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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Ebony Club at D-B: First Meeting Towards a New Beginning!

Is the Ebony Club ready for a comeback at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport?

Almost 50 African-American D-B students who will be juniors and seniors next year, voiced their opinions at a recent meeting held at the school.

Their answer is a resounding YES!


"As soon as we told them the Ebony Club was starting back up, there was a loud gasp, then they were clapping their hands and cheering wildly," says teacher Douglass Releford. "They were so excited, because they had been so let down when the club disbanded back in 2005. Most of them knew about the club before, because their older sisters and brothers and cousins had all been members, and this group had looked forward to joining, too, but then the club abruptly ended."

Releford, who also serves as the current president of the Douglass High School Alumni Association in Kingsport, and retired D-B teacher and former Ebony Club teacher sponsor Dawnella Ellis, invited prospective club members to the D-B cafeteria, and hosted the meeting on Wednesday, April 23rd. They were both very surprised at the turnout.

"The excitement level went through the roof," Ellis says. The single most important question the students had for Releford and Ellis was, "what took so long to bring the club back?"

No doubt on the minds of the students at the meeting, was 19-year-old Derick Appiah-Kesse of Kingsport, who tragically lost his life to murder last week. Police have just announced arrests in the death of Keese, himself an active member of the Ebony Club during his years at Dobyns-Bennett.

"The kids at the meeting were very mindful of that, and quickly got serious," says Ellis. "They were anxious to know what they needed to do to make the club successful."

"They also wanted to know what the club would be able to do for them," Releford says, "and what contributions and adjustments they need to make for it, because many of them have after-school jobs and athletic activities."

"The one thing they don't have and apparently so desperately want, is a school club of their own," he says. "D-B principal (Earl) Lovelace was very impressed by the students' anxiousness to bring the club back, and is happy that it is being re-established."

The new D-B Ebony Club will be hosted by and will operate as an organization of the Douglass Alumni Association.

"It reminds the kids of their heritage," says Releford, "and keeps them mindful of the proud legacy of Douglass High School in Kingsport, the school their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and other relatives attended."

"Some of them knew about Douglass, but most of them did not know a thing about the school," he says. "They had no idea about it, knew nothing about the legacy of Douglass. When Dawnella and I passed around some old Douglass annuals, most of the kids were just amazed and surprised about that old red building on Louis Street in Riverview they've been to or passed countless times, actually being Kingsport's all-black school 40, 50, 60 years ago. They only remembered it being the Headstart School they all attended when they were four and five years old, or the recreation building where they played pickup basketball."

"They had no idea that building was once one of the cornerstones of the Riverview Community."


"That news also excited them," says Releford. "All of a sudden, they realized that they had something to be proud of, something that represents a history most of them did not know existed."

"When the club gets rolling, we will be working with former Ebony Club members, who are now excellent role models both here at home and proud, productive members of their own communities elsewhere," says Releford. "The Ebony Club will once again, be a sanctuary for our young people, a world of positive influences with a Christian focus, that will hopefully give them something to lean on for support in a very difficult world."

Former Ebony Club member Johnnie Mae Swaggerty started early, reaching young people with a positive message. She hosts the New Vision Youth at Bethel A.M.E. Church, with an inspirational focus that stresses community involvement. Former club members Jocelyn Lyons and Eric Lyons are now in Kingsport's education staff, Jocelyn as principal of John Sevier Middle School, and Eric as an assistant principal at Dobyns-Bennett. Jeff Faulkerson is using his Ebony Club training as an aspiring author, and who is volunteering his time to help in the reorganization of the club.

"Right now, we're in the planning stages," says Ellis. "There will be lots of discussions and input on activities, events, hands-on community gatherings and sponsorships that produced role model adults once the kids matured."

"In the short term, we're looking at hopefully getting the Ebony Club up and running by the beginning of the next school year in August," says Ellis. "That way, D-B will have it registered as a bonifided school organization just like before. One long-term event will be an Ebony Club Reunion, to be held in conjunction with the Douglass School Reunion next year. We are in the very beginning stages of starting the club back up, so we're taking baby steps first."

