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Trousdale County receives good result on state audit

Trousdale County’s Audit Committee met last week to review the annual audit of county government as conducted by the state comptroller’s office.

The audit, which covers from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, had just one finding – deficiencies in the maintenance of capital asset records by the Water Department.

Courtesy of Trousdale County government

Four deficiencies identified in the report were:

  • Capital assets in the general ledger failed to agree with supporting worksheets by $329,869;
  • Fully depreciated assets totaling $4,655,292 were erroneously deleted from supporting worksheets;
  • Capital asset records failed to records various assets acquired during the current year with a total cost of $250,860; and
  • Depreciation was not consistently applied to all new assets. Some assets were depreciated based on month of purchase, while others were depreciated for 12 months.

Water Department General Manager Tommy McFarland told commissioners his department had worked to identify and correct the problems to prevent future findings on similar matters.

“We do have corrective actions (in the report); we’ve fixed those,” McFarland said. “I don’t think we’ll have another issue with it.”

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield noted that the school system had gone without an audit finding for the ninth consecutive year.

“We have not received an audit finding since 2010. We have gone nine consecutive years without a finding and I think that shows our efforts to be frugal with the county’s money,” Satterfield said.

County Mayor Stephen Chambers said he was pleased to have just one finding in Trousdale County’s 2019 audit after having six findings in the 2018 audit.

“I’d like to thank Amy Thomas for her work with the county budget and the audit, and Peggy Taylor with the Highway Department for the same thing,” Chambers said. “Next year, I’m looking forward to having a totally clean audit… We’re complying with what we’re supposed to be doing.”

The audit also contained fund balances for various county departments as of June 30, 2019.

The general fund had a $3,889,093 balance on that date, Urban Services was at $1,107,320, Solid Waste was at $572,321, Ambulance Service was at $577,452, County Drug Fund was at $63,151, Debt Service was at $433,835, Education Debt Service was at $701,822, the Highway Department was at $800,958 and the school system was at $3,963,918.

The complete audit report for Trousdale County is available online at the state comptroller’s website at comptroller.tn.gov.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Address display ordinance scheduled for second vote

A proposed resolution to require display of address numbers on Trousdale County residences will have a public hearing and second vote at next week’s County Commission meeting.

The resolution passed by a 14-6 vote at January’s Commission meeting after some debate among commissioners. The resolution provides a 180-day grace period after passage and provides for a fine of up to $50 per day for noncompliance.

Read proposed ordinance: Address.Ordinance

 

Also scheduled for public hearings and second votes in February are:

An ordinance to define the duties and responsibilities of the Water Utility Board; and

Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net

Rezoning of property on Highway 231N from A-1 to R-1 and on Mockingbird Lane from C-2 to R-1.

A rezoning on Hilltop Drive from C-2 to R-1 is scheduled for a vote on first reading. If approved, it would have a public hearing and second vote in March.

Three resolutions are up for votes next week. One would set rules and procedures for the County Commission, one would say Trousdale County does not consent to refugee resettlement and the third would transfer property in the industrial park to the Industrial Development Board.

That property, at the intersection of Halltown Road and Industrial Park Drive, was discovered to still be in the county’s name despite a 2004 resolution authorizing transfer to the IDB.

The Economic Development Committee approved the transfer at its Feb. 13 meeting.

Five budget amendments are scheduled for votes, all of which are internal transfers of funds already allocated:

  • $3,449 for overtime at the Senior Center;
  • $9,100 in 2017 Homeland Security Grant funds in the general fund and $9,000 in grant funds for the Ambulance Service;
  • $166,824.35 in state aid for the Highway Department; and
  • $6,425 to correct line items in the Highway Department’s budget.

The County Commission will meet on Monday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in the upstairs courtroom of the courthouse. Because of construction along Main Street, anyone attending is asked to use the back entrance to the courthouse.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Ex-prison guard sues CoreCivic, claims sexual harassment

A former correctional officer at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center has filed a federal lawsuit against CoreCivic in which she claims sexual harassment, sex discrimination, wrongful termination and defamation.

Amber Sharpe, according to the lawsuit filed on Feb. 10, was a correctional officer at TTCC from September 2018 to March 2019. Her lawsuit claims that on repeated occasions, another officer, identified only as Correctional Officer Billings, made “unwelcome and offensive sexual comments” about her in the presence of inmates.

Read the lawsuit here: CoreCivic Lawsuit

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Sharpe’s lawsuit claims that the officer said, “You sound like you need a full body massage with oil” and offered to “take care of that” in an employee break room.

The lawsuit claims Sharpe reported that incident and others to a superior officer identified as Lieutenant Williams, who took no action. A “pattern of retaliatory conduct” toward Sharpe then began with a goal of “coercing” her to resign, the suit says.

Sharpe then spoke to an assistant warden, identified as Yolanda Pittman, who “became verbally and physically belligerent” and “had to be restrained by other employees.”

That altercation led to Sharpe and the assistant warden being placed on administrative leave. When Sharpe returned to work, the suit claims she was “subjected to false rumors from inmates, including falsity that she performed sexual favors for guards and inmates.”

Pittman is no longer at TTCC, having transferred to another facility last year.

