Former Drug Task Force deputy Keith Holder arrested, charged with homicide

A former Drug Task Force agent was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon after being indicted by a Trousdale County grand jury on six counts, including vehicular homicide.

Keith Alan Holder, 47, of Carthage, is charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication, vehicular homicide by recklessness, criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, DUI and fraud of insurance claim.

RELATED LINK: Trousdale County grand jury to hear evidence in Crittendon case

RELATED LINK: Questions raised after body of Donovan Crittendon found in Cumberland River

Holder is charged in the June 2018 death of Donovan Crittendon, 26, whose body was pulled from the Cumberland River near the Highway 141 bridge on June 9.

Photo courtesy of TBI
Keith Holder

Crittendon had gone missing June 3 after last being reported in the company of Holder after they reportedly left the Lock Six Apartments together late that evening.

Holder was found by boaters hours later, but reportedly did not disclose that Crittendon was also missing until the following day.

At the time, Holder was employed by the 15th Judicial District Drug Task Force as an agent from Smith County. His employment was terminated later in June as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was called in to investigate the case at the request of District Attorney General Tommy Thompson.

A press release from the TBI stated in part: “At the request of 15th District Attorney General Tommy Thompson, on June 3, 2018, TBI Agents began investigating an incident in which Keith Holder crashed his personal vehicle into the Cumberland River in Trousdale County. Holder swam to shore and left the scene. His passenger, Donovan Crittendon, died when the vehicle submerged into the river. At the time of the incident, Holder was a deputy with the Smith County Sheriff’s Department, assigned to the 15th Judicial Drug Task Force. He is no longer employed there.”

An autopsy conducted by the Office of the Medical Examiner in Davidson County found the cause of Crittendon’s death was “undetermined,” while listing that Crittendon had a blood alcohol level of 0.126 at the time of his death. The report also states that Crittendon’s body was decomposed when he was found.

Holder was booked into the Trousdale County Jail on $75,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on June 17.

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

Flash flood watch issued for Trousdale County

Photo courtesy of National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for Trousdale County and most of Middle Tennessee as even more rain is headed to the area.

The watch went into effect Tuesday at noon and will continue through Thursday at 6 a.m. in Trousdale County.

Forecasters expect 2-4 inches of rain to fall through Thursday night, which could cause street flooding. Also, low-lying and poor-drainage areas could be at risk for flash flooding, as well as creeks and streams.

Fire damages Hartsville’s La Quesadilla Mexican restaurant

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Members of the Volunteer Fire Department respond to a fire at La Quesadilla early Tuesday morning.

A fire broke out at Hartsville’s La Quesadilla Mexican restaurant in the early morning hours Tuesday and did serious damage to the building.

EMS Director Matt Batey told The Vidette emergency officials were notified around 4 a.m. of the fire. Members of the Volunteer Fire Department and EMS responded to the scene and were still on hand after 8 a.m.

No one was in the building and no injuries were reported.

La Quesadilla owner Alberto Rodriguez said fire officials told him they believed the fire started in a gas heater on the right side of the building and spread from there.

Damage to the right side of the roof and building was noticeable from the scene.

Rodriguez said the building was insured but said it was too soon to determine the extent of damage. The restaurant will be closed until further notice, Rodriguez said.

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

Trousdale County Fair honored at state convention

The Trousdale County Fair continued its winning ways at this year’s Tennessee Association of Fairs (TAF) Convention, bringing home the Premier Fair Award in the A Division for the 2018 Fair.

Trousdale County also garnered two first-place awards in the Showcase of Fairs Competitive Exhibits for its Fair Letterhead and Creative Fair Idea-Non-Agriculture, as well as a second-place award for its T-shirt, which was designed by Urban Mills of Lebanon.

Submitted photos

“The Fair is all about agriculture, fun and celebrating Trousdale County. We have over 200 volunteers who contribute to making our fair happen in Trousdale County, and it truly is a showcase of our community. It’s one special time that all ages and groups can come together and share a tradition,” said Fair Board president Kathy Atwood.

Fair Board executive secretary Judy Woodard was presented with the Judy Basse Memorial Award as outstanding fair secretary as well.

“We were very excited to see that Judy was honored in that way. As they said that night, there wouldn’t be a Trousdale County Fair without Judy Woodard. We felt like it was time she was recognized,” Atwood added.

Woodard has served as the Fair’s executive secretary since 2004 and has volunteered with the fair for many years before that.

2018 Fairest of the Fair Shelby Vaughan competed with other young ladies representing fairs across the state of Tennessee, making those in attendance proud of her poise and accomplishments.

The Premier Fair Award is presented in three categories: Division A for counties with a population under 21,000; AA Division for counties with a population of 21,000 to 47,000, and AAA Division for fairs in counties with a population of over 47,000.

Wilson County won the Premier Fair title in Division AAA while Rhea County won in Division AA.

“Fairs highlight the best that our farms, farmers, and communities offer in the state,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Charlie Hatcher. “Agriculture education is so important, especially in a time when fewer people are directly connected with farming and the sources of wholesome food and fiber.”

