Local News Articles

Ponder Found with Drugs at Walmart Parking Lot

April 3, 2017
Dwayne Page
Michael Alex Ponder

A suspected drug dealer was arrested last week after officers checked out a suspicious vehicle at Walmart and found the driver slumped over the steering wheel of his pickup truck. The man, 39 year old Michael Alex Ponder of Robinson Road, Smithville, appeared to be intoxicated and he had on him methamphetamine and suboxone. He was also in possession of a handgun.


Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR_17.pdf (2.94 MB)

Ponder is charged with driving under the influence, driving while in possession of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine for sale, delivery, or process, and possession of a handgun under the influence. Ponder was further cited for violation of the implied consent law and for simple possession of a schedule III drug. His bond totals $16,500 and his court date is April 27.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, March 31 a deputy responded to Walmart Drive due to a suspicious white Ford Ranger setting in the parking lot. The officer noticed the driver was slumped over the steering wheel. After several attempts, the deputy was able to awaken the man, Ponder. His eyes were bloodshot and watery and his speech was slurred. Ponder performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and he was placed under arrest.

A search of Ponder’s person produced two round white containers. In one of the containers, the officer found a baggie of a crystal like substance believed to be meth weighing 0.4 grams. In another container was two halves of a pill believed to be suboxone. A zip lock bag pouch was also found in his jacket pocket. In a black pouch, the deputy found three baggies of a crystal like substance believed to be meth. Individual weights were 3.7 grams, 1.1 grams, and 1.3 grams. The total weight of all the baggies was 6.5 grams. The substances field tested positive for meth.

A Smith & Wesson 40 caliber handgun was recovered from the floor board on the driver side. The officer conducting the search reported that he observed Ponder take something, believed to be the gun, from the small of his back and drop it on the floor board of the vehicle.

The cash found on Ponder during the investigation was also seized.

Jose Rodriguez Wins DeKalb West Homerun 5K

April 3, 2017
Danny Jenkins
DeKalb West School Bulldog Homerun 5K and Fun Run Held Saturday

The DeKalb West baseball team held the second annual Homerun 5K at their campus in Liberty on Saturday.

A total of 112 runners were registered and were rewarded with near perfect conditions. Many participants recorded personal bests with several people receiving their first ever medals.

The course, an out and back circuit, ran from the school parking lot, down Highway 70 into Liberty. There was also a 1 mile fun run held entirely on the school grounds.

The overall male winner was Jose Rodriguez, who won in spite of being at the registration table when the horn sounded to signal the start of the race. He completed the course, plus a little extra, in the time of 21:16.

The female division champ was Diana Moon who ran a 23:12.

The women’s age group winners are; 12 & under-Katherine Knowles; 13 to 15-Megan Cantrell; 16 to 20- Morgan Odom; 21 to 25-Jessica Styer; 26 to 30-Andrea Leon; 31 to 35-Cindy Pulley; 36 to 40-Diana Moon (women’s champ); 41 to 45-Kim Wheeler; 46 to 50-Anita Patrick; 56 to 59-Brenda Hooper; 60 to 65-Barbara Wall.

The men’s age group winners are; 12 and under-Cooper Brown; 13 to 15-Matt Sweeney; 16 to 20-Jose Rodriguez (men’s champ); 21 to 25-Riley Young; 26 to 30-Patrick Kent; 31 to 35-Josh Miller; 36 to 40-Cedron moon; 41 to 45-Kevin Malone; 51 to 55-Nathan Baker; 56 to 59-Mark
Sullivan; 65+-James Ervin.

Tucker Webb was the winner of the fun run

Training Simulation at Center Hill Dam Rescues Dummy to Save Lives

April 2, 2017
By Mark Rankin, Nashville District Public Affairs
A team Corps employees from various locks and dams throughout the Nashville District hoist a simulated injured worker from a permitted confined space at the Center Hill power plant during a permitted confined space training class March 16, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rankin )

Maintenance workers, mechanics, electricians and safety personnel recently descended into confined spaces deep within Center Hill Dam to rescue a trapped dummy in a training simulation. The group set up a tripod rescue system, placed it over an opening in the power plant floor and used a horizontal lift technique to hoist the mock victim 30 feet to safety.

Michael A. Krzychi, Detroit District Operations Branch safety specialist, and Phillip Harrell, Nashville District Safety Office industrial hygienist, provided 20 hours of classroom instruction and four hours of practical exercises to 32 employees who participated in the “Permitted Confined Space” training March 14-17, 2017.

