Sunday, May 31, 2009

Budget Discussions Begin Again

It's going to be a busy week for a number of city and county officials, beginning Monday night with members of the Putnam County budget committee. They'll be getting together to discuss the road department budget and the requests that have been made by all of the non-profit agencies that seek funding from the county. A week from Monday, the committee will meet again to go over the school system budget. County officials have already told department heads to prepare a zero-growth budget, as well as plans that reduce expenditures by three and five percent. School system officials say the state also requires what they call a "maintenance of effort" when it comes to funding and they say the less-than-expected revenue from sales tax over the last year means that more pressure will be put on the property tax just to stay even. Meanwhile, Putnam County's land and facilities committee will be meeting on Tuesday evening, the county school board meets Thursday afternoon, and the Cookeville city council has a meeting scheduled for Thursday night.

Grant Applications Sought

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has announced its annual call for discretionary grant applications. Nonprofit organizations serving to improve the well-being of residents in the Cookeville area are eligible and encouraged to apply. Grant applications are available online at cfmt.org. The application deadline is August 3. Officials say all tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations applying for discretionary grants must be profiled on the Web site GivingMatters.com. Grants will be awarded, based upon need, and are given to nonprofit organizations serving a wide range of causes, including: education, health, social services, and the arts. The grant recipients will be announced in late fall.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Alternative Energy in Cookeville

Officials with the Cookeville Electric Department say more people are inquiring these days about alternative energy sources. The Cookeville city council has approved an agreement with TVA to help local home and business owners develop alternative sources of power. Electric Department Director Tony Peek. says a couple of projects locally are already taking advantage of the program. Gordon Hunter has installed a solar system at his home on 6th Street, saving $70 to $80 a month on the cost of his electricity. Meanwhile, Peek says former Cookeville vice mayor Richard Grogan is using a wind turbine at his business in Algood.

Jobless Rate Unchanged in Putnam County

Putnam County's unemployment rate was unchanged in April, staying at 9.3 percent. But officials say that's four percent higher than it was at this time last year. The latest figures from the Tennessee Department of Labor show that Putnam County had a workforce of some 34,170 people. And -- in April -- 3,170 of them were out of a job. Meanwhile, the jobless rates in both Overton and Jackson counties were actually down in April, but still in the double digits. The Overton County rate was 13.2 percent. In Jackson County, it was 13.7 percent. White County had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at 15.2 percent.

Troopers of the Year Named

Dewaine Jennings has been named 2008 Trooper of the Year for the Cookeville District of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He was among several officers honored at a ceremony in Nashville last week. Trooper Jennings is a member of the Strike Team and assists with the Field Training Officer Program, where officials say he leads by example everyday. They say Jennings’ enforcement activity was also top in every category in the District. Meanwhile, Michael Williams was named as Trooper of the year for 2007. Officials say he was selected for his outstanding work and dedication to the department. In 2007, he made 39 DUI arrests and 33 felony arrests. That year, Trooper Williams also made the arrest of a Brink’s Armored Carrier robbery suspect and recovered more than $110,000 in stolen money.

Hospital Stops 401k Contributions

Cookeville Regional Medical Center is the latest in a series of businesses around the area and around the country that have decided to stop contributing to their employees' 401k retirement plans. About 700 employees participate in the plan, and the hospital had been providing a three percent match to their contributions. But members of the hospital's finance committee say that match was costing about $100,000 a month or $1.2 million a year. CFO Paul Korth told the hospital board that continuing the match was not feasible in the current economy. He did say they hope to start matching retirement contributions again at some point in the future, but didn't say when that might be.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Alleged Counterfeiter Arrested

A June 29th court date has been set for a Cookeville man, arrested in connection with a case in which counterfeit money was passed at a local convenience store. Police say 30-year-old Matthew David Mullinax of Pickard Avenue is also facing charges of burglary. He was arrested after a traffic stop in which police found him to be in possession of some items that had been reported stolen in the burglary of an apartment on Autumn Avenue. Meanwhile, police allege that Mullinax also had numerous pieces of paper with either partial or complete $20 bills printed on them. They believe that photocopied money had been used to pay for a carton of cigarettes at the T-Mart on 12th Street earlier in the day.

Grant Money Awarded to TTU

The Tennessee Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners has awarded grants totaling $200,000 to Tennessee Tech and six other state-funded universities. The grant funds allow Tennessee colleges to purchase essential and modern instructional, computer and laboratory equipment to enhance education for students in accredited architectural, engineering, and interior design programs. Tech will receive $33,505 to purchase a distillation column for the Chemical Engineering Department, a hydraulic compression frame and attachments for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and to upgrade the Energy Systems Laboratory in the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Cookeville Website Wins Award

The Cookeville ad agency WDStone & Associates has captured two international awards for its design and development of a Web site that communicates Cookeville's and Putnam County's charm to the world. The agency won the Davey Silver Award and the Summit Emerging Media Innovator Award for the website, mustseecookevile.com, which it created for the Cookeville-Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The interactive "Must-See Cookeville" Web site includes slide shows and listings of the many attractions in Cookeville and Putnam County, including shopping, dining, lodging, parks, galleries, historical sites, festivals and other events.

Fincher Reacts to Election Commission Vote

State representative Henry Fincher of Cookeville calls it part of a Republican "assault" on the election process. He's referring to a move by the 50 Republicans in the state House of Representatives to give their party control of the state Election Commission. The bill would add two Republicans to the state election commission, which now has a 3-2 Democratic majority. With the 50-45 approval of the House Wednesday, the bill, which has already been approved in the state Senate, now goes to the governor. On the floor of the House, Fincher said, "They may have the votes, (but) it's not right. I'm not going to be part of it."

Knoxville Woman Facing Charges

A Knoxville woman is facing a number of charges in Putnam County after an officer with the U.S. Marshal's Task Force picked up her up on Wednesday. Marshal Patrick Storie arrested 33-year-old Bridget Michele Williams of Hustonia Drive, Knoxville, on a pick-up indictment out of criminal court, as well as General Sessions court warrants for illegally pawning rental property and passing two worthless checks locally. Williams was also wanted to failing to show up in court on a previous charge. Her next court date is Friday. Meanwhile, two Michigan residents were also booked into the Putnam County jail on pick-up indictments out of criminal court. 28-year-old Thomas Buford Dorris and 30-year-old Stacy Marie Dorris of Almont, Michigan are both charged with sale of Schedule VI drugs. They'll be arraigned on September 21.

Child Neglect Case Investigated

The Department of Children's Services is investigating after a five-year-old girl was found walking alone down a busy stretch of Highway 70 in Cookeville on Wednesday. According to a report by sheriff's deputy Scott Stockton, the child's mother had left her in the care of a relative while she took her other children to school. But that relative, her brother, fell asleep while he was supposed to be watching the child. And the five-year-old, who was upset about not being able to go to school with the other kids, decided to leave the house. She was found a short distance away and returned to her home unharmed, but Stockton says he told the mother that she needed to be more careful about who she left her child with. The sheriff department also contacted DCS to do a follow-up investigation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sheriff's Department Investigating "Shots Fired"

The Putnam County sheriff's department is keeping an eye out for potential troublemakers, who may be firing weapons at random targets east of Cookeville. According to a report by Deputy Jason Phy, a local resident reported seeing a blue Volkswagen with dark tinted windows driving in the area of Buck Mountain Road and Paragon Road and firing out the window of the vehicle at random targets. Phy was able to get to the area in just a few minutes and spent awhile looking for the vehicle, but was unable to make contact. Authorities say any number of charges could arise from someone firing a weapon, including vandalism and reckless endangerment.

Drama Center Change Order OK'd

Work on renovating the Cookeville Drama Center has gotten a bit more complicated. Leisure Services director Rick Woods told the city council this month that the need to put pilings into bedrock led to a change order. Woods also says that the contractor has asked for some additional time to finish the project because it has been an exceptionally rainy spring season, but says that change order has yet to be presented to the council. Meanwhile, the Great TV Auction, benefitting Cookeville's public television station, kicks off Thursday night from the Cookeville Drama Center. Becky Magura is general manager of Channel 22 and says they hope the 27th annual auction will be one of the best ever, although they admit it may be tougher than usual because of the economic downturn. The auction runs through Sunday of this week and also next Thursday through Sunday. For more information, you can call 528-2222.

Governor's School Underway in Cookeville

Tennessee Tech University is one of several sites hosting this year's version of the Governor’s Schools of Tennessee. The State of Tennessee provides twelve summer programs for gifted and talented high school students, many of which began this week. The programs offer challenging summer study experiences for college credit. At Tech, the School for Information Technology Leadership is being held through June 27. For more information on Tennessee’s Governor’s Schools, you can visit the state's website.

Drug Charges Dismissed

Drug charges in Putnam County have been dropped against two men after a judge ruled that police did not have probable cause to search their vehicle. The two had been stopped in Cookeville last year by a city police officer who thought their window tinting was darker than allowed by law. And, according to reports, police found cocaine, marijuana, and prescription pills in a search of the vehicle. But lawyers for the two men argued that the search was illegal and unconstituational. They said any drugs turned up as a result of that search should not be used against the men. After hearing evidence in the case, Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns agreed. Meanwhile, a similar case involving window tinting and illegal drugs is still pending. That one occurred earlier this month when a Wilson County man was charged by the Highway Patrol after being stopped in Cookeville.