In the regional division, the Appalachian Fair and the Tennessee Valley Fair received the Award of Merit. In the state division, the Tennessee State Fair received the Award of Merit based on overall fair operations. Other honorees included Clara Terry of the Scott County Fair, who received the Thornton Taylor Award for outstanding dedication to the fair programs in Tennessee.

The statewide Fair Showcase offered prize money and awards in 36 categories including best fair catalog, website and educational displays, promotional videos, posters, scrapbooks, creative ideas, and free-standing and table-top exhibits. In its 21st year, the competition drew 504 entries from 38 fairs.

In 2018, almost three million visitors attended county, regional, and state fairs in Tennessee, which generated $12 million in gross receipts. More than 19,000 volunteers devoted valuable time and resources to the events featuring more than 200,000 agricultural exhibits. Some 26,000 exhibitors showcased livestock, farm crops, and other agricultural assets.

Hotel representative addresses Chamber of Commerce

The Hartsville/Trousdale Chamber of Commerce welcomed a representative from a hotel chain as its guest speaker at last week’s meeting.

Jeremy Griesbach, President of Development for Cobblestone Hotels, spoke on what a proposed hotel could bring to Trousdale County and attempted to address concerns that have risen from members of the community.

Cobblestone is one of two hotel chains to have been in contact with the Chamber after a hotel feasibility study was conducted last year by county government. That study found that Trousdale County could support a 47-room hotel.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Jeremy Griesbach of Cobblestone Hotels was the guest speaker at last week’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“In 10 years we’ve gone from four hotels to 134 now open,” Griesbach told the audience. “We span 26 states, as far east as Pennsylvania and upstate New York, as far south at Texas, as far west as Idaho.”

Cobblestone specializes in hotels in smaller communities, with Griesbach calling them “upper midscale” in quality, similar to a Hampton Inn.

“Probably 80 to 90 percent (of the hotels) are in communities with 3,000 to 10,000,” Griesbach said.

Cobblestone currently has no presence in Tennessee, but plans to begin construction of one in Elizabethton in East Tennessee sometime this year.

Griesbach said each Cobblestone has refrigerators and microwaves in every room, pillowtop mattresses, 42-inch televisions, free hot breakfast and a beer/wine lounge.

“One of the things in talking with local people is lots of concerns that we’re going to end up with a hotel with nothing but methheads, bedbugs and people we don’t want hanging out,” Griesbach said. “That’s not what we’re going for. We’re looking at spending $4 million to $5 million on this project. Our rates are going to average $90, so hopefully that will keep that element out.”

Griesbach added that rooms are checked at least every other day at other Cobblestone locations to ensure that no illicit activities are taking place on hotel property.

The Chamber is currently working to secure local investors to fund 30 percent – or roughly $1.5 million – of the cost. Investors must be qualified with sufficient net worth or annual income to be able to take part. Finding a suitable property in Hartsville is also an area the Chamber is working with Cobblestone on.

Griesbach played up the potential economic impact a hotel could have on Trousdale County beyond the facility itself.

“You have a lot of people coming here, whether it’s to visit people, business, funerals, reunions,” Griesbach said. “Ninety percent of those are going 20 miles down the road to find a place nice enough to stay at.

“They’re not eating here, shopping here, buying gas, spending money in town. Normally a hotel room averages $150-200 in spending at other businesses.”

In last week’s Vidette, Chamber Director Natalie Knudsen estimated that a hotel/motel tax could bring almost $50,000 in revenue to county government, based on a 70 percent occupancy rate.

“If we put it in the right location, it’s only going to benefit the area around there, with property values increasing and hopefully leading to more development,” Griesbach said.

Based on the feasibility study, Cobblestone projects a 47-room, two-story hotel with five extended-stay suites, 10 king-size rooms and the rest queen-size. It would have no swimming pool or meeting room, but would have a convenience center and workout room.

Cobblestone owns a management company to operate its facilities and a construction company to build hotels. Griesbach estimated a hotel would bring eight to 10 full-time jobs to Hartsville, based on Cobblestone’s other facilities.

As the Chamber is still working to secure the investment group no timeline for opening a hotel was offered, but Griesbach did say the typical contract called for opening eight months after construction began.

The Chamber posted video of Griesbach’s talk to Youtube for anyone interested in learning more about a potential hotel.

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

Two members of Water Board submit resginations

Two members of the Hartsville/Trousdale Water Board submitted their resignations last week.

Toby Woodmore and Elizabeth Harper each sent letters of resignation to the county mayor’s office, effective as of Thursday, Feb. 7. Harper has also resigned from the county’s Board of Equalization.

“They each just stated their intention to resign,” said County Mayor Stephen Chambers.

The mayor said he hoped to have nominations to fill each spot to present to the County Commission when it meets on Feb. 25. The Water Board is comprised of six members and is next scheduled to meet on Feb. 27.

