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Local News Articles

Early Voting for City Election Draws Large Turnout

June 11, 2009
Dwayne Page

A total of 593 people voted in the Smithville Municipal Election between May 27th and June 11th, the second highest early voting turnout on record for a Smithville election.

The new record was set last year when 684 people voted early, up from the previous record of 555 in 2007.

One hundred and two people showed up Thursday on the last day of early voting, more by far than any other day during the two week voting period.

The daily voting totals are as follows:
Wednesday, May 27th- 51
Thursday, May 28th-48
Friday, May 29th-50
Saturday, May 30th-38
Monday, June 1st-25
Tuesday, June 2nd-38
Wednesday, June 3rd- 18
Thursday, June 4th-54
Friday, June 5th-29
Saturday, June 6th-21
Monday, June 8th-35
Tuesday, June 9th-37
Wednesday, June 10th-35
Thursday, June 11th-102

Election day is Tuesday, June 16th. Voting will be from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. in the basement courtroom of the courthouse. WJLE will have LIVE election return coverage and LIVE audio streaming at

Three aldermen will be elected, each to serve a two year term beginning July 1st.

The candidates are incumbents Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan and Willie Thomas. Challengers are Gary Durham, Shawn Jacobs, Aaron Meeks, W.J. (Dub) White,and Todd Van Dyne.

Smithville Aldermen Working to Hold Down Proposed Water and Sewer Rate Hike

June 11, 2009
Dwayne Page

The proposed 2009-2010 budget for the City of Smithville includes an overall increase in water and sewer rates of 37%.

Some aldermen believe that is too much.

The mayor and aldermen held a workshop Wednesday night to discuss the budget with the city's financial consultant Janice Plemmons Jackson.

Ms. Jackson says the city has not raised it's water and sewer rates in several years and revenues haven't kept up with increasing costs.

And while the city ended the 2007-08 fiscal year in the black by $330,384 in the water and sewer department, this year the city could be at a break even point or in the red. The actual net income or loss for the year apparently won't be known until after June 30th.

Jackson says the proposed 37% rate increase would help the city catch up "In looking at 2008-09 revenues, the revenues are actually going to be a little bit lower this year than they were last year. It looks like usage is down. You have not increased your water rates since 1999. You've not had an increase in any water rates in eleven years. Sewer rates have not changed during that same period except in 2005, they did go up like 30 cents per thousand for the usage above a thousand gallons. In a comparison between 1999 and 2009 in a span of that ten year differential, you see that your income or your revenues in water and sewer have gone up in round numbers by 28%. It went from $1,382,922 to $1,766,315. But then you look at the comparison of costs in that ten year span and you can see that all of the different categories have averaged an almost 77% increase from where they were ten years ago, yet your revenues have gone up 28%. So you see how the shortfall has come to play. Basically to keep you at break even or just pretty close to that, I feel like these increases need to be put in what we have worked into the budget."

Jackson says if the water and sewer fund operates in the red for two years in a row, the state could force the city to raise rates to make the utility self supporting.

Aldermen Tonya Sullivan and Cecil Burger indicated they might support a smaller or gradual increase but Sullivan said she felt a 37% increase was too much, especially since the city doesn't know for certain if the water and sewer fund will actually be in the red this year. "I think we almost feel like it's price gouging at this point even though maybe we should have been going up over a period of time. We know there has to be some increase. I think half of that increase would be easier to stand in increments than it would be to hit all at once. With economic times, jobs could change, people might could withstand a little bit more the following year. I'm a little disappointed that over a period of time we haven't gone up gradually so that we're not hit as hard. So I would be more in favor of a gradual, a slight increase versus a drastic increase. That's just my opinion. "

Alderman Steve White said he is concerned that if the city doesn't address the issue now, it will have to be revisited again next year. "Although it's a hard decision and nobody ever wants a higher bill, when we know we're barely breaking even, I think we need to catch up. There's no need in trying to catch up over the next few years, especially if we know and are being told that all of our expenses are going to keep rising. It's just putting it off for another time."

Since it was only a workshop, the aldermen could not vote Wednesday night, but indicated they wanted Jackson to figure the proposed overall rate increase at about 18% so they could make a cost comparison.

