Sunday, November 29, 2009

Doulass Alumni Working Board Meeting in Knoxville

For our December meeting, Frank Horton and his wife Dee Dee have agreed to host it in their home. We will be having our meeting on Dec. 19, at 1:00 p.m. in Friendsville, TN outside Knoxville. Their address is 1065 North Union Grove Road, Friendsville, TN 37737.

Those that can make the trip, we will get together here in Kingsport before we leave.


---Doug Releford, President, Douglass Alumni Association-Kingsport

Website Editor's Note: The Knoxville meetingt is the result of concerns expressed at our September meeting that our Douglass Alumni who live outside the Kingsport area want to share some of the burden that the Kingsport folks have born for many years. Rides to the meeting, which should last less than 2 hours will be arranged, and everybody who can, should attend this meeting. We have a few items to discuss before the end of the year, as we prepare to move into our new Douglass Alumni Association home at V.O. Dobbins in just a few short months. You can even do some Christmas shopping while in Knoxville, but please put this meeting on your schedule. IT WILL BE POT LUCK.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Pictures of the Renovations at V.O. Dobbins

Join us for a slide show tour of the renovations at V.O. Dobbins in Riverview, taken Thanksgiving Week, 2009.

The slide show features the first exclusive look at the Douglass Community Room in the building.

To view the slide show of the Dobbins renovations, please click here.

Construction on our beloved Douglass School building is ahead of schedule. Instead of opening in July, 2010. it's possible the building will be ready for occupancy sometime in the spring of 2010.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Comedian brings ‘life’ into spotlight at Kingsport show

Xavier Hall’s Friday performance at Rascals is being filmed for a future DVD release.



Life is what you make it, the old saying goes. For comedian Xavier Hall, life is his job — the conversations, situations, accusations and deliberations — and he takes it to the stage for your entertainment.
“That’s what I do. If I can take you and get rid of that stress or whatever you’re going through and make you laugh and have a good time, that makes my day and I’m glad to do it,” said Hall. Hall, a 1992 graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School, has been touring the country with a troupe of comedians that have been featured on BET’s “ComicView” and are currently on a holiday hiatus until January, enough time for him to make a second visit to Rascals in Kingsport for a comedy concert.
“I just see it as a way to pay homage to my hometown, a place where I got my inspiration from good folks who urged me to go and cut up on stage instead of at gatherings with friends,” said Hall, who drew more than 300 people for his July appearance in Kingsport.
The Kingsport show, which is being filmed for a future DVD release, is scheduled for Rascals, 125 Cumberland St., on Friday, with opening acts Roxy and KinFolk beginning at 8 p.m.
Hall’s brand of comedy, which he labels as PG-13, draws from everyday life, and Hall says he wants audience members to feel like they are involved in a conversation.
“You have to just take a look at what has happened in your life, and sometimes those experiences can be the ones that will make you fall down in the floor and laugh,” he said.
“It’s real life. You’ve done it and didn’t realize until somebody put it in that context, and then it hits you. From funerals to a roller coaster ride you can’t believe you got on, you’ve talked about it or done it.
“Like going on this ride with my work buddy, Harold. He is over here going ‘who-hoo’ and I’m thinking why are we ‘who-hooing’? I don’t have any business being on a roller coaster after turning 19 years old, but you got to do your man things.”
Another reason Hall’s comedic material runs through the course of life is his core audience.
“I’ve got pastors and people of the street in the crowd, and everybody paid their money to come in and laugh, so I’ve got to give everybody something,” he said.
“Things and ideas for your routine hit you daily, so I’m constantly writing and remembering what I’ve seen. Sometimes it’s hard to plan because you never know what kind of audience you’re going to get.
“Comedy changes, and it sometimes depends on where you are. Down in the South, people are a little more easygoing, so engaging them takes time but it happens. Up North, you’ve got to earn that laugh, and I have been blessed to make a lot of people laugh.”
During that first concert at Rascals earlier this year, more seats were needed for the crowd, so a call went out to a local church in downtown Kingsport.
Hall was ready to go and lift seats until some friends told him that he needed to go and prepare.
“That’s just who I am. I work for everything, and they had to tell me, ‘Hey, this is your show, we’ll take care of you. You go get ready.’ It just means a lot to me that people care enough and enjoy my show that they came out, so I am working to make that show one they will laugh about in the car on the way home and at work the next day,” said Hall.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ebony Club Conference Call Move

Tonight's conference call has been re-scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 8th due to it being a holiday week. Call in if you want to help out or provide input.


