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Summer Backpack Program shows heart of community

Hartsville may be known as the “Heart of Tennessee,” but perhaps nowhere were the hearts of the community best on display than during the recently completed Summer Backpack Program.

The summer program, which just finished its third year, provides food boxes to families of underprivileged school-age children. In addition, for the last two years students have also received new Nike shoes and backpacks containing needed school supplies.

GALLERY: Summer Backpack distribution & banquet

This year, the shoes and backpacks were funded through a grant from the Hartsville Rotary Club, which donated $3,500 and received a matching amount from the Rotary Foundation. Rotary helped fund food with a donation and matching grant in 2016.

Photos by Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Volunteers have gathered each Saturday during the summer break to pack food boxes for the Summer Backpack Program.

“Rotary was happy to help with the Backpack Program again this year,” said Seth Thurman, past president of the Hartsville Club. “It’s a really worthy cause that touches a lot of people’s lives. It’s always good when we can serve our fellow citizens of Trousdale County.”

On Saturday night, a banquet was held at Hartsville’s Church of the Firstborn, where recipients were able to pick up their backpacks and shoes. Volunteers cooked hamburgers and hot dogs and made desserts, and children were also treated to inflatable bounce houses to play in and a fireworks display capped the evening.

Kathy Atwood, Coordinated School Health Supervisor for the school system, was the moving force behind launching the summer program, with assistance from a number of local churches and community leaders.

“Kathy had prayed and wanted to have a backpack program for our children in Hartsville,” said Wayne Andrews, a member of the Church of the Firstborn who has worked with Atwood on both the summer and regular programs.

“Johnny Rolin and other members here at the church also wanted to help folks. They were introduced to a program in Robertson County and said, ‘We can do that here in Hartsville.’ This is a prayer being answered.”

The summer program works hand in hand with the regular Backpack Program, which provides during the school year and has been around for the past several years.

Volunteers wait to distribute new shoes at the Summer Backpack Banquet last Saturday.

The summer program served around 40 children in its first year in 2015, grew to around 60 last year and served as many as 80 in 2017. The regular backpack program has served as many as 110 children in past years and averaged around 85 last year.

“We work in concert with Second Harvest Food Bank, in how we purchase food and also to the operating standards,” Andrews said. “There are no administrative fees to run the program. All the time and energy, travel, etc., that is truly given.”

Volunteers have also brought fresh vegetables from their own gardens to be used in the program, such as cucumbers and sweet potatoes.

The community garden is shown outside Hartsville’s Church of the Firstborn.

Helping hands

Each Saturday morning during the summer break, church members have joined members of the Rotary Club at the Church of the Firstborn in packing boxes to either be picked up or delivered to those in need.

Employees of Wilson Bank & Trust have also been a consistent help on Saturdays as part of the bank’s challenge to commit to 30 hours of volunteer service in 2017. The bank also donated $1,000 to the Backpack Program earlier this year.

“As part of Wilson Bank’s 30th anniversary and our commitment to the communities we serve, our office chose the Backpack Program,” said branch manager Lisa Beal Dies. “We understand the need for it and it’s something we really believe in and support.”

A garden was planted on church grounds and tended to by the children with help from volunteers. Among items grown were tomatoes, squash and watermelons.

“The community has embraced the program, and now we’re able to expand, including our first year with a community garden,” Andrews added.

Pumpkins were planted last Saturday as well. Plans are to expand the garden next year and perhaps launch an open-air market where children can sell the food they have helped to raise.

“It’s teaching young people how to grow and plant, how to sustain themselves, and how to serve others,” Andrews said. “It’s not just ‘what I did, but how I can give back.’ That’s been a great benefit.”

Andrews also praised how families being helped by the summer program have started to connect and help each other, such as finding clothing or help with various other needs.

“There are seeds being planted that are helping these people, and they’re learning to help others while they’re being served.”

Funding for both the summer and regular programs comes from a number of local organizations, such as Rotary, retired teachers and the Chamber of Commerce, many of Hartsville’s churches and even individual donations to the program’s account at Citizens Bank.

A benefit car show is also scheduled to take place during the upcoming Trousdale County Fair on Saturday, Aug. 5. All proceeds will benefit the backpack program.

“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,” Andrews said. “It’s Hartsville’s backpack program.”

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

Community Pregnancy Center holds Open House

Officials and volunteers at Hartsville’s new Community Pregnancy Center welcomed the community Saturday during an Open House to celebrate the center’s arrival.

Visitors were able to tour the pro-life, non-profit facility, located at 783 E. McMurry Blvd.

GALLERY: Community Pregnancy Center Open House

Peg Shonebarger, who serves as executive director, spoke on what the center offers to expectant mothers.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Members of the community gathered Saturday for an Open House at Hartsville’s Community Pregnancy Center.

“They can (get) diapers, wipes, clothing and other items they need – all donated items,” she said. “Lots of people have opened their hearts and given lots of donations.”

Donated items can be purchased using so-called ‘Baby Bucks,’ which are earned by attending classes at the center.

The Community Pregnancy Center also offers counseling to pregnant women and hopes to offer classes in cooking and other life skills, as well as a support group for single parents.

“We have classes on infant care, the first trimester, how to eat for two, taking care of their and their baby’s health,” Shonebarger said. “That’s another way that we’re a support for them.

“Sometimes it’s just having someone in your corner, knowing that you’re not by yourself.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held outside the center, which has already served two clients since recently, Shonebarger said.

Making the center into a reality was a group vision that began two years ago with an informational dinner at Hartsville’s Grace Baptist Church.

“In the spring of 2015, (my wife) Juanita and I met with a group of pastors and a representative of a pregnancy center that had recently closed in Lafayette,” said Rev. Art Pinzur, who serves on the center’s Board of Directors. “We got our thinking and praying caps on and something marvelous happened.”

A number of local churches and community members organized and helped find a spot for the center in Hartsville.