“I’m certainly going to endeavor to do so,” Chambers said of making appointments in February. “If we don’t have everyone remaining on the board (on Feb. 27), we won’t have a quorum to conduct business.”

Chambers said he was considering putting notice out via social media because of the time constraints to allow greater reach to anyone interested in serving on the Water Board.

“In the past it’s seemed like there was a certain pool of people to pull from who have been willing to serve. That’s great, but I also want to try to diversify that. You get people who are on so many boards they get burned out; I want to avoid that.”

The Vidette was unable to reach Woodmore and Harper for comment on their resignations.

Chambers offered praise for their service on the Water Board.

“I thank them both for their service; they’ve both been here a long time. Mr. Woodmore said he was proud to have avoided any rate increases. They’ve done a good job and I’m sorry to lose their expertise and experience.”

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

Blake Satterfield named as Trousdale County football coach

There is once again a Satterfield heading up the Trousdale County football program, as Blake Satterfield was named head coach of the Yellow Jackets on Monday afternoon.

Satterfield, 29, replaces Brad Waggoner, who left Trousdale County after two seasons for a job in Elbert County, Ga.

“Trousdale County has always had a rich football tradition and an amazing fan base. I am very fortunate to be able to lead our program, which is full of great young men. As the head coach, my goals are to get back to some traditions that have been lost over the years including: accountability, team identity, work ethic, skill development, toughness, and surrounding our student-athletes with good coaching as well as getting back to being recognized as one of the elite programs in Tennessee football,” Satterfield said in a press release.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Schools

Blake is the son of Director of Schools and former TCHS coach Clint Satterfield and the grandson of Jim Satterfield. He served as defensive coordinator during the 2018 season, in which the Yellow Jackets allowed 10.4 points per game, recorded four shutouts and forced 28 turnovers while advancing to the Class 2A BlueCross Bowl.

“This is my sixth year coaching… and I was fortunate enough this last year to be on the defensive side of the ball. Now this year stepping up and being the head coach on both sides.”

Asked if he had any hesitancy about taking the job because of the success of his father and grandfather, Blake said, “If someone in your family does something and you’re the next one in line, you’re kind of nervous about it. But my whole life I’ve embraced it… I’m not downplaying anything my grandfather or dad did. They’re both TSSAA Hall of Famers. I’m not worried about being in the Hall of Fame. I’m worried about getting these kids organized, improving our facilities and fundamentals and creating an identity for our football team.”

Blake met with team members at school on Monday prior to the official announcement coming from the school system.

“I’m anxious to get into the weight room and eventually to spring football.”

Satterfield did not comment on any potential staff moves, except to note that current assistants Davy Cothron, Matt Dyer and Paul Pierson will remain.

“I know who’s on staff now… No other spots have been assigned,” Satterfield said. “I want to surround these young men with quality coaches. It’s like a good teacher in a classroom.”

Blake is a 2007 graduate of Trousdale County High School, where he was a three-year starter while playing receiver and defensive back. He graduated with a Biology degree from the University of the South in 2011 and was a four-year letterman at Sewanee, playing offense and defense.

“We heard a lot in the community about the need to hire someone local who would provide stability and longevity to the program. Blake has done a great job both coaching and teaching for us. I am positive that he will do equally as well in his new assignment,” stated Clint Satterfield in a press release.

“I take pride in knowing that we have hired a young man who throughout his life has been immersed in the traditions of Yellow Jacket football. Blake knows our players and he has witnessed them evolve as both students and athletes over the past years,” added TCHS Principal Teresa Dickerson.

Blake Satterfield said he would continue as head softball coach for the upcoming 2019 season and that he planned to hold spring practice at the conclusion of softball/baseball season.

“I owe it to the girls. I’ve had this sophomore class since their seventh-grade year,” Blake said.

He added that the search continues for a 10th game for the 2019 football season, either in Week 2 or Week 10, but said the schedule has yet to be finalized.

Blake currently teaches seventh-graders at Jim Satterfield Middle School and said it had not been decided if he would remain in that teaching position. He was granted tenure by the School Board at its January meeting.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected] Contributing: Staff reports

Trousdale County grand jury to hear evidence in Donovan Crittendon case

Trousdale County’s grand jury is set to hear evidence this month in the case of a man found dead in the Cumberland River last June.

Donovan Crittendon, 26, was found in the river just downstream from the Taylor’s Landing boat dock on June 9, six days after he had reportedly gone missing while in the company of Keith Holder, who at the time was an agent with the 15th Judicial District Drug Task Force representing Smith County. Holder was no longer with the Drug Task Force later in June, according to County Attorney Branden Bellar at the time.

File photo / Hartsville Vidette

District Attorney General Tommy Thompson declined to comment on the case or on any potential charges that could come from the grand jury.

Previous reports from the case stated that Holder and Crittendon left the Lock Six Apartments together in Holder’s personal vehicle on the night of Sunday, June 3. Crittendon was reported missing the next day and Holder was questioned after reportedly not immediately advising authorities that the two were together and that Holder’s truck had gone into the river.

