Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jackson County Man Arrested on Drug Charges

August 17th is the court date scheduled for a Jackson County man arrested in Cookeville after he was allegedly observed dealing drugs from his car. Police say 30-year-old Steven Dewayne Baker of Gainesboro was pulled over after authorities received a tip from another law enforcement officer, who had seen Baker conduct a number of transactions that were believed to be drug deals. Officer Mitch Harrington made the stop and says that he could see cash and pills sticking out of Baker's pocket as he approached the vehicle. The pills turned out to be more that a hundred tablets of Dilaudid -- a commonly abused prescription drug. Police say they also found ten unopened hypodermic needles in the car.

Gun Charge Bound Over to Grand Jury

Aggravated assault charges against a Putnam County man have been bound over to the grand jury. A preliminary hearing was held this week for 67-year-old Bud Collins of Springboro Road who is accused of firing a handgun near his neighbor's property last month. Authorities say the incident occurred on June 13th when Collins, who was allegedly intoxicated, came to the fence between his yard and his neighbor's, and pointed a gun at the man, his grandson and another neighbor who came out to investigate when he heard shots fired. If the grand jury chooses to indict him, Collins will be back in court in September. Right now, he is free on a $300,000 bond.

Driveway Scammers Indicted

They've known their names for several weeks. Now, police say they have arrested the two individuals involved in a series of driveway paving scams in the Cookeville area. 26-year-old Glen Wiley Stamper of Cookeville and 34-year-old Tara Marie Stewart of Mt. Juliet have been indicted on ten counts of theft. Police say the two cheated several individuals out of money by offering to pave their driveways, but never returning to do the job. Stamper is already jailed in Nashville on other charges. Stewart was arrested Wednesday night. They'll both be arraigned in Putnam County criminal court September 21st.

Vol State Livingston "Rocks" Registration

Barbecue, video games and rock and roll were the attraction for new students at Volunteer State Community College at Livingston. They turned out to register for classes and have some fun during the recent “Registration Rocks” event. Fall classes start on August 31 and there is still time to apply. Call 931- 823-7065 for more information. Go to or visit the campus to get started. Vol State is located at 113 Windle Community Drive in Livingston. In the picture included here, Dakota Hickey of Sparta helps to greet new students. The Vol State President’s Ambassador is headed to Tennessee Tech University this fall.

Cookeville Gets "Main Street" Grant

Cookeville's CityScape program has been awarded $15,000 in what's called a "Main Street" Innovation grant. The money will reportedly be used for website development and downtown publications. Cookeville is one of 22 Main Street programs across the state to receive the funding through the Department of Economic Development. Tennessee has participated as a coordinating partner in the National Main Street Program since 1983. The program requires communities to meet requirements before becoming certified, including broad-based support for downtown revitalization through local citizens and government involvement, financial commitment, organizational structure, potential, previous history of downtown activities and a comprehensive understanding of the Main Street "Approach to Revitalization."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

TTU Student Named to Board of Regents

Gov. Phil Bredesen has announced the appointment of Sean Ochsenbein, a pre-medicine student majoring in biology at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, as student representative on the Tennessee Board of Regents for 2009-2010. Ochsenbein begins serving on the board immediately, and his term will continue until June 30, 2010.Ochsenbein is a Cookeville resident and is the 2009-2010 TTU Student Government Association president and the Rotaract President-Elect. Ochsenbein served as a freshman and sophomore senator in the Student Government Association as well as chairing the Student Affairs Committee. An Eagle Scout and holder of a 2nd degree black belt in karate, he serves on the Putnam County Rescue Squad and is a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity at Tennessee Tech.Ochsenbein graduated from Cookeville High School in 2007 with a 4.0 grade point average. He was senior class president, Interact president, and the 2006 Governor of Tennessee American Legion Boy's State. The Tennessee Board of Regents oversees the TBR system, which is the nation's sixth largest higher education system, governing 45 post-secondary educational institutions. The TBR system includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 26 technology centers, providing programs in 90 of Tennessee's 95 counties to over 180,000 students.

TTU "Best In Southeast"

Tennessee Tech University is one of the best colleges and universities in the Southeast according to The Princeton Review, which selected TTU for the sixth consecutive year. The education services company selected the school as one of 141 institutions it recommends in its "Best in the Southeast" section of its recently released web site feature 2010 Best Colleges: Region by Region. TTU remains one of only five public universities in the state to earn the designation.

“It is always satisfying to see national organizations recognize the academic quality and supportive campus environment that our students, faculty and staff work to create every day,” said TTU President Bob Bell. “Even through difficult budget times, we always strive to make the student experience in every area a great one, and this type of recognition reflects the caring attitude that permeates our university.”

Princeton Review chooses schools based on institutional data collected from several hundred schools in each region, visits to schools over the years, and opinions of independent and high school-based college advisers.

"We chose Tennessee Tech and the other terrific schools we recommend as our 'regional best' colleges primarily for their excellent academic programs,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review's vice president of publishing. “We also work to have our roster of 'regional best' colleges feature a range of institutions by size, selectivity, character and locale.”

The Princeton Review does not rank the colleges in its 2010 Best Colleges Region by Region website section. The Princeton Review survey for this project asks students to rate their own schools on several issues -- from the accessibility of their professors to quality of the campus food -- and answer questions about themselves, their fellow students, and their campus life. Actual comments from surveyed students pepper each Princeton Review college profile on its site. This year, student comments included satisfaction with the affordability of the university as well as academic quality and the surrounding community.

"Tennessee Tech offers a good education for a steal of a price,” said one student. “There are free and very helpful tutoring labs around campus” and “The professors are generally good” and “will talk individually with you about anything you need,” said others. If you enjoy the outdoors, “there is constantly something to do in the area,” said another.

The 141 colleges The Princeton Review chose for its "Best in the Southeast" designations are located in twelve states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. “Regional best(s)" represent only about 25 percent of the nation's 2,500 four-year colleges.

Fire Leads to Charges

An August 17th court date has been set for two Cookeville men accused of causing damage to a city gas pipeline. Police say 23-year-old William Earl Harris, the Second, of Shipley School Road and 18-year-old Keenen Jesse Cartwright of North Chestnut Street are charged with reckless endangerment and setting fire to personal property. The two allegedly set fire to a mattress that was located under a bridge on West Spring Street, near Carr Avenue. Not only did they destroy the mattress, they also melted a nearby city gas line, and officials say that could have led to an explosion if firefighters had not been able to put the blaze out quickly. Police say the two tell conflicting stories about just why the mattress was set on fire.

Robber Foiled by Would-Be Victim

A Putnam County man is facing charges of aggravated robbery today -- after being chased down by a man he allegedly tried to hold up. Police say 23-year-old Nicholas C. Herron of Mill Pond Road in Silver Point, allegedly went up to an employee of the McDonald's restaurant early Tuesday morning -- just as that employee was making a night deposit at the Regions Bank on S. Jefferson Ave. Police say Herron's plan was to grab the deposit money at knifepoint from the employee. But that didn't happen because the money had already been deposited. When Herron realized that, he reportedly took off running, but the victim was able to tackle him a short distance away and hold him until police arrived. Herron was also found to have a bag of marijuana of him, police say, and was charged with drug possession as well. He goes to court on the charges August 24th.

Rainfall Causes Some Issues

Weather observers in the Cookeville area say more than nine inches of rain has fallen so far in the month of July. Michael Detwiler, who runs the website says that normally, we average 4.73 inches of precipitation during this month. But he says many local reporting stations have had almost that much rain in just the past few days. One reporting station in Cookeville had 2.49 inches of precipitation recorded for Tuesday. Most others had in excess of two inches. For the year, we stand at about 42 inches of precipitation. Detwiler says typically by the end of July, we've recorded 33.96 inches, so we're already eight inches ahead of normal. Police say the precipitation caused some street flooding Tuesday afternoon, but no serious injuries.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Annexation Moves Forward

The city of Cookeville will be moving forward with a proposed annexation of some property in and around Free Hill Road. The city planning commission Monday night voted, 5-to-3, to recommend the annexation and a plan of services for an area that includes some 90 acres of property and about 120 residents. The issue now goes to the city council for a vote. Some members wanted to postpone action on the issue, at least in part because a handful of the residents who will be affected said that they did not want to be in the city limits and saw no real benefit to it. Also Monday night, the commission OK'd a change in the zoning code to allow electronic reader signs in the neighborhood commercial zone, but only as a special exception. The issue came up after the planning commission last month denied a request from Walgreens to place one of those signs at its new location under construction at the corner of Tenth Street and Washington Avenue.

Rezoning Rejected

Rezoning has been rejected for a piece of property off McCulley Avenue in the eastern part of Cookeville. Developer Tim Huddleston had requested the rezoning from an RS-20 to RS-5 residential zone, so he could construct several new homes. But many of the neighboring property owners turned out at a meeting of the planning commission Monday night to express opposition to a higher density residential zone. Under the current zone, houses would have to be built on at least 20,000 square feet of property. Under the proposed zone, they could be placed on 5,000 square feet. After more than an hour of debate and discussion, the planning commission voted to deny Huddleston's request. He may still appeal to the city council if he chooses.

War Hero Honored

Monterey's Hilltop Express newspaper is reporting that a Senate Joint Resolution, sponsored by State Sen. Charlotte Burks, has now been signed into law by Governor Phil Bredesen naming the bridge section between the 300 and 301 exits of Interstate 40 after US Army Sgt. Alex van Aalten. Van Aalten died in Afghanistan in April of 2007. He was the son of Ed and Susan van Aalten, of Monterey; and the husband of Shana van Aalten. The bridge will now officially be known as the Sgt. Alex van Aalten Memorial Bridge, which -- according to the resolution --is in recognition of the life of valor and death in combat of van Aalten.

