Local News Articles

2011 Fire Incident Responses Up in DeKalb County

January 5, 2012
Fire Incident Response Data
County Fire Chief Donny Green

The DeKalb County Fire Department has compiled its 2011 Incident Response Summary.

The best news in this report is that DeKalb County did not record any fire-related deaths in 2011. Overall, 2011 fire incident responses in the county were up by 54 calls from 2010. In 2010, the department responded to a total of 392 fire incidents. The department responded to 446 fire incident responses in 2011. This count does not include the 357 rural medical first responder calls that county fire department personnel responded to.

DeKalb County Fire Chief Donny Green said that the most marked increase in incidents is in the "alarms" category. This category captures responses to automated alarms such as fire/smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Chief Green said that this is expected because of the increased population of absentee homeowners around the Center Hill Lake area. According to Green, these property owners increasingly are using automated alarm systems to monitor their property, as their primary residences are elsewhere.

With DeKalb County's rural population growing at rates higher than the cities' population growth within DeKalb County, the department continues to strive to prevent fires and fire related incidents by using prevention and educational measures. DeKalb County Fire Department's Fire Prevention and Safety Officer, Lt. Brad Mullinax, says that preventing incidents is much more economical than responding to them.

The chart as shown above provides a breakdown of each type of fire incident response that the department responded to in 2011.

UPDATED: DeKalb County to Have Two State Representatives Under Redistricting Plan

January 5, 2012
Dwayne Page
Terri Lynn Weaver
Mark Pody
Mae Beavers

DeKalb County would have two State Representatives under a new Republican drawn redistricting plan unveiled Wednesday.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver would continue to represent Smith County and most of DeKalb County as part of the 40th district but the southern portion of DeKalb County would become part of another district with Cannon and a large portion of Wilson County, represented by Republican Mark Pody of Wilson County. Legislative atttorney Doug Himes told WJLE Thursday that a total of 6,126 DeKalb County residents would be in Pody's 46th district. The precincts affected include Belk, Keltonburg, and Blue Springs in the sixth district, a small portion of the Middle School precinct in the third district, and a small portion of the Church of Christ Annex precinct in the seventh district. The rest of DeKalb County (12,597 residents) would remain in Weaver's 40th district.

Weaver would also lose Macon County but she would pick up Trousdale County and a portion of Sumner County.

The plan would have to be enacted by the State Legislature before it could take effect.

Click Link Below to See Statewide House Redistricting Plan

Meanwhile, State Senator Mae Beavers would continue to represent DeKalb County as part of the 17th district under the Republican drawn senate redistricting map.

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey announced the release of the plan Wednesday, which was put together by the Senate's Working Group on Redistricting with the assistance of the Office of Legal Services and is now available at the General Assembly's website.

Click Link Below to see the Middle Tennessee Senate Redistricting Plan

Under the plan, Senator Beavers' 17th district would still be made up of Cannon, Clay, DeKalb, Macon, Smith, and Wilson Counties, but Beavers would lose Trousdale County and the one precinct she represents in Sumner County to the 18th district.

"We were committed to drawing a fair and legal state senate map and that is exactly what we have done." said Lt. Governor Ramsey. "The map emphasizes regional integrity and adheres to state and federal laws as well as court precedent. I look forward to concluding the redistricting process swiftly and efficiently as soon as we go into session next week."

In addition to Lt. Governor Ramsey the Senate Working Group on redistricting included three regional coordinators: Majority Leader Mark Norris, Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron and Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson.

This release includes both a statewide map as well as regional and urban center breakout maps for public perusal. A comprehensive memorandum explaining the new map in detail can also be found at the website: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/senate/redist/redistricting.html.

Landscape Photographer Bill Luton to Host Book Signing Saturday

January 5, 2012
Bill Luton
Book Cover for "The Lake" by Bill Luton

Landscape Photographer, Bill Luton, exposes the beauty to one of Tennessee's most beautiful lakes in the pages of his new book "The Lake" a photographic journey through the seasons on Center Hill Lake.

Click the following link to hear a radio interview with Bill Luton on WJLE

The book is now available for sale and Luton is inviting you to meet him during a book signing this Saturday, January 7 from 4:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the White Possum Grille on Walnut Street downtown Smithville.

Throughout the changing seasons, from early dawn through dusk, Luton is able to capture an image not often seen or viewed while exploring the lake's secluded coves.

The lake itself snakes over 60 miles through some of Middle Tennessee's most noted terrain. Roughly less than 1% of the shoreline has been developed and what has, is mainly for recreational usage.

