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Lebanon High School subjected to threat

Sheriff Robert Bryan

Social-media comments about potential violence at Lebanon High School forced local law enforcement to scramble in order to investigate.

It was the second time a Wilson County high school was subjected to threats in the past week.

A press release from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) indicated that three juveniles had been charged for their involvement in the incident.

The release reported that within the past 48 hours, investigators with the WCSO and Lebanon Police Department worked together, along with the school administration, to quickly identify juveniles responsible for making threats concerning LHS, in “three separate incidents.”

According to Scott Moore, the WCSO public information officer, “In all three cases, each was determined to be non-credible.”

Credible or not, three juveniles were ultimately charged for their actions that created the disturbance. There was reportedly no evidence found that any students were in immediate danger.

The principal at LHS, Scott Walters, released a message early on Friday morning in order to update parents about the situation.

“Safety is our first priority, and we will continue to investigate,” Walters said. “I wanted you to know that we are aware of what is out there on social media today and that we are on top of it.”

Wilson County Schools Public Information Officer Bart Barker added, “It can’t be stressed enough for families to continue to have conversations with their children about the seriousness of these matters and the resources that it requires to investigate these situations.”

Those resources include the response from local law enforcement. The Lebanon Police Department’s public information officer, Lt. P.J. Hardy, said that police went out to the school to take a report. Since LPD is working in conjunction with the WCSO, Hardy said that he report would be turned over to the sheriff’s department and the student resource officers.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we had some extra officers on site interacting with the students in case any of them had any questions,” Hardy said.

For the students, Barker wants them to know there’s always someone they can talk to at the school, whether a counselor, administrator or teacher.

“If you see something, say something, so you can make your school aware of what you are hearing,” Barker said.

The sheriff’s office issued similar remarks in the release. It reads, “We urge citizens on social media platforms to contact their respective law enforcement agency if they hear or see any threat before sharing information which oftentimes is inaccurate and creates public alarm. In the event that an imminent threat is occurring, we will communicate the best available information we can.”

On Friday, Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said, “In cases such as these, even when we are able to establish that the threat is non-credible, we will continue to pursue charges on individuals making any type of threat both intentionally or jokingly.

“We take all threats seriously, and school safety has always been a top priority. We will look to prosecute anyone and everyone who tries to disrupt the safety and normal daily activities of our students, faculty, and staff, which also include any attempt to try and get school closed by initiating a false threat.”

The three juveniles involved, all Lebanon High School students, are being issued juvenile petitions by the LHS school resource officers. One 17-year old student and another 14-year old student face charges of threat of mass violence on school property. A third student, 17, is charged with filing a false report.

Four days earlier, another incident occurred at Wilson Central High School. On Tuesday, Wilson Central Principal Travis Mayfield released a message indicating threats of school violence that were made on Monday.

Much like the Lebanon High School situation, the school resource officers and the WCSO assisted in ensuring any threat was removed.

Mayfield also urged parents and students to take these situations very seriously as they require thorough investigations to remove the threat of harm.

After the incident at LHS surfaced, Mayfield quickly dispelled a rumor that the two were somehow related.

In an email on Friday, Mayfield said, “There was a text circulating from a parent saying not to send your child to school. Our SROs have seen the evidence and assure me there is no connection to Wilson Central.”

Factory closure leaves employees asking, what next

An automotive production facility in Lebanon informed its employees that the doors would be closing in a few months after being in operation for more than 60 years. For many of the plant’s approximately 300 workers, the future now bears great uncertainty.

Throughout the last quarter century, Chris Stafford has maintained that he would retire from the plant where he has worked since high school. In 1997, when Stafford took his first job, the facility was still called TRW Automotive. A corporate acquisition in 2016, resulted in a name change, but according to Stafford, the core remained intact.

“No one ever told us to prepare for this,” Stafford said. “We’ve seen so many people retire from here. We figured we would too. Once you get the rug pulled out from under you, you don’t know what you are going to do.”

Now that the plant is closing, Stafford worries about what will become of the co-workers he holds near and dear.

