CoreCivic employee charged with smuggling drugs, phone into prison

A corrections officer at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was arrested last week and charged with two counts of introducing contraband into a penal facility.

Treyvone Edward French, 21, of Lebanon was arrested on Aug. 7 shortly after arriving to work.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Jail

According to the arrest affidavit obtained by The Vidette, French allegedly smuggled in approximately 3 grams of cocaine and a cell phone into the facility. He was reportedly in the process of taking the cocaine to inmates when he saw a K-9 dog on duty. After allegedly hiding the drugs, they were discovered by another employee, who notified security.

The affidavit states that French told investigators he had been approached by an unidentified inmate and agreed to bring in contraband, reportedly in conjunction with other employees. The affidavit states that French had been employed at TTCC for about nine months.

A second affidavit states that French, on the same day, was found with a cell phone concealed inside his left shoe. French reportedly told investigators the phone was intended to be sold to an inmate for $1,000 and that he had performed similar acts “several times in the past.”

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist issued the following statement on the company’s behalf:

“When the employee was caught at checkpoint attempting to introduce drugs and a cell phone into the facility, it was immediately reported to local law enforcement (Trousdale County Sheriff’s Office) and our partners at the Tennessee Department of Correction.  We are cooperating fully with TDOC OIC’s investigation and the arrested individual’s employment has been terminated.

“CoreCivic has a zero-tolerance policy for the introduction of contraband into our facilities and our actions in this matter reflect that.”

French was booked into the Trousdale County Jail and was released on $5,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Sept. 14.

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

Escapee from Trousdale County Jail recaptured in Kentucky

A man who escaped from the Trousdale County Jail earlier this month was recaptured last week in Bowling Green, Ky.

According to Sheriff Ray Russell, Charles Christopher Groves, 28, escaped on Aug. 2 while outside in the jail’s recreation yard.

Photo courtesy of Warren County (KY) Jail

Groves was recaptured on Aug. 9 in Bowling Green, Ky., and was booked into the Warren County Regional Jail. According to the facility’s website, Groves faces charges of bail jumping, persistent felony offender, fugitive and contempt of court. He was scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 15. What charges he will face in Tennessee or when he might be returned here was not known.

Russell told The Vidette that Groves climbed the fence, tearing down razor wire along the way, and made his way across the creek. He was picked up by a car waiting at the high school baseball field.

Information on the vehicle was not immediately available. Russell said investigators were continuing to look into who the getaway driver was.

Russell said the escape took only about a minute and occurred while guards’ attention was focused on other prisoners.

Groves was in the Trousdale County Jail facing various drug charges, according to Russell.

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

Trousdale County’s hot shots bring home national title

From a “rag-tag team” to national champions.

That was the amazing seven-year odyssey of a young trap-shooting team from Trousdale County.

The youngsters recently competed in the Grand American World Championships in Sparta, Ill., and brought home a national title in their division, among other honors.

“The kids did a great job and I’m really proud of them,” said coach Van Thompson who founded the team seven years ago.

Submitted photo
These Trousdale County shooters, coaches and parents brought home a championship from the Grand American World Championship trap shoot in Sparta, Ill.

“We started out as a rag-tag team comprised of home-schooled kids,” Thompson said. “The goal was not just to teach them how to shoot, but to also provide mentoring and other guidance.”

He added: “From the start, our goal has been to have fun and learn to shoot. Winning is secondary. ‘Winning’ is anytime you break a clay [target].”

Competing against approximately 500 school-age youngsters from around the country, the Trousdale County shooters won not only their Junior A Division but also the High Overall championship. In the latter they competed against several college-level shooters among a total field of 1,600.

Members of the winning Junior A squad were: Dale Anthony, Evan Goke, Nick Pappas, Tanner Puckett and Josiah Crouch.

Jacob Hume, Josiah Goke, Kelsey Goke and Kyle Goke shot in individual classes.

Team members who shot in Tennessee tournaments but did not make the Illinois trip were: Anna Lilly, Jay Lilly and Cotton Gross.

Dale Anthony was third in the Junior Class A Championship Flight, Josiah Crouch third in the Sub-Junior Championship Flight, and Josiah Goke runner-up in the Pre-Sub B competition.

Kyle Goke was 10th in the Handicap Champion Junior Gold (College Division).

“Every shooter that went to Illinois shot a new personal high score,” Thompson said. “Our squad (high school age) was not only first in their classification, but our squad of five shooters were Grand Champions. This was the largest gathering of shooters in North American, with a total of over 1,600 in all divisions and our young shooters came home as the very best in the nation.”

Thompson got the idea to form a trap-shooting team after taking some area youngsters on a 2011 dove hunt sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

“They enjoyed it, and I decided to start a team to instruct them how to shoot,” said Thompson, who set about building a trap-shooting course on his Hartsville farm. It consists of two bunker houses and trap-throwing machines.

In addition to shooting at Thompson’s course, the team shoots at Lebanon’s Cedar City Gun Club and at the Macon County Gun Club.

“We’ve had a lot of great support from both clubs,” Thompson said.

The team is open to boys and girls of junior high and high school age. Anyone interested in coming out for the team can contact Thompson at 615-300-6066. If a youngster doesn’t own a gun, one will be provided.

“I’m proud of these kids,” Thompson said. “They give me hope for this country when it seems everything is spinning out of control. It was a season well done.”

Op-Ed: Can new mayor maintain Trousdale County’s momentum?

Well, the people of Trousdale County have spoken.

Stephen Chambers was elected as the new county mayor last week, unseating Carroll Carman. It was a good, clean race between the two candidates even if the war of words on social media wasn’t always so.

