Following reports of an alleged lockdown at South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton in early May 2021, The News reached out to CoreCivic for a comment on the situation. Ryan Gustin, Manager of Public Affairs for CoreCivic, issued the following statement: “During a facility-wide search at the South Central Correctional Facility last Wednesday morning, officers discovered a handgun and ammunition inside the medium-security facility in Clifton. The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Office of Investigations and Conduct is working with CoreCivic to identify and take appropriate action against the person responsible for introducing the weapon into the facility. TDOC policy requires frequent and unannounced searches of all areas of TDOC and privately-run facilities. No one was harmed as a result of the weapon being brought into the facility. The investigation is ongoing.” No further mention of guns in the hands of prisoners has been made as of January 2022.
Damaging straight-line winds seemed to literally “come up out of the blue” on May 6, 2021. The high winds brought down trees and limbs all across the county. A man was reportedly trapped in his vehicle on Beech Creek Road for quite some time after hitting a downed tree and narrowly escaping serious injury. There were even reports of boats flipped completely over where they were docked near Clifton on the Tennessee River.
Wayne County Special Olympics was held at Frank Hughes School in Clifton on May 7, 2021. It was a wonderful, fun-filled day for all. The athletes displayed courage, strength, and good sportsmanship throughout the day. The FHS band provided musical entertainment for everyone. Chloe Hecht was awarded the James Harper Courage Award for 2021. Chloe was described as generous, dependable, trustworthy, friendly, and kind. The James Harper Courage Award is presented each year in memory of a young man, James Harper, who touched many lives during his time here on Earth.
Blake Austin Hines, age 26, of Florence, Alabama, was arrested on May 14, 2021on multiple charges after a high-speed chase that began in Decatur County continued into Wayne County before ending in a rollover crash. The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and Waynesboro Police Department were informed that the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office was in pursuit of a stolen 2004 GMC Sierra, and the Wayne County officers encountered the vehicle and took up the pursuit near the Wayne County Rock Quarry on Highway 64. Hines, the driver of the vehicle, allegedly reached speeds of 120 mph during the pursuit, driving at times on the wrong side of the road. When Sgt. Michael Byrd deployed spike strips at the intersection of Highway 64 and Dexter L. Woods Memorial Boulevard, the stolen truck left the roadway and rolled over into the ditch. During the pursuit, Hines allegedly threw a loaded 9mm handgun and a bag containing 30 grams of methamphetamine from the vehicle. Hines was taken into custody without further incident and was charged with six counts of felony reckless endangerment, two counts of felony evading arrest, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and one count each of tampering with evidence, theft of property, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of schedule II meth with intent, failure to exercise due care, and wrong way on one-way road. He was booked into the Wayne County Jail on $486,000.00 bond.
The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce held their first ever “Car-B-Que” in the Waynesboro City Park on Saturday, May 15. The event began at 11:00 a.m. with classic cars and barbecue cookers filling the park. First place in the classic car contest went to a 1965 red Corvette owned by Johnny and Terrie Sue Crittenden. The Grand Champion of the barbecue cook-off was the Turney Center Annex in Clifton. The Chamber hopes to make the Car-B-Que an annual event.
The breaking of ground and moving of earth officially began in May in front of the Piggly Wiggly shopping center in Waynesboro for the newest location of the Rick’s Barbecue franchise. Representatives from Rick’s issued a press release at the time, saying, “Rick’s BBQ is very excited to have finally broken ground. Opening a location in Waynesboro has been in the works for quite some time now and we truly can’t wait to be part of your community. The support we’ve received so far has been incredible and we aren’t even open for business yet. If all goes as planned, our doors will be open to serve your community this fall.” The restaurant experienced some delays in opening due to supply chain issues, but it is now finally finished and open for business!
