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Investigation leads to arrests for meth for resale, cash

More than two pounds of meth and a large sum of money were reportedly discovered during a pair of arrests last week.

According to McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy and 10th Judicial Drug Task Force (DTF) Director Bill Cherry, on the evening of Sept. 11, agents with the DTF and the McMinn County Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant at a residence on Highway 68 in the Sweetwater section of McMinn County. The search warrant was part of an ongoing methamphetamine trafficking investigation, according to Guy.

During the search, agents allegedly located approximately 2.2 pounds of methamphetamine and over $55,000 cash in the home. Martin Chouinard, a resident there, was arrested and charged with possession of schedule II methamphetamine for resale and possession of drug paraphernalia.

During the investigation, Lance Farrell reportedly fled from the Highway 68 property on a motorcycle and was apprehended with the assistance of MCSD deputies. Farrell was discovered allegedly in possession of over 30 grams of methamphetamine and additional monies over $13,000 were reportedly found as part of that investigation.

Farrell was charged with felony evading arrest, possession of schedule II methamphetamine for resale, simple possession of schedule VI marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“This is a significant seizure of drugs and drug money in the northern McMinn County area,” Guy said. “The joint relationship we have with our Drug Task Force has kept a lot of meth off the street.”

Both were booked into the McMinn County Jail and the investigation is ongoing, according to Guy.

Veterans honored during inaugural War on Terror Ceremony

Just days after the 18th anniversary of 9/11, a tribute was held to honor veterans who fought and are fighting in recent conflicts.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5146 in Athens hosted a tribute to veterans taking part in the two Iraq wars and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan on Saturday. During the War on Terror Ceremony, several guest speakers stood to discuss what Sept. 11, 2001 meant for them and to honor those who have served in the military, along with those who were lost during the attack on the World Trade Center.

Sgt. Mike Plemmons of Etowah was the keynote speaker for the event and he took to the podium to share what he remembered from that tragic day.

“I just wanted to share with you what I did that day,” Plemmons said. “I got up that morning, turned on the television and saw smoke from the first crash, but I thought it was just a fire.”

It wasn’t long until he realized it was actually a catastrophic event that was playing out before him, though.

“Then I saw the second plane hit and knew something was happening,” Plemmons said.

With that realization, Plemmons said his thoughts turned to his mother, who was living near where the event was taking place.

“While I was talking to her, I could hear what was going on in the background,” Plemmons said.

Plemmons told those in attendance that “we can’t forget” about the horrific events that took place on that day and that we must vhonor the memory of those we lost.

Plemmons served three tours in Iraq with the National Guard.

This was the inaugural War on Terror Ceremony, an event that developed out of the desire to honor veterans of recent conflicts.

“I didn’t want (Iraq and Afghanistan veterans) to ever feel like they were not thanked properly or like they were forgotten,” explained McMinn County Veterans Service Officer Susan Peglow about the origins of the event. “The Vietnam vets were forgotten and we didn’t want to repeat that mistake from our past.”

The ceremony opened with a prayer before moving on to introductions of the attending guests and the Pledge of Allegiance following immediately after.

Throughout the event, several other speakers took the stage, thanking those who served in the military and honoring those who lost their lives during the attack.

A trio of veterans were also specifically honored with Quilts of Valor from the Starr Mountain Quilters during the event.

A successful fly-in for international Swiftees

The 2019 Swift National Fly-In was a success this weekend.

Members and supporters flew from all over the world to unify at the Athens-based Swift Museum over the historic aircraft.

Initially, the fly-in was scheduled to be held in Kansas City but was cancelled due to inclement weather. Still, after only a few months of planning, many of the self-proclaimed Swiftees and their loved ones gathered for the four-day annual event.

For Swift Museum Executive Director Scott Anderson, the event serves as a cornerstone for the comradery and passion the members share.

“The fly in is pivotal of the success of the organization,” Anderson said. “It shows the interest in the membership — it exposes the new members to our history. The bottom line, the whole point of the organization, is to have a good time enjoying each other and the airplane that we all love.”

A couple of the newer members shared perspectives on their first Swift National.

Chris Reiff of Ohio bought his Swift in October and said he was impressed by the character of the club and event.

“This is my first national and a lot of this is meeting people and it’s been amazing,” Reiff said. “Everyone down here has been so welcoming — it’s one of the most welcoming clubs I’ve been a part of.”

He continued, “The community of people here is just really supportive, certainly of each other and other people too. I think it reflects well on the community in general around here, let alone the Swift Museum.”

Virginia resident Dave Wilfong is a two-year Swiftee and enjoyed his first national. He expressed his respect for the cooperation from the Swift Museum and voluntary help from members.

“It’s great for contacts,” Wilfong said. “I’ve got a huge support system from mechanical stuff, repairs, learning to fly it and any kind of modification or anything you want to learn about — it’s an endless trove of information.”

For D.J. Hernandez — who was initially introduced to Swift airplanes from his grandfather and welcomed by longterm members — the organization represents a collective effort to sustain the historical aircraft which was rooted in the 1940s.

