A killer tornado, a double murder, a fatality in a house fire, the unseating of a long time property assessor, a controversial decision by DUD to build its own water treatment plant, and allegations against UCDD were among the top local news stories of 2012.
* A storm on Wednesday, February 29 spawned an EF1 tornado in DeKalb County killing 62 year old Josephine Pavone at her home on Alpine Drive in the Holiday Haven area. The storm took a path from near DCHS and Allens Ferry Road to the Cookeville Highway area including Pine Grove Road, Holiday Haven, Ponder Road, and Puckett's Point to Back Bone Ridge and Falling Water Road in the Johnson's Chapel Community. The recovery operation at the scene of the fatality began shortly after the storm but was halted later in the evening. It resumed the next morning until Pavone's body was recovered. Many homes, barns, sheds, and outbuildings along the path of the storm were damaged or destroyed, but no one else was seriously injured. The storm also caused some damage at DeKalb Middle School, the DCHS campus, and at the Little League park. Schools were closed on the day after the storm.
* Two people were found shot to death at a residence on Tommy Harrell Street in Smithville on August 7th, victims of a double murder. The body of 55 year old Ervin Raymon Beacham was found in his home while the body of the other man, 43 year old Jose Sagahon Ticante was found in the back yard. In the days after the shooting, local Mexican restaurants and stores had collection boxes trying to raise money to send Ticante's body back to his home country. On Monday November, 26th, 44 year old David Dixon of McMinnville was indicted on two counts of first degree murder in the case. The case was presented to the DeKalb County Grand Jury by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The TBI reported that on August 7th, the Smithville Police Department responded to 311 Tommy Harrell Street and discovered the residence's owner, Beacham shot to death on the couch in his home. The second victim, Ticante was also found murdered and his body hidden under a tarp and some lumber in the backyard of the residence. TBI investigated the murders with the Smithville Police Department, DeKalb County Sheriff's Office and the 13th Judicial District Attorney General's Office. Dixon was picked up after the murders on August 7 and has been incarcerated at the DeKalb County Jail without bond since for violation of probation and for failure to appear. His bond on the murder charges is set at $200,000. Dixon has a lengthy criminal history here including charges for possession of a handgun while under the influence, manufacture and delivery of a schedule IV controlled substance, assault, public intoxication, violation of an order of protection, aggravated assault, theft, domestic asault, and simple possession.
* A February fire at 831 Hurricane Ridge Road claimed the life of 70 year old Kenneth Eugene Arnold. According to County Fire Chief Donny Green, three people were in the home at the time of the fire, Barbara Arnold, a resident there; Brad Driver, a family member; and the victim. Driver and Mrs. Arnold escaped unharmed. The victim, Mr. Arnold, who reportedly tried to extinguish the fire, didn't make it out. Driver went across the road to the home of relatives to call for help. The origin and cause of the fire were investigated by the state fire marshal. Mrs. Arnold and Driver told officials they believed the fire started from a portable electric heater. No foul play was suspected.
* Political newcomer Scott E. Cantrell unseated incumbent DeKalb County Property Assessor Timothy "Fud" Banks, and claimed the Democratic nomination for the office during the county Democratic Primary in March and went on to win the seat in August, defeating Republican Challenger Mason Carter. Cantrell received 763 votes to win the Democratic nomination over Banks, the four-term incumbent, who totaled 392 votes. Challenger Jonathan Bryan Keith came in a distant third in the Property Assessor race, with a total of 90 votes. Banks remained in office through August 31. Meanwhile, Carl Lee Webb defeated Richard Bullard in the only contested Constable race in the county, which was held in the Sixth District during the March Democratic Primary.
The Upper Cumberland Development District was in the news for much of the year as a result of a NewsChannel 5 investigation over allegations regarding the Living the Dream project including lavish spending and mismanagement of funds. Living the Dream is an upscale retirement home for seniors on an eleven acre estate between Baxter and Cookeville in Putnam County. The home is reportedly foreclosure property which was purchased specifically for the purpose of developing a retirement facility for seniors. In February, the board of directors voted to place Executive Director Wendy Askins on administrative leave for 30 days along with her deputy director, Larry Webb of DeKalb County, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The two later resigned. The UCDD board also fired its auditor and requested that he be investigated by the state for not turning up findings, uncovered by NewsChannel 5. Earl Carwile was appointed as interim director and Ashley Pealer was named as interim deputy in February, but Carwile resigned in June, blaming the agency's board for much of its financial problems. The story continues to unfold.
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* DeKalb County has two State Representatives under a new Republican drawn redistricting plan, unveiled in January and later approved by the legislature. State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver continues to represent a large portion of DeKalb County as part of the 40th district but part of DeKalb County is now in the 46th district, represented by Republican Mark Pody of Wilson County.
* Dan Evins, the 76 year old founder of Cracker Barrel died in January. Evins was born in Smithville in 1935. But a few years later, while still a young child, Evins and members of his family moved to Lebanon. Evins helped build the chain into a national brand as CEO from 1969 to 2001 and he served as chairman until he retired in 2004. Cracker Barrrel Old Country Store, Inc, headquartered in Lebanon, now operates more than 600 restaurants in 42 states.
* A fire in January at City Walk Apartments caused extensive damage to one of the buildings in the complex on East Bryant Street but no one was injured.
* An elderly DeKalb County man, who family members said suffered from Dementia/Alzheimers disease, was found dead in January about a quarter of a mile from his home. 80 year old Charles E. Lefler, who lived alone at 224 Cooper Lane off of Holmes Creek Road, was missing four days before his body was found. Members of the sheriff's department, rescue squad, county fire department, and TWRA conducted the search.A resident on Shady Place off Holmes Creek Road went looking and found Lefler's body on his property. It appeared he had been dead for some time. No foul play was suspected..
* Offensive, defensive, and kicking standout Zach Taylor, a senior, was named Most Valuable Player of the 2011 DeKalb County High School Football Team during the annual Awards Banquet held in January. The award was presented to Taylor by Coach Steve Trapp. Taylor helped lead the Tigers to an overall 8-3 record in 2011 including a home state play-off game. Meanwhile, Heather Hughes, a senior, was named Most Valuable Cheerleader.
* The DeKalb County School System announced it's "Teachers of the Year" at each of the five schools in January. This year's honoree were Beth Cantrell, a kindergarten teacher at Smithville Elementary School; Bethany Rigsby, a third grade teacher at Northside Elementary School; Karen Pelham, an eighth grade teacher at DeKalb Middle School; Jane Watson, a fifth grade teacher at DeKalb West School; and Donna Emmons, a teacher at DeKalb County High School. Emmons was named in May as the overall county teacher of the year.
* Steve Repasy of the Midway Station was named the "2011 County Firefighter of the Year" during the department's annual awards banquet held in January. Lieutenant Jay Cantrell, County Fire Department Equipment Officer, received the "Officer of the Year" award. The "Rookie" award went to Rodger Sweet of the Main Station.
* Fifty five people were named in sealed indictments handed down by the grand jury in January charged with selling drugs ranging from dilaudid, suboxone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, roxycodone, morphine, cocaine, oxycodone, xanax, heroin, and marijuana. Three of the people indicted were found with meth labs and three others were indicted on theft charges. The charges were the result of an undercover investigation in 2010-11 by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.
* Kirkland Smallwood, an eighth grader at DeKalb West School, won the 9th annual DeKalb County Spelling Bee in February at DeKalb County High School. Smallwood, the 13 year old son of Jimmy and Jennifer Smallwood of Liberty was among thirty nine students from the fourth grade to the eighth grade who participated in the contest. Eleven year old Christian Sisk, a fifth grader at Northside Elementary School, was the runner-up in the contest. His grandparents are Donald Arnold and Rosie Arnold of Smithville.
* The DeKalb County Commission, in February, made it easier for some businesses in the county to get a beer license. Even though the issue was not on the agenda, the commissioners, by a vote of seven to five, adopted a motion to reduce the minimum distance requirement from 2,000 feet to 800 feet between stores seeking to sell beer and places of public gathering such as churches and schools. The change became effective immediately and several stores took advantage of it, filing applications with the beer board soon after.
* Three people charged in the robbery of Liberty State Bank at Liberty in August 2010 pleaded guilty under negotiated settlements in criminal court in February. 40 year old Craig Hill, 46 year old Ricky Estes, and 27 year old Roxanna Landis all of Smithville were each indicted on the charge of aggravated robbery in April, 2011. Standing before Judge David Patterson, Hill pleaded guilty to robbery and received a ten year sentence to serve in the Tennessee Department of Corrections as a range III offender. The term is to run concurrently with any other sentence against him. He was given jail credit of 559 days. Hill, who is accused of actually committing the robbery in which $6,000 was taken, turned himself in at the DeKalb County Jail on Saturday, August 14th, 2010 eleven days after the robbery on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010. Estes and Landis, accomplices in the crime, were arrested on August 20th, 2010. Estes pleaded guilty to facilitation of aggravated robbery. He received a six year sentence in special needs as a range one offender. The sentence is to run concurrently with a violation of probation case against him. Estes was given jail credit of 553 days. Landis pleaded guilty to facilitation of attempted aggravated robbery. She received a five year TDOC sentence suspended upon time served. Her probation will be supervised by community corrections. Landis was given jail credit of 123 days.
