The New Year is all about looking forward as we relinquish our past. Looking backward to 2016, the county has endured much. However, Claiborne residents had opportunities throughout the year to ‘brag’ a little about our little corner of the country.
The second annual Powell River Regatta got underway in April to the tune of 98 participants, as they paddled their way down 12 miles of near-pristine waterways. Ranging in age from 20 to 74, the enthusiasts descended upon the county from near and far. Twenty-eight racers from across the nation mingled with 45 statewide participants to match their expertise with the 21 ‘homegrown’ kayakers and canoeists for an all-out race to the finish line.
Other special events, like the White Lightning Festival and the Genealogy Jamboree, brought tourists and their dollars into the historic town of Cumberland Gap.
During the year, much-needed ‘secure’ water was brought to residents in the more rural districts via grants secured by county officials the previous year. A portion of district two was tapped onto the ‘city’ water supply during the cold of January.
Other districts, like the Little Sycamore community, were given alternatives to obsolete well and spring house systems via the completion of their own waterline projects.
A valiant fight for ‘charter school’ designation was to no avail for officials of J. Frank White Academy. The Claiborne school system gave its ‘thumbs down’ twice during negotiations for system approval of the measure.
Chief among the complaints was the fact that, according to state legislation, an existing private school cannot convert to charter school status.
The prime concern for the public school system officials seems to have been financial in nature. The system would have been impacted to the tune of some $5 million, if the Academy had secured the designation.
County officials spent more than a few hours in tense meetings in 2016. One issue had Clairfield residents pitted against the Claiborne Medical Center (CMC), as demands for the reinstitution of an emergency substation in the Clairfield community was hashed over several Claiborne Commission meetings.
The lengthy response times to the isolated area put those in emergency situations at a great disadvantage, as many residents spoke of waiting an hour or more for an ambulance to arrive.
The issue came to a head when Patti Ketterman, CMC president and chief administrative officer, walked out of a meeting shortly after reading a prepared statement into the commission record.
In her statement, Ketterman said she did not find any instances of excessive response times and that she was confident no harm had come to any patient. Therefore Covenant, she said, would make no changes to the placement of ambulances throughout the county.
A resolution that would have frozen some $1.8 million in the Covenant/CMC escrow account and taken back the medical center ambulance service was voted down.
Prior to the vote, county attorney James Estep III cautioned the board that the action would be considered a ‘breach of contract’ and would likely bring about years of litigation.
The ‘police beat’ created many headline stories on every conceivable playing field, as the roster of suspects filled with names of ‘druggies’ and thieves, sexual predators, murderers and even law enforcement personnel.
Former New Tazewell police captain Wayne Mewhinney, who was charged with domestic abuse, was given 12 months last January to ‘straighten up his act.’ Mewhinney is expected to appear before the judge sometime this month to conclude his pending dismissal of charges.
The notorious ‘shock collar case’ reared its ugly head late last year when the conviction of Wayne Burkhart was set aside, moving the case back to square one.
Burkhart will have his new day in court, this month. He is scheduled for a status hearing on Jan. 23. Meanwhile, he sits in the Claiborne County Jail under a $500,000 bond.
As the Claiborne Progress closes the book on 2016, we are assured of a plethora of bold new headlines to fill the pages of 2017. After all, life goes on.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP. See the Jan. 11 edition of the Claiborne Progress or visit our website at www.claiborneprogress.net for the Sports Year in Review.