Bell named All-Tourney in Colorado, leads Vandy past Tulane

Rachel Bell (3) drives around the Tulane defense.  (photo courtesy John Russell/Vanderbilt)
Rachel Bell (3) drives around the Tulane defense. (photo courtesy John Russell/Vanderbilt)

Former Creek Wood Lady Red Hawk Rachel Bell was named to the All-Tournament Team after Vanderbilt won the Air Force Classic in Colorado Saturday. Bell scored 10 points in each of Vandy’s wins over Air Force and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Bell led the Commodores with 14 points as they rallied to beat Tulane in their return to Nashville Monday. Vandy improves to 8-1. In Colorado, Vandy beat the host Cadets 75-49 Friday. Bell hit 5 of 12 shots and grabbed 6 rebounds. Dickson County High School graduate LeaLea Carter scored 4 points, hitting 1 of 5 field goals and 2 of 4 free throws. The following night, Vandy sewed up the tourney title with a 73-63 win over the SIUE Cougars. Junior Bell hit 4 of 10 shots including 2 of 4 three-pointers with 4 assists. Freshman Carter had 2 points and 2 assists. After returning to Memorial Gym to play its third game in four days, Vanderbilt rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Tulane 74-63. Trailing by a point heading into the final period, the Commodores outscored the Green Wave 30-18 to grab the win. Bell scored a team-high 14 points to lead five Commodores in double figures. She shot 50 percent from the floor and sank 2 of 3 treys to go with 3 assists. Carter did not attempt a shot during limited time on the floor. Through nine games, Bell leads Vandy with 111 total points and is second at 12.3 points per game. Averaging almost 11 minutes in eight games, Carter has scored 29 points. Vanderbilt takes its seven-game winning streak to East Tennessee State tonight.

Lunn proposes tipping fee hike to cover rising costs

With the cost of hauling the county’s garbage away going up, the Dickson County Commission is considering an increase in the tipping fees charged at the landfill but is not looking at increasing the monthly sanitation fee. Solid Waste Department Superintendent Jim Lunn reported at Monday’s work session that the county’s contract was re-bid in September and Waste Management Inc. was again the low bidder but with about a 15 percent rate increase. Under the new 10-year contract, Waste Management is increasing its charge to haul class I household trash to its landfill in Camden from $27.48 to $31.66 per ton. “I need to visit the cost of what we’re charging as a tipping fee when it comes across the scales,” Lunn said. He proposes increasing the tipping fee at the landfill from $36.85 to $42.87 per ton. Lunn said that will impact mainly commercial and industrial waste haulers. There is no charge for what the county hauls in from the convenience centers because that cost is part of the $10 monthly sanitation fee instituted in 2011. Lunn said by increasing the tipping fee, it will not be necessary to raise the sanitation fee. “Part of the importance in raising this fee is that we don’t have to revisit our sanitation fee. We can leave it alone by getting our commercial and industrial and making up some of this cost increase,” Lunn said. Lunn also proposed increasing the tipping fee for construction and demolition debris from $25 to $32 per ton. He said the Dickson County Landfill is now moving into its last eight acres and the fee increase will cover the cost of permitting, preparing the new area and operations. Lunn estimates that last section will serve the county 15-20 years, but said he has no idea what will happen when that runs out. He said the county either will have to get a new landfill site or contract for disposal of the construction and demolition debris. He said finding sites for new landfills is very difficult. By way of comparison, Lunn said Putnam and Maury counties charge a $45 tipping fee and Hickman County is $47.46 per ton of class I garbage, while he is proposing $42.87 for Dickson County. With Dickson County considering $32 per ton for construction and demolition debris, Lunn said Putnam County is $35, Maury County $40, Rutherford County $30 and Hickman County $50. The Solid Waste Management budget approved by the commission in August shows operating expenses of $3.6 million with more than 30 percent of that coming in the contract to dispose of the county’s waste. It projects revenue of $1 million in tipping fees, $2.3 million from the sanitation fee, $200,000 from other sources and a deficit covered by the budget’s $2.5 million fund balance. Commissioners voted unanimously to send the proposed tipping fee increases to their Dec. 19 meeting for final approval. Lunn did not say when the new fee structure will go into effect.

Board sets sessions to discuss school plan with public

The Dickson County School Board will take the case for its new school proposal directly to constituents with a pair of informational sessions over the next week and another one possible early next year. Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks announced Tuesday that the board will hold informational sessions at 6 pm Thursday at Stuart-Burns Elementary School and 6 pm Tuesday at Oakmont Elementary School. At its November meetings, board members discussed trying to answer questions, provide information and counter misinformation about its plan to build a middle/high school on Highway 96 in Burns to open in fall 2019. The announcement says the meetings will be to discuss the board’s current building plan and try to answer questions such as:

  1. Why do we need a new school?
  2. Why should it be a 1,300-student middle/high school with grades 6-12?
  3. Why should it be located in Burns?
  4. Why did the board select the McCall property on Highway 96?
  5. How will this plan impact children in the school system?