* Following an undercover investigation into allegations of illegal sales of liquor, agents of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, in March raided the VFW club on the Sparta Highway seizing gambling machines, a raffle prize, and cash. Special Agent Brad Allison, in a telephone interview with WJLE, said bartender Brian Foye was cited for unlawful sale of alcohol and quartermaster Thomas Skelenka was issued citations for storage of alcohol for sale and possession of gambling devices. All are misdemeanor offenses. Operators of the VFW allegedly kept selling liquor, even after letting their liquor license expire. As a result of the investigation, the VFW also had to surrender its beer license, pending a hearing before the DeKalb County Beer Board. In a brief meeting in May, the DeKalb County Beer Board gave the okay for Quartermaster Thomas Skelenka to pick up the permit at the County Clerk's Office. County Attorney Hilton Conger said since the license had never been revoked, the beer board could simply give it back. Skelenka and Foye have apparently settled their misdemeanor citations in court.
* Doug Stephens was appointed by the county commission in March to fill a vacancy on the school board in the sixth district. By a vote of 7-6-1, Stephens got the nod over Boyd Trapp to serve out the unexpired term of Bruce Parsley, who resigned effective December 31. The term expired August 31. Stephens later qualified to run for the position in the August 2 general election and won without opposition to a full four year term on the school board.
* A Smithville man was charged with vehicular homicide in a February Jackson County accident that killed a Cookeville man and his girlfriend. 29 year old Randy B. Johnson is charged with two counts of vehicular homicide in the death of 21 year old Brian C. Walton of Cookeville and 22 year old Kayla C. Biddy of Cleveland. Johnson was also charged with driving on a suspended license. Johnson was driving a 2005 Dodge Ram pickup and had three passengers, Kandle R. Bethcher of Cookeville in the front seat and the young couple in the back seat. He lost control of the vehicle on a curve, and the truck ran off the road, went airborne, struck a tree and landed on its top. The accident happened on Saturday, February 25, on Highway 135 near Spring Creek in Jackson County.
* Senior Alex Meadows and Junior Sonni Young were named the 2012 DCHS basketball Most Valuable Players at the annual team banquet in March, while Senior Ally Judkins was selected as the Most Valuable Cheerleader. Young, at that time, had scored 1,112 points to date in his career at DCHS. The awards were presented by Chad Kirby of Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. The MVP and MVC awards are named in memory Chad's grandfather, Allen D. Hooper. The season for the DeKalb County Tigers ended with a loss to the Sequatchie County Indians in the semi-finals of the Region 4-AA Tournament at White County High School in Sparta. The Tigers concluded the 2011-12 campaign with an over-all record of 26-7. They were also runners-up in the district tournament. The DeKalb County Lady Tigers wrapped up their season losing to Cannon County in the opening game of the District 8 AA basketball tournament at Sparta. The Lady Tigers finished with an over-all record of 13-16.
* Two DeKalb County men were taken into custody in Warren County in April after allegedly committing an armed robbery at the Sparta Discount Drug Store in White County. 34 year old Christopher Morris Stanley and 33 year old Ricky Allen Ashford, II were reportedly arrested separately after a foot chase off Shady Rest Road near the VFW in Warren County. The two men were taken to the White County Jail facing charges of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. They also faced charges in Warren County for trying to flee from authorities.Stanley and Ashford allegedly robbed the pharmacy at gunpoint, demanding cash and drugs.
* Four year old Isabella Faith Rackley of Smithville was crowned the 2012 Little Miss of the annual spring pageant sponsored by the Smithville Women's Club in April. Rackley is the daughter of Jessica and Gordon Rackley. She was also named Little Miss Photogenic.. Five year old Carter Matthew-Mikel Benson of Smithville was crowned Little Mister of the spring pageant. Benson is the son of Karey and Chris Benson. The title of Mister Personality went to four year old Chase Sullivan of Smithville, son of Charity Sullivan and the late Jamie Sullivan. Fourteen year old Liz Abigail Qualls of Smithville was named the new Junior Miss of the Spring Blossom Pageant. Qualls is the daughter of Brad and Kim Trapp and Jason and Stormy Qualls. Morgan Marie Vickers was selected as Miss Congeniality. She is the fourteen year old daughter of Wanda and Joe Vickers of Liberty.
* A physical education teacher at Smithville Elementary School, who had already served a one day suspension without pay for "neglect of duty" and "insubordination", was suspended for two additional days by the Board of Education in April. During a special meeting, the board voted 5 to 0 to sustain the one day suspension of Bradley Hendrix which was imposed by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and later upheld on appeal by Hearing Officer Robert G. Wheeler, Jr. But taking the position that the one day suspension was not enough, the board then voted 4 to 1 to suspend Hendrix for two more days without pay, making his total suspension three days. Director Willoughby suspended Hendrix for one day for "neglect of duty" and "insubordination" after Hendrix left early from a student field trip in Murfreesboro last December without getting the permission of his supervisor, former Principal Dr. Bill Tanner. Hendrix appealed Willoughby's decision and Wheeler, the hearing officer took up the matter on February 27. A month later Wheeler issued a written report on his "Finding of Facts and Conclusions of Law" upholding Director Willoughby's suspension. Hendrix then filed an appeal with the Board of Education, which was the reason for the special meeting in April. Hendrix, who appeared before the school board without his attorney, admitted that he should have sought permission before leaving early from the field trip. However, Hendrix added that in his twelve years as a school teacher, he has never before been suspended and that he is the only teacher to ever have been suspended by Director Willoughby. Hendrix indicated that he has been treated differently than other teachers who have done similar things and that his troubles with Willoughby began after he was elected to the county commission.
* A 60 year old man died in April after he fell some twenty feet off a bluff at his farm on the Johnson Town Road/Ferrell Road near the Cannon County line. Dead is Myron Dale Tidwell. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Tidwell and a woman were marking boundary lines on the farm, when Tidwell slipped off a steep bluff, falling some twenty feet. He landed in a creek bed, suffering a head injury. Tidwell was taken by ground ambulance to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead. A resident of Chattanooga, Tidwell reportedly had only recently purchased the farm.
* The Smithville Aldermen in April voted to hire a Nashville public relations company, the Calvert Street Group, to better educate the public, from the city's perspective, on the impact of a plan by the DeKalb Utility District to build its own water treatment plant. The mayor and aldermen were told by the city's utility engineer, J.R. Wauford, that if the DUD builds its own water plant and stops purchasing water from the city, it could mean rate increases of ten to twenty five percent for Smithville customers and up to fifty percent rate hikes for customers of the DeKalb Utility District. Wauford and Mayor Taft Hendrixson proposed hiring the Calvert Street Group to get the city's message out to the public. The cost to the city will be $5,000 per month on a month to month basis. City officials said there was no need for another water plant since the city can sell DUD all the water it needs at cost.
* The partners in American Modus laid out their vision for Lakeside Resort in a power point presentation in April during a UCHRA policy council meeting in Cookeville. Ideas to make the resort more family oriented, presented by Jim Himelrick and Bob Pierce, include Disney style landscaping to give it a much more attractive look; adding more cabins and recreational amenities like lake inflatables, play areas, and a splash pool; and sprucing up the lodging facilities with new flat screen TV's, carpeting, and other cosmetic upgrades. Himelrick and Pierce proposed entering into a management contract with UCHRA for $5,000 per month for eight months as they work toward acquiring their own land lease on the property with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and assuming all UCHRA loan obligations on the resort by January 1st, 2013. After hearing the proposal and discussing other issues with Himelrick and Pierce, the policy council authorized the UCHRA Lakeside Committee to negotiate a contract with them, subject to final approval by the full UCHRA board of directors.