I want to congratulate Mayor Carman on his accomplishments in four years. The downtown area looks dramatically different in many ways, from a new fire hall to a new community center to a new justice center. The planned Streetscape grant (whenever TDOT gets around to it – they’re rather busy with IMPROVE Act projects right now and it’s been delayed) will do even more to spruce up a part of our town that frankly, has been neglected for far too long.

RELATED LINK: Chambers elected as Trousdale County mayor

Chris Gregory

Trousdale County has see tremendous growth in business and in population over he last four years, with the arrival of CoreCivic and ARC Automotive and a BIG spike in building in the county. Yes, those almost certainly would have been the case no matter who was in the mayor’s office, but I do credit Mr. Carman with managing the growth pretty well.

Yet there are many in the county who feel we’ve done too much too quickly. Perhaps they’re right. People don’t like change, and when things have been neglected for a long time it’s easy just to let the old status quo continue.

As Mayor-elect Chambers prepares to take office, I hope he will be able to continue the momentum Trousdale County has achieved. I also look forward to seeing what vision he has for our county and how he wants to make that vision into reality. He will probably face some difficult choices early on in his administration.

Yes, we are booming, but that boom will not last forever. There will have to be some tightening of the county’s financial belt. Raises for teachers, county employees and the sheriff’s department have eaten away a significant amount of the increased tax revenue from the prison.

Will we continue sidewalk projects under Mayor Chambers? Personally, I hope so. It’s a little thing that just makes the community look better and I would hate to see it cut.

I hope the Streetscape project continues; it’s something I’ve heard questioned in recent days (to be clear, not by Chambers). Again, sprucing up the downtown Hartsville area is something LONG overdue and needs to continue under the new administration.

Chambers spoke during the campaign on the need to continue to draw industry and businesses into Trousdale County. This is absolutely a need and I hope he is able to succeed in that regard. Jobs do more for a community than anything I can think of.

I hope Mayor Chambers has a good of a working relationship with the County Commission as Mayor Carman has had. With 10 new faces that weren’t there four years ago and a new mayor, there will be a leadership vacuum in county government – especially early on. Several experienced commissioners chose not to seek re-election and they will definitely be missed.

Thank you, Mayor Carman. Good luck, Mayor Chambers.

Chris Gregory is managing editor of The Hartsville Vidette. Reach him at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

Water Department looking to address deficiencies cited by state

The Hartsville/Trousdale County Water Department is working to correct deficiencies noted during a recent visit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

In a letter dated July 11, TDEC gave the Water Department a rating of 564 points out of a possible 599 (94 percent) but noted a number of problems that required addressing.

The most serious of those were in regards to various water tanks, which in some cases showed corrosion and other issues.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

“That’s going to be the most costly things we fix,” said superintendent Tommy McFarland. “We’re looking at both replacing or repairing. If it costs a half-million to repair it, it might be better to go ahead with a new, bigger tank.”

The Highway 25 tank was noted to have a 4-inch hole in the top and corrosion was noted on the interior. McFarland said the hole had been patched as of this week.

The Morrison Street tank, according to the letter, has a roof that “may be in danger of collapse.” McFarland said the department had retained an engineering firm to look at options to determine the best way to proceed with regards to all the county’s water tanks.

The state has requested a plan to address the water tank deficiencies within three years.

A meeting was held Tuesday morning between McFarland, County Mayor Carroll Carman and TDEC officials to discuss the letter and the Water Department’s response.

TDEC officials noted the department’s actions and said Trousdale County is “putting out excellent water” while noting that some issues were critical, they were not emergencies.

Most of the other deficiencies noted were in regards to maintenance of buildings and equipment, which McFarland said was already being addressed. He estimated the costs of the needed maintenance could hit $150,000.

Another notation was the lack of maintaining a flushing program, which cleans out the lines on a regular basis to prevent bacteria and other growth. McFarland said the work has been done, but the department did not have the required records to be able to demonstrate that.

“All utilities have to flush their mains; it’s a health issue,” he said. “It keeps bacteria, sediment out of the lines. We only had half a year of records. They were doing it; it just wasn’t being written down.

“We’re going to get everything back in order. That’s my job.”

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

Trousdale County holds 63rd annual fair

The 63rd annual Trousdale County Fair was held last week with plenty of events for everyone.

The second annual Car, Truck & Bike Show, which was held Saturday to benefit the schools’ Backpack Program, was well attended with 97 entries. Estimates were not available yet on how much was raised, but organizers were hoping to beat last year’s total of $3,400.

Best of Show went to Tony Keisling for his 1969 El Camino, while Butch and Jane Blythe won the Mayor’s Choice award for their 1971 Chevy Chevelle SS. The Fan Favorite award, voted on by those in attendance, went to Steve Piercey for his 1956 Chevy Bel-Air.

Photos by Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette and Amanda Gregory / For The Vidette

Top 10 finishers were: Jose Coydems (1990 Mustang), Ron Johnson (1946 International), Bobby Mann (1998 Chevy Vette), Billie Jenkins (1964 GTO), Ronnie Flatt (1952 Chevy Bel-Air), Henry Thurston (1964 Rat Rod), James Sherman (1965 Chevy Impala SS), Debbie Jones (1949 Chevy 3600), Joseph Keith Steen (1960 Chevy Biscayne) and Billy Weatherspoon (1969 Plymouth Roadrunner).

This year’s Fair was dedicated to Jerry and Mary Ann Dickerson and their family in recognition of the family’s longtime support of the Trousdale County Fair. They were recognized at the Fair Banquet on July 27.

