From January through December, however, there was one constant storyline in Lynchburg. Would the Metropolitan Moore County Lynchburg County Council approve a significant upgrade and restoration project for the Moore County High School campus?
It didn’t happen in 2015, but it was news nonetheless as the Moore County Board of Education, the Metro Council and the citizens of Moore County met time and again trying to hash out details that could finally get the project off the ground.
No single news story was covered as much in 2015 as the proposed school building project, easily making it the top story of 2015. Here is a look back at the top 10 stories from last year, as well as a handful of honorable mentions that narrowly missed the cut.
1. School Renovation Project: More than 40 people turned out for the unveiling of the MCHS renovation project back in early January 2015. No action was taken on the project however, and it remained that way through the county’s budgeting process for the upcoming fiscal year.
The original proposal carried a $17.2 million price tag and it became obvious a tax increase would be necessary to foot the bill.
Meeting after meeting ensued, including an open forum at the high school gymnasium in mid-August which drew more than 100 community members, most showing support for the project. Nine months after the project was first brought to the council and eight months since council members heard a detailed presentation from the Tullahoma-based engineering firm of Oliver, Little and Gipson (OLG), the council and the school board made little headway toward getting the project off the ground.
In November, Council members still shunned the project despite approximately $4 million being cut.
Finally, at the Council’s December meeting, the governing body voted to tentatively approve a resolution that would place a referendum regarding a proposed $13 million school renovation on the March 2016 Presidential Preference Primary and County Primary voting ballot.
The Moore County Board of Education first asked for $17.2 million, but has since hacked away at the original plan and trimmed it down to $13 million. The Council, however, is reluctant to fund the project because doing so would mean a property tax increase.
The proposed property tax increase is 37 cents.
The now year-long saga will likely continue through 2016 as well.
2. Country singer Randy Howard, fatally shot: Randy Howard, 65, was killed in a shootout with a bounty hunter at his Lynchburg home Tuesday, June 9. Bounty hunter Jackie Shell, working for A Plus Bail Bonding in Dunlap, Tenn., shot the country music singer inside Howard’s residence and Howard died as a result of his injuries.
Howard, a Georgia native, was part of the vanguard of the Outlaw Country movement that spawned Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck and more. He released his debut album, “Now and Then” in 1976, and would go on to record “All American Redneck” for Warner Bros. in 1983, and a self-titled album for Atlantic in 1988, as well as other recording projects for smaller labels.
The singer’s death raised new questions about the rights of bounty hunters. While many states require bondsmen to be licensed, Tennessee doesn’t. In this instance the bounty hunter had a warrant, and he claims to have fired in self-defense, but the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reported that Howard was in his own home, where he had the legal right to defend himself.
Investigators said Howard began firing shots first and the bounty hunter returned fire.
3. One killed in plane crash near Mulberry: Authorities recovered the body of a Franklin County woman from the wreckage of a plane crash on a farm near Mulberry on Monday, May 4.
Officials identified her as 46-year-old Linda Bauman of Belvidere, a certified registered nurse anesthetist affiliated with Southern Tennessee Medical Center in Winchester. She was the pilot of the small single-engine plane that had taken off Sunday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m. from the Winchester Municipal Airport in neighboring Franklin County.
There was no flight plan filed for the departure, according to officials, who think the crash may have occurred about 3 p.m. Sunday.
The scene was discovered Monday morning when the farm manager was checking on cows on the farm along Steelman Rd. just off state Route 50 near the Moore County line .
According to Ritchie Lewis, with the Winchester Police Department, friends said Bauman was an experienced pilot and that it was not uncommon for her to come to the airport on Sunday afternoons and take her plane out for an hour or so flight. The plane was reported missing Sunday night, May 3.
4. MCHS named a state Reward School: Moore County High School joined a number of schools across the state that were recognized for their achievement and growth in 2015.
The Tennessee Department of Education announced in August that Moore County High School was designated as a Reward School. Schools receive recognition for their success under the state’s accountability system.
According to the TDoE, schools are designated as Reward for performance for overall student achievement. This designation is determined annually by a one-year success rate. A success rate is calculated by adding together the total number of proficient or advanced students in each subject and dividing by the total number of test takers for each subject.
Moore County was recognized as a Reward School based on progress, meaning there have been significant gains at the school from one year to the next.
“We’d like to be in the top five percent in achievement; that’s our goal,” Director of Schools Chad Moorehead said. “Our goal is to always be a little higher in achievement.”
5. Snow, ice storm rip through area: A snow and ice storm blasted parts of the Mid-Atlantic and the South in mid-February, creating treacherous road conditions and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. In Tennessee, almost every school was closed again on Tuesday, Feb. 17 and Moore County’s scheduled basketball games in the District 9-A tournament in Eagleville were postponed.
Businesses and government offices were closed and court was cancelled in Lynchburg on Tuesday as more than 225 Duck River Electric Membership Corp. (DREMC) customers were still without power at 10 a.m.
DREMC, which services Lynchburg, Shelbyville, Manchester, Decherd, Lewisburg, Chapel Hill and Columbia, had crews working through the night Monday and into Tuesday. DREMC officials said the outages could affect some customers for several days.
A week later, the area was hit again. Tennesseans were still struggling to recover from one of the worst winter storms in memory as schools remained closed in many counties, thousands were still without power and state officials worked to make funding available for repairs.
