*On October 1, 2023, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddles from Wayne County hosted their annual Fields of Faith at Pat Brewer Stadium. The huddle groups from Clifton, Collinwood, and Waynesboro stood up and showed out for Christ! Everyone enjoyed watching students from Wayne County working together for God’s glory through skits, dramas, and songs. This truly was an amazing night, and God’s Holy Spirit was in the stadium. Wayne County is truly blessed to have students who are willing to stand up boldly for God by leading prayers, performing skits and dramas, dancing to a praise song, singing, testifying, and not being afraid to tell others about Jesus.
*In the evening hours of October 6, 2023, the Perry County Sheriff’s Office and Perry County Emergency Medical Services were dispatched to a fatal ATV crash in the Flatwoods area of Perry County. They responded to a call involving two Perry County teenagers and a Wayne County teenager. Upon their arrival at the scene, officers and medical personnel discovered that the ATV crash had sadly caused the fatality of the young Wayne County lady, identified as Makayla Tuck, age 18, of Clifton. The crash occurred off the roadway on private property. Officials said the teens were found not to be impaired, and the fatal crash was ruled to be accidental.
*Two days after Wayne County, TN authorities started searching for a teenager reported missing, they announced that he was found deceased in Saltillo, Mississippi. The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office originally posted about the missing 17-year-old, Hunter Carroll, on Friday, October 20. During the early morning hours of Sunday, October 22, Wayne County authorities confirmed that the Saltillo, MS Police Department reported to them that Carroll had been located and a death investigation was underway. Saltillo Police Chief Rusty Hayes confirmed to The News that Carroll was found deceased from an apparent self-inflicted wound. Within a matter of days from the death of Makayla Tuck, the county was once again in prayer for the family of a young person gone too soon.
*A fire that began around the old Skelton Sawmill property in Waynesboro was reported at 2:03 p.m. on Saturday, October 21, and burned approximately 16 acres before it was fully contained just after 5:00 p.m. Wayne County Emergency Management Director Brian Smith said that the fire was first spotted and reported at the intersection of Highway 64 Bypass and Skelton Sawmill Road. Fire Departments that responded were Waynesboro City, Station 1 (Waynesboro), Station 3 (Beech Creek), Station 8 (Eagle Creek), Station 9 (Ovilla), and the Tennessee Division of Forestry. The Waynesboro Police Department and Tennessee Highway Patrol assisted with traffic control.
*An enormous tractor trailer hauling a huge military tank caused major problems on the square in Waynesboro on October 26, 2023. It took hours for the truck and equipment to make it around the square, with the Waynesboro City Police finally having to block the square off completely to oncoming traffic so that the truck could drive straight from the Highway 13 North entrance (the direction the truck came from) to the Highway 64 East exit. This was probably another unfortunate situation of GPS not being able to take all things into consideration when offering the quickest route!
*Anyone looking for some family-friendly Halloween fun had no trouble finding it in Wayne County at the end of October. All three of Wayne County’s cities, Collinwood, Waynesboro, and Clifton, hosted Halloween events. Clifton’s event was on Saturday, October 28, and both Waynesboro and Collinwood hosted their events on the big night itself, Tuesday, October 31. The three Halloween events brought about trunk-or-treating, a haunted house, and costume contests – all the stuff needed for a great holiday!
*The county was dealt a difficult blow in early November 2023 when prospective Boyd Cottages Assisted Living buyers Jerry Hollis and Tim Franks informed the County Commission that they were withdrawing their bid to purchase the facility. After lengthy discussions and much uncertainty over many months, the facility was put out for bids, and the partnership of Jerry Hollis and Tim Franks submitted the high bid of $1.25 million. Members of the Wayne County Commission received the information several weeks after the bid was accepted that what were initially thought to be minor problems at Boyd Cottages were instead viewed as huge hurdles that the prospective buyers would not be willing to try and overcome. Fortunately, the County Commission accepted a new bid in December 2023 from Jamie Odle in the amount of $775,000.00 for the purchase of the facility. Mr. Odle assured the commission that he intends to keep running the facility much the same as it has always been run, and possibly even expand or add more services.
*On Wednesday November 1, 2023, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the Tennessee Dangerous Drugs Task Force and the Collinwood Police Department, executed a search warrant at 501 Highway 13 South in Collinwood. The address is the location of the Roadhouse convenience store. Deputies seized several hundred items of illegal THC Delta 9 products, some of which field tested almost 60 times the legal limit. Sheriff Shane Fisher warned those who are selling the illegal THC Delta 9 products that the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office will fully enforce the laws, and since this is an increasing problem, especially among our youth, there is a concerted effort with all agencies to put those who sell these products out of business in Wayne County.
*The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce held their annual Awards Ceremony on Thursday, November 2, 2023 at the Auxiliary Gymnasium in Clifton. The theme for this year’s event was “A Night in the 70’s,” and attendees were dressed in their grooviest duds. The evening was truly far out, man! Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Christine Chapman emceed the event. The winner of the 2023 Memorial Recognition Award was the late Mr. Herbert Brewer, a true Wayne County icon. Other winners of the evening were: Organization of the Year, Clifton Senior Citizens; Non-Profit of the Year, Ladies in Pink Society; Business of the Year, Pillow Street Bed and Breakfast; Lifetime Achievement Award, Michael Francis; Volunteers of the Year, the McDonald Family, John, Sherry, Colby, and Tyler; and Person of the Year, Autry Gobbell.