“God gave us this facility in August, and this building has experienced a resurrection,” Pinzur said. “We have a twofold purpose: we cherish life, but at the same time we want to see that abundant life that Jesus talked about.

“That’s what we want to see in Hartsville, Trousdale County and as far as God will allow us to minister.”

The center is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Thursdays from 2-8 p.m. For more information on the center or on volunteering, call 615-680-8026 or visit pregnancycenterhartsville.org.

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

Razors Barbershop closing its doors

Justin Hallum has announced the closing of Razors Barbershop, which he opened on McMurry Blvd. in 2015.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Saturday, July 29 will be the final day of business at Razors.

Hallum cited a desire to be closer to his family in Lebanon, where he lives.

“I’m just going back to Lebanon; it’s where my family’s at,” Hallum said. “I’ve had a good run here, but it’s time for me to go back home.”

Hallum will be working at Watson’s Barbershop, located at 102 Hartmann Drive in Lebanon.

“It’ll be easier for me. I’ll still have the same number; still do appointments. I’ll just be in Lebanon,” he said.

Hallum expressed his appreciation to the people of Hartsville who made his business a successful one.

Hallum was unsure whether Zach Dirkson, who joined him after Razors opened, would remain in Hartsville or move elsewhere as well. Attempts by The Vidette to reach Dirkson were unsuccessful.

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

Slammin’ Car Show planned for Saturday

A Hartsville man is working to see the streets ‘slammed’ with cars and also turn some heads this weekend.

Cordero Scharkley is organizing the ‘Slammin’ Car Show,’ which will feature exotic and muscle cars, to be held Saturday from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. in Hartsville City Park.

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“There will be nationally known car clubs coming in, from chapters in Miami, New York, those type places,” Scharkley told The Vidette. “It’s going to be a big crowd.”

Scharkley is a member of a Tennessee chapter of a car club known as the HeadTurners, whose members typically feature muscle cars and other top-end vehicles.

Scharkley, who works as a promoter, has been hyping up his show via Instagram for weeks and said his posts have gone viral. He is also working to bring in musical talent to perform during his show.

According to his flyer posted on Instagram, performances are planned by a number of hip-hop artists. Those listed are Smith Hayes, YB Thug Face, Scrappy, Jay Kush and DJ Gutta 1’s 2’s. Food is also planned to be available.

“It’s getting really big,” Scharkley said. “That way if people don’t want to just see cars, they can hear music too. It’ll be something for everyone.”

Scharkley said he wants to give local youth something to do on the weekend.

“I will have teenagers helping with parking, collecting money, all types stuff,” he said.

A door charge of $20 is planned for those wishing to come to the show. Planned classes include Best Truck, Best Muscle, Best Import, Best Bike and Loudest System.

For more information on the show, call 615-674-6560 or visit 615_hemi_headturners on Instagram.

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

TCHS will also offer free breakfast, lunch to students

Trousdale County High School will join both the elementary and middle schools in providing free breakfast and lunch for the 2017-18 school year.

In Thursday’s meeting, the School Board gave its approval for TCHS to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides reimbursable meals to school and districts in low-income areas.

Districts, or individual schools, are eligible for the program if 40 percent of students are identified as participating in means-based programs such as SNAP or TNAF.

File photo

“We’re very excited about this,” said Director of Schools Clint Satterfield. “Now everyone eats free and there’s no differentiation between who eats free and who doesn’t.

“Parents never have to worry about a child forgetting lunch money; teachers don’t have to collect lunch money.”

Satterfield credited Coordinated School Health Supervisor Kathy Atwood for crunching the numbers and determining that the high school could participate. Previous estimates had TCHS short of the 40 percent threshold for participation.

“She crunched the numbers and came back to me and said, ‘We can do this.’ I called each of the board members and they were all for it.”

Breakfast at the high school will be provided to students in their homerooms at 7:45 a.m., according to TCHS Principal Teresa Dickerson.

“The cooks will be taking (breakfast) to my 20 homerooms,” Dickerson told the board. “I’ve talked to my teachers to encourage them to take breakfast.”

As Satterfield has stated earlier, student participation is key to making the program work. He has previously estimated that 70 percent of students need to take breakfast and lunch for the school system to break even. Satterfield said the elementary school had 80 percent participation last year and hopes to get similar result at the middle and high schools. Even taking a juice or milk, and not the food, counts as participation by a student.

“If a mother fixes breakfast at home, or if they stop at a convenience market and get breakfast, we’re not discouraging that,” he said. “They don’t have to eat the whole breakfast. If there’s one thing they like, it counts as a reimbursable meal.

“It’s not free unless we have participation.”

Satterfield said one high school student had asked him “if the food was going to be any good.”

“It’s USDA quality and meets federal food guidelines,” he said. “Our food staff is going to poll students and see which breakfast and lunch items they prefer and try to offer them more in the future.”

The elementary school is entering its third season of providing free meals and the middle school was approved to join the program in June.

“We were excited just to have our middle school on the program,” said School Board chairman Regina Waller. “It’s an awesome opportunity for our students and for our county. It’s going to benefit students immeasurably in our schools.”

The School Board also approved a change in graduation policy for TCHS seniors. Those who receive an industry certification will be able to wear a black cord with their gowns at graduation.

“It recognizes a whole different group of students, and I’m excited about that,” Waller said.

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

Nursing student receives prestigious award

A Hartsville nursing student recently received a prestigious award from Vanderbilt University.

Megan Jones was honored with the Credo Award, which goes to a student who “made our patients the highest priority by communicating effectively with patients and their families and was committed to being a team player,” according to a release from the university.

Jones, who is currently a student at Cumberland University, was selected as part of a seven-week Vanderbilt internship program that coordinates with five other colleges, including Cumberland.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Megan Jones poses with the Credo Award she received. Jones, a nursing student, was recognized for her service while interning at Vanderbilt.

“This is a program that’s very, very competitive,” Jones said. “Only seven (students) from each school, one from each track, gets accepted.”

