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Mayor’s Saturday coronavirus update

The HD has given me the advice to reopen the old courthouse. But as a continued precaution, those offices will remain closed until Wednesday. Please remember that even though the offices will soon be open, most of the services they provide can be done through the mail, phone calls or email.

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Mayor’s update on coronavirus status in Scott County

**Update II: Courthouse to reopen Wednesday, March 25**
**Update: Scott County has confirmed its first case of coronavirus**

From Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals:

Unless you have been on vacation in the woods without any digital contact with the world, I am sure you are all aware of the COVID-19 Pandemic aka the Coronavirus. Below is the situation as best to my knowledge.

Over the past three to four weeks I have been given numerous updates through various means. i.e. Conference calls, emails and community meetings (with school directors, the Scott County Emergency Management Association, the SC Health Department and the Sheriff) . Today I was on yet another conference call with Governor Bill Lee to get the latest advice and recommendations on policy changes and recommendations that the State of Tennessee is giving all Mayors, County Executives and Municipal Mayors.  Before I get into that discussion, I would like to go over what is happening here at the local level.

All schools are closed including Scott County and Oneida Schools until at least April 1, 2020 per mandate of the Governor.

As of this writing, there are NO cases of the virus in Scott County. Of course, this can quickly change as more test kits become available.

The Scott County Health Department in conjunction with the State HD is prepared if an outbreak were to occur. 

Scott County Government is open for business as usual, but with procedural changes. These changes are in place to protect not only the staff, but the citizens that use county services. These changes include policies that promote social distancing by establishing separation of clients and staff. What this means is that we are asking citizens to call the office where they need to services ahead of time to receive direction on how the service can be provided by using the USPS, available online services for that office or using email to make requests. We are also making structural changes to keep the desired separation.

The Scott County Jail is operating in a manner to prevent the virus from entering the jail system. No inmates are leaving the facility that would normally be assisting road crews, litter crews, recycle crews or other work programs.

The Justice Center Court System is now operating under a very restrictive policy on trials and regular cases to prevent close proximity situations.

All of the buildings in the realm of Scott County Government are continuously being cleaned and sterilized.

The UT Ag Extension office is open, but with limited staffing.

The Public Defender’s Office is closed, but is continuously checking messages of clients calling 833-857-2014. 

Other office numbers to call before coming to the County Offices are …

Assessor of Property 423-663-2420

Circuit Court Clerk 423-663-2440

Clerk and Master 423-663-2627

County Clerk 423-663-2588

County Mayor 423-663-2000

Register of Deeds 423-663-2417

Trustee 423-663-2598

Veterans Service Officer 423-663-4289

Back to the Governor’s conference call… The Governor is making changes to assist individuals that have been laid off or let go due to the virus. Unemployment checks will now be expedited to assist families that may be experiencing financial strain due to job disruption. He is also extending unemployment benefits for those employees who suddenly find themselves out of work as businesses temporarily cease operations during the pandemic.

He is also expanding funds available through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This will be available within a week through DHS. It allows cash funds up to $1,000 for a family of 5 or more that has had a job loss as a result of COVID-19.

Governor Lee is also doing what he feels is necessary to keep child care facilities open during the pandemic by increasing emergency response and recovery grants by $10 million.

Governor Lee has made orders to increase the number of test kits and ventilators for healthcare facilities in Tennessee.

The one thing the Governor stressed was that the government alone cannot ‘fix’ this pandemic. He asks that communities come together and do what they can to protect the most vulnerable of the population. He feels that doing all we can do for the elderly by helping them with grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions… Just whatever it takes to keep the elderly from becoming exposed to this virus.

He stressed that restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, churches, etc…should make provisions to prevent crowds of 10 or more from gathering in their facilities. He mentioned that these provisions are voluntary at this point. 

In closing, the Governor asked for everyone to pray for the citizens of the great State of Tennessee.

Keep on washing those hands Scott County. Keep personal space at six feet minimum. Avoid large crowds. Assist your neighbors. Together we can beat this thing.

