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Dowelltown Woman Airlifted After Wednesday Night Crash

February 23, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Three Occupants of 2006 Chrysler PT Crusier Injured In Crash

A Dowelltown woman, 55 year old Linda K. Fite, was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital after a two vehicle crash Wednesday night on West Broad Street near Cantrell's Furniture and Appliances.

Central dispatch received the call at 5:56 p.m.

According to Sergeant Mark Dial of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Fite was driving a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser, pulling out of the parking lot of the BP Station convenience market, when she crossed into the path of an eastbound 2004 Ford pickup truck, driven by 25 year old Nathaniel Wayne Pedigo of Smithville. Fite was crossing the eastbound lanes in order to turn left to head west. Fite was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital. She was later airlifted by Life Flight to Vanderbilt.

Two passengers of her vehicle, 27 year old Johnny Devault and 13 year old Daniel Trigueros, both of Dowelltown were taken by private vehicle to the hospital where they were reportedly treated and released.

Pedigo was apparently uninjured.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department were called to the scene after Fite's car reportedly caught fire. However all occupants had already apparently been helped from the car before the fire started.

Smithville Police were also on the scene helping to divert traffic during the crash investigation and cleanup.

Jo Ann Floyd Returns Home Safely

February 23, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Ms.Floyd

The elderly Alexandria woman, who went missing Tuesday night, has returned home safe and sound.

Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins told WJLE that while on patrol at 2:11 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, he met 75 year old Jo Ann Floyd driving alone back into town on West Main in Alexandria. "I met her coming toward town as I was heading out of town. I turned around and pulled her over to see if she was okay."

Chief Collins said Ms. Floyd, who had gone to see her daughter-in-law at Hermitage, Tennessee Tuesday afternoon, spent the night and all morning driving around, after she became disoriented. "She got turned around when she left Nashville, got scared, and drove all night and all day. She wound up in Knoxville but found her way back to Alexandria."

After she failed to return home Tuesday night, her family became concerned and contacted local authorities.

After making sure she was alright, Chief Collins said he followed Ms. Floyd back to her Church Street, Alexandria home where her sister, Betty Martin was there to greet her.

Two Former City Employees File Suit for Damages And to Get Their Jobs Back

February 23, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Kenny Waymon Dyal, Sr.
Christopher Derrick Ferrell

Two former Smithville city employees, who had been charged with theft of property for allegedly taking scrap brass from the water treatment plant and selling it to a recycling center, have now filed a lawsuit in DeKalb County Circuit Court against the City of Smithville. The suit was filed last Thursday, February 17th.

45 year old Kenny Waymon Dyal, Sr. and 42 year old Christopher Derrick Ferrell are asking for a jury trial. They want their old jobs back, compensatory damages for wages and benefits lost during the period of their unemployment, punitive damages for intentional, malicious, and reckless conduct of the city, for attorney fees and costs, and any other relief to which they may be properly and justly entitled. In the event they cannot be given back their jobs, Dyal and Ferrell are seeking lost differential wages and benefits to the date of their expected retirement.

Dyal was the supervisor of the Smithville Water Treatment Plant and Ferrell was a city maintenance employee and water meter reader.

Last month, Dyal and Ferrell appeared in DeKalb County General Sessions Court where, under a settlement, they agreed to make restitution in the amount of $1,348 jointly and severally. Once each defendant pays his half of the restitution, $674 the case against him will be dismissed and his record expunged

Dyal and Ferrell allege that they were discharged by the city to keep them from talking to state auditors about alleged misconduct of city Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson and Public Works Director Kevin Robinson and that they were denied due process by not being afforded an opportunity to state their case in front of a board consisting of the mayor, department commissioner, and the secretary-treasurer.

WJLE contacted both Hunter Hendrixson and Kevin RobinsonTuesday afternoon for a comment on the lawsuit. Both are eager to respond but have not yet given a statement.

