Two juveniles arrested in connection with vehicle burglaries

News, Press Release
juveniles

MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong announced two juveniles were arrested Wednesday in connection with at least eight vehicle burglaries that occurred in the Eagleton area between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

The two male juveniles, ages 16 and 17, were charged with delinquent by theft of property by possession. In addition, the 17-year-old, who is from Maryville, faces several charges for violating his probation in Blount County. He remains in custody in the Blount County Juvenile Detention Facility. The 16-year-old, who was reported as a runaway from Knoxville, is currently in DCS custody. Both juveniles will face their charges in Blount County
Juvenile Court in the near future.
Wednesday morning, the Sheriff’s Office received multiple reports of vehicle burglaries that occurred in the Eagleton area at residences on Cecelia Avenue, Blount Avenue, Milford Avenue, Main Road, Defoe Circle, and Old Knoxville Pike. As they day progressed, other citizens in that area reported additional burglaries from their automobiles.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, deputies responded to a residence on Old Knoxville Pike to the report of a runaway juvenile from Knoxville who may be staying at the home. They also received information that the juvenile may be armed with a handgun. When deputies arrived, deputies saw a teenage male run from a back door. Deputies shouted commands for him to stop, but the juvenile continued to flee on foot. Deputies set up a perimeter in the area and took the juvenile into custody a short time later. As the investigation unfolded, Sheriff’s patrol deputies and investigators found multiple stolen items inside the residence where the runaway juvenile was staying. The 16-year-old Knoxville juvenile and a 17-year-old male who resides at that residence were both taken into custody Wednesday evening.

Sheriff’s investigators recovered stolen property including purses, wallets, ID cards, a handgun, cash, credit and debit cards, and other miscellaneous items. Investigators are attempting to return all of the recovered property.
The investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be forthcoming.

Sheriff Berrong reminds citizens to please lock your vehicles. All of the reported vehicle burglaries were from unlocked vehicles.

Two arrested on drug charges following search warrants

News, Press Release
search warrants

MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong said Joshua Derek Thomas, 34, was served with two additional warrants this evening for two counts of aggravated child neglect. He is currently being held in the Blount County Correctional Facility on bonds totaling $200,000. On Thursday, Thomas was arrested and charged with three felony drug charges. He will face all five charges in Blount County General Sessions Court at 9 a.m. October 13.

Darlene Renee Thomas, 56, was released on a $40,000 bond today on felony drug charges. She is also scheduled to appear in Blount County General Sessions Court at 9 a.m. October 13.

The Department of Children’s Services removed two children, ages 4 and 7, from the Thomas’s home following the search warrant Friday morning due to the living conditions at the residence. A Sheriff’s Office criminal investigator who is assigned to the the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) full-time brought these two charges of aggravated child neglect following his investigation today. Additional charges may be pending.

The Sheriff’s Office has one full-time investigator assigned to the CAC whose sole responsibility is to investigate crimes against children. The investigator works out of the CAC office and has all resources available to him to work these particular cases. Our investigator began his new assignment at the CAC in July following approval for this position beginning in the new budget year by the Blount County Commission.

October 7, 2021

TWO INDIVIDUALS CHARGED WITH FELONIES FOLLOWING SEARCH WARRANT
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong announced two Rockford individuals were served felony warrants for drug charges today following the culmination of a joint investigation between the Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force and TBI.

The following individuals were arrested and booked into the Blount County Correctional Facility:

• Joshua Derek Thomas, 34, Beacon Way, Rockford was charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine) for resale, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and maintaining a dwelling where drugs are used or sold. He is being held on bonds totaling $150,000 pending a hearing in Blount County General Sessions Court at 9 a.m. October 13, 2021.

• Darlene Renee Thomas, 56, same address, was charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance (oxycodone) for resale and maintaining a dwelling where drugs are used or sold. She is being held on bonds totaling $40,000 pending a hearing in Blount County General Sessions Court at 9 a.m. October 13, 2021.

The search warrant, which the Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force and TBI and served with the assistance of the Sheriff’s Office SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team, was the culmination of a month long covert operation into activity at a residence at 454 Beacon Way in Rockford. The search warrant resulted in the discovery of over 10 ounces of crystal methamphetamine, numerous prescription narcotics, and two handguns. In addition, investigators seized $3,100 in U.S. currency. Two children, ages 7 and 4 were removed from the residence by the Department of

Children’s Services. The Sheriff’s Office’s Criminal Investigations unit is continuing their investigation into the neglect of the children, and additional charges could be forthcoming.