Sharpe is seeking a jury trial and compensatory damages no less than $250,000 along with punitive damages and fees.

CoreCivic issued the following statement:

“Ensuring a safe and harassment-free environment is a top priority for CoreCivic, and we take these types of allegations very seriously. We have policies and procedures in place to prevent harassment in our workplaces and encourage employees to report potential misconduct so that appropriate action can be taken. CoreCivic denies the allegations raised in the Complaint and will be vigorously defending the action.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Attempts to reach Sharpe’s attorney, Michal Durakiewicz of Franklin, were unsuccessful.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Inmate indicted in death of Trousdale Turner cellmate

Photo courtesy of TBI
Jacob Wendell Kado

An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation into the 2019 death of an inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center has resulted in his former cellmate being charged with second-degree murder.

At the request of 15th District Attorney General Tommy Thompson, on June 15, 2019, TBI Special Agents responded to a report of a fight between two prisoners at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center. During the course of the investigation, Agents learned that Jacob Wendell Kado, 40, and his cellmate Ernest Hill, 42, were involved in a fight, resulting in the injury and ultimate death of Hill.

On Oct. 28, 2019, the Trousdale County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Kado with one court of second-degree murder. Kado was transported to the Trousdale County Jail on Tuesday, where he was booked on that charge. He is currently being held at the Morgan County Correctional Complex, according to state records.

Commissioners examine final master plan for Hartsville City Park

Members of Trousdale County’s Parks & Recreation Committee reviewed a proposed master plan for improvements to Hartsville City Park during a Monday meeting.

Officials with architectural firm Kimley-Horn made a presentation to commissioners on the plan, which was put together from community input and paid for with a $20,000 grant.

Courtesy of Trousdale County Government
This sketching shows a final proposal for renovations to Hartsville City Park.

Last fall, over 500 Trousdale County residents responded to an online survey about what they would like to see in the park. Their responses were utilized by Kimley-Horn to put together two proposals, which were then offered for public comment. That input was used in devising a master plan concept.

As proposed, the plan would completely rebuild the Little League baseball and T-ball fields into a four-field circular configuration. The plan also calls for renovations to the walking trail, the playground and basketball/tennis courts, while also placing two multi-use fields in the open area currently to the east of the stage and adding a splash pad near the current playground site.

Also on the master plan is a conversion of the current swimming pool into an indoor recreation center.

As part of the proposal, Kimley-Horn put together an estimated cost of putting the entire plan into place. That estimate came in at just over $11.6 million, with almost half of that total being the proposed indoor recreation center.

The recommendation from Kimley-Horn is to break the plan down into pieces that could be accomplished within 1-5 years, 5-10 years and 10+ years. The plan also lists various grants – both government and private – that could be sought to offset the costs.

One possibility is an $85,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Health, which has an application process that begins in March. Committee members voted to authorize the mayor’s office to apply for that grant, which would not require any county match.

If the county gets that grant, commissioners said they would probably look at improvements to the basketball and tennis courts, as well as possibly adding a sand volleyball court in the park.

The Parks & Recreation Committee will next meet on Thursday, March 13 at 6 p.m. to discuss summer plans for the swimming pool.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Two killed in automobile accident on Highway 10

Two teenagers, including one from Hartsville, were killed Wednesday morning in an automobile crash on Highway 10.

Photo via Google Maps

According to the preliminary crash report from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, around 10:30 a.m. the driver of a 2003 Cadillac CTS pulled out from Old Lafayette Road into the path of a tractor-trailer coming down Highway 10.

The semi hit the car on the driver-side, sending it flipping onto its top along Highway 10.

Two passengers in the car, identified as Ayjean Miles, 19, and Lennasha Dowell-Harper, 18, were killed in the crash. Miles was from Hartsville, while Dowell-Harper lived in Lebanon. The two were not wearing seat belts, according to investigators.

THP reported the 20-year-old driver of the car was injured, but the extent of the injuries was not immediately known. The driver was reportedly transferred to Skyline Medical Center with serious injuries.

The driver of the semi, a 42-year-old man from Huntington, was not injured.

The crash caused Highway 10 to be closed down for several hours, with traffic diverted onto alternate routes.

The investigation into Wednesday’s accident remains ongoing.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

First town hall forum addresses Trousdale wheel, sales taxes

Citizens raised concerns over spending and the impact of potential tax increase during last Thursday’s open house forum.

The Feb. 6 event was the first of three open house forums to discuss the possibility of Trousdale County continuing its wheel tax after 2022 and/or raising the local option sales tax by a half-cent.

Trousdale County’s wheel tax expires in May 2022 when the high school is paid off and commissioners have talked about putting a successor wheel tax in its place.

“The discussion on the wheel tax goes back to the 2018-19 budget… and earlier this year the sales tax was brought up for discussion,” said County Mayor Stephen Chambers.

Photo taken from Facebook video
County commissioners listen as an audience member speaks during last week’s town hall on the wheel and sales tax.

The wheel tax brought in $356,832 during the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to figures from the mayor’s office. A half-cent sales tax increase, which would go from 2.25 percent to 2.75, would have raised just over $319,000, according to estimates.

