2010 in Review

100-year flood headlines busy year in Clay County

Election, sports, and government dominate remainder of the news

By THOMAS P. WEAVER

HORIZON Editor

CLAY COUNTY-Mother nature made her presence known in a way that hasn’t been seen in over a century when she dumped close to eight inches of rain over a three-day period here back in early May and the event has been chosen as the top news story of the year by the HORIZON staff.

Highlighting the other top news stories of the year were the highly contested elections, several happenings in local government, and a handful of local sports items.

1. Historic flood causes

widespread damage

The Cumberland and Obey rivers continued to swell approaching levels not seen in over 100 years Wednesday, May 5 as the HORIZON first reported the news of the results of nearly 10 inches of rainfall cascading from the sky on much of Middle Tennessee and all of Clay County from May 1-3.

Residents here had already been informed of the unbelievable damage to the state capital of Nashville through television newscasts and they had witnessed first-hand the effects the deluge had here locally, but they hadn’t heard from local officials before the story hit news stands in Celina and other parts of the county.

“It’s bad,” county road superintendent Ernest Garrision said in the news story, “I’ve never seen this much wide-spread damage.  Everything’s washed out all over the county.

“Bridges, tiles, ditches–they’re all gonna need work and we can’t get to it all quick enough, but we’re going to keep trying.”

Numerous county roads remained closed as Garrison’s comments made the news, but he and his crews worked relentlessly alongside many volunteers to eventually put things back in working order.

County mayor Dale Reagan also spent long hours working to help residents, including contacting state and federal officials to get Clay Countians the help they desperately needed.

“I have already talked to our Senator and she has assured us we will get the help we need,” Reagan said in the story published soon after the water began to rise.  “It got pretty bad, but I am so thankful nobody got hurt.  Now we have to work together to get things back in order as quickly as possible.”

Reagan and Garrison did just that utilizing state and federal help to rebuild county infrastructure, and volunteers aided them in their work throughout the disaster.

“They were outstanding,” Reagan said about the volunteer effort.  “We couldn’t have had near as good of a response to the call for help if it weren’t for everybody pitching in to lend a hand.”

Besides roads–homes, farms, and businesses were flooded across the county.

The story said the hardest hit area seemed to be the west end of the county in and around Hermitage Springs, with Highway 52 running through the community being closed at times when the water crested, and homes and businesses there falling victim to the rising water.

Other low-lying areas in the county suffered the same fate, including:

• Mill Creek–where entire developments had to be evacuated,

• Proctor Creek–where access to the Beech Bethany and Vernon communities along the river was eliminated with water over the road and some residents used boats to get out,

• the Boles Community in Moss–where roads were closed and flooding was evident for days, and

• many other places near water-shed creeks and rivers.

Besides that, places like the recreational complex/fairgrounds, high school baseball field, and the boat launch/parking lot at Donaldson Park in Celina were replaced with newly formed lakes and ponds.

Another effect of the flood was the opening of the flood gates at Dale Hollow Dam after the lake jumped a whopping seven feet due to the rain.

They were opened the spring before for the first time in over two decades and were again raised to ease the burden of rising water that took the lake to levels that hadn’t been seen in over 30 years.

Several other front page stories reminding residents how to apply for assistance followed the initial news of the flood damage and related articles stayed in the news for months.

2. Election draws major

interest from voters

Facing a ballot that included nearly 70 local candidates and a total number around the century mark when districtwide and statewide races were figured in, voters here quickly became interested in the election held in August, and they then remained at attention through the November mid-term election as they cast ballots electing a new governor, state representative, and U.S. representative.

Locally, voters cast ballots for every major elected office except two and there were also 10 county commission seats, six school board seats, and five constable seats up for grabs.

The only changes in the major seats came in one vacated by retiring county clerk Pat Hix and the other was for sheriff, where James Story decided not to seek re-election.

