Local News Articles

Liberty Aldermen Vote To Increase City Tax Rate

March 17, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page

Property owners in Liberty may see an increase in their annual tax bills this fall.

In order to bring in more revenue to a general fund budget which has been showing a shortfall, the Liberty Aldermen Monday night voted 4-1 to double the city property tax rate from .0915 to .1830 per $100 of assessed value for the 2015-16 budget year.

Aldermen Jason Ray, Todd Dodd, Joe D. Bratten, and Howard Reynolds, Jr. all voted for the increase. Alderman Paul Neal cast a vote against it. WJLE was at the meeting.

If approved by the aldermen on second reading in April, taxpayers would see their bills double in October, which for some would only amount to a dollar or five dollar increase per year. While the aldermen were reluctant to vote the increase because of the impact it could have on the town's residents, especially the elderly and those on fixed incomes, they felt it necessary to help get the town’s financial house in better order.

For year ending June 30, 2014, General Fund expenditures exceeded revenues by $20,982. In order to balance the budget, city officials had to appropriate $20,982 from the town's fund balance (reserves).

Over the years as costs to operate have increased, the town's revenues have not kept pace. " We're getting less money from the state and interest rates have dropped to nothing. That was one of our big incomes because of the CD's we have", said one city official.

According to town leaders this proposed tax increase may be the first in Liberty’s history. Even at eighteen cents, the rate is the lowest among the town's in the county that have a property tax rate. Still, the new money derived from the proposed tax hike won't erase the shortfall. Currently, the town receives $4,273 from its tax rate. That would go to $8,660 with the increase. City officials may have to consider cuts in services in the future as a further option to reduce costs and save money

The mayor and aldermen will hold a town hall meeting or public hearing at the next council meeting on Monday, April 6 at 7:00 p.m. at town hall to give residents a chance to comment on the proposed tax increase. The aldermen are then expected to take action on second and final reading.

Final concrete placements complete Center Hill Dam barrier wall

March 17, 2015

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is placing the final concrete to complete a barrier wall in the main dam embankment of Center Hill Dam this week. These concrete pours complete the $115 million foundation barrier wall, a key component of the Center Hill Dam Safety Remediation Project.

“The barrier wall provides a permanent ‘barrier’ to potentially harmful seepage beneath the main dam earthen embankment,” said Linda Adcock, project manager. “Completion of this phase of the project significantly increases the safety of the dam.”

Adcock explained that the concrete barrier wall is approximately 2.5-feet thick constructed vertically along the embankment in overlapping rectangular columns as deep as 308 feet from the top of the dam and deep into the solid-rock foundation.

Bauer Foundation Corporation performed the work to protect the earthen portion of Center Hill Dam. The “first bite” of a giant auger drill rig turned up the first dirt of the project July 11, 2012.

This is the second of three contracts to remediate the Center Hill project. The third and final contract expected to be awarded later this year involves the installation of a concrete berm downstream of the auxiliary dam embankment. The auxiliary dam is a secondary earthen embankment that fills a low area in the landscape just east of the main dam.

The lake levels continue to be operated between elevation 630 feet above mean seal level in the summer and no lower than elevation 618 MSL during the late fall and early winter.

Center Hill Dam is rated in the Corps’ “Dam Safety Action Classification I,” which is the most urgent category for Dam Safety modification in the Corps. Even though the concrete barrier wall is complete, the classification of the dam cannot be changed until the third and final contract is completed, the remediation works are assessed and the project is reclassified. The final reviews are expected to be completed in 2018; the lake level is expected to be raised in time for the summer recreation season.

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorpsand on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)

Photo Cutline: Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District and Bauer Foundation Corporation put the finishing touches on the last concrete placement of the Center Hill Dam Remediation Project at Lancaster, Tenn. The Corps of Engineers and its Contractor Bauer Foundation Corporation installed a 2.5-feet thick concrete barrier wall vertically along the embankment in overlapping rectangular columns as deep as 308 feet from the top of the dam deep into the solid-rock foundation. The placement completes the $115 million foundation barrier wall project that began July 11, 2012. Enough concrete was placed into the embankment to build a four-foot wide sidewalk 200 miles or about the distance between Nashville and Knoxville in Tennessee. (USACE photo by Lee Roberts)

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby Announces Plans to Retire

March 16, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby Announces Plans to Retire
Director Mark Willoughby Meets with Central Office Staff

Although he still has more than two years left in his contract with the Board of Education, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby has decided to retire, effective June 30, 2015.

Willoughby called a meeting with his central office staff and department heads Monday morning at the Board of Education building to make the announcement. WJLE was present for the meeting.

