District 4 and County Commissioner Brandon Brown

We are blessed in Lawrence County with a younger generation of residents whose connection to family and home convinced them that this is the place they want to live and raise their own children.

commissioner-brandon-brownFourth District Commissioner Brandon Brown is one great example. He grew up in the district, attended Leoma Elementary and graduated Loretto High School in 1993. He then left for Clarksville, Tennessee, to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Science at Austin Peay University. After working in the ag industry there a short time, he found a way to come back to Lawrence County.

“I wanted to come home,” he says of his move back 18 years ago. “I wanted to be with family and raise my kids here.”

He and his wife Felicia, who works with commercial customers at First Farmers & Merchants Bank, have two sons: a 14-year-old at Loretto High School and an eight-year-old at Leoma Elementary. For eight years they have lived on land once owned by his grandfather, just across Sugar Creek from the place Brown himself was raised.District 4-page-001

As part of his grandfather’s farm, the land was used to raise crops including cotton, watermelons, and corn. Brown grew up working in their commercial cow-calf operation, which he continues today. His parents, Buddy and Judy Williams Brown, “primarily farmed,” but held jobs at Murray and Reynolds Aluminum, too. His mother’s late parents, Lacy and Evelyn Williams, were well-known in the community as owners of the (Fall River) Crossroads store.

lusBrown is a longtime employee of Lawrenceburg Utility Systems, which provides electric service to the entire county and gas and water to customers in and around the city.  He started out reading meters and maintaining right of way, was a lineman apprentice for four years, then a journeyman lineman, then Truck Foreman, and now Safety Director. It’s Brown’s job to make sure fellow employees have and are using safety equipment and take all required training. He also helps present programs to the public about gas and electric safety concerns.

The district Brown represents is rural and includes parts of Leoma and the Revilo, Fall River and Copperas Branch communities. It consists primarily of small farms and single family homes, with some newer housing developments. The biggest issues for his constituents, he said, are taxes and water rates.

Brown made a point to educate himself about county government through local media, reading news reports and watching County Commission meetings broadcast by LawrenceburgNow. It didn’t take long to decide he wanted to get involved. “I wanted to make a difference,” he says.

The district he serves is rich in history. Lawrence County Archives Director Kathy Niedergeses was kind enough to share information about two communities there, Copperas Branch and Fall River.

There are two stories behind the name “Copperas Branch,” one much more appealing than the other. “Bonnie Prince Bobo said the branch that runs through the community had copper in it, but Iva Clark said that “copperas” was a yellow-colored spongy material her father fed to hogs,” Niedergeses said.

All reports agree that in 1928 the community convinced the local Board of Education to build a school at Copperas Branch, to save their children the three mile walk to Cherry Hill School. The building completed in 1929 was 748 square feet with a 12-foot ceiling. It contained 26 single desks, one double desk, three tables and seven chairs.

A wood stove provided heat, and sometimes lunch for the students was cooked on it. Since the walls of a well on the property kept collapsing, water was carried from neighboring farms and kept in a bucket or barrel at the school. Each student brought a drinking glass from home, and water was dipped from the bucket into it.

Former Copperas Branch School; now Copperas Branch Community Club
Former Copperas Branch School; now Copperas Branch Community Club

Former Copperas Branch student Mary Frances Barnett remembers the letter “E” falling from the alphabet that was displayed on cards over the blackboard. Someone stuck the fallen letter at the end, and as a result some students thought “E” belonged there.

Church services were held in the school when a preacher was available. Later, Eva’s Chapel Baptist Church was built with concrete blocks (purchased for $1 each) and named for Eva Henderson Prince.

The school was consolidated with New Prospect in 1953 and the Copperas Branch school building was purchased by the newly-chartered Community Club in 1957.  It is still being used by the club today.

Fall River was a much larger commercial center in its day, home to grain mills, a woolen mill, a wool carding factory, a tan yard, and other enterprises. A mill built in 1900 still stands on the banks of Clear Creek.Fall River Mill

The first owner of record of the mill property was John Garner, according to a survey dated May 21, 1821.  His holdings in the area began with an occupant land grant, 15 acres awarded after he had occupied and improved the land for three years. He eventually owned 447 acres around that original plot.

