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Three VFDs respond to fire, Walnut Grove home destroyed
Assistant principal to be hired at RES
State Senate race called into question
Crash at Oak, Broad injures one, closes street

Three VFDs respond to fire, Walnut Grove home destroyed


Lyndon Johnson photo
Firefighters wrestle a high-pressure firehose around a house located at 259 Walnut Grove Road Friday, Nov. 12 as they attempt to extinguish a blaze that destroyed the home.

Fairgrounds Volunteer Fire Department got the initial call at 1:43 p.m. Fire crews from Hardy’s Chapel and Hilham were later summoned to assist in fighting the fire, which had the home fully engulfed when crews arrived. Two tanker trucks and several pumpers responded. The tankers each left and returned to the scene multiple times with fresh tanks of water to douse the fire.

According to Fairgrounds VFD Chief David Birchfield, the property was rented by Kevin Dyer, who inhabited the residence along with his family. The property is listed as being owned by G.L. Ogletree and spouse Nell according to the Tennessee Real Estate Assessment Data website.

Birchfield said, “There was no real indication what started the fire. There was nothing like heaters plugged in at the time because it was warm.” Birchfield also noted there was no evidence of foul play because no accelerants such as gasoline were noted at the scene.

The property was located directly across the street from a property that required the response of six fire departments to extinguish when it burned in May. In that case, the home was also destroyed.


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Assistant principal to be hired at RES
By Dewain E. Peek,
OCN staff

Overton County Board of Education held the regular monthly meeting Monday, Nov. 15, with members Kelly Hill, David Sadler Sr., Dolphus Dial, Larry Looper, Lenard Ledbetter, Ricky Dodson, Howard Miller, Mike Gilpatrick, Ray Smith, and Chairman Houston Robbins all present.

Posting a job for an assistant principal at Rickman Elementary School was approved along with, if the person hired as assistant principal is currently on staff, posting the vacant position caused by the hiring.
Posting two half-time cafeteria worker jobs, 3.5 hours per day each, at
Rickman Elementary was approved.

A Special Education aide to help with an autistic student at Livingston Middle School was approved, at 7 hours per day.

The School Board approved taking bids on repairing rooms at the old Central Education office in order to house all of A.H. Roberts Elementary School’s Pre-K classes inside the building instead of using a portable for a class.

Contractor bids for the CDC classroom at Livingston Academy were approved.

Blue Bird’s bid on a 77-passenger bus was approved at $76,958.

First reading on adding Overton County Schools Restraint and Isolation Procedures into Overton County Board of Education Policy was approved.

Director of Schools Matt Eldridge informed the Board that David Hunter trained nine people in the school system for free.

Quarterly reports were approved.

Youth Initiative Grant was approved, and posting jobs for the grant was also approved.

Director Eldridge said, “This is the one that we talked about last time that works through Judge Officer in the court system. Again, this is no money from us, no match, no anything.”

The program will be about two hours per day to help struggling students.
The School Board approved the following discretionary grants through Special Education with no local matching funds required:

•New application for technology support for the Special Education program. Professional development and training for Special Education teachers in the area of technology.

•New application for Inclusion/Sound Field Systems for grades 1 and 2. This grant will provide funds to place Sound Field Systems in all grade 1 and 2 classrooms.

•Re-application for Technology Rich Classrooms. Funds will continue to support technology in preschool classrooms.

•Re-application for Inclusion Aides in Small School Settings. Funds will provide for educational assistants in the three small schools.

The 2010-2011 math textbook committees were approved as follows: Grades K-5 – Carmel Maynord, Spring Choate, Deanna Savage, Kathy Ray, Shannon Watson, Lisa Ramsey, and Amy Baggett; Grades 6-8 – Edith Williams, Tabitha Winningham, Kevin Norrod, Jenny Smith, and Jaida Campbell; Grades 9-12 – Eleanor York, Stephanie Johnson, and Jean Jolley.

Certification of Compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49-3-310(4)(A) was approved. The section states, “The superintendent and the chairman of the board of each LEA shall certify to the commissioner on or before October 15 of the current school year that all children enrolled in that LEA have been furnished all required textbooks, as determined by the commissioner.”

Tennessee Department of Education Report of Local Education Agency Compliance for Public and Category 1 Non-Public Schools Grades PK-12 was approved.

