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Thursday, March 30, 2017

More from City Council Shooting Park Work session including video of speakers and comments.

Tuesday's work session on the proposed Crossville shooting sports park gave many the opportunity to speak on the matter including those with the state funding agency Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and those who both support and oppose the proposed location of the park.

Kenneth Carey addresses his participation in the project

Even those who are opposed to the Albert Frye location say they want to see the park located in Cumberland County, just not be located anywhere near their homes or property.
Members of the audience including supporters and those opposed
to the shooting sports park listen to 
TWRA commission member Jim Bledsoe

Crossville Mayor James Mayberry called the work session to give more of the public a chance to speak on the matter as public comments were not allowed at the special called meeting that may have killed the project, at least on the city's Albert Frye Road property. The first speaker was Jim Bledsoe, an outgoing member of the TWRA board of commissioners who has sought the project during the last 2 years of his term.

Meeting opened by Mayor Mayberry and comments by Jim Bledsoe

Bledsoe said that the proposed property was strategically picked because of its accessibility and proximity to I-40. "We have several shooting facilities across the state,” said Bledsoe, “This was going to be our middle Tennessee focus area.” Bledsoe explained that the property has been tied to the project since the beginning and is used as match for the grant. A local match of 25 percent is required for the federal grant. “This piece of property is essential for the project,” added Bledsoe, “Without it you'll have to start all over again. You'll have to go through a whole new grant writing process, back to ground zero.” Additionally, if the project isn't started by June 30, the funds will have to re-budgeted into TWRA's next budget and that is not guaranteed.

Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey told Jim Young Reporter he has been promoting the project, as a private individual not promoting it in his capacity as mayor.  Carey made those comments in a meeting earlier Tuesday in his office.  That differentiation has not always been clear. 

At the council meeting Carey said that as a board member he will not receive any pay for his work on the project and he categorically denied there was any job he would take with the operation in the future.

Kenneth Carey remarks and other speakers including Roy South 

Local resident Roy South spoke saying that he had operated a shooting club for about 10 years in Putnam Co. and it was a popular attraction that even brought in visitors from 8 other countries during its operation.

Another local resident, Randall Kidwell spoke about the lack of zoning and that he lived very near the Crossville Raceway but he would rather keep the ability to do what he wanted with his property rather then have others tell him. Kidwell said that he was concerned that the small group of people fighting the project were able to shut it down adding that even if someone wanted to put in a daisy farm someone would object to it.

Comments by Randall Kidwell

Additional speakers at the council work session included Wade Davenport, Tom Pelfry and Harold Stryker.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shooting Sports Park remains in limbo with shooting demo planned for Saturday.

While the turn out was a bit smaller, the discussion was every bit as lively for a work session on the proposed Crossville Shooting Sports Park held at city hall Tuesday evening.

It appeared few minds were changed by the discussion that included statements from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Cumberland Co. Mayor Kenneth Carey who promoted the project, according to his statements, not as Co. mayor but as a private citizen interested in promoting a strong youth shooting program. Carey said that he had been a youth shooting coach and knew the benefits of the program.
Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey addresses the council 
on the Shooting Sports Park

TWRA's Jim Bledsoe also addressed the matter of the $2.2 million grant 
being tied to the current property and any changes could possibly
send the funds to another county.

But the opposition remained to the project location. Several of those who spoke against the project said they supported such a shooting sports park, just not where is it proposed on city property off of Albert Frye Road just north of I-40. There appear to be between 5 and 7 residences along Albert Frye Road. Additional homes on Chestnut Hill Road near I-40 have also complained about possible sound issues.
Cabin that is adjacent to the city property proposed for the
SHooting Park.  The city property starts at the tree line. 

While no decision can be made at a city council work session, a proposal to hold a demonstration shooting on the site for property owners in the area to hear the effects of gunfire on the site was discussed and set for Saturday morning April 1, at 10 AM.

The next time that a meeting on the topic might be held is on April 4, the date of the council's next regular work session.

We will have more to report on the meeting including videos of some of the comments coming.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Email from Barry Sumners, Asst. Director of TWRA on the status of the Shooting Sports Park location

The email below was sent from Assistant Director of TWRA Barry Sumners to Kenneth Carey on March 21, 2017.  This outlines some of the potential problems with a possible change in the location of the proposed Shooting Sports Park.  

We talked to Mr. Carey this morning and he said that he was not representing the county when he spoke to Crossville city council in past meetings.  There has been some confusion over that situation and if the county was involved in the project.  It turns out that the county is not part of the project and Carey has been acting, not as county mayor but as an interested individual.  He explained that a group of parents and gun sports supporters came to him seeking help as they knew he had dome some coaching as well and Carey said he agreed to "try and help them."
Kenneth Carey

Carey said he would be at the council Tuesday meeting and try and straighten out any confusion if he gets the opportunity to speak.  

He also said that there was no truth to rumors he would get a job out of the project after he left office and he would address that as well. 

Carey continued to say as he had previously that he hoped the project could possibly attract some gun manufacturers or other related industry to the community because of the shooting park.

The following email was sent to Carey at his official County email address.

Hello Mayor Carey,

I wanted to summarize our conversation earlier today regarding the possibility of moving the site for the Crossville range.

We received federal grant approval after submitting documents that support constructing the project at the Frye Rd. site. This included an evaluation of the impact on endangered species and approval from the State Historic Preservation Office.