“Now more than ever, our narcotics investigators are remaining aggressive in pursuing individuals who participate in the illicit drug trade in Blount County,” Sheriff Berrong said. “The number of people overdosing in our community is at an all time high. As of the end of September, we have seen 334 overdoses countywide, with 51 of them resulting in death. This is an increase of 239 overdoses for the entire year in 2021. This is unacceptable, and we will continue to work with TBI and other agencies to stop the flow of these illicit drugs into our community.”

The Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force is comprised of deputies and officers with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Maryville Police Department, and Alcoa Police Department.

Sheriff’s Office offering Rape Aggression Defense Class

News, Press Release
Rape Aggression Defense Class

MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong said the Sheriff’s Office is now enrolling women in a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class in October.

The three-day class is scheduled for October 11, 18, and 25 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Blount County Justice Center, located at 940 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville. The 12-hour class is open to ladies age 13 and up. No prior training is required. Minors must be accompanied by an adult. Class size is limited. There is no cost for the class.

**Face coverings will be optional for this class.

RAD instructors will also teach special sessions to groups of women 10 or more upon request, as well as advanced classes for ladies who have gone through the basic class.

The class is designed to develop options of resistance through the RAD program and is taught by certified instructors through the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. The dynamic, hands-on program was designed for the average woman, and basic self-defense techniques are taught in an enjoyable format.

For additional information, or to enroll for the class, please contact Deputy Magahn Mattocks at (865)223-4301.

Feature image courtesy of Blount County Sheriff Office.

Three adults, three juveniles charged in vehicle vandalisms

News, Press Release

MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong announced six individuals were taken into custody early Saturday morning in connection with a string of vehicle vandalisms that occurred over the last several days in Blount County and Alcoa.

The three adults charged are as follows:

• Maxwell Alexander Cook, 18, Mason Court, Maryville, was charged with one count of vandalism over $500 and nine counts of vandalism.
• Jacob Aspen Storm Perkins, 18, Russell Road, Rockford, was charged with one count of vandalism over $500 and 13 counts of vandalism.
• Mallory Jade Taylor, 18, Russell Road, Rockford, was charged with one count of vandalism over $500 and 10 counts of vandalism.

All three individuals are being held in the Blount County Correctional Facility on bonds totaling $250,000 each pending hearings in Blount County General Sessions Court at 9 a.m. September 3.

In addition, three 17-year-old males were each charged with multiple counts of vandalism by a delinquent. The three juveniles were taken to the Blount County Juvenile Facility pending hearings in Blount County Juvenile Court within 72 hours.

Last week, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and the Alcoa Police Department began receiving reports from citizens of vehicles being vandalized and vehicle windows broken out with rocks and BB guns. Deputies took most of the reports in the areas of Russell Road/Old Knoxville Highway/Pellissippi as well as Mentor and Johnston Roads. Early Saturday morning, a Blount County deputy was patrolling the area of Russell Road in Rockford when he observed a vehicle matching the description of the vehicle suspected in the vandalisms. The deputy turned around and attempted to make contact with the vehicle when the driver began to make a series of maneuvers and turned down Bullen Emert Road, a dead-end road.

The deputy made a traffic stop on the vehicle and encountered four individuals inside the vehicle including Cook, Perkins, Taylor, and one of the juveniles. Through the course of this investigation, deputies learned of the involvement of the two other juveniles who they dropped off at a residence on Russell Road earlier that night. Deputies also discovered a CO2-powered BB gun during their investigation.

Deputies and officers with Alcoa Police Department took out a total of 190 warrants on the adults and juveniles, with more than $30,000 in reported damages. Multiple vandalism cases were solved with these arrests.

FDA fully approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

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Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.” 

Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products. For all vaccines, the FDA evaluates data and information included in the manufacturer’s submission of a biologics license application (BLA). A BLA is a comprehensive document that is submitted to the agency providing very specific requirements. For Comirnaty, the BLA builds on the extensive data and information previously submitted that supported the EUA, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality, and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made. The agency conducts its own analyses of the information in the BLA to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective and meets the FDA’s standards for approval.

