will have minimal electricity, a dirt or gravel floor covered with outdoor carpet, and no plumbing or HVAC, cost $35,395. Deputy Director of Finances Jenny Phillips said insurance costs for the building would be “minimal,” $200-250 annually.

Citizens Community Bank has stepped forward as a sponsor for purchase of a new baseball field scoreboard at Huntland, cost $9,457.88. “Our current scoreboard is dead,” Crabtree said. “We’re in the middle of baseball season, and we’re calling the score from the PA system.” The scoreboard Huntland Schools had used since 2004, manufactured in 1999, came from the old Franklin County High School and is beyond repair.

Board member Sarah Marhevsky called the board’s attention to an “imbalance” in the financial workings of the Education Freedom Scholarship Act, a voucher-type program providing state funding for students who attend private schools. “Public schools get a certain amount of money per student,” Marhevsky said. “Seventy percent comes from the state and our district covers the other 30 percent. Students going to private schools [with Scholarship Act money] would get the full amount from the state. The county wouldn’t have to kick in anything.” Director of Schools Cary Holman concurred, private schools would get “100 percent” of the per student allocation from the state. Board member Sara Leichty cited a neighboring state with a similar voucher type program. “Ninety percent of the students who are currently participating were already in private school,” Leichty said, suggesting the parents could afford to pay private school tuition without state assistance. Earlier in the year the board passed a resolution opposing the Freedom Scholarship Act. Marhevsky urged concerned citizens to contact their legislators.

Following up on a discussion with Holman about most districts in the area taking off the entire week of Thanksgiving, Human Resources Supervisor Roger Alsup learned the district could use two of the “stockpiled” no-school days for Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week by designating them as “professional development days.” The board approved a 2025-2026 calendar with “no school” the entire Thanksgiving week and amended the 2024-2025 calendar to reflect a change to “no school” Thanksgiving week.

Franklin County Schools Hot Topics: Budget, Guns

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“Seventy-eight percent of the budget is salaries and benefits,” said Director of Schools Cary Holman at the April 4 Franklin County School Board budget workshop. “We need to be very cognizant of trying to get to the $50,000 mark.” To be competitive with neighboring districts in the struggle to attract teachers, Franklin County has set a goal of offering a starting teacher salary of $50,000 by the 2027-2028 school year. Although the percentage allocated to salaries and benefits in the proposed 2024-2025 budget is consistent with the past two years, the 5 percent raises for teachers and support staff along with other cost increases will leave a $1.5 million budget shortfall. A second hot topic reared its head in a post-budget discussion about proposed state legislation allowing teachers to carry firearms. “It’s a bad idea,” insisted Franklin County Mayor Chris Guess, a former law enforcement officer.

Holman met with department heads reviewing the budget line by line. “Dr. Holman worked really hard to cut as much as he could,” said Deputy Director of Finances Jenny Phillips.

Holman explained that by the new TISA state funding formula intended to increase the allocation for teacher salaries, the state only provides 70 percent of the per pupil allocation, with the local governing body expected to contribute the remaining 30 percent. For Franklin County, that will amount to a mere $151 per student increase from the state, $700,000 total, leaving $308,000 for the county to provide.

The district could receive additional TISA funding for students with Unique Learning Needs (ULNs). Holman stressed the importance of “coding children correctly.” Giving an example, Holman said a student coded for the ULN’s English learner, dyslexia, and having an IEP program could result in an additional 20 percent TISA allocation for that student.

On the expense side, the certified employee pay scale provided a wage increase for teachers with 24 or more years of service; by last year’s scale there were no further wage increases after 23 years. “If we can get to 25 years, we’re competitive for this area,” said board member Sara Leichty. Moore County gives years of service increases up to 30 years and Manchester Schools up to 28 years.

Other budget highlights included a 15 percent increase in insurance costs, $750,000 to replace the roofs at Huntland and Rock Creek schools, and a $5,000 flat rate increase for contract bus drivers, rather than a mileage or seat-based increase.

“I thought the budget looked really good,” said Vice Chair Lance Williams. “We can request $308,000 [for the TISA shortfall] from the county commission and if they choose to give it to us, that reduces the money we’re taking out of the fund balance.” The district is required to maintain a fund balance (money held in reserve) of at least $1.6 million, 3 percent of the operations budget. “We can’t take fund balance money more and more for salaries,” said Board Chair Cleijo Walker. The district currently has $7.1 million in the fund balance. A $1.5 million draw to cover the shortfall would reduce the balance to $5.6 million.

Phillips stressed revenue numbers were based on last year’s figures and recommended the board wait for a final determination from the county finance committee before approving the budget, rather than voting at the April 8 board meeting.

