Local News Articles

Wilkins Named Leader of District Democratic County Chairs

August 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
Jordan Wilkins

The leader of the DeKalb County Democratic Party has been named Chairman of the 6th District County Chairs.

Jordan Wilkins was elected to the position on Saturday, August 22 in Carthage.

The district includes the following counties: Pickett, Fentress, Cumberland, White, DeKalb, Cannon, Coffee, Wilson, Smith, Jackson, Overton, Clay, Putnam, Trousdale, Macon, Sumner and Robertson counties.

“My goal is to make sure each county party is strong and active in their communities, spreading our message on what Democrats are doing to help make life better for all Americans. I plan to work closely with each county Chair to ensure that we have good candidates running up and down the ballot in 2016," said Wilkins.

Smithville Man Caught with Stolen Motorcycle

August 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
Christopher Eugene Layne
Jessica Leigh Estes
 Don Diamond Groshon
Joe Riley Tittle

A Smithville man was found with a stolen motorcycle last week in the Midway community.

28 year old Christopher Eugene Layne of Bright Hill Road, Smithville is charged with driving on a revoked license and theft of property over $1,000. His bond is $9,000. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Tuesday, August 18 a deputy was called to Midway Road where a man was observed pushing a yellow motorcycle down the roadway. Upon arrival the officer spoke with the man, Layne. After checking with central dispatch the deputy learned that the motorcycle, valued at $3,000, was stolen in Putnam County. A computer check revealed that Layne's license were revoked on March 26, 2015 for failure to appear in a Putnam County court. Layne was placed under arrest.

22 year old Jessica Leigh Estes of Mount Juliet is charged with theft of property over $500. Her bond is $5,000 and she will be in court August 27. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, July 25 at around 6:00 a.m. Estes allegedly broke into a residence and entered a bedroom while the victim slept and took car keys and $200 cash from a billfold. Estes then left the residence in the victim's 2000 Buick LeSable without permission.

43 year old Don Diamond Groshon of Cookeville Highway, Smithville is charged with assault. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court October 1. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, August 19 Groshon walked up to an individual and started punching him in the face. After knocking the victim down, Groshon got on top of the victim and continued to punch him until another person broke it up.

28 year old Joe Riley Tittle of Sparta Highway, Smithville was charged twice with violation of bond conditions over the weekend. His total bond on both charges is $6,500 and he will be in court August 27. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, August 23 a deputy was dispatched to Sparta Highway in reference to Tittle possibly violating his bond conditions. Upon arrival, the officer spoke with Tittle who admitted that the woman who had brought a charge against him was in his residence. Tittle's bond conditions are that he have no contact with the victim. He was placed under arrest. The following morning, Monday August 24 Tittle was charged again with the same offense after he allowed the victim to enter the camper where he was residing.

Commission Fails to Make Judicial Commissioner Appointments

August 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
Several members of the County Commission

The appointment of three judicial commissioners will have to wait until September.

During Monday night's meeting, the county commission failed to come up with the eight votes needed to make the appointments.

A judicial committee recently met and recommended three persons for the appointments including Taft Hendrixson, a current judicial commissioner, along with Tammy Ashburn and James Harvey Barnes. Two current judicial commissioners who had re-applied, Jerry Taylor and Hoyte Barrett, were not recommended for reappointment by the judicial committee.

Other applicants for the three positions are Felisha Oakley, Joan Washer, Richard Mielke, Scotty Colwell, McClure Cantrell, and Sandy Brown.

On a procedure vote, Third District Commissioner Jack Barton moved that the county commission take action on the appointment of all three appointees instead of one at a time, as some members wanted to do. Fifth District Commissioner Anita Puckett offered a second to the motion which carried on a voice vote with three members voicing opposition.

Barton then moved that Hendrixson, Ashburn, and Barnes be appointed as recommended by the judicial committee. But the vote failed 7-6. Eight votes are required for passage.

