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Washington County panel looking for ideas to spend pandemic funds

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy has created an advisory board to help local government leaders identify projects to be funded by the $25.5 million coming to the county from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Washington County Community Rescue Assessment Board includes members from business, banking and agriculture, as well as five county commissioners, Washington County Circuit Court Clerk Brenda Downes and state Rep. Rebecca Alexander, R-Jonesborough.

Grandy said the panel would be assisting county commissioners in determining how federal COVID-19 relief funds should be spent. He said those funds might be spent on extending public water supply and workforce development — two issues that commissioners have deemed to be their top priorities.

He said the county’s Water Task Force has already begun work on identifying possible waterline extension projects.

“That’s already been teed up,” the mayor said. “We are ready to pull the trigger.”

Grandy told board members at their first meeting on Thursday that the complicated rules for spending the relief funds have created an “unusual situation” for county government, which he explained is an “archaic” subdivision of state government.

He said Washington County has suddenly become a “rich uncle,” and his office is receiving calls daily from people with ideas on how to spend those federal funds. Grandy said the county has already received $12 million in relief funds, which is nearly half of its allocated amount.

“This is a lot of money for us, but we need to figure out where are the best places to spend this money,” said Grandy, who suggested the funds should be “invested in projects for the long-term good” of Washington County.

Commissioner Jim Wheeler said it is important that the advisory board receives some direction from the 15 members of County Commission. Wheeler said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if a significant number of commissioners decide they want the county to spend most of the relief funds on water projects.

“We need to get a buy-in from the commission,” he said.

Grandy said money from the pandemic relief act comes with 151 pages of rules and regulations that specify how those federal funds can be spent.

He said county officials were briefed earlier in the week on a program offered by the state comptroller of the treasury’s office that would allow a county to send its federal relief funds to Nashville so that the state can determine if a proposed local project meets all the criteria under the relief plan.

“This would serve as a backstop,” Grandy said, noting the state comptroller’s office would be responsible for vetting projects. “If a project is later disallowed by the feds, the state would be on the hook for funding it, not the county.”

The mayor said that while he is waiting for additional information on the program, he believes it does offer many advantages to the county. He said one of them would be the opportunity to “take federal money for a project and leverage it with state dollars.”

Hundreds place flags on veterans graves

Upward of 500 volunteers gathered in the rain Saturday to place American flags on the graves of approximately 13,000 veterans at the Mountain Home National Cemetery for the Memorial Day weekend.

Anderson Havert, a 12-year-old Boy Scout, was with his father, Tim Havert, placing flags on graves in the rain.

“This is important because we need to show respect for those who have gone to battle for us. By showing respect, we salute,” the young man said after placing flag.

“It’s an honor,” the Scout said.

Brock Taylor, a Boy Scout leader, said one grave he specifically placed a flag on was his uncle’s grave.

“I’ve decorated his grave since I was probably 6 or 7 years old ... about 25 years,” Taylor said.

Carmine Taylor said Saturday was his first experience with a Decoration Day event.

“I just wanted to give my time. I thought I’d come out today, enjoy myself and give back,” Taylor said.

Ralph Moats, Buffalo Mountain district unit commissioner for the Boy Scouts, said he and co-commissioner Terry Dillinger have coordinated the effort for more than 20 years.

“We have Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, ROTC from different schools, Trail Life, citizens ... anybody who wanted to come help here today was invited,” Moats said.

“This is important for numerous reasons. one is that we recognize men and women who have given their lives so we can stand here and talking like we are now ... from all the wars,” he said.

Mill Spring Makers Faire returns to Jonesborough next weekend

The Mill Spring Makers Faire is returning to Jonesborough next weekend after the pandemic forced the cancellation of the second edition of the event, which highlights local artists and artisans on the streets of downtown.

“We are really excited,” said Town Events Coordinator Melinda Copp. “We have a great lineup of makers and craftsmen. I think during the pandemic a lot of people were really able to focus on their craft, and we have a lot of new makers out there, too, so we’re excited to really feature some of the area’s best makers and also some really new ones that have some amazing handmade goods to offer.”

The inaugural event was held in 2019 and drew hundreds to downtown Jonesborough’s Spring Street and Mill Spring Park, where the outdoor marker will be held again this year. Copp said she’d like to see the faire become a bi-annual event, with one in the spring and another in the fall to allow people to do some holiday shopping.

“I’m just really looking forward to seeing what everyone brings to the table,” said Copp, later adding “I think it’s going to be a really good look at some new artists as well.”

The Mill Spring Makers Faire will be held on Saturday, June 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit the Mill Spring Makers Market’s Facebook page.

“If you’re looking for local crafts and you enjoy perusing local artisans, then this is going to be the place to be,” Copp said.

Memorial Day ceremony to be held in Johnson City

A Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony will be held Monday at the Doughboy statue in Johnson City’s Memorial Park.

The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m., and will be hosted by the Kings Mountain Post 24 of the American Legion. The event will be staged at the “Spirit of the American Doughboy” at 105 E. Main St.

Remembering Their Sacrifice

Bryon Lauzon, commander of the American Legion post, said the ceremony will be conducted “in the tradition of standing to sing the National Anthem.”

He said the Memorial Day event will specifically honor Americans who were killed in battle or died as a result of wounds they received in combat.

“We would like people on Memorial Day to remember why we recognize this day and the freedoms we enjoy as a result of their sacrifices,” the commander said.

Laying A Wreath

Lauzon and former U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, will be placing a wreath at the base of the Doughboy statue, which was presented to the city in 1935 and bears bronze placards honoring those who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa.

“Members of the American Legion have a warm spot in our hearts for the Doughboy statue,” he said.

In addition to Roe, who retired from Congress last year, state Sen Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy are also scheduled to speak at the ceremony.

Lauzon said the ceremony is expected to take 45 minutes.