If the location is changed we could re-apply to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (after securing the required compliance documents) and request that we be allowed to construct the range at a different site. Doing so would introduce a lot of uncertainty since we don’t know if a different site would comply with the federal requirements. It is quite possible that we would not find an approvable site and funding would revert.

Our standard contract language includes a clause titled “subject to funds availability” and TWRA is counting on the federal funds being available to construct the range.

Another related factor is that we have negotiated an agreement with the federal government to use the value of the Frye Rd. property as matching funds (see attachment), based on an appraisal of the site. A different site would of course have a different value and we would also have to start that process again.

I understand that there is some opposition to construction the range at the current site. If the location is changed, TWRA will work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to try to make funding available for a different site.

Barry Sumners
Assistant Director- Staff Operations
TN Wildlife Resources Agency

Monday, March 27, 2017

TWRA says Shooting Sports Park would be "A Tremendous Opportunity" for Area. City Work session Tuesday at 5 PM

With a city council work session set for Tuesday afternoon at 5 PM at Crossville city hall on the proposed Crossville Shooting Sports Park, we asked the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for a statement concerning the project that seemed to go quietly along for 18 months but became controversial in just the last several weeks.

The park project has been discussed for over a year and a half and the site between I-40 and Albert Frye Road has been the proposed location for most of that time. It is unclear if the county will lose the park to another county in middle Tennessee if the proposed site is not used but a long list of requirements because of the use of federal funds have already been done and the site meets all the requirements. One report indicates the cost of those studies was around $25,000.

In a special called meeting March 21, a majority of city council members reversed their action in February and voted to rescind approval of a contract that would have sold the 146 acres to the nonprofit Crossville Shooting Park, Inc. for one dollar. That vote reversed action in February approving the contract and sale after a number of property owners and area residents complained about the project being located near them and the fact that they had not been informed ahead of time about the proposed project.

TWRA's statement from the Crossville regional office says,
“With the number of sportsmen and women in the area that enjoy the shooting sports, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) sees the addition of a shooting sports facility as a tremendous opportunity for the citizens of Cumberland County and beyond. This center will provide TWRA additional opportunities to serve the community with not only boating and hunter education classes, but many other educational sessions for adults and youth. Funding for this project was provided directly from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and not TWRA subsidies. TWRA is chiefly funded through the sales of hunting and fishing licenses.”

TWRA has committed $2.2 million from US Fish and Wildlife for the development and construction of the shooting park that would be operated by a nonprofit organization that has been formed. The funds for the project come from federal Pittman-Robertson funding generate by excise tax on ammunition and granted to states for conservation efforts, hunter's education and shooting projects and programs.

Crossville Mayor James Mayberry called for the work session saying the meeting will discuss some of the issues that have cropped up in the matter of the proposed Crossville Shooting Sports Park listed in the meeting call as "confusion, misinformation and clarification.”

Saturday, March 25, 2017

NOAA Special Weather Statement for 3-25-17 Rain could cause localized flooding.

Heavy showers and isolated thunderstorms may produce localized
flooding over parts of eastern Middle Tennessee tonight.

Early tonight, a slow moving band of showers and isolated
thunderstorms was located between Interstate 65 and the
Cumberland Plateau. Doppler radar indicated that some spots
received about a third of an inch of rain during the
evening hours...and some areas could receive an additional one
half to three quarters of an inch overnight. Localized rain
totals over an inch are possible tonight...especially over the
southeast...around Shelbyville, Manchester, Altamont and
McMinnville. Some isolated spots further north, toward Cookeville
and Gainesboro could see similar rain amounts.

These rains may cause water to pond in low lying areas, especially
in urban locations. If you are out driving tonight, you should
avoid areas where water covers the road. If you come upon a
flooded area, turn around and take an alternate route to your

BREAKING NEWS/EXCLUSIVE: Blankenship files lawsuit in federal court against City of Crossville, Jesse Kerley and Ivy Gardner

A second lawsuit has now been filed against the City of Crossville in federal court. This lawsuit filed by J. R. Blankenship for the violation of his first amendment rights also names former city councilman Jesse Kerley and Ivy Gardner as individuals.

The suit stems from the charges of distributing unsigned fliers that resulted in a citation to Crossville city court alleging a violation of a city ordinance that led to a $1500 fine levied against Blankenship by city judge Ivy Gardner. The suit points out that such a charge was determined to be a violation of the first amendment in a case decided before the US Supreme Court in 1960. Crossville's ordinance was approved sometime after the 1960 decision.

J. R. Blankenship expressing his opinions in mid 2016

The flier that lead to Blankenship's charges

Jesse Kerley

Ivy Gardner

The 18 page complaint begins by outlining a series of events that lead to the filing of the suit. The story begins with an incident that took place January 2015 at a convenience store involving a dog tied up outside the store and in distress according to Blankenship. Blankenship discussed the dog's situation with the store clerk who, it turned out, owned the dog. The clerk took offense at Blankenship's observation and the ensuing argument lead to a 911 call to police by Blankenship. According to the suit, “the police officer rudely accosted Mr. Blankenship as being the aggressor.”

