Local News Articles

Ferrell Named Forestry Employee of the Year

January 3, 2012
Glenn Ferrell

Glenn Ferrell was recently named the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry’s Employee of the Year. The award is presented annually to a division employee who shows outstanding efforts and work accomplishments for a particular year.

“Glenn has been a tremendous asset in the Cumberland District. The technical and professional staffs there, along with the citizens they serve, are fortunate to have such a dedicated individual working with them,” said State Forester Steven Scott.

Ferrell has served the division’s Cumberland District since 1982 – 13 years as a part-time wildland firefighter in Cannon County and the last 16 years working full-time as a Forestry Aide 2 in DeKalb County. He is charged with operating a dozer used in fighting wildfires and works in forest management activities along with Forestry Technician Joe Bryson.

“Glenn does a great job in fire control in a county that has a high percentage of extremely steep terrain,” said Bryson. “He takes his dozer where a goat couldn’t go and when it becomes impossible to plow safely any farther, he jumps off his dozer and grabs a (leaf) blower or rake and does the work of two men.”

Ferrell is a native of Cannon County where he grew up and went to school in the small community of Short Mountain.

“I always wanted to work in forestry,” said Ferrell. “You get to work outside and do different stuff every day. It’s not always the same job.”

Ferrell currently resides in DeKalb County with his wife Louise and has a step-daughter and two young grandchildren. In his spare time, Glenn enjoys watching dirt track racing and spending time with his grandchildren.

Council Forced to Delay Action to Change City Election Date

January 3, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen

A special meeting of the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen was scheduled Tuesday night to adopt an ordinance on first reading to change the city election from June to August to coincide with the county general election. But the meeting was canceled after city officials learned from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) that the action could not legally be done by passage of an ordinance. It would require a change in the city charter.

Under state law, a municipality can change the date of a city election to coincide with the August or November general election, "notwithstanding any provision of a private act of a municipality to the contrary". According to MTAS, the City of Smithville has such a private act charter, which prohibits the changing of an election date by ordinance. Such action requires a change in the city charter, which must be approved by both the board of aldermen and the state legislature.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson brought up the issue during the December 19 city council meeting. He said by having the city election along with the county general election, it would save the city some money in holding the election and it would probably bring more city voters to the polls. But by having the election in August, the terms of the incumbent mayor and aldermen this year would have to be extended by a couple of months.

During that meeting, the aldermen voted 4 to 1 to have an ordinance drawn up to make the change. Alderman Steve White, who voted against the proposal, said that while he favored saving the city money and encouraging a larger voter turnout, he was concerned with the legality of making these changes by ordinance, when the city charter calls for the city election to be held in June. White said he preferred waiting until other changes are made in the city charter before making this one. "With the way the charter reads, you would have to be extending somebody's term and I don't think we can change that without the charter being changed. As the charter reads, our election has to be in June. If we move it to August then that's after our term is out," said White.

Mayor Hendrixson replied "But our terms would be extended. Myself, yours (Steve White), and Mr. (Cecil) Burger's term will be extended by approximately sixty days until the August Election this year. You can't extend terms by more than two years but you can extend terms by up to two years," said Mayor Hendrixson.

Alderman White continued "My thinking is that if we're getting some more changes ready for the charter, I think we might ought to go ahead and have the election in June this time and then if we decide we want to do that (change election date) go ahead and change the charter that way if we want to change the terms we can do all that as the next elections come up,"said White.

City officials plan to present a resolution to the aldermen soon making changes in the charter but that action requires approval of the state legislature in addition to passage by the city council.