Mayor Tibbals named to governor’s health task force

Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals (second from right) greets Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee during Gov. Lee’s July 2019 stop by the Scott County Justice Center in Huntsville. Also pictured are, from left to right: Huntsville Mayor J. Dennis Jeffers, Oneida Mayor Jack E. Lay, and State Sen. Ken Yager. (Photo: Sarah Dunlap)

HUNTSVILLE — Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals is among 15 people from across the state named to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s Health Care Modernization Task Force, it was announced last week.

Finance & Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced the appointments on October 8, saying that the task force will host public discussions with a goal of providing options for consideration to address the state’s major health care issues.

McWhorter will co-chair the task force with Bill Carpenter, former chairman and CEO of LifePoint Health, a Brentwood company that operates  several hospitals throughout the state.

Also on the task force are eight lawmakers, including Ferrell Haile, Bo Watson, Paul Bailey, Raumesh Akbari, Pat Marsh, Robin Smith, Ron Travis and John DeBerry Jr.

Lee said the idea is to improve health care in the Volunteer State.

“Working together, with patients, providers and payers, we can establish Tennessee as a world-class health care market for our people,” the governor said. 

Specifically, the task force will focus on improving the lives of Tennesseans who lack access to quality health care.

“Based on discussions with Tennesseans, the largest health care issue across the state is access — and that takes many forms, from a lack of health care providers to lack of transportation,” McWhorter said. “Our hope is that Tennesseans will come together around the task force to discuss potential solutions to immediate problems as well as long-term issues.”

In addition to McWhorter, Carpenter and the group of lawmakers on the task force, the remaining 15 members are something of a who’s who in Tennessee’s health care industry. Tibbals stands out because he is the only county or municipal elected official on the task force.

Other members include Dr. Mike Carrigan of Premier Medical Group, Dr. James Bailey of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center; Dr. Brian DeBusk of Lincoln Memorial University; Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College; Melanie Keller, CEO of Meritan Inc.; Mary Kiger, executive director of the Tennessee Charitable Care Network; Kathie Krause, chief nursing officer at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital; Shantelle Leatherwood, CEO of Christ Community Health Services; Alan Levine, president and CEO of Ballad Health; family physician Dr. Jim King; Kim Parker of Pathways Behavioral Health Services; Dr. Michael Ugwueke, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Dr. Andrea Willis, chief medical officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee; and Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health.

While Tibbals is alone on the task force in his status as an elected county official without direct ties to the health care industry, he has insight on the struggles of rural hospitals after overseeing negotiations between Scott County and potential suitors to operate the community’s hospital after St. Mary’s exited its contract with the county during Tibbals’ first term as mayor. Ultimately, the county sold the hospital to Pioneer Health Services of Magee, Miss. That company later declared bankruptcy, and the local hospital was sold to Florida-based diagnostics firm Rennova Health, which has since purchased the hospitals in Jamestown and Jellico.

Tibbals has also been vocal about the health care concerns of rural Tennessee, including at the governor’s Rural Summit earlier this year. His sister, Tracey Stansberry, of Tennessee Plateau Oncology, penned a recent op-ed in The Tennessean newspaper, imploring the state to take action to help save rural hospitals.

As a county mayor in one of the state’s most rural counties, and also one where access to health care is an issue, Tibbals will likely be well positioned to provide feedback on the governor’s proposals for rural health care using first-hand experience that his colleagues on the task force aren’t able to provide.

Scott County files lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

Mark Chalos, Managing Partner of the Nashville office of the national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, and Jonathan Taylor of Taylor & Knight, GP, announce that Scott County, Tennessee, has filed a lawsuit against prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors to recover taxpayer money spent combatting the opioid epidemic wreaking havoc on the Scott County community. The complaint, which was filed in Tennessee federal court, alleges that the named opioid drug manufacturers and distributors and their agents deliberately and repeatedly violated state and federal laws by widely and falsely promoting highly addictive opioids as safe and necessary, all the while concealing the true risks of the drugs.

The complaint also alleges that defendants conspired to manufacture and distribute millions of doses of highly addictive opioids, knowing that they were being trafficked and used for illicit purposes, and recklessly disregarded their devastating effect on the taxpayers and government of Scott County. As a result of the manufacturers’ and distributers’ conduct, Scott County taxpayers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the opioid crisis and to address the devastating effects on their community.