Time: December 8, 2009 from 9pm to 10:30pm
Location: Via Telephone
Organized By: Jeffery A. Faulkerson

Event Description:
Join us on Tuesday, December 8th at 9:00 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. CT for a conference call. We will be exploring the possibility of hosting a benefit show (i.e., fashion and talent show) that will lead to the resurrection of the Ebony Club, which was formed in 1972 by Elizabeth "Lib" Dudney and carried on by Dawnella Ellis.

The conference call-in number is:

(646) 716-5918

Come on, y'all!!! It's time to give Kingsport's African-American high school students something they can call their own.

See more details and RSVP on Ebony Club Alumni Association:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Updated Pictures from the HOPE VI Home Construction in Riverview

There is finally action in the Riverview Neighborhood on the site of the Riverview Apartments.

Construction has begun on the HOPE VI homes.

To see the first construction pictures on site, click here.

By looking at the pictures, it's pretty easy to see how the construction will progress. On the four-block site, the footers have already been poured for the first homes, right at the corner of Carver and Douglass Streets. The homes on that site will be the first completed on the site of the old Apartments. Construction will then move along Carver Street, down to the old Booker Street, then go back up to the corner of Douglass and Carver Streets.

Homes on the lower end of the tract between MLK-Lincoln, Lower Carver Street and Lower Louis Street will all be built last.

But the 4 HOPE VI homes on Lower Carver Street at MLK-Lincoln and Middle Carver Street at Douglass Street, plus the two homes being built on Wheatley Street will be finished long before the others. One home, in fact, is about halfway done right now.

Follow along with the pictures.

In a few days, we'll take you inside V.O. Dobbins for a look at the renovation going on there. Although the building is supposed to be finished and open for occupancy in July, we are predicting that construction work on our historic Douglass School building will be finished way ahead of schedule, possibly by March or April.

Please watch for a link to those pictures on your Douglass website!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Douglass Board Meeting Postponed Again


Douglas S. Releford

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Construction problems plague Kingsport HOPE VI homes at Sherwood-Hiwassee

KHRA selected Cornerstone Housing of Maryland to be the developer, and Cornerstone selected Walker Construction of Chattanooga to perform the work.

HOPE VI is building new homes in the Riverview Community right now



KINGSPORT — A number of problems have been discovered at the new HOPE VI houses built along Sherwood and Hiwassee, including drainage problems, poor masonry work, and cracked concrete in the driveways, walkways and steps.
Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority officials say all of the problems will be addressed and are asking residents for patience during the upcoming repair process.

