Local News Articles

Three Involved in Crash Near Walmart

April 4, 2017
Dwayne Page
2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by 76 year old Doris Clinton Melton of Woodbury
2004 Chevy Impala driven by 36 year old Billie Desirhea Johnson of Smithville.

Three people were involved in a two vehicle crash last Thursday on Broad Street at the entrance to Walmart.

Smithville Police told WJLE that 76 year old Doris Clinton Melton of Woodbury was west on Broad Street in a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee and turning into the Walmart parking lot when she crossed the path of an eastbound 2004 Chevy Impala driven by 36 year old Billie Desirhea Johnson of Smithville.

71 year old Shirley Melton of Woodbury was a passenger of the Jeep. Both Shirley Melton and Johnson were taken to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital by DeKalb EMS.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene.

Local girls receive Highest Award in Girl Scouting

April 4, 2017
Rachel Fuson
Callie Cripps

Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee congratulates Rachel Fuson and Callie Cripps for earning the Girl Scout Gold Award – the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.

The youth at Rachel’s church did not have their own room for devotionals and classes, so she worked with church elders to build a youth group room. The church’s cleaning staff and quarterly youth group workdays will maintain the room. Rachel also created a book showing "before" and "after" pictures as well as a how-to guide for similar projects.

Callie created a sign for her town cemetery with grant funds she secured from the Smithville Cemetery Association. Callie was involved in all aspects of the project, including design, enlisting the help of her school shop teacher to build the frame, setting it in the ground, building a stone wall around the base and planting flowers. Girl Scout Troop 750 will sustain the project, and additional troops will volunteer at the annual Smithville Town Cemetery Day. Callie received the Chamber of Commerce Community Improvement Award for her project. She also prepared a booklet about the cemetery that dates back to 1838, with suggestions on how to conduct research for similar projects. This booklet was placed in the local genealogy room.

By earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, Rachel and Callie have become community leaders. Their accomplishments reflect leadership and citizenship skills that set them apart.

“Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award is truly a remarkable achievement, and these young women exemplify leadership in all its forms,” said Shelia Majors, director of training, volunteer relations and outreach at Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee. “They saw a need in their communities and around the world and took action. Their extraordinary dedication, perseverance and leadership is making the world a better place.”

Rachel and Callie will receive their awards at the 2017 Salute to Outstanding Leadership Awards ceremony on Sunday, April 30 at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena.

Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee serves more than 14,000 girls and 7,000 adult volunteers in 39 counties. It is a part of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), the world’s preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 2.6 million girls and adults nationwide. GSUSA continues to strive to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. For more information on how you can be involved in Girl Scouts visit www.gsmidtn.org.

Lisa Peterson Appointed to DeKalb County Election Commission

April 3, 2017
Democratic members of the DeKalb Election Commission Jackie Smith (left) and Lisa Peterson (right) with DeKalb Democratic Party Chairman Jordan Wilkins
Republican members of DeKalb Election Commission Barbara Vanatta, Walteen Parker, and Jim Dean

A new member has been named to the DeKalb County Election Commission by the Tennessee Election Commission.

Mrs. Lisa Peterson, a resident of Smithville and former DeKalb County Administrator of Elections, is replacing Hearon Puckett as one of the two democratic members of the local commission. "I am honored and pleased to receive this appointment from the State Election Commission. I appreciate the opportunity to serve the voters of DeKalb County. It is my pledge to serve with honesty and integrity, and to carry out the duties of Commissioner to the best of my abilities," said Peterson.

The former administrator lost her position (as administrator) in April, 2009 when the Republican controlled election commission took over and she later mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge over the decision.

The other Democrat on the DeKalb County Election Commission is Mrs. Jackie Smith. Smith was appointed in October, 2015 to fill a vacancy, and she has been re-appointed by the State Election Commission for her first full term. "I am really excited to be reappointed to the county election commission. It's a duty that I take very seriously, and I am honored to serve in this capacity," said Smith

The term for each member is for two years.
Since the state legislature is made up of a majority of GOP lawmakers, Republicans have the right to hold majority memberships on the Tennessee Election Commission as well as all county election commissions in Tennessee. The appointments to local commissions are made by the state election commission.

Jordan Wilkins, Chair of the DeKalb Democratic Party, stated: “ I want first to thank Mr. Hearon Puckett for his honorable years of service to our party. And, I'm thrilled to have Mrs. Peterson join the county election commission to represent the Democratic Party. Both Lisa and Jackie have been lifelong members of this party. They are progressive, strong, and talented women, and I am confident they will perform these positions with integrity ."