“This type of training is very important to us because it acts as a protector for the men and women who go into dangerous permitted confined spaces,” Harrell said. “Permitted confined space training allows them to know specific requirements for a rescue and practice what to do if the need ever arises.”

Krzychi said the instruction also included hands-on interactive sessions with demonstration, written exams, and field exercises. Participants learn the basics of rescue techniques as well as assisting a fallen victim deep inside Center Hill Dam’s power plant using a no-entry rescue.

Power houses contain spaces that are considered “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them.

Harrell said the class taught participants about identifying spaces, simulated rescue, and understanding Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.

Krzychi said by practicing hands-on exercises, teaching the basics of self-rescue, and simulating assisting an unconscious victim, participants gain a clear understanding of the communication and team work need for a rescue.

James Sowell, Nashville District Operations safety officer and Crane and Hoist Program manager, coordinated the class with Krzychi.

“We are very fortunate to have both instructors,” said Sowell.

Sowell said 96 district employees attended 15 fall protection and rescue training classes in 2016 at Lake Barkley, Cordell Hull Lake, Lake Cumberland, Cheatham Lake, Wilson Lock, and at the Cumberland River Operations Center located at Old Hickory Lake.

The benefit of bringing in Krzychi from the Detroit District is he is able to “train the trainer.” The 32 designated employees that completed the training at Center Hill Dam will be able to train others around the district at their work spaces resulting in a cost savings of $100,000.

“It’s always great to see our employees receive training that is needed and in this case, we save some money by using the ‘train the trainer’ program,” said Sowell.

Sowell said that even though the training is required by the USACE Safety and Health, and also Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the need for confined space rescue training is sometimes overlooked by many facilities.

Harrell said other class specific topics covered regulations, hazard elimination and control methods, protection procedures, inspections, and components. He said a confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

“Permitted confined spaces are called that for a reason,” said Harrell. “These spaces can be storage areas, tanks, storage bins, manholes, underground vaults, pits, silos, process vessels, and some pipelines.”

The training is critical for safety because mechanics, electricians, maintenance and engineers work in these environments every day at the locks, dams, powerhouses, in and around moving machinery every day.

The district’s goal is to certify training for rescue personnel and this includes requirements for different levels of responsibility. Operations Division personnel have completed more than 95 percent of the required training.

Krzychi said rescue after a fall must be a pre-planned and coordinated event. Current best-practices call for a thoughtful approach to retrieve a fallen worker as soon as possible without endangering the lives of those who must conduct the rescue operation.

Jerry Wisdom, an electrician from Lake Barkley Lock and Dam, practiced a rescue with his group by hoisting a dummy 100 feet from a permitted confined space.

“I think this is good training that I hope we’ll never have to use,” said Wisdom. “If I am ever in a situation where I needed assistance, I feel these guys could safely bring me out and save my life.”

Harrell said safety is always the number one priority, ensuring everyone is paying attention to detail.

According to Sowell, it takes patience and is a timely process for mechanics and electricians to learn new techniques and safety practices.

“Safety and training go hand-in-hand,” said Sowell. “Training is just like insurance for a car. It’s there if you have to use it or if you ever need it.”

DeKalb Recovery Court to Host Art Exhibit and Reception

April 2, 2017
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Recovery Court to Host Art Exhibit and Reception

The DeKalb County Recovery Court will be hosting an Art Exhibit and Reception April 5-7 at the County Complex History Room in the Mike Foster Multi-Purpose Center.

Recovery Court participants throughout Tennessee will join participants from the DeKalb County Recovery Court Program to share their experiences, strength and hope through art.

“We will be having an amazing art exhibit featuring the works of Drug/Recovery Court participants from across the state in DeKalb County,” said Norene Puckett, DeKalb Recovery Court Program Coordinator.

Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals solicited work from participants and staff in programs throughout the state with the prompt “what does recovery mean to me?” Art has a special way of helping people express their feelings in a safe and non-judgmental format. April is also Alcohol Awareness month so we will have an exciting virtual reality simulation of a drunk driving experience at the exhibit as well,” she said.

“The exhibit will open Wednesday, April 5th at 3:00 p.m. with an opening reception to follow at 5:00 p.m. Please join us in celebrating the work of these participants and the programs that help them be successful. The event is open to the public,” added Puckett.

This event is a partnership between the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals, the DeKalb County Recovery Court, and the DeKalb Prevention Coalition.

For more information call Norene Puckett at 615-215-8690 or norene.drugcourt@gmail.com

TDOT Rejects Bid for Bridge Repair Project

April 1, 2017
Dwayne Page
TDOT Rejects Bid for Bridge Repair Project

Its going to take even longer before repairs begin on the Veterans Memorial Bridge on South College Street over Highway 70.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has rejected the bid on the project.