Willoughby then sent an electronic notice to members of the Board of Education. "My notice to the school board is Please let this serve as notice of my retirement as of June 30, 2015. Thank you Mark Willoughby". " I think it is in the best interest of the children," said Willoughby to the staff.

During the meeting Willoughby spoke of his relationship with members of the school board, most of whom were elected in August and took office September 1.

"I had a real good working relationship with the board for eight years. It's no secret that since September a couple of members of the board and I haven't gotten along very well. Hopefully their interest is in the best of the children. My interest has always been for the best of the children. I have fought for all the children of DeKalb County. But I don't think it is good for the Director of Schools and Board to have conflict. I think it is good for them to get along," Willoughby told the staff.

Willoughby has served as Director since July 1st, 2006. Just over a year ago, he was offered a new three year contract by the board of education. Board members at that time 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.

Today, the school board has five new members. Four of them were elected last August including Danny Parkerson, Jerry Wayne Johnson, Jim Beshearse, and Shaun Tubbs. Billy Miller was re-elected from the fourth district but resigned later due to job obligations. His wife Kate Miller was then appointed by the county commission to Miller's position until the August 2016 election. The other two members are W.J. (Dub) Evins, III and Doug Stephens.

Willoughby's relationship with the new board has not been the same as the former board as was reflected in his annual performance evaluation in January when the new board found that Willoughby was not meeting their expectations. With a possible numerical rating of up to 6, Willoughby's overall average score was 2.92 as a result of the evaluation.

Since the evaluation, Willoughby told the staff that he has been asked to renegotiate his contract. Willoughby said he did not feel that would be respectful to the past board members especially Kenny Rhody, who has since passed away.

Willoughby concluded the meeting by thanking the staff for their support. "When you work with people in the same building it's like you become family. I love you and I think you are super, wonderful individuals and I am glad to call you part of my family," said Director Willoughby.

"I want to thank the Board and all the people of the county for allowing me to work with DeKalb County schools for almost nine years. I think there has been a lot of things accomplished. I am proud of the accomplishments that's been made. We've got some of the best employees that there are in the state of Tennessee," said Director Willoughby in an interview with WJLE after the staff meeting.

"After the elections things have changed but I don't think it's that unusual with school systems. After an election new board members come on and they've got new ideas and different thoughts. I hope as they search for a new director, the board will find someone they will feel good about and take that director's advice and do what's best for our children. I think that's what every director would want in any school system throughout Tennessee but that's especially what I want for our children in DeKalb County. I'd like for our board to do their best to try to find the best candidate possible and then work with that candidate and get advice from educators. I think that is the best thing for our children," added Director Willoughby.

Asked for a response to Willoughby's announcement, Board Chairman Evins told WJLE "I feel it is my fiduciary responsibility to call a "Special Called Meeting" as soon as possible, in order to allow the entire Board the opportunity to consider and act on Director Willoughby's retirement announcement and timeframe".

State Commander Revokes Charter of VFW POST 7623

March 16, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
State VFW Commander William (Bill) G. Crawford
VFW POST 7623
VFW Seeks New Home for Monument
VFW Seeks New Home for Cannons

The VFW POST 7623 is apparently gone for good.

Because of inactivity in recent years, the local VFW charter has been revoked by the State Commander, pending final approval by the national VFW organization.

A meeting was held Saturday at the county complex to give VFW members a chance to show their concern for saving the POST but only one active member showed up. "We revoked the charter as of today (Saturday). It now goes on to our national organization with our explanation," said State VFW Commander William (Bill) G. Crawford who was in Smithville for the meeting Saturday. Crawford spoke with WJLE in an interview after the meeting.

Several weeks ago Crawford sent a letter to Ron Miller, the Acting Commander for VFW POST 7623, informing him that the charter was being suspended pending possible revocation because the local POST had failed to hold meetings and elect officers in violation of the national VFW BY-Laws. "They were suspended because there was no activity. There were no meetings and no community and VFW programs. Officers were never elected and there was some people not involved anymore so we (State VFW) took a stand two years ago and said we have to get it moving. It hasn't been moved so we're asking them to surrender their charter," said State Commander Crawford.

While the POST will cease to exist, Commander Crawford said local VFW members may join other POSTS in the area. A new POST could even be started here in the future at a different location if at least one hundred members join. "The members will be able to switch to another POST in the area or district. They also have the opportunity to get a VFW POST back in DeKalb County with at least one hundred members. They'll be able to start another POST if they get one hundred members who want to participate," said Commander Crawford.

The existing property on Sparta Highway will be sold but the monument and cannons on the grounds of the local VFW POST could be placed in the care of the city or county to be put on display at other locations. "We're going to work with the city and county to try and place them where the community can see and respect them," said Commander Crawford.

