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Dandridge, Tennessee

June 13, 2011

Historical and Thriving Dandridge, TN

Staff Photo / Mayor George Gantte

Dandridge Mayor George Gantte has had a busy couple of weeks. The town was deep in fishermen last weekend as the Bassmasters descended on Douglas Lake. This was Dandridge’s first venture into an event with the size and public recognition of the Bassmasters, but the Mayor is pleased with the way the town presented itself. Gantte stated that everyone came together- all the city departments, as well as the residents of the town-to provide the visiting anglers with a positive experience. But, the Mayor stresses that he isn’t surprised. He feels that one of the most unique things about Dandridge is the involvement of her citizens. Dandridge has just been named as a Historic Destination, and the Mayor is sure that wouldn’t have happened without some very active merchants and citizens. The Historic Downtown Square is certainly thriving, and Gantte is always looking for ways to bring people into town. One of the newest items on the agenda is to “brand” Dandridge, so that she is more marketable. The Mayor would also like to see Douglas Lake utilized and better promoted. He feels that Dandridge needs to play to her

strengths, and the close proximity to the lake is definitely a drawing point. Gantte would like to see a water skiing event in Dandridge’s future. He also hopes to continue to promote the historical side of the town, and would like to see a community based theater come to town. Gantte believes that Dandridge can provide the quite vacation that many mountain lovers are seeking. Of course, every tourist spends money and increased sales tax revenues mean lower property taxes for locals. The recession has placed a burden and limits on everyone, but the Mayor is committed to continuing to provide the services that are already in place. He says that he is aware that the demographics in Dandridge are slightly different than other areas of the county, and that every city has its own unique challenges. Dandridge has become a magnet for retirees heading south for the next phase of their life. The balancing act between providing the kind of services that residents expect, and working with a stretched budget is challenging. One of the more recent recession causalities is the June Jubilee. The event was sponsored heavily by industries that were greatly impacted by the recession, such as real estate companies. Organizers of the event felt that it was unfair to ask these businesses for sponsorship dollars during a economic dry stretch. But, the Mayor is quick to point out that there are a lot of events to look forward to . Music on the Town is hugely successful and the Scotch Irish Festival is always a great success. And of course, there are smaller events all the time in Dandridge.

One area of the town that is thriving this summer is The Field of Dreams. Mayor Gantte is particularly proud of the recreation complex and is looking forward to the completion of the community center. He hopes to host enough tournaments in the two gymnasiums to cover the operation costs. The Baseball and Softball fields are getting quite a workout this summer, and Dandridge will play host to boys State Championship games, as well as girls district play. One look at the Field of Dreams and it is evident why the Mayor is so proud of the recreation complex.

Of Course, this is budget time, and Mayor Gantte, along with the Alderman and Town Administrator Hutchins, will have some trimming to do. The Mayor says that the hardest thing to do is make cuts in departments, when you don’t see what the employees need day to day. Dandridge is also looking to extend growth boundaries, but only in response to a request from the school system. Although Dandridge was not looking to extend growth boundaries out as far as the new school sites, the Mayor believes that it is important to be a good partner to the County. 

He says that all of the city Mayors work well together and support each other. Mayor Gantte believes that his first responsibility is to the citizens of Dandridge, and next responsibility to the citizens of Jefferson County.

The interstate exit areas are prime location for big box businesses, and the Mayor would like to see some growth in that area. He is in contact with the Economic Development division of the Chamber of Commerce and hopes to promote the right kind of growth to the interstate area. He would like to keep as much business as possible locally and encourages people to familiarize themselves with Dandridge. Mayor Gantte said that it was nice to see Dandridge through the eyes of the Bassmaster pro anglers. He was encouraged that such well traveled visitors were so complimentary of Dandridge. Mayor Gantte says that the most special thing about Dandridge is the residents of the town. Shopping, Dining, the lake and even one red light-one thing is for sure, Dandridge is now on the map and Mayor Gantte, with a little help from his friends, intends to keep her there. 

Mayors Palmieri and Potts Host HMA

Jefferson County Mayor Palmieri and Jefferson City Mayor Potts hosted a meet and greet to introduce elected officials, and the public at large, to Health Management Associates. The company plans to acquire assets and operations of seven hospitals and Jefferson Memorial Hospital is on the acquisition list. HMA is a for profit company, which will be a change from Mercy’s non profit approach. Representatives from both Mercy and HMA were on hand to make the public presentation. HMA pledged to be a good community partner, as well as maintain the current Charity Plan. They also stated that employees will be retained and will not lose their current tenure status. It is their plan to tailor the hospital to meet the unique needs of the Jefferson County community. HMA is already has a strong presence in the south and has 60 facilities in 15 states. They are attracted to the demographics in Jefferson County, because HMA gravitates toward communities with high number of retirees-which is punctuated by the current census. 