* USDA Rural Development approved loan and grant funding for DeKalb Utility District's proposed water treatment plant in May. During a DUD board meeting, Chairman Roger Turney announced that Congressman Diane Black had confirmed that the water utility will receive a $5,000,000 loan and a grant of $1,250,000. The terms of the loan are forty years at 2.75% interest. The remaining $4,250,000 needed to build the $10.5 million facility will be funded through a bond issue. Buddy Koonce, Jr. of Goodwyn, Mills, Cawood, the DUD's utility engineer said that plans were being drawn up and would be sent to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Once funding is all in place and the state approves the plans, bids can be let on the project. Rural Development funds will be used to construct a new Raw Water Intake, Raw Water Transmission Line, Water Treatment Plant and distribution system improvements. The proposed plant will be constructed near Holmes Creek Road and will have a capacity of three million gallons per day. The intake will be on Center Hill Lake, the Transmission Line along Holmes Creek Road and distribution lines will be along Allen's Chapel, Game Ridge, Turner, South Tittsworth, and Big Rock Roads, and Wheeler Lane. Turney blamed the City of Smithville and its PR firm of spreading misinformation about the percentage of increases in water rates. Turney said by having its own water treatment plant, the DUD would be better able to control its own destiny. He added that two water plants in the county would also be better for all residents, rather than just one plant, especially during times of emergencies. Later in May, opponents of the proposed water plant crowded into a small meeting room and hallway for a special DUD board meeting at the utility's office building. Many of them spoke out against the board's decision to build the plant. Board chairman Turney took comments and questions from the audience for about an hour and forty five minutes, before the board took action approving a bond resolution for the project. Four of the five board members voted in favor of the resolution, including Chairman Turney, Joe Foutch, Danny Bass, and Jimmy Womack. Board member Hugh Washer voted against the resolution. The DeKalb Utility District serves parts of a four county area, DeKalb, Cannon, Smith, and Wilson.
* Capella Healthcare and Saint Thomas Health finalized an innovative partnership in May resulting in the joint ownership of four Middle Tennessee Hospitals including DeKalb Community Hospital. The local partnership announcement was made during a brief program held at the hospital here. Effective May 1, the partnership resulted in the joint ownership and operation of Capella's four Middle Tennessee hospitals and potentially additional healthcare facilities in a 60-county area of Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky. Capella hospitals included in the joint venture are River Park Hospital in McMinnville, White County Community Hospital in Sparta, DeKalb Community Hospital in Smithville and Stones River Hospital in Woodbury, all in Tennessee. These hospitals will operate as part of the Saint Thomas Health Network, which will hold an equity interest. In addition, Saint Thomas Health will become the tertiary care partner for the hospitals within the new venture. Effective Monday, June 18, Bob Luther became Interim CEO for DeKalb Community Hospital and Stones River Hospital. Bill Little, former CEO at DeKalb Community Hospital, was named in June as full-time CEO for Highlands Medical Center (HMC) in Sparta (formerly White County Community Hospital).
* The Tennessee Titans Caravan made a stop at Smithville Elementary School in May. Students and school staff met Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas, the "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith of Titans Radio, and Titans Mascot T-Rac.
* The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department received its first ever ladder truck this year. The aldermen, in May adopted a recommendation by Fire Chief Charlie Parker to accept a bid from EVS-Midsouth, Inc of Memphis in the amount of $746,705 for a Pierce Impel 75 foot Hal Quint aerial ladder truck with a 1,750 gallon per minute pump/500 gallon tank. This was the lowest of the two bids submitted. The other bid was from Cumberland International Trucks of Nashville for a 2012 Sutphen 75 Foot Pumper/Ladder with a Stainless Steel Rescue Style Body complete and delivered in the amount of $785,818 .The aldermen, at the suggestion of Mayor Taft Hendrixson, chose to make the initial $250,000 down payment to EVS-Midsouth for the truck when ordered as called for in the bid, and to pay the rest off when the truck is delivered by the end of July. Mayor Hendrixson said he saw no reason to pay interest when the city has the money in the bank to buy the truck. The ladder truck arrived August 1.
* Runners, both young and older, participated in the fourth annual Relay for Life 5K and One Mile Fun Run in May starting from Greenbrook Park. Money raised through the run will go to the American Cancer Society to help find a cure and for patient services. Jeff Bandy was the overall winner in the 5K. He ran the course in 20:35. Kristen VanVranken had the best time among women at 22:19.
* More than one million dollars in scholarships were awarded to sixty nine members of the Class of 2012 at DeKalb County High School during the annual Senior Awards Day program in May. Representatives of colleges, universities, branches of the armed services, businesses, civic groups, and other organizations made the presentations. Heather Vidal, the Class Salutatorian, received more than $108,000 in scholarships, the largest total award presented to any student during the program. Vidal was presented a scholarship of $84,820 from Union University and the $24,000 Ned McWherter scholarship.
* It was a night of joy and celebration for the Class of 2012 on the occasion of graduation at DeKalb County High School in May. Three of the most outstanding members of the class were singled out for special recognition. This year's White Rose Awards went to Adam James and Ally Judkins while the Citizenship Award was presented to Elizabeth Sanders. The 168 students received diplomas during the commencement, each one shaking hands with Director of Schools Mark Willoughby as their names were called by Principal Kathy Hendrix.
* Smithville Elementary School has a new principal. Julie Vincent, who for the last year had served as assistant principal at Northside Elementary School, became principal at Smithville Elementary School, effective July 1st. Director of Schools Mark Willoughby made the announcement in June. Karen Knowles will continue to be the assistant principal there. Dr. Bill Tanner, who had been principal at Smithville Elementary for several years, was re-assigned to another position in the school system.
* Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, in June, announced that Patrick Cripps had been named principal at DCHS. Cripps, who has served as assistant principal at DCHS for the past seven years, succeeded retiring principal Kathy Hendrix. Prior to his role as assistant principal, Cripps was guidance counselor at the high school for five years. Assistant principal David Gash will remain part of the administration team at DCHS and Kathy Bryant will be coming to the high school from DeKalb Middle School to fill the other assistant principal position. Meanwhile Willoughby reported that Amanda Dakas will become the new assistant principal at DeKalb Middle School and Beth Pafford will join the staff at Northside Elementary as assistant principal. Principals Dr. Gayle Redmon at Northside Elementary, Randy Jennings at DeKalb Middle School, and Danny Parkerson at DeKalb West School are returning for another year, as is assistant DeKalb West Principal Sabrina Farler. All their new contracts became effective, July 1st.
* The Smithville Aldermen, in June, adopted an $8.2 million dollar budget ordinance for the 2012-13 fiscal year which includes cost of living pay raises for employees, larger pay hikes for the police chief, secretary-treasurer, and airport manager, the creation of one new full-time fire department administrator position, addition of a part-time court officer position for the police department to relieve overtime, and funding for a new fire department ladder truck. A new eight step wage scale was also established for employees in the police department, while all other city employees will remain under the current four step wage scale. Mayor Taft Hendrixson warned the aldermen against deficit spending, saying the budget would require an appropriation of $975,233 from the surplus to the general fund, just to balance the budget without a property tax increase.
* DeKalb Countians by the hundreds filled Greenbrook Park in June to show their love and support for cancer survivors and to join the fight against the disease during the 15th annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life. More than $55,000 was raised.
* 67 year old Phyllis Bennett, who ran the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency for over 30 years, died in June at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. She had gone on medical leave from the UCHRA last spring, but remained with the agency as a consultant. Bennett had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. Phyllis began her career in 1973 with the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency. In 1978, she was appointed Executive Director and served until 2011 when she was hired as a consultant to the agency.
* Family and friends of the late PFC Billy Gene Anderson gathered with local and state public officials, veterans, and many others in June at the site of the bridge that will now forever bear his name at Dry Creek over U.S. 70 in Dowelltown. PFC Anderson died just over two years ago while serving his country in Afghanistan. The ceremony was the formal dedication of the "PFC Billy Gene Anderson Memorial Bridge" With the unveiling of the road sign by the bridge, Anderson's widow, Caitlin and mother, Marlene were presented replicas as well as copies of the act, adopted by both the State House and Senate and signed by the Governor, naming the bridge in his honor.
* A bomb threat at the courthouse in June apparently turned out to be just that, a threat. Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said a woman called the DeKalb County Circuit Court Clerk's Office to report that her husband was planning to come to the courthouse to set off a homemade explosive device. Since it was uncertain if the caller was directing the threat to someone in the courthouse downtown or the new county complex on South Congress Boulevard, Chief Caplinger said both buildings were evacuated as a precaution. A bomb dog was brought in and swept both buildings to check for any type of explosive device. Nothing suspicious was found and no arrests have been made.
* A grand opening was held in June for the new DeKalb County Complex, which includes a spacious stage and auditorium, complete with a state of the art sound system and lighting; a game room for kids, a fitness room, a gym for playing basketball or volleyball, and a community kitchen called the "Internet Café". Several hundred people showed up for the open house.
