Local News Articles

Fireworks Shows Scheduled on Center Hill Lake

June 25, 2013
Dwayne Page
Fireworks Shows Scheduled on Center Hill Lake

Five Fireworks Shows are scheduled Independence Day weekend on Center Hill Lake.

TWRA Officer Tony Cross said fireworks shows will be held starting as darkness sets on the following dates and locations:

July 4: Cookeville Boat Dock

July 5: Sligo Marina and Hidden Harbor Marina

July 6: Pates Ford Marina and Hurricane Marina

"There will be a lot of folks I'm sure wanting to come out and watch some of the fireworks shows. If you go in a boat make sure before you get out there that your navigation lights are working. You have to display those lights while you are on the water," said Officer Cross.

Animal Rights Activists Seeking to Stop "Giggin' for Grads" in DeKalb County

June 25, 2013
Dwayne Page
Animal Rights Activists Seeking to Stop "Giggin' for Grads" in DeKalb County

An upcoming frog giggin' contest to help send high school graduates to college is drawing the ire of animal rights activists including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who are seeking to get the event canceled.

The DeKalb County Young Farmers and Ranchers "Giggin' for Grads", sponsored by the Farm Bureau, is an event aimed to provide a DeKalb County High School senior with a scholarship depending on who has the heaviest bag of dead frogs. The frogs are to be taken with a "Gig.

Though the fundraiser is not sanctioned by the DeKalb County School System, a petition to Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and DCHS Principal Patrick Cripps asks for supporters to voice their concern.

On its website, Forcechange.com. says gigging frogs, while legal, is a cruel killing of wild frogs. " An upcoming “Giggin’ for Grads” fundraiser in DeKalb County may help a high school senior defray college costs, but it also means the cruel killing of wild frogs. Raising money for college and protecting wild animals are by no means mutually exclusive concepts. Sign the petition and urge DeKalb County to come up with a more humane fundraising idea."

"No one will deny that college is expensive these days and that scholarship opportunities are not quite as plentiful as one would hope. The DeKalb County Young Farmers and Ranchers’ upcoming “Giggin’ for Grads” fundraiser aims to provide a high school senior with a scholarship based on the proceeds from the event. All the participants have to do is impale and kill fifteen frogs each over the course of one night. The heaviest bag of dead frogs wins a percentage of the money raised from the event."

"There are a number of problems with this scheme. First and foremost is the nature of the competition itself, which is based on the widespread hunting of wild animals. (Gigging, while legal, is subject to hunting and fishing regulations in most states.) The method of hunting—using a sharp, pronged stick called a gig—is also unnecessarily cruel. In the rush of the contest, it is unlikely that any speared frogs will be put out of their misery; instead, they will slowly die of their wounds. A large group of people hunting frogs will also disrupt other area wildlife and have the potential to damage natural habitats as contest participants blunder around in the dark. The current fundraiser also poses a large risk to participants, who are essentially all running around in the dark with sharp sticks, and risks alienating potential donors who feel uncomfortable with the frog-killing aspect of the fundraiser."

"Bright, young, college-bound students should be discouraged from acts of cruelty, not taught to benefit from them. Sign the petition and urge DeKalb County to come up with a positive, cruelty-free way of supporting its graduating students."

"College is a daunting financial burden for many students, and the DeKalb County Young Farmers and Ranchers’ desire to offer aid to students is admirable. What is not at all acceptable, however, is the method of raising the money. The proposed “Giggin’ for Grads” fundraiser propagates completely unnecessary acts of animal cruelty, poses a safety risk to participants, and risks alienating potential supporters."

"Gigging is an unnecessarily inhumane method of hunting frogs. Once speared, the frogs suffer slow, agonizing deaths. (It is unlikely, in the heat and rush of competition, that any frogs will be “put out of their misery” once they have been caught, as participants will be trying to find enough large frogs within the contest’s given time limit.) The fundraiser should celebrate the accomplishments of DeKalb County seniors, not the wholesale torture and killing of small wildlife."

