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.




Allyson Hanna Wins 4-H State Round-Up

Allyson Hanna (fourth from left) won her division at the State 4-H Round-Up.

Allyson Hanna has done her hometown proud by bringing home a state-level win from the Tennessee 4-H Round-Up and All-Star Conference. The 16-year-old homeschooler is a junior this year, and she won her division with a Senior Level 1 consumer education project on the Consumer Bill of Rights.

Hanna has been active in 4-H since she was in the fifth grade, and she credits the program with helping her grow as a leader and a team player.

The Digital Divide

The “digital divide” is the gap that exists between individuals advantaged by the internet and those individuals disadvantaged by lack of access to the internet. The divide has widened as technology has advanced with the advent of next generation fiber optic broadband that can make 1 GB broadband speeds available. The growing gap disproportionately affects rural areas as rural residents have few choices of internet service providers – or none at all. They pay higher prices for lower quality service.

Twenty-one Lessons

Twenty-one Lessons

Not everyone should take music lessons. There are some that have a hole in their bucket, like me. Mother thought it would be nice if one of her children learned how to play the Hawaiian guitar. Island music was popular back in the days before World War II. She picked the wrong kid, me.

Reborn and Still Kicking

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Thirty-One

Hello, everyone. My name is Oak Grove. I am a two room school building in the Sharps Chapel area of Union County.

For the past two weeks my “scribe” Ronnie Mincey has written articles about me, detailing pertinent points of my history for school terms 1932-1933 and 1934-1935. His main source for information has been the old registers on file at the Union County Board of Education’s Central Office, my “diaries”.


Sumac smooth

Sumacs are very common in our area, most often found in overgrown fields and areas that have been disturbed. While considered a weed by many, it does have the virtues of providing cover and food for wildlife, and nice fall coloration for human enjoyment.


Gumball Machine

I have always been just a little different. For instance, my idea of a fun place was not the same as most other kids’ back in the 70s. They wanted to go to the pinball arcade or the skating rink, whereas I wanted to go to the laundromat.

The only time we washed clothes there was when the electric pump on our well messed up. No pump. No water. No washing clothes at home.

Moral Authority

Archie Wilson

Seems like everyone has a Twitter, Facebook or some kind of social media account, well everyone except me. Thus far, I have avoided social media platforms, unless of course, you count the occasional religious article like this. But, I do read and listen to a lot of news, much of it digital. So even though I have no social media accounts, I still have exposure to everyone else’s social media rants via the news. I liken social media to the 1970s phenomenon of “Streaking”. Sooner or later you are going to get flashed! “Look out Ethel” If you don’t get the reference look up Ray Stevens song, “The Streak”.

Avoiding Recurring and Chronic Back Pain

Avoiding Recurring and Chronic Back Pain

Are you experiencing these symptoms?
• low back pain
• buttock soreness
• radiating leg and thigh pain
• pain while sitting
• tightness, burning, or feeling of a knot
• gluteal pain while driving

Here are the risk factors for developing these recurring and chronic pains:
• poor fitness levels and spinal stability (core muscle strength)
• poor posture
• previous episodes of back pain
• pain for more than 8 days

Corn Relish

Corn Relish

Years ago when I had a big garden, I tried to “put up” as much as I could. It seemed that if I had a full cupboard of home canned fruit and veggies, the winter would go well. If my cupboard was meager, the winter usually meant hard times for my family. It happened often enough to warn me to be prepared.



Clay Edward Smith

Clay Edward Smith, age 57, passed away on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. He is preceded in death by father, William Smith; mother, Thelma Smith; and brother, Billy Joe Smith. Clay is survived by sisters brothers, Helen Williams, Linda Collins, Joyce Sheffield, David Smith, William Smith, Fred Smith and Michael Smith as well as several nieces and nephews. The family will receive friends at Mynatt Funeral Home Fountain City Chapel on Sunday, August 19th from 5-7pm. Family and friends will gather at Water Cemetery on Monday, August 20th at 10:45am for an 11am graveside service.