* Smithville voters elected a new Mayor and two new Aldermen in June. After serving three terms as Mayor of Smithville, Taft Hendrixson was defeated by challenger, Jimmy W. Poss in the election. Poss tallied 415 total votes (52.53%) to Hendrixson's 375 votes (47.47%) to claim the mayoral seat. Meanwhile, Tim Stribling and Jason Judd Murphy won seats on the city board, defeating incumbent Stephen White and fellow challenger, Scott Davis. Stribling received 541 total votes (38.56%) - the most of any candidate on the ballot - while Murphy was next with 463 votes (33%). White finished a distant third with 313 votes (22.31%), while Davis totaled 84 votes (5.99%) in the council race. Incumbent Alderman Cecil Burger chose not to seek re-election. Two-year terms for Poss, Stribling and Murphy began July 1. They received their oath of office during a special meeting on June 29. Smithville city voters also denied an attempt to place liquor by the drink in qualifying city restaurants. By a vote of 402 (54.69%) to 333 (45.31%) city voters said "No" to the liquor by the drink referendum, which would have given city restaurants the opportunity to apply for a license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission to serve wine and other mixed alcoholic beverages to their patrons
* 18 year old Zack Ferrell of Smithville, on his way to work at Nissan, lost his life in a pickup truck crash around 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning, July 1 on Highway 96 near Lascassas in Rutherford County. Trooper Michael Cummins of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said Ferrell was driving a 1986 Chevy pickup truck, heading toward Murfreesboro, when he ran off the right side of the highway and struck a guardrail. Ferrell apparently overcorrected and came back across the highway, crossing the center line and oncoming lane. The truck then went off an embankment and into a line of trees. The truck ran head on into a tree. Ferrell was partially ejected. Trooper Cummins said Ferrell died at the scene.
His body was taken to Middle Tennessee Medical Center in Murfreesboro. Ferrell graduated from DeKalb County High School in May.
* 18 year old Matthew Cleveland of Danville, Illinois was the overall winner of the Fiddler 5K and One-Mile Fun Run on July 7. Cleveland ran the course in 16:53. 17 year old Morgan Voyles of Sparta, best among women, ran the course in 21:59. Overall Masters winners (age 40 and up): 54 year old Jimmy Dawson of Cookeville at 19:07 and 40 year old Sarah Hart of Nashville at 23:58. One-Mile Fun Run: 12 year old Hunter Jennings of Smithville at 7:27 and 11 year old Ellen Bandy of McMinnville at 8:21. This year's 14th Annual Fiddler 5K and One-Mile Fun Run featured 426 participants, another record turnout. Funds raised will support Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County.
* The 41st annual Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree was historic in the sense that for the first time a mother and daughter competed for the most coveted prize of the festival, the Berry C. Williams Memorial award, presented to the best overall fiddler. Maddie Denton of Murfreesboro, who took the Junior fiddling title earlier in the day Saturday, July 7 went on to win the fiddle off against her mother, Marcia Denton of Murfreesboro, who had earlier won the senior fiddling competition.
* A girl from Chapmansboro took home this year's top Jamboree award as the best fiddler in the National Championship for Country Musician Beginners.Ivy Phillips was crowned the Grand Champion fiddler Saturday, July 7 and won the coveted James G. "Bobo" Driver Memorial Award, named for the man who started the children's competition during the 1980's as part of the annual Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival. The award was presented by members of Mr. Driver's family including Russell Ambrose, Adam Driver, Jimmy Driver, and Bert Driver. Phillips also won first place for beginner buck dancing and clogging and second place in beginner dobro guitar. Meanwhile Kyle Ramey of North Vernon, Indiana, for the second year in a row, received the "Entertainer of the Year" Award, which is presented to the best overall instrumental entertainer among winners in the dobro guitar, mandolin, five string banjo, and flat top guitar competition. Ramey took home first place in all four of those categories and placed second in another, fiddling. The National Championship for Country Musician Beginners showcases the talents of children up to age twelve in seven categories of competition.
* 30 year old Chris Gammons of Smithville, involved in a two vehicle crash on Saturday, June 23 died Monday, July 9 at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. Gammons was one of four people in that accident which occurred on Highway 70 near the intersection of Highway 96 (Dale Ridge Road) on Snow Hill. Gammons and Troy Bruno, both of Smithville were airlifted from near the scene of the crash by Life Force and Air Evac helicopter ambulances. The other two in the wreck were 32 year old Cleva Elaine Gammons of Smithville, wife of Chris Gammons, and 52 year old Johnny Hickey of Liberty. Hickey was not injured but was charged with three counts of vehicular assault as a result of the crash investigation. According to Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Hickey was traveling west on Highway 70 in a 2004 F350 full size flat bed truck when he crossed the turning lane and into the path of an eastbound 2002 Nissan Altima, driven by Cleva Elaine Gammons. Chris Gammons was a front seat passenger and Troy Bruno was a back seat passenger of the Altima. Chris Gammons was ejected and landed on the highway in front of the Altima. Bruno was trapped in the backseat and had to be extricated by members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Extrication and Rescue Team.Bruno and Chris Gammons were transported by DeKalb EMS to a helicopter landing zone on Highway 70 at the intersection of Toad Road. One of them was airlifted by a Life Force helicopter and the other was flown out by an Air Evac helicopter. Mrs. Gammons was transported to DeKalb Community Hospital, where she was treated and released. The complaint against Hickey states that he admitted to consuming four beers. Several field sobriety tasks were given. Hickey did not perform as demonstrated. Hickey was transported to the emergency room of the hospital for a blood alcohol test and then to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department for booking. Hickey was indicted by the grand jury November 26 on one count of vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault, and driving under the influence.
* 18 year old Victoria Dawn Tatrow Smithville was crowned the 2012 Fairest of the Fair in July. Tatrow, daughter of Corey and Vickie Funk and the late Shanna Tatrow, succeeded the retiring Queen, Katie Sue Haggard of Smithville, the 18 year old daughter of David and Vicki Haggard. Meanwhile the 2012 Junior Fair Princess of the DeKalb County Fair is 15 year old Lauren Elizabeth Colwell, daughter of Trent and Christie Colwell of Smithville. Colwell succeeded the retiring Junior Fair Princess, 17 year old Melanie Grace Rush of McMinnville, daughter of Susan and Greg Rush. Seven year old Kenlee Renae Taylor of Smithville captured the 2012 Little Miss Princess title. Taylor is the daughter of Ken and Cindy Taylor. She succeeded the 2011 Little Miss Princess nine year old Madison Rae Rackley of Smithville, daughter of Gordon and Jessica Rackley. The 2012 DeKalb County Fair Miss Sweetheart crown went to eleven year old Sarah Anne Colwell, the daughter of Trent and Christie Colwell of Smithville. Colwell, sister of the 2012 Junior Fair Princes Lauren Elizabeth Colwell, succeeded the 2011 Miss Sweetheart, Tyra Graham, the thirteen year old daughter of Kyle and Doris Graham of Smithville. Tony Bryson Trapp and Ansley Faith Cantrell were crowned Little Mister and Miss at the DeKalb County Fair. Trapp is the six year old son of Tony and Amanda Trapp of Smithville and Cantrell is the six year old daughter of Tony and Amee Cantrell of Smithville.Trapp succeeded his brother, the retiring Little Mister, seven year old Holden Craig Trapp, while Cantrell succeeded the retiring Little Miss Carlee Elizabeth West, the seven year old daughter of D.J. and Megan Stewart of Smithville.
* 50 year old Tim Caldwell of Dowelltown, involved in a July bicycle accident on Pea Ridge Road in the Dry Creek area, died and the Tennessee Highway Patrol investigated to determine if he was the victim of a hit and run. According to the THP, Caldwell was riding alone on a bicycle when he apparently went off in a ditch and was thrown from the bike. The caller reported that a guy had been hit by a car on a bike. Officers arrived at the scene and spoke with Caldwell who reportedly told them that a big car with a young guy driving had been responsible.Caldwell was taken by DeKalb EMS to a helicopter landing zone set up near the scene. He was airlifted to Vanderbilt hospital where he died the next day. Trooper Jeremy Wilhite and the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) of the Tennessee Highway Patrol investigated to determine whether Caldwell was the victim of a hit and run or just a tragic accident with no one else involved.
* The body of 36 year old Waylon Farless, a DeKalb County prisoner who managed to escape from the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Facility in July by attempting to swim across the Tennessee River, was found two days after his escape about a mile down river.Chattanooga Police spokesman Nathan Hartwig said that officers responded to a "body found" call just after 11:00 a.m. Thursday morning, July 26 and were able to confirm the body was that of patient Waylon Farless. The escape happened around 7:15 p.m. Tuesday evening. July 24. Farless had criminal charges out of DeKalb County and was taken to Moccasin Bend for mental health concerns. Members of Chattanooga search and rescue teams spent nearly a day searching the river near the mental health facility before calling off the search late Wednesday afternoon, July 25. Witnesses told Chattanooga police that they saw the man (Farless) swim about halfway across the river before calling for help, then submerging Tuesday evening. Farless was on a criminal hold from the DeKalb County Jail. Farless was arrested by the Sheriff's Department on Thursday, July 19 on charges of driving on a revoked license and theft of property. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Farless was sent to the Smith County Jail on Friday, July 20 to be housed for DeKalb County. While there, Farless allegedly tried to harm himself and was taken to the hospital in Carthage. After that incident, Farless was picked up by DeKalb County deputies on Saturday, July 21. Farless underwent a mental evaluation and was sent to Moccasin Bend. Sheriff Ray said Moccasin Bend staff contacted him Tuesday, July 24 saying they were planning to release Farless back to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department by noon that day. Sheriff Ray said he was notified later that Farless had escaped from the facility and was last seen trying to swim across the river.