Leaders from four counties in Southern Middle and West Tennessee met in May of 2021 to discuss the relaunch of a road project that could help change the economic future of the entire region. Benton, Decatur, Henry, and Wayne counties were represented by local and state leaders, as well as representatives from national Tennessee leadership, at a meeting in Camden to discuss expanding State Highway 641. The highway runs from northern Kentucky into Tennessee, running through Henry, Benton, Decatur and, lastly, into Wayne County where the highway dead ends. In 2007, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation to connect all county seats to the nearest Interstate highway with a four-lane road. Due to changes in the state’s political landscape, the project stalled and was never resumed. The project is particularly critical for Wayne and Hardin Counties which have long been land-locked with no access to a major thoroughfare. “I am very optimistic regarding the two-lane expansion of Highway 641 which will provide accessibility from Kentucky to Alabama right through Wayne County,” said Wayne County Commissioner Sherrie Powers. “The road will boost the economy of our county and will improve the value of properties nearby Highway 641. This new road will increase the number of visitors traveling through Wayne County, improving our tax revenue, which will help to lift the burden on property owners. Also, with the price of fuel going up every day, and no end in sight, reducing the time and distance it takes to travel will be a real benefit.”
A juvenile escaped from Hollis Academy in Waynesboro on May 27, stealing a vehicle before being apprehended in Franklin, Tennessee. The youth was reported missing from Hollis Academy at 7:39 p.m. that evening. A search ensued, with the youth last spotted on security camera video footage at Big John’s on Highway 64 West at 10:46 p.m. Sheriff Shane Fisher stated that the runaway juvenile went on to steal 2006 Ford Fusion from a residence on Highway 64 West outside of the Waynesboro city limits later that night, and drove to Franklin, Tennessee where he reportedly has family. The vehicle was recovered when the youth was apprehended.
High schools in Wayne County were able to hold their graduation ceremonies on or near their usual dates in 2021. Graduations in 2020 were postponed due to COVID, along with other disappointments the virus brought about. Thankfully, the 2021 graduations came off “without a hitch,” as the saying goes. Waynesboro’s and Collinwood’s graduation ceremonies were held outside in order to make way for more social distancing.
The month of June came in on a sad note as we heard of the passing of respected Waynesboro attorney George G. Gray on June 1. Mr. Gray moved to Waynesboro in 1966 and opened his own law practice in 1968, where he remained until his retirement in January of 2020 at the age of 90. Our community benefited in various ways from Mr. Gray’s 54-year law practice and brilliant legal mind. For 50 of those years, he was the attorney for TVEC, Wayne County Bank, and the City of Waynesboro, and for close to ten years, he was appointed and then elected General Sessions Judge. In addition, Mr. Gray was a founding member of the Rotary Club and remained an active member for 30 years. He was also a Shriner, a 32nd degree Mason, and attorney for the City of Clifton for several years. He is certainly missed in our community.
A young lady from Collinwood tragically lost her life when the ATV she was riding with another teen crashed on Pinhook Pike in southern Wayne County on June 6, 2021. The Tennessee Highway Patrol reported that Rachel Wise, age 19, was the passenger on a 2007 Arctic Cat ATV traveling south on Pinhook Pike when the ATV left the roadway, traveled through a ditch, hit a fence, and then struck a tree. Ms. Wise sadly passed away from the severe injuries she received in the crash. The juvenile who was driving the ATV was airlifted to a Nashville hospital for treatment of serious injuries sustained in the accident.
Summer school in Wayne County got underway on June 2. Earlier in the year, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act to address the learning loss of students due to COVID-19 related school closures. Through this new law, all school districts in Tennessee offered learning loss remediation summer programs for students in grades K-8. Beyond the foundational reading and math instruction, Wayne County students were involved in field trips and other experiences to build background knowledge. The Wayne County summer school program was titled “Success Quest!” During camps, students were involved in career exploration. Classes answered questions such as, “Why is work important?”, “How do my school experiences relate to my future success?”, and “What factors affect the career choices I make?”