*A Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening Ceremony for the Wayne County Agriculture Center was held on Monday, November 20, 2023. The vision for the Wayne County Agriculture Center began several years ago when UT Extension reached out to Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture and was awarded $150,000 through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP). With rising material costs brought on by the pandemic, wanting to build a ground level facility to house UT Extension and Soil and Conversation offices plus a large meeting room and livestock pavilion proved a difficult and costly task. Such a massive undertaking was just not feasible until individuals throughout the county began reaching out to private industries, organizations, and other individuals, requesting their partnerships and pledges. Behind the scenes, Ag Committee members and others committed to the project, got busy calling on everyone they knew to contribute. Winning Kubota’s first Hometown Proud Grant provided an additional $100,000 and placed Wayne County in the national spotlight, showing what determination and a grassroots effort could accomplish. Elected officials supported the project by allocating funding to finally get the Ag Center off the ground with the understanding the budget would be replenished as donations continued so allocated funds could be freed up for other much needed projects throughout the county. The Ag Center is now home to the Wayne County UT Extension offices, along with a large assembly/classroom space that seats up to 125 people, a conference room, a fully equipped kitchen, and a livestock pavilion out back. “Best of all,” said Administrative Assistant Anita Butler, “there is plenty of outdoor space available around the facility for trailers to pull in and out, and for 4-H kiddos to have lots of room to be outside as well.”
*The month of December 2023 saw the beginning of Christmas festivities around the county. The Waynesboro Rotary Christmas Parade was held on Saturday, December 2, and boasted lots of beautiful floats and decorations. Rain may have caused some problems for the “Christmas on the Square” event on Saturday, December 2, but it couldn’t stop the parade! The Collinwood Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Collinwood Beautification Board, was held on Sunday, December 10. This was the second year for the Collinwood parade to be held at night, and the floats and participants decorated in the “Old Fashioned Christmas” theme looked lovely with their colorful lights.
*Gorgeous Christmas trees were on display around the county in December 2023, with the Festival of Trees at the Wayne County Administrative Building in Waynesboro and the Wonderland of Trees at the Wayne County Welcome Center in Collinwood. The trees were set up by various churches, businesses, and civic organizations, and provided lovely displays sure to put everyone in the Christmas spirit.
*A large wildfire that burned approximately forty acres of land consumed areas of the Highland community on Thursday night, November 30. The fire began in a mostly wooded area in the Highland community off Highway 13 between Waynesboro and Collinwood. Firefighters from the Tennessee Department of Forestry, EMA Station 2 (Collinwood), EMA Station 1 (Hog Creek), and EMA Station 8 (Eagle Creek) responded to the fire and fought it for several hours until it was fully extinguished.
*After months of discussion and even a sense of desperation among Wayne Countians, Maury Regional Health was chosen by the Wayne County Commission to enter into negotiations for renewal of their contract to operate Wayne Medical Center. The commission had been in discussions with Maury Regional earlier in the year about the status and classification of the hospital, along with the possibility of building a new hospital at a different location in the county. Nothing had been decided or voted on yet when representatives from Maury Regional attended a County Commission meeting in June 2023 and dropped the proverbial bombshell on the commissioners and attendees, announcing that Maury Regional was no longer interested in renewing their contract to operate the hospital and ambulance service. After further months of discussion, the Wayne County Commission decided that it would be best for Wayne Medical Center and best for the county to achieve the designation of an REH (Rural Emergency Hospital). After the Wayne County Commission decided to try for the REH designation, they received four Requests for Proposal (RFP) from entities interested in operating the facility, including Maury Regional Health. The Wayne County Commission ultimately voted in December to accept the Request for Proposal from Maury Regional Health for management/operation of the hospital and the ambulance service. “Wayne County and MRH share the desire to provide clinically excellent, compassionate care to Wayne County residents,” said Maury Regional Health CEO, Dr. Martin Chaney. “We look forward to working with county leadership on a contract agreement and conversion to an REH and will keep you apprised of any developments.”
*Tragedy struck a Wayne County family just before Christmas when a young father was killed and his 12-year-old son critically injured in a motor vehicle accident on Pumping Station Road. The Tennessee Highway Patrol report stated that at 6:11 p.m. on Thursday, December 14, Justin Lambert, age 35, was traveling east on Pumping Station Road in a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. Lambert reportedly failed to negotiate a right curve in the roadway, crossed the center line, and exited the roadway. The vehicle sideswiped three standing trees and continued east, striking a fence. The vehicle then struck another standing tree before coming to rest. Justin Lambert was pronounced deceased at the scene.
*The dedicated volunteers for the Angel Tree program in Wayne County organized another hugely successful event in 2023. Program Director Amy Van Fleet, who puts in countless hours every year for the Angel Tree, said that 524 children right here in Wayne County were able to have a full Christmas, thanks to the Angel Tree. Can you imagine, from a child’s perspective, waking up on Christmas morning to find nothing under the tree? Unfortunately, that is the case for far too many children, many of whom live right here in Wayne County. Thanks to the Angel Tree program, 524 of those children in Wayne County were able to receive and enjoy wonderful Christmas gifts in 2023. Mrs. Van Fleet said that all this was possible because Wayne Countians stepped up and adopted angels, donated money or toys, shopped, and bought from the various independent fundraisers that benefited the Angel Tree. “This is what it is all about,” said Mrs. Van Fleet as she looked around at the many presents ready to go to local children. “Just think of all the smiles on Christmas morning!”