The lawsuit alleges that "shortly after Ferrell was hired, Robinson conducted Ferrell's training by taking him around and showing him where each of the water meters were located and how to read them. During this training, the pair visited the Smithville Municipal Golf and Swim Club to read the meters located on the premises. At this time, Ferrell was instructed by Robinson to not read the meter anymore because he (Kevin) had "taken care if it".

"Despite being instructed not to continue to take the meter readings, Ferrell continued to read the meters and reported those readings to Dyal, because he (Dyal) had to prepare reports of lost water usage to be submitted to the aldermen," according to the lawsuit.

"In the spring of 2010, during a meeting of the aldermen of the City of Smithville, Dyal was asked by Alderman Steve White to conduct an investigation into the lost water usage because the amount of water not being billed was regarded as high. Hunter Hendrixson was present at this meeting."

"In or around July, 2010, the Aldermen of the City of Smithville requested a state audit from the State of Tennessee's Comptroller of the Treasury to address the allegations related to the city's golf course and swimming pool operations."

The lawsuit alleges that "Hunter Hendrixson had knowledge of this impending audit and knew of the investigation that Dyal was conducting."

"In or around the summer of 2010, the City of Smithville entered into a contract with W&O Construction to replace water pipes at the water treatment plant. The contract between the City of Smithville and W&O Construction indicates it is the responsibility of W&O Construction to remove all of the scrap metal from the construction."

"When W&O Construction first began the construction process, another employee along with his son removed scrap pipe from the construction site and sold it to a scrap metal shop. To date, no charges have been filed against this employee nor have any disciplinary actions been taken by the City of Smithville."

"Having witnessed this, Dyal asked Hendrixson for permission to take other scrap metal off to be sold. Hendrixson gave his permission," according to the lawsuit.

"Dyal also spoke with Rick at W&O Construction to see if he could have his permission to remove the scrap metal. Rick told Dyal that the scrap "didn't mean anything to W&O and that he could take it."

"On October 21st, November 3rd, and November 4th, Dyal and Ferrell removed the scrap metal and sold it to a scrap metal business."

"On November 4th, even though both the City of Smithville and a representative from W&O Construction gave permission for Dyal and Ferrell to remove scrap metal, a complaint was filed with the Smithville Police Department and Dyal and Ferrell were arrested for theft of property."

"Without conducting proper dismissal proceedings as outlined in the City of Smithville Municipal Code, Dyal and Ferrell's employment was terminated on November 4th. This occurred just six days prior to the audit."

"Dyal and Ferrell allege that Hendrixson and Robinson, as officials of the City of Smithville, used their position with the city to intentionally defraud the city of money owed to it for water usage thereby committing theft of services as defined in (state law) in order to inflate the profits of Smithville Golf Management, LLC for which they would benefit as members."

"Dyal and Ferrell claim they had knowledge of this illegal activity and were prepared to disclose this activity to the auditor."

"They further allege that their arrests and subsequent dismissal was calculated in an effort to prevent them from talking with the state auditor and disclosing the results of the meter readings and investigation conducted by them" (Dyal and Ferrell).

Dyal and Ferrell allege that "It is the policy and law of the state of Tennessee that an employee must be able to disclose a violation of state law and or to refuse to violate state law without fear of reprisal or penalty from an employer."

They further claim that their exercise of this right protected by public policy was a substantial factor motivating the city's decision to discharge them.

Dyal and Ferrell assert that they were "terminated for theft of municipal property as a pretext, and that it is false and designed to cover up an illegal motive."

Under the Tennessee Public Protection Act, an employer is prohibited from discharging an employee solely for refusing to participate in, or for refusing to remain silent about illegal activities. According to Dyal and Ferrell, the City of Smithville violated state law as their refusal to participate in or remain silent about the illegal activities was the exclusive and only cause of the city's decision to terminate their employment.

Further, Dyal and Ferrell allege that the "City of Smithville violated the City of Smithville Municipal Code by terminating their employment without a suspension period, by not providing a hearing within three working days of the suspension, and by not affording them an opportunity to state their case in front of a board consisting of the mayor, department commissioner, and the secretary-treasurer."