Jones, whose focus is on pediatric nursing, was chosen for the VESNIP (Vanderbilt Experience Student Nurse Internship Program) from Cumberland. She received the Credo Award from among 25 fellow pediatric students.

Students are nominated for the Credo Award by their preceptors (instructors), who make recommendations based on student performance.

Jones’ nominating form cited her work, with one noting, “I was so impressed with her professionalism, confidence and humility with patients and families. She demonstrated strong work ethic and a determination to learn.”

Another preceptor was quoted as saying, “It honestly felt as though I were working with a colleague!”

“In the pediatric track, the families mean as much as the patients themselves,” Jones said.

A 2006 graduate of Trousdale County High School, Jones lives in Hartsville with her husband. She is scheduled to graduate from Cumberland in May 2018 and serves with the Student Government Association while also participating in peer mentoring.

Jones also enjoys traveling and hiking with her husband, who works for Tri-County Electric.

“Without him and my family, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” Jones said. “I feel like I have learned more within this program than I could have with clinical experience.”

Jones said she has wanted to become a nurse for years, noting that her mother works in the health care field and her aunt is a nurse practitioner. Jones is particularly focused on women’s health and pediatrics.

“My future plan is to work with people in our community and bring awareness to women’s health,” Jones said. “I wish we had something here that we could take our children and women to instead of going out of town. It’s more effective that way.

“My motto is: You can treat a disease, and you may win or lose. But if you treat a person, you’ll always win no matter the outcome.”

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

Diane Black: House budget will build a better America

For years, we’ve talked about what we would do if Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. We’d balance the budget; we’d invest in our military; we’d reform our tax code and reduce the regulatory burden on American small businesses; we’d help put people back to work.

With President Trump in office, now is the time for action. Today, the House Budget Committee released “Building a Better America,” our plan to fulfill the promises we’ve made to the American people. This budget is no longer just a vision document. This year, our budget is a plan for action.

As we built our budget for 2018, we prioritized five principles: balancing the budget to protect future generations from the coming debt crisis, promoting job creation, strengthening our national defense, returning power back to the states, and reforming government and improving accountability.

Submitted photo
Diane Black represents Tennessee’s Sixth District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

We believe that these five principles, put into practice, will help us build a better America we can be proud to leave to future generations.

Balancing the budget. For too long, Washington has failed to abide by the simple principle that all American families and small businesses do — that we must live within our means. During the eight Obama years, our national debt increased by $9 trillion, now totaling almost $20 trillion. That number is set to grow to $30 trillion by 2027 if we continue the status quo. That’s not only irresponsible, it is morally wrong. Building a Better America puts our country on a sustainable spending path to ensure that our children and grandchildren will have their chance to live the American Dream.

Balancing the budget requires us to make difficult choices, but I knew that when I took on the role of Budget Committee chairman. I was elected to make tough choices, as were all the members of our committee. Balancing the budget requires us to begin changing the culture in Washington and addressing mandatory spending. While many think immediately of entitlement programs, the mandatory spending ledger encompasses dozens of programs. Our budget requires a minimum of $203 billion in mandatory savings — the largest mandatory spending reforms since the 1990s — as a down payment on our commitment to addressing our ballooning deficits.

This moment in history demands guts and political leadership, because without it, our country is heading for financial ruin caused by our national debt. Building a Better America makes the tough choices that get our country back on track.

Promoting job creation. The economic potential of American entrepreneurs and small businesses has been held back in recent decades by the massive expansion of the federal government. Presidents and Congresses of both parties have spent too much, regulated too much, and grown the federal bureaucracy too much. Our budget reverses this trend. By getting the federal government out of the way — through regulatory reform, tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare, and deficit reduction — we can unleash the power of the free-market economy, provide opportunity and create jobs at a rate that reflects our true potential. Through reconciliation, our budget specifically paves the way for deficit neutral tax reform that will unleash the American economy.

Strengthening our national defense. Over the last eight years, we’ve seen a weakening of our military potential and readiness. The failed foreign policy of the Obama years has left us in a position where our allies don’t respect us and our enemies don’t fear us. Our budget seeks to change that dynamic by significantly increasing our spending on national defense so that we can provide our men and women in uniform with the resources they need to face the growing threats around the globe.

Returning power back to the states. Ronald Reagan famously said “the federal government did not create the states; the states created the federal government.” Washington politicians and bureaucrats too often forget this concept as the bright lights of the capital and the big pocketbooks of the special interests blind them from the constitutional principle of federalism.

“Building a Better America” envisions a government more in line with the founding principles of our great country, where states, local governments, local communities, families, and charitable organizations play more of a role in our daily lives than the federal government. As we analyzed the entire federal budget, we looked for areas where we could return power back to the states, which are better suited to deal with programs directly impacting their citizens.

Reforming government and improving accountability. Every dollar collected by the federal government was earned by a hardworking American. As chairman of the Budget Committee, I and the other members of our committee, are tasked with being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and that is a responsibility I take seriously. Ensuring that every dollar is spent wisely by eliminating waste and improving accountability was a top priority as we built our budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

In this moment in history, we are faced with daunting challenges, but also presented with tremendous opportunity. We have an opportunity to take real, tangible steps to address the coming debt crisis and fulfill our moral obligation to future generations of Americans.

That’s exactly what “Building a Better America” does.

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., is chairman of the House Budget Committee. This op-ed originally ran in USA TODAY on July 18.

Holder named CNO at Trousdale Medical Center

Trousdale Medical Center (TMC) is pleased to announce that Jennifer Holder has assumed the role of chief nursing officer (CNO), which was effective Feb. 13, 2017.

“We are thrilled to have Jennifer join our leadership team. Her experience managing clinical teams and her background in a variety of clinical specialties will be a tremendous asset to our hospital and community,” said Mike Herman, chief executive officer (CEO) of TMC. “We are confident Jennifer will contribute to our continuing efforts to provide the best possible care close to home for our community.”

