Paving the Way for Economic Prosperity in Union County

SR 61 and Walkers Ford

Improvements to State Route 33 and State Route 61 in Union County were a popular topic at the Republican Rally on 2 June in Wilson Park. Several candidates for Commission and Mayor cited the need for these improvements. Representative Dennis Powers confirmed that construction for the SR 33 and SR 61 improvements were included in the 2017 IMPROVE Act, Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads, and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy, introduced by Governor Bill Haslam to the 109th Tennessee General Assembly. In the first year of the IMPROVE Act’s implementation, 288 – 30 percent – of the 962 projects designated in the legislation are under way and TDOT anticipates project bids to increase by about $100 million later in 2018. Funding for the SR 33 and SR 61 projects are not on the TDOT three year plan and were not included in the 2019-21 Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Multimodal Program. The Tennessee Department of Transportation budget for fiscal year 2019 revealed that there is uncertainty surrounding the 47 percent of the department’s budget that comes from federal funding which puts the 962 projects listed in the IMPROVE Act in jeopardy.

Improvements to SR 33 and SR 61 are needed. Traffic history shows a steady increase in average annual daily traffic count with an average of over 12,000 cars daily traveling SR 33 from the Knox County Line to Maynardville and almost 4,000 daily on SR 61 East from Maynardville to the Grainger County Line inclusive of the Walker Ford connector near the SR 33 intersection. According to Tennessee's Integrated Traffic Analysis Network (TITAN) Fatal Crash Locations, three fatal crashes have occurred in the last 15 months on SR 33 from the Knox County Line to Maynardville, 81 accidents have occurred on this same stretch of highway, 30 involving injury, from 10 October 2015 to present, and during this same period 86 accidents occurred on SR 61 East from Maynardville to the Grainger County Line, 20 involving injury. According to TDOT, 11 fatalities occurred on SR 33 from Maynardville to Tazewell, most in Union County, in 2003 and 2004. The construction of Paulette Elementary School on SR 33 from the Knox County Line to Maynardville has created an additional hazard for commuters, parents and children. According to TRIP, a National Transportation Research Group, the fatality rate on Tennessee’s non-interstate rural roads in 2015 was more than two and a half times greater than on all other roads in the state.

State Law, TCA § 54- 5-102, calls for all county seats to be connected by a four-lane highway to the nearest interstate highway by the best route available and the Commissioner of Transportation is to receive financial aid for their construction. The region’s industries and commercial businesses require adequate transportation facilities to operate at their peak potential with SR 33 and SR 61 serving as a major link to the economic hub of Knoxville and the converging interstate system in Knox County. SR 33 and SR 61 provide the most direct link for Union and Claiborne County residents to travel to jobs in the Knoxville area. The 30th Annual Survey of Corporate Executives conducted in 2016 found highway accessibility ranked the number two site selection factor behind only the availability of skilled labor, and an enhanced regional transportation system to attract new commercial and industrial employers would be expected to provide new jobs for Union County residents.

Economic investment is needed in Union County. Union County is one of only 6 counties in the state of Tennessee to not have a jobs announcement under the 8 years of economic expansion fostered by policies of the Haslam Administration. Union County is one of only three counties in the state of Tennessee where the school system and county government are the number one and two employers. Union County has only 13% of residents who both work and live in the same city compared to the Tennessee average of 57% of people who both work and live in the same city. The mean travel time to work is 34.1 minutes and 1.51% of the workforce in Union County have "super commutes" in excess of 90 minutes. According to the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, Union County is experiencing population decline that began in 2011, a marked reversal of the 30% population growth rate observed from 1990 to 2000, and without intervention the population decline is expected to extend beyond 2040. Union County is experiencing out-migration, mainly among 20 – 29 year olds. Union County’s negative population growth and out-migration brings with it severe negative economic consequences including fewer workers available to businesses, fewer customers to buy their goods and services, and a shrinking tax base, all resulting in a severe impact on the finances of government.

Transportation infrastructure improvements are vital to Union County. An efficient, safe and well-maintained transportation system provides economic and social benefits by affording individuals access to employment, housing, healthcare, education, goods and services, recreation, entertainment, family, and social activities. It also provides businesses access to suppliers, markets and employees, all critical to a business’ level of productivity and ability to expand. With an economy based largely on manufacturing, agriculture, natural resource extraction and tourism, the quality of our transportation system plays a vital role in the county and state’s economic growth and quality of life.