Putnam Women Seriously Injured in Wreck

Two Putnam County women were seriously injured in a single-vehicle crash on a rural Cumberland County road over the weekend. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, 32-year-old Jenna Stultz of Cookeville was the most seriously injured. But also being treated is 28-year-old Misty Stultz of Monterey. According to THP Trooper Jack Alderman, the wreck occurred on Jim Garrett Rd. near the Mayland community around 2:20 p.m. Saturday when a 2002 Acura traveling south left the road on the right side, overcorrected and spun out of control, slamming into a ditch and going airborne, flipping over several times. Both occupants were ejected from the vehicle. THP's Critical Incident Response Team is assisting in the investigation, which is continuing, Alderman said. Both victims were airlifted from near the scene and flown to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga.

Insomnia Treatment to be Discussed

Dr. Brian Wind, a specialist in sleep disorders, will be speaking on Thursday, July 30, at 6 pm about "Insomnia - Its Effects and Treatment Options" at the A.W.A.K.E. support group meeting to be held at the Cookeville Community Center. The public is invited to attend. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that includes having trouble falling or staying asleep. Not getting enough sleep can also make you feel depressed or have mood swings. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms: difficulty falling asleep; waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep; waking up too early in the morning and feeling tired upon waking. Sponsored by the Sleep Center at Cookeville Regional, the A.W.A.K.E. support group is for people in the Upper Cumberland area with sleep disorders, and anyone with a sleep disorder is encouraged to attend. People who have CPAP/BIPAP equipment are also urged to bring it in for a free service check-up at the meeting. The A.W.A.K.E. Support Group meets periodically throughout the year. For further information, contact Christopher Clinton at The Sleep Center (931) 646-2753.

Prison Sentence Given To Armed Robber

A Putnam County man will be spending at least three years in prison, and possibly as many as ten years behind bars for the armed robbery of a store in Bloomington Springs last year. 24-year-old Daniel Landon Jackson was given a sentence of 10 years and six months to serve for robbing the Wildwood Market, but will be eligible for parole after serving one third of that time. Jackson was convicted earlier this year of being one of the two masked men who stole a thousand dollars at gunpoint from Wildwood Market in February of 2008. The other suspect, 21-year-old James Dillon Williams of Cookeville, has already pleaded guilty in the case and received an eight-year prison term.

Felony Fugitive Caught

A Putnam County man is expected to be extradited to South Carolina, once he faces charges locally. 29-year-old Robert Gonzalez was arrested for evading police who were looking into a jewelry theft. That's when they found out that he was also wanted on a charge of sexually assaulting a minor. Gonzalez allegedly ran from officers who were trying to question him last week, cutting through several residential yards and the area behing Capshaw School before finally being caught. He is reportedly wanted not only in South Carolina, but also in Michigan -- in addition to the charges he may face in Putnam County.

Local Historic Survey Gets Funding

Governor Phil Bredesen and the Tennessee Historical Commission have announced that Tennessee Tech University is one of nearly two dozen agencies statewide which will receive a total of $579,900 in Historic Preservation Fund grants. The grants have been awarded to 23 community organizations for programs and activities that support the preservation of historic and archaeological sites, districts and structures. They come from federal funds allocated by the Department of Interior under the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act. The programs authorized by this Act are administered by the Tennessee Historical Commission. Tennessee Tech's Upper Cumberland Studies program will get $15,000 to enter historic property survey information into a database. Meanwhile, the Upper Cumberland Development District has been awarded $50,000 to fund a preservation specialist staff position for the area. Officials say this year’s selection process emphasized projects conducting architectural, archaeological and historic site surveys. Such projects are designed to identify and to record historic districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects built before 1960 that are significant to Tennessee's history.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Putnam Jobless Rate Increases Again

Putnam County's unemployment rate is now in the double digits. The jobless rate in June, as reported by the Tennessee Department of Labor, was 10.3 percent, up half a point from the month before. On a year to year basis, it's up three and a half percent over what it was in June of 2008. Officials say there are 48,660 people who make up the labor force in the Cookeville micropolitan area. But in June, nearly 6,000 of them were without a job. Meawnhile, the jobless rate in Jackson County was 14.4 percent; it was 15.3 percent in Overton County; and 15.5 percent in White County.

Murder Case Bound Over to Grand Jury

Second degree murder charges against a Cookeville man have been sent to the Putnam County grand jury, which will determine whether an indictment should be issued. Authorities say Scotty Robinson of Walnut Village Apartments is accused of killing Gerald Randolph in a scuffle over prescription medicine. Robinson's attorney says the shooting should be considered self-defense because Robinson was in his own home protecting his property when it happened. Meanwhile, his daughter testified in a preliminary hearing this week that the gun went off accidentally as the two men were scuffling. Judge John Hudson said there may be some merit to those arguments, but there was also enough probable cause to send the case to the grand jury. He also agreed to reduce Robinson's bond from $250,000 to $40,000.

Traffic Stop Leads to Drug Charge

A man who was stopped by Cookeville police for having a blue tinted cover on his license plate ended up being arrested on a charge of possessing drugs for re-sale. Police officer Josh Ward says the car was violating a state law which prohibits people from having their tags obscured. When he pulled the vehicle over on N. Washington Ave., he noticed that the driver -- identified as 23-year-old Emmitt Daryl Taylor Jr. -- appeared to extremely nervous. A K-9 unit was called to the scene and "indicated" on the vehicle, which led police to conduct a search. They claim they found more than 63 grams of marijuana in a number of different bags in the car. They also say Taylor, who works part-time, had nearly $1,300 in cash on him and that his cell phone was full of text messages from would-be customers. The money, the car, and a handgun found in the trunk of the vehicle were all seized. He'll be in court on the charge Aug. 8.

Autopsy Pending in Death of Cookeville Man

An autopsy has been ordered after a Cookeville man collapsed and died at the Sparta YMCA this week. Officials say 38-year-old Michael Hickey had apparently been going through a training regimen for Jiu-Jitsu when he began to feel short of breath. A few minutes later, he stopped breathing. A friend who was with him was able to re-start his breathing on two occasions using CPR, but Hickey was later pronounced dead at White County Community hospital. Friends say there was nothing unusual about the workout. It could take several several weeks to get the results of the autopsy.

Cookeville Woman Falls Asleep at the Wheel

A Cookeville woman , who had reportedly been on the road for 15 hours, fell asleep Thursday morning as she drove down I-40 in Knoxville, slamming her car into the side of a tractor-trailer rig and forcing closure of the Midway Road exit ramp on westbound Interstate 40. The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports that Elizabeth Martin, 21, and her infant son were not seriously injured in the 4:15 a.m. crash, but as a precaution, Martin and her son were taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center to be examined. THP Trooper Van Morgan investigated the crash. He said Martin was westbound in the far left lane of I-40 when “she fell asleep and drove her Pontiac Sunfire into the side of a tractor trailer in the middle lane.” The impact ruptured a tank on the rig, spilling diesel fuel onto the off-ramp. Morgan said an environmental cleanup crew was called to the scene to remove the fuel from the ramp. Morgan said the driver of the truck was not injured. The truck was hauling paint mixtures from High Point, N.C., to Jeffersonville, Ind.
The trooper said he cited Martin on a charge of not staying in her lane of traffic.

Cookeville High School Still On High Priority List

Because of an error made several years ago in reporting its graduation rate, Cookeville High School remains on what's called a "high priority" list of schools across the state. But, in its annual yearly progress report released Wednesday, the state Department of Education did say that Cookeville High is "improving." In order to be taken off the list, CHS must meet federal standards set up by the No Child Left Behind Act. In fact, the Department of Education said, in a press release, that every Tennessee district that was on the high priority list showed progress and moved into “improving” status. Tennessee measures whether schools and districts are making “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) toward the goal of 100 percent of students being proficient in Reading and Math with a 90 percent high school graduation rate by 2014. Individual schools not meeting benchmarks in the same subject area for two years are considered “high priority” and receive additional support and interventions from the state.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TVs Stolen From Health Department

The building isn't open yet, but thieves have already been stealing from the site of the new Putnam County health department, off S. Willow Ave. According to a report by officer Brian Long, the health department had purchased four 22-inch flat screen TVs with DVD players just last week. Three were mounted to the wall, but one was still in the box when they were stolen. The thief also took an empty TV box. Officials say that while the building is still under construction, the only way to gain access to the TVs would have been key pass or code. They think one of the subcontractors working at the job site may have inadvertently let someone into the building, who claimed to have installed cabinetry there. The suspect is a white male in his 30s with short hair. He reportedly left the area in a beige-colored older model Cadillac, driven by a white female who looked to be in her 50s.

Cancer Patient Victimized By Thieves

A man with terminal cancer, who needs his medications daily, has been victimized by thieves. The man told the sheriff's office this week that a bottle of liquid morphine which he uses to deal with the pain of his cancer had been filled last Friday. It went missing on Tuesday, soon after someone came to visit the man at his home on Edgefield Court. Police are following up on leads in the case. They say prescription pain killers are becoming one of the most abused drugs in the area.

DCS Investigates After Toddler Wanders Away

The Department of Children's Services is looking into a case in which a three-year child was found wandering along a Putnam County road. According to a report by the sheriff's department, the child was alone and dressed only in a T-shirt when he was spotted walking along Herbert Garrett Road. A teenager came out of a nearby home and got the child out of the street, while the passerby called police. Deputies say an investigation revealed that the man who was supposed to be watching the child was apparently outside grilling and had not noticed that the toddler had wandered off. No word yet on whether any charges will be filed.

