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80 Years Ago

Archives 02-07-2001



Errant Sparks Ignite Field Fire
Alderman Meeting Held Monday Night
Judge Rules Against County Bond Procedure


Errant Sparks Ignite Field Fire


Firefighters rush to douse flames consuming 30 round hay bales on Bill Thrasher's farm Sunday evening, Feb. 4. According to reports, Rickman Volunteer Fire Department, Fairgrounds Fire Department, and all officers with the Overton County Sheriff's Department were dispatched to a grass fire from East Speck Road to Paran Road just south of Rickman on Old Highway 42. The fire apparently started from a wrecker pulling a car without a tire, which threw sparks causing the dead grass along the road to ignite. The driver of the wrecker, Frankie Dixon, was cited for reckless endangerment.



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Aldermen Meeting Held Monday Night

By Dewain E. Peek

Livingston Mayor Hosea Winningham and the Livingston Board of Aldermen held their regular monthly meeting Monday, Feb. 5.

In old business, Mayor Winningham informed the Board that a new front-end loader has been ordered.

The Board voted to order a new garbage truck on a lease-purchase plan.

The Board also voted to accept the low bid of Hix Brothers on a new Ford LJ75 backhoe. The low bid was $36,347, less $8,000 for the city's old one.

In new business, Mayor Winningham informed the Board that the Police Department has obtained four former Highway Patrol cars from state surplus. The cars are being painted and lights and other equipment are being installed.

The Livingston Housing Authority payment in lieu of tax was announced.

Mayor Winningham informed the Board that the Town of Livingston has received the Certificate of Achievement for the sixth year.

A representative from East Tennessee Natural Gas asked the Board to sign an agreement to direct the city's current gas provider to allow East Tennessee's gas into the Livingston tap. Alderman Robert Jolley made a motion to sign the agreement, and Alderman Curtis Hayes seconded the motion. Aldermen Jolley, Hayes, and James P. Lee voted yes, and Aldermen Thurman Langford, Bill Winningham, and Johnny Halfacre voted no. Mayor Winningham broke the tie by voting no.

A request from Mr. and Mrs. Tim Williams of Oakland Park to rezone their property from R-1 to R-2 received no action. The property was considered for rezoning once before, but was denied because of opposition.

Mayor Winningham informed the Board that it will cost $160,000 to put lights on the bypass, a job requiring 81 poles. No action was taken.

Alderman Jolley informed the Board that six city employees are not on the books as being hired. The Board voted to retroactively officially hire the employees on the list, making their hiring date the day that they started working for the city.

Adlerman Halfacre asked the Board about making a request to the state to put up signs on the bypass giving a separation of which way goes to the business district and which way is the bypass. The Board agreed to ask the state to put up the signs.

Alderman Halfacre also asked about numbering the traffic lights in Livingston so people can give clearer directions and delivery drivers can more easily find where they are going. Mayor Winningham said the city can do that.

The meeting adjourned.


Judge Rules Against County Bond Procedure

By Robert Forsman

Special Judge John Wootten granted a petition Wednesday, Jan. 31 to stop a bond procedure instituted last year by General Sessions Judge John Officer.

As part of a lawsuit filed against Overton County, a group of professional bondsmen petitioned the court to stop the procedure of allowing defendants to post 10 percent of a bond in cash to be released from jail.

As an example of the procedure, a defendant under a $2,500 bond could post $250 in cash to be released from jail. The $250 would then be deposited in an escrow account at the Clerk of Circuit Court's office. If the defendant was found not guilty, the money would be returned. If the defendant was found guilty, the money would be applied toward fines and court costs.

The attorney for the petitioners argued that law enforcement officials are good at serving arrest warrants in their counties, but when a defendant leaves the county or the state, the service of bail bondsmen are necessary to apprehend the defendant and to return the defendant to custody.

"I never heard that argument before," Judge Wootten said. "You're saying professional bail bondsmen have the authority to apprehend defendants out of state, like in Kentucky.

"Your Honor," the attorney said, "Kentucky just did away with bail bondsmen."

Representing Judge Officer as county attorney, Daryl Colson argued against the petition. "Your Honor, the statutes clearly state that the less onerous conditions be used to get a defendant in court, that bonds be as low as possible to secure the appearance of a defendant, that bonds not be punitive. The legislature has given judges the discretion to determine bail."

The attorney for the petitioners argued that judges do have the authority to set bond, but not for a percentage of the bond. Bonds set by judges should be for the full amount, according to the attorney.

"Years ago," Judge Wootten said, "public drunks posted a cash bond. If they didn't appear in court, they forfeited the bond. Is that practice disappearing?"

"I think it has," the attorney for the petitioners replied.

"I have listened to the comments made by the attorneys," Judge Wootten said. "I have reviewed the statutes applying to bail. I can only commend Judge Officer on using creativity to collect court costs in Overton County. But I don't believe a magistrate can do more than set a set amount of bond.

"If it wasn't for the legislative statutes, I would be inclined to overrule the petition."

Addressing Judge Officer, Judge Wootten said, "I can clearly say that you can set a bail bond as low as you want."

According to a mutual statement issued by Judge John Officer and County Attorney Daryl Colson, "Judge John Wootten's decision was based upon an interpretation of the law and indicated that the procedure was commendable but would have to be approved by the state legislature.

"This is only the first round. This is good for Overton County. As public officials we are not doing our job if we do not pursue this.

"The procedure was an excellent alternative for most defendants in most misdemeanor cases, in which there was no significant risk of flight, no risk to the public safety, and the appearance in court was likely.

"In the short span that the bond procedure had been operable, more than $35,000 has passed into the escrow account to be ultimately used for crime victims, costs of operating the criminal court system, or returned to defendants whose cases are dismissed. This money in the future will quite likely pass into the coffers of the professional bonding businesses operating here.

"The procedure was a tremendous success. We are going to our representatives to get it reinstated. We have to keep trying. It's good for the taxpayers. It's good for crime victims. It's good for those arrested who are found innocent.

"We urge the citizens of Overton County to contact State Representative John Mark Windle and State Senator Lincoln Davis to solicit their help in making this procedure possible."



Overton County News
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