Man sentenced in rolling meth case

Arrested by the Erwin Police Department in September 2008 with a rolling methamphetamine lab, a Johnson County man was sentenced in federal court on Thursday to spend more than 10 years in prison with no chance of parole.
Tony Lee Church, 36, of Butler, was sentenced to 123 months imprisonment followed by six years of supervised release in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville, by the Honorable Leon Jordan, United States District Judge.
Church pleaded guilty on June 3, 2009 after being indicted by the federal grand jury for manufacturing of a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.
Church’s co-defendant, Kristy Dawn Dugger, was previously sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on a related charge. There is no parole in the federal system.
The case began in June 2008 when a Johnson County Deputy began pursuing Church, because Church was wanted for a violation of probation and other charges. The deputy followed Church to a residence where Church got out of his vehicle and went in the back door of the residence. When the deputy went in the back door, Church ran out the front door.
According to a news release from the Department of Justice, the residence was searched and a meth lab was discovered at Church’s residence. The Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force was called to disassemble and dispose of the hazardous materials. The liquids on site were examined and determined by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to be pseudoephedrine, a necessary precursor chemical for the manufacture of methamphetamine.
On Tuesday, September 9, 2008, Erwin police officers observed two individuals at the corner of Main Street and Rock Creek Road selling tools. The officers stopped to see if

Scott Bradford retains seat on gas utility board

Scott Bradford won the Saturday, Feb. 6, election for commissioner of the Unicoi County Gas Utility District.
After ballots were tallied after the 5 p.m. close of voting, UCGUD General Manager Tim Whitson announced that Bradford was the winner in the two-man race.
Bradford defeated Howard Street, a former commissioner, 256-150.
Despite being an incumbent, this was Bradford’s first time to win the seat through an election. He was appointed to the board after Whitson left the board in August of 2008 to become general manager.
Whitson said voting was down from last year’s election, and he attributed that to two factors – snowy conditions during the voting time (12:10-5 p.m.) and that it was a two-man race. Last year’s race for two board seats had five candidates vying for the spots.
The UCGUD board of directors is made up of Bradford, Don Honeycutt, Burnie Jones, Mark Lafever and J.W. Tipton.

