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Local News Articles

Weaver appointed to Agriculture; Children and Family; Education Committees

January 24, 2009

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) has been appointed to three key committees in the 106th General Assembly. This appointment includes membership to the Agriculture, Children and Family, and Education Committees. The announcement came yesterday by Speaker of the House Kent Williams in collaboration with Republican and Democratic Leaders.

"I am honored to have been selected for these three key committees." said Rep. Weaver. "As a new member, I look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead of me and am humbled by the ability to serve the people of the 40th District in this capacity."

The legislation presented before these committees is assigned based upon the subject matter. The Children and Family Committee considers legislation dealing with domestic issues such as divorce, child custody, and domestic violence. The education committee takes up legislation concerning both K-12 matters and higher education issues.

"As a grandmother of two and mother of one, I am committed to helping better the lives of Tennessee's youngest citizens and ensure they have a hopeful, fulfilling future." stated Rep. Weaver.

Terri Lynn Weaver is serving her first term in the General Assembly. She resides in Lancaster with her husband where she is a Singer, Songwriter, and small business owner.

County Seeks Action by TDOT to Make Dangerous Intersection Safer

January 23, 2009
Dwayne Page

County Mayor Mike Foster says the intersection at Highway 70 and Highway 83 near Kilgore's Restaurant is dangerous and several wrecks have occurred there in recent months. So he will ask the county commission Monday night to join him in requesting that TDOT consider installing caution lights there.

"We've talked to the guy in Chattanooga who is over engineering and asked that they look at it. There have been about twelve wrecks there. Three of them required extrication and several of them had to be life flighted. We're asking first that they do the engineering study. Really what it amounts to is we would like to see a caution light, where it would be a caution light for Highway 70 and flashing red lights on Highway 83 on either side. At least, we would like to see installed those small ripples on the road to alert you (motorists) that something (intersection) is coming up and some signs that say ‘Dangerous Intersection Ahead'. There is a sign there that has like a red centerpiece that says ‘Ahead' but it doesn't say stop. Butch Agee (of TDOT) has been helpful and so have the people in Chattanooga so hopefully we'll get this done".

Foster says he and the commission may also request a street light be installed to better illuminate the intersection of Highway 70 and Dry Creek Road.

In addition, Foster says the county commission may request the Tennessee Highway Patrol to recommend a safe speed limit for Holiday Haven Road and the Old Sparta Highway as requested by local residents there. "We've had several local residents that have called about the speed on those roads. I think the Old Sparta Road used to be a 35 mph speed limit. They're asking for the highway patrol to go determine what a safe speed is for both of these roads and to recommend to the commission that speed limits be established there. These are county roads."

Sligo Bridge Could be Replaced If Congress Approves New Economic Stimulus Package

January 23, 2009
Dwayne Page
Sligo Bridge

Funds could become available to replace Sligo bridge if the Congress approves a new economic stimulus package.

County Mayor Mike Foster said Thursday that TDOT has included Sligo bridge in it's request for funding of projects in Tennessee. "Mr (Paul) Degges, who is the chief engineer for TDOT, said at a recent public meeting that Sligo was not on the list of roads and bridges that would be proposed for the stimulus package. But we were told about two weeks ago by TDOT that it is now on the list for the proposed stimulus package, if it happens. Senator (Lamar) Alexander's office called and said that it (Sligo bridge) is on the stimulus package list that has been submitted by TDOT for the state. So if the stimulus package passes the U.S. House and Senate, then hopefully we are in line for a replacement bridge, which would be just north of the existing bridge. If you're going toward Sparta, the new bridge would be on the left side of the old bridge and the road on either side of the bridge would be straightened for better access. If all this happens, they would probably have meetings here in March for a pre-bid letting, and possibly be on line for contracts to be let in July and maybe the bridge could be started in September, which is really good news for tourism, school buses, and people who travel back and forth through there to go to work."

Degges, during a public meeting last month, said it would cost about $32 million to replace Sligo bridge at today's estimates, while a rehab would be about $12 million and extend the life of the bridge by 10 to 15 years. "From a time frame standpoint, between two and four years from now this bridge is going to be in a condition to where we're going to have to replace the bridge or do a rehab on it."

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

Corps to Conduct Test of Emergency Evacuation Siren at Long Branch Campground

January 22, 2009

The Corps of Engineers will be conducting a test of an emergency evacuation siren at Long Branch Campground, located directly below Center Hill Dam, on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 at 1 p.m.

This siren serves the Long Branch and Buffalo Valley Recreation Areas immediately below the dam. Additionally, neighboring private landowners downstream of the dam may possibly hear the siren. The test will last for approximately one minute.