The Republican members of the local election commission, reappointed by the Tennessee Election Commission, are Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean. Vanatta and Dean are beginning their fifth terms. Parker has served since 1992.

Ponder Found with Drugs at Walmart Parking Lot

April 3, 2017
Dwayne Page
Michael Alex Ponder

A suspected drug dealer was arrested last week after officers checked out a suspicious vehicle at Walmart and found the driver slumped over the steering wheel of his pickup truck. The man, 39 year old Michael Alex Ponder of Robinson Road, Smithville, appeared to be intoxicated and he had on him methamphetamine and suboxone. He was also in possession of a handgun.


Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR_17.pdf (2.94 MB)

Ponder is charged with driving under the influence, driving while in possession of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine for sale, delivery, or process, and possession of a handgun under the influence. Ponder was further cited for violation of the implied consent law and for simple possession of a schedule III drug. His bond totals $16,500 and his court date is April 27.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, March 31 a deputy responded to Walmart Drive due to a suspicious white Ford Ranger setting in the parking lot. The officer noticed the driver was slumped over the steering wheel. After several attempts, the deputy was able to awaken the man, Ponder. His eyes were bloodshot and watery and his speech was slurred. Ponder performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and he was placed under arrest.

A search of Ponder’s person produced two round white containers. In one of the containers, the officer found a baggie of a crystal like substance believed to be meth weighing 0.4 grams. In another container was two halves of a pill believed to be suboxone. A zip lock bag pouch was also found in his jacket pocket. In a black pouch, the deputy found three baggies of a crystal like substance believed to be meth. Individual weights were 3.7 grams, 1.1 grams, and 1.3 grams. The total weight of all the baggies was 6.5 grams. The substances field tested positive for meth.

A Smith & Wesson 40 caliber handgun was recovered from the floor board on the driver side. The officer conducting the search reported that he observed Ponder take something, believed to be the gun, from the small of his back and drop it on the floor board of the vehicle.

The cash found on Ponder during the investigation was also seized.

Jose Rodriguez Wins DeKalb West Homerun 5K

April 3, 2017
Danny Jenkins
DeKalb West School Bulldog Homerun 5K and Fun Run Held Saturday

The DeKalb West baseball team held the second annual Homerun 5K at their campus in Liberty on Saturday.

A total of 112 runners were registered and were rewarded with near perfect conditions. Many participants recorded personal bests with several people receiving their first ever medals.

The course, an out and back circuit, ran from the school parking lot, down Highway 70 into Liberty. There was also a 1 mile fun run held entirely on the school grounds.

The overall male winner was Jose Rodriguez, who won in spite of being at the registration table when the horn sounded to signal the start of the race. He completed the course, plus a little extra, in the time of 21:16.

The female division champ was Diana Moon who ran a 23:12.

The women’s age group winners are; 12 & under-Katherine Knowles; 13 to 15-Megan Cantrell; 16 to 20- Morgan Odom; 21 to 25-Jessica Styer; 26 to 30-Andrea Leon; 31 to 35-Cindy Pulley; 36 to 40-Diana Moon (women’s champ); 41 to 45-Kim Wheeler; 46 to 50-Anita Patrick; 56 to 59-Brenda Hooper; 60 to 65-Barbara Wall.

The men’s age group winners are; 12 and under-Cooper Brown; 13 to 15-Matt Sweeney; 16 to 20-Jose Rodriguez (men’s champ); 21 to 25-Riley Young; 26 to 30-Patrick Kent; 31 to 35-Josh Miller; 36 to 40-Cedron moon; 41 to 45-Kevin Malone; 51 to 55-Nathan Baker; 56 to 59-Mark
Sullivan; 65+-James Ervin.

Tucker Webb was the winner of the fun run

Training Simulation at Center Hill Dam Rescues Dummy to Save Lives

April 2, 2017
By Mark Rankin, Nashville District Public Affairs
A team Corps employees from various locks and dams throughout the Nashville District hoist a simulated injured worker from a permitted confined space at the Center Hill power plant during a permitted confined space training class March 16, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rankin )

Maintenance workers, mechanics, electricians and safety personnel recently descended into confined spaces deep within Center Hill Dam to rescue a trapped dummy in a training simulation. The group set up a tripod rescue system, placed it over an opening in the power plant floor and used a horizontal lift technique to hoist the mock victim 30 feet to safety.

