Local News Articles

Former Alderman Urges City Leaders to Better Enforce Beer Laws

March 4, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Discount Tobacco and Beer on Broad Street
W.J. (Dub) White
Vester Parsley

Are stores in the City of Smithville that are licensed to sell beer in compliance with the city's beer laws in regard to signage and inventory?

At least one city resident doesn't think so.

Former Alderman W.J. (Dub) White came before the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night during the regular monthly meeting asking the city to enforce its beer ordinance on these provisions.

White said there are six stores in the city which are in violation of the ordinance because beer advertisement signs inside the stores can be seen from outside the stores.

The city's beer ordinance states " It shall be unlawful for any beer permit holder to advertise within the business establishment in any manner visible from off the premises of said establishment the price or location of beer on the premises of the establishment".

City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. said he will have a definite answer by next month's meeting but is concerned that this provision in the beer ordinance may be unconstitutional, improperly restricting freedom of speech.

If the provision is constitutional, Parsley said the city could have reasonable regulations to enforce it. However, he is not yet convinced that any permit holder is clearly in violation. "One of our individuals (stores) probably has the most lit up building I have seen in some time here in town. (Discount Tobacco and Beer). If anyone is in violation, that one certainly is. The others, if you look real hard I agree that you can see them (beer advertisements) from the outside. There may be a way for them to correct that, maybe to put up some (window) tint but I could not see any sign that advertised the price of beer. I could see the fact that they had a sign in there that they sold beer. But even so it (beer ordinance) doesn't say you could revoke their license for doing that," he said.

Parsley suggested that the beer ordinance may need to be amended to address other provisions that are outdated or invalid. " Some of the provisions are currently invalid they way our laws are written. We've not ever let anybody advertise the sale of beer outside of their establishment although there is a statute which says they can. Tennessee has a statute TCA 57-5-301 which says that we cannot prohibit people who sell beer from advertising at least one sign outside of their business. They cannot advertise the type of beer but they can advertise beer," he said.

The law Parsley referred to states as follows :"No outdoor sign, advertisement or display that advertises beer may be erected or maintained on the property on which a retail beer establishment is located other than one (1) sign, advertisement or display which makes reference to the fact that the establishment sells beer but does not use brand names, pictures, numbers, prices or diagrams relating to beer."

White also questioned whether stores that sell beer in the city actually meet the $25,000 wholesale value grocery stock inventory requirement under the city beer ordinance. Parsley said the stores are responsible for furnishing the city a certified inventory each year. The city, however, never does its own investigation or inventory to make sure the stores are in compliance.

Under the city beer ordinance, "Before a beer permit is issued, the applicant must show proof of ownership of $25,000 (Wholesale Value) in grocery stock, excluding all tobacco products, gasoline, petroleum products, antifreeze, and beer. Further, should a beer permit be granted to an applicant, the beer permit holder must maintain at all times on the premises where beer is sold a minimum grocery stock of $25,000 (Wholesale Value), excluding all tobacco products, gasoline, petroleum products, antifreeze and beer. The holder of a beer permit must provide at least one inventory per year to the Smithville beer board, said inventory to be submitted no later than April 15 of each year. Moreover, the inventory submitted annually to the Smithville beer board by the permit holder shall be performed by a business entity whose principal or predominant business is that of conducting inventories. Further, the accuracy of said inventory shall be sworn to and affirmed before a Notary Public by the agent or employee of the business entity retained to conduct the inventory. Moreover, the Smithville beer board shall have the authority to request additional inventories during the year, and each holder of a beer permit shall be obligated to provide the Smithville beer board with any requested inventory."

Man Arrested After Pursuit Gets 20 Year Sentence in Meth Case

March 4, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jessie Comer Harris

A Dowelltown man, trying to outrun a state trooper in a December 2012 pursuit, was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Friday, February 21 after pleading guilty to attempted initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine and tampering with evidence.