A sales tax increase would have to be passed by referendum. A wheel tax could be voted in by the County Commission or put to the voters by referendum.

Some in the audience were categorically opposed to either option.

“We the people do not and can not afford any newer or higher taxes,” said Brian Crook. “You would think we would see results from the taxes we have paid over the years.”

Crook said he supported helping local education and raises for county employees, but said he felt the tax proposals would be “gift wrapped” for other purposes.

“We are not willing to give our local government an open checkbook to spend our tax dollars on whatever they see fit,” Crook said. “Our government will probably say it’s in the name of progress… but we the people say show us the results.”

“We already have a problem with people shopping locally because the prices are higher here than they are in Lebanon or Gallatin or Lafayette,” added Stephanie Urick. “If this increases, it’s just going to increase our costs.”

Urick also questioned the impact of the prison on the county’s budget, asking about the roughly $1.5 million CoreCivic pays annually in property tax.

“You’re not gaining any confidence with the people of this county when you’re trying to find a way to extend this wheel tax,” she added.

Others spoke in favor of both ideas, saying that while they didn’t want to pay more taxes, they recognized a requirement for more revenue to meet the county’s needs.

“There was never a tax I liked in the first 60 years of my life,” said Carroll Carman, who served as county mayor from 2014-18. “I deem the wheel tax as exceedingly fair for the county…”

“We have been penny pinchers in this county forever… We need to see ways to spread the tax burden fairly; I think these are reasonable ways.”

“Every year, everything goes up 2 percent on average,” said Bryan King. “This is something we cannot fix, we cannot change… If we cut off these initial revenue streams, at some point we ‘re going to come to a precipice where we don’t have a choice but to make a dramatic and painful tax increase.”

“Don’t we deserve the basic human services to protect our homes, our families, our investments?”

 

Officials speak

Commissioner Jerry Ford noted that the wheel tax proposal was not an additional tax, but would replace the current wheel tax when it expires.

“That school was built and paid by everybody in Trousdale County,” Ford said of the high school funded by the current wheel tax.

Ford also spoke on the potential need for a new jail because of overcrowding, something that has been previously discussed. Mayor Chambers estimated building a new facility could cost as much as $15 million.

“In the near future, Trousdale County’s going to have to do something about the jail,” Ford said. “It’s not just Trousdale; Macon and Smith are fixing to expand their jails.”

Ford also promoted paying off county debt, saying it would save the county in interest costs.

Other needs in the county that were brought up included fire protection on the western end of the county, where much of the population growth is, replacing education funding lost from the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP), an added bus route and work on the football field.

“We’ve worked for years to have one of the top school districts in Tennessee,” said Director of Schools Clint Satterfield. “We’ve done that with long, hard work, by being frugal.”

“If you want to make your county and community stronger, you do it with good schools and a low crime rate,” he added. “It makes a difference for our kids and it’s worth defending.”

Satterfield noted that finding bus drivers and retaining teachers remains a problem, and that the school system’s costs rise as enrollment numbers rise.

Commission Chairman Dwight Jewell spoke in favor of raising the sales tax, saying, “To me that seems a fairer way to get more revenues into the county than having to raise property taxes. We all agree our property owners are overburdened.”

Some commissioners noted that Smith County had to raise property taxes by 59 cents last year and said they would rather put smaller increases in other taxes in place rather than be forced to hike property tax.

“We’re trying to get your input; maybe you’ve got an idea we haven’t thought of,” Jewell added. “We’re trying to hold taxes down and use all the money wisely.”

The second of the three open house forums will be held on Thursday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the courthouse. Video of Thursday’s forum is also available via the county’s Facebook page.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Trousdale Medical Center CEO: We’re in good shape

The chief executive officer of Trousdale Medical Center spoke on facility improvements, services offered and the future of the facility during Tuesday’s Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Mike Herman said 2019 was “a very good for the hospital” in that roughly half of the building has undergone renovations, including a new roof, new HVAC system, new flooring and ceilings.

“We have well over $600,000 invested in the facility in the last year,” Herman said.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Trousdale Medical Center CEO Mike Herman addresses the audience at Tuesday’s Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Herman noted the challenges faced by Trousdale Medical Center and other rural hospitals. According to Herman, Tennessee ranks No. 2 nationally in the number of hospital closures.

“Tennessee is struggling with rural health care right now,” he said. “Our legislature chose not to expand Medicaid, and that gets into a political conversation, but funding was limited for rural health care because of that.”

Other challenges Herman addressed were payer reimbursement from Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans, as well as physician recruitment and safety/security planning.

He said Trousdale is “financially viable” and noted that 2020 looked to be a promising year for the hospital.

The hospital has created a three-to-five year strategic plan for continued investment in services, equipment and upgrades. TMC does not currently plan on resuming minor operations, such as colonoscopies, at the facility but hopes to be able to do so as demand warrants.

Asked what percentage of hospital runs come to TMC against hospitals outside Trousdale County, Herman said he hoped to see more patient runs to Trousdale. However, he said EMS crews typically rely on their best judgment based on the patient’s needs if a patient has no preference on hospital.

Trousdale Medical Center has 11 beds, which Herman said meets the community’s need. He added that the hospital is meeting its goal of being able within 30 minutes of arrival to transport patients in need of more urgent care than is available in Hartsville.