Jennifer Holder

A registered nurse for more than 15 years, Holder most recently served as Director of Case Management, Clinical Documentation Improvement, and Patient Safety Officer at Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin. Prior to that, she was the Director of Quality and Risk Management at Riverview Regional Medical Center in Carthage.

Holder started her nursing career at St. Thomas Health, working with a focus as a cardiac nurse and shared system resource supporting multiple departments throughout the health system.

Holder holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Cumberland University. She is currently enrolled in the MBA program at Cumberland University and will graduate this year.

Trousdale Medical Center (TMC) is a 10-bed critical access hospital in Hartsville. TMC offers healthcare to residents of Trousdale and surrounding counties, including general medical care, a Chest Pain Accredited 24-hour emergency and diagnostic services, outpatient rehabilitation, skilled nursing, diagnostic sleep services and geriatric care. Our employees and physicians are united by a mission of Making Communities Healthier. TMC is a hospital of HighPoint Health System. To learn more, visit MyTrousdaleMedical.com.

Yellow Jacket Rocks become a local hit

The hottest thing in Trousdale County right now really rocks. No, really, it is just that – rocks.

Painted rocks have been turning up at businesses, inside and outside buildings, in the park, at churches. It might be difficult to find a spot where a rock hasn’t been hidden over the past month or so.

Yellow Jacket Rocks now has its own Facebook page, created by Kimberly Brown. As of Friday morning, the page had 870 members.

Submitted
Emily Brown paints rocks as part of the Yellow Jacket Rocks campaign.

The idea is that when a painted rock is found, wherever in Hartsville/Trousdale County it is found, that the finder post a picture of the rock to the Facebook page and then re-hide it for someone else to find.

Brown’s daughter, 10-year-old Emily, came up with the idea that has gone viral – Hartsville style.

“We were in Wilson County, where I found my first rock,” Emily said. “I wanted to spread the joy here in Hartsville; the exciting feeling I got when I found my first rock.”

The Yellow Jacket Rocks campaign is based on that of 615 Rocks, a similar concept taking place across Middle Tennessee. The 615 Rocks Facebook page currently has almost 23,000 followers and several cities and counties have their own 615 Rocks pages on Facebook as well.

“We didn’t create it; Wilson County has one, Macon County has one, 615 Rocks has one,” said Kimberly Brown. “We thought about it before I decided I would create the (Yellow Jacket Rocks) Facebook page. Little did I know that it would take off to this magnitude!

“I really think Yellow Jacket Rocks, compared to all the other communities, has shared more love in leaps and bounds than any other community out there. Seeing the remarks on the page has been heartwarming.”

Submitted
These are some of the rocks found as part of Yellow Jacket Rocks.

After Yellow Jacket Rocks began to take off, Brown’s daughter came up with the idea of a prize rock.

Kimberly purchased a Subway gift card, which was to be hidden with a rock once the page reached 575 members.

“We hid it at night thinking no one would see us,” Brown said. “Forty-five minutes later, that rock was found. It was a blessing.”

Brown then approached McDonald’s, which donated 50 cards for free ice cream cones. The cards have been attached to more rocks around town.

As the idea has blossomed, other local organizations have joined in on the fun. First Baptist Church and the Fred A. Vaught Library have scheduled painting parties.

“We’ve had lots of kids and their parents at our building hunting them and hiding them,” said Megan Lee, director of the library. “We’ve had two painting days and we’re going to have two more before school starts (July 27).

“It’s been really fun. We feel it’s like a real-life version of Pokemon Go.”

“We’re seeing families get together and have paint parties,” Kimberly Brown added. “One parent told me, ‘We’re getting kids off their video games and out there having fun.’ ”

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
This rock was found at the Vidette office last week and was re-hid soon afterward.

There are no specific rules for hiding rocks, but some requests have come from various businesses and agencies.

Those hiding rocks are asked not to hide them on private property, or to ask first before doing so;

Sheriff’s officials have asked that rocks not be hidden on the jail property;

McDonald’s has asked that rocks not be hidden inside the restaurant (outside is fine);

Rocks can be hidden both in the library or outside;

The owner of the car wash on Broadway does not want rocks hidden at his business, and has stated he will throw them away if found there, citing potential damage to cars.

“The businesspeople have become involved too,” Kimberly said. “It’s not just for the young; it’s for any age.”

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

Judd Matheny visits Hartsville as part of run for Congress

State Rep. Judd Matheny visited Hartsville on Friday afternoon as part of his campaign for the U.S. Congress next year.

Matheny has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for Tennessee’s Sixth District in the House of Representatives. That seat has been held by Diane Black since 2011.

Black, who currently chairs the House Budget Committee, has been widely rumored to be considering a run for governor next year but has yet to state publicly whether she will in fact run, or will seek re-election to Congress.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
State Rep. Judd Matheny, center, poses with family, campaign workers and local Republicans during his visit to Hartsville last week. Matheny will seek election to the Sixth District’s seat in Congress next year.

Asked if he would still seek the Sixth District nomination if Black seeks re-election, Matheny said, “I’m in anyway.”

Matheny has been the state representative for District 47 for 15 years. His district consists of parts of Coffee and Warren counties.

He is considered one of the most conservative legislators in the General Assembly and is a veteran of both the Tennessee Army National Guard and of law enforcement.

In a press release announcing his candidacy, Matheny touted his record on a number of issues, such as fighting prescription drug abuse, protecting the unborn and Second Amendment, opposing illegal immigration, opposing Common Core standards in schools and providing for the needs of the senior population.