Blankenship wrote a letter of complaint about the incident to each member of the council in March of 2015 and attended council meetings but his complaint was never addressed. Blankenship addressed his complaint at a March 2016 council meeting and was again ignored according to the complaint. The lawsuit states, “Frustrated that the council ignored his complaint, Mr. Blankenship published a flier in which he offered a $500 reward for photos of any elected or appointed Crossville official doing wrong”

The complaint alleges that then councilman Jesse Kerley sought to have Mr. Blankenship cited under the unconstitutional ordinance and claims that then police chief Rodney Shoap was ordered to do so. The complaint cites Shoap's federal lawsuit that says “on multiple occasions, Kerley demanded that (Shoap), without sufficient evidence or probable cause arrest James Blankenship.” Following an investigation into the flier, Blankenship was cited to city court under the unsigned flier ordinance.

An initial court date on the citation was set for May 10, 2016 was continued to June 28 at Blankenship's request and on June 2 while the case was pending before city judge Ivy Gardner, Gardner appeared in General Sessions Court as an individual seeking a restraining order against Blankenship for “a pattern of conduct to harass and unnecessarily alarm” Gardner. The suit sates that at the time Blankenship did believe he had ever seen or met Gardner and that he believes Gardner's complaint against him was made at the suggestion of Mr. Kerley.

The suit states that the action of Gardner was to retaliate against Blankenship for expressing his free speech and free press rights and to intimidate him. The action is also described in the suit as a “conspiracy with defendant Kerley.” The suit also states that Blankenship believes that Kerley spoke to Gardner between March 24 and June 28 concerning a significant fine for Blankenship.

The suit states that Gardner is not being sued for any of her actions as city judge but only for actions she took as an individual outside of her courtroom.

Blankenship appealed the fine as excessive and that the city's ordinance was unconstitutional that violated his right to free speech. The fine and conviction were dismissed with prejudice by the Circuit Court on November 17, 2016. It should also be noted that since this action took place the city has takne action to remove the unconstitutional ordinance from its books.

Blankenship also appealed the restraining order given to Gardner and filed interrogatories and requests to produce documents to provide information to support her claims of his harassment. Those discovery requests were never answered. Two weeks before a hearing on the appeal was scheduled, Ms. Gardner filed a motion and order of non-suit withdrawing her complaint against Blankenship.

The suit reads, “The issuance of the citation, persecution and conviction of Mr. Blankenship for an unconstitutional and unenforceable Crossville city ordinance caused Mr. Blankenship embarrassment, anxiety, time and money. Defendant Crossville is therefore liable to Mr. Blankenship for the violation of his civil rights under color of law.”

“The first amendment right to criticize public officials is well established and supported by case law and it is also well established that a public official's retaliation against an individual exercising his or her first amendment rights is a violation,” says the lawsuit.

Blankenship's suit is requesting a “declaratory and injunctive relief to declare the earlier actions illegal and enjoin defendants and their agents from otherwise retaliating against him for exercising his first amendment rights either by arresting him or threatening to arrest him and specifically so that he may publish fliers and circular them in Crossville, even if critical of public officials.”

Damages listed in the suit include legal and court costs, embarrassment, mental anguish and anxiety, fear of future reprisal, being deprived of his right to exercise First Amendment freedoms of speech and press and attorney and litigation costs of these proceedings. The suit asks that a jury award damages to compensate his harm in a reasonable amount.

The suit asks for punitive damages against Mr. Kerley “because his actions were malicious and done with intent to intimidate and harm Mr. Blankenship.”

The law suit is filed on behalf of Mr. Blankenship by attorneys Edmund J. Schmidt III and Joseph H. Johnston, both of Nashville.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Crossville Mayor Mayberry calls work session on Shooting Park "confusion, misinformation and clarification"

Because of public interest, Crossville Mayor James Mayberry is calling for the work session on Tuesday March 28 at 5 PM. He said the meeting will discuss some of the issues that have cropped up in the matter of the proposed Crossville Shooting Sports Park listed in the meeting call as "confusion, misinformation and clarification.

Crossville Mayor James Mayberry

Representatives of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are expected to be at the meeting.  Mayberry said that a representative was at the called meeting and wanted to address the issue but no public comments are allowed at a called meeting.  TWRA is providing the 2.2 million dollars in federal funding to construct the park and a great deal of work and some money has already been spent on the Albert Frye Road site.

The park has been discussed for over a year and a half and the site between I-40 and Albert Frye Road has been the proposed location for most of that time.  It is unclear if the county will lose the park to another county if the proposed site is not used but that information may be clarified at the Tuesday meeting.

In a special called meeting March 21, a majority of city council members voted to rescind approval of a contract that would have sold the 146 acres to the nonprofit Crossville Shooting Park, Inc. for one dollar.  That vote reversed action in February approving the contract and sale after a number of property owners and area residents complained about the project being located near them and the fact that they had not been informed ahead of time about the proposed project.

The Area in lavender is the proposed acreage for the park
and the area in blue is the former city landfill.  At the 
bottom of the map is I-40 and at the top is Albert Frye Road.

The funds for the project come from federal Pittman-Robertson funding generate by excise tax on ammunition and granted to states for conservation efforts, hunter's education and shooting projects and programs.

The proposed location currently meets all the requirements for the use of the federal funds and environmental, historical and endangered species studies have been approved.

At a December work session, questions on funding and staffing remain. Kenneth Carey, a member of the nonprofit's board said they would determine if a full time position was needed or if all employees would be part-time. The grant requires that the facility be open at least 20 hours a week. According to Carey the plan is for the range to be open more then that and open to the public. He added it is not a membership type facility and that anyone can come a shoot.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Grant for development of industrial site at I-40 and 127-N received for Interchange Business Park.