Rolling hills, steep cliffs, and hidden waterfalls are just a part of what has been experienced and shared in this first series. Migrating waterfowl to human intervention awaits you with just a simple turn of the page.

Shown are 25 images from "The Lake" providing you with samples of the images found within the 48 page book. This hardback book measures 12" wide by 9" tall using 80# silk paper, a four color process with a spot gloss varnish to protect and enhance each individual image.

You can preview and order "The Lake" online at www.luton.us

Tennessee Lawful Employment Act Aims To Strengthen Legal Employment Verification

January 4, 2012

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis today announced new requirements of all employers in Tennessee to demonstrate that they are hiring and maintaining a legal workforce.

“This online verification process is designed to be convenient for employers and only takes a few minutes to complete. The department can provide assistance to employers who don’t have Internet access,” said Commissioner Davis.

Signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam on June 7, 2011, the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act requires verifying the employment eligibility of all newly hired employees through the online E-Verify program (www.uscis.gov/everify), or requesting all newly hired employees to provide one of the following identity and employment authorization documents as required:

A valid Tennessee driver's license or photo identification
A valid driver's license or photo identification from another state where the license requirements are at least as strict as those in Tennessee
A birth certificate issued by a U.S. state, jurisdiction or territory
A U.S. government issued certified birth certificate
A valid, unexpired U.S. passport
A U.S. certificate of birth abroad
A report of birth abroad or a citizen of the U.S.
A certificate of citizenship
A certificate of naturalization
A U.S. citizen identification card
A lawful permanent resident card
The law also requires employers to obtain and maintain a copy of one of the above listed identity/employment authorization documents for all non-employees as well. A “non-employee” is defined as any individual, other than an employee, paid directly by the employer in exchange for the individual’s labor or services.

The employment verification provisions referenced above will be phased in as follows:

All state and local government agencies must enroll and participate in E-Verify or request and maintain an identity/employment authorization document from a newly hired employee or non-employee no later than January 1, 2012

All private employers with 500 or more employees must enroll and participate in E-Verify or request and maintain an identity/employment authorization document from a newly hired employee or non-employee no later than January 1, 2012

All private employers with 200 to 499 employees must enroll and participate in E-Verify or request and maintain an identity/employment authorization document from a newly hired employee or non-employee no later than July 1, 2012

All private employers with six to 199 employees must register and utilize E-Verify or request and maintain an identity/employment authorization document from a newly hired employee or non-employee no later than July 1, 2013

The Tennessee Department of Labor does have the authority to impose penalties for non compliance. For a first violation, $500 for each employee or non-employee not verified, for a second violation, $1,000 for each employee or non-employee not verified, and $2,500 for a third violation.

The private employer must submit evidence of compliance within 60 days of the final order. If the employer fails to submit such documentation, then the commissioner has the authority to suspend the private employer's license until the employer remedies the violation.

Any lawful resident of Tennessee or any employee of a federal agency may file a complaint alleging a violation of the employment verification provisions of the Act. If there is satisfactory evidence of a violation, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will conduct an investigation.

For more information on the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act visit http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/eVerify/ or contact the Labor Standards Division toll-free at 1-855-TNEBILL (1-855-863-2455).

Ferrell Named Forestry Employee of the Year

January 3, 2012
Glenn Ferrell

Glenn Ferrell was recently named the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry’s Employee of the Year. The award is presented annually to a division employee who shows outstanding efforts and work accomplishments for a particular year.

“Glenn has been a tremendous asset in the Cumberland District. The technical and professional staffs there, along with the citizens they serve, are fortunate to have such a dedicated individual working with them,” said State Forester Steven Scott.

Ferrell has served the division’s Cumberland District since 1982 – 13 years as a part-time wildland firefighter in Cannon County and the last 16 years working full-time as a Forestry Aide 2 in DeKalb County. He is charged with operating a dozer used in fighting wildfires and works in forest management activities along with Forestry Technician Joe Bryson.

“Glenn does a great job in fire control in a county that has a high percentage of extremely steep terrain,” said Bryson. “He takes his dozer where a goat couldn’t go and when it becomes impossible to plow safely any farther, he jumps off his dozer and grabs a (leaf) blower or rake and does the work of two men.”

Ferrell is a native of Cannon County where he grew up and went to school in the small community of Short Mountain.

“I always wanted to work in forestry,” said Ferrell. “You get to work outside and do different stuff every day. It’s not always the same job.”