Robbery Suspect Arrested

A Cookeville man, who had been implicated in an aggravated robbery on Sunday, has now been arrested by police on a separate warrant. Officer Anthony Reep says he noticed a car almost run the red light at the intersection of Willow Avenue and Jackson Street early Monday morning. He says when he ran the tag, he learned that the registered owner, 22-year-old Thomas Bindi of Cane Creek Road, had an outstanding warrant pending against him. Reep says authorities found a cell phone in Bindi's right front pocket that had been reported taken during an alleged robbery. But he says Bindi claims there was no robbery. According to him, the victim had been in the back seat of his car and had left his phone there. Further investigation is underway.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

TTU First To Offer "Learning Villages"

Could you learn better if you lived in something called a "learning village?" Tennessee Tech will soon invite students to become members of “learning villages.” University officials say these villages will offer small, caring groups led by faculty within the larger community. And they say TTU will be the first public university in the state to offer these communities in which a student can become a lifetime member. The residential concept originated by England’s Oxford and Cambridge Universities was later adopted by Yale and Harvard, and in the Fall semester of 2010, Tech students will be invited to join one of two initial theme-based villages — service or environment. The villages will be based in the New North and South Residence Halls. Each village, made up of 150-300 individuals, will be open not only to students living in residence halls, but also off-campus and online students as well as TTU faculty and staff members. Officials hope that over time, villages will develop their own activities and programs, such as intramural sports, debate teams, book clubs and festivals.

DUI 5th Offender's Car Seized

A woman who drove to the local probation office last week for her regular report has found herself in more trouble with the law. The issue, police say, is that 27-year-old Amy Lynn Cooper of Alpine, Tennessee, was not supposed to be driving. She had her license revoked last month after a conviction of DUI 5th offense. That means that she's not eligible to drive for at least five years, so when her probation officer saw her drive into the lot of the probation office, she called police. Cooper's car was impounded and she was cited for driving on a suspended license. Police say a search of the vehicle also turned up two pills, which they believe to be somas, in the center console. Meanwhile, the sheriff's department has also seized a vehicle from a driver who wasn't supposed to be behind the wheel. 42-year-old Carl Wayne Hunter of Monterey was arrested for his seventh offense driving on a revoked license violation. Authorities say he was stopped on Hanging Limb Road after the license plate on his vehicle turned out to be invalid.

Surveillance Video Leads to Arrest

Surveillance video is being credited with the arrest of a Putnam County man on burglary charges. Authorities say 29-year-old Jeffrey Clay Ragland of Chestnut Street in Baxter was arrested after he allegedly broke into the Highway 56 Shell and made off with nearly $2,000 worth of cigarettes. Police say a surveillance camera captured the break-in and reportedly shows Ragland committing the crime. The warrant says he also caused some $600 in damage to the building. The public defender's office has been appointed to represent Ragland.

Sibling Scuffle Leads to Arrest

A Putnam County man, who was wanted on an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court, has been arrested after getting into a physical altercation with his brother. Authorities say the scuffle occurred early Monday morning on Highway 56 near Highway 70. Deputies were dispatched to a report of a man who had just been assaulted walking down Highway 70 about 3 am. That man told them that he had been in the car with his brother when they got into a verbal and then a physical confrontation. The victim says they stopped the car and fought in the road for a few minutes before his brother drove off, leaving him on foot. The brother, identified as Luke Fansler of Baxter, had warrants pending, so officials went to a home on Elm Street and arrested him. They also advised the victim of what process he needed to follow if he wanted to pursue assault charges. Fansler is one of more than a dozen people who were picked up in the past few days for failing to appear in court. Wednesday is one of the days set aside for General Sessions court officials to deal with those people.

Fake "Bomb" Being Investigated

Officials from the Tennessee State Bomb and Arson squad were called out this month after a Putnam County resident found what appeared to be a pipe bomb in his mailbox. The sheriff's department says it happened at a home on Clark Road when a man went out to get his mal and found a pipe about eight to ten inches long with a string attached to one end of it. The pipe also had copper wiring wrapped around it. The man closed his mailbox without touching the device and called authorities, who briefly shut down the road as a precaution. But officials say that bomb squad members were able to determine that the device was not, in fact, an explosive of any type and ruled it "a hoax." They are still investigating how it came to be in the victim's mailbox and have sent the device off to the state crime lab in an effort to get some fingerprints from it.

A Warning About Litter

No citations were issued, but a Putnam County man has been told that leaving trash outside of a closed collection site is a criminal offense. Deputy Ron Harris investigated the incident which was reported at the site on Dacco Quarry Road. He says trash had been thrown over the fence there and left along the ditch line. According to Harris's report, it happened last Thursday when a Putnam County man instructed his son to take the family's trash to the dump site. What the man didn't realize is that the sites are closed on Thursdays and that his son decided to leave the bags there, anyway. The deputy says officials were able to go through the trash, find a name and track down the man, who was technically guilty of illegal dumping and littering. Harris spoke to the man, who said he would in turn speak to his son about the issue.

Wide Variations in Rainfall Reported

At least some parts of the Cookeville area saw periods of rain on almost every day of the long holiday weekend, but it didn't really affect outdoor plans because local weather observers had somewhat different precipitation totals, depending on their individual locations. Reporting sites near Baxter and Monterey recorded about two-tenths of an inch of rain on Monday morning, while those in the immediate Cookeville area had less than that. Meanwhile, two days before that, a shower northeast of town produced 14-hundredths of an inch of rain, while a station northwest of Cookeville had barely one one-hundredth. The weather service says the possibility of pop-up rainstorms will stay in the forecast for most of the week, but no single day will be a total washout.

Final Week of Class for Putnam County Students

They had the day off Monday, but those Putnam County school students who did not graduate over the weekend still have about two and a half more days of class to get through. They are scheduled to be in session all day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They get Friday off because it's an administrative and teacher work day and are then supposed to come back on Saturday, May 30 for a 10 am dismissal. For the first time in a few years, the summer break will last longer than usual. Under the balanced calendar, classes would have started back in late July or early August, but the school board decided that ongoing construction projects and budget issues made it necessary to push back the start of the 2009-2010 school year. Classes for that academic term will begin on Monday, August 10. To make up for the two-week delay, the school board has voted to implement a one-week, rather than two-week, fall and spring break period.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tech Baseball Team to Play Clemson

The Tennessee Tech baseball team learned Monday that it will head to South Carolina for the NCAA Regional Tournament this week. Coach Matt Bragga's Golden Eagles (30-22-1), the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament champion, will be the No. 4 seed in the four-team, double-elimination tournament which runs Friday through Monday. Tech will begin the tournament with a game against host and No. 1 seed Clemson at 6 p.m. CDT Friday. Oklahoma State and Alabama are the other teams in the Regional.

Architectural Standards Questioned

At least one Cookeville resident had some concerns this month as the Cookeville city council gave final passage to some newly adopted architectural standards for construction of commercial buildings. That resident was concerned that a prohibition on certain types of block buildings might prevent someone without deep pockets from being able to open a small business. The argument was that many businesses begin by leasing space, then grow to a location that they own, but with a relatively inexpensive building on it. However, city council member Ryan Williams, who works in the construction industry, says the requirements passed locally are far less restrictive than what he has seen in many other towns in Tennessee. He says they might add perhaps one or two percent to the overall cost of a building. Williams and other council members say the point is to strike a balance between what Cookeville is today and what they would like for it to be twenty years down the road.

New Player To Join Tech Women's Basketball Team

The Tennessee Tech sports information website is reporting that the Tech women’s basketball team has added a highly decorated junior college transfer to its 2009 class. Whitley Mayberry, a junior guard from Tanner Ala., played her first two seasons at Northwest Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals, Ala., and will join the Tennessee Tech program for her final two years.At Northwest Shoals Mayberry was a junior college All-American, an all-league and all-region selection, an Alabama junior college all-star, and was named Alabama Junior College Player of the Year.

Boys State Underway in Cookeville

Although today is a holiday for most government workers, some elected officials are staying busy today and throughout the week working with this year's delegates to the American Legion Boys State program, being held on the campus of Tennessee Tech. The students arrived on Sunday for orientation and are hearing today from Circuit Court Judge John Maddux as well as State Representative Henry Fincher, who will be speaking on major political issues in Tennessee. NASA astronaut Sunita Williams is also scheduled to speak to the group tonight. On Tuesday, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is scheduled to address the group. Later in the week, they'll learn more about the state Supreme Court from Justice Sharon Lee and will hear from General Max Haston of the National Guard. The purpose of Boys State is to teach high school students about the structure of state and local governments by having them form their own political parties, while nominating and ultimately "electing" a new Boys State governor by the end of the week.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

For Fans of Chamber Music

The folks who put it together say Tennessee Tech University’s Southeast Chamber Music Institute is an opportunity for high school musicians to develop their skills and for the community to attend a free concert series. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the SCMI is set this year for May 31 through June 5, and TTU musicians will present the Summer Evenings of Chamber Music series at 7:30 p.m. that Monday through Thursday in the Wattenbarger Auditorium of the Bryan Fine Arts Building. Nearly 100 high school musicians will attend the university’s SCMI, where they will rehearse daily in chamber groups such as string, brass and wind quintets or jazz combos, receive coaching and individual instruction from TTU music faculty, and learn about music composition from composer-in-residence Greg Danner.

Each night, a different TTU faculty chamber ensemble will be featured.

• On Monday, June 1, the Cumberland Quintet will present some of its favorite original quintets and arrangements, including Divertimento by Franz Joseph Haydn and a set of ancient Hungarian dances by Ferenc Farkas.

The Cumberland Quintet begins its 37th year as an ensemble, and current members are Roger Martin, flute; William Woodworth, oboe; Thurmond, clarinet; James Lotz, bassoon; and Jeremy Hansen, horn.

• On Tuesday, June 2, the Brass Arts Quintet will perform a concert featuring an array of musical styles, ranging from a Baroque sonata to Dixieland.

Members of the BAQ include Charles Decker and Chris McCormick, trumpet; Danner, horn; Joshua Hauser, trombone; and Winston Morris, tuba.