Mayor James Mayberry announces the successful award for the Crossville's industrial site grant.

Said Mayberry, “The City appreciates the confidence of the State of Tennessee in awarding this grant. Cumberland County and the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce have been invaluable partners in this project, the property evaluation program, and economic development. Our community's recent redirection and focus on economic development was jumpstarted by the Horizon Initiative in 2015, an innovative project and collaborative effort between the City of Crossville, the City of Pleasant Hill, the City of Crab Orchard, Cumberland County, Crossville-Cumberland Chamber of Commerce, and educational entities in Cumberland County, Tennessee to develop a comprehensive strategy designed to guide our growth and movement. We look forward to what the future holds for Crossville and Cumberland County in this next step in economic and industrial development.”

The grant is for $500,000 with the city and county both committing $250,000 each to complete the project. 

The proposal is to use a 20 acres site in the Interchange Business Park 
to have a location ready for the construction of a 200,000 square foot building 
with space for loading docks and parking ready for construction to start.

In addition, funds were awarded to the Plateau Partnership Park in Westal. Plateau Partnership Park was awarded $469,350 for construction of the primary access into the park, construction of access road to the site of the proposed wastewater treatment facility, and grading of the wastewater treatment facility site

The official announcement from state is below:

Grants to prepare industrial sites for market 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced today that 18 communities and local organizations will receive $6.2 million in Site Development Grants. 

The Site Development Grant program, part of the larger Rural Economic Opportunity Act passed in 2016, helps communities prepare industrial sites for businesses. 

“Providing more opportunities for citizens in rural Tennessee is one of our top priorities and with the assistance of the Site Development Grants, the rural communities receiving these grants will be ready for investment and economic success,” Haslam said. “We are strengthening our future workforce through programs like Tennessee Promise, and I look forward to seeing these 18 communities succeed and grow for the next generation of Tennesseans.” 

“I want to congratulate all 18 communities on being awarded the Site Development Grants,” Rolfe said. “These grants are designed to assist rural Tennessee communities to be better equipped for economic growth. We are proud to see these communities investing in themselves and anticipate seeing each community thrive in our state.” 

The grants assist communities in finalizing infrastructure and site improvements for Select Tennessee Certified Sites and sites that will go through the site certification process. The projects prepare the sites for new business operations and jobs. In total, 33 communities have been awarded Site Development Grants with 15 communities receiving the grants in 2016.

“With the help of the Rural Economic Opportunity Act and these Site Development Grants, communities receiving these funds will be one, two and three steps closer to investment and growth. I am excited to see our rural communities have the opportunity to submit sites and compete on an even bigger level than before," Amy New, TNECD assistant commissioner of rural development, said.

The Site Development Grant is part of the suite of Select Tennessee programs and works in conjunction with the Site Certification program. An advisory committee of staff from TNECD, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture selected these 18 sites from a pool of 28 applications. 

The application process was competitive with grants awarded based on benefit to the community, economic impact, leveraged resources, and ability to implement a successful project. 

Each application was supported by the community’s senator and representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Crossville city council rescinds contract to provide land for shooting park project

Following over 18 months in discussions and occasional action on a location for a proposed shooting sports park, the Crossville city council voted to rescind a sales contract it approved in February for a portion of the city tract of land off of Albert Frye Road.

The project has became controversial in the last few weeks as residents and property owners in the vicinity of the property became aware of what the proposal may mean to their use of their property and they expressed concern over possible property values.

Council initially agreed to essentially donate (sell for $1) 146 acres of the 217 acre site to the the nonprofit corporation that has been formed to operate the shooting sports park. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency would fund the over $2 million for most of the construction costs. The group hopes to attract tournaments and other competitions that would bring in visitors from outside the area that would stay in local hotels and spend money here.

Council considers rescinding  contract on Albert Frye property

After numerous meetings since June of 2015, the council approved the sales contract on the land to the nonprofit at the February regular council meeting and residents near the property became aware of the project and the proposal. They organized and began to contact officials to find out more and circulate a petition opposed to the planned location.

The March regular council meeting attracted a crowd of project supporters and those seeking to have the project location moved. Council approved a motion requiring the nonprofit hold a public hearing with property owners and area residents after contacting them by mail. Before the group could get much done on that action, the council called a special called meeting barely within the 24 hours notification requirement to rescind the the February action.

Because both parties had signed the sales contract that said the property sale would close before April 1 there could be legal ramifications to arbitrarily ending the contract but the resolution rescinding the contract prepared by city attorney Will Ridley referenced section 3.2 of the contract that said, “Purchaser understands that seller is a government and can only purchase or sell land subject to the requirements of its charter and state law. The seller understands and agrees that the contract is subject to the successful completion of all requirements, including but not limited to, advertising the sale of property without public objection.” Councilman J. H. Graham read the resolution aloud at the meeting, “Whereas during the March work session and March city council meetings several members of the community spoke in opposition of the land transfer and have further submitted a petition in opposition and whereas public objection to the transfer has clearly been set forth.”
Council members L-R J. H. Graham, Danny WYatt, Mayor James Mayberry, 
Pamala Harris and Scot Shanks

Graham moved to approve the resolution to rescind approval of the contract receiving a second from councilman Danny Wyatt.