Ferrell currently resides in DeKalb County with his wife Louise and has a step-daughter and two young grandchildren. In his spare time, Glenn enjoys watching dirt track racing and spending time with his grandchildren.

Council Forced to Delay Action to Change City Election Date

January 3, 2012
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen

A special meeting of the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen was scheduled Tuesday night to adopt an ordinance on first reading to change the city election from June to August to coincide with the county general election. But the meeting was canceled after city officials learned from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) that the action could not legally be done by passage of an ordinance. It would require a change in the city charter.

Under state law, a municipality can change the date of a city election to coincide with the August or November general election, "notwithstanding any provision of a private act of a municipality to the contrary". According to MTAS, the City of Smithville has such a private act charter, which prohibits the changing of an election date by ordinance. Such action requires a change in the city charter, which must be approved by both the board of aldermen and the state legislature.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson brought up the issue during the December 19 city council meeting. He said by having the city election along with the county general election, it would save the city some money in holding the election and it would probably bring more city voters to the polls. But by having the election in August, the terms of the incumbent mayor and aldermen this year would have to be extended by a couple of months.

During that meeting, the aldermen voted 4 to 1 to have an ordinance drawn up to make the change. Alderman Steve White, who voted against the proposal, said that while he favored saving the city money and encouraging a larger voter turnout, he was concerned with the legality of making these changes by ordinance, when the city charter calls for the city election to be held in June. White said he preferred waiting until other changes are made in the city charter before making this one. "With the way the charter reads, you would have to be extending somebody's term and I don't think we can change that without the charter being changed. As the charter reads, our election has to be in June. If we move it to August then that's after our term is out," said White.

Mayor Hendrixson replied "But our terms would be extended. Myself, yours (Steve White), and Mr. (Cecil) Burger's term will be extended by approximately sixty days until the August Election this year. You can't extend terms by more than two years but you can extend terms by up to two years," said Mayor Hendrixson.

Alderman White continued "My thinking is that if we're getting some more changes ready for the charter, I think we might ought to go ahead and have the election in June this time and then if we decide we want to do that (change election date) go ahead and change the charter that way if we want to change the terms we can do all that as the next elections come up,"said White.

City officials plan to present a resolution to the aldermen soon making changes in the charter but that action requires approval of the state legislature in addition to passage by the city council.

State law concerning changing the date by ordinance of municipal elections to coincide with general elections states as follows in 6-54-138

"Notwithstanding any provision of a private act of a municipality to the contrary, the legislative body of a municipality may by ordinance change the date of municipal elections to coincide with the August or November general election. The ordinance changing the election date shall provide for the extension of the terms of members of the legislative body of the municipality necessary to meet the election date, but no term may be extended for more than two years beyond its regular expiration date. If an action is taken pursuant to this subsection the presiding officer of the legislative body shall file a certified copy of the ordinance with the state coordinator of elections"

Arrest Made in Alexandria Theft Investigation

January 3, 2012
Dwayne Page
Michael Brandon Colwell
Charles R. Riedley
Victor Lee Lewis

An arrest has been made in an Alexandria theft investigation.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged 27 year old Michael Brandon Colwell with theft of property under $500, resisting arrest, and unlawful possession of a weapon. His bond is $4,500 and he will be in court January 5. Colwell had been a resident of Cantrell Road Smithville before moving to Parkview Apartments on Gin Alley Road, Alexandria just a few days ago.

Meanwhile, the Alexandria Police Department has charged Colwell with four counts of burglary, three counts of theft, and one count of vandalism. His bond on these charges totals $60,000 and he will be in court January 5. More charges are pending.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Colwell was arrested Monday, January 2 for allegedly taking twenty dollars in cash from the wallet of someone on Curtis Avenue in Alexandria. He said Colwell admitted to the theft.

On Monday morning, officers went to Parkview Apartments on Gin Alley Road in search of Colwell but did not find him. Colwell was there when the officers returned later. Colwell was placed under arrest and handcuffed. Upon a pat down search, officers found on his side, a buoy knife with a five and three quarter inch blade. During the arrest, Sheriff Ray said that Colwell became violent. Colwell told the arresting officers that he was not going to jail and tried to jerk away from them several times. The officers had to take him to the ground. They also forcibly put him in the patrol car.

While making the arrest, officers saw some things in the residence that were not there on their first visit including a chainsaw, guitars, and radios that appeared to have been ripped out of vehicles. The officers confiscated those items and brought them to the jail for a further investigation.

Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins said that in addition to the charges brought by the Sheriff's Department, Colwell is charged with breaking into the First Baptist Church on Locust Street in Alexandria around midnight on New Year's Eve; breaking into two cars at residences on Curtis Avenue; and attempting to break-in to one of his neighbor's apartments on Gin Alley Road late Sunday night or early Monday morning. In the attempted burglary, Chief Collins said Colwell attempted to break into an apartment that joined his at Parkview. But the victim was home at the time. When she heard a noise at the front door, she looked through a peephole and saw a man trying to open the locked door with a credit card. But Colwell was apparently scared off because he dropped the card and ran into his own apartment.

In the News Year's Eve incident, Chief Collins said a concerned citizen called around midnight to alert authorities of the break-in at the church. Alexandria Police responded and found that two front doors of the church had been pried open. Chief Collins said that as officers entered attempting to clear the building, they saw someone inside. The intruder made his escape by breaking out a glass door. Alexandria Police initiated a foot pursuit and Sheriff's Department deputies came to the scene to assist but the suspect could not be located. Chief Collins said while the burglar had taken a few items from the church, he had left behind a pile of electronic equipment inside that he apparently had intended to steal.

After Colwell's arrest by the Sheriff's Department on Monday morning, Alexandria Police began receiving reports from residents in Alexandria whose vehicles, buildings, and outbuildings had been burglarized. The Sheriff's Department had seized as suspected stolen property several items found in Colwell's Alexandria apartment upon his arrest. Many of these things were later identified as the items reported missing from the victims who had called police.

Alexandria Police conducted a search of Colwell's apartment home and recovered items taken from the church and other places in Alexandria.

Chief Collins commended the concerned citizen who tipped off authorities about the burglary in progress at the church on New Year's Eve because that call may have prevented the theft of several thousands of dollars worth of equipment from the church. He also thanked Sheriff Ray and his deputies for their assistance in this case.

Chief Collins further urged citizens to report any suspicious activity they may observe by calling the Alexandria Police Department or 911.

32 year old Eric Steven Pollard of Lowery Lane, McMinnville is cited for violation of the registration law, violation of the light law, and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance). His court date is January 25.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Tuesday, January 3 a deputy spotted a white truck with a head light out on Highway 56. The officer stopped the vehicle but the driver, Pollard, could not show proof of insurance and registration.

20 year old Travis Joe Davenport of Eagle Creek Road, Smithville is charged with driving on a suspended license. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on January 19

Sheriff Ray said that Davenport was stopped by an officer on Highway 56 Saturday, December 31. The deputy making the traffic stop had prior knowledge that Davenport's license was suspended because he had issued him a citation for the same offense on November 14. Davenport's license was suspended for failure to satisfy a citation on October 28, 2011

23 year old Charles R. Riedley of Wildwood Drive, Smithville is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence. He was also issued a citation for reckless driving and violation of the implied consent law. Riedley will be in court on January 5. His bond is $3,000.

Sheriff Ray reports that on December 28, an officer pulled over Riedley's vehicle on Wildwood Drive for erratic driving. Riedley had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. He performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. Riedley refused to submit to a blood test. His first DUI offense was on November 27, 2007 in Rutherford County.

33 year old Victor Lee Lewis of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville is charged with driving under the influence and criminal trespassing. Lewis was also issued citations for violation of the implied consent law and violation of the light law. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on January 5.

Sheriff Ray reports that on December 29 Lewis was stopped by an officer on Highway 146 because of a non working brake light. He was also allegedly involved in a trespassing complaint. Lewis had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. He performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. Lewis refused to submit to a blood test. On the trespassing charge, Lewis is accused of beating on the door and windows of a residence on Highway 146, where he was not supposed to be. Officers warned him to keep away from this home but he returned and began beating on the door and windows again.

32 year old Alvaro Munoz of Miller Road, Smithville is cited for driving on a suspended license, violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance), and roadways lane for traffic (failure to maintain lane of travel). He will be in court on January 19.

Sheriff Ray said that Munoz was stopped by a deputy on Highway 70 Friday, December 30 for failing to maintain his lane of travel. He allegedly crossed the line several times. A computer check revealed that Munoz' drivers license was suspended for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance) on November 14, 2011. He could not provide proof of insurance during this traffic stop (December 30).

Students Return to School

January 3, 2012
Dwayne Page

The holidays are over and students are returning to school today (Tuesday, January 3)

The remainder of the school calendar for the year is as follows:

Schools will be closed for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 16th and for President's Day, Monday, February 20th.