NFS reports concerns with UF6 cylinders

UF6 cylinders stored at Nuclear Fuel Services for nearly a decade may have the potential to burst, and the area of the plant housing the cylinders is being restricted.
NFS reported its findings to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Jan. 20, and that report is part of a public document made available. It was a leaking cylinder that caused a small fire in November – one of two incidents that are partly responsible for NFS voluntarily and temporarily shutting down production at the plant.
NFS is entering its second month of the temporary shut down. Salaried employees have had their wages cut, and 150 hourly workers are now in the middle of a three-week lay off.
Lauri Turpin, communications manager for NFS, told The Erwin Record Monday that the cylinders contain a “solid UF6.”
After the fire, which occurred in the new Commercial Development Line, Turpin said the plant “opened an investigation into the incident.”
She stressed that there has been no danger to workers or the environment.
The report to the NRC says the cylinders range in age from the 1950s to the 1980s and warns that the cylinders have the potential to exceed “the service pressure (200 psi) and some exceed the hydrostatic test pressure (400 psi).”
“The potential pressure in the cylinders,” the report said, “is estimated to be by liberation of fluorine gas in the cylinders. … The path forward consists of further analysis, evaluation and understanding of the issue. The cylinders potentially contain fluorine gas.”
The report says “potential consequences are minimal due to restricted access to the areas and the stable condition of the cylinders.”
“Certainly degradation of the UF6 may have occurred,” Turpin said. “It’s important to note that we have done this with calculations. We haven’t opened, moved or processed any more cylinders. This is all based on calculations, and our initial calculations were assuming the more conservative safety measures – the worst potential thing occurring instead of the best.”
The worst-case scenario, Turpin said, would involve the release of a small amount of fluorine gas.
“But the likelihood is that these containers can withstand more pressure,” Turpin said. “What we found was that there is a potential for degradation of the UF6 … that led us down this road to this investigation. So what we did was as soon we discovered this, we isolated the cylinders inside the facility and inside their original shipping containers and implemented safety measures and boundaries to protect our employees.”
Turpin said any incident would most likely stay “well within the NFS boundaries.”
Among precautions include a fire-patrol inspection of the area at least once an hour and a minimum of five members of the fire brigade on each shift. NFS officials have also met with the Erwin Fire Department.
“The concern, I believe, is with the fluorine gas,” Turpin said, “but it would be such a small amount. This is all preliminary. We are verifying this right now, but it would likely not pose a significant impact from a fire. We have a highly trained fire brigade on site at all times that are trained to respond to any fire on the site and with the different materials or chemicals on site.”
Turpin, who noted that NFS officials have conferred with experts to develop a plan forward, said the actions being taken clearly shows “our ability to address the issue safely and appropriately track it to resolution.”
The future of the cylinder is still unknown, Turpin said.
Roger Hannah, senior public affairs officer with the NRC in Atlanta, said the issue doesn’t pose any immediate threat, but “it needs to be evaluated.”
“Irregardless of the situation, we hope that NFS always identifies their own safety issues,” he said, “and this would be an example of that.”
Some fears have been expressed by members of the watchdog group called Erwin Citizens Awareness Network that in case of a fire, water can actually be problematic to fight a fire involving fluorine gas.
“We are,” Hannah said, “aware of that … and I think the NFS technical staff is acutely aware of that chemical reaction. That is something to be considered – if water would be appropriate in certain situations.”
Hannah, though, said the cylinders in question are small and would not pose a threat of a large fire even if they did burst.
“Some of these cylinders are smaller than an oxygen bottle an elderly person might use,” he said. “This would involve a really small amount of material.”

Former Rep. David Davis will not run for Congress

Unicoi County native David Davis, who represented the 1st Congressional District of Tennessee in the 110th Congress, announced today that he will not seek to return to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.
Davis had been widely expected to challenge Dr. Phil Roe, the man who defeated him after only one term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“People have encouraged me to run for Congress again in 2010 and polling data suggest that I could be successful,” Davis said. “I have decided, however, not to seek re-election this year. In my opinion, a re-election bid would require a negative campaign that would not be in the best interest of the First Congressional District nor the political process. People are tired of nasty politics and it is not in my nature to mount that type of campaign.”
More on this story and Dr. Roe’s reaction in the Feb. 2 print edition of The Erwin Record.

Flights canceled at Tri-Cities Regional Airport

Most of the flights scheduled to arrive and depart Tri-Cities Regional Airport tonight and Saturday morning have been canceled due to the weather.
All ticketed passengers should call the 1-800 reservation number for their airline to get the most up-to-date information about specific flights scheduled for today and tomorrow.
If you are traveling this weekend, it would be wise to take the initiative and contact your airline’s 1-800 number or go online to your airline’s website to check your flight status. The 1-800 numbers will be extremely busy, so it may take several tries to reach an operator. Those numbers are:
— Delta Air Lines Reservations, 1-800-221-1212. www.delta.com.
US Airways Express Reservations, 1-800-428-4322, www.usairways.com.
Allegiant Air Information, 1-702-719-8111 (Allegiant Air Travel Advisory Number) www.allegiantair.com.
You can also check the Airport’s website at www.TRIflight.com for links to airline websites and real-time flight status from the Airport’s flight information display monitors. The Airport terminal and runways will remain open for business as usual during the weekend.