Councilman Scot Shanks asked how many property owners who have homes in the area were affected by the shooting sports park? Graham said that a petition by those opposed to the site was signed by 42 people. Graham said that a “clear majority” of property owners on Albert Frye Road were opposed to the location for the shooting sports park.

Shanks sought further clarification including a show of hands of who was present at the called meeting who lived on Albert Frye Road. Some 7 hands were raised. After some back and forth it was determined there were 5 homes in the immediate vicinity with another two near the end of the road.
Albert Frye Road residents identify themselves to council 

“I think the issue is noise, fear of the unknown,” said Shanks, “but has there been any kind of testing done to determine what the sound of these guns going off and how loud that's going to be?”

One audience member said that they could hear the other shooting range in their back yard and they are over a mile from that location.

Mayor Mayberry addressed the issue saying, “This discussion started June 11, 2015. There has been a total of 7 either work sessions or council meetings in reference to the shooting park. The members of the shooting park board, TWRA, US Fish and Wildlife services, State Senator Paul Bailey, Crossville city employees all have dedicated many hours in advancing to the point we are now and where construction could begin. All the environmental studies and surveys have been approved and secured a highly sought after grant.”

Mayberry continued, “For years this community has complained that there is nothing for our youth to do.” Mayberry listed several ball sports, tumbling and cheering but added there is a large group of kids that are interested in shooting sports. He talked about an email he got from a mother who said her son was unable to compete in other sports but he can shoot. “The city spends thousands of taxpayer dollars to promote our community for tourism. We wouldn't have to spend any on this facility's promotion. When competitions are held here the local hotels, restaurants and campgrounds will benefit greatly but the main thing I want to emphasize is the positive effect this will have on our youth and families. You can't put a price on that.”

Mayberry pointed out that the property location is right by the Interstate and there is noise from it 24/7. He added that he had gotten a copy of an email from someone at Deer Creek who wanted the city to come up with a noise ordinance to quiet down I-40. That comment got a chuckle from the audience.

“As far as I'm concerned, I feel we have a valid contract that needs to be honored. It really bothers me that this council will vote to approve and agenda item and expend employee's time and effort and taxpayer's dollars on a project and possible even receive a grant to later decide to abandon it,” concluded Mayberry.

Ms. Harris said the situation was not good and that it was not an easy position for the council to be sitting in. Harris said she had weighed the issue seriously over the past week adding, “I want this community to have a shooting park. I think it is a wonderful thing for this community to have.”

Harris continued, “The whole thing, in my opinion, was handled somewhat poorly from the front end. None of us did our due diligence and homework as well as we should have and that includes the nonprofit and the city. We all have to take responsibility for that. There should have been a public hearing and an opportunity for people to speak out.”

Councilman Wyatt made a short comment saying, “We don't have zoning in the city or county. That's a bad word around here. It would make it simple if we did (have zoning.)

Councilman Graham called for the question and when the vote on rescidning the contract was taken, council members Graham, Wyatt and Harris voted in favor and Mr. Shanks and Mayor Maybery were opposed with the majority approving the resolution to rescind the contract.

Following the meeting, Crossville shooting Park, Inc board member James Wattenbarger described the council's action as “a big loss for the kids.” He added that the loss of the over $2 million grant would be a big financial loss and there was an unknown economic impact if the project is lost. When asked what was the next step, Wattenbarger said he didn't know yet.          

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Crossville city council votes to rescind contract on land donation to shooting sports park

In a special called meeting that barely made the 24 hours notice requirement in the city's charter, a majority of council members approved a motion to rescind the approval of the contract that agreed to sell a portion of a 217 acre tract the city owned between I-40 and Albert Frye Road.

Council discusses shooting park motion.

Video and a more detailed story coming soon, but the vote on the motion to rescind the donation was council members J. H. Graham, Danny WYatt and Pamala Harris in favor and Scot Shanks and Mayor James Mayberry opposed.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH in effect until 10 PM Central for Crossville/Cumberland Co.

The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm watch that covers Crossville and Cumberland County until 10 PM this evening central time.  The watch covers a large part of Middle and Eastern Tennessee.

The watch covers the following Tennessee counties.
BEDFORD              BENTON              BLEDSOE
BLOUNT               BRADLEY             CANNON
CARROLL              CHEATHAM            COFFEE
DE KALB              DICKSON             FRANKLIN
GILES                GRUNDY              HAMILTON
HARDIN               HENDERSON           HENRY
HICKMAN              HOUSTON             HUMPHREYS
LAWRENCE             LEWIS               LINCOLN
LOUDON               MARION              MARSHALL
MAURY                MCMINN              MEIGS
MONROE               MOORE               PERRY
POLK                 PUTNAM              RHEA
ROANE                RUTHERFORD          SEQUATCHIE
SMITH                TROUSDALE           VAN BUREN
WARREN               WAYNE               WHITE

NOAA Hazardous Weather Outlook for March 21, 2017

Today and Tonight

There is a slight risk (level 2 out of 5) for severe thunderstorms
across southern Middle Tennessee this afternoon and evening,
generally along and south of the I-40 corridor.

A cold front will shift south to near I-40 by midday, with
scattered showers and thunderstorms expected to develop along and
south of the front this afternoon and continue into the evening.
Large hail and damaging winds will be possible in the strongest
storms, along with heavy rainfall and localized flooding.