Many questions will be answered at an organizational meeting of the new Ebony Club, to be held this coming Tuesday night, April 29th at the Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church on Maple Oak Lane in Kingsport. "A lot of the organization for the club will rest on the shoulders of the former club members, who will coordinate and help lead the students with their guidance and vision."

First and foremost, will be the required history lesson concerning the students' and theif families' ancestry. Both Releford and Ellis emphasized that the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website will be required reading by all club members.

"Through our website," Releford says, "the kids can experience many of the memories of their ancestors, long before the kids were born. They can see the pictures, read the testimonials and news articles, and see the memorabilia and memoirs we hold dear, that are now being passed down to them. We expect them to pick up the torch of Kingsport's African-American heritage, embrace it, and most importantly, learn from it."

"The kids made it clear to Doug and me, that by whatever means necessary, they want to start the club back up and now that they know the importance of the old Douglass High School, have the club operate as an arm of the Douglass Alumni Association," says Ellis.

"Hosting the new D-B Ebony Club will represent a new beginning for the Douglass Alumni Association," says Releford. "It is a turning point for the organization, and represents a two-way street. Our alumni are passing on a proud heritage and the knowledge of our Douglass history, knowing that it will be proudly carried on, long after we older ones are gone."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Neighborhood Watch Meeting!

Riverview and South Central Kingsport Neighborhood Watch Meeting!
Monday, April 28, 2008
5:15 PM to 6:15 PM
Shiloh Baptist Church, 712 East Sevier Avenue, Kingsport

Sponsored by South Central Kingsport Weed & Seed


Carnival Time at Shiloh Baptist in Kingsport

"We consider it going beyond the walls of the church, and reaching out into the community."


With those words from Rev. Kenneth Calvert, the Shiloh Baptist Church in Kingsport held a carnival that attracted children and their parents from all over Riverview and the South Central Kingsport neighborhood.

"If this can enrich the life of a young child by interacting with other members, hopefully it will give them a foothold to becoming a Christian," says Rev. Calvert.

There was bingo, a motorized train, free blood pressure checks, a jungle gym and slide, face-painting, balloons, bubble-making, and a horseshoe-throwing contest. The Kingsport Fire Department also sent over an engine that the kids climbed all over, ringing the bell and trying on firefighting breathing apparatus.

Children and their parents were also treated to ice cones, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and slaw.

"This is just a good community affair for us," says Rev. Calvert. "We believe that we should have a joyous time when it comes to serving the Lord, not just from a praise service point of view, but every aspect of life."

It's the third year for the carnival, held beside the church in its parking lot on East Sevier Avenue.

Construction Gets Underway On Sherwood/Hiwassee Homes

Delays have pushed the housing project’s completion from September to the end of the year.



KINGSPORT — Construction of 24 new homes in the Sherwood/Hiwassee area of town — in connection with the city’s HOPE VI project — has been delayed a couple of months and is now expected to be finished by year’s end.

In February, the city held a groundbreaking ceremony along Sherwood to kick off the second phase of the $30 million HOPE VI project — the building of 24 affordable home ownership units along Sherwood and Hiwassee.
At the time, HOPE VI Director Doris Ladd said the new houses along Sherwood/Hiwassee were expected to be built four-a-month and all by September. Now, the finish date has been pushed back to mid-to-late December, Ladd said, adding they hope to offer the first homes for sale in July.
“We’ve had some delays with HUD (Housing and Urban Development) coming through with the official approvals, and Walker Construction was a little delayed in getting up here,” Ladd said. “Officially, we didn’t get kicked off until last week.”

