Local News Articles

State Offers Tips for Purchasing Gift Cards this Holiday Season

December 21, 2008

What typically is the year’s busiest shopping season is upon us. And, even with a national economic downturn sapping consumer confidence, gift cards are a sure bet to remain hot sellers.

You can find department stores’ gift cards not only in the chains’ retail locations but also being sold in grocery stores and drugstores. Many consumers see gift cards as reliable standbys for friends and relatives who seem to already have everything. For them, a gift card from a favorite store can be ideal.

But, despite all the conveniences of gift cards, savvy consumers should take steps to ensure stores’ fine-print policies don’t translate into buyer’s remorse during the holiday season:

1. Check expiration dates and fees. In the state of Tennessee, expiration dates, fees and other terms must be clearly disclosed at the time of purchase. The expiration date and fee must be legibly printed on the gift card.

2. Ask about restrictions. Some card issuers deduct a monthly fee from the card or apply inactivity fees, if a card has not been used for a period of time. These fees will reduce the value of the card. Some gift cards do not allow cash refunds for a remaining balance on a card. You will have to either forfeit the balance or buy additional items.

3. Know what it will cost. Major shopping mall operators charge fees for gift cards. Gift cards issued by banks and credit card companies often expire and tend to add fees. Fees – including activation fees, transaction fees, maintenance fees and inactivity fees – can lessen a card’s value.

4. Ask what to do if the card is stolen. Always keep a receipt. Since gift cards are not usually registered to an individual purchaser, they can be easily stolen. Some stores urge customers to access their store website and register cards in case they’re stolen.

5. Check on purchase exemptions. Ask if the card may be used at both a store’s physical location and the store’s website. Also ask if the card may be used at other locations, not just the specific store where the card was purchased.

6. Get as much information as possible for the card’s recipient. Ask for a toll-free phone number, in case there are problems with the gift card. Ask if a website that provides gift card details is available.

Consumer Affairs is here to help you understand your rights and responsibilities, to resolve complaints through the mediation process, to investigate violations of the state Consumer Protection Act, and to clarify consumer protection laws.

The department is available to help consumers and business owners who have been affected by unfair business practices. Feel free to call Consumer Affairs at 1-800-342-8385. Or visit online where consumers can get tips on everything from avoiding investment scams to picking a home repair contractor. You can find this information at www.tennessee.gov/consumer.

Second Segment of Gun Season for Deer Hunters Now Open

December 21, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Tennessee's second segment of gun season for deer hunters opened Saturday, Dec. 20 in all three of the state's deer hunting units according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

The dates for the second segment for each unit are as follows:
*Unit A (DeKalb County) - Dec. 20 – Jan. 11.
*Unit B - Dec. 20 – Jan. 7.
*Unit L - Dec. 20 – Jan. 11.

The statewide bag limit for antlered bucks is three, except a hunter may take no more than two antlered bucks from Unit B. No more than one antlered buck may be taken per day.

For antlerless deer hunting in Units A and B, refer to the list of hunts on page 21 of the Hunting and Trapping Guide. There are quota and non-quota hunts listed on that page.

An Annual Sportsman, Lifetime Sportsman, Type 167 Permit, or Type 94 permit is required to harvest antlerless deer on all non-quota hunts in Units A, B, and L.

Antlerless deer are defined as deer with no antlers or deer with antlers less than three inches in length.

Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 is required to carry proof of satisfactory completion of a hunter education class or be in possession of the Apprentice Hunting License (along with other required licenses) while hunting any species in Tennessee.

For more information about Tennessee's deer hunting seasons, refer to the Hunting and Trapping Guide available at all license agents or on the TWRA website at www.tnwildlife.org.

State Fire Marshal’s Office Issues Warnings on Christmas Trees

December 20, 2008

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding Tennesseans with natural, fresh-cut Christmas trees in their homes to take care to keep them in water, in light of the fire risk posed when they are allowed to dry out.

“The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that there is an estimated annual average of 210 home structure fires that begin with Christmas trees,” says State Fire Marshal and Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Leslie A. Newman. “Properly maintaining a cut Christmas tree’s moisture content of more than 100 percent by keeping it in water significantly reduces the chance that its needles will dry out and pose a fire hazard.”

NFPA studies also have found that, on average, one of every nine Christmas tree fires causes a fatality, compared with an average of one death per 75 non-confined home fires. Fires involving Christmas trees cause 94 percent of those related fatalities when they spread beyond the room where the fire begins, which is 49 percent of the time.

“We’re in the midst of the winter holiday season,” Newman says. “It’s imperative – amid the hustle and bustle of holiday events – that residents remember to practice good fire safety and make sure to never leave trees near heat sources, especially dried-out trees.”