Sustainable tourism gives potential for growth

Potential. That’s what Unicoi County has. Potential to do something great and promote sustainable tourism.
A national leader on the subject spoke to county and town officials and citizens last week during a conference on Balancing Nature and Commerce and said Unicoi County and its two towns have a lot of assets that can be promoted and utilized as attractions for tourists.
“You’re pretty lucky,” he said. “You’ve got more natural resources than most places do.”
During his travels and speaking as one of the leading authorities on sustainable development, land conservation, urban design and historic preservation, McMahon has consulted for numerous cities.
One of the complaints he hears from city and county leaders concerns preserving land and the loss of property tax revenue. In recent years, this argument has been hashed between officials in Unicoi County as nearly 6,000 acres of Rocky Fork was sold from private ownership and is in the process of being transferred to federal ownership, thus eliminating the property tax.
“I always here people (complaining) about land that was taken off the tax roles,” he said. “Well it’s not like they were doing anything with the land on the tax roles.”
McMahon suggested turning lemons into lemonade, like Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania. Once considered as a burden by the locals because of the property tax money lost, that idea changed when the area was named as America’s No. 1 Dark Skies Park. At that point, visitors can always be guaranteed to see the nighttime sky and the site welcomes 80,000 visitors on the weekends.
“If you don’t know where you are,” McMahon said, “you don’t know who you are.”
He said Unicoi County needs to develop its sense of place. Decide what is important to the county and towns history and embrace those assets.
“Everyone needs a sense of roots or sense of place,” he said. “It’s what makes your hometown that which makes our physical surroundings worth caring about.”
Trees and landscaping are incredibly valuable to what people think of a place. Both can increase property values by up to 15 percent (landscaping) and 20 percent (trees). Trees also help clean the air, provide a home for wildlife, slow stormwater runoff and reduce the urban heat island effect.
Both affect a community’s image it displays to residents and visitors, McMahon said.
“How people think of a place is less tangible, but more important than just about anything else,” McMahon said.
Whoever did that welcome to the town of Unicoi sign, that’s great,” he said, noting that the sign looks fantastic to a visitor just entering the town.
Following a trip into downtown Erwin on Wednesday morning, McMahon passed out plenty of compliments, especially on the railroad theme used in the renovation of the former Clinchfield Railroad Depot, Col. J.F. Toney Memorial Library, construction of the Erwin Town Hall and post office on North Main Avenue.
“The main reason for this grant was to open up and expand our revenue stream for Unicoi County that would be done in conjunction with industrial and retail development,” County Mayor Greg Lynch said. “If we’re successful with recreational tourism, the industrial and retail businesses will expand as a result of that. It’s a win-win situation.”
As part of the conference, attendees brainstormed to gather the assets of Unicoi County. Lynch said a strategic plan will be produced and the ideas will shared. In the near future, entrepreneurial workshops will be scheduled, as well as community meetings.

American Legion seeks photos of county’s servicemen killed in Vietnam

The local American Legion is working to collect photos of the 13 Unicoi County men killed during service in Vietnam for use in a special display planned in Washington, D.C.
Lou Thornberry, a member of Unaka Post 25 in Erwin, said the American Legion has already secured or has provisions to secure seven of the 13 needed photos – those of Richard Bannister, David Edney, Bobby Haynes, Doyle Holcomb, Douglas Jones, Bobby Shelton and Eugene Wilson.
But the American Legion still needs photos of six other servicemen: Jay Britt, Donald Cook, Donald Grubb, Johnny Ogle, Michael Tolley and Allen White. The Legion would prefer a military photo, if possible.
The collection is part of a nationwide project, Thornberry said.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is gathering photographs of the more than 58,261 men and women listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Once collected, the photos will be displayed in a planned Educational Center adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
Plans are to showcase a larger-than-life wall of photos of all veterans on their birthdays. The Memorial Fund also is conducting a campaign to raise $85 million to build an underground visitors center at the Memorial.
Various patriotic groups in Tennessee – like the Legion’s Unaka Post 25 in Erwin – are now engaged in the campaign to secure more than 1,300 photos of Tennessee soldiers who are listed on “The Wall” for a project called “Faces With Names.”
Charles King, who serves as adjutant for the local American Legion, said the addition to the D.C. memorial will further illustrate the importance of honoring those who have served in the nation’s military – in particular, those who gave their life.
“This will be a much more personal thing,” King said. “It’s important that we continue to remember the veterans and the ones who have died in service.”
King, who served in the Korean War, said he knew two of the 13 Unicoi Countians – Bannister and Jones – who died in the Vietnam conflict. He’s hopeful the American Legion will be able to collect all the photos.
“I think people will come forward, so we can get all the photos sent to the Memorial,” he said.
In addition to the D.C. exhibit, the collected photos of the Tennessee soldiers will also be sent to the Tennessee Archives in Nashville. The groups involved hope to make Tennessee the first state to complete the nationwide project.
If anyone has a photo of the six men whose photos are still needed or might have information on how to contact someone who may have a photo, call Thornberry at 743-3323 or King at 743-6996. For more information on the Washington, D.C., display, go to www.vvmf.org.