Comirnaty contains messenger RNA (mRNA), a kind of genetic material. The mRNA is used by the body to make a mimic of one of the proteins in the virus that causes COVID-19. The result of a person receiving this vaccine is that their immune system will ultimately react defensively to the virus that causes COVID-19. The mRNA in Comirnaty is only present in the body for a short time and is not incorporated into – nor does it alter – an individual’s genetic material. Comirnaty has the same formulation as the EUA vaccine and is administered as a series of two doses, three weeks apart.

“Our scientific and medical experts conducted an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation of this vaccine. We evaluated scientific data and information included in hundreds of thousands of pages, conducted our own analyses of Comirnaty’s safety and effectiveness, and performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “We have not lost sight that the COVID-19 public health crisis continues in the U.S. and that the public is counting on safe and effective vaccines. The public and medical community can be confident that although we approved this vaccine expeditiously, it was fully in keeping with our existing high standards for vaccines in the U.S.”

FDA Evaluation of Safety and Effectiveness Data for Approval for 16 Years of Age and Older

The first EUA, issued Dec. 11, for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older was based on safety and effectiveness data from a randomized, controlled, blinded ongoing clinical trial of thousands of individuals.

To support the FDA’s approval decision today, the FDA reviewed updated data from the clinical trial which supported the EUA and included a longer duration of follow-up in a larger clinical trial population.

Specifically, in the FDA’s review for approval, the agency analyzed effectiveness data from approximately 20,000 vaccine and 20,000 placebo recipients ages 16 and older who did not have evidence of the COVID-19 virus infection within a week of receiving the second dose. The safety of Comirnaty was evaluated in approximately 22,000 people who received the vaccine and 22,000 people who received a placebo 16 years of age and older.

Based on results from the clinical trial, the Pfizer vaccine was 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease.

More than half of the clinical trial participants were followed for safety outcomes for at least four months after the second dose. Overall, approximately 12,000 recipients have been followed for at least 6 months.

The most commonly reported side effects by those clinical trial participants who received Comirnaty were pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain, chills, and fever. The vaccine is effective in preventing COVID-19 and potentially serious outcomes including hospitalization and death.

Additionally, the FDA conducted a rigorous evaluation of the post-authorization safety surveillance data pertaining to myocarditis and pericarditis following administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and has determined that the data demonstrate increased risks, particularly within the seven days following the second dose. The observed risk is higher among males under 40 years of age compared to females and older males. The observed risk is highest in males 12 through 17 years of age. Available data from short-term follow-up suggest that most individuals have had resolution of symptoms. However, some individuals required intensive care support. Information is not yet available about potential long-term health outcomes. The Comirnaty Prescribing Information includes a warning about these risks.

Ongoing Safety Monitoring

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have monitoring systems in place to ensure that any safety concerns continue to be identified and evaluated in a timely manner. In addition, the FDA is requiring the company to conduct postmarketing studies to further assess the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination with Comirnaty. These studies will include an evaluation of long-term outcomes among individuals who develop myocarditis following vaccination with Comirnaty. In addition, although not FDA requirements, the company has committed to additional post-marketing safety studies, including conducting a pregnancy registry study to evaluate pregnancy and infant outcomes after receipt of Comirnaty during pregnancy.

The FDA granted this application Priority Review. The approval was granted to BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH.

Related Information

Two new K9s join sheriff’s office unit

Community, Press Release
k9 unit
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong is proud to announce two new K-9s joined the Sheriff’s Office K9 unit last week, and the two new pups are settling in well with their K9 handlers.
K9 Veki is a German Shorthair Pointer and is partnered with Deputy Richard “Skip” Kindig. K9 Veki is 15 months old and was born in Hungary. Deputy Kindig and K9 Veki are assigned to the adult corrections facility. K9 Veki’s job is to keep contraband out of the corrections facility. K9 Veki succeeds K9 Luna, a German Shorthair Pointer who passed away in September 2020 after being diagnosed with cancer. Deputy Kindig has been employed with the Sheriff’s Office in adult corrections since 2009. Deputy Kindig became a K9 handler in 2017 when he was partnered with K9 Luna.