To illustrate the short time in which a dry, cut Christmas tree can catch fire and engulf a room in flames, the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s office is distributing links to two videos produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
* http://fire.nist.gov/videotest/xmasTreeVideos/comparison_wetdry.wmv – side-by-side comparison of the burn rates of a properly maintained tree and a dried-out tree
http://fire.nist.gov/videotest/xmasTreeVideos/tree_fire.mpg – tree fire spreading throughout a room.

For further information on protecting your home from fire hazards, particularly during the winter months, visit www.tn.gov/commerce/sfm or call 615-741-2981.

The Department of Commerce and Insurance works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee.

Winners Named in Dowelltown City Lights Contest

December 19, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Winners have been named in the Town of Dowelltown's Christmas lights contest

Names of the winners are as follows:

First Overall:
Joe & Vicki Bogle

Second Overall:
Darry & Susan Driver

Third Overall:
Kevin & Beth Kent

First Place Door/Porch:
James & Ruth White

Second Place:
Andy & Shan Burklow

First Place Window:
Terri Dodd

Second Place:
Jan Taylor

Three Municipal Elections Scheduled in 2009

December 19, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

2009 will be a light election year in DeKalb County.

There will be no county or state elections, only three municipal elections.

The Smithville Municipal Election will be held on Tuesday, June 16th and three aldermen will be elected that day.

The Liberty Municipal Election will be held on Thursday, August 6th and Mayor and two Aldermen will be elected.

A mayor and two aldermen will be elected in the Alexandria Municipal Election on Thursday, September 3rd.

Woman Dies in Cannon County Crash

December 19, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 52 year old woman died in a one vehicle traffic accident in Cannon County Thursday night.

Dead is Deanna M. Kirby of Warren County.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol reports that Kirby was driving east on the Judge Purser Hill Road in a 1998 Durango SUV when the vehicle went off the right side of the road, crossed a bridge abutment, and struck a tree.

The accident was investigated by Troopers Bruce Pryor, Monty Terry, and THP Sergeant Billy Prater.

Officials say extreme fog at the time of the 7:15 p.m. crash contributed to the accident.

Kirby was wearing her seatbelt.

Large Number of Students Record Perfect Attendance

December 17, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page
Clay Farler

Student attendance has been good for the first half of the school year and a total of 268 students system wide have had perfect attendance.

Clay Farler, Attendance Supervisor for the DeKalb County School System says the attendance numbers have been impressive. "Part of my role each year is to keep up with the attendance of students in the county and to report that to the state. Perfect attendance means no missed days, no tardies, and no leave earlies for the year. We've had 82 full days of school (as of Monday) and there are 94 days of school left in the year (as of Monday)."

The attendance rates at each school and the number of students with perfect attendance at each grade level are as follows:

DeKalb West School:
Attendance rate- 95.8%
32 students with perfect attendance
By grade:
Pre-Kindergarten -1, Kindergarten-2, 1st Grade- 3, 2nd Grade- 2, 3rd Grade-6, 4th Grade-3, 5th Grade-7, 6th Grade-2, 7th Grade-1, and 8th Grade-5

DeKalb Middle School:
Attendance rate-96.4%
57 students with perfect attendance
By grade:
6th Grade-21, 7th Grade-19, and 8th Grade-17

Smithville Elementary:
Attendance Rate-95.3%
38 students with perfect attendance
By grade: Pre-Kindergarten-1, Kindergarten-11, 1st Grade-11, and 2nd Grade-15

DCHS:
Attendance Rate-95.1%
65 students with perfect attendance
By grade:
9th Grade-27, 10th Grade-12, 11th Grade-18, and 12th Grade-8

Northside Elementary:
Attendance Rate-96.7%
76 students with perfect attendance
By grade:
2nd Grade-11, 3rd Grade-20, 4th Grade-18, and 5th Grade-27

Farler says "I want to commend all the students, their parents, and their schools for this accomplishment. Of course, we encourage students to be in school everyday and on time and stay for the full day. For us, to be almost half way through the school year and have this many students who have not missed any school is really good."

Two Men Sentenced on Statutory Rape Charges

December 16, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 19 year old man, indicted on four counts of statutory rape of a young girl, entered a guilty plea under a negotiated settlement Monday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Leon Burns, Jr. was the presiding judge.

Bradley Robert Herriott of West Broad Street, Smithville pleaded guilty to one count of statutory rape and received a two year sentence, all suspended to time served. He was given jail credit for 131 days from August 8th to December 15th.

According to Detective Sergeant Jerry Hutchins, Jr. of the Smithville Police Department, Herriott had sexual intercourse with a 13 year old girl on four different occasions near the juvenile's home on a neighbor's back porch on Morgan Drive and at the Joe L. Evins Ball Park on the last week in May through the first week in June.