The lawsuit claims that "The City of Smithville's conduct toward Dyal and Ferrell was committed in an intentional or reckless manner thereby causing them to suffer severe emotional distress."

Dyal and Ferrell are being represented in this case by attorney John W. Rodgers of Murfreesboro.

When contacted by WJLE for a response on behalf of the city Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Taft Hendrixson said he could not comment because of the pending litigation. A response has not yet been filed by attorneys for the city.

Five People Involved In Two Vehicle Crash

February 23, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Five people were involved in a two vehicle crash Tuesday mornining at the intersection of West Broad and Mountain Street.

Central dispatch received the call at 9:19 a.m.

Smithville Police Officer Matt Farmer said that 45 year old Wendall Gibbs of Dowelltown was driving north on South Mountain Street in a Nissan car. Passengers with him were 42 year old Lisa Gibbs of Dowelltown, and 25 year old Amanda Gibbs and 23 year old Heather Griffith both of Liberty.

Meanwhile, 35 year old Tim Redman of Smithville was driving west on Broad Street in a 1997 Ford pickup truck.

According to Officer Farmer, both drivers claimed they had the green light and proceeded through the intersection, resulting in the collision.

Both Amanda Gibbs and Lisa Gibbs were transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

City Reaches Agreement with Tony Poss on Lease of Golf Course and Swimming Pool

February 22, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tony Poss
Charlie Parker

The Smithville Golf Course, which has been closed since October 28th, will soon re-open now that the city has worked out a deal with a new tenant.

After months of delay and indecision on the future of the golf course, the aldermen voted 5 to 0 Monday night to enter into a ten year lease agreement with Tony Poss to operate the Smithville Municipal Golf and Swim Club. Poss will pay the city $100 per year in rent. After the first ten years, Poss will have an option to extend the term of the lease agreement for an additional ten years.

During a February 10th workshop, the aldermen discussed the issue in depth about whether to lease the golf course and swimming pool to another tenant, or purchase the necessary equipment and hire a manager to operate the facility for the city. Since tenants in recent years have had difficulty making money with the golf course, Alderman Steve White said he thought the city should operate it and hire a manager, just as it does with the airport. White said with increased business and more golfers, the city could recover the initial start up costs once the golf course got up and running. However Aldermen Shawn Jacobs and Aaron Meeks, concerned about the costs to the city and public opinion, apparently didn't share White's view.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson, at the workshop, said he would have City Attorney Vester Parsley draft a proposal with terms the city would be willing to accept subject to the board's approval, to serve as a starting point in negotiations with whomever the manager or tenant would be. And while no deal had been reached with Poss up until Monday night, at least some city officials were apparently hoping to come to some agreement with him.

The mayor and aldermen, with the unsigned draft lease agreement in hand, reviewed the proposal with Poss during Monday night's meeting. Poss said he could accept the proposal with some changes. Poss asked that the city make sure that the irrigation system and pumps are working properly, that the city pay all utilities for the first six months, and that the requirement for a certificate of deposit or letter of credit in an amount of $10,000 be reduced to $5,000. The mayor and aldermen agreed to Poss' request.

Alderman Aaron Meeks made a motion that the city enter into the lease agreement with Poss, with these amendments. Alderman Steve White offered a second to Meeks motion, saying that while he still preferred the city running the golf course, he thought Poss would do a good job as a tenant. Aldermen Shawn Jacobs, Cecil Burger, and W.J. (Dub) White all voted in favor.

Under terms of the agreement, the tenant (Poss) agrees to pay all utilities for the golf course facility (after six months), except the landlord (City) will maintain the tennis courts, the nets and fence, as well as pay the electric bill for the tennis court lights. The tenant (Poss) shall be responsible for providing all water to the facility, except the landlord (City) agrees to provide all water, chemicals, and all other costs associated with the swimming pool. The landlord (City) will be responsible for all fees and charges associated with the operation of the swimming pool, including but not limited to any fees to the Tennessee Department of Health.

