Thursday, April 30, 2009

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Tuesday was not a good day for a Putnam County couple, whose car apparently slipped out of gear and ended up rolling across their yard, down a hill, and crashing. The sheriff's department says it happened on Castlebrook Drive about 7:30 Tuesday evening when a 1995 Nissan Altima apparently slipped out of gear and rolled down the hill, through the back yard and through a barbed wire fence. According to a report by Deputy Bo Sherrell, once the car went through the fence, it continued to travel downhill, through a field and then into a dry creek bed. The car then hit an embankment on the other side. Authorities say no one was in the vehicle at the time and no one was injured, but damage was extensive -- in part because there are several logs in the creek bed, and when the car hit one of them it flipped over. The owners say they had liability insurance on the car, but no coverage for collisions.

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The Putnam County sheriff's office has been busy this week rounding up people who have either failed to show up in court or failed to follow court orders regarding payment of fines and costs. No less than nine people were arrested in one day on what authorities call a capias. That's an arrest warrant issued by a judge when someone doesn't meet their court obligations. In two of the cases, the suspects turned themselves in to the jail after learning they were wanted. In another case, the capias was served on a man already in jail on other charges. According to the Circuit Court Clerk's office, a number of defendants set up payment plans to take care of the fines against them, but then fall behind and fail to finish paying. In criminal cases, that ultimately leads to jail time.

Tennessee Supreme Court justices could be challenged in re-election campaigns under a Republican-sponsored proposal advanced by a Senate panel on Wednesday. But Democratic Representative Henry Fincher of Cookeville has been an outspoken critic of changing the current system that he argues ensures an independent and merit-based judiciary.
"Putting them up for contested races, where big money can buy TV ads produced by slick professionals run statewide is just putting our judiciary up for sale," said Fincher. "It’s a bad idea."
The proposal sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, a Collierville Republican, would give the governor the power to independently fill all vacancies on the high court, and justices could face challengers at the end of their terms. Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville broke a 4-4 tie along party lines in the Senate Government Operations Committee to advance the measure. Currently governors must choose from three-candidate panels presented by the Judicial Selection Commission, and justices stand for yes-no retention votes at the end of their terms. The system known as the Tennessee Plan is set to expire on June 30.

A Nashvillle man who said he was tired of being sick and wanted to "dry out" showed up at the Putnam County jail this week, apparently seeking refuge. Authorities told the man that they could not incarcerate him unless he was charged with a crime. But then they noticed that the man -- identified as 48-year-old Thomas Edward Tefteller of 718 S. 12th Street in Nashville, smelled strongly of alcohol. And since he was apparently intoxicated as he stood in the lobby of the Justice Center, they arrested him for public intoxication and walked him to the jail. No word on whether he will be able to dry out there or not, since that charge usually carries a fine, but no jail time once the suspect sobers up.

More brush fires have been reported today by Putnam County authorities. Sheriff's deputy Matthew Hickey says he and Deputy Stephanie Cantwell responded to an area of the Nashville HIghway near the Smith County line just after midnight on Tuesday to a reported fire. They arrived to find two brush fires burning near Petty's Ridge Road. The county fire department was called out they had the Division of Forestry also respond. The sheriff's department provided traffic control in the area until the firefighting equipment was out of hte roadway. No word on what may have caused the fires, but forestry officials say many of them are the result of careless outdoor burning in exceptionally dry conditions. They remind you that you need a permit from them before you start any outdoor burn.