Monday, March 20, 2017

City council calls special meeting on rescinding shooting park contract

A special called meeting is set for 4:50 PM Tuesday March 21 at Crossville city hall.  The meeting has been called by council members J. H. Graham and Pamala Harris. 

The single item on the agenda concerns discussion and possible action on the rescindment of contract with Crossville Shooting Sports Park, Inc.

The contract calls for closing on the property sale to the nonprofit by April 1.  It is unclear if the nonprofit could take legal action if the contract is rescinded by the city.

The project has been discussed for just over 18 months and the city agreed to provide property that was originally purchased for use as a landfill.  37 of the over 200 acres remains as a former landfill and the city kept 40 acres along Albert Frye Road for possible industrial development.

The project was originally brought to the city by Co. Mayor Kenneth Carey but since the county is not involved in the project it is unclear if Carey was acting in his official capacity or as a private individual.  Carey holds a seat on the nonprofit board that plans to operate the park.
The funding for construction is $2.5 million from TWRA.

Another council called meeting is also set to follow for 5 PM on rehiring previously retired city employees and finally a work session on the city's capital improvement plan.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Crossville Elementary School closed in 2004 leaving behind an unappreciated art legacy.

In the Spring of 2004 Crossville Elementary School was closing and most of the teachers were moving to Brown Elementary School but before the school with a history back to the 1930s closed, an open house was held for previous students and the community.

Very Early photo of Crossville Elementary School circa 1930s
When this photo was taken it was simply known as City School

One of the unique things about the school was the art work on the walls that was painted by Joe Edd Hodges, long time art teacher at the school.  Hodges was raised in Crossville and graduated from the old CCHS.

The art murals has since been painted over and the building is used now as the school's administrative offices.

The last principal of Crossville Elementary School Danny Hassler
stand in front of one of Joe Ed Hodges' art murals that were
throughout the school.

Piano art mural by Joe Ed Hodges

Joe Ed Hodges--Homage to Calder

Homage to Matisse by Joe Ed Hodges

Bright colors and shapes

Homage to Picasso by Joe Ed Hodges

Kermit the Frog with his backpack and sign.
Every student at CES knew Kermit from their
time with librarian Melanie Sherrill 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Crossville Police Department recognizes Officers of the Month

Two City of Crossville Police Department officers have received recognition with the issuance of “Officer of the Month” awards for February, 2017.

In the month of February 2017, Patrolman Kevin Wood located and recovered a stolen vehicle, apprehended three suspects during his investigation and returned the stolen property to the owner. Additionally, Patrolman Kevin Wood investigated the theft of several televisions from a local church. During his investigation he was able to locate and apprehend the person responsible and sought assistance for the suspect through referral to a rehabilitation facility. Patrolman Kevin Wood’s daily diligence and thorough investigating efforts help add to the professionalism of our agency.
Patrolman Kevin Wood

Also in the month of February 2017, Patrolman Joel Stevens’ dedication to duty and proactive efforts are being recognized. In February alone, Patrolman Joel Stevens singed and served 31 arrest warrants, issued 26 traffic citations, wrote 22 police reports, answered 117 calls for service and assisted his fellow officers on an additional 34 calls for service. Patrolman Joel Stevens performed all of this activity while also diligently patrolling the City of Crossville. His good attitude and strong work ethic have been a great motivator for other officers on his shift and is a fine example for our agency.

Patrolman Joel Stevens

Council discusses rehiring retirees but delays action to special called meeting March 21 at 5 PM.

Crossville city council put off action on a policy on rehiring previous city retirees, including those who took an early retirement buyout some two years ago.

The matter will come back up again at a special called meeting set for Tuesday March 21 that will be followed by a work session on the city's capital improvement plan. The special called meeting is set for 5 PM and will be immediately followed by the work session.

Greg Wood wrote a memo of his take on the issue during his first week on the job, “It would be my recommendation as a rule to not allow these employees to return unless there were extraordinary circumstances necessitating their return. In those cases, if they received a retirement buyout, that buyout would have to be paid back over whatever period of time they had to serve to reach the 30 year threshold or five (5) years, whichever is greater. Any other retirement non-buyout incentives received would be deducted from incentives received upon the subsequent separation.

Additionally, their pay should be reduced by 5% to put them on equal footing with other employees who now have to pay in 5% to ICMA (International City/Co Management Association) when the retirees would not be paying that amount. This is the only way I can see to keep the employee from “double dipping” and maintaining some equity with employees now under ICMA. Employees of Police or Fire could have knowledge based testing waived, but would still need to pass the physical testing requirements of new hires.”

“This is a rather sticky wicket for 2 reasons,” said Wood at the start of the discussion during council's regular March meeting. The first thing is people who participated in the buyout program and addressing that issue and possible payback if they come back to work as the program was designed to reduce payroll and now they are coming back. The other issue is coming back into the TCRS (Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System) and the difference between 5 percent expense to current employees and the TCRS expense of 18 percent.

Wood added that these were policy questions for the council to address.

Council member J. H. Graham said he did not want to discriminate against those who took the buyout saying, “if they are good employees and the manager wants them back, I think we should give him a policy that will let him do that.” Graham suggested a formula that the city manager could work from such as an agreement that any buyout employees would agree to not have a cost of living increase for at least 3 years and they would not receive the usual 5 percent increase after 6 months for a period of 2 years.