Major tourism event under way in Unicoi County

Experts from around the nation are converging on Unicoi County this week as local leaders try to map out a plan for tourism as an economic stimulus for “the Valley Beautiful.”
Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch says the event – titled “Balancing Nature and Commerce in Unicoi County – is the culmination of years of work that could help sustain economic prosperity for decades.
He’s not simply playing on words when he says, “It’s only natural that Unicoi County get into this.”
“We are sitting on top of a goldmine of possibilities,” Lynch said, “and we have been for years. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. This has been talked about before. What we’re trying to do is revive it and do it right.”
The event, which will feature nationally known speakers, will ask community leaders and attendees to work together to determine a tourism plan for Unicoi County that will not only bring economic benefit but protect the natural beauty of Unicoi County.
Unicoi County’s government will be joined by the governments of the towns of Unicoi and Erwin, as well as the local Economic Development Board and tourism agencies from the around the region.
“I encourage anybody interested in Unicoi County and tourism to attend and discuss what we have to offer and how we offer it and market it,” Lynch said. “This conference is about how we do it and how we protect our community’s character.”
The conference will be held at the Unicoi United Methodist Church’s New Life Center in the town of Unicoi.
It begins with a kick-off public forum Tuesday, Jan. 12, from 5:30-7 p.m. Ed McMahon, representing the Urban land Institute will speak from 7-9 p.m. on “The Dollars and Sense of Protecting Community Character.”
On Wednesday, Jan. 13, sessions begin at 8:30 a.m. with speakers including Kris Hoellen with The Conservation Fund and Steve Morse with the University of Tennessee.
Action planning will take place from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and McMahon will speak again from 1:30-3:15 p.m.
At 3:30 p.m., Rita Hennessy, representing the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, will speak.
On Thursday, Jan. 14, speakers from 8-9:45 a.m. will include Tom Speaks with the Cherokee National Forest, Ed Carter with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Mike Carlton with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Neil Hanson with the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Enhancement Programs.
Susan Whitaker, Tennessee’s commissioner for the Department of Tourist Development, will speak from 12:45-2 p.m.
From 3-5 p.m., Rick Larsen, representing The Conservation Fund, will speak.
The conference concludes Friday morning with more action planning from 8-10:15 a.m. with a 10:30 a.m. presentation of action plans.
At 11:30 a.m., a facilitated discussion will be held on the next steps the county should take to implement the plans discussed over the entire conference.
“What we’re going for here is sustainable tourism,” Lynch said, “that doesn’t take away from the character of the community. We need recreational tourism, heritage tourism, cultural tourism, agritourism. Unicoi County has a story to tell – from the south end of Flag Pond to Limestone Cove.
“Our collective stories include artisans and musicians and heritage, and we can present it all within our natural resources – the river, the creeks, the mountains. All this can be a huge draw for Unicoi County through tourism.”
Speakers like McMahon will discuss how a community’s character enhances its economy and its way of life.
A $70,000 “Gems of Appalachia” grant the county earned from the Appalachian Regional Commission is paying for the conference. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and former U.S. Rep. David Davis helped the county acquire the grant.
“This is a really big deal,” Lynch said. “We have some major stakeholders joining us – the Forest Service, the University of Tennessee, the Appalchian Trail Conservancy.”