Michael A. Krzychi, Detroit District Operations Branch safety specialist, and Phillip Harrell, Nashville District Safety Office industrial hygienist, provided 20 hours of classroom instruction and four hours of practical exercises to 32 employees who participated in the “Permitted Confined Space” training March 14-17, 2017.

“This type of training is very important to us because it acts as a protector for the men and women who go into dangerous permitted confined spaces,” Harrell said. “Permitted confined space training allows them to know specific requirements for a rescue and practice what to do if the need ever arises.”

Krzychi said the instruction also included hands-on interactive sessions with demonstration, written exams, and field exercises. Participants learn the basics of rescue techniques as well as assisting a fallen victim deep inside Center Hill Dam’s power plant using a no-entry rescue.

Power houses contain spaces that are considered “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them.

Harrell said the class taught participants about identifying spaces, simulated rescue, and understanding Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.

Krzychi said by practicing hands-on exercises, teaching the basics of self-rescue, and simulating assisting an unconscious victim, participants gain a clear understanding of the communication and team work need for a rescue.

James Sowell, Nashville District Operations safety officer and Crane and Hoist Program manager, coordinated the class with Krzychi.

“We are very fortunate to have both instructors,” said Sowell.

Sowell said 96 district employees attended 15 fall protection and rescue training classes in 2016 at Lake Barkley, Cordell Hull Lake, Lake Cumberland, Cheatham Lake, Wilson Lock, and at the Cumberland River Operations Center located at Old Hickory Lake.

The benefit of bringing in Krzychi from the Detroit District is he is able to “train the trainer.” The 32 designated employees that completed the training at Center Hill Dam will be able to train others around the district at their work spaces resulting in a cost savings of $100,000.

“It’s always great to see our employees receive training that is needed and in this case, we save some money by using the ‘train the trainer’ program,” said Sowell.

Sowell said that even though the training is required by the USACE Safety and Health, and also Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the need for confined space rescue training is sometimes overlooked by many facilities.

Harrell said other class specific topics covered regulations, hazard elimination and control methods, protection procedures, inspections, and components. He said a confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

“Permitted confined spaces are called that for a reason,” said Harrell. “These spaces can be storage areas, tanks, storage bins, manholes, underground vaults, pits, silos, process vessels, and some pipelines.”

The training is critical for safety because mechanics, electricians, maintenance and engineers work in these environments every day at the locks, dams, powerhouses, in and around moving machinery every day.

The district’s goal is to certify training for rescue personnel and this includes requirements for different levels of responsibility. Operations Division personnel have completed more than 95 percent of the required training.

Krzychi said rescue after a fall must be a pre-planned and coordinated event. Current best-practices call for a thoughtful approach to retrieve a fallen worker as soon as possible without endangering the lives of those who must conduct the rescue operation.

Jerry Wisdom, an electrician from Lake Barkley Lock and Dam, practiced a rescue with his group by hoisting a dummy 100 feet from a permitted confined space.

“I think this is good training that I hope we’ll never have to use,” said Wisdom. “If I am ever in a situation where I needed assistance, I feel these guys could safely bring me out and save my life.”

Harrell said safety is always the number one priority, ensuring everyone is paying attention to detail.

According to Sowell, it takes patience and is a timely process for mechanics and electricians to learn new techniques and safety practices.

“Safety and training go hand-in-hand,” said Sowell. “Training is just like insurance for a car. It’s there if you have to use it or if you ever need it.”

DeKalb Recovery Court to Host Art Exhibit and Reception

April 2, 2017
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Recovery Court to Host Art Exhibit and Reception

The DeKalb County Recovery Court will be hosting an Art Exhibit and Reception April 5-7 at the County Complex History Room in the Mike Foster Multi-Purpose Center.

Recovery Court participants throughout Tennessee will join participants from the DeKalb County Recovery Court Program to share their experiences, strength and hope through art.

“We will be having an amazing art exhibit featuring the works of Drug/Recovery Court participants from across the state in DeKalb County,” said Norene Puckett, DeKalb Recovery Court Program Coordinator.

Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals solicited work from participants and staff in programs throughout the state with the prompt “what does recovery mean to me?” Art has a special way of helping people express their feelings in a safe and non-judgmental format. April is also Alcohol Awareness month so we will have an exciting virtual reality simulation of a drunk driving experience at the exhibit as well,” she said.

“The exhibit will open Wednesday, April 5th at 3:00 p.m. with an opening reception to follow at 5:00 p.m. Please join us in celebrating the work of these participants and the programs that help them be successful. The event is open to the public,” added Puckett.

This event is a partnership between the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals, the DeKalb County Recovery Court, and the DeKalb Prevention Coalition.