Authorities were notified in the evening hours of June 4 and a search began at that time for Crittendon. The truck would be recovered later in June.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been handling the investigation of the circumstances of Crittendon’s death at the request of Thompson.

An autopsy conducted by the Office of the Medical Examiner in Davidson County found the cause of Crittendon’s death was “undetermined,” while listing that Crittendon had a blood alcohol level of 0.126 at the time of his death. The report also states that Crittendon’s body was decomposed when he was found.

The grand jury is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

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

Water Board sets aside policy for local developer

Trousdale County’s Water Board voted last week to uphold a handshake agreement with a local developer – one that goes against the board’s own policy, however.

Lewis Beasley of Beasley Construction Co. spoke to board members at their Jan. 30 meeting regarding a planned subdivision he is looking to build near First Baptist Church along Highway 25.

According to Beasley, he had previously reached an agreement with former Water Department superintendent Jerry Helm and Scottie Claridy, who held the job on an interim basis after Helm’s retirement until Tommy McFarland was hired to fill the position.

Under the agreement, Water Department employees would do the work of installing the meters and connecting to the utility’s main lines.

Appendix A of board policy, which can be found on the utility’s website, states that, “The Developer will pay, at its own expense and no expense to the Utility, for all material and labor necessary to install and complete the facilities…”

Also no fee for flushing the new lines will be charged, nor will any inspection fee. Appendix A defines the monthly flushing fee as a minimum of $16.63 per lot. And the inspection fee as $100 per day.

The verbal agreement also calls for water and sewer tap fees of $2,000 per tap. Current board policy defines those fees as $2,250 for water and $3,000 for sewer.

“I put the main water line in and dig the line across the road, and y’all put the other in,” Beasley told board members. “That’s the deal I made before.”

Beasley also asked about a $1,250 engineering fee called for by policy to allow an engineering firm retained by the department to review plans, as well as a required bond of 10 percent of the project cost. That bond is refundable once the project is completed.

According to Beasley, engineers retained by his company have already signed off on the water line plans. McFarland pointed out that having a utility’s engineers review plans is standard practice.

Asked by The Vidette later about the agreement, Beasley declined to comment.

McFarland estimated the cost to the Water Department on the one project would be just over $23,000. He pointed out during the meeting that two other contractors have already started to proceed with projects in Trousdale County under the board’s existing policy and free structure.

“If we told him one thing, I don’t care what the policy was, we need to honor it,” said board member Toby Woodmore.

“Once in a while, we need to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes,” added board member Jerry Ford.

County Mayor Stephen Chambers cast the lone vote against honoring the agreement, saying the board needed to follow its written policies regardless of verbal deals.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It concerns me that we had to get our policy from the comptroller because we didn’t have it,” Chambers said. “We’re supposed to know about it.”

Since the board meeting, sources have told The Vidette that one developer has already contacted the Water Department asking to get a similar deal on planned construction.

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

CoreCivic guard charged with smuggling drugs into Hartsville prison

An employee at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was arrested last week and charged with attempting to introduce contraband into the facility.

Gloria Marie Mathews, 39, of Lebanon, was arrested on Jan. 28 shortly after arriving to work, according to an arrest affidavit that was obtained by The Vidette.

Mathews allegedly went into a bathroom in the prison’s central control area and left a package wrapped in black tape in a trash can.

Photo courtesy of Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department

An investigator with the Tennessee Department of Corrections observed both camera footage from the prison and the package itself, which reportedly contained 16 sealed sandwich bags containing what was confirmed to be marijuana after field tests.

The affidavit states that 414.07 grams (approximately nine-tenths of a pound) of marijuana was found in the bags.

Mathews reportedly admitted to obtaining the marijuana from a third party and was paid $500 to bring the drugs into the facility.

CoreCivic Public Affairs Manager Rodney King issued the following statement: “On Jan. 28, 2018, Correctional Officer Gloria Mathews was observed attempting to introduce drugs into Trousdale Turner Correctional Center. Facility staff took custody of the contraband and immediately reported the incident to 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.”

Mathews was booked into the Trousdale County Jail and was released on $2,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Feb. 8 at 9 a.m.

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

Halltown Road crash claims life of Hartsville woman

A Hartsville woman was killed and a local man critically injured late Monday evening in a crash on Halltown Road.

According to a preliminary incident report obtained from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, a 2005 Chevy Malibu traveling northbound on Halltown Road just after 10:30 p.m. left the right side of the road and struck a tree head on. The car spun back into the road after impact.

Anita Stafford, 50, of Hartsville, was driving and was ejected from the vehicle. Her passenger, identified as Troy Claiborne, 52, of Hartsville, was injured in the crash. Neither was wearing a seat belt according to the report.

According to Trousdale County EMS, both were transported by ambulance to Skyline Medical Center. Stafford later passed away from her injuries. Posts on social media reported Wednesday that Claiborne had passed away as well.