Hilham Beta Club was approved to take an overnight trip to attend the Junior Beta Conference on November 22 and 23.

Minutes of the October 18, 2010 meeting were approved.

Before the meeting adjourned, Director Eldridge informed the Board that Wilson Elementary’s boys basketball team won 1st place in the Hilham Invitational Tournament last week, and Wilson’s girls placed 2nd. Hilham Elementary’s girls won 1st place, and Hilham’s boys placed 2nd.

Howard Miller informed the Board that Rickman Elementary’s Fall Festival raised a little over $25,000.

He also announced that the Rickman Elementary boys basketball team won the Red Boiling Springs Tip-Off Classic, and the Rickman girls team placed 2nd.

Ricky Dodson announced that Allons Elementary’s girls team won the girls division in the Red Boiling Springs Classic, and that Wade Eldridge was named MVP for the boys.

Kelly Hill informed the Board that A.H. Roberts Elementary School student Macy Savage, a member of the United States Karate Team, won a gold medal, silver medal, and bronze medal in the World Finals in Scotland, and that Blake Ledbetter, a 5th grader at LMS, also competed in the tournament.

Dolphus Dial expressed appreciation to the principals and attendance personnel.

“Our attendance is unbelievable, higher than I’ve ever seen in all these schools together,” Dial said. “They’ve done a good job.”

David Sadler expressed appreciation to A.H. Roberts Elementary for its Veterans Day presentation.

“That was an awesome ceremony put on by them,” he said.

Director Eldridge said Livingston Middle School had a Veterans Day ceremony at Overton County Nursing Home.

Chairman Houston Robbins expressed his wish that a Veterans Day ceremony could be coordinated to include all the county’s schools.

In a work session held immediately prior to the regular monthly meeting, Overton County Mayor Ron Cyrus and County Attorney Daryl Colson presented copies of a proposed uniform county nepotism policy to the School Board members.

Mayor Cyrus said, “What I request that y’all do is to review this for a month and have an opportunity to make comments among yourselves, and if it would be possible, if you would be willing to do it, meet with one of our committees and sit down in a work session.”

Chairman Robbins said, “Mayor, we’ll take this under advisement and study it, and talk among ourselves and see what the feeling of the Board is.”

County Attorney Colson explained, “The county wants to adopt this as a human resource policy for county employees and we’d like to get collaboration with the School Board, hopefully we can do it in a joint effort so that all county employees can operate under the same policy.”




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State Senate race called into question
By Liz Engel Clark,
Herald Citizen

Putnam County election officials allege State Senator Charlotte Burks violated election law in November by entering polling places illegally on election day, and evidence of that allegation, plus other infractions that have been reported, will be turned over to the district attorney.

In a special called meeting held Friday morning, Nov. 12 election commissioners discussed several incidents that allegedly occurred during election day in Putnam County. Those included allegations that Burks (D-Monterey) wrongly entered two polling places – candidates running in elections are not allowed to enter precincts unless voting themselves, and signs are posted outside precincts to that effect – as well as violations of the 100-foot boundary rule by other candidates and campaign supporters.

Commissioners said that non-certified poll watchers also tried to intimidate precinct workers, although no one was named specifically.

Putnam County election officials also reported that voting seals on several machines were broken during election day. Each machine is outfitted with a red seal, which is located on the back of the machine and used for identification purposes. On five of those machines, four from a Monterey precinct and one from Cane Creek, those seals were broken. Taped seals on the bottom of nine other machines were also broken when inspected at a later date.

Election officials said during the meeting that they don’t know how exactly those seals were broken or who did it. An internal investigation is ongoing; affidavits have been taken by the election commission’s attorney, but they have yet to be publicly released.

The voting tallies from those machines were matched with the voter cards that are filled out by individuals before their ballot is cast. And all numbers matched up, election commissioner Debbie Steidl said. She said she was told late election night that the seals on the Monterey machines had been broken early in the morning.

The Cane Creek seal was discovered missing when the machines were inspected again. If the red seal is broken, that incident is supposed to be recorded and the seal replaced.

Commissioner Linda Daniel said, “A lot of times it’s human error. We don’t think votes were tampered with. The law was broken, but votes weren’t tampered with.”

