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County, schools battle over budget

 

A contentious debate over raising teacher salaries highlighted three nights of budget hearings last week.

Members of the county’s Budget & Finance Committee held hearings on June 13, 14 and 15, but when it came to the budget for Trousdale County Schools, the process became adversarial.Budget

In meetings earlier this year, Director of Schools Clint Satterfield had asked for just over $500,000 in new money from CCA to be applied toward raising teacher salaries across the board. The school board’s proposed budget, passed at its May meeting, called for a similar amount.

“We can pay these teachers, and we’re not asking for a tax increase,” Satterfield told the committee. “We’re only asking for growth money – money we’ve always received. If you don’t give schools the growth money, the question I have is, where did the money go?”

Satterfield also noted that the Commission had promised earlier this year to pick up a $48,864 tab for raises given earlier this year to non-certified school employees such as janitors and food staff. The School Board funded the raises from its own fund balance after the state ruled the county could not give money for raises during the fiscal year.

The school system’s funding request would provide a $2,632 raise for teachers, fund the non-certified raises and provide money for three teaching positions the school board paid for from its fund balance in the 2015-16 school year. Those three jobs cost a total of $97,100.

RELATED LINK: 2015-16 Trousdale teacher salaries

RELATED LINK: Average teacher salaries by county for 2014-15

Budget gives schools some help

Instead, County Mayor Carroll Carman’s original budget proposal added just $100,000 in new money to the schools. At the Budget Committee’s request, that amount was raised to $200,000 – still well below the school board’s request. A motion by Commissioner Bill Fergusson on June 15 to increase the amount to $250,000 died for lack of a second.

County Mayor Carroll Carman

County Mayor Carroll Carman

Even subtracting the $48,864 and not counting 17 percent for fixed charges, the remaining amount of new money would provide a raise of over $1,150 to each of the county’s 108 teachers.

According to a report provided to The Vidette by Satterfield, the average teacher’s salary in Trousdale County for the 2015-16 school year was $38,960.01.

“I’m for the teachers getting more money,” Carman said. “But I’m also for feeding the county and correcting 50 years of neglect.

“We’ve taken a lot of stuff out of this budget in order to make it square… It’s a matter of caution, of wise decisions.”

During the hearings, Carman emphasized that no department was getting all projected growth money, as that would completely eat up the new CCA funds.

Satterfield blasted the committee’s decision, noting that the County Commission had previously promised to address teacher salaries in the 2016-17 budget.

“The $200,000 they have offered… is totally unacceptable,” Satterfield said. “We’ve just asked for our fair share; we’re not asking for a rate hike.”

School Board member Mary Helen McGowan criticized the committee’s recommendation as well, saying the decision was “slapping teachers in the face, punching them in the stomach.”

“They’re (the students’) mentors, they love these children… it’s like you don’t care about our students,” McGowan told the committee during Tuesday’s hearings.

State gives some money

The state did provide the school system with an extra $113,000 through the BEP (Basic Education Program) that can be used for teacher pay.

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield

Director of Schools Clint Satterfield

“We haven’t decided how to use that.” Satterfield said. “We’d like to use our BEP funds strategically. I want to allocate to our hard-to-staff positions, and put some of that money into our high-performance teachers.”

During Monday night’s work session, members of the County Commission showed virtually no support for the $500,000 request. Satterfield did say he felt the board would be willing to compromise at $292,000 in new money, which would provide an across-the-board raise of around $2,100 to teachers.

Satterfield said at $292,000, he felt the school board would be willing to go into fund balance to pay for the three teaching jobs for another year, as well as for an expected rise in insurance costs.

Although the school system has $2.9 million in its fund balance, Satterfield has resisted calls to apply some of that toward teacher pay, which would be a recurring expense.

“Why they can’t take $100,000 out of their fund balance is the argument,” Carman said. “But then he says, ‘I want $100,000 out of your fund balance…’ He’s asking us to violate something that he won’t even do.”

Satterfield said about $2 million of that fund balance was state BEP money and could not be allocated to salaries, citing an audit report from the state. About $1 million was unassigned and could be used for salaries.

“The County Commission knows that,” Satterfield said.

The Budget Committee did express support for providing additional funds to schools in the 2017-18 budget, once the CCA money is actually in hand.

