Local News Articles

D.A. Gibson Denies Any Wrongdoing And Won't Resign

September 18, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

District Attorney General Bill Gibson is vowing not to resign in the face of criticism and an investigation into whether he was criminally or ethically wrong in corresponding with a man convicted of murder, that his office prosecuted.

In letters, sent by Gibson to 34 year old Christopher Barrett Adams of Cookeville, The D.A. reportedly gave the man legal advice, encouragement, and religious counsel, both while the murder case was pending in court, and after the man was sentenced, without the knowledge of Adams' attorney.

Adams is currently in the penitentiary serving a 35 year sentence for robbing and killing an elderly Buffalo Valley woman. He was initially charged with first degree murder, but under a negotiated settlement, Adams pleaded guilty to second degree murder. Adams has also sought post-conviction relief in order to get either a shorter sentence or a new trial.

Reports say attorney's ethical rules prevent lawyers from secretly talking to other attorney's clients.

Gibson could lose his law license and possibly be charged with a crime. He is currently under investigation by the TBI and is facing action by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility.

Gibson contends while he may not have exercised good judgement he was morally right and doesn't plan to resign.

Gibson says he started writing to Adams in response to correspondence he received from Adams and claims his motive was to make sure that Adams fully understood all his legal options.

Gibson claims he has done nothing wrong and believes he was morally obligated to help Adams, who Gibson claims has become a Christian. Adams apparently has shared his religious experiences with Gibson through some of the letters.

Police Department Investigating Arson Case

September 18, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department is investigating an apparent arson at South Fork Apartments at 524 Miller Road Friday afternoon.

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker says city firefighters were summoned to the apartment complex around 2:15 p.m. Friday. Upon arrival, they found that someone had apparently set fire to a small pile of debris in a crawl space underneath an apartment.

Parker says the fire was quickly extinguished but the blaze burned a small hole in the floor of one of the apartments, damaged floor joist, and melted some wiring.

The residents of the damaged apartment were not present when the fire started and no one was injured.

The case remains under investigation.

Highland Aviation Named Fixed Based Operator of Smithville Airport

September 19, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday night accepted a bid from Highland Aviation of Crossville to become the new Fixed Based Operator of the Airport, subject to the new tenant's approval after a review and inspection of the property.

John J. Keigans, Jr. is the owner and director of maintenance of Highland Aviation, a company which has been the Fixed Based operator of the Crossville Memorial Airport since 2001.

As the General Fixed Base Operator, Highland proposes to pay the City of Smithville $350 per month for rental fees in association with the FBO facilities. Highland will also market the facilities associated with the Smithville Municipal Airport.

Under terms of the agreement, Highland will provide sale and dispensation of aviation gasoline fuels and oils. Smithville will provide adequate and environmentally safe facilities for the storage and dispensation of these fuels.

Highland will provide tie-down space for a minimum of ten aircraft; provide adequate and efficient ramp service; provide one mechanic over a 40 hour work period per week for the maintenance of local and transient aircraft; insure that all necessary equipment and tools are available; and provide flight instruction

Highland will pay the city three cents for every gallon of fuel sold, work with the city to provide the necessary equipment to move and store aircraft, and provide oil as necessary to service all transient stored aircraft.

Highland will use leased hangar space to provide cover for any aircraft upon which maintenance is being performed; provide sufficient shop space and adequate equipment to perform top overhauls as required for FAA certification. Maintenance will be available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on an as-call basis. Highland will use available space for the washing and cleaning of aircraft. No aircraft will be stored for salvage operation without notification of the city administrators.

Highland, through its flight school in Crossville, will provide one instructor for single engine land airplanes by appointment and meet and continue to uphold all requirements of the FAA for proposed flight training. Highland will also provide a ground instructor to provide instruction sufficient to enable students to pass the FAA written examinations.

In other business, the aldermen voted 3 to 2 to give city attorney Sarah Cripps a pay raise.

Cripps says her monthly retainer fee of $1,250 has not been increased since she was named city attorney eight years ago and that her workload for the city has increased within the last couple of years.