Among the services currently available at TMC is intensive outpatient therapy for seniors facing depression or other mental health issues. The hospital added a new CT scanner last year as well.

“We’re going to continue to invest in Trousdale Medical Center and make sure it meets our patients’ needs,” he said. “We want to make sure our community knows what is here, what is available, so they turn to us.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Parents asked to use judgment after illness closes Trousdale schools

As Trousdale County students return to school after an unexpected break due to illness, officials are asking parents to exercise caution and good health practices.

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield announced last week that schools would be closed from Feb. 6-11 because of student illness. Extracurricular activities were also canceled during the break. Classes resumed on Feb. 12.

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield

“We wanted to close schools in a way that gave us the best opportunity to provide a solution to the problem we’re having,” Satterfield said.

Satterfield told The Vidette that a stomach virus, flu and strep throat were becoming more prevalent in the student population and that the time off would hopefully break the cycle of transmission.

“While we’re out of school, our janitors are cleaning and disinfecting everything: hallways, classrooms, desks, doorknobs, restrooms,” Satterfield said. “Our cooks are coming in (Tuesday) and cleaning too.”

Satterfield added that parents are asked to use good judgment about sending their child to school if they are not feeling well or are symptomatic.

“If their child comes home sick, please don’t send them back until they’ve been fever free for 24 hours,” he said. “The best way to avoid getting sick, of course, is to wash your hands and practice good hygiene.”

Trousdale County Schools will still have a Power Friday on Feb. 14, with students dismissed at 12:15 p.m.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Commissioners discuss Second Amendment, refugee resolutions

Members of the Steering Committee discussed proposed resolutions on declaring Trousdale County a Second Amendment sanctuary and refusing refugee resettlement during Tuesday’s meeting.

Over 20 counties in Tennessee have declared themselves as Second Amendment sanctuaries, including Wilson County, which passed a similar resolution at its Jan. 27 meeting.

“I’ve had several people ask for us to look at this,” said Commission Chairman Dwight Jewell. “It’s been enacted in many counties across the country; it’s not just unique to Tennessee.”

The resolution states that the county would not enforce any laws or put any funding toward enforcing any laws perceived to violate the Second Amendment.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Some commissioners debated whether it was appropriate for the County Commission to weigh in on the matter, as Trousdale has traditionally adopted a non-partisan approach to government.

“Regardless of your position… is it really part of what we should be doing here in local county government?” asked commissioner Richard Harsh.

“I can’t see any purpose of it. What’s the purpose?” added commissioner Jerry Ford.

Commissioner Rachel Jones, who introduced the measure, said she did not feel the resolution was a political statement when asked by The Vidette.

“I feel the Second Amendment resolution is simply stating that the county supports the Second Amendment, along with the rest of the Constitution. A right that is guaranteed to both Republicans and Democrats alike,” Jones said.

“I think it deserves for us to take a look at it and vote on it. If you don’t like it or you don’t see a need for it, vote no,” Jewell added.

Members of the public in the audience weighed in from both sides as well.

“It’s not part of county business; it’s a political statement… I don’t think our county should be involved in that,” said John Oliver, a former county commissioner from District 2.

“You’re creating division… It’s trying to make this body become a political body in a national forum. There’s no need for it.”

Brian Crook, who unsuccessfully ran for one of District 8’s seats in 2018, spoke in favor of the resolution.

“Our Constitution is under attack every single day,” Crook said. “This has nothing to do with politics; it’s having to do with defending and having the right to defend our Constitution. If it doesn’t start in our local government, where should it start?”

Committee members voted to refer the resolution to the Law Enforcement Committee, which is scheduled to meet on Feb. 27.

The resolution regarding refugee resettlement declares that Trousdale County does not consent to receiving refugees and asks that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee retract his consent to the federal government for receiving such refugees.

No refugees have been settled in Trousdale County and the county government has not been asked about any such possibility.

“The problem is not that we don’t want refugees in our community. But I think we need to be able to have a say in how many or where they’re coming from,” Jewell said.

Committee members voted 5-4 not to refer that resolution to any committee. Beverly Atwood, David Nollner, Bubba Gregory, Harsh and Ford cast ‘no’ votes, with Jewell, Bill Fergusson, Landon Gulley and Gary Claridy voting in favor.

Since that resolution will not go through the committee process, Jewell said it would proceed directly to the full County Commission.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Industrial board’s land sale hits snag; board doesn’t hold deed

The proposed sale of property in Hartsville’s industrial park by the Industrial Development Board has hit a snag in that the property was never actually transferred to the board’s ownership.

At a special called meeting Jan. 31 to update board members, chairman Mark Beeler said that research had found that title to the property at the corner of Industrial Park Drive and Halltown Road was supposed to have been deeded to the ID Board in 2004 but was never actually completed.

“What we uncovered is that the tract of land we’re attempting to sell to Mr. Anderson has never been deeded over into the name of the Industrial Development Board,” Beeler said. “It is still held in the name of Trousdale County.”

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

The property is under contract to Steve Anderson of Carthage, who wants to open a meat processing plant on the site.

