Local News Articles

Tis the Season for Burglaries and Thefts

November 27, 2015
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

The holiday season is a time for celebrating with friends and family. It’s also prime time for break-ins and thefts. Sheriff Patrick Ray urges you to start the holidays off right—and relieve some of your stress—by making sure your home and your car are protected.

"Between now and usually the first of the year we see a rise in home burglaries and burglaries of vehicles so we're asking everyone to notice their surroundings a little more and take note of strangers in their neighborhoods. If you see something or someone suspicious please call us and we'll come and check," said Sheriff Ray.

"Make sure you secure your items. If they are in a garage, barn, shed, or outbuilding make sure they are locked up where no one but you can get to them. Don't leave things on the outside in plain sight. That may bait someone to come up in your yard and steal things. Don't leave garage doors open. It allows thieves to see what's there just by driving down the road in front of your home," he continued.

You are also urged to record serial numbers on all your valuables that have them in case of theft. "We've had a pretty good rash of break-ins within the last two weeks. Most of them have been happening at night. But out of all the break-ins very few of those have serial numbers (recorded by victims). It's very difficult for the detectives to find (stolen) items without (knowing) the serial numbers. If an item (personal belonging) doesn't have a serial number you can take a dremel tool or something else and inscribe an owner (identification) number on it which can be anything from the last four digits of your social security number, date of birth, or other numbers you would know in case of theft. Marking your belongings is very important and always helpful in a theft investigation," Sheriff Ray said.

"Black Friday is a big day for people to shop for Christmas and thieves know that so after Black Friday is a time when thieves often times start breaking into homes and garages where those Christmas packages are kept," he added.

It's also a good idea to have a security light on your property to help keep thieves away at night. "If you have a barn or garage, especially if it sets off to itself away from your house, make sure it has some kind of light source that shines on it at night such as a security light or if it has porch lights, it never hurts to leave those on. Also be sure to keep doors to those type buildings locked or chained," said Sheriff Ray.

To report a burglary and theft or suspicious activity call central dispatch at 615-215-3000.

"Love Lights a Tree" Campaign Underway

November 27, 2015
Dwayne Page
"Love Lights a Tree" Campaign Underway

The American Cancer Society invites you to make a special donation in honor or in memory of a loved one during the holiday season through "Love Lights a Tree". A special memory board is being erected on the south side of the courthouse that will list the names of loved ones being honored and remembered.

The DeKalb County Unit of the American Cancer Society seeks your support in the "Love Lights a Tree" fundraising campaign to raise money for research to find a cure as well as cancer education and patient services. Donations may be made throughout the holiday season. The persons you honor or remember do not necessarily have to have suffered from cancer.

The names are in "honor of" and in "memory of" for a donation of five-dollars per name. Forms may be obtained at the local banks. For more information, contact Ivadell Randolph at 615- 597-5296, Lynda Luna at 615- 597-5837, Renee Cantrell at 615-597-4551, Melanie Judkins at 615-597-1132, or Gail Taylor 615-597-5936.

State Representative Mark Pody Speaks Out on Issues Facing Tennessee (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

November 26, 2015
Dwayne Page

State Representative Mark Pody commented on a variety of state legislative issues during a forum held Saturday at the courthouse.

Among the tops discussed were the proposed "Defense of Marriage Act", reducing the fee as part of the requirement for obtaining a life time handgun carry permit, the Syrian refugee resettlement, and his opposition to any move toward an increase in the state gas tax.

DeKalb Fire Department Recognized for Participation in “100 For 100” Challenge

November 26, 2015

The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) proudly announces that eight fire departments who accepted the SFMO’s second “100 For 100” smoke alarm installation challenge more than doubled the goal of the Nov. 14, 2015 event.

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department made the list.

Created to commemorate the SFMO’s 100th anniversary, the “100 For 100” challenge is a fun way for fire departments to test their limits while providing crucial alert devices and safety education to the citizens of their local communities. Eight Tennessee fire departments accepted the SFMO’s challenge to install at least 100 alarms on Nov. 14 – then went above and beyond and installed 1,758 smoke alarms during the event. So far, over 2,800 new smoke alarms have been installed during the two "100 For 100” events.