The need for improvements in SR 33 and SR 61, based upon both public safety and economic intervention in Union County, should be a priority for Tennessee as economic expansion and job growth outside the county is exacerbating the economic conditions in the county and without support from the Governor, the Commissioners’ of Transportation and Economic and Community Development, and Union Counties elected state representatives it could now be up to 14 years or more before these projects are completed.

A resolution is going to be presented before the County Commission at the 11 June meeting by 1st District Commissioner Stan Dail to recognize that one of the single most important state investments in Union County to bring jobs and prosperity is an adequate transportation system as it directly correlates to economic viability and vitality and the improvement of the SR 33 and SR 61 corridor is fundamental to our economic future. The resolution will call for a reassessment by state officials as to the importance and timing of the SR 33 and SR 61 projects and individuals in the county are encouraged to attend the meeting and show their support.



Let Go and Let God

Photo by Sue Tharp

With the passing of time, it is essential to have the understanding of the importance of cherishing the little moments in life. Being able to enjoy these seconds to their fullest means the outburst of laughter, sharing of wisdom, and enhanced intuitiveness. Sandra Greene’s life is a depiction of this wisdom and peace.

Its Time for Chocolatefest


The Knoxville Chapter of the Kidney Foundation started Chocolatefest more than twenty-five years ago at Knoxville Center. Eventually, the chapter decided to forego the yearly event.When one of the former board members had an urge to bring the festival back, she asked past Chocolatefest judge and local radio personality Jennifer Johnsey if she would help. Luckily, Jennifer was happy to oblige.

What a Joke!

What a Joke!

Mincey’s Musings Year Two, Week Two

A frustrated conductor once asked a band player with issues, “Son, what is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?” The player replied, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

This is a slightly tweaked missive that came my way via email. It reminded me of a joke I once heard at a meeting which I shall attempt to embellish for your reading pleasure.

Grandma's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Grandma's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Grandma made the best cookies, didn't she? She didn't work outside the home. Those were the days when she washed, starched and ironed her ruffled curtains and had time to crochet frilly doilies for the end tables next to the sofa. Ruffled curtains are things of the past as are crocheted doilies. She didn't have to get the kids properly dressed for school and then get herself to her job on time. She did have time to polish up on her cookie recipes.

Abraham and Carl

Abraham and Carl

Scratching your head? Who in the world are Abraham and Carl?

When we see the word “and” between two names, we assume they are connected in some way. For instance, I love the comedy teams of Andy and Barney (Mayberry), Lucy and Ethel and (one of my favorites) Laurel and Hardy.

For the record, Abraham and Carl are not a comedy team. In fact, they never even met for they lived thousands of years apart.

Scratching your head again?

Lemon - Cheese Salad

Lemon - Cheese Salad

I saw an article online the other day. It listed recipes that are outdated and thankful to be gone. I don't agree. Everyone of them are on my “favorites” list. I think the reason they are outdated is that they were over-used back in the day. I remember when I first discovered canned tuna fish. We had a Tuna Noodle Casserole about every other week. I have a good recipe for that, too.

Agriculture Creates Opportunity

Agriculture Creates Opportunity

One of the most important ways to invest in the future of agriculture is to invest in the people who will become tomorrow’s agriculture industry leaders. Students pursuing the agriculture industry often look for careers in planning, implementation, production, management, processing, education, or marketing ag products and services. Tennessee Department of Education predicts that over 60,000 high-skilled agricultural jobs open annually in the United States with just around 35,400 graduates in the Ag, Food, and Natural Resources program studies to fill the openings.


Wine and Canvas with Betty Bullen

Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 18:00

Betty is teaching another wonderful Wine and Canvas Class! This class we will be painting Red Breasted Blue Birds!

Sip on some wine and learn to paint from one of Union Counties best! Supplies are included.

Tickets are only $35 and must be purchased in advance by calling (865) 745-2902 or by coming into The Winery.

Seating is limited and fills up very fast so make sure you reserve your ticket today!

Area Worship Leaders, Pastors, and Faith community leaders

Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 07:30
Area Worship Leaders, Pastors, and Faith community leaders

"We invite all area Worship Leaders, Pastors, and Faith community leaders to come together on the last Thursday of each month at Hardee's at 7:30 am. This is to be a time of fellowship, prayer, and discussion about how we as a community of Faith can work together to have a positive impact on our county. All are welcome!" For more information please contact Kathy Chesney at 865-566-3289.