The landlord (City) shall be responsible for repairs to the exterior of the clubhouse including the roof, and further repair any cracks or major structural defects which occur in the swimming pool.

The tenant (Poss) may not assign nor sublease any part of the premises during the term of this lease and the tenant shall not make any alterations or additions to the leased premises without first obtaining written consent of the landlord (City).

The landlord (City) shall insure, at its sole expense, the clubhouse and pool against fire and other hazards and provide public liability insurance, including general liability coverage, with a limit of not less than one million dollars for any one person and three million dollars coverage per occurrence.

The tenant (Poss) agrees to provide the landlord with a certificate of deposit or letter of credit in the principal amount of five thousand dollars to insure the faithful performance of all obligations under this lease.

The tenant (Poss) will provide the necessary equipment, supplies, etc for maintaining the golf course, including, but not limited to, all necessary mowing equipment, tractors, aerator, and verticutter, to maintain the golf course and grounds. Further, the tenant shall maintain at all times golf carts which shall be available for use by all patrons of the golf course facility.

The tenant (Poss) shall be responsible for the operation of the Smithville Swimming Pool, to include the hiring of certified lifeguards, however the landlord (City) shall pay their salaries during all hours of operation. Further, the tenant (Poss) agrees to open the pool to the general public on a daily basis beginning with Memorial Day until the first day of the school year as designated by the DeKalb County Board of Education. The tenant (Poss) further agrees to provide at least one day of "FREE" swimming to school children K thru 12 who have successfully passed their most recent school year.

The tenant (Poss) agrees to establish an Advisory Committee which shall consist of at least six members who shall serve without compensation. One of the members shall be an Alderman, selected by the Mayor, and the remaining five members shall be residents of the City of Smithville. The Advisory Committee shall meet quarterly for the purpose of discussing any improvements which should be made to the facility, and the tenant agrees to exert a good faith effort to comply with any reasonable request made by the Advisory Committee. The tenant will submit a written report of each committee meeting to the Mayor within ten days of the meeting.

Either party may terminate this lease with or without cause by giving a ninety day written notice of their intent to terminate said lease agreement.

In other business, Alderman Steve White, prior to approval of the minutes, asked his fellow aldermen to rescind their vote on the suspension of Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson during the last meeting two weeks ago, and apparently consider firing him based on findings in a recent state audit. Otherwise, White wanted the mayor to veto the board's action on the suspension. Neither the board nor the mayor complied with White's request

During the last meeting, the aldermen voted 3 to 2 to impose a five day suspension of Hendrixson, to begin at the discretion of the mayor. Aldermen Aaron Meeks, Shawn Jacobs, and Cecil Burger voted for the suspension but Alderman Steve White and W.J. (Dub) White voted against the suspension because they wanted to fire Hendrixson.

Alderman Shawn Jacobs said Monday night that he understood Alderman White's concern but felt like the board did the right thing in imposing the suspension, rather than voting to terminate Hendrixson and he added that most of the people who have expressed an opinion to him on this matter agreed with the board's action.

However, Alderman Jacobs remains concerned that a bank, with whom the city does business, cleared checks with only one city official's signature when two signatures are required, as noted in the audit. Jacobs said he wants city officials to look into that further.

In other business, the aldermen voted to hire Todd Bowman on a full time basis as a certified water plant supervisor, now that he has completed his 60 day probationary period. He was initially hired on December 13th earning $13.76 per hour. His pay will increase to $14.46 per hour.

Meanwhile Fire Chief Charlie Parker asked that the city authorize the purchase of a multi-purpose vehicle, such as an SUV or crew cab truck, which can be used to transport firefighters and haul equipment so that the firefighters don't have to use their own vehicles, especially when they go to and from training.

The city has $10,000 budgeted for this expense and Chief Parker said efforts will be made to do business through a government regulated agency such as govdeal or state surplus in order to meet all purchasing requirements. Once a suitable vehicle is found, the purchase will be made and a report will be made to the aldermen on the transaction. The aldermen approved the request.