"Furthermore, the nature of gigging does not foster the safest competitive environment; contest participants are essentially blundering around in dark, marshy areas while carrying sharp weapons—and they are surrounded by other people doing the same. The potential for accidents is enormous, and the nature of the competition creates an unnecessary safety liability for contest organizers."

"Finally, it is entirely possible that the contest will alienate donors who would love to support DeKalb County students but have a problem with the event itself. Given these points, I urge you to reject the “Giggin’ for Grads” fundraiser and replace it with one that focuses the attention where it belongs: on the students and their own accomplishments, rather than on animal cruelty."

"Reeling in the Years" to Air Friday Night on WJLE

June 24, 2013
Shawn Jacobs and Dennis Stanley

Many of us have often had a longing for the past, a yearning for yesterday. With nostalgia in mind, another edition of "Reeling in the Years" will air on WJLE the night of June 28th.

Former WJLE announcers Dennis Stanley and Shawn Jacobs host the program that will primarily feature the pop/rock music and artists of the 1970s.

"We'll be playing many of the songs that today's 50 to 60 year old residents remember as teens and young adults, " said both Jacobs and Stanley. "The music you will hear on our show will bring back many fond memories. We've made sure our playlist includes songs that were popular during the summer years of the decade. We're even going to play the Number 1 song of the week of June 28, 1974. It's those little details we want to incorporate into our show to make it even more enjoyable."

The program will also showcase the diversity of the pop/rock music scene during the decade.

"During those days WJLE and radio stations throughout the country were playing music that ranged from soul, rock, southern rock to disco music. All of those genres were mixed within the same program, and ironically, it worked," said Jacobs.

"In addition, the 70s was the last decade in which announcers were as much a part of the program as the music," added Stanley. "We hope to bring that kind of entertainment back to life with our show."

The June 28 program will air from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on WJLE-FM 101.7. It is the second "Reeling in the Years" show with the first having aired in December last year and two more are planned for this year.

"We've tentatively agreed with WJLE to do shows again in September and December," the two announced. "The exact dates will be announced closer to show time on WJLE and WJLE.com."

Sales Tax Rate on Food to Decrease Beginning July 1, 2013

June 23, 2013

On May 13, 2013, Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law a reduction in the state sales and use tax rate on sales of food and food ingredients. Effective July 1, 2013, the state sales and use tax rate on sales of food and food ingredients will be reduced from 5.25% to 5%.

With the change, food and food ingredients will be subject to a reduced state sales and use tax rate of 5% plus the applicable local sales and use tax rate. Prepared food, dietary supplements, candy, alcoholic beverages and tobacco continue to be subject to the general state sales and use tax rate of 7% plus the applicable local sales and use tax rate. Existing laws defining which items are considered food and food ingredients remain unchanged by the new legislation.
Businesses selling food items subject to the reduced rate of sales and use tax are advised to begin making the necessary changes to allow for the new rate beginning July 1, 2013. Changes to cash registers and accounting systems should be completed by the July 1, 2013 effective date. Businesses must continue to collect and remit the existing 5.25% tax on sales of food and food ingredients made through June 30, 2013 to the Department of Revenue.

The Department of Revenue is responsible for the administration of state tax laws and motor vehicle title and registration laws established by the legislature and the collection of taxes and fees associated with those laws. The Department of Revenue collects approximately 87 percent of total state tax revenue. During the 2012 fiscal year, the department collected $11.4 billion in state taxes and fees. In addition to collecting state taxes, the Department of Revenue collects taxes for local, county and municipal governments. During the 2012 fiscal year, local government collections by the Department of Revenue were $2.2 billion. In collecting taxes, the department enforces the revenue laws fairly and impartially in an effort to encourage voluntary taxpayer compliance. The department also apportions revenue collections for distribution to the various state funds and local units of government. To learn more about the department, log on to www.TN.gov/revenue.