• A faculty string concert is set for Wednesday, June 3. Music will include the Schubert Quintet in C Major and a piano trio by Debussy.

TTU string faculty include Wei Tsun Chang and Adrienne Tabor, violin; Idalynn Besser, viola; Dan Allcott, cello; Steve Benne, bass; and Catherine Godes, piano.

• A faculty jazz concert is set for Thursday, June 4. It features Phil Barham, saxophone; Chris McCormick, trumpet; Lonnie Breland, piano; Mark Smith, bass; and Eric Willie, drums.

The week culminates with performances at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Friday, June 5, of chamber music prepared by the SCMI students. Like the faculty concert series, these shows are also free and open to the public.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Gas Prices

Although not everyone will be hitting the road this weekend, those who do may want to fill up their tanks before they leave Cookeville. The Tennessee gas prices website says that Cookeville has some of the cheapest fuel prices in the state right now. According to reports filed by members on that site, the cheapest gas in Cookeville can be found at the Murphy USA station near the Walmart on South Jefferson Avenue. It was selling for 2.09 a gallon Thursday night. Other low cost gasoline could be found at the Raceway on Willow Avenue and at the Phillips 66 station on East Tenth Street. The website says gasoline prices appear to be higher in west Tennessee than they are locally, and the auto club AAA says that while it will probably continue to go up over the weekend, the price of gasoline is still far below what it was at this time last year.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Council OKs Move Toward Red Light Cameras

The Cookeville city council Thursday night approved an ordinance which will allow the city to contract with a vendor to install traffic light cameras at some intersections in the city. But council member also said that any decision on whether or not the system would be installed has yet to be made. Still, at least two local residents expressed concern about the proposal. Bill Barnhart says the council should rely on statistical data, rather than anecdotal evidence when it comes to whether the cameras actually improve safety. He says a 2005 study by federal transportation officials indicates that the cameras make little, if any, difference in the number of crashes. The study, he says, suggests that while T-bone crashes might decrease slightly, the cameras also contribute to a slight increase in rear-end crashes. But all five council members voted in favor of the ordinance, while noting that -- if such a system is installed in the future -- any citations issued would be considered non-moving violations and would not go against the driver's record.

THP Plans Roadblocks

The Cookeville district of the Tennessee Highway Patrol is getting a head start on enforcement this Memorial Day weekend by scheduling at least two so-called "roadside safety checkpoints" on Friday night. The THP says they'll be checking drivers along Highway 70-North and State Route 62 in Putnam County to be sure that they have a valid driver's license. Highway 70 is also known as either Spring Street or Broad Street in the Cookeville area. Highway 62 is sometimes called the Clarkrange Highway as it runs from Monterey into Fentress County. THP Lt. Brian Lawson says that troopers have found that these checkpoints are an effective means of enforcing driver license laws while ensuring the protection of all motorists.

PETA Offers Help to Jere Whitson School

The animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has made an offer to a Cookeville school involved in a fund-raising effort for a new playground. On Thursday morning, PETA sent a letter to Dr. Teri Anderson, principal of Jere Whitson Elementary School, offering to help the school raise funds to replace its aging playground equipment. PETA has offered to help pay for the equipment in exchange for the right to place ads on the school's new teeter-totters. The ad would show a pudgy-faced kid about to devour a fast-food burger next to the tagline "Tot teetering on obesity? Go veg!" In the letter, PETA points out that eating meat and other animal products feeds the childhood obesity epidemic and contributes to the rise of type 2 diabetes and to early signs of heart disease in children. PETA's executive vice president Tracy Reiman is quoted as saying, "Our proposal is a win-win for Jere Whitson." She says "It would help with the renovations at the playground and send a potentially lifesaving message to kids about the dangers of eating meat. The best thing that people of any age can do for their health, animals, and the environment is to go vegetarian." There's been no official comment from Dr. Anderson, although in most cases any advertising proposal would have to be approved by the school board.

Vehicle Arson Investigated

Something of a mini-Molotov cocktail was apparently tossed at a vehicle in Cookeville this week, and police are still investigating the incident. It happened just after midnight on Tuesday when someone called the police department to report that they had seen somebody tossing something at a vehicle which was parked at an apartment on Carolina Avenue. The car briefly caught fire, but the blaze was out before police arrived. Officer Marc DeClaire says he found a large rock next to the car and fresh scrape marks on the passenger side window. He also noticed burn marks and melted rubber door seals on the car and smelled an odor of gasoline in the area. A further search turned up a clear plastic water bottle on the ground nearby, which he says appeared to contain a small amount of gas. DeClaire questioned several people who lived in the area, but none of them admitted to seeing anything. Two nearby residents did report hearing a loud bang. The owner of the car was out of town when the incident happened, but told police that she doesn't know why anyone would try to torch her car. Investigation is continuing.

Cookeville Council To Consider Traffic Enforcement

A new city ordinance will be considered when the Cookeville city council meets Thursday evening. As listed on the agenda, it is an ordinance "related to automated traffic enforcement." And that most likely means that the city will be going forward with discussions to put cameras on the traffic signals at some intersections in town. Traffic light cameras have been implemented in a number of towns in Tennessee this year, and proponents say they are an effective means of catching people who run red lights and issuing them tickets through the mail. Also tonight, the council will discuss a change order for the renovation underway at the Cookeville Drama Center and will talk about the Rails with Trails projects, an appointment to the city Tree Board, an agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority and the next step in proceeding with development of a business-industrial park.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Bicycle Thieves

It's one of the most common crimes on the Tennessee Tech campus, and now police have charged three campus employees with theft of property. The three custodians are facing theft charges after allegedly attempting to steal bicycles on campus. They're identified as 19-year-old Billy Chase Wilson, 19-year-old Ryan Blake Dillon and 20-year-old Nicholas Shane Rittenberry. TTU Police Lt. Tony Nelson says he was patrolling a dormitory parking lot last week when he spotted three men loading bicycles into the back of a pickup truck. He said he recognized the three as custodians who work for the university and he asked them if someone had told them to remove the bikes. Allegedly, they responded, "Yes." But Nelson contacted their supervisor, who told him that no one had asked for the bikes to be removed. Meanwhile, a search of their vehicle reportedly turned up set of bolt cutters, and police also found two sets of cable locks which had been cut and thrown into a garbage bin.

TTU Band Director Has New Role

Tennessee Tech director of bands Joseph W. Hermann has accepted the gavel as the 72nd president of the American Bandmasters Association. The association was first organized in 1929 and has elected to membership only the most outstanding band directors in the United States and Canada. Its first president, for example, was John Philip Sousa. In its 78-year history, fewer than 700 directors have been elected to membership — and even fewer than that to the ABA presidency, an honor Tech officials describe as "a singular distinction afforded to only the most highly respected and esteemed members." Hermann was elected to the ABA in 1996 and has served on its Board of Directors. In 2007, the organization twice honored Hermann with his election to the office of vice president and also with an invitation for the Tennessee Tech Symphony Band to perform at the national convention in March 2008. Hermann has been director of bands at TTU since 1989.

High School Commencement Ceremonies This Weekend

Seniors in the Putnam County school system will be walking across the stage this weekend in three commencement ceremonies around the county, while the Adult High School is also making plans for a graduation exercise to be held in June. Monterey High School seniors will have the first opportunity to receive their diplomas as they take to the stage Friday night starting at seven from the gymnasium of the high school. On Saturday morning at ten, the 2009 graduating class at Cookeville High School will participate in a commencement program from the Hooper Eblen Center. Then, on Saturday afternoon at three, the Upperman High School graduates will be recognized in a program from that high school's auditorium. School officials say they try to schedule the ceremonies at different times so that any school board member or others from the public may attend all three if they choose. The graduation program for the Adult High School will be held on June 5 at 7 pm from the auditorium of Avery Trace Middle School. Meanwhile, the rest of the students in Putnam County must finish out this week before taking a holiday on Monday and then completing the school year on Saturday, May 30, with a 10 am dismissal.

Shoplifting Beer

A Cookeville woman has been cited for shoplifting beer from a local grocery store. Police say 30-year-old Tara Ashley House of Bradley Drive purchased two 24-ounce beers from the Hills IGA store on Washington Avenue, but also allegedly tried to hide three more beers inside her purse. And because the purse was used in the commission of that crime, police also searched it and reported finding two syringes in a make-up bag. That led to an additional citation for possessing drug paraphernalia. House was also told not to be back on the store property.

Burglaries Under Investigation

A burglar who may have stepped in doggie doo left behind some of that feces as he was stealing from a Cookeville house this week. Police say the victim arrived at an apartment on Montgomery Avenue to find that someone had stolen a heating and air-conditioning unit from the living room window. The loss was placed at $300, and it is one of a handful of residential and business burglaries under investigation by police.

In other cases:
  • Thieves pried up the bottom panel of a garage door on the back side of Value Motors to gain entry and rifle through the drawers in the office, taking a money bag and getting away with about $250.
  • Someone broke out the window of a home on Bradley Drive and gained entry through a back door. The thief went through dresser drawers to find several hundred dollars worth of jewelry that the victim says she had not worn in quite awhile -- including a variety of gold, pearls and beads.
  • A thief left behind his fingerprint when he broke into the Renew Car Wash business on S. Jefferson Avenue and then burglarized a truck that had been left there for detailing. He made off with a CD player, a $200 pair of sunglasses and about 100 CDs.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Window Tinting Leads to Drug Charge

A window-tinting violation has led to felony drug charges being brought against a Wilson County man. Cookeville police officer Craig Wilkerson says he pulled over a pick-up truck last week because it appeared that the tinting on the window was darker than allowed by law. A citation was issued for the window tint violation, but Wilkerson also noticed that the driver seemed especially nervous, so he asked the driver, identified as 22-year-old Rodney Ray Dunnam Junior of Cairo Bend Road in Lebanon, if there were any illegal drugs in the truck. Dunnam allegedly admitted to not only having drugs, but also having a weapon in the vehicle. Police found about a quarter of a pound of marijuana in a black bag under the back seat, as well as a handgun in the center console, an extra magazine for ammunition, and a set of digital scales. The Tennessee Highway Patrol charged Dunnam with felony possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawfully carrying a firearm. They also told him that they would be seizing his vehicle. And he'll be in Cookeville city court for the window tint violation.