In 2004, the County Commission passed a resolution authorizing the transfer of tracts in the industrial park to the ID Board. That resolution called for the county mayor and/or economic development board to make the transfer and that step never occurred.

Beeler added that previous sales of property in the industrial park had run into the same issue over the years but had been corrected in the process of the sale.

The ID Board is expected to make a formal request for the transfer of property at the next meeting of the Economic Development Committee, which is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.

Beeler said after consulting with County Attorney Branden Bellar, the recommendation was to extend the contract by 60 days to allow time for the county to make the formal transfer of property.

“We just can’t provide a clean title at this time,” Beeler said.

Board members approved the 60-day contract extension, with Heather Bay voting against the extension.

Bay motioned to cancel the contract entirely and start the process over again, but that motion failed for lack of a second. Other board members and Anderson noted that canceling the contract could cause problems with the Small Business Administration and federal tax programs Anderson is planning to utilize.

“It’s an unfortunate thing, but this is not Mr. Anderson’s fault. It’s something that has to be done… I don’t think we have a choice,” said board member Bryan King.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Local alpaca farm owner to address Historical Society

When Louisiana native Debra Stall and her husband Matt Starner moved to Tennessee, it didn’t take them long to realize that the hills were calling.

Soon they owned a few acres of countryside in the Cato Community, right at the edges of Trousdale and Macon counties!

Besides enjoying the view of a creek and the sun as it set over the hill, they decided that living on a small farm also required a few farm animals. Pretty soon they had a flock of chickens and farm-fresh eggs on the griddle.

Photo courtesy of Dixon Creek Farm

But they longed for more, and the answer to what four-legged animal might satisfy that need wasn’t hard to find. You see, Debra is a lifelong lover of knitting and weaving. She can pick up a pair of knitting needles and in no time have a wool rug or a pair of mittens or even a toddler’s knit hat.

In looking around at fibers, Debra knew that the South American alpaca had wool that was softer than sheep and was hypoallergenic. That is, it wouldn’t make you break out itching like sheep’s wool can.

Plus the animals are known for their gentle disposition. So the couple purchased a few of the animals!

Debra Stall will be the guest speaker at the Trousdale County Historical Society’s 2 p.m. meeting on Saturday, Feb. 8 at the County Archives building at 328 Broadway. She will talk about her alpacas and demonstrate her weaving and spinning. Debra will also bring some of her finished items to show off and sell.

Now in addition to her job as a financial consultant for health-related businesses, Debra and Matt operate their Dixon Creek Farm and raise and sell alpaca products.

You can check out their website at dixoncreekfarm.com.

Debra and Matt shear their animals every spring, then clean and prepare the fibers for spinning, which she does herself. The alpacas come in a variety of natural colors from buff to black, but sometimes a scarf or knitted sweater needs just a touch of blue, yellow or red, so Debra dyes some fibers using all-natural dyes.

At their home on Parker Branch Road, they have a shop set up where they sell skeins of the prepared fibers. Debra uses a spinning wheel to turn the fibers into yarn. She also uses looms to make some of the garments she sells.

Meanwhile, Matt tends daily to their herd of 14 alpacas.

Unlike most herd animals, alpacas are naturally inclined to be clean, even to the extent of having a set area in their pasture to use for a bathroom!

And alpacas are cheaper to feed than cattle!

We walked the pasture with Matt and met some of the gang. The boys have names like Yeti, Big Baby, Cletus, Winston and Randall. The girls go for the more feminine names like Emi, Izzy, Margarita and Breeze.

Matt has built facilities for the alpacas and has the feeding process down to a science. And because of their clean nature, the smell of the barn is that of fresh hay and sunshine and the warm breath of the animals themselves.

Debra and Matt have one weekend every year when they invite the public to their farm to mix with the animals and enjoy the country atmosphere, plus food and other crafts people on hand. Look on their website for upcoming dates.

In the meantime, Debra can book you for a day in the country where she will introduce you to her girls and boys and then let you pick a skein of fibers to make into a finished product right there in her shop, either knitting or using one of her looms. By the end of the session you will have an original scarf or table runner or knit hat to take home!

Debra and Matt may be familiar with folks for the handmade soaps that they have been making and selling since they came to Tennessee. The soaps are made using the cold process and use all natural vegetable oils, no animal fats or byproducts.

The soaps and other handmade and unique items are also available at their shop.

And if you are out for a drive some Sunday afternoon in the country, and you see a passel of foreign-looking, fuzzy, four-legged animals with a friendly grin on their faces – you are looking at an alpaca farm!

Trousdale County’s Ford, Claiborne sign with Cumberland

Two Trousdale County stars will take their football talents down the road to Lebanon this fall to begin their college careers.

Kobe Ford and Tarvaris Claiborne both signed with Cumberland University on Wednesday morning with family, coaches and teammates in attendance.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Coaches and family look on as Kobe Ford, seated center left, and Tarvaris Claiborne, seated center right, sign to play football at Cumberland University.

“On behalf of Cumberland, I just want to say that we’re very grateful for the opportunity to coach these tremendous young men. These are the type of kids we want to invest in in our community and our team,” said Kasey Smith, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for Cumberland.

