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Johnson City org hopes to attract curated shop downtown

Connect Downtown Johnson City is accepting applications from small business owners who want financial support to open a retail marketplace in one of downtown’s large, empty storefronts.

The application, which is available at downtownjc.com/downtownnow, closes on Wednesday.

The organization recently received a $50,000 Placemaking Grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development that will support business development in Johnson City.

Most of the funding will be dedicated to placing a curated shop on the first floor of one of the large, unused buildings in the downtown core, which will involve having one business owner who subleases space to several smaller vendors. Subletters could include local artists, makers or other retailers.

Dianna Cantler, Johnson City Development Authority interim executive director, said subleasing the space will take some of the burden off of the business owner, enabling them to fill a larger space.

The program is specifically tailored toward retailers, a type of business that Cantler said downtown needs. Acceptable businesses can include clothing, home decor, pet supplies, plants, electronics and a litany of other options.

Full-service restaurants, office space and shops that sell liquor, tobacco, vape supplies or firearms are discouraged.

Buildings must be at least 4,500 square feet to be eligible. Cantler pinpointed three buildings downtown that fall into this category: 117 Spring St., 309 E. Main St., which used to be JC Penney, and 216 E. Main St., which used to be the Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room.

Cantler said downtown’s former department stores can be difficult to fill because of their size. Business owners, she noted, have to consider both the cost and logistics of filling a large space.

“That’s a lot of square footage for one person to have to fill with product,” Cantler said.

Using the grant funding, Connect Downtown Johnson City will pay a portion of the business’ lease on a sliding scale over the first 12 months. The organization will also help with marketing and the cost of building out the space.

The Placemaking Grant is also allowing Connect Downtown Johnson City to partner with Sync.Space and the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Chamber of Commerce on co-starter workshops for entrepreneurs.

Funding is also available for entrepreneurs who want to open a short-term popup shop in the downtown area.

“This grant will help us support entrepreneurism and also that goal of filling first floor spaces,” Cantler said.

Connect Downtown Johnson City is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is an accredited program of National Main Street. Its mission is to foster a thriving downtown ecosystem by creating partnerships and facilitating community connections.


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TCAT Elizabethton holds COVID-19 drive-up vaccinations on Wednesdays and Thursdays

ELIZABETHTON — Another convenient location for getting the COVID-19 vaccine will be set up in the Stoney Creek area.

The vaccine facility will be located at the main campus of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Elizabethton on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4-7 p.m. The school is located at 426 Tenn. Highway 91, in the Watauga Industrial Park, just across the highway from the Elizabethton Municipal Airport. The clinic is for individuals of 18 years of age or older.

Registred nurses Jeremy Tromblay and Christy Greene, TCAT clinical instructors, are the event coordinators.

“We will be giving out the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine free of charge. Look of the tent when you enter the parking lot. We will provide information on site. Appointments are not necessary but feel free to sign up at signupgenius.com.” Tromblay said.

Following a pause of the Janssen Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a thorough safety review, the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Drug Administration determined that the recommended pause of the vaccine in the United States should be lifted and use of the vaccine should resume. The FDA has determined that the available data show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older, according to Tromblay.

The event is cosponsored by TCAT-Elizabethton, the Carter County Health Department, and the Tennessee National Guard.


U.S. Marine veteran Jennifer Brofer poses for a picture outside her apartment in Los Angeles on June 30, 2021. Brofer will never forget the loud, popping noise. It was on a hot July afternoon in 2010 when her convoy rolled over an IED on a road in Helmand Province four months into her deployment to Afghanistan. Her heart froze as she and her fellow Marines stopped and realized what had occurred. But what followed were only the sounds of daily life. Brofer, 38, who now works in the film industry in Hollywood, said she feels proud to have served “shoulder-to-shoulder with my male marine counterparts” in a time of war.

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Bankruptcy court's estimate of settlement from Purdue Pharma accepted by Sullivan County

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission’s Executive Committee agreed Monday to accept $5-10 billion as the amount of the “global pie” offered by a bankruptcy court as the estimated assets of Purdue Pharma. That “pie” will be divided at a later date among plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits against the company.

Sullivan County is among plaintiffs who filed suits against Purdue, the maker of Oxycontin, for damages caused by opioid addiction.

Tricia Herzfeld is an attorney with Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, the firm representing Baby Doe and participating cities and counties. Herzfeld spoke with the Executive Committee by video call to explain the settlement offer.

