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TVA seeking public input on land use

Tennessee Valley Authority wants the community’s say on possible revisions to the 2000 Tellico Reservoir Land Management Plan.

TVA is proposing allocation changes to 16% of land on the reservoir and has prepared an environmental assessment. The plan includes Loudon, Blount and Monroe counties.

Scott Fiedler, TVA spokesman, said 430 acres in Loudon County are impacted.

“TVA uses reservoir land management plans to guide land use approvals, private water use facility permitting and resource management decisions on TVA-managed public land,” Fiedler said in an email correspondence. “The current plan was approved in June of 2000. TVA is proposing to revise the plan to reflect changes in conditions and circumstances as well as the need to respond to new issues. Due to numerous land requests and allocation changes approved since 2000, including sales and acquisitions, an updated plan is warranted. Additionally, TVA continues to work with the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency to carry out its mission under an agreement with TVA. TVA has already been working on this proposed land management plan for approximately two years.

“... We are looking for comments to help guide the planning process,” he added. “Comments can be specific to one parcel, one alternative or to TVA’s overall direction.”

Three alternatives are being reviewed, Fiedler said.

“Under Alternative A, the ‘No Action Alternative,’ TVA would not take any action to amend the 2000 Tellico RLMP for TVA-managed lands on Tellico Reservoir,” he said. “All parcels would continue to be managed under the 2000 RLMP. Under Alternative B, TVA would revise the 2000 Tellico RLMP by reallocating land use zones on 102 parcels affecting 2,075 acres (16.2%) of the 12,787.6 acres of TVA-managed public lands on Tellico Reservoir. Under Alternative B, the proposed lands plan would be updated to become consistent with current lands planning practices and would consider several proposals for recreation development that are supported by the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency and/or local stakeholders.”

Under an Alternative C, TVA would revise the land management plan by reallocating land use of zones on 101 parcels affecting 1,904.5 acres of TVA-managed public lands on the reservoir. Fiedler said the plan would be updated consistent with current planning practices, but proposals would not be considered under this option.

Fiedler said TVA favors Alternative B.

“I think that’s very important because this is a big decision to make for the community, and of course it’s county-wide,” Amber Scott, Lenoir City administrator, said.

TVA invites input on the draft environmental assessment, draft reservoir land management plan and the potential to affect environment or historic properties. The public can see the proposed plan and other information at www.tva.gov/landplanreview through Jan. 15 or by attending a virtual meeting at https://tvavirtual.com/tellico/.

TVA is hosting a webinar at 5 p.m. Tuesday at https://bit.ly/Tellico-Dec. Visit www.tva.gov/landplanreview for registration. A recording of the webinar will be available.

“I think is a good time for anyone to go on the TVA website and study what they think is best and to voice their opinion accordingly,” Clayton Pangle, Lenoir City Committee of 100 spokesman, said.

Comments can be submitted through Jan. 15 to Lesley Webb, TVA senior policy and project management specialist, at 2835-A East Wood St., Paris, TN 38242, or by emailing landplans@tva.gov. Due to COVID-19, TVA recommends submitting comments electronically for timely review. All comments received, including names and addresses, will become part of the administrative record and available for public inspection.

“The information generated during public scoping will be compiled and analyzed,” Fiedler said. “Revisions to the proposed allocations may be considered or a different alternative may be chosen based on public input. ... Once the public comment period has been completed, comments will be analyzed and incorporated into the environmental assessment and Tellico Reservoir Land Management to the extent possible. At that point the documents will enter a final management review and approval phase. The environmental assessment will be finalized before the Tellico Reservoir Land Management Plan can be submitted for TVA executive approval.”

TVA hopes to have the plan finalized either late summer or early fall in 2022, Fiedler said.


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Downtowns enjoy holiday shopping
  • Updated

Lenoir City and Loudon downtown stores bustled with activity over the weekend for the start of holiday shopping.

Customer traffic has been “much stronger” this year over 2020, with October’s gain in sales about 30%, Mary Bright, Sparkly Pig co-owner and president of the Lenoir City Historic Downtown Merchants Association, said.

“We are tracking to be 30%-40% better in November,” Bright said. “The holiday season is much stronger and I feel like one reason is that consumers are shopping for Christmas gifts much earlier this year. While the big box stores are always going to run big sales, our customers aren’t looking for off-priced items.”

Bright credits events and a broad-based advertising push for bringing more awareness about downtown.

“Once people see how the downtown looks and sees the various shops, they come downtown and shop and they are bringing friends and families with them,” Bright said. “People are feeling more comfortable to leave their homes since they are vaccinated against COVID and that is making a difference this year. Overall there are several factors in our sales increases and I think a big one is the level of customer service that we give. When you come into our shops, you are greeted and offered assistance. That’s not necessarily the case in big box stores.

“We take the time to talk with customers and give them suggestions,” she added. “It’s been a lot of fun finding out where people are from. Many of the folks we chat with are moving here or have moved here recently from California, Illinois, New York, Florida and other states.”

A few doors down Broadway, Honey Blossom Boutique was slammed helping customers.