AT&T improves cell service in county

AT&T cell phone and broadband users in Unicoi County will now receive additional coverage thanks to the activation of a new cell site in the town of Unicoi.
The new site is located eight miles south of Johnson City and enhances wireless broadband coverage not only to the town of Unicoi, but along Interstate 26 between Johnson City and Erwin to Limestone Cove Road and Marbleton Road.
“It’s great news to see a local provider like AT&T investing to boost wireless coverage in Unicoi County,” said state Sen. Steve Southerland. “This new tower will increase public safety and help improve wireless convenience as more and more of our citizens rely on their mobile phones.”
AT&T officials have worked with town of Unicoi leaders for several months, since the implementation of the cell tower began nearly two years ago by Pegasus Tower Co. Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch was pleased on Wednesday to know the cell site was now active and residents in the town with AT&T service will now experience enhanced coverage.
Unicoi City Recorder Larry Rea said up to six different cellular service providers can hook onto the tower. Leaders are working on a letter-writing campaign to Verizon to request that company join the tower. Rea invited citizens to write Verizon and express an interest towards this effort. Send letters to Verizon, Attn: Bill Callahan, 575 Hickory Hills Boulevard, Whites Creek, TN 37189.
As an AT&T customer, Rea said he has personally noticed the signal is much stronger in Unicoi and said on behalf of the town, that leaders were happy to help assist in bringing better service to the citizens in the town.
The change also helps travelers on I-26. Prior to this, drivers could experience dead spots or have calls dropped and signal return just seconds later.
From 2006 to 2008, AT&T’s total capital investment in its wireless and wired networks in Tennessee was more than $1.2 billion.  The new cell site is part of AT&T’s ongoing efforts to drive innovation and investment to deliver the benefits of smartphones and mobile broadband for customers. More smartphone customers have chosen AT&T over any other U.S. competitor, and AT&T is committed to driving continual enhancement of network capabilities to meet these customers’ ever-growing mobile broadband needs.
“A strong telecommunications infrastructure is key to the economic vitality of our communities,” said Alicia Summers, director of the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association. “This investment in wireless connectivity will benefit Unicoi County by creating new opportunities for residents and business owners.”
“Our goal is pretty simple: we want you to have an extraordinary experience when you make a call, check e-mail, download a song or video, or surf the Internet on your AT&T device,” said Gregg Morton, president, AT&T Tennessee.
For more information about AT&T’s coverage in Unicoi County or anywhere in the United States, consumers can visit www.wireless.att.com/coverageviewer/.
The online tool can measure the quality of coverage based on a street address, intersection, ZIP code or even a landmark. For updates on the AT&T wireless network, visit www.att.com/networknews.

Town, church join to aid food ministry

The town of Unicoi hopes that when you go to the grocery store, you will buy a few extra items that will help feed a family in need in Unicoi County.
Unicoi Town Hall is working in partnership with the Unicoi Church of God to serve as a drop-off site for canned goods and non-perishable food items for the church’s regular countywide food ministry.
All food donated will be distributed by the Food Ministry program of the Unicoi Church of God.
For more information on the food ministry or to volunteer, call program director Teresa Price at 743-7865.
Unicoi Town Hall will receive food items during normal business hours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Chamber seeking Step-Up applications

The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce is now accepting applications for the 2010 Step-Up Youth Leadership Class.
The Step-Up program has provided the opportunity for numerous emerging leaders to participate in the training sessions to further develop their leadership skills and familiarize themselves with their community.
The leadership year will begin in January with class orientation. The topics of the classes are: History and Community Trusteeship; Life Skills; Healthcare; Job Training; Financial Preparedness; Business and Economic Development; Tourism and Local and State Government.
These sessions will be held bi-weekly through May, ending with graduation
Anyone, age 15-18, interested in serving the community is encouraged to apply. Applications will be accepted through Monday, Jan. 18. For more information, call Cathy Huskins at 743-3000 or e-mail cathy@unicoicounty.org.