34 year old Jessie Comer Harris received a sentence of fifteen years to serve at 30% before his release eligibility date in the meth case and five years to serve at 30% on the tampering charge. The sentences are to run consecutively or back to back with each other for a total of twenty years but concurrently with a term he is already serving in another case. Other charges against him were nollied by the court. Harris was given jail credit of 421 days.

Harris was found with meth lab components after he ran his car off the Old Snow Hill Road and he began eating the marijuana he had on him trying to get rid of that evidence.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that the incident started around 7:10 p.m. on Thursday, December 27, 2012 after he stopped Harris' car for erratic driving, weaving, and suspicion of driving under the influence. " I tried to stop a 2000 Dodge Neon on Highway 70 west just west of DeKalb Market," said Trooper Jennings. "The car pulled over like any other traffic stop. I made a passenger side approach, opened the passenger door, and made eye contact with the driver. He pulls it down in drive and takes off at a high rate of speed, jerking the door out of my hand. At that point I ran back to my patrol car and gave pursuit to chase after him. We go Highway 70 west a short distance. He turned left over to the Old Snow Hill Road. I radioed DeKalb County and advised them that I was in pursuit down the Old Snow Hill Road. The sheriff was in the area along with Officer Jeremy Taylor. The sheriff set up at the end of old Snow Hill Road in the Dry Creek area. He (Harris) saw the blue lights I guess and figured something was up so he drove to the right off the roadway (at the foot of the hill) out into a field, crashed into a creek, and almost overturned the vehicle. At that point, he jumped out of the vehicle and fled on foot. I chased him on foot through the creek and up into a wooded area around the creek where I found him laying down in the weeds and hiding. He was eating his marijuana, trying to get rid of the evidence. I went back and found a bag that he had pitched out in the creek that contained numerous items used to manufacture and process methamphetamine," said Trooper Jennings.

Harris was not injured and refused treatment by EMS. He was arrested and taken to the jail for booking.

City Employee Injured in Traffic Accident

March 4, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
City Employee Injured in Traffic Accident
Tony Corley Injured in Rollover on Dale Ridge Road

A city employee was injured in a two vehicle accident Thursday at the intersection of Broad Street and Congress Boulevard.

Sergeant Eric McCormick of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said 63 year old David Summers was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

According to Sergeant McCormick, Summers was driving west on Broad Street (Highway 70) in a 2000 Ford Ranger, the City of Smithville's animal control vehicle, when another vehicle pulled in front of him at the intersection.

25 year old Sasha Avera, driving a 2007 GMC Acadia SUV was east on Broad Street making a left turn onto Congress Boulevard (Highway 56) when she pulled into the path of Summers' vehicle. The truck struck the SUV in the right rear quarter panel and then hit a utility pole. There were apparently no animals aboard the truck at the time. Avera was not believed to have been hurt .

Meanwhile in a separate accident Thursday, authorities said Tony Corley was injured when the pickup truck he was in overturned in a curve on Dale Ridge Road (Highway 96). He was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Proposed Ordinance to Require City Property Rights Voters to Cast Absentee Ballots

March 4, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville property rights voters may have to vote by paper ballot in the Municipal Election in August.

Smithville Aldermen Monday night adopted an ordinance on first reading to keep city property rights voters from possibly having to go to two places to vote in the Smithville Municipal Election which will be held in conjunction with the County General Elections and or State Primaries on Thursday, August 7.

The aldermen adopted a similar measure for the city liquor referendum in November 2012, but that was just for the one ballot issue.

Under the ordinance, city property rights voters may only vote by absentee or paper ballot in the city election. They would still be free to vote in person at their own precinct or during early voting for other offices on the county general or state primary ballots.

Without such an ordinance, the city's property rights voters would likely have to go to two places to vote on election day in August. They would vote at their regular precinct by machine in the county wide election and state primaries, and then would have to come to one of the four precincts in Smithville to vote just in the city election. This process only applies to property rights voters, those who live outside the city in DeKalb County but who have property inside the city and are qualified to vote in a city election.

Last summer, the aldermen ratified a new city charter, as approved by the Tennessee Legislature that changes the city election dates from June to August and makes the terms of office for the mayor and aldermen, four years instead of two.