Chief Parker requested authorization to apply for a FEMA firefighter assistance safety grant to replace existing turnout gear for the firefighters and to buy four new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). The city could stand to gain as much as $70,000 worth of equipment for the fire department through the grant with a matching obligation to the city of less than $4,000. The board okayed Chief Parker's request.

The board also approved Chief Parker's request to accept bids for the fire department to purchase a new SCBA air compressor and fill station. The city budget includes $20,000 for this expense.

The aldermen have also scheduled a workshop for Monday night, February 28th at 7:00 p.m. at city hall to discuss the purchase of a ladder truck for the fire department.

Chief Parker, who made the request for the workshop, said the department is prepared to make a recommendation on the best alternative for the city based on present and future fire protection needs, after researching available trucks, and checking prices. The city has set aside $400,000 in the budget for the purchase of a used ladder truck.

Meanwhile, Chief Parker said the fire department has scheduled a firefighter recruitment and retention day for Saturday, March 5th. Anyone interested in joining the fire department or wanting to see first hand or learn more is urged to attend. Chief Parker said firefighters already in the department will also take part in some training exercises that day.

In other business, the aldermen voted 4-1 to accept a bid from Langley and Taylor Pool Corporation of Nashville to do repair work on the city swimming pool. The company submitted bids on two alternatives and the city chose the more expensive option which hopefully will provide a more long term solution at $83,649. No other company submitted a bid.

In his bid package, Taylor Dobbs of Langley and Taylor, wrote that his company could not adhere to the scope of the work (as called for in the city's specs) due to the current condition of the fiberglass coating of the pool. Dobbs wrote that the existing fiberglass coating is extremely thin (about 1/16 of an inch) and that it is already deteriorating in several areas. He proposed both a short term and longer term solution. Under the proposal chosen by the city, Langley and Taylor will remove the fiberglass coating of the pool, plaster the pool with white marcite plaster and tile the gutters with 1x1 white tile.

Alderman Steve White, who voted against it, said since neither of Langley and Taylor's options met the bid specs as advertised by the city, the project should be re-bid. "Since we didn't get any bids that actually addressed our bids, we need to re-bid for another week or two to see if we get any more bids."

White said the repair work on the pool could be done cheaper than what Langley and Taylor had proposed and just as efficient. "On the thin spots of the fiberglass, what you have to do is cut it all out, put new fiberglass in, and then apply the primer paint or gel coat to harden the fiberglass as a protective covering. It'll last 10-12 years. That's the way this pool has been repaired in the past and it won't be as expensive as these two bids."

Mayor Hendrixson pointed out that the city has spent more than $136,000 on various pool repairs since July, 1998.

Alderman White made a motion that all specs be re-bid but he did not receive a second to the motion.

Alderman Aaron Meeks, who said action was needed now in order to get the pool ready for the swimming season, made a motion to accept Langley's second bid option. Meek's motion was adopted on a 4-1 vote.

On another matter, Meeks asked that the city accept bids to purchase a security camera system for the police department once the specs are ready. The city has budgeted $7,000 for this expense. The board gave it's approval.

Fire Leaves Family Homeless

February 21, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
County Firefighters Work to Extinguish Fire at Home of Paul & Anita Snell

A DeKalb County family was left homeless after a fire destroyed their residence Monday morning at 273 Holiday Haven Drive.

911 received the call at 10:22 a.m.

Roy Merriman, Assistant County Fire Chief, said firefighters were summoned to the home of Paul and Anita Snell but were unable to save the structure.

According to Merriman, Mrs Snell was preparing to do some cooking when she got a phone call and walked from the kitchen into the living room. When Mrs. Snell returned to the kitchen she discovered the fire, called 911 on her cell phone, and then escaped unharmed. No one else was at home at the time.

The family lost their home and nearly all of their belongings in the blaze. An outbuilding near the house was also destroyed and a pickup truck in the driveway received some heat damage. Merriman said the fire burned about seven tenths of an acre around the home.

