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Covid19
Annual mother son dance to be held virtually this year

The City of Athens Parks and Recreation Department has announced the 29th Annual Mother-Son Dance has gone virtual and the department will host a virtual dance contest in place of the traditional in-person dance.

Dance contestants will submit a video on the City of Athens, Tennessee Facebook event page. There will be four categories for prizes awarded: one in each for Best Dressed, Best Video Location, Most Creative Video, and Best Overall Video. Contestants are asked to use a hashtag for the category they enter.

The winners will be chosen by the community by most “likes.” The winners for the Best Overall Video will receive a 32” Smart TV. Guidelines for the video contest are found online at www.cityof athenstn.com/parks as well as the City of Athens, Tennessee Facebook page.

Participation is limited to one submission per son. Group participation is welcome and will be held to one per family. The contest is open to mothers and sons of all ages and submissions will be accepted Nov. 2-12.

Another activity the Parks and Recreation Department is doing for the Mother-Son Dance is to host a Mother Son Date at the Athens Movie Palace. From Nov. 6-11, the City of Athens has sponsored a movie for Mothers and Sons to attend for free, no additional tickets will be required and concessions will be available for purchase.

The movie showtimes will be listed on the Athens Movie Palace website and the City of Athens website and Facebook page. At the theater, parks staff will have photo props for picture taking, door prizes and a fun kickoff dance to start the movie.

For more information on the Mother-Son Virtual Dance, contact the City of Athens Parks and Recreation Department by phone at (423) 744-2700 EXT 3, by e-mail at recreation@athenstn.gov, online at www.cityofathenstn.com/parks or in person at 815 North Jackson Street in Athens.

The office is open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


News
Lady Cherokees going to state after PK shootout

McMinn County never lost its confidence Saturday night.

Not when it conceded the first goal early. Not when Franklin County tied it with less than eight minutes left in regulation. And not when the Class AAA Sectional went to a penalty kick shootout with the score still knotted up at 2-2.

Sydnee Duncan, Addie Smith and Allison Hansford, in succession, calmly sent in their kicks. Kylee Hockman was up next and, when the sophomore drove hers into the net, the celebration began with the Lady Cherokees in a full sprint to the far side of the McMinn County Soccer Complex’s pitch, where they dogpiled and shouted in jubilation.

For the second time as a program, and the first time since 2016, the Lady Tribe is headed to the TSSAA Class AAA State Girls’ Soccer Tournament.

“I knew that we had to capitalize on this game and that we’re such a great team and we deserved it,” Hockman said of her clincher. “And as soon as I walked up to the penalty spot, I said to myself that this was going in and we were going to win.

“I felt shock at first, and when the whole team was running towards me just an overwhelming feeling of, ‘We did this.’”

And in between all of McMinn’s successful penalty kicks in the 4-1 shootout win, it was freshman Bella Hooper rising up in the goal box — after the goalkeeper’s teammates offered her plenty of calming words before the shootout began.

“Lots of encouraging words, like, ‘You’ve got it,’ and stuff like that,” said Hooper, practically speechless otherwise after the match. “It really helped me before I went out for the PKs.”

And Hooper responded by putting two hands up to deny the lead-off penalty kick attempt of Ella Masters, who had scored both of Franklin County’s goals in regulation. Erin Worthington made her kick after, but Gracie Morse’s attempt sailed high for the Rebelettes, setting up Hockman to send the Lady Cherokees to state.

“That was huge, and especially being that first one, I think it took the pressure off our kickers knowing that there wasn’t as much pressure on them to score, that if they missed, that’s OK, we’re back even,” said McMinn Coach Jordan Jacob, whose Lady Cherokees are headed to the state tournament in his third season. “Just an incredible job from Bella.”

Jacob didn’t initially plan to have Hooper in goal for the penalty kick shootout, but he quickly had a change of heart, as Hooper had secured 11 saves through regulation and the two 10-minute overtime periods.

“After a little bit of reconsideration on my part, I thought that she had earned the right to be in that goal after so much that she has done for us this year and in this game in particular,” Jacob said. “So I decided to put her back in goal, and it turned out to be a great decision. So I’m proud of her for doing that, being a freshman, that’s big-time for her.”

Duncan, the Lady Cherokees’ senior captain, stepped up the second time Jacob asked who would take the first kick of the shootout.

“Coach asked us, like, ‘Who wants to go first?’ and we were really not paying attention, and he said it again,” Duncan said. “I was like, ‘I’ll go.’ I just have to be confident and I have to make it. I was like, ‘I want to go first, get it over with, make sure we start off with a good one,’ so I just had to go.”