The KHRA awarded the contract to build these new homes to Walker Construction of Chattanooga, which has done a HOPE VI project in the past. The houses along Sherwood and Hiwassee will be approximately 1,400 square feet and cost in the $130,000 range. They will be a story and a half, brick with vinyl siding in Colonial and Craftsman style, with three bedrooms, two baths and a storage unit in the back yard.
“They’re there working, moving dirt and taking out the trees that need to be removed. They’ve marked for the driveways and surveyed the property,” Ladd said. “They’re validating what needs to be moved, changing the elevation on Hiwassee and doing the prep work, and they’re hoping to pour some footers this week.”

Ladd said the KHRA is working with the city to save as many of the trees along Sherwood and Hiwassee as possible.
“It looks like most of those trees along Hiwassee will have to come out, and we’re looking to come up with some funds to replace the trees along that street,” Ladd said. “We’re hunting for grants to help us do that.”
The HOPE VI project began about two years ago when the city applied for a HOPE VI revitalization grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In October 2006, the city received $11.9 million in HOPE VI funds, and since then Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority officials have been working on the project.

The entire HOPE VI project — both construction projects, the opening of the HOPE VI/Fresh Start office, and the purchase of property along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive — is estimated to cost at least $30 million. The $11.9 million grant is just part of the funding needed to complete the project.

The other major phase of the project is the demolition and replacement of Riverview Apartments with 32 homes (along with six additional houses in the South Central community). The demolition has occurred, but new home construction in the Riverview community will not begin until early 2009.
However, some new homes will be going up this year, not officially connected with the HOPE VI project. The Alliance for Business has funded a youth build project in the Riverview community where 19- to 24-year-olds with no high school degree will go in and build four new homes in the neighborhood.


Ladd said the students will spend half their time on site and half in the classroom, and when done they’ll have their GED and necessary construction skills. Two of the houses are expected to be built in the next 12 months, and two more after that, Ladd said.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Derick Y. Appiah-Kesse Funeral

KINGSPORT — Derick Y. Appiah-Kesse, left this world unexpectedly to be with the Lord on April 20, 2008.
He was a kind and loving person that impacted the lives of everyone he met.

He was preceded in death by his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Reba Bristol, of Boiling Springs, N.C.
Survivors include his parents, Ms. Carol Bristol, Kingsport and Andrew Appiah-Kesse, of Lowell, Mass.; maternal grandfather James Bristol, of Kingsport; two brothers, his twin, Eric Appiah-Kesse, Johnson City and Jordan Appiah-Kesse, Kingsport; one sister, Ms. Caressia Bristol, Kingsport and brother-in-law Tamon Carpenter, of Kingsport; three nephews, Deonte` Bristol , Dequante` Bristol, and Devante` Bristol; and a God-daughter Jada; and a special friend Ms. Jessie Thompson, Kingsport.
Funeral services will be conducted Sunday April 27, 2008, at 2 p.m. at the Central Baptist Church with Rev. Matthew Thomas officiating.
The family will receive friends from 1 p.m. until the hour of service. Interment will follow at Holston View Cemetery, Weber City, Va.
Friends may visit with the family anytime at 316 Louis St., Kingsport.
Derick Y. Appiah-Kesse and family are in the care of R.A. Clark Funeral Service, Inc., www.raclarkfuneralservice@

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Meeting of the Douglass Alumni Association Board of Directors

The Douglass Alumni Association Board of Directors will meet this coming Saturday, April 26th, at 1 PM. The meeting will be in the Fellowship Hall at St. Mark's Methodist Church. All board members and interested folks, please be there! EVERYBODY: PLEASE BRING A COVERED DISH.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Douglass School Renovation Still On Track

An article in the Kingsport Times-News spoke of the city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen approving $11.27 million dollars in bonds to fund the construction of the Kingsport Center for Higher Education.

The new center will open in August of next year, and is to be built at the corner of Clay and Market Streets, in about the area where Ward's Feed Store is right now.

Another $10 million dollars was earmarked in additional bonds to cover the cost of a new fire station on Stone Drive, refunding money from last year's allocation that funded the Regional Center for Health Professions, a facility to store residuals during the filtration process at the city water plant and also several transportation projects around the city.

All of these, might leave you wondering..