According to Jennifer Flynn, TDOT Community Relations Officer, “all bids were rejected in the February letting. The project has not been re-let.”

Flynn said she plans to have more details next week.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation let bids for the project Friday, February 10 and Mid-State Construction Company, Inc. had the apparent lowest bid at $238,600.58.

The bid was initially expected to be awarded by mid-March with construction to follow. The completion time on the project was to have been on or before September 30.

The bridge was damaged in June, 2016 when a DeKalb County Landfill truck, driven by 54 year old Roger Chapman, hit the underside of the bridge as it was traveling east on Broad Street. Although the truck carried no dumpster at the time, the lift was up.

WJLE Recognizes DCHS Class of 2017 (View Photo Gallery Here)

April 1, 2017
Dwayne Page
WJLE Recognizes DCHS Class of 2017

WJLE and participating sponsors are presenting a photo gallery of the DCHS Class of 2017 in April and May. You may now view it at www.wjle.com.

Graduation is set for Friday, May 26 at the DCHS football field.

Click on the link below or the box on the left side of the WJLE homepage to view the senior formals.


Once you open the page, click each photo to view a larger image. The name of the senior you select is at the bottom of the photo. Or you may move your mouse over the photo to view the name.

There are 178 photos in the gallery divided up 30 photos to a page. Notice the box to the left in the photo gallery. After you view page 1 be sure to click the links for pages 2-6 to view the remaining photos. The names of seniors not pictured are also listed inside the box.

The WJLE photo gallery page is sponsored in April by Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss, County Mayor Tim Stribling, Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, DTC Communications, Arrow Termite & Pest Control, Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, Road Supervisor Butch Agee, DeKalb Tire & Service, Alexandria Auto Parts, and DeKalb Funeral Chapel.

Sponsors for May are Fast Pace Urgent Care Clinic, General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Bratten H. Cook, II, Assessor of Property Shannon Cantrell, and Trustee Sean Driver, in addition to County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss, County Mayor Tim Stribling, Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, DTC Communications, Arrow Termite & Pest Control, DeKalb Tire & Service, DeKalb Funeral Chapel, and Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss.

Celebrate Spring at Edgar Evins State Park on April 8th

March 31, 2017
Bob Tarter of NHECM never fails to thrill as he makes his wild and exotic animal presentation an up close and personal experience

The Annual Celebration of Spring at Edgar Evins State Park, Silver Point, on April 8th will be a day of outdoor fun for individuals and families. Registration will open at 8:15 a.m. in front of the office and continue until about 4 p.m..

The first event will be a guided wildflower hike at 8:30 a.m. on the Highland Rim Nature Trail, led by Ranger Mark Taylor. Beginning at 9:30 a.m. there will be live entertainment, including wild animal presentations and the Cannon Arts Dance Studio. Face painting, crafts making, climbing the observation tower and boat rides will also be available. You may bring your lunch or buy it from Boy Scout Troop 875 and Girl Scout Troop 1146. There are many picnic tables scattered throughout the park to enjoy a sit-down meal. Youngsters may hunt Easter Eggs at the campground at 2 p.m. and, of course, an Easter Bunny will be on-hand for picture opportunities.

Reservations for the $2 boat rides will be on a first come, first serve basis. Children must be over 3 years of age and accompanied by an adult to ride on the boats for safety reasons. Everything else is free except optional food purchases.

This will be the 11th year for this event, sponsored jointly by Friends of Edgar Evins State Park and park staff. The Friends of Edgar Evins State Park is an all volunteer organization with the sole purpose of helping the park. For more information you may visit the website at www.foeesp.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/friendsofeesp

For those who wish to make this an overnight or weekend stay, cabins and camping sites may be reserved on-line at http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/edgar-evins or call the park office at
(931) 858-2114 or toll free at 1-800-250-8619.

Edgar Evins State Park is located at 1630 Edgar Evins Park Road, Silver Point, TN 38582. The entrance is in DeKalb County, on Center Hill Lake, approximately 20 miles north of Smithville, 20 miles west of Cookeville, and 60 miles east of Nashville From I-40 take exit 268 at State Hwy. 96 and Center Hill Lake.

Alexandria Fire Department Quickly Snuffs out Blaze in Housing Projects

March 31, 2017
Location of Friday Monday night in Alexandria. Photo taken following day by Jerry C. Rittenberry

The Alexandria Fire Department responded to a structure fire in the housing projects on Monday night, March 27 around 9:30 p.m.