For more information call Norene Puckett at 615-215-8690 or norene.drugcourt@gmail.com

TDOT Rejects Bid for Bridge Repair Project

April 1, 2017
Dwayne Page
TDOT Rejects Bid for Bridge Repair Project

Its going to take even longer before repairs begin on the Veterans Memorial Bridge on South College Street over Highway 70.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has rejected the bid on the project.

According to Jennifer Flynn, TDOT Community Relations Officer, “all bids were rejected in the February letting. The project has not been re-let.”

Flynn said she plans to have more details next week.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation let bids for the project Friday, February 10 and Mid-State Construction Company, Inc. had the apparent lowest bid at $238,600.58.

The bid was initially expected to be awarded by mid-March with construction to follow. The completion time on the project was to have been on or before September 30.

The bridge was damaged in June, 2016 when a DeKalb County Landfill truck, driven by 54 year old Roger Chapman, hit the underside of the bridge as it was traveling east on Broad Street. Although the truck carried no dumpster at the time, the lift was up.

WJLE Recognizes DCHS Class of 2017 (View Photo Gallery Here)

April 1, 2017
Dwayne Page
WJLE Recognizes DCHS Class of 2017

WJLE and participating sponsors are presenting a photo gallery of the DCHS Class of 2017 in April and May. You may now view it at www.wjle.com.

Graduation is set for Friday, May 26 at the DCHS football field.

Click on the link below or the box on the left side of the WJLE homepage to view the senior formals.


Once you open the page, click each photo to view a larger image. The name of the senior you select is at the bottom of the photo. Or you may move your mouse over the photo to view the name.

There are 178 photos in the gallery divided up 30 photos to a page. Notice the box to the left in the photo gallery. After you view page 1 be sure to click the links for pages 2-6 to view the remaining photos. The names of seniors not pictured are also listed inside the box.

The WJLE photo gallery page is sponsored in April by Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss, County Mayor Tim Stribling, Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, DTC Communications, Arrow Termite & Pest Control, Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, Road Supervisor Butch Agee, DeKalb Tire & Service, Alexandria Auto Parts, and DeKalb Funeral Chapel.

Sponsors for May are Fast Pace Urgent Care Clinic, General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Bratten H. Cook, II, Assessor of Property Shannon Cantrell, and Trustee Sean Driver, in addition to County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss, County Mayor Tim Stribling, Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, DTC Communications, Arrow Termite & Pest Control, DeKalb Tire & Service, DeKalb Funeral Chapel, and Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss.

Celebrate Spring at Edgar Evins State Park on April 8th

March 31, 2017
Bob Tarter of NHECM never fails to thrill as he makes his wild and exotic animal presentation an up close and personal experience

The Annual Celebration of Spring at Edgar Evins State Park, Silver Point, on April 8th will be a day of outdoor fun for individuals and families. Registration will open at 8:15 a.m. in front of the office and continue until about 4 p.m..

The first event will be a guided wildflower hike at 8:30 a.m. on the Highland Rim Nature Trail, led by Ranger Mark Taylor. Beginning at 9:30 a.m. there will be live entertainment, including wild animal presentations and the Cannon Arts Dance Studio. Face painting, crafts making, climbing the observation tower and boat rides will also be available. You may bring your lunch or buy it from Boy Scout Troop 875 and Girl Scout Troop 1146. There are many picnic tables scattered throughout the park to enjoy a sit-down meal. Youngsters may hunt Easter Eggs at the campground at 2 p.m. and, of course, an Easter Bunny will be on-hand for picture opportunities.

Reservations for the $2 boat rides will be on a first come, first serve basis. Children must be over 3 years of age and accompanied by an adult to ride on the boats for safety reasons. Everything else is free except optional food purchases.

This will be the 11th year for this event, sponsored jointly by Friends of Edgar Evins State Park and park staff. The Friends of Edgar Evins State Park is an all volunteer organization with the sole purpose of helping the park. For more information you may visit the website at www.foeesp.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/friendsofeesp

For those who wish to make this an overnight or weekend stay, cabins and camping sites may be reserved on-line at http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/edgar-evins or call the park office at
(931) 858-2114 or toll free at 1-800-250-8619.

Edgar Evins State Park is located at 1630 Edgar Evins Park Road, Silver Point, TN 38582. The entrance is in DeKalb County, on Center Hill Lake, approximately 20 miles north of Smithville, 20 miles west of Cookeville, and 60 miles east of Nashville From I-40 take exit 268 at State Hwy. 96 and Center Hill Lake.


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