Those voting in favor of making the appointments as a group were Mason Carter, Jeff Barnes, Anita Puckett, Jack Barton, Betty Atnip, Jonathan Norris, and Jimmy Midgett.

Commissioners voting against naming them as a group were Kevin Robinson, Larry Summers, Jerry Adcock, Bradley Hendrix, Elmer Ellis, Jr., and Wayne Cantrell.

The issue will be brought back before the county commission at the September meeting.

In June, the commission authorized the judicial committee to accept and review applications and then make a recommendation to the entire county commission. That committee is made up of the General Sessions/Juvenile Court Judge, Sheriff, Circuit Court Clerk, County Mayor, and a representative of the District Attorney General's Office.

An advertisement was published seeking applicants for the three judicial commissioner positions.

Judicial commissioners are responsible for the issuance of criminal arrest warrants upon finding probable cause. They are subject to call at all hours of the day and night. Judicial commissioners serve at the pleasure of the county commission and their terms of office can be one year to four years.

County Commission Votes Funding for New Animal Shelter Building (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

August 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
Jack Barton
Betty Atnip
Marsha Darrah and Sue Puckett Jernigan look on as county commission considers animal coalition request

The county commission gave supporters of a new animal shelter something to cheer about Monday night after voting 8-5 to appropriate $75,000 toward construction of the proposed facility. But it took roll calls on two separate motions before the commission could muster the eight votes needed for passage.

The first vote failed 7-5 with one abstention but passed the second time 8-5.

Members of the DeKalb Animal Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals, who will be running the new shelter, had been pushing for a financial commitment from the county for months.

Although the county's pledge of $75,000 will only fund half the estimated construction costs of $150,000, the City of Smithville has also budgeted $75,000 for the project.

"We really want to thank our county commissioners for getting behind this. I know it was a hard vote for them. They have a lot of different things on their agenda but this is something that will benefit our whole county for years to come. We're very grateful that they came through for us," said Marsha Darrah, President of the Coalition in a statement to WJLE after the meeting.

The shelter is to be built on a four acre site near the solid waste transfer station, behind Tenneco off of Highway 70 east. The property, owned by the Smithville Industrial Development Board, has been deeded to the city, which will enter into a 99 year lease with the Coalition, a 501 (c) 3 charity organization.

"We're excited about this. It is long overdue and we're going to get started immediately", said Sue Puckett Jernigan, a member of the Coalition in a statement to WJLE after the meeting.

"The shelter will be 1,752 square feet and then there will be some runs outside. We have basic plans but we've got to get an engineer or an architect to finalize those (plans). It'll (project) have to be bid. We now have the money to do the shell of the building and the coalition will equip the inside completely which is going to cost about as much as the building," she added.

The coalition has already raised $13,000 through various fundraisers and more events are planned in the weeks ahead. Anyone who wishes to volunteer or donate funds may contact members of the coalition.

The goal of the coalition is for the county to have a permanent and safe location for neglected, abandoned and abused animals; to provide an alternative low-kill policy so these animals receive medical attention, reduce overpopulation, and be cared for until they can be placed in permanent homes.

During Monday night's meeting, Third District Commissioner Jack Barton moved that the county allocate the $75,000 but with conditions. "This is to be a one time donation of $75,000 by DeKalb County earmarked for the construction of an animal shelter by the DeKalb Animal Coalition. This donation is conditional. The county will not be responsible for the hiring and payroll of any employees relating to the shelter and will not be responsible for any operation of the shelter or for the future funds needed to operate the shelter. Additionally, the coalition will pick up animals for the county when a request is made from the county mayor's office or the sheriff's department for a fee of $125 if it results in a successful pickup or $75 if it's a dead head. If they don't successfully find the animal. The money is to paid by the county to the coalition for those animals requested (to be picked up) by the county mayor's office and sheriff's department only," said Barton.

Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock offered a second to Barton's motion.