Any of the local lawyers who may be interested in filling the judgeship being vacated by John Turnbull have until next Tuesday to apply for the job. Turnbull announced his retirement earlier this year, saying back problems prevent him from staying seated for long periods of time -- something that is an occupational requirement of sorts for judges. According to the Tennessee Bar Association, two attorneys have expressed an interest in Turnbull's position thus far. They are former criminal court judge Lillie Ann Sells and the woman currently filling the role on a temporary basis, Livingston attorney Amy V. Hollars, who is Turnbull's daughter. the governor will appoint a replacement to serve until the next regular election, which is in 2010. The office will go on the ballot at that time to elect someone to fill out the rest of the Turnbull's term. But the website for the Administrative Office of the Courts says that the state's Judicial Selection Commission will meet on Friday, May 22, in Cookeville, to initiate the process of filling the vacancy. They are the group that will make a recommendation to the governor. Any member of the public, both lay and attorney, is entitled to attend the public hearing to express, orally or in writing, suggestions of possible nominees and/or their approval of or objections to any suggested nominee for the judicial vacancy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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State representative Henry Fincher of Cookeville has voted against a bill that would have limited written driver's license tests in Tennessee to English and four other languages. The bill was presented Tuesday before the House Transportation-Public Safety Subcommittee The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas would have limited the tests to English, German, Korean, Japanese and Spanish. It failed on a 2-2 vote. Representative Tony Shipley said, "The issue that we're dealing with here is illegal immigrants driving on our highways, doing damage and killing people." But East Ridge Republican Rep. Vince Dean, the panel's chairman and a retired police officer, argued that the measure would do nothing to keep illegal immigrants off the roads. Meanwhile, Fincher also offered a failed attempt to make an amendment to a bill that came up in another subcommittee -- requiring health care providers to hand over minors’ medical test results to their parents. That amendment would have exempted hospitals from the bill’s requirements and given physicians 10 days to respond to a request, plus discretion to deal with a minor child’s medical test results. He said he supported the underlying goal, but also wanted to deal "with the realities of medical practice and the realities of federal funding."

Matthew Micah Moss of Cookeville recently received the Albert H. Bryan Jr. Engineering Scholarship from Tennessee Tech University. Moss, a 2009 Upperman High School graduate, is the son of Joel and Rebecca Moss and the grandson of Tommie and Ruth Moss all of Cookeville. Moss plans to major in computer engineering at TTU.

Final plans are being made for Monterey’s first-ever "Spring on the Mountain Dogwood Festival." It is scheduled for Saturday, May 2 in downtown Monterey. Organizers say there will be plenty of food, fun and music -- and an excursion train from the Tennessee Central Railway Museum in Nashville. For the festival, the celebration will be contained to the downtown area, specifically the area around the future depot museum site. Unlike Standing Stone Day, only Depot Street will be closed. Commercial Avenue will be open to traffic, but while the train is stopped, additional roads will be temporarily closed as needed. The event that starts off the morning will be a pancake breakfast at the Monterey Lions Club from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Also at the Lions Club Building is their Open Car Show. The Monterey Garden Club will have their annual flower and plant sale at the Monterey United Methodist Church starting at 7 a.m. until sold out. And Several vendors will be located on the future depot site, including the Monterey Depot Historical Society, the sponsor of the event. Meanwhile, May 2 has also been declared the "Monterey High School Virtual Enterprises Class Day." That class became world champions at a trade fair held in New York City a few weeks back, being the first-ever class from Tennessee to place.

Tennessee Tech University Associate Professor of English Tom Saya will introduce Robin’s-Egg Blue, his forthcoming book of children’s poetry, at the spring meeting of the Tennessee Tech Council of the International Reading Association at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday in the Tech Pride Room of the University Center. Professor Saya’s presentation coincides with the TTU Council’s celebration of April as National Poetry Month. The public is invited to attend the event to hear excerpts from the author’s work and to learn what is involved in creating a book of verse for children. Light refreshments will be served.

Monday, April 27, 2009

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Volunteer firefighters from Putnam County and Cumberland County were joined by officials with the Division of Forestry on Monday afternoon to fight yet another brushfire in the area, which was, according to officials, "out of control" at one point, threatening some nearby homes in the Cumberland Lakes area off Highway 62, east of Monterey. This is at least the third day in a row that forestry officials have had to deal with wildfires, but they are hopeful that a prediction of rain in the forecast for the next week will help to calm the dry conditions that are contributing to the fires. They also remind residents that any outdoor burning between now and May 15 requires a permit from the Division of Forestry.

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The Cookeville planning commission has recommended a change in the city's zoning code that will allow the long-term storage of cars, boats and jet skis. The planning commission Monday night OK'd a recommendation that allows long-term storage facilities in the city's manufacturing and commercial-industrial zones. Long-term, for the purpose of the zoning code, means longer than 60 days, but there are some regulations on long-term storage. City planner James Mills says that no wrecked vehicles are allowed; that they must be "street legal" and in good operating condition,and that they must have a current license and registration. He says it will be up to the owner of the storage facility to determine if the registrations are current, but says that the city will be doing spot checks and will investigate any complaints they receive from the public. Local businessman Freddie Duncan had requested the change after telling city officials that he had been asked about the possibility of using some of his property for long-term storage.

