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Pound officials at cross-purposes to get court-appointed council members

WISE — While Pound’s mayor and one town council member have filed a request for Wise County Circuit Court to fill three council vacancies, the remaining council member wants to see a former councilman appointed.

Glenn Cantrell’s Jan. 12 letter to the 30th Judicial Circuit asks the circuit’s judges to appoint three people to fill a series of vacancies that began in August and ended in December.

Marley Green resigned from the council in August, following a spring and summer in which the town gave up control of its water and sewer systems and council members faced a series of lawsuits by former town attorney and former part-time police officer Tim McAfee.

Danny Stanley resigned on Dec. 7, citing health issues. Clifton Cauthorne resigned on Dec. 22, saying he wanted to put the 30th Judicial Circuit in a position to resolve the vacancies.

Another resignation earlier in 2021 was resolved by the special election of Leabern Kennedy to fill the unexpired term of Phil Cantrell Jr., Glenn Cantrell’s brother.

All four 30th Circuit judges last year excused themselves from hearing some legal actions involving the town — including a petition to remove Mayor Stacey Carson — citing unspecified conflicts of interest.

Glenn Cantrell’s letter follows by a week a formal petition by Kennedy and Carson for the 30th judges to fill the three vacancies.

However, the two requests face a new complication: a General Assembly bill filed on Jan. 12 by House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore to repeal the town’s charter.

While Kennedy and Carson specified no persons as possible appointees, Cantrell in his letter asked the judges to consider four people as possible interim appointments. One of Cantrell’s choices — former town council member James Pelfrey — was blocked by court injunction in October from taking office as an interim member when Cantrell and Stanley voted as the only two members at a September meeting.

That action followed a lawsuit by Kennedy and town residents to block Pelfrey’s appointment and other fiscal actions taken by Cantrell, Stanley and Pelfrey.

Circuit Court Judge John Kilgore ordered that Pelfrey could not take office until after Nov. 16 and a determination of what a quorum is for the council to do business. Kennedy took office before Nov. 16, and the council had since been deadlocked on how to replace Green.

Cantrell also asked the judges to consider former town clerk Melissa Fleming, who resigned in December over Carson’s decision to close town hall because of staffing issues and to furlough Fleming and another town hall staffer.

Cantrell said Pelfrey and Fleming “have agreed to serve.” He also suggested former mayor and town manager George Dean and Pound Fire Department Chief John Stallard.

Dean served as mayor and town manager during part of a period since 2016 when state Assistant Attorney General Jerald Hess told the council in May 2021 that the town had failed to comply with a state Department of Environmental Quality consent order to fix sewer system issues.

Tri-Cities region braces for weekend snowfall

KINGSPORT — Highway crews and utility companies in the Tri-Cities area are preparing for snowfall that is projected to hit late Saturday night to early Sunday morning. The storm could drop 3 or 4 inches on Kingsport and greater accumulations at higher elevations.

Brandon Wasilewski, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Morristown, said residents should expect a light rain Saturday with a small chance of flurries.

Going into Sunday, precipitation mixed with snow will probably come into the area before sunrise. Snow is expected to fall occasionally throughout the day.

“Snowfall varies a lot based on elevation, but lower areas could receive between 3-4 inches and higher areas could get closer to 6 inches or more,” Wasilewski said.

Kingsport Public Works

Tim Elsea, the city’s Public Works manager, said Friday that workers “are currently putting down brine on major thoroughfares and on selected streets with hills and known problem areas.”

Elsea said the department is “getting equipment ready to put down salt and use snowplows if the storm requires it.

“We are taking all the necessary measures to make sure we’re ready to go if we have to,” he said.

Tennessee Department of Transportation

TDOT Community Relations Officer Mark Nagi said Friday that the agency plans to pretreat roadways in areas where rain is not expected before snow.

He added, “When winter weather arrives, TDOT crews will be on their routes ready to salt and plow as needed.”

Virginia Department of Transportation

In a press release, VDOT spokeswoman Michelle Earl stated, “VDOT crews are preparing for a robust response to impending weather that is anticipated to arrive Sunday.”

VDOT’s Bristol District also plans to pretreat Interstate 81, Interstate 77 and high-volume primary highways in preparation for the snow.

The agency also advises residents to be weather-aware and to check the forecast before “significant travel.” Planning ahead may mean that travelers need to decide to leave earlier or later to bypass the winter weather to save time and ensure safety.

VDOT Bristol advises people to “allow crews time and space to plow and treat roads; clear any snow and ice from your vehicle before driving;” and make sure that your headlights are turned on and your speed aligns with the road conditions.