But Sixth District Commissioner Betty Atnip raised objections to providing funding for this purpose when the county has other needs that are not being fully addressed. " I think what the coalition is about is an honorable thing. They are the voices for the animals that have no voice. But this county commission is for the people of the county and we told them (people) a month ago that we had to have money to run this county on (tax increase). The coalition was not in our budget. We had heads of our departments that asked us for more employees to run their offices more efficiently and we flat turned them down. We said no. We have had places that have asked us to build them a fire hall. We told them no we did not have the money for that. So if we don't have the money to fulfill what the county is asking for, how do we have the money for an animal coalition that is a non-profit organization?. And if we are going to give this non-profit organization a donation are we going to start giving every non-profit organization that comes in front of this commission money?. That's where I stand in the sixth district. I represent them. I have a problem with telling the people that we had to have money to run the county on and then not fulfilling our county obligations before filling them for an organization," said Atnip.

When the vote was taken on Barton's motion, Commissioners Bradley Hendrix, Jerry Adcock, Larry Summers, Jonathan Norris, Kevin Robinson, Jack Barton, and Anita Puckett voted in favor. Jimmy Midgett, Jeff Barnes, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Mason Carter and Betty Atnip voted in opposition. Wayne Cantrell abstained. Second district commissioner Joe Johnson was absent.

After a question was raised by Coalition member Sue Puckett Jernigan about how an abstention is considered under Roberts Rules of Order, a recess was called to give County Attorney Hilton Conger an opportunity to research it.

After the recess, Conger reported that an "abstention" essentially counts as a "no" vote.

Cantrell then asked if he could change his vote. "Not after the vote had been taken and announced," replied Conger.

Barton said he would then restate his motion for another vote.

Larry Summers asked if taking another vote was "proper procedure"?

"It doesn't sound proper to me," said Atnip. " It's already been up and voted on. Just because something doesn't go the way somebody wanted it, we're going to keep changing it?" she asked.

But according to Conger it was proper for the commission to entertain a new but different motion on the same issue. "He (Barton) can change his motion and introduce a new motion but not the same motion," said Conger.

Except for a couple of changes (noted by *) Barton's second motion was identical to the first. "This is a one time donation of $75,000 by DeKalb County earmarked for the construction of an animal shelter by the DeKalb Animal Coalition. This donation is conditional. The county will not be responsible for the hiring and payroll of any employees relating to the animal shelter and will not be responsible for the operation of the shelter or the future funds needed to operate the shelter. Also the Coalition will pick up animals for the county when a request is made from the county mayor's office or the sheriff's department at a fee of *$100 and *$50 for a dead head if they fail to pick up an animal. That will be paid by the county to the coalition for those animals that are requested by the county mayor's office or the sheriff's department," said Barton.

Seventh district member Kevin Robinson offered a second to the motion.

Again Atnip voiced her objections. " We increased your (peoples) taxes by sixteen cents. We told them we had to have it to run this county on. We have told department heads no that have asked for other employees, part time and full time, which would have benefitted people in this county and given them jobs. We looked those people in the eyes and we told them no we did not have the money. In another area for the safety of their property and their lives, we told people no to a fire hall, we do not have the money. Each and every time when we are approached with something, we tell the people no we don't have the money for it. Now we have a non- profit organization coming and asking this county for money and all of a sudden we're going to find $75,000 to give away? Then we didn't need sixteen cents (tax increase) to begin with. We only needed fourteen cents. I think that is doing a majority of the people wrong. It's a majority of the people that put us in these seats. Not a handful of people. That's the way I believe," said Atnip.

"I'll also speak to the fact that I'm representing my district and my district seems to be in favor of this though I don't take a poll every time I try and decide on an issue," said Barton in response to Atnip.

Barton's second motion was adopted on an 8-5 vote. This time, Wayne Cantrell joined Bradley Hendrix, Jerry Adcock, Larry Summers, Jonathan Norris, Kevin Robinson, Jack Barton, and Anita Puckett in voting for it. While Jimmy Midgett, Jeff Barnes, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Mason Carter and Betty Atnip again voted in opposition.