* City voters will decide in November whether they want liquor stores in the City of Smithville. According to the DeKalb County Election Commission, Randy Paris, in July submitted more than the ninety valid signatures he needed on petitions to get the issue before city voters in the November 6th Tennessee General Election. The local option referendum seeks to "authorize retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages in the City of Smithville".The referendum will be decided only by registered voters in the city of Smithville and city property rights voters. Paris, in a telephone interview with WJLE, said this is a way to boost the local economy and bring in more tax revenue. The City of Smithville has a beer board that issues permits to eligible applicants for the sale of beer within the city limits. While the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission has the authority over the issuance of liquor licenses, the City of Smithville would still have a role to play. According to officials of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, if the referendum were to be approved by the voters, the City of Smithville would have to adopt Certificate of Compliance regulations. The city also has the authority to limit the number of liquor stores operating within it's corporate limits.
* The DeKalb County Commission, in July adopted a resolution authorizing the issuance of a general obligation capital outlay note in an amount not to exceed $3.4 million for school system building/roofing projects. The note will cover the $600,000 FEMA grant match to build eight tornado safe rooms at DeKalb West School, an $850,000 cafeteria and kitchen renovation project at DeKalb West School; a $1.1 million DeKalb Middle School roof project, a $700,000 DeKalb West School roof project; and an $85,000 Smithville Elementary School partial roof project. No property tax increase will be required. The county will spend $600,000 in local funding to meet a 12.5% FEMA grant match for building the "safe rooms" at DeKalb West School. The purpose of the "safe rooms" is to relieve overcrowding and to shelter students, school staff, and the general public in times of severe weather. Under the grant program, the federal government pays 75% of the cost. The state pays 12.5% and the local share is 12.5%. Any further costs related to construction not covered by the FEMA grant, including furnishing classrooms, is to be funded locally. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency has approved grant funds of more than $1.5 million for the safe room project at DeKalb West School, pending final approval by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The proposed 15,000 square foot addition will be constructed in the front of the school, including eight classrooms, restrooms, a new secure entrance, an office, clinic, conference room, guidance and teacher work area. Although a new larger DWS cafeteria and kitchen does not qualify under the FEMA grant as school officials had hoped, the architects included in the design an expansion of the existing dining area to be funded locally and that project is covered in the capital outlay note.
* The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department received its first ever ladder truck in August. In May, city aldermen adopted a recommendation by Chief Charlie Parker to accept a bid from EVS-Midsouth, Inc of Memphis for this Pierce Impel 75 foot aerial ladder truck with a 1,750 gallon per minute pump/500 gallon tank. The aldermen, at the suggestion of Taft Hendrixson, who was mayor at the time, chose to make the initial $250,000 down payment to EVS-Midsouth for the truck as called for in the bid, and to pay the rest off, $496,305 upon delivery. The total cost of the truck is $746,305. All the money for the purchase of the truck has been appropriated from the city's general fund reserve
* DeKalb County voters chose Scott Cantrell as their next Assessor of Property in the August General Election. Cantrell, the Democratic nominee, defeated Republican challenger Mason Carter 1,506 (62.9%) to 884 (36.9%) winning nine of the sixteen precincts. Cantrell took office on September 1st, succeeding Timothy (Fud) Banks who had been DeKalb County's Assessor of Property since 1996. A total of 2,444 people voted in the elections. Meanwhile, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III held off a strong challenge by Kevin Hale to win re-election to the school board from the fifth district. In other uncontested local races, Doug Stephens received 173 complimentary votes and won the Sixth District seat on the Board of Education. Five constables were also elected in uncontested races.
* After deliberating for three hours, a DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury of eight women and four men in August found 34 year old Richard Mooney not guilty of felony murder and theft of property over $1,000 in the death of 63 year old Robert "Bob" Senick. Mooney is not a free man. He is currently serving a ten year sentence in a Rutherford County car jacking case and is being returned there to be incarcerated. Had he been convicted of felony murder, Mooney could have been facing a life prison sentence. Denying charges that he murdered Robert "Bob" Senick almost three years ago, Richard Mooney testified in his own defense. "He was a friend of mine. I didn't have anything to do with his death," said Mooney, referring to Senick, whose charred remains were found beneath the rubble of his burned down trailer home on October 7, 2009 near Liberty. Senick had been shot once in the head. Investigators believe Mooney shot Senick, stole drugs and cash from the residence, and then burned down the home. Mooney's blood DNA was found at the scene. But Mooney, often sounding defiant while on the witness stand, insisted that investigators never had any proof of his guilt. Mooney accused TBI agent Billy Miller and Sheriff Patrick Ray of twisting the truth in order to try and win a conviction against him in court. Mooney, who has a history of criminal activity including thefts, assault, and carjacking in other counties, claimed it was ridiculous to think he would have killed Senick for cash, when Senick, according to Mooney would have willingly given him any money he needed, if he had it because he was such a good friend.
* A vacancy on the DeKalb County Election Commission was filled in August. The Tennessee Election Commission appointed Richard Hearon Puckett to fill the unexpired term of Kenneth Moore, who died this year. Moore had served as one of the democratic members of the commission since 1980. His term expires next April. Puckett, who served 42 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, joined Harry Lasser as the two democratic members of the local election commission. The other members of the commission, Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean, are all Republicans.
* After serving 32 years as a city volunteer fire fighter, including over 21 years as a volunteer fire chief, Charlie Parker is now a full time paid administrator or fire chief for the City of Smithville. By a vote of 5-0, Parker was officially hired in August by the aldermen for this position, created in this year's city budget. The city advertised but Parker was the only applicant for the job. Parker is paid a salary of $35,350 per year plus health, life, and dental insurance benefits, like all other city employees. Parker will be allowed flex time or comp time if he needs to take time off for working extra hours beyond a forty hour work week due to fire calls and training.
* The Upper Cumberland Development District reinstated two employees in August who had previously been let go from their jobs and reached a settlement agreement with one of them in her federal lawsuit against the agency. Ashley Pealer and her mother Kathy reportedly returned to work. Ashley Pealer filed the lawsuit against the UCDD; the man who fired her, Randy Williams, who was UCDD's interim executive director at the time; and Mike Gannon, chairman of the UCDD board. Pealer claimed her personal cell phone messages and Facebook account were hacked, a violation of her Constitutional rights. Pealer was represented by W. Gary Blackburn of Nashville. Allegations involved violations of the Stored Communications Act and the Wiretap Act, allegedly committed by Williams and Gannon. Board members seeking reinstatement of Pealer and her mother finally received the necessary votes to forward that recommendation on to UCDD's new executive director Mark Farley.
* A 33 year old Lebanon man was arrested in September following a high speed pursuit which ended after the suspect ran his Jeep Cherokee into a corn field and fled on foot shortly after 1:00 a.m. near the intersection of Highway 146 (Short Mountain Highway) and Highway 83 (New Home Road). The man arrested, Davien Brown of Oak Dale Drive, Lebanon, was a suspect in a burglary that night at L& C Market in Watertown. A cash drawer from the store, containing money was found in the Jeep Cherokee along with boltcutters, believed to have been used to break into the store. The suspect is believed to have committed nine burglaries within the previous seven days in Wilson County.
* Smithville Police found two people operating a meth lab inside a shed on private property within a few feet of DeKalb County High School in September. Chief Randy Caplinger told WJLE that 36 year old Bobby Pinegar, Jr. and 32 year old Mistey Goff were each charged with initiation of a process intended to manufacture methamphetamine, sale and delivery of a controlled substance in a drug free school zone, and reckless endangerment. According to Chief Caplinger, Smithville Police Officer Chip Avera was on patrol in the high school parking lot when he spotted smoke coming from a shed behind a brick home on West Main Street. The property is next to the DeKalb County High School campus. Officer Avera was joined at the scene by Chief Caplinger and Detectives Matt Holmes and Brandon Donnell of the Smithville Police Department. They approached the shed and knocked on the door. After Pinegar opened the door and came out, officers could see inside the shed a green bottle containing liquid. Smoke was coming from the bottle. Other components were also spotted inside the shed that are commonly used in the manufacture of meth including coffee filters, tubing, bottles of unknown liquids, a 20 ounce bottle of a liquid sludge, among other items. Two cellophane bags were also found containing finished meth, ready for sale. Both Pinegar and Goff were taken into custody
* Susan (Sue) Conley, FACHE, has been named Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for DeKalb Community Hospital (DCH) and Stones River Hospital (SRH) by the Upper Cumberland Healthcare Initiatives (UCHI) Board and Capella Healthcare in consultation with the hospital's Board of Trustees. She began the new position on Monday, October 1. Conley comes to DCH and SRH from Van Buren, AR, where she had been serving as CEO of Summit Medical Center, a 103-bed acute medical/surgical hospital. Prior to this, she served as CEO at Mesa Vista Regional Hospital in Mesquite, NV; and as COO at a number of hospitals including 492-bed Sparks Health System in Fort Smith, AR; Medical Center of South Arkansas in El Dorado, AR; and Brownwood Regional Hospital in Brownwood, TX. She also served as an Assistant Administrator and Laboratory Supervisor after beginning her healthcare career as a Medical Technologist.
