/script>

State legislators address TNReady testing failures

State legislators took swift action Thursday to address glitches in the state’s TNReady testing process, passing a bill that allows local school districts to not count test scores in factoring student grades.

House Bill 1981 states, “…each local board of education may choose the percentage within the range of zero percent to fifteen percent that scores from the TNReady assessments… shall count on a student’s final grade…”

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

In a statement to media, Department of Education spokeswoman Sara Gast said, “It was clear many members of the General Assembly wanted to address concerns related to the recent administration of state assessments. The governor and Commissioner (Candice) McQueen understand these concerns and did not oppose the legislation. We will fully support the implementation of the new law.”

The Vidette attempted to contact State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, who was not immediately available for comment on the legislation.

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said it was too soon to know what decision Trousdale County Schools would make. Test scores are currently slated to count for 15 percent of a student’s final grade.

“We have and continue to validate online student tests throughout the testing window that ends on May 4,” Satterfield told The Vidette. “We cannot make a fair decision otherwise until we receive accurate and valid testing reports from the Tennessee Department of Education. We have a lot of time between now and June 22 to make the best decision for students.”

Report cards were already scheduled to be delayed until June 22 to allow for the inclusion of TNReady scores.

HB 1981 also forbids the use of test scores in teacher termination or compensation decisions. Satterfield also said it was too soon to know how that would affect Trousdale County, as the district’s strategic compensation plan formula for teacher bonuses is partially based on test scores.

Satterfield also raised concerns that the legislation did not directly address using test scores in teacher evaluations.

“We continue to communicate with the Commissioner (of Education), our legislators, and professional organizations in addressing flexibility options for teachers,” Satterfield said.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

TN Ready glitches affect testing in Trousdale County Schools

Glitches in the state’s TN Ready testing process affected the beginning of testing across the state this week, including in Trousdale County.

On Monday, a number of students found themselves unable to log in to the Nextera/Questar online platform, where testing takes place.

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Education said that problem was resolved by early afternoon. Locally, Director of Schools Clint Satterfield told The Vidette that Trousdale County Schools had not begun testing until after lunch and was unaffected by Monday’s issues.

Tuesday proved a different matter, however, as a reported “deliberate attack” on Questar’s data center caused problems statewide, including locally.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Commissioner Candice McQueen sent an email to directors of schools stating in part, “It appears Questar’s data center may have experienced a deliberate attack this morning based on the way traffic is presenting itself. They are currently resetting the system. However, the attacker may take these same steps again, and Questar is actively working on further reinforcements, including notifying authorities.”

McQueen added that there was no evidence of student data being compromised.

Satterfield told The Vidette that Trousdale County “experienced the full impact of (Tuesday) morning’s problems.”

Satterfield said the testing platform went down at around 9:40 a.m. and remained down until 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Testing in English III, which was taking place at the time, was completed as the platform allows students to continue testing even if the system cannot upload data.

“All high school students (English III) completed their tests at or around 9:45 a.m. but were unable to upload their tests until approximately 11:30 a.m. when Nextera was restored,” Satterfield said.

Satterfield said testing at the middle and high schools was completed and successfully submitted Tuesday afternoon once Nextera resumed operating.

The scheduled English II test had to be postponed because of Tuesday’s problems and will be rescheduled, Satterfield said.

Testing in grades 3-5 is done on paper and experienced no problems.

With regards to Wednesday’s testing, Satterfield said there were no problems being experienced.

TN Ready testing has had problems each of the last three years, including in the spring of 2016 when online testing was canceled altogether.

Two amendments dealing with TN Ready were to be considered Wednesday by the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

One amendment stops online testing this year. The other calls for students or districts not to be held accountable for the test results this year.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Trousdale Turner prison faces over $2 million in state fines

The head of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center acknowledged to lawmakers last week that the state has fined the prison over $2 million since the start of 2018.

Trousdale Turner was the subject of a scathing audit by the state comptroller’s office released last November that cited staffing problems, poor management, gang problems and multiple violations of TDOC policy at the prison.

“Trousdale Turner Correctional Center management’s continued noncompliance with contract requirements and department policies challenges the department’s ability to effectively monitor the private prison,” the audit stated.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Both CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger and Warden Russell Washburn testified last Tuesday before the House’s Government Operations Committee during hearings on a bill to reauthorize the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The bill passed during a second hearing Monday afternoon after being amended to a two-year reauthorization rather than four years.

Additionally, the bill requires TDOC to provide an update on addressing findings in the November audit by the end of 2018 and calls for another audit by the comptroller’s office later this year.

“(Those fines) were largely due to vacancies and some medical discrepancies,” Washburn told the committee.

According to information provided to The Vidette by TDOC, the Trousdale Turner facility paid $322,059 in fines through December 2017, with an additional $2,245,250 in pending fines as of the end of March.

“I take full responsibility for some of the challenges we’ve had at Trousdale Turner,” Hininger added. “Since we opened the facility, we’ve had a real challenge to find labor – not only for correctional but for medical staff.”

Hininger noted an increase in pay at the prison and said TTCC was the highest-paying prison in the state.

“We take all allegations seriously,” Hininger said. “Some of the things raised today, we’ll follow up on too.”

At a hearing in December, lawmakers blasted both CoreCivic and the Hartsville prison for the failings listed in the audit. Lawmakers at that time spoke of reauthorizing TDOC for one year only.