“It was our agreement that we would push $200,000 of new money to the schools, with the commitment that when the timing was a little better, we could do this in stages,” said committee chairman Mark Beeler.

If, as expected, the county rejects the school board’s budget, the school board will have to decide at its July meeting whether to accept the county’s offer or return with a counteroffer of its own.

“I think I can speak for the board in saying that we will not accept the current proposal from the Budget Committee,” said School Board Chairman Regina Waller.

The County Commission will vote on the budget at its planned meeting on Monday, June 27, at 7 p.m., and then again at a called meeting currently planned for Tuesday, June 28, at 6 p.m. That second date is subject to change, and will be scrapped if the Commission fails to approve a budget at Monday’s meeting.

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

Commissioners discuss 2016-17 budget proposal

The Budget & Finance Committee held public hearings on June 13, 14 and 15 on the mayor’s proposed budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year – the first budget to contain property tax money from CCA’s new Hartsville prison.

The estimated amount in new money from CCA is $1,575,279, according to a report from County Mayor Carroll Carman’s office.

That amount could be reduced slightly if CCA takes advantage of the property tax discount for early payment – 2 percent if paid in October and 1 percent if paid in November.

County Mayor Carroll Carman

County Mayor Carroll Carman

After three nights of hearings, the committee voted to set the property tax rate at $2.93, which will represent a seven-cent reduction from the state’s certified tax rate of $3.00. The certified tax rate is what would bring in the same amount as the previous year’s rate.

Commissioner Jerry Ford cast the lone vote against the $2.93 rate in committee. Ford urged a larger tax cut was possible, and also supported paying off more of the county’s debt.

“We have several small debts that, in my opinion, could be paid off and eliminate any interest,” Ford said. “That’s where the (Local) Government (Services) Committee was headed.

“Meanwhile, we have 879 parcels of land on Greenbelt, and those people aren’t getting raises; they’re getting ripped anywhere from $150 to $600 more in taxes. It seems to me that somewhere our priorities are screwed up.”

The Urban Services tax rate was set at $1.11, where it has been ever since Trousdale County became a metropolitan government in 2001.

The full County Commission must still approve both rates, as well as the budget, during Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting, as well as a called meeting currently scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m.

In case a budget is not approved Monday, commissioners will also vote on a continuing resolution to keep county government operating until a budget is passed.

Included in the 2016-17 budget is a raise for most county employees, excepting the Water Department which was reacquired by the county earlier this year.

The raises will be determined based on merit and experience, Carman said, adding that he left the decisions on raises up to the various department heads.

“We have scandalously underpaid our county employees,” Carman told The Vidette. “I have tried to grant raises from a standpoint of need and merit.”

Additionally, the Budget Committee requested that not all the projected funds be spent in the proposed budget, lest that payment not come through for some reason and leave the county in a predicament.

“All it’s going to do is push your fund balance up,” Ford said. “Then when we get the money from CCA, you can do what you want with it.”

After requested changes were made, the amount of CCA money not utilized in the budget was $721,591 – or 45.8 percent of the projected total.

Also included is a fund for the Highway Department for the first time.

Trousdale County had been the last county to not have a line item in its budget for roads.

Superintendent of Roads Bill Scruggs said the planned funding of around $108,000 would be used for projects, not personnel.

“It’s all going into paving and striping,” Scruggs said. “It will be put on the roads for everyone to enjoy it.”

A part-time Veterans Service Officer was also budgeted, although there is not yet a candidate to fill the position.

“(This person) will be a case manager for the veterans for their health and home issues,” said Amber Russell, who currently serves in that role in a volunteer capacity, “and continue to be there for their families to make sure they are taken care of if the veteran passes away.”

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

School board keeps free lunch for TCES

Trousdale County Elementary students will again be served free breakfast and lunch during the 2016-17 school year.

The School Board voted at its Thursday meeting to approve the program for a second straight year. The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision, which allows schools with higher rates of low-income families to provide free meals.

When the program was launched, it was noted at the time that participation would largely determine whether the program could continue.

File photo

File photo

In the recently completed school year, TCES needed to serve breakfast to around 80 percent of students and lunch to around 50 percent for the program to be viable, according to Director of Schools Clint Satterfield.

