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Despite COVID, Shop with a Cop still on the schedule

The McMinn County Sheriff’s Department still plans to host its annual Shop With A Cop event this year.

The event allows children who are in need to buy Christmas items for themselves and their families with an accompanying law enforcement officer at Walmart.

This year the event is scheduled to be held on Friday, Dec. 18.

“People of the community have given us donations for the event and we have also raised money through a golf tournament that was sponsored by E&E Manufacturing that allowed us to raise a lot of funds for the program this year,” said MCSD Chief Deputy Matt Blair. “The various county and city schools across McMinn will select the students they feel need it most and provide us a list of names of the students that will attend the event and shop with our deputies.”

This year will operate differently than in previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are going to require that everybody involved, all of the officers, students, Walmart workers, and anyone else affiliated with the program, wear personal protective equipment, practice social distancing, and follow CDC guidelines,” noted Blair. “This year we will also be staging different times for the students to come so that we can social distance without having everyone arrive at one time like normal. We really want to continue the event but we have to do it safer this year.”

Blair is “extremely” proud to be able to host the event for the children whose families may need a little bit of assistance during the holiday season.

“We are proud to be able to do this every year, but in particular we are very proud to host it this year because of the virus and so many changes and struggles that it has brought about,” Blair expressed. “We are glad that we are able to take these students shopping, glad that we can strengthen the bond between the students and officers, and grateful that we can take these kids shopping so that they will have a good holiday.”

The inaugural Shop with a Cop event took place in 2013 and it often involves various law enforcement and court-related departments across the area.

As part of Shop with a Cop, children are presented with a $100 gift card that they are able to spend however they want on presents as officials from those organizations walk with them.

Dotson honored for service on Athens Council

The City of Athens recently gave a special farewell to its two outgoing City Council members.

At last Tuesday night’s meeting, Lisa Dotson and Chuck Burris left the Council dais for the final time as they made way for two newly-elected members, Jordan Curtis and Frances Witt-McMahan.

Dotson and Burris were honored for their service to the city later in the meeting.

City Manager C. Seth Sumner stepped to the podium to read proclamations recognizing the outgoing Council members. Dotson, who has served as an interim Council member since the departure of John Coker earlier this year, was honored first. (Full coverage of Burris’ proclamation will be included in a future edition of The Daily Post-Athenian.)

Dotson service was of a historic nature. Though not elected to the post, but rather appointed to fill a vacancy, Dotson was the first African-American woman to ever serve on the Council. She opted not to run for a full term. Witt-McMahan was elected on Nov. 3 to become the second African-American woman to serve on the city’s governing body.

“We all know Lisa’s a treasure,” said Sumner prior to reading Dotson’s proclamation. “She’s been a treasure to this city for a long time and we really could not be prouder to have had you step up and serve your community for the last few months as a councilperson.”

The proclamation noted that Dotson’s appointment coincided to the day — Aug. 18 — with the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

“I love this community and, if you you know me, you know that,” said Dotson, who noted that she always resisted running for a seat on the Council. “When Council member Coker resigned, I was praying about who needs to fill that seat and I plainly heard the Lord say to me, ‘You do it.’”

Dotson decided she would apply for the vacant seat only if she had the blessing of Witt-McMahan — her close friend who was campaigning for a Council seat at the time. Witt-McMahan not only approved, but encouraged Dotson to apply for the vacancy.

“I feel like all of this has been a movement of God,” said Dotson before congratulating Witt-McMahan and Curtis on being elected. “We cannot go wrong with them in these seats. So, thank you for this opportunity and I will continue to serve this community as much as I can.”

Dotson is a native of Athens and is very active in the community. She began her professional career at Mayfield Dairy Farms, where she helped to establish and manage the Mayfield Visitors Center at the Athens plant and later its sister plant in Braselton, Ga. She later served as part-time coordinator of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership McMinn Program and as marketing director for the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum. She is currently the associate director of The LITE House and executive director of Main Street Athens.

