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Two Hardin Valley businesses face eviction by KCS

Hardin Valley will lose an institution if the Knox County Schools system proceeds with its eviction of Sims Market and Deli and the adjoining barber shop.

This was the common sentiment among 75 area residents who gathered Saturday, Aug. 26, at Sims Market and Deli off Hardin Valley Road to show support for owner Helen Ray in her ongoing dispute with KCS system.

Ray and barbershop owner Virgil Hackworth were given a 60-day eviction notice Aug. 4 from the schools system, which owns the property where the market, barbershop and fire hall are located.

“This is a historic place,” said Kathy Pinkston, a Hardin Valley resident. “We’re not fancy like Turkey Creek. We’re just good, hard-working people who enjoy meeting here.”

“I’m just devastated by what’s going on,” said Helen Ray, a Roane County resident who has owned Sims since 1998. “I’m very grateful to all the people who have come out in support of us.”

“I think the turnout for the event is wonderful,” said Knox County 6th District Commissioner Mark Cawood, one of the organizers of the event. “I think these people are getting shafted. After the election, they received a letter saying they were being evicted. I would hate to see them lose their lease. This is one of the last places in East Tennessee where you have a little country store and a neighborhood around it.”

Representatives of Knox County Public Building Authority and the KCS system were not present to offer explainations for their actions to the gathering.

“I was shocked and surprised when I got their answer to the invitation to be here,” Cawood told the crowd.

The dispute centers on the destruction of a septic field by Merit Construction.

“The grading contractor broke into the septic field,” said KCS system spokesperson Russ Oaks. “Nobody knew the septic system was there.”

Thomas Deakins, 6th District School Board member-elect, was present at the support rally. He said Knox County Health Department absolved Merit Construction of blame for breaking into the field.

“[The health department] claims the field wasn’t working properly when the contractor broke into it,” Deakins said. “They said the field wasn’t marked on any maps.”

While the Health Department didn’t hold Merit responsible, rally supporters felt they should be held to the old rule of “if you break it, you fix it.”

“My husband was a contractor and I know state law requires contractors to have general liability insurance,” said Pinkston. “[Merit] should have to fix it.”

Oaks said to fix the problem would require the Schools system to run 850 feet of sewer line from Hunter’s Crossing to Sims Market to hook the business into the main sewer system. The cost would run about $50,000.

“The superintendent doesn’t think it’s right to use public money to fund a private entity,” Oaks said.

Oaks said Sims Market uses about 15,000 gallons of water a month, which would be too much for a septic system. The firehall, however, uses about 1,500 gallons a month. The fire hall will remain where it is due to a long-term lease with KCS system.

Deakins said there still might be hope for Ray, if she can raise the money to have the sewage line installed.

“The superintendent has agreed that if they can raise the money, then he would consider granting them a lease,” Deakins said. “I would rather have this place here than a convenience store selling beer right across the road.”


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