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80 Years Ago

Archives 01-14-2009



School Board dismisses notion of contracting custodial service
Highlands Visitor Center opens, promotes tourism
Lettuce plant vandalized, $11,000 damage reported

Low revenues may push county to raise property tax

School Board dismisses notion of contracting custodial service

By Dewain E. Peek,
OCN staff

Custodial service in Overton County schools will continue to be performed by school system employees. The declaration was made in an Overton County Board of Education open door work session held Tuesday, Jan. 6, with all members present.

Some school systems, such as Cumberland County, have considered contracting out the custodial service as a cost cutting measure, and some systems have already went that route.

While discussing a proposed “years of service” raise for paraprofessionals, Board member Howard Miller brought up the contracted janitor proposal, saying he had received many phone calls.

Board Chairman Dolphus Dial said, “I’ll tell you what, as far as I’m concerned you can drop it.”

His statement was met with a chorus of amens from his fellow School Board members.

Board member Larry Looper added, “That’s exactly right, don’t ever talk about it again.”

On the years of service raise, the School Board is considering giving 5 cents for each year of service for paraprofessionals, and lowering the starting pay rate.

Board member Sam Pendergrass said, “They may not start at ten dollars an hour, they may start that first year at nine or eight-fifty.”

The proposal will be discussed further before next year’s budget is set.
Another item to be considered for next year is trip mileage. The School Board looked at changing the trip mileage because of drop in the price of fuel, but decided that any change should be made for next year, possibly on a sliding scale according to fuel prices at that time.

In talking about it, some Board members mentioned that trips have already been taken under the current pricing and it would not be fair to them to lower the price before school ends this year.

Looper said, “Since people’s already paid, I don’t think we need to change it, do it next year.”

Miller agreed, saying, “Guys, I think we should leave it just like it is until the end of the year.”

Chairman Dial seated a committee to look into new rules for elementary basketball.

He said, “I’ve had complaints about the practices on Saturdays and Sundays.”

Training leagues, the number of games, and the electric bills, and who pays for the use of the facilities are areas the committee is to look into.

“We need to sit down and say – This is the number of games that you can play, period,” Chairman Dial said.

Looking at electric bills for two schools, which was presented to the Board members, Board member David Sadler asked why the electric bills were just as high, or higher, in the summer as during some of the months in the regular school year.

This brough up areas of concern that School Board members want to take a look, including if school facilities are being used by groups without the school being reimbursed for the cost of electricity, keys to the buildings being out in the public, and kids using the gymnasiums when they are not supposed to be there.

The Board will also look into shutting down some areas of the schools in the summer, and Board member Pendergrass suggested shutting down all the schools completely in June.

Addressing next year’s budget, Director of Schools Mike Gilpatrick touched on many areas that are in question with the state’s economic situation at this time.

“The state may have to temporarily suspend some programs until the economy improves,” he said.

Asked about Pre-K, he said, “They are going to try to keep that intact.”
He added that the program would not be expanded, so the school system will not receive any new Pre-K classes.

An update was given on contract negotiations with Overton County Education Association (OCEA). The Board was informed that the only item still under negotiations is binding arbitration versus advisory arbitration.

Under binding arbitration, which has been part of the OCEA contract for many years, a dispute would be decided by an outside arbitrator, and that decision would be binding.

With arbitration being in an advisory capacity only, the School Board could listen to the recommendation of the arbitrator and take it as advice, but would not be bound to the recommendation. If the School Board rejected the arbitrator’s advice, the person with the grievance could file a lawsuit against the School Board.

Looper said, “If they’ve had it for thirtysomething years, what’s wrong
with doing it again?”

Board member Mark Peek differed, saying that everything done in the contract negotiations has benefitted the teachers and that they should give on this one item.

Livingston Fire Chief Rocky Dial addressed the Board to ask if buses could be provided in an emergency should another incident such as the recent fire alarm at Head Start occur. The children had stood in the rain while firefighters secured the building. The School Board approved of that arrangement.

The next open door work session will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15 at the Central Education Office.

Overton County Board of Education will meet in regular session Monday, Jan. 19 at the Central Education Office, as directed by Chairman Dial. An open door work session will be held at 6 p.m. with the Board meeting at 7 p.m.

A policy committee meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20 at the Central Education Office. The meeting is open to the public

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Highlands Visitor Center opens, promotes tourism

Livingston Mayor Curtis Hayes and Tennessee Technology Center Director Ralph Robbins were among the dignitaries on hand for the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the new Highlands Visitor Center held January 8.

People driving through Cookeville on I-40, Highway 111, and Highway 70 North now have a place to stop and learn more about Tennessee’s Highlands area now that the 1,870-square-foot Highlands Visitor Center is now open at 470-A Neal Street in Cookeville.

With a focus on the Highlands counties of Putnam, Overton, and White, the center houses interactive displays of local attractions: fine arts and craft items from local and emerging artists; historical exhibits; a 32-inch flat screen TV showing scenes of the Highlands and other DVDs, such as Appalachian Center for Craft demonstrations; and a wall-sized map that highlights points of interest in the Upper Cumberland. 

The center has wall displays on four main topics: outdoor recreation, cultural arts, historic attractions and museums, and music. It also has two-sided floor panels that include information about wineries and agritourism, special events, education, retail and golf. In addition, the center offers bathroom facilities and a refreshment area.