“After you have worked with so many people for so long, these people become your family,” Stafford said. “Some of them, you will never see again ... and that hurts.”

Having been around long enough to see the natural ebbs and flows of the business, a prolonged period of shift reductions was all that Stafford needed to see the writing on the wall. Cutbacks to co-workers’ hours threw up another red flag.

“When employees who were regularly logging 70-plus hours a week get cut back to 40, people start noticing,” Stafford said.

Much of his fellow co-workers’ apprehension surrounds returning to a job market that has changed drastically since they first joined the workforce.

Stafford mentioned that some were considering getting training for a certified drivers license. Others are considering additional schooling.

In Stafford’s eyes, the outside world has changed drastically since his first days at the plant. Stafford explained that the worry now is that they will be at a disadvantage as they seek work opportunities in emerging fields and industries.

“Now, you have to fight with people who have specialized degrees,” Stafford said about getting a competitive job. “You started back as a freshman when you have been in a place as a senior.

“It’s hurtful because you have poured your life here. Now, we have to go out and start all over again.”

Those concerns aren’t just about learning a new skill set. A lot of these workers had become accustomed to the security of the plant’s benefits.

“Now, you worry about your pay, but you also worry about your insurance,” said Stafford.

Wilson County Commissioner Sara Patton never worked at the plant herself, but she, as an outside observer, noted much of what Stafford was saying.

“When I graduated high school, getting a job at Ross Gear (which was what the business was formerly named) was a big deal,” Patton said. “Everyone wanted to work there, because you knew you could provide for your family.”

A fringe benefit, according to Patton, was the clout that came with employment at the plant.

As an insider, Stafford said that status was like a badge of honor.

“If you got this TRW job, you had status,” said Stafford. “You hit a gold mine, and people showed you respect because you had to be somebody who worked hard to work here.”

For most of the employees, they’ve never been laid off before. Stafford started at the plant shortly after graduating high school, and he’s been there ever since. It’s the only career he knows.

“Hopefully, if we are blessed, there will be a severance package,” Stafford said. “People can’t just pack up and move to North Carolina or Lafayette, Tennessee. People are going to try to find something within their living range.”

No matter what happens, Stafford is sure that his coworkers will land on their feet. After all, they made it as long as they did at the plant.

“This plant turned young men into strong men,” Stafford said. “We have to hold our heads up high. We gave the plant some of our best years.”

Fair receives a wealth of IAFE Awards

The 2021 Wilson County Fair-Tennessee State Fair made history in so many ways, being the first year to add the Tennessee State Fair along with honoring hometown heroes while celebrating the Year of Beef.

Events and activities were entered into competition with other fairs from around the world to showcase the great fun, education and competitions that take place at agriculture-based fairs.

More than 1,100 entries were judged by fair industry professionals, and awards were presented during the 2021 virtual awards show both on Zoom and Facebook Live.

“We are honored to recognize organizations exceeding in agriculture, communications, competitive exhibits and sponsorship at their fair, along with non-fair facility usage events,” Brittney Harper, IAFE Member Services Coordinator, said. “Those receiving these prestigious awards were selected by our panel of judges based on their creativity, concept development, promotion, innovation and adaptability.”

Winners were selected from the membership of the IAFE, which has more than 1,800 members from around the globe. The Wilson County Fair-Tennessee State Fair received a total of 20 awards in five categories, including agriculture awards, communications awards, competitive exhibits awards, sponsorship awards, and non-fair facility usage awards.

Those awards are as follows:

Agriculture awards

First place — Newly-established or evolving program/exhibit at your fair which promotes agriculture to the fair-going public — Celebrating Year of Beef Agriculture Commodity

Third place — Agricultural exhibitor events, awards, participants’ incentives or retention programs — incentives to increase exhibitor numbers in livestock

Third place — Technique/procedure/policy developed by farm management to correct an issue/challenge related to an agricultural program — increasing information to non-livestock showing public (Livestock Shows Catalog and Information Booth)

Third place — Livestock picture — youth showing cattle

Third place — Agriculture education picture — feeding a baby piglet from a birthing barn

