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The Bradley County Commission met on Monday, covering several items of business. Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis gave his COVID-19 update, indicating that numbers in the county are up somewhat again, but hospitalizations are fairly low. Vaccines became available to those age 55 and up beginning Monday, and will be available to anyone in Tennessee age 16 and up by April 5th. Amanda Peels, Director of Keep Cleveland and Bradley County Beautiful, discussed issues they are having with litter in the area. Due to the pandemic, they have been unable to get a significant number of volunteers over the past year. She said the group is having five cleanup days over the next ten weeks, with the first being this Saturday, March 27th. Volunteers for cleanup days, including this weekend, would be appreciated. Also, Commissioner Davis noted a deal in the works that will have Charter and VEC working together to bring broadband Internet to an additional 2,500 homes in the near future.
Riverbend may be coming back this year. Friends of the Festival has requested permits from the City to hold the event in October.
Mickey McCamish, the Executive Director, said they were denied a permit to hold events at Ross’s Landing last year, but is optimistic they will be granted permits this year. He said he hopes it will be the start of businesses and events opening back up.
McCamish said he has requested permits from the City of Chattanooga for Riverfront Nights each Saturday from June 5 to August 28 and a scaled-back Riverbend to take place from October 8-10, 2021.
Right now, the City is not issuing permits for live music events, but McCamish said he has been talking with Chattanooga’s Mayoral candidates about changing this in the coming months.
If permitted, McCamish said they will follow the Health Department’s guidelines so everyone feels safe and comfortable to come out.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn signed a multi-million-dollar deal in March with a New York-based company as part of the state’s reading initiative, a move lawmakers say creates a potential conflict of interest because her husband works for the vendor.
As part of the state’s plan to help students rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, Schwinn inked the $8.06 million contract with TNTP Inc. on March 1 for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade foundational reading skills educator training, according to a document obtained by Tennessee Lookout.
The contract took effect March 12 and is to run for the current budget year, which ends June 30, and the next one. Even though there are only four months in the current budget year, the contract is set to cost $4.032 million for each budget year.
Schwinn obtained approval from the state’s Central Procurement Office, promising to distance herself from the agreement, according to a letter to the department’s legal counsel from Michael Perry, chief procurement officer. Perry approved the matter based on Schwinn’s proposal dealing with conflicts to ensure she and her husband, Paul, didn’t get involved in the work.
In a separate letter Commissioner Schwinn wrote regarding a potential conflict of interest on the bidding process for the contract, she disclosed that her husband works for TNTP Inc. as a contractor for school systems.
Schwinn stated in the letter that her husband discloses projects to make sure they don’t concern work in Tennessee. She also said he is not part of any solicitation with the state and that under the terms of his contract he is not to perform any work in Tennessee.
The commissioner assured the procurement office she would not be involved in evaluating solicitations for the contract, delegating final approval to a deputy commissioner or engaging in discussions with her husband relating to the contract.
The Department of Education responded to questions Monday evening and said the department and commissioner adhered to all laws governing procurement. Schwinn filed a conflict of interest report with the Central Procurement Office “out of an abundance of caution,” the department said.