“Tax payers in Tennessee have paid more than their fair share to fight the opioids catastrophe created by the multi-billion dollar opioids industry; it’s time the industry paid its fair share,” stated Chalos. “Seeking to hold wrongdoers accountable in federal court is the most effective way to make sure that Scott County has a seat at the table for the discussion about recovering tax payer money and finding long-term solutions to the opioids crisis,” Chalos said.

Mayor Dale Perdue said, “Like so many other cities and communities across the country, the opioid epidemic has been devastating on Scott County. I am hopeful that this lawsuit will allow us to recover the public funds that we have been forced to spend to combat the problems that the opioid manufacturers and distributors are responsible for in our community.”

The named Defendants include Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Noramco Inc., Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, and additional affiliated businesses and entities.

Jonathan Taylor of Taylor & Knight, stated, “The time has come for the manufacturers and distributors of these pernicious opioid pills to face full responsibility for their destructive and predatory conduct. Their actions — and their knowing inactions — have destroyed lives and families across all of Scott County and indeed, across the entirety of the U.S.”

Scott County, TN

Formed in 1849, Scott County has a long history of contributions to America. The County is best known for having seceded from Tennessee in protest of the State’s decision to join the Confederacy during the Civil War, and subsequently forming the Free and Independent State of Scott in 1861. The late Senator Howard Baker, Jr. (1925-2014) is Scott County’s most famous citizen. Known as the “Great Conciliator” in Washington D.C., Senator Baker was the first Republican Senator from Tennessee since Reconstruction, and became the standard-bearer for moderate Republicans. Today, Scott County finds itself at the center of an endless battle to protect all its residents, including its next generation of leaders and citizens, from the opioid epidemic that is taking a daily, deadly toll in Scott County, and counties across the nation.

Opioid Addictions Have Created a Swath of Destruction Across Scott County

As alleged in the Complaint:

Opioids are estimated to kill upwards of 100 Americans per day, and cost health services providers billions of dollars per year both in payments for unnecessary and harmful prescriptions of the drugs themselves and the costs of treating the diseases and injuries they cause. Accidental drug overdose deaths, of which at least two-thirds are opioid-related overdoses, are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. Accidental drug overdose deaths, predominantly from opioids, exceed the number of deaths caused by car wrecks or guns. The economic burden caused by opioid abuse in the United States is approximately $78.5 billion, including lost productivity and increased social services, health insurance costs, increased criminal justice presence and strain on judicial resources, and substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation. Opioid manufacturing and distributing companies systematically and repeatedly disregarded the health and safety of their customers and the public. Charged by law to monitor and report dangerous behavior, they failed to do so in favor of maximizing corporate profits and increasing their market share.

The Complaint further alleges that no medical breakthrough or newly-discovered treatment path justified Defendants’ overweening prescription of opioids for chronic pain, but rather that their inflated marketing and sales goals opened the floodgates for expanded opioid use and rampant abuse. “Defendants falsely and misleadingly, and contrary to the language of their drugs’ labels: (1) downplayed the serious risk of addiction; (2) promoted the concept of “pseudoaddiction” and thus advocated that the signs of addiction should be treated with more opioids; (3) exaggerated the effectiveness of screening tools in preventing addiction; (4) claimed that opioid dependence and withdrawal are easily managed; (5) denied the risks of higher opioid dosages; and (6) exaggerated the effectiveness of “abuse-deterrent” opioid formulations to prevent abuse and addiction. Conversely, Defendants also falsely touted the benefits of long-term opioid use, including the supposed ability of opioids to improve function and quality of life, even though there was no good scientific evidence to support Defendants’ claims.”

Relief Sought in Scott County’s Opioids Lawsuit

Scott County alleges claims for racketeering, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, public nuisance, negligence, and unjust enrichment, and seeks all legal and equitable relief as allowed by law under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) and Tennessee statutory and common law. The Complaint seeks repayment of costs associated with the opioid epidemic in Scott County, including actual damages, treble damages, equitable relief, forfeiture as deemed proper by the Court, attorney’s fees and all costs and expenses of suit and pre- and post-judgment interest.