“We’re going to welcome them into our institution and embrace them as a family.”

Both Ford and Claiborne were named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s all-state team earlier this year after helping lead the Yellow Jackets to an 11-2 record and the Class 2A semifinals.

Ford, who was recruited as a running back, led Trousdale County with 1,156 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He was named as Region 4-2A’s co-Offensive Player of the Year in 2019.

“Cumberland is probably the best choice I could make,” Ford said. “They have the best business school in the are and their football program’s always competitive.”

“These coaches have been so touching, they care and spent much time coming to see us,” added Claiborne. “It feels like we’re already part of a family, like it’s meant to be.”

Claiborne is a two-time all-state selection at linebacker and was the region’s 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.

“When I took over, I want everyone to have the chance to play at the next level,” said TCHS coach Blake Satterfield. “I want these juniors, sophomores and freshmen to see this and be a way for them to say, ‘I can do that too.’

“I’m very proud of these young gentlemen; I know the families are too.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Town hall forum to discuss wheel tax, sales tax options

The first of three town hall forums on whether Trousdale County should replace its wheel tax and/or increase the local option sales tax will be held next week.

The public is invited to attend the forum on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the upstairs courtroom of the old courthouse.

“Discussions have been going on through various committees in the county… for several months,” said County Mayor Stephen Chambers. “(Commissioners) have been of a mind that it’s revenue that can offset the property tax…”

Photo courtesy of pxhere.com

Trousdale County has had a $40 wheel tax since 2002, when voters approved the measure in the March election. That money was allocated to pay for the construction of the current Trousdale County High School building and is scheduled to end once the last payment on the building is made in May 2022.

In the 2018-19 fiscal year the wheel tax brought in $356,852, according to figures received from the mayor’s office.

Extending the wheel tax has been discussed previously as a fairer option as virtually all households in the county own a vehicle, while roughly 38 percent of households own property.

“The whole county’s paid for the high school,” Commissioner Jerry Ford said of the current wheel tax. “Why should 38 percent of the people in the county (property owners) have to do it?”

The discussion on extending the wheel tax will also involve potential uses for those funds once they are no longer allocated to the high school. Previous talks have centered around building a new jail or adding a fire station on the western end of the county.

“The dilemma is, we are limited by state law as to how we can raise revenues,” said County Commission Chairman Dwight Jewell. “You’re very, very dependent on property tax.

“This is a way to fund part of the needs of government with another source of revenue when we already feel like the property tax is overburdened.”

“I don’t want to see us extend a wheel tax just for tax purposes,” added Commissioner Bill Fergusson. “It needs to have a specific purpose that matters to the people.”

While the wheel tax was initially passed via referendum and will sunset in 2022, the County Commission does have the authority to put a new one in place by vote or can place it on another referendum.

Chambers said he felt the commissioners would put the issue before the voters, saying, “I think the consensus at the time was they would rather it go to referendum. That’s the thought process, but no firm decision has been made.”

Also on the agenda will be the possibility of raising the local option sales tax by a half-cent from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent. If passed, the total sales tax in Trousdale County would be 9.75 percent.

Among neighboring counties, the total sales tax in Macon is 9.75 percent, Sumner and Wilson are at 9.25 percent and Smith is at 9 percent with 9.75 rates in Carthage and Gordonsville. Those figures were obtained from the Department of Revenue’s website.

Estimates on what raising the sales tax would bring in based on current rates were not immediately available.

“You go to McDonald’s and order a hamburger off the dollar menu, you pay $1.10 where we’re at now. If this passes, you pay $1.10. They don’t round it down,” Jewell said. “You’re talking 50 cents more on a $100 purchase… It’s a way to keep from raising property taxes.”

Chambers said if votes are held on either tax option, they would likely be held as part of the county general election in August.

Two more town halls are scheduled for March 5 and April 2.

“The idea is to get public comment… and the committees and can talk about what was said and come back to the next town hall,” the mayor said.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Wilson Bank & Trust promotes Thurman, Ellis

Wilson Bank & Trust has promoted Seth Thurman to office manager and Jenesia Ellis to assistant manager at the bank’s Hartsville office following the transition of vice president Lisa Dies to semi-retirement.

Submitted photo
Wilson Bank & Trust has promoted Seth Thurman (center) to manager and Jenesia Ellis (right) to assistant manager at the Hartsville office. Vice President and longtime manager Lisa Dies (left) recently transitioned to a part-time lending role prior to full retirement.

Thurman, previously the assistant manager, has also worked as a loan officer and a consumer lender since joining WBT in 2015. A graduate of Trousdale County High School and the University of Tennessee, he earned an MBA from Cumberland University. In the community, Thurman currently serves as president and board member with the Hartsville/Trousdale County Chamber of Commerce; assistant governor of the Hartsville Rotary Club; and treasurer of the Trousdale County Fair Board. He is also a member of the Trousdale Country Metro Communications Committee and the Trousdale County Economic/Community Development Committee, and is the choir director and pianist at Hartsville United Methodist Church.

