Fierce Wednesday winds last week in our hometown forced tens of thousands of loose leaves to flee across parking lots, on highways, and sidewalks scurrying around curbs before falling exhausted to the ground, when the wind rested.

But sunshine felt welcome after all day rain recently and gave me time to get out and look at the status of several construction projects underway.

When I first saw the large deep holes being cut in front of the Newport Verizon store next to Best Western, I couldn’t figure what or why until I saw the steel beams vertically placed and concreted.

So I drove in while men were working outside having fastened numerous foam panels to the steel frame. Tiny bits of foam floated in the air like snow but unharmed by the sunshine.

Bethany McCarty, one of the Verizon employees greeted me. She said that what you see driving along Cosby Highway is the first major facelift for the Newport Verizon store. Things would have gone quicker but the contractor didn’t get all the materials needed when ordered.

Bethany showed me a photo of the Jefferson City Verizon store sporting the new gray look with blazing Verizon red signage. It will help draw attention to the site.

When Leaving I bumped into Rick Seals, the man behind the stucco-foam facing project.

It took him only a few minutes to recall and remind me I had made their photo when they refaced Bettye Ann Bewley’s store fronts across from Ken Hall’s barbershop. Rick is from Bulls Gap.

“We are shooting for early December completion,” he said, explaining that the final finish will be dark gray center flanked by light gray walls. I also learned that about 30 years or so ago he worked with Holiday Inn operator Annette Mason to do similar panel/stucco work to upgrade the motel’s look.

Rick’s father, Brice, who is deceased, started the business and has worked jobs in Newport. Rick Seals started at age 18 and is now 59 still at the business doing the Verizon project for general contractor Mark Donahue, Reliance Contracting.

I also found out that Rick has local connections through the Fine family on his mother’s side. It was 70 degrees when we chatted on that unusually warm November day, and on Thanksgiving his crew was putting on the light gray stucco.

I have been slacking on my update for Appalachian Veterinary Clinic that is having a major addition by McSpadden, general contractor in Dandridge. My last photos in spring showed the removal of the rear ground.

Late Wednesday Darcey Copenhaver, wife of Dr. Mike Copenhaver, who operates the hospital, gave me a sneak peak. Doc came in for a few minutes to talk and I asked how long has he been there. Twenty years have passed. He worked with former veterinary owner Dr. John Chambers. Before that Dr. Jill (Wilson) Holmes had the facility built.

After carrying off 700 truck loads of fill for a flat surface the project began by McSpadden last May. Workers added 1,700 square feet at the rear so the new hospital totals over 4,300 sq. ft.

The needs satisfied by the expansion included two more examination rooms that total five. More treatment space for the animal patients also includes “drop off” space. Employees went from a six-by-six tiny room to a nice breakroom at the rear.

Soon clients will be able to come in the front door again and will see the new reception/waiting area. Darcey said the room allows for more relaxation and less stress for pets and owners.

The key thing up front is the vastly improved flow from people coming in the front door; going into patient rooms; and then out the side door into the new parking area. This has been expanded from 15 parking spaces to 40 spaces.

“We are so thankful and appreciative of our clients,” said Darcey. “Patient and good-natured” is the way she described the folks bringing in their animals for care during the past six months.

Their Memorial Baptist Church neighbor has been patient and helpful too. They share each other’s parking spaces. Before Christmas you should be able to see the finished Appalachian Veterinary Hospital expansion. And then in January an open house will give more people a reason to visit and appreciate what the Copenhavers and staff have done.

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