Local historian Wallace Palmore writes, “It has been written that the first mill at Fall River was built before the American Civil War by an unknown person. In Lula Belle Smith’s articles on ‘Dams of Lawrence County’ she states that the first gristmill at Fall River was built in the early 1820s and the woolen mill above Fall River was built around 1817.”

The gristmill and woolen mill were reportedly burned by Union Soldiers sometime between May 15, 1864 and October 23, 1865.  These were rebuilt and in the late 1860s much of the land in the area became the property of the Hagan family. A meeting house that served as both school and church was built and called Hagan’s Chapel.

The Lawrence Union newspaper reported November 5, 1891 that the Sunday School at Hagan’s Chapel had 75 enrolled. Other editions from that time refer to the Fall River School, so the two were in separate buildings by that time. The first reference to “Fall River Methodist Church” rather than Hagan’s Chapel was seen in 1896.

Fall River United Methodist Church
Fall River United Methodist Church

Fall River United Methodist Church and Fall River Church of Christ are both within stone-throwing distance of Clear Creek, and are located on opposite sides of Fall River Road on Clear Creek Road. Fall River Church of Christ is also within sight of the Fall River Mill, now owned and being offered for sale by the Wilburn family. On the market with it are two houses, a former general store, and 575 acres.

You can enjoy these photos of the mill and waterfalls (posted online by the Wilburn family), or drive through the area, but visitors are not allowed to walk onto this private property.fall_river_fallsfalls_splashwater_wheel_of_g-t-_wilburn_grist_mill

District 2 and Commissioner Chris Jackson

We are blessed in Lawrence County to have great opportunities for recreation, and the new swimming pool at Loretto’s city park – Burke Park – is a prime example.

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IMG_1983District 2 Commissioner Chris Jackson says the pool, set to open just days from now, will enhance the quality of life in and around his hometown. It features heated water, a splash pad, and separation between deep and shallow areas. Lanes for laps are marked off in the deeper water, and each side includes a basketball goal for more water-based fun. Grants from the state of Tennessee helped fund this state-of-the-art, “green” facility.

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Longtime major league pitcher David Weathers

A master plan for Loretto’s park system calls for more improvements, and other relatively recent projects have already made a difference. The David Weathers Foundation funded a new playground and partnered with the Loretto Lions Club to develop a basketball court there.

 

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Weathers is a native of the Liberty Grove community (also in District 2) who chose to return with his family to south Lawrence County following his retirement from major league baseball. Jackson called Weathers “a model citizen” and is glad to say that Grammy-winning singer/songwriter John Paul White also grew up in District 2, next door to his parents.

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Loretto native John Paul White

Jackson has been a member of the Loretto Lions Club ten years, and now serves as vice-president. He’s justifiably proud of the club’s contributions to the community: the Lions apartment complex has 32 units for low-income and disabled residents. The club bought Loretto High School band’s first uniforms and repeated the gesture six years ago. Lions donated land for Loretto’s new sports complex, located behind South Lawrence Elementary, and helped establish the city park and its original swimming pool.

The state of Alabama recently announced plans to complete the four-laning of Highway 43 to the Tennessee state line, meeting the highway widening project that is finished through Lawrence County. Jackson believes the new Alabama connection will bring more commerce to Loretto. Economic development – creating good jobs for a younger generation – is a top priority for him.

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Diverse Fabrications is just one industry providing jobs in Loretto.

“It’s one of the reasons I ran for office in the first place, so that people can stay in Lawrence County. A good portion of people my age have moved away.” Loretto Mayor Jesse Turner is another who has not, and he has helped forge progressive policies for an area steeped in tradition.

Both sides of Jackson’s family have been in the Loretto area for generations. He grew up near Bluewater Creek, and his parents still live beside it. District 2 is full of scenic places: from Beartown Road at its western border; Shackelford and Highway 43 at the northernmost point; and Second Creek Road along its most eastern side, to the state line.