Halltown Road was closed from Rogers Street to Industrial Park Drive until after midnight as THP and first responders worked the scene. The road was reopened in the overnight hours.

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

Gammons Lane landfill cleanup could be costly for Trousdale County

Leaching of water at an old landfill site in Trousdale County could require hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs.

The site, located near the end of Gammons Lane, closed as a landfill in the mid-1980s. In October 2017, an inspector from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation looking over the site discovered ponding of water in some locations and leaching of water downhill from the site.

Leaching occurs when water flowing through the ground picks up contaminants and carries them along, potentially contaminating groundwater.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Leaching of groundwater is affecting this creek near an old landfill off Gammons Lane.

The Vidette was allowed to visit the landfill site and observed spots where leaching has turned the water orange. There was no sign of garbage visible on the ground, however.

“The water is coming down on top of the cap, going down through the waste and coming out down the hill,” County Mayor Stephen Chambers said.

At the Gammons site, the creek flows into Goose Creek, which eventually flows into the Cumberland River – the source of most of the county’s drinking water. Water samples have been taken at the landfill site but not further downstream, and there is no indication that contaminants have reached the river.

TDEC originally gave the county a deadline of October 2018 to come up with a plan to fix the problem. Then-mayor Carroll Carman and county officials met with TDEC and received two extensions, but Chambers told The Vidette after having had his own discussions with TDEC, the state has said there will be no more extensions.

Part of the delay, according to Chambers, was that the property is not owned by the county. When the problem was discovered in 2017, the Carman administration began negotiating with the owners on an easement to access the site. No agreement was reached and Chambers has continued negotiations since taking office.

Courtesy of Trousdale County government
County Mayor Stephen Chambers provided this preliminary estimate of cleanup costs at the Gammons Lane landfill site.

TDEC recently issued warrants allowing the county access to the property for the purpose of cleaning up the landfill.

“The commissioner can authorize us to go out and do whatever work we need to. We have that authority from the state and that’s what we’re going to use,” Chambers said.

Chambers presented the Budget & Finance Committee last week with a preliminary estimate prepared by engineering firm Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon. That estimate came in just under $730,000 and includes clearing the property of trees and other growth, improving the access road, placement of topsoil and clay cover soil and more.

“The vast majority of the expenses are going to be hauling the soil to the site,” Chambers told commissioners. “It has to meet a compaction test and we have to determine where we can get the soil from and how far it will have to be trucked.”

Chambers said Trousdale County has applied for a grant from TDEC that could offset up to 50 percent of the cost. The county expects to hear in around a month whether it will receive the grant and if so, how much. The grant in question is reimbursable, meaning Trousdale County would have to fund the cleanup fully and then submit invoices to receive grant funds back.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Despite the leaching of groundwater, the landfill site itself appears to be in good condition as shown here.

“We submitted (the application) on January 14 and they said it’ll be about a month before we find out if we’re going to get it,” Chambers said.

Chambers told The Vidette a corrective plan has to be submitted by March 31 and that construction has to be completed by Oct. 31, per TDEC requirements.

“This was supposed to have been done last year. They’ve given the county two extensions and they’ve gotten to the point where they expect work to be done,” Chambers said.

The county will also have to maintain the site in the future, preventing trees from growing on site and taking regular water samples to ensure no further contamination.

The mayor added that he anticipated paying part of the cost from the county’s fund balance, estimated at $3.9 million as of January’s Budget & Finance Committee meeting, and taking on debt to fund the rest.

“Given the amount that we’re going to have to put in at the beginning, if we took it out of fund balance that’s going to leave us uncomfortably low going into next budget year,” the mayor said. “We’re still running the numbers to see what the best course of action is.”

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

County Commission votes down Hickory Ridge rezone

County commissioners voted down one rezoning request, while another required a tiebreaking vote from the mayor to pass during Monday night’s meeting.

A proposed rezone of property along Highway 25 at Hickory Ridge Lane from residential to commercial failed on first reading by a 14-5 vote. The property had been identified as a potential site for a Hartsville hotel.

Chairman Jerry Ford recused himself from the vote as he is the owner of said property.

Homeowners in the Hickory Ridge subdivision spoke against the rezone, citing the potential effect on home values and the safety of the neighborhood.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

“We were led to believe when we bought the house that it would be a residential neighborhood,” said Susie Peace. “This would bring great harm to our financial future.”

“That hotel, if it does come, would be 60 yards from my front porch,” added Eric Langford. “A hotel coming in will bring a lot of people visiting their loved ones in prison… I don’t want that in my neighborhood.”

Another rezoning request, for 29 acres on Skillet Creek Road from agricultural to residential, raised controversy Monday evening.

Stephanie Urick, who lives in the area, presented commissioners with a petition from 70 residents opposing the proposed zoning change.

“One of the main concerns we have is, we have several farmers with livestock on both sides of the road. Bringing this neighborhood to our road can cause impact on those farmers. I have not spoken to a single resident that is in favor of it,” Urick said.