The new charter also extends voting rights to county residents that own commercial property in the city (two persons per deed) and allows property rights voting for county residents who own at least 3,500 square feet of property in the city.

The ordinance, adopted on first reading Monday night states, "Whereas, the City of Smithville allows individuals who are non-resident property owners the right to vote in City elections; and

Whereas, T.C.A. 2-6-205, establishes a procedure permitting those non-resident property owners to vote by absentee ballot if an ordinance is passed within the requirements set out in said statute:

Now, Therefore, be it ordained by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, that

Section 1. By passing this ordinance it does hereby require that those non-resident property owners voting in the municipal election, Thursday August 7, 2014 shall be required to vote absentee for said election.

Section 2. This ordinance shall be effective only for the August 7, 2014 ballot for the City of Smithville.

Section 3. The DeKalb County Election Commission shall notify the non-resident property owners as set out in T.C.A. 2-6-205 of the requirements of this ordinance.

Second and final reading of the ordinance will be scheduled on Monday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. at city hall.

DeKalb Musicians Bring Home the Ribbons

March 4, 2014
Photo:  (Left to Right)  Evan Morse, Jake Ramsey, Summer Morse, Darrah Ramsey

Four young DeKalb County musicians participated in the 11th Annual East Tennessee Young Musicians Bluegrass Contest held on February 22, 2014 in Rogersville, Tennessee. Jake Ramsey came home with first place in the 12-and-under Guitar competition, and Summer Morse brought home second place in the 7-and-under Fiddle category. Jake also won third place in both the Vocals and the Mandolin competitions. Evan Morse and Darrah Ramsey enjoyed participating in the Vocals, Fiddle, and Mandolin categories. Congratulations to these fine young musicians! We look forward to seeing them on the Jamboree stage this summer!

Photo: (Left to Right) Evan Morse, Jake Ramsey, Summer Morse, Darrah Ramsey

Monday Afternoon Fire Destroys Home on Jacobs Pillar Road (View Video Here)

March 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
County Firefighters Battle Fire at Home on Jacobs Pillar Road
Camper Trailer Damaged by Fire last Thursday on Page Drive (Photo by Ken Underhill)

A Monday afternoon fire destroyed a residence at 1993 Jacobs Pillar Road.

David Agee, Assistant DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Chief, told WJLE the home belonged to Jimmy Womack but that Shane Downy was renting it. No one was at home when the firefighters arrived.

It was reported to 911 at 4:21 p.m.

Members of the County Fire Department including the Keltonburg, Blue Springs, and Short Mountain Highway stations, along with the Tanker Truck unit spent several hours trying to extinguish the fire, which gutted the structure. The cause is undetermined. The fire is believed to have started in the living room and spread up the wall into the attic. Some of the families pets perished in the fire.

There were apparently no injuries.

Meanwhile, another fire last Thursday destroyed about half of a camper trailer at 188 Page Drive.

Captain Anthony Boyd told WJLE that the camper trailer belonged to Mark Cantrell but that Lisa Brown lived there. The blaze apparently started as a grass fire and spread to the camper trailer.

Members of the Midway, Short Mountain Highway, Cookeville Highway, and Brush truck responded. No one was injured.

Child Leaves Home on Four Wheeler, Found Safely Hours Later

March 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

An eleven year old boy who abandoned the four wheeler he was riding before disappearing into the woods in the Blue Springs area early Saturday morning was found unharmed a few hours later.

The boy took off on a four wheeler from his home on Big Woods Road around 6:45 a.m., according to Sheriff Patrick Ray. The child's parents heard the ATV start up and went to check. When they saw the boy ride away, the parents gave chase on foot but couldn't catch him. They reported the incident to the Sheriff's Department.

The ATV was later found abandoned at the corner of a bean field. The engine was still running. The boy had apparently jumped off the four wheeler and run into the woods.

The Sheriff's Department then called out members of the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad to help look for the child.