VDOT said interstates, primary roads and major secondary roads with vital emergency and public facilities, or those with high traffic volumes will be cleared first.

Residents are asked to visit for more information about winter weather travel. People can also call (800) 367-7623 to report road hazards, ask questions, or get more information.

Tennessee Highway Patrol

The THP recommends individuals follow these safety tips:

• Maintain your vehicle with a minimum of a half-tank of gas.

• Make sure your battery is maintained.

• Keep a set of jumper cables or a portable booster in your vehicle.

• Check your windshield washer fluid and add deicer (not water).

• Check windshield wipers and replace them if they are skipping, streaking or cracked.

• Remember if your wipers are on, your headlights are required to be on as well.

• Check the air pressure in your tires, including the spare, and check tread depth.

• Have a bag of have cat litter/sand for traction.

• Keep blankets, flashlights and extra batteries in your vehicle.

• It is also wise to have a coat, gloves, scarf, hat/toboggan, a pair of socks and if possible, a pair of waterproof shoes.

• First Aid kits are important to have on hand in your vehicle.

• Keep a cell phone charger in your vehicle.

• Have nonperishable snacks, drinking water and any medication that might be needed.

The THP also advises motorists to add extra time to arrive at your destination and to drive safely.

  • According to the THP, “If your vehicle breaks down, activate your hazard lights and remain in your vehicle. Dial 847 (THP) if you need highway assistance, or 911 in the event of an emergency.”

Virginia State Police

The VSP advises residents to consider not traveling during the winter storm and asks that those who do travel consider the following safety tips:

• Before heading out, check Virginia road conditions at or download the VDOT 511 app.

• Clear ALL snow and ice from the roof, trunk, hood and windows of your vehicle before traveling.

• Drive for conditions. Slow your speed and increase your traveling distance between the vehicle ahead of you. Always buckle up. Avoid distractions and put down the phone.

• Use your headlights — in rain AND snow. Virginia law requires headlights on when your wipers are active.

• Do not call 911 or #77 for road conditions. Please leave these emergency lines open for emergencies only.

• Bring with you snacks, water, cell phone charger, warm blanket(s), and any medications you might need.

• Be sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas and is in good working condition.

Governor of Virginia

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Friday in preparation for the winter storm predicted to hit the commonwealth over the weekend.

“We expect this storm to have a significant impact in many parts of Virginia,” Northam said. “Declaring a state of emergency now allows our emergency responders to prepare and to move supplies and equipment where they expect to need them the most. This also gives Gov.-elect Youngkin the ability to respond to any storm needs swiftly. I urge Virginians to take this storm seriously and make preparations now.”

According to a press release, “The Virginia Emergency Operations Center has been actively monitoring the movement of a major winter weather system heading toward Virginia, with anticipated tracks showing impacts beginning Saturday evening.

The National Weather Service is still refining its forecasts based on real-time data, but initial forecasts are predicting impactful to highly impactful snow, sleet, ice, and freezing rain across broad swaths of the Commonwealth.”

Northam encouraged residents not to travel in hazardous weather conditions.

Appalachian Power

“We are tracking the storm’s path closely, paying particular attention to the type of precipitation we could receive,” said Appalachian Power spokeswoman Teresa Hall. “Light, fluffy snow is what we’re hoping for with this storm because it’s less likely to stick to or weigh down the power lines. Heavy, wet snow and/or ice can lead to significant utility problems because it weighs down trees.”

According to Hall, the power company’s employees are ready to respond if an outage occurs.

“All of Appalachian Power’s employees, contractors and other business partners are on alert, packed and ready to go,” Hall said. “In the meantime, we have requested additional resources and manpower from other AEP operating companies. These folks will be staged in four areas to include Abingdon and Roanoke, Virginia, and Charleston and Wheeling, W.Va.”

Tri-Cities Airport

The Tri-Cities Airport Authority wants passengers to know that the wintry weather is already affecting schedules.

According to TCAA, “Flight delays and cancellations are projected to begin this evening (Friday) and impact travel through early next week.”

Two American Airlines flights at Tri-Cities have been canceled.

“We would like to remind passengers to either check the daily flight schedule on or to check the status of their flight directly with the airline before traveling to the airport,” said Kristi Haulsee, TCAA director of marketing and air service development. “Even if there is not a significant weather event in our area, the winter storm is impacting the aviation system as a whole, causing delays and cancellations.”

The airport recommends that passengers check directly with airlines electronically “as the customer service numbers will be extremely busy.”

Links to check a flight schedule with TRI airlines:

Allegiant —

American —

Delta —

Contact numbers for the airlines can be found here:

Hawkins County man wins Floor of the Year Award with his last design

ROGERSVILLE — Wayne Highlander has worked as a hardwood floor contractor for 30 years.