* A settlement was reached in a federal court lawsuit against DeKalb County and others over the death of an inmate while in the custody of the Sheriff's Department nearly three years ago. Terms of the settlement have not been made public. Doris Hullett filed the lawsuit over a year and a half ago in the death of her son, Jackie Lee Snider, who was arrested December 31, 2009 and died on January 30, 2010 after being taken from the jail to DeKalb Community Hospital. According to the lawsuit, "the medical examiner reported that Snider died of pancreatitis, which is an extremely painful and serious medical condition. If Snider's pancreatitis had been treated on or before the morning of January 30, 2010, Snider would have survived without permanent, long term consequences," according to the lawsuit. A source confirmed for WJLE that the case had been settled but said that all parties involved were instructed not to discuss it. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants violated Snider's constitutional rights when they denied him reasonable medical care for his serious medical condition, thereby causing him extensive pain and suffering and ultimately death.
* The 2012 Homecoming Queen at DeKalb County High School was Kaylee Cantrell. A senior, Cantrell is the 17 year old daughter of Shannon and Tonya Cantrell of Smithville.The Homecoming Attendants were Senior Attendant -Emily Webb, the 17 year old daughter of Alan and Lora Webb of Smithville; Senior Attendant- Grace Webb, the 17 year old daughter of C.D. and Cindy Webb of Dowelltown; Junior Attendant- Elizabeth Mason, 16 year old daughter of Jim and April Mason of Dowelltown; Sophomore Attendant- Mariah Jones, the 15 year old daughter of Bill and Melissa Jones of Smithville; and Freshman Attendant- Jailyn Bolding, the 14 year old daughter of Bradley and Lori Hendrix of Smithville and Brad and Marcy Bolding of Rock Island.
* Seventh district school board member Johnny Lattimore was elected Chairman of the DeKalb County Board of Education. The school board reorganizes each September, naming a chairman, vice-chairman, and an assistant secretary. In addition to Chairman Lattimore, the board re-elected Rhody as Vice-Chairman and First district member Foutch as assistant secretary without opposition.
* Smithville Municipal Judge Hilton Conger will serve for another two years.The aldermen approved Conger's reappointment during a city council meeting in September. The City Judge, who was once elected by city voters to an eight year term, now serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, appointed to a two year term. His salary is $1,000 per month.Conger was last elected as City Judge in 1998. He was named to his first appointed term in 2006 and he was re-appointed in 2008 and 2010. After changes were made in the City Charter a few years ago, the City Court's jurisdiction was reduced to mostly minor traffic offenses and city ordinance violations. The court now convenes usually once per month.Conger's new term runs through August 31, 2014.
* A bus, loaded with 32 students heading home from elementary after school programs, became stranded in a flash flood on Dearman Street in September. Central dispatch received the call at 6:01 p.m. from someone reporting that the bus had slid off the road. The side doors to the bus were heavily damaged but neither the driver, Gayle Pack, nor any of the students aboard were injured. The students, who exited through the rear emergency door of the bus, were loaded onto another bus which was called to the scene. Because of the rising flood waters, the DeKalb County Rescue Squad was summoned to assist in transferring the students from one bus to the other. Members of the Smithville Police and Fire Departments and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department were also on site along with Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and other school administrators.
* A ground breaking celebration was held for the fourth Habitat for Humanity home in DeKalb County in September. Committee and Board members of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County and the new partner family, Melba Vinca and her grandchildren Bradley Mullican, Cayton Lance, and Justin Lance gathered for the brief ceremony at the future site of the home on Hayes Street in Smithville. During the ground breaking ceremony, Local Habitat President Nolan Turner made welcoming remarks and introduced the partner family. Dr. John Carpenter, minister of the Smithville First United Methodist Church and Bright Hill United Methodist Church led the attendees in the Responsive Reading and prayer. After the groundbreaking, Dr. Carpenter closed the ceremony with prayer.This is the fourth Habitat home in DeKalb County. Two of them are on Adams Street. The third is on Hayes Street.
* Members of DTC Communications (DeKalb Telephone Cooperative) voting during the annual meeting soundly defeated three proposed bylaw changes which were on the ballot in September. The meeting was held at the fairgrounds in Alexandria. By a vote of 231 to 62, voting members said no to making those three changes in the bylaws as recommended by the DTC board of directors. Meanwhile, the three incumbent DTC board members running without opposition, were each re-elected to a new three year term.Ronnie Garrison of the Smithville exchange received 231 votes. Randy Campbell of Liberty had 207 votes, and Bennie Curtis of Alexandria garnered 197 votes. Had the proposed bylaw amendments been approved by the membership, former employees and close relatives of current employees and directors would not have been eligible to serve as a member of the DTC Communications Board of Directors. Another proposed amendment sought to hold the annual meetings at such location within the service area as the Board of Directors may designate before each and every meeting. All three proposed bylaw changes were defeated together in one vote.
* DeKalb County's Mallory Sullivan fired a 74 at Ironwood Golf Course and Ethan Roller shot a 74 at the White Plains Course to win individual titles in the District 8-A/AA golf tournaments in Cookeville. It was Sullivan's second-straight title. Zach Martin shot a 77 to win the silver medal with the second lowest score. Meanwhile, the DeKalb County boys, for the ninth consecutive year, claimed the district championship. They won with a team score of 320. "This was the ninth year in a row they won that district championship and that's a pretty astounding level of golf talent we've had come through DeKalb County," said Coach Joe Pat Cope. Sullivan advanced to the Region 4-A/AA Tournament as an individual in Chattanooga.
* Taxpayer money has been used to cover $2 million for travel expenses, meals and entertainment, mobile communications devices and subsidies for a training complex and resort property used by the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, an investigation by the Comptroller's Division of Investigations revealed in a report released in September. Among other issues, investigators found that agency officials spent nearly $60,000 on an annual trip to Washington, D.C., more than $1.6 million to subsidize its training complex and resort property, $123,000 for gift certificates for training events, more than $100,000 annually on 160 mobile communication devices for employees, and thousands of dollars for extravagant meals and entertainment. The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency serves 14 counties in the Cumberland Plateau region with a 63-member board comprised of various county and city mayors and derives the vast majority of its funding from state and federal governments. The Comptroller's investigative report details how agency officials made tens of thousands of dollars in disbursements for non-public purposes in 2011 alone.
* After five years or more of life in America, MTSU student Tammy Li of Smithville needs no more time to make up her mind. She became a U.S. citizen at a naturalization ceremony on the campus of her university on Monday, September 17. MTSU celebrated Constitution Day by hosting a rare naturalization ceremony held outside Nashville for new Middle Tennessee citizens, according to a report in MTSU news.com. Li was among almost 300 people taking the oath of citizenship at the event. Tammy Li, a bubbly 19-year-old freshman majoring in nutrition and food science, came to America from Fujian Province near Hong Kong in the People's Republic of China. She lived with her parents in New York for a year but has lived in Smithville since her freshman year of high school. Li, who speaks Mandarin, Cantonese and other Chinese dialects, in addition to English, graduated high school in May with a 3.5 GPA. Her transcript includes membership in the Beta Club, the Science Club, 4-H and the Student Council.