Graham moved to use his suggestion and as calculations were thrown out Mayor James Mayberry said he would like to have the calculations on paper and the motion was withdrawn to be moved to March 21 at a special called meeting.

Other items on the work session include third reading on the updated public records ordinance along with second reading of an ordinance on excavation and cuts in public right of ways that disallows masonry structures taller then 6 inches on public right of way and second reading of the ordinance on telecommunications.   

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Crowd of supporters and those concerned about shooting sports park turn out for city council meeting

There was a standing room only crowd at the March Crossville city council meeting in expectation of a discussion of the property transfer for the Shooting Sports Park to be located between I-40 and Albert Frye Road.

The controversy is over the city's approval last month of selling part of the acreage that the city bought over 20 years ago for use as a landfill to a non-profit organization hoping to operate a shooting sports park at the location. Some of the residents and property owners in the area were not aware of the project until recently and are concerned about the noise that the shooting will generate and the possible effect on their property values.

A large crowd attended Crossville city council meeting as they
discuss concerns by residents near the property proposed for
a shooting sports park.  Here Harold Stryker speaks on behalf
of property owners in the area of the Albert Frye Rd. property. 

There was also a large contingent of supporters of the project including young people who participate in shooting sports for several local organizations and so,me of their parents. A number of members of the board of the newly formed non-profit group and they also spoke to the council.

Public comments on the topic of the shooting sports park.

After some 45 minutes of public comments and discussion of the matter the city council approved a motion to ask the non-profit group to hold a public meeting with the property owners and area residents to share information about their plans and the operation and how it might affect the area.

The motion did not make any changes to the sales contract that calls for a closing on the sale by April 1, 2017 and likely to take place before the meeting can be held. The biggest issue seems to be that there was no notice to those in the area about what was planned for the property.

Local businessman Harold Stryker spoke first on behalf of the concerned property owners who shared petitions with the council. Said Stryker, “I want to make it very clear. We are not opposed to a shooting park.” He said their concern was the location and the effect on neighboring properties. He said he understood there could be as many as 10,000 shots filed in a single day. According to Styker, a home he and his son own is estimated to be only 600 feet from one of the proposed shooting stations.

Stryker concluded asking that the council reconsider the action on the property.

One of the members of the non-profit board, James Wattenbarger spoke saying that he had looked at a lot of locations for the park and he was not aware of an available location that would impact less citizens then the Albert Frye Rd. location. He added that some locations that had been studied would increase traffic through residential areas. Wattenbarger explained they were looking and making some changes to the plans in order to control noise from the park.

Greg Cantrell identified himself as the trustee for the Frank Brown Family trust. The trust owns between 400 and 500 acres from the Bean Pot to Albert Frye Rd. Cantrell said the trust was interested in economic development, great healthcare and education. He said that the family had donated the land for Brown Elementary School.

Cantrell said his concerns were that until last night neither he nor other family members knew anything about the project and they are very nearby property owners. In addition, he said the family had a vision for many years of what the corridor might become. Development of the family trust property could be an 80 to 100 bed assisted living facility that would be an $8 to $10 million investment that may not be compatible with a shooting park. “I'm asking you to slow down this process if you can and let us work with you as a significant property owner.

Valorie Cox is a member of the non-profit board and presented a petition with over 382 signatures in favor of the shooting park. Cox explained that in the region there were 25 counties that sought the park location and Cumberland County was selected. She said one event with 300 shooters would bring at least some 600 visitors to the county and at a spending of just $50 per person they could leave $30,000 in the county.

Following the public comments the council quickly agreed to move the item concerning the shooting park up on the agenda and began to discuss the topic.

City Council discussion on shooting sports park 

Councilman J. H. Graham moved that “the city requires the non-profit organization to have a public hearing where the property owners are identified and asked to come to a meeting within the next 30 to 60 days to identify the pros and cons of the shooting range.” Graham's motion was supported by councilman Danny Wyatt.

Mayor James Mayberry asked how the motion would affect the city's current sales contract that says the sale will be closed by April 1? City attorney Will Ridley explained that any extension of the contract would have to be agreed to by both parties.

Councilwoman Pamala Harris said she felt the park would be a good thing for the community. “I just want to be fair to all of the parties involved,” added Harris. She said the council won't make everyone happy no matter what they do but perhaps not enough due diligence was done on the deal.

Wyatt said that until the end of the year he thought the project was a joint city county project. He apologized saying he should have done more homework. “I think these people need to be given the opportunity to speak and ask questions and it should have been done a year ago,” said Wyatt.

Crossville attorney Randall Boston addressed the council. He said he was speaking as a member of the non-profit board and not as an attorney or as the county attorney. Boston said the he and a man named Kenneth Carey and not mayor Kenneth Carey and several others had worked on the project for quite some time. “I stand here before you to say that we have a contract and time is of the essence,” Boston continued, “and there is no law that says we have to notify anyone or put up a sign.” He added that the conversations have been going on since the middle of 2015 and well documented stories by local media sources. Boston pointed out that drag strips and race tracks and airports all make noise.

The vote on the motion included 4 votes in favor from Graham, Wyatt, Harris and Scot Shanks. Mayor Mayberry voted no after seeking clarification that the proposed public meeting would not affect the contract.

Following the vote, J. H. Graham requested a 5 minute recess that was approved by Mayor Mayberry.     

Another I-40 wreck near Crab Orchard reported.