State Website Available to Assist Patrons of County Clerk Office

August 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss.

Although patrons of the county clerk office still have to pay a visit for most services, the Tennessee County Clerk website can be a useful tool to help them prepare for completing their transactions.

Applications for such services as duplicate titles, new businesses, marriages, notary public, etc. can be accessed, filled out, and sent online through www.tncountyclerk.com. according to County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss.

" We hope this website will help you find the resources or information you need to complete your desired task and cut down on your wait time while in our office. This service is not intended to keep people out of the office but a means of offering convenience especially to those who do like to use computers," he said.

Poss said the website offers a variety of links and options for patrons to select. "After accessing the website, you are to select your county (DEKALB), which will then give you our office hours, phone number, and any other information regarding our office. On the left side of the screen you will see a list of links to select including motor vehicles, title applications, dealers, and handicap placards/plates. With most of these placards/plates, you will have the option to renew online or by mail. Either way comes with a mail fee but whether by online or mail it is a convenience to be able to do this from home," said Poss.

"Another option to select on the website is licenses. Information is there regarding marriage licenses and requirements for marriage. Actually by going online you can put in your information on a marriage license application at home and then come to our office to finish it. It speeds up the process by having the application almost completed before you get here. Once you arrive, we can search online by last name and finish the process which cuts down considerably on the amount of time," Poss continued.

"You'll also see a license link for game and fish. However our office in DeKalb County does not provide hunting and fishing licenses. We are not set up to do those here and haven't been for several years"," he said.

The site has links for taxes including forms for business and hotel/motel taxes. "We have a lot of people who mail in their hotel/motel taxes. It's not a requirement that they bring those into our office. About half the people mail them in and the other half drop them by. A new business application can also be done online. That can be mailed in with the fifteen dollar fee and can be taken care of without the applicants actually coming into our office," Poss said.

Under the forms column, Poss said patrons interested in a title and registration form have access to a variety of options. "By clicking the link for title and registration it opens up to a full page of options with several different forms to choose from including blank bills of sales for watercrafts or motor vehicles, etc. There are separate forms for each including medium speed vehicles. We're having several people purchasing medium speed vehicles now and they're registering and putting plates on them," Poss said.

" There's just a variety of different applications and affidavits available there that we use in our office daily. Whether you are requesting duplicate titles, noting of liens, specialty license plates, certificates of ownership, etc. you'll find applications for them online as well as information regarding such services as organ donor awareness," said Poss.

DeKalb County Getting Another Dollar General Store

August 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
New Dollar General Store Under Construction
DeKalb County Getting Another Dollar General Store

DeKalb County will soon be getting a new Dollar General Store.

The site, currently under development, is located on Highway 56 (Cookeville Highway) near Buckner's Chapel Methodist Church just north of Smithville.

DeKalb County already has a Dollar General Store in Smithville, at the top of Snow Hill, and at Alexandria.

According to the company website, Dollar General anticipates opening 730 new stores in 2015 and plans to remodel or relocate an additional 875 stores. The company also plans to create more than 7,000 new jobs in 2015. Dollar General’s continued growth has created 30,000 new jobs since 2009.

Dollar General Corp. is a U.S. chain of variety stores headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. As of May 30, 2015, Dollar General operated 12,000 stores in 40 U.S. states.

The stores were founded in 1939 by Cal Turner in Scottsville, Kentucky as J.L. Turner & Son, Inc. In 1968, the business changed its name to Dollar General Corporation. In 2007, the company was acquired by the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), which took the company public in 2009.

Dollar General offers both name brand and generic merchandise — including off-brand goods and closeouts of name-brand items — in the same store, often on the same shelf. Although it has the word "dollar" in the name, Dollar General is not a dollar store. Most of its products are priced at more than $1.00. However, goods are usually sold at set price points of penny items and up to the range of 50 to 60 dollars, not counting phone cards and loadable store gift cards.