Matheny said he is a strong supporter of President Trump and said he will focus on the following areas if elected:

1. Lower taxes

2. Fewer regulations

3. Reined-in government spending

4. Private-sector economic growth

5. Enforcement of the rule of law

6. Authority to the individual states

7. Individual responsibility and economic freedom

8. Providing strong security to protect Americans

In his press statement, Matheny said he “believes… that our Federal Government must not be allowed to dictate Tennessee’s definition of marriage, our bathroom policies or the makings of a school lunch. Citizens of Tennessee must not be forced to follow distorted ideas of social justice from organizations that actively vow to destroy our conservative way of life by forcing those and similar policies into our daily lives, businesses and institutions.”

Matheny has been married to his wife, Christy, for 18 years. The couple has two children in high school.

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

All students can retake ACT this fall

Trousdale County students will join all other public high school students in the class of 2018 in getting the opportunity to retake the ACT this fall.

In a press release last week, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that the state would expand its ACT Senior Retake Day to all Tennessee public high school students in the class of 2018, totaling nearly 70,000 students.

In addition, the department is making it easier for public school seniors to retake the ACT this fall by offering this second opportunity during the school day in students’ own schools.

Unlike in the past, students do not need to sign up to retake the test – it will automatically be provided. School districts can to choose the testing date that is best for students and causes the least disruption for those not taking the exam. Districts may offer the retake on Oct. 3, Oct. 17, or on both days.

In 2017, 33 students at Trousdale County High School retook the ACT, according to Director of Schools Clint Satterfield.

“The issue that we experienced last year was that the Retake opportunity was held at an off-campus testing site and we were out of school for fall break at the same time. We believe the combination of both hurt our participation rates,” Satterfield said.

“This year we will be holding the ACT Senior Retake on Oct. 17 and it will be administered on site at the high school. We expect many more participants this fall.”

October 2016 was the first time Tennessee offered public high school seniors the chance to retake the ACT for free, but it was only available to students who had previously taken the ACT as juniors and who were able to take it on a weekend testing date at a testing center. Of those who participated in the 2016 retake, nearly 40 percent increased their overall score.

“Tennessee is once again a national leader in education as the first state to offer an ACT retake opportunity to all public school seniors,” McQueen said in the press statement. “By expanding our retake day, we send a strong signal that our state is committed to further increasing access, especially among students who stand to benefit the most from this opportunity.”

According to information provided by the state, in the first year of the state offering a free ACT Retake Day, an additional 1,300 students earned a composite score of 21 or above on the ACT, providing them access to $21 million in additional HOPE scholarship funds.

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

Hartsville celebrates holiday in big way

The people of Trousdale County turned out in droves Tuesday afternoon for what was possibly the biggest Fourth of July celebration Hartsville has seen in years.

In addition to the Fourth of July, Hartsville was also celebrating its 200th anniversary as a town, having been first recognized by the state legislature in 1817.

Despite rain in the morning hours, the skies cleared in time for the annual Independence Day Parade to begin shortly after 4 p.m.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Bobby Wade’s drag racing car took first place in the parade.

The procession, which included elected officials, a Trail Life USA color guard, clowns, classic cars and more started down McMurry Blvd. and onto Broadway.

Bobby Wade’s patriotic drag racing car took the first-place trophy, with second going to 10-year-old Emily Holder/Brown, who clogged the entire parade route. Third place went to Ashley Litton, who rode her horse decorated for the holiday.

“We really celebrated the Bicentennial this year! I was very proud of the parade and all the help I received in the lineup,” said parade organizer Amber Russell.

“I’m so thrilled, I just want to hug every entry and every vendor that came and made this July 4 possibly the biggest in Hartsville history!”

Trousdale’s Volunteer Fire Department participated in its first ever air-pack competition, in which members challenged themselves to walk the entire parade route on one air pack. Officials said they hope to expand that competition by inviting surrounding counties in the future.

“They should be very proud of themselves!” Russell said.

GALLERY: Hartsville Independence Day Parade

GALLERY: Hartsville Independence Day Music in the Park

After the parade, the festivities moved to Hartsville City Park, with expanded food options, more booths and more live music than in years past.

Various events included a watermelon-eating contest, a tobacco spitting contest, dunk tank and cake walk. The music was highlighted by a performance from the Dustin Spears Band, a country music group based out of Westmoreland.

“We had an amazing day. The turnout was great. We had a really nice Fourth of July parade that brought out a lot of people, and then people went down to the park,” said Chamber of Commerce Director Natalie Knudsen.

“We had a lot of fun with the kids games and watermelon eating contest. There were a lot of people who came to see what was happening.”

Multiple community organizations and churches had booths in the park this year, including the Chamber of Commerce, Hartsville Rotary Club, Historical Society, Journey Church, Rocky Creek Church and many more.

The Community Band, consisting of high school band members and band alumni, capped the evening with a concert of patriotic music before the traditional fireworks display to end the event.

“We had an amazing music lineup with really good entertainment. There were a lot of great sponsors who helped us out also,” Knudsen said.

The turnout in the park was tremendous, well exceeding that in years past.

“If vendors sell out of food by 7:30, I would have to say the Music in the Park events were a great success,” Russell said. “The performers were beautiful and the songs filled the park with reminders of what the day is all about.

“Such a tremendous day and it was pulled off by so many. They’re all important and a huge thank you and know they are truly appreciated.”

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

Jerry Helm retires as Water Department manager

The Hartsville/Trousdale County Water Department is searching for a new general manager after the retirement of Jerry Helm.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Water Board Chairman Mark Beeler, left, presents Jerry Helm with a gift in recognition of his service at the Water Department.

Helm, who has been with the Water Department since 2006 and previously served on the Water Board, announced earlier this year that June 30 would be his final day on the job.

Employees, Water Board members, family and friends gathered at the County Administration Building on June 28 for a reception in Helm’s honor.

“It’s been 11 years since I started from this end. It’s been a challenging time,” Helm said to the assembly. “The Water/Sewer Department is a big undertaking. But the employees are what make it all worthwhile.

“We’ve got a good bunch of employees who work hard and most of the time, people don’t see that.”

“We honor Jerry for his years of service with the utility district,” added Water Board Chairman Mark Beeler.