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A view of Bluewater Creek

“Just take any side road,” he said. “I’d really recommend a drive down Lexington Highway (State Route 227) in the fall. Take it from Loretto to the Alabama line.”

 

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A country road is waiting for you in Lawrence County’s District 2.

Jackson lives about 500 feet outside the city limits of Loretto with Kailea, his wife of three years, who is an accountant at TPR Federal-Mogul Tennessee, Inc. They share their home with four dogs and one cat: pets have always been important in his life, and he hopes very much to see something done to benefit them on a county-wide basis.

 

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Kailea and Chris Jackson

A top priority is new high schools for both Summertown and Loretto, and implementation of a middle school system throughout the county. “My goal is for kids to have the same opportunities no matter where they live in the county,” he said.

Jackson was encouraged by several constituents to run for the Commission seat vacated with the retirement of Spanky Green, who spent 32 years in office. He won, and in 2006 was the youngest County Commissioner in the state at 19.

The current County Commission includes “lots of new faces,” a younger and more progressive group overall. Jackson is still among the youngest, but speaks with the experience of ten years on the board. “I’ve learned you can’t always get what you want. You have to work with people and compromise and find common ground.”

Jackson was hired by the Sheriff’s Department seven years ago while he was still a college student at UNA. He graduated with a B.S. in Political Science and a minor in Criminal Justice, and his job evolved from payroll duties to include other financial tasks, in-house IT (Information Technology) and public relations.12898272_1170666072944995_2751163804243106112_o

“I’m proud to work there,” he said. “Our department has moved in a good direction. We have SROs (Student Resource Officers) in every school, and body cameras for all our officers. There are communities much larger than ours that don’t have those things.”

As a county employee, Jackson abstains from votes on the commission that affect that group, issues like pay raises and insurance coverage. “I always try to separate being a county employee from being a county commissioner,” he said. “But I think it helps me as a commissioner to have more insight into the issues that county employees face day to day.”

Jackson has already spent a considerable amount of time in office, but his enthusiasm for it hasn’t waned. “Serving the people of Lawrence County has been a true honor and I hope to be able to continue to serve in the years ahead to build on progress of the past few years and to move our county forward for all citizens.”District 2

Meet District 1 Commissioner Wayne Yocom

Wayne Yocom, center, presents Loretto High School band director Darrell Boston a plaque honoring his recognition as one of "50 Directors Who Make a Difference" by School Band and Orchestra magazine.
Wayne Yocom, center, presents Loretto High School band director Darrell Boston a plaque honoring his recognition as one of “50 Directors Who Make a Difference” by School Band and Orchestra magazine. Commissioners honored him at their March 22 meeting. Pictured with Yocom, from far left, are County Commissioner Chris Jackson, Boston, and County Commissioners Shane Eaton and Bert Spearman. From the Lawrence County Advocate

Yocom was employed with the City of Loretto at 21 and “did whatever they needed me to do” for ten years. He spent the next 30 years working for the State Department of Transportation at Lawrenceburg, advancing to District Maintenance Superintendent before he retired almost three years ago.

His wife Pat has been a longtime mail carrier and recently transferred from the St. Joseph post office to Iron City’s. They have lived in their Rigling Road home outside Loretto for 30 years, and will celebrate their 41st anniversary in September. His best-ever answer to the question of how to have a successful marriage?  “A good wife.”

Wayne has also been dedicated to his district for many years. In 2018 he will finish his sixth term, totaling 24 years.  From his first term, he enjoyed learning about local government and the areas fellow Commissioners represent. “I love being involved in the community,” he says. “As part of the Commission, I feel that I can help the whole county.”

Yocom joins a group of other shade tree musicians at the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion.
Yocom joins a group of other shade tree musicians at the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion.

Another passion is music. He got a guitar for Christmas as a nine-year-old, and built skills from the chords his dad taught him. He still loves the guitar but discovered his favorite instrument at 35: the fiddle.