Frances Kilgore Norman

Frances Kilgore Norman, age 83, of Lakeland Florida, formerly of Knoxville, Tennessee passed away on August 12, 2018 at her home in Lakeland Florida. She was of Methodist faith. She was a member of Eastern Star, Mascot Tennessee Order. Frances was a certified nursing assistant. She worked at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and in Home Health Care. She was a loving mother, grandmother, and friend to many.

Dorothy Dean Hatmaker Weaver

Dorothy Dean Hatmaker Weaver, 83, is now with her creator and keeper, Jesus Christ. She died August 13, 2018.
She is survived by her son, Daniel Weaver; sister, Aileen Hatmaker Ruland; nieces, Kim, Tracy, and Renee; a great-nephew and a great-niece.
She is preceded in death by daughter, Candace Weaver Ayers; sister, Barbara Hatmaker Sizemore, and parents.

Thomas "Tommy" Edward Lawless

Thomas Edward Lawless, July 27,1940-August 11, 2018, Thomas (Tommy) Edward Lawless of Maynardville, Tennessee passed away peacefully, Saturday afternoon, surrounded by his loving family at his home on August 11, 2018. Tommy was a graduate of Clinton High School class of 1958. He continued his education at East Tennessee State College and then served in the United States Navy (Vietnam) on a Mine Sweeper as Second Lieutenant for four years. He taught high school math and retired from Frontier High school in Ohio.

Joseph Andrew Weaver

Joseph Andrew Weaver, 62, departed this life to be with his Lord and Savior August 11, 2018. He attended Gospel Light Church of God in Norris, Tennessee. He is preceded in death by father, Charles Weaver; step-father, George Duncan; grandparents, Dora and Jahue Brantley and Pearl Weaver.

Bessie Mae Delozier

Bessie Mae Delozier-age 87 of Luttrell passed away Wednesday morning, August 8, 2018 at North Knoxville Medical Center. The Lord has called. I must go home. I take this time to say goodbye to my family and friends. I was born May 10, 1931 to a pretty little part Indian girl, age 16, Grace Dotson, who married Bill Line. I married at age 16. God gave me 5 wonderful children, 14 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren. I am so blessed with two wonderful step-daughters, three step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter. I leave lots of good friends.

Taniciah Montana Little

Taniciah Montana Little-age 60 of Speedwell was born March 31, 1958 in Middletown, Ohio. She went home to be with the Lord Monday, August 6, 2018. Taniciah was preceded in death by her husband, Larry Little; mother, Lucetta Jane Hodson, father, Pierce Hays; sister Gloria Prater; brother, Perry Hays; nephew, Joey Prater.

Carson Munsey

Carson Munsey-age 82 of Washburn passed away 5:35 A.M. Monday, August 6, 2018 at Ft. Sanders Regional Medical Center following a sudden illness. He was saved at an early age. Retired employee of Star Construction. Preceded in death by parents, James “Bud” and Alma “Dee” Munsey; children, John Munsey, LouAlma Graves; brother, Verlin Munsey.

Mary Ann Reynolds

Mary Ann Reynolds - 79 of Maynardville passed away Friday, August 3, 2018 at Willow Ridge Center. She is preceded in death by husband, Esco Reynolds; sons, David and Jeffrey Reynolds. Mary Ann is survived by granddaughters, MacKenzie and Brianna Reynolds. No services are planned at this time. Trinity Funeral Home, LLC, Maynardville, has the honor to serve the family of Mary Ann Reynolds. 865-992-5002

Andrew J. Brewer

Andrew “Andy” J. Brewer, age 91, passed away on Friday, August 3, 2018. He was a proud member of New Beverly Baptist Church. He is survived by wife Shirley Ann Brewer, son Ronnie Brewer, step-daughter Sheila Picquet, and many other loving family members. Family will receive friends on Wednesday, August 8, 2018 from 6-7 p.m. at New Beverly Baptist Church. A service will follow at 7 p.m. with Reverend Eddie Sawyer and Reverend Mike Vincent officiating. Online condolences may be expressed at

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