Where does the promised renovation of the Douglass School building into Kingsport's non-profit center and new headquarters for the Douglass Alumni Association stand?

Will there be money for that project?

The answer to that last question from the city is a resounding YES!

"Where it stands," says Chris McCartt, assistant to the Kingsport City Manager, "is that the city is waiting on approval of New Market Tax Credits to fund the construction cost of the Douglass renovations."

So what is a New Market Tax Credit in the first place?

A New Market Tax Credit is an incentive in the form of a tax credit to induce investors to invest in the funds of certain financial intermediaries
called "community development entities", or "CDE's."

Those "CDE's" in turn, invest in projects in targeted economically distressed areas. Those projects can range from manufacturing and service businesses, to commercial and industrial projects like as retail real estate developments, office buildings and warehouses, to mixed use commercial and housing developments to community facilities like child care centers and charter schools.

To date, the Fund has made 294 awards totaling $16 billion dollars in allocation authority.

Mr. McCartt feels confident the tax credits will be awarded, because the Douglass restoration fits within the parameters of the government's requirements.

He says, the city is also waiting on a final construction estimate for the building renovation.

Mr. McCartt says, the city still plans to start the project in late October or early November. If possible, he says, demolition in certain areas will begin as early as this summer.

As you know by now, the historic Douglass Auditorium is the highlight of the demolition phase of construction. The room that many people have held dear for so many years, has been deemed too hazardous to renovate, because of the cost of bringing it up to Tennessee building codes.

Thar Be Douglass Descendants in this Group!


Erica Yoon —
Coach Charlie Morgan, center, stands with Dobyns-Bennett’s 2007-08 Class AAA state basketball tournament team, which was honored by Farm Bureau Insurance on Monday at the Buck Van Huss Dome. Left to right are, front row: Justin Sylvester and Todd Halvorsen; second row: Jerry Long, Tremell McGue, Adam Lytle and assistant coach Andy Hare; back row: Dustin McConnell, Reed King, Marshall Hardy, Bronson Flack, Jordan Edwards and Darren Riggs. Jamel Williams and Darius Davis are not pictured.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blocking Spammers and Viruses on This Page

Greetings, Brothers and Sisters!

Calvin, your moderator, is taking steps to make sure your computer doesn't get infected with viruses and spam, and they are invisible steps you won't even notice.

Effective today (right now, actually), it is impossible to leave a comment on any of the articles on this link, or any of the other links on your website.

Virus spreaders, spammers (and basically idiots with too time on their hands) have been attaching comments to some of the stories on here, hoping you'll click on them.
When you do, they've got you.

If you have a comment on a story or event you see, just email it to me and I will post it manually. My spam filter, virus protection, and word processing system filters out about 99% of what those idiots try to upload. Google catches the rest.

These links are for READING news and articles ONLY. Please rest assured that you can read them with no problem. And of course, you're ALWAYS free to send comments!

Again, if you want to post comments on what you've read, just email those comments to me.


Friday, April 18, 2008

"We'll Make It A Nice Memento, Not Just A Brick"

Vicki Kalonick at Plaques, Etc. in Kingsport, says she's getting ready for the avalanche.

Not an avalanche of snow, but an avalanche of customers.

Dozens of people who received commemorative bricks from the Historic Riverview Apartments, will soon have engraved plaques, thanks to the handiwork of Brenda Carpenter, Mrs. Kalonick's right-hand person.

"Brenda's been here for 18 years, and she's a very talented person," Mrs. Kalonick says. "We are blessed to have her, I can tell you that."

The cost for a custom-lettered plaque is $3.00 a plate, and 10 cents per letter.

"We try not to go too heavy on the top of the cost, because the brick giveaway is a very worthy cause for the Alumni Association.. individual bricks are a nice memento for the people who lived in the Riverview Apartments all those years," she says.

"We just try to give special price breaks for special people."