By chance, he and a friend attending the Summertown Bluegrass Reunion decided to leave the event by a path different from the one they’d arrived on. It took him past John Love, a musician playing “the prettiest fiddle music I’ve ever heard.”

He was hooked, and now lends his own fiddle music to the shade tree concerts at Summertown and other places musicians gather. He is one of several who meet almost every Sunday afternoon in the Appleton community and Saturday nights at Sue’s Pickin’ Parlor in Ethridge. All are informal, and the latter also features a potluck meal.

Wayne is also a songwriter, but pens and performs them only for himself and his friends. Music is pure pleasure, something that’s never demanding but always challenging. “I will never master the fiddle,” he says with a smile.

County Commission District 1, Part II

Loretto Oktoberfest weenie races
Dachshunds take the field in annual races at Oktoberfest in Loretto.

District 1 is the home of traditions that are part of the fabric of the county.

Oktoberfest is a week full of activities organized by volunteers that celebrates the area’s German heritage. Loretto’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church hosts a day-long Fourth of July picnic that is over 100 years old.

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Patriotic faces shine at the Loretto Sacred Heart Fourth of July picnic, an event over 100 years old.

Loretto also pays homage to veterans with a Memorial Day parade and program and a new Veterans’ Park downtown. St. Joseph’s Christmas parade draws participants and spectators from Lawrence County and North Alabama.

Monuments that are part of Loretto's Veterans Park recognize every American battle from the French & Indian War to Iraqi Freedom.
Monuments that are part of Loretto’s Veterans Park recognize every American battle from the French & Indian War to Iraqi Freedom.

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Memorial bricks at Loretto Veterans Park offer a way for residents to honor the veterans in their lives. For information about buying one, call Harley Simbeck at 853-4064.

There are signs of progress everywhere. The four-laning of Highway 43 to the state line is still a relatively new improvement that brings the promise of more industry and commerce.

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A sign at Loretto’s new sports complex honors south Lawrence native David Weathers, who grew up playing baseball here then spent a long, successful career as a major league pitcher. Weathers and his wife Kelli (Davis) returned to live and raise their family in Lawrence County.

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A new Loretto sports complex with baseball and softball fields recently hosted the state’s Dixie Youth baseball tournament and organizers left saying they want to come back.

A new heated swimming pool and splash pad are days away from opening. Loretto was recently awarded state grants totaling $470,000 to improve its downtown area and sidewalk system. You can learn more about them in this article from the Times Daily:

http://www.timesdaily.com/news/local/loretto-receives-more-than-in-grants-for-downtown-improvements/article_ad5b17f2-d9b5-510e-8764-9614bc409827.html

What’s in a County Commission District? Here’s 1

We are blessed in Lawrence County with natural beauty and small-town appeal, and both are part of County Commission District 1.

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Loretto was founded by German Catholic settlers who established Sacred Heart Catholic churches in Lawrenceburg and Loretto (pictured). Sacred Heart Church and School continue to be vital parts of the Loretto community.

The district includes the incorporated cities of Loretto and St. Joseph along with areas east and west of them, respectively. A network of streams covers the district: Branches with “first names” including Clax, Yeager, Stillhouse, Caney, Big, and Ricketts. Little Bluewater Creek is part of St. Joseph’s eastern boundary, and it flows into Bluewater Creek, which is known for being clear, pure and scenic.

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Church leaders went on from Loretto to establish the St. Joseph Catholic Church, which is the only consecrated church in the state of Tennessee.

 

County Commissioner Wayne Yocom considers that creek and the opportunity to swim, play and fish in it a great blessing to the people in his district. He and his parents grew up in the area. His grandfather’s farm was bordered by Bluewater, and one of the bridges over it was once called “Yocom’s Ford.”
commissioner wayne yocomWayne also counts family and friends as blessings. Some date back to his years at St. Joseph Elementary. His four children attended South Lawrence, and graduated Loretto High School as he did in 1974.

At left: County Commissioner Wayne Yocom, who represents  District 1. Learn more about him and the district in upcoming posts.