Health department has H1N1 vaccines

Because of an increasing supply of H1N1 vaccine, the Unicoi Health Department is able now to broaden availability and offer the vaccine to the general public.
The health department will hold an H1N1 vaccination clinic Saturday, Jan. 16, at Walmart SuperCenter, 110 Rocky Bottom Road in Unicoi, from noon until 6 p.m. The vaccine types available at this clinic are nasal and the shot, which will be provided at no charge.
Additional information about upcoming clinics and vaccine availability are on the Tennessee Department of Health Web site at www.health.state.tn.us/H1N1.htm.
During October and November when the H1N1 vaccine supply was limited, priority was placed on administering the vaccine to those in high risk categories. Additional supplies of the vaccine have now been received which allows the health department to offer it to the general public and hold clinics such as the one scheduled at Walmart on Saturday.
For more information about the H1N1 or seasonal flu vaccines, call the Unicoi Health Department at 743-9103 or contact the Tennessee Flu Information Line at 1-877-252-3432. Information is also available on the Web at www.tn.gov/health or www.flu.gov.

Joint efforts brings halt to possible meth lab

A joint effort by town and county authorities stopped two Virginia men who investigators say had the makings for a methamphetamine lab.
The investigation began Monday when Unicoi County Sheriff’s Deparment Sgt. Heather Reams was tipped off that two men, David Keith Price and Raymond E. Cross, were coming into the city’s five pharmacies and buying the precursors for making meth.
Reams shared the information with Erwin Police Department Chief Regan Tilson and UCSD narcotics investigators who joined together in the investigation.
Tilson, a certified meth technician, said Price and Cross purchased a specific type of iodine in large quantities, which is a precursor ingredient for cooking meth. Officers were able to stake out pharmacies on Wednesday and Thursday based on information received that the two men would be returning to Erwin.
On Thursday afternoon, at approximately 3:50 p.m., UCSD Sgt. Frank Rogers spotted the men at a pharmacy and Tilson, dressed in casual clothing, followed Price, 48, and Cross, 34, into another pharmacy. The men went into all five of Erwin’s pharmacies – CVS, Walgreens, Roller’s, Clinchfield Drug and Rite-Aid.
A traffic stop was initiated and Tilson asked Cross and Price why they were in Erwin, and they allegedly said to purchase salad dressing, specifically Italian salad dressing.
“I asked if the pharmacies were having a sale on that,” Tilson said.
Oddly, salad dressing was found during a consent search of the vehicle. But, so was the recently purchased iodine, 10 cases of match books, sodium nitrate and extracted ephedrine. In total, 800 match books were found and the red phosphorous had been extracted from 300 of those books.
The men were charged with promotion of methamphetamine manufacture and initiation of meth process.
With addresses from Virginia, authorities believe the men were staying at a hotel, not locally, and had come into Erwin to purchase the ingredients because they didn’t think the purchases would raise a red flag in a small town.
Sheriff Kent Harris commended the citizens and pharmacy workers who worked with investigators to quickly catch Cross and Price.
“I hope we will send a message to these type of thugs that Erwin and Unicoi County is the wrong place to do this type of activities,” Harris said.
Tilson echoed Harris’ praise and said educational efforts to raise awareness about what it takes to manufacture meth is what helped raise red flags and cause the tips to be communicated with officers.
“All drugs are terrible, but none are as dangerous as meth,” Tilson said. “Something like a meth lab is beyond dangerous. It’s the worst of the worst.”
Other officers involved with the investigation were EPD Detective Tony Buchanan and UCSD Special Deputy Danny Duncan Sr. Between the city and county, there are nine certified meth techs that received specialized training for the proper handling and investigations involving the drug. Those officers are from the EPD, Patrolman Jimmy Chandler, Capt. Daryl Price, Patrolman Bobby Rutherford, Buchanan and Tilson, and from the UCSD, Lt. Jimmy Erwin, Capt. Ron Arnold, Sgt. Stacy Wigand and Sgt. Greg Copp. Rogers will be attending training in the near future to earn the certification.