Members of the Cookeville Highway, Short Mountain Highway, Main Station, and Tanker #1 from the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department worked to bring the fire under control along with members of the Tennessee Division of Forestry, who cut a line around the burned area to keep it from spreading into the woods. Blowers and rakes were also used to help contain the fire.

Smithville Man Arrested After Meth Lab Found In His Home

February 21, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Brandon Keith Thomas
Julie Elaine Moore
Chasity Phillips

A Smithville man was arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department last week after a deputy found a meth lab in his home.

25 year old Brandon Keith Thomas of West Broad Street, Smithville is charged with initiation to manufacture methamphetamine.

Sheriff Patrick Ray reported that on Thursday, February 17th, a deputy was called to check out a possible meth lab at Thomas' home. After informing Thomas why he was there, the officer asked if he could enter. Thomas gave consent and the officer, upon entering, detected a strong chemical smell consistent with the manufacture of methamphetamine inside the home. After receiving consent to search, the officer found in five rooms, components of a methamphetamine lab including coffee filters, tubing, and a three liter bottle, all containing a white powdery residue, a two liter bottle with a bi-layered liquid, cut batteries, lithium strips, propane, and empty pseudoephedrine packs.

Thomas' bond was originally set at $50,000 but during a court appearance, Judge Bratten Cook, II doubled his bond to $100,000. Thomas' next court date is March 10th.

Meanwhile, 30 year old Julie Elaine Moore of Cookeville Highway is charged with four counts of theft under $500. Her bond totals $10,000 and she will be in court on March 17th

Moore allegedly stole items from a residence on Cookeville Highway on four separate occasions and then pawned or sold them.

Sheriff Ray reported that on January 14th, Moore allegedly took a wii video game system from the home and pawned it for $40 in Cookeville. The value of the game system was $200.

Moore returned to the residence on January 31st where she allegedly took a floor heater and then returned it for $41 in cash at Wal-mart.

On February 13th, Moore went back to the same residence where she allegedly took a mailbox and then returned it for $16 in cash at Wal-mart.

During her last trip to the home on February 16th, Moore allegedly took ten bags of mulch and six bags of potting soil and returned it for $60 in cash at Wal-mart.

The sheriff's department arrested two people on Tuesday, February 15th after making a traffic stop on Shady Drive.

35 year old Tyrone Dewayne Owens was charged with a first offense of driving on a suspended license while 28 year old Chasity Phillips was charged with unlawful possession of a schedule III controlled substance (Hydrocodone) for resale. Her bond is $10,000 and she will be in court on February 24th. Owens' bond is $1,000 and he will be in court on February 23rd.

According to Sheriff Ray, a deputy was traveling on Highway 56 north when a black Dodge truck turned in front of him into Highland Drive, causing the officer to swerve into another lane to avoid a crash. After stopping the vehicle on Shady Drive, the deputy talked to the driver, Owens who advised the officer that he did not have a drivers license. The deputy had also observed Owens operating this same vehicle earlier in the day. A computer check confirmed that Owens' license were suspended for failure to pay child support.

Phillips, a passenger of Owens' truck was arrested after another officer, standing beside the vehicle, saw her put something down her pants. She was asked to step out of the truck. The officer also asked her what she had placed in her pants. Phillips then pulled out a cellophane pack that contained fifteen hydrocodone 10 milligram pills.

40 year old Jeffrey Lee White of Page Drive, Smithville was issued a citation on February 16th for driving on a revoked license. He was stopped for having a tail light out on the left side of his vehicle. During the traffic stop, White told the officer that his license were revoked. He will be in court on March 2nd.

25 year old Sarah Michelle Gleed of Tubb Street, Liberty was issued a citation for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance), failure to display (tag), and for the vehicle not being registered to the driver. Sheriff Ray said Gleed was stopped on February 18th for no tag information on the vehicle. The automobile only bore an out of date drive-out tag. She could not produce proof of registration, insurance, or tag information. Her court date is March 2nd

52 year old Jerry Wayne Foster of Allen Ferry Road, Smithville was issued a citation for violation of the open container law and failure to maintain his lane of travel. His court date is March 30th.