Herzfeld said Purdue Pharma was owned by the Sackler family and it has been estimated over several years, in anticipation of potential lawsuits over the addictiveness of Oxycontin, that family members removed as much as $10 billion from the business and “left the cupboards bare.”

Herzfeld said lawyers for the plaintiffs rejected multiple previous, lower offers for how much the family would agree to turn over for distribution by the bankruptcy court, but their legal advice now is the current offer of about $5 billion is the best that will come. Herzfeld said Purdue Pharma won’t continue as the same business, but it will have a successor and profits from the successor will stream to plaintiffs for years to come. That’s where the $10 billion high-end settlement estimate comes in.

District Attorney General Barry Staubus stressed that the $5-$10 billion figure is the whole “pie” to be divided among plaintiffs nationwide. Plaintiffs range from individuals, to district attorneys, to cities, to entire states.

Staubus said how the settlement is divided is another step. Large states, such as California or Texas might argue for it to be divided by population. Staubus said plaintiffs in our region will argue division should be based on percentage of population damaged by the opioid crisis.

Herzfeld said there is no way at this point to now how much of the Purdue settlement will come to Sullivan County.

The Sullivan Baby Doe lawsuit was originally filed on June 13, 2017, by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third judicial districts in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport. The complaint originally listed prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt PLC, Endo Pharmaceuticals, a pill mill doctor and other convicted opioid dealers as defendants.

As part of the national scrutiny brought to bear on opioid producers and distributors, due in part to Sullivan Baby Doe’s arguments, Purdue and Mallinckrodt have declared bankruptcy, with claims proceeding against them in related courts. Endo remains the only active corporate defendant.

Plaintiffs in the Sullivan Baby Doe case are seeking $2.4 billion in compensatory damages, and punitive damages above and beyond that amount.

A default judgment in the plaintiff’s favor was issued by the court in April. A damages trial against Endo is scheduled to begin in less than two weeks.

The Sullivan County Commission’s rules authorize the Executive Committee to negotiate and make decisions regarding lawsuits.


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Jonesborough selects contractor for school project

Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen has tabbed BurWil Construction as the contractor for the town’s K-8 school project, the same contractor that constructed the new Boones Creek school.

Over the next four to six weeks, BurWil, which will receive a $10,000 pre-construction fee, will work with the town, its architects and other stakeholders to finish and price-out the design, which is expected to cost around $27 million. Mayor Chuck Vest said they hope to break ground on the project in August or September, so long as BurWil’s cost estimate is “in line with where we want it.”

BurWil was chosen after its proposal scored the highest on evaluation criteria, ranking number one in cost. In total, four companies returned a proposal. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy, who attended Monday’s meeting, commended BurWil’s past work and said they are one of his favorite contractors to work with.

Water expansion green-lit

The town also approved contract agreements with GRW Engineering ($90,000) and Community Development Partners, LLC ($35,000) for a project to provide water and sewer service to ebm-papst at the Washington County Industrial Park. The project has an estimated cost of $1.5 million, including the contractual costs approved on Monday.

“It’s kind of the green light for us to get moving forward with it,” Vest said Monday. “We’ve done this work out at the industrial park before, and this is another important thing for our county, and the town of Jonesborough is happy to do our part.

Other news

  • Jonesborough Alderman Stephen Callahan acknowledged Tennessee Hills Distillery, which he owns, received a citation last month for serving beer without a permit, a misdemeanor, which was first reported by the Press’ sister paper, the Jonesborough Herald and Tribune. Callahan said they will have their day in court and “see how it goes.” He went on to say he is proud to be part of Jonesborough and its governing board.
  • The town approved a motion to allow Vest to vote on behalf on the town to accept a proposed settlement from Purdue Pharma as part of the Baby Doe lawsuit seeking monetary damages that the opioid crisis has caused. Town Attorney Jim Wheeler said the proposed settlement amount is $4.5 billion, though it’s unclear how much of that the town will actually receive.
  • The National Storytelling Festival received its special event permit on Monday, meaning the immensely popular festival is officially a go after last year’s event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s festival will be held from Sept. 30-Oct. 3.
  • William “Beebo” Russell was named Employee of the Month.

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the proposed settlement was from Endo Pharmaceuticals. The $4.5 billion settlement is from Purdue Pharma.


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