Courtesy of Blount County Sheriff’s Office

K9 Cliff is a German Shepherd and was born in the Czech Republic. K9 Cliff is 18 months old and is a dual purpose K9. K9 Cliff is assigned to the newest member of our K9 unit, Deputy Jole Payne. Deputy Payne started his career with the Sheriff’s Office in 2018 and graduated from Class 017 of the Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy.
Deputy Kindig and Deputy Payne returned to duty in late July after spending several weeks training with their K9 partners at Shallow Creek Kennels in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania.

Slowdown Blount County, school is back in session

Community, Press Release
slow down
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – With virtually all schools now back in session in Blount County, Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong is asking drivers to SLOW DOWN through school zones. Our BCSO Traffic Safety deputies reported that many drivers disregarded the school zones this morning.
As a reminder, the majority of school zones in Blount County are 20 miles per hour. Please be mindful when traveling through school zones. Deputies will issue speeding citations to drivers who disregard the speed limit!

Several Blount County deputies awarded promotions

Community, News, Press Release
promotions
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Sheriff James Lee Berrong is proud to announce eight newly promoted deputies. Capt. James Trentham, Capt. Chuck Garner, and Lt. Brad Butler resumed their new duties July 18. Sgt. Darin Gallow, Sgt. Allen Russell, Cpl. Justin Beckman, Cpl. Bryan Kavney, and Cpl. Justin Aycocke will all resume their new duties effective August 15.
Capt. James Trentham began his career at the Sheriff’s Office in 1996 and worked his way through the ranks in Patrol, K9, and Investigations. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in Investigations in 2015. He also serves as the agency’s polygraph technician.
Capt. Chuck Garner also started his career at BCSO in 1996 as a patrol and K9 deputy. He was promoted to the rank of corporal in 2001 and K9 sergeant in 2004. In 2014, Capt. Garner was promoted to administrative lieutenant, heading up the Field Training program and providing support in Operations.
Lt. Brad Butler was hired in 2011 as a patrol deputy from the BCSO Reserve Unit and attended the Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy. In 2014 he was promoted to corporal, and in 2016 he was awarded the rank of sergeant.
Sgt. Darin Gallow came to the BCSO as a veteran patrol officer and military veteran, serving in both the U.S. Marines and the Tennessee Air Guard. In 2016, he was promoted to the rank of corporal in patrol.
Sgt. Allen Russell is a long-time Sheriff’s deputy. He has served as the leader of the Sheriff’s Office K9 unit for many years, and is esteemed throughout the region as an expert K9 handler and trainer.
We are also excited to see our new corporals grow in their duties. Cpl. Justin Beckman was hired in 2007 in Corrections before attending the Sheriff’s Office P.O.S.T. (Peace Officer Standards and Training) in 2012. Following graduation from the P.O.S.T. academy, Cpl. Beckman served as a patrol and Traffic Safety deputy. Cpl. Justin Aycocke was hired in 2015 as a patrol deputy, graduating from the BCSO Regional Training Academy in 2015. Cpl. Bryan Kavney started his career at the BCSO in 2016 as a patrol deputy, graduating from the Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy the same year.

Suspected overdose death leads to arrest

News, Press Release
overdose death
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong announced the death of a 22-year-old man from an apparent overdose and the subsequent arrest of a woman that stemmed from a search warrant following the young man’s death early this morning.
The male victim, age 22, was pronounced dead on the scene by AMR medics. He was taken to the Knox County Regional Forensics Center where an autopsy will be conducted this week.
Investigators with the Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force arrested Sara Elizabeth Chandra, 35, of Maryville, and charged her with possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana) for resale. She is being held on a $2,500 bond pending a hearing in Blount County General Sessions Court at 9 a.m. July 28. In addition, warrants are on file for Carlos Perez, 25, who also resides at the apartment on Tallent Way, for possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana) for resale and maintain a dwelling where drugs are used or sold.
Deputies responded to an apartment on Tallent Way at around 2:30 a.m. this morning to the report of a possible drug overdose. When deputies arrived, they found the male victim unresponsive in the bathroom. Deputies began CPR on the man and administered two doses of Narcan in an attempt to revive him, but they were unsuccessful in their efforts. AMR Ambulance Service arrived and confirmed that the victim was deceased. Deputies spoke with Sara Chandra. She told deputies that the victim arrived at the apartment Sunday evening and they used cocaine and alcohol together before he became unresponsive. Deputies observed numerous drugs in plain view in the apartment.
Deputies contacted the Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force, and a short time later narcotics investigators conducted a search warrant on the residence. In total, investigators seized 3 grams of methamphetamine, 1.1 gram of cocaine, 0.5 grams of heroin, 10 grams of Psilocybin (magic) mushrooms, 1.236 pounds of marijuana/THC wax, numerous prescription narcotics, three firearms, and approximately $3,200 cash.
Deputies contacted the Department of Children’s Services regarding a two-year-old boy who was in the apartment during the incident.
The investigation is ongoing, and additional charges are pending.
From January 1 through July 18, 2021, local law enforcement, including the Sheriff’s Office and Maryville and Alcoa Police Departments, have responded to 213 overdoses and 35 overdose deaths.
The Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force is comprised of deputies and officers with Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Maryville Police Department, and Alcoa Police Department.