State law concerning changing the date by ordinance of municipal elections to coincide with general elections states as follows in 6-54-138

"Notwithstanding any provision of a private act of a municipality to the contrary, the legislative body of a municipality may by ordinance change the date of municipal elections to coincide with the August or November general election. The ordinance changing the election date shall provide for the extension of the terms of members of the legislative body of the municipality necessary to meet the election date, but no term may be extended for more than two years beyond its regular expiration date. If an action is taken pursuant to this subsection the presiding officer of the legislative body shall file a certified copy of the ordinance with the state coordinator of elections"

Arrest Made in Alexandria Theft Investigation

January 3, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Michael Brandon Colwell
Charles R. Riedley
Victor Lee Lewis

An arrest has been made in an Alexandria theft investigation.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged 27 year old Michael Brandon Colwell with theft of property under $500, resisting arrest, and unlawful possession of a weapon. His bond is $4,500 and he will be in court January 5. Colwell had been a resident of Cantrell Road Smithville before moving to Parkview Apartments on Gin Alley Road, Alexandria just a few days ago.

Meanwhile, the Alexandria Police Department has charged Colwell with four counts of burglary, three counts of theft, and one count of vandalism. His bond on these charges totals $60,000 and he will be in court January 5. More charges are pending.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Colwell was arrested Monday, January 2 for allegedly taking twenty dollars in cash from the wallet of someone on Curtis Avenue in Alexandria. He said Colwell admitted to the theft.

On Monday morning, officers went to Parkview Apartments on Gin Alley Road in search of Colwell but did not find him. Colwell was there when the officers returned later. Colwell was placed under arrest and handcuffed. Upon a pat down search, officers found on his side, a buoy knife with a five and three quarter inch blade. During the arrest, Sheriff Ray said that Colwell became violent. Colwell told the arresting officers that he was not going to jail and tried to jerk away from them several times. The officers had to take him to the ground. They also forcibly put him in the patrol car.

While making the arrest, officers saw some things in the residence that were not there on their first visit including a chainsaw, guitars, and radios that appeared to have been ripped out of vehicles. The officers confiscated those items and brought them to the jail for a further investigation.

Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins said that in addition to the charges brought by the Sheriff's Department, Colwell is charged with breaking into the First Baptist Church on Locust Street in Alexandria around midnight on New Year's Eve; breaking into two cars at residences on Curtis Avenue; and attempting to break-in to one of his neighbor's apartments on Gin Alley Road late Sunday night or early Monday morning. In the attempted burglary, Chief Collins said Colwell attempted to break into an apartment that joined his at Parkview. But the victim was home at the time. When she heard a noise at the front door, she looked through a peephole and saw a man trying to open the locked door with a credit card. But Colwell was apparently scared off because he dropped the card and ran into his own apartment.

In the News Year's Eve incident, Chief Collins said a concerned citizen called around midnight to alert authorities of the break-in at the church. Alexandria Police responded and found that two front doors of the church had been pried open. Chief Collins said that as officers entered attempting to clear the building, they saw someone inside. The intruder made his escape by breaking out a glass door. Alexandria Police initiated a foot pursuit and Sheriff's Department deputies came to the scene to assist but the suspect could not be located. Chief Collins said while the burglar had taken a few items from the church, he had left behind a pile of electronic equipment inside that he apparently had intended to steal.

After Colwell's arrest by the Sheriff's Department on Monday morning, Alexandria Police began receiving reports from residents in Alexandria whose vehicles, buildings, and outbuildings had been burglarized. The Sheriff's Department had seized as suspected stolen property several items found in Colwell's Alexandria apartment upon his arrest. Many of these things were later identified as the items reported missing from the victims who had called police.

Alexandria Police conducted a search of Colwell's apartment home and recovered items taken from the church and other places in Alexandria.

Chief Collins commended the concerned citizen who tipped off authorities about the burglary in progress at the church on New Year's Eve because that call may have prevented the theft of several thousands of dollars worth of equipment from the church. He also thanked Sheriff Ray and his deputies for their assistance in this case.

Chief Collins further urged citizens to report any suspicious activity they may observe by calling the Alexandria Police Department or 911.

