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Trousdale commissioners file ethics complaint against county mayor

The County Commission has formally asked for an ethics investigation into County Mayor Stephen Chambers.

At Monday’s Commission meeting, Chairman Dwight Jewell read into the minutes a letter signed by 11 of the 20 members asking County Attorney Branden Bellar to “investigate these actions for any ethical or legal infractions and pursue any legal recourse necessary” against the mayor.

“I had hoped this would somewhat die down and it didn’t,” Jewell said in speaking with The Vidette. “I talked with Mr. Bellar about what we needed to do if we wanted to pursue it… I also talked with CTAS (County Technical Assistance Service)… Based on their recommendation is why it went the direction it did.”

The letter was signed by Gary Claridy, Rick Davis, Coy Dickey, Bill Fergusson, Jerry Ford, Richard Harsh, Jewell, Rachel Jones, David Nollner, Lonnie Taylor and Steve Whittaker.

Jewell said he received the letter by email but declined to say who had sent it to him.

“It came from everyone who signed onto it,” he said. “It came from 11 commissioners and I feel that’s the way it needs to be looked at.”

The letter alleges that at a special called Commission meeting on July 18, the mayor threatened legal action against the Commission for an alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act with regards to the Water Department’s request to build a new facility on county property. The letter also states that some commissioners voted for the project “because they were intimidated and coerced to do so, to avoid the county being involved in litigation.”

At that July meeting, Mayor Chambers pointed out that five commissioners had discussed the building project prior to a meeting of the Education Committee and that the discussion was on video. The mayor also stated that any potential Open Meetings Act violation could be cured by discussing the same topics at a public meeting and those discussions were held prior to the Commission’s vote to approve the $1.2 million building. The approval came by a 10-9 margin.

Chambers denied any wrongdoing on his part, saying, “I was not aware of the letter. My initial reaction is I’m going to consult an attorney, because there are allegations made in there. They are baseless allegations. I’m going to speak to an attorney and if there’s a statement to be made, I’ll make it later.”

Bellar declined comment when asked how a formal investigation would proceed, saying he wanted to examine the statute first.

In addition, Dickey read a statement calling on the mayor to apologize for publicly calling commissioners “idiots” after the group’s August meeting. Those remarks came after a failed vote on funding a Trey Park grant.

“We’re not idiots; we’re not dumb… The mayor should apologize to the Commission,” Dickey said in part.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or

Trousdale County outmuscles Smith County

The Trousdale County Yellow Jackets ran out to a 34-3 lead in the third quarter before finishing with a 34-16 victory over the Smith County Owls on the Creekbank Friday night.

The Jackets remained perfect on the season at 5-0 while the Owls fell to 2-4.

“I’ve noticed a trend with our football team: these rivalry games we get up for and play,” TCHS coach Blake Satterfield said. “I thought we played three-and-a-half quarters of very good football tonight. We blocked really well, we tackled really well and we were very physical tonight.”’

The physical nature of the game was on display throughout as both teams combined for 11 penalties and Trousdale County’s Xavier Harper was ejected after being flagged for a personal foul.

“That’s the one thing I told our team: the thing we’ve got to get better at, the emotional part of it,” Satterfield said. “Knowing that people are going to try and get in your head, football’s about controlling that emotion. It’s OK to get fired up.”

The Jackets got on the scoreboard on their second possession when Bryson Claiborne raced 62 yards down the right sideline to pay dirt. The two-point try was unsuccessful but Trousdale led 6-0 with 9:37 left before halftime.

Smith County responded with a drive that ended on a 29-yard field goal by Javier Gaspar to cut the lead to 6-3.

Trousdale needed just seven plays to extend the lead as Claiborne struck again, this time from seven yards out. Brian Banks ran in the two-point conversion to make it a 14-3 game and the Jackets took that lead into halftime.

The Jackets would pile on three more touchdowns in the third quarter as Claiborne scored on runs of 28 and 44 yards, followed by a 2-yard scoring run from Cole Gregory. A two-point conversion after the third score made it 34-3 with 2:14 left in the third period.

Satterfield then put the Trousdale reserves into the game and the Owls got their first touchdown on a three-yard carry by Bryce Currie. Gaspar’s kick made it 34-10.

With 3:02 remaining, Smith County’s Jayden Evans scored on a 21-yard run to make it 34-16 after a two-point try failed.

Claiborne had a career-best 151 rushing yards and four touchdowns on eight carries for the Jackets and Gregory added 85 yards on 16 attempts.

“Cole’s a beast. You might come up and tackle him a couple times, but you get in the third quarter and he’s just getting started,” Satterfield said. “Getting him back this week was huge.”

On defense, the Jackets forced a pair of turnovers as Garrett Rieger and Kane Burnley each grabbed interceptions.

It was Trousdale’s 36th victory in the series against Smith County. The two teams had not played since 2008 but the Jackets lead overall 36-30-1.

“It’s always good to come out with a win against a rival and come out injury free,” Satterfield said.

Tennessee students show improvements after summer camps

Students who participated in summer learning camps across Tennessee, including the local Summer Scholars program, showed marked improvement in test scores according to the Tennessee Department of Education.

On Sept. 22, Gov. Bill Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn held a press conference to share what they called encouraging data from the summer programs.