Herriott was charged on Wednesday, August 6th in the case.

Meanwhile, 24 year old Carmelino Sanchez Rodriguez of Short Mountain Street, also indicted on a charge of statutory rape of a 16 year old girl, pleaded guilty Monday and received a two year sentence, all suspended to time served.

Rodriguez was given jail credit of 110 days and must have no contact with the victim. He must perform 100 hours of community service work.

Smithville Police initially charged him with aggravated rape and especially aggravated burglary.
The police report stated that on Saturday, August 23rd, at 756 South Mountain Street, Rodriguez forced his way into the home of the victim and then took her into the bedroom where he raped her. Holding a knife, Rodriguez allegedly threatened to kill her if she told anyone or called the police.

Rodriguez was indicted earlier this month on the statutory rape charge, but he was not indicted on the other offenses.

Wendy Whittmore of Pea Ridge Road, Liberty pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and theft of property. She received a four year sentence in each case to run concurrently, all suspended to time served. She was given jail credit of 177 days from June 21st to December 15th.

43 year old Roxanne Hendrixson pleaded guilty to introduction of contraband into a penal institution and public intoxication. She received a three year sentence in the contraband case, all suspended to probation. She must perform 100 hours of community service work. The case is to run concurrent with a violation of probation against her in criminal court. Hendrixson was given jail credit of 21 days from September 19th to October 10th. She was fined $50 plus court costs in the public intoxication case.

41 year old Todd Allen Bussiere pleaded guilty to attempt to violate the sex offender registry. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to 90 days to serve. He was fined $350 plus costs and will be on CPS probation. He was given jail credit of 126 days from August 11th to December 15th.

25 year old Christopher Miles pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended. He was fined $150. Miles was given one day of jail credit.

19 year old Allan R. Lester pleaded guilty to auto burglary. He received a two year sentence on TDOC probation and must pay $100 to the economic crime fund. He must also make restitution as determined by probation. Lester was given four days of jail credit.

29 year old Milton Rodriguez entered a best interest plea to domestic assault and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days to serve ten days. He must make a $200 contribution to a domestic abuse shelter and perform 40 hours of community service work. He will serve ten days on consecutive weekends. The case is to run concurrently with a Wilson County case. Rodriguez must have no contact with the victim and fines and costs are payable at $175 per month. He will report to jail on December 26th.

29 year old Michael Todd Jones pleaded guilty to vehicular assault, driving under the influence (2nd offense), and possession of a schedule IV controlled substance. He received a four year TDOC sentence in the vehicular assault case to serve 180 days and then be on supervised probation by community corrections. He must also perform 40 hours of community service work and pay $1,250 restitution to the victim.

In the DUI case, Jones was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days to serve 180 days with the balance on probation supervised by community corrections. He must pay a fine of $610 and he will lose his drivers license as per Tennessee Department of Safety regulations for two years.

In the drug case, Jones was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days to serve 180 days and then be on probation supervised by community corrections. He must pay a fine of $750.

The sentences in the vehicular assault and DUI are to run concurrently with each other but consecutively with the sentence in the drug case. He will report to jail on January 2nd.

TDOT Chief Engineer Updates Public on Plans for Sligo Bridge

December 15, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page
TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges Addresses Plans for Sligo Bridge
Concerned Citizens Listen to TDOT Engineer Paul Degges

A decision on whether to repair or replace Sligo Bridge may still be months or years away, depending upon the availability of funds.

Paul Degges, Chief Engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, addressed a room full of concerned citizens Monday night at the courthouse, as to the plans for the bridge.

State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver hosted the meeting.

Degges says the state has inspected the bridge and found it to be safe. "We've got a truss bridge over the river. It's about 24 feet wide. We inspect all of our bridges every two years to try to make sure that the bridge is in good shape and it's safe to keep traffic on it. We came back a few years ago and put a second reinforced steel concrete deck over the old deck on this bridge. So it actually has two bridge decks on it. The older deck down underneath is having some deterioration problems. You may have noticed we have some netting under there. It's not a structural issue with the bridge. The netting is to keep stuff from falling down and hitting somebody. From a structural condition, the bridge is structurally in pretty good shape for a bridge this age. So it is safe to drive on. We don't have any issues with safety."

If a new bridge is built at Sligo, Degges says it would be designed differently than the existing structure. " The steel in a truss bridge like this is a different technology than we use today. The steel we use in bridges today is a much higher strength steel. It's much more resistant to rust and weather. We're proposing a new bridge over the river at 1,545 feet long. One of the things we're also looking at based on current traffic is that we want to make sure we have two twelve foot lanes and full shoulder widths on the bridge. We also want to be prepared in the future to be able to come in and widen the bridge so we would put a wider sub-structure in the river and then in the future if we needed to widen the bridge out we could do that. This bridge is a unique structure in that the water is 137 feet deep from normal pool down to the bedrock below the mud in the river. That is probably the deepest water work we have ever done in the state of Tennessee."