“I am proud to thank all of our participating fire departments for their outstanding efforts to help ensure the safety of the citizens they serve,” said State Fire Marshal and Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Our ‘100 For 100’ partners are showing their commitment to their communities by going above and beyond during these events. We look forward to individually recognizing our ‘100 For 100’ partners in the coming weeks. Congratulations to everyone!”

The eight participating departments for the November challenge included:

Dresden Fire Department (FD)

Martin FD

Willette Vol. FD

DeKalb County FD

Murfreesboro FD

Crossville FD

Sneedville Vol. FD

Sweetwater FD

Total: 1,758 alarms installed

According to National Fire ProtectionAssociation research, working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a fire in half. Meanwhile, three out of five fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. The SFMO created the “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” smoke alarm program in 2012 to help address this problem through the installation of free smoke alarms in high-risk areas across the state. Since then, more than 26,000 homes have received the alarms and 106 lives have been potentially saved when the devices alerted occupants to fire danger.

The “100 For 100” initiative began in October with 10 fire departments completing the inaugural challenge with a total of 1,116 alarms installed.

A third challenge is planned for December. A date has not been finalized.

Participating fire departments will receive a special recognition from the SFMO for their work in making these events a success.

Legislative Update from State Senator Mae Beavers (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

November 25, 2015
Dwayne Page

State Senator Mae Beavers gave her views on state legislative issues during a forum held Saturday at the courthouse.

Among the issues discussed were the proposed "Defense of Marriage Act", the teaching of Islam in the classroom as part of the state's 7th grade standards, a proposal for eliminating "No Go Zones" where handguns cannot be carried in Tennessee, concerns about whether abortion procedures include the selling of baby body parts, a plan by UT to start using gender neutral pronouns, members of the Tennessee National Guard being able to openly carry guns, the Syrian refugee resettlement, concerns about Common Core standards, and her opposition to any move toward an increase in the state gas tax.

DeKalb Jobless Rate Drops to 6.6% in October

November 25, 2015
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's Jobless Rate for the month of October was 6.6%, down from 7.1% in September and 7.8% in October, 2014.

The local labor force for October was 7,100. A total of 6,630 were employed and 470 were unemployed.

DeKalb County's Jobless Rate for October was fifth highest in the fourteen county Upper Cumberland region.

Here's how they rank from highest to lowest:
Clay: 7.8%
Van Buren: 7.4%
Jackson: 6.8%
DeKalb: 6.6%
Fentress: 6.3%
Overton: 6.3%
White: 5.7%
Warren: 5.7%
Putnam: 5.4%
Cannon: 5.3%
Smith: 5%

County unemployment rates for October 2015 show they decreased in 90 counties, increased in four, and remained the same in one county

Davidson County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate in October at 4.2 percent, down from September’s rate of 4.6 percent. Knox County was 4.4 percent in October, down from 4.8 the previous month. The Hamilton County October rate was 5.1 percent, down from 5.6 in September. Shelby County was 6.4 percent in October, down from 6.7 percent the previous month.

Tennessee’s preliminary unemployment rate for October was 5.6 percent, down one tenth of a percentage point from from the previous month. The U.S. preliminary rate for October was 5.0 percent, also down one tenth of a percentage point from September.

The state and national unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted while the county unemployment rates are not. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series.

McPheron Indicted for Prescription Fraud

November 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
Brandi Lynn McPheron

The DeKalb County Grand Jury has indicted a woman with six counts of obtaining a prescription by fraud.

35 year old Brandi Lynn McPheron will be arraigned in Criminal Court on Monday, December 7.

According to Smithville Police, McPheron signed for and picked up prescriptions for the schedule IV drug Tramadol on six occasions at Rite Aid Pharmacy from August 11 to October 24, 2014.

Each prescription was for 60, 50 milligrams.

Police said a pharmacy representative reported that on each occasion, someone had called Rite Aid purporting to be from Mercy Clinic Family Medicine in Holister, Missouri on behalf of Dr. William Zeller ordering a prescription for Kari Stevens.

Police were notified and arrested McPheron when she came to pick up the prescription on October 24, 2014.

According to Police, Dr. Zeller was contacted and denied having a patient by the name Kari Stevens and said that the clinic in Missouri had not phoned in any prescriptions.