NRC issues Confirmatory Action Letter to NFS

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a letter to Nuclear Fuel Services Thursday, Jan. 7, detailing the company’s commitments for actions to assure the agency that NFS can safely operate the plant.
NFS announced last week it will suspend production at its Erwin facility until the items are completed.
The NRC’s confirmatory action letter is designed to address issues that contributed to recent events at the facility, including an Oct. 13 incident being reviewed by an NRC augmented inspection team. The letter is being issued to detail and confirm NFS’s agreement to take certain actions in response to shortcomings identified by the inspection team. Although NFS can continue work in other areas such as construction and transportation, the company has agreed that the process lines at the facility will remain out of service until the NRC is satisfied that the issues have been addressed. The NRC will verify through further inspections that the items in the letter have been successfully completed before production is resumed.
The NFS commitments include”
— Obtaining independent reviews of restart actions as well as company event investigation processe.
— Changing the way the company handles materials based on lessons learned from the Oct. 13 event.
— Making permanent improvements in the methods for identifying, documenting, evaluating and communicating all changes at the facility.
— Re-evaluating certain accident scenarios to ensure the appropriate level of safety.
— Changing the NFS management structure to ensure separation between production goals and safety priorities.
“This letter clearly lays out the NRC’s expectations for both short and long-term actions that NFS will take to address the concerns our inspectors have identified,” said NRC Region II Administrator Luis Reyes. “We believe suspending operations is appropriate given the current situation, and the lines will not restart until NFS meets its commitments.”
Although a date has not been confirmed, the NRC will schedule a public meeting in Erwin in the next few weeks to discuss the preliminary results of the agency’s detailed inspection after the Oct. 13 event. That incident involved workers using nitric acid to dissolve scrap material with small quantities of uranium. It resulted in more heat than expected and the generation of nitrogen compound fumes. There were no injuries to employees or environmental releases, but the heated fumes damaged some pipes. The NRC inspection is expected to be completed soon.
Issuance of a confirmatory action letter does not preclude the NRC from taking other actions for any violations of NRC requirements that may be identified.
“We will continue to inspect and review their activities and will not hesitate to take additional actions if necessary,” Reyes added.
NFS has nearly 850 employees at its Erwin plant, with an additional 200 contract workers.
The company told The Erwin Record Monday that salaried employees will be taking pay reductions while production is shuttered. A decision on hourly employees has not been announced.

Residents urged to follow this advice as frigid temperatures continue

Cold winter weather is gripping Unicoi County this week,
with more bitter cold temperatures and snow predicted for much of the state in the coming days. The Department of Health is reminding Tennesseans to take precautions to stay safe during extreme cold weather.

“Winter weather with temperatures below freezing can be deadly, andwe want Tennesseans to take the needed precautions to protect themselves from extreme cold very seriously,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper. “Families should also review their plans now for transportation and child care if schools and daycares are dismissed for snow.”

When exposed to cold temperatures, the human body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Hypothermia affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and may not be able to do anything about it. Hypothermia is most likely to occur at very cold temperatures, but can occur even at temperatures above 40° F if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or submersion in cold water.

Frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing, and results in a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

Cold weather also puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow, chopping wood or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do tiring outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

The following tips will help keep you and your family safe and healthy during extremely cold weather:

— Try to stay indoors when weather is extremely cold, especially if winds are high. If you must go outdoors, make trips outside as brief as possible.
— When going outside during very cold weather, adults and children should wear:
*a hat
*a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
*sleeves that are snug at the wrist
*mittens (they’re warmer than gloves)
*a water-resistant coat and boots
*several layers of loose-fitting clothing
— Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven to reduce body heat loss caused by wind. Wind-resistant fabrics are best. Wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton.
— Stay dry, as wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess
perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm.
— Avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while fueling and de-icing your car or using a snow blower. These substances in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body.
— Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
— Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, which cause your body to lose heat more rapidly. Alcohol can also impair judgment and lead to ignoring signs of cold stress on the body.