Scotty Claridy has been named as interim general manager until a permanent replacement is named. County Mayor Carroll Carman told The Vidette that Claridy would be a candidate for the position, which has reportedly received 14 applications, including Claridy’s.

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

Prison guard accused of sex with inmate

A guard at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was arrested last week and charged with having sexual contact with an inmate.

Andrea Juanita Caery, 43, of Lafayette, was booked into the Trousdale County Jail on Sunday, June 25, with bond set at $1,000.

Submitted

According to an affidavit of complaint filed by Tennessee Department of Corrections Special Agent Ramon Sherrell, Carey admitted to two incidents of sexual intercourse with an inmate identified as Alphonso James on June 23 and June 25.

The complaint stated that Caery was observed on camera walking from one unit pod to another, entering a cell and leaving after approximately 20 minutes. Caery was allegedly seen on camera adjusting her clothes and bra after leaving the cell.

CoreCivic Public Affairs Manager Amanda Gilchrist issued the following statement: “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.

“When we became aware of this incident, we reported it immediately to local law enforcement, and 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.”

Caery is scheduled to appear in Trousdale County General Sessions Court on July 14.

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

County Commission reverses course, keeps property tax discount

In a somewhat surprising move, members of the Hartsville/Trousdale County Commission voted Monday night to keep in place a discount for early payment of property taxes.

During a series of budget hearings over the past month, the mayor’s office and commissioners had built a county budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year that including removing the discount.

When the motion to rescind the discount came up for discussion, the debate quickly began.

“I’ve had several people contact me on this,” said commissioner Jerry Ford. “It affects 48 percent of the county that pays property tax.”

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Commissioner Richard Johnson added that “7 or 8” people had contacted him in opposition to removing the discount.

“I think it does a disservice to take it away and then talk of bringing it back again,” said commissioner John Oliver. “It makes us look wishy-washy.”

Keeping the discount in place created a shortfall in projected revenues in the budget proposal, estimated at between $60,000 and $75,000.

After Monday’s meeting, County Mayor Carroll Carman said commissioners “had heeded the voice of the people” and that he would respect the Commission’s decision.

“I don’t know exactly how to handle that,” Carman said. “I’m not sure how to say we got first reading on the budget tonight.”

The Vidette contacted the state comptroller’s office for clarification on how the change in budget might have affected the vote.  The response received stated that state law allows for changes to the budget between readings, so the initial vote was valid.

Commissioners later voted to approve the budget on first reading by an 11-3 vote. Commissioners Shane Burton, Gary Claridy and Steve Whitaker voted no. Those absent Monday were Don Coker, Bubba Gregory, Johnny Kerr, Andy Jellison, James McDonald and Michael Satterfield.

The general tax levy was set at $2.93, the same as last year, by a 10-4 vote. Burton and Whitaker voted no, and were joined by Wayne Brown and Kendra Belcher.

The tax levy for the Urban Services District, proposed at $1.08, could not be voted on as two of the three Urban Services Council members were absent (Gregory and Kerr).

The budget came back before the County Commission on Tuesday evening for second and third readings. It passed on second reading by a 9-5 vote and on third reading by an 11-3 vote.

Other measures passed by commissioners Monday included:

Appointments of Rod Bowen, Margie Foster and Kirk Sutherland to four-year terms on the Planning Commission;

Appointment of Dr. Alexander Badru as county medical examiner for a two-year term;

Requiring members of the Board of Equalization to complete annual education classes;

Appropriating $7,500 for Mid-Cumberland Action and $15,000 for the Chamber of Commerce;

Setting a minimum wage of $10 for all full-time county employees;

On second reading, a rezoning of 1.44 acres on Honey Prong Road from A-1 to R-1;

A number of end-of-year budget amendments, all of which were internal transfers; and

Appointments of Theresa Taylor and Betty Lou Taylor as notaries.

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

Hartsville has two reasons to celebrate July 4

Hartsville is planning a bigger than usual July 4 festival this year, as there is more than one birthday to celebrate.

Not only will it be America’s 241st birthday, but it will also be the bicentennial year for the city of Hartsville, which was recognized by the state legislature in 1817.

“Our actual town incorporation date is Nov. 3, but what fun is it to have a party in November?” said Chamber of Commerce Director Natalie Knudsen, who is helping to organize the festivities. “So we’re celebrating it on the Fourth of July!

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
This banner on McMurry Blvd. is one of two announcing Hartsville’s July 4 / Bicentennial celebration.

“We think it’s a pretty big deal to be 200 years old, so we are working to celebrate along with the parade and the Band Boosters.”

The Fourth of July parade will begin on Tuesday at 4 p.m., starting down McMurry Blvd. and turning onto Broadway.

“A big thank you to everyone participating in this year’s Independence Parade,” said Amber Russell, who organizes the July 4 parade. “It’s always great to see a day full of patriotism for our great nation! It’s always an honor to direct the parade and I hope you enjoy it.”

Russell also offered some parade tips:

Please make sure all children are loaded on vehicles prior to departure;

Please do not allow anyone to leave vehicles/floats once the parade has started;

Drivers be mindful and watch for children down parade route;

Candy is permitted to be thrown;

Lights are permitted;

Sirens may be used;

Please rise as the color guard displaying our flag passes at beginning of parade.

After the parade, the fun will shift to Hartsville City Park for music, food, games and much more.

As part of the bicentennial celebration, the Chamber and Band Boosters have worked to expand options for those in attendance.

“We have more events and more food vendors, more shopping vendors,” Knudsen said. “There will be something for everyone!”

The music will be highlighted by an appearance by the Dustin Spears Band. A country music group based out of Westmoreland, Spears has played in Nashville and also at Keller’s Bar on multiple occasions. His band is among the competitors in Nashville’s ‘Next Big Twang’ contest, with the winner to open for Daryle Singletary and Darryl Worley at an August concert.