Third place — Agriculture individual picture — Tennessee State Flag created from large round hay bales

Third place — Any other agriculture program/exhibit — showcasing 4-H, the Future Farmers of America and Wool in Q Barn area

Communications awards

First place — At-home activities (non-video) — mailbox and door-decorating contests

Second place — Social media campaign

Second place — Promotional/advertising poster — 2021 fair poster

Competitive exhibits awards

First place — Use of theme throughout multiple divisions of competitive exhibits

First place — New contest or competition — outhouse race

First place — Competitive exhibit new display method and/or prop — youth T-shirt display

Second place — Strategy or tactic to engage competitive exhibits participants — Taste of Tennessee Big Beef Showdown

Third place — Additional competitive exhibits measures taken — Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner ninja competition

Sponsorship awardsFirst place — Sponsor innovation — Burger Republic’s sponsorship of Taste of Tennessee Big Beef Showdown

First place — Sponsorship continuity — Wilson County Farm Bureau

First place — Sponsor exposure — celebrating Year of Beef with Tennessee Beef Council

Second place — First-time sponsorship — Academy Sports and Outdoors

Non-fair facility usage awards

Second place — Successful non-fair event at your facility produced or co-produced by facility staff — Christmas in the Grove

- Submitted

Royal Canin employees lend hands in rescue

The Lebanon-based Animal Rescue Corps’ mission to provide emergency rescues for communities that lack resources to address animal abuse requires outside volunteer help at times.

After the ARC rescued 17 dogs from a breeding operation in Lake County, which is a community approximately 80 miles northeast of Memphis, employees from the Royal Canin facility in Lebanon stepped up to volunteer.

Royal Canin is a company considered to be a leader in science-based dog health nutrition. Its team of nutritionists, breeders and veterinarians have been carving out its place in the animal health industry for more than 50 years.

The ARC responders found a variety of small-breed dogs running loose and living in dilapidated, urine-soaked wood and wire pens that were located outside in the elements. Two young pups, barely two weeks old, were found in a chicken coop. Meanwhile, another newborn puppy, only a day or two old, was found in respiratory distress under a dog house.

According to ARC’s public information officer, Michael Cunningham, “(Due) to the lack of veterinary care and the unsanitary, inhumane living conditions, the dogs were suffering from a range of medical issues.”

That included malnourishment, severe and painful dental disease, extreme matting of the fur, fur loss, skin inflammation, ear infections, eye infections, eye injuries, and both internal and external parasites (such as fleas and ticks).

One of the dogs was suffering from what appears to be a painful eye condition.

ARC Executive Director Tim Woodward explained that Lake County “lacked adequate resources for animal-related issues.”

“I’m so relieved our volunteer was able to secure a surrender and we could be here the next day,” Woodward said.

The planning for the rescue actually began after one ARC volunteer, Kelly Seaton, responded to a tip about this breeder and began working to secure a surrender of the animals.

According to a press release from ARC, the property owner had given away several dogs before moving out of the property and leaving a family member to feed and water the animals.

Seaton subsequently persuaded the owner to surrender the remaining dogs to the ARC.

“I’ve been working to get this surrender for some time,’’ Seaton said. “I’m thrilled these animals are now safe before the cold sets in.”

This rescue, dubbed Operation Holiday Lights, is the organization’s fourth rescue in five weeks, coming on the heels of the removal of 401 animals from a failed Humane Society in Arkansas, 514 dogs from a puppy mill in Iowa, and 44 dogs from an overburdened shelter in Louisiana.

ARC transported the dogs to its operation center, where employees from the Royal Canin plant stepped up and had a team volunteer day at the ARC Rescue Operation Center to help prepare the shelter for the animals coming in.

Each animal received a thorough veterinary exam, appropriate vaccinations, and other medical treatments deemed necessary. Once they are matched and transported to trusted shelter and rescue-partner organizations, they will then be adopted out to homes.

For people wishing to foster or adopt, ARC will publish its list of shelter and rescue-placement partners on its Facebook page once the animals are transferred to these groups. To donate or volunteer to help these dogs and puppies and other animals in need, visit