The storm and frigid temperatures killed 22 people across the state, nine of them caused by hypothermia —including one in Moore County.
Officials with DREMC were bracing for yet another round of wintery weather set to impact portions of southern Middle Tennessee overnight. Three winter storms — Octavia, Pandora and Quantum — have impacted parts of the South with snow and ice in the span of about a week.
6. Moore County’s Logan elected president of state Sheriff’s Association: Metro Lynchburg/Moore County Sheriff Mark Logan was named the new 2015-16 Tennessee Sheriff’s Association (TSA) president during the organization’s annual conference held July 20-24 in Sevierville. The conference, which included training for sheriffs, chief deputies, jail administrators and other law enforcement personnel was held at the Wilderness at the Smokies/Sevierville Event Center.
“It’s certainly an honor to be selected among 95 sheriffs in the state and to be elected president,” said Sheriff Logan. “It’s an honor because I’m probably the first sheriff from a small county like this to be nominated and elected.”
7. MCHS principal changes: MCHS principal Buddy Smith tendered his resignation on May 18 and stepped down at the end of the 2014-15 school year. Smith accepted a position with the Hamblin County school system in East Tennessee, reportedly to be closer to his children and his grandchildren.
Smith was the Moore County High School principal for three years and had been a principal in Moore County for seven years. He was at LES for four years — overseeing much of the school’s expansion project in the process — before taking the principal’s position at Moore County High School.
Smith took over at MCHS at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, replacing Dan Mooney, who spent a four-year stretch as the principal at the high school before stepping down to take a position as the supervisor of teaching and learning at the central office.
The announcement by Director of Schools Chad Moorehead continued a principal carousel trend here in Moore County, though that revolving door has been primarily at Lynchburg Elementary School, where Moorehead has been tasked with finding three new principals in as many years.
On June 26, Moorehead announced that Charles ‘Chuck’ Tracy had been hired to replace Smith. Tracy was hired from a pool of 12 applicants according to Moorehead. Half of those 12 were interviewed and four of the filmed interviews were then shared with more than 30 community members — including teachers, parents, students, administrators and school support staff — during the vetting process.
8. Extension Agent Larry Moorehead honored: First as the sixth annual Moore County Heart of Gold Outstanding Citizenship Award winner during June’s Frontier Days Celebration and again in November in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension Agent and the County Director Larry Moorehead was honored for his commitment to community.
The Moore County Heart of Gold Outstanding Citizenship Award is presented each year by the Moore County fce, recognizing a citizen whose service to this community goes above and beyond any job requirements.
At the National Epsilon Sigma Phi Meeting in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, Moorehead was awarded the National Award for Visionary Leadership. Moorehead won the state award and then proceeded to the southern region, which led him to the national honor.
Moorehead was presented the award by Dr. Ann Berry, the Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) National President. He attended the conference Oct. 4-7 in Idaho where he met with other ESP members from around the country, attended work sessions and meetings.
9. Email-gate at Motlow College: Motlow College officials confirmed Nov. 30 that an email was mistakenly sent out to all 554 Motlow staff members containing Tennessee Promise students’ personal information, such as names, social security numbers, birth dates, and financial aid status.
Motlow College President Dr. Anthony Kinkel said the mistake happened as an attempt to alert faculty and staff of students who had not yet completed their required community service to remain eligible for the Tennessee Promise scholarship.
After realizing the mistake, a Motlow auditor sent out an email to the recipients the next day, asking them to delete the email. Kinkel said college employees could be fired if they spread the sensitive information to others, and he advised that students monitor their credit report closely.
The college later released a public letter from Kinkel explaining exactly what and how the issue occurred and the potentially disastrous problem seemed to be for the most part contained.
10. Motlow home getting ‘facelift’: The two-story, white, colonial-style home that has anchored the edge of the Jack Daniel Distillery property near state Route 55 in Lynchburg for more than 140 years has certainly stood the test of time. But unfortunately, time finally caught up with the house where Lem Motlow lived until his death in 1947.
Motlow — Jack’s nephew and the legendary proprietor of the world-famous whiskey for nearly 40 years — was a State senator as well. He lived in the house, which was built roughly around 1870, with his wife Ophelia.
Now, parent company Brown-Forman has plans for the age-old home that’s been an icon in Lynchburg for nearly as long as whiskey has been made here.
Eric Doninger — Jack Daniel’s VP Global Marketing Creative Director — was in Lynchburg in September to reveal architect’s renderings and the company’s plans for what will be a fully reconstructed Motlow home.
Doninger, one of the creative forces behind the Jack Daniel’s Family of Brands, also happens to hold a Masters in Architecture. He met with Steve May, the Director of Jack Daniel’s Homeplace, to go over the construction plans that he says will inject new life into the dilapidated old home, while also giving the company more usable space near the main distillery.
The project is scheduled to be complete in time for the distillery’s 150th anniversary this year.
******Other noteworthy stories in 2015: County Trustee Lynn Harrison was presented with the Outstanding Trustee of the Year Award for Middle Tennessee during ceremonies held in Knoxville on May 7 … J.C. Riddle closes doors after four decades as Lynchburg’s barber. … MCHS football stadium repaired in time for August home opener … Officials say Poison Hemlock cause of at least six cattle deaths in the area … Dollar General stores expands, moves to new location on Majors Blvd. … MCHS boys basketball team finishes second in District 9-A tournament … MCHS football team advances to Class A playoffs after one-year hiatus.