This is only a test.

In the unlikely event of a breach of the dam, the siren will be activated and an evacuation plan put into effect to assist the visiting public in the Long Branch and Buffalo Valley Recreation Areas. Anyone with questions should call the Center Hill Lake Resource Manager’s Office at 931-858-3125 or 615-548-4521.

TBI Investigating Cash Shortage in Circuit Court Clerk's Office

January 21, 2009
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Circuit Court Clerk's Office is under investigation over a cash shortage of $8,501 in General Sessions Court funds.

The shortage was discovered during an annual state audit and is included as a finding in the latest audit report just released.

Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack says she has made the District Attorney General's Office aware of the shortage and the D.A. has requested the TBI investigation. Ms. Pack says the shortage occurred during the period of time when she was out of the office undergoing surgery.

According to the audit report, "A cash shortage of $8,501 existed in the General Sessions Court at June 30th, 2008. This cash shortage resulted from numerous bank deposits for the period April 2008 through June 2008 being less than the amount of deposits posted to the general ledger. We noted the following internal control deficiencies that should have alerted officials of possible irregularities:

A. "The bank reconciliation prepared at June 30th, 2008 did not reconcile with the general ledger by $515. This variance should have been investigated and corrected promptly."

B. "Deposits for May 22, 28, 29, and June 11 totaling $8,331 were listed as in transit on the June 30th, 2008, bank reconciliation; however, these deposits actually cleared the bank prior to June 30th, 2008; therefore, these deposits could not be in transit."

C. "Beginning April 11, 2008, several bank deposits were not made intact; i.e., funds collected during a specific period of time were not deposited together. Because the clerk used this method of depositing collections, we could not trace specific collections to specific deposits."

D. "Of the bank deposits that were not made intact, the difference between the sum of the receipts and the sum of the bank deposit was in cash receipts. This difference indicates that cash was being manipulated."

"This cash shortage has been reviewed with the district attorney."

Auditors made the following recommendation:

" The clerk should take steps to liquidate the cash shortage of $8,501. Bank statements should be reconciled with the general ledger monthly, and any differences should be investigated and corrected promptly. Deposits should be made intact."

In the management response, Ms. Pack states that "I have been in contact with the District Attorney General's Office and have extended our full cooperation to the district attorney. We have taken steps to improve the deposit and reconciliation process."

All employees of the Circuit Court Clerk's office remain on the job, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The annual audit report also reveals accounting and other deficiencies in offices of other county officials. To read the entire audit report, click the following link. (Findings, reccomendations, and management responses contained on pages 176-184 of audit)

Candidates May Now Qualify for Smithville Municipal Election

January 20, 2009
Dwayne Page

Candidates interested in running for Aldermen in the Smithville Municipal Election this summer may now pick up qualifying petitions at the DeKalb County Election Commission Office in the courthouse.

Lisa Peterson, Administrator of Elections, says candidates have until Thursday, March 19th to qualify. The deadline to register to vote in time for the election is May 18th.

Three Aldermen will be elected on Tuesday, June 16th. The positions are currently held by Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan, and Willie Thomas. Each term is for two years.

Lovell Scheduled to be Released from Prison

January 20, 2009
Dwayne Page

33 year old Karen Lynn Lovell is scheduled to get out of prison Wednesday

According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections website, Lovell's sentence, which began on February 22nd, 2004, is scheduled to end on January 21st. She has been incarcerated at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville.

The woman who escaped from the DeKalb County Jail in May, 2003 and was later shot by Captain Mark Collins of the Sheriff's Department, received a six year prison sentence after pleading guilty in Criminal Court to three of the five charges against her.

Lovell appeared before Circuit Court Judge John Maddux in October, 2003 and pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, escape, and intentional killing of an animal.

Lovell received a six year sentence on the assault charge, 11 months and 29 days for escape, 11 months and 29 days and for the killing of the animal. All the sentences were to run concurrently or together for one six year sentence. The sentence however was to run consecutive to the conviction for which she was incarcerated when she escaped. She was in jail serving three concurrent 11 month-29 day sentences on charges of telephone harassment and stalking.

Other charges of attempted first degree murder and aggravated kidnaping were dismissed under the plea bargain agreement.

The story began around midnight on Friday, May 7, 2003 during the previous sheriff's administration when Lovell reportedly faked an illness at the jail and was taken to the local hospital. When she was returned to the jail authorities were conducting a marijuana search when Lovell grabbed a service revolver and the keys to a patrol car and escaped.

Lovell drove to the home of her sister, Cathy Lester, on King Ridge Road, where Lester has legal custody of Lovell's son Kaden, who was three years old at the time. Lovell shot the Lester family dog, a doberman, took the child at gun point, and then drove away with her son.