Putnam Man Has Internet Complaint

A Putnam County man called the sheriff's department this week to complain that someone was using his Internet connection without his permission. But officials told him there wasn't much THEY could do about it. The man, who lives on Lee Seminary Road, wanted to know if there was a law against piggy-backing onto his Internet connection. He said his wireless network was being used by someone who lives across the road from him. Deputies told him that there was no law that they knew of against the activity, but the report doesn't say whether they also told him that he could stop such usage by setting up his computer so that it requires a password to log on to the Internet.

TTU Getting Worldwide Press for Energy Grant

Web sites across the Internet have picked up on the news we first reported last week about a U.S. Department of Energy grant that will be going to Tennessee Tech. Tech has won support from the Department of Energy to develop storage systems and controls for high wind energy projects. A team led by David Wenzhong Gao, assistant electrical and computing engineering professor, model, simulate and analyze new ways to counteract wind fluctuation with energy storage and associated controls. Researchers at TTU have more than $265,000 funding for the two-year project. TTU will create multi-level storage consisting of plug-and-play energy storage modules at different levels of a wind power system, according to a statement. The goal is to balance the various components of a wind energy system including the control center, wind power plant and wind turbine generator.

Planning Begins For Bacchanal 2009

Organizers say you should make plans now to attend Bacchanal 2009: A Celebration of Art, Wine & Food on Sunday, Oct. 25, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. hosted by Spankies Restaurant in Cookeville.
The Bacchanal, presented by the Appalachian Center for Craft and Tennessee Tech University, is a Sunday afternoon must-do during the fall and includes wine and beer tasting, a superb cocktail buffet, live jazz and, of course, the exciting live auction of art and fine craft.
The available for purchase during the auction is donated by generous artists locally, regionally and nationally. Proceeds from the event support student scholarships and art programs at TTU and the Craft Center. The 2009 Bacchanal Scholarship winners are Lyla Nelson, glass major; Lorie Sloan, fibers major; Margarita Surnaite and Alina Surnaite, painting majors; and, Morgan Hooker, art education major. Reservations are $40 per person in advance and $45 at the door on the day of the Bacchanal. For more information or to make reservations, contact Shannon Terry at 931.372.3051 or e-mail

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TTU Has "Outstanding" Engineer

Karen Lykins reports that Tennessee Tech University’s Donald Visco has been honored as a national leader in engineering education by the American Society for Engineering Education. Visco, a chemical engineering professor, accepted ASEE’s National Outstanding Teaching Award at a ceremony in Austin, Texas. Each year the award recognizes an engineering or engineering technology educator for excellence in outstanding classroom performance, contributions to the scholarship of teaching, and participation in ASEE Section meetings and local activities.

“An award at this national level is very special and emphasizes the high quality of our College of Engineering,” said TTU interim Dean of Engineering David Huddleston. “We applaud the fact that Dr. Visco is receiving national recognition for his teaching that has influenced and motivated so many students. While such awards primarily recognize the recipient, this also enhances the reputation of our chemical engineering department and the College of Engineering.”

Many of Visco’s efforts speak to the ASEE’s criteria for the award — diverse, extensive and sustained activities. To cultivate students' intrinsic interest in science and engineering, Visco, with the help of his colleagues, created an Introduction to Chemical Engineering course. Students perform simple, hands-on experiments that relate to a chemical engineering concept that they will see later in their curriculum.

Other ways Visco has contributed to engineering education include his formation of a workshop for new engineering faculty on campus related to education, his service as the ASEE campus representative coordinating Brown Bag lunch seminars on educational topics, and his development of the Chemical Engineering Division of the Southeastern Section of ASEE.
Visco mentors students at all levels, from undergraduates to doctoral candidates, in both technical research and, where applicable, education-based scholarship. Additionally, he has developed a model for using graduate students as co-instructors, not just teaching assistants, in undergraduate classes.

Numerous honors validate Visco’s continued commitment to teaching and research. He received the highly prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for displaying exceptional potential for leadership. He also won a national award for junior faculty of ASEE’s Chemical Division— the Ray Fahien Award. A 2007 Tennessee Tech Outstanding Faculty Award winner, Visco also was the first TTU faculty member to receive the College of Engineering's Leighton E. Sissom Innovation and Creativity Award as well as the Brown-Henderson Outstanding Engineering Faculty Award in the same year. Visco also provides national service to his discipline as division chairperson of ASEE’s Chemical Engineering Division and as 1st vice chairperson of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Education Division.

Gourd Gala Group Getting Geared Up

The third annual Gourd Gala, sponsored by the Upper Cumberland Arts Alliance, will be held on Saturday, July 25, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cumberland Art Society, located at 186 A South Walnut Avenue in Cookeville. Organizers say there will be seeds available and instructions for planting gourds, as well as raw gourds, decorated gourds, demonstrations of cleaning, dying, painting, and decorating gourds. The people who put together the event say that generations ago the gourd was grown in only one or two shapes. They were primarily used for a very functional dipper such as drinking water from a stream or a bucket. Now, there are hundreds of different kind of seeds to make different shapes and sizes. Some gourd lovers use the gourd as an edible vegetable as well as making them into birdhouses or other decorative items. The admission to the gourd gala is free.

Why You Should Stay Seated During A Traffic Stop

A man who allegedly couldn't stay seated during a traffic stop by Cookeville police is now facing charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Police say 51-year-old Donald Lee Thompson of Freehill Road was a passenger in a vehicle which was stopped for having expired tags. Thompson got out of the car when the driver pulled over and was told by officers to get back in the vehicle. Police say he complied momentarily, but then decided to get back out of the car a second time. Police once again told him to stay in the vehicle, and -- according to the report -- he once again sat down, only to get back out a third time. This time, police claim he was cursing and yelling and refused to sit back down. He ended up being tasered after allegedly slapping away attempts to cuff him.

Putnam Sheriff Seeks Grant To Fight Child Porn

The Putnam County sheriff's department hopes to be able to devote more time to the investigation of child pornography cases -- if they are able to obtain a grant which would pay for the salary of a full-time investigator for the next three years. The grant is being offered through an organization dedicated to pursuing Internet crimes against children. In Putnam County, Detective Jimmy Patterson is the man responsible for investigating such cases, but he also has to deal with other child abuse and sex abuse reports -- not just those that occur online. Patterson told the county commission this week that he is able to spend about 10 to 15 percent of his time on child pornography investigations, and says that means most of what gets done is reactive rather than proactive. The commission authorized the sheriff's department to apply for the grant, which is one of only three that will be awarded statewide. They must have their application in by Monday.

Va. Couple Still Recovering From Cookeville Crash

The Winchester Star newspaper in Virginia says a couple, seriously injured in a wreck on I-40 in Cookeville last year will never fully recover, but that they have made amazing progress. Larry and Dorothy Schrock say they don't remember the accident, which also killed their friend, 71-year-old Donald Meese. They also say they don't remember the month they spent in comas, or the month they spent in a Tennessee rehabilitation clinic after they woke up. And Dorothy Schrock says they don't really want to. Rebecca Galyean, a Cookeville resident, has pleaded not guilty in Putnam County Criminal Court to charges of vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault, and driving while intoxicated. Dorothy Schrock says that she doesn't hate Galyean but believes that the woman should face the consequences of her actions.

Business Tax Seminar Scheduled

The Tennessee Department of Revenue, Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants and Tennessee Tech University will co-sponsor the annual 2009 Tennessee Business Tax Seminar on Monday, Aug. 17 from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. in the Tech Pride Room of the Roaden University Center, located on the Tennessee Tech University campus. This seminar is designed to provide current, in-depth information on Tennessee tax issues. State tax specialists will discuss various taxes and present recent developments, including new legislation impacting various tax provisions. Please contact Susie Guerin at TTU to register and confirm the cost of participating by calling (931) 372-3055.

Reminder from the Health Department

A reminder today from the Putnam County Health Department. They will be moving to their new location at 701 County Services Drive, which is located off of Willow Avenue, next month. Beginning August 3rd, all services of the health department will be offered at the new location. For many years, the Health Department has been located on South Dixie Avenue. Once they vacate that building, Putnam County plans to renovate it for use as the county clerk's office. Part of the old Health Department building will also be used for storing the county archives. Officials are still considering what to do with what will ultimately become the old Clerk's office.

Averitt Express Honored

Cookeville-based Averitt Express has been honored with the 2008 Rising Star Carrier of the Year award from Walmart, in recognition of Averitt’s commitment to providing top-notch quality and service. According to Walmart, Averitt received the award based on its overall dedication to customer service, operational excellence, and the ability to offer creative solutions to Walmart’s complex supply chain. Each year, Walmart recognizes the outstanding service of several carriers in their respective categories. Some of those categories include Innovative Package Carrier of the Year, Rising Star Carrier of the Year, Grocery Carrier of the Year, and Small Carrier of the Year. This is the first time Averitt has received the award. Averitt was selected as a Rising Star recipient from a pool of numerous other carriers partnering with Walmart.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dog Poisoned in Putnam County

The Putnam County sheriff's department is investigating a case of dog poisoning. Deputy Michael Hicks says it occurred at a home on Phifer Mountain Road Sunday. He said it appeared that the animal was suffering from anti-freeze poisoning. The dog's owner said other pets he has owned in the past have also been poisoned, but the report gives no details on who may have been responsible.

Aggravated Assault Charged

Putnam County commissioner Jerry Ford was at Monday night's commission meeting with his arm wrapped in a bandage and stitches in his head. Ford, who owns several properties around town, was attacked with a hammer by the son of one of his tenants as he attempted to collect rent last week. 25-year-old Marcus Eulis Wright is charged with aggravated assault. Police say there was no apparent provocation for the assault. They also say that Wright was the individual who instituted an unprovoked assault on a county corrections officer in March of this year. He'll be in court on the latest charge August 10th.