District 1

Fun for your best friend

We are blessed in Lawrence County to have the Mitzi L. Sweet Memorial Dog Park, an amenity usually found in metropolitan areas.

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A statue stands sentinel at the entrance to the medium/large dog play area. Owners and dogs enter a small gated area where they are unleashed before entering the larger pen.

The park was established to give dogs the opportunity to run and play unleashed, especially those usually confined indoors, kept in small fenced areas, or tethered to chains.

Two chain-link enclosures are set up for small and medium/large dogs. Each has a covered picnic area, waste collection bags, waste receptacles and a water source.

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Lawrenceburg’s new Dog Park offers plenty of space for your best friends to run off excess energy.
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Owners can relax at covered picnic areas while their pets run and play.

There are some rules: Dogs cannot be aggressive toward people or other dogs. They must be at least four months old and wear identification and proof of current rabies vaccination.

In addition to the play enclosures, the area includes a mulched trail where owners can walk their leashed pets, and a bird feeding area. A volunteer who is also a Master Gardener lent her skills to make the park attractive and welcoming.

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A quarter-mile walking trail is available for owners and leashed pets.

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The park is open from daylight until one-half hour before dark, seven days a week. It is adjacent to the Lawrenceburg Animal Shelter, and its director, Rene Segraves, drew on previous experience to design the park with dogs and their owners’ enjoyment in mind.

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One of many improvements at the local shelter is a fenced lawn and covered seating area where potential owners interact with shelter dogs before adoption.

Mitzi L. Sweet was a Lawrence County native who returned to Lawrenceburg to practice law. Her donations to the animal shelter helped fund many improvements there.

To get to the shelter and dog park, travel west of Lawrenceburg on West Gaines/Highway 64 and turn left onto Skyline Drive. The street forks and the entrance is on the right.

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The dog park memorializes Mitzi Sweet, whose donations funded many improvements at the Lawrenceburg Animal Shelter. This bird feeding area honors her dedication to their care, as well, and is a peaceful, relaxing spot for humans, too.

Recycling matters!

We are blessed in Lawrence County to have residents who embrace recycling and all it means for the Earth . . . and our schools.

Storage buildings in place at every public and private school are open around the clock to receive recyclables from the community. Solid Waste Department staff make regular rounds to collect the cardboard, plastic and paper  deposited in them, and the collections are weighed and tallied each year.

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A competition between the schools rewards winners and participants with funds from the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Litter Grant.  County Executive T.R. Williams spent a large part of the day Wednesday, April 20 delivering checks and his personal thanks to every Lawrence County school.

Sacred Heart Loretto collected the most recyclables over the past year and received $2,000. Its total was an impressive 122,560 pounds, or 61.28 tons. The parochial school always does well in the local competition, and has also won statewide recycling contests sponsored by Eastman Kodak.

SACRED HEART LORETTO Principal Tina Neese with County Executive T.R. Williams.
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County Executive T.R. Williams with SOUTH LAWRENCE ELEMENTARY Assistant Principal Tammy Smith.

South Lawrence Elementary came in second with a collection of 49.34 tons and won $1,500. Leoma Elementary rounded out a trio of southern Lawrence County winners with 48.22 tons and $1,000 in winnings. Ingram Sowell Elementary placed fourth with 39.61 tons and earned $750. New Prospect Elementary finished fifth with 36.55 tons to win $500.

County Executive T.R. Williams with, left to right, LEOMA ELEMENTARY bookkeeper Angela Cox and principal Kathy Burns.
County Executive T.R. Williams with, left to right, LEOMA ELEMENTARY bookkeeper Angela Cox and principal Kathy Burns.

All other schools received $200 each for their participation. Their collections were:

Lawrenceburg Sacred Heart, 34.25 tons

David Crockett Elementary, 31.05 tons

Summertown Elementary, 27.70 tons

Lawrence County High, 27.31 tons

Ethridge Elementary, 26.91 tons

Summertown High, 24.17 tons

Loretto High, 22.34 tons

E.O. Coffman Middle School, 22.16 tons

Lawrenceburg Public, 21.01 tons, and

Bill Egly Seventh Day Adventist School, 1,120 pounds.