Dollar General often serves communities that are too small for Wal-Marts (although many locations are in relatively close driving distance to a Wal-Mart store). It competes in the dollar store format with national chains Family Dollar and Dollar Tree, regional chains such as Fred's in the southeast, and numerous independently owned stores.

Since the turn of the century, Dollar General has also experimented with stores that carry a greater selection of grocery items. These stores (similar to the Wal-Mart Supercenter, but much smaller) operate under the name "Dollar General Market".

Primary Election Petitions to be Available Next Month

August 23, 2015
Dennis Stanley

It’s less than a month away. Candidates interested in running for property assessor and all seven constable seats can soon pick up qualifying petitions at the local election office.

“September 11 is the first day we can issue qualifying petitions,” said Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections.

The DeKalb County Democratic Party has chosen to have a local primary on the same day as the Presidential Preference Primary—March 1, 2016---and as a result, all candidates for property assessor and constable will have the same qualifying deadline, which is Noon on December 10. Independent candidates must also qualify through the petition process and the local Republican Party has announced it will select candidates through a caucus system.

Candidates who qualify through the petition process must collect a minimum of 25 signatures to be eligible to be placed on the ballot, but the election office recommends 40-to-50 names as a safety measure. “There are times when people who are not registered voters or who live in the wrong district sign petitions,” Stanley said, “and we obviously cannot count those names as part of the required 25 signatures.”

The current property assessor is Scott Cantrell. The current constables are Chad Curtis in District 1; Chris Tramel in District 2; Travis Bryant in District 3; Paul Cantrell in District 4; Mark Milam in District 5; Carl Webb in District 6 and Johnny King in District 7. Curtis, Tramel and Bryant were elected two years ago to fill unexpired terms.

The last day to register to vote in the March 1 elections is February 1, 2016. Early voting will be held February 10 through February 23 (except Presidents’ Day February 15).

But the voting doesn’t end in March. The DeKalb County General and Tennessee State primaries are set for August 4.

Offices to be elected locally in August next year along with assessor of property and constable are school board seats for districts 4, 5, and 6. W.J. (Dub) Evins, III currently serves in District 5, Doug Stephens in District 6 and Kate Miller is filling her husband’s unexpired term in District 4.

Petitions for the county general and state primary will be available beginning January 8, 2016.

On the state level, offices up for grabs are State Representatives in Districts 40 and 46 (currently held by Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody, respectively) and 6th District Congressman, currently held by Diane Black.

Also on the ballot in August are three municipal elections—Dowelltown, Liberty and Smithville.
In Dowelltown a mayor and two aldermen will be elected. In Liberty four aldermen will be elected and in Smithville three aldermen seats will be up for grabs.

To close out the year, the Presidential and Tennessee General elections will be held on November 8.

Youth Dove Hunt Scheduled

August 23, 2015
Dwayne Page
TWRA Officer Joe Fortner

A Youth Dove Hunt will be held Saturday, September 5 from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Registration will be from 1:00 p.m. until 1:30 p.m.

"The Youth Dove Hunt is for kids ages 10-17 years old. We'll have 40 staked positions," said TWRA Officer Joe Fortner. "The Dove field will be on the southern end of the county toward McMinnville Highway. I'll give you directions to the hunt after you get registered. You can register to me through email at joe.fortner@tn.gov. You may also reach me by phone at 615-294-5440. The hunt will be September 5th. Registration will be from 1:00 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. and the hunt will be from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Everyone participating must be hunter education certified. You need to have the appropriate license, a plugged shotgun, and eye and ear protections. If you would like to participate, shoot me an email," said Fortner

Chamber Excited About Tourist Spending Topping $40 Million in DeKalb

August 22, 2015
Suzanne Williams

Suzanne Williams, Executive Director of the Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce, is excited by the news that DeKalb County experienced a 6.5% growth in tourism in 2014 compared to the previous year.