The cost comparison from 1999 to 2009 in the water and sewer department is as follows:

Personnel Service: $349,488 (1999), $548,922 (projected 2009) 57% increase

Chemicals and Supplies: $66,331 (1999), $143,500 (projected 2009) 116 % increase

Utilities: $171,788 (1999), $415,000 (projected 2009) 141% increase

Repairs & Maintenance: $69,815 (1999) $166,000 (projected 2009) 137% increase

Insurance: $43,214 (1999) $117,000 (projected 2009) 170% increase

Other Overhead Expenses: $62,166 (1999) $201,779 (projected 2009) 224% increase

Employees Benefits: $57,379 (1999) $134,058 (projected 2009) 133% increase

Total Operating Expenses: $1,191,102 (1999) $2,106,259 (projected 2009) 76.8% increase.

Meanwhile, Fire Chief Charlie Parker made another appeal for more funding for his department, but was told that the big ticket items he was making a request for would not be funded this year, including a full time or combination department, or a ladder truck.

Parker asked that funds be budgeted to pay the firefighters a minimum wage for their time spent training and the extra work they must do to maintain the current ISO rating; that the firefighters rate of pay per call be increased from fifteen dollars to twenty dollars if it does not affect the department's equipment budgets; that more money be included for repairs and maintenance because both fire engines are in need of some repairs and diagnostic work; that each firefighter have a uniform allowance; that more money be allocated for supplies and vehicle operations; that half the cost of a new ladder truck be set aside in the budget; and that funds be budgeted to purchase a vehicle for the department possibly from state surplus to transport equipment, so that the firefighters don't have to use their personal vehicles.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson said if the aldermen were to approve Parker's request, then a large property tax increase would be needed to fund it. Alderman Sullivan explained to Parker that the full time department and ladder truck were not included in the proposed budget, but that the spending plan for the fire department is being increased from $91,000 last year to $112,500 in the new budget, including an additional $5,000 in payments to firefighters for the year based on their calls.

The proposed 2009-2010 budget for the fire department compared to 2008-09 budget is as follows:

Junior Firefighter Program: $2,500 (2009), $2,000 (2010)
Payments to Volunteers: $35,000 (2009), $40,000 (2010)
Payroll Taxes: $3,500 (2009) $4,000 (2010)
Telephone: $3,000 (2009), $3,500 (2010)
Repairs & Maintenance $2,000 (2009), $3,500 (2010)
Miscellaneous: $1,500 (2009), $2,000 (2010)
Supplies: $12,000 (2009), $15,000 (2010)
Vehicle Operations: $4,000 (2009), $6,000 (2010)
Insurance: $15,000 (2009), $18,500 (2010)
Utilities: $2,500 (2009), $3,000 (2010)
Capital Outlay: $10,000 (2009), $15,000 (2010)

Meanwhile, the aldermen are considering giving city employees a one or two percent increase in the form of a one time bonus this year, since the proposed budget includes no cost of living raise.

All aldermen were present for the meeting except Jerry Hutchins, Sr. who had to be absent due to his wife's illness.

The mayor and aldermen will meet Monday night, June 15th at 7:00 p.m. at city hall possibly to consider passage of the new budget on first reading. WJLE plans LIVE coverage.

Local Business Receives Roof Damage from High Winds

June 11, 2009
Dwayne Page
High Winds Tear Roof from Doc's Detail

High winds from a severe thunderstorm today (Thursday) tore part of the roof off at Doc's Detail or Custom on East Bryant Street.

Danny Washer, owner and operator of the business, said he was inside working on a car when the storm hit. "I'd been listening to the radio and I knew there was bad weather coming. It started blowing in a little bit of rain and I was fixing to wax a car so to keep it dry I started to pull the (garage) doors down and just as I pulled them down I heard a strange sound, that's when the roof went off. Tiles then started falling. That's about it. In less than thirty seconds it was gone. It was weird because it didn't touch nothing else around here. It just got this building right here."

Although the building received significant roof damage, Washer, who was there alone at the time, was not injured.

Severe Thunderstorms Cause Property Damage

June 11, 2009
Dwayne Page
Barn Destroyed on Robinson Road-
Residence of the late V.L. and Callie Wilson damaged

Severe thunderstorms rumbled across DeKalb County this morning (Thursday) downing trees and causing property damage.

