Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Latest News

"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.