“We had to see what our last reimbursement was, and we were in the black,” Satterfield said. “Because of that, we can offer it another year.”

Band director Rob Joines and assistant Steve Paxton also showed off the new band uniforms that will debut sometime this fall. The board previously voted a $15,000 match to funds raised by the Band Boosters.

In his director’s report, Satterfield announced the resignations of seven teachers, as well as two who did not have their contracts renewed. Among the resignations was Sara Turner, who taught music at the elementary school. Turner is leaving to enter a graduate program at Austin Peay, Satterfield said.

In other action, the board voted:

To approve the food services budget for the 2016-17 school year;

To approve a $30,000 contract with Energy Systems Group to develop a plan for greater efficiency in energy, water and operations at the elementary school.

Such plans would include upgrading the heating and cooling systems at TCES.

“I think is a good thing for us,” said board member Anthony Crook. “The money that we will save over a period of time is well worth the effort.”

“It’s also going to expand the life of the building,” added board chairman Regina Waller.

To approve a budget amendment to complete work on the fieldhouse, concession stand and weight room at the football facility;

To nominate Waller for another term on the Tennessee School Board Association’s Upper Cumberland Board of Directors.

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

Natalie Knudsen returns as Chamber director

The Hartsville/Trousdale County Chamber of Commerce has a new boss – and it’s the same as the old one.

Natalie Knudsen accepted the job as the Chamber’s Executive Director on Tuesday, replacing Kent Moreland, who resigned in April to participate in a software engineer immersion program.

Moreland had taken over from Knudsen in April 2015, as Knudsen opted to explore other business opportunities.

Natalie Knudsen

Natalie Knudsen

“I had really decided I would not (come back),” Knudsen said, “but I met with the Executive Board and talked about the job I inherited and what the job could be.

“I just miss dealing with the people of Hartsville and Trousdale County, and there are a lot of things we started that I want to see continue.”

During Knudsen’s first tenure as Chamber director, she spearheaded a number of initiatives, including a Career Day at the high school, Open House Shopping Days in December and the return of Dickens on the Square as part of Hartsville’s Christmas celebration.

Knudsen also wants to see the Leadership Trousdale program return. That program encourages local citizens of all ages to help promote Trousdale County both in the community and beyond.

“We’re looking for people, not just young people,” Knudsen said. “You learn about all aspects of the county and it makes you more informed.

“There are a lot of things we do, and we need to be a little bit more active in helping our existing businesses.”

The Chamber of Commerce meets at noon on the first Tuesday of each month, currently in the upstairs boardroom of Wilson Bank & Trust.

Knudsen said she was excited to return as the Chamber’s face in the community, one she said is also dear to her heart.

“It’s just truly a wonderful place to live and to be part of.”

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

Trey Park concert raises over $750

GALLERY: Trey Park benefit concert

Saturday’s Trey Park benefit concert was deemed a success by event organizers.

The free concert was held to raise funds for needed repairs to Trey Park and was put on by the county’s Parks & Recreation Committee.

According to the county mayor’s office, the concert raised $756.60.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette Members of Harvest Gold and The Woodard Family close Saturday's concert with a rendition of "Amazing Grace."

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Members of Harvest Gold and The Woodard Family close Saturday’s concert with a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Around 70-80 people turned out and were treated to a mix of bluegrass and gospel music, courtesy of both The Woodard Family and Harvest Gold. A third band, Kool Country, had been scheduled to participate, but a family emergency forced the band’s lead singer to be unavailable.

Concessions were available and widely taken advantage of, and a 50/50 raffle was held. The holder of the winning ticket, Joe Jenkins, donated his winnings back to the park fund.

Committee chairman Bubba Gregory said he was pleased with the concert.

“I think we’ve had a great night,” Gregory said. “It’s been great weather, we’ve sold out of burgers, we’ve had several donations.

“You couldn’t ask for better entertainment. You can’t go to Nashville and hear any better entertainment that what we’ve got right here.”

Gregory also hopes to see the park utilized for similar events in the future.

“We would like to do something every couple of months and try to keep making something bigger, keep raising money for the park.”

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

Rep. Diane Black visits Trousdale County

U.S. Representative Diane Black stopped in Trousdale County on Monday as part of a series of meet-and-greets in the Sixth District.