But Republican Gary Steakley, who lost his bid for the state senate seat in the 15th District against Burks by less than 200 votes, called fraud. He said the red seals in Monterey had been broken by an employee of the Putnam County executive’s office, who is the daughter of Charlotte Burks. He’s called in the FBI to investigate.

“I believe there has been fraud committed,” Steakley said. “We don’t know what his intentions were for cutting them off. This is a problem.”

He wanted the commission to postpone its certification process, which was scheduled for Monday, Nov. 15. A judge would have to rule to stop that process.

Steidl said Burks had entered a precinct in Monterey, where poll workers did nothing. She also visited the Cookeville Community Center, and an election worker did ask her to leave.

In the November 2 election, Burks garnered 22,795 votes while Steakley had 22,612. Independent Joe Wilmoth received 8,779 votes in that same race.After the election, Secretary of State Tre Hargett applauded several state election commissions, including Putnam County, for what seemed to be a smooth election process.

“I commend not only our staff at the state Division of Elections, but also county election officials across Tennessee for running such a smooth election,” Hargett said. “It has been said that the best-officiated sporting events are the ones in which people don’t even notice that the referees are there. I think a similar analogy works for elections, and so I am glad people spent Tuesday night talking about the election’s results rather than problems at the polls.”

As for the poll watchers, only two candidates had filled out paperwork certifying their poll watchers, Steidl said, Diane Black, a Republican running for U.S. Congress, and Ryan Williams, a Republican running for the state house of representatives in the 42nd District. Poll watchers are not allowed to engage in campaign activities inside the polling place, but Terry Herrin, chair of the election commission, said he received several calls that non-certified poll watchers had violated that policy.

“Some people came into the precincts, we don’t know their names,” Herrin said. “We tried to find it out, but they represented that they were official poll watchers, and I feel they might have tried to intimidate those precinct workers.”

Election commissioners said airing these infractions publicly would prevent events like this from happening in the future. The commission voted 4-1 to turn over the list of infractions to the DA.

Daniel was the lone vote against that motion. After the meeting, she said she was still waiting on more information to be released about the red seals that had been broken.

Blake Fontenay, communications director for Tennessee Election Commission, offered this statement to the Herald-Citizen:

“The state coordinator of elections (Mark Goins) is investigating,” Fontenay said. “He has made some inquiries into this matter. He will also be reaching out to the district attorney’s office. He has also consulted the FBI about this. We can’t really say much because it is an ongoing investigation.

“I want to be clear that the FBI has not said they are investigating,” he continued. “We have been in contact with them. The main thing is to find out what happened before we comment on what happens next.”

State Sen. Burks said she didn’t know she had done anything wrong when she entered a pair of polling places on election day, an infraction that is now being investigated. It’s something that she and her family have done for a number of years, she said in a brief phone interview with the Herald-Citizen.

“I didn’t realize I had done anything wrong,” Burks (D-Monterey) said. “I didn’t have on any of my campaign stuff. I just wanted to see how many people were voting.

“I just hate having my integrity called into question,” she continued. “My integrity has always been above board and still is.”

Candidates are not allowed inside precincts unless they are voting themselves, and signs are posted outside declaring this fact, Putnam County Election Administrator Debbie Steidl said. Poll workers had been trained on this law, but the volunteers at the Monterey precinct didn’t say anything because they were “intimidated,” she said.

“There is intimidation when people who are elected officials come in,” Steidl said. “We pushed this in our training, and they say, ‘this is not the way we’ve always done it.’ Well we’re going to follow the law, we’re going to start doing it this way.”




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Crash at Oak, Broad injures one, closes street

Lyndon Johnson photo
A collision at the intersection of Oak and West Broad Streets in Livingston Thursday, Nov. 11 caused a minor to be transported to Livingston Regional Hospital for possible injuries sustained and West Broad Street to be closed to traffic in the vicinity for several minutes.

According to a report from Livingston Police Department, a maroon 2004 Ford Explorer driven by a 17-year-old minor, whose name was withheld by Livingston Police, failed to yield right-of way as it attempted to enter the intersection from Oak Street. According to the report, that action caused a white 2000 Ford F-350 pickup driven by William H. McCormick, 81, of Livingston to strike the Explorer. Air bags deployed on both vehicles.

A passenger in the Explorer, 19-year old Raymond T. Mayberry of Gainesboro, was uninjured, as was McCormick. Both vehicles, however, suffered disabling damage and had to be towed away from the scene.




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