Alderman Paul Young made a motion that Cripps' pay be increased to $1,500 per month. Alderman Aaron Meeks seconded the motion and Alderman Cecil Burger voted with Young and Meeks to approve the pay raise. Aldermen Steve White and W.J. (Dub) White voted against it because money for the pay raise was not budgeted this year.

The board also approved on first reading, an ordinance that authorizes fees to the public for the inspection and copying of public records.

DeKalb County Habitat For Humanity Seeks Second Partner Family

September 20, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's affiliate chapter of Habitat for Humanity will soon begin taking applications for its second partner family. The application process will begin in coming weeks once its first partner family - the Perry family - is placed in their new home on Adams Street in Smithville. Dedication of the house is expected sometime in early October.

For the second home here, to be built the next year, Habitat seeks applications from qualifying families or individuals. To qualify, applicants must: (1) have lived in DeKalb County for at least one year; (2) be willing to partner with Habitat to realize dreams of home ownership; (3) currently occupy inadequate or substandard housing; (4) demonstrate the ability to pay a mortgage; and (5) fall within Habitat?s income guidelines. Examples of qualifying income levels range from $9,150 to $15,250 for an individual
and between $13,050 and $21,750 for a family of four.

All applications will be reviewed and considered by Habitat's Family Selection Committee before a partner family is selected. The partner family will work with Habitat on construction of their home and to develop the skills necessary for successful home ownership. Construction labor is provided by Habitat volunteers, and some materials are donated by Habitat supporters, as well.

Once the home is completed, the partner family will be given a 20-year no interest mortgage for the purchase price, based solely on the cost of materials and related services. Under these terms, qualifying families can expect to pay from between $200 and $300 per month to be in their own home.

An application /information meeting will be held sometime in October, following the dedication of the Perry family's Adams Street House. In the meantime, anyone interested in learning more or applying to become a partner family should call 215-8181 and leave a message with your contact information.

Firefighters Respond To Tuesday Morning Fire

September 20, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County Volunteer Firefighters were called to the residence of Eric Vanatta at 400 Lee Homer Road Tuesday morning.

Assistant Fire Chief Roy Merriman says Vanatta told firefighters that he had placed a pot on the kitchen stove, poured some cooking oil in the pot, and while it was heating up, he went to the living room, sat down, and dosed off to sleep.

Vanatta says he awoke to a popping sound and discovered the kitchen was on fire. He called 911 and escaped from the house. He was not injured.

Merriman says firefighters contained the fire damage to the kitchen area but smoke spread to other parts of the house.

Members of the Blue Springs, Short Mountain Highway, Keltonburg, and Belk Fire Stations responded along with a tanker truck. EMS and law enforcement officers were also on the scene.

Smithville Police Officer Injured After Being Struck By Vehicle

September 22, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Smithville Police Officer was slightly injured Thursday night when a vehicle struck him while he was answering a complaint at Center Hill Village Apartments.

Sergeant Steve Deffendoll suffered slight trauma to his right knee area.

Police made an arrest in the case Friday morning. 29 year old Darryl Cantrell of 3659 Allen Bend Road, Smithville was arrested by Officers of the Smithville Police Department and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department at 11:20 a.m.. Police say Cantrell was driving the same vehicle he had fled in Thursday night. Cantrell has been charged with aggravated assault.

According to a news release by Thomas J. Stufano, Executive Officer of the Smithville Police Department, \" On Thursday at approximately 10:30 p.m., Officers William Elliott and Sergeant Deffendoll responded to Center Hill Village Apartments, located at 1222 South College Street for a reported suspicious vehicle complainant.\"

\"Upon arrival to the scene, the officers made contact with the vehicle which had two male subjects sitting in the vehicle. As the officers approached the front and side of the vehicle, they identified themselves as police officers and advised the occupants to keep their hands in plain sight.\"

\"The driver then started the vehicle and backed it up at an accelerated rate striking Sergeant Deffendoll in the right leg. The officers again commanded the vehicle to stop. The driver accelerated the vehicle forward in the direct path of Sergeant Deffendoll.\"

\"Fearing for their safety, the officers drew their service weapons and two rounds were fired into the front of the vehicle. The vehicle then sped off. A search of the area by Smithville Police and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office was made without further contact of the subjects.