Altogether, these Lawrence County schools’ recycling collections totaled 472.46 tons. That’s not only good for the environment, but saves space in our landfill, which extends its life and saves taxpayer dollars. Recyclables are separated by type and sold, which of course generates funds.

Next time you start to throw away that plastic bottle, box or book, remember that you can use it to help your favorite school. Collect recyclables in the yellow bags that are available at the Solid Waste facility and take them to recycling collection centers at any Lawrence County School, at any time.

County Executive T.R. Williams and Administrative Assistant Carla Williams add newspaper to a recycling program bag.
County Executive T.R. Williams and Administrative Assistant Carla Williams add newspaper to a recycling program bag.

 

 

It’s a spring thing

We are blessed in Lawrence County with the arrival of another beautiful spring.

A North Military Avenue lawn is clothed in spring blossoms.
A North Military Avenue lawn is clothed in spring blossoms.

Winter officially ended March 20, but continues to produce a few frosty nights. That’s why gardeners should wait until April 15 to set out tender plants. It’s the “frost date” for this region, which means a killing frost could occur until then. If you can wait a bit longer, the annual Lawrence County Master Gardeners’ Plant sale is set for Saturday, April 30 at the Extension Service on Buffalo Road.IMG_0600

IMG_0593Mother Nature operates on her own calendar, though, so tender shoots and flowers of every kind are bursting out everywhere. From the new, filmy green in our woods to the tulips and daffodils in our lawns, we see her warm-weather work everywhere.IMG_0626

An early Easter ushers in the switch to spring fashions (including white shoes) this Sunday, March 27.  Dogwood blossoms will be making their appearance then, because their branches are heavy with budding promise.IMG_0543

Photos can capture small pieces of spring, but fail to do it justice. The artist David Hockney explains it well: “I had always planned to make a large painting of the early spring, when the first leaves are at the bottom of the trees, and they seem to float in space in a wonderful way. But the arrival of spring can’t be done in one picture.”

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At David Crockett State Park

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Lawrence County Public Library, Chapter 3

We are blessed in Lawrence County to have two points of access to a great selection of books, magazines, DVDs, audio books, and research materials.

The Loretto branch library offers the same services and materials as the main branch in Lawrenceburg, but on a smaller scale, says Loretto librarian Judy Henkel.

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The statue at the front of the Loretto Library was donated by the Loretto Lift-Up Committee.

That’s a perfect way to describe the cozy atmosphere you’ll find at the corner of South Main and Commerce Streets, directly across from M.H. Weathers Park. From the sculpture of two children reading near the front door, the message is warm and clear: book lovers will find a home here.

An impressive children’s collection, adult fiction and nonfiction, a good selection of audiobooks and DVDS are all housed at the branch that was established in 1989 to serve residents of southern Lawrence County. Two computers with internet access are available for public use.

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Library patrons have access to two computers and the internet.

Lawrence County’s libraries also operate their own inter-library loan program. You can check for an item’s availability at either library or your home computer – just go to http://lawcotn.booksys.net/opac/lawcotn/ and type the name of the title you want. You’ll get results that show where the item “lives,” Loretto or Lawrenceburg. If the book you want is in Lawrenceburg and you won’t be there soon, it will be delivered to Loretto in just a few days. The same library card can be used at either location.

Remember that the public library is now in the midst of its biannual used book sale, which offers fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, DVDs, audio books, puzzles, vintage books and magazines at great prices. The sale continues through March 5 during regular library hours, and the last day is “bag day,” when you can buy a bag full of items for just $5.

It’s definitely worth the drive from south Lawrence County to the Lawrenceburg sale, but visitors to the Loretto library will find a smaller ongoing sale in its foyer. Hardbacks and paperbacks fill tables to the right and left of the entrance, and can be part of your own library for the bargain price of $1.00 and 50 cents, respectively.

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50-cent paperbacks await new homes at the Loretto Library’s ongoing sale.