Sheriff Ray said that while driving on Allen Ferry Road February 20th, a deputy saw a black Ford truck crossing the center line. After stopping the truck, the deputy found that Foster was the driver. There was also an open beer bottle about half full, within arms reach of the driver.

TWRA Hunter Safety Course Set for March

February 21, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Hunter Safety Course will be held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, March 7th, 8th, &10th, & 11th from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. each night at the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church.

The church is located on Highway 83 at Golf Club Drive, Smithville.

TWRA Officer Tony Cross says participants must be at least nine years old by the first night of the class and must attend each night. There is no charge for the course.

For more information, call Tony Cross at 597-9625.

THP Names Charlie Caplinger Trooper of Year for Nashville District

February 19, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Trooper Charlie Caplinger

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has honored it's Troopers of the Year and a DeKalb County man is among them.

Trooper Charlie Caplinger was named Trooper of the Year for the Nashville District. On August 23, 2010, Trooper Caplinger, currently assigned to the Special Programs Division, responded to a citizen report of a burglary at a nearby residence. Working an overtime assignment at the time, Trooper Caplinger requested assistance and then took action. Upon arriving at the scene, he observed a male running from the home and into the woods. Trooper Caplinger instructed the suspect to throw away his weapon and surrender. The suspect refused and moments later, a gunshot was heard and Trooper Caplinger believed he was under fire. Caplinger returned fire, provided cover and directions to the assisting Trooper, who later located the male deceased from a self-inflicted gun shot wound. Trooper Caplinger confirmed his bravery and dedication in protecting the citizens of Tennessee.

Trooper Caplinger was among several State Troopers who received Trooper of the Year honors in their respective districts. Meanwhile, the overall 2010 Trooper of the Year is Dwayne Stanford of Henderson County in the Jackson District. Awards were also given to the Investigator of the Year and Interdiction East and West Troopers of the Year, while 10 Troopers were also recognized for their DUI Enforcement efforts. The announcement was made during a special ceremony at the THP Training Center located in Nashville on Friday, February 18.

"These men and women represent the long-standing achievements of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and its unwavering commitment to protect the citizens of this great state," said Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons. "We celebrate their bravery, honor their dedication, and thank them for being true public servants for the state of Tennessee."

"Tennessee State Troopers like those honored today represent a proud tradition of service dating back to 1929," said THP Colonel Tracy Trott. "These 12 Troopers recognized today are examples of the everyday heroism and courage exemplified by the Tennessee Highway Patrol's professionalism and dedication to service and safety."

Trooper Stanford joined the Department of Safety and Homeland Security in 2002 as a Communications Dispatcher and was later commissioned as a State Trooper in 2007. His initial assignment was as a Road Trooper in Fayette County until being transferred to Henderson County in the Jackson District in 2008. Trooper Stanford earned the Trooper of the Year honor after locating a juvenile who was kidnapped out of Maryland on February 13, 2010. Trooper Stanford received an AMBER Alert notification, began an immediate search for the suspect's vehicle and located said subject within 20 minutes. He arrested the suspect without incident and preserved potential evidence in the case. Trooper Stanford was awarded House Joint Resolution No. 1313 by the state of Tennessee House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation for his enforcement efforts. He was also recognized for the top 10 Troopers in DUI Enforcement with 30 arrests.

Passage of AT&T Backed Legislation Could Adversely Affect DTC Communications

February 18, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

A battle is brewing between large telecommunications corporations and smaller telephone companies and cooperatives over intrastate access fees and the Tennessee Legislature is apparently where the matter will be decided.

However, if the smaller companies should lose the fight, Les Greer, CEO of DTC Communications, said the local telephone cooperative could lose as much as $700,000 per year in revenue, which could be "devastating" to the company.

At issue is legislation that would force the small telephone companies, like DTC Communications, to reduce the access fees they charge long-distance companies. An access charge is what a long distance company pays to a local telephone company to complete a call.