The Dustin Spears Band will perform as part of Hartsville’s July 4 celebration.

“The Dustin Spears Band will perform at 7 p.m. on the big stage,” said Steve Paxton, who directs the Band Boosters. “The Band Boosters have done music in the park for years as a thank-you to the community. This is a way we can pay back.”

The Community Band, made up of Trousdale County High School band members and band alumni, will close out the music at 8:30 p.m. with a repertoire of patriotic music.

Paxton said there were still spots available for musical groups, as well as booths in the park. For more information, reach him at 615-374-2712.

“We’ll be glad to have anyone who wants to participate,” Paxton said.

There will be a number of kids’ games, including a water balloon toss, egg & spoon race, three-legged race and more. There will also be face painting, a dunk tank, a cake walk at 6 p.m., a watermelon eating contest at 6 p.m., a tobacco spitting contest at 7 p.m. and a Little Red Wagon contest at 6:30 p.m. for both kids and adults.

“We’ll have competitions all afternoon,” Knudsen said.

There will also be a quilt show, a historical display by county historian John Oliver to celebrate Hartsville’s 200 years, and limited edition show prints will also be available for purchase.

Additionally, the swimming pool will remain open to the public until 9 p.m., allowing folks an opportunity to get a respite from the summer heat.

The day will be capped the by annual fireworks display, which will begin around 9 p.m.

“We’re trying to involve a lot of groups: the Masonic Lodge, VFW, EMS, Fire Department, Rotary…,” Knudsen said. “It’s a small-town Fourth of July. That’s what we’re going for.”

“If you’re in town, we encourage you to come out,” Paxton added. “It’s available to all our community so they can come and interact, rub shoulders and celebrate the Fourth of July.”

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

Trousdale has mixed results in Kids Count report

Trousdale County ranked higher than the statewide rate for several children’s education, health and economic well-being categories, while ranking lower in others, according to the recently released Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book.

Statewide improvements in health and education placed Tennessee 35th in the nation. Overall, Tennessee ranks 26th in heath, 33rd in education, 35th in economic well being and 40th in family and community.

The data book ranks states in measures of child well being across several different categories, including poverty level, school attendance and economic stability. The annual report provides year-to-year data, as well as a five-year overview.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

The population of children living in poverty – or living with an income below the official poverty threshold – in Trousdale County was at 24.7 percent, or 448 children. Trousdale County was tied for 29th of 95 counties. That number was down from 25.9 percent in 2014 and 28.9 percent in 2013.

Statewide, 355,680 children are living in poverty, or 24.1 percent of the state’s child population.

Trousdale County’s youth unemployment rate was listed at 20.8 percent, three points above the state average.

About 5.2 percent of children younger 19 years old were uninsured, higher than the 4.2 percent statewide rate. Additionally, 1,223 youth were identified as being on TennCare, or a 57.5 percent rate. The state average was 51.8 percent.

The total number of TennCare enrollees was listed as 2,184, or 27.2 percent, with the state average being 23.6 percent.

The report listed 61.3 percent of newborns receiving adequate prenatal care, higher than the state average of 55.0 percent.

About 42.6 percent of students enrolled in Trousdale County schools were measured as either overweight or obese in 2015. The statewide rate was 38.6 percent.

There were a total of 21 substantiated child abuse cases reported in Trousdale County in 2015 at a rate of 11.6 per 1,000 children younger than 18. The number is the highest in five years, with 11 cases in 2014, 5 in 2013, 7 cases in 2012 and 4 cases in 2011.

Statewide 8,730 substantiated child abuse cases were reported at a rate of 5.9 per 1,000 children younger than 18.

Trousdale County had 191 listed juvenile court referrals in 2015, up from 156 in 2014. The 10.5 percent rate was the 11th-highest in the state, well above the state average of 4.7 percent.

Trousdale County students were eligible for free or reduced lunches at a 58.6 percent rate, lower than the statewide rate of 59.7 percent. The report listed 44.3 percent of Trousdale County students as participating in free or reduced lunches.

Trousdale County reported a 0 percent dropout rate in high school in 2016, one of six counties in Tennessee with such a figure. The statewide rate was 5.6 percent in 2016 and 6 percent in 2015.

Trousdale County’s graduation rate was at 95.3 percent in 2016 – down from a 98.7 percent rate in 2015 but still higher than the statewide rate of 88.5 percent.

“The 2017 Kids Count Data Book reflects substantial progress during the administration of Gov. Bill Haslam,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the state Kids Count affiliate.

“The economic development and business recruitment gains contributed to economic well-being ranking improvements. The educational strategies related to the state’s ‘Drive to 55’ and ‘Tennessee Promise’ have significantly contributed to improved outcomes for children and families, highlighting the importance of a two-generation strategy for the state’s long-term prosperity.”

To view the annual Kids Count report, visit datacenter.kidscount.org.

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

Veterans group raising funds to start cemetery

Veterans associations across the Upper Cumberland area are raising funds in the hope of establishing a veterans cemetery to serve a 14-county area, including Trousdale County.

Dan Belcher, Post Commander for the local American Legion, is heading up efforts locally and is working to raise awareness of the issue.

“What we need depends on the property, plus we have infrastructure that we have to pay for ourselves,” Belcher said.

According to a press release issued by the Upper Cumberland State Veterans Cemetery Association (UCSVCA), infrastructure needs include bringing utilities, providing for sewage disposal and putting in an access road.

The UCSVCA is also continuing to find property within the 14-county area that meets specific criteria required by the National Cemetery Association. Three potential sites were previously disqualified for not meeting certain criteria.

“We spent three years looking for properties, and for one reason or another they were turned down,” Belcher said.

According to its website, ucsvca.net, the UCSVCA was formed in April 2013 to assist the State of Tennessee in establishing a Veterans Cemetery in the Upper Cumberland to offer a pristine final resting place for Tennessee Veterans and their families as well as a peaceful place of honor to grieve and reflect.