Investigators on the scene were able to positively identify the driver and a warrant was issued for Cantrell's arrest.

Sheriff's Department Asks For Help In Locating Suspect

September 22, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Sheriff's Department is asking for your help in locating a man wanted in DeKalb and two other counties on various charges.

30 year old William Paul McGee of Smithville is believed to be traveling in a red 2000 Jeep Cherokee with a license plate bearing the letters and numbers RHV-126.

Authorities believe McGee and 21 year old Josh Neal were the two men in a Jeep Cherokee that ran from county deputies on Tuesday night, which led to Officer Andy Snow losing control of his patrol car and overturning on Short Mountain Road near the DeKalb/Cannon County line.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Snow and another deputy from the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department went to the home of Neal's cousin on Lee Braswell Road Tuesday evening after receiving a call from the Warren County Sheriff's Department that Neal was a suspect in the break-in of his step-father's home on Capshaw Road in which some guns were stolen. DeKalb County also had a warrant on Neal for violation of probation. Neal, who had formerly lived with his step-father, had reportedly recently moved in with his cousin.

Neal's cousin told the deputies that Neal had been at the residence, but that he had left with another man in a red Jeep Cherokee. Sheriff Ray says the officers were still at the residence talking to Neal's cousin when the Jeep Cherokee drove by.

Knowing that Lee Braswell Road dead ends, the deputies got in their patrol cars to follow the Jeep Cherokee but met it coming back. Officer Snow tried to get the vehicle to stop, but the driver of the Jeep Cherokee accelerated toward Snow's patrol car and swerved at the last instant, taking a ditch to go around the cruiser.

The deputies got behind the Jeep Cherokee and turned from Lee Braswell Road onto Highway 146 south. Officer Snow, while still trying to get the vehicle stopped, lost control of his patrol car and wrecked near the county line.

Snow was taken to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was treated and released with minor injuries.

The Jeep Cherokee was last seen speeding toward Cannon County.

Sheriff Ray says Neal returned to his cousin's home on Lee Braswell Road Wednesday morning, having hitched a ride after walking part of the way back from Woodbury.

Neal was subsequently arrested but McGee remains at large.

Sheriff Ray says authorities got a tip Wednesday that McGee might be at a residence in Cannon County, but he was not there when DeKalb and Cannon County officers went to investigate.

If you know of McGee's whereabouts or see the red Jeep Cherokee call the Sheriff's Department at 597-4935.

Former D.A. Buck Ramsey Dies

September 23, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

Former District Attorney General Charles S. (Buck) Ramsey, Jr. died Wednesday at his home in Coffee County after a short battle with cancer.

The 65 year old Ramsey was appointed to the post in 1967 at the age of 26 by Governor Buford Ellington. He was the youngest prosecutor in the state and ran two successful re-election bids for DA in 1974 and 1982. His district included DeKalb County.

During this time in office, Ramsey oversaw several high profile cases including the murder conviction of J.B. Bounds of McMinnville, who shot and killed Sherman Wright in DeKalb County, in the early 1980's. Bounds is still in prison today.

In the late 1980's DeKalb County was realigned out of Ramsey's district into what is now the 13th Judicial District.

In 1990 Ramsey retired from the DA's office and went into private practice.

The funeral will be Monday at 1:00 p.m. at Saint Bede's Episcopal Church in Manchester. There will be a procession to Viola Cemetery immediately after the service where his ashes will be scattered.

House Fire Under Investigation

September 24, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

County and city volunteer firefighters responded to a structure fire at 5:24 p.m. Saturday at the home of Ronnie Taylor at 1102 Cordell Love Road near the Smithville Airport.