Black, who is seeking re-election to a fourth term in November, addressed a group of around 20 people at Pig Pen Barbeque, which served as host for the event.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette Congressman Diane Black addresses the audience during Monday's meet-and-greet at Pig Pen BBQ.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Congressman Diane Black addresses the audience during Monday’s meet-and-greet at Pig Pen BBQ.

Her biggest areas of focus were on national security and on the need for a president in the White House willing to work with Congress.

“People are telling me they’re scared about what’s happening with our national security, especially with what just happened in Orlando,” Black said, referring to the mass shooting that took 49 lives nearly two weeks ago.

Black also touched on Second Amendment concerns, the continuing debate over the Affordable Care Act and the national debt.

Black supported calls to tighten border controls, citing concerns related to security, health and finances.

“Border security, in my mind, and national security should be at the top of our list,” Black said.

She discussed a bill she has supported in the House that would require the FBI, Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Homeland Security to sign off on anyone wishing to enter the United States as a refugee. The bill has passed the House, but is currently tied up in the Senate.

Members of the audience brought up the need for more young people to serve their country, especially in the military. Asked whether she would support drafting women, Black somewhat dodged the question, saying, “I am going to reserve my opinion until I get more information… get the thoughts of military agencies…”

Black also cited the lack of cooperation between the White House and Congress in getting legislation, even that of a bipartisan nature, through the process of becoming law.

“It’s going to take people getting out to the polls and making sure that the next person in the White House is somebody who’s going to be willing to work with Congress… rather than using their own ideology to push back,” Black said.

Asked if that person was presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, Black expressed her complete support for the controversial businessman.

“I have already said I would vote for Trump,” Black said. “He is the people’s choice, and I have publicly said that.”

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

Trousdale football players help tackle hunger

On a hot June day, you would expect to find most kids either curled up in the air conditioning watching television or cooling off in some watering hole.

However, Trousdale County High School football players are not most kids. Known for hard work and dedication to their sport, last week the players’ dedication to their community was on display as well.

On Wednesday and Thursday, several players donated their time to help Mid-Cumberland Community Action Agency distribute non-perishable food items to low-income residents in Trousdale County.

Coach David Barker explained his players’ participation in the event: “Part of what I do as a football coach is to prepare my players to become adults. Community service, learning to do for others, is a valuable lesson for them to learn.”

Submitted photo Pictured from left: Trousdale County Coach David Barker, Tanner Lannom, Austin Ford, Colton Gammons, Braison Raney, Mason Quinn and Kobe Ford.

Submitted photo
Pictured from left: Trousdale County Coach David Barker, Tanner Lannom, Austin Ford, Colton Gammons, Braison Raney, Mason Quinn and Kobe Ford.

Coach Barker found out about MCCAA’s need for volunteers through Rosie Valentine, a longtime MCCAA volunteer.

“When Ms. Rosie told me about the program it sounded like a great opportunity for my team. This is another Jacket tradition that I hope to keep as long as I am here.”

Coach Barker went on the say that in addition to helping the community, volunteering with MCCAA helps his team as well: “Being part of a team requires selflessness. This opportunity to serve the community allows them to practice that selflessness.”

Ten players participated in the food distribution over the course of two days. The young men put in eight hours a day delivering the food and loading it into the recipient’s vehicles. In addition to lending their strength to the event, the players also brought a level of respect to the event.

MCCAA distributes USDA commodities four times a year in Trousdale County. The amount of work involved in setting up and executing a distribution can easily overwhelm the MCCAA Trousdale County Outreach staff.

“We rely on volunteers to help us get the food out to the community. Without the volunteers we would not be able to be as effective as we are,” said Joyce Caldwell, TEFAP Director for MCCAA.

When asked what the past two days has meant to them, senior Mason Quinn, speaking on behalf of his teammates, stated, “As the TCHS football team, we get an incredible amount of support from our community. It is really nice to be able to give something back to that community that has always enthusiastically supported us.”

For more information on the programs and services offered by MCCAA, please visit their website at midcumberland.org.

Byrd seeks re-election as property assessor

Dewayne Byrd has formally announced his candidacy for re-election as Assessor of Property for Trousdale County.