While no decision has yet been made to replace the bridge, Degges says the state can now proceed with right of way acquisition. "We have gotten through the preliminary design phase of the process that gives us a set of plans to go buy right of way with. We're in the right of way acquisition phase right now to buy the right of way to build the new bridge. We've cleared the environmental hurdles and we're buying the right of way right now".

Degges says it would cost about $32 million to replace Sligo bridge at today's estimates, while a rehab would be about $12 million and extend the life of the bridge by 10 to 15 years. " A replacement job here is 32 million dollars. That is roughly half of the amount of federal funds that we (state) get in a year. We get about $60 million a year in federal funds for bridge replacements and by law I have to put about 15% of that money on county highways. So it's ($32 million) a big lick with 20,000 bridges in the state of which about 8.000 are on the state highway system."

"We would probably get about 50 years out of a new bridge and have the ability to widen or rehab it with relatively minor impacts to the traveling public. Truss bridges are a much different issue because since the truss is overhead, you're limited on the width, so to be able to come in there and do any (rehab) work on this bridge would be very difficult without having to close the bridge for at least some time. What we've looked at is for about $12 million and maybe a little cheaper, we could do a rehab on the truss and probably buy ourselves ten to fifteen years. To do the rehab work, we would probably have to have at least two to three different time frames of a total closure within the order of a month."

"From a time frame standpoint, between two and four years from now this bridge is going to be in a condition to where we're going to have to replace the bridge or do a rehab on it."

According to Degges, if funding could be secured for a bridge replacement, the project could be under contract within fifteen months. "Based on our current funding, it was unclear how we could come up with the $32 million plus or minus to replace the bridge. However, a stimulus package is being talked about in Congress right now. That could forseeably put a lot of money in Tennessee for transportation projects. If that's the case, this bridge may or may not qualify for the stimulus money. If it does not, other money could be freed up which could be applied to the bridge."

"A second opportunity is a proposal offered by TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely with the approval of Governor Bredesen called a bridge bonding program. In Tennessee, we are a pay as you go state. We have zero debt on your transportation system. We don't borrow money to build a road. We wait until we have the money and then we let the contracts. So with a pay as you go system, we're not paying interest on debt. We're taking all of the money you pay in fuel taxes and title and registration fees to build roads. In general, the General Assembly has been very proactive in pushing TDOT to live within it's means so that's what we're trying to do. But bonding is a tool and under that program, we could do about seven to nine years worth of work in about three years. This bridge would fit the criteria of that program."

"If we were able to find the funding for this project, I could see us under contract in maybe fifteen months or less if we were going to go with the new bridge. If the money doesn't materialize somewhere, I would guess somewhere between two and four years from now we would be looking at a rehabilitation project on the existing bridge."

Eagle Scout Nick Goff Honored by County Commission

December 15, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page
Johnna Goff (Nick's mother), Nick Goff, and County Mayor Mike Foster

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night adopted a resolution to honor Eagle Scout Nick Goff.

County Mayor Mike Foster read the resolution "Whereas, it is fitting that the DeKalb County Commission and the DeKalb County Mayor should announce their pride, respect and honor in the young people of our community who so capably fulfill their requirements and duties to reach lofty goals and levels of achievement."

"Whereas, Nick Goff has performed the years of tasks to work his way to the highest honor bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America. Nick Goff has worked to a level achieved by a very select few and has earned the Eagle Award."

"Whereas, the DeKalb County Commission and the DeKalb County Mayor wishes to thank Nick Goff, his family, other scouts who helped and his leaders for the honors they have brought to themselves and DeKalb County."

"Now therefore, be it resolved by the DeKalb County Commission that December 15th, 2008, be officially named Eagle Scout, Nick Goff Day."

"Be it further resolved that this accomplishment be spread across the records of this meeting and preserved as a lasting part of our appreciation to Eagle Scout Nick Goff."

His parents are Danny and Johnna Goff of Smithville. He is a Junior at DeKalb County High School. He attends New Bildad Primitive Baptist Church.

Foster says "when he was a Cub Scout Nick earned the Arrow of Light award. He crossed into the boys scouts in April, 2003 and has worked hard to obtain the rank of Eagle. His Eagle project was putting up a sign at Cannady Cemetery and doing some landscaping. He has earned twenty six merit badges and performed countless hours of service for his community. He completed the requirements for Eagle Scout on November 24th and this past summer he attended Philmont High Adventure Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico."

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