Assistant County Fire Chief Roy Merriman says the fire was contained to a back bedroom and bathroom but other portions of the house received some heat and smoke damage.

No one was at home at the time of the blaze and no one was hurt.

Members of the Cookeville Highway, Short Mountain Highway, and Midway Fire Stations responded along with the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and State Fire Marshal.

County Commission Set To Adopt Budget & Tax Increase

September 25, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission is expected to set the property tax rate and adopt a new budget for the 2006-2007 fiscal year tonight (Monday).

The new fiscal year officially started July 1st, but the county has delayed passage of a new budget, partly because of the sales tax referendum, which was put before the voters and was defeated in the August General Election.

The commission must pass a budget by October 1st, or risk losing state funds or having the state set a budget and tax rate for the county.

County Mayor Mike Foster says county government needs a tax increase to operate this year and had the sales tax referendum passed in August, the size of any proposed property tax increase would not be as large as it is now.

The Budget Committee has met several times over the summer trying to whittle down the size of the proposed tax increase and has finally settled on 39 cents, down four cents from the previous proposal of 43 cents.

Foster says the budget committee will request that the county commission adopt a property tax rate of $1.90, a 39 cent increase over last year.

Here's how the proposed tax rate would break down:

County General- 67 cents, a six cent increase
Schools- 73 cents, an eleven cent increase (plus $950,000 from the special school sinking/sales tax fund)
Debt Service- 29 cents, a nineteen cent increase (includes $771,000 to service the Northside School Debt and funds to service debt on the jail and landfill)
Highways- 3 cents (to recoup $216,000 in lost state funds and to purchase a loader at rock crusher)
Solid Waste- 18 cents

Even with some growth this year and a 39 cent tax increase, Foster says the county may still have to dip into the reserves to make it through the year. \" The 39 cents will actually impact the reserves just a little. The 43 cents is really what we needed to balance and that's what the budget committee was trying to do. We had really good growth this year. The appraisals grew by $72-million which will generate about $260,000 in new money which is a big impact on our county. Hopefully, we will get that kind of growth again next year. If we do, that will about get us back to where we need to be.\"

Foster says the school system will get more money than last year, with an eleven cent tax increase, but not as much as the 13 cent tax increase the school board had requested. \"The school budget is about $15.8 million dollars and of that, there was about $70,000 in monies cut from it, a little bit here and a little bit there, but there are no jobs at risk. It was a cut in the amount of money they requested. There is ample money in there to cover maintenance of effort and then some.\"

Foster says efforts have been made to make cuts from every department. \"It's really a complex thing. I'm fairly conservative and most of the commission is fairly conservative, but there are legal things you've got to do such as meeting maintenance of effort with the schools (not spending less than last year) and maintenance of effort with the sheriff's department in that you can't cut any employee position or salary without the sheriff's permission. We did cut one position this year with the sheriff's permission. Actually, we've got one less employee there (sheriff's department) than we had last year.\"

\"There are so many federal and state guidelines that we absolutely have to meet. For example, it (state/federal government) says you must pick up and dispose of garbage. It doesn't say how you do it. Of course, traditionally DeKalb County has had a solid waste disposal/landfill and now there has to be a new cell built. We're in the process of building it and a big part of it (project) will come this year because the one (cell) that's there now will be full by Christmas. That's a necessity. There were no extra funds put in this year. The landfill operation is basically the same as it was six years ago. The big deal is the new cell.\"

In addition to meeting the maintenance of effort requirements, Foster says county government has to account for other expenditures that are on the rise. \" School maintenance of effort requires that you spend no less money that you did last year. Then the state gives some raises with state money but they also about double the contributions that we must make to retirement. Our workers comp, liability, and all those insurance costs went up as well as the cost of fuel and the health care program.\"

Foster says the county has also budgeted small pay raises for county employees, both full time and part time.\" They still, on average, make a little less than ten dollars an hour and some of them, the part-timers, make maybe $6.50 an hour.\"

A public hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. followed by the county commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Monday) at the courthouse. WJLE will broadcast the meeting LIVE.

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