"The material in the plaque is really a tough plastic," Mrs. Kalonick says. "You could use a nice black brass for it, but if you get anything like a dirt particle on black brass, it'll scratch it. So what we put on there, is something that will stay on it for years, that won't scratch up and look bad. That was kind of important to us, to give the people a good product. Ordinary brass will wear down, but these will stay pretty a long, long time."

"Brenda uses a laser to do the lettering," she continued. "The process is very quick, but professional. We have a machine that will etch the letters out, and cut the plaque out in a perfect rectangle. The design we picked out is something specially formulated for the brick, to make the brick and the plaque compliment each other."

Plaques Etc. is located at 904 East Center Street in the same building for almost 20 years. Store hours are 9 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Monday through Friday, closed on Saturday and Sunday. The phone number is 423-378-3919.

By the way, historic bricks are still available from the demolition. They are stacked up alongside the wall of the storage shed in back of Douglass, behind the old bandroom. Those bricks are the only ones left, and we do ask that you take one and leave the others for friends and neighbors who haven't had a chance to get one yet.

The city has already cleaned up the stacks the bricks came from.. the demolition crew had delivered them to the grassy area, so they could be separated for individual bricks. That whole area is now being cleared and readied for the Douglass School building renovation, scheduled to start late this summer and early fall.

Many of our friends and neighbors are still shell-shocked about both the Douglass renovation and the Historic Riverview Apartment demolition.

"I hope when the new homes go up in Riverview, there will be a healing in the community," says Mrs. Kalonick. "It's a sad thing when your home is taken in the name of progress, even if that progress is sometimes for the better."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mrs. Mary E. Hankins Passing

KINGSPORT — Mrs. Mary Emogene Hankins, 84, 324 Dunbar Street, departed this life Friday evening (April 11, 2008) at Brookhaven Manor.

Emogene retired from Quebecor and later went to work for Families First and KHA. She was a very active in her church serving on the stewardess board, teaching Sunday school and singing in the choir. Emogene was also active in her community. She was a volunteer for the Riverview Boys Club, which earned her the award for “Person of the Year”. Emogene also served on the Parent and Teachers Association Board at Douglass High School.
She was preceded in death by an infant son, Timothy Hankins; grandson, Norman Hankins, Jr.; her parents, Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Eula Cartwright; four brothers, Thomas, Phillip, Robert and Roy Cartwright; two sisters, Mrs. Shirley Gilmore and Mrs. Lorraine Lollar.
She is survived by one son, Mr. Norman Hankins, Richmond, Va.; two daughters, Mrs. Joy Hankins-Underwood, Chattanooga, Tenn. and Ms. Virginia Hankins, Kingsport, Tenn.; six grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; one brother, Mr. John Cartwright, Sherman Oaks, Calif.; two sisters, Mrs. Sylvia Bond (Thomas), Mc-Donough, Ga. and Mrs. Eula Leeper, Kingsport.
Visitation hour will be from 6 p.m. till the hour of service at Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church. Friends may visit at her daughter's residence at 930 Maple Street at anytime.
Funeral service for Mrs. Hankins will be conducted at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the church with Dr. Marcus A. Pierce officiating.
Interment will be Thursday at Holston View Cemetery, Weber City, Va. The cortege will depart Thursday at 10 a.m. from 930 Maple Street.
E-mail condolences may be sent to the family at
Mrs. Hankins and family are in the care of R.A. Clark Funeral Service.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Barbara "Mama Jean" Clark's Birthday Celebration

Happy Birthday "Mama Jean" Clark!

Over a hundred family members and friends (of course, we are all family) gathered in the Fellowship Hall at Central Baptist Church in Kingsport on Saturday, April 12, 2008, to celebrate Mrs. Barbara Jean Clark's birthday.

It was a packed house, as there were plenty of hugs and kisses to go around. Old friends kept rousing conversations going, and a good time was had by all.

So, what did "Mama Jean" want for her birthday?

"All I want is some love," daughter Sylvia Ann remembered her saying. And love is exactly what she received, and a ton of it from family and friends. "I thought to myself, 'you just don't know how much you're gonna get," which produced laughter from the gahtering.