The UCSVCA is composed of representatives from Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Trousdale, Van Buren, Warren and White counties.

The association hopes to be able serve an estimated 45,000 veterans who live in the Upper Cumberland area.

“This is a right to any veteran who has a honorable discharge,” Belcher said, “ to be buried. The only thing they would have to pay for is their casket.”

Those interred in a veterans cemetery can also have spouses buried with them.

Belcher estimated the association has raised around $104,000 thus far but was not sure what amount would eventually be required. Donation jars have been set up at multiple businesses in Trousdale County, as well as the other 13 counties in the UCSVCA.

“The only way we can influence state government is to show that we’re serious about this,” Belcher said. “If we raise enough, we can get the state involved in this.”

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

Elementary school plans special registration day

Trousdale County Elementary School will host a special Registration Afternoon for parents of new students on Wednesday, July 12 from 4-7 p.m. at the school.

Parents are encouraged to bring students on this day to complete the registration process for the 2017-18 school year.

All new students will need: 1. Proof of residency in Trousdale County; 2. A certified birth certificate; 3. Proof of immunization on the Tennessee Immunization Form; and 4. Proof of income (if applying for preschool).

The following are needed to verify proof of residency: 1. Property tax statement, driver’s license and utility bill, all with corresponding addresses; or 2. Signed lease agreement, driver’s license and utility bill, all with corresponding addresses.

Parents are also asked to bring all custody papers, if applicable.

For more information, call 615-374-3752 or 615-374-2193.

Property tax discount on the chopping block

Paying property taxes early in Trousdale County likely won’t save homeowners any money this year, after members of the Budget & Finance Committee voted to remove a discounted rate last week.

Committee members met on June 12 for a second round of hearings on the county’s proposed budget for 2017-18 after having rejected an initial proposal on June 1 after three days of hearings.

Eliminating the discount for early payment of property tax will require a vote of the entire County Commission during Monday’s upcoming meeting. Commissioners reinstated the discount in 2015, giving a 2 percent break for payment in October and a 1 percent discount for payment in November.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Eliminating the discount is expected to add around $60,000 to the expected property tax collections.

“We’ve looked at this pretty carefully, and it’s something I’m comfortable we can go through this,” Carman told the committee. “It might be something we look at again next year.”

Not all commissioners were enthused with the idea. During the committee’s regular meeting on June 19, Jerry Ford argued passionately for either a 2-cent cut in the tax rate or keeping the early pay discount.

A 2-cent reduction would decrease tax revenues by approximately $37,500.

“This has torn me apart,” Ford said. “We’ve forgotten the constituents that put us in here. This is wrong… If we can’t afford that, we’re broke anyway.”

Ford’s motion to incorporate a 2-cent tax cut failed in committee on a 4-3 vote.

The motion led to lengthy and sometimes heated discussion among committee members.

“I’m not sure it does us any good to cut taxes one year and raise them up again the next year,” said commissioner John Oliver. “You’re sending a mixed message if you’re giving a tax cut and also taking away their discount for paying early.”

“I appreciate the concern for the tax rate… but there’s no suggestion of offsetting expenditures,” added commissioner Jim Falco.

Under the revised budget, the county tax rate will remain at $2.93 for 2017-18, with the Urban Services District tax rate dropping to $1.08, a 3-cent reduction. The revised budget includes a deficit of approximately $378,000 that will be covered by the county’s fund balance, which according to estimates printed last week in The Vidette was projected to be just under $2.8 million as of June 30.

“We are giving the taxpayers a break by agreeing to take the deficit out of our fund balance for their behalf,” said committee chairman Mark Beeler, who cast the tiebreaking vote to reject the 2-cent cut.

Budget hearing

At the June 12 hearing, committee members initially rejected Carman’s revised budget before later reversing themselves and approving the spending plan.

“I think that the revenues don’t equal expenses, and when you do that you’re going to run out of fund balance,” said commissioner Bubba Gregory after the initial vote to reject the amended budget.

“We need to at least shoot for a balanced budget,” added commissioner Wayne Brown.

The biggest change in the revised budget involved limiting planned raises for county employees to an average of 3 percent, which Carman estimated saved around $64,000 across the board.

After the budget was initially rejected, the committee instead approved the idea of paying a 3 percent bonus to employees in two segments – December 2017 and March 2018 – instead of as a reoccurring raise. Employees must be full time and have at least six months on the job in order to receive the bonuses.

“I just feel like that much raise, two years in a row, is not healthy,” Ford said during the June 12 discussion.

In addition to changing raises to bonuses, commissioners gave their approval to establishing a minimum wage of $10 per hour for full-time county employees. Few are currently under that threshold, as the move is expected to cost the county $8,600 and the school system $6,500.

Other changes included the elimination of an additional compactor at the Convenience Center, reducing a planned increase in funding for the Ambulance Service, reducing insurance costs for EMS employees who have other jobs and coverage, reducing a request by the schools for money for non-certified raises and adding $40,000 in anticipated franchise fees.

“It’s probably better for 2018-19, so that saved us 2 cents (on the property tax rate) in Solid Waste,” Carman said with regards to the compactor.

Another boost came from the property assessor’s office, which determined that a penny on the property tax rate would bring in $18,716 – a $126 increase from preliminary estimates. That increase added just over $36,000 to projected tax collections.

A new tanker for the Fire Department remained in the budget as a capital outlay note, but could be converted to being paid for outright.

While the mayor’s revised budget has a deficit, it was noted that the current year’s revenue is expected to be around $900,000 more than was originally budgeted.

“There should be more monies to circulate throughout the year, thanks to conservative estimates on the revenue side,” Beeler said. “We’re poised to be stronger than the budget that’s put together.”

“We believe it’s going to be a stronger year than last year,” Carman agreed. “We’re not compromising the fund balance.”

The County Commission is expected to vote on the budget at a first reading at its regular June 26 meeting, then again on second and third readings at a called meeting on June 27.

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