Fugitive From Justice Captured

The man who allegedly ran over a Monterey police officer during an incident earlier this month is now behind bars. Authorities with the U-S Marshal's service arrested 44-year-old Charles Eugene Henry of Bear Creek Road in Crossville this week at a home in Cumberland County. Henry was already wanted on theft charges out of Putnam, Overton and Fentress counties when he allegedly jumped on an ATV back on May 6th and intentionally ran over Officer Jackie McQuiston at a home off Dripping Springs Road. McQuiston was slightly injured, but is back on the job. Henry is charged with aggravated assault and evading arrest in that case. Authorities say Henry had eluded capture on several occasions since being charged with stealing several thousand dollars worth of merchandise from homes all over the area.

Fincher Comments on Legislation

Representative Henry Fincher of Cookeville says he has passed a bill that should protect people from being unfairly dropped from the TennCare rolls, while at the same time fighting fraud in the system. He says he was surprised by the opposition to the bill he received from the Bureau of TennCare, saying the point is to fight fraud and to make sure illegal immigrants are not getting illegal benefits. Meanwhile, a proposal to give judges the power to admit evidence seized in improper police searches has failed in the House Judiciary Committee. The panel deadlocked on a 6-6 vote on the measure on Tuesday, with Fincher saying the proposal would run afoul of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which he says is designed to "keep overzealous law enforcement from kicking people's doors down to see if they're doing anything wrong."

Census Bureau Hiring Locally

The U.S. Census Bureau is seeking applicants to fill management positions in the local census office in Cookeville, which is scheduled to open this fall to support the 2010 Census operations. Job candidates must be U.S. citizens, reside in the area where the local office will be located, clear a FBI background check, pass a written management test, complete the application process, and address the evaluation criteria listed in the job announcement. The full-time, temporary jobs include local census office manager, assistant manager for field operations, assistant manager for recruiting, assistant manager for administration, assistant manager for quality assurance and assistant manager for technology. More information can be had at the census.gov website.

Election Commission Reviewing Precincts

The Putnam County Election Commission has started the process of reviewing just how many voting precincts are necessary to conduct elections in the county with the intent of eventually reducing that number somewhat. Election administrator Debbie Steidl says that Putnam County currently has 44 locations for the county's 39,094 registered voters to cast their ballots on Election Day, but says many of them are quite near each other and others serve just a few voters, making them less than cost-effective. The election commission talked about the possibility of combining some precincts, but they made no final decisions. Steidl says the process involves finding locations that are still convenient while also striving to make them compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Under state law, the county is required to have at least one precinct per 5000 voters, but Steidl says Putnam County will probably end up with more than the minimum. Still, she says that consolidating voting locations could reduce the number of voting machines and the number of workers needed to run an election, ultimately saving money for taxpayers. The election commission will be discussing the issue further when they meet again in July, and they've said that they also want to take a first hand look at the condition of the current voting sites. If they go forward, anyone who would vote at a new precinct in 2010 would be notified ahead of time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Woman Charged with Harassing Republicans

A June 15 court date has been set for a Putnam County woman, charged with leaving threatening phone messages at the county's Republican Party headquarters. According to a report by Officer Joe Greenwood, a call came into the local party offices on Saturday morning from a phone number in Algood, in which a woman allegedly cursed at workers and said "someone should bomb you." That phone number was traced back to 65-year-old Alice Jean Bishop of Dry Valley Road and warrants were taken out charging her with harassment, saying that the comments placed the employees in fear of bodily injury or death. Bishop was picked up by an Algood police officer and brought to the jail where she made a $5,000 bond pending her court appearance.

No Elevator for New Clerk's Office

There will be no elevator included in the plans being submitted for renovation of the old Putnam County Health Department building on South Dixie Avenue into its new use as the County Clerk's office. The Putnam County commssion Monday night approved moving the Clerk's office to that building, but defeated a motion that would have provided an elevator between the building's two floors for use by employees. County commissioner Jere Mason said he could not vote to allow taxpayer money to be spent for what he called a "private use elevator." He says, from the public's standpoint, the building already has adequate access to both the upper and lower levels. The county archives will temporarily occupy a portion of the building's basement, but no further demolition will be done to accommodate that usage because the long range plan is to ultimately move the archives to current clerk's office, once that building is vacated.

Putnam County Commission Votes on Jail Site

The Putnam County commission Monday night apparently ended more than a year of debate over what should be done to deal with jail overcrowding. On a 13-to-10 vote, the commission passed a motion that would approve an off-site location for the construction of what is described as a "legally adequate only" jail facility. A separate motion which called for bids to be let to build a jail expansion at the present site on Spring Street failed by a vote of 14-to-9. And while there is still some disagreement over just how much a new jail will cost, a slight majority of the commissioners apparently believe that adding on to the existing jail is the more expensive option -- especially when considering the added cost of parking. Just where the offsite jail will be located is still up in the air, as the motion passed Monday night also included the "immediate pursuit of land options" and the continued exploration of "green field" locations as well as the possible formation of a Regional Jail Authority with other counties in the area. When Putnam County sheriff David Andrews was asked what he preferred, he said, "My personal opinion doesn't matter, but I'd like to see it started."

No Decision Yet on Tax Freeze

A committee studying the possibility of freezing the property tax rate for some Putnam County senior citizens has decided to gather more information before coming to a recommendation, but most members of the committee say a tax freeze simply wouldn't benefit enough people to offset the additional tax burden on others. Committee member Sue Neal noted that most of the counties that have introduced the tax freeze have had to raise rates on others by some four percent. And member Greg Rector noted that Putnam County already allocates $95,000 a year to assist about 950 low income seniors. He says even under the rules of the tax freeze program, not all seniors would qualify. By some estimates, just 450 additional residents would qualify for any tax relief and that would come at an increased cost to the thousands who don't qualify. Still, commissioner Johnnie Wheeler, a proponent of the freeze, says that there are a number of programs that burden the average taxpayer -- some of which she agrees with and some of which she doesn't. She says that helping the elderly is something worthy of pursuing.

Knoxville Man Facing Numerous Charges

A Knoxville man is facing a number of charges today after being stopped by Cookeville police who had received a complaint about an erratic driver on I-40. Officer Jamey McCurry says he spotted the vehicle as it passed the Cookeville exit, but when he attempted to stop it, the driver continued down the highway, ignoring the officer's blue lights and travelling for about two miles -- never more than 80 miles an hour -- before finally stopping. The driver was identified as 50-year-old Robert Allen Lee of Tennessee Avenue in Knoxville. McCurry says Lee was unable to open the door of the vehicle after he got it stopped and also failed several field sobriety tests. A check on the registration revealed that the car, a 1996 Oldsmobile Cutlass, had been reported stolen. According to McCurry, Lee allegedly admitted to drinking, but did not admit to stealing the car. He was also found to be driving on a revoked license and to have been convicted of being a habitual driving offender. He'll be in court on the latest charges next month.

Sleeping Suspect

A Cookeville man is facing some misdemeanor charges today after police found him sleeping in a vehicle at the Wendy's on North Willow Avenue. Police identify the man as 42-year-old Michael Smith of North Walnut Avenue. They say they noticed an open knife in his lap and ultimately got permission to do a search, which turned up a bag of cocaine, some generic Zanax pills, and a credit card which had a name other than Smith's on it. According to the police report, Smith claims to have found the credit card in the parking lot and said he was going to turn it in to authorities. He also says he found the bag of cocaine and was going to flush that when he got home. He was issued citations for possession of illegal drugs and prohibited weapons, but allowed to go on his way.

More Shoplifting Reported

Cookeville police have either arrested or issued citations to several shoplifters at area stores over the past few days. On Saturday night, police say 20-year-old Kimberly Tasha Woolfram of Crossville allegedly attempted to steal a tape measure, pliers, and gloves from the Walmart on S. Jefferson Avenue. She had reportedly been banned from any Walmart property after a shoplifting incident at the Walmart store in Crossville, and authorities say because she didn't have any form of ID, they handcuffed her and took her to jail, rather than just issuing a ticket.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Eric Frank Jones of Rickman was arrested after he allegedly opened a carton of milk inside the Hills IGA store and drank it. He also allegedly took a snack cake out of its wrapper and consumed it. But when confronted by store employees, and later by police, Jones reportedly began cursing loudly and creating a disturbance. He was booked into the jail on a $500 bond. The items he ate totalled less than five bucks.

And warrants charging 33-year-old Todd L. Payne of Sparta with theft of property and evading arrest were also taken out by police after they responded to a complaint at Kohl's. Officer Adrienne Lintz says that she was able to personally identify Payne based on a surveillance video from the store. According to her report, Payne ran from the business to a nearby field and into a wooded area. Police recovered a GPS unit and some Nike shoes that he allegedly dropped while on the run. They're not sure what, if anything else, may have been taken.