“Two hours into it it has been steady business,” Scott Gordy, husband of Honey Blossom owner Angie Gordy, said. “People are coming in and it seems like most everybody that has come in has been buying something.”

He estimated holiday business has already been 30% better than 2020.

“I think holiday shopping, it’s a lot like it was last year,” Scott said. “There does seem to be a little more traffic. As far as Black Friday yesterday, we did what we did last year. We’re expecting to do a little better Small Business Saturday — always a little bit better for us than Black Friday. Most people they go hit the Walmarts and everything else for Black Friday, but they tend to come in here and shop downtown more on Small Business Saturday.”

The Lacy General Store experienced solid customer traffic.

“The sales have been very good,” Emma Taylor, The Lacy employee, said. “There’s been a lot of foot traffic, too. People seem to be in a very buying mood.”

Greer’s Home Furnishing in downtown Loudon had numerous customers interested in furniture and mattresses.

“Our Thanksgiving holiday has been tremendous,” Bo Carey, Greer’s owner, said. “We had a very good day last year the day after Thanksgiving and this year we exceeded it by probably 15% on yesterday, on Friday. Today we’re off to an excellent start. ... We have more product in stock this year and that’s allowing us to let people take it with them today.”

Carey didn’t have much time to sit down.

He credited advertising through the newspaper and a focus on digital ads, which may have played a role in bringing customers from Knox, McMinn, Blount and Hamiton counties.

“We’re blessed,” Carey said. “We’re so happy that people are giving us the opportunity and we’re trying to deliver on that. I’m 69 years old and I’ve never worked this hard in my life that I have six days a week Monday through Saturday but it’s going well. ... It’s been a tremendous month. Whereas September and October were modest, I don’t know why but this November I attribute a lot to we’ve just had product in stock. I think this county overall, not just Tellico Village growth, I think this county is in pretty good shape financially. When people come in very few seem to want financing, they pay with a credit card or cash. I think the county is a very good place financially just throughout the county with the jobs that are available, with people that are moving here from out of state.

“... In November the people that we’ve been talking to seem to have money in their pockets,” he added. “I don’t know that it’s holiday shopping. People are buying mattresses for themselves to sleep on, it’s not a gift.”

Carey also said Shoppes on the Square, which he owns, has seen big gains so far this year.

“They’re having the biggest year they’ve ever had,” he said. “They’ve got better vendors now, they’ve got nicer stuff than they had a year ago, and they’re having the best year in their seven-year history. They’ve really upgraded the product selection and every booth is full. They’ve got a waiting list for people to get a booth, so they’re doing a good job.”


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COVID-19 not going away
  • Updated

With the holiday season here, health experts are urging caution as positive COVID-19 cases pop up around Loudon County.

As of Monday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 92 positive local cases, which is much lower than last year’s 266 positive cases in late November.

“The county numbers reflect similar decreases to what we’re seeing in other areas,” Dr. Mark Browne, Covenant Health chief medical officer, said in an email correspondence.

Teresa Harrill, Loudon County Health Department director, takes that as a small positive compared to other counties in the state, including Blount at 278, Knox with 789 and Roane at 129.

The risk of spreading the virus remains.

“More gatherings with families,” Harrill said. “I mean, I’ll be honest, when you look at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, you don’t see a lot of masks. I say have their guard down, but feel like, ‘Oh, it’s not a problem anymore,’ when you get into the more intimate gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas. We don’t know if there will be the possibility of another variant. I mean right now it’s been the Delta variant, which has been so much more contagious than the Alpha that we dealt with last year, so who’s to say this is just going to be normal part of life. And in comparison, yes, kind of like the flu.

“Some years we get a flu shot and they say, ‘Well, I got the flu anyway’,” she added. “Actually, maybe the flu shot was designed for certain strand and then the strand the person got wasn’t it. ... I hear so many times people say, ‘I got vaccinated,’ then they got COVID anyway, but most of them are not going into the hospital going on a vent. There have been lots of break-through cases.”

The health department continues to offer COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, which Harrill said overall has had a “steady flow” of takers.

“Some days we may have 10 or 12, next day we don’t have five or six,” Harrill said. “For us, we started out with Moderna and then we switched to Pfizer because being able to give to kids. A lot of those beginning folks that got Moderna like myself will have to go somewhere else to get the booster shot, if they want to stay with the same series.”

Testing has decreased “significantly” more recently. Harrill said that could be because the health department offers self-tests.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention early last month recommended a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 years old. So far, Harrill said that hasn’t stuck in the county.

For the week of Nov. 22-28, seven shots for kids ages 5-18 had been reported through the Tennessee Immunization Information System. The total number of shots given is 332.

Harrill said that’s a personal choice for families.

“And we’re right along with every other county,” she said. “There’s just not a lot of parents taking advantage of that. ... I’ll be honest, the school numbers are much, much better.”

Mike Garren, Loudon County director of schools, reported seven positives for Nov. 15-19 and fewer than five positives for Nov. 22-26 within the county district’s nine schools.