Ellis has 13 years of experience in banking, nearly all of it with local institutions. She began her career in Hartsville in 2006, and joined WBT in December 2010 as a customer service representative. She was promoted to consumer lender last June, and has also worked as a personal banker. A TCHS graduate, Ellis has earned a general banking diploma from the American Bankers Association, and is working toward a management degree at Vol State. She also serves in the community as a board member with the Hartsville/Trousdale County Chamber and the Trousdale County Diamond Club, and as a Lions Club member. She and her husband Stacy live in Hartsville and have a son, Taylor.

Thurman and Ellis will work to maintain the high standard of service set by their predecessor, vice president and previous office manager Lisa Dies, who moved to a part-time lending role at the end of 2019. Dies continues to serve customers with a reduced workload as she prepares for full retirement.

Thurman can be reached at 615-374-9736 or [email protected]; Ellis can be reached at 615-374-9706 or [email protected]; and Dies can be reached at 615-374-9708 or [email protected] The Hartsville office of Wilson Bank & Trust is located at 127 McMurry Blvd.

Wilson Bank & Trust (wilsonbank.com), member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender, is one of the top banks in the South in stability, products, technology, growth and earnings. WB&T currently operates 28 full-service offices in nine Middle Tennessee counties, and offers a full range of financial products that include secondary market mortgage loans and mobile and online banking services.

Trousdale Prevention Coalition leads local anti-drug effort

Partnering to find solutions and help for a growing drug problem in Tennessee and Trousdale County will be the focus of a meeting next week.

The Trousdale Prevention Coalition is a joint effort between the Trousdale County Health Council, local law enforcement, state officials and other groups to provide resources and educate the community on the effects of drug addiction.

The group will hold a meeting on Monday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Community Center in Hartsville. The meeting is open to the public.

“It’s more than anti drug,” said Kathy Atwood, Coordinated School Health supervisor for Trousdale County. “We found a majority of the people in Trousdale County were concerned about drug abuse, the opioid crisis and treatment.”

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Trousdale Prevention Coalition is seeking volunteers from 12 sectors in the community, including healthcare professionals, business leaders, civic organizations, parents, youth, government and law enforcement.

“We need people from all these areas,” Atwood said. “If it’s going to work, we need everyone involved.”

“We’ve got all kinds of tragedies happening now with opioids, overdoses and the issues tied with that. To try to be proactive is wonderful,” added Health Council chair Brenda Harper.

The Tennessee National Guard is also working with counties across the state to create similar coalitions. A similar group in Wilson County, DrugFree WilCo, currently has around 140 volunteers who offer help and resources to those struggling with or affected by drug addiction.

“The Guard has a division that works with anti-drug coalitions to help them form and keep going,” Harper said. “They won’t run it; we need local people to lead this effort.”

In Trousdale County, Sheriff Ray Russell said law enforcement sees firsthand the influence of drugs. Russell estimated that “95 percent” of the people incarcerated in the Trousdale County Jail are there because of drug issues.

“The main thing right now is meth, prescription pill abuse, heroin, some fentanyl that’s coming in,” he said.

The sheriff said meth is the biggest drug of choice locally, in his opinion.

“Not only here, but everywhere around us, is methamphetamine,” Russell said. “It’s so cheap now on the street… people don’t make it any more themselves but they get it off the street.”

Over the past two years, Russell said his office has sent 12 to 15 people to treatment for addiction, with funding coming from court costs and fines.

“I just talked to one recently who’s been clean for two years,” Russell said. “Some we send will do good for a while, but if we can help two or three, that’s two or three that are off the street.”

Part of next week’s meeting will cover statistics in Trousdale County, with speakers from the sheriff’s office and the 15th Judicial District Drug Court.

“We want any and everybody to come who wants to know what the situation is, or anyone who’s experienced issues,” Atwood said.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Commissioners give initial OK to address display law

County commissioners approved on first reading Monday evening an ordinance to require Trousdale County residents to clearly display their addresses.

READ THE PROPOSED ORDINANCE HERE: Address.Ordinance

The proposal is designed to make it easier for first responders to locate an address and passed by a 14-6 margin. Commissioners Beverly Atwood, Mary Ann Baker, Bubba Gregory, Linda Sue Johnson, Richard Johnson and Steve Whittaker cast the ‘no’ votes.

The measure will have a public hearing at February’s Commission meeting and must pass a second reading before becoming law. It also has a 180-day grace period once passed.

Photo courtesy of publicdomainpictures.net

Violations could be fined up to $50 per day.

Commissioners also passed on first reading a ordinance to define the duties and responsibilities of the Water Board, and two rezoning measures on Highway 231N and Mockingbird Lane.

Three resolutions also received the Commission’s approval Monday. One supports Trousdale County’s application for the Tennessee Downtowns program, the second transfers a dump truck from the Highway Department to Solid Waste and the third adopts a county budget law that will put county government in line with state guidelines with regards to the timeframe of setting up the yearly budget.

Six budget amendments were passed, four of which were internal transfers of funds already allocated:

  • $353 from general fund balance for increased dues to the Greater Nashville Regional Council;
  • $38,000 from the Ambulance Service’s fund balance for a truck purchase;
  • $12,626.45 in Tobacco Grant funding;
  • $750 in economic development staff development;
  • $4,450 in equipment for the Rescue Squad;
  • $12,100 in a UTrust Grant for the school system; and
  • $644,572 for the ongoing Streetscape project on Main Street. Those monies will be reimbursable to the county once the project is complete.

