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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Commercial District approved for West Highway 25/70
Members of the Coke County Legislative Body(CLB) gave their stamp of approval Monday evening to a plan to develop a Proposed Commercial Development District on West Highway 25/70 to the New Highway 411 intersection. A large truck center is planned for the 432 Exit of I-40 but Jennifer Brown told the commission she is not at liberty to confirm the name of the firm. Tennessee has developed a plan for such districts in communities that are economically depressed, and the local government then can use Tax Increment Funding to put in the needed infrastructure. The funding would come from the state portion of the sales tax collected when the retail business begins operating. The local portion of the sales tax would not be affected. Brown also confirmed plans by TDOT in late 2019, to close the left-hand exit from I-40 which leads to eastbound Highway 25/70. After the closure, all traffic to Highway 25/70 will exit to the right. In March 2017, Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger terminated Cocke County Fire Chief William (Bear) Smallwood. At the time of the termination, the mayor said she was notified a month earlier that an investigation was being conducted by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC)as the result of alleged incidents of sexual harassment, workplace violence and harassment at the Fire Department. At Monday evening's meeting, the mayor said the EEOC investigation of the complaints by EMA Director Kevin Benton and his assistant Julie Brooks, has been completed. She provided a letter from Federal Investigator James Foster who found that "there is reasonable evidence to conclude that the Charging Parties were harassed, subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliated against after engaging in protected activity. This violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended." Foster in the letter said the county should file any additional information it has to overturn the Commission's findings. If no rebuttal is submitted, "the charges will be forward for issuance of cause findings." He said there then will be discussions to reach a remedy as an alternative to possible further litigation. Following his termination, Smallwood filed a federal lawsuit against the mayor. The litigation was thrown out but that decision has been appealed. In addition, Smallwood is an independent candidate for county mayor in August, challenging Ottinger who has the Republican nomination. The body approved a number of budget transfers to balance the budget at year's end, but declined a request from Trustee Rob Mathis for an additional $25,700 for his office as the result of the amount of revenue the office collected. Among the approved transfers was $83,000 to the Medical and Dental line item in the Jail budget. Commissioner Cindy Holt pointed out that the county has spent $875,000 for medical and dental bills this fiscal year, despite the line item being budgeted at only $270,000 at the beginning of the year. Commissioner Terry Dawson questioned the number of assaults in the jail and in response, Chief Deputy Derrick Woods said overcrowding in the facility contributes to fights involving inmates. The commission spent some time discussing a recent water leak under the jail which ballooned the county's water bill. Newport Utilities rebated the county $10,000 of the estimated $20,000 in additional billing. Some commissioners argued the leak should have been detected sooner through the higher water bills. Commissioner Dawson again asked that full details on issues to be addressed by the commission be provided several days before the meeting so that the issue can be studied prior to the meeting.


Return to Today's News Stories - Front Page

Monday, July 23, 2018

  • Newport sexual incidents
  • Robinson arrests
  • Friday night power outage
  • Federal opioid program
  • Restoring wildlife
  • Early voting

    Saturday, July 21, 2018

  • Legal aid seminar for seniors
  • Clark to play Pebble Beach
  • Tennessee's unemployment remains low
  • US Supreme Court gets Tennessee abortion law appeal

    Friday, July 20, 2018

  • Graham on local job prospects and Conagra
  • West Virginians arrested in Jeff County robberies
  • Jobless numbers for Tennessee
  • Alexander on tariffs

    Thursday, July 19, 2018

  • Buckner arrest
  • Martin couple found
  • Lewis arrested on meth charges
  • Fraudulent IRS scam
  • East TN Artscapes is moving
  • Best Western thefts
  • Alexander on healthcare
  • Ozone keeping visitors away

    Wednesday, July 18, 2018

  • Myers incident
  • Cocke budget process
  • SNAP food guidelines
  • Phoenix Closures becomes Phoenix
  • RAM in Jeff County
  • Opiod lawsuit
  •    

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