Wine and Design

Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 18:00

Join us at The Winery for a fun Wine and Design event.
During this class, get ready for Valentine's Day by painting
and crafting a wine bottle and wooden love sign. The class is only
$25 and includes all the materials needed as well as a glass
of wine or juice. Seating is limited and tickets must be purchased
in advance by calling The Winery at (865)745-2902.

Class starts at 6 so please come early to taste our wines and choose your favorite.

February Pick Up Party at The Winery

Saturday, February 2, 2019 - 12:00

It's that time again and everyone is invited.
February is a Pick Up month for our Wine Club and we are having a party to celebrate.

Saturday, February 2nd from Noon till 8

Live Music From:
45RPM Noon - 3:30 pm
They will be playing music from the vinyl era, the tunes that you know and love!!

Overdrive 4-8 pm
Overdrive is a band dedicated to filling the dance floor at any venue they play at! Be sure to bring your dancing shoes!


Dale Wesche

Dale R. Wesche – age 39 of Heiskell, passed away Thursday, January 17, 2019 as a result of an automobile accident. He was a member of Fairview Free Will Baptist Church. He enjoyed the outdoors, fishing and 4-wheeling with his friends.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Richard and Wilma Wesche. Dale is survived by his canine companion, Gretchen; and a community of friends.

Nancy Byrum

Nancy Byrum, age 57, passed away Saturday, January 19, 2019. Proceeded in death by father George Byrum Sr., sister Debbie Patterson, brother Timmy Byrum, nephew Brent Byrum; and many aunts and uncles. Survived by mother Margret Byrum, daughter Fran Hancock, son Michael Scott Rolen; grandchildren Jared and Genny; brothers and sisters-in-law George and Maryann, Dennis and Teresa, Steve and Susan, and significant other Calvin Stafford; many aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

Gladys B. Ledford

Gladys B. Ledford, age 96, of Knoxville, passed away on January 20, 2019.
She attended Salem Baptist Church.
Preceded in death by husband David L. Ledford; daughter Patsy J. Price; grandson Brian Schwartz.
Survived by daughter M. Annette Rummell (Barry); son Charles “David” Ledford (Joy); 10 grandchildren; many great grandchildren and several great-great grandchildren.
Family will receive friends 4-6PM Wednesday at Mynatt Funeral Home Halls Chapel with funeral service to follow, Rev. David McGill officiating.

Rosemary Gail (Wilkerson) Johnson Obituary

Rosemary Gail (Wilkerson) Johnson, of Halls/Plainview, went to be with our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ on Friday January 18, 2019. Rosemary spent 4 years fighting a rare mantle cell lymphoma. Rosemary loved her family, was a believer in Christ, an animal lover, and an all-around genuine person. She was preceded in death by her loving parents, Roy & Mary Lynn Wilkerson; father in law, Raymond Johnson; and brother in law Ray Johnson.

Obituary of Lloyd Russell Lee Sr.

Lloyd Russell Lee Sr., age 68, of Knoxville, Tn was born July 6, 1950 and departed this earthly life on January 17, 2019 to gain his new body in heaven. His life was filled with the love of Nascar, Semi-Trucks, and Family. Lloyd was a self employed over the road truck driver for his entire life to provide for his ever-growing family. Married to Sandra “Sandy” Lee on January 4th 1969, they shared their love of 50 years with their 3 sons Rusty (spouse Mary Duso), Jimmy (wife April), and Billy (spouse Becky Litton).

Ted George Jones

Ted Jones, age 67, of Knoxville passed away on January 17, 2019. He was a bus operator for Knoxville Area Transit for over 43 years, and a member of Amalgamated Transit Union. He was a member of West Side Baptist church. Preceded in death by parents George & Neoma Jones, grandparents William Ellis & Flora Shuemaker, father-in-law Jack Jones.

Nathan Samuel Davis

Nathan Samuel Davis – age 23 of Maynardville, passed away Sunday, January 13, 2019.

He is survived by his parents, Luther and Julia Davis; and sister, Gabriela Eby.

A celebration of life service is being planned for a later date. Trinity Funeral Home, LLC, Maynardville, has the honor to serve the family of Nathan Davis. 865-992-5002

The opinions expressed by columnists and those providing comments are theirs alone, and may not reflect the opinions of Russell Computer Systems, Inc or any employee thereof.