"My mom is my inspiration," Sylvia Ann told the group, "but you all have really been there for us. Each one of you have touched our lives, and God bless you for that."

Son Sidney recalled all the grandchildren started working secretly on the celebration a year ago, and he says he knew his mama would somehow find out about it. He thanked all of the family for coming from all around the world, and all of "Mama Jean's" friends for coming from around the block, to help celebrate her birthday.

The event was catered by Buddy's Barbeque of Knoxville, and was served by the grandchildren.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dunbar Temple Hosts Fund-Raiser

• KINGSPORT — The Daughters of Dunbar Temple 344 (Elks Lodge) hosted a fund-raising dinner Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. at 1018 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly Lincoln Street.

The menu will be chicken, ham and turkey and a choice of two vegetables and bread for a donation of $6.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Late, Great Douglass High School Auditorium, Part 1

At one time, most of us stood on its stage reciting our poems.. scared to death, but confident that we were only talking to family.

Other times saw many of us walk across the stage to get our "perfect attendance" certificate, or better yet, our "graduation diploma" promoting us to the next grade.

And even a few brave souls belted out a solo or chorus song, or delivered the important line in a play.. again, we were only talking to family.

Those are all images of the beloved Douglass Auditorium, a special part of the former Douglass High School, that the City of Kingsport has announced, will not be included in renovations that begin in September.

"We hired a fire codes consultant, who used to work in the state Fire Marshall's Office," says architect Dineen West. "We also had an electrical, mechanical and plumbing engineer, plus an asbestos architect go through the auditorium thoroughly."

"The news they came back with, was not good."

"Inside the auditorium in the back of the balcony," she says, "the inside wall is actually peeling away from the outside wall. In that same location, bricks are
peeling off the walls onto the ground. We suspect that is caused by water seeping through roof leaks and freezing in the wintertime. Ice always expands, which moved the bricks and the wall apart. When the ice melted, the gap remained, causing the bricks to crumble and pop off. That process was repeated over several winters before anyone noticed it."

"Another problem is asbestos," says Mrs. West, "lots of it. The entire auditorium ceiling is filled with it, and so are the walls. Not only would the asbestos have to be removed, but the roof would have to be replaced after the removal."

Turns out, there are also problems that are invisible to the eye.

"The stairwells to the balcony at the back of the auditorium," she says, are too narrow. They don't meet the new state codes for ingress and egress from one floor to another. The stairwells probably got 'grandfathered' in on that years ago,
because if an inspector had seen that when the new codes went in, he'd have required them to be widened, or he'd have ordered access to the balcony closed until they were
widened. That would have reduced the space at the auditorium entrance."

"Problem Number Four is exiting the front of the auditorium," Mrs. West says. "In case of a fire in the back, you'd have to jump up onto the stage to exit the only doors that open outside, and that is not legal. The state says, you really shouldn't be going up on the stage just to get out. There is no legal exit directly to the outside from in front of the stage, as the new codes require. Those little curved steps on either side of the stage are themselves a hazard in case of a fire."

"And then, there is the boiler.. specifically, the location of it," she says. "The inspector took one look at it located directly underneath the stage, and said 'that's a no-no.' He says, if there were a boiler malfunction, that would be a
disaster. As it is now, he says it's 'a disaster waiting to happen."

"That brings up the problem of heating and cooling," says Mrs. West. "There is none in the auditorium, and state code requires that."

"We also have a problems with people circulation," she says, from the non-profit agencies in the new tower, to the board-community-meeting room they'll share with the Douglass Alumni Association. If the tower were built where we had planned it,
those non-profits would either have to come through the auditorium to get to the room, or go outside and come in from the courtyard. Either of those options are not practical.. they'd be cut off from the rest of the building."

"After all the recommendations came back," says Mrs. West, "we started thinking, well if we fixed all of those problems, where would we be in funding? The cost just wasn't justifiable, considering the other renovations for the building."