An effort will also be made to dispose of pictures and other things inside the POST building according to Miller. "There are a tremendous amount of pictures that belong to residents of DeKalb County that need to be returned to them. There are some items in there that people may want. A lot of people built that place. There may be some sentimental things (their families) may want which they are welcome to. It needs to be passed on to the descendants of those people," said Miller.

You may call Miller to inquire at 931-761-2307. Leave a message and Miller will return your call.

If the property is sold, the state VFW would have to place funds from the sale in a trust which could be used to obtain a new charter or start another POST within two years should there be any interest, according to Miller. "Even though they have pulled the charter on this we've got two years to make a decision. If the property is sold, it could still be put in a trust. They can't mess with the funds for two years. If the POST acquires 100 members to start a charter back up again, it should all go to them," said Miller.

The VFW POST 7623 was established in 1961.

DeKalb GOP Elects New Officers

March 15, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
The DeKalb County GOP elected new officers Saturday. Treasurer Tom Chandler, Chairman Mingy Colwell Bryant, Secretary Sharon Rhoten, Assistant Treasurer Dustin Estes, and Vice Chairman Clint Hall

Members of the DeKalb County Republican Party met Saturday morning at the courthouse to elect officers to serve for the next two years.

Local attorney Mingy Colwell Bryant was elected Chairman of the Party.

Other officers are Vice Chairman Clint Hall, Secretary Sharon Rhoten, Treasurer Tom Chandler, and Assistant Treasurer Dustin Estes. The new officers were nominated as a group and elected by acclamation with no other names placed in nomination.

Bryant thanked the party faithful for the confidence and trust they have placed in her to lead the local GOP. "I greatly appreciate this opportunity. I consider it a great honor. We have a lot of new and innovative ideas. We have a great board. We have new members as well as members who have been on for a while which is going to guide us and keep us on the right track. A lot of people, and I've seen the Democratic Party do this, they will say our goal and job is to grow our party. Well our party is big. Our party, I think is a really good size, we just need more involvement from our party. We need more structure to where we all stand together not only at the state level but also at the local level. We need more people to stand up. One person by their self will just drift away but if we can get together as a group, we can make a change. We can get the bills passed that we want passed. We just have to stand together and have our voices heard and not just wait and hope somebody else takes that torch. Thank you for all your support," she said.

Last year Bryant ran for General Sessions Judge.

State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody attended the meeting and spoke briefly on issues before the general assembly. Jennifer Winfree, State Committee Woman and former DeKalb Party Chairman was also recognized along with local elected Republican officials Sheriff Patrick Ray, Trustee Sean Driver, Road Supervisor Butch Agee, and Fifth District County Commissioner Jerry Adcock.

Rackley is 2015 Young Miss

March 14, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Young Miss Isabella Faith Rackley
3rd Runner-up Averie Nicole McMinn; 1st Runner-up Annabella Eleni Dakas, Young Miss Isabella Faith Rackley; 2nd Runner-up Savanna Hope Murphy; and 4th Runner-up Kenlee Renae Taylor
Miss Personality Jakayta Odom and Miss Photogenic Annabella Eleni Dakas

The 2015 Young Miss of the Smithville Women's Club's Spring Blossom Pageant is seven year old Isabella Faith Rackley.

Daughter of Gordon and Jessica Rackley of Smithville, Isabella beat out nine other girls ages seven to nine for the crown. She succeeds last year's Young Miss Carlee Elizabeth West, the nine t year old daughter of D.J. and Megan Stewart of Smithville.

First Runner-up and Miss Photogenic in the pageant was Annabella Eleni Dakas, the eight year old daughter of John and Mandy Dakas of Smithville.

Second Runner-up: Savanna Hope Murphy, the eight year old daughter of Brian and Stephanie Leist of Smithville.

Third Runner-up: Averie Nicole McMinn, the seven year old daughter of Nathan and Amanda McMinn of Dowelltown.

Fourth Runner-up: Kenlee Renae Taylor, the nine year old daughter of Ken and Cindy Taylor of Smithville

Miss Personality: Jakayta Odom, the seven year old daughter of Rebecca Waggoner

Other contestants were Kortnee Ann Marie Skeen, the nine year old daughter of Tim and Andrea Littleton and Charles Skeen of Liberty; Allyson Roxanne Fuller, the nine year old daughter of Anthony and Amanda Fuller of Smithville; Makinzy Jenkins, the eight year old daughter of Wallace Rackley and niece of Maranda Washer of Smithville; and Layla Lynn Walker, the nine year old daughter of Edward and Penny Walker of Smithville.