Byrd is running unopposed for what will be his third term, having first been elected to the position in 2008.

“I have been honored to serve as your property assessor, and to work for the betterment of Trousdale County,” Byrd said.

A lifelong resident of Trousdale County, Byrd resides in the Templow Community with his wife Susan, and is a member of South Carthage Missionary Baptist Church. His two children, Stephen (Jessica) Byrd and Stephanie (Will) Dennis, also live in the Templow Community, along with four grandchildren and “one on the way,” Byrd noted with pride.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette Dewayne Byrd is running for a third term as Trousdale County's assessor of property.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Dewayne Byrd is running for a third term as Trousdale County’s assessor of property.

Byrd is a former member of the County Commission, serving 18 years. In that stretch, he served on the Budget & Finance, Law Enforcement, Parks & Recreation and County Building committees. He has also worked with the Hartsville Little League for over 20 years.

Asked what he was most proud of about his tenure in office, Byrd said, “I’ve really enjoyed the work that I do, the people and everything. Most everybody that comes in is nice… I enjoy working with them, helping them work out their problems.

“I tell people to come in my office, we’ll pull your card and look at it… I always encourage people to come in.”

Byrd is also a member of TNAAO, MTNAAO and the Hartsville Rotary Club.

“If re-elected as property assessor, I will continue to work hard for the people of Trousdale County,” Byrd said. “I will appraise property honestly and fairly to all.

“I would sincerely like to take this opportunity to ask you for your support in vote in the Aug. 4 election.”

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

Kickoff event seeks healthier Trousdale County

The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness announced Monday that Trousdale County has been named a candidate for official designation as a Healthier Tennessee Community.

As part of the county’s attempt to earn the designation, the Trousdale County Health Council is sponsoring a signup event next week.

The Healthier Trousdale Kick-Off will be held on Tuesday, June 21, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the mayor’s office inside the new county administration building at 328 Broadway (formerly Bank of Hartsville).

Photo courtesy of healthiertn.org

Photo courtesy of healthiertn.org

“This will be an opportunity for individuals to come and sign up and get more information on the project, and also a time for businesses and churches to come sign up as a Healthier TN site,” said Health Council Chairman Brenda Harper. “We will have computers available for individuals to sign up at the event.

“The Health Council will continue to offer the #1 For Life program and we will also be expanding the things that we do like sharing healthy recipes, promoting walking, maybe having a walk to school day, tobacco cessation.”

To be designated an official Healthier Tennessee Community, Trousdale County must identify wellness champions to lead the initiative that engages people in workplaces, schools and faith organizations, and then work to initiate and sustain community-wide events and activities that support physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco abstinence.

The community is expected to track and measure outputs and accomplishments of the program. They have one year to complete their work.

Counties in Middle Tennessee currently working to become Healthier Tennessee Communities include: Bedford, Cumberland, Dickson, Franklin, Giles, Macon, Marshall, Maury and Wilson.

Healthier Tennessee Communities are those that encourage and enable more physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco abstinence at the local level. The program takes a community-wide approach to improving Tennesseans’ health by engaging the local leaders of cities, towns, counties and neighborhoods.

“The Trousdale County Health Council is excited to take part in the Healthier Tennessee program,” said Trousdale County Coordinated School Health Supervisor Kathy Atwood. “We plan to spotlight ways that we all can work together to make Trousdale County a healthier place to live for citizens of all ages. We hope other groups and individuals will join with us in this endeavor.”

In Tennessee, one in four adults smokes, and one in five high school students uses tobacco. Approximately 31 percent of the population is classified as obese and an additional 34 percent are overweight, and type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure are at epidemic levels.

More information on the program and other Healthier Tennessee initiatives is available at healthiertn.com.

Contributing: Chris Gregory, Hartsville Vidette

Banks warn seniors of financial fraud

Every year, millions of seniors fall victim to financial fraud. Studies show elder financial abuse costs seniors approximately $2.9 billion each year.

In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, both Wilson Bank & Trust and Citizens Bank are urging older customers and their trusted caregivers to safeguard all personal information and stay alert to the common signs of financial abuse.