“When are we ever going to hold these people accountable and make them address their issues or get out of the business?” committee member Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) said of CoreCivic.

“I can’t imagine a committee extending the Department of Correction four years, when there’s no evidence any of the issues raised by the comptroller have been remedied,” added committee member Mike Stewart (D-Nashville).

Former TDOC Commissioner Steve Norris testified that more oversight made for greater improvement during his tenure and urged lawmakers to continue to hold the prison industry accountable.

Family members of current and former inmates also testified before the committee.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Dreamland Animal Sanctuary plans open house Sunday

Dreamland Animal Sanctuary plans to hold an open house at its facility this weekend.

Members of the public are invited to tour the facility on Sunday, April 22 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. at its location, 1240 Kelley Lane (off Cedar Bluff Road).

“I want Dreamland to be known,” said facility owner Donna McGregor. “We take in animals from all over, including East Tennessee, not just in Hartsville.”

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
These custom-made doghouses are shown at the Dreamland Animal Sanctuary facility.

Dreamland has been run by McGregor since its founding in 2012. However, her history with rescue animals goes back to her childhood days.

According to the facility’s Facebook page, Dreamland’s mission is “to provide a safe haven for unwanted mama dogs and their babies, and abandoned or stray puppies in Trousdale/Smith and surrounding counties. Our mission is to help reduce the overpopulation of homeless pets by spaying and neutering all animals we have available.”

Dreamland also fosters animals until they can be adopted out. The non-profit agency only charges adoption fees and potential pet owners must be approved before Dreamland will adopt an animal out.

Currently the facility houses dogs, cats, pigs, horses, goats, peacocks, chickens and a lamb, according to McGregor.

Among the events planned are: a silent auction, bouncy obstacle course & carousel for kids, old gray mare rides, door prizes, live music, a bake sale, face painting and more.

A number of vendors have also committed to attending the open house.

Among the items in the silent auction are gift baskets, a stay in Gatlinburg, gift cards and more.

“Each basket has some kind of gift certificate in it,” McGregor said. “We have very good support from our sponsors.”

Participants are asked to bring something from Dreamland’s wish list, which includes: paper towels, Clorox wipes, bleach, garbage bags (33- or 13-gallon), Purina One chicken & rice puppy food and liquid laundry detergent.

For more information on the open house, call 615-374-2315 or visit Dreamland Animal Rescue & Sanctuary’s Facebook page.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

County commissioners weigh plan to increase pay

Raising pay for county commissioners and members of local boards was a topic of discussion at a pair of recent committee meetings.

Last Tuesday, the Local Government Services Committee took up a proposal by committee chairman Jerry Ford to increase commissioners’ pay, beginning in September.

The proposal, if ultimately approved, would increase the amount of money commissioners receive monthly as follows: from $50 to $100 for the Commission’s monthly meeting, from $20 to $75 for attending the monthly work session and from $20 to $40 for each committee meeting attended.

Commissioners would not automatically be paid, but would have to submit timesheets stating which meetings they had attended.

File photo

“If you don’t come, you don’t get paid,” Ford said.

“(The work session) is where we do a lot of stuff,” added commissioner Gary Walsh. “That’s where the meat of the agenda is done.”

By comparison, Smith County pays commissioners $25 per committee meeting and $100 for each meeting of its full Commission, which occurs every other month. Wilson County pays a flat $400 per month and Sumner County pays $500 each month. The Vidette attempted to contact Macon County government for its figures but had not received a response at press time.

According to the mayor’s office, raising commissioners’ pay would cost an additional $68,335 once Social Security and other fixed costs were included. That number assumes full attendance at each meeting and an average of 26 committee meetings per year.

The committee voted unanimously via raised hands to approve the plan and send it to the Budget & Finance Committee, which will take up the issue at its May meeting.

The proposal also still must be approved by the full County Commission.

In addition to commissioners’ pay, the proposal also would set pay rates for members of the Beer Board, the Library Board, the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals. Those members would receive $30 per meeting.

Currently, Beer Board members get $10 per meeting while the other boards are unpaid.

Ford estimated the costs of paying members of those four respective boards at approximately $5,360 per year, based on the average number of times they meet.

The proposal would also tie any future raises to the county mayor’s salary by percentage. Mayors’ salaries are set by the state each year, but under the proposal, if the mayor received a 3 percent raise, commissioners would automatically see a 3 percent increase as well.

“We have several meetings in any given month,” added County Mayor Carroll Carman. “It should do away with abuse, with people who don’t come to any committee meetings and got the same amount as someone who came to five meetings. I don’t have a problem with this.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Health Council planning second Family Fun Day

The Trousdale County Health Council is preparing for its second annual #1 For Life Family Fun Day.

This year’s event will be held on Saturday, April 28 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in Hartsville City Park.

Family Fun Day is free to the public and children of all ages are welcome, but must be accompanied by an adult.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
The Trousdale County Health Council has scheduled the 2018 Family Fun Day for Saturday, April 28.

“The event is all about families having fun together. So bring your children and grandchildren and enjoy a few hours of free fun and food!” said Health Council chair Brenda Harper. “Thanks to so many community sponsors, we have been able to expand the activities and keep this event free to all.”

This year’s activities will include a Frisbee toss, football toss, jump ropes, balloon toss, sack race, egg race, hula hoops, dancercise, a mechanical bull, a kiddie train, a rock climbing wall and more.

There will also be a live DJ on hand to play music throughout the event.