Also recognized at the banquet were Billy Woodard, who received the 2018 Fair Pioneer award, and four youth award winners: Anna Towns (Explorer), Willow Jones (Junior), Sarah Dickerson (Middle School) and Claire Belcher (High School).

The Christmas For Kids Cake Walk was held Saturday night to close out the Fair and raised $2,600 for the charity, according to Rescue Squad member Mark Carman.

“Trousdale County Emergency Services and the Hartsville Rotary Club would like to thank everyone that came out for the Christmas for Kids Cake Walk,” the Rescue Squad stated via Facebook. “A ton of cakes were given away and Mr. Jerry Ford walked away with the 50-inch TV as the winner of our raffle. A special thanks to all of our sponsors (Hartsville Foodland, Hartsville Piggly Wiggly, Pig Pen Barbeque, Gallatin Publix, Lebanon Publix, Hartsville Twice Dailys, Old Time Express and Next Step Resource Center in Hartsville.”

The Fair opened on Thursday with the annual Sheep Show.

Exhibits were on display Friday, and returning events included Family Feud, the LEGO contest, livestock show and Tea with the Queen. Wilson Bank & Trust won the Family Feud contest, claiming the chicken trophy for a year.

Also held on Saturday was the annual Lions Club pancake breakfast, along with kids’ games, chicken show and kids’ beauty pageant. Other events this year included carnival games, an Ag Simulator and a Homemade Ice Cream contest.

The Trousdale County Fair is the oldest youth/agricultural fair in the state, and that heritage was well represented with a large number of entries in multiple categories.

The Fair Board wishes to thank the sponsors who make the fair possible each year and also thanks all those who came out to support the 2018 event.

“We appreciate all our sponsors and what they do for us,” said Fair Board President Kathy Atwood.

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

Stephen Chambers elected as Trousdale County mayor

Trousdale County voters opted to go in a new direction, electing Stephen Chambers on Thursday as the next county mayor.

Chambers, a local attorney, defeated incumbent Carroll Carman with 1,246 votes (54.63 percent) to Carman’s 1,030 (45.16 percent). He will assume the position of county mayor on Sept. 1.

Chambers held a victory celebration at Dillehay’s Café on Thursday evening and thanked his supporters.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Stephen Chambers poses with supporters at Dillehay’s Cafe after being elected county mayor on Thursday. He will take office Sept. 1.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone who supported me in the campaign and came out to vote for me,” Chambers said. “Their support and words of encouragement are greatly appreciated.

“I’ve just been really touched by the support I’ve gotten… I’m blown away. I didn’t know if I had a chance to win. I’m sure tomorrow, I’ll ask my wife if I really won or not. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

The total from early voting had Chambers comfortably ahead 836-650 with 56 percent of the vote.

Chambers thanked Carman for a good campaign and for his service to Trousdale County.

“It’s a big thing to step up and represent the people of your county like that. I want to thank him; he ran a great race. I look forward to speaking to him before I take office and get some words of advice from him.

“I’ll listen to his input. He’s been there and has done the job. I appreciate the way he’s treated me throughout the campaign.”

Carman, who was elected in 2014 with nearly two-thirds of the vote, gathered with supporters at the Community Center as both the results and disappointment settled in.

“I’m not so much disappointed for me; I’m disappointed for our county,” Carman said. “I have done things that no other mayor has done for many decades; to fix things and move our county forward.

“The majority of our voters said that’s the wrong way to go. I’m very concerned for Stephen’s first year or two; they’ll be tough ones. It’ll take management and I trust that he will.”

Carman said he “took the Lord’s Yeses and His No’s the same” and would work to help Chambers in his transition into office.

“I’m going to be there at that office and I’ll be at my last County Commission meeting. But this sets our county back.”

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

Candice Hall elected as Trousdale County Register of Deeds

Candice Hall cruised to an easy win Thursday evening in the race for Trousdale County Register of Deeds, claiming the office with 64 percent of the vote.

It was the first contested race for that position since 1978, after Mary Holder held office for 38 years before retiring in 2016.

Leah Verville was appointed by the County Commission to fill the remainder of the term and was seeking election to a full four-year term.

Submitted photo

Hall received 1,441 votes (63.79 percent) to 818 for Verville (36.21 percent).

“It feels good. I’m still like, ‘Did it really happen?’ ” Hall said. “Thank you for the support of the people who voted for me. I want to thank God, everybody!”

Hall, who currently works as a deputy in the county clerk’s office, will take office as of Sept. 1.

Verville thanked her supporters and congratulated Hall via Facebook, saying, “I would like to thank all of the people who have so generously and wholeheartedly supported me in my campaign to keep the Register of Deeds office. Congratulations to the new Register of Deeds of Trousdale County.”

The County Commission will look dramatically different, featuring 10 new faces who were not there four years ago.

Results were as follows: (* – new)

District 1 – David Nollner 136 votes, Ken Buckmaster* 123;

District 2 – Landon Gulley* 161, Shane Burton 130, Carla Jean Ferraro 59;

District 3 – Jerry Ford 186, Gary Walsh* 141;

District 4 – Bubba Gregory 155, Grace Thomas* 92;

District 5 – Linda Sue Johnson 155, Coy Dickey* 96;

District 6 – Amber Russell* 126, Richard Harsh 121;

District 7 – Gary Claridy 101, Dwight Jewell* 92;

District 8 – Bill Fergusson 113, Steve Whittaker 100, Brian Crook 91, Paul Knudsen 66;

District 9 – Richard Johnson 138, Rachel Jones* 93, Alex Seaborne 68;

District 10 – Beverly Atwood* 156, Mary Ann Baker* 134, Wayne Brown 95.

Walsh, Russell and Jones currently serve as commissioners but were appointed due to resignations. Each was up for election for the first time.

