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Sales tax referendum fails by more than 3,000 votes

The sales tax referendum failed to gain majority support during the Aug. 7 state primary and general election Thursday night.

The results of the election were delayed due to the Monroe County Election Commission having to remove votes from Sweetwater involving the sales tax referendum.

Sweetwater was ineligible to contribute votes for the referendum due to the city already operating at the maximum sales tax limit.

A total of 185 votes were removed in favor of the tax and 707 votes were removed against the referendum, resulting in 1,757 votes in favor and 4,839 votes against.

Continuing on the local level, several positions for the School Board were also open during this election. Two incumbents were unseated in the election and will finish out their last few weeks as a board member.

Incumbent Donald E. Weiss maintained his seat in the 1st District School Board race, receiving 1,114 votes in comparison to Viola Marlene Prater’s 676 votes.

Newcomers Lon Shoopman and Mark B. Ingram defeated their opponents for 2nd District School Board seats, with 1,804 votes and 1,533 votes respectively. Incumbent Jason Miller obtained 1,383 votes, and Curtis C. Dush acquired 217.

Victors for the 3rd District School Board seats were Freddie Kelley with 1,322 votes and incumbent Sharon M. Freeman with 1,217 votes. Opponents Robert S. Hooper received 1,171 votes, and incumbent Sonya Martin Lynn acquired 792 votes.

Two seats were available for 1st District County Commission with incumbent Adam Reynolds defeating his opponent Cotton Upton for one seat by 709 votes. Reynolds obtained 1,296 votes and Upton received 506 total votes.

Luke Bright won the second 1st District County Commission seat with 1,272 votes against his opponent Pat King, who received 493 votes.

Those who ran unopposed during the election consisted of: Marsha A. Raper, who received 6,836 votes for assessor of property; Derek Sircy, who acquired 2,413 votes for 2nd District Constable Unexpired Term; Lowell Russell, who received 3,695 votes for Tennessee House of Representatives District 21; and Mark Cochran who received 2,167 votes for Tennessee House of Representatives District 23.

Voters also selected to keep Court of Appeals Judge — Western Division Carma Dennis McGee with 4,018 votes to retain and 2,241 votes to replace.

Two Monroe residents injured in dock explosion in Roane County

Two Monroe County residents were reportedly injured during an explosion at a dock over the weekend.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) officers responded to a call around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 8 on Watts Bar Lake at Blue Springs Marina in Roane County.

According to the TWRA, multiple wildlife officers, UT LifeStar, Roane EMS, multiple Roane County fire units, Volunteer Energy Cooperative and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agents responded after several reports of small explosions on moored vessels at the marina.

A married couple from Monroe County reportedly sustained serious injuries when an explosion occurred in their engine hatch. Both were flown by helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.

The dock withstood significant damage and six vessels sustained damage, two of which sunk.

Arriving wildlife officers went boat to boat at the end of the dock to confirm all people were accounted for and ensure public safety, according to TWRA. Volunteer Electric assisted with cutting power to the marina.

The incident remains under investigation.

MCFA seeking foster homes for animals at the shelter

The Monroe County Friends of Animals (MCFA) is looking for citizens to become “foster parents” for animals.

The foster program allows people to temporarily house an animal while the animals wait to be adopted into a permanent home.

“We do this for a couple of reasons, but mostly for socialization and it also makes room at the shelter,” said Foster Director Cathy Barrett. “If we can get animals out it is a plus for the shelter and the animal as well.”

The program started back in 2004 due to MCFA transferring animals to other states to help their chances of adoption.

Barrett stated the program surfaced as a need from some of the other shelters requiring the animals to have previously been in a foster home.

Most foster animals are expected to remain with the foster owner for a few weeks, however puppies and kittens may stay longer.

“For the most part it is only two weeks so it is flexible for people who want to do it once in a while,” Barrett said.

MCFA also has another program called Second Chance Pals for older dogs and cats to be fostered, however the animals in that program are expected to stay with a foster owner for a longer period of time.

The foster program is beneficial to puppies and kittens due to the amount of health issues a shelter could impose on the animal, according to Barrett.

Expenses for the foster animal will be provided by MCFA.

“The shelter provides everything that you need,” noted Barrett. “Food, medicine and we also have a vet at the shelter that shows up once a week that you can take the animal to. We can also authorize the use of a different vet in the event of an emergency.”

She stated that being a foster owner can be “really fun.”

“The fact that you are helping an animal is rewarding and you are giving them a chance to get happy,” said Barrett. “The shelter is not a very good environment for an animal, so it is just nice to get them out of there and let them be what they are.”

Those interested in becoming foster owners can apply from the MCFA website at monroecountyfriendsofani

“Right now we need kitten fosters desperately,” said Barrett. “It is currently kitten season ... this is difficult to do this at first because you get very attached and it is hard to say goodbye but every single animal has a happy ending.”

Unemployment continues to fall as local economy continues to reopen

The downward trend in the unemployment rate continued in June for Monroe County after a large spike earlier this year due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.

According to the State of Tennessee, the June unemployment rate in Monroe County decreased from 12.4% to 9.9%.

In June of 2019, the rate in Monroe was 4.4%.

According to State of Tennessee Statistical Analyst Patrick Todd, the improvement in the rate was “about what was expected.”

“We kind of peaked the assumptions that there would be improvement going forward for the most part,” said Todd.

The labor force was a particular area of interest for Todd within the June rates.

“The labor force sort of went down,” Todd noted. “That could have to do with the rate now, but it is not necessarily a good thing if people are dropping out of the labor force, so things now may not paint the perfect picture.”

A drop in the labor force means that people have, for one reason or another, stopped seeking employment without being hired.

According to Todd, people tend to drop out of the labor force after being unemployed for “a long time.”

Looking ahead, Todd expects to continue to see the rate decrease.

“Unless things start to close down again I think we can expect what we have been seeing,” Todd stated. “However, if some businesses that have reopened are not making enough money we may see them close again and that will affect the rate, but that all remains to be seen.”

Another thing that caught his attention was that the number of government employees were down, however he believes that it may have to do with schools having been out of session.

“Everything is still elevated, which will probably be the case for a while but it seems that we are trending in the right direction,” said Todd. “We just hope that continues.”

According to the State of Tennessee, the national unemployment rate in June was 11.2% which was a 1.8% decrease from May’s rate.

Tennessee’s June rate was 10.1%, which is a 0.6% decrease from the previous rate of 10.7% in May.

Around the area in June, the rate decreased by 0.5% in Blount County to 9.3%, dropped 0.7% in Loudon County to 8.7%, fell 1.5% in McMinn County to 11.4%, and decreased 1.2% in Polk County to 9.5%.