David Grace —
Problems with drainage, poor masonry work and cracked concrete have been discovered in some of the new HOPE VI houses along Sherwood and Hiwassee.
More than three years ago, Kingsport received an $11.9 million HOPE VI revitalization grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the redevelopment of two distressed city neighborhoods. Phase one of the project replaced 29 houses along Sherwood and Hiwassee with 24 new, affordable homes. The second phase calls for 32 rental houses and duplexes built on the old Riverview Apartments site, with six additional houses built in the Riverview community.
The Sherwood/Hiwassee homes were finished this past spring. The KHRA has contracts on all of them, and 15 are occupied. A groundbreaking for the Riverview phase was held in October, with the homes slated to be built by December 2010.
In order to build the homes along Sher- wood/Hiwassee, the KHRA selected Cornerstone Housing of Maryland to be the developer; Cornerstone in turn selected Walker Construction of Chattanooga to perform the work.
According to KHRA officials, back in the spring Cornerstone discovered Walker had not installed any flashing in any of the 24 houses, as per the requirements of the project. Flashing is a weatherproofing product — in this case a metal lining along the base of the house between the foundation and the brick used to divert water.
“The flashing was supposed to be installed, even though it is not required by code,” said Doris Ladd, HOPE VI director for the KHRA. “We approached Walker for rectification, and when (Brent Walker) indicated he wasn’t going to complete that, Cornerstone brought in people to remove a portion of the brick and reinstall (the flashing).”
Soon after, Cornerstone terminated the contract with Walker.
“The contractor should be expected to come in and make those kinds of repairs,” said Terry Cunningham, KHRA director.
During the process of correcting the flashing issue, a large sample of the brick was removed from one of the houses, about three or four rows. Cunningham said Cornerstone discovered the masonry work was not according to specification (insufficient ties) and there were problems with the concrete — the driveways, walkways and steps had cracks in them.
“Someone wasn’t very careful when they used heavy equipment on some of (the driveways),” Ladd said.
The brick used on the houses is no longer manufactured, and Ladd said Cornerstone has agreed to re-brick all 24 houses.
The bonding company has selected Landmark Construction of Johnson City to re-mediate the houses and to complete the various “punch list” items Walker did not complete as well.
Ladd said Landmark is expected to be on site Monday, with work starting soon after. Cunningham said the amount of money to fix the problems would be “significant” but that there would be no cost to the city or KHRA.
Kirk Gray, Cornerstone’s point man on the project, did not return phone calls and e-mails this week seeking comment.
Brent Walker, one of the owners of Walker Construction, said he stopped working on the project in July when Cornerstone stopped paying him.
“They never gave me a reason,” Walker said this week.
Walker said Cornerstone stopped paying him before the flashing issue was discovered and that he stopped working before the contract was terminated.
“(The flashing) was one of the things that got missed, and I made an offer to re-mediate it in other ways, and (Cornerstone) said no,” Walker said. “When we found out at the end that there were some other things that needed to be done, we made an offer to come back and do it, and (Cornerstone) said no.”
Walker’s contract to build the houses was for $3.2 million, and according to Walker, the company received about 85 percent of the contract. Walker said attorneys for both sides are currently talking about the situation.
One of the selling points for Walker came from KHRA officials when the HOPE VI grant was originally announced, noting that Walker had done another HOPE VI project in Chattanooga — the company’s hometown.
According to a representative for the city of Chattanooga, Walker Construction was the principal contractor in a $35 million HOPE VI project — the Village at Alton Park — completed in 2006. This project created 275 rental units and 125 home ownership units.
Mark Rudisill, who was Chattanooga’s HOPE VI coordinator at the time, said their project went well.
“You always have glitches in a project of that magnitude. Their primary responsibility was for the second and third phases of the rental units, and they took over some of the home ownership units,” Rudisill said. “The city never came close to firing Walke r. ”
A separate problem with the houses deals with water in four of the houses’ crawl spaces.
Kingsport Building Inspector Mike Freeman said when the house foundations were dug out, it was during a drought. The recent rainy weather revealed the property has wet weather springs, and water was getting through the foundation, Freeman said.
To correct this problem, Ladd said sump pumps were installed in all 24 houses, and the KHRA intends to install a french drain in one section of the neighborhood.
“We are being very diligent and trying to do our best. We’re installing a french drain system in the area, in addition to the sump pumps,” Ladd said.
The money to install the sump pumps and french drain will come from other grants and proceeds from the sale of the homes.
Ladd said nobody anticipated the water problems, noting the KHRA put sump pumps in all 24 houses, even though only four were having problems.
KHRA officials have met with each homeowner and apprised them of the situation, along with what work will take place to fix their houses. Cunningham said he does not think anyone will have to be relocated during the repair process.
“We’re going to start with some empty ones and validate the process. They’re pretty confident there won’t be any issues,” Cunningham said. “It will be disruptive for a couple of weeks, but we’re pretty confident it won’t be a problem.
“They may have to be out a day or so. Nothing long term, just minor interruptions.”
Ernest Norton, who lives in one of the new houses, said the KHRA has been good during the ordeal, but he said the experience has been hectic.
“It’s been a headache for us. If you close on a home, you expect it to be done,” Norton said. “It’s been one thing after another, and it seems like it’s never ending.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Meeting Reschedule

I am sorry that I am getting this out so late, but I did ask Calvin to put it on the Douglass web site. The meeting for this Saturday, Nov. 14 has been canceled. I had some calls from different people that they would be out of town and some are sick.


Douglas S. Releford

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coty Sensabaugh: From Dobyns-Bennett to Clemson...