In other uncontested races, Ray Russell was re-elected as sheriff, along with Rita Crowder (County Clerk), Kim Taylor (Circuit Court Clerk), Cindy Carman (Trustee) and School Board members Johnny Kerr, Regina Waller and Anthony Crook.

In state races, Bill Lee claimed the Republican nomination for governor, claiming 36 percent of the vote in a four-person race. Randy Boyd had 22 percent, Diane Black 22 percent and Beth Harwell 15 percent. Those numbers were with 92 percent of the vote counted statewide.

Trousdale County also backed Lee, giving him 41.5 percent of the vote locally to 25.22 percent for Black, who gave up her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to run for governor. Lee will face Democrat Karl Dean, an overwhelming winner in his primary, in the November general election.

John Rose won the Republican nod for the Sixth District seat in Congress and also won locally with 41.8 percent of the Trousdale vote. He will face Democrat Dawn Barlow, who took 54,9 percent of the district vote and 57.9 percent in Trousdale County.

Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn cruised to easy wins in their primaries and will meet for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker.

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

Sheriff gives School Board update on SRO plans

Sheriff Ray Russell updated the School Board on efforts to place school resource officers (SROs) at all three county schools during the board’s July 26 meeting.

During budget negotiations in May and June, the county and school system agreed to a 50/50 split of the salaries for three SROs, estimated at $150,000 total. That delay prevented SROs from being in place at the start of the school year, according to Director of Schools Clint Satterfield.

Sheriff Ray Russell

Russell said SROs are expected to be at the elementary and middle school full time by Aug. 15.

“I’ve got one at the elementary now who’s working part time and training,” Russell told The Vidette. “By Aug. 15, both of them will be full time. They’re dropping in now on a regular basis.”

Deputy Joseph Buehler will fill the SRO position at the middle school, Russell said. The sheriff’s department has hired Monica Carson to serve as the elementary SRO.

Russell said Carson has prior law enforcement experience in West Tennessee and is also former military.

“She’s training in house and in school at other times,” Russell said. “She’s got to learn our procedures, that kind of thing.”

The school system is also arranging for SROs at each school to have an office, including access to cameras.

In the meantime, Russell and other deputies have made it a point to visit the schools on a regular basis, the sheriff said.

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

County working to clean up animal shelter

After taking control of the county’s animal shelter back from the sheriff’s office, Trousdale County’s Public Works Department has been working to upgrade and repair the facility on Industrial Park Drive.

Public Works Director Cliff Sallee invited The Vidette to tour the shelter last week to see what had been done and what still remains to do.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

“There were five-gallon buckets of oil stacked, rat feces, just a mess,” Sallee said. “We’ve cleaned this up and come a long way.”

Crews have repainted the ceiling of the shelter, replaced the lighting, rebuilt storage shelves and cleaned out the interior of the shelter. They have also laid traps to catch mice and have trimmed back trees and other growth to provide better access to the shelter.

The doors to the various kennels have been repaired, as many of the hinges had become rusted and worn. Crews have cleaned out the drainage system, which in some instances had backed up and caused standing water in the facility.

“A lot of those doors were just hanging off,” Sallee said. “The drains, we had beef hooves, tennis balls, all kinds of toys in them. When we came in, you couldn’t draw a breath.”

According to Sallee, filing cabinets contained rat nests and were in bad shape. A sink has also been repaired, which will allow for dogs to be bathed as needed.

In addition, the refrigerator contained medicines dating back to 2015, according to Sallee. Some canned food was unlabeled and had to be thrown out as well.

Sallee said the county had spent around $800 in materials to repair the shelter.

“I think it’s a lot better now,” Sallee said.

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

Former Hartsville prison employee faces sex charges

A former CoreCivic employee has been indicted on charges of having sexual contact with four inmates at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center.

Jacinda Sue Sanders, 38, of Westmoreland, was indicted in June by the Trousdale County grand jury. She was arrested on July 27 and booked into the Trousdale County Jail.

The indictments allege that Sanders “…did unlawfully, while being a law enforcement officer or correctional employee, engage in sexual contact or sexual penetration… with a prisoner or inmate…” The incidents allegedly took place in August 2017.

Courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department

CoreCivic confirmed that Sanders was no longer employed at the Hartsville prison, but would not give specifics as to when her employment was terminated or information about her duties while employed there.

Department of Corrections records show that three of the four inmates remain incarcerated at TTCC, while one has been moved elsewhere.

CoreCivic spokewoman Amanda Gilchrist made the following statement: “CoreCivic is committed to the safety of every inmate in our care, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse. As soon as we became aware of this issue, we reported it to local law enforcement and our government partners, and we cooperated fully with the OIC investigation.”

Sanders was released on $10,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Oct. 15.

Additionally, a Hartsville man has been charged with attempting to introduce contraband into the county jail.

Trenton Allen Ervin, 20, was arrested on July 29 and booked into the jail.

Arrest affidavits state that Ervin brought a clear tote containing socks and sandals into the facility. Upon further inspection, deputies felt “a hard lump” in the heels of the sandals.

After being taken apart, one sandal was found to contain tobacco, while the other contained rolling papers and two bags of a “crystal like substance believed to be methamphetamine.”

Ervin was released on $1,500 bond and is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Aug. 10.

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

LifePoint announces sale that includes Trousdale hospital

A private equity firm has announced its intention to purchase a chain of hospitals that includes Trousdale Medical Center and Sumner Regional Medical Center.