Deputy David Ward saw Lovell traveling southwest on New Home Road. Ward exited his vehicle and stood near the driver's side door when Lovell drove toward him. Ward was thrown onto the hood of his car and Lovell, after also striking the driver's side door, proceeded in the same direction before spinning out a short distance away. She then abandoned the stolen patrol car and fled on foot. A quick investigation of the scene indicated Lovell fired at deputy Ward, who was not seriously injured. Two spent shell casings from the stolen .40 Glock were found in the car and there was a bullet hole in the windshield.

Knowing Lovell had taken the child and spent only three of a possible 13 rounds in the stolen weapon, authorities began a massive search throughout the pre-dawn hours until almost noon using a tracking dog and air support with a TBI plane equipped with heat-sensing technology and a THP helicopter

Lovell then showed up around 11:00 a.m. at the home of Bill Ferrell at the intersection of New Home Road and King Ridge Road. She stood near the back door of the Ferrell residence holding her son in one arm and the gun in the other hand.

Captain Collins pleaded with Lovell to put the gun down but she continued to wave and point it at her child's head, threatening to kill him. Collins then fired a shot from his revolver, striking Lovell in the temple area of her head. Collins then rushed to rescue the boy, who was not seriously injured.

Lovell was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga where she underwent surgery and returned to the jail two weeks later. She lost sight in one of her eyes.

A parole hearing was held for Lovell in December, 2004 but she was denied early release at that time.

DeKalb County Fair Wins "Premiere" Award

January 19, 2009
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Fair received a "Premiere" Award during the 87th Annual Tennessee Association of Fairs Convention held January 15th-17th in Nashville.

As state divisional award winners from last year, the DeKalb County Fair in Division "A" along with the Middle Tennessee District Fair of Lawrenceburg in Division "AA" and the Coffee County Fair in Division "AAA" were in the running for the coveted Champion of Champions Fair award for 2008.

This year's Champion of Champions award went to the Middle Tennessee District Fair while DeKalb County and Coffee County received the "Premiere" Fair Awards in their divisions.

Meanwhile the 2008 DeKalb County Fairest of the Fair, Nicole Linn, was among the top ten finalists for the Tennessee Association's Fairest of the Fair. This year's crown went to the Warren County Fairest of the Fair. A total of 51 contestants competed for the title.

State divisional champion awards for 2008 went to the Overton County Fair, Division "A"; the Dyer County Fair, Division "AA"; and the Putnam County Fair, Division "AAA."

This year's Merit Awards dinner, attended by hundreds of fair managers, vendors and volunteers from across the state, was held at the Nashville Airport Marriott Hotel on Saturday evening. Many of the state's top county agricultural fairs were recognized for outstanding achievement during the 2008 fair season.

Woman Charged with Child Abuse

January 19, 2009
Dwayne Page

A DeKalb County woman has been charged with child abuse.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says deputies arrested 34 year old Lori Ann Keith of King's Court Trailer Court on Wednesday. Keith allegedly assaulted her 15 year old child causing scratches and marks to the child's arm and neck area. Keith's bond was set at $1,000 and she will appear in court on January 22nd.

Meanwhile, on Saturday after receiving a complaint about a vehicle driving erratic, Deputies arrested 47 year old Dolores Castorena of Walker Street, McMinnville. Deputies spotted Castorena's vehicle on Highway 146 swerving all over the road. After stopping the vehicle, officers asked Castorena to perform field sobriety tasks which he failed. Deputies also discovered that Castorena did not have insurance for his vehicle and did not possess a valid driver's license. Castorena was arrested for no driver's license and driving under the influence. He was also issued citations for violation of the implied consent law and no insurance. His bond was set at $2,000 and he will appear in court on January 29th.

Fire Destroys Home on Big Hurricane Road

January 19, 2009
Dwayne Page
County Firefighters Battle Blaze at Home on Big Hurricane Road (Photo by Callie Matthews)

Fire destroyed a home this morning (Monday) on Big Hurricane Road.

Lieutenant Bradley Mullinax of the DeKalb County Fire Department says the call came in around 6:00 a.m. Monday. A neighbor spotted the blaze and reported it.

Firefighters responded from the Cookeville Highway, Short Mountain Highway, Keltonburg, and Midway Stations and the Main Station, along with DeKalb EMS and the Sheriff's Department.

Mullinax says the house was already too far gone by the time firefighters arrived and it could not be saved.

No one was home at the time of the fire and no one was injured.

Mullinax says firefighters were told that the home belonged to Darrin Ray.

(Photo by Callie Matthews)


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