At their work session and regular meeting last month, board members said they would like to present to the public as much information as possible, including a tentative footprint and design for the campus and proposals for how students will be zoned for the new school. The preliminary discussions have included all of the students from Stuart-Burns Elementary going to the new school and a portion of students from Oakmont Elementary being zoned to it as well. Board members have said among their goals is to reduce overcrowding at Dickson Middle School and Dickson County High School. At the Nov. 10 work session, Board Chairman Tim Potter also expressed a desire to hold a joint meeting with the county commission to present a comprehensive plan not only for the new school, but renovations to existing schools and future phases of a building program. “We need to prepare a document, I think, that has an answer to anticipated questions. We know what the questions are and we can almost answer them by working on it right now,” Potter said. But at the commission’s Nov. 21 meeting, Mayor Bob Rial said he recommends against a joint meeting because of the potential for conflict between the two bodies. “I’ll just be honest with you, I don’t want it to deteriorate to things it was like seven, eight, nine years ago, some of the stuff going on. We have a level of decorum now. We’ve been working cooperatively and that’s the most important thing for the community is to keep doing that,” Rial said. At that time Rial said he was planning to meet with Potter and would bring something back to the commission’s next meeting. But at Monday night’s work session, there was no more discussion about a joint meeting. The school board has a work session at 6 pm Monday and its regular session on Dec. 15. The announcement from Weeks about the informational sessions says he anticipates another one being held after the first of the year.

Gooch eludes police by breaking through hotel wall

Aaron Gooch
Aaron Gooch

The manhunt for a Vanleer man who is believed to have stolen a jar of donations for a fire victim and at least three vehicles continues after he managed to get away from authorities in Benton County. Police say Aaron Gooch broke through a wall between two hotel rooms in Camden Tuesday and ran out the door when police rushed the room they thought he was in. Benton County authorities say Gooch stole a pickup truck but it was found in a field south of Camden and they have no idea where he is now. The saga began Friday when Gooch allegedly tried to pay for a meal at Camino Real Mexican Restaurant in Dickson with a stolen credit card. When the cashier stepped away, surveillance video shows Gooch grabbing a donation jar containing approximately $2,000 off the counter and putting it under his coat before fleeing the restaurant. Camino Real employees put the jar out for donations for the family of 18-year-old Nadia Lizbeth Garcia, a waitress at the restaurant who died in a Dickson apartment fire last week. On Monday, McEwen police responded to a report that Gooch had been spotted at a local convenience store and a pursuit began that continued into Waverly where the police deployed spike strips to flatten the tires on the stolen vehicle. Gooch drove the car into the woods off Booker Lane and fled on foot. A K-9 lost his trail in a cow pasture. Police did arrest his girlfriend, 24-year-old Courtney Danielle White, and found $220 of the donation money in her purse. Police said White claims the rest of the money was spent on methamphetamine and heroin and there were syringes with blood on the needles found in the car. Police said Gooch stole another vehicle in the Waverly area and crashed it following a late-night pursuit in Benton County Monday, again fleeing on foot into the woods. Tuesday morning Benton County authorities cornered Gooch in a room at the Best Western hotel on Highway 641 in Camden. As police negotiated with Gooch to surrender, they believe he broke off a table leg and used it to dig a hole in the wall to get into the room next door and when police entered the room he fled through the door. Police say he then stole a pickup truck that was later found broken down in a field about 10 miles south of Camden. Authorities say they believe Gooch might be armed with a shotgun and they do not know in what direction he fled. Camino Real is again collecting funds for Garcia’s family and Dickson attorney Eric Thornton has pledged to match donations made this week up to $5,000. A fund for the family also has been established at TriStar Bank. The early morning fire at Sam’s Townhomes on Spring Street claimed the life of the 2016 Dickson County High School graduate, injured her father and brother and displaced 50 people from 17 units.