* 41 year old William Larry Dyle, II. of McMinnville was found dead at the scene of a motorcycle crash on Highway 56 south near WJLE in September. Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Dyle was operating a 2007 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle southbound and failed to negotiate a curve. He ran off the right side of the roadway, struck two mailboxes and a utility pole near the home of Phillip Cantrell. Dyle, who died at the scene, was wearing a helmet but was thrown from the bike. He landed about ten yards away from the motorcycle.Trooper Johnson said it is unknown when the accident occurred. A couple out walking discovered the crash and reported it to 911 at around 6:19 a.m. Dyle's body was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital
* Mallory Sullivan finished tied for 14th in the girls Class A/AA state golf tournament at Willowbrook in Manchester. The DCHS Junior shot 84 on the first day and 86 the second day for a total score of 170. It was her third straight state tournament appearance. Sullivan finished in second place last year. Sullivan finished second with an 82 in the Region 4-A/AA tournament at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay to qualify for the state tournament. Meanwhile, the District 8-A/AA champion DeKalb County boys team finished in third place in the region tournament with a 326, behind champion Signal Mountain (302) and runner-up Notre Dame (316). Zach Martin turned in the Tigers' best finish, in 10th place with a 79. Ethan Roller was close behind with an 80, followed by Hayden Ervin (81) and Cory Kijanski (86). Dylan Young (90) was also in the lineup
* The Upper Cumberland Development District's (UCDD) former executive director Wendy Askins called an independent living facility for seniors "one of the sweetest projects in the history of [her] career." However, only a small handful of seniors lived in the facility after it was completed. And their accommodations were significantly less luxurious than those Askins and her daughter enjoyed after they moved into the publicly-funded facility's main living quarters. A report released in October by the State Comptroller's Division of Investigations identified numerous UCDD transactions that did not appear to serve a public or governmental purpose. The report concluded that the volume and type of inappropriate transactions identified indicates that the UCDD board of directors failed to uphold its duty to follow sound business and accounting practices, to ensure that all disbursements were appropriate, and to act in the best interests of the district and its goals. The Living the Dream Project was designed and planned by Askins while she served as executive director of the UCDD. The Comptroller's investigators questioned numerous transactions Askins ordered which did not appear to be in the development district's best interests. The investigators pursued a trail of improper spending on a project that appeared to primarily benefit Askins and certain members of her family.
* A 19 year old Smithville man died and two others were injured after their car ran into a tractor trailer rig on Interstate 40 in Smith County. Dead is Johnny Ray Farless. Those injured were 21 year old Amanda Price of Liberty and 19 year old Zachary Barlow of Lebanon. An official of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Farless and Barlow were passengers of a 2009 Hyundai, driven by Price. The accident occurred at around 2:06 a.m. According to the accident report filed by Trooper Nick Neal, Price was driving east on I-40 near the 252 mile marker when she apparently fell asleep and ran into the back of a 2012 tractor trailer, which was parked off the roadway near a truck rest stop area. The driver of the rig, 44 year old Alvin Walker of Olive Branch, Mississippi was asleep in the sleeper cab compartment of the truck at the time of the accident. The truck was loaded with general freight. After making impact with the rear of the trailer, Price's car spun around and came to rest halfway in the slow lane and the entrance ramp to the rest stop. Walker was not injured. Neither Farless, Price, nor Barlow were wearing a seatbelt
* A final settlement was reached in a lawsuit against the DeKalb County Board of Education over a school bus accident in April, 2010 on Highway 56 in front of Northside Elementary School at the close of school. Judge Amy Hollars approved the minor settlement for $20,000 on October 25 in DeKalb County Circuit Court in the case of Ashley Spivey and her daughter, who was two years old at the time of the accident. Claims on behalf of Spivey's one year old son were dismissed from the final settlement. Although the boy was involved in the crash he was not seriously injured and his medical bills were only approximately $200. A total of $13,333 of the settlement will be retained by the clerk of the court in an interest bearing account on behalf of Spivey's daughter until the child reaches eighteen years of age on March 4, 2026. The remaining $6,666 will be paid to Spivey's attorneys plus discretionary costs in the amount of $677, which will be paid directly to Spivey's lawyers by a separate draft. Spivey, as the mother of the child, had asked that she be paid $2,000 for the use and benefit of her daughter, but the court denied Spivey's request given her history of involvement with the Department of Children Services and the existence of an open case against her in the Juvenile Court. The $20,000 judgement is in addition to a $25,000 settlement, approved in August, 2010 stemming from a lawsuit against Sammy Spivey, the owner of the car in which Ashley Spivey and her children were passengers at the time of the crash. In that settlement, a total of $18,864 was distributed to the health providers of Spivey's child, and to the insurance company, and to Spivey's attorneys for fees and expenses. The remaining balance of $6,135 was to be directed to Spivey as parent and guardian for her daughter's use and benefit.In her case against the DeKalb County Board of Education, Spivey also had originally named DeKalb County and the bus driver, Walter Phillips, as defendants but the county and Phillips were later dropped from the case. The dismissal order stated that the alleged negligent operation of the school bus by the school bus driver was within the scope of his employment with the DeKalb County Board of Education, and that DeKalb County, a separate governmental entity, is not a proper party to this action, nor is Walter Phillips, individually, a proper party to this action under the Governmental Tort Liability Act insofar as the DeKalb County Board of Education has admitted that he was acting within the scope and course of his employment.
* The DeKalb County Fighting Tiger Band directed by Jonathan Wright and Assistant Director Joey Wilburn had a clean sweep in Cookeville at the US Bands State Championship held at Tennessee Tech University. This was the last competition of the season for the band and in honor of all the seniors in the band they went out on the field for the awards ceremony to collect the trophies. The awards they picked up were as follows
1st place band
Best Overall Effect
Best Visual Ensemble
Best Color Guard
* A Nashville attorney was hired by the DeKalb Utility District Board of Directors to assist their lawyer in representing them before the state's Utility Management Review Board in a rate review hearing. The DUD board retained the services of C. Dewey Branstetter, Jr. of Branstetter, Stranch, and Jennings PLLC of Nashville in November. He will be joining DUD attorney Keith Blair in handling legal issues pertaining to the matter. The Utility Management Review Board, citing the lack of jurisdiction, decided in October that it would not consider a petition filed by concerned citizens and ratepayers on whether or not the DeKalb Utility District should build a water treatment plant. But the UMRB decided that it would act on the petitioners request for a DUD rate review. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.
* The DeKalb County Tigers lost 37-14 at Livingston Academy in the second round of the 2012 Division I BlueCross Bowl Class 4A Football Playoffs in November. With the loss, the Tigers were eliminated and wrapped up the season at 10-2. Both losses were to Livingston Academy. The Tigers had punched their ticket to the second round of the play-offs with a 39 to 21 win over the Sequoyah Chiefs in Smithville in the first round. It was the first ever DCHS football play-off win at home and only the second time the school had hosted a play-off game. The victory also gave the Tigers a ten win season for the first time in school history.
* The school system has received final approval for a FEMA grant to fund a classroom addition at DeKalb West School, including eight tornado "safe rooms". During November's meeting, the Board of Education gave tentative approval to hire Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris of Mount Juliet as the architects for the project, subject to final approval by the board once the contract has been reviewed and accepted. David Brown of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects updated the school board on the project "At long last, we got our final approval letters from the state and FEMA and the last of the hoops to jump through were approved for our grant at DeKalb West," said Brown. "The next thing that will happen is you'll get a contract from the state that documents the 12 1/2% that they are going to put toward this (project) because if you'll remember out of the total grant, FEMA is going to take care of 75% and then the state of Tennessee is going to kick in another 12 1/2% which only leaves 12 ½%. That is what we've been waiting for. Its about eight weeks later than I thought it would be. We submitted (grant application) in March. We had heard from the state that everything looked good and that they were passing you on to Atlanta (FEMA office). Its what we've been waiting for and we can now move ahead with the project," said Brown.
* Smithville city voters defeated a liquor referendum for the second time this year in November. By a vote of 684 to 558, city voters rejected a referendum that would have allowed retail package stores, under certain conditions, to sell alcoholic beverages within the city limits of Smithville. Earlier this year, city voters rejected a referendum that would have allowed the sale of liquor by the drink in local restaurants. By law, another referendum permitting the sale of liquor in retail package stores cannot be placed on a city ballot for at least two years. Meanwhile, Republican incumbent State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver was re-elected to a third term. Weaver carried all 13 precincts in which she was on the ballot in DeKalb County along with early voting and absentees, earning a total of 2,741 DeKalb County votes to 1,517 votes for Democratic challenger Sarah Marie Smith. District-wide, Weaver won with 16,396 votes to 9,130 for Smith. Republican incumbent State Representative Mark Pody of the 46th Legislative District was unopposed and received 933 complimentary votes in DeKalb County. In the Presidential election, Republican challenger Mitt Romney easily carried DeKalb County with 4,134 total votes to 2,168 for Democratic incumbent Barack Obama. Romney won all 16 county precincts along with early voting and absentee ballots. Republican incumbent United States Senator Bob Corker also won all 16 DeKalb County precincts as well as early voting and absentee ballots for a total of 3,828 votes. Democratic challenger Mark E. Clayton received 1,521 votes in DeKalb County. Republican incumbent Congresswoman Diane Black earned 3,738 votes in DeKalb County. A total of 6,479 voted in DeKalb County including 3,217 who voted either early or by absentee and 3,262 on election day.
* Haley Marie Hale captured the Fall Fest Crown during the annual pageant at the DeKalb County Complex auditorium in November. The event is sponsored by the Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club. Hale, the fifteen year old daughter of Chad and Melissa Hale of Smithville, succeeded the retiring Fall Fest Queen, 16 year old Lauren Ashley Medlin, daughter of Greg and Teresa Medlin of Smithville. Meanwhile, Hannah Renea Walker was named Miss Congeniality. She is the fourteen year old daughter of Scott and Misty Walker of Smithville.