Hey Jeff,

Since I mentioned to you last week about Coty Sensabaugh's playing time at Clemson, thought I would make sure you knew he intercepted a pass from Florida State's Christian Ponder in the second quarter of last night's nationally televised ESPN games between Florida State and Clemson.

It was Coty's first pick of the season, and one of four Clemson had in their 40-24 victory.

We saw and spoke briefly to Coty before the game, during Clemson's "Tiger Walk" - he's a fine young man and a great D-B representative!

Charlie Floyd
Vice President-Mill Manager
Domtar Paper Company
Kingsport, Tennessee

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Special shopping event at Kingsport Town Center (Fort Henry Mall)

Santa's Night Out Holiday Charity Shopping Sun, Nov. 15, 6:30pm-9:00pm

Kingsport Town Center is teaming up with Second Harvest Food Bank for two and a half hours of Power Shopping for a Cause! Your ticket to enter? Just bring $5 worth of non-perishable items or make a $5 donation to Second Harvest Food Bank when the doors open. Door prizes to be given away throughout the evening!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A message to all members of Ebony Club Alumni Association

Hey, gang:

I just want to apologize to those persons who called in last night for the Ebony Club Benefit Show conference call. The family and I were in Michigan attending a funeral, and it totally slipped my mind that we were on again. I will send a broadcast message out within the next 48 hours letting you know when a new date has been set.

Peace, and Afro grease.

Jeff "Pac-Man" Faulkerson
(919) 604-4585

Visit Ebony Club Alumni Association at:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Your Webshot Photos - Among the Most Viewed in the U.S.A.!

Here's a shout-out to the Douglass Alumni and all the folks in Riverview-South Central, and to our neighbors in Kingsport, Johnson City, Bristol and the surrounding East Tennessee-Southwest Virginia area.

Your viewership of the pictures, photographs and videos in the website's PHOTO GALLERY have made the albums there, among the the most viewed in the entire country.

WEBSHOTS is our official picture/photo/video server. WEBSHOTS has 2 million monthly visitors and more than 520 million photos and videos on file, making it one of the largest photo- and video-sharing sites in the world. It is a service we subscribe to, to make it easy to view and access the photos and videos.

And the Douglass Website is one of its main contributors, hence:

Since the website started almost 3 years ago, as of today (Monday, November 9, 2009), we have 261 albums in our PHOTO GALLERY. Since Day One, those albums have had (drum roll, please)..


OVER A HALF MILLION VIEWS have been made to at least one of the albums over that time. That's 132 times the size of Kingsport. It's also the size of Kingsport, Johnson City, both Bristols, Elizabethton, Greeneville, PLUS... Knoxville, Chattanooga, Oak Ridge and Maryville-Alcoa. All put together.

Just this past week ALONE, the albums had 12,308 visits.

Here's where your favorite albums rate in WEBSHOTS list of galleries:

Under REUNIONS & CELEBRATIONS, your albums viewed rank 11th out of 39,324 WEBSHOTS members (102,408 views)

Under CURRENT EVENTS, your albums viewed rank 31st out of 4,489 WEBSHOTS members (47,942 views)

Under FAMILY, your albums viewed rank 3953rd out of 201,863 WEBSHOTS members (11,352 views)

Under HISTORY, your albums viewed rank 196th out of 10,127 WEBSHOTS members (46,925 views)

Under SCHOOL REUNIONS, your albums viewed rank 15th out of 30,654 WEBSHOTS members (65,440 views)

The photos and videos are all about YOU, Douglass Alumni, friends and neighbors in Riverview and South Central Kingsport, and our friends in the surrounding communities. You all make it possible. The website and its pictures/videos (both current and historic) are all about OUR interests, our families, our community, our school, and OUR future. Nobody has ever considered OUR history before. Your Douglass website is proud to serve the proud communities of Riverview and Douglass!

The Name of the Building at 301 Louis Street, Kingsport

When I received an email from the City of Kingsport about a decision on what to call the historic building we know and love at 301 Louis Street, I knew this was a decision to be taken to our Douglass Alumni and friends and neighbors in the Riverview Community.

The decision had to be made quickly, as the architects have to order the letters for the building within the next few days.

So far, the choices are, with the votes in parentheses:

V.O. Dobbins Sr. Community Center (11)
V.O. Dobbins Sr. Community Complex (19)

Folks who haven't yet, can still vote, but it has to be today.
We have to tell the city our preference Tuesday.