About Lieff Cabraser

Recognized as “one of the nation’s premier plaintiffs’ firms” by The American Lawyer and as a “Plaintiffs’ Powerhouse” by Law360, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP is a 70-plus attorney law firm with offices in San Francisco, New York, Nashville, and Seattle. Lieff Cabraser has filed similar cases on behalf of Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (Nashville) and Smith County, Tennessee, and represents other counties and cities within Tennessee and outside of Tennessee in opioids-related litigation. Our firm has successfully represented tens of thousands of injured individuals in complex and mass tort litigation, and thousands of patients across America in individual lawsuits over the injuries they suffered from defective prescription drugs. Five times in the last seven years, U.S. News and Best Lawyershave named Lieff Cabraser as their “Law Firm of the Year” for representing plaintiffs in class actions and mass torts.

About Taylor & Knight

Recognized as one of the “Best Law Firms in Tennessee” by the U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers, Taylor & Knight, GP is a comprehensive litigation firm based in Knoxville, Tennessee that concentrates on trial and appellate practice in state and federal court, as well as administrative and mediation proceedings. A substantial portion of Taylor & Knight’s practice is devoted to representing governmental entities such as counties, municipalities, school districts, sheriff’s departments, emergency medical services, and utility districts as well as those entities’ employees, managers, controlling boards, bodies and officials in all areas of governmental liability across East Tennessee. More specifically, Taylor & Knight has had the distinct privilege and honor of successfully defending Scott County, Tennessee and its employees and elected officials in a number of important lawsuits in state and federal courts over the last decade.

ID Board, Chamber of Commerce to purchase water bottle filling stations for schools

HUNTSVILLE, Tenn. (July 12, 2017) — A water bottle filling station is being purchased for each of Scott County’s nine schools, as well as the Boys & Girls Club of the Cumberland Plateau, the Industrial Development Board of Scott County and the Scott County Chamber of Commerce announced today.

The purchases are being funded by grant money through the Tennessee Three Star Community program, which will also be used to purchase each student in Scott County a reusable water bottle.

“This is an exciting step forward for our schools,” said Stacey Swann, executive director of the ID Board. “Any time the IDB and the Chamber of Commerce can partner with our schools to help make improvements for our community’s students, it’s a great day.”

Swann heralded the teamwork at the municipal level that helped make the Three Star grant application successful. She credited Scott County Mayor Dale Purdue, Huntsville Mayor Dennis Jeffers, Oneida Mayor Jack E. Lay and Winfield Mayor David Cecil for their cooperation throughout the grant process. The IDB and the Chamber of Commerce were tasked with completing the extensive legwork required for Scott County to receive recertification as a Three Star community.

“The guidelines for the grant funding that accompanies the Three Star certification changed this year, and the traditional things that money could be spent on were no longer an option,” Swann said. “We put our heads together to come up with a project that would benefit the youth of Scott County and meet the state’s guidelines, and this is what we came up with.”

Water bottle filling stations have become a must-have in public schools in recent years, but tight budgets prevent many schools from making those purchases. Two years ago, parents teamed up to raise funding for a filling station at one local school, but most local schools remain without the filling stations.

Benefits of the water bottle filling stations include providing free water for students whose parents cannot afford to supply them with bottled water, reducing the amount of plastic bottles that are disposed of in landfills and reducing sickness in schools. Traditional water fountains are germ magnets, with the mouths of dozens or even hundreds of students coming into contact with the same metal surface in a single day.

“There is a lot of focus on healthy living right now, both in Tennessee and across the nation,” Swann said. “One key component of healthy living is staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. It’s exciting that we can offer our students a stylish and free way to refill their water bottles, which will hopefully encourage them to drink more water and fewer sugary drinks.”

Tennessee’s Three Star program requires successful communities to develop and implement strategic plans that focus on five areas: jobs and economic development, fiscal strength and efficient government, public safety, education and workforce development, and health and welfare. The program is administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development.

Free home repairs available

Appalachia Service Project (ASP) is a Christian ministry open to all people, that inspires hope and service through volunteer home repair in Central Appalachia. ASP will repair homes free of charge again this summer for Scott County families in need. Using volunteer labor and the leadership of summer staff, ASP hopes to work for 12 or more families in the area- so take action to apply now.