32 year old Eric Steven Pollard of Lowery Lane, McMinnville is cited for violation of the registration law, violation of the light law, and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance). His court date is January 25.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Tuesday, January 3 a deputy spotted a white truck with a head light out on Highway 56. The officer stopped the vehicle but the driver, Pollard, could not show proof of insurance and registration.

20 year old Travis Joe Davenport of Eagle Creek Road, Smithville is charged with driving on a suspended license. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on January 19

Sheriff Ray said that Davenport was stopped by an officer on Highway 56 Saturday, December 31. The deputy making the traffic stop had prior knowledge that Davenport's license was suspended because he had issued him a citation for the same offense on November 14. Davenport's license was suspended for failure to satisfy a citation on October 28, 2011

23 year old Charles R. Riedley of Wildwood Drive, Smithville is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence. He was also issued a citation for reckless driving and violation of the implied consent law. Riedley will be in court on January 5. His bond is $3,000.

Sheriff Ray reports that on December 28, an officer pulled over Riedley's vehicle on Wildwood Drive for erratic driving. Riedley had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. He performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. Riedley refused to submit to a blood test. His first DUI offense was on November 27, 2007 in Rutherford County.

33 year old Victor Lee Lewis of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville is charged with driving under the influence and criminal trespassing. Lewis was also issued citations for violation of the implied consent law and violation of the light law. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on January 5.

Sheriff Ray reports that on December 29 Lewis was stopped by an officer on Highway 146 because of a non working brake light. He was also allegedly involved in a trespassing complaint. Lewis had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. He performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. Lewis refused to submit to a blood test. On the trespassing charge, Lewis is accused of beating on the door and windows of a residence on Highway 146, where he was not supposed to be. Officers warned him to keep away from this home but he returned and began beating on the door and windows again.

32 year old Alvaro Munoz of Miller Road, Smithville is cited for driving on a suspended license, violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance), and roadways lane for traffic (failure to maintain lane of travel). He will be in court on January 19.

Sheriff Ray said that Munoz was stopped by a deputy on Highway 70 Friday, December 30 for failing to maintain his lane of travel. He allegedly crossed the line several times. A computer check revealed that Munoz' drivers license was suspended for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance) on November 14, 2011. He could not provide proof of insurance during this traffic stop (December 30).

Students Return to School

January 3, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

The holidays are over and students are returning to school today (Tuesday, January 3)

The remainder of the school calendar for the year is as follows:

Schools will be closed for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 16th and for President's Day, Monday, February 20th.

Schools will be closed for spring break April 2nd-6th.

Students will not attend on Tuesday, May 22nd. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend. The last day of school will be Wednesday, May 23rd. That will be an abbreviated school day and report cards will be sent home.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Tuesday, March 13th at DeKalb County High School from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will also be held from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.Thursday, March 15th at DeKalb Middle School, Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary, and DeKalb West School.

Report cards will be sent home on Thursday, January 5th, and Monday, March 12th.

AYP-EOC/Gateway Testing at DCHS will be May 1st-3rd at DCHS and a make-up AYP-EOC/Gateway Test will be May 4th.

ACT Test for the 11th grade will be Tuesday, March 20th

Writing Assessment for the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades will be Tuesday, February 7th. Writing Assessment make-up will be Wednesday, February 8th.

TCAP testing of elementary students will be April 26th through May 4th

New Law Tracking Key Meth Ingredient Takes Effect

January 2, 2012
State Senator Mae Beavers

Several key laws sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) took effect on January 1 .

This includes major legislation implementing a statewide electronic tracking system to curb meth production in the state.

The system, called NPLEx (National Precursor Log Exchange), will monitor and block illegal purchases of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), a key ingredient in methamphetamine production.

“Meth is a growing and costly scourge on too many communities in our state,” said Senator Beavers, prime sponsor of the bill.