“Fraudsters often prey on seniors experiencing cognitive decline, limited mobility and other disabilities that require them to rely more heavily on others for help,” said WB&T Executive Vice President Gary Whitaker.

“Appointing someone you know and trust to handle your financial matters aids tremendously in the fight against these crimes,” added Todd Austin, President/CEO of Citizens Bank.

Photo courtesy of Youtube

Photo courtesy of Youtube

Both banks offer the following tips:

Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.

Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters.

Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.

Never give personal information, including Social Security Number, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.

Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”

Never rush into a financial decision.  Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.

Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.

Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.

Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.

Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.

You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances, call your local Adult Protective Services or tell someone at your bank.

If you believe you are a victim of financial abuse, be sure to:

Talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart, or to your clergy.

Talk to your attorney, doctor or an officer at your bank.

Contact Adult Protective Services in your state or your local police for help.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched on June 15, 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.

With offices in Hartsville, Gallatin, and soon-to-be Hendersonville, Citizens Bank is the best choice for hometown, community banking. Established in 1905, the bank prides itself on giving each customer excellent service and providing the latest financial products to help families and communities grow.

Wilson Bank & Trust, a member of the FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender, is an independent, locally owned bank established in 1987 to provide personal and professional service in a hometown setting. One of the top banks in the South in stability, products, technology, growth and earnings, WB&T currently operates 25 full-service offices in eight Middle Tennessee counties, offering a full range of financial products that include secondary market mortgage loans and online banking services.

Concert on Saturday benefits Trey Park

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette A benefit concert will help fund needed repairs inside Trey Park.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
A benefit concert will help fund needed repairs inside Trey Park.

Saturday’s planned benefit concert for Trey Park continues to garner interest as the date nears.

The music will begin at 5:30 p.m., and will feature The Woodard Family, Jeana Stafford with The Harvest Gold Band, and Courtney Weidlich with The Kool Country Band.

Admission to the concert is free, but donations will be accepted. All proceeds will go toward needed renovations at Trey Park. Among the work needed is drainage to eliminate near-constant flooding problems in the play area, as well as repairs to the play equipment.

The county’s Parks & Recreation Committee is organizing the concert, and members will be on hand selling cold drinks and snacks. A 50/50 raffle drawing will also be held during the event.

The event features “a lot of our own Hartsville talent,” said committee member Linda Sue Johnson.

“Donations are appreciated,” Johnson added, “and sponsors – businesses or personal – are welcome, as well as items for the raffle.”

For more information on Saturday’s concert, contact Johnson at 615-633-1504.

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

Op-Ed: Can we get do-over on presidential race?

It looks like our two main candidates for President of the United States in the 2016 election are going to be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (sorry, Bernie fans – he just doesn’t have a path to get enough delegates to surpass Hillary).

Could we possibly have two worse candidates to become the so-called “most powerful man/woman in the world?”

Just from his antics in the Republican primary season, no wonder even die-hard conservatives are wary of Trump. The man is a loose cannon, who shoots off his mouth without thinking – hardly a trait a president needs. My momma would probably smack my mouth if I called women “fat pigs,” “slobs” or “disgusting animals” – all of which have come from Trump.

He’s also shown a blatant lack of knowledge regarding policy – floating such ideas as barring Muslims from entering the U.S. (how would you pull that one off?) and killing families of terrorists.

And Lord knows Hillary’s not exactly a prize candidate either.

From the questions regarding her email use as Secretary of State (whether any laws were broken, I’ll leave to the lawyers to figure out; it was a bad idea at the least) to just a seeming lack of trustworthiness, she just doesn’t seem fit to hold the nation’s highest office either.

Both candidates are already slinging mud at each other, which gives me even more of a ‘blah’ feeling about the election?

And it’s not like voting Libertarian or Green or (insert third-party here) is a valid option, either. No third party is going to generate enough support nationally to have any real chance of being elected.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get decent individuals to run for higher office? I miss the days when we had good statesmen (of course, we could now have good women as well) running our country.

Men like Dwight Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt or Jimmy Carter? Yes, Carter might not have been a great president, but if there has been a better man to hold that office in the last century, please point him out.

So can we get a do-over on this presidential election? Surely there’s a better candidate out there than these two we seem to be stuck with.