LifePoint Health, which owns 70 hospitals in 22 states, will be bought by Apollo Global Management in a deal estimated at $5.6 billion. The deal is subject to regulatory approval and must also be approved by LifePoint shareholders. Both companies said in statements they expected the purchase to completed in a matter of months.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Under the deal, Apollo would combine LifePoint with Apollo’s system operator, RCCH Healthcare Partners, to form a health care provider with more than 12,000 licensed beds, over $8 billion in pro forma 2017 revenues, and 7,000 affiliated physicians.

William F. Carpenter III, chairman and chief executive officer of LifePoint, said in a press statement, “LifePoint and RCCH are aligned in our missions and commitment to ensuring that non-urban communities across the country have access to quality care, close to home. Together, we can extend this shared focus while generating new opportunities for growth and partnerships that will help us navigate the changing healthcare industry dynamics. I am eager to work with the outstanding teams at LifePoint and RCCH as we continue advancing high quality patient care and Making Communities Healthier.”

Whether the sale will lead to any changes at Trousdale Medical Center is unclear. Hospital CEO Mike Herman was not immediately available for comment.

However, one employee told The Vidette they had been told it was “business as usual.”

The hospital has invested approximately $1 million in the last 18 months into equipment upgrades and other work on the facility to improve patient care.

A recent report from the Tennessee Hospital Association cited Trousdale Medical Center for providing 56 jobs and an economic impact of $4,664,014 in Trousdale County.

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

2018 Trousdale County Fair will mix old traditions, new events

The Trousdale County Fair will celebrate its recognition as Class A State Champion Fair during the 2018 event.

The 63rd annual Fair will be held from Thursday, Aug. 2 through Saturday, Aug. 4 at Trousdale County High School.

“We do have some new things with the Fashion Show, Purse Auction and Cake Walk,” said Fair Board President Kathy Atwood. “I think those three things are allowing us to diversify even further.”

The 2018 Trousdale County Fair will feature a mix of old favorites and newer events. Returning events include Family Feud, the children’s LEGO contest, the children/youth beauty pageants and the Tea with the Queen tea party.

Submitted photo

The car show to benefit the Backpack Program will be held for the second straight year. Seed Morton, who helps organize the show, said the initial car show at last year’s fair raised $3,400 and hopes are that the event will be even bigger this year.

Also returning this year is a cash giveaway of $1,000 to be awarded in amounts from $100 to $200 over Friday and Saturday. Rules for the giveaway for available in the Fair catalog or in the tabloid insert in this week’s Vidette.

“The Car Show has been expanded to include bikes and tractors,” Atwood said. “We do have some new things with the Fashion Show, Purse Auction and Cake Walk. “I think those three things are allowing us to diversify even further.”

New events this year are a Fashion Show and Purse Auction, the Christmas For Kids Cake Walk and a concert by the Bottom Line Band, a group based out of Carthage that has performed across Middle Tennessee and Kentucky for 25 years. They perform regularly at Keller’s Bar & Grill.

“We’re excited about the Saturday night concert and dance,” Atwood said. “We hope that’s going to be something everybody likes.”

Also new this year is a traveling exhibit that will be on display recognizing Tennessee veterans who have lost their lives in service to their country.

“We encourage everyone to come out and view that exhibit,” Atwood said.

There are also expected to be more food options than in previous years.

The fair will begin with the annual Century Farms Banquet on Friday, July 27. The banquet is an invitation-only event, and a local individual with long ties to the fair will be recognized.

Exhibits will be accepted from 1-5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2 at the high school’s Ag Pavilion. Exhibits may also be entered on Friday, Aug. 3 from 9 a.m.-noon.

Children’s exhibits will include categories such as field crops, garden crops and home cookery. Adult categories include canning, gardening and arts and crafts.

RELATED LINK: 2018 Fair Schedule

In a slight change, most exhibits will be displayed in the high school gym this year.

“There will be one big room with a whole lot of entries, and most Ag entries will be in their usual spot,” Atwood said. “I think people will enjoy having more room in the hall and they’ll have a better chance to view what’s being exhibited.”

The Fair welcomes entries from all ages, with a junior category for ages 4-third grade, youth exhibits for grades 4-12 and adult entries. Youth exhibitors must be a member of 4-H or Future Farmers of America, and adult exhibitors must be a resident of Trousdale County or a member of a Trousdale County agricultural organization.

“A lot of people still don’t realize that the Fair has entries for adults, and that there are a lot more things than just the youth fair,” Atwood said. “We’re also hoping the summer was better for a growing season than it has been, so hopefully we’ll have a lot of entries in the agricultural section to display.”

A complete list of categories and rules for each entry can be found online at TrousdaleCountyFair.com. Fair catalogs are available to the public at the UT Extension Office on Broadway.

The Sheep Show will be held Thursday evening at 6 p.m. in the Ag Pavilion. Friday afternoon will feature the LEGO contest and Tea with the Queen, with the Cattle Show and Family Feud planned for Friday night.

All money raised from Family Feud is donated to charities chosen by the competing teams. The entry fee is $20 per team. To sign up for Family Feud, email contact@trousdalecountyfair.com.

Saturday will begin with the annual pancake breakfast held by the Lions Club from 7-9 a.m. in the school cafeteria.

“That’s a good addition,” Atwood said. “It helps the Lions Club and it gets people to our site.”

Children’s activities on Saturday will include carnival games, Olympic-style games, the Kiddie Tractor Pull and much more.

The chicken show and sale will also be held Saturday morning at the Ag Pavilion.

Saturday also includes with the Children/Youth Beauty Pageant at noon in the Eleanor Ford Theater. Children from birth through fifth grade can enter the pageant.

Admission to the Fair is free, although some individual events such as Family Feud and the Beauty Pageant will have admission costs. Children will also need to purchase tickets for games and rides.