And when Duncan made hers, it was her turn to keep up the Lady Tribe’s spirits.

“I was nervous that we weren’t going to be confident in ourselves, but that’s what I said after I took mine, I just walked over and I was like, ‘You have to be confident,’” Duncan said. “No matter what. You know where you have to place it, you and the goal and the goalie. Block out everything and put it away.’ And it worked.”

Smith followed with McMinn’s second successful kick, repeating the theme of confidence.

“Only thing going into that was confidence, and that’s what I was telling everybody on my team, is that we have to have confidence in each other,” said Smith, a junior. “And if we don’t, we don’t have this. But I knew we had faith in each other, and afterwards, I knew from then that we had it.”

And then it was Hansford’s turn. The Lady Cherokees’ all-time career goals leader — only as a junior, at that — never had a more important shot in her high school career before Saturday, and she met the challenge, too.

“I was thinking that we really need this one and this is the most important game that we’ll play, so I had to make it,” Hansford said. “I felt pure excitement when I made it.”

Franklin County had landed the first blow Saturday, with a free kick from the center line reaching the box and Masters putting a head on it in the eighth minute. It was the third game this postseason that the Lady Cherokees (14-3-1) had trailed at some point.

“I feel like we’ve come from behind nearly in every region game up to this point, so I guess we found ourselves in a familiar position,” Jacob said. “But it’s just been what we’ve had to fight through, and it’s a testament to our team that even though we go a goal down that they’re not fazed by it. And recently it seems like it’s been waking us up and giving us the energy that we need in order to play. I’d prefer us play from ahead, but we’ll take it.”

But two minutes later, Hansford took a clear ball from the back line, drove into Franklin County’s 18-yard box, made the goalkeeper overcommit, and slotted in the equalizer for her 32nd goal this season and 91st of her career.

Hansford isn’t on the single-season record-setting pace she was last year, but she clearly was excited to trade that for a trip to Murfreesboro.

“Going to state is better than any record I could’ve broken, and I’m so excited to see how we do,” Hansford said.

Teammates such as Duncan and Smith have stepped up this season to take some of the goal-scoring burden off Hansford, and they did so in a second half briefly drenched by a heavy rain. Smith stole the ball from a Franklin County midfielder, drove into the penalty box surrounded by several Rebelettes and drew the foul.

Duncan then drilled the ensuing penalty kick to put the Lady Tribe ahead 2-1 with 21:11 left. In hindsight, it was a warm-up for when the Carson-Newman commit would lead off the shootout and make her final game on McMinn’s home pitch a happy memory.

“This is my last game on this field, and I said I had to end it on a good note,” Duncan said. “I’m sad I have to let it go, but I’m so happy to be able to go to state.”

But before then, Franklin County (13-5-2) began controlling possession for most of the last 20 minutes of regulation and firing off a volume of shots, and that pressure finally led to an equalizer with 7:31 left, with Masters kicking it into an open goal after a McMinn defender kicked the ball straight to her, with Hooper still trying to hustle back into the box after making an initial save. The Rebelettes had an opportunity for a winner with less than two minutes left in regulation, a loose ball near the mouth of the goal that a Lady Tribe defender managed to clear just in time.

Through the two 10-minute halves of overtime, Franklin County took six shots, four of them on goal, and McMinn five shots, only one on goal. But neither team could break through for a score, sending it to the penalty kick shootout.

The Rebelettes finished the regulation and overtime periods with a 26-21 overall shot advantage, 14-7 on goal, and were also ahead on corner kicks 11-3 — but McMinn withstood the pressure just enough.

“That was tough, especially considering how the goal was conceded,” Jacob said. “That was a tough one, so for them to rebound and regain their focus and be able to see the game out the rest of the way, it took a huge effort in that aspect. because it would’ve been easy for them to drop their heads and concede another one at some point, so good job to the back line in particular to absorb all that pressure, and the whole team.”

The Class AAA state tournament begins Wednesday at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro. The Lady Cherokees play their first-round match 4 p.m. CDT (5 p.m. EDT) on Field No. 7 against Bearden. Bearden is 20-1 on the year, with an impressive list of wins over Farragut, Knoxville Catholic, Baylor, Maryville, Science Hill and Greeneville all on its resumé.


News
Athens Council candidates answer questions ahead of election

The Daily Post-Athenian hosted its 2020 Athens City Council Candidate Forum on Oct. 13.