Centralilzed Accounting Fails to Pass

A majority of the Putnam County commission voted Monday night to centralize the accounting for county government. But a motion to adopt the 1981 County Financial Management Act still failed because it takes a two-thirds majority, not a simple majority. After more than an hour of debate, fourteen commissioners voted in favor of the act, ten voted against. It would have taken sixteen yes votes to gain passage. Under the act, the county would have hired a chief financial officer and would have consolidated all of its bookkeepers into one department. Proponents say that such a move would save the county money. But those against it included a Tennessee Tech accounting professor. Dr. Richard Rand told the commission that he believed adopting the act would actually make accounting practices in the school system less efficient. Schools director Dr. Kathleen Airhart agreed, saying that specialized training is needed to keep up with all of the legalities involved with education funding. The issue could potentially be brought back up again, but -- even if it passed -- could not go into effect until at least July of 2011.

Putnam Commissioners Say No to Guns in Parks

Some county commissioners wanted to leave things as they are, but a majority of the Putnam County commission voted Monday night to opt out of what's called Public Chapter 428, the bill that allows gun permit holders to bring their weapons into local parks. Putnam County is the latest in a long list of communities that have chosen to opt out. The Cookeville city council will be considering the issue next month. A motion to take no action on the "guns in parks" issue failed, with six commissioners voting in favor, while 18 voted against it. After that the motion to approve a resolution opting out of the legislation was approved on a 17 to 6 vote.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Geriatric Care Becomes Focus at TTU

Retirees and aging Upper Cumberland natives who hope to experience healthy lives and find quality care in the area can take encouragement in a developing partnership between Tennessee Tech University’s School of Nursing and local extended care facilities.

Sheila Green, TTU’s School of Nursing director, has launched several efforts to bolster the education, technology and resources needed to educate nurses in geriatric care.

“We want to prepare tomorrow’s healthcare providers to meet whatever the population needs are,” said Green. “As the Upper Cumberland welcomes more and more retirees, we anticipate an impact on our healthcare system, and it is our mission to respond.”

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, aging of the U.S. population poses one of the greatest challenges for healthcare and professional nursing education programs. By 2030, the number of Americans age 65 and up will exceed more than 72 million, about 20 percent of the population. And collectively, older adults seek and receive the highest percentage of healthcare services.

To meet that challenge, Green began by sending assistant professors Tammy Howard and Judy Duvall to a national conference to look at curriculum and course offerings necessary to make sure nurses are competent in geriatric medicine.

“They came back with strong encouragement to bolster our program in terms of geriatric healthcare,” said Green. “So we began with a community-wide meeting with representatives from geriatric and extended care nursing facilities to build relationships and discuss how we could meet community needs.”

Jeremy Stoner, administrator of Cookeville’s National Healthcare Corp. facility, took the meeting as a call to action. He recognized that TTU’s nursing program would benefit from new equipment. Stoner, along with other local NHC administrators, recently presented a check for more than $12,700 to purchase a defibrillator and EKG machine for training.

“Tech produces great nurses, and we were happy to help,” said Stoner.
Green says that community responses to equipping TTU’s Nursing and Health Services Building have been wonderful, but that nothing is static in healthcare and updated equipment and technology is key to keeping education standards high.

“Our labs allow students to respond to scenarios, and our instructors alter situations that give our graduates a complete education in a career field that changes every moment,” said Green.

Green says the gift will help elevate TTU’s efforts to follow national recommendations on how to serve an aging community ¬— nursing educators must develop faculty expertise, adapt curriculum to include well elders, enhance curriculum with technology, create community and clinical partnerships, and create and support student interest in gerontology.

Purple Pride Pushed

Football fans throughout the area can show their support of Tennessee Tech football with a Purple Pride sign in their yard or business when they purchase 2009 Golden Eagle football season tickets. Tennessee Tech Athletics is giving out a free Purple Pride yard sign with every season ticket purchased.

"The only way to get a Purple Pride yard sign is to purchase Tennessee Tech football season tickets," said Misty Pearson, director of corporate sales and marketing for Tech athletics. "Ticket sales are off to a great start, the signs have been very popular, and we're starting to see them all around the region. Last year, you couldn’t drive anywhere in Cookeville without seeing the Purple Pride signs, and hopefully this year there will be even more around town, and around the region as we approach the football season.”

Season tickets for the 2009 Golden Eagle campaign are on sale from the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center, and officials are hoping to see another increase in the demand for season tickets.

"This is a very exciting time for Tennessee Tech football," said Director of Athletics Mark Wilson. "We've received wonderful feedback from the ‘Purple Pride' yard signs. Hopefully, we can turn the entire town purple and gold this fall.”

Tech hosts five home games in 2009, including the season opener on Thursday nights, Sept. 10, against Pikeville College. Season tickets are $36 for adults and $25 for youth and senior citizens. A ‘Family Plan' and ‘Back the Golden Eagles’ Business Plan – 10 season tickets for $200 -- are also available. Season tickets are available by visiting or calling the Tennessee Tech Athletic Ticket Office in Eblen Center at 372-3940.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Adult Literacy Conference Scheduled

If you are interested in being a part of the growing effort in adult education in the Upper Cumberland, attend a conference this Tuesday sponsored by the Commission on Community, Minority and Non-Formal Education of the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education.The conference, co-facilitated by Deborah LeBlanc of National University and Elizabeth D. Ojo, of Tennessee Tech University, is open to anyone who currently works in adult education or has an interest in becoming a part of community efforts. “We want to create dialogue among the community about adult literacy and non-formal education,” said Ojo, conference coordinator. “Many people have talents they can share with adults, such as culinary skills or interests in books, that are very valuable,” Ojo explained. “Many times this type of education can foster an interest in formal education.”The keynote speaker will be Gloria Bonner, assistant to the president in Middle Tennessee State University’s Office for Community Engagement and Support. The conference will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Tennessee Tech University’s Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center. To register in time to reserve lunch, you must register by Monday at noon. The cost, including lunch, is $25. To register, contact Ojo at 931-372-3392.

Putnam Commissioners To Discuss Several Issues

They'll start with a discussion of a strategic plan, but that's not the only issue facing the Putnam County commission when they meet Monday night. The strategic plan, which is intended to outline where the county wants to go by the year 2013, is part of the requirement for being in the state's Three-Star economic development program. Meanwhile, the commission will also decide whether to enter into an agreement with the city of Cookeville and the E-911 board to split the cost of running fiber optic cable from the courthouse area to the new emergency services building on S. Wilow Ave. Director Randy Porter says running the cable to city AND county departments would save on the cost and improve communication capabilities. Meanwhile, the commission will vote on a resolution to opt out of Public Chapter 428, the so-called "guns in parks" bill. They'll also talk about the establishment of a two dollar fee for every document filed in Putnam County offices. That fee will help pay for the establishment of a county archives. And, finally, they'll discuss whether or not Putnam County should adopt the 1981 Financial Management Act. Dozens of counties in Tennessee have done so, including White and DeKalb counties. Supporters of the act say that centralized accounting and the employment of a chief financial officer to oversee it would save the county money. Opponents say it takes too much autonomy away from elected officials.

New Physician Joins Cancer Center at CRMC

Hematology and Oncology specialist Dr. Venumadhav Kotla has joined the staff at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. He is working with Drs. Paul Jacquin, Algis Sidrys, and Jonas Sidrys in the Cancer Center at Cookeville Regional Medical Center.

The field of hematology-oncology deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of blood and platelet disorders and various forms of cancer. Before coming to Cookeville, Dr. Kotla worked as a Clinical BMT (Blood and marrow transplantation) fellow at the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. He also completed his Hematology-Oncology fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Montefiore, NY and his Internal Medicine residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Jacobi. Dr. Kotla earned his medical degree at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Dehli, India. He also has experience in the area of clinical trials.

Dr. Kotla looks forward to serving the patients of the Upper Cumberland. The Cancer Center at Cookeville Regional has recently relocated to the newly completed North Patient Tower and is now one of only two cancer treatment centers in Tennessee to offer Tomotherapy – one of the world’s most advanced cancer treatment systems that allows unparalleled precision in delivering radiation therapy, resulting in minimal damage to surrounding tissue.

Almost triple the size of its former location, the new Cancer Center offers spacious treatment areas where attention to detail has resulted in a warm, comfortable environment with an abundance of natural light. In addition, the new Center offers a patient education area with Internet access, a “healing garden”, a survivor’s boutique offering products helpful in coping with cancer as well as a dedicated entrance and parking area.

Dogwood Park Fund-Raiser Scheduled

The second annual "After Dark" series, benefitting Dogwood Park is coming up next month. Council member Ryan Williams says the events include a 10K run, a one-mile run for kids, and a family movie night. He and his wife organized the first such event last year to help raise money for the development of Dogwood Park on Broad Street. The city purchased the property a couple of years ago and tore down an existing commercial building. They have since added some sod to the area that was once asphalt, but have also said that fully developing the park may take several years. The "After Dark" series is intended to provide the public with a way to accelerate the development of the park, while also having fun. The deadline to register for the runs is Tuesday, July 21. For more information, you can visit the website

Business Owners Want Truck Traffic Eliminated

The Cookeville city council has been asked once again to consider a ban on truck traffic in the historic downtown area -- specifically 18-wheelers or large delivery trucks and dump trucks. Sean O'Neal represents the West Side Business Association. He says, "We're getting members calling us and telling us that the truck traffic is still pretty significant on the West Side, all sizes of trucks and all kinds of companies, so at some point we'd like to engage in a conversation about that issue again and see where we are." O'Neal also said business owners in the area would like the city to consider installing a three-way stop sign at the intersection of Oak Street and Broad Street. Mayor Sam Sallee says he's not sure the stop sign is necessary, but says the city may yet decide to do something about large trucks. Part of the issue is that concrete mixer trucks, which load up at Builder's Supply on Scott Street often find it easier to go through the downtown area to get to their ultimate location rather than zig-zagging through town another way.