TRAVEL ADVISORY – CUMBERLAND COUNTY- INTERSTATE 40 – 331 mile marker (2 miles east of Crab Orchard) – Overturned tractor trailer. Eastbound traffic is affected with the left lane blocked. Westbound traffic is not affected. Estimated time of clearing is 4 p.m. according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Cumberland Co. Schools cancelled due to weather.

Cumberland Co Schools are closed for March 15 due to snow and slick roads.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Remote Area Medical Clinic in Cookeville this weekend includes free medical, dental and vision services

Remote Area Medical will be holding a free medical clinic in Cookeville this weekend on March 18 and 19 from 6 AM to 2 PM each day. Cookeville High School at 2335 N. Washington Ave hosts the clinic.

Patients will be able to get medical care and either dental or vision services. Patients can revceive a number at 3 AM each morning of the clinic and only those in line at the time numbers are given out will be able to get a number. No proof of residency or income is required to participate but patients are asked to bring the medicine they take every day.

Because the wait may be long and could be in the weather, participants should bring food and water, appropriate clothing and books or games for entertainment.

Remote Area Medical was founded in 1985 by Stan Brock of Wild Kingdom TV fame. While RAM goes all over the world to provide baisc medical care the majority of their work is currently done in the USA

Monday, March 13, 2017

Shooting Sports Park, hiring retirees and masonry mailbox holders and more to be discussed at city council

The proposed Shooting Sports Park on Albert Frye Road returns to the Crossville city council's agenda for Tuesday evening after complaints came from residents near the proposed site at last weeks council work session.

The project, brought to the city council some 18 months ago by Cumberland Co. Mayor Kenneth Carey will be built using over $2 million from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency on land the city is selling to the non-profit corporation that will operate the facility. At last months meeting the council agreed to the sale of the property under what city attorney Will Ridley described as a binding contract. The sale is to take place by April 1 under that contract.

During city council's work session last week, discussion on the
proposed Shooting Sports Park came up as neighbors expressed
concern for noise and property values.  City Engineer Time Begley
explained a diagram of the property to council. 

Several property owners in the area of the old city landfill property are now opposing the project due to noise and property value concerns. It is unclear what action the council can take at the March meeting.

The council's evening starts with the monthly audit committee meeting at 5:30 PM and the regular council meeting gets underway at 6:00 PM.

Council will also discuss and consider action on the matter of rehiring previous city retirees. Such rehiring will be more costly then the other hires as they would have to be place back under the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS). New city manager Gary Wood has given his recommendation on such hirings in the future.

Wrote Wood, “It would be my recommendation as a rule to not allow these employees to return unless there were extraordinary circumstances necessitating their return. In those cases, if they received a retirement buyout, that buyout would have to be paid back over whatever period of time they had to serve to reach the 30 year threshold or five (5) years, whichever is greater. Any other retirement non-buyout incentives received would be deducted from incentives received upon the subsequent separation.

Additionally, their pay should be reduced by 5% to put them on equal footing with other employees who now have to pay in 5% to ICMA (International City/Co Management Association) when the retirees would not be paying that amount. This is the only way I can see to keep the employee from “double dipping” and maintaining some equity with employees now under ICMA. Employees of Police or Fire could have knowledge based testing waived, but would still need to pass the physical testing requirements of new hires.”

Wood spoke during the work session and said that the city had hiried back the former city police chief David Beaty and that people seemed happy about that. Wood added that he felt the city needed guidance from the council for future decisions.

Wood also wrote about the bridge insurance that was offered to those who took early retirement and that it was less of a problem but still needed a ruling by the council.

Another somewhat controversial discussion was an ordinance that would not allow masonry structures to be built on the city's right of way that were higher then 6 inches. This would create a problem for the anyone who wanted to construct a stone or concrete mailbox enclosure. City engineer Tim Begley said there were several potential problems with those including traffic hazards, blocking the city ability to access their water and sewer lines.

Any such structures that currently exist would be grandfathered but new ones would not be allowed. They would have to be built on the owners property with a way for the mailman to access them.

The city is working on an ordinance to help control new cell phone and other communication towers as new technology changes. The city staff is requesting the council approve a temporary moratorium on such new construction and begin the process of approving a new ordinance.

Council will also consider adding a new full time position at the Palace Theatre. Currently there is one full time and 3 part-time positions. One of the part time positions would become a full time position due to the very busy schedule at the theatre and the need for additional help.

Work continues on the city's solid waste contract renewal. The matter was discussed at the council's work session with much of that on the difference between residential and commercial waste pickup. The matter has been discussed by council before without a resolution. It is something that needs to be addressed before the city continues toward a decision on taking back over waste collections or putting out a contract bid.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Crossville woman arrested in Florida after trying to run her husband over

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - A Crossville woman faces multiple charges after authorities in Florida said she admitted to driving under the influence and trying to run over her husband with her car.

Link to WBIR story.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Set your clocks up and Spring Forward tonight!

With the return of Daylight Saving Time we will lose an hour of sleep tonight.

Set your clocks forward one hour before you go to bed tonight!

Who remembers this promotion to encourage Economic Development

Once upon a time there were lots of these bumper stickers on cars in 
Cumberland County and Crossville. Did you?

A promotion of the Chamber of Commerce from around 25 years ago or so.  Inviting companes to manufacture things, to "Make it on the mountain."