The event featured the three candidates for two seats on the Council — Jordan Curtis, Eric Morrow, and Frances Witt-McMahan — on the eve of the start of early voting for the Nov. 3 election. The candidates were asked a series of 10 questions and concluded with closing statements.

The DPA is featuring a five-part series during the early voting period, which continues until Thursday, Oct. 29. The series had included each candidate’s answer to all questions posed by DPA Editor Dewey Morgan during the forum.

The following is the fifth part of the series and includes the ninth and tenth questions of the night.

The entire forum is available to view any time on The Daily Post-Athenian’s Facebook page.

The candidates’ responses are listed in the order they were asked during the forum.

Question: Athens Police Chief Cliff Couch has recently discussed the challenges facing his department. What could you as a Council member do to encourage the recruitment and retention of city police officers?

Answers:

Witt-McMahan: “I’ve actually talked to Chief Couch about different ways that he can recruit. One thing that I think would be important is to start working with the local colleges — Tennessee Wesleyan, Lee University, Cleveland State — and start recruiting there. They have criminal justice majors. People are going to be graduating from college and they need a place to start and I think that’s definitely a good place to start. I also think that going outside of our community and recruiting people to come in and work, maybe some experienced officers. Even trying to go back and find some that have retired, to bring them back in to work. I don’t know of a definite out of the box way of recruitment, but I do think that starting with our local colleges and talking to those criminal justice majors or political science majors — someone who’s interested in law — giving them a segue into their future, I think, is one of the best ways to start. I just want to go ahead and address this. I think one of the problems they’re having with recruitment is the pay. I would love to see our police officers be able to make a higher wage. I know that those are things the Council would have to look at. That is something I would like to definitely talk about if I’m elected.”

Curtis: “This is a very multi-faceted issue and I don’t think there’s any hard and fast answers that we’re going to identify here tonight. Frances hits on some good points. I think that a few years ago, officers hired in kind of started at the bottom. They kind of looked at bringing people in if they’re experienced and kind of starting them, factoring in experience, starting them at a better rate. I think you continue to do some of those things. How can you maybe be a little bit more competitive from a pay standpoint? I know there’s been conversation I’ve heard attending City Council meetings about a take home car program for our officers, which I think is kind of a little added perk that I think the citizens get benefit out of because you see a patrol car parked in your neighborhood, you know an officer lives there. So, there’s kind of a double benefit there. It’s a perk for the officer and it gives something to make you feel a little bit safer to those officers. You may even not know you have a police officer as your neighbor, but you see their car — that sort of thing. Those are just a couple things. Again, I think whatever kind of creative things we can do to give us a competitive edge like take home car, look at compensation. If we have somebody with experience, do we need to look at maybe a little bit of a one-time bonus? Maybe paying half on the front end and half after you’ve been here a year to make sure they stay with us. I’m open to exploring all those kind of things and talking through them with the city manger and Chief Couch once I’m elected because our public safety is so critically important in today’s time.”

Morrow: “Jordan’s right. There’s no easy way to approach this. I’ve been in the Council meetings with both Jordan and Frances listening to these conversations and it’s hard to approach it. I think they’ve both hit on some great ideas here that need to be discussed. Obviously, we as a Council — whoever is elected to the Athens City Council — we need to look at some competitive pay for our officers in the City of Athens. We also need to look at how the pay structure is currently taking place for the officers that we have because the biggest thing, after talking with Chief Couch, is retention. Chief Couch has mentioned, if we bring an officer in, you’ve got to look at what we’re paying to bring these officers in and train them to be in the City of Athens. Some of them come in and they probably get trained up, get their experience, and they’re off to our neighboring cities for more competitive pay because we’re just not paying it here in the City of Athens. I like Jordan’s idea with the perks discussion of letting officers take home cars. I 110% agree with that idea. I think if we see a patrolman’s car sitting in the driveway, activity is most likely (to decrease) in those neighborhoods in the City of Athens by seeing a patrol car out there. We are working with Cleveland State Community College, as Frances mentioned. I know Chief Couch actually recruits from down there at Cleveland State. He looks at those classes going though down there. … I think, in regards to looking at competitive pay, we also, in the perks part of this competitive pay, we need to look at ongoing education for our officers. If we want to invest in keeping our officers in this city, we need to look at investing in the education of officers. They need to understand what they’re facing in society. Pretty much every day now, you have someone out there with a camera in your face and officers need to understand that’s out there and ways to handle that. I think with continuing education, that gives them the opportunity to understand what they’re having to deal with in a community and it gives them an opportunity to further their education if that’s what they choose to do with the City of Athens.”