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

Community lends support to Backpack Program

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette Members of the Hartsville Rotary Club gathered with the Church of the Firstborn on Saturday to pack food boxes for the Summer Backpack Program recipients.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Members of the Hartsville Rotary Club gathered with the Church of the Firstborn on Saturday to pack food boxes for the Summer Backpack Program recipients.

Submitted Do Re Mi Music Academy will host a benefit singing on Saturday, June 11. Proceeds will go to the Backpack Program.

Submitted
Do Re Mi Music Academy will host a benefit singing on Saturday, June 11. Proceeds will go to the Backpack Program.

Hartsville’s Do Re Mi Gospel Music Academy is teaming up with the school system to benefit hungry children in Trousdale County.

Do Re Mi will hold a benefit singing on Saturday, June 11, at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Trousdale County High School. There is no admission charge, but an offering will be taken up during the event. Proceeds will go to benefit the school system’s Backpack Program.

“We felt the program was in need this tear, said Key Dillard, who serves as president of the academy. “The Board of Directors wanted to do something for the folks in Trousdale County. We hope to continue this in years to come, to help our neighbors.”

Among the participants will be the Do Re Mi Kids and Do Re Mi Singers, Harvest Gold, the Woodard Family and the Hackett Family.

Congregational singing will be part of the show, and State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver will give a special presentation.

“It’s always a treat to be invited to the Do Re Mi events, whether to come sing with my guitar, bring words of encouragement to the young singers and musicians or bring proclamations and flags honoring and recognizing this amazing institution of plain God’s goodness!” Weaver said. “I am looking forward to being whatever they need me to be as the community rallies together to benefit the Trousdale Backpack Program.”

The Backpack Program provides for students who might otherwise go without. Students are given a backpack containing food on Friday afternoon, and that food often provides meals over the weekend, when school meals are unavailable.

The program depends on community support, which has come in no small measure over the years.

“We have really been astounded by the generosity of our community,” said Kathy Atwood, Supervisor of Coordinated School Health. “We have our annual Christmas concert, and then Key Dillard came to me and said, ‘We normally pick someone to do our final concert for, and we’re considering the backpack program…’

“It’s a wonderful gift to the Backpack Program for them to do this.”

Atwood, who runs the program, told The Vidette it costs about $600 weekly to provide for students who participate, estimated at 100 to 110 during the school year. Most of the food is purchased at Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville, and volunteers pack the backpacks each week.

A number of local churches and organizations help provide the funding, and the annual Christmas concert also benefits the program.

“We have a number of consistent donors who give: Church of the Firstborn, Enon Chapel, United Methodist Church and United Methodist women, and Jack McCall’s Sunday School class,” Atwood said. “The hospital usually holds a dinner, the Rotary Club has helped with a grant in the past.”

Last year, Atwood helped start a Summer Backpack Program to provide assistance while school is out. The Hartsville Rotary Club has obtained a $2,500 grant from the Rotary Foundation, which the Club will match, to go toward the summer program this year.

“The Rotary Club’s main focus has always been helping the youth and children of Trousdale County. So when we learned about the Summer Backpack program, it was a logical choice to participate,” said Hartsville Club president Scott Morrell. “What could be more important than feeding hungry children? We are both excited and blessed to be able to support this program.”

Atwood said the summer program helped 25 to 30 students last year, and expects around 50-60 to participate this year behind better efforts to publicize the program.

“We feel sure we’re going to have more numbers this time,” Atwood said. “We gave out a letter to each family in the program (during school)… We’re more capable of letting them know now.”

The summer program began last Saturday, with food available each week at the Church of the Firstborn.

During summer, the food provided is designed to last over the course of a week and help the entire family. Among offerings will likely be cereal, bread, fresh fruits and vegetables (when available), and peanut butter. Cans of protein are also a staple.

For more information about the Backpack Program, call 615-374-0907.

“We hope everyone will come to the concert,” Atwood said. “The Do Re Mi school is a great treasure for us to have in our county. If people haven’t hears that music, I think it’s something that will be interesting to hear.”

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

Blue Angels pilot killed in Smyrna crash

Photo courtesy of YouTube. The pilot was Capt. Jeff Kuss, from Durango, Colo.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.
The pilot was Capt. Jeff Kuss, from Durango, Colo.