Meeting Date Change


The scheduled meeting for next Saturday, November 14th has been re-scheduled for Saturday, November 21st, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The location is TBA and we'll let you know where next week.

The meeting is a pot-luck Thanksgiving-style luncheon, where we will have our regular board meeting, giving thanks for our good fellowship, and then focusing on our forward movement into what will be the biggest year for the Douglass Alumni Association, since its creation in 1970.

All board members should put November 21st on their calendars, and plan to attend this important meeting.

Written history of city’s black community would showcase legacy of Douglass High


Dr. Gray is a 1964 Douglass High School graduate and vice president of Special Services and Equity at McNeese State University, Lake Charles, La.


I read the October 21 article on the Douglass Sons and Daughters’ Web site entitled "Artwork at the New V.O. Dobbins Center: The Sky’s The Limit.” I read further to see what types of art would be included in my former high school, remembering that Martha Beverly, cultural arts coordinator for the City of Kingsport, said: “The sky’s the limit on the artwork we can bring to the new V.O. Dobbins Center.”

I began to reflect on my experiences at Douglass High School, beginning in the eighth grade in 1959 and graduating in 1964. My host family was the Wilbur Hendricks Sr. family when I needed to participate in after-school activities that lasted longer than the school day. I was from Gate City, and my bus left as soon as school was out.
My Douglass High School experiences contributed greatly to my knowledge, background, and experiences which helped me educationally, socially, and culturally because I not only interacted with a larger black population, but with students at Dobyns-Bennett and surrounding areas as I participated in essay and public speaking contests and was vice mayor for the day during an event sponsored by the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen.


My favorite place to eat was Edge’s Place, where we would listen to Rev. Edge’s lectures counseling us on life as we stood in line for one of his hamburgers. The topics varied, depending on what had happened in the neighborhood the night before or what was in the news that he thought we needed to know about.

All of our teachers taught more than the lessons in our books, but demanded and commanded our attention to these lessons. You would have to have experienced the community leaders that I interacted with, both black and white, as I completed my well-rounded educational experiences in the Douglass High School community. The current leaders you all know in the Kingsport-Gate City area are a direct result of what we all experienced as young people attending Douglass High School: a sense of community. I do not want to forget my 24 other classmates in the Class of 1964 who supported me and each other as we acted our way through school, played in the school band, sang in the chorus, participated as basketball cheerleaders and in our student government activities, and studied our high school subjects. You could hear a pin drop in our classes because of the attention expectations of our teachers when it was time to learn.

The Douglass High School community I remember was a strong supporter of education and community involvement — an educational community that was not limited to the historical grounds of Douglass High school. It extended to our churches in the city of Kingsport and to the communities in the surrounding areas. May I suggest that a creative way to showcase the legacy of what Douglass High School meant to the city of Kingsport during our day and to the black community? It goes beyond the Tiger paws and memorabilia such as pictures, trophies, and furniture.

We need a written history about the black community that we all knew with artwork that depicts our stories, our lives, the vocation and work of our community and school leaders by either local writers or artists or regional or national artists; perhaps even a room dedicated to guest artists. When Douglass alums return to their alma mater, regardless of the renovations and changes to our school, we want to see the history of our legacy in print and visually that depicts what made us who we are today and the generations that followed. I respectfully request that the coordinators of the renovation of the V.O. Dobbins Center consider some additional written and visual history of the past and current lives and stories of the Kingsport black community during the years that Douglass High School existed. I, too, am excited about the possibility of quality and historical artwork that reflects the era in which Douglass existed and the impact it made on the Kingsport and surrounding communities.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Building Name

Douglass Alumni and Riverview Neighbors!

Need your advice QUICKLY!

What is your preference for the renovated building at 301 Louis Street, Kingsport?


Please let me know ASAP at
The letters for the building have to be ordered by the designers pronto!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kingsport May Get Another Weed & Seed Area

There may be another Weed & Seed area in Kingsport soon.

Efforts are now underway to incorporate two more neighborhoods under the Weed and Seed umbrella. That's the community-based program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice as a way for residents to reclaim neighborhoods from criminals through crime prevention and community revitalization. "Based on requests from residents who have seen how successful the program has been in Riverview and South Central Kingsport, we are now proposing a new Weed & Seed designation for the Cloud Apartments, Borden Mills and Highland Park area," says Mary Alexander, coordinator of the Riverview-South Central Weed & Seed Office. "With that comes more government funds for increased police presence, more community programs, and more educational directives for children.