According to a published report in the Tennessee Journal, many small telephone companies charge about 7½ cents a minute and use the revenue to subsidize basic residential and business rates. For some, the access charges generate 20% of their revenue.

Styled the "Uniform Access, Competition, and Consumer Fairness Act of 2011," the bill would make intrastate access charges the same as the much cheaper interstate charges, phasing in the reduction over four years.

Besides AT&T and Comcast, the coalition of long-distance providers seeking a phased reduction includes Charter, Sprint, Verizon, and TW Telecom, according to the report.

In a prepared statement, which appears on the DTC Website, Greer , COO Gary Hancock and members of the DTC Board said passage of this bill could result in increased telephone and Internet rates, a loss of jobs in the community, and lost opportunities to attract new, high paying jobs. They are urging the general public, including DTC subscribers, to contact their state representatives and senators asking them to oppose this legislation.

State Senator Mae Beavers told WJLE Friday that she stands with the telephone cooperatives in her district and will oppose this bill. "I have four small telephone cooperatives in my district. We don't think that the bill which AT &T has filed is fair to our small telephone companies and it's an issue we're going to take a serious look at. I've filed some legislation on behalf of the small telephone cooperatives. It's a caption bill in case we need it. It's hard for some of these small companies to go up against AT&T sometimes especially with their (AT & T) 30 lobbyists which they've hired already. So that's going to be a huge issue especially for those of us that have the small telephone cooperatives in our districts and the customers are really going to be paying out the ying yang if the AT&T legislation passes."

The DTC statement is as follows:

"Telecommunications competitors and regulators have long acknowledged that it is more expensive to build and maintain rural networks, which also have lower revenue potential because they serve more sparsely populated areas. In fact, those are the very reasons why AT&T and its coalition partners consistently choose not to serve you. Small cooperatives like ours were created to fill the gap and provide services in rural areas that the larger companies do not serve".

"Now, AT&T and other large long distance carriers are asking the legislature to arbitrarily reduce one of our key revenue sources, the "intrastate access fee," which is the fee that long distance carriers pay when calls from their customers use our network to connect to people in our community."

"This fee provides significant revenue to communications cooperatives like ours. If AT&T and the telecom giants are successful, we estimate lost revenue to DTC will be $700,000 per year."

"This is a reduction in revenue that no small cooperative or independent phone company can absorb. That's why this legislation will cost jobs, force rate increases, and make it difficult for us to invest in continued infrastructure improvements like broadband. Deferring these investments will stifle new job creation in our community and impact essential services we provide to small businesses, hospitals, local governments, emergency services and law enforcement."

"AT&T wants you to believe that reducing this fee will benefit consumers, but there is nothing in the bill that requires the large corporations to pass their "savings" through to the customer. In fact, based on AT&T's actions over the past few years, we have no reason to believe Tennesseans will see any benefit. In all likelihood, reductions in AT&T's costs will go directly to AT&T's bottom line while communities like ours pay the price."

"It is critical that lawmakers hear from you on this subject. We are asking all of you – individuals, businesses and local officials – to let your voice be heard in Nashville.. Please take a moment today to write, call and e-mail these individuals today!"

The statement concludes "We cannot outspend AT&T and its coalition partners to ensure your interests are protected, but together, we can outwork them. If you have questions, please feel free to call our office. "

According to the Tennessee Journal, the coalition of long distance providers have scoffed at the notion that smaller telephone companies will be devastated, pointing out that eight cooperatives serving Tennessee have received a combined $315 million in federal broadband stimulus grants and that four of the small telephone exchange companies are owned by Wisconsin-based TDS, which took in $5.1 billion in 2008 and is the parent company of U.S. Cellular.

The big companies further argue that the high access charges enable the rural providers to offer basic service rates lower than those in other areas, at the expense of city and suburban customers who indirectly pay the charges.

The bill is scheduled to go before committees of the state House and Senate for the first time on Tuesday, February 22nd and Wednesday, February 23rd.

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