Some commissioners asked if it were possible to rezone part of the property instead of the entire tract, but Dwight Jewell, who serves on the Planning Commission, said he knew of no way to rezone part of a tract of land.

Commissioners voted 10-9, with one abstention, to pass the rezone on first reading. Yes votes were cast by Ken Buckmaster, Shane Burton, Gary Claridy, Coy Dickey, Bill Fergusson, Ford, Richard Harsh, Jewell, Linda Sue Johnson and David Nollner. No votes came from Beverly Atwood, Mary Ann Baker, Bubba Gregory, Richard Johnson, Rachel Jones, Amber Russell, Grace Thomas, Gary Walsh and Steve Whittaker. Landon Gulley abstained from the vote, saying he knew abstaining would count as a no vote.

After a brief recess to allow the county attorney to consult Roberts’ Rules of Order, it was determined that Gulley’s abstention counted as a no vote, leaving a 10-10 tie and requiring a tiebreaking vote from County Mayor Stephen Chambers, as provided by the charter. Chambers voted yes.

The Skillet Creek matter will come up for a second reading and a public hearing at the Commission’s next meeting on Feb. 25.

Also passed on first reading was a rezone request from R-1 to R-3 for a piece of property on Hayes Street, and on second reading a rezone of property at the intersection of River Valley Road and Cemetery Lane from R-1 to R-3. Neither request drew any opposition.

Commissioners also passed eight budget amendments, six of which were draws on the county’s fund balance:

$3,436 for a plat cabinet for the Register of Deeds office;

$300 to upgrade the judicial commissioner’s phone to a smartphone;

$1,248 for fixed asset software for the mayor’s office;

$15,000 in increased funding for the county coroner’s office;

$5,289 to allow Clerk & Master Shelly Jones to hire a full-time assistant; and

$51,053.38 in reimbursement to the school system for expenses related to adding school resource officers at all three schools.

The schools and county previously agreed to split the costs of SROs 50/50, with the school board initially contributing $100,000 to the effort.

Also passed were internal transfers of $5,216.63 in insurance recovery by the Sheriff’s Department and $3,861 for building improvements at the animal shelter.

Commissioners also passed resolutions allowing for the sale of surplus equipment by the sheriff and EMS, a grant application by the Water Department, the 2019 county Road List and amending the county’s capital asset threshold.

Several nominations also received approval:

Tawana Flatt for a 2-year term on the Local Emergency Planning Committee;

Gulley, Freida Cornwell, Ford and William Beasley to 2-year terms on the Agriculture Committee;

Katie Mae Harper to a 5-year term on the Housing Authority;

Heather Bay and Brian King to 4-year terms on the Industrial Development Board;

Linda Sue Johnson and Kelly Anderson to 2-year terms on the Animal Control Board;

Bobby Joe Lewis to a 2-year term on the Highway Commission; and

Sam Edwards as the county’s new Building and Codes Inspector. Jewell is retiring from that office effective Feb. 13, he told commissioners Monday.

Two notaries were approved: Deanna Demars-Cox and Chrystal Johnson.

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

Op-Ed: Don’t turn off brain when turning on Facebook

For all the cries about “fake news,” two items that really are fake drew my attention last week. And they make me wish people would use their brains once in a while.

I started noticing all over my personal Facebook feed links and comments about how New York’s legislature had legalized late-term abortions. Some of these links had photos of full-term, healthy babies with comments like, “It’s legal to kill me now” or other such talk.

Chris Gregory

Apparently no one actually bothered to read the actual change to New York law. That bill as written allows for late-term abortions only under specific circumstances. I quote from the actual bill: “A health care practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized under title eight of the education law, acting within his or her lawful scope of practice, may perform an abortion when, according to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”

Or in plain English, it’s allowed if the fetus/child is dead or not capable of surviving once born (probably from birth defects, I would imagine) or if the woman’s life of health is in jeopardy. Nothing there says a woman can get a late-term abortion just because she feels like it.

I’m not using this column to wade into the abortion debate. I have my own feelings on the subject and I imagine you, the reader, does also. My point is simply this: people need to actually do their homework and have a clue about something before going off half-cocked. Especially over something stupid on social media – because let’s face it, much of what is on Facebook these days is stupid anyway.

Speaking of social media, something else that irked me recently. I shared a meme, again on my personal Facebook page, which I thought was funny. It basically said, “Here’s the menu for when the Super Bowl champs visit the White House” and showed ramen noodles, Vienna sausages and fruit punch in the little cheap plastic barrels most of us remember from our childhood.

It was clearly poking fun at the fast food provided when Clemson players and coaches visited the White House after winning the college football playoff. It wasn’t intended as a political statement. It was funny.

Instead, I had to deal with people fussing because among those sharing the meme was a group called “Americans Against The Republican Party.”

For crying out loud! Can we not enjoy a good laugh anymore because it offends our political views? The meme would have been just as funny and I would have shared it had it come from “Americans Against Democrats” or “Vegans R Us” or whoever. And I pointed that out in the comments to my post.