Community Rallies in Support of DeKalb Prevention Coalition

November 25, 2015
Norene Puckett
Community Rallies in Support of DeKalb Prevention Coalition

The DeKalb Prevention Coalition and Community Advisory Board hosted preachers, pastors, church and community members on Tuesday, November 10 in an effort to partner with the faith-based communities to build a recovery network comprised of compassionate and concerned citizens. The event was a huge success with over 50 people in attendance. The State of Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) has launched an exciting, new mission partnering with faith-based communities across the state. The churches in DeKalb who get involved with this initiative will be reaching out to those struggling with addictions and connecting them to vital substance abuse services.

The featured speaker was Monty Burks, who is the Director of Faith Based Initiative for TDMHSAS. During the meeting he said, “There are more than 11,000 churches and faith-based organizations in the State of Tennessee. Imagine if we all came together in the fight against addiction? People recover from addiction every day. Families are rebuilt. Lives are restored. But recovery rarely happens in a vacuum. It takes a community willing to stand beside the person, to support them, and to help lead them out of the darkness.”

The DeKalb Prevention Coalition is planning a workshop in January, with a date to be announced, to host the interested churches to help fill out the application to become a certified recovery church as well as to answer any questions or overcome any obstacles your church may be facing in this process. If your church or faith based organization is interested in becoming a Certified Recovery Church please go to http://www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/topic/Faith-Based-Initiatives and fill out the questionnaire or you can contact Norene Puckett at 615-215-8690 or norene.drugcourt@gmail.com.

Cookeville Boat Dock Taxes Reduced By Judge

November 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
Judge Amy Hollars
County Tax Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr.

A judge has again found that Cookeville Boat Dock must pay delinquent DeKalb County property taxes, but in a new ruling Judge Amy Hollars has granted a motion by the marina's attorney to bar the county from collecting more than 10 years in back taxes with 10 years being a statue of limitations. That ruling saves the boat dock nearly $60,000. However, the judge ruled against the boat dock when it came to the amount of interest the county could charge on the back taxes.

Judge Hollars announced her decision via a telephone conference call Tuesday morning with Vester Parsley, Jr., the county's tax attorney, and Jon Jones of Cookeville, the lawyer representing Cookeville Boat Dock. Clerk and Master Deborah Malone and County Mayor Tim Stribling were also present.

The boat dock owners have refused to pay their taxes since 1998. As of Tuesday, the total amount owed comes to $204,504 including taxes, interest, penalty, court costs, and attorneys fees. As a result of the judge's decision, the boat dock will NOW owe the county only $136,051 for the delinquency from 2004-2013

Jones initially argued for the marina that Tennessee law violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against a lessee of the United States in favor of lessees of the State of Tennessee. It was argued since the boat dock pays fees to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which are used, in part, to pay DeKalb County a sum of "in lieu of taxes,"that having to pay property tax to the county was, in effect, double taxation.

In April Judge Hollers ruled that the boat dock's challenge to the tax was invalid in part because the Supremacy Clause "does not prevent a state or local government from imposing a tax on an individual or a corporation 'using government property in connection with a business conducted for its own private gain."

The attorney for the marina later filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider her ruling. Jones argued that the county cannot collect taxes beyond 10 years; that the judge's ruling on the "Supremacy Clause" of the U.S. Constitution was incorrect; and that the amount of interest the county wants to charge is above what is allowed by law.

In the motion for "additional consideration of issues," attorney Jones pointed to a Tennessee law that states, "All taxes assessed against real property and personal property in this state shall be barred, discharged and uncollectible after the lapse of 10 years from April 1 of the year following the year in which such taxes become delinquent, whether suit be brought within that time or not to collect the taxes."

Judge Hollars sustained Jones' motion on the 10 year bar based on TCA 67-5-1806. " Here it's not an action for recovery. There has been no payment under protest or otherwise. We do not have an action that is or has been before an administrative appeal before the state board of equalization so I think I have to rule that the 10 year bar does apply here so Cookeville Boat Dock will be relieved of several years of their taxes," said Judge Hollars.

As for the interest issue, the defendants argued "prejudgment interest may be awarded by courts or juries in accordance with the principles of equity at any rate not in excess of a maximum effective rate of 10 percent per annum."