Alleged scammer charged for exploiting elderly woman

News, Press Release
scammer
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong announced investigators placed warrants on file for a 30-year-old New York man after he swindled a Maryville woman out of $15,000 in a “grandparent” scam.
Blount County Sheriff’s investigators placed warrants on file for Jaquan Jarrod Wright, 30, of Brooklyn, New York for felony theft as well as financial exploitation of elderly or vulnerable. Wright and two females were also charged by Loudon County Sheriff’s investigators with similar crimes. The trio remains in custody in the Loudon County Jail.
Blount County placed a hold on Wright, and he will return to the Blount County Correctional Facility to face his charges here as soon as his case is adjudicated in Loudon County.
The Sheriff’s Office is working jointly with Loudon County Sheriff’s Office on the scheme in which criminals call elderly people claiming to be a family member in trouble needing bail money, and/or a phony attorney or law enforcement official claiming the victim needs to go to the bank and withdraw cash to pay a bond for a grandchild.
The BCSO received numerous complaints last week of this scheme, and a Maryville woman fell victim to the criminal, handing over $15,000 to a phony bail bondsman, identified as Wright, who showed up at her house to pick up the cash. In addition, a victim in Loudon County also lost thousands of dollars to Wright with the same scheme.
Investigators with Loudon County and Blount County Sheriff’s Offices took Wright and two females into custody Thursday evening in Loudon County. Other area jurisdictions reported the same activity in their respective counties last week.
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate, and investigators are asking individuals who may have fallen victim to these criminals to come forward and file a report.
“Our strong working relationship with Loudon County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies proved to be invaluable in this case,” Sheriff Berrong said. “This arrest may not have been possible without the collective resources and investigative knowledge we share as a team.”
As a reminder, if you receive this type of phone call, hang up and call 911. These criminals are very convincing and are relentless in their quest to steal your money.

Budget Committee Passes Recommendation to County Commission for FY21-22

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The Blount County Budget Committee has sent a balanced budget to the County Commission that has no tax increase, no use of fund balance, and has paid off more of our debt and created no new debt. I hope that is something that every taxpaying citizen appreciates about their government. Here are some of the important highlights from last night’s Budget Committee Public Hearing & June regular meeting:
The Budget Committee passed a recommendation for the County Commission’s consideration to extend the County’s fiber network to each school in the Blount County School System.
This is the culmination of a years-long effort by my office to create a fiber network that connects all government, public safety, and school buildings in Blount County. Of the 21 county schools, 18 will be able to take advantage of these improvements within the next two months. The remaining three, which are Prospect Elementary, Walland Elementary, and Townsend Elementary, are expected to be brought into the fold within the next twelve months.
This project, if approved, will add almost 17 miles of fiber connections to the over 120 existing miles that our Blount County Government, Maryville and Alcoa and utilities have been working hard to expand.
If this funding is approved, we would be adding to the investments already made by our utility companies here in Blount County.  I am thankful that Maryville and Alcoa utility companies invested in optical fiber years ago.  Without that investment, it would have been much harder to overcome the difficulties that COVID-19 caused.  Our joint efforts are benefiting our citizens today and future generations as well.
The FY21-22 Recommended Budget Resolutions were passed onto the full Board of County Commissioners for their consideration.
I’ve already stated it, but I am so proud that we have sent a balanced budget to the Commission that has no tax increase, no use of fund balance and no new debt, and we continue to pay down our current debt.
It has been a commitment by me and my staff that every budget process for the last 11 years be totally transparent and open to review by the citizens of Blount County.  This year, we have gone above and beyond in making sure that all of our budget review hearings were open to the public, not only in person but also by internet.
I want to thank each member of our Budget Committee who has invested countless hours of their time working on this budget.  To my staff, especially Finance Director Randy Vineyard and his team, who year after year, work diligently on making this entire process, that begins in January each year, as smooth as possible.
Thank you to the Elected Officials and Department Heads who are committed to being good stewards of our citizens’ tax dollars every day while providing the very best service.
Next steps for the FY 21-22 Budget Process:
County Commission Agenda Workshop tonight at 6:30 pm
The June County Commission Meeting is Thursday, June 17 at 6:30 pm.