Cookeville Planning Commission To Meet Early

Action will be coming a week earlier than usual this month for the Cookeville Planning Commission. Because next Monday is a holiday (Memorial Day for those without a calendar handy), the planning commission's regularly scheduled meeting has been moved up one week. That means they'll get together this evening to talk about whether to re-zone several properties in the blocks around the hospital and Tennessee Tech University from a medical services and local commercial district to one that is designated as a University zone. City planning officials say not all of the property surrounding the hospital would necessarily be used exclusively for medical purposes, but they are not sure a wide-open commercial zone is appropriate either. The university zoning would allow some commercial development, but also place some restrictions on the properties involved. Also tonight, the planners will consider the final plans for a five-lot subdivision located on South Ferguson Avenue and Douglas Avenue. The developers are requesting a special review under a section of the zoning code dealing with the alteration of a sinkhole retention area. The preliminary plans for a new 39-lot neighborhood, to be called Quail Hollow, located off Gainesboro Grade, will also be up for a vote.

Buying Patrol Cars in a Tight Budget Year

Putnam County sheriff David Andrews hopes to be able to purchase a number of new patrol vehicles for his department before the current fiscal year runs out, but he'll have to move around more than $200,000 in expenditures around to do so. His proposed budget amendment is one of several being considered by the Putnam County commission Monday night. Andrews says part of the money had been intended to hire personnel, but because of some resignations, promotions and other moves, he's been able to keep that money in reserve. And he says spending it this year on vehicles makes more sense than rolling it over into next year's budget when vehicle purchases will be more expensive.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Brazen Shoplifter

Cookeville police answer dozens of calls every month about shoplifting in stores around town, but the one they got Sunday was a bit unusual. Officials at Lowe's say a man ran out of their store about five o'clock carrying a brand new Husqvarna weed eater with him. They gave chase, but were not able to catch the thief. Police say many shoplifters go for items that can be concealed under their clothes or hidden among items they have actually purchased. The shoplifter on Sunday apparently chose to grab and run. The suspect was described as a white male, with brown hair, wearing a striped pullover shirt and jeans. If you see someone fitting that description, you may want to call the police department ... or just not take him up on the offer of a like-new weedeater at a good price.

New Fees in Juvenile Court

Putnam County Juvenile Court officials hope to make some changes soon in a program that requires youngsters with driving violations to attend a "Safe Driving" program in order to get their full driving privileges restored. Greg Bowman with the Juvenile Court says they have been contracting with the Upper Cumberland Community Services Agency to provide that program. But he says the Cookeville-area contact for them is now located in Union City, Tennessee, near the Mississippi River. And he says that sometimes makes it difficult to get the program scheduled at times that are convenient for local offenders. Participants must pay a $55 fee to take part in the program, but Bowman says local officials believe that fee can actually be reduced by simply adding $30 to the local juvenile court costs and having the program administered locally. The county commission will consider the change Monday night.

Averitt Express and Health Insurance

If you didn't see it, The Tennessean newspaper reported over the weekend that Cookeville-based Averitt Express has told a Franklin-based company to temporarily stop efforts to collect on potential overpayments of medical claims to local doctors. Averitt asked Health Research Insights to stop sending letters that some physicians say assume wrongdoing on their part without a review of related medical records. Some of the other issues to be resolved include how far back Health Research should review medical claims looking for potential overpayments. In their initial review, they reportedly claim that Averitt may have overpaid nearly $300,000 over a two-year time frame. But some doctors, as well as the Tennessee Medical Association, claim that the letters coming from Health Research demand a re-imbursement of the alleged overpayments within 15 days or medical records which would verify the claim. Some doctors say providing that information to a third party may violate state and federal law, but the auditing company says they working to come to an agreement with all the parties involved.

Tech Baseball Teams Makes OVC Tournament

The TTU Sports Information Office reports that the Tennessee Tech baseball team dropped its regular season finale Saturday, falling in the final game of a three-game series at Southern Miss. 7-2. However, the Golden Eagles clinched a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament when UT Martin beat Jacksonville State in league play. That means Southeast Missouri, making its Conference record-setting 14th straight tournament appearance will be the No. 4 seed and play No. 5 seed Tennessee Tech on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Illionois and Murray State are the number one and two seeds and will get a first round bye.

How 'Bout This Weather

The people who keep up with such things say that the amount of rain you saw in Putnam County this weekend depended on where you happen live in the county. The National Weather Service issued a couple of severe thunderstorm warnings for parts of Putnam County on Saturday, but not everyone saw threatening weather, although most of us got some rain. The weather service issued the last of several severe thunderstorm warnings on Saturday afternoon for central Putnam County, which they let expire at 3:30. Weather service radar at that time indicated a severe storm near Cookeville that was moving east at 15 miles an hour and dumped a good bit of rain on the cities of Cookeville and Algood. Other severe storms popped up in the surrounding areas as well. According to local weather spotters, who participate in a program called CoCoRahs, the Bilbrey Park area in northeast Cookeville has had 15 days of measurable precipitation for the first 18 days of May so far. The rainfall total through the first half of the month is 7.83 inches, when the normal May rainfall in an average year is 4.71. However, the Bilbrey Park station recorded just three-tenths of an inch of rain on Saturday, while a similar station near Baxter had 1.9 inches and one northwest of Cookeville recorded 1.5. In either case, officials say it may be a good idea this week to double-check your property for any standing water that may turn into a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Taxes and Tax Breaks

A committee studying the idea of giving Putnam County senior citizens a freeze on their property taxes will be meeting Monday night to further discuss the impact that doing so would have on the rest of the county's taxpayers. Legislation was passed a couple of years ago in the General Assembly that allowed individual counties to decide whether or not seniors should be eligible for a tax freeze, but so far only a few counties have chosen to do so. For most, according to the Tennessee County Services Association, it's an issue of how much revenue they would lose over the long-term and where that lost revenue could be made up in other parts of the budget. The decision is also made more difficult this year because sales tax revenues are down from where they were expected to be, and that puts more pressure on the property tax. Proponents of the tax freeze argue that many seniors are on a fixed income and cannot afford the increased tax bill brought on by either an increase in the value of their homes or by a hike in the property tax rate. Opponents say those retirees who are actually in need of a tax break already get one from the state and county, but must meet certain income eligibility guidelines to qualify.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Things You May Have Missed

If you weren't driving by the Papa John's pizza restaurant on Tenth Street in Cookeville Thursday, you may not have noticed the car parked inside the front door -- literally. Police say the driver apparently hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal as she pulled up in front of the business. She ended up plowing through the plate glass and doing a fair amount of damage. A total of three people were taken to the hospital, including the driver, but police say their injuries were not life-threatening.

If you don't work for the bank that foreclosed the property, you may not know that a home on the Nashville Highway was vandalized this week by someone with a fondness for pink paint. A representative of the bank was checking on the property when he found that someone had spray-painted with florescent pink paint on the hardwood floor in the living room and had ripped out the fireplace and surround. There were holes in the sheet rock and light fixtures were missing as well as baseboard molding and switch plate covers. Appliances were also missing, and the bank official estimated that the damage could exceed $100,000. The home is located just over five miles west of Cookeville.

If you haven't read all of these blogs, you may not have noticed that were are attempting to add what are called "mug shots" when possible as people are charged with a crime. We rely on our sources in the various law enforcement agencies to provide these photos, and not every arrest will come with picture, but it's one way to help you distinguish the John Smith who was arrested this week from all of the other John Smiths you may know. For the record, that's also why we usually include an age and address for suspects, and we shouldn't have to remind you that being arrested does not mean the same thing as being convicted.

Speaking of being convicted, a Putnam County man will be spending two years in jail after being convicted on a charge of possessing marijuana for re-sale. 29-year-old Kenny Dewayne Hammons Junior of Paran Road was picked up when Cookeville Police Officer Brandon Tayes saw him in the parking lot of Sav-A-Lot on South Willow Ave. Tayes had what he says was "prior knowledge" that Hammons had an active warrant.

A Cookeville business has now been involved in a scam that may have connections to South Carolina. Back on May 2, a representative in the Tractor Supply Cookeville store accepted a nearly $4,500 check from a business called Future Transmission Parts in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the purchase of a trailer and a zero-turn lawn mower. He says the man who presented the check had a South Carolina driver's license and his photo appeared to match his appearance. But about a week later, a man claiming to be the owner of the business called Tractor Supply to say that he had not authorized the purchase. The owner speculated that someone had used his checks as a template to manufacture their own checks and pass them at different locations around the area. He has already filed a police report in Murfreesboro for other fraudulent charges that have come to his attention in the past few days. Cookeville police Detective Tim Terry is looking into things from this end.

And it's all in the timing. A Cookeville woman left her home on Free Hill Road for about fifteen minutes on Thursday evening and as she was unlocking her front door when she returned, she heard someone slamming out the back door. She also found a pile of her stuff on the floor by the back door -- including a DVD player, a computer, a PS2, and a VCR. She says it doesn't appear that anything was stolen but the kitchen cabinets had been opened and the place pretty well ransacked. Authorities say the thief may have left behind some prints in his hurry to leave.

What's Next for Avery Trace Bombers

An August 20 trial has now been set for two Cookeville teenagers, charged in connection with making an explosive device that went off at Avery Trace Middle School earlier this month. The 14- and 15-year-old boys had been held for the past week in the county's juvenile detention center without bond, but at a hearing Thursday, Judge John Hudson set a $10,000 bond for each of the suspects -- and also set out some fairly restrictive bond conditions. The two boys are not to have contact with each other and they are to remain under house arrest until their next court appearance. That means they cannot leave their homes -- even if they stay on the property -- unless they have adult supervision. If they leave their property, they must remain, at all times, within arms reach of an adult or guardian. Court officials say the Department of Children's Services will be monitoring the children to make sure they're meeting the terms of their release. The judge also ordered mental evaluations for both to be conducted between now and their trial date in August. Restitution for the school system and the involvement of law enforcement agencies is also being looked at as the case proceeds. The mothers of the two boys have each hired attorneys to represent them. The teenagers are charged with reckless endangerment and possession of a prohibited weapon. They are accused of putting household-type chemicals into a two-liter soda bottle and causing a reaction that created a loud explosion in a trash can at Avery Trace. As it happens, that incident took place on the same day that a school resource officer at Cookeville High School found an old blasting cap near the football field at that school, and officials decided to evacuate both schools -- a total of some 3,000 students -- in order to ensure thier safety. Officials say they don't think the two cases are otherwise related.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Latest News

State Representative Henry Fincher of Cookeville says legislation requiring Tennessee health care providers to release a minor child’s medical test results to their parents does not go far enough to protect children and to meet the requirements of federal law. Fincher offered an amendment that would have allowed physicians 10 days to comply with a records request and required parents to pay for obtaining documents. But that amendment failed by a 5-7 vote in the House Judiciary Committee, while the bill itself was passed on a 7-5 vote. The Senate version of the bill was deferred in a Senate committee to next week.