“While it robs users of their health and cognitive abilities, it robs children of any chance of a normal childhood. Meanwhile, the byproducts of the drug’s production are quickly and quietly ravaging our environment. This new law is a huge step in attacking the meth problem we face in Tennessee.”

Previously, there was no mechanism in place in Tennessee to block illegal PSE sales in real time, with pharmacies and retailers having to rely on handwritten, paper logbooks to track purchases. As a result, criminals learned to circumvent the system.

The new law requires that as of January 1, 2012, all pharmacies must use NPLEx, which exports the data to law enforcement. NPLEx must have a stop sale mechanism in place by that time for potential purchasers over the allowable purchase limit and anyone on the meth offender registry.

Another key law co-sponsored by Beavers which took effect January 1 requires the testing of a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level in cases where the driver has previously been convicted of a DUI or when there is a child present in the vehicle.

Tennessee’s DUI law already requires BAC testing when there is serious bodily injury to a victim or death. This measure simply puts these two additional conditions into the law when testing must be performed, whether or not the driver consents. The test results may be offered into evidence, subject to the rules of evidence.

Also set to take effect as the 2012 year begins is a new law co-sponsored by Senator Beavers to enhance the voting procedure for those serving in the military by ensuring Tennesseans abroad who do not receive their official ballot in time can participate in an election.

Tennessee ranks among the top states in the nation in the number of military personnel. The new law requires that the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot is accepted for all elections in which a person is eligible to vote; and may be used simultaneously for registration and an absentee ballot request.

Ordinance to Change City Election Date Up For First Reading Passage Tuesday Night

December 31, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Municipal Election will be held in August instead of June with the passage of an ordinance, which is scheduled for first reading action Tuesday night at city hall. The purpose of the change is to have the city election in conjunction with the August County General Election and State Primaries in order to save the city money by not having to hold the city election by itself, and to have more city voters participate in the municipal election.

The mayor and aldermen, who normally meet on the first Monday night each month, will not be in session January 2 because of the New Year holiday, but they will meet on Tuesday night, January 3 at 7:00 p.m. in a special session to take action on this proposed ordinance.

The ordinance specifies that the city election would be changed from June to August and that the terms of the incumbent mayor and aldermen would be extended because of the change in the election date.

The proposed ordinance states as follows:

"Whereas, Public Chapter No. 1008, codified under Tennessee Code Section 6-20-102 provides that the board of aldermen may by ordinance change the date of municipal elections to coincide with the August or November general election. The ordinance changing the date shall provide for the extension of the terms of members of the board necessary to meet the election date; now

Therefore, be it ordained by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville, Tennessee:

Section One: Date of regular Municipal Elections

1. The Mayor and Board of Aldermen hereby set the regular municipal election date as the date of the August General Election

2. The term of office for the Mayor and two aldermen elected for a two year term on June 15, 2010 shall be extended to coincide with the August general election date in 2012, a period of approximately two months.

3. The term of office for the three aldermen elected to a two year term on June 21, 2011 shall be extended to coincide with the August general election date in 2014, a period of approximately fourteen months."

Second and final reading passage will follow a public hearing at another special meeting in January.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County seeking Partner Family in 2012

December 31, 2011

Do you dream of owning your own home? Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is making plans to build an affordable, safe and decent home with a local family this year. The application process will open in February 2012.

There will be an Informational Meeting and Application Fair on Thursday, February 16 at 6 p.m. at the First United Methodist Fellowship Center in Downtown Smithville. Families will receive information about the Habitat Program and assistance to complete the application.

To qualify, applicants must meet the following basic criteria:

1. Be a DeKalb County resident for at least 1 year.

2. Be a U.S. Citizen or have permanent resident alien status.

3. Have a housing need. For example, current conditions may be overcrowded, unsanitary, unsafe, temporary or cost prohibitive.

4.Have an ability to pay. Applicants must provide proof of income and ability to pay a monthly mortgage.

5.Be willing to partner. Qualified families will participate in budgeting and home maintenance classes as well as help in the construction of their own home.