A barn was destroyed at the residence of the late V.L.and Callie Wilson at 1757 Robinson Road. The home also received some damage

Kandy Fish, who was next door with her mother, said she saw the storm as it passed and believes it may have been a tornado. "I was outside cleaning my mom's car and had no idea there was even a storm coming. I just looked up here because the houses are close together and saw a whirling and heard a God awful whistling, like a train maybe, that's the closest thing I can come to it. When it looked up here, the barn was actually coming over the house. It only lasted a few seconds but it was awful. I went back in the house. My mom had just had surgery so I tried to get her in a safe spot. I came back out here but there was nothing else I could do."

No one was injured.

Part of the roof at Doc's Detail or Custom on East Bryant Street was ripped away. Danny Washer, owner and operator of the business, said he was inside working on an automobile when the storm hit.

Central dispatch received the first report of storm damage at 10:26 a.m. The major property damage was at Doc's Detail and at the Wilson residence on Robinson Road. Trees were also reported blown down on Pea Ridge Road, New Home Road, Old Mill Hill Road, Johnson's Chapel Road, and Dale Ridge Road. Members of the DeKalb County Road Department and TDOT were called to help clear the roads.

UCHRA to Purchase Forty-four Transit Vehicles

June 10, 2009
Edward Hale, Phyllis Bennett, Rebecca Harris, Mike Foster

Economic stimulus dollars is making a difference in the Upper Cumberland Area Rural Transit System (UCARTS) operated by the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (UCHRA). “As a result of the stimulus dollars, the Agency will purchase forty-four (44) new vehicles to add to the UCARTS program to meet the requirements requiring replacement of vehicles with excessive mileage. During the economic hardships that the residents of the area are facing, the program has increased demand for UCARTS services. The system is making a difference in individuals getting to work; going to the doctor, drug store, and grocery store; and being able to get to other business appointments,” stated Phyllis Bennett, Executive Director, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency.

UCARTS offers transportation to rural residents of all ages with first priority to elderly, handicapped, and economically disadvantaged with medical needs and provides each community with customized services to address the needs of residents as they are identified. The economic stimulus dollars will allow the agency to replace vehicles in each of the fourteen (14) counties and to provide back-up vehicles to meet additional transportation needs. “The goal of the Agency is to operate a safe, well maintained system to accommodate the transportation needs of the residents of the Upper Cumberland Area,” stated Rebecca Harris, Transportation Services/Director, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency.

“As a result of approximately $12,081,232 made available to the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency for the fourteen (14) county area through the Economic Stimulus Package, the Agency is able to expand programs and bring back other programs that have not been available for a number of years such as the Summer Youth Employment Program. This help from the federal government will provide immediate economic assistance as well as make a difference for years to come,” stated Phyllis Bennett, Executive Director, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency.

In addition to the forty-four (44) additional vehicles funded through the stimulus package, employment and training will provide dollars to be spent in each of the cities and counties, older adults and other adults with disabilities will receive additional meals, weatherization to homes across the district will reduce energy costs, the head start program will experience an increase to offset rising cost in providing the service, and the Agency will assist additional individuals with an increase in the Community Services Block Grant Program. “Each of the counties and cities in the Upper Cumberland is pleased to have programs that will help the residents in this difficult economic time. The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency has the experience needed to implement the programs in an efficient, effective manner and works tirelessly to make the fourteen (14) county area the best place possible to live, work, and retire,” stated Mike Foster, Chairman, Board of Directors, UCHRA.

CUTLINE: Pictured from left to right: Edward Hale, Mayor of Liberty; Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director; Rebecca Harris, UCHRA Transportation/Services Director; and Mike Foster, DeKalb County Executive & UCHRA Board of Directors Chairman.

Summer Chefs, Be Sure To Follow Grilling Safety Guidelines

June 9, 2009

Nice weather, cookouts and gatherings are the perfect recipe for summer good times. The State Fire Marshal’s Office wants to remind Tennesseans that cooking safety is important, whether indoors or outdoors.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), gas and charcoal grills cause an average of 900 home structure fires and 3,500 home outdoor fires each year. "By all means, enjoy the weather and the cookouts,” says State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman, “but keep fire safety on your mind as you grill.”