“There will be a lot going on!” Atwood said. “We want to be everybody’s fair.”

For more information, visit TrousdaleCountyFair.com or check out the Trousdale County Fair’s page on Facebook.

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

Bus drivers still needed as new school year starts

As a new school year starts, Trousdale County Schools are focusing their efforts on finding more bus drivers.

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said three drivers would drive double routes to begin the 2018-19 school year.

“We’re getting route schedules done and we’ll post them on our website (tcschools.org),” Satterfield said. “Then we’ll text parents and try to get them to look at them.

Satterfield said the district still had four bus driver positions open – three full-time spots and a substitute.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Bus No. 9, which route covers Hawkins Branch Road, Gravel Hill Road and Skillet Creek Road, does not have a driver and bus service will not be offered in that area until a driver can be found.

“We’ve got candidates working on taking their written tests and driving tests,” Satterfield said. “It’s going to be a little while.”

Whether any kind of grace period for students on Route 9 would be available “remains to be seen,” according to Satterfield.

“There’s no law about providing transportation to students,” he said. “It’s a service we want to provide. We understand it’s an inconvenience to parents, but we don’t have any solutions.”

A bus driver shortage caused the school system to consolidate two routes last year.

The same system will be used for the doubled routes this year, with students who are picked up earlier being the first to be dropped off after school. Those picked up at normal times will be dropped off later.

“We’ve been recruiting candidates since the end of school, and we’ve had a lot of interest,” Satterfield said. “When they find you have to go through all the qualifications, their interest wanes.”

Reducing the chronic absentee rate (absent 10 percent of the time – 18 days) at all three schools is also a concern for the new school year. According to state figures, for 2017-18 the chronic absenteeism rate at the elementary school was 6.2 percent and 6.6 percent at the middle school. However, the high school’s rate was 17.6 percent.

The state goal is 10 percent or lower.

“This is going to be a real target for us going forward,” Satterfield said.

The Power Friday schedule for the 2018-19 school year has also been released. On those Fridays, students will be dismissed from school at 12:15 p.m. and teachers will stay for professional development training.

Those days will be Aug. 17, Sept. 21, Oct. 26, Nov. 30 (2018), Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and March 1 (2019).

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

Christmas For Kids Cake Walk to be held Aug. 4

Submitted photo

The annual Christmas For Kids Cake Walk will be held this year in conjunction with the Trousdale County Fair.

The annual event, organized by the Trousdale County Rescue Squad and the Hartsville Rotary Club, will take place on Saturday, Aug. 4, beginning at 6 p.m. in the parking lot of Trousdale County High School. If it rains, the event will move to the indoor practice facility.

Volunteers will begin serving hot dogs and hamburgers at 6 p.m. and the cake walk itself will start at 7 p.m. The cost is a quarter per walk.

All proceeds from the event will go toward Christmas For Kids, which has been helping children in need for almost 40 years. The Hartsville Rotary Club also assists with Christmas For Kids, which served over 170 children in the community in 2017.

Donations for the cake walk or to Christmas For Kids will be accepted all day Saturday and will be greatly appreciated. For more information, contact the Rescue Squad at 615-374-9503, Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or Jim Falco at 615-680-2444.

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

Spending becomes hot-button issue in Trousdale County mayor’s race

The growth of spending in Trousdale County government has become an issue in the hotly contested mayoral race between Carroll Carman and Stephen Chambers.

The county has increased its spending over the last four years, as seen in the proposed budgets from 2014-15 vs. that of 2018-19.

The 2014-15 proposed county budget, which was the last under then-mayor Jakie West, estimated $4,490,575 in spending utilizing the county’s general fund and $816,685 by the Urban Services District.

Actual figures as reported by the annual audit from the state comptroller’s office for 2014-15 were $4,850,428 in general fund and $656,429 in Urban Services.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

By comparison, the budget for 2018-19 passed by the County Commission in June calls for $5,963,453 in spending from the general fund and $1,248,486 by the general fund – increases of roughly $1.5 million and $430,000 respectively.

County tax revenues have also increased over that same four years. The 2014-15 budget projected revenues of $3,794,750 and $705,280 in the two funds. The 2018-19 budget has those numbers at $5,269,628 and $1,008,828 – increases of roughly $1.5 million and $300,000.

Carman noted the increase in spending under his administration but defended it, saying that increased revenue and the needs of the county justified added expenditures.

“There hasn’t been a direct impact on residential and commercial taxpayers,” the mayor said. “The uptick has been through receipts through the prison coming here. We’ve tried to use those.”

Chambers said that while the numbers were strong, he felt taxpayers were concerned about what the future holds for Trousdale County.

“People in the county, especially the seniors, are concerned their property taxes are going to go up,” Chambers told The Vidette. “My concern is right now, all of Middle Tennessee is in a boom. Booms are followed by busts and eventually, that’s going to stop.

“If you get ahead of yourself in your spending… the proposed (2018-19) budget had a deficit of $693,825. People are concerned that they’re seeing a lot of debt increase and they’re afraid their property taxes are going to raise.”

CoreCivic’s Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, which opened in 2016, receives a property tax bill of over $1.5 million annually. The company has twice taken advantage of the 2 percent discount for paying in October, lessening the amount by just over $30,000, but its impact on the county’s tax rolls remains a substantial one.

Carman noted that when he took office in 2014, there were county employees with five to 10 years of experience making under $10 per hour. The county has since instituted a minimum wage of $10 per hour for its employees and in the current budget provided $2,000 raises for full-time staff and $1,000 raises for part-timers.

Carman also talked on efforts to revitalize Hartsville itself over the last four years.