Question: The City of Athens often seeks grant funding for a variety of purposes. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing grants?

Answers:

Curtis: “I think you have to look at it like this, especially if the grants are state or federal dollars. You have to say those are dollars our citizens have paid into the system and if we are, from a competitive standpoint, competing against other cities for that money, then we, by all means, should go out there and try to get it and best utilize it. It’s really a free market concept. It’s kind of no different than what we do in the private sector. I think we also have to evaluate, as we look at those opportunities, we have to say what are the ongoing expenses related to what this grant might be used for, what obligations are there, what strings are attached? So, I think it really boils down to vetting the grant properly, making sure we’re comfortable with what strings may be attached, what ongoing expenses that may be there that we may have to cover from the city’s budget ongoing. But hear me. I think it’s very important that, if we’ve got dollars out there that we can go and grab and use to benefit our citizens that our citizens have paid in, we should go out there and get them.”

Morrow: “Grants are kind of a two-fold thing here. When it comes to that, I agree with Jordan 100% on this one. You have to watch what kind of grant you get. Obviously, we’d like to get grants that don’t involve us having to take any of the city’s money in matching funds, but that’s not always possible. I would love for us to take advantage of grants out here, again, going back to interstate exchanges. I’d love to see some grants taking care of that. I’d love to see some grants in the aspect, I talked about this at the last forum, to go help AUB to help strengthen their fiber network and make a better internet system for the City of Athens. Another thing that Jordan has hit on a little bit and Frances has touched on, as well. I would love to see some grants come in here and help with housing. We definitely need that in the City of Athens. In saying that, we need to be, as elected officials, fiscally responsible in how we take these grants. We need to watch how we’re accepting these grants. We don’t need to take grants that are going to put us at a disadvantage in the future. We’ve got a school system we’re fixing to have to learn how to figure out how to pay for and that could be a downfall if we get stuck into a grant and we’re having to pay a heavy match on it. That’s my downside in looking at the disadvantages of all these grants.”

Witt-McMahan: “Grants can have a great advantage. For one, they’re not loans, so you don’t pay them back. There can be a problem if there are required matching funds, but the greatest thing — as a non-profit director, I make my living off grants and you have to consider how is the project going to be sustained once the funds end? If you have a project where that grant is a one-time project and you get it completed with those funds, you’re going to be a lot better off than if it’s going to be something that’s going to have to be continued because funding and funders don’t want to give you money if you cannot continue to sustain the program. So, that’s really important. It’s where is the money going to come from to carry out the project. I would like to see us be able to find grants and put some resources into our parks and recreation department and to continue, like Eric said, with some housing if there are grants that would help us for different housing. I know there are a lot of areas that could use sprucing up and I’d like to see some money put into those areas, as well.”


News
Labor force decline spurs unemployment drop in McMinn, Meigs

Unemployment rates for McMinn and Meigs counties dropped around 2%, which followed suit with the rest of the United States.

According to the State of Tennessee, the September unemployment rate in McMinn County dropped from 7.7% to 5.7% and in Meigs the rate dropped from 8.9% to 6.6%.

In September of 2019, the rate in McMinn County was 3.5% and in Meigs it was 3.9%.

State of Tennessee Statistical Analyst Patrick Todd stated the decrease of around 2% only looked good on the surface.

“The main driving force there is some people dropped out of the labor force,” Todd said. “The labor force declined significantly in both of those counties and you didn’t see much employment growth.”

He believes the decrease in the labor force is connected to the layoffs that happened in April.

“It is not uncommon to see people eventually drop out if they have been unemployed for a while,” he noted. “Just about every county in the state looks about the same. I think all of them have declined right around the 2% mark and none of those counties saw any job increases either. If unemployment had gone down because people found work, then there would be an increase in total jobs but we didn’t see that.”

Todd predicted that we may see a slight increase in jobs soon with businesses looking for seasonal help.

“We may see some increase in jobs with the holiday season coming, however that probably won’t show until November,” he said. “As far as companies reopening and things like that, I’m not sure how much of that is left to go.”

The September rate for the state dropped from 8.6% to 6.2%.

Across the area in September, the rate dropped 2% in Roane County to 4.8%, fell 2.4% in Rhea County to 6.5%, decreased 1.7% in Polk County to 4.9%, dropped 2% in Monroe County to 5.3%, declined 1.9% in Loudon County to 4.5%, fell 2.2% in Hamilton County to 5.6%, and dropped 2% in Bradly County to 5.2%.