Changes Coming in School Bus Policy

A public information campaign has now begun to let parents know about the many changes coming up this year in the transportation of Putnam County school children. For one, the so-called "parent responsibility zone" is now half a mile, rather than a quarter mile. That means if a student lives within one half-mile of their school or one half-mile from an established bus stop, it's the parent's responsibility to get their student to that location. Schools within the Cookeville city limits will begin staggered bell times this year. Students in grades 5 through 12 will go to class from 7:45 am to 2:45 pm. Students in Kindergarten through 4th grade will attend from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. That means students in grades 5-12 will have a different bus schedule and possibly a different bus number than the K-4 student. All students attending schools in Monterey, Algood, and Baxter will be on the 7:45 am to 2:45 pm bell times. The bus schedule for the two-hour day on August 10 will also operate on a staggered bell time, with older students going from 7:45 to 9:45 in the morning, while the younger ones go from 8:30 to 10:30. The Putnam County school transportation department has set up a special e-mail to try and answer questions about the new staggered bus schedules that are coming with the start of the school year. It's They're also taking questions by phone at 526-9342, or in person between 7 am and 3 pm Monday through Friday and from 8 am until noon on Saturday. You need to include the student's name, address, school and a contact phone number in the e-mail.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

TTU Gets Grant for Wind Research

The Department of Energy announced today funding for 28 new wind energy projects, including one in Cookeville. Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville will receive $265,677 for a project involving multi-level energy storage and controls for large-scale wind energy integration. According to a press release, the projects being funded will "help address market and deployment challenges including wind turbine research and testing and transmission analysis, planning, assessments."

Roundabout Called "Drunk Trap"

A story in a Cookeville newspaper has now been picked up by the Associated Press wire service. It says Cookeville police have labeled a roundabout on the Tennessee Tech campus the "drunk trap."Officers say intoxicated drivers are having trouble negotiating the circular site in front of the university's School of Nursing.According to the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, police hope accidents at the location will decrease as time goes on and drivers become more familiar with the layout. The full story is available online here.

Financial Literacy Program Offered

Rep. Henry Fincher of Cookeville attended a recent luncheon to learn about Tennessee Tech University and Upper Cumberland Regional P-16 Partners' new Financial Literacy initiatives. Tech officials say residents of Tennessee often have limited opportunities to learn fundamental financial literacy skills and the state often leads the country in number of bankruptcies. Additionally, factors such as the low levels of educational attainment at both the high school and postsecondary levels, coupled with low income levels for many Tennessee residents, often compound problems with financial literacy and sound financial management. In order to address the importance of financial responsibility to Tennessee's youth, a new high school personal finance course will be required for one-half credit in the 2009- 2010 school year. Tennessee Tech University, in partnership with the Upper Cumberland School Director's Study Council and Tennessee's Department of Education, Upper Cumberland Field Services Center, will provide three days of training by financial literacy professionals to prepare high school and middle school teachers in the Upper Cumberland region to teach the course. The Personal Finance workshops, sponsored by Garry McNabb and Cash Express, are designed to provide teachers with the skills to assist their students with a foundational understanding for making informed personal finance decisions. The workshop will cover real world topics such as income, money management, spending, and credit as well as saving and investing. Teachers will also learn to assist students in creating personal and household budgets; simulate use of checking and savings accounts; demonstrate knowledge of finance, debit and credit management; and evaluate and understand topics such as insurance and taxes. Ultimately teachers will help students understand the impact of individual choices on occupational goals and future earning potential.

Putnam Students Get Scholarships

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, a charitable organization working to improve the quality of life in 40 Middle Tennessee counties, announces it is awarding 189 scholarships to students pursuing secondary education in accredited schools throughout the United States. A total of $311,100 is being awarded to students from 54 scholarship funds within The Community Foundation. The 2009 scholarship recipients from Putnam County are Jessica A. Long, who was awarded the Tennessee Trucking Foundation Scholarship Fund to attend East Tennessee State University, and Katheryn R. Anderson, who was awarded the Tennessee Trucking Foundation Scholarship Fund to attend Tennessee Tech University. Scholarships will assist students with tuition and other school-related expenses. Each year, The Community Foundation’s scholarship committee, composed of 15 individuals from various professional backgrounds, reviews applications on behalf of donors who entrust The Foundation with administering the annual awards. The scholarship committee carefully considers applicants’ academic records, test scores, extracurricular activities, work experience, community involvement, and personal recommendations.

Putnam River Rescue Team Called Out

Severe flooding was reported overnight in several local counties, including Putnam, Overton and Clay. In Cookeville, portions of Spring Street and Willow Avenue were reported to be under water just after midnight when a flash flood warning was first issued. In Livingston, a portion of Volunteer Drive collapsed and was swept away as a creek rose above the pavement. A couple who was in a car on that road was also reportedly swept downstream and had to cling to a tree for about three hours before another driver happened upon the scene and heard their cries for help. They were eventually rescued with help from members of the Putnam County River Rescue Squad and were taken to the hospital, but are expected to be OK. Livingston's police chief says the main issue today will be cleaning up the mess.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Employee Charged With Stealing

A former employee of the Lowe's store in Cookeville is facing charges of theft. Police say 21-year-old Justyn Edward Kavanagh of Cookeville is accused of stealing money out of a store cash register. An investigation by the business and by Cookeville police Detective Tim Terry reportedly turned up more than a thousand dollars than had gone missing. Authorities allege that Kavanagh took the money, $100 at a time, on several occasions beginning in January. His arrest came just a week after a cashier at Walmart was charged in a similar incident.

Algood Council Debates "Employee"

The definition of "employee" is apparently the issue as Algood fire chief Loyd Norris fights to keep his seat on the town council. Norris makes just $1400 a year in his role as chief of the volunteer department, but city attorney Mike O'Mara says the responsibilities of the job are what qualifies him as an employee, not the compensation. And O'Mara says that state law and the city charter prohibit employees from serving on the council. Norris has asked the council to consider an ordinance which would exempt the job of fire chief, but a vote on that ordinance is not expected until next month.

4th Offense DUI Charged

Fourth offense DUI charges are pending against a Monterey man who was arrested after police answered a complaint at the Taco Bell on S. Jefferson Ave. Someone had called to complain about a drunk driver at the drive-thru window of that restaurant. Officer Chris Melton says that allegedly drunk driver was 32-year-old Jason P. Grant of Silverado Drive. Melton says Grant was parked in front of the restaurant, appeared to be intoxicated, and had an open container of alcohol in his vehicle. Grant also reportedly failed three field sobriety tests. A records check revealed that he was driving on a license that was revoked for three prior DUI convictions.

Shoplifting Explanation

An explanation for his stealing didn't help a Cookeville man avoid a shoplifting citation this week. 26-year-old Jacob Ross Garrett of Lee Avenue was cited for allegedly stealing a pair of hair clippers from the Walmart store. The clippers were priced at $9.67, while Garrett reportedly had more than fifty dollars in cash on him. But he told authorities that he decided to take the item without paying for it because the box it was in was "already open."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Commencement Speaker Announced

Timothy Webb, commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Education, will help about 450 Tennessee Tech University graduates, along with their families and friends, celebrate their educational milestones with his address at this summer's commencement ceremony.
The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, in the Hooper Eblen Center. Before joining the Department of Education leadership in 2003, Webb served as Lewis County Schools superintendent. Webb holds certifications as an administrator and superintendent as well as elementary, general science and psychology teacher certifications. Professionally he is a Tennessee Board of Regents member and University of Tennessee Board of Trustees member. He also serves as commissioner for the Education Commission of States and as chairperson for the Education Information Management Advisory Consortium. Webb earned his doctorate in education leadership from Nova Southeastern University and holds a master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University, a bachelor’s degree from Regents College and an associate’s degree from Columbia State Community College. In addition to his contributions to state education, Webb committed two decades to the Tennessee Army National Guard. He held positions as battalion staff officer (operations and logistics), detachment commander, platoon leader and platoon sergeant before his retirement in 2000. Following summer commencement, TTU will have granted more than 65,000 degrees. Students graduating from TTU this summer hail from 13 states including Tennessee, 67 Tennessee counties and five foreign countries. They represent 32 undergraduate fields of study and 19 graduate fields. After this summer’s commencement ceremonies, the university will hold only fall and spring ceremonies. Starting in 2010, summer graduates will be invited to walk at the following December commencement.

Illegal Movie Making Charged

Felony charges are pending against a Putnam County woman who allegedly rented movies from local businesses and then used computer software to make illegal copies, which she sold for a profit. 44-year-old Charlotte Diane Hayes of Free Hill Road is charged with criminal simulation in the case. She allegedly told officers that she bought the DVD burning software off the Internet and that she has used it to make several copies of movies that she rented -- both for her personal use and for sale to others. A police report claims that she admitted to knowing that illegal copying was a crime.

Drug Charges Dismissed

A drug case that resulted from a traffic stop in Cookeville earlier this year has now been dismissed, but the District Attorney's office says they may take the evidence to a grand jury anyway. Charges against 24-year-old Doug Aaron Stinson of Cookeville, 30-year-old Derrick Lee Helms of Baxter, and 24-year-old Dustin Ryan Bilbrey of Cookeville were dismissed after a hearing in General Sessions court. The three had been charged with possession of methamphetamine for re-sale and promotion of meth manufacture after police say they found what was described as a "rolling meth lab" during a traffic stop. Police say the van containing the lab was initially stopped because one of the back seat passengers was not wearing a seatbelt. And lawyers for the men claim that state law does not require that back seat passengers wear seat belts, so there was no reason to stop the vehicle. The judge apparently agreed, but assistant D-A Beth Willis says she has a different view on the law.