Board member Sarah Marhevsky updated the board on proposed state legislation that would allow teachers to carry firearms. “You don’t want untrained, unexperienced people in schools with guns … Someone other than law enforcement in schools with guns is a bad idea,” Mayor Guess said. “Teachers and employees may not want to work in that environment,” Leichty said. Guess emphasized the danger of “a friendly fire” in an active shooter crisis. He predicted the Tennessee sheriff and police associations would lobby against the legislation. The bill has cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and, following approval by the Senate Calendar Committee, will move to the senate floor for a vote. Marhevsky urged concerned citizens to contact their legislators.

Shenanigans: 2nd Annual April Fool Fest Kicks Off Anniversary Year

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

Shenanigans, the grande dame of Sewanee Village, turns 50 this September, but anniversary festivities kick off early with the second annual April Fool Fest and Crawfish Boil on Saturday, April 6.

Festivities run from 4 p.m. to midnight with food, drink, games, and live music. All ages are welcome. Tickets are available at <;.

A $45 full-day pass includes a Cajun boil crawfish meal plus veggies and trimmings as well as a wristband for all the bands, upstairs and down. Music-only passes are also available. Advance tickets are highly encouraged because they went fast last time.

“It’s a big anniversary year for us,” said Bill Elder, who’s owned Shenanigans for the past decade. “This is probably the most historical building outside of the University that is still standing — this one and Ken Taylor’s. I’m told since Rebel’s Rest burned; this is the oldest standing wood building in Sewanee.”

“There are three big, big things for our 50th — one is the kitchen buildout, two is The Back Room at Shenanigans, and three will be our anniversary celebration sometime in September,” said Elder, who’s dated the anniversary back to Sept. 14, 1974.

“There is a newspaper article that we have framed from 1974 from The Sewanee Purple that says Shenan-wich Hits the Mountain,” Elder explained.

In his 10 years with Shenanigans, Elder has strived to create a place that could provide people careers and a chance to spread their wings.

“That’s one reason why I wanted to do all these different things — a big new kitchen that we can run catering out of, I did the upstairs so that we could have a music venue, we’ve got the food truck: all of this was an attempt to build a place to work where we can be serious about working here and know that there’s opportunity. That was always a big thing for me and continues to be.”

Elder said his staff of about 30 is slowly growing into the new kitchen.

“I’ve always had this saying — and I still say it every day — I don’t tell Shenanigans what to do — she tells me. With this new kitchen, me and Shenanigans are in a bit of a tug of war. I think the old girl is reluctantly coming around, but we absolutely had to increase our efficiency here,” he said.

The impetus for the bigger kitchen came during the pandemic.

“When Covid happened, we had to get a lot of people outside, which had us getting all this patio furniture, all the deck furniture,” he said. “We wanted people eating outside, so we could continue to be a business and, more importantly, so that we could continue to serve the community — to feed this mountain spicy turkey melts.”

As Covid restrictions eased, Elder realized they’d substantially increased their capacity.

“If we were full in here, full out there, and full upstairs, then that’s three times what we were used to doing, and that little kitchen could not keep up,” he said.

Elder asked the University for permission to expand the kitchen — like everything else on the Domain, Shenanigans is on a leasehold.

“They were awesome,” he said. “They wanted Shenanigans to be able to evolve naturally, grow to meet the needs of the community, and grow the business community in the Village in such a way that more people were coming down here.”

Elder said that once the University gave its approval, he was pretty much locked into expanding the kitchen.

“They kind of called my hand,” he laughed. He began looking for a replacement hood.

He said all of their kitchen operations have changed since the expansion.

“It’s a full-on, legitimate commercial kitchen that can do anything,” he said, admitting it was bittersweet to see the old kitchen go.

“I remember the day we tore that thing down that I was just so sad,” he recalled. “Part of the charm and grit of Shenanigans is that we were able to pull things off in a laid back environment. That went along with the vibe here — it’s Shenanigans. It’s quirky and not necessarily going to win a James Beard award, but we’re going to provide a great vibe, a great meal, and lots of smiles and comfort to people.”

“I grew up coming here, and I was an absolute fixture,” he said. “I remember being a kid here, I remember being a college kid here, and, no matter what the quality of stuff was throughout the years, it was still Shenanigans — you could walk in, you could breathe it in, and you could feel the vibe and smile.”

“I view Shenanigans as the perennial cornerstone of the hangout vibe in Sewanee — this big blue building on 41 that everyone stops at and says, “oh my god, I’ve got to go there.’ And when you walk in, we totally deliver that mom-and-pop homegrown, non-corporate vibe every time.”

