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Washington County election officials propose new early voting site

The Washington County Election Commission is pushing for event space behind the Food City in Jonesborough to be designated as an early voting site in next year’s elections.

Election officials recommended that county commissioners lease The Heritage, 161 Molly Grayce Lane, when they met with members of the County-Owned Property Committee on Friday.

The joint session of the two boards was called to explore options to Washington County renewing its lease of the former Ole Towne Ace Hardware building at 220 N. 2nd Ave. in Jonesborough.

Washington County commissioners voted last month to ask for an extension of the county’s expired lease on the former hardware building while Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy negotiates a possible option for the county to purchase the property.

The 10,700-square-foot building was used by the Election Commission as one of three early voting sites in 2020.

Searching For Alternatives

Gary McAllister, Election Commission chairman, said last week he and his colleagues on the board have been exploring options to help “save the county money” on early voting sites.

Dana Jones, the county’s new administrator of elections, presented county officials with several proposals for early voting, including the possible use of the gymnasium of the town of Jonesborough’s McKinney Center.

The leading option, Jones said, is to lease The Heritage during next year’s early voting periods and on election days at a daily rate of $595 for 82 days. That sets the total yearly cost for leasing The Heritage at $48,850.

The county paid an annual lease of $77,500 for the former Ace hardware building.

Election Commissioner John Abe Teague said it is the board’s goal “to shrink” the current cost of $15 per vote to hold elections in Washington County to the $5 that it now costs in Sullivan County.

Looking For Additional Space

McAllister told the County-Owned Property Committee that his board, which now includes three new Republican members, is also working with the mayor to find additional space for the cramped Election Commission office. Election officials are now located on the third floor of the Washington County Courthouse.

McAllister said one possibility may be locating office space for the election staff in the George P. Jaynes Justice Center.

Election Commission Secretary Margaret Davis noted the board is communicating with Johnson City officials on the possibility of using a portion of Freedom Hall for early voting in the next election.

Davis also told county officials that the next scheduled election will be here sooner than they think. She said early voting for the county’s primary contests will begin in April 2022.

“Time is of an essence,” Davis said.

Coming To A Resolution

County Commissioner Phil Carriger, who serves as chairman of the County-Owned Property Committee, said his committee plans to make a decision on the Election Commission’s proposal at its next monthly meeting, and he expects to have a resolution on the matter before the County Commission on May 24.

In the meantime, McAllister and Grandy have asked officials with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to do a traffic analysis of The Heritage site and the former Ace hardware building.

The Heritage, which is owned by Linda DeLong, has been the site of many social and political events in recent years. Gov. Bill Lee has spoken at the site, and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi held a campaign rally at the venue alongside U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2020.

Carver Park splash pad almost ready to open

The new splash pad at Carver Park is almost ready to open.

Recreation Services Manager Sam Miller said the splash pad is awaiting an evaluation by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. After the splash pad receives its evaluation, it can move forward with opening.

“We are confident that we will have a favorable evaluation,” Miller said.

In 2018, Johnson City’s Parks and Recreation Departmentwas awarded a $200,000 matching funds grant through the Local Parks and Recreation Fund to build a splash pad at Carver Park. Construction on the splash pad began in September 2020.

The splash pad at Carver has 24 different components, such as ground sprays and themed features.

“I want to emphasize the excitement we have,” Miller said. “We are very grateful to have city leaders and elected officials who are supporting these types of goals for our parks, and it really is just enhancing our community’s well-being so much.”

Carver’s splash pad is also the city’s first recirculating splash pad system. Water is treated with chlorine and sanitized before recirculating through the system, which Miller said will conserve water and cut down on operating costs.

“The water is being treated and sanitized so it doesn’t present any safety risk,” he said.

A new fence will be installed around the perimeter of the new splash pad.

“That will just be there to provide more peace of mind for parents whose children are in the splash pad,” Miller said.

Alongside the new splash pad and fence, the rest of Carver Park is also getting some TLC. New sidewalks, picnic tables and an outdoor restroom are being installed, and the basketball courts have been repaved and relined. The Carver Recreation Center is also getting a makeover with a fresh coat of paint.

“We’re really just trying to enhance the park in many different ways,” Miller said.

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Rocky's Pizza is worth the dough

With spring now fully underway, and “Redbud Winter’s” whoopee cushion exhale of cold weather now just a memory, my dining partner and I have been working on making the green outdoors grow even greener.

Naturally, this involves trips to the garden center for mulch and sand by the skid-full, followed by a jaunt to the county Co-op in Jonesborough for some new fence posts to replace the winter-worn ones on the South Meadow’s perimeter. All this lugging and toting is hard on a body, especially one whose exposure to the outdoors has been through a plate glass window for the last nine months. Fortunately, exercise is not only good for you, it makes you hungry, and the best way to handle your hunger can be found over at Rocky’s Pizza in Jonesborough.

First impressions

Rocky’s Pizza is a well-known fixture in “Tennessee’s Oldest Town,” located in the rear-most storefront just across U.S. Highway 11E from Jonesborough Middle School. The inside walls are festooned with Rocky’s support for city and county school athletics. Though the restaurant has seating for 20 patrons, at present Rocky’s is only doing curbside carry-out and home delivery. If you decide to stop in for your carry-out, you won’t have a long wait. We didn’t.

Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

When ordering pizza from Rocky’s, my dining partner always gets first choice. Invariably, her choice is their sausage and mushroom pizza, 12 inches in width and costing $13. Rocky’s makes their own pizza dough, (what first-rate pizza purveyor does not?) and their own tomato-based red sauce, or ragu, making Rocky’s ragu thicker than most commercial creations. Since Rocky’s doesn’t over-spice, the fresh tomato is able to become part of the pizza’s overall taste bouquet. It also enhances what can only be described as proper “mouth-feel,” the way the pizza’s texture is sensed by all the nerve endings found in your mouth. More mouth-feel enhances your enjoyment of what you are eating. Rocky’s sausage and mushroom pizza does that quite well for my dining partner; they even cut the pizza into thinner, yet easier-to-handle strips rather than the usual pie slices. My partner also believes consumption of pizza portioned into strips also takes longer to consume which creates, happily, leftovers — “for later.” This makes my dining partner even happier.

Ham and Cheese Sub Sandwich

Not as hungry as my dining partner, I chose one of Rocky’s half-size submarine sandwiches containing layers of deli-sliced ham and Swiss cheese, together with lettuce and mayonnaise (lightly does it, and no tomato, please) plus a nice-sized dill pickle spear, all for just $4, too. Even with my dining partner’s obligatory tasting bite I was very pleased with my sandwich’s flavor. I could taste the spices in the ham underlying its slight saltiness, and the nutty, somewhat rancid taste of well-made Swiss cheese. I could even taste the subtle nuance provided by the lettuce without the usual mayonnaise overtone. If I’d ordered a whole sub sandwich, I’d miss the way the smaller size causes me to pace my eating, to enjoy every bite.

The bottom line

Whatever item you order from the menu at Rocky’s Pizza, you can be sure that it will be made from the highest quality ingredients, blended and prepared with consummate skill and extra care. Considering that one of the biggest national pizza purveyors is just a block away from their front door, it makes one proud to know that, despite that proximity, this particular home town pizza parlor has lost none of its pizzazz, popularity or product loyalty.

Good job, Rocky’s. We will be back to see you. As always.

BFA Exhibitions on display at the Reece Museum

Works of nine graduating seniors being shown through end of April

East Tennessee State University’s Department of Art and Design and the Reece Museum are presenting the “Spring 2021 BFA Senior Exhibition” now through April 30 featuring works by nine Bachelor of Fine Arts students.

The ETSU Department of Art and Design offers the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in both studio art and graphic design. Studio art seniors are William Arrowood, Camila Edye, Loki Gardner, Lindsey Goddard and Jess Uhl. Seniors in graphic design are Hank Collie, Haley McBrayer, Laura Rogers and Emilee Storie. All nine students will graduate from ETSU in May.

• “Essential” is Arrowood’s look into the home improvement retail industry impacted by COVID-19. This exhibition is a photographic documentary of retail workers’ daily struggles, such as enhanced safety measures, stock level, empty shelves and social distancing. Arrowood previously received a Presidential Purchase Award selection in the 2018 ETSU BFA Honor Show and will receive a BFA with an emphasis on photography.

• Collie created “No Place Like Home” as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastation of the live music industry. Growing up in a musical family, Collie has witnessed first-hand the importance of a relationship between artists and venues. Through a virtual benefit concert series, viewers will have the unique opportunity to engage in live music from home while supporting independent venues. The branding has a playful aesthetic aimed at sparking nostalgia while looking forward to the “rainbow at the end of the storm.”

• Edye’s exhibition, “Symbiosis,” references elements of nature in her work to depict a dialogue and raise awareness about the negative impact in the world’s ecosystems. Edye explores the relationship humans have with nature by combining metal with alternative materials to create organic and textural pieces that aim to capture biological beauty. A native of Maldonado, Uruguay, Edye attended UDELAR Architecture University in Montevideo for four years and transferred to ETSU.

• Gardner strives to lace his work with comedy or wit, aiming for contemplation of the symbolism and humor in it. His exhibition is titled “Because I’m Hilarious,” to accentuate the title’s significance using a series of puns and symbolist elements that are part of the more obscure information of subcultures in which Gardner involves himself.

• In “The Space of a Second,” Goddard expresses the connection between the opposing emotions of anxiety and disassociation. She strives to create emotionally engaging work with her minimalistic style and love for realism. Each of her paintings is created by multiple sessions of meticulous layering and blending.

• McBrayer’s “Fletic” is a brand design for nutrition products and supplements made specifically for women that encourage healthy habits in nutrition and at the gym. “Fletic” encourages women to lead a more balanced lifestyle; achieve goals when they engage in exercise they enjoy; and nourish their bodies with food they love. McBrayer was part of a student team that represented ETSU and ranked among nine national finalists in 2020 during the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition. She is a recipient of the Fletcher Dyer Graphic Design Scholarship and the Margaret and Ruth Hays Scholarship for 2020-2021.

• Rogers’s exhibition, “Periodus,” examines menstruation as a natural process that women’s bodies go through, necessary for human life. Rogers’s goal in this graphic design exhibition is to help others feel comfortable about periods without embarrassment or shame and to combat the negative stigma that may surround them.

• Storie saw the growth of downtown Johnson City and other local establishments first-hand and also felt the devastation when some of those doors closed as a result of COVID-19. Envisioning local and small businesses as what fuel smaller cities and communities, Storie developed “Local Fusion,” an app dedicated to serving and recognizing small businesses throughout Johnson City.

• Uhl’s exhibition, “The Human Connection,” is constructed with natural, and organic ceramic forms inspired by trees, mountain tops, and bold shapes such as rock formations. For her, vases are significant for their ability to hold something fleeting and natural. Uhl also uses video to add a sense of place and immersion, as well as dimension to her work. She attended Asheville Buncombe Community College in North Carolina for two years before transferring to ETSU, where she is finishing her BFA in ceramics.

The Reece Museum, located on the ETSU campus, is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, visit etsu.edu/reece or phone 423-439-4392.

For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

Contributed to the Press