Local News Articles

Owner of Log Home Company Found Guilty in Assault of Disgruntled Customer

September 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
Maureen Espino Park
Lawton Duane Park

A DeKalb County couple, who claims to sell fully built log homes, appeared in General Sessions Court Thursday on charges they assaulted a disgruntled customer who confronted them at a local restaurant.

After a hearing, Judge Bratten Cook, II found 47 year old Maureen Espino Park guilty of assault and unlawful possession of a weapon. Judge Cook dismissed an assault charge against her husband, 47 year old Lawton Duane Park. Mrs. Park received a sentence of 30 days on the weapon charge and six months for the assault but she will be on probation. She was also fined a total of $100 plus court costs.

The Parks' were arrested by Smithville Police on Thursday, August 27 after a Michigan man, Danny Hall confronted them at McDonald's Restaurant in Smithville claiming they had defrauded him. Hall claims he and his wife ordered a brand new log home through the Starry Hill Log Homes website in January, a company run by the Parks and paid $36,000 but never got the logs to build the home.

During the confrontation at McDonalds which was captured on video, Hall was allegedly assaulted by the Parks. While finding Mrs. Park guilty of the assault, Judge Cook dismissed the case against Mr. Park after reviewing the video and reportedly determining that he appeared to be trying to break up the fight. Mrs. Park was charged with the gun offense after police found the weapon in her purse during the assault investigation for which she had no permit.

Aside from the assault incident, the Parks could be facing more problems. Officials of the District Attorney General's Office confirm that the Parks are under investigation by the TBI based on customer complaints concerning the Parks' log homes business. In addition to Hall, Kenny Tripp from Smithville, and customers in Chattanooga, as well as Texas and Kentucky, reportedly have said they paid the Parks for homes as well and never got them.

Mr. Park, a pastor, reportedly offers regular Bible studies at the New Heart Outreach located on Broad Street in Smithville.

DeKalb Animal Coalition to Present "The Civil War in DeKalb County" (VIEW VIDEO BELOW)

September 24, 2015
Dwayne Page

You have an opportunity to help support the DeKalb Animal Coalition and learn about the Civil War in DeKalb County during a special program by Thomas G. Webb, DeKalb County Historian on Saturday, September 26 at 7:00 p.m. at the DeKalb County Complex Auditorium.

Adult admission is $10 per person and $3.00 for all students. Proceeds from the evening's entertainment will go to the DeKalb Animal Coalition, a tax deductible organization dedicated to building a new animal shelter for our community.

In the video segment above, Webb told WJLE that his remarks will be only about the Civil War in DeKalb County, and not about the Civil War in general.

"I'll talk about the Civil War in DeKalb County and as it affected DeKalb Countians," he said.

"We had soldiers who went to the big battles and went to Virginia, Georgia, and other places. But just our soldiers who were in those places is all I'll be talking about," Webb said.

"When I was very young, I knew that Tennessee was a Confederate state and I expected all the soldiers from Tennessee to be Confederate. And I was surprised when I read Mr. Will T. Hale's History of DeKalb County to find that we had a lot of Confederate soldiers but we also had a large number of Union soldiers. As it turned out we had about two thousand Confederate soldiers and we had about 700 Union soldiers. DeKalb County had as many Union soldiers as the six surrounding counties put together. And I'm going to talk about why we had so many Union soldiers in this county whereas the surrounding counties did not have. And that's going to be one of my main subjects," said Webb

The Civil War ended 150 years ago in April, 1865. So why do hard feelings related to that war still linger?. Why did so many DeKalb Countians join the Union Army? Why did DeKalb County civilians experience such intense and prolonged suffering? Why did some DeKalb Countians first join the Confederate Army and subsequently join the Union Army? What was life like for Prisoners of War? Confederate flag controversy: One Historian's Perspective.

Alexandria Couple Provides Rehab Services to Fire Department

September 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
Steven and Diana Blair with Alexandria Fire Chief Brian Partridge

An Alexandria couple is supporting the fire department there by offering rehab services. Their mission is to deliver re-hydration and nourishment to firefighters when they are called out on fires or other emergency incidents .

Steven and Diana Blair told WJLE Tuesday night that they are volunteering their time in providing this service as a way of helping the firefighters. "They are out there and doing a lot of work. In the summertime they get overheated. We're trying to provide them with active cooling and make sure they stay hydrated. We give them water, nourishment. We basically help them with whatever we can do. We have a canopy so we can keep them out of the sun during the summer and in the winter time we can put sides on it and keep a heater in there to keep them warm when its freezing and they're fighting fires," said Diana Blair.