George Sexton returning to bench as special judge

George C. Sexton
George C. Sexton

Former Judge George C. Sexton will take over as special judge for cases from a multi-state methamphetamine investigation and will fill in for one of the district’s judges who will be off the bench for surgery. The Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts appointed Sexton to replace the late Robert Burch, who had been appointed to preside over cases from Operation Pop Smoke before his sudden death in October. In February, the investigation resulted in a conspiracy to distribute meth indictment naming 100 defendants, prompting it to be called the Century Indictment locally. After Dickson County Circuit Court Judge David Wolfe recused himself due to a potential conflict and because of the already crowded docket for the 23rd Judicial District’s five counties, the AOC agreed to appoint a special judge to hear those cases. Several already have reached dispositions but most of the remaining cases are on hold until the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals rules on an interlocutory appeal regarding the admissibility of evidence obtained by wiretaps during the investigation. Sexton will begin presiding over Operation Pop Smoke cases in January. The Dover resident also will temporarily take over cases on Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash’s docket when she undergoes knee surgery in January. Sexton was appointed to fill a vacancy in the 23rd Judicial District by Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2003 after Judge Allen Wallace retired to senior status. Sexton won an unopposed race for a full eight-year term in 2006 and retired from the bench in 2014, when Lockert-Mash was elected to the bench. He was general sessions and juvenile court judge in Stewart County 1998-2003 and served as municipal court judge in Dover and Cumberland City. Prior to taking the bench, Sexton was an assistant district attorney for the 23rd Judicial District 1983-98 and was in private practice in Dover after obtaining his degree from the University of Tennessee School of Law in 1980. Sexton’s appointment is for one year but could be extended if any Operation Pop Smoke cases are still open.

White Bluff parade, Santa breakfast set for Saturday

Saturday’s Christmas Parade in White Bluff will follow its traditional route beginning and ending at William James Middle School. Parade officials had considered changing to the route that was used for Creek Wood High School’s Homecoming Parade that ended at the Bibb-White Bluff Civic Center. But Public Works Director Jeff Martin said the electric parade will make its loop through downtown White Bluff. The parade starts at 4:30 pm Saturday so floats and entries can utilize lighted features. The theme for this year’s parade is “Christmas Trees and Memories.” The parade will exit the campus of William James and head west on Highway 70. It will turn right at the traffic light at Highway 47 and head down the hill to Old Charlotte Road where it turns right. The parade will head back into downtown, going east on Highway 70 to end back at the middle school. There is no fee to enter the parade but participants are asked to register with town hall at 615-797-3131. The White Bluff Parks and Recreation Department will hold its annual Breakfast with Santa 7-10 am Saturday at the White Bluff Community Center. Tickets are $5 with children 3 and under free. The breakfast includes all-you-can-eat pancakes, drawings for prizes, activities for children, a photo booth and an appearance by Santa Claus to pose for pictures. Each ticket purchased includes an entry for the drawings and additional entries are available for each non-perishable food item donated to The Wooden Bell food pantry.

Dickson County sweeps home opener over Spring Hill

Dickson County finally got to play in front of the home crowd Tuesday night and celebrated “Gangsta Night” with a pair of wins over Spring Hill. The Lady Cougars took control early and dominated the Lady Raiders 87-14 even with the bench seeing extensive playing time. Dickson County overwhelmed Class AA Spring Hill from the tip, forcing two timeouts in the first 4 minutes of the game. Despite an abbreviated night, Cierra Smith led the Lady Cougars with 23 points and 5 steals. Emily Beard finished with 13 and Ryann Roberts had 10. It wasn’t quite as easy for the Cougars, but they held on for a 64-57 win. After the Raiders opened the game with a 5-0 run, the Cougars responded with an 8-0 run to take a lead they would never give up. Three-pointers by D.J. Stacey, Jacob Murphree and Demontez Coleman helped Dickson County lead 17-15 after the first. Murphree and Trey Weidman combined for 14 points in the second as the Cougars were ahead 36-30 at intermission. Dickson County blew the game open with a 10-0 run to start the third period and maintained a double-digit lead until it began to hold the ball with 4 minutes left in the game. With the Raiders forced to foul, the Cougars salted the game away with free throws as Spring Hill could only slice the final margin to 7 points against reserves. Murphree led Dickson County with 16 points while Weidman had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Dickson County will begin District 11-AAA action Friday hosting Franklin.

Red Hawks escape with 52-51 win over Fairview

Creek Wood’s Red Hawks dodged a bullet for their second district victory Tuesday while the Lady Red Hawks posted another dominating performance to sweep Fairview in Charlotte. In a seesaw game that saw the Yellow Jackets overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth period, Fairview missed a game-tying free throw with under 2 seconds left and Creek Wood survived 52-51. The Red Hawks trailed 24-22 at halftime but battled back to lead 40-37 heading into the fourth quarter. Creek Wood got the lead up to 10 and attempted to run the clock, but turnovers allowed Fairview to get back into contention and with under 20 seconds left the Red Hawks were clinging to a one-point lead. Forced to foul, the Yellow Jackets sent Creek Wood to the free throw line where the Red Hawks missed the front end of two one-and-ones, giving Fairview the ball and a chance to win on a final shot. On a baseline drive, Fairview’s Stephen Bledsoe was fouled with 1.2 second left. With a chance to tie and take the lead, Bledsoe missed the first free throw and time expired during the battle for the rebound. Coulter Dotson led all scorers with 25 points and Dallas Hall had 13. The Lady Red Hawks remained unbeaten through three District 11-AA contests with another dominating defensive performance that held Fairview to just 4 points in the second half of a 61-18 win. Creek Wood has held opponents to single digits in 11 of its last 16 quarters. The Lady Red Hawks ran out to a 32-14 lead at intermission and outscored Fairview 29-4 in the second half. For the second straight game, Creek Wood connected on 13 three-pointers. Raegan Hohl had three treys in her 15 points while Elayna Gass sank four from distance in her 15 points. Creek Wood goes on the road for a district doubleheader at Lewis County Friday.