If you’ve ever dreamed of having your own business, a free seminar that will be presented this month by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Cookeville could help you turn that dream into a reality. "How to Start a Business" is the title of the seminar that will be presented from 2 to 4 p.m. next Tuesday, May 19, at Progressive Savings Bank, located on Interstate Drive. Led by Vicki Henley, the seminar will address topics of interest to potential entrepreneurs and new small business owners. Those topics include business startup basics, business structures, challenges for startups, business planning, cash needs, and financing options. Although admission is free, registration is encouraged and can be done by visiting the web site at http://www.tsbdc.org/ or calling 372-3648.

Students and colleagues of Tennessee Tech University’s 2009 Outstanding Faculty Awards say the three are the tightrope walkers of their fields, displaying incredible balance in their teaching, research and service. Shannon Collins and Susan Gore, both assistant professors of curriculum and instruction, have been named recipients of the Outstanding Faculty Awards in Teaching. Jessica O. Matson, professor of industrial and systems engineering, has been awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award in Professional Service. The three award winners received cash prizes and plaques during TTU’s spring commencement ceremonies last week.

A recent tour of Tennessee Tech University gave students in Jackson County High School’s Future Business Leaders of America organization a glimpse of what it might be like to be a college business student. The idea originated from Cheryl Montgomery, a native of Jackson County who now works as the director of development in T-T-U’s College of Business.The tour brought sixteen students and club sponsor Kristy Chaffin to campus. They learned about the different degree concentrations within the College of Business, while having the opportunity to interact with and ask questions of faculty and student ambassadors. It was such a positive experience, according to Amy Jo Carpenter, coordinator of the Student to Career program in the College of Business and event organizer, that she hopes to see the event expand in the future to F-B-L-A clubs at other high schools.For more information, you can call Carpenter at 372-6198.

Authorities in McMinnville say the District Attorney will determine whether criminal charges should be brought in the deaths of two children who perished in a fire this week. Funeral services for the two will be held Saturday. Authorities are reportedly investigating allegations that the children's father and stepmother were not at home when the blaze broke out.

A school bus crash in Celina on Thursday afternoon sent seven students to local hospitals. Officials say it happened when a vehicle ran into the back of the school near the intersection of Highway 53 North and Mimosa Lane. The driver of the vehicle and several students were taken to the Cumberland River Hospital and Livingston Regional Hospital with non-critical injuries. Most of those aboard the school bus were elementary students from the Celina K-8 School.

A May 22nd arraignment date has been set for some two dozen people in DeKalb County, who were arrested this week after being indicted on drug charges. Authorities say the indictments came after an undercover investigation in which officers were able to by both prescription drugs and marijuana.Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess is seeking the public's help to find an endangered runaway. 16-year-old Kellie Ann Lynn went missing Wednesday night. The sheriff's office reports Lynn had an argument with her aunt and uncle about boys before she disappeared. Anyone with information about her whereabout is asked to call Cumberland County sheriff's office.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Latest News

A Cookeville man is one of two people arrested this week in a home invasion case out of East Tennessee. Authorities say 24-year-old Tommy Wayne Garrett of Cookeville was charged along with two other men with forcing their way into a home in Claiborne County, north of Knoxville, Tuesday night. Claiborne County sheriff's deputies say the incident happened around 6 p.m. Tuesday night. The victim, a 58-year-old woman, said the men demanded her medication. And they say she threw things at them until they left, carrying an as-yet unknown amount of her property. When deputies tracked down the suspects in that home invasion, they also found a vehicle sought in connection with a convenience store robbery, along with other evidence from that robbery. Garrett is also charged with especially aggravated robbery in that case. He is being held on a $250,000 bond. A spokesman for the sheriff's office says he believes the crimes were drug-related.

Putnam County's budget committee chairman says the group "shouldn't have any great surprises going forward." The committee has asked department to present zero-increase budgets for the upcoming year, along with plans that would implement three percent and five percent cuts. The county's budget coordinator, Debby Francis, says the road department, the school system, and the non-profit agencies have all submitted their plans and says "most everybody has been real good about not asking for an increase." The committee will meet Monday night to discuss a schedule for making decisions on next year's budget.


Charges of murder, arson and aggravated assault are pending against an Overton County man, who allegedly killed two family members Wednesday morning in a dispute over land. That according to TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm. Authorities say Kevin D. Clark killed his brother and mother and then held police in a standoff. They say Kevin Clark had apparently gotten into a fight with his brother, Roy, at a home on Hassler Road, which is off the Hanging Limb Highway northeast of Monterey. Police said the argument escalated and Clark shot and killed his brother and then his mother, Veda, who was also at the home. After shooting and killing his family members, police said Clark set their house on fire and ran to his home a few blocks away. Clark then barricaded himself inside his home and shot at police during a standoff. Derrick Ledbetter, an Overton County sheriff's deputy was grazed in the left shoulder by a bullet. Clark was finally arrested after being talked out of the home by a local preacher.



Burgess Falls State Park will offer a series of day camps this summer for young people who will be entering the fourth or fifth grade in the 2009-2010 school year. Both a basic Ranger Camp and an advanced camp will be offered. In addition, several "mini" camp sessions will be held for students entering the first, second and third grade in the upcoming school year. Park manager Bill Summers says that class topics for Junior Rangers enrolled in the basic program include Reptiles and Amphibians, Aquatics, Birds of Prey, Insects and Spiders, Ecology and Introduction to Biological Research. An advanced Junior Ranger 2 program also will be offered for those who have completed the basic camp. Advanced class topics include Basic Hiking and Camping Workshops, Map and Compass, Organic Gardening, and Advanced Aquatics. There is a $20 non-refundable fee per student for the basic Junior Ranger day camp and a $25 fee for the advanced Junior Ranger 2 program. For more information or to request a registration packet, call the park office at 432-5312.



The newest grocery store in Cookeville will have its grand opening later this week. Officials with Food Lion say they will have a grand opening in their newly renovated location at 377 West Jackson Street on Wednesday, May 20th, starting at 8 am. The space was abandoned a couple of years ago when the Bi-Lo store closed down. Food Lion also has a store on the east side of Cookeville on Spring Street. Store manager Barry Shelton says the hours at the new location will be 7 am to 11 pm.



Basketball player Zac Swansey of the University of Georgia is transferring to Tennessee Tech next year. The Bulldogs' sophomore point guard started 17 of 31 games last season, but was said to be unhappy over the firing of coach Dennis Felton. He said he chose the Golden Eagles over Dayton and the College of Charleston. He will have to sit out next season as part of the NCAA’s transfer rule and will have two years of eligibility remaining. Tech is coached by Mike Sutton, a longtime Tubby Smith assistant who was with him at Georgia. The Gorlden Eagles, who were 12-and-18 last year, will graduate two senior guards after next season.

The Latest News

A land dispute apparently led to the deaths of two people in Overton County Wednesday morning. The Tennessee Highway Patrol said a man killed his brother and mother and then held police in a standoff. Police said Kevin D. Clark got into a fight with his brother, Roy, at a home on Hassler Road near Monterey. Police said the argument escalated and Clark shot and killed his brother and then his mother, who was also at the home. After shooting and killing his family members, police said Clark set their house on fire and ran to his home a few blocks away. Clark then barricaded himself inside his home and shot at police during a standoff. An Overton County sheriff's deputy was grazed in the left shoulder by a bullet, according to Dale Welch, editor & publisher of the Hilltop Express newspaper. Clark was finally arrested after being talked out of the home by a local preacher. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Latest News

State representative Henry Fincher of Cookeville says he is pleased that Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey is giving up an effort to change the way supreme court judges are appointed in Tennessee. Ramsey says he’s backing off of a proposal to have Tennessee Supreme Court justices stand in contested re-election campaigns. A compromise measure now under consideration would give the House and Senate speakers sole discretion over who serves on a judicial nominating commission, and would replace the yes-no wording on election ballots with words "retain" or "replace." Justices who lose their retention votes could then be challenged in contested elections. Fincher says he looks forward to working with Ramsey to keep judicial selection fair and impartial." The current system of selecting judges is set to expire at the end of June.

Aggravated assault charges have been filed against a Cookeville man, who allegedly shot several air gun pellets at another man in the Tractor Supply Company parking lot early one morning. The victim described his attacker as a man driving a black Honda Civic with temporary tags, and police say they pulled that car over a few blocks away from the scene. One of the occupants, identified as 21-year-old Joshua Cain Jones of Virginia Avenue, allegedly had an air pistol on him and admitted to the shooting, saying that people who hang out in that parking lot tend to pick on the victim and his friends. In addition to the assault charge, Cain was cited for vandalism because some of the pellets hit the victim, while others damaged a car.