Be sure to practice the following safety guidelines:

• Position the grill away from siding, deck railings, overhanging eaves and overhanging branches. Half of all gas and charcoal grill fires begin on an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch.
• Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
• Keep children and pets away from the grill area: declare a three-foot "safe zone" around the grill.
• Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when handling food.
• Periodically remove grease buildup in trays, to prevent ignition by a hot grill.
• Gas grills have a higher fire risk than charcoal grills. Leaks and breaks in the gas cylinder or hose are the leading cause of gas grill fires. Placing combustibles too close to heat and leaving cooking unattended are two other leading causes.
• Check the gas cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Applying a light soap-and-water solution to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by bubbling.
• If you determine your grill has a gas leak, turn off the valve on the tank and have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
• If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
• Use only gas cylinders with an overfill protection device (OPD). OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel. OPDs shut off the flow of gas before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up.
• Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
• Never store propane gas cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.
• When using charcoal grills, avoid using starter fluid – use a chimney starter instead. This is a cylindrical metal tube that uses paper to start the coals. Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited, and never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid.

“Outdoor grilling is a big part of Tennesseans’ summertime activities,” said Newman. “Make safety your No. 1 priority by using common sense and following these tips.”

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

WJLE Receives Special Recognition from AmVets Post 101

June 9, 2009
Dwayne Page
Joe Carter, Dwayne Page, and James T. Jay Smith

WJLE was honored to receive special recognition from the AmVets Post #101 Tuesday.

Joe Carter, Commander of the AmVets Post #101 and 2nd District Commander for the State and James T. Jay Smith, Past State Commander of AmVets presented WJLE with a plaque "In appreciation for outstanding service rendered to Carol F. Hanan, AmVets Post 101, Smithville."

Station manager Dwayne Page accepted the plaque on behalf of WJLE.

Smithville Elementary to get ARRA Grant for Lunchroom Equipment

June 9, 2009
Dwayne Page

Governor Phil Bredesen and Commissioner of Education Dr. Timothy Webb have announced school food authority grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These grants will fund the purchase of lunchroom equipment for school district's participating in the National School Lunch Program.

The DeKalb County School System is to receive a $42,000 grant for Smithville Elementary School

The ARRA provides this funding as a one-time appropriation to Tennessee.

"We cannot ignore the importance of healthy, nutritious meals that give students the fuel they need to focus in school and continue good eating habits as adults," Governor Bredesen said. "This Recovery Act money will allow school districts across the state to improve the quality of school nutrition, thus improving the quality of our children's education."

The focus of these competitive grants include purchasing equipment that improves the safety of food served in school meal programs, improving the overall energy efficiency of school nutrition operations, supporting expanding participation in school meal programs and improving the overall quality of school nutrition meals that meet dietary guidelines.

To be selected, a school must have 50 percent or more of its students eligible for free or reduced price meals and must meet other criteria set out under the ARRA.

"We are very fortunate to be able to provide nutritious meals to our students, especially as we meet the challenges of increased standards next year with the Tennessee Diploma Project," Commissioner Webb said. "Our children need every educational tool available and that includes nutritional services."

Cookeville Man Found with Pills Arrested by Sheriff's Department

June 8, 2009
Dwayne Page
Brian Bronson Roberts
Earnest Paul Barnwell
Lisa Rena Taylor

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department arrested a Cookeville man last week after they found him with many pills in his possession.

32 year old Brian Bronson Roberts of Hamer Street, Cookeville is charged with one count of sale and delivery of a schedule IV drug Xanax and one count of sale and delivery of a schedule III drug Hydrocodone. Bond for Roberts was set at $50,000 and he will appear in court on June 25th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says on Wednesday, June 3rd, deputies responded to a call about shots being fired on Hurricane Ridge Road in Smithville. When the officers arrived, they saw Roberts throw something on the ground. Upon a further investigation, Deputies found a container with 90 and ½ pills believed to be Xanax and 6 pills believed to be Hydocodone. They also found 9 more pills believed to be Hydrocodone in Roberts' pocket.

Meanwhile, 39 year old Danny Lee Smithson Jr. of Brooke Lane, Smithville and 42 year old Fowler Stoney Ramsey of Rolling Acres, Smithville were arrested Tuesday, June 2nd after deputies responded to a fight call on Brooke Lane.