U.S. Congressman Mark Green visited Wayne County on June 9, holding a Town Hall meeting at the Wayne County Courthouse. Congressman Green addressed the crowd and took questions from the audience on several topics, including the border crisis and the effects of skyrocketing lumber prices. Congressman Green promised that he would continue to represent all of his constituents, including those in Wayne County, to the best of his ability in Washington, D.C.
State Representative David Byrd contracted the COVID-19 virus in 2020 and suffered several setbacks during his recovery. The most severe setback was damage to his liver, which required a liver transplant in June 2021. The liver transplant seems to have truly set Rep. Byrd on the road to a full recovery. A social media post made by Rep. Byrd stated in part, “I have been either at St. Thomas hospital, TN Specialty hospital, Jackson Rehabilitation hospital, Jackson General hospital, Vanderbilt hospital, or Stallworth Rehabilitation hospital at Vanderbilt during my rehab after COVID, and I found out that my liver had been damaged and was presenting several health issues. After 2-3 weeks of unsuccessful treatments, the Vanderbilt Liver team said that a liver transplant was my only option. I was told that on Thursday, June 10, and on Saturday, June 12 the doctor said they had a liver and the surgery would be that afternoon. Three weeks later and I am doing great. My liver enzymes are getting back to normal, and I feel much better. Even though it’s been 7 long months, I cannot begin to tell everyone how appreciative I am for the prayers, cards, and texts. There is no way that I could have ever made it without them. I am so grateful for God’s grace, mercy, and for allowing me to be with my family and friends a little longer. I still have a long road ahead so please keep me in your prayers.”
Another tragic ATV accident claimed the life of a Wayne County man on Friday, June 11. The Tennessee Highway Patrol reported that Jorden B. Collins, age 22, of Waynesboro died around midnight when the four-wheeler he was operating ran off Scott Ridge Road and struck a tree. Sadly, Collins’ body was not found until approximately 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 12, in the remote area where the accident occurred.
The new pavilion at Waynesboro City Park was completed in June, replacing the old pavilion that was destroyed by fire on November 17, 2020. The fire was thought to be accidental. The new pavilion was built on the concrete foundation of the old one, and has been in use by park visitors since June.
Tennessee First Lady Maria Lee was in Wayne County on June 22 helping to distribute food boxes at the Collinwood Help Center. Tennessee Serves and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee teamed up to provide 333 boxes of food, which equals 15,984 meals. According to Feeding America, one in eight Tennesseans face hunger with one in six of them being children. “Food banks and their volunteer networks are crucial to a community’s ability to care for those who are in need,” said Maria Lee. “We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to aid those who work around the clock to serve their neighbors and help feed hungry families across the state.”
Just in time for the day honoring the birth of our great nation, a new mural was unveiled at the Wayne County Veterans Park in Collinwood. The City of Collinwood applied for and was awarded a grant to fund the painting of this gorgeous, patriotic mural. The mural is a lovely addition to the already beautiful and peaceful Veterans Park. Anyone who has not yet visited the park should take the time to walk around and look at the veterans’ names on the monument, and perhaps just sit down for a moment on one of the benches and take in the atmosphere of patriotism and gratitude for those who have served our country.
A 3% pay raise for all employees was put into the 2020-21 budget for the Wayne County School System, along with an increase of $220 per year for the local insurance contribution. School system employees were thankful to learn of the pay raise and insurance contribution increase, especially in light of the very tough year dealing with COVID and figuring out ways to continue educating students during the pandemic.
Wayne County’s very own singer/songwriter Mark Collie was honored on Saturday, July 3 before he took the stage at the Waynesboro City Park for the Independence Day Celebration. Mark’s family and friends joined Mark and many of his fans at the Music Walk of Fame near the Wayne County Courthouse as a Tennessee Music Pathways marker was dedicated to honor Mark’s accomplishments in the music industry. Following the dedication of Mark Collie’s Music Pathways marker, he went on to perform on Stage 64 at the Waynesboro City Park at the annual Independence Day Celebration. The duo Thompson Square followed Mark with a performance of their own, showcasing many of their own hits. A spectacular fireworks display once again brought a close to the evening of music and fun.