Colwell Reigns as Teen Miss

March 14, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Teen Miss Sarah Anne Colwell
3rd Runner-up Shaunta Rose Koegler, 1st Runner-up Abigail Hope Taylor, Teen Miss Sarah Anne Colwell, 2nd Runner-up Shelby Maylee Sprague, and 4th Runner-up Carrie Mooneyham

Fourteen year old Sarah Anne Colwell is the new Teen Miss of the Spring Blossom Pageant. She won the crown Saturday at DCHS.

Colwell, daughter of Trent and Christie Colwell of Smithville, succeeds the retiring queen Morgan Faith Green, the fifteen year old daughter of Suzanne and Jon Harrison of Smithville.

Five girls were in the contest.

First Runner-up and Miss Photogenic went to Abigail Hope Taylor, the 14 year old daughter of Ken and Cindy Taylor of Smithville.

Shelby Maylee Sprague was Second Runner-up. She is the 13 year old daughter of Jimmy and Johnna Sprague of Smithville.

Shaunta Rose Koegler, daughter of Brian and Leticia Koegler of Smithville was Third Runner-up.

Fourth Runner-up and Miss Personality went to Carrie Mooneyham, the 13 year old daughter of Dori Keith and the late Billy Mooneyham and Curtis and Stephanie Bone of Smithville

Atnip Captures Junior Miss Crown

March 14, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Junior Miss Alexis Grace Atnip
3rd Runner-up Courtney London,  1st Runner-up Madison Rae Rackley, Junior Miss Alexis Grace Atnip, 2nd Runner-up Hannah Paige Trapp

Twelve year old Alexis Grace Atnip won Junior Miss of the Spring Blossom Pageant Saturday at DCHS.

She is the 12 year old daughter of Veronica Atnip of Smithville

Four girls were in the contest sponsored by the Smithville Women's Club.

Last year's winner was Shaunta Rose Koegler, the 13 year old daughter of Brian and Leticia Koegler of Smithville

Madison Rae Rackley was the first runner-up and Miss Photogenic. She is the 11 year old daughter of Gordon and Jessica Rackley of Smithville.

Hannah Paige Trapp was named second runner-up and Miss Personality. She is the 10 year old daughter of Jeremy and Jenny Trapp of Smithville.

Third runner-up went to Courtney London, the 10 year old daughter of Jeff and Dana London of Smithville.

Three Seriously Injured in Saturday Crash

March 14, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
1997 Ford F150 driven by 22 year old Michael Quinton McKinley
1977 Ford pickup driven by 43 year old Timmy Hendrixson
Scene of Two Truck Crash on Highway 56 South

Three people were seriously injured in a two vehicle crash Saturday on Highway 56 south near Evins Mill Nursery.

Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 22 year old Michael Quinton McKinley of McMinnville was traveling north in a 1997 Ford F150 when the truck went off the right side of the highway. McKinley overcorrected and his truck then crossed the center line and made an angle impact with a southbound 1977 Ford pickup , driven by 43 year old Timmy Hendrixson of Smithville.

Hendrixson was ejected from his truck. McKinley was trapped in his pickup. Both were seriously hurt along with a 17 year old McMinnville boy who was a passenger with McKinley.

Members of the DeKalb County Fire Department's Extrication Team were summoned to help free McKinley from the wreckage.

According to Trooper Johnson, McKinley was transported by DeKalb EMS to Vanderbilt Hospital. The 17 year old boy was taken by EMS to the Smithville Municipal Airport where he was airlifted by a helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. DeKalb EMS took Hendrixson to Cookeville Regional Medical Center.

Sergeants Eric McCormick and Jimmy Jones assisted Trooper Johnson with the crash investigation. Charges are pending.

Tyra Graham is First Ever Miss Spring Blossom

March 14, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tyra Grace Graham is the first ever Miss Spring Blossom.
1st Runner-up Destiny Danielle Franklin, Miss Spring Blossom Tyra Grace Graham, 2nd Runner-up Victoria Vincent

Tyra Grace Graham is the first ever Miss Spring Blossom.

Graham, the 16 year old daughter of Kyle and Doris Graham of Smithville, won the inaugural pageant held Saturday at DCHS sponsored by the Smithville Women's Club. She was also named Miss Photogenic.

First runner-up went to Destiny Danielle Franklin, the 15 year old daughter of Jennifer Ware of Smithville.

Victoria Vincent was second runner-up. She is the 18 year old daughter of Darrin and Julie Vincent of Smithville. Vincent was also selected Miss Personality.

The pageant featured three contestants ages 15-18.

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