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National Park invites visitors to the Storybook Trail starting Oct. 9

COSBY—Great Smoky Mountains National Park is pleased to invite young visitors and their guardians to the Storybook Trail of the Smokies, an initiative dedicated to promoting literacy in nature.

A partnership between the park, the University of Tennessee Extension Cocke County Office and educational park partner Great Smoky Mountains Association, the Storybook Trail of the Smokies offers fun and educational self-guided activities based on a rotating selection of different Smokies-themed books along the one-mile Cosby Nature Trail near Cosby Campground.

From October 9 through October 22, the trail will feature prompts and activities based on “A Search for Safe Passage,” written by Frances Figart and illustrated by Emma DuFort, both of Great Smoky Mountains Association.

A chapter book aimed at middle-grade readers, “A Search for Safe Passage” tells the story of best friends Bear and Deer, whose home range was split in half by a dangerous human highway. After learning some troubling news, Bear and Deer embark on a life-changing adventure, searching for safe passage across the highway.

“I wrote this book especially for young people who enjoy being out in nature and seeing wildlife as I did when I was a kid and still do today,” said Figart, the Creative Services Director for GSMA. “It features 19 different animal species that make their home in the park and outside its boundary in the Pigeon River Gorge near Cosby, where the story is set.”

Teachers and homeschool groups are invited to use the trail and its corresponding standards-based activities for the classroom or virtual-learning opportunities for students. The storybook trail is free to the public and accessible seven days a week.

“We are so excited to continue the Storybook Trail of the Smokies this fall — we were overwhelmed with the support from our community during the spring storybook trail,” said Jessica Gardner, UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent. “We know there are fans young and old who are eager to get back on the trail and experience new books this fall.”

“A Search for Safe Passage” is the fifth book to appear on the storybook trail, following a spring lineup of: “We’re Going to the Mountains” by Steve Kemp, “The Salamander Ball” by Lisa Horstman, “Singing Creek” by Morgan Simmons, and “The Troublesome Cub” by Lisa Horstman.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 9, the book’s author and illustrator will be at the trailhead to interact with visitors, sign books, and answer questions. Copies of “A Search for Safe Passage” will also be available for purchase.

The Storybook Trail of the Smokies is funded by a grant secured by the UT Extension Cocke County Office through the Juanita H. Fasola Foundation Inc. Each of the featured books is published by Great Smoky Mountains Association and can be purchased at

Follow the Storybook Trail of the Smokies Facebook page for more information on the books, author events, and activities to accompany each book.

The National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims was observed on Saturday, September 25. In honor of victims of homicide and their families, District Attorney General James B. Dunn of the Fourth Judicial District invites everyone to come view the victims photo banner that will be on display at the Sevier County Courthouse outside on the lawn. Please take a moment to reminisce and honor the victims of crime in the 4th Judicial District.

E-911 Board approves hire of new dispatcher

NEWPORT—The Cocke County Emergency Communications (E-911) Board of Directors held their quarterly meeting last Tuesday. The board approved the hiring of another 911 dispatcher and the creation of a budget amendment to account for the additional wages.

The meeting began with the approval of minutes from June’s meeting, which passed unanimously.

E-911 Director Nancy Hansel presented a brief financial report for the past three months, during which E-911 gained a net income of $23,078.45.

The meeting’s old business was a continuation of June’s discussion of hiring an additional dispatcher. The salary of the position would be $27,040. With benefits, the position would cost E-911 $38,355.

Director Hansel presented data to the board regarding call volumes by day and by time of day, sharing that the greatest call volumes in August were from Sunday through Tuesday, with daily spikes around 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. In accordance with this data, Director Hansel suggested a split shift for the new hire to cover these spikes.

Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes made a motion, seconded by board member Vanessa Dennis, to move forward with the hire. The motion was approved by roll call vote.

The other notable item of the meeting was the 2021-22 renewal of E-911’s contract with LandAir. The renewal of the contract was passed by roll call vote.

With no other business to address, the meeting was adjourned.

NU board approves expenditures for Industrial Road project

NEWPORT—The board of directors for Newport Utilities met this week to receive updates from various departments. They also approved several expenditures for projects and repairs to NU’s sewer system.

Chris Calhoun, VP of Operations and Technology, requested board approval to purchase materials associated with phase one of NU’s Industrial Road project. NU will be replacing all cast iron pipe, valves and hydrants in that area.

Three bids were submitted for materials and Calhoun asked to proceed with the lowest bid which was submitted by Core & Main, LP. The expenditure request was approved for a total of $57,169.

Calhoun’s second request was for materials needed in phase two of the project. Phase two is a larger scale project that requires more materials. That subsequently led to a much higher price tag.

Core and Main, LP’s bid was selected by the board for Phase two materials. The cost of the items total more than $523,000.

Calhoun informed the board the Grit King Project for the wastewater department has been finished. More than $34,000 was saved from the estimated expenses associated with the project. A total of $23,000 of that amount was used for new teacups, valves and a catwalk system for inspections of the system.

The next project for the system is the replacement of headwork valves that control the influent flow that comes into the plant. Calhoun said replacement of the valves is an intensive process but a necessary one.

Board members awarded the valve replacement project to Brockwell Construction. They submitted the only bid for the project in the amount of $72,852. Brockwell will also remove portions of concrete that surround the new Grit King that create a hazardous work environment.

During the general manager’s report, Michael Williford told the board that NU is back in compliance with TVA for the broadband department. He said the department hopes to proceed to stage two which involves ramping up installations for customers. NU has a current waiting list of 2,015 subscribers that are seeking connection to the system.

The TVA audit has been finalized as well, according to Williford. The State Comptroller’s and IG audits are still ongoing.

Williford spoke briefly on NU’s plan to expand their sewer system. Plans have been developed to extend wastewater lines to the Cosby area. NU received an $80,000 grant for engineering and design work for the project.

Williford said the recent increase to sewer rates and expansion of the system will help offset the loss of revenue when Conagra closes this month.

The board will meet again on Tuesday, October 26 at 10:30 a.m.