More Money Recommended for Tax Relief

Putnam County's tax freeze committee has finished its business. They have decided against implementing a state law that allows the county to freeze the property tax rate for some low-income residents -- apparently believing that not enough people would benefit to offset the loss of revenue. They are, however, recommending that the county add $10,000 to an already existing program that helps low-income senior citizens pay their property taxes. Nearly 1,000 Putnam County residents qualified for that program last year. The income guidelines are available in the county trustee's office, but are generally around 24 to 25-thousand dollars a year.

Putnam County Considers Centralized Accounting

Putnam County's budget committee has recommended that the county adopt a centralized accounting system and that they hire a chief financial officer. The committee voted this week to recommend that the county adopt what's called the 1981 County Financial Management Act. State auditors have criticized Putnam County for several years because each department of county government kept its own books. Budget committee chairman Greg Rector says adopting the act would save the county money in spite of the fact that they would have to add a salary for a CFO. The recommendation -- with details on just how much it would cost -- will come before the full county commission for a vote next Monday.

Putnam County Man Given 325-Year Sentence

A Putnam County man will be spending the rest of his life in jail after being sentenced Tuesday in federal court. William Vincent Dunn, 34, of Baxter, was sentenced by U.S. District Chief Judge Todd Campbell to 325 years in prison for soliciting the murders of a Putnam County sheriff’s deputy, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and an informant. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office, a federal jury in Nashville found Dunn guilty back in November on all counts of a 21-count indictment, including the solicitation to murder law enforcement officers; possessing a machine gun, as well as another firearm, in furtherance of drug trafficking; conspiracy charges; attempts to obstruct justice; and possessing and distributing marijuana and cocaine. According to the press release, proof at trial revealed Dunn and his girlfriend, Misty Langford, had been selling cocaine and marijuana to an undercover Putnam County sheriff’s deputy and a confidential informant. Through discovery proceedings after their arrests, Dunn and Langford learned the true identity of the confidential informant and the undercover sheriff’s deputy. The informant subsequently died from a drug overdose and Dunn and Langford determined that, if the undercover sheriff’s deputy died, there would be no other witnesses to testify against them. The press release stated as part of the investigation into the initial murder plot, another confidential informant introduced an undercover ATF agent to Langford and Dunn as the purported “hit man.” Dunn agreed to pay $15,000 to the “hit man” for the murder of the undercover sheriff’s deputy and provided the “hit man” $300 and approximately 15 grams in cocaine as a down payment. Later that day, Dunn and Langford were arrested. While in federal custody awaiting trial, Dunn learned the identity of the undercover ATF agent and the second confidential informant. Dunn then initiated another plan to have the sheriff’s deputy, the undercover ATF agent, and the confidential informant murdered. He solicited a cellmate to commit the murders, promising him drugs and cash as payment. Dunn orchestrated the second murder plot through a series of letters from prison. According to the press release, Judge Campbell’s sentence guarantees Dunn will never again be free to plan and commit crimes such as these. Meawnhile, according to the release, in December 2008, Misty Langford pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit murder for hire in U.S. District Court and was sentenced to 75 months imprisonment.

Monday, July 13, 2009

278th Guard Unit To Be Deployed

Major General Gus L. Hargett, Jr., Tennessee’s Adjutant General, today announced that Tennessee’s largest National Guard unit, the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, headquartered in Knoxville, has received mobilization orders effective later this year. Several soldiers in that unit live in the Cookeville area. Tennessee National Guard officials are working with the Department of Defense on the specific mission, number of soldiers, deployment date and deployment location which will be announced at a later date. The Regiment is composed of more than 3,000 soldiers from across the entire state of Tennessee. The 278th last deployed in June 2004 during which the unit trained Iraqi security forces and assisted with provincial elections and the National Constitutional Referendum. The regiment will mobilize through Camp Shelby, Mississippi, for an unspecified period of time before deploying to their final locations.

Beer Thieves Caught

Cookeville police have made some arrests in the theft of more than two thousand dollars worth of beer from a Budweiser truck, which was parked at the Cookeville Golf Club last month. They say four 19-year-old fraternity members at Tennessee Tech are the suspects. They are identified as Alexander B. Goode, Justin Tyler Mathis, Andrew W. Napier, and Ryan M. Peardon, all of 904 N. Jefferson Ave. They reportedly told police that they didn't drink all of the 100 cases of beer that they stole, deciding pretty quickly that it was a stupid thing to do. They claim that they poured much of the beer out and then spent several weeks trying to get rid of the aluminum cans. Police say a wallet dropped at the scene of the crime, along with tips from students at Tech, helped them solve the crime.

New Recommendation on Putnam County Jail

There's a new recommendation today on what to do about overcrowding in the Putnam County jail. The county's Land and Facilities committee voted Monday night to request that the county executive investigate interest among other counties in the Upper Cumberland toward the idea of forming a regional jail authority. They are asking for a report on the matter by September 8th. Meawnhile, in a separate committee meeting, commissioner Joel Cowan urged commissioners to just go ahead and build a jail annex on the existing jail site. But county attorney Jeff Jones says that for such a motion to pass, the county commission would have to rescind the action they took in May of this year, which called for locating the jail at an off-site location. Commissioner Marson McCormick, meanwhile, said that with the economy in the shape it's in, the whole issue should be put off for at least a year. He got a second to his motion to do so, but it failed on a 5-7 vote.

Committee Says No to Guns in Parks

A recommendation that guns NOT be allowed in Putnam County parks will be coming before the county commission next week. One commissioner, Dale Moss, says prohibiting guns is an infringement on Second Amdendment rights, but most others apparently believe that it's better to keep guns out of parks. Commissioner Ron Chaffin, who serves on the fair board, told the planning committee Monday night that he is not opposed to permit holders having the right to carry, but says he is concerned about all of the non-permit holders who attend the county fair each year and who could be just an arm's length away from grabbing someone else's gun. There was some discussion about whether all of the governmental bodies in the county needed to be, as commissioner Larry Epps put it, "on the same page" so that someone, for example, walking the Rail Trail between Monterey and Cookeville wouldn't have to worry about contradicting laws. But a majority of the committee voted to recommend adoption of the ban. The full county commission will vote on the issue Monday night.

Accused Burglar Searching for "Ghosts"

The Hilltop Express newspaper in Monterey reports that a Putnam County woman will be in court on July 27th on charges of aggravated burglary. Monterey Police Detective Sgt. Jackie McQuiston says he responded to a call about a person breaking into a house on S. Poplar St., in Monterey. The homeowner had gotten a call from an alarm company that a silent alarm had been set off inside the house. When the homeowner arrived, he allegedly found Wendy Hargis of Highway 70-North and held her at gunpoint until police arrived. McQuiston alleged that Hargis had used a bucket and battery to get up to a window that she broke out to gain entry. Once inside, she went through the cabinets inside the residence. The homeowner reported that it looked as if she was gathering things to take out. When asked by McQuiston, what she was doing there, she reportedly replied that she was "looking for ghosts."

Another Child Seat Safety Event Scheduled

They appear to be working well, so the Cookeville Police Department, along with First Tennessee Bank and the Kiwanis Club will host another Child Seat Checkpoint this week. The next one will be at First Tennessee Bank located at 345 S. Jefferson Avenue, on Friday, July 17, 2009 from 2 to 5 p.m. Child Seat Technicians will be available to check child seats for correct installation and answer any questions that anyone may have about child seat safety and installation. Lt. Randy Brown says that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, child safety seats have been found to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars. But he says many parents and others who transport children do not understand the potential deadly results from not using a child seat or booster seat at all or no using one that is not properly used and secured in a vehicle.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cookeville Student Named All-American

Her fellow players call her "McFierce" because of her intensity on the field, and now a Cookeville High School girls' lacrosse player has been recognized for her accomplishments in the classroom as well. Rachel Zitting was recognized this month by the Putnam County School Board after being selected for the United States Lacrosse Association's high school academic All-America team. To qualify, Zitting had to be starter or team captain and also had to take at least 50 percent college prep or advanced placement courses. She is a two-year letter winner in both lacrosse and cross country. Principal Wayne Shanks says that she has also maintained a 3.6 grade point average while contributing to several community service programs.