"We ran across an empty water bottle with a phone number. That's what got us started. We gave them a call and they said what do you need. We started getting stuff that way. Now we don't have to worry about ice because they give us ice in a freezer. We don't have to worry about getting a lot of the perishables because they are automatically refilled through this company that does this for us called Pro Care. What that's done for us is that they cut us a check and it's allowed us to buy chairs. Now we have chairs for the firemen to sit down in with or without their airpacks on. We have big ice chests that we can carry ice in. We have plenty of water. Plenty of Gatorade. Plenty of food. They gave us a canopy. They have just blessed us with probably a thousand dollars worth of stuff. Now we're looking for other things such as a van so they (firefighters) can see us coming. Our dream list goes on and on," said Steven Blair.

"We're trying to help out within the county. We're not limiting to Alexandria. We went on a mutual aid call at Brush Creek about two weeks ago and we were able to support the different fire departments there also which is what we hope to do wherever the need is," said Diana Blair.

"There's hardly any rehab type services in DeKalb County. What we would like to do is go to every firehouse to let them know what we're doing because all firemen need this. They do get overheated. They do get dehydrated. What we're trying to do is keep them going for as long as they can. We want communities and fire houses to have this service. We're willing to go practically anywhere to tell them and hook them up with people who can help them such as Pro Care," said Steven Blair.

Alexandria Fire Chief Brian Partridge said he and his department are grateful for this service by the Blair's.

If you would like to support the Blair's or start up your own rehab unit in support of other fire departments and need more information call the Blair's at 615-529-1334

Judge Hears Oral Arguments in Cookeville Boat Dock Case

September 23, 2015
Dwayne Page
Judge Amy Hollars

Oral arguments were heard Tuesday on a motion by Cookeville Boat Dock asking a judge to reconsider a recent ruling that it must pay over $200,000 in DeKalb County property taxes, interest and penalties.

After hearing from attorneys on all sides in the case, Judge Amy Hollars requested they submit to the court supplemental briefs within the next few days before she makes her decision. Cookeville attorney Jon Jones represents Cookeville Boat Dock. Vester Parsley is the county's tax attorney. And Mary Ellen Knack of Nashville is representing the state on the constitutionality of issues being challenged by the marina.

"We have ten days to file supplemental briefs. Mr. Jones will then have ten days beyond that to file his supplement so at least twenty days out from now she (Judge Hollars) can make a decision, but whether she does it that soon I'm not sure," Parsley told WJLE.

The boat dock has refused to pay the taxes since 1998 and Judge Hollers ruled in April that the dock’s challenge to the tax was invalid.

The attorney for the marina, now argues the county cannot collect taxes beyond 10 years; that the judge’s ruling on the “Supremacy Clause” of the U.S. Constitution was incorrect; and that the amount of interest the county wants to charge is above what is allowed by law.

In the motion for “additional consideration of issues,” attorney Jones points to a Tennessee law that states, “All taxes assessed against real property and personal property in this state shall be barred, discharged and uncollectible after the lapse of 10 years from April 1 of the year following the year in which such taxes become delinquent, whether suit be brought within that time or not to collect the taxes…”

As for the interest issue, the defendants argue “prejudgment interest may be awarded by courts or juries in accordance with the principles of equity at any rate not in excess of a maximum effective rate of 10 percent per annum.”

The motion states that the county “has not provided a breakdown regarding its proposed computation of prejudgment interest. However, defendant (boat dock) expects the county will claim prejudgment interest at a rate of 18 percent per annum. This exceeds the maximum rate of prejudgment interest this court is allowed to award.”

The defendant goes on to suggest the interest rate “should correspond with the interest rate DeKalb County has paid during the relevant time.” Showing documentation the county borrowed money or issued bonds in recent years at rates varying from one to 5.5 percent, the defendant claims “these rates should provide the upper limit on an award of prejudgment interest that the court may make in this case.”

In relation to the “Supremacy Clause,” the defendant asks the court “to reconsider its opinion in this regard.”

Initially the defendant had claimed a section of Tennessee law violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against a lessee of the United States in favor of lessees of the State of Tennessee. It was argued since the boat dock pays fees to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which are used, in part, to pay DeKalb County a sum of “in lieu of taxes,” that having to pay property tax to the county was, in effect, double taxation.