As WJLE previously reported, the Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee report showed DeKalb County gained a substantial increase of 6.5% in tourism dollars. In this latest report, travel-related expenditures for DeKalb County hit $41.16 million. Tourism also created 270 jobs in DeKalb County with over $7 million (3.6% increase) in travel-related payroll, $5.37 million (6.7% increase) in local tax receipts, and $2.29 million (6.8% increase) in state tax receipts. These figures place DeKalb County third in terms of travel-related expenditures in the 14-county Upper Cumberland region.

"We have been working hard to break the $40 million mark, and it has finally happened," said Williams. "The economic impact of tourism on DeKalb County is huge. We are so blessed to have Center Hill Lake, Edgar Evins State Park, and the Appalachian Center for Craft, as well as great events such as the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival, Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour, DeKalb County Fair, and other local music and art events. The small town charm, friendly people, and scenic beauty that you find all across the county keep people coming back and make it a desirable place to live, work, play, raise a family, and retire," she said.

Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Triplett, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, announced during a special event at the Ryman Auditorium on Tuesday that tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached $17.7 billion in 2014 in Tennessee, up 6.3 percent, and an all-time high for the state.

Tourism-generated jobs for Tennesseans reached 152,900, an increase of 2.8 percent. State and local sales tax revenue for the industry topped $1.5 billion, up 7 percent over 2013, and the ninth consecutive year tourism topped $1 billion, according to the latest statistics from the 2014 Economic Impact of Travel on Tennessee as reported by U.S. Travel Association.

For the first time in history, travel to Tennessee topped 100 million, achieving 101.3 million person stays, a 5.1 percent increase over 2013. International travel increased 8.4 percent, reaching $576.5 million in economic impact. All 95 counties in Tennessee had more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures, 19 counties saw more than $100 million, and three counties, Davidson, Shelby and Sevier, had more than $1 billion in economic impact. Knox and Hamilton Counties round out the Top 5 with nearly $1 billion in economic impact. Tennessee is ranked in the Top 10 destinations in the U.S. for total travel.

“This increase in tourism across the board is a result of the strategic work of Tourist Development, the Tourism Committee, and the entire tourism and hospitality industry,” Haslam said. “We want Tennessee to be a place people from all over the world want to visit. The data shows that’s happening, and more jobs and $1.5 billion in sales tax revenue is good news for every Tennessean.”

Tennessee’s customer satisfaction landed at an impressive 8.5 out of 10. The satisfaction scores are greater than those of the average U.S. destination.

“Tourists are drawn to Tennessee for our world-renown music, outstanding attractions, stunning scenic beauty,” Triplett said. “But, at the end of the day, people keep coming to Tennessee for our authenticity and exceptional, Southern hospitality. That is the ‘made in Tennessee’ brand delivered to our visitors every day by our communities and partners.”

The Tennessee Tourism Committee, appointed in 2011 by Gov. Bill Haslam, is made up of tourism leaders in both the public and private sectors. TTC is chaired by Colin Reed, Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc., and co-chaired by Jack Soden, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. and Sande Weiss, president of Music Road Resort.

Local Youth Chosen for Elk Hunt

August 22, 2015
Dwayne Page

A Smithville area boy is among six hunters who will get the chance to take part in TWRA's seventh elk hunt in East Tennessee this fall.

15 year old Jacob Parker, son of Billy and Sabrina Parker of Smithville, has been selected for the Tennessee Young Sportsman Hunt, which will be held October 24-25.

A total of 9,285 applied for this year's hunt, which will be held October 19-23, and four were selected in a drawing. Their names were announced at the August meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. They are Trevor Childs of Knoxville, Roy Bivens of Tellico Plains, Andrew Coffey of Crossville, and Forest Landers of Afton.

A fifth permit was donated to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation and auctioned off on on eBay in July. Nicholas Nelson, from Fayetteville, N.C., had the high bid of $11,101. The money will go to the TWRA Elk Program.

Each hunter is assigned a zone to hunt in the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area, and may kill only one elk.


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