The first engine arrived four minutes after the initial 911 call. Firefighters found heavy smoke coming from the front door, according to Assistant Fire Chief John Partridge. Alexandria Police officers had already arrived and evacuated all occupants from the house. The fire was quickly brought under control and fire damage was contained to a living room and kitchen, although the entire apartment received heavy smoke damage. The adjoining apartment was undamaged and the occupant was allowed to return after an investigation.

The occupant was not at home when the fire started, but arrived home and called 911 after encountering heavy smoke and heat upon opening the front door. The fire is believed to have been electrical in nature.

Members of the DeKalb County Fire Department and EMS also responded to the scene but were cancelled while en route.

County to Begin Work on New Budget Soon

March 30, 2017
Dwayne Page
Tim Stribling

The budget committee of the county commission will soon begin work on the 2017-18 fiscal year budget.

During Monday night’s monthly meeting, County Mayor Tim Stribling updated the commission on how much property tax revenue the county is expected to generate in the next fiscal year based upon assessments and the current property tax rate

“Assessments based upon estimated valuations of the property in DeKalb County are currently at $481, 473, 214 including industrial, commercial, residential, farm, agriculture, public utilities. The full value of a penny (1 cent of the property tax rate) is $48,147

“We will start on the budget figuring to receive $45, 147 per penny based on 93.77% collections and anything collected over 93.77% will be spread out over the various departments,” said Stribling.

The current property tax rate of $1.8335 breaks down as follows:
County General: .9535 cents
Schools: 61 cents
Debt Service: 12 cents
Road Department: 4 cents
Capital Projects Fund: 11 cents.

In other business, County Mayor Stribling gave a Trustee’s Report on behalf of Sean Driver who was unable to attend the meeting. “People were asking how collections were going on property taxes. As of March 23, 2017 the Trustee’s Office had collected 91.31% of the property taxes owed for 2016. In a comparison, one year ago on the same date the county had collected 92.68%,” said Stribling.

Four members of the DeKalb County Beer Board were appointed to an established term by the county commission.

The four members are Jim Stagi in the 1st district, Edward Frazier in the 3rd district, Rhonda Caplinger in the 5th district, and Johnny King in the 7th district.

Names of each appointee were placed in nomination by the county commissioners in their districts and then voted on by the entire county commission

Last year the commission voted to set terms for members of the beer board. All seven members serve as appointees and the terms are staggered with the 1st, 3rd, 5th, & 7th district positions being appointed in odd years. The 2nd, 4th, & 6th district seats are filled in even years. The beer board is to re-organize (name officers) every year.

In March last year Myron Rhody in the 2nd district, Robert Rowe in the 4th district and Leonard Dickens in the 6th district were appointed. Each term is for two years effective in April.

In other business, Joy Whitman was named to replace Danny Cowan as judicial commissioner. Cowan recently resigned effective April 17. The county’s judicial committee recommended Whitman for the position.

The county has three judicial commissioners including Whitman, Richard Jennings, and Tammy Ashburn.

Judicial commissioners are responsible for the issuance of criminal arrest warrants upon finding probable cause.

Alyssa Owen of DeKalb Middle School is "Classroom Champion"

March 30, 2017
Dwayne Page
Alyssa Owen
Attorney Jim Judkins, DMS Principal Randy Jennings, Alyssa Owen, and Dwayne Page of WJLE

Alyssa Owen is the recipient of this week’s “Classroom Champion” award presented by Smithville Attorney Jim Judkins and WJLE.

Owen, daughter of Kevin Owen and Amanda Allen and step-dad Kobe Allen, is a student at DeKalb Middle School. Her siblings are Isabelle Allen, Kamryn Allen, Jordan Allen, Isaac Allen, Tia Owen, and Ramia Owen.

Alyssa recently received the honor and a special gift card from Judkins.

Owen is a member of the DeKalb Middle School Junior BETA Club, the S.A.D.D. Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions), and has helped with the DMS yearbook.

She enjoys piano, singing, reading, painting, and photography.

“Alyssa has been a wonderful student in all aspects during her years at DeKalb Middle School and we are so proud of her,” said Principal Randy Jennings.

In an effort to recognize achievements of students in the DeKalb County School System, WJLE has partnered with attorney Judkins in featuring a “Classroom Champion” each week for the next several weeks.

The name of the student selected each week will be announced on WJLE and will be featured on the WJLE website. Each student winning will receive a plaque and a gift certificate.

“This is our way of recognizing and celebrating the achievements of the future citizens and leaders of the community. It can benefit their learning and overall school atmosphere and climate. The students' selection is based on academic performance, responsibility and work ethic, leadership abilities, and citizenship


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