Monterey's Hilltop Express newspaper reports that Monterey Police are investigating incidents where several teenage boys are meeting at different locations after school and participating in what they have called "fight night." Authorities say the boys range from seventh graders to high school-age and as many as 30 of them at a time are gathering to mimic the mixed martial arts fighting they see on television. Police say that some have been injured so badly that they can’t come to school the next day. Monterey Police Chief Tim Murphy says that he and his department are taking the issue "very seriously" and have already talked with the district attorney’s office about possible charges, especially against some adults who have watched the fights and have allowed them to occur on their property.

Cookeville police are investigating a case of credit card fraud and says the victim is a 57-year-old man, who apparently had his information stolen while using one of the public computers at the county library. According to report by Officer Lester Langford, the man does not himself own a computer, but had been using one at the library to order some grass plugs through an online retailer. He used a credit card to pay for them and later learned that nearly fifty dollars had also been charged to the card from a company called True.com. That's an Internet dating service. The victim contacted them, but was told that they would not give out the name of the person who authorized the charge. Police believe it may have been someone who was on the public computer after the man or who may have simply looked over his shoulder as he typed in his credit card information. The man has since canceled the card and police are continuing to investigate. True.com claims to have millions of members and says you can "meet the one who's right for you -- right now."

Funeral services are being held Tuesday for a Putnam County businessman, who was killed in a farming accident over the weekend. According to reports, 68-year-old Hubert Leroy Jones died when he apparently fell off the seat of a plow being pulled by some mules and landed under the discs of the plow. The incident occurred at 4395 Shady Lane on Saturday morning. Jones was the owner of Jones Trucking and Excavating and was a deacon at Rocky Point Baptist Church.

The Putnam County chapter of Habitat for Humanity is encouraging local residents to do something unique for Mother's Day. Habitat's volunteer coordinator Amy Jennings says this year provides a great opportunity to honor Mom and help someone get into a decent, affordable house through Habitat for Humanity. Local residents can sponsor a square foot Habitat’s fall Women Build house for a $50 dollar donation. In return, Habitat will provide a you with a special card for Mothers Day. You can stop by any First Tennessee Bank, Bank of Putnam County, Regions Bank, or Putnam 1st Mercantile Bank to pick up your sponsorship form. For more information, call Habitat at 528-1711.

An interesting statistic is being publicized this week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They say that since the construction of Dale Hollow Lake, 127 people have drowned in the lake. But park ranger Brent Sewell says that of those fatalaties, zero were wearing life jackets. He says a lot of accidents occur because people are not as careful as they should be. In addition to always wearing a life jacket, Sewell says that lake users should stay in marked areas, never dive into unknown water and remember that boating and booze don't mix.

The drama continues at Algood city hall as city manager Freddie Maxwell returned to work Monday, and the city's police chief resisted efforts by at least one council member to have him removed from the building. Maxwell was voted out by three members of the council at a work session earlier this month but says he decided to come back to work because he believes the action was not properly taken and says that a council meeting, scheduled for May 4th, to discuss his "resignation" is further proof that he is apparently still employed by the city. Maxwell claims the controversy concerns efforts by some council members to get health insurance paid for by the city. He says they are not eligible for it. But Algood Mayor Patt Judd says insurance is not the issue, although she declined to say what was. She says that she has turned the matter over to the city attorney for the time being.

Sophomore Tyler Cassetty finished the day as the leader for Tennessee Tech University Monday, shooting a three-over par 75, as the Golden Eagle men's golf team is in fifth place following the first 18 holes of the 54-hole Ohio Valley Conference Championships. Tech was paced Monday by a trio of golfers from the Upper Cumberland, including Cassetty from Whitleyville, senior Greyson Painter from Carthage and junior Wes Korth of Cookeville. The nine-team field continues play with 18 holes Tuesday at The Shoals on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Muscle Shoals, Ala., with the final round scheduled for Wednesday.