If you are unable to attend the February 16th meeting, you may call 615-215-8181 and leave your name, address and phone number. A Habitat volunteer will contact you to provide additional information and perhaps mail an application to you.

To be considered, completed and signed applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 30, 2012.

The purpose of Habitat is to build houses and sell them at no profit and no interest to families who could not otherwise afford their own home. This Christian ministry is financed through private donations using volunteer labor and donated materials whenever possible.

TDOT Negotiating for Right of Way Acquisition in New Sligo Bridge Project

December 29, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Paul Degges
Sligo Bridge
Sligo Bridge

The Tennessee Department of Transportation had hoped to have the new Sligo bridge project ready for bid letting by now but plans have been held up due to negotiations with the Corps of Engineers over right of way acquisition.

Although the Corps of Engineers is the only property owner involved, TDOT apparently has to take into consideration concerns of the Corps' lessee, Sligo Marina, which is located next to Sligo bridge.

TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges, in a telephone interview with WJLE Thursday, said some of those concerns remain sticking points in the negotiations. "The Corps of Engineers has leased this property to a lessee (Sligo Marina). They're wanting to be paid for some things. In particular, he (lessee) wants to be paid for some potential loss of business due to loss of some of his parking and the impact of construction. Under state law in Tennessee, we (TDOT) are prohibited from paying those types of damages. So since we're kind of in a disagreement," said Degges.

"We're building a new bridge adjacent to the old bridge and to be able to do that we need the real estate to put the bridge on," said Degges. " In this case, the real estate is owned by the Corps of Engineers. That is the sole property owner that we're dealing with. In this particular case, it's not the foot print of the bridge per se that's the issue but we need enough room to actually build the bridge. That's where the issue has arisen. The Corps of Engineers has leased property to the Sligo Marina for their use in operating the marina as a business enterprise. As we have been going through the development of this project and the design of the bridge, one of the major issues that we've had to deal with from a right of way standpoint has to do with constructability of the bridge. Where do I put a crane to hang beams and things of that nature? For us to get access into the site, we'll have a pretty significant impact on the area that the marina uses for parking," said Degges.

TDOT can resort to imminent domain proceedings when a settlement cannot be reached. But in this situation, Degges said condemnation may not be an option. " Our process is, and this is all in state law, that for any typical project we do an appraisal. We make an offer and if the property owner thinks it's a fair price then we buy the property. If they don't think that the price is fair, it goes to the attorney general's office for condemnation. Probably about 75% of the property we buy in a given year, we negotiate and people negotiate with us. About 25% of what we buy goes through the condemnation proceedings. There's nothing bad about condemnation. It's just that's the process used to make sure that people have the ability to feel that they're getting the appropriate value for their real estate. In this particular case, since the property is owned by the Corps of Engineers, the United States government has sovereign immunity over the state of Tennessee. In other words, we cannot condemn the federal government. So since we're kind of in a disagreement, the question is can we condemn the property? The Corps of Engineers has determined that we cannot condemn their lessee. So that's kind of got us in a situation here. Not only is the project contingent on us getting the right of way, but the Corps of Engineers also issues us water quality permits. So we can't finish up the permitting process nor can we get the right of way to actually build the project until the issue is resolved.

Degges said he is optimistic that an agreement can be reached soon so that the project can go forward. "We had a meeting with the Corps of Engineers, the attorney general, and Sligo Marina and their legal counsel earlier this month to try to resolve the issue. We are going ahead and finishing up our appraisal and we are going to provide the marina with what we feel is a fair offer under state law that we can provide to them. We are optimistic it will work out and that we will be able to move on with the project. This right of way issue is the only thing holding us up from going to contract. The permits are contingent on it but the new bridge is designed. We have everything ready to go except for this little piece of it. We feel it can be worked out but it is not a resolved issue at this point. We want to do everything we can to make sure that the marina continues to operate. But the marina is concerned that all the construction activity and impacts of the parking lot is going to have an impact on their ability to do business and that is the issue we're trying to negotiate through right now. Our goal is to work with the lessee and the Corps of Engineers to try to come up with an amicable solution that allows us to deliver the project," said Degges.