The motion stated that the county "had not provided a breakdown regarding its proposed computation of prejudgment interest. However, defendant (boat dock) expected the county would claim prejudgment interest at a rate of 18 percent per annum. This exceeded the maximum rate of prejudgment interest this court is allowed to award."

The defendant went on to suggest the interest rate "should correspond with the interest rate DeKalb County has paid during the relevant time."

Showing documentation the county borrowed money or issued bonds in recent years at rates varying from one to 5.5 percent, the defendant claimed "these rates should provide the upper limit on an award of prejudgment interest that the court may make in this case."

While Judge Hollars granted the motion to bar the county from collecting delinquent taxes beyond 10 years, she denied the request to prohibit the county from assessing the current rate of interest and penalty. "Because this is a case involving the taxes, I think the more specific statute TCA 67-5-2010 controls as to the amount of interest that is applicable. That calls for interest of one percent which shall be added on March 1 following the tax due date. That defines the specific rule with regard to the amount of interest applicable to these taxes. There is an additional one half of one percent that goes into that figuring and there is an additional penalty when suit is filed to enforce a tax lien that is set forth in TCA 67-5-2410," Judge Hollars said.

She also affirmed her earlier ruling on the constitutionality of the tax. "I'm not going to disturb my previous ruling with regard to Article II Section 28 and the asserted constitutionality of it," Judge Hollars concluded.

Mary Ellen Knack of Nashville has been representing the state on behalf of the Tennessee Attorney General's Office in this case as to the
constitutionality of issues being challenged by the marina. Knack was not present for the telephone conference.

Both sides have thirty days to file an appeal from the date the court's order is entered.

STEMmobile Coming to DeKalb Middle School

November 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
STEMmobile Coming to DeKalb Middle School

Getting children excited about science, technology, engineering and math, STEM subjects can be a challenge for any teacher. Yet some of the teachers at DeKalb Middle School will have a new tool to ignite their students’ interest, the STEMmobile.

The STEMmobile is a mobile learning laboratory that provides a unique, on-site educational experience for pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school children in 20 Tennessee counties, including DeKalb County. This mobile classroom brings much needed technology to the doorsteps of schools, and the students have access to state-of-the-art equipment to help them to learn about STEM topics in creative and hands-on ways.

DeKalb Middle School will be hosting a community/parent night on Thursday, December 3 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.

The STEMmobile is a one-of-a-kind product of the Oakley STEM Center and Tennessee Tech University as part of the Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative, a grant project funded by Tennessee’s First to the Top program. UCRSI is part of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, whose mission is to enhance student participation and interest in STEM subjects.

The UCRSI project includes STEM platform schools in Putnam County and a hub school selected by each participating county or school district to become more focused on STEM learning. UCRSI also has a STEM Hub, the Oakley STEM Center at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. The
UCRSI Hub represents a partnership between the 21 school districts, three post-secondary institutions and 11 STEM-related or innovative businesses and non-profit organizations committed to supporting STEM education.

UCRSI’s goal is to tackle the unique challenges of enhancing STEM education for younger learners in mostly rural areas, and to create innovative and collaborative solutions to these challenges. Some might say doing that requires thinking outside the box. In this case, UCRSI decided the perfect solution was to re-envision what a box could do.

Housed in a 53-foot tractor-trailer with self-contained power, the STEMmobile has its own heating and cooling system, a satellite uplink for Internet connectivity and workstations to accommodate about 24 students at a time. The classroom on wheels is stocked with equipment from the Oakley STEM Center and includes equipment and supplies for activities for each grade level.

The Oakley STEM Center also has a lending library of STEM instructional materials to partially equip the STEMmobile and classroom kits for STEM subjects are on board, ready to go.

The STEMmobile is designed to help students learn more about three core STEM themes particularly relevant to rural students: water, with a focus on its importance, usage and conservation; energy, which highlights how power is generated, ways to lower consumption, green energy and long-term energy needs; and my food, my body, my health, which helps students learn more about agriculture, health, nutrition and physical fitness.

Science teachers from DeKalb Middle Middle School, Nancy Cowan. Justin Poteete, Cassandra Binkley and Suzette Barnes were recently trained to use the learning studio at the Oakley STEM Center so they are ready to make the most of the STEMmobile.

For more information about the STEMmobile, please go to www.ucrsi.org or call the TTU Oakley STEM Center at 931-372-6573


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