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Washington County commissioners hear concerns about bitcoin mining

Residents in the Limestone area told Washington County commissioners Monday that a bitcoin mining operation is damaging both the property values and the serenity of their rural community.

Craig Ponder, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church, said his congregation and neighbors of the community were being disturbed by the constant noise from the computers and cooling fans used by Red Dog Technologies in its cyber mining operation.

He said residents in the area “feel invaded by an army we have no say in.”

Bitcoin mining is a process that produces cryptocurrency by using computers to solve very complex math problems.

“Our quality of life is being impacted,” Ponder told commissioners.

While there was no item on the commission’s regular agenda dealing with bitcoin mining, residents in the Limestone community used the public comment period to address the issue and to warn commissioners that they fear a second bitcoin facility may be in the works at a location near Tenn. Highway 81.

In other business Monday:

• Commissioners discussed a recommendation from the County-Owned Property Committee calling for the Washington County Election Commission to move its offices, which are currently on the third floor of the Washington County Courthouse, to nearly 2,000 square feet in the George P. Jaynes Justice Center.

In addition, the Election Commission is asking the county to lease event space behind the Food City in Jonesborough as an early voting site in next year’s elections. The Heritage, 161 Molly Grayce Lane, would only be leased for nine weeks to accommodate early voting.

County commissioners voted in March to ask for an extension of the county’s expired lease on the former Ole Towne Ace Hardware building at 220 N. 2nd Ave. in Jonesborough while County Mayor Grandy negotiated a possible option for the county to buy the property.

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

Commissioner Jim Wheeler made a motion under old business to purchase the former hardware building at a negotiated cost of $900,000. The motion failed in a 7 to 8 vote.

• County commissioners voted to renew a $285,504 contract with East Tennessee State University for forensics and autopsy services at the William L. Jenkins Forensic Center.

Commissioners also voted to confirm Grandy’s appointment of Dr. Andrea Orvik to a five-year term as county medical examiner. Her appointment begins July 1.

The county’s new forensics contract remains at the same rate commissioners approved last year. The county will pay $23,792 a month for pathology services.

• Commissioners approved a resolution to authorize spending the $2.1 million previously allocated in the capital projects fund to complete work on the final phase of a sports complex at Boones Creek pre-K-8 School. Commissioners approved $875,000 in 2019 for the first phase of the $3.2 million project.

Phase II now includes “construction of new playing fields, buildings, structures and site improvements for new athletic fields and facilities.”

Boones Creek School, which was built at a cost of $28 million, opened in July 2019.

• Commissioners agreed to allocate $660,260 in county funds to secure a matching industrial site preparation grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The maximum amount the county can be awarded from the TVA’s InvestPrep program is $750,000. Those funds would come as a result of a 40% local match.

The funding will be used to develop two new sites in the Washington County Industrial Park in Telford.

"Liberty!" performances for 2021 set for June

ELIZABETHTON — It is just a couple of weeks until this year’s performances of “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals,” Tennessee’s official outdoor drama, makes its 2021 debut at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.

This marks the 42nd year of the performances but this year will be different because the performances will be in June rather than July. The first show is scheduled for Friday, June 4.

Other than the calendar, the performances will be similar to past years, with the outdoor play taking place at the Fort Watauga amphitheater and with a large cast portraying frontiersmen and frontierswomen, Cherokees and Overmountain Men. The cast will portray several events of national significance that took place in the late 18th century on the banks of the Watauga River, on the very ground where the audience will watch the events being retold.

Among the events portrayed is the coming together of community leaders to establish the Articles of the Watauga Association in 1772. Theodore Roosevelt later said these were “first men of American birth to establish a free and independent community on the continent.”

Another event portrayed in the play is the Transylvania Purchase, where land speculators led by Judge Richard Henderson negotiated with Cherokee leaders to purchase 20 million acres of land in Kentucky and Tennessee. This negotiation sparked a series of Cherokee attacks a year later on the frontier settlements along the Watauga, Nolichucky and Holston rivers. These included a three-week attack on Fort Watauga. Cherokee Chiefs Attakullakulla and Oconostota, along with Attakullakulla’s son, Dragging Canoe, all played a large role in the attacks.

Liberty! is set in front of a full-scale replica of Fort Watauga, which was used to defend the settlement against attacks from a faction of the Cherokee, led by Dragging Canoe, who opposed the sale. Ultimately, the settlement was successful in staving off the attack and siege of the fort.

The siege of Fort Watauga is the first of two battles portrayed in the play. The second is the Battle of Kings Mountain, where Overmountain Men who had gathered at Sycamore Shoals crossed the Blue Ridge and joined with other patriots to defeat a force loyal to King George atop Kings Mountain in South Carolina in 1780.

In addition to portraying the stories of large groups of people, the play also provides a sharp focus on such individuals as John Sevier, who would go on to become the first governor of Tennessee, and John Carter and his son, Landon, for whom Carter County is named. The house they built, Carter Mansion, is now protected by Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park and is the oldest frame house in Tennessee.