Dotson has also volunteered her time as a member of the boards of directors of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, Athens Housing Authority, and Athens Utilities Board, as well as serving as a member of the Athens Historic Preservation Commission and the Thrive Regional Partnership committee.

Power rates to rise in December for AUB, EUB customers

The December power rate for local customers is edging up as expected, but just barely, in both Athens and Etowah.

According to Etowah Utilities Board (EUB) General Manager Harold Masengil, the winter rate is kicking in, leading to a 1.7% increase in residential rates. That equates to just over $2.50 per month on average electric bills, he said.

For Athens Utilities Board (AUB) and its customers, December’s residential rate will come in at $0.08518, just above the current November rate of $0.08381.

“December begins the first of four months of winter base rates, which are typically a bit higher than the transition months of October and November. We are glad to see them stay pretty steady moving into the winter season,” said AUB’s Wayne Scarbrough.

The fall season that the utilities are now in — October and November — has the lowest rates of the year.

“The good news is that rates remain essentially flat from month to month going forward into the winter season,” Scarbrough said.

AUB and EUB will have winter rates from TVA through March of next year.

Aside from watching rates closely, AUB continues to keep a close eye on the current COVID situation.

“We continue to watch COVID infections in our region go up, up, up, including more in McMinn County. Therefore, our main office remains closed for foot traffic because the situation now is unchanged, if not worse,” Scarbrough said. “We are doing what we can at AUB to ensure we can continue to serve. We run lean, very lean. If we lost a couple of customer service reps or cashiers, who have the most personal interaction with customers, we’d be in a tough situation to work with customers.”

Masks are important to fight the spread of the coronavirus, Scarbrough added.

“You should see a mask on any AUB employee during the workday if they are around another person,” he said. “If you see AUB people in public on AUB business not wearing masks, we want to know so that we can correct that. We urge everyone in the area to do the same for their neighbors.”

About 83 cents of every dollar that AUB’s power division collects go to TVA for wholesale power.

Questions linger for Cochran as General Assembly session nears

State Rep. Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) said that things are still a bit murky regarding the upcoming General Assembly session that will begin in January due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He stated that due to the current pandemic, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has not stated any big legislative priorities yet.

“I think in a normal year we might have a general idea of some of those things that he would be looking at, like this time last year that criminal justice reform was going to be on his radar and something that was going to be focusing on, but the pandemic interrupted that and interrupted a lot of legislation,” Cochran said. “We are still in the midst of that so I don’t know for sure what his big legislative priorities will be but I imagine we will look at criminal justice reform again.”

The previous session also included a piece of legislation about early childhood literacy.

“That was one that never really came to a vote but I think we have it in a much better place than where it was originally,” he noted. “I think we have a good place to start with that one this year ... It is K-3 literacy and trying to help improve that because if you get behind in those early days in reading it really puts you behind on everything else in your academic career. So we want to help those students in their early years so that they can succeed in the rest of their academic careers.”

He believes there is a risk of this year’s session being condensed due to the pandemic.

“The very nature of what we do, we have to be in the same room together,” Cochran stated. “There have been precautions, there has been plexiglass and other different things installed to prevent the spread of the virus and there is a risk, but hopefully we can take the necessary precautions and make sure we have a full session.”

Like State Sen. Mike Bell, Cochran also expects to see continuation on the second passage of the state’s right to work constitutional amendment.

“Once it passes the general assembly it can then go onto the ballot and I think there is a lot of support for it,” Cochran noted. “Changing it from a statute will solidify it because any statute can be changed at some point and being a right to work state has been such an incredible advantage for the State of Tennessee.”

He added that Tennessee is “prospering” during the pandemic compared to other states across the nation.

“In a time that is tough economically, Tennessee is still prospering and that is because we have a business-friendly climate,” said Cochran. “I think it is crucial that we solidify and make sure that success continues for generations to come.”

His hope for the next session is that they will be able to address some legislation that was tabled in the previous session.

“I think there are a lot of good ideas still floating out there from last session and I think that an advantage is that a lot of work has already been put into those deals,” Cochran stated. “I’m hoping that a lot of the good ones will emerge this session and improve our state. I look forward to working on this.”