Two Davidson County residents have been charged with dealing drugs in Cookeville after a police officer checked out a suspicious vehicle parked behind the Dollar General store on West Jackson Street. According to a report by Officer Brandon Tayes, the vehicle was parked in a dark area of the lot and was backed in. When he went to check on the occupants, he found 26-year-old Jacques Sheray Johnson and 21-year-old Aquincy Carmond Dickson, both of Bell Road in Nashville. He says they kept giving conflicting stories, so he asked if he could search the car. Jones says that search turned up a plastic panel in the vehicle that had been tampered with. Inside the panel was a black bag with 13 pills in it. He says there were also large amounts of cash wadded up and lying on the floor board. Johnson allegedly admitted that the pills belonged to her and was arrested. As she was being searched before going to jail, police say they found one bag of crack cocaine and a bag of powder cocaine on her -- totalling some 19 and a half grams. Dickson was also charged with possession of drugs for resale after police found a rock of crack cocaine where he had been sitting in the car. The vehicle, $1275 in cash, and the drugs were all seized because they were "believed to be tools and proceeds of illegal drug sales."

The White Plains area of Putnam County has been nominated for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. The state Review Board will meet two weeks from today to discuss whether White Plains and nine other historic sites meet the criteria for being placed on the Register. Jackson County High School is also under consideration. The Review Board is composed of 13 people with backgrounds in American history, architecture, archaeology or related fields. It also includes members representing the public. The National Register program was authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. White Plains, located today near Algood School, was first settled by the Burton and Quarles families in the early 1800s.

Monday, May 11, 2009

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The debate continues over whether an expansion to the Putnam County jail should be located right next to the current jail or at some offsite location. The county's planning committee Monday night approved a recommendation from the Land and Facilities committee that an offsite location be pursued. But the vote was only 6 to 5 in favor of that motion. A move to have the county begin taking bids on a proposal to expand the existing jail failed on a 5 to 6 vote. Proponents of moving the jail offsite say that doing so is the least expensive option, while those who want to expand the existing jail argue that the cost of transporting inmates and operating two separate facilities outweighs the initial increased construction cost. The full county commission will debate the issue once again next week -- a full 14 months after the state fire marshal first declared the jail to be overcrowded and ordered some inmates removed.

The jail overcrowding problem in Putnam County is not being helped much by people who get out of jail -- either on bond or on probation -- and then violate the conditions of their release. The sheriff's department arrested a total of 17 people over the weekend on charges of either violating their probation or failing to appear in General Sessions court. When defendants fail to appear, they are picked up and held until authorities can get them before a judge and officials say most of those arrested were brought to court Monday morning to try to work things out. In one case, a man was brought to Cookeville from Cheatham County for failing to pay $198 in court costs. In another case, the defendant had failed to pay nearly $6,000.

An Algood man is facing 4th offense DUI charges after being stopped for allegedly driving drunk early Saturday morning. The sheriff's department says they got a call about a possibly drunk driver around 3 am. Sgt. Joe Nash says he observed a vehicle fitting the description weaving across Old Kentucky Road. He stopped it and found 53-year-old Roger Allen Farley of Phillips Street in Algood to be the driver. He says Farley was very unsteady on his feet and smelled of an alcoholic beverage, but refused to take any field sobriety tests. He was booked into the jail under a four thousand dollar bond and will be in court on June 15th.

A man who works as a physican in Cookeville is now charged with raping a patient in his office earlier this year. A grand jury has indicted 53-year-old Rexford Agbenohevi after police investigated claims by a 30-year-old woman. According to the indictment, the rape happened back on January 27th. The doctor turned himself in to the Putnam County jail, and was released after posting bond. Agbenohevi is from Ghana and has an internal medicine practice on North Washington Avenue. He graduated from the University of Ghana medical school in 1985 and did an internship at Meharry Medical School in Nashville. He'll be arraigned in Criminal Court later this month.

A May 18th arraignment in Criminal Court has been scheduled for a Cookeville couple, charged with aggravated child abuse. Police say an eight-year-old boy, who was taken to the hospital in February after suffering from seizures, was diagnosed with a brain injury commonly associated with what's called "shaken baby syndrome." Cookeville police detective Bobby Anderson investigated the case, along with the Department of Children's Services, which decided to remove the boy and another child from the home. They took evidence in the case to a grand jury which issued an indictment against the boy's mother, 28-year-old Nicole Aaron Walton and her boyfriend 32-year-old Jeremy Joseph Bushey, both of Freehill Road. The indictment alleges that the injuries took place between February 3 and February 17 and that they were inflicted by "other than accidental means."


The Putnam County sheriff's department says people working for the U-S Census Bureau may be spooking some local residents. The department has answered several calls over the past few days of either suspicious persons or suspicious vehicles. In some cases, deputies were unable to locate anything suspicious, but -- in at least one incident -- reported on Long Lane -- Deputy Bo Sherrell came across a Cookeville man who told him that he was working for the Census Bureau getting GPS coordinates for a map the Bureau is putting together. Sherrell said the man had the proper credentials, but understood why his activities -- walking along the road after dark -- might have been considered suspicious. And the Census Bureau says anyone who is legitimately working for them SHOULD have proper ID and credentials.

The Upper Cumberland Development District is one of four Tennessee recipients who will receive grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to help them assess and cleanup sites known as Brownfields. Officials say brownfields are defined as areas that may be contaminated by hazardous chemicals or pollutants. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation assists communities in the application process, and applications are made directly from the communities to EPA. The Upper Cumberland Development District was awarded $400,000 ($200,000 for petroleum, $200,000 for hazardous substances) for a community-wide assessment to help the region move forward with cleanup and redevelopment activities. Brownfields are sites where expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.

A Putnam County teenager has his mother to thank for some time he spent in the booking room of the county jail over the weekend. Deputy Sonny Farley says the case began when a resident of Fisk Road heard a noise outside and looked out to see a couple of boys who had just hit his mailbox quickly driving away. The victim got into his own vehicle and followed the truck, getting a tag number which he relayed to police. When that number and its information was put out over the police radio, it was heard by the mother of one of the boys, who called her son and told him to go to the sheriff's department. But it turns out he wasn't actually involved. He had loaned his truck to two other boys -- one of whom admitted to hitting the mailbox while the other drove. But since the only apparent damage was to the door of the mailbox, which was snapped back on, police decided against bringing charges -- so long as they didn't get any other complaints of mailbox vandalism in that area that night.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

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Putnam County's juvenile court judge says he wants to have another hearing before deciding whether or not to set bail for two teenagers charged in connection with the explosion of a soda bottle at Avery Trace Middle School. Judge John Hudson has scheduled that hearing for this Thursday. Police say the two boys -- ages 14 and 15 -- are charged with manufacturing a prohibited weapon and with reckless endangerment. They allegedly purchased some household chemicals which they mixed together in a two-liter plastic bottle last week. The chemical mixture caused a loud explosion, but no one was hurt. The two suspects were arrested the next day and have been suspended from school. Their mothers are reportedly going to hire lawyers to represent the boys in the case against them.

A May 18th arraignment has been set for a White County man -- facing more than one hundred charges of sexual abuse. Authorities say 53-year-old Selby Seals of Gooseneck Road in Doyle, Tennessee, was arrested on 125 counts of sexual-related charges. Seals has been charged with 15 counts of child rape, 70 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, and 40 counts of aggravated sexual battery. Seals worked as a piano teacher, a tutor and a basketball coach. The sheriff's department says their investigation shows that Seals abused multiple victims -- some younger than 13 years of age. Friends of the suspect claim that his accusers are motivated by a dispute over money.

Putnam County's Adult Drug Court will be honoring its graduates in a ceremony scheduled for later this week. Drug Court coordinator Tammy Holmes says the graduation ceremony will take place Thursday afternoon at five o'clock in the General Sessions Court of the Justice Center. That date was chosen, in part, to celebrate May as National Drug Court Month. The drug court allows individuals to avoid jail time if they follow an intensive program intended to help them stay away from illegal substances.

The bids are in and the Tennessee Department of Transportation has identified the apparent lowest bidders on the state’s second round of infrastructure projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The latest round of projects include the resurfacing of about five miles of Dodson Branch Road from north of Tennessee Tech all the way to the Jackson County line -- a project which the state wants completed on or before September 30, 2009. T-DOT also plans to repave Interstate 40 from the Smith County line up to the Smithville exit 273. Highways, Incorporated, is the apparent low bidder on both projects. They put in a bid of 1.7 million dollars for the I-40 project and one of just under $800,000 for the Dodson Branch Road work.

A White County woman has been charged with TennCare fraud for obtaining prescription medications she intended to sell by using TennCare to pay for the drugs. The Office of Inspector General announced the arrest of 20-year-old Tiffany Archer of Sparta. Archer was arrested on an indictment accusing her of fraudulently obtaining prescriptions for tramadol, a pain medication similar to morphine, and Flexeril, which is a muscle relaxant, using TennCare to pay for the prescriptions with the intent of selling a portion of the pills. TennCare fraud is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison. District Attorney General Randy York is prosecuting.

"It matters who leads" was the theme of the message presented by Tennessee State Sen. Dolores Gresham at Tennessee Tech University’s record-breaking spring commencement at the Hooper Eblen Center over the weekend. With nearly 1,275 graduates earning degrees, it was the largest commencement ceremony yet in TTU’s history. Gresham told graduates that collections of things are managed, but groups of people are led. "And who is leading them is as important as how they are led," she said. Students graduating from TTU this spring hail from 26 states including Tennessee, 76 Tennessee counties and 18 foreign countries. They represent 43 undergraduate fields of study and 23 graduate fields. Birth dates of graduates ranged from 1945 to 1988.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

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"We're spinning our wheels." That's what county commissioner Eris Bryant said Thursday night as the county's land and facilities committee passed a motion to recommend that the county pursue an offsite location for a new county jail. County commissioner Mike Atwood agreed, saying the "votes aren't there" for that recommendation to pass the full county commission. In fact, it appears at this point that the commission is evenly divided over whether to build onto the current jail or to build on another piece of property in the county. Commissioner Jim Martin says, whatever is done, it should be "legally adequate only" building with "no bells and whistles." He says that he is concerned about the potential cost involved in adding on to the current jail, saying that it may be possible to get something built much cheaper at another site.

