Local News Articles

Assessor Sending "Change of Assessment" Notices to Landowners

May 5, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Assessor of Property Shannon Cantrell

Many DeKalb County landowners may see a change in their property assessments this year.

Assessor of Property Shannon Cantrell said “Change of Assessment” letters are being sent to those affected.

“Change of assessment letters are going out this month (May) because the assessment on your property, whether it be real property or personal property, has either gone up or down. There has been a change so you will get a “change of assessment” notice,” Cantrell told WJLE.

If you don’t agree with your property assessments, Cantrell said you should not wait until you get your tax bill in the fall to try and do something about it. The time to raise concerns is when the DeKalb County Board of Equalization meets in June. Cantrell will be taking appointments for those appeals starting May 22. The Board of Equalization will meet starting Monday, June 5 from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Assessor of Property Office at the county complex building.

“Remember once the county board has met then you can no longer appeal locally for the 2017 taxes. I think that’s what catches a lot of people by surprise. They get their tax notice October 1 and that’s what really gets their attention if their taxes have gone up. Then they want to appeal it. But by that time the appeal for 2017 has already passed. We’re in the appeal season now,” said Cantrell.

“What is important to remember is that the county board of equalization normally meets the first week in June and if you would like to appeal your assessment now is the time to do that. Beginning May 22 call our office and make an appointment to meet with the county board of equalization to discuss the assessment on your appraisal,” Cantrell continued.

“It doesn’t have to be that you had a change of assessment this spring. Maybe nothing changed from last year but maybe you weren’t pleased with your assessment last year. Anybody can come and see the county board of equalization,” Cantrell added.

Last year the county commission reappointed Carl Dwayne Webb, and Phillip Hendrix to serve on the five member board. Doyle Evans and Jimmy Goad were appointed later by County Mayor Tim Stribling. Russell Watson was reappointed by the City of Smithville.

During the county commission meeting on Monday, April 24, County Mayor Stribling announced that Jim Davies has been appointed to replace Hendrix, who has resigned and that Joel Hooker has been named as an alternate.

Members of the equalization board will attend an orientation on May 15th in Cookeville.

Until 2014, the equalization board was made up of seven members, one from each district of the county. But under state law, there can be no more than five members. According to Tennessee Code Annotated (state law) "The county legislative body of each county shall, at the April session of each even year, from the different sections of the county, elect, for a term of two (2) years, five (5) freeholders and taxpayers who shall constitute a county board of equalization."

According to state law, county equalization boards across the state are to meet each year on June 1 (or the next business day if the 1st falls on Saturday or Sunday). The county board is authorized by law to receive and hear appeals of current year property tax assessments as fixed by the county assessor of property. Generally an assessment must be appealed to the county board of equalization to preserve the taxpayer’s right to further appeal.

Steven Jennings Ranks in Top 50 of MLB Draft Prospects

May 4, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Steven Jennings Ranks in Top 50 of MLB Draft Prospects
MLB Scouts with radar guns line up near home plate to check the speed of Steven Jennings' pitches during a recent game. Jennings is considered to be among the Top 50 prospects heading into next month's draft according to mlb.com

Although he has already signed with Ole Miss, the pitching prowess of DCHS senior Steven Jennings has been drawing lots of attention from Major League Baseball scouts and with high prospects of being taken in the upcoming MLB draft, Jennings could be facing a major decision, whether to further his career in college or turn pro.

MLB scouts, sporting radar guns, have been at almost every Tiger home game this season when Jennings takes the mound and apparently have liked what they’ve seen from the rising star.

MLB.com currently ranks Jennings at 47 among the "top 100 prospects to watch" for the draft scheduled for June 12-14.
(Click link below)

http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=draft

“A star quarterback who was the offensive MVP of his Tennessee high school district as a junior, Jennings tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a game in September. While the injury ended his football season, he not only recovered in time to play baseball this spring but also has emerged as the top prep prospect in the state. His stock has risen so much that he could go as high as the second round,” according to a report on MLB.com

“Jennings didn't spend much time on the showcase circuit because of his football commitments, so he has been a bit of a revelation. His loose, quick arm generates a fastball that sits at 89-92 mph, reaches 95 and should add some more velocity in the future. His hard slider can hit 85 mph and shows the upside of a plus offering, and he also has unveiled a curveball that can be a solid breaking pitch as well,” the report continued.