“All I am is a caretaker for the next person,” Hernandez said. “It’s all a big history lesson. You look at all these airplanes and there are no airplanes that are the same. They’ve passed between so many hands and everyone has had their own touch on them which is kind of cool.”

The legacy of the Swift would not be possible without the Swift Museum, he emphasized.

“What the Swift Museum really means is keeping history alive and it’s also a means of keeping the airplanes flying — keeping the airplanes alive,” Hernandez said. “They can produce the parts and they’re really the backbone of keeping the airplanes airworthy — without this, there’s a lot of airplanes that would not be flying.”

Another member, Will Kientz of Missouri, essentially grew up at the Swift Museum because of his father’s involvement. Like Hernandez, he echoed the importance of the museum as a lifeline for the aircraft.

“It’s not about the pilot — it’s about the airplane,” Kientz said. “The whole point of the Swift Museum is that these airplanes are going to outlast you, me, our grandchildren. We’re a small blip in the lifespan of this airplane.”

To Kientz — the Swift National’s success, despite moving the event and not having optimal planning time, is emblematic of both the Swift Museum and the Athens community.

“This is the first time in my 30 years of living that they canceled a fly in and moved it,” he said. “They turned something negative into a positive and there’s still a decent turnout.”

He added, “It takes 10 months to get a fly in ready … and to turn that around and the time it took to get the Comfort Inn to give discounts, the food trucks here, the gals who did the catering, to get the museum ready is nothing short of a miracle. That’s what Athens is about — that’s what the Swift Museum is about.”

Likewise, the executive director was pleased with the event’s success, including the support from the local area.

“We had a positive response from the local community and everyone seems to enjoy and appreciate that this is here,” Anderson said. “This is an international organization, we’ve been here since 1968 and we’re pleased that more people from here are realizing that we’re here. We’re happy to be located here.”

Though the fly-in is over, Anderson said the Swift family hopes more locals will continue to explore what the members consider a treasure spot.

“We continue to encourage the community to come visit the museum, share the history with us,” he said. “We’re here to educate but also enjoy it. We’re here to have fun and we hope we can encourage younger people to get involved in general aviation and help preserve the history.”

The Swift Museum Foundation is a 502(c)(3) non-profit organization and survives from donations. To learn more, visit the facility, which is located adjacent to the McMinn County Airport, at 223 County Rd 552 in Athens or call (423)745-9547.

Decatur resident has lifelong passion for beekeeping

Fifty years since its inception, a 95-year-old pilot member of the Cherokee Beekeepers Association remains enthusiastic about its mission today.

Lois Robinson of Decatur recalls how the organization was formed in 1969 by a committee of seven folks, including herself and her husband, David.

The Cherokee Beekeepers Association was initially comprised of 12 members, but today has grown to about 80.

“We wanted to give simple instructions so that people interested in beekeeping can get started in the right way,” Robinson explained of the founding. “The purpose of this association was to give an education in beekeeping and give them a good foundation of beekeeping.”

Robinson started keeping bees in 1964 at age 41 before helping found the regional Beekeepers Association.

“I didn’t know anything about bees but to see that beautiful comb — I just became interested,” she said of her inspiration to pick up what would grow to become her favorite hobby.

To Robinson — beekeeping is a peaceful pastime which is extremely gratifying if one has a valid understanding.

“It’s a quiet job,” she said. “You don’t get much conversation going, you don’t get any arguments and the only feedback you’d get would be a sting from a honeybee — and if you work it right you don’t get a sting.”

Today, she attributes her knowledge to developing a strong educational foundation, which she credits from attending various beekeeping meetings.

“I think it’s good for a new beekeeper to go to an association, attend that association and get a background before they ever invest, because today it’s costly,” Robinson said. “It’s important for a beekeeper to see someone who made a success and follow his instructions for you to make a success.”

She and her husband participated in associations in different areas, which gave them a well-rounded appreciation and understanding for the craft.

“David and I attended a lot of bee associations which was helpful to us,” Robinson said. “We picked up a lot of information from different people. I encourage everyone to visit another association meeting. You meet new friends and we learned a lot.”

In addition to her personal development, she emphasized that what kept her active was Cherokee’s mission of advocating for the honeybee.

“Cherokee has always tried to stay in communication with the community and advertise the importance of the honeybee,” Robinson said.

Because there are so many variables contingent on bee prosperity, she explained beekeepers should form close relationships with individual farmers and the community at large.

“A beekeeper needs to be communicating with farmers,” she said, noting certain insecticides and schedules can negatively affect or even kill bees. “The community, farmer and beekeeper need to work together — it needs to be a three-way thing.”

In her life, she has occupied a number of hobbies from raising animals to gardening, but beekeeping — both the physical job and the education that accompanies it — was a long-term passion that bonded her and her husband.

“Beekeeping stuck with us for 50 years,” she said. “We just loved helping people get started.”