Following an intense online voting contest, Kubota Tractor Corporation announced on July 12 that the Wayne County Ag Center was the winner of the Kubota “Hometown Proud” community revitalization grant program! Wayne County received a $100,000 grant and loaned equipment from Kubota to help develop the grounds for the county’s first and only dedicated Agricultural Center. Kubota announced its first-ever community revitalization grant program, “Hometown Proud,” on March 11, calling on cities, towns, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations from across the United States to submit an application for consideration. Nearly 400 grant applications were received from nearly every state in the country, demonstrating diverse needs from communities big and small. In May, Kubota identified the top five finalists (including Wayne County) and then called on the public to vote to help determine the winner of the $100,000 grant and use of Kubota equipment to refresh or revitalize a community project. Voters came through for Wayne County, and groundbreaking has taken place at the Ag Center site within the existing Wayne County Industrial Park. The facility will house the local UT Extension and Soil and Conservation offices, a 125-person training/meeting room, commercial kitchen, and a covered pavilion to provide outdoor classroom and event space. The grounds around the facility will be used for ag-related shows, demonstrations, and eventually, community gardens.
An awesome event was held at the Wayne County High School gym on July 12 with former Tennessee Vol and current Pittsburgh Steeler Josh Dobbs. Coaches, teams, and students from four counties came to hear Josh speak. Kerry Franks, Pastor of Green River Baptist Church, did an awesome job interviewing Josh as he talked about his journey from high school on to college and then the pros. Josh said that the most important advice he could give would be to “get on Team Jesus!”
In July 2021, a Wayne County hunter, Peyton Risner, was surprised to find that he’d captured a bear wandering through the woods in a photo from his trail camera. Peyton notified TWRA that the black bear was photographed wandering around on his property off Middle Butler Road in Collinwood. Though there isn’t a breeding population of bears in Middle Tennessee yet, the animals are in the fringe counties and it is not uncommon to see young bears moving through the area looking to set up their own home range, according to TWRA.
The Wayne County Dixie Youth Angels 10U softball team represented Wayne County as “Team Tennessee” in the Dixie Youth World Series held in Virginia in July 2021. This outstanding group of young ladies unfortunately exited the World Series with a loss to Team Virginia, but came back home as winners nonetheless!
Another Wayne County team competed in the Dixie Youth World Series as “Team Tennessee” in early August. The Waynesboro Dixie Youth Ponytails 12U girls’ softball team represented Wayne County in the World Series held in Alexandria, Louisiana. These young ladies won their first game, but were unfortunately defeated twice in the series and were unable to “bring home the gold.” However, this fine group represented our county and state in a great way, showing good sportsmanship and competing hard with the best of the best.
With students going back to school in August, high school and junior high football got underway as well. August 20 saw the Wayne County High School Wildcats take on the Hickman County Bulldogs, but they were unfortunately defeated by as score of 35-34. The Collinwood High School Trojans were defeated by only one point as well when they played their season opener against the Loretto Mustangs.
Frank Hughes High School was excited in August to announce golf as a new addition to their roster of sports teams. Five young men from FHS made up the inaugural golf team and established a good record for the team and the school.
As COVID-19 cases were on the rise again nationally during the month of August, we also saw an increase here in Wayne County with the spread of the Delta variant of the virus. The Delta variant made up 83% of all U.S. cases during that time, according to the CDC. Tennessee ranked 18th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis. As of August 2021, about 44% of people in Tennessee had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 39% of them being fully vaccinated.
The annual “Pullin’ in the Wood” tractor pull in Collinwood was a big success over the last weekend in August, drawing large crowds both nights. The arena was packed with spectators who enjoyed all the different classes of the tractor and truck pulls. An engine explosion lit up the night sky at one point, but thankfully there were no injuries. Many marveled at the ambulance (or half of one) that competed in the truck pull.
Be sure to grab next week’s edition of The Wayne County News for Part 3 of our “Year in Review”.
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