In April Judge Hollers ruled the Supremacy Clause “does not prevent a state or local government from imposing a tax on an individual or a corporation ‘using government property in connection with a business conducted for its own private gain.’” The defendant now claims “the court ‘short circuited’ the issue of whether” the state law “is reconcilable with the Supremacy Clause.”

Alexandria to Apply for Grant to Purchase New Fire Truck

September 23, 2015
Dwayne Page
Alexandria Fire Chief Brian Partridge
Alexandria's 1981 Fire Truck
Alexandria's 1997 Fire Truck

In an effort to replace a 1981 fire truck and possibly improve the city's ISO rating, the Alexandria Aldermen Tuesday night voted to authorize the filing of an application for a Community Development Block Grant to purchase a new fire engine.

Alexandria Fire Chief Brian Partridge addressed the issue with the mayor and aldermen during the regular monthly meeting.

The total grant project would be for $331,580 including the city's local matching obligation of $16,580 should the grant be approved.

Speaking to WJLE after the meeting, Chief Partridge said if the grant is approved, the city would have funds to purchase a new custom cab class 1 pumper, which would improve the department's water flow capabilities in fighting fires. By having a new fire truck, Chief Partridge said the city's ISO rating might even go from a 4 to a 3, which could mean lower commercial and homeowners insurance premiums. The city must keep two fire trucks in order to maintain its current ISO rating. Earlier this year, the city learned that the Insurance Services Office raised Alexandria's Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating from a Class 7 to a Class 4.

The Alexandria Fire Department is staffed with twelve volunteers and two fire trucks. The oldest truck, a 1981 model, is on indefinite loan to the city from Wilson County, but would be returned if a new truck is purchased. The other fire truck is a 1997 model. Although the primary engine (1997 truck) is still in good condition and could be used as a backup, Chief Partridge said the 1981 engine has serious mechanical problems and brake system issues.

If the city were to be awarded a grant to purchase a new fire truck, Chief Partridge said no additional equipment would be needed. "We already have the equipment. All the equipment we received from an Assistance to Firefighters Grant four years ago," he said.

It could take up to a year before the city learns if it will get the grant.

New Alexandria Mayor and Aldermen Take Oath of Office (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

September 23, 2015
Dwayne Page
Seated: City Recorder Stacey Baker, Mayor Bennett Armstrong, Alderman Danny Parkerson; Standing: Aldermen Pat Jackson, John Suggs, Kelly Pyburn, Matt Boss, and David Cripps)

The new Alexandria Mayor and Aldermen met for the first time Tuesday night and took the oath of office to begin their new terms.

City attorney Vester Parsley administered the oath of office to the new aldermen-elect as a group and then to newly elected mayor Bennett Armstrong.

Armstrong was elected to fill the remaining two years of an unexpired mayoral term in the Alexandria Municipal Election on Thursday, September 3.

Kelly Pyburn, David Cripps, and John F. Suggs were each elected to four year alderman terms while Danny Parkerson and Matthew Boss were each elected to fill two year unexpired alderman seats.

Tuesday night's meeting was the regular monthly session of the Alexandria Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

The group addressed a variety of issues during the meeting including zoning.

"What they voted to do tonight is create a temporary fix for a zoning ordinance issue by restricting new residential construction to 1500 square feet for a period of 120 days until a more permanent ordinance is in place. The city's zoning requirements haven't been updated in a long time and current enforcement provisions are vague," said City Attorney Vester Parsley.

The issue was raised by Alderman Danny Parkerson who made the motion to adopt an ordinance establishing the new residential zoning provision. The motion was seconded and passed by the aldermen. Second and final reading will be considered at the next regular meeting, which has been rescheduled from Tuesday October 27 to Tuesday, October 6 at 7:00 p.m. to be preceded by a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

The aldermen also authorized application for a community development block grant which if approved would fund the purchase of a new fire truck. The grant amount is $331,580 including the town's matching requirement of $16,580.

Although no action was taken, the mayor and aldermen also discussed changing the city charter regarding the city election, possibly having it to run in conjunction with the County General Elections in August in order to save the city money. Any change in the city's charter would have to be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly.

(Pictured Above:
Seated: City Recorder Stacey Baker, Mayor Bennett Armstrong, Alderman Danny Parkerson; Standing: Aldermen Pat Jackson, John Suggs, Kelly Pyburn, Matt Boss, and David Cripps)

Woman Arrested for Fraudlent Use of Debit/Credit Card at Walmart

September 21, 2015
Dwayne Page
Sharon Joyce Malone
Mark Anthony Mason
George Edward Taylor, Jr.
Jack Davis Taylor, Jr.