“Though he hasn't had much need for a changeup yet, Jennings shows some aptitude for the pitch. He's athletic and has an easy delivery, which enables him to throw strikes. He's committed to Mississippi but figures to get drafted early enough to lure him away from the Rebels,” the report stated.

Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools - 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.

Jennings' scouting grades are as follows: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50.

Although Jennings is not scheduled to start Friday, the Tigers are set to open play in the District 8AA baseball tournament against Livingston Academy at Carthage starting at 2:00 p.m. weather permitting. WJLE plans LIVE coverage.

DUE TO THE FORECAST OF RAIN, THE 20TH ANNUAL RELAY FOR LIFE HAS BEEN RELOCATED FROM GREENBROOK PARK TO THE COUNTY COMPLEX FRIDAY

May 4, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page

DUE TO THE FORECAST OF RAIN, THE 20TH ANNUAL RELAY FOR LIFE HAS BEEN RELOCATED FROM GREENBROOK PARK TO THE COUNTY COMPLEX FRIDAY

This year’s theme is “Relaying Southern Style”

The entertainment begins at 5:15 p.m. followed by the opening ceremony at 6:00 p.m. featuring personal testimonies from cancer survivors and then a Survivors' Lap, during which those who have survived the struggle circle the track together to help everyone celebrate what has been achieved against cancer.

The schedule of events for the evening is as follows:

5:15 p.m.- Terry Hodges

5:35 p.m.- Kathy Goodwin

5:55 p.m.- Presentation of the colors by Boy Scout Troop #347

The National Anthem:
Invocation by Chris Moore, pastor of the Smithville Church of God

Welcome by Ivadell Randolph

Introduction of cancer survivors

Prayer for cancer survivors by Dwayne Cornelius, pastor of the New Life United Pentecostal Church
Song honoring cancer survivors by Don and Bonnie Rigsby

6:20 p.m.-Suzanne Slager

6:30 p.m.-Tina Boston

6:45 p.m.-DeKalb Middle School Beta Club Chorus

7:00 p.m.- David Turner & Friends

7:30 p.m.- Fluty and the Flutones

7:45 p.m.- Heritage from the Smithville First Assembly of God

8:00 p.m.- Elvis (Kevin Roberts) Salem Baptist Church

8:30 p.m.- Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church Young Adults

8:45 p.m.- Smithville Church of God Praise Team

9:00 p.m.- Luminaria Ceremony

Prayer by Alex Woodward, preacher at the Gassaway Church of Christ

9:15 p.m.- Seth Willoughby

9:30 p.m. Zone Status

11:30 p.m.- Closing Ceremony

Midnight-Relay Ends

Proposed New School Budget Gets Okay from County Budget Committee

May 3, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Proposed New School Budget Gets Okay from County Budget Committee

The proposed 2017-18 fiscal year budget for the DeKalb County School system is one step away from final approval.

The county budget committee convened Tuesday night at the courthouse and voted to recommend the spending plan for approval by the county commission later this summer.

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps met with the committee to explain details of the proposed school budget which includes a pay raise for teachers and a one time bonus for support staff

As previously reported by WJLE when the Board of Education adopted it last month, Cripps calls this a fair budget with no proposed local property tax increase for schools and not a lot of extras.

Although the school system is bracing for a cut in federal funding by 18% or $150,000 the state is sending about one million dollars more Basic Education Program (BEP) funds next year totaling $15,962,000.

In addition to pay raises and the scheduled step increases , the board of education plans to add another teacher at DeKalb West School because the average class size is over 20 students in kindergarten to third grade. A new kindergarten teaching position in the school system could also be created as needed next year. An application has been made for a state competitive grant through the Early Childhood Education program to fund pre-kindergarten next year. The school system received a $486,167 grant for the program this past year. The board also plans to spend more money on technology to bring one to one computer devices into the 6th to 8th grade classrooms. “The state sent us $144,000 this year for teacher raises. That comes to about $600 per teacher. We have added a $250 one time bonus for non certified staff. We put in technology for grades 6-8 for one to one devices about $200,000," Director Cripps told WJLE.

One to one computers are electronic devices that allow students to access the Internet, digital course materials and digital textbooks. By providing students their own notebook computer or tablet, schools make it possible for students to find information instantly to produce rich multimedia content.

“There is going to be a demand for more technology in the schools. The state is sending money for us to put more money for technology and they are tracking it to make sure the funds are going toward technology,” said Director Cripps.