Joe Johnson told WJLE that he and about fourteen other members of the Rescue Squad conducted a search both by four wheel drive vehicles and on foot. A local pilot also joined the search by air in his Gyrocopter. Sheriff Ray said plans were also to call in a THP helicopter with a fleer heat sensing device but it was not needed.

The boy emerged from the woods around 11:30 a.m. and was spotted by his father walking along Herman Road, according to Sheriff Ray. The child reportedly had on a jogging suit but was not wearing a jacket. He was examined and then taken to the Sheriff's Department, where a call was placed to Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II. Upon orders of the judge, the boy was taken to a juvenile detention facility in Rutherford County.

Martin Earns Ph.D from UT Knoxville

March 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Dr. April Martin

Local UT Extension Agent April Martin recently earned a Ph.D in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

In an interview with WJLE, Dr. Martin said it's an accomplishment in her life she has been looking forward to for a long time. " I finished my Ph.D in December in Business Administration at UT. It really is an honor and a huge accomplishment in my life. It's a lifelong goal. I started working on my Ph.D almost twelve years ago and with a full time job working with the UT Extension Service and having a family, it took a little bit longer for me than it might have for the average person but I made it and I am proud of it," she said.

An East Tennessee native, Dr. Martin began her career with the UT Extension Service in Smith County after graduating from Berea College in Kentucky. She transferred to DeKalb County in 2006. "I grew up in East Tennessee in Claiborne County in Tazewell, Tennessee. Its right above Knoxville. I went to school there and when I graduated high school I attended Berea College, which is near Lexington, Kentucky. Soon after I graduated there, I started my career with the University of Tennessee Extension Service in Smith County. I was there for thirteen years until 2006 when I transferred to DeKalb County and became the Extension Family Consumer Science and 4-H Agent. I really enjoy serving the people of DeKalb County," she said.

April is married to Gilbert Martin, an employee of DeKalb Farmer's Coop and they have two children, Lily, a fifth grader at DeKalb West School and Wyatt, a freshman at DCHS.

Dr. Martin hopes that her ability to further her education will inspire others. "To anybody who thinks they can't do something like this I can tell you that I wasn't the most talented person. I certainly was not academically gifted growing up as a child. I was a B average and sometimes a C average student. But the number one secret to going forth and getting your education is determination, persistence, and hard work. If you've got that you can do anything," she said.

Two Locals Arrested after Police Pursuit in Mount Juliet (VIEW VIDEO OF PURSUIT)

March 2, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Edward Judkins
Candida Driver

Two people from DeKalb County were arrested after a short police pursuit at Mount Juliet Thursday morning.

51 year old Edward Judkins of Smithville is charged with Evading and Reckless Endangerment. 41 year old Candida Driver of Smithville was arrested on existing warrants for evading and failure to appear in DeKalb County. She was also charged with Simple Possession of a Schedule VI drug (Marijuana).

The following is a prepared news release from the Mount Juliet Police Department:

"After a short pursuit Thursday morning, Mt. Juliet Police successfully stopped a fleeing car with a spike system. Around 7:15 a.m. Thursday morning, a Mt. Juliet Police Officer attempted to stop a 1996 Toyota Camry on Interstate 40 westbound for a traffic violation. The driver (Judkins) failed to stop, and led police officers on a short pursuit. The pursuit entered Metro-Nashville for a very short period of time, turned around, and headed eastbound on Interstate 40. While on Interstate 40 eastbound, a Mt. Juliet Police Officer was able to safely deploy a spike system in front of the fleeing car. The spike system deflated two of the car’s tires, which eventually disabled the vehicle. Officers were able to successfully arrest the driver and passenger (Driver) without further incident on Interstate 40 near the Mt. Juliet Road interchange.

The driver, Edward Judkins, 51, of Smithville, was arrested and charged with Evading and Reckless Endangerment. The passenger, Candida Driver, 41, of Smithville, was arrested on existing warrants for evading and failure to appear in court out of DeKalb County. In addition, she attempted to conceal a baggy of marijuana on her person, which was discovered by medical personnel. She was charged for Simple Possession of a Schedule VI drug. Both are set to appear in court on May 13, 2014."