Douglass-Riverview Featured on Chattanooga TV

INTERVIEW NOW POSTED IN THE PHOTO GALLERY: "Sons and Daughters of Douglass" on WTVC-TV, NewsChannel 9, Chattanooga (Adobe Flash Player required)

The Douglass High School Renovation, the HOPE VI project, the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website and all things Riverview were the topic of discussion on the television program "This-N-That" on WTVC-TV, NewsChannel 9 in Chattanooga.

Your webmaster is the Senior Anchor and Chief Investigative Reporter for that station, and I was invited on the show to talk about what's going on in our Kingsport Community, 200 miles away.

Host Don Welch and I talked about the renovation projects that are going on in Riverview, and how they impact the city as a whole. We also talked about life growing up in Riverview and how that one village raised many children.

Video of the Historic Riverview Apartments demolition was also shown, and how life will change when the HOPE VI homes are built. Chattanooga has experience with the HOPE VI revitilization, as the Alton Park Homes were taken down several years ago, and replaced with homes funded with that particular government grant.

Several Douglass High School trophies were also on display and mentioned during the interview, and the accomplishments of our Douglass athletes were highlighted.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Late, Great Douglass High School Auditorium, Part 2

"What is the greater need?"

That's a question Chris McCartt has been trying to answer for months now.

When he received the final report on the Douglass School auditorium, Kingsport's Assistant City Manager tried to look at the sentimental value of the big room, knowing the emotional ties it has to the community.

But the renovation cost kept getting in the way.

"If you look at the cost of renovating the rest of the building, which we are committed to do," says McCartt, "the cost of just bringing the auditorium up to code stands right in the way."

"When Dineen (West, the restoration project architect) first called me about the Douglass building," McCartt says, "the first thing she asked me was 'can we save the
auditorium, what can we do to save the auditorium? As engineers and inspectors began going through it, obstacle after obstacle started blocking the way. Then after months of wrestling with what became a hopeless proposition, we had to look at other options, like 'well what if we took down the auditorium, could we make a better use of that space?'

"The answer was clearer when we examined the needs of the non-profit agencies we want to put in the building."

"After the inspections, we had to consider 'well what about the bricks that are falling off the outside of the auditorium, what about the roof, what about the
heating and cooling, what about the fire code problems.. it all began to snowball at that point."

So why did the City of Kingsport let the auditorium get in the condition that it's in? After all, it is a city-owned building, and the REST of it was being kept up?

"That's a good question," says McCartt. "Of course, I wasn't here and I cannot speak for previous administrators, but if I had to surmise what was going through their minds, it could have been things like "is that space really needed, with all the other auditorium spaces they had in town.. auditoriums in schools that were open and not closed. I cannot give you an honest answer, but it was probably a situation where other facilities of similar use had a more pressing need.. Johnson, Jackson, or Sevier, which had major renovations back in the 90's."

"We've got to put the money there, before we put the money here."

That may be tough to explain to the community that regards the auditorium as sacred as the building that it is in.

"There is a lot of sentimental value attached to that auditorium," McCartt says, "and when you start talking about sentimental value attached to something, that's a hard pill to swallow. It would be hard to swallow for anybody. What people need to realize is, what we are facing to bring that building to where it needs to be, carchitects and engineers have looked at it, and we just cannot justify the cost factor."

Could trying to renovate the auditorium to bring it up to code, jeopardize the entire project?

"It could," says McCartt, "because if you have eight million dollars to spend on the entire project, what's going to have to be cut to meet the needs of the agencies moving into the building? We've got the Red Cross in a building right now that's falling apart.. you've got the United Way with its various agencies scattered all over town.. you've got duplication of many services.. you've got people being sent all over town. This project unites all of those agencies in one building, that is one of Kingsport's most historic."


"The renovation of Douglass and other improvements in the Riverview community have been a long time coming," McCartt says. "It's just amazing what that little community will be transformed into after so many years."

"The best is yet to come."