“It’s not just a room full of brochures,” said Cookeville-Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) Director Laura Canada. “It’s more than that; it’s people feeling like they can have ownership in it and can go in there and find out all there is to do and see in the Highlands and beyond.”

The idea for a visitor center arose from a study completed in 2007 by Randall Travel Marketing, a consulting firm in North Carolina. That study pointed out, like the Wadley Donovan Target Opportunities Study had in 2004, that the Highlands area can benefit substantially from more tourism because the area is within one day’s drive of 76% of the U.S. population and is strategically located between Knoxville (95 miles), Nashville (80 miles), and Chattanooga (95 miles) at the intersection of I-40 East and West and U.S. Highway 111 North and South.

On a daily basis, approximately 40,000 people travel through Cookeville on I-40, and the community has a reputation as a convenient, “easy-on, easy-off” interstate exit for food, gas, and lodging; however, the Randall study also found that the ease of finding visitor information in and about the area was below average, meaning a large number of potential visitors were missing out on all the Highlands area has to offer.

The study cited a stand-alone visitor center as a key short-term strategy to showcase the area’s attractions, dining, lodging, and shopping venues.

“Until now, the Chamber of Commerce has always sort of served as our visitor center, but the restaurant and hotel owners wanted something closer to the interstate for convenience and closer access, and this study also emphasized the need for that,” Canada said.

A staff of at least 20 volunteers will allow the center to be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

For more information about the Highlands Visitor Center call (931) 525-1575 or e-mail Canada at lcanada@cookevillechamber.com.


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Lettuce plant vandalized, $11,000 damage reported

By Mary Jo Denton,
Herald-Citizen staff
with permission

A large hydroponic lettuce plant in the Rickman community was burglarized and vandalized on Wednesday night, Jan. 7, and a former employee is suspected in the case, officials said.

The damage to the Tanimura & Antle plant of the Hydroserre Tennessee company, located on Oak Hill Road, was estimated at around $11,000, according to Overton County Sheriff W.B. Melton.

Allegedly, a former employee confessed to the crime and even left a check he thought would cover the damage, but no one had been arrested in the case as of Friday.

A maintenance manager at the plant discovered the damage when he arrived for work at 6 a.m. Jan. 8, says a report by Overton Sheriff’s Detective Jana Governale.

“He stated that when he came in the back door, he heard the front door close,” the report says. “He looked around and noticed some damage to the office and surrounding areas.”

A computer was destroyed, holes were cut in greenhouse walls, plumbing was damaged, and acid was pumped into a water pool, according to the report. The damage caused the loss of 120,000 gallons of water, the detective’s report says.

Company officials itemized the damage as follows: computer system, $1,500; germination plumbing, $300; acid adjustment, $300; hole in walls A and G, $1,200; cost of reheating boiler, $1,200; loss of water in pool 4, $6,000.

Overton Sheriff’s Deputy John McLeod also investigated, and as of Friday, the investigation was still underway, Sheriff Melton said.

He said evidence in the case will be presented to Overton Grand Jury this week.

The Tanimura & Antle plant produces lettuce and greens grown in water.

Low revenues may push county to raise property tax

By Dewain E. Peek,
OCN staff

Budget Director Debra Maberry spoke briefly to the county commissioners about the state of revenues coming into the county coffers.

“In the General Fund, your collections are at 36%, Solid Waste 37%, Highway Department 34%, and Debt Service 39%,” she said. “Normally at this time of year, we’d be between 45 and 50%.

“Your areas of concern – interest on investments, of course in debt service. Fortunately you have a healthy fund balance, which is good to absorb any shortage that you’re going to have. Unless things change, that will be a large sum of money.

“Sales tax is behind.

“Sales of recyclables are at 24%. That’s not anybody’s fault. Metal, plastics, everything is down.

“Tipping fees are at 34%.”

She and County Mayor Kenneth Copeland plan to meet with each of the county office holders to see where savings may be made.

“We need to make sure that our expenditures stay under control,” she said.
Mayor Copeland said, “It’s something that’s happening everywhere, and it’s happening here.”

The county’s budget committee is preparing for the situation to be worse next fiscal year.

Not only is the county’s revenue down, but funds from the state are likely to be cut back.

Mayor Copeland said, “The state’s projecting a billion dollar shortfall, so that stuff starts stretching down to us. So, it’s not going to be good.”

Commissioner Carter added, “When the state comes up short, they start cutting their revenue that they give us, but yet they still mandate us to keep a certain amount of funding to several different areas; I mean, we’re still
mandated to do that.

“The only place that we’ve got where we can get any funding is property tax. And that’s something that none of us want to do, is to raise the property taxes.”

In other business, Overton County EMS Director Jim Morgan and Livingston Fire Chief Rocky Dial were appointed as assistant medical examiners.

A resolution was adopted for Overton County to maintain eligibility in the National Flood Insurance Program, as recommended by the Planning Commission.

The Gullett Mountain lease agreement with Overton County Fire Chiefs Association was approved.

James Thrasher and Sue Eldridge were reappointed to the Library Board.
The following were approved as notaries at-large: Nancy Nolen, Lois K. Howard, Dennie Chilton, Jack Young, Eric Stephens, Julie L. Coleman, Chasity Hancock, Bridget Thompson, and Amanda Anderson.

The County Commission approved the roads recommended by the Highway Committee to be added to the county road list.

The meeting adjourned.


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