Ex-Cougar Mersman leads UT Martin in 2016 scoring

Mitch Mersman
Mitch Mersman

Dickson County High School graduate Mitch Mersman finished the football season as the leading scorer for the University of Tennessee at Martin. The redshirt junior took over place-kicking duties for the Skyhawks this season and scored 64 points on field goals and extra points. The Skyhawks finished the season 7-5 and in second place in the Ohio Valley Conference, but did not get an invitation to the NCAA Football Championship Series, ending their season. Mersman continued to handle kickoff duties for Martin, recording 72 kickoffs, the same number as in 2015. In field goals, Mersman was good on 9 of 15 attempts. His longest was 44 yards against Georgia State and he made 3 of 4 against Murray State. On points after touchdowns, Mersman made 37 of 40 attempts. His 64 points was the most on the team this season as running back Jaimie Bowe was second with 8 touchdowns and a two-point conversion for 50 points. Mersman also recorded 12 solo tackles. UT Martin entered its final game of the season with a chance to take the OVC championship and earn a spot in the playoffs, but fell to No. 2 Jacksonville State 33-7. The selection committee did not extend an at-large invitation to Martin. At DCHS, Mersman had a career-long field goal of 48 yards and kicked four field goals and a PAT in a 19-14 win over Springfield. The son of Jill and Scott Mersman, Mersman is majoring in management at Martin. Youngstown State’s Penguins, coached by former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, upset third-ranked Jacksonville State in the second round of the FCS playoffs Saturday and face Wofford in the quarterfinals this weekend.

Police chase suspect in theft of donations for fire victim

Image from security video at Camino Real allegedly shows a man identified as Aaron Gooch stealing a jar of donations for last week's fire victims.
Image from security video at Camino Real allegedly shows a man identified as Aaron Gooch stealing a jar of donations for last week’s fire victims.
Aaron Gooch
Aaron Gooch
Courtney Danielle White
Courtney Danielle White

The man suspected of stealing a jar of donations for a fire victim remains on the run after police chases in Humphreys and Benton counties. Law enforcement agencies continue to search for Aaron Gooch who was last seen fleeing on foot after wrecking a stolen car in Benton County Monday night. Police in Humphreys County arrested Gooch’s girlfriend following a pursuit and recovered some of the money taken when Gooch allegedly walked out of Camino Real Mexican Restaurant with the donation jar on the front counter Friday. The restaurant was collecting money for the family of 18-year-old Nadia Lizbeth Garcia, who died in a Dickson apartment fire last week. Police returned $220 of the approximately $2,000 that was believed to have been in the jar. McEwen Police Department officers spotted Gooch and 24-year-old Courtney Danielle White Monday afternoon and a pursuit began. Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office deputies joined the chase and a Waverly Police Department officer deployed spike strips that flattened all four tires on the car Gooch and White were driving. Gooch managed to continue on the flat tires and drove into the woods along Booker Lane off Highway 13 North where he fled on foot and White was arrested. Some of the money believed to have been stolen from the restaurant was found in her purse. White was booked into the Dickson County Jail on two charges of failure to appear, driving without insurance, registration violation and driving on a revoked license. She was released on $1,500 bond with an appearance in Dickson County General Sessions Court on Dec. 16. The Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office brought in a K-9 and tracked Gooch until losing the trail in a cow pasture. Police believe Gooch stole a car in the Waverly area and was last seen late Monday night after another pursuit and crash in Benton County where he again fled on foot into nearby woods. Police say Gooch tried to pay for his meal with a stolen credit card and when the cashier stepped away from the front counter, security video shows Gooch grabbing the donation jar and placing it under his coat before walking out of the restaurant. A 2016 graduate of Dickson County High School, Garcia was working at Camino Real to save money for college. She died in a fire at Sam’s Townhomes on Spring Street early last Tuesday morning and her father and brother were injured. The restaurant is still taking donations to help her family who lost everything in the fire and local attorney Eric Thornton has pledged to match donations made this week up to $5,000. The American Red Cross and Dickson County Help Center continue to work with 50 people who were driven from their homes in the 17-unit apartment complex.