A Smithville woman has been charged with five counts of fraud after using a stolen debit/credit card to obtain cash at Walmart last month.

41 year old Sharon Joyce Malone of Old West Point Road is under a $12,500 bond and she will be in court September 24.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that Malone allegedly used a stolen debit/credit card at a Smithville Walmart ATM a total of five times on August 7 in amounts of $201.75; $7.92; $177.07; $201.75; and $8.28.

Malone is charged with five counts of fraudulent use of a credit or debit card.

The case was investigated by a Sheriff's Department Detective.

43 year old Mark Anthony Mason of Old West Point Road Smithville is charged with aggravated assault. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court September 24.

Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, September 8 Mason allegedly assaulted his sister by grabbing her around the neck and trying to strangle her. He further threw her on the ground. Mason was determined to have been the primary aggressor. He was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

40 year old George Edward Taylor, Jr. of Eckle Heights, Liberty is charged with being a fugitive from justice. His bond is $200,000 and he will be in court on September 24.

Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, September 16 deputies arrested Taylor for violation of probation. He was found to have against him a warrant from Mississippi County, Missouri for failure to appear on an assisted attempted assault, drug charges, and a resisting arrest charge. As a result, a warrant was taken against Taylor for being a fugitive from justice.

51 year old Jack Davis Taylor, Jr. of Dry Creek Road, Smithville is charged with the domestic assault of his girlfriend. He was also cited for an assault on his girlfriend's daughter. Taylor's bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on September 24.

Sheriff Ray said on Saturday, September 19 a deputy and detective responded to a residence on New Home Road for a physical domestic. Upon arrival, they spoke with Taylor and his girlfriend. The woman told the officers that after Taylor followed her into the house they got involved in an argument over Taylor allegedly hitting her daughter on the butt and forehead, causing swelling around her left eye. During the argument, Taylor allegedly struck his girlfriend in the mouth, knocking out a bottom tooth. During the fight, Taylor allegedly got the woman down and continued hitting her until someone pulled him away. Taylor was determined to have been the primary aggressor and was placed under arrest for domestic assault.

10th History Hayride Set For October 10 at Edgar Evins State Park

September 21, 2015
10th  History Hayride Set For October 10 at Edgar Evins State Park

Reserve now for the 10th History Hayride at Edgar Evins State Park on Center Hill Lake, Silverpoint, on October 10th. The park is between Cookeville and Smithville.

Reservations may be made at www.tnvacation.com/events/9216 This link will also be posted on the Friends of Edgar Evins State Park Facebook page (friendsofeesp) and the website at http://foeesp.alturl.com . Provisions for groups and timely cancellations are on the registration site. A Visa or a Master Card will be accepted. If you need assistance making reservations on-line please call the park office at (931) 858-2114 or toll free at 800-250-8619 to obtain contact information for Fount Bertram, President of Friends of Edgar Evins State Park.

Ride hay wagons back into the olden days as costumed re-enactors at several stops along the circuit portray people and events from earlier days in the park and surrounding area. A narrator on each wagon will reveal more history between stops. This is not a Halloween themed event and it is not recommended for small children or anyone who has difficulty sitting quietly for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It has been described as " ... kind of like theater in the round except the audience is sitting on a hay wagon." Wagons will leave the Visitors Center approximately every 30 minutes from 1:30 to 7 p.m. to begin the circuit. Reservations will be for specific wagons and times. This event sells out early every year with the most popular departure times selling out first. Some like to go in the daylight to see better. Others appreciate the ambience fire and lamp light add to the enactments.

This popular annual event is a fund raiser for the Friends of Edgar Evins State Park, an all volunteer organization that is dedicated to helping the park and improving the park experience for all. This event is a result of team work between the volunteers and the park employees. Information on joining is available in the park office and the website http://foeesp.alturl.com

For those wishing to make this an overnight or weekend outing there are cabins and camping available at the park. Reservations for those are on-line at http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/edgar-evins

The restaurant at Edgar Evins Marina will be open and will offer a 10% discount to Hayride patrons at the event upon showing a printout of the reservation or the History Hayride armband.

For GPS users the address of the park is 1630 Edgar Evins Park Road, Silver Point, TN 38582. It is located 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 Highway 96 and Center Hill Lake.