Appalachia Service Project will be working actively in Scott County from mid-June through late July. All applications submitted throughout the year will be evaluated by ASP Staff, and candidates will selected based on scale of the projects, skill level needed from volunteers, ASP’s budget, and safety of the work site. Types of projects include porches, wheelchair ramps, foundations, insulation, roof replacement or repair, weatherization, new doors, and more. The goal of the ASP summer program is to help make homes warmer, safer, and drier across 30 counties in Central Appalachia.

The Home Repair application can be found online at asphome.org/apply, and can also be found and left at the following locations for Scott County residents: Morgan Scott Project, 1022 Old Deer Lodge Pike, Deer Lodge; and Appalachian Ministry Center, 24728 Scott Highway, Winfield.

You can also request an application by calling ASP Headquarters at (423) 854-8800, and send it to Appalachia Service Project, 4523 Bristol Highway, Johnson City, TN 37601.

To be considered for this summer’s ASP Home Repair Program, residents must complete the application and return it by June 1 to any of the above locations.  After June 1st, applications should be returned to the ASP staff at Winfield Elementary School.

Since its founding in 1969, ASP has repaired more than 16,693 homes throughout Central Appalachian Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia through the hard work of more than 358,216 volunteers from across the nation.

Spring Planting Festival is Saturday

ONEIDA, Tenn. — Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area will be hosting the 17th annual Spring Planting and Music Festival on Saturday, April 29, near the Bandy Creek Visitor Center.  The festival celebrates the coming of spring and the Appalachian way of life that has been such an important part of the history of the Big South Fork area.

The plowing and planting with mule and horse teams, which take place in a field adjacent to a carefully preserved Upper Cumberland farmstead, is one of the primary focal points of the event.  At the same farmstead, the public will have the opportunity to gain new insights into gardening and get their hands dirty as they learn to plant a range of garden vegetables.  Visitors will also have the chance to experience close at hand forgotten arts such as blacksmithing, horseshoe making, split rail fencing, quilting, embroidery, marble making, woodworking, farmstead skills and trapping.

Toe-tapping mountain music will be performed throughout the event area by an array of skilled musicians, and the main stage will feature nonstop music from some of the region’s most gifted musical talents.  The young and young at heart will have the opportunity to play with a wide variety of old fashioned toys.  Park staff and volunteers will also be providing a variety of programs that celebrate the coming of spring, including a guided bird walk at 8:00 a.m. (ET), programs on owls and hawks, and a guided wildflower hike at Leatherwood Ford at 11:00 a.m.  In cooperation with the Knoxville Track Club, the park will be hosting a Kids Fun Run at 9 a.m., and the Oscar Blevins four mile and seven mile Trail Runs at 10:00 a.m. to help visitors actively participate in this season when the world is full of movement (sign up at https://runsignup.com).  Visitors are encouraged to join park staff and volunteers in a celebration of spring and of the self-reliant way of life that has been a crucial component of this region’s history and culture.

» Continue reading at DiscoverScott.com…

County-wide clean-up set for Saturday

HUNTSVILLE, Tenn. — The annual Vivian Smith Scott County Looks Good To Me county-wide clean-up will be held Saturday, April 22, 2017.

The event begins with registration at 9 a.m. and continues until 12 p.m. Residents are urged to get involved and spend the morning cleaning up a road of their choice within their community.

There will be several registration locations throughout Scott County, each of which will be manned by county commissioners. In the 1st District, the registration location will be Fairview School. In the 2nd District, the registration location will be Robbins School. In the 3rd District, the registration location will be the Scott County Office Building. In the 4th District, the registration location will be Helenwood Baptist Church. In the 5th District, the registration locations will be Pine Hill Community Center and Winfield City Hall. In the 6th District, the registration location will be Oneida High School. And, in the 7th District, the registration location will be Burchfield School.

A community cookout will follow the clean-up, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Scott County Office Building in Huntsville. The cookout is free and prizes will be awarded.

The county-wide clean-up is a collaborative effort of the Scott County Mayor’s Office and the Scott County Litter Program, the Scott County Recycling Center, the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, the Scott County Road Department, the Scott County Board of County Commissioners and the Scott County Chamber of Commerce.