“If you drove through Hartsville, this town was going away,” he said. “We have been in decline in town for 30, 40 years… When the old tobacco warehouse fell to the ground and sat there for seven years, I could not believe leadership allowed that.”

He cited the community center and new justice center, the fire hall and administration building as improvements to downtown Hartsville.

Trousdale County’s general tax rate has dropped from $3.10 to $2.93 over the last four years and the urban tax rate has fallen from $1.11 to $1.08. However, Carman said cutting $1.5 million of property tax instead of utilizing those funds to help the county would be “a mistake.”

“We lowered taxes some, but we used those monies to correct a tremendous amount of stuff that had been left dormant for years,” Carman said. “I have tried to make good decisions for the community.”

“I think when we’re looking at our spending, we need to fund our core services: police, roads, those kinds of things,” Chambers said. “Any spending above that: is it something we should be doing and can we afford it?

“Even though we are experiencing tremendous growth, we still have huge amount of our revenue relying on residential taxes. We need to try to recruit businesses and support people in the community to start their own businesses.”

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

How much is Trousdale County government’s actual debt?

In addition to county spending, the amount of debt incurred by Trousdale County over the last four years is another hot topic in the mayoral race between Carroll Carman and Stephen Chambers.

According to records from the state comptroller’s office, for fiscal year 2014-15 Trousdale County owed a total of $7,158,168. That total included county government and the school system.

For fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30, 2017, Trousdale County had $15,200,659 in debt, which included obligations by county government, the school system and the Water Department.

During Monday’s meeting of the Budget & Finance Committee, Carman provided a spreadsheet listing the county’s debts broken down by department, along with interest rates, principal and interest due for 2018-19 and payoff dates.

As of July 1, 2018, the total amount was $15,755,891. Of that amount, $1,182,621 is principal that is scheduled to be paid over the next year, with an additional $404,835 in interest. Those numbers do not include payments by the Water Department to cover its portion of the debt.

Illustration courtesy of Trousdale County government

Of the $15.755 million total, $2.582,000 is debt owed by county government, with the majority of that being $1.75 million for the new justice center. $7,541,698.46 of the total debt is owed by the school system, which includes payments still being made on the high school (covered by the wheel tax), a new HVAC system at the elementary school and energy-efficient upgrades at all three schools.

The company that did the energy-efficient work, as part of the contract, guaranteed that energy savings would cover all costs of the loan, which as of July 1 stood at $1.3 million. Should it not, the company is obligated by the contract to pay the difference rather than the school system.

$5,632,192.58 of the county’s debt is owed by the Water Department, primarily in two USDA Rural Development loans that helped pay for the new sewer plant and other water upgrades. That debt is paid by the utility’s ratepayers and incurs no county tax money.

“The payment on that (water) debt is $17,000 per month,” Carman said. “CoreCivic is paying us $47,000 per month. That leaves $30,000 per month that our water utility is able to keep rates low and look at expanding projects to help our community grow.”

That CoreCivic payment was set for 42 months, after which the prison will be billed strictly on water usage. Beeler said the actual water usage currently was lower than initial estimates.

“The loan has to be set in the name of county government, but the county does not pay any funds for these water loans,” added County Commission Chairman Mark Beeler, who also sits on the Water Board.

Both mayoral candidates spoke about Trousdale County’s debt but offered differing views. Chambers said he was concerned by the rising debt and said he felt taxpayers were also concerned about paying that back in the future.

“My concern is we have taken on more debt and we have to pay that back,” Chambers said. “It more than doubled (in four years) and has to be paid back.

“People are concerned that they’re seeing debt increase and they’re afraid their property tax is going to rise… It’s a valid concern.”

Carman, meanwhile, defended the increase as investment in various infrastructure needs that had long been neglected and also said the county was in solid position to repay the monies owed.

“It allows for us to make improvements and make corrections and it not be laborious to the taxpayer,” Carman said.

According to the monthly trustee’s report provided to commissioners, Trousdale County has approximately $3.5 million in its general fund balance and $953,000 in its Urban Services fund balance. Other reported fund balances were $444,000 (Solid Waste), $565,000 (Ambulance Service), $352,000 (Debt Service) and $852,000 (Education Debt Service).

“Debt is not a bad thing if you can service the payments and handle it within your budget,” Beeler said. “This county’s not greatly in debt.”

“I’m not trying to paste anyone in a bad light,” Chambers said. “But the numbers show our debt has gone up. I’m concerned about that and a lot of other people are too.”

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

Readers offer their thoughts on county spending

Spending and the priorities of county government are an issue in the race for Trousdale County Mayor and the public is having its say in more ways than just the ballot box.

Supporters of both Carroll Carman and Stephen Chambers have debated on social media and in more traditional ways, such as signs.

One sign in particular that has drawn attention sits across the road from the entrance to the Convenience Center on Industrial Park Drive.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Owned by the White family, the sign has featured messages such as ‘Carman spends too much money’ and ‘Grant money is tax dollars too.’

The Vidette spoke with Bo White and his son, Mark, and also invited readers to comment on county spending and priorities via Facebook.

“(Carman) talks about grant money; that costs taxpayers too like us,” Bo White said. “I don’t like the way (the county) spends money.”

“The average citizen hears the words ‘grant money’ and they think ‘It’s not costing us.’ If the government has a dollar, it came from a taxpayer,” added Mark White, who formerly served as a county commissioner.

“I’m all about progress and I love to see the county doing better. All I’ve ever said is, ‘Can’t we catch our breath for a couple of years? Build up some reserve? Pay off some debt?’ ”

The Whites mentioned sidewalk projects, the former Bank of Hartsville building and the new justice center as what they felt was unnecessary spending by county government.