After twice rejecting the idea, the Putnam County school board has now decided to go forward with a pilot project in which schools in Cookeville and Algood will be on a staggered starting schedule next year. Transportation director Terry Randolph says the new schedule will result in a one-time savings to the school system of some $500,000. And schools director Kathleen Airhart says that means she will not have to lay off 19 teacher assistants in order to balance next year's budget. But school board member Jerry Maynard remained skeptical of the idea, saying that such a big change could be "disruptive" to students and their parents. Dr. Airhart says one concern that has already been addressed in putting together the staggered schedule is the need to have older children arrive home before the younger children get there.

A year-long investigation into the illegal sale of drugs in Putnam County has resulted in the indictment of some 30 people, ranging in age from 25 to 80 years old. Authorities say the 80-year-old was indicted for selling morphine, and they say the investigation focused on the misuse of prescription drugs as well as the sale of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. About two-thirds of the people indicted have been picked up so far and they include residents of Cookeville, Baxter, Sparta, Monterey, Livingston and Gainesboro. They will be arraigned in Criminal Court later this month.

Tennessee lawmakers debated a bill Thursday that would let a person recoup child support payments if he's proven not to have fathered the child, but ultimately sent the measure back to the judiciary committee. The bill would allow a person found not to be the father of a child, or children, to recover all child support payments from the actual biological father. The individual could also be awarded court costs and attorney fees. But several Democrats argued that it would be unfair for the legal father to seek restitution for his child support payments from the actual biological father if there were a drastic difference in their salaries. Opponents also said the bill does not address whether the legal father would have to pay back taxes for the years he claimed the child as a dependent. And Representaive Henry Fincher of Cookeville said if the bill does not pass, the issue will be decided by judges in courts.

The Cookeville city council held another budget work session Thursday afternoon, discussing the spending plans for Cookeville Regional Medical Center, as well as the water, electric and sewer departments. They looked at proposals for other departments earlier this week. City officials say, at this point, they don't anticipate any property tax increase being necessary to fund next year's budget, in spite of the fact that sales tax revenues are down. The budget for next year has no cost of living increases for city employees and no capital expenditures. It also takes more than $200,000 from the city's fund balance -- in part to help pay for the next phase of the construction of Dogwood Park. City officials say the fund balance would still remain above five million dollars.

The Tennessee Tech baseball team will honor its seniors this weekend, as the Golden Eagles host Jacksonville State in their final home series of the season to wrap up Ohio Valley Conference play May 9 and 10. The Golden Eagles and Gamecocks will square off in a double-header beginning Saturday at 1 p.m., and finish with a single game on Sunday starting at 1 p.m. Tech enters the weekend at 7-11-1 in league play, and is currently tied for seventh place, just a half game behind Eastern Kentucky for the sixth and final spot in the OVC tournament. Tech owns the tie-breaker over the Colonels, who have the league’s top two teams, Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri, on the last two weeks of their conference schedule.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

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The evacuations Wednesday of two Putnam County schools went as smoothly as could be expected, according to director of schools Dr. Kathleen Airhart. Airhart says she decided to evacuate students at Cookeville High School after the school resource officer found some wiring that appeared to be a detonator or blasting cap near the visitor's side of the school's football field. She says there was no bomb threat and no indication that anything was in the building but officials decided to search the school as a precaution. And -- as the CHS evacuation was taking place -- Airhart got another call from Avery Trace Middle School, where a plastic soda bottle had exploded in a garbage can in a commons area. She says there were no students or anyone else nearby at the time. But Airhart says some students who are suspected in the Avery Trace incident are being questioned by authorities. She says that she does NOT believe the two incidents were related.

The Putnam County school board will be updated Thursday on the progress being made on several school construction projects. Officials say -- in spite of the rain -- they expect to have both a new Algood School and the renovated Jere Whitson School ready to open for the 2009-2010 academic year. The board will also hear about the status of a new kindergarten through eighth grade school being built off Jefferson Avenue, south of I-40 and will get an update on renovations needed to turn the old Algood School into an adult education center. School flooring replacement projects for Sycamore, Cane Creek and Baxter Elementary schools are also on the agenda.

The Cookeville city council has a relatively light agenda as they meet Thursday night in regular session. They'll be holding a public hearing on an ordinance which would establish architectural design requirements for new construction in town and they'll also have a public hearing as they discuss the rezoning of three pieces of property on Stout Street from residential to commercial. Purchases and expenditures for the electric department and the water department round out the agenda.

State representative Henry Fincher of Cookeville says he supports a new bill called the Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act. It basically exempts guns made and sold in Tennessee from federal regulation, because they never cross the state line. Fincher says 35 other states have considered or passed similar legislation. The bill was approved Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee and is still pending in the Senate.

Putnam County's land and facilities committee is meeting Thursday afternoon to take yet another look at the recommendations of an architect who is working on a jail expansion project for the county. Some jail inmates have been housed in other counties for more than a year now, after the state fire marshal's office ruled that the local jail was too overcrowded. At last month's county commission meeting, some members wanted to move forward with a plan to expand the jail out into the parking lot of the current justice center. But other commissioners say that any recommendation on what to do should first be reviewed by the land and facilities committee, which is also considering the space needs of several other county offices.

A domestic disturbance call this week led Cookeville police to arrest a man who will now be spending the next four years in jail. Police say 43-year-old Barry Kevin Dowell of Gibson Avenue was found in an apartment on Washington Avenue where the domestic situation was taking place. Dowell was wanted on a criminal court capias and what's called a mittimus. That's a court order directing a sheriff or other police officer to escort a convict to a prison.

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There was a bit of chaos at two Putnam County schools today as some 3,000 students from Avery Trace Middle School and Cookeville High School were evacuated to Tennessee Tech's Hooper Eblen Center. Assistant Superintendant Mike Goolsby said the decision was made after an assistant principal at CHS found what might have been an old blasting cap on the grounds of the school about 8:30 Wednesday morning. About ten minutes after that, the principal at Avery Trace Middle School reported a small explosion that might have come from a plastic bottle in a restroom at the school. Parents were told that they could pick up their students at Eblen Center starting at 11am. School officials are still working to identify exactly what materials were found.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

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The third time may be the charm. After twice rejecting a proposal that would have had schools in Putnam County using a staggered starting schedule, the school board Thursday night will take up the issue once again. This time, the staggered start schedule is being proposed ONLY for Cookeville and Algood schools and is being described as a "pilot project." Proponents of the move say it could save the school system half a million dollars in transportation costs in a time when budgets are tight, but opponents are skeptical of those cost savings and say the confusion and inconvenience of a staggered schedule would not be popular with the public.

Yet another work session has been scheduled for Thursday as the Cookeville city council tries to put together a budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Like most local governments, they are dealing with declining tax revenues. City officials are also considering a change in the rate structure for water department customers, which would cause a price hike for most folks next year, but could give a price break to individuals who use less than 2000 gallons a month. The budget work session -- the second one this week -- will be held at the city's gas department building.

The city manager was fired, and now the city attorney has resigned. Algood city attorney Steven Randolph submitted a letter of resignation just hours after a specially called meeting in which the council voted to terminate Freddie Maxwell as the city manager. He did not cite a reason for the resignation, but said that he had enjoyed working for the city. Steven Randolph is the son of Bobby Randolph, one of three Algood council members who voted to fire Maxwell. Meanwhile, those organizing a recall petition against Randolph, Mayor Patt Judd and council member Ruby Hawkins say they should have enough signatures in a couple of days to be able to turn those petitions in at the county's election commission office. According to the Algood city charter, at least half of the people who voted in the last election would have to sign a petition for removal to force the issue onto a ballot in which the entire population could vote for or against a recall.

Monterey's Hilltop Express newspaper reports that the town of Monterey is officially "past due" on a $300,000 loan that was used to pay for the interstate lighting project. According to the paper, Monterey Mayor Richard Godsey is working it out with the bank to stretch out payments. He says a former board used money intended to pay off the loan to instead pay for construction of the Farmer's Market and a new garage. The Bank of Putnam County holds the note on the lighting project and would have to approve any extension of time to pay it back.

Congressman Bart Gordon has announced that the City of Algood will be receiving $2.98 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a sewer line extension project. The USDA’s Rural Development agency awarded the $2.98 million in the form of a loan/grant combination. The city will use the funding to construct 37,000 linear feet of sewer lines and install two new pumping stations that will serve an estimated 373 Algood residents. As things stand, about 650 residents do not have access to the City’s public sewer service. The sewer line extension project will provide sewage access in and around the Bear Creek community north of State Highway 111.

Tennessee Tech University is organizing several local service projects in counties close to campus throughout the summer. Officials say a program called "Get Back with Tech" allows students and people from the surrounding counties to team up over the summer. For example, in Warren County, volunteers will work with Rotary Friends of the River on a clean-up of Barren Fork River. Work begins on May 16. In Putnam County, volunteers (including high school students from Governor’s School) will work at the Happy Haven Home for Girls. They will do maintenance, landscaping, trail building, and other jobs working directly with residents. Work will begin on June 13. In Cumberland County, 10-17 volunteers are needed to conduct tourism surveys for economic development. The surveys will help the community set realistic tourism goals for the future. Work will begin on June 27. And in Macon County, volunteers will help the Post-Secondary Education Team with basic computer training, resume building and job applications.