The story of several frontierswomen is also told in the play, including Mary Patton, who learned the art of manufacturing gunpowder from her father. Her assistance was crucial in the defense of the settlement during the siege. She also supplied the Overmountain Men with a minimum of 500 pounds of gunpowder for their march to Kings Mountain.

The story of “Bonnie Kate” Sherrill is also portrayed. She was one of several young women who had left the fort prior to the 1776 Cherokee attack to milk cows. The women ran back to the fort at the start of the attack, but Sherrill had not been able to reach the gate and, instead, leaped to the top of the stockade and into the arms of John Sevier. A few years later, as a widower, Sevier would marry Sherrill. She would be Sevier’s second wife, but the first first lady of Tennessee. Another wife of a frontier leader, Elizabeth Maclin Carter, was married to Landon Carter. While Carter County was named for him, Elizabethton was named for her.

The performances for 2021 are: Friday and Saturday, June 4-5 and June 11-12; Thursday, Friday and Saturday, June 17-19 and 24-26. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17, will be veterans and first responders night, when veterans, first responders and their guest will be admitted free.

Admission is $18 for adults, $14 for seniors, $8 for students ages 6-17, and free for children 5 and under. Veterans and first responders admission is $9. Friends of Sycamore Shoals admission is $10.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.thelibertydrama.com. Remaining tickets may be purchased at the door on the night of performance until sold out.

Catcher Savannah Jessee, right, has helped lead Daniel Boone back to the state softball tournament for the third time in school history. The Lady Trailblazers open the double-elimination tournament against Summit at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Bays Mountain Park unveils new 'legacy trail'

KINGSPORT — To celebrate its golden anniversary, Bays Mountain Park plans to build a new trail within its borders later this summer.

This new Legacy Trail will be the longest trail in the park (3.75 miles) and the first new one built in nearly a decade.

It will start near Chestnut Trail and the head of Azalea Trail, running parallel to the River Mountain Road and provide easier access to the fire tower. The trail will take hikers, bikers and runners along the south slope of the north ridge of Bays Mountain.

“We’re excited about what this new trail brings to the park,” said Park Manager Rob Cole during a Monday press conference announcing the project and kicking off the park’s 50th anniversary. “It may end up as one of our most popular trails.”

Cole said the new trail will help alleviate traffic from current trails, as well as add more variety and work toward creating a complete look within the park using single-track trails.

In addition to announcing the new trail at Monday’s press conference, park officials also unveiled the trail marker, a map of the trail’s proposed route and sang “Happy Birthday” to Bays Mountain Park. The park officially turned 50 on Monday.

Cole said work on the new trail could begin in July and take about three months to complete. The estimated cost of the project is $60,000 to $65,000.

“Although (Bays Mountain Park) is nestled right here in Kingsport, it’s an attraction that’s part of our entire region,” Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull said.

This 50th anniversary project was made possible thanks to donations provided by Woody Reeves and Visit Kingsport. The trail concept and proposed design is a product of the 50th Anniversary Community Service Subcommittee’s efforts, led by Chair Tony Williams. The Community Service Subcommittee is part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

“In true Kingsport tradition the past has left the future in good hands, and the future is bright for Bays Mountain,” Kingsport City Manager Chris McCartt said.

Bays Mountain Park officially opened on May 24, 1971, and this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a number of special events, promotions, activities and merchandise.

More than 200,000 visitors pass through Bays Mountain Park each year, making it one of Tennessee’s Top 50 Most Visited Attractions. Bays Mountain Park is one of the nation’s largest city-owned parks with 3,550 acres, including 40 miles of hiking trails, a state-of-the-art planetarium, wildlife habitats, nature exhibits, a 44-acre lake, ropes course with zip line and plenty of trails for mountain biking.

For more information, visit www.baysmountain.com.

Marsh Regional Blood Center in critical need of donations

Marsh Regional Blood Center is in critical need of more blood supplies, with current stockpiles roughly a third of what Center Director Steffanie Sukel says the center would like to have on-hand.

Sukel said blood supply has been low over the last year, and said donating blood isn’t on the minds of most people, calling it a “perfect storm of events for the past year.” Sukel said they like to have at least a three-day supply of blood on the shelves at Marsh, in addition to what’s in hospitals.

“Right now we’ve got probably about a one-day supply, and the need never stops through any of this,” Sukel said.

“There is no substitute, and we are completely dependent on the generosity of donors in our community to provide this vital life-saving resource,” Sukel said later.

If you’ve recently been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), you must wait two days before donating blood. If you’ve been infected with COVID-19, you must be 14 days removed from having symptoms. Sukel said donations of plasma from people who’ve recovered from the virus, which is used as a treatment for those infected, are still needed.

Where you can donate

You can donate blood at any of Marsh’s collection centers, which are located in Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport. The centers are open Monday and Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kingsport’s center is open Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon-4 p.m. For those donating platelets, call to schedule an appointment.

  • 1996 W. State St., Bristol (423-652-0014)
  • 2428 Knob Creek Road, Johnson City (423-282-7090)
  • 111 W. Stone Drive, Suite 300, Kingsport (423-408-7500)

To stay up-to-date on blood drives, visit marshblood.com.