Door prizes and game prizes will also be offered to those in attendance, and a free lunch will be available.

“For the first event in 2017, there were over 200 people in attendance,” Harper said. “We are hopeful for another beautiful spring day on April 28 in order to have even more members of the community in attendance. We have scheduled a rain date of May 19 should our primary date be rainy.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Meals on Wheels offers food, hope to local seniors

Three times each week, volunteers gather at the Trousdale County Senior Center to deliver food to the elderly in Trousdale County as part of the Meals on Wheels program.

Administered by Mid-Cumberland Community Action Agency, Meals on Wheels serves almost 40 clients each week, providing meals daily from Monday through Friday.

“On Monday and Wednesday, they get a hot meal and a cold meal for Tuesday and Thursday,” said program manager Ruby Pitre. “Then on Friday, they get a hot meal.”

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Meals on Wheels director Ruby Pitre puts together a meal prior to packaging. Hartsville’s Meals on Wheels program delivered almost 7,000 meals to seniors last year.

Pitre provided a menu list for March that shows what Meals on Wheels customers get each day. A hot meal contained items such as meatloaf, roast beef & gravy and fajita chicken, while cold meals contained items such as chicken salad, chef salad, pasta salad, ham & Swiss sandwiches and egg salad.

“They get a milk, a bread, a dessert, a starch, a vegetable and meat,” Pitre said. “It’s a well-balanced meal and we have nutritionists who make sure they get the most nutrition they can.”

Meals are also prepped as needed for clients who are diabetic or have other dietary requirements. Clients are provided a menu each month so they know what to expect.

Meals on Wheels is available to anyone over the age of 60 who needs assistance in preparing food, whether because of mobility, financial or other reasons. There is no income requirement. Temporary assistance is also offered, for instance to someone who has had surgery and cannot do things for themselves for a short time.

“If they are 60 or over and can not feed themselves without help, we will make sure they get help,” Pitre said.

According to information provided by Mid-Cumberland, one in five seniors in Tennessee goes hungry on a regular basis, and the group estimates that 314 seniors in Trousdale County are considered at risk of hunger.

Tennessee also has the fourth-highest rate of any state in the percentage of hungry seniors, with 30 percent choosing between food or medicine and 35 percent choosing between food and utilities.

Meals on Wheels has 19 volunteers as of the end of 2017 and served 6,965 meals last year. Volunteers traveled 4,576 miles to deliver those meals, almost the equivalent of driving from Nashville to Rome, Italy (if such a drive were possible).

Volunteers also spend time with clients, offering increased opportunities to socialize with others and have some check on their wellbeing.

Volunteer opportunities are available for all ages, from high school students to other senior adults. Students needing volunteer hours for Tennessee Promise, for example, can work with Meals on Wheels to meet that requirement.

“Our delivery people go above and beyond,” Pitre said.

In some cases, volunteers do needed household tasks such as taking out garbage.

Mid-Cumberland offers other assistance to clients through its outreach program, such as USDA commodities, help with home energy bills and weatherization assistance.

“The Senior Center helps us out a lot as well, sewing blankets, scarves and donating items such as shampoo, body soap, etc.,” Pitre said.

For more information on Meals on Wheels or to learn about volunteer opportunities, call 615-374-3987 or email MOW.Hartsville@mchra.com.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Trousdale EMS offers free smoke alarms through state program

The State Fire Marshal’s Office recently presented Trousdale County Emergency Services with a supply of 10-year battery smoke alarms to be installed in homes within the community at high risk of fire.

This statewide distribution of smoke alarms launched in November 2012 and is part of the State Fire Marshal’s effort to both educate and equip Tennesseans to incorporate fire safety into their daily lives.

“We want residents to make sure they have functional smoke alarms in their homes, as well as a rehearsed fire-escape plan. These are tools proven to save lives – because even one fire death is one too many,” said State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale EMS
An EMS worker installs a new smoke alarm at a local residence.

The alarms are free, but must be installed by the department or a partnering organization that has been trained by the department. Because supplies are limited, the department may need to give first preference to those who are not able to otherwise afford smoke alarms.

“We are excited to be able to partner with the State Fire Marshal’s Office in providing these smoke alarms for the citizens here in Trousdale County,” said Deputy Chief Mark Carman of Trousdale County Emergency Services. “Fire can spread through a home in a matter of minutes and smoke alarms can give residents the warning needed to get out safely.”

To request an installation, call 615-374-9503 and provide your name, address, and phone number. A department representative will then contact you to schedule a time for the installation.

In addition to having working smoke alarms, follow these other important tips to make sure your home is fire-safe:

Always stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling food.

Check to see that matches and lighters are kept up high in a cabinet with a childproof lock.

Develop a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and an outside meeting place. Share and practice the plan with every member of the household.

Keep portable space heaters and candles 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including people, furniture, and pets.

Always turn off portable space heaters when you leave the room or go to bed.

Have the chimney cleaned and checked regularly.

Do not smoke in bed.

Make sure that all matches and ashes are cool before being thrown away.

Make sure that extension cords are in good condition and are used to power small items only – never major appliances.

For further information on fire safety, visit the State Fire Marshal’s Office Get Alarmed Program website at tn.gov/commerce/article/fire-get-alarmed.

List of candidates set for August election

The ballot for August’s county general and state primary elections was scheduled to be set this week after last week’s filing deadline.

All qualifying petitions had to be turned in by noon last Thursday.