But due to health issues, he decided that he would install his last floor and enter it for the Floor of the Year Award sponsored by the National Wood Flooring Association.

“About eight years ago, we bought an old, historic home in Rogersville,” Highlander, 61, said. “And I knew that what my wife saw was the outside, but what I thought was, ‘This is gonna be a really cool place to do some nice floors, really interesting floors.’ ”

The Floor of the Year competition is a global contest, and Highlander, who is the adhesive sales manager for Bona US, has entered it many times.

“I’ve actually been trying to win the contest for 20 years, but it’s very difficult to win,” Highlander said. “If you’re going to win a Floor of the Year, you’re going to have to do something pretty out-of-the-box and unique, because there’s a lot of talent out there. ...

“I knew I only had one floor left to do it because my knees are shot and I don’t do floors anymore with my job,” Highlander said.

For his contest entry, Highlander knew he wanted to make something that looked three-dimensional. He submitted his creation under the Manufacturing category, and every product that touched the floor was made by Bona.

Highlander specializes in the art of marquetry.

“Some of the really fabulous floors being done in Russia and in Europe are magnificent marquetry floors inlays,” Highlander said. “I’ve studied them over the years and became pretty passionate about learning marquetry and combining that with my love for doing hardwood floors.”

Highlander prefers to make his marquetry floors using traditional techniques.

“It requires a lot of patience because it’s all done by hand with a scroll saw,” Highlander said. “Some people are doing really magnificent floors, but they’re using CNC routers, and it’s done by computer. But all this is done like it was done in the old days with the scroll saw.”

Highlander said that marquetry floors have three main elements: the field, the border and the medallion.

“One of the interesting parts for me [about his winning design] was that it’s on a radius, so I could do some really neat scroll-sawing around the border,” Highlander said. “And I really wanted a nice medallion. I wanted something when you walked in and looked at it, the center almost looks like a rug that would be a really timeless visual.”

His efforts finally paid off. Over the summer, he learned he won the award.

“I mean it is one of my proudest achievements because it is so hard to win one,” Highlander said. “Some of the best craftsmen in the world are going after this award.”

Highlander said he gets a lot of satisfaction from doing this kind of work.

“I like the challenge,” he said. “I mean, after doing what’s called straight laid floors for years and years, I really liked the challenge of doing something more visually interesting. And flooring today is kind of getting away from real hardwood floors and then going into LVT and different products, but hardwood floors are very sustainable. What I like about the flooring industry is that I’ve gone into houses with floors that are 150 years old and sanding them over and they look beautiful. So the sustainability part of it is really intriguing.”

Highlander also does a podcast on Spotify called “On the Floor with Wayne and Rob.”

Hawkins County teacher charged with attempted sexual contact with a minor

A former teacher and coach at Volunteer High School has been arrested and charged with attempted sexual contact with a juvenile.

According to an affidavit obtained by the Times News, Jason Rock, 32, began communicating on Snapchat with a 17-year-old in Sullivan County last September.

“She stated that she began conversing with the Snapchat user just after the beginning of the school year (September 2021),” stated Bristol, Tennessee, Police Department Detective Christopher Odle in the affidavit. “The user began with casual conversation, and they began playing 20 questions via the Snapchat application. The Snapchat user stated he was in his mid-late 30s and he went to ETSU. The conversation progressed and the user began stating that they saw the juvenile today and that ‘she looked good,’ wanted to know her birthday, and could not wait until she turned 18. One of the messages sent by the Snapchat user stated that her lips looked good and that ‘he wanted to kiss me.’ These messages continued through September 2021 until Oct. 22, 2021, when it was reported to law enforcement.”

Investigators determined that the account belonged to Rock and that the juvenile he communicated with attends Volunteer.

Matt Hixson, Director of Hawkins County Schools, said Friday in an email that Rock is no longer employed at the school.

“Mr. Rock is no longer a teacher or coach at Volunteer High School,” Hixson said. “He resigned effective Nov. 4, 2021. We were notified in early November by law enforcement regarding accusations facing Mr. Rock and reacted immediately regarding his teaching and coaching assignments, pending the outcome of the investigation. Mr. Rock voluntarily resigned several days later. We have cooperated with all law enforcement and DCS personnel prior to and following charges being filed. We have taken the proper steps with regard to our state Department of Education teacher licensing agency regarding Mr. Rock’s license as well.”

Rock was also an assistant basketball coach, according to Times News archives.

Adult fungus gnats live for just seven to ten days, but the female can lay up to 200 eggs in the cracks and crevices of moist soil, so populations grow quickly.