Cookeville Theatre to Host Harry Potter Marathon

The Highland 12 theatre in Cookeville, owned by Carmike Cinemas, is one of several across the country that will be participating in a marathon all day screening Tuesday July 14th leading up to the opening of the movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Starting at 9 am Tuesday, the theatre will show the first film in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Then, at 11:45 am, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets will be shown, followed at 3:15 pm by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. At 5:45 pm Tuesday, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will be screened, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix starts at 9:15 pm. Carmike says patrons can pay $15 to see all five films. The Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince movie starts at 12:01 am following the marathon and can be seen at the regular admission price.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lots of Topics Face Putnam County Commissioners

A number of issues will be facing Putnam County commissioners on Monday night when they meet, in committee sessions, to preview their business for this month. First up, the Fiscal Review Committee will discuss a resolution which would establish an "Archives and Records Management" fee for documents filed in all Putnam County offices. The county is in the process of establishing a formal set of archives which would be responsible for preserving old records, many of which are now stored in attics and basements around town. The fee is part of the plan to pay for the work needed to get those records into shape. Meanwhile, the Fiscal Review Committee will also discuss an intergovernmental agreement concerning fiber optic cable installation. After that committee adjourns, the county's Nominating Committee will meet to discuss possible appointments to the Soccer Complex Board. The county has had an agreement with that board for the past few years concerning payments for and upkeep of the soccer fields near Cookeville High School. After the Nominating Committee comes a meeting of the county's Tax Freeze Committee, which is apparently going to be hearing from representatives of the County Technical Assistance Service about the potential impact on the budget of a proposal to offer some senior citizens a program whereby their tax rates would not be increased. Most commissioners are concerned that the number of people who would benefit from the program is small compared to the much larger population that would have to shoulder the load of heavier taxation. At 6 pm Monday, Putnam County's Planning Committee will meet to hear from Commissioner Joel Cowan, who wants to once again discuss the location of a new jail annex. They'll also be discussing building codes, a strategic plan for the county, and -- as we reported a few days ago -- a proposal to opt out of the state law allowing gun permit owners to carry weapons into local parks. Finally, the county's Budget Committee and their Land and Facilities Committee will be meeting. The Budget Committee has now learned how much a penny on the property tax will bring in next year, while the Land and Facilities Committee is apparently going to once again discuss options for the jail.

Another All-America Honor for TTU Player

Tennessee Tech all-purpose junior Henry Sailes picked up his second preseason All-America nod as the Sports Network released its preseason All-America team on Thursday afternoon. Sailes was a third-team Special Teams pick by the national organization. Sailes was previously named in May as a Football Championship Subdivision preseason honorable mention All-America selection as a kick returner by Consensus Draft Services. A 5-foot-7, 180-pound runningback from Palmetto, Fla., Sailes led Tech in rushing last season with 433 yards on 72 carries, scoring a team-high four touchdowns on the ground. He was second on the team in receiving with 47 catches for 344 yards, including two more scores. As a return man, Sailes handled 16 kicks for 449 yards including an 87-yard touchdown, averaging 28.1 yards per try. In all, he had a team-high 1,230 all-purpose yards, an average of 123 yards per game. Tennessee Tech opens the 2009 season on Sept. 10 with a home game in Tucker Stadium against Pikeville College. Season tickets are now on sale by calling 931-372-3940 or visiting the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center. Tickets are also available online at

Craft Center Exhibit on Display

An exhibition featuring an extensive variety of works by visiting summer workshop faculty is on display through Aug. 4 in Gallery One of TTU’s Appalachian Center for Craft.
Artists come from across the country and represent a wide range of functional and conceptual fine craft in clay, glass, metal, fibers, wood and mixed media. For more information about the workshop programs or the exhibition, call the Craft Center at 931.372.3051 or 615.597.6801, or visit the web site The Appalachian Center for Craft is located approximately six miles from Interstate 40 at Exit 273 (Smithville /McMinnville). Go south on Hwy. 56; turn left immediately after crossing Hurricane Bridge. This drive leads to the Craft Center.

Governor Coming to Town

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen will be in Cookeville next week for the investiture of Amy V. Hollars as the judge for Part 1 of the Circuit Court for the 13th Judicial District. Investiture is a fancy way of saying that it's a formal swearing-in ceremony, although Hollars has been on the job for several months. She was appointed by Bredesen to take over the job previously held by her father, John Turnbull, who retired this year. Hollars, a native of Livingston, will serve until the next election in 2010. The ceremony is planned for 1:30 pm on Wednesday, July 15, in the third floor courtroom of the Putnam County courthouse on the square in Cookeville. The 13th Judicial District encompasses Putnam, Overton, Clay, Pickett, Cumberland, White and DeKalb counties.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

County Commission to Debate Guns In Parks

It's been an issue in several cities, and now Putnam County is set to discuss what's called Public Chapter 428. That's the bill passed by the legislature this year that allows people with permits to carry their guns into public parks. It takes effect in September and would apply to any state or local park unless the local governing body chooses to opt out. Putnam County commissioner Johnnie Wheeler wants the county commission to discuss that option for the parks and ballfields that are overseen by the county's Parks and Recreation Department. The planning committee will meet on Monday evening at six o'clock to talk about the issue.

Shoplifters Arrested in Three Separate Incidents

Security personnel at three Cookeville stores have been kept busy in recent days, keeping an eye on individuals determined to leave the stores without paying for merchandise. Police say representatives of Kohl's, Sears, and Walmart have all reported incidents in the past few days. At Sears, 18-year-old Cayla Danielle Smith of Dodson Branch Road and a 17-year-old accomplice stole several items of clothing. Police say the two were, in fact, carrying purses that had nothing but stolen clothes in them. They had also apparently shoplifted items from the Old Navy store. In the Kohl's case, 34-year-old Leslie Danette York of Morningside Drive was cited for allegedly concealing shirts and shoes as she left the store. She also reportedly had stolen items from TJ Maxx. And in the Walmart incident, Mary Beth and Davis Lynn of Johnson Creek Highway in Whitleyville, Tenn., allegedly tried to steal four shirts, worth $48, by placing them into Ms. Lynn's purse.

New Intern to Work for TTU Sports Information

Steve Appelhans of Salem, Wis., will join the Tennessee Tech University Athletics staff in August as a sports information intern. Appelhans has spent the past year as an athletic media relations graduate assistant at the University of New Haven (Conn.), where he helped provide coverage for 16 sports.While at New Haven, he contributed in all aspects of media relations including serving as the department’s representative at the 2008 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championships and assisting in implementing video webcasting. Prior to New Haven, Appelhans worked as a communications/publications intern at the National Federation of State High School Associations and a student assistant in the sports information department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Twice nominated for Story of the Year as a sportswriter for The Racquet, the school newspaper for the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, he has also had several articles published in the web-based Chicago Sports Review. An active member of CoSIDA, Appelhans received his bachelor’s degree from UW-La Crosse in August 2008 and will receive his master’s degree from the University of New Haven in July. Appelhans, 23, will work with Assistant Athletic Director Rob Schabert in the sports information office. He will handle a wide variety of assignments ranging from radio and TV responsibilities to serving as primary or secondary contact for several sports. He will produce media guides, press releases, game stats and feature stories, and assist with all media relations assignments. Appelhans begins his new position August 3.

Careless Driving Leads to Drug Arrest

A Cookeville police officer, who stopped a car that had nearly run his cruiser off the road, ended up citing the occupants for possession of drugs. It happened on Mine Lick Creek Road as Officer Darrin Stout was patrolling. He says a Ford Explorer rounded a curve in the road and came completely over into his lane of travel, causing him to swerve to avoid a collision. When Stout stopped the vehicle, he said the driver appeared overly nervous, so he called for a K-9 unit to determine whether or not there were illegal drugs in the vehicle. As it turns out, both the driver and passenger allegedly had a bag of marijuana hidden in the crotch area of their clothing. And the driver also had two baggies of meth in her purse. 31-year-old Kelly Leigh Bartlett of Freehill Road and 28-year-old Clayton Michael Smith of Crabtree Circle were then taken to jail for booking.

Store Employee Accused of Stealing

The police report describes it as a case of embezzlement, but the actual charge against an employee of the Cookeville Walmart is theft of property. 23-year-old Michelle Nicole Smith of N. Dixie Ave. was arrested this week after Walmart security officials documented several instances in which she had allegedly been taking cash from the register during transactions. The thefts apparently began on June 1 and were noticed about three weeks later. Smith allegedly signed a statement admitting to the incidents, saying that she knew it was wrong but that she was having trouble making ends meet. She also said she wanted to pay the money back and do the right thing. The total amount of money taken was reportedly $540.

Putnam Woman Accuses Daughter of ID Theft

A Putnam County woman has reported to the sheriff's department that she believes her daughter has stolen her identity, using the victim's social security number and driver's license to get electricity hooked up to a home in Florida. The woman says her daughter got that information because she had helped prepare the woman's federal income tax return. The daughter has also reportedly used the mother's identity to obtain food stamps in the state of Florida. The woman says that Florida authorities are investigating, but needed a report from local officials to help document the crime.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dollar Bill Changer Scammed

Cookeville police say a new type of scam has been reported this week -- this time involving a dollar bill changer. It happened at a business on E. Spring St. The owner says the change machine, located in front of the business, had been emptied of some $500, although there was apparently no damage to the machine. A replay of surveillance video showed two male suspects in a white Toyota 4-Runner pulling up just before 11 pm. A man wearing an orange shirt had what appeared to be a dollar bill with a string attached to the end of it. He would insert the bill into the machine and then pull it out, but still be able to collect the change. Police say the video shows that this continued for about two hours, although the man inserting the bill changed clothes several times. Anyone with information that might be of assistance is asked to call Crimestoppers.

Break-up Leads to Vandalism

The Putnam County sheriff's department says an ex-boyfriend is the suspect in a case of vandalism at an apartment on Thomas Road this week. The victim says her ex-boyfriend came to the apartment to get some of his property and says that when he started creating a ruckus, she left the apartment so there wouldn't be a fight. When she returned about three hours later she found that the freezer door had been glued shut, underwear and trash were used to clog up the toilet, and someone had urinated on her clothes, which were piled up on the floor. In addition, picture frames had been broken, her vehicle kicked several times, and a pair of boots were ripped up. The total damage was estimated at $1600.

Motel Burglar Arrested

A Baxter man is facing charges of burglary today after allegedly being caught in the act of breaking into cars at a local motel. 19-year-old David Gary Inman of 1st Ave., Baxter, was charged with burglary after Cookeville Police officers made an investigation at the Alpine Lodge and Suites on Highway 70-East. According to the report, it was about 4:30 a.m. on Saturday when a motel employee saw a man "going from car to car" in the parking lot and called police. Officer Marc deClaire spotted the suspect as soon as he arrived on the scene-- walking across the parking lot "with something concealed underneath his shirt." He says that man turned out to be Inman, who allegedly threw down a car radio he had in his hands, cursing his luck in the process. Police say several vehicles in the parking lot had been broken into.