Something new that Elder is excited to bring to Shenanigans soon is a back bar with a speakeasy vibe. He and his staff started working on it when frozen pipes burst, forcing a temporary three-month shutdown. That space had previously housed an art gallery and later, overflow seating.

“We thought it could be a cool back bar with proper cocktails — it’s going to have a separate entrance,” he said, noting capacity will be about 25 to 30. About five of his current employees are training to bartend. Elder looks for The Back Room at Shenanigans to open mid-to-late April.

Plans are already underway for a huge Shenanigans-style anniversary celebration this upcoming September, and Elder couldn’t be more enthused about the celebration and the quirky place that he’s loved for most of his life.

“I just pinch myself every day being the current steward of Shenanigans,” he said with a grin.

Nonfood Supply Drive to Benefit the CAC

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, paper products, household supplies, detergent, menstrual products, diapers, or other personal care items.

This is where you can help. Collect nonfood items April 8–12, and then deliver from 1–3 p.m., Friday, April 12, to the CAC at 216 University Ave., Sewanee. Individuals may also take their nonfood donations between April 8–12, to donation bins around campus at the SPO and duPont Library, and Taylor’s Mercantile in Sewanee. You may also take donations to the CAC, Monday through Friday, 9–11 a.m.

There is 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

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 50 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. This event is sponsored by the Community Action Committee, the Office of Civic Engagement, the Sewanee Civic Association, and the Sewanee Community Chest.

2024 Edible Books Festival at Sewanee

Jessie Ball duPont Library will celebrate the International Edible Books Festival with a contest scheduled for Monday, April 15, 2024. The entries for the contest will be accepted from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. and the reception will take place from 2–4 p.m. in the Main Lobby of the Library. This event is sponsored by The Friends of the Library, Sewanee Dining, and Library and Information Technology Services.

Find out all the details about the event and register your entry at < > Each entry should be edible – cakes, vegetables, fruits, bread, etc., and represent a book or something about a book. Past entries have included “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Hunger Games,” “A Farewell to Arms,” and “The Hungry Caterpillar,” among other literary greats.

We have five categories that will have prizes awarded. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card from The Mountain Goat Market in Monteagle.


Literary Theme

People’s Choice (popular vote)

Best Team Entry

Best Entry by a Child (under 12)

If you are a Pinterest user, explore this board for Edible Book ideas and a look at some of our entries from previous years at <;.

For more information about the Edible Books Festival, please contact Stephanie Borne at (931) 598-1265 or <>.

Trails & Trilliums 2024 - Sign Up & Show Up

Come out and support the Friends of the Parks. There is still time to register for our Trails & Trilliums Naturalist Rally, April 19-21. Come for the weekend or spend a full day in beautiful Beersheba Springs on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. One-day passes are available each day. Many presentations will take place in a large auditorium, so space is not an issue. A native plant sale and Family Adventure Days for children will be on Saturday and Sunday. Registration and information:

On Friday, register for:

Nature Journaling workshops

Plein Air Painting at Stone Door

Friday night Welcome Cookout with old time fiddlin’

On Saturday, sign up for:

Bran Potter’s AV talk on the geology of Stone Door and Greeter Falls

Trails & Trilliums’ Welcome Session “Conserving Great Spaces” with Greer Tidwell, who has oversight of all TN State Parks

Mary Priestley’s author talk on her new book, “The Essential Mack Prichard: Writings of a Conservation Hero” (with a book signing to follow)

Tennessee Wildflowers – by State Naturalist Emeritus Randy Hedgepath

“An Introduction to the Fireflies of Tennessee,” by Holly Taylor, Asst. State Naturalist

Programs on Bats, Making a Moss Lawn, Tennessee Bees, How to Treat Hemlocks, and more.

Saturday evening ends with the Wine & Wildflowers BBQ at The Big Red Barn, a night hike at Stone Door, a Star Party and a bonfire.

Sunday highlights with room for registrants include:

Guided hikes to Stone Door, Laurel Falls, Foster Falls, Fiery Gizzard, and the Savage Day Loop

A morning bird walk, a history walk around Beersheba Springs and a Mushroom foraging walk

An outdoor morning service at Vesper Point overlooking the Stone Door valley.

An author talk on Birding in the Southern Cumberland Region

An AV presentation on “Nature Photography–The Art of Seeing,” by Robin Connover, Photography Editor of Tennessee Magazine

Jon Evans talk on “Old Growth Forests on the Cumberland Plateau”

“Edible, Medicinal, and Poisonous Plants of Tennessee” with expert John Ford

Patrick Dean’s author talk on “Nature’s Messenger: Mark Catesby’s Adventures in a New World”

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