In Trousdale County, the mayor’s office and all 20 seats on the County Commission are up for election, as well as three school board seats, Register of Deeds, Circuit Court Clerk, County Clerk, Trustee and Sheriff.

Aside from the Commission, the only contested races will be those for county mayor and Register of Deeds.

Current Mayor Carroll Carman is seeking a second term and will be opposed by Stephen Chambers. Both incumbent Leah Verville and Candice Hall are seeking the office of Register of Deeds, which has its first competitive race in 40 years.

Incumbents were the sole candidates to file for Circuit Court Clerk (Kim Taylor), County Clerk (Rita Crowder), Trustee (Cindy Carman), Sheriff (Ray Russell) and the three school board seats (Regina Waller, Anthony Crook, Johnny Kerr).

The County Commission will see a number of new faces as six current commissioners did not file to seek re-election: Jim Falco, John Oliver, Don Coker, Mark Beeler, James McDonald and Kendra Belcher.

Candidates for the County Commission will be: District 1, Ken Buckmaster and David Nollner; District 2, Shane Burton, Carla Jean Ferraro and Landon Gulley; District 3, Jerry Ford and Gary Walsh; District 4, Bubba Gregory and Grace Thomas; District 5, Coy Dickey and Linda Sue Johnson; District 6, Richard Harsh and Amber Russell; District 7, Gary Claridy and Dwight Jewell; District 8, Brian Crook, Bill Fergusson, Paul Knudsen and Steve Whittaker; District 9, Richard Johnson, Rachel Jones and Alex Seaborne; District 10, Beverly Atwood, Mary Ann Baker and Wayne Brown.

State offices that will be part of the primary election include governor, state House of Representatives District 40, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress District 6 and state executive committeeman and woman.

Republican candidates for governor include Diane Black, Randy Boyd, Beth Harwell, Bill Lee and Kay White. On the Democratic side, Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh will be on the ballot. A host of independent candidates turned in petitions, including Mark “Coonrippy” Brown, Kenna Porter of Old Hickory, and Heather Scott of Mt. Juliet.

In the race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Bob Corker, who announced he won’t seek re-election, Congressman Marsha Blackburn heads the field for the Republican nomination. Former governor Phil Bredesen is the frontrunner on the Democratic side, and will face Gary Davis and John Wolfe in that primary.

The field to replace Black in the U.S. House from the Sixth District is a large one, with Republican candidates Bob Corlew of Mt. Juliet, Isaac Alan Choplosky of Cookeville; Judd Matheny of Tullahoma; Christopher Brian Monday of Cookeville; John Rose of Cookeville; and Lavern “Uturn LaVern” Vivio of Springfield. Democrats in the race include Dawn Barlow of Rickman; Christopher Martin Finley of Nashville; Peter Heffernan of Gallatin; and Merrilee Wineinger of Hendersonville. Lloyd Dunn of Portland, and David Ross of White House, are independent candidates.

In Tennessee’s District 40, incumbent Terri Lynn Weaver will face Chad Williams of Lancaster for the Republican nomination. On the Democratic side, Jason Holleman of Smith County has filed papers to run. However, Sixth District Democratic chair Jordan Wilkins told The Vidette that Holleman’s residency has been challenged by Smith County Republicans.

Chris Hughes and Maria Stewart will run for spots on the Republican State Committee, and Leonard Assante, Thomas Whisenant and Diane Barber-Miller will run for the Democratic State Committee.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com. Contributing: Xavier Smith, Lebanon Democrat

Hartsville student has unique fundraiser for mission trip

A Hartsville college student is using a unique fundraising idea in hopes of making a mission trip next month to Puerto Rico.

Paige Hrobsky, a 2017 graduate of TCHS and a freshman at Cumberland University, spoke with The Vidette about the planned trip, which is being organized by the Wesley Foundation.

Paige Hrobsky

“I grew up in the Methodist church in Hartsville and was on a council youth ministry in high school,” Hrobsky said. “The Wesley Foundation is like a college version, through the Methodist church.

The Wesley Foundation is based out of Middle Tennessee State University, but Hrobsky said a branch chapter is in the process of going through organization at Cumberland.

To raise funds for the trip, Hrobsky is seeking a sponsor for each day in April. Sponsors pay the same amount as the day, with April 1’s sponsor paying $1 and April 30’s sponsor paying $30, for example.

Hrobsky said she had received “a lot of support” thus far, with almost half of April’s days already sponsored. She said she had participated in local mission trips before, but this would be her first trip outside the continental U.S.

“We went on a mission trip over Spring Break to Grundy County,” Hrobsky said. “Now we’re going to Puerto Rico with MTSU and Auburn University students.”

The mission trip, from May 8-16, is designed to provide aid to those still affected by last year’s Hurricane Maria.

“We’re going to build porches and that kind of thing,” Hrobsky said.

The fundraiser, if successful, will provide about a third of the costs for the trip. The Wesley Foundation is providing a third of the funding, and participants in the mission trip are expected to come up with a third on his or her own.

Hrobsky has a Facebook post explaining the fundraiser. Anyone interested in contributing can also go online to wesleyfoundationmt.org/donation-page or mail to: The Wesley Foundation, PO Box 10125, Murfreesboro TN 37129.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Water Board approves expenditure requests

The Hartsville/Trousdale Water Board gave its approval to vehicle purchases and an upgrade to the sewer lift station in the industrial park during its meeting last Wednesday.