Five appointments were confirmed, with Alexander Dix, Gary Claridy and Linda Carey reappointed to the Agricultural Board, Betty Payne named to the Housing Authority Board and Dennis Foster named to the Planning Commission.

Four notaries were approved: Carl Matthew Carman, Marshall E. White, Jr., Rachel Steele and Sheila Everett.

The County Commission will next meet on Monday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in the upstairs courtroom of the courthouse.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Trousdale Turner inmate dies as result of assault

An inmate at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center died Saturday afternoon as the result of an assault by another inmate.

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist issued the following statement Saturday evening:

“Trousdale Turner Correctional Center remains on lockdown status Saturday evening following an inmate-on-inmate altercation that resulted in one inmate losing his life.

At approximately 12:45 p.m. CST Saturday, January 25, inmate Frank Lundy (#522210) was found injured at the entrance to the housing unit. A medical emergency was called and unit staff administered first aid until medical staff arrived. EMS was called to the facility and Lundy was transported to an outside hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 1:30 p.m. CST.

Our partners at the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) were immediately notified and the Office of Investigations and Compliance (OIC), with assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), is investigating the incident.  The alleged attacker has been identified and is being transferred to TDOC custody where he will be held in restricted housing.

In deference to our government partner, other inquiries regarding the investigation should be directed to the TDOC Communications Division at [email protected]

Sources told The Vidette the inmate was stabbed in the neck, resulting in a fatal injury. The name of the inmate being held was not immediately made available.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Overcrowding at Trousdale jail draws commissioners’ attention

Overcrowding at the Trousdale County Jail and coming up with solutions was the focus of the Law Enforcement Committee at last Thursday’s meeting.

Sheriff Ray Russell and William Wall of the County Corrections Partnership Initiative (CCPI) made a presentation to commissioners about the increasing number of inmates in the local jail over the past few years.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Commissioners are looking into solutions to relieve overcrowding at the Trousdale County Jail.

CCPI is a voluntary initiative to assist in addressing jail issues and reforms, and provides education and awareness regarding operations and problems with local jails.

“Everybody’s been discussing for the last few years building a new jail… the grand jury, mayor, former mayor, the public…” Russell said. “We’ve talked about work-release programs and money for that.”

“We know the jail has an issue with overcrowding,” Wall added. “For the size and age of that facility, (Sheriff Russell) and his staff do a great job.”

According to information provided, the average daily population at the jail from January 2019 to November 2019 ranged from 39 to 59. The jail is currently rated for a capacity of 44. For the past five years, the jail has operated at an average of 107.4 percent of capacity, based on the information provided.

Russell said over the years, he has had to convert one cell to hold female prisoners because of an increase in those numbers. The rated female capacity of Trousdale County’s jail is six, but from July to October last year the average number of women held was 14.

The sheriff also said in some instances, he had to hold women in the drunk tank to keep them separated from more violent offenders. In other instances, he has sent prisoners to other counties.

Another problem is when inmates are released from the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center but have holds to face charges in other jurisdictions. In those instances, the prisoners are held locally until they can be turned over to those other jurisdictions.

The jail also holds a number of state inmates. In November 2019 that number was 23. While moving those inmates out is an option, the county receives reimbursement from the state for housing them and that could cost the county as much as $150,000 annually.

“This is not an anomaly; this is a trend and it’s going to continue and possibly grow beyond where we are now,” said committee chairman Dwight Jewell.

Other issues Wall pointed out were an outside recreation yard that he called “an escape hazard,” the lack of booking cells and lack of separate medical facilities.

Wall did emphasize that he felt the sheriff’s office did an excellent job with operating the jail despite the current challenges.

The committee will hear again from CCPI at its next scheduled meeting to look at options available – everything from moving out state inmates to constructing a new jail. That meeting will be held in February, but a date had not been set at press time.

“Once we have that information, we can make an informed decision,” Jewell said.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Inmate indicted in assault of Trousdale Turner employee

The Trousdale County grand jury has handed down indictments in the case of a CoreCivic employee who was assaulted by an inmate last August.

Robert King Vaughn Jr., 42, of Nashville, was indicted in a special December meeting of the grand jury on one count of attempted first-degree murder and one count of aggravated rape.

Robert King Vaughn Jr.

Vaughn was booked into the Trousdale County Jail on Jan. 15 and was returned to the custody of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He has been incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution since the incident.

Vaughn, who is already serving a sentence on other charges, is accused of an Aug. 30 assault on an employee at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center. The employee was taken by helicopter from the facility and later lost an eye, according to previous statements from TTCC Warden Russell Washburn.

CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist issued the following statement:

“Our top priority is the safety of our staff and those entrusted to our care. We appreciate all the efforts of the Tennessee Department of Correction Office of Investigations and Compliance (OIC) and the prosecutors in this case, and share their commitment to keeping our employees safe.”

If convicted, Vaughn could be sentenced from anywhere to 15 to 60 years in prison on each charge. He is scheduled to appear in Criminal Court on Feb. 26.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]