Ramsey was charged with public intoxication and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sheriff Ray says Ramsey had indicators of being intoxicated and officers found on the ground beside Ramsey's feet, an ink pen barrel containing white residue. Ramsey admitted that it belonged to him and that he was using the device to snort pills. Ramsey's bond was set at $2,000 and he will appear in court on June 25th.

Sheriff Ray adds that Smithson, who was in control of a motor vehicle, was charged with a 4th offense of driving under the influence, a 5th offense of driving on a revoked license, and possession of a prohibited weapon. Deputies found a 15 inch long club with writing on it lying in plain view in his vehicle. Smithson's bond was set at $101,000 and he will appear in court on June 25th.

In another case, deputies stopped a vehicle on New Home Road in Smithville Friday, June 5th for a traffic offense. The driver, 38 year old Jefery Vincent Overall of West Green Hill Road, Smithville was arrested for a 6th offense of driving under the influence. Upon speaking with Overall, Deputies noticed his speech to be impaired, he was unsteady on his feet, and Overall had poor motor skills. Bond for Overall was set at $10,000 bond. He was also issued a citation for violation of implied consent. His court date is set for June 25th.

On Sunday, June 7th, the Sheriff's Department received a tip of someone growing marijuana at his residence. Deputies arrested 21 year old Eric Joseph Dickens of Banks Pisgah Road, Smithville for manufacturing marijuana after they found seven marijuana plants growing on the back deck of his home. Dickens' bond was set at $10,000 and he will appear in court on June 18th.

(Today), Monday, June 8th deputies arrested two more people on sealed indictments from the drug round up several weeks ago. 34 year old Earnest Paul "Hot Rod" Barnwell and 27 year old Lisa Rena Taylor were picked up at a residence on Webb Lane in Smithville. Barnwell was indicted on two counts of sale of a schedule II drug (Dilaudid) and two counts of delivery of a schedule II drug (Dilaudid). His bond was set at $150,000. Taylor was indicted on an attempt to introduce a schedule II drug (Dilaudid) into a penal institution. Bond for Taylor was set at $50,000. Both Barnwell and Taylor will appear in Criminal Court on June 26th.

Meanwhile, Sheriff's Department detectives are currently investigating complaints received over the last few months of someone destroying mailboxes in parts of the county. Sheriff Ray says "We have had complaints on Blue Springs Road, Underhill Road, Banks Pisgah Road, Vaughn Lane, Big Rock Road, Four Seasons Road, and other roads in the county where someone has destroyed mailboxes. We are asking everyone to be on alert in the county and report any information such as tag numbers, vehicle descriptions, or any individuals who may be involved in the vandalisms." If you have any information of criminal activity in the county, you may call the DeKalb County Crime Tip Line at 464-6400 or call Sheriff Ray at the Sheriff's Department at 597-4935.

11th Annual Fiddler 5K and One Mile Fun Run set for July 4th

June 8, 2009
Dwayne Page

The 11th annual Fiddler 5K and One Mile Fun Run, sponsored by Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County, will be Saturday, July 4th, the weekend of the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree.

The deadline for pre-registration is Monday, June 29th. Race entries will also be accepted on Saturday, July 4th, at the race check-in, located on Highway 56 North, ¼ mile North of Smithville, in front of the Family Medical Center.

All pre-registered participants must check-in at 6:30 a.m. All other participants must register at 6:00 a.m.

The entry fee is a donation of at least $15.00 ($10 for 18 & younger) for pre-registration and $20.00 ($15 for age 18 & younger) for those who register after June 29th (walkers and runners).

The race begins promptly at 7:00 a.m., rain or shine, on Highway 56 North in front of the Family Medical Center. The race ends on Church Street.

Age divisions for the 5K Run are as follows: 11 and younger, 12 to 18, 19 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 to 49, 50 to 59, 60 and older (women only), 60 to 69, and 70 and older (men only).

T-Shirts will be given to all participants on the day of the race. Please pre-register to guarantee your shirt size. Awards will be given to the male and female individuals with the overall best times in the 5K Run and the best times in each of the 5K age divisions. Top three One-Mile male and female times by participants age 12 and younger will also receive awards and recognition.

All proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County.

Registration forms may be obtained at


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