And it's no secret why those residents want the increased attention.
"When all the drug dealers and criminals were run out of the Riverview neighborhood," she says, "they all seem to set up shop in Cloud, Highland Park and the Borden areas. Weed & Seed provided the Riverview folks what they needed to push the bad element out. Unfortunately, they just a few blocks away and set up shop to do their criminal activity."

Back when Riverview and South Central applied for Weed & Seed funding, there were no population limits to get the program. Now, there has to be at least 10,000 people living within any proposed area.

"When we first applied in Riverview," Mrs. Alexander says, "we were nowhere close to 10,000 residents. But Riverview had the absolutely worst crime rate of any subdivision in the city, if not one of the worst of any community its size ANYWHERE. Drug dealers, prostitution, gun-related crimes, assaults, robberies, you name it. To be a small community, Riverview had it all. The federal government raised quite a few eyebrows when they saw the numbers."

Crime in Kingsport's African-American neighborhood got so bad, the police department had to put a precinct in the Riverview Apartments, and still, the crime rate was hard to get a handle on. People were afraid to walk down the streets, accidently leave their doors unlocked.. they were afraid to even stop, fearful of some drug dealer running up to the car.

And then came Weed & Seed.

"We pushed out the bad element," says Mrs. Alexander, a sentiment echoed by most Riverview residents, "and now, we're going to try to push them out even further."


Since the Weed & Seed program came to Riverview and South Central Kingsport, as shown by the chart, crimes rates in general have dropped to their lowest levels.


Probably since the neighborhood was formed 70 years ago.

Crime statistics so far this year, show Riverview's total crimes at 17---the lowest of any neighborhood in Kingsport since January 1. Nearby, downtown Kingsport has a total of 499, including 197 larcenies, 84 crimes involving narcotics, 66 building burglaries and 47auto burglaries. Lynn Garden is second with the most crimes so far this year, at 245, then Preston Forest at 131, Fair Acres at 118 and Preston Woods at 49.


10,000 residents.. that's the new magic number.

"To get that many this time, we had to combine Cloud, Borden Mills, and Highland Park," says Mrs. Alexander. "With that, we counted about 11,000 people. Many of them, especially in the Borden Mills subdivision, looked across the railroad tracks at Riverview and what the program did for those folks. When their crime rates started jumping up, they began a campaign to get the program in their neighborhood."

Several meetings have been held with people in the affected areas, and for the most part, Mrs. Alexander says the program has been well received and understood. She says, most people understand that Weed & Seed is a community effort; that the government works with residents, who will work on the front lines to stand up and document criminal activity.

Carol England saw the bad element moving in. She moved back to Borden Village from Bloomingdale about 10 years ago.

"I haven't seen any drug deals around here, but other people have," she says. "Everybody's talking about it. There are a couple of houses around here that everybody's got their eye on.. they all know, that's where you go to get that stuff."

"I thought Weed & Seed was a good program when it started up over in Riverview," she says. "It really cleaned it up over there, but when they run 'em out, they came over here. And it's not just Borden Mills, it's Highland Park, and down around Gibsontown near the hospital. When they tore down the apartments in Riverview, little by little, we started seeing little things going on here, that we hadn't seen before."

Letters to the Kingsport Times-News editors, prompted this reporter to visit Highland Park, to see and perhaps document alleged drug activity that residents there have complainted about. This reporter actually photographed what looked like drug deals going down between at least one driver and a young person who was observed running up to the car. Increased police patrols have curbed much of the illegal activity, residents say, but it has not stopped it.

Meanwhile in Borden Mills, people are scared, according to Ms. England.

"We've got kids around here that go down to the park, they ride their bikes there," she says. "It's not safe over there because sometimes the drug dealers are there. When mynieces and nephews come to visit, they come to the park to play basketball, and you see somebody sitting around in a car, or sitting at a picnic table, just sitting there. They try to look like they belong there, but they don't. And there they are."