County mayor Dale Reagan, road superintendent Ernest Garrison, register of deeds Brenda Browning, circuit court clerk Susan Birdwell, and trustee Charlie Key all retained their seats, while Donna Watson won the county clerk’s race to replace Hix and Brandon Boone became the new Clay County sheriff.

Three incumbent school board members kept their seats and three new ones won their elections.  A half-dozen county commissioners won their re-election bids and four new ones were seated.

In the November election, winds of change blew in the local state representative and U.S. congress races, while a new governor was also elected.

Pickett County native Kelly Keisling defeated longtime incumbent Les Winningham for Tennessee’s 38th District House seat, Diane Black will replace the retiring Bart Gordon in Washington as the U.S. House 6th Congressional District representative, and republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam will soon be Tennessee’s new governor.

Voter registration swelled with the interest in the August election and the trend to early voting also continued to grow, making this election year one for the books.

As the year 2010 dawned the election news hit the streets and headlines giving election updates dominated the HORIZON front page throughout the year, including a stretch of five straight weeks leading up to election day in August.

3. City Hall and courthouse

addition decisions lead

local government stories

The top two local government decisions made in 2010 were those made to construct a new Celina city hall and county courthouse addition to the community center, even though there were several other notable happenings inside Clay County politics, not including the above-mentioned election.

The local board of mayor and alderman earlier voted to build the new city hall on city-owned property just off the square near the fire/ambulance building and plans are still in the works to do so.  The official approval of the project had not been made before the council’s December meeting, but it was expected to be passed then and a bid was expected to be accepted.

Minutes from the meeting have yet to be released, but expectations have been that construction will begin early in the new year.

The building will be a two-story structure bringing the top story up to street level with the courthouse square.  City hall will be housed there and the Celina Police Department will occupy the lower level of the new building.

The county courthouse addition to the community center is also basically at the same stage as the city hall project, with money already being allocated and project details still being finalized.

It is expected that bids will also be let soon and construction could begin in the spring of 2011.

The new courtroom and county office addition to the community center will also include the renovation of rooms currently occupied by the Head Start program–which will soon be moving to their new location also in town.

The new city hall building will come after their original location across from the community center was destroyed by fire and the courthouse addition is in the works in response to a lawsuit filed against the county saying the current courthouse was not compliant with the American Disabilities Act.

Both of these projects have been in the news throughout the year and various steps have made HORIZON headlines along the way.

4. Several outstanding

sports happenings in

the year’s headlines

Local sports has long been known to dominate HORIZON newspapers, but to most, nothing is more important.

This year, many great accomplishments were made by local teams, players, and coaches.

The Clay County Bulldog basketball team of 2009/2010 graced the front page on several occasions last year and this year’s team (2010/2011) has already been the lead story a time or two thanks to senior standout Trent Boles.

Boles–along with last year’s senior’s Shawn Garrett, Caleb Lynn, Joe Adams, and Brian Korth, led his team to a District 7-A championship in both the tournament and regular season in 2009/2010 and he was named the conference’s player of the year.

This year he has already become the first Bulldog in over a decade to break the 40-point mark with his 43-point effort in a win over Van Buren County that made headlines on December 1, and his team has an unblemished conference record and is 8-1 heading into holiday tournament action this week.

Last year’s Lady Bulldog team advanced to region play with a 19-8 overall record.  They were led by seniors Sara Ogletree and Kayla Kimes.

Kimes’ signing of a scholarship to play at Roane State was the lead story in the April 21 HORIZON and she is helping her new team to a good season this year.

Current girls coach Joe Sims dominated the news the week before Kimes as he announced he would take over the reins of the Lady Bulldogs this season.  He then was back in the news in November as he was named athletic director of the year by the TSSAA.

The Clay County football team was also in the news this past fall as they battled for a playoff spot, but they fell short.  A few members of the team did find themselves on the front page after the season was over, including sophomore William Meadows–who was named the District 7-A defensive most valuable player, and seniors Matt Copeland, Matt Rich, and Jon Smith–who were named to the all-confernce squad.