Pody Expects Legal Challenge If State Adopts Natural Marriage Defense Act (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

September 21, 2015
Dwayne Page

Although a legal challenge is expected if the legislation is passed, State Representative Mark Pody believes the Tennessee General Assembly should take a stand against a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage.

Speaking at a DeKalb County GOP sponsored picnic Saturday, Pody said the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act", sponsored by Pody and State Senator Mae Beavers, calls for Tennessee to defend current state law and the constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2006 specifying that only marriage between a man and a woman can be legally recognized in the state.

Representative Pody said the push defining marriage as between a man and woman in Tennessee had its origins when Democrats still controlled the legislature. "I want to compliment the Democrats on something. Do you know what they did? They passed something that says marriage should be between a man and a woman. And that passed in Tennessee under the Democratic control. We know that in June that five Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that. But we had a rally down at the capitol (Nashville) on Thursday. There were a thousand people. And we filed a bill to go back and say marriage in Tennessee should be between a man and a woman. I know it's going to be challenged immediately once its passed but we want to at least be in this battle. Some may say you're fighting the Supreme Court. But if we're passionate about something and we believe in something, it means you fight. Even David, who said he was going to fight Goliath. He went out and fought. We filed that bill and I think we've got a good shot at doing something with that. We want to be heard on the first amendment to see what we can do on that ruling. We believe two of the (Supreme Court) Justices that ruled on that (same sex marriage) should have recused themselves. They had already performed same sex marriages and because they did that they had a public stance saying they were in favor of it. I don't think they were neutral in hearing the case. I believe they should have recused themselves. We want to get back in front of this Supreme Court," said Representative Pody

The “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act” rejects the Obergefell v. Hodges decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June giving same sex couples the fundamental right to marry and calls on the attorney general and reporter to defend any state or local government official from any lawsuit to the contrary.

House Bill 1412 / Senate Bill 1437 also aims to protect court clerks and ministers who have religious objections to marrying same sex couples from prosecution or civil action.

DTC Board Members Win Re-Election (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

September 19, 2015
Dwayne Page
Incumbents Bennie "Buck" Curtis of Alexandria, Ronnie Garrison of Smithville, and Randy Campbell of Liberty were re-elected Saturday to the DTC Communications Board of Directors.

Incumbents Ronnie Garrison, Bennie "Buck" Curtis, and Randy Campbell have all been re-elected to the DTC Communications Board of Directors.

The results of the election were announced Saturday during the annual meeting of DeKalb Telephone Cooperative or DTC Communications at the fairgrounds in Alexandria

The closest race was between Curtis and his opponent Mark Willoughby for the directorship of the Alexandria Exchange. Curtis won 476 to 463, a 13 vote margin.

Garrison, Smithville Exchange member, received a total of 652 votes defeating challenger Paul Cantrell who had 291 votes.

Randy Campbell of the Liberty Exchange defeated Danny Lynn Hale 512 votes to 429.

All three directors elected Saturday will serve for three years.

Here's how the votes break down for each candidate at the four early voting locations and on election day:

Bennie "Buck" Curtis: Alexandria-91, Gordonsville-39, Smithville- 166, Woodbury- 58, and Election Day at Alexandria-122 for a total of 476 votes

Mark Willoughby: Alexandria- 67, Gordonsville- 40, Smithville -175, Woodbury- 47, and Election Day at Alexandria- 134 for a total of 463 votes

Randy Campbell: Alexandria-101, Gordonsville-33, Smithville-188, Woodbury-63, and Election Day at Alexandria-127 for a total of 512

Danny Lynn Hale: Alexandria- 62, Gordonsville-43, Smithville-149, Woodbury-45, and Election Day at Alexandria-130 for a total of 429

Ronnie Garrison: Alexandria-123, Gordonsville-64, Smithville-230, Woodbury-53, and Election Day at Alexandria-182 for a total of 652.

Paul Cantrell: Alexandria-38, Gordonsville-12, Smithville-120, Woodbury-46, and Election Day at Alexandria-75 for a total of 291

The DTC Communications Board of Directors, in addition to Curtis, Garrison, and Campbell, are Terry McPeak of the Norene Exchange, Charles Dwight Vinson of the Milton Exchange, Jean Chumbley Ferrell of the Woodbury Exchange, Jimmy Oakley of Temperance Hall, Roy Nelson Pugh of Auburntown, David Parker of Woodland, and James Dillard, Jr. of Gordonsville.


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