When CoreCivic decided to place its Hartsville prison in the PowerCom park, new sewer lines and a lift station were added in the park. However, according to Water Department manager Tommy McFarland, a design flaw has left the capacity lower than originally expected.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

While it is not currently a concern, problems would likely arise if another industrial client opted to locate within the PowerCom site.

“It could be a situation, someday, where we have conflict with that station,” McFarland told the board. “It’s protecting us from having to spend even more money down the road.”

The board approved plans to add a well and piping that will connect to the lift station. While an exact cost was not yet available, engineers working on the sewer project said they felt there were enough remaining funds in the project to accommodate the added equipment. Board members did approve up to $5,000 in funding if required.

McFarland also presented a proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year for the Water Department. The budget calls for a 3 percent raise for water employees and for an annual evaluation process to begin in 2019.

Board members gave their preliminary approval to the budget, which must still go before the County Commission when the county budget comes up for discussion, which typically takes place during May and June.

The board also voted to increase tap fees, which are charged for adding new homes or businesses to existing water and/or sewer lines.

“When you look at the cost of the tap, just in materials, we were below cost (in our fees),” said board chairman Mark Beeler.

Beginning April 1, fees for a ¾-inch meter (the most common for residential) will go from $2,000 to $2,250. A 1-inch meter will go from $2,250 to $2,600 and a 2-inch meter (typically for duplexes or small apartments) will go to $5,500.

McFarland also presented the board with requests for a number of vehicle purchases: a dump truck, a backhoe and two pickup trucks. The total estimate of the purchases came to just under $220,000, but McFarland said there was money freed up in the current budget to pay for them all.

“If we’re going to build lines and save $30,000 a year, we’re going to have the equipment to do it,” said board member Toby Woodmore.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

How exactly does hotel study work?

In February, members of the county’ Economic Development Committee voted to fund a hotel feasibility study, designed to determine if Trousdale County could support such a business.

Two smaller chains reportedly have contacted county government and the Chamber of Commerce about the possibility of expanding into Trousdale County. The study, which cost $7,500, is a necessary first step for any business in making such a determination.

Photo: Brian Stansberry / Creative Commons

Estimates were that the study should be completed in 30 to 45 days, and while results have not yet been returned to the county, officials are optimistic about the results.

The Vidette contacted Jessica Junker, a representative with Core Distinction Group, to explain the process of completing such a study. Core Distinction Group is the company hired to conduct the Trousdale County study.

Q; Please talk about the process of the study itself, how it’s done, etc.

A: The process can be summed up in a few steps. First we visit the community so that we can see all the wonderful aspects of it that you cannot see on the Internet. During our community visit, we tour the community and sit down with the local demand generators. After we visit the community we take all of the data we collected during the visit, as well as lodging data in the surrounding area and compile it. From this we make a determination if there is a need in the community that makes good business sense. We know that no matter how small the community is, there is a need for lodging. This need can be one room or it could be a hundred plus. You must have need for a certain number of rooms to produce a successful hotel.

Q: What criteria does your company look for in determining if a community is viable and how important are said criteria?

A: Need. One of the main reasons that communities like working with us is due to the fact that we sit down with community leaders and demand generators to gain a thorough knowledge of actual need.  Our company specializes in small communities because we build the hotel from the ground up when it comes to need. Day by day, we identify how many rooms are needed each day of the year to come up with an estimate of what business is leaving the area to surrounding communities.

Q: Can this study be used by/for other businesses?

A: The actual Hotel Market Feasibility Study cannot be used to bring in other business but a hotel does have the potential to bring in many new collateral businesses and jobs. For example, if your community has 30 people each night that are leaving to stay in a larger community 30 minutes away, besides the hotel room revenue, you are losing their dinner bill at the local dinner establishment, snacks and gas at the local gas station and all the other money spent in the other community. Bringing that revenue back to your community can make a huge impact.

Q: How does having a potential anchor client (like CoreCivic locally) impact the study?

A: Each market is different. Having a community partner like CoreCivic is a very positive boost to the community. They are having a positive impact on the study for Trousdale County. In other markets, if there isn’t a demand generator like CoreCivic, there may be multiple smaller demand generators that equate to the same need.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Coy Dickey seeking election to County Commission

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Coy Dickey is seeking election to the County Commission from the Fifth District.

Coy R. Dickey Jr. is announcing his intention to run for election to the County Commission representing Trousdale County’s Fifth District.

Dickey, a retired veteran and retired postal worker, has lived in Trousdale County since 2012. He is originally from Lawrenceburg and also has a farming background.

“I finished high school in Frankfurt, Germany, and retired from the military after 23 years,” Dickey said. “I retired from the post office after 34 years on top of that.

“I moved to Trousdale County in 2014 and have worked for the Board of Education. I enjoy my life here.”

Dickey said the desire to create better jobs in Trousdale County was a strong motivation behind his decision to run for office.

“We need to support local government and our mayor. We need to create jobs and support the people of Trousdale County through jobs and education,” Dickey said.

The county election will be held Thursday, Aug. 2.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

‘Guns for teachers’ bill voted down by House committee

Members of the General Assembly gave the death knell Tuesday to a proposed bill that would have allowed certain teachers in Tennessee to carry firearms in schools.