“We have been averaging a 93% attendance rate, which is 3%-5% better than the last couple of years,” Garren said in an email correspondence. “... We have been fortunate to have a small number of cases within the schools. The schools are typically a reflection of the community and I believe the safety protocols we have in place like the air purifiers and increased disinfecting have proven to mitigate the spread within our schools.”

{p class=”p1”}Jeanne Barker, Lenoir City director of schools, said city schools had a couple of positive cases Nov. 22-26.

“We are seeing very few cases of COVID currently,” Barker said in an email correspondence. “We have only (two) cases district-wide out of nearly 3,000 students and employees. Likewise, we saw only a handful of flu cases before Thanksgiving. That is our current state of health in the district. I don’t know what may happen as we move into the winter months.”

{p class=”p1”}Dr. Bud Guider, a local retired pediatrician, has been a staunch supporter of vaccines.

“Mitigating measures are very important and have been shown to be effective, however vaccines are the single most important action we can take to combat this pandemic,” Guider said. “They are safe and extremely effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death. Over 90% of hospitalizations and deaths are in the unvaccinated. That should be proof enough to convince us all to get the vaccine and booster if eligible. There is way too much misinformation circulating regarding these vaccines. The safety profile is excellent. Are they perfect? No. However, any side effect that one might get is generally not nearly as severe as the same side effect from the illness itself.

“... The holiday season exposes us more to both these viruses,” he added. “Large gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, plus New Year celebrations, coupled with more people gathering indoors because of the weather are scenarios that clearly place people in situations of exposure.”

Harrill said the state anticipates a possible surge, but she hopes the prediction is wrong.

“There is a concern because of people being comfortable, wanting to do Christmas and Thanksgiving that we didn’t get to do last year, and people wanting to go to the festivals and ball games,” Harrill said. “People are tired, I mean they’re over it. Heck, we are, too. I just think if they remember everything that they did last year at this time then I think we’ll be in good shape. Hopefully people will, but won’t be lax about it.”

Browne said if another surge does come, Covenant Health, which includes Fort Loudoun Medical Center, will be ready.

If someone feels sick, he recommends they stay away from others until symptoms are gone.

“Vaccination against COVID and flu are readily available throughout the community and are one of the best forms of protection we have against severe illness, hospitalization and death from these diseases,” Browne said. “Of course, the simple acts of hand washing, covering your mouth and nose when you cough, and cleaning well after family gatherings have always been and continue to be important in limiting the spread of flu and COVID.”


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Flu could ramp up locally

As colder months drive residents inside, flu cases could rise locally.

Reported cases across Tennessee through the week ending Nov. 13 were “minimal,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but neighboring Georgia is already experiencing a spike.

Flu season typically runs October-May.

“Flu season here in East Tennessee is quite variable, but usually ramps up later in the year, and occasionally lasts into the spring,” Dr. Mark Browne, Covenant Health chief medical officer, said in an email correspondence. “We are seeing some flu in the community ... (and) we are always prepared to care for those who may need hospital care for the flu.”

The 2020-21 season left health professionals relieved cases were at an all-time low.

Teresa Harrill, Loudon County Health Department director, hopes that carries over to this year at least in part due to safe practices associated with COVID-19.

“We’re very hopeful that it will continue to be low numbers with the flu,” Harrill said. “I think last year would be attributed to everybody just really being safe. I mean, the hand washing, the masks and all that, we hope that continues. Now we don’t per se diagnose flu here by any means because we’re not a primary care, but I have heard a few cases. But we hope that it will be relatively low just because people have in the back of their heads about COVID that they’re going to get a flu shot.”

She trusts local residents will remain diligent.

“I think people need to be very aware of continuing to do what they were doing with last year as far as COVID because by washing hands, wearing a mask and keeping distance, making sure just about wiping down the surfaces,” Harrill said. “As things have kind of eased up, I think people have gotten a little comfortable in the sense of, ‘Oh, we don’t have to worry about this.’ Yeah, we do. We’ve got to worry about COVID, we’ve got to worry about flu, we’ve got to worry about just in general about germs. I think people just need to be very diligent about their surroundings and what they’re doing because we know it made a difference last year.”

The health department gave flu shots to 26 students and 31 adult family members during a “Fight the Flu” drive-through format Nov. 9 at Loudon County Technology Center. Fight the Flu was part of a statewide push.

“Loudon County’s went very well,” Tracey Andel, health department nursing supervisor, said. “I believe our regional director was saying it went very well for the whole region, too.”

The number of shots given through the health department has been low, which Harrill attributes to saturation of the market with free shots.

“It’s almost like, to be honest with you, the time we start rolling out our flu campaign, Walgreen’s and CVS and everybody’s (offering),” Harrill said. “As long as they’re getting it.”

Dr. Bud Guider, a retired local pediatrician, said he believes flu may see an uptake as residents get lax in safe practices.

“I strongly recommend everyone over six months of age — unless they have a medical contraindication — to get a flu shot,” Guider said in an email correspondence. “Maybe more important than ever because COVID is certainly still around — actually on the rise locally and in many places nationally — and a winter with two serious viruses could be overwhelming in many ways.”


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