"You can push the drug dealers out of one area," says Ms. England, "but they'll just go to another area. They need to do a Weed & Seed for every neighborhood in Kingsport, not just Riverview or Borden Mills or Highland Park. But even that won't clean it up completely, we know that. People around here watch their property, and they watch out for each other, too. If we don't watch out for each other, it will be as bad here, as it was (in Riverview)."

"Cameras are a big part of the Weed & Seed effort," says Mrs. Alexander. "The people in the proposed areas really want those cameras, because they put the criminals in Riverview on notice that their every move was being watched by police. Sometimes, they didn't see the drug transaction itself go down, but they do see certain behaviors in people on the street. That body language. That is enough to give 'em away."

Other things the Weed & Seed program would provide the new area, would be seed money to fund more police patrols, the DEFY (Drug Enforcement For Youth) program, back-to-school programs. Projects that have been very successful in Riverview.

So what would an expanded Weed & Seed area mean to the drug dealers, abusers and criminals that have moved in?

"Time's up," says Mrs. Alexander. "It's over. Your moving day has arrived. Pack up and move on out. The police can only do so much, and now the residents are ready to take their neighborhood back."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Signed Steel Beam Has Now Been Installed

Those of you who wanted to leave your mark on history, have now done so.


The steel beam that was placed in the V.O Dobbins Center hallway for Douglass alumni and Riverview residents to sign, has now been hoisted and welded into place in the rafters of the new gymnasium under construction at the center on Louis Street.

The weather was not cooperating during the HOPE VI groundbreaking for the beam to be installed several weeks ago, but it is now in place, and we thought you'd want to see where it is.

The final resting place for the beam is a diagonal apex in the southern corner of the new gym, symbolically near the original entrance to Douglass High School. The signatures on the white beam are clearly visible, as the white beam is facing outward onto the basketball court, as the other pictures will show.


Just click here to see more pictures of the signed steel beam, the new gym construction and the old gym reconstruction.

The HOPE VI Homes in Riverview: An Overview

"Riverview is heading positively into the future right now, while preserving much of its historic past."

Those words from Terry Cunningham, executive director of the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority, as work is beginning on 38 rental units in the Riverview Community. Unlike the HOPE VI homes built in the Sherwood-Hiwassee subdivision, the Riverview homes are rental units. The Sherwood-Hiwassee homes were designed for ownership by first-time home buyers, who were guided through the process by HOPE VI coordinators working with local lenders. The KHRA will operate the HOPE VI rental units for the government.

The HOPE VI Redevelopment Grant was given to the City of Kingsport by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 4 phases:

54 Elderly/disabled rental units at the old Washington School
24 Homeownership units in the Sherwood-Hiwassee Subdivision
38 rental units in Riverview
1 Community Center in Riverview

The Riverview HOPE VI homes will have a somewhat local flavor, unlike the historic Riverview Apartments that were torn down in February last year, to make way for the construction.

"We have added several new home designs named in honor of several prominent families in the community," Mr. Cunningham says. Joining the names Blye, Dobbins, Pierce, Douglas, and Cunningham will be Gillenwater, Ford, Banner, and Thompson. The new homes will be multi- and single-level duplexes, for one or two families.

Construction on the new Riverview HOPE VI homes was original scheduled for last spring, but was delayed by the collapse in the housing and economic markets a year ago.

"One of the funding sources, in addition to HOPE VI government funds for the Riverview phase of the project, are Low Income Housing Tax Credits," Mr. Cunningham says. "The economic environment for tax credits crashed in mid-2008, resulting in more time required to finalize the allocation of the credits to us, and then to market the sell of those tax credits to equity investors. Once the market stabilized, agreements were signed and guarantees are now in place."

"That allows construction to begin."

Community reaction to the new HOPE VI homes in Riverview has been mixed, both in the Riverview neighborhood and in the Douglass Alumni Association, but mostly positive as the wait began after the apartments were torned down. Confusion had swirled over whether the Riverview Homes would be rental or for homeownership. Several seminars and question-and-answer sessions between HOPE VI administrators and counselors and community residents apparently answered the questions the community had.

"Currently, we have 41 original residents who lived in the Riverview Apartments and the community expressing an interest in returning to Riverview," says Mr. Cunningham. Preference has always been for apartment residents to have first choice in coming back, then Riverview residents, then others."