Greenback woman charged with 7 counts of reckless endangerment

News, Press Release
reckless endangerment
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong said a Greenback woman was arrested and charged with seven counts of felony reckless endangerment after she drove through a vaccine tent at a high rate of speed Monday, placing the lives of seven workers in danger.
Virginia Christine Lewis Brown, 35, Rudd Road, Greenback, was released on bonds totaling $21,000 on her charges pending a hearing in Blount County General Sessions Court at 9 a.m. June 7, 2021.
The incident occurred Monday morning at the Blount County Health Department vaccine site at Foothills Mall. Two Blount County Sheriff’s deputies who were working at the site witnessed Ms. Brown speed through the coned section and through the enclosed vaccine tent in a Chrysler Pacifica. The deputies reported that Ms. Brown did not stop at the check-in area at the entrance of the tent but continued through the tent at a high rate of speed, then exited the tent and out of the parking lot. Several personnel, who represent the Blount County Health Department and the Tennessee National Guard, ran out of the tent and toward the deputy’s vehicles.
Witnesses and staff told the deputies Ms. Brown yelled “No vaccine!” as she drove through the tent. One of the deputies followed the vehicle out of the parking lot and conducted a traffic stop on Morganton Road. Ms. Brown told the deputy that she drove through the site to protest the vaccine. Ms. Brown was arrested and taken to the Blount County Correctional Facility without incident.

Gov. Lee Pushes Return to Work, Economic Recovery

News, Press Release
economic recovery Governor Lee statewide public health orders

NASHVILLETenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the end of all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs in Tennessee, effective July 3.

“We will no longer participate in federal pandemic unemployment programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in our state,” said Gov. Lee. “Families, businesses and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.”

Gov. Lee’s letter to the U.S. Department of Labor can be viewed here.

Federal pandemic unemployment programs set to end on July 3 include the following:

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides for an additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits for those who would not usually qualify, such as the self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides for an extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), which provides an additional $100 benefit to certain people with mixed earnings

Unemployment claimants in Tennessee have been required to complete three weekly job searches in order to remain eligible for benefits since Oct. 4, 2020.

Any weeks filed before July 3 that are eligible under federal program requirements will continue to be processed.

The Tennessee Workforce Development System stands ready to help Tennesseans return to the workforce. Career specialists are available to help job seekers match with new employment opportunities at more than 80 American Job Centers across the state. They can work to identify possible training programs that can help an individual change their career pathway or enter an apprenticeship program so they can earn a competitive wage, while they learn a new trade.

The Tennessee Virtual American Job Center, www.TNVirtualAJC.com, allows Tennesseans to research different programs that can help remove barriers to employment so they can more easily reenter Tennessee’s workforce.

As federal pandemic unemployment compensation ends in Tennessee, the state encourages claimants to search for work at www.Jobs4TN.gov, which currently has over 250,000 active job postings of all skill levels.