State Reduces Unemployment Benefits to Strengthen Trust Fund

June 23, 2013

Since June 2010, eligible unemployment insurance claimants supporting minor children have been receiving $15 per child, to a maximum of $50, as a dependent allowance added to their weekly unemployment benefit amount. Those dependent allowance payments will end soon as a result of legislation signed by Governor Haslam that becomes effective July 1, 2013.

In 2009 Tennessee received one-time federal funds in the amount of $141,808,031 as an incentive grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to strengthen the rapidly depleting Trust Fund and continue providing unemployment insurance payments, including the dependent benefit. Those provisions were enacted as permanent law that could only be discontinued by repeal by the Tennessee General Assembly.

“This action taken by the legislature is another step that will increase savings to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The healthier the Trust Fund, the lower the tax table that determines premium rates for Tennessee employers,” said Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips. “The Trust Fund balance is currently $799 million and is on a positive path to maintain solvency and stability in the event of another recession. Tennessee, unlike 22 states in the nation, has no outstanding loan from the Federal Unemployment Account.”

For claimants currently receiving unemployment, the last payable week to receive dependent benefits will be the week that ends June 29, 2013. Claimants filing new claims for unemployment benefits on June 30 may be eligible to receive only one week of dependency benefits – for the week that ends July 6, 2013; any unemployment payments for weeks ending after that date will not include dependent allowances.

Other provisions included in the legislative repeal affecting claimant eligibility are these:
•After June 29, 2013, Tennessee will no longer use the Alternate Base Period to establish unemployment claims for claimants who did not earn enough in wages to establish a claim using the traditional base period.

•Beginning with the week that ends July 6, 2013, claimants will be ineligible for benefits for weeks in which they seek, apply for, or accept only part-time work instead of full-time work if their employment has been customarily full-time.

The Department of Labor & Workforce Development will notify affected claimants when they conduct their weekly certification to continue their benefits. For updated information on this and other unemployment issues please visit the department’s Web site at

42nd Annual Fiddlers Jamboree and Crafts Festival Set for July 5 & 6

June 21, 2013
Dwayne Page
Rocky Top Revue of Franklin at 2012 Fiddlers Jamboree

Thousands will be flocking to Smithville for the 42nd annual Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival Friday and Saturday, July 5 & 6.

The musical competition kicks off on Friday morning, July 5 at 9:00 a.m.

Preliminaries will be held in the following categories:

Old Time Appalachian Folksinging (Solo); Flat Top Guitar; Junior Clogging (ages 13-39); Junior Buck Dancing (ages 13-39); Old-Time Appalachian Folksinging (Duet, Trio, Quartet); Dobro Guitar; Mountain Dulcimer; Hammer Dulcimer; Novelty Event (Spoon Clacking, Jug Blowing, Washboard, Tub, Saws-Appalachian Related Only); Autoharp, Gospel Singing (Solo); Country Harmonica; Old Time Banjo; Youth Square Dancing (4 Couples-8 Total Dancers); Gospel Singing (Duet,Trio, and Quartet); Mandolin; and Old Time Fiddle Band.

The top three acts in each category will be called back for the finals on Friday night and a first, second, and third place will be awarded.

All first place winners get $125, except the Old Time Fiddle Band, which gets $525 for first place and Youth Square Dancing which is awarded $400.

Second place winners get $100 and third place winners receive $75. The Old Time Fiddle Band second place winner gets $425 and $325 for third place. The Youth Square Dance second place team is awarded $300 and $200 goes for third place.

The Community Chorus is also expected to make a return appearance on Friday evening, July 5.

A United States flag and a Tennessee State flag will be presented on Friday evening. The flags, which have flown over the state capitol, go to the persons who travel the greatest distances, both from inside and outside the country, to get here. The flags will be presented by State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody.