Strict requirements are in place on the rental units. Tenants and members of their families have to be working or enrolled as students in school, to be eligible for occupancy. If the requirements are adhered to as at similar HOPE VI rental homes in Knoxville and Chattanooga, any adult living in the home not working or enrolled in school, could get the entire family evicted.

"The elderly and disabled are exempt from the employment/school requirement," says Mr. Cunningham, noting that the rule does apply to relatives of the elderly or disabled. "The Fresh Start Foundation has case managers, along with job training and educational programs to help households maintain elibility to stay in the rental units."

Interested people can still apply for the Riverview HOPE VI homes. The process starts at the Fresh Start offices on MLK Drive. The staff there will start a case file with the applicant, and help them work towards meeting the criteria that will make them eligible.

The new "community within a community" will also have its own community center, originally scheduled to be built on MLK Drive/Lincoln Street. "When the original HOPE VI grant was submitted to the government," says Mr. Cummingham, "the city of Kingsport committed the renovation of the V.O. Dobbins Community Center as a leveraged project, in other words, it was easy to tie the HOPE VI proposal to the center renovations into one big project. As a result of that, the HOPE VI homes community center is actually being built as a part of V.O. Dobbins, on the ballfield end, alongside the old gymnasium."

"We're blessed that the project includes the expansion with the non-profit center at V.O. Dobbins, the new full-sized gym, and additional classrooms for Headstart. The relocation of the HOPE VI community center is wonderful, as it allows easier access to green space in the ballfield, the gyms, and the ability share facilities where appropriate."

"We were able to rescue many items from the Riverview Apartments and the V.O. Dobbins Center," Mr. Cunningham says. "We have the original plaque on the concrete flagpole base when the apartments were built in 1940, we also have the original steeple that sat atop the historic Carver Library, Calvin was able to save many of the seats from the Douglass Auditorium and other items. There are plans to incorporate those items into the design and look of the new facilities, to continue the historic aspect of the community."

All told, when the amount spent to build the Riverview Apartments in 1940 and the Douglass School in 1950-51, is translated into today's dollars, the 8 million dollar Dobbins Center renovation, and the 12 million dollar HOPE VI grant far exceeds the original investment in Riverview years ago.

The V.O. Dobbins Community Complex is ahead of its July, 2010 completion date, and could be opened by the spring of 2010. The Riverview HOPE VI rental units will be finished and ready for occupancy in November of 2010.

Mr. Cunningham says he hopes the neighborhood improvements will blend in with the community history, and its legacy in Kingsport.

"The Douglass Alumni Association has been a great partner in helping to preserve the history and heritage of the Douglass School and the Riverview Community," Mr. Cunningham says. "The future role will be determined by our combined needs to continue building on this heritage."

"We look forward to working with the Douglass Alumni on this continuing endeavor."

(EDITOR'S FOOTNOTE - The rental unit concept for Riverview was included in the original proposal to H.U.D. because the KHRA wanted to make it easy for people displaced from the Riverview Apartments to come back to the neighborhood. Most of them could not afford the $100,000+ price to own the homes built at Sherwood-Hiwassee, which were specifically for first-time homebuyers. Problem is, HOPE VI means BOTH homeownership AND rental property, and some folks confused the two at first. Many apartment residents thought the city was forcing them out of Riverview by making them have to OWN homes to come back, and that was never the idea for Riverview. The rental units being built there, are for low-income residents, with first preference given to those Riverview Apartment residents who had to move, and most apartment residents we have talked to, like that. The result is, almost 50 original Riverview Apartment families are coming back to the neighborhood to live in HOPE VI homes.

HOPE VI does requires increased enforcement of the income-education requirement.

In the other stories we have done on the HOPE VI homes in Chattanooga and Knoxville, both residents and city administrators in those cities have told this reporter how that ONE requirement (increased checking on everybody in the household), keeps drug dealers and criminals out of the housing complex, because everybody in the residence has to either be working at a job, or going to school. More police patrolling and cameras through the Weed & Seed program, keeps the drug dealers and sympathizers from hanging out on the street corners, and the housing requirement keeps them from having a hideout nearby in the new homes. We have also heard that, even if the bad element IS working or going to school..if they are convicted of a violent crime somewhere else in the city, that is ALSO grounds for eviction)---Calvin.