Not everything in life is political, people. Put politics aside and enjoy life once in a while. Rant over.

Chris Gregory is managing editor of The Hartsville Vidette. Reach him at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]

Shelby Jane Petty signs with Shelton State (Ala.) CC

Trousdale County is sending a girls basketball player to the college level for what is believed to be the first time as Shelby Jane Petty signed Friday afternoon with Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Petty is playing her first season with the Lady Jackets after transferring in from Mt. Juliet. She was named Most Valuable Player of the Friendship Christmas Tournament after leading the Lady Jackets to the title.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Shelby Jane Petty, front center, is shown with parents Shane and Jennifer Petty, TCHS coach Jared Hawkins, Shelton State coach Madonna Thompson and assistant Chris Sanford.

Shelton State is a consistent national contender in the junior college ranks. The team as of Friday was 20-3 and ranked 12th nationally.

“You’ve got to have players who understand the game, who work hard and are skilled,” said Shelton coach Madonna Thompson, a former Alabama star who has been at the school for 21 seasons. “(Shelby’s) ball-handling, passing and ability to shoot the ball attracted us to her.

“If she does her part and we do our part, I think in two years we’ll be doing this again.”

Petty said the coaches and atmosphere when she visited Shelton State made the offer too good to resist.

“The coaches were open and easy to talk to; the players were awesome,” Petty said. “I really felt at home there. How (Coach Thompson) runs her program and everything… She wins. I want to win too.”

Petty said she had one other offer from Lincoln Trail, a JUCO in Illinois, and had received interest from other JUCOs and smaller NCAA schools.

Thompson said current Riverdale coach Amy Josephson had put her onto Petty as a potential recruit through a mutual friend.

Trousdale County coach Jared Hawkins praised Petty’s work ethic and her willingness to be a team leader despite it being her first season in purple and gold.

“The great thing about Shelby is she’s been a positive role model on our younger girls and show them if you come in every day, work as hard as you can, you can get to where you want to go.

“There have been good basketball players who have been here who just haven’t went anywhere. I want to show the girls that we can be just as successful as any other team in this part of the state.”

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

Brad Waggoner leaving Trousdale County for Elbert County (GA) job

Trousdale County is once again in the market for a head football coach as Brad Waggoner has accepted a position at Elbert County (GA) Comprehensive High School.

Waggoner just completed his second season at Trousdale County, finishing 11-4 and leading the Yellow Jackets to a runner-up finish in the Class 2A BlueCross Bowl. He leaves Trousdale County with a 19-8 record in two seasons.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity I have had to lead the Yellow Jackets Football Program for the last two years. I will never forget our run to the 2018 state game this past year!” Waggoner said.

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said a coaches’ meeting was held Monday morning with principals and that middle school coach Matt Dyer would serve as interim head coach until a permanent hire is made.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Trousdale County coach Brad Waggoner has accepted a position at Elbert County (GA).

Posts on the Elbert County School District’s website and Facebook page announced Waggoner’s decision to leave.

The post on the Elbert County website stated:

“The Elbert County School District is pleased to announce that Trousdale County High School (TN) Head Football Coach Brad Waggoner has been approved to become the new head football coach at Elbert County Comprehensive High School. The Board of Education held a called meeting at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, January 11 to act on the recommendation from Superintendent Chuck Bell.

For the past 21 years, Coach Waggoner has had notable experience at the high school and college levels. Most recently, as Head Coach/Athletic Director at Trousdale, he led the Yellow Jackets to the 2018 Class AA State Championship Game. Waggoner also served as the Associate Director of Player Personnel and Offensive Analyst for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets from 2014-2017.

Coach Waggoner was raised in Fayetteville, Georgia and attended Landmark Christian High School. As a player, Waggoner was a linebacker at Georgia Tech and a two-year letterman at Liberty University.”

Elbert County Superintendent Chuck Bell told The Vidette that Waggoner would make $100,436 annually in the Elbert head coaching job. He was earning $65,431 in Trousdale County, including a coaching stipend, according to Satterfield.

“We wanted to make sure we were searching for the three Cs: competency, connectedness and character. Brad brings a very high level of football competency, he’s proven his ability to connect and inspire high school students… and he’s a high character guy,” Bell said. “Brad came out of the process and we’re excited to have him.”

Waggoner met with Yellow Jacket team members last week to inform them of what he said at the time was the possibility he would leave.

“I want to thank Dr. Satterfield and Mrs. (Teresa) Dickerson for all they have done for me and my family, and I want to thank these players that have worked tirelessly and giving everything they have for me the past two years. I also want to thank the assistant coaches for all their hard work. We would not have achieved the success we did without those guys. I want to thank this community and for their support and welcoming my family here. I know my little boy loved every second of it. Lastly, I will always be pulling for the Jackets! Thank you!”

Satterfield told The Vidette he had not yet received an official letter of resignation from Waggoner, but that the Trousdale position had been posted and applications would be accepted through Jan. 25.