Walking on ice is also extremely dangerous. Many cold weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways and porches. Keep your steps and walkways as free of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical deicing compound. Sand may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk of slipping.

The State of Tennessee has many resources available to help keep you safe and healthy during winter weather.
— Winter driving tips: www.tdot.state.tn.us/mediaroom/snowbuster.htm
— Safe home heating:
http://tn.gov/commerce/sfm/documents/WinterWeatherHeatingBulletin2010.pdf
— Home energy assistance:
www.tennessee.gov/humanserv/adfam/afs_hea.html
For more information on staying healthy during extreme cold weather, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at
www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/pdf/cold_guide.pdf.

New program aims those in need of home repairs

Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County has built homes from the ground up, but now the all-volunteer organization is gearing up for a new pilot program in Erwin that will assist low-income homeowners struggling to maintain the exterior of their homes.
The program, called “A Brush With Kindness,” is a holistic approach to providing affordable housing and assisting communities, as well as families.
Habitat for Humanity will accept applications from Jan. 15 and Feb. 15.
The program is known worldwide for building homes for those in need, and the Unicoi County program has done that locally.
“A Brush With Kindness” will work on a similar plan – partnering with selected families who are willing to help in the process.
Habitat’s volunteers will help homeowners with exterior maintenance that can include painting, minor exterior repairs, landscaping, weatherization and exterior cleanup.
The homes and families chosen will be based on income, need and a willingness to partner.
In addition to its volunteers, Habitat uses donated materials and takes no profit for their services.
Payments made by the homeowners are placed in a revolving fund to help the program serve others in need. Homeowners agree to take out a no-interest loan through Habitat for Humanity.
“A Brush with Kindness” ensures families live in safe and well-maintained homes. The program is designed to revitalize the appearance of a neighborhood, encourage connections within the community, and, most importantly, help preserve affordable housing stock.
Applications may be obtained at the office of Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County, located at Centenary United Methodist Church, 203 N. Elm Ave. in Erwin. Applications must be completed and returned to HfHUC no later than Feb. 15.
“A Brush with Kindness” projects will begin in mid-March and will be prioritized based upon need.
For more information come by the Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County office, or the offices of Erwin Church of God, Erwin Presbyterian Church, or Shallow Ford Baptist Church.
Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County is a locally run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing organization. Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with people in need to build and renovate decent, affordable housing.
“A Brush with Kindness” projects are financed under the same model as HfH homes. Qualifying applicants will be given a not-for-profit loan, which will be paid back to HfHUC with no interest charged, and those funds will be used to fund future projects.

Snow-covered roads, frigid conditions causing problems

The Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department is reporting dangerous road conditions as another winter snow has fallen throughout the region.
Roadways throughout Unicoi County are slick and snow covered, but authorities are reporting the worst conditions in Unicoi and the the northern parts of the county.
Frigid temperatures — 16 degrees in Erwin at 6:15 a.m. in Erwin — have hampered efforts to keep roads clear.
The Unicoi County Highway Department has been working throughout the night, but the continual snow and the very cold conditions have not helped.
Motorists are urged to use caution, especially on bridges along Interstate 26, described as “in bad shape.”
Main Avenue in Erwin is snow covered, but crews are continuing efforts to clear roads.

American Legion sets monthly meeting

The American Legion, Unaka Post 25, will meet Friday, Jan. 8, at Erwin Town Hall at 6:30 p.m.
This is a change in the usual date, as town hall was not available for the normal Thursday meeting.
Agenda items include planning for 2010 activities.
In addition to the Legion, the auxiliary will also meet at the same time in the same location.