The Sligo project, which was funded in the 2011-12 state budget, calls for replacement of the existing overhead truss bridge which is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The new bridge will be located a few feet to the north of the existing bridge, which will remain open to traffic during construction. The new bridge will be a continuous welded plate girder design with a composite concrete deck slab and will be 1,545 feet in length. The project typical section is two-12 foot lanes with 10 foot shoulders. The total project length including bridge and approaches is approximately 0.8 mile. The total estimated cost of the project including engineering, right of way, and construction is $31-million.

"We're going to build what we call a steel plate girder bridge with a concrete deck," said Degges. " Right now, the bridge is a truss. The truss has quite a bit of age on it. I believe it's right at 80 years old. The steel of that vintage, when it starts to deteriorate, deteriorates pretty fast. So its time for us to put a new bridge in there. The bridge is somewhat narrow. The new bridge we're going to put in here will have twelve foot lanes and ten foot shoulders. It will be what most people would consider a traditional bridge in that the beams of this bridge will be under the deck. One of the challenges here is that the water is over one hundred feet deep at this location which makes the construction of the bridge somewhat more challenging. Just think about trying to pour concrete one hundred feet under water. Its a pretty tough proposition. We don't have a whole lot of that type of work in Tennessee, but we do have some. We'll build the new bridge adjacent to the existing bridge. It's a vital artery for this part of the state of Tennessee. DeKalb County is very interested in this project. This county is split by the river and transportation is a key component of the economy there. So we want to make sure we get this bridge replaced before we have to do any additional repair work to the bridge," added Degges.

Fires Destroys Local Restaurant

December 28, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
 Barbara's Cedar House
 Barbara's Cedar House

A fire destroyed Barbara's Cedar House Restaurant Tuesday morning in the Johnson's Chapel Community.

Central dispatch received the call at 9:05 a.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green told WJLE that the restaurant was closed when a passerby saw heavy black smoke coming from the building and alerted 911.

County firefighters were dispatched to the scene and made entry at the rear of the building, but Chief Green said the fire had already reached the attic. Firefighters were unable to save the structure but kept it from spreading to a 20 foot enclosed utility trailer just eight feet away from the building. The trailer held some $20,000 worth of restaurant equipment.

Members of the Johnson's Chapel, Short Mountain Highway, and Midway stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded. Local firefighters also received support under a mutual aid agreement with White County from volunteers with the Cassville Fire Department who brought a pumper and tanker to help fight the fire.

The fire apparently started in the kitchen of the restaurant but the cause is undetermined.

Missing Nashville Physician Figures into St. Thomas Decision to End Heart Transplants

December 28, 2011
Dr. William Coltharp

The Nashville physician who went missing on Center Hill Lake in October figured into Saint Thomas Hospital's decision to stop performing heart transplants, according to a report in the Tennessean last Thursday.

Vanderbilt will be the only hospital in Middle Tennessee offering heart transplants when Saint Thomas ends its program January 14. According to the report ,Saint Thomas will shift its focus to ventricular assist device (VAD) destination therapy, another option for heart failure patients.

Saint Thomas has 15 patients on its heart transplant waiting list.

The Tennessean reported that Saint Thomas lost one of its heart surgeons this summer with the disappearance of Dr. William Coltharp, who was last seen kayaking on Center Hill Lake. The loss of the surgeon figured into the hospital's decision.

"The program was already under evaluation, but yes, the unexpected loss of a cardiac surgeon was a catalyzing event in our discernment process," said Dr. Mark Aaron, medical director of the Saint Thomas Heart Ventricular Assist Device Center.

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