Fiddler's Jamboree Craft Awards will be presented on Saturday, July 6 for "Best of Show", "Best Appalachian Craft", "Best Newcomer", and "Best Craft Display"

On Saturday, July 6, preliminaries will be held in the following categories:

Junior Fiddlers (ages 13-39); Junior Old Time Appalachian Flatfoot dance (ages up to 39); Senior Old Time Appalachian Flatfoot dance ( ages 40 and over); Senior Buckdancing (ages 40 and over); Senior Clogging (ages 40 and over); Bluegrass Banjo; The Fiddle Contest for the Neil Dudney Award; Bluegrass Band; Senior Fiddlers (ages 40 and over); and Square Dancing (4 Couples-8 Total Dancers).

Preliminaries will be held in each event and then the top three finalists will be called back Saturday night to compete for first, second, and third place.

Prize money in most categories is $125 for first place; $100 for second place; and $75 for third place.
Awards for Junior Fiddlers and Senior Fiddlers are $225 for first place; $175 for second place; and $150 for third place.

Prizes for Bluegrass Band are $525 for first place; $425 for second place; and $325 for third place.
Awards for Square Dancing are $400 for first place; $300 for second place; and $200 for third place.

The winners of the Junior and Senior Fiddling competition will square off for the Grand Champion Award, the Berry C. Williams Memorial Trophy at the conclusion of the festival. The winner gets $300.

Meanwhile, the National Championship for Country Musician Beginners will be held Saturday afternoon, July 6 during the Jamboree featuring competitions for children, up to age twelve, in the categories of Buck Dancing, Clogging, Dobro Guitar, Mandolin, Five String Banjo, Flat Top Guitar, and Fiddle.

Preliminaries will be held in each event and then the top three finalists will be brought back to compete for first, second, and third place.

Prizes are $100 for first place, $75 for second place; and $50 for third place. One child will receive the Best Overall Instrumental Entertainer Trophy Award and $125 and the top fiddler will get the James G. "Bobo" Driver Memorial Trophy and $175.

In addition to the on-stage musical entertainment, the Fiddlers Jamboree will feature dozens of crafts, plenty of delicious food; and lots of shade tree picking around the public square.

WJLE will broadcast most of the on-stage entertainment LIVE on AM 1480/ FM 101.7 and LIVE Streaming at www.wjle.com.

School Board Trims More from Proposed Budget

June 21, 2013
Dwayne Page
School Board and Director of Schools

The DeKalb County Board of Education has cut $113,000 from its proposed budget but still anticipates having to use up to $1.4 million in reserves to balance by the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year next June.

The board held a budget workshop followed by a special meeting Thursday night to revise the proposed spending plan which will be sent back to the county commission's budget committee for approval.

Earlier this month, the school board voted to ask the county to appropriate another $350,000 from the special school sinking or local option sales tax fund for school operation next school year. The county budget committee rejected the request fearing the risk of depleting the sinking fund over time. The county already appropriates from the sinking fund $1,540,000 annually for schools along with $605,620 this year to meet certain school debt service obligations.

The school board Thursday night voted to remove the request for an additional $350,000 from the sinking fund and to cut proposed expenditures in various line items by a total of $113,000. No current positions or programs would be cut.

Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore asked Teresa Miller, Central Office Payroll/Bookkeeper, to outline the proposed cuts made in the budget. "Revenues have been reduced by the $350,000 that we had asked additional dollars from the sinking fund. That is the only revenue adjustment. Regular Instruction Programs has been reduced by $54,260. Special Education Program has been reduced by $3,200. Vocational Education Program has been reduced by $4,000. Attendance Category has been reduced by $13,195. Other Student Support has been reduced by $2,000. Regular Instructional Staff has been reduced by $8,500. Board of Education has been increased by $29,288. That's due to increases in insurance premiums (liability insurance and workers compensation). Office of the Principal has been reduced by $17,000. Fiscal Services has been reduced by $1,400. Operation of Plant has been reduced by $19,000. We reduced Maintenance of Plant by $9,700. Transportation was reduced by $11,000. That brings our anticipated expenditures to $20,626,800. Our revenues are at $19,182,340, which would leave $1,444,460 to be balanced with reserves or fund balance," said Miller.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said the proposed budget could not stand anymore cuts without affecting personnel and programs. "I think we've done a good job going through and cutting some things that we could. It gets down to operating a barebones budget again like we have done year after year and we're fortunate we've been able to offer the services that we have and to cut a lot more, I'm afraid we would not be able to offer the services our children need," said Willoughby.