Willoughby Gets New Three Year Contract

March 1, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
School Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore and Director Mark Willoughby

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby has been offered a new three year contract by the Board of Education. He is expected to sign it.

The school board met in special session Friday night and voted 4-3 to enter into a new agreement with Willoughby, which will be from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2017. Board members John David Foutch, Charles Robinson, Kenny Rhody, and Chairman Johnny Lattimore voted in favor. Members Billy Miller, Doug Stephens, and W.J. (Dub) Evins, III voted against it, preferring a one year contract instead.

The agreement establishes Willoughby's base salary to be $97,675 per year plus benefits and any additional increases in pay he may be due if state and or local governments should grant future raises.

Other terms are essentially the same as the old contract except for a few changes. The new deal broadens the provision for which the director may be terminated for cause. It drops a section under which the director would have had to repay the school board for the costs of conducting a search for a new director up to $10,000, if he should resign within the first year of his contract. And it waives the authority of the board to be able to transfer the director to another position in the school system, if the board should want to replace him as director.

"I think it needs to be a one year contract," said Board member Miller. "We have five members on this board that may not be here next year that are up for re-election. If he is doing a fine job, he doesn't have to worry about a job," he said.

Before the three year contract was adopted, Miller made a motion to offer Willoughby a one year deal. Board member Stephens seconded the motion but it failed on a 4-3 vote. Evins was the only other member to vote with them.

"The reason I am voting "yes" (for a one year contract) is because I was elected by the people and they know I am very conservative in my actions. I have nothing against Mr. Willoughby and I think he could spend ten years here doing the job that he is doing right now. But my vote is "yes", said Stephens.

"My vote is "no" (for a one year contract)," said Board member Foutch. "I am not going to be sitting in this seat another year. (Foutch is not running for re-election) I feel like the person that sits in this seat needs some time to understand the functions of this board, to get their feet on the ground and to see what is going on. A year (director) contract won't give that person (new board member) the depth (understanding) that they need. For that reason I have to vote "no", he said.

Second district member Robinson voted "no" on a one year contract saying he thought Willoughby has earned another three years. "When you look at the state report card, you can see that we are progressively moving forward at a good pace but maybe not as fast as we probably need to. But our overall school system is going in the right direction under the guidance of Mr. Willoughby," he said.

Third district member Rhody then made a motion for the three year contract. Foutch seconded the motion and Board members Robinson and Lattimore joined them in voting its approval. The other three members voted against it.

Miller was concerned that some members of the board were voting on the contract when they may not have completely read it. Although a majority of the board members participated in recent workshops in coming to terms with Willloughby on a new contract, the final draft was not presented to the board until the meeting Friday night. Director Willoughby said he had not made any changes in the proposal but he had sent it to Chuck Cagle for review. Cagle is an attorney for the School Boards Association who usually represents the local school system in legal matters.

Shortly after the meeting was gaveled to order, Chairman Lattimore called for a ten minute recess to give the board more time to look over the new contract. Miller found that at least one provision was left out of the final draft that he had requested be put in during previous workshops.

Specifically, Miller wanted to add a clause that would require Willoughby to repay the school system for the cost of conducting a new search for a director, if he should resign at any time during his employment contract. Under the existing agreement, Willoughby was responsible for this cost only if he were to leave during the first year of his contract.

Director Willoughby said Cagle told him that this provision was not legally enforceable and should not be included in the new agreement.

Miller also wanted a clause carried over from the existing contract that would give the board the authority to transfer the director to another position within the school system, if the members should ever want to replace him as director. If he should refuse to be transferred, the director's contract could be terminated. The new contract waives the board's authority to transfer the director.

Willoughby said Cagle also recommended making this change. He said a transfer provision is not needed since the Board has the right in the contract to terminate the Director at any time for cause.

Miller moved that both the "repayment" and "transfer" provisions be added back to the new contract saying he felt it was the board's fiduciary responsibility to protect its own interests and those of the taxpayers and not just provide the best deal for Mr. Willoughby. Miller's motion died on a 4-3 vote.

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