* 13 year old Morgan Faith Green won the 2012 Autumn Sweetheart pageant. The beauty contest, sponsored by the Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club, was held at the DeKalb County Complex auditorium. Sixteen contestants, ages 11-14 competed for the crown. Green, daughter Suzanne and Jon Harrison of Smithville, succeeded the 2011 Autumn Sweetheart, 14 year old Tyra Grace Graham, daughter of Kyle and Doris Graham of Smithville. Madison Faith Whitehead was named Miss Congeniality. She is the 11 year old daughter of Keneth and Tina Whitehead of Smithville.
* Eight year old Addison Jean Puckett is the 2012 Autumn Princess. Puckett, daughter of Jimmy and Anita Puckett of Smithville, succeeded the retiring Autumn Princess, Anna Rachel Blair, the eleven year old daughter of Keith and Amanda Blair of Smithville. The pageant, featuring twenty eight girls ages 7 to 10, was sponsored by the Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club and held at the DeKalb County Complex auditorium. Talon Kendall Billings was named Miss Manners. She is the nine year old daughter of Jerry and Sandra Billings of Billings Road, Sparta
* The Alexandria Post Office will begin operating at reduced hours effective Saturday, January 26. One week following a November 1 community meeting in Alexandria, David Underwood, Manager of Post Office Operations, wrote a letter to postal customers explaining the final decision. "It has been determined that effective January 26, 2013, the Alexandria Post Office will provide six hours of window service each weekday. The facility retail hours will be from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. with lunch from noon until 1:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Current Saturday window service hours will not be reduced and access to delivery receptables will not change as a result of the POST Plan realignment of weekday window service hours," wrote Underwood. "Customers will have access to their mail receptacles 24 hours a day and Post Office Box mail will be available daily for pick-up by 10:00 a.m. Monday-Friday, and at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday," he wrote. According to Underwood, "The Postal Service concluded that the POST Plan review process for the Alexandria Post Office, customer survey responses, input from the community meeting, and the operational needs of the Postal Service were considered in reaching the implementation decision". Alexandria carriers began working out of the Watertown Post Office Saturday, November 3. The Alexandria Post Office is among 260 post offices in Tennessee which will have their hours changed or downsized within the next couple of years in order to save money, according to Underwood.
* The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued its own news release concerning the first degree murder indictments returned in November by the DeKalb County Grand Jury against David Dixon in the August double murder of Ervin Raymon Beacham and Jose Sagahon Ticante. The release states as follows: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation presented a double homicide case to the DeKalb County grand jury earlier this week (Monday, November 26) which resulted in an indictment against a McMinnville man. David Dixon, 44, of Hardaway Street, McMinnville was charged with two counts of first degree murder for the August 2012 shooting deaths of two Smithville men. On August 7, 2012, the Smithville Police Department responded to 311 Tommy Harrell Street and discovered the residence's owner 55-year-old Ervin Beacham shot to death on the couch in his home. A second victim, 43-year-old Jose Sagahon Ticante was also found murdered and his body hidden under a tarp and some lumber in the backyard of the residence. TBI investigated the murders with the Smithville Police Department, DeKalb County Sheriff's Office and the 13th Judicial District Attorney General's Office. Dixon was picked up after the murders on August 7 and has been incarcerated at the DeKalb County Jail without bond since for violation of probation and for failure to appear. His bond on the murder charges is set at $200,000. He is scheduled to appear in DeKalb County Criminal Court on December 10, 2012. Dixon has a lengthy criminal history here including charges for possesson of a handgun while under the influence, manufacture and delivery of a schedule IV controlled substance, assault, public intoxication, violation of an order of protection, aggravated assault, theft, domestic asault, and simple possession.
* An elderly woman involved in a one car crash on Highway 146 (Short Mountain Highway) Wednesday, November 28 later died. The Tennessee Highway Patrol confirmed that 72 year old Martha J. Thomason of Short Mountain Highway, Woodbury passed away at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The accident occurred on Highway 146 between the Game Ridge and Whorton Springs Roads. Trooper Jeremy Wilhite of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Thomason was driving south on Highway 146 in a 2004 Honda CRV when she went off the right side of the road, struck an earthen embankment, and overturned in a field. The car came to rest upright on its wheels. Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Rescue Team were summoned to perform extrication in order to get Thomason out of the car. She was treated on site by DeKalb EMS and then loaded onto an Air Evac helicopter ambulance which landed at the scene. Thomason was flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
*The Joe Black Effort, a not for profit group, is trying to establish a DeKalb County Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals. Renee Stufano and Martha Conger, members of the Joe Black Effort, addressed the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen in December offering to help address the issue of stray, neglected, and abused animals in DeKalb County. Stufano said the Joe Black Effort is willing to volunteer at the dog pound to help take care of the animals and they want a waiver drawn up that seeks to hold harmless the city and county from liability. "The Joe Black Effort, a not for profit organization, was formed to help the animals in DeKalb County," said Stufano. "We have a few different things we would like to see accomplished. The first thing we have seen is that there is an issue in the county about stray, neglected, and abused animals. All of us can agree that there is a problem. We wish to offer a temporary solution. We would like to offer to volunteer at the pound to help take care of the animals. Clean up after them. The ones that need medical attention, take them out and get their medical attention. Get them fostered and adopted. The third thing we'd like to accomplish is to create a county wide coalition that has members of every city, not just Smithville, and members from the county commission to oversee the needs of the animals in DeKalb County. The Joe Black Effort is a non for profit rescue. We rehabilitate, take care of animals, and re- home them. I think we can do a little bit better with the pound that we have now and I think our final destination will be a real rescue for the whole county. I'd like for you to think about perhaps letting some volunteers come and help. We're happy to sign waivers or disclosures so that we wouldn't hold the city or county responsible. We're offering to come in for free. It doesn't get any better than that," said Stufano.
* Smithville Police are asking for your help in solving a break-in shortly after midnight December 7 at Jewel's Market on South Congress Boulevard across from Dogwood Plaza. The driver of a stolen Chevy Tahoe backed the SUV into the building, crashing it through the front doors to make entry. The front of the store received significant damage. The driver and passenger then got out of the vehicle and tried to steal the in-store ATM. Officers arrived on the scene with the burglary still in progress and nearly caught the would be thieves red handed but the two fled on foot into the woods behind the store. The ATM machine was left outside by the vehicle. A store clerk said nothing else appeared to have been taken from the store. No arrests have yet been made in the break-in but Smithville Police know that the Chevy Tahoe used by the two burglars to crash into the store building was stolen. It was apparently taken from the car lot of Glynn's Auto Sales on West Broad Street.
* Director of Schools Mark Willoughby was recognized in December for having been named the 2013 Upper Cumberland Superintendent of the Year. Keith Brewer of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents presented a plaque to Director Willoughby for this honor during the monthly school board meeting. Brewer said Willoughby was also in the running for Superintendent of the Year in the state but lost out to the eventual winner by less than a point.
* A new wage scale for most county employees will take effect January 1st allowing for pay raises based on their years of service. The county commission adopted the plan December 17. The county implemented a wage scale for the sheriff's department last year and plans are to develop a step plan for the ambulance service next year. This plan primarily addresses the pay of clerks who work for county officials at the courthouse and county complex, librarian and assistants, landfill employees, custodians, and senior center coordinator " We wound up doing a four step series based on the number of years they've worked. If they have worked from one to four years, they are in step one. Those from five to eight years of service are in step two. Employees with nine to twelve years are in step three and those with more than twelve years are in the fourth step," said County Mayor Foster. He had wanted to make job classification part of the equation in the wage scale along with years of service for all employees but Foster settled on making it apply primarily to the eight employees at the landfill who will be classified as laborers, truck drivers, mechanics, and equipment operators. Currently all but one employee working for an elected or appointed public official at the courthouse and county complex earns the same salary, $23,024 per year and they will all top out under the new four step pay scale at $26,432 within four years. Some will top out quicker than others based on their years of service. One employee in the assessor of property's office who already receives $28,579 will get an increase of $750 this year for longevity. The two employees of the county mayor's office will continue to earn extra money for administering grants, which has reportedly been up to $4,200 per year. Foster said having wage scales in place is a good thing for employees because they will know what their future raises are going to be and it helps the county in planning budgets each year. Since the wage scale will take effect January 1st in the middle of the budget year, Foster said employees will get half of their pay raise now. "They (county commission) didn't prorate back (to July 1st) so it will start January 1st. They (employees) will get half of that raise this year. Then in July it will be fully implemented," said Foster.
The Smithville Aldermen, by a 3 to 2 vote, adopted an ordinance amendment on second and final reading December 27 to allow off premises permit holders to sell packaged beer twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Eligible restaurants will also be allowed to apply for an on-premises permit to sell beer with meals in their establishments.