"Will the passage of this budget affect children directly?" asked Board member Charles Robinson.

"If we cut much more then we're cutting human capital," replied Director Willoughby. " We're afraid that we would be cutting personnel. We don't want to cut personnel because that we think we have in there what our students need. I really wouldn't feel comfortable cutting any more," he said.

Willoughby added that the school system could do much more for children, if it did not have to be concerned with budget constraints. "There are several things that would improve the education of our children that some school systems already have. We would like to have had math coaches, language art coaches, graduation coaches, and more guidance counselors. These are things that some systems already have. We would like to have audio enhancements in all of our rooms. These are things that are research based that have been proven to help children achieve more. We know as children achieve more, the opportunities for children increase tremendously. Yes, there are other things, if we had the money we would have in this budget," said Director Willoughby.

All seven board members voted for the revised proposed budget including fifth district member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III who seemed frustrated that the school system could not do more. "I would like to make it clear to everyone that this budget once again requires no tax increase request as far as property taxes are concerned. It's unfortunate we have to balance this budget with our reserve. I still disagree with the fact that we can't take $350,000 to $400,000 out of the sales tax (sinking fund). The implication of cutting personnel, that's an insult to the integrity of the people who are responsible for taking care of 3,000 students. We don't have anyone to my knowledge sitting around with nothing to do. We could use more people. We're sitting on a budget once again that's just something we're getting by with. It's nothing fancy, no frills and no enhancements that other schools have. We're still falling behind other schools in the district and we will continue to until we make some changes. Any substantial cuts are not there to be made (in this proposed budget). It's unfortunate we have to balance the budget with the reserve. I do disagree with the funding mechanism but if that's what it takes, that's what it takes. But again, there's no property tax increase request. I don't know how the system has run as efficiently as it does. We haven't had a property tax increase in quite a while and the cost of living goes up every year. Health care costs go up every year and we're still sitting on the same budget. I understand that the budget committee turned our budget down. I would hope that the full commission would look at this budget and consider all the circumstances and the discussion we've had. Once again, we're sending a budget over there with no tax increase and we're not here to cut personnel and I don't intend to. I would hope the full commission and our county mayor would look at this long and hard because we're not asking them for one dime. We're asking them for their consideration for this budget to be passed so we can move forward," said Evins.

In order to meet requirements of the federal Affordable Health Care Act, the budget includes funds to offer single coverage health insurance to all full time classified employees (support staff) who want it, beginning January 1, 2014. Employees who take the school system up on its offer will have to pay ninety dollars per month. The school system will cover the rest. No additional insurance benefit will be offered to certified personnel.

"If our guidelines change of course we would have to come back and change this, " said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby in a previous meeting. "We still do not know what the Affordable Health Care Act is going to entail. We'll be learning more about that as the months go on. I don't think there is anyone in Tennessee that really knows how this is going to affect them," he said.

The revised budget calls for certified employees to receive a one time bonus instead of a 1.5% pay raise. Director Willoughby said in a previous meeting that approximately $40,000 in state funds will pay for the bonuses which comes to about $160 per employee. "What I am recommending at this time is the 1.5% pay raise for certified employees to be as a bonus and to take that $40,000 that we receive from the state and split that among all certified employees. That is nothing from local money. If it comes in $41,000 then we'll split $41,000 but it's all straight flow through money from the state," said Director Willoughby.