The House Education Administration & Planning Committee rejected by voice vote a bill sponsored by Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro). HB2208 would have allowed private certified firearms instructors to train teachers in certain distressed rural counties who are allowed to carry concealed firearms on school property as well as being taught by the local law enforcement agency.

Debate in the committee went on for almost an hour with a number of lawmakers, including Republican gun rights advocates, arguing against the idea of arming teachers.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

“(The bill) was a request from my county… to allow them to train teachers or administrators so we could have protection in our schools,” Byrd told the committee, while noting that Wayne County did not have school resource officers.

Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner David Purkey testified that the governor’s working group on school security came to the conclusion that SROs were a preferable measure for providing school security rather than arming teachers.

Counties that have SROs would not have been eligible to arm teachers under Byrd’s bill as presented.

VIDEO: House committee hearing

Gov. Bill Haslam has presented an additional $30 million in his budget proposal to expand options for school security, including adding SROs at schools. However, the governor has also spoken in opposition to plans to arm teachers.

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver asked how many other states allow similar measures, and was told 18 have some form of law allowing teachers to be armed, most with permission from a school board or other officials.

“I had read an article about Texas and how stringent the training was,” said Weaver, who said she was sympathetic to Byrd’s legislation. “What I love about the legislation (is that) it keeps a question in the mind of someone who would come to do harm to our children.

“Unfortunately we don’t live in Mayberry RFD.”

The Vidette attempted to contact Weaver for reaction to the bill’s failure, but she was not immediately available for comment.

A different measure that would allow off-duty law enforcement to provide school security did advance with bipartisan support and also passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with an unanimous vote later Tuesday afternoon.

A stopgap measure, the legislation would create a grant for LEAs to put more school resource officers in school this year.

“I’m honored to work with Rep. (Micah) Van Huss and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect our children,” noted Sen. Mark Green, who sponsored the bill. “The evidence is clear that school resource officers can deter attacks, and we need them in our schools – this year. While this is just the first step, we will keep working on legislation to strengthen school safety.”

The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Green (R-Clarksville) and Rep. Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), both combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House bill, HB2129, has passed out of two committees and will be heard in the Finance, Ways & Means Committee.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com. Contributing: Staff reports

CoreCivic employee charged with having sex with inmate

An administrative clerk at the CoreCivic-owned Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was arrested last week and charged with having sex with an inmate.

Crystal Rose Graves, 33, of Lafayette, was booked in at the Trousdale County Jail last Wednesday on a charge of having sexual relations with an inmate. She was released on $5,000 bond.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department

According to an arrest affidavit obtained by The Vidette, Graves admitted to Tennessee Department of Corrections agent Nathan Miller she had “sexual contact” with an inmate on three different occasions.

The affidavit said Graves admitted to having sexual intercourse with the inmate on two occasions, once in February and another in March. On a third occasion, Graves allegedly admitted she and the inmate “fondled each other.”

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist issued a statement on behalf of the prison.

“CoreCivic is committed to the safety and well being of every inmate in our care, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse and misconduct. We have in place an aggressive effort to prevent, detect and respond to all allegations of this nature,” Gilchrist said in the statement.

“When we became aware of this incident, we reported it immediately to local law enforcement and notified TDOC’s OIC. In addition, the employee in question has been terminated. While we cannot provide further detail during the ongoing law enforcement investigation, we are cooperating fully with their efforts.”

Graves is scheduled to appear April 27 at 9 a.m. in General Sessions Court.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Hartsville Rotary Club commits to service at home, around the world

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The author is also a member of the Hartsville Rotary Club, serves as club secretary and has participated in a number of the Club’s service projects).

The Hartsville Rotary Club will hold its second annual Community Meeting on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Hartsville Community Center on Main Street.

The public is invited to attend – both to hear more about Tri-County’s broadband project in Trousdale County and to learn about the Hartsville Rotary Club and the ways in which Rotary helps its community.

The Hartsville Club has been a pillar of service in Trousdale County since its founding in 1980 and currently has 39 members. Rotary brings together the kind of people who step forward to take on important issues for local communities worldwide. Rotary members hail from a range of professional backgrounds; doctors, artists, small business owners and executives who all call themselves Rotarians. Rotary connects these unique perspectives, and helps leverage its members’ expertise to improve lives everywhere.

Photo illustration by Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Rotarians are charged to live both their personal and professional lives by the Four-Way Test, which is recited at each Club meeting. Of the things members think, say or do, they are asked: 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? and 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

“Rotary’s impact is felt all around the world whether it be a clean water source in Ghana, Africa, a school in Haiti or the worldwide vaccination campaign to end polio,” said Hartsville Rotary President Paul Knudsen. “Locally, you can see Rotary’s fingerprint on park shelter houses, providing food for the needy and almost anything supporting youth literacy.”

 

Helping in Hartsville

The Hartsville Club commits itself to a number of projects in Trousdale County designed to benefit both those in need and the community in general.

Rotarians provide 50 percent of the funding for Trousdale READS, the local branch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program provides a book each month for every child signed up, from birth until age 5. Trousdale READS is designed to foster an early love of reading in children and currently serves over 300 children. Parents can sign up children at any time and there is no income restriction.

“I think Trousdale READS and the dictionary project are perhaps the most important projects we do,” said Rotarian Dwight Jewell, who was worked with both programs for a number of years.

The Hartsville Club also assists with the Summer Backpack Program, providing both volunteers and financial support for the last two years. The summer program is estimated to reach as many as 80 children and also provides school supplies and new shoes to participants.