The plan is to take over Jefferson Memorial Hospital in late summer, but much will depend on Jefferson City and Jefferson County approval, as they jointly own the property. County Commissioner Beeler questioned if HMA will honor the lease agreement that currently exists with Mercy. HMA representatives stated that the lease agreement will not change, and, in fact, they will be one of the top five property tax payers in the county. The current hospital Governance includes a local hospital board and a representative on a higher governing board, to assure the interest of Jefferson County. Jefferson City Vice Mayor Smith asked if the current structure would stay in place, with county representation on a high level board. HMA representatives stated that the current structure of their company does not include multi level hospital boards, and they did not want to commit to anything that might not work for HMA. Their current structure shows HMA Division Operations as the step above the local hospital advisory board. As a for profit organization,

Staff Photo

HMA’s Board of Directors has a responsibility to investors. Though the structure of the company is different than a non profit hospital, the potential to invest resources in Jefferson Memorial is also vastly different. HMA plans to commit to a capitol spending plan minimum over the next five years, which will include improving facilities and a growth plan.

The Jefferson Memorial Hospital Foundation will stay in place and its funds are not a part of the HMA acquisition.

Mayor Palmieri stated that Jefferson County has enjoyed a good relationship with Mercy, but that relationship is no longer possible. Both he and Mayor Potts are committed to bringing the best community partner, with the best record in Health Care Management, to Jefferson County. 

HMA hopes to achieve a target time of late summer for ownership change and has plans to sign documents in July to continue the process of becoming the premier provider of health care for Jefferson County.

E Coli Case Confirmed in Jefferson County

Jefferson County has joined the ranks of other East Tennessee counties, as the Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed a case of E coli in the local area. There are currently 12 confirmed cases of E Coli in the East Tennessee region, and one has resulted in a fatality. The State Department of Communicable and Environmental Disease refers to these as cluster cases, though all not all of the E Coli cases are believed to be from the same strain. The E Coli bacteria can be obtained from undercooked meat-particularly hamburger- as well as vegetables. Cross contamination of food is also a prominent source of the bacteria One of the most serious outbreaks of E Coli, in recent years, came from Spinach in 2006. Immature immune systems make children particularly vulnerable to the effects of E Coli. The elderly do not fair well with the bacteria, as well as anyone with a weak immune system. Bloody Diarrhea and stomach pain are common symptoms of E Coli. The State Health Department does not track strains that do not involve intestinal symptoms. According to the Jefferson County Environmental Health Department, two wells have recently testes positive for the bacteria. The positive test result is an unusual occurrence. Both wells are located in the Dandridge area, though they are not close to each other. The State Department of Health would not confirm the city of residence of the affected Jefferson County resident. It is not clear at this time if the E Coli is related to the cluster outbreak in other East Tennessee counties. The State Department of Health is not yet sure of the source of the E Coli, though food- and drinking contaminated water are two of the more common sources. Cooking meat thoroughly, washing fruit and vegetables-as well as safe food preparation to avoid cross contamination-will reduce the opportunity to come in contact with the bacterial strain. Caution should be used while swimming in public pools and the lake to avoid consuming contaminated water.

Raccoon Attack Friday Evening in Dandridge

A Dandridge woman was attacked at her home early Friday evening by a raccoon. Evelyn Hance was in her yard around 8pm on Friday when she noticed a raccoon on her deck. The animal had moved her young into the corner of the deck and placed herself between them and Hance. Mrs. Hance did not advance on the raccoon or try to shoo it away, as she recognized that it was a mother protecting her young. The raccoon advanced on Hance, as she was retreating from the area. It viciously attacked her legs, hands and arms, as she struggled to free herself. Bill Hance, Evelyn’s husband, was able to fight the animal off of his wife. She was taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Jefferson City and released after treatment. Hance has multiple stitches and some lacerations that were too jagged to stitch. She is also receiving rabies shots, as the animal escaped and could not be tested. Hance said that she thought that she was far enough away from the animal that she was not at risk of attack, and thought that it would move its young off the deck. Raccoons are in abundance in Jefferson County and are considered to be little more than a nuisance. Raccoon attacks are not uncommon, and they can be a carrier of rabies. Like all wild animals, they should be treated with caution. As Mrs. Hance can attest to, even small wildlife can do a lot of damage if they attack. Hance will complete her series of rabies shots , and though uncomfortable, is recovering well.

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