Motorists remember to “click it or ticket it”

Community, Press Release
click it or ticket
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – As summer kicks off and families hit the road for vacation, Blount County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) to remind motorists to “Click It or Ticket.” From May 24 through June 6, participating agencies across the state will increase seat belt enforcement as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) nationwide mobilization.
“Buckling up is such a simple task that can keep you and your family safe in the car,” said Sheriff James Lee Berrong. “But it’s more than that. Buckling up is the law. Our law enforcement officers see the consequences of not buckling up. We see the loss of life. Often, it could have been prevented with the simple click of a seat belt. This should be automatic.”
According to Tennessee’s Integrated Traffic Analysis Network (TITAN), 403 people killed in Tennessee traffic crashes last year were not wearing a seat belt. This represents approximately 33 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities in 2020.
According to NHTSA, in 2019, there were 9,466 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in the United States. In that same year, 55 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed at night (6 p.m.–5:59 a.m.) were not wearing seat belts. That’s why one focus of the “Click It or Ticket” campaign is nighttime enforcement. Participating law enforcement agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, writing citations both day and night.
For more information about seat belt safety, visit www.tntrafficsafety.org.

Gov. Lee Pushes Reopening, Focus on Economic Recovery

News, Press Release
economic recovery Governor Lee statewide public health orders

NASHVILLETenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the end of statewide public health orders and signed Executive Order 80 to address economic and regulatory functions. EO 80 also ends the local authority to issue mask requirements in the 89 counties directed by the state health department.

“COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue in Tennessee and no longer a statewide public health emergency,” said Gov. Lee. “As Tennesseans continue to get vaccinated, it’s time to lift remaining local restrictions, focus on economic recovery and get back to business in Tennessee.”

EO 80 contains the following provisions and is effective through May 31, 2021:

 

Removing Local Mask Authority

While Tennessee has never had a statewide mask mandate, EO 80 removes the local authority for county mayors in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to require face coverings throughout their jurisdictions.

Gov. Lee has requested counties with independent health departments – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – that have remaining business restrictions or mask requirements to lift all measures no later than the end of May.

Extending Deregulatory Provisions

EO 80 extends helpful deregulatory provisions to enable individuals, businesses and other organizations time to adapt their operations in anticipation of ending said provisions.

Maintaining Federal Funding

EO 80 maintains Tennessee’s access to federal funding, including SNAP benefits and cost reimbursements for the Tennessee National Guard’s testing and vaccination efforts.

In addition to EO 80, the following provisions are effective immediately:

 

Offering Walk-Up Vaccine Option

While the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be available to Tennesseans aged 16 and older by appointment, local health departments will now offer a walk-up option.

 

Retiring Optional Business Guidance

The Tennessee Pledge business guidelines issued at the start of COVID-19 have been officially retired.

Blount County Sheriff’s Office promotes “slow down Tennessee”

Community, News
slow down tennessee
MARYVILLE, TENNESSEE – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong said the Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) to promote “Slow Down Tennessee.” During April 16 – 30, the Sheriff’s Office will increase education, awareness, and enforcement efforts to help reduce speeding-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities statewide.
Between May 1, 2020 and April 15, 2021, Sheriff’s deputies worked close to 900 crashes, 239 of which involved injury or death, and 171 of those crashes involved speeding and/or negligent driving as known contributing factors.
“Since the implementation of our dedicated Traffic Safety Unit in the early 2000s, and particularly since 2016, we have witnessed a steady decline in injury and fatal crashes worked by the Blount County Sheriff’s Office,” Sheriff Berrong said. “These deputies work hard to ensure the safety of the citizens who travel our roadways, and we are hopeful that this trend will continue in the future. However, statistics don’t always provide a complete picture, and they don’t address the lives lost or changed due to a car accident that involves speeding or reckless driving. One life lost, or one person injured due to speeding or reckless driving is still too many.”
Sheriff Berrong assures citizens that with the return of warmer temperatures, and as more citizens and tourists begin traveling through Blount County, deputies will be out in force in an effort to slow down speeders, especially in areas of the county that are known as dangerous roadways. Between April and November, there is a considerable increase in traffic on the section of U.S. Highway 129 known as the “Dragon”, an 11.2 mile stretch of highway with 318 dangers curves. This stretch of roadway is appealing to motorcyclists and car club enthusiasts. With the help of a grant provided by the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, in conjunction with NHTSA, the Sheriff’s Office deploys additional deputies to the “Dragon” during these months to keep citizens safe.
The State of Tennessee requires motorists to always exercise due care and maintain a safe speed while driving. Speed limits may vary depending on the county and road conditions; therefore, drivers must always pay attention and adhere to posted speed limits to ensure the safety of all roadway users.
For more information about speeding, visit www.tntrafficsafety.org/slow.

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