“The new city hall went over budget and the justice center – neither of those were grants,” Mark White said.

The two added that they felt a lack of spending priorities dated before the current administration, citing a lack of streetlights on Industrial Park as a previous example that they themselves eventually handled as the county would not.

Other readers commented via Facebook, citing jobs, infrastructure and police as areas that county government should focus on in the coming years. Many of the online comments were favorable about the direction of Trousdale County.

“Many people are upset about the spending but don’t even understand how grants work or why the mayor does what he does… Grants are there and if we don’t take advantage of them, we won’t grow as a community, and if we don’t spend the grant money that we do receive, we aren’t eligible to receive more! If people only understood how things worked, they might be more understanding instead of putting the mayor down for the decisions he makes,” said Julia Griffin.

“Establishments so that the weak, young, elderly have access 12 months out of the year to physical/otherwise activities, to better themselves physically and mentally… I would like to see several, many, intersections and roads corrected to be more safe,” said Tonia Bennett.

“It’s only a matter of time before Hartsville is courting some big business and we will need better infrastructure to do this. The days of small-town Hartsville are numbered,” wrote Cory Freeman.

“I, for one, am grateful for the increased spending, because I can see the difference. I didn’t like looking at old, dilapidated buildings that cluttered the downtown landscape. I, for one, believe it was time for a new fire hall and for a new justice center. When we can get all of these things done without raising county taxes, it seems like a no-brainer to me,” wrote Steve Griffin.

“The Mayor should work with the Chamber (of Commerce) to bring in businesses that will bring in jobs, and not restaurants, I’m talking industrial jobs,” said Linda Knight.

“(The county) turned an eyesore downtown into a new criminal justice center, new sidewalks, new fire hall, new school bus garage, turned an empty building into a new administration building… all without raising taxes. At least you can see where the money went. In the past the county spent the tax dollars and never had anything to show for it, and raised property taxes on top of that,” said Alyce Coker.

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

Early voting sees strong turnout in Trousdale County

Over 500 Trousdale County voters had cast ballots during early voting as of Tuesday, according to Administrator of Elections Steve Paxton.

Paxton called the early numbers “a very good turnout.”

On July 13, the first day of early voting, 214 ballots were cast, just shy of the one-day record of 225.

After Tuesday, the number of early votes cast was at 543.

Early voting continues through July 28. Voters can cast their ballots at the Election Commission office, located at 214 Broadway.

The office will be open to voters from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on Thursdays and from 8:30 a.m.-noon on Saturdays.

Under Tennessee law, voters must present a photo ID when applying for an early ballot.

The Trousdale County Election Commission is also still seeking poll workers for the Aug. 2 election. Anyone interested in being a poll worker, or who wants more information about early voting, can call 615-374-2712.

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

Randy Boyd makes gubernatorial campaign stop in Hartsville

Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd stopped in Hartsville on Tuesday as part of a 95-county bus tour.

Boyd met with voters at the Community Center for about an hour and discussed the campaign and his platform for the state’s top job.

Boyd, a businessman from Knoxville, spoke first on improving education.

“One of the things I want to do as governor is making sure every kid has the opportunity to graduate not just with a high school diploma, but with a certificate in some kind of job and skills.”

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Randy Boyd, center, met with voters in Hartsville on Tuesday as part of his campaign for governor of Tennessee.

Boyd said he wanted to provide free dual enrollment opportunities at Tennessee’s Colleges of Applied Technology statewide. Trousdale County currently has such a program in place with TCAT Hartsville.

He said he also envisions satellite TCAT campuses in high schools across the state to better enable opportunities for students.

Boyd helped create Gov. Bill Haslam’s ‘Drive to 44’ initiative, designed to have 55 percent of Tennessee adults have a college degree or certificate by 2025. He also helped create the Tennessee Promise, which uses lottery funds to provide two free years of education to graduating high school seniors in Tennessee.

The opioid crisis was another area Boyd touched upon, as he has previously called for working to reduce overprescribing and better education on the dangers of opioids.

“I published a 10-point plan with three big things,” Boyd said. “First we need to declare a state of emergency and put someone in charge. Second, we need to keep people from getting addicted in the first place. Finally, we have to do a better job with recovery… sending people to get the treatment they need.”

Boyd touted his experience as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, saying Tennessee brought in 50,000 jobs and $11 billion in capital investment during his tenure there.

“We’re a state of haves and have-nots,” he said. “You get to rural Tennessee and a lot of counties aren’t doing so well. We need to invest in their education, their industrial parks, broadband… and tourism.”

Boyd also touted his Christian faith and conservative credentials after being the subject of attack ads in recent weeks questioning his support of the president and referring to him as a moderate.

“I’m a Christian. Jenny (wife) and I have been going to the same Presbyterian church and sitting in the same pew for the last 34 years,” he said. “I believe God has given us more than we’ve ever expected, and my life is about trying to give back. That’s why I’m running for governor.”

Asked what separated him from the other Republican candidates (Diane Black, Beth Harwell and Bill Lee), Boyd touted both his experience as an entrepreneur in private business and his executive experience as a part of the Haslam administration.

“I started my own company – the only one that has done that out of the group,” Boyd said. “The governor has 42,000 employees and a $37 billion budget. You want someone who has run something before.

“Of all the candidates, no one has any executive branch experience. It’s one thing to be a legislator, but as governor you’re in charge of getting things done. I know how to create educational opportunities in our state. I’ve proven I can be a job creator in the private sector and in the public sector. Our goal is to make Tennessee the state of opportunity.”

More information about Boyd’s campaign is available online at randyboyd.com.

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