Schools will be closed for spring break April 2nd-6th.

Students will not attend on Tuesday, May 22nd. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend. The last day of school will be Wednesday, May 23rd. That will be an abbreviated school day and report cards will be sent home.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Tuesday, March 13th at DeKalb County High School from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will also be held from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.Thursday, March 15th at DeKalb Middle School, Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary, and DeKalb West School.

Report cards will be sent home on Thursday, January 5th, and Monday, March 12th.

AYP-EOC/Gateway Testing at DCHS will be May 1st-3rd at DCHS and a make-up AYP-EOC/Gateway Test will be May 4th.

ACT Test for the 11th grade will be Tuesday, March 20th

Writing Assessment for the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades will be Tuesday, February 7th. Writing Assessment make-up will be Wednesday, February 8th.

TCAP testing of elementary students will be April 26th through May 4th

New Law Tracking Key Meth Ingredient Takes Effect

January 2, 2012
State Senator Mae Beavers

Several key laws sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) took effect on January 1 .

This includes major legislation implementing a statewide electronic tracking system to curb meth production in the state.

The system, called NPLEx (National Precursor Log Exchange), will monitor and block illegal purchases of over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE), a key ingredient in methamphetamine production.

“Meth is a growing and costly scourge on too many communities in our state,” said Senator Beavers, prime sponsor of the bill.

“While it robs users of their health and cognitive abilities, it robs children of any chance of a normal childhood. Meanwhile, the byproducts of the drug’s production are quickly and quietly ravaging our environment. This new law is a huge step in attacking the meth problem we face in Tennessee.”

Previously, there was no mechanism in place in Tennessee to block illegal PSE sales in real time, with pharmacies and retailers having to rely on handwritten, paper logbooks to track purchases. As a result, criminals learned to circumvent the system.

The new law requires that as of January 1, 2012, all pharmacies must use NPLEx, which exports the data to law enforcement. NPLEx must have a stop sale mechanism in place by that time for potential purchasers over the allowable purchase limit and anyone on the meth offender registry.

Another key law co-sponsored by Beavers which took effect January 1 requires the testing of a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level in cases where the driver has previously been convicted of a DUI or when there is a child present in the vehicle.

Tennessee’s DUI law already requires BAC testing when there is serious bodily injury to a victim or death. This measure simply puts these two additional conditions into the law when testing must be performed, whether or not the driver consents. The test results may be offered into evidence, subject to the rules of evidence.

Also set to take effect as the 2012 year begins is a new law co-sponsored by Senator Beavers to enhance the voting procedure for those serving in the military by ensuring Tennesseans abroad who do not receive their official ballot in time can participate in an election.

Tennessee ranks among the top states in the nation in the number of military personnel. The new law requires that the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot is accepted for all elections in which a person is eligible to vote; and may be used simultaneously for registration and an absentee ballot request.

Ordinance to Change City Election Date Up For First Reading Passage Tuesday Night

December 31, 2011
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Municipal Election will be held in August instead of June with the passage of an ordinance, which is scheduled for first reading action Tuesday night at city hall. The purpose of the change is to have the city election in conjunction with the August County General Election and State Primaries in order to save the city money by not having to hold the city election by itself, and to have more city voters participate in the municipal election.

The mayor and aldermen, who normally meet on the first Monday night each month, will not be in session January 2 because of the New Year holiday, but they will meet on Tuesday night, January 3 at 7:00 p.m. in a special session to take action on this proposed ordinance.

The ordinance specifies that the city election would be changed from June to August and that the terms of the incumbent mayor and aldermen would be extended because of the change in the election date.

The proposed ordinance states as follows:

"Whereas, Public Chapter No. 1008, codified under Tennessee Code Section 6-20-102 provides that the board of aldermen may by ordinance change the date of municipal elections to coincide with the August or November general election. The ordinance changing the date shall provide for the extension of the terms of members of the board necessary to meet the election date; now

Therefore, be it ordained by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville, Tennessee:

Section One: Date of regular Municipal Elections

1. The Mayor and Board of Aldermen hereby set the regular municipal election date as the date of the August General Election

2. The term of office for the Mayor and two aldermen elected for a two year term on June 15, 2010 shall be extended to coincide with the August general election date in 2012, a period of approximately two months.

3. The term of office for the three aldermen elected to a two year term on June 21, 2011 shall be extended to coincide with the August general election date in 2014, a period of approximately fourteen months."

Second and final reading passage will follow a public hearing at another special meeting in January.


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