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

Portable meth lab discovered, dismantled in Hartsville

A portable methamphetamine lab was discovered Wednesday afternoon in Trousdale County, according to Sheriff Ray Russell.

Photo courtesy of Drug Task Force

Russell told The Vidette a caller reported an abandoned suitcase in a field behind Foodland. Chief Deputy Wayland Cothron responded and discovered the suitcase held ingredients and other items needed to make meth.

The Drug Task Force was called in to dismantle the lab and dispose of the items, Russell said.

“No arrests have been made; it looks like it’s been there for a little while, maybe a month or so,” Russell said.

Russell said his office believes it knows who owned the suitcase, but that the individual in question was no longer in Trousdale County and may have left the state altogether.

“He’s one of the homeless ones… we’re going to continue to investigate,” Russell said.

Russell said this was the first meth lab discovered in Trousdale County in “a couple of years.”

Russell also said deputies had located and recovered a stolen skid loader out of Davidson County, with an estimated value of around $30,000.

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

Community Help Center reopens at new location

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

Trousdale County’s Community Help Center is open for business at its new location.

The thrift store opened Tuesday after moving from its old location on Main Street to its new home at 120A McMurry Blvd., the former home of Razors Barbershop.

The old location had closed in mid-December to allow time for the move.

The food pantry, which serves around 160 people each month, held a soft opening on Jan. 3. While numbers were down somewhat, store manager Tawana Flatt attributed that to customers needing to get used to the new facility.

Flatt thanked the Sheriff’s Department and inmate crews who helped move items between locations.

Store hours will remain the same at the new site: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

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

Potential hotel site on agenda for Planning Commission

The Hartsville/Trousdale Planning Commission is scheduled to hear three new zoning requests at its Monday meeting, including a potential site for a hotel.

That property is located on McMurry Blvd. East at Hickory Ridge Lane and is owned by Hartsville Cabinet & Millwork. Totaling 4.29 acres, the property is currently zoned R-1 (residential). The request is to change it to C-2 (commercial).

Chamber of Commerce Natalie Knudsen told The Vidette the property is one of two sites that local investors have identified as possible sites for a hotel. County government conducted a feasibility study last year that concluded Hartsville could support a 47-room hotel. Two hotel chains have met with Chamber officials and potential investors since then to gauge interest.

Knudsen added that the zoning request did not mean investors had chosen that site and that a final decision on where a hotel might go is still up in the air.

If approved by the Planning Commission, the request would then require approval from the County Commission in two separate votes.

Also on the Planning Commission’s agenda are:

  • A request for rezoning a 29-acre tract of land on Skillet Creek Road from A-1 to R-1 to allow for single family residential lots;
  • A request for rezoning land on Hayes Avenue from R-1 to R-3 for proposed multi-family condo/townhomes;
  • An updated site plan for Garrott Bros.’ proposed ready-mix concrete plant that would be located at White Oak and Planters; and
  • A zoning change on property along Cemetery Lane.

The Planning Commission will meet on Monday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. in the downstairs courtroom of the courthouse. Meetings are open to the public.

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

Building Committee discusses cleaning up derelict properties

Members of the county’s Building Committee discussed what they called a problem of derelict properties in the Hartsville city limits during their Jan. 3 meeting.

Committee member John Oliver presented a photo slideshow of properties he said were of particular concern.

“We have properties in Trousdale County that are cracked, falling down and we should be ashamed of,” Oliver said. “Why haven’t we done anything about them? Because we’re not sure whose responsibility it is.”

Oliver called some of the properties he described “a public nuisance.”

“The sheriff says it’s not my responsibility to cut the grass, the county says we can condemn it but we don’t know who owns the property… I’ve gone through (former mayors) Carroll (Carman), Jakie (West) and Jerry (Clift); they’ve done nothing. I’m tired of it.”

Committee chairman Dwight Jewell, who serves as the county’s building inspector and codes official, noted a lack of cooperation between various county offices in the past as part of the reason nothing has been done.

“One of these, we were ready to issue a citation and go to court, and the county attorney wouldn’t take it to court,” Jewell said. “I’ve run into roadblock after roadblock. The building part got so busy that I went to the Executive Committee and said I can’t do both.”

Oliver cited Macon County’s process for dealing with derelict property as an example of what he would like to see locally. He said the Macon codes director takes pictures of properties and uses them as evidence in court to get things done.

“We’ve passed ordinances and we can do it,” Oliver said. “Eventually we’re going to have to do it.”

The committee also discussed whether the county should hire a full-time maintenance man for county buildings. Currently Public Works is charged with the care of those properties, but member noted that Public Works head Cliff Sallee has so many duties that some get pushed to the back burner.

“Cliff does a yeoman’s task every day,” Jewell said. “It is as much to relieve from him and his men having to do this. We’ve got good buildings but we’ve never maintained them. That needs to change.”

Jewell also introduced committee members to Sam Edwards, who has been hired to replace Jewell as building inspector/codes official when he retires later this year.

The committee took no action but plans to reexamine the issue at its next meeting on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

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