“The love and kindness is from so many organizations and people who don’t want to be recognized; they just want to embrace what we’re doing,” Rotarian Wayne Andrews previously told The Vidette. “It’s Hartsville’s backpack program.”

For the past two years, the Hartsville Rotary has partnered with the Community Help Center to administrate Christmas For Kids, which served over 170 children in Trousdale County last year.

“Helping with Christmas For Kids has been a blessing in my life and I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be of service to the community I have come to love,” said Chris Gregory, who serves on the Rotary committee that oversees the program. “Seeing the joy on the kids’ faces and the appreciation of their parents/guardians makes it worthwhile.”

The Hartsville Club also works with the elementary and middle schools on the Character Counts program, which recognizes six pillars of character in students. The Club provides a brand-new bicycle and helmet each semester to one TCES student chosen from the honorees, and provides a $100 prize to a winner at the middle school.

Rotary and the schools also partner on the annual Food Drive each November, which provides over 6,000 items that are donated to the Community Help Center. Those donations, according to Help Center staff, help keep their shelves stocked for Trousdale’s needy during the winter months.

The Club also provides a scholarship each spring to a graduating high school senior, provides a dictionary to each third-grade student each fall and holds a golf tournament each May.

 

Helping beyond Hartsville

The Hartsville Club also works in conjunction with other clubs and with the Rotary Foundation to assist in service projects across the world.

Hartsville and Lafayette members are currently teaming to provide clean water wells in Ghana, and Hartsville has previously hosted youths from Brazil, Australia, France and Japan as part of Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program. The Hartsville Club also sent a student to Mexico back in the 1990s as part of the exchange program.

Since 1985, Rotary also has been working to eradicate polio worldwide and members across the world donate to that cause, raising $1.7 billion in that time. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has also joined the effort. As of March 20, there had been seven cases reported worldwide during 2018.

Hartsville members also supported Rotary environmental efforts by planting 40 trees last month in the park and supports the fostering of future leaders by sending high school students to Rotary youth leadership development camps each year. The Hartsville Club also supports an Interact Club at the high school, providing service opportunities and training for young people.

Thursday’s Community Meeting will provide the public an opportunity to learn more about Rotary and its impact both at home and around the world.

“We hope the public will take this opportunity to learn about the Hartsville Rotary Club and how we impact Trousdale County,” Knudsen said.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Football stadium renovation could come with hefty price tag

Members of the Budget & Finance Committee met last week with Director of Schools Clint Satterfield and representatives of the School Board to discuss a pair of proposed building projects.

As previously reported in The Vidette, the School Board retained the services of an architect and structural engineer to come up with plans for renovating the football stadium with the goal of making it handicap accessible and reworking the seating to make it safer for those in the stands.

“If you sit in those bleachers, you know they’re a liability,” Satterfield said. “It’s like walking a seesaw.”

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Replacing the seating to eliminate gaps is among the safety renovations in mind for the football stadium.

Additionally, the board wants to finish renovation work on the elementary school, primarily in the grade 4-5 wing. Such work would include painting, exit doors, windows and storage space.

“In general, the structure (of the stadium) looks sound,” said John Chaney, an architect with COPE Architecture. “The aluminum seating does not meet current codes standards if it were built today.”

The understructure’s steel and concrete was said to be in solid shape but needs sandblasting and repainting to prevent rust from forming, according to the engineer’s analysis.

Budget & Finance Chairman Mark Beeler asked for unofficial estimates of what both projects would cost. Chaney estimated the stadium at between $1.45 million and $1.75 million, and the elementary school work at $850,000.

Both projects would have to go to bid, and it was noted that bids could come in at below those numbers.

“What we’re looking at is making the stadium handicap accessible,” Satterfield said. “Once you start work, you can’t make one part (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant. It’s got to be all of it.”

Satterfield said renovating the stadium would slightly lower the number of seats on the home side, as more aisles and handrails would cut into the existing number. He also mentioned possibly reducing the size of the visitors’ seating by as much as 50 percent in order to cut costs on the project.

Beeler noted that in the past, county government and the school system have often partnered on building projects.

“I remind the Board of Education they’ve got a pretty good fund balance they’re sitting on. We need to be partners on this,” Beeler said.

According to the Trustee’s office, the school system’s fund balance as of last week was at approximately $5.8 million. School officials told The Vidette that a significant portion of that money is restricted for certain uses, such as teacher salaries and technology, and cannot be used elsewhere. The school system does have roughly $1.7 million in a capital outlay projects fund and another $1.2 million in uncommitted funds, leaving around $2.9 million that could be used toward building projects.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Teenager injured in Friday crash on Highway 25

Photos courtesy of Trousdale EMS

A late afternoon collision shut down a portion of Highway 25 for nearly 21/2 hours Friday afternoon and critically injured a teenager.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, a 2004 Ford Taurus driven by Jonathan Henderson, 18, of Bethpage, was struck head-on by a 2003 Chevrolet 1500 pickup driven by Joshua Wilkins, 31, of Carthage.

 

 

THP’s preliminary report stated that Wilkins crossed the center line near the intersection of Highway 25 and Sulphur College Road. The highway was shut down until approximately 8:30 p.m.

Henderson was taken by Air Evac to Skyline Medical Center with what Trousdale EMS called “critical injuries.” Wilkins reportedly declined treatment at the scene.