A special session of the General Assembly in January passed a number of education measures, including the allocation of $160 million for academic summer camps in every district across the state. The summer camps are optional for 2021 and 2022 but are scheduled to become mandatory in 2023 for students who do not reach certain reading benchmarks.

“This past summer, Tennessee school districts launched rich academic programs and thoughtfully prioritized student and family engagement to help their students get extra learning time and recover from a very tough school year. In doing so, they built tremendous momentum for students and staff heading into a brand new and still very tough school year,” Schwinn said. “There is a lot of work that lies ahead, but after seeing what Tennessee accomplished this summer for its students, I believe our public schools are proving what’s possible.”

Statewide, over 120,000 students were enrolled in summer programs. Trousdale County’s program ran during June and served 212 students who had just completed grades K-7.

Statewide, Tennessee students saw an improvement of 5.97% in English & Language Arts scores and 10.49% in Math scores in pre- and post-summer testing. Elementary students showed better progress with an average of 7.34% improvement in ELA and 11.66% in Math. District-level results were not being released, however.

“At this time, the department does not plan to release district-level results from summer learning camp pre- and post-tests. Districts, schools and educators worked extremely hard to make the summer camp experience their own and developed strong strategies for supporting students and families, so districts are best positioned to share indicators of success seen at the local level. During the summer study presentation to House Education Committees, the department provided state-level pre- and post-test data from the first summer of learning camps to show a directionality that indicated summer learning helped Tennessee students,” Brian Blackley, spokesman for TDOE, said via email.

“Tennessee has led the nation in getting students back in the classroom and swiftly addressing learning loss,” Lee said in a press statement. “As we continue to prioritize our students, I’m encouraged to share positive outcomes of priorities established in our historic special session. I am hopeful for our state and thank the legislature for their partnership to turn the tide for Tennessee students.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or Contributing: Staff reports

Committee looks at rubber mulch surface for Trousdale park

Members of Trousdale County’s Parks & Recreation Committee were inclined toward putting rubber mulch inside the Trey Park playground as a new surface.

During the group’s Sept. 23 meeting, commissioners weighed various options for improvements to the play surface, which is currently grass.

County Mayor Stephen Chambers noted that as part of a grant for adding ADA-compliant play equipment, the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation requested that Trousdale County look at improving a play surface deemed a safety hazard. At the August County Commission meeting the body voted against using wood chips to replace the play surface, noting past problems with flooding and quick deterioration.

The mayor noted that TDEC would have to approve whatever surface the county opts to go with, but that approval could come quickly.

Chambers and Commissioner Landon Gulley each presented various quotes received from three different companies, ranging from roughly $80,000 to almost $100,000.

Gulley pointed out that the rubber mulch is similar to the surface currently in place on the playground at the elementary school. The rubber surface is made from recycled tire with the wires removed.

“They’re not seeing issues out there,” Gulley said of the elementary school play area.

Commissioners seemed most favorable toward a quote from Recreational Concepts, a company out of Cookeville. Its $83,540 quote for black rubber mulch includes bordering and installation, but commissioners asked if the company could provide a quote on colored material, saying it would look better even if it was slightly more expensive.

One of the other companies did provide separate quotes on black mulch and rubber mulch, with a difference of roughly $21,000.

Commissioner Dwight Jewell noted that the installation costs might be reduced if community civic groups and volunteers assisted. Chambers said he believed the company would work with such volunteers if needed.

“This is the type of project people will rise to coming out and helping with the installation if it’s just labor,” Jewell said.

“They say they work with communities all over the place,” Chambers added. “Most of these companies are community oriented.”

Commissioners also discussed the replacement of light poles at the Little League ballfields. The county has budgeted $20,000 in the current fiscal year toward replacement of the poles.

Gulley said recommendations were replacing four of the current poles, adding two more wooden poles and replacing the current lights with LED lighting, which would reduce energy costs. Gulley also said moving a power source from its current location would be advisable as it can be covered with water if the park floods.

The committee scheduled its next meeting for Monday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. to discuss both matters further.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or

Trousdale PTA holding second Craft/Yard Sale

Trousdale County’s Parent-Teacher Association is planning its second Community Craft/Yard Sale this weekend as a fundraiser.

The event will be held Saturday, Oct. 2 at First Baptist Church, located at 773 E. McMurry Blvd., and will run from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

“We were very pleased with the outcome and the constant flow of traffic back in May. We’re really hoping for the same,” said Leah Kelley Brown, president of the PTA. “I think the location along Highway 25 helps get those onlookers.”

Booths are $20 each and cover two parking spots in the church’s lot. Those participating are responsible for setting up their own table or canopy.

There are 18 spots already reserved, Brown said, and room for 10 more spots. Craft vendors are welcome as well as yard sales, she noted.

“That’s more than we had last May, so that’s good,” Brown said.

Anyone wishing to reserve a booth can call or text Brown at 931-319-0063, or email her at Payment can be made with cash, check or online through Venmo.

In addition to craft and yard sale items, there will be at least two food trucks participating. Hot Dog Momma will be there again and Foodland employee James Reeves will have smoked meats available.

Vendors scheduled to be on hand include Hartsvegas with Trousdale County-themed T-shirts and hoodies, as well as sellers of glass art, cake pops, handcrafted jewelry, Christmas ornaments, furniture and more.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or