Jere Whitson to Get Playground

More than $22,000 has been brought in by various fund-raising efforts aimed at purchasing playground equipment for the newly renovated Jere Whitson Elementary School. And this afternoon, the Putnam County school board is expected to authorize the expenditure of those monies. They are scheduled to consider approval of the purchase of a $10,000 piece of equipment called Muscle Mountain, as well as something called a Play Pod, which will cost $7,655. The construction of the playground area will also require the purchase of more than $5,000 in what's described as "additional" shredded rubber, which will act as a cushion when children fall while playing. The total amount comes to $24,000, of which $22,732 will come from money that was raised by volunteers. The other $1200-plus will be taken out of money garnered from the sale of Prescott Central Middle School. A portion of those Prescott sale monies will also be used to help transport, re-assemble and install playground equipment at Algood School.

Putnam County Election Commission Sued

The Republican members of the Putnam County election commission are apparently among those named in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Nashville. Attorney Gary Blackburn filed the suit on behalf of former Putnam County election administrator Nancy Boman and several others. He says their dismissals were based solely on their political party affiliations. And the lawsuit says that's not allowed under federal law. When a Republican majority came to power in the Tennessee Legislature last year, county election commissions also gained a Republican majority. What had previously been a body made up of three Democrats and two Republicans now became a group of three Republicans and two Demcrats. And, in 30 counties across Tennessee, the administrator of elections was let go.

Cookeville Endorses 2010 Census

The city of Cookeville is now officially endorsing the 2010 U-S Census. City planner James Mills says an accurate count of the population could mean major dollars for the city. He says the share of state sales and gasoline taxes allocated to Cookeville are based on population and says it's feasible that Cookeville could end up with a population of some 30,000 people in the 2010 Census. He says that would mean more than three million dollars a year in state-shared taxes. He also says most people will be getting a 10-question census form in the mail in early March.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Eminent Domain OK'd by Council

The city of Cookeville will soon begin acquiring property for several projects that have been in the works for many months. Grants director Cathy Andrews says the city will be the entity that acquires the needed property to construct a rail-trail between Cookeville and Monterey. The city council has authorized the city manager to acquire property for the project. Andrews says there are about 29 properties involved, some just a few hundred feet square; others that are nearly two acres. And, on a separate issue, the council also authorized City Manager Jim Shipley to acquire the necessary property for the West Cemetery Road expansion -- either through purchase or eminent domain. When it's completed, that road will provide the only direct access, south of I-40, between Willow Avenue and Jefferson Avenue. It is also expected to help direct traffic into a new elementary and middle school being built adjacent to the road.

Monterey Man Indicted

A Monterey man will be in General Sessions court Wednesday to be arraigned on a charge of violating his probation. 23-year-old Jeremiah Stephen Howard of Hillwood Street was booked into jail this week on that charge and several others, including two criminal court indictments -- one charging him with robbery; the other with reckless endangerment. Deputy Sam Lee says that Howard turned himself in Monday afternoon at the Putnam County Justice Center. He was one of a half-dozen people arrested Monday for either violating probation or failing to show up for their court dates.

Shoplifter Gets Creative

Cookeville police say some alleged shoplifters are getting more creative. According to a report by Officer Anthony Reep, 31-year-old Walter Earl Lewis Jr. of Young Road in Rickman was issued a citation after he allegedly went into the bathroom at Walmart, pushed up some ceiling tiles, and reached over into the stock room to steal cigarettes. Walmart security had been noticing an issue with the cigarettes for a few days and took notice when Lewis entered the restroom and stayed for some time. Reep arrived on the scene and found pieces of ceiling tile in Lewis's shoes and two cartons of cigarettes on top of a cabinet. Lewis initially denied any wrongdoing, but later told Reep that he had been planning to come back a couple of times a week and get a pack of cigarettes because he was broke.

Man Complains About Neighbor's "Odor"

What do you do about what is described as a "pungent odor" coming from your neighbor's compost pile? One Putnam County resident decided to call the sheriff's office this week to see if they could do anything about it. He says his neighbor, described as a professor at TTU, had been dumping cut tree branches into a wooded open lot across from her home. He was also concerned about vegetation growing onto his property from the same neighbor and about the smell of her compost pile. Deputy Herb Snow told the man that he would check with the county's codes officer to see whether any of those activities constituted code violations. Compost, by the way, is (according to a mixture of decaying organic matter, as from leaves and manure, used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Man Arrested for Vandalizing Neighbor's Property

Vandalism charges have been brought against a Cookeville man who allegedly drove his Jeep onto a neighbor's property, spinning the wheels and doing damage. According to a report by Deputy Matthew Hickey, the incident occurred at 2600 Pippin Road when the resident there told him that someone driving an older model red Jeep had spun its tires and spun the vehicle around his property and two others. The victim got a license plate number which came back to an address at 4028 Pippin Road. Hickey says he found the vehicle there with dirt in and around the tire area that appeared to match the damage done to the yards. The homeowner, identified as 45-year-old Robert Terry Mills, allegedly told Hickey that the vehicle had not been driven for about two hours. But Hickey says the hood was very warm and the engine was hot to the touch, so he arrested Mills on the vandalism charges.

Hearing Planned on School Merger

The Putnam County School Board will have what is described as a "town hall-type" meeting in Monterey Tuesday. It is scheduled to begin at 5:30 pm and is being held to discuss the possiblity of building an addition onto Burks Middle School, thereby making it a Kingertarten through eighth grade school. Officials say that would ultimately means the eventual closing of Uffelman Elemantary School. Officials say Uffelman will be overcrowded this fall and the fourth grade classes are already set to be held in some empty classrooms at Burks Middle. If the plan goes forward, Burks Middle School would add 14 classrooms, and also expand their library and cafeteria. But officials say there are still many questions to be answered, which is part of the reason they are holding the public hearing.

Motorcycle Wreck Leads to Two Arrests

A motorcycle accident on S. Jefferson Ave. in Cookeville last week has led to the arrest of two people -- but in separate cases. Police say the man who wrecked the cycle fled the scene and they began a search for him, which led them to a home on South Creek Drive. Officer Calvin Anderson says he got permission to search the home and looked inside a closet to see "an eyeball looking at me through a pile of clothes." He says he placed a taser beam in the area of the clothes and ordered the subject to come out of the closet. The man was then identified as 31-year-old Bobby Lee Hensley Jr. of Cookeville. He was not the man who had run from the motorcycle wreck, but was wanted for failing to show up in court in a different case, and so was taken into custody. Meanwhile, police doing an inventory at the scene of the wreck found a motel key, which they traced to the Star Motor Inn. After talking to a woman in a room there, she told authorities that her ex-husband was hiding under the bed. 38-year-old Steven Wayne Sherrill of Willow Avenue had apparently been hurt in the wreck and was taken to the hospital for treatment. He was also charged with leaving the scene of an injury crash and driving on a revoked license.

Arrest Made in Driveway Scam

A Putnam County man is facing a theft of service charge after allegedly taking money from a woman to pave her driveway and then not completing the job. Sheriff's Deputy Sam Lee served the warrant on 32-year-old Jason R. Coleman of Clover Avenue, Cookeville, after investigating a complaint from a resident of Colonial Drive. The woman claims that Coleman took $50 from her back on June 22 and told her he would return to do the work on her driveway, but never did. Coleman's court date is July 20. But officials have not said that Coleman is the person they suspect in a series of other driveway paving scams. That man, who usually travels with a female companion, is apparently still being sought in connection with about a dozen similar incidents.

Two Fatal Holiday Wrecks in Cookeville Area

Preliminary figures from the Tennessee Highway Patrol indicate that two fatal wrecks were among in the Cookeville District were among eight fatalities recorded over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Authorities say all of the crashes were single-vehicle wrecks. In the Cookeville area, one person was killed early Saturday morning on State Route 52 in Clay County; another was killed later that same day in a crash in Cumberland County on Highway 70. The THP says alcohol was a factor in the Clay County accident. Safety commissioner Dave Mitchell says preliminary statistics indicate 444 people have died on Tennessee roadways in 2009 compared to 512 fatalities in 2008. That is 68 fewer people killed this year compared to the same time last year. But he says it is important to stress that the statistical data for the July 4th holiday weekend and for 2009 are preliminary and are subject to change.

Sparta Woman Charged with Fraud

A White County woman has been charged with TennCare fraud for selling prescription drugs that were paid for by TennCare. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the arrest of 53-year-old Ruby W. Graham of Sparta, after a joint investigation with the White County Sheriff's Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Graham has been charged with one count of TennCare fraud. She is accused of using TennCare to fill a prescription for morphine sulfate, a controlled-release drug used to treat moderate to severe pain requiring around-the-clock relief for an extended period of time. Authorities say she then sold a portion of the pills to another person.

"We are working with police officers across the state, as their local investigations many times lead to TennCare, and we're committed to eliminating this activity in the program," Inspector General Deborah Y. Faulkner said. "Local police, doctors and pharmacists are clearly committed to eliminating prescription drug abuse, especially in TennCare."

The TennCare fraud charge against Graham could result in a two-year sentence, if convicted. District Attorney Randall A. York is prosecuting. The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to over $2.6 million paid in restitution to TennCare. To date, more than 920 people have been charged with TennCare fraud. Through the OIG Cash for Tips Program established by the Legislature, local residents can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions. Anyone can report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 toll-free from anywhere in Tennessee, or log on to and follow the prompts that read "Report TennCare Fraud."