A Navy Blue Angels pilot was killed Thursday when the jet he was flying crashed near the Smyrna-Rutherford Airport during preparations for a weekend air show.

NewsChannel5 reported the pilot’s name was Capt. Jeff Kuss, from Durango, Colo. Reports said Kuss joined the Blue Angels in September 2014 and was married with two small children.

The crash of the F/A-18 aircraft happened at about 3 p.m. as the Blue Angels were beginning practice for the Great Tennessee Air Show. The crash happened near the Meadow Wood apartment complex off Nissan Drive. No civilians were injured in the crash, but some homes in Smyrna lost power, according to Smyrna Fire Chief Bill Culbertson.

The cause of the crash is yet to be determined.

An investigation is underway from both the Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration. According to Culbertson, there were burn marks on the plane that may have been from live power lines brought down during the crash.

Witnesses who were on the flight line at the Smyrna Airport said the plane that went down hesitated and struggled to gain altitude before the crash. Another witness who works next to the Smyrna Airport said the jet burst into flames before it crashed.

According to WSMV Meterologist Dan Thomas, there was a weather cell near the area, which could have caused an updraft that may have contributed to the crash, but no official cause was determined. Smyrna fire and police, as well as Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency and other emergency officials were almost immediately on the scene.

The airport will have a two-mile air restriction around the incident area, which will stay in effect until the investigation is complete. A portion of Sam Ridley Parkway will remain closed, and officials said Nissan Boulevard should open soon.

Officials were still deciding on Thursday evening whether to continue with the Great Tennessee Airshow in light of the incident.

The Blue Angels troop is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and last visited the Smyrna-Rutherford Airport for an air show two years ago.

New program offers substance-abuse help

MentalHealth_0CHOICES, a new substance-abuse treatment program for women, was recently initiated by Cumberland Mental Health Center of Lebanon, a division of Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System.

Cumberland Mental Health Center Director Nathan Miller said the CHOICES Program was started due to the need for more intensive substance-abuse treatment services in the Wilson County area. The CHOICES Intensive Out-Patent Program is exclusively for women who suffer from co-occurring disorders, a mental health and substance abuse issue happening at the same time.

“We wanted to offer the women in our community that suffer from co-occurring disorders the opportunity to participate in a recovery program that is designed for them. There are often unique issues that accompany a female in the realm of substance abuse that do not affect men in the same manner. Due to this, we felt like it was necessary for Cumberland to initiate CHOICES. It will allow the women who participate, a place to open up and feel safe while discussing certain issues in their recovery which can often be difficult to do in a co-ed group,” Miller said.

“Substance abuse continues to cause problems daily in our society, it can often lead to issues with family relationships, abuse, legal system and even medical issues to name a few,” said Laura Blaylock, facilitator of the CHOICES IOP Program.

Blaylock also states that while the program accepts TennCare, the “CHOICES IOP is a grant-based program” and is therefore able to accept women who are uninsured, providing they meet eligibility requirements. This opens up the program to more women than might normally have access to an opportunity such as this one to receive treatment.

Miller said the IOP program is designed to keep the client involved in treatment by spending a minimum of nine hours weekly in a group setting, facilitated by Blaylock, a counselor at CMHC.

The course uses the evidence-based, Hazelden co-occurring model of treatment. The Hazelden model combines the treatment of addiction with the treatment of mental health, which is very often found to be an issue with those who have a history of substance abuse.

Miller also pointed out that the recent Tennessee Substance Abuse Data Task Force report also notes that substance abuse treatment has been shown to have a benefit-cost ratio of 7:1.

The largest savings, he said, were due to the reduced cost of crime (law enforcement, court, and victimization costs) and increased employer earning.

According to Blaylock, CMHC’s CHOICES IOP program is designed to work with women regardless of the type of drug or substance they have been using. It offers the client an intense structure of treatment for up to eight weeks while attending the course.

“We are very excited about having the CHOICES IOP at CMHC. It has never been offered at the Lebanon location before. Volunteer has had great success in the past with it at other locations and we are looking forward to it having a positive impact on the clients we serve,” Miller said.

To find out more about the CHOICES IOP program or Cumberland Mental Health Center, please contact the local office at 615-444-4300 or visit vbhcs.org.