THP indicated that both drivers were wearing their seat belts. The incident remains under investigation.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

TBI seeking suspect with ties to Trousdale County

Multiple law enforcement agencies are continuing to search for a suspect with ties to Wilson and Trousdale counties wanted in connection with a home invasion and officer-involved shooting in Boone County, Ky., and an armed robbery Wednesday in Escambia County, Fla.

According to Escambia County, Fla. sheriff’s officials, the suspect is 32-year-old David Paul Vaughn. Authorities there said Vaughn apparently walked into a Walgreen’s pharmacy Wednesday at 8:15 a.m., pointed a gun at a clerk and demanded pills. He left the store in a maroon Nissan Rogue.

Photo courtesy of TBI
David Vaughn

Escambia County authorities said Vaughn is wanted in connection with a home invasion that led to an officer assault and an officer-involved shooting that happened in Boone County, Ky.

Wilson County sheriff’s deputies and Mt. Juliet police officers assisted Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents in a be-on-the-lookout investigation Thursday afternoon in the Providence area of Mt. Juliet, apparently in a search for Vaughn.

According to TBI public information officer Susan Niland, the agency requested assistance to find a person and vehicle from another state.

The investigation in the area ended at about 5 p.m. Niland couldn’t give any further information Thursday due to the ongoing investigation.

On Friday morning, the TBI added Vaughn to its top 10 most wanted list.

Vaughn is wanted by the Williamson County sheriff’s deputies and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for aggravated burglary and theft more than $1,000 from a Jan. 9 incident.

Reports indicated Vaughn allegedly stole a maroon Nissan Rogue in Indiana prior to the robbery Wednesday in Escambia County, Fla. He then apparently stole an Illinois dealer’s license plate and put it on the Rogue, drove to Boone County, Ky., where he allegedly assaulted an officer there and was shot at during the confrontation.

According to reports, Vaughn then apparently surfaced Thursday in Mt. Juliet. Authorities believe he was in contact with family and acquaintances in Trousdale County, where his mother lives. Agents said Vaughn is from DeKalb County. Reports also indicate Vaughn was at TriStar Summit Medical Center’s emergency room at about 6:30 p.m. and left against medical advice.

Late Thursday evening, he apparently left his vehicle at a Speedway gas station on Highway 70, where surveillance cameras captured video of him going behind the building on foot. Authorities used K-9 units to track Vaughn in the area behind the Speedway, but the search was unsuccessful.

Reports indicated a search of Vaughn’s vehicle revealed stolen plates from Nashville, stolen Playstation consoles, Apple TVs, computers and other items.

Vaughn may possibly be in a blue Dodge Durango with Tennessee license plate 8B82R6. Agents said Vaughn has an extensive criminal history and should be considered armed and dangerous. He was last seen in the Mt. Juliet area and has warrants in Wilson County for probation violation. He was described as a white man, about 5-feet, 8-inches tall, and he weighs about 330 pounds, brown hair with a shaved head and brown eyes. Anyone who recognizes Vaughn is advised not to approach him, rather to call 800-824-3463 or 911 as quickly as possible. A reward of up to $2,500 for information that leads to Vaughn’s arrest.

According to Wilson County authorities, Vaughn’s emergency contact was traced to a home on Franklin Road in Lebanon, and it’s believed to be where his children live.

Holder’s Warehouse loses tobacco contract; future uncertain

Tobacco growing has been the backbone of the agricultural economy in Trousdale County for decades, but that may have to change for a number of local farmers.

Holder’s Tobacco Warehouse recently was notified that its contracts with Alliance One International would not be renewed in 2018. Alliance One is an independent merchant that provides tobacco to cigarette manufacturers. The company no longer plans to purchase tobacco grown in the United States.

“It’s a pretty devastating thing for four or five counties – Sumner, Trousdale, Macon, Smith, Clay,” said warehouse owner Stanley Holder. “You’re going to take somewhere between $13 million and $15 million out of the economy in lost revenues.”

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Holder added efforts at finding contracts with other companies had thus far been to no avail, saying, “There’s nobody. You can’t get a contract anywhere else right now.”

Holder’s own personal farm is also feeling the pinch, as he said this year he had seeded only three of 16 greenhouses on his property.

“It just puts everybody out of business,” Holder said. “We won’t be receiving tobacco, for sure.”

The tobacco warehouse processes roughly 5,000 acres worth of tobacco in a normal year, according to Holder.

Holder’s warehouse is not the only receiving station in the area affected, as he said one in Morehead, Ky., had closed and others were cutting back.

Asked about the possibility of moving into other crops, Holder said, “We may do some other things here, but it will not be a tobacco receiving station.”

Holder said the warehouse has 8 to 10 year-round employees and as many as 25 employees during receiving season, from November through early March.

“Several factors are influencing these changes. Economic pressures, supply and demand, weak commodity prices, and competition can combine to create a perfect storm in the agricultural industry,” added TDA Commissioner Jai Templeton in a press release.

“It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of multigenerational operations being forced to shift production focus or cease operations entirely, at the same time as they achieve their life’s calling. Many are now facing difficult decisions that will affect their families.”

According to UT Extension agent Jason Evitts, Trousdale County had just over 300 acres used for tobacco farming last year, with 41 farms and 21 producers. Evitts estimated some of those Trousdale producers also were responsible for yields in other counties.

“Some of these farmers are going to be done,” Evitts said. “Most have other jobs and were growing tobacco to supplement their incomes.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.