The budget includes funding for two new teacher positions at DeKalb Middle School: $90,000 total

One new P.E. teacher at Northside Elementary School: $45,000

One new extra teacher position (instead of two) which may or may not be needed depending upon enrollment at the elementary school level: $45,000 (position not to be filled if not needed)

Two federal teacher positions moving to general purpose schools (local budget): $90,000 total

Under the Gifted Education Program: One new gifted position: $45,000

Under Special Education Program: A half time psychologist: $27,000

Other new positions included in the budget:

Assistant band director (working primarily at DeKalb West School), $5,000.

Two new Middle School Soccer Coaches: $2,785 each

One baseball coach at DeKalb West School: $2,785

Two new assistant soccer coaches at DCHS: $2,785 each

One new Cross Country Running coach: $2,785

The budget also includes a $4,150 pay raise for the Transportation Supervisor.

Although it was not specifically addressed in the budget, Director Willoughby said in a previous meeting that the school system might be able to come up with funds for one school resource officer, if the county could fund three new positions. That would put an SRO at each school in the county. Willoughby said $15,000 could be available through a Safe Schools grant to help fund an SRO. The school system, he said, could probably come up with another $15,000. The cost to fund an SRO for the first year would be around $30,000.

Two Involved in Rollover Accident on Allen Ferry Road

June 21, 2013
Dwayne Page
Rollover Accident on Allen Ferry Road

Two men were involved in a rollover accident Thursday on Allen Ferry Road.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 40 year old Armando Blanco of Smithville was driving west in a 2005 Chevy Trailblazer when the vehicle went off the right side of the road and into a ditchline, struck a driveway culvert, and overturned. The vehicle came to rest on its top in the highway.

Blanco was not believed to have been injured. A passenger, 37 year old Alfred Villa was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Stanley Elected Middle Tennessee Vice President of TACEO

June 20, 2013
Dennis Stanley

Dennis Stanley, the Administrator of Elections in DeKalb County, has been elected to a leadership role in the Tennessee Association of County Election officials(TACEO).

Stanley was recently elected Middle Tennessee Vice President of the organization, which consists of election administrators and election commission members in all of the state's 95 counties. As a regional V.P., Stanley will also serve on the statewide executive committee.

“I am honored to be named to such an important position within the association," Stanley said. “It should be the goal of every election official to work toward improving the electoral process and this position gives me another opportunity beyond the county level to do that.”

Stanley has been a member of the TACEO legislative committee the past two years and has worked closely with state lawmakers in the passage of new and amended election laws designed to protect the integrity of the ballot while making elections more cost efficient.

The purpose of the Tennessee Association of County Election Officials is to provide an educational forum for the exchange of ideas relative to the administration of elections and to offer an opportunity for members to suggest and participate in the implementation of improvements in or to election law.

Chamber Urges Local Businesses to Participate in "Project Welcome Mat"

June 20, 2013
Dwayne Page
Suzanne Williams

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce is encouraging all local businesses to help welcome visitors to the 42nd annual Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival by participating in the 12th annual "Project Welcome Mat"

Businesses having changeable signs or marquees are asked to post welcome greetings for our Jamboree visitors. The wording may be only a simple "Welcome to the Jamboree" or as elaborate as you choose. Executive Director of the Chamber, Suzanne Williams, says, "With thousands of visitors coming into town, every effort should be made by the local merchants to show our guests that we appreciate them and welcome their business. The program has been successful over the past years with many businesses participating. Let's keep on showing folks how friendly the DeKalb County / Smithville area can be!"

All businesses may participate in "Project Welcome Mat." There will be recognition awards in 3 categories: "Best Worded," "Most Original" and the "People's Choice Award." Plaques will be presented to winners along with media recognition.

If your business would like to participate in the contest, email the Chamber at dekalbtn@dtccom.net or call 597-4163. Wording should be in place no later than Thursday, June 27th.


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