“The state is going to all testing online. At the high school it will be online next year with 3-8 grades the following year. These one to one devices are needed not only for testing but because of the way kids are learning and the way teachers are presenting the material to the kids today. It is totally different from the way that we learned and what the state is asking from our kids today. They are not being taught or expected to learn like we did. They (state) wants them to gather information, not just to give an answer, but a thought process on how they are arriving at an answer and how they are to use that in the real world,” Director Cripps continued.

The new budget also includes $20,000 for a school building feasibility study. “We put in $20,000 for an architect to come in and do a study. It is my hope that with an architect study we will be able to get a break down of different school sizes (options) and what it would cost to build those schools,” he said.

The general purpose school budget for 2017-18 totals just over $22 million dollars. Anticipated revenues are budgeted at $ 20.7 million. More than $1.2 million of the school's reserves may be needed to balance the budget on paper but that is less than last year’s projection. “We are trying to go less and less into our reserves and we have done that this year,” said Director Cripps.

Smithville Police Department Partnering in "Click It Or Ticket" Campaign

May 3, 2017
Smithville Police Department Partnering in "Click It Or Ticket" Campaign

As summer kicks off and families hit the road for vacation, Smithville Police Department is partnering with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) to remind motorists to “Click It or Ticket.” From May 22 to June 4, participating agencies across the state will increase seat belt enforcement as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) nationwide mobilization.

According to Tennessee’s Integrated Traffic Analysis Network (TITAN), 349 people killed in Tennessee traffic crashes last year were not wearing a seat belt. This represents approximately 34 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities in 2016.

Although the state’s average seat belt usage rate increased from 86.2 percent in 2015 to 88.95 percent in 2016, Tennessee is still nationally classified as a “low use” state. In 2017, the THSO strives to change this by achieving 90 percent or higher.

“Our goal is to prevent fatalities and keep the roadways safe,” said Vic Donoho, Director of the THSO. “We ask every Tennessean to buckle up, every trip, every time.”

According to the NHTSA, nearly half of the 22,441 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2015 was unrestrained. At night from 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., that number soared to 57 percent of those killed. Therefore, the primary focus of the “Click It or Ticket” campaign is nighttime enforcement. Participating agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement. In Tennessee, the maximum penalty for a seat belt violation is $50.00.

For more information about seat belt safety or the THSO, visit www.tntrafficsafety.org.

Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad Participates in Rescues on Caney Fork River

May 3, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad Participates in Rescues on Caney Fork River

Kayaking and canoeing can be dangerous on the Caney Fork River especially during times when the generators are running at Center Hill Dam.

Two river rescues took place over the weekend.

Dustin Johnson, Captain of the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad told WJLE that on Sunday a man and child who had been with others on the Caney Fork River below Center Hill Dam found themselves clinging to a downed tree after the swift current forced them out of their vessel. The man was actually holding onto the child while hanging on to the tree.

A similar incident occurred on Saturday when a couple of people were forced into the river after their vessel capsized. No one was injured in either case.

TWRA Officer Tony Cross urges boaters, canoers, and kayakers to exercise extreme caution, to wear their life jackets, and not to embark on any river ride while the dam’s generators are running.

“If you get on the water you really have to respect the environment you are in. Because of what they have been doing recently below the dam with all the generators running and several of the sluice gates open, it creates very turbulent water below the dam. If you are not a very seasoned kayaker, canoer , or boater you can get in trouble in a heartbeat. That happened Saturday and Sunday below the dam. Fortunately passersby were able to pull the folks who had overturned out of the water. Down on the river there are a lot of fallen trees on the banks and the current will get you into those trees and if you are in a kayak or canoe and you get swept into a downed tree you are in trouble and that’s what happens time after time. Just be really cautious about water conditions,” said Officer Cross.

Members of the TWRA, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Sheriff's Department were also summoned to the scene,

City Property Owners Admonished to Keep their Lots Free of Junk and Clutter

May 3, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Dilapidated House on Hayes Street (still standing today) as it appeared in the fall of 2013
Couch and Mattress on the side of O'Conner Street in front of a residence

City officials are admonishing property owners to keep their lots maintained free of junk and clutter and to remove any dilapidated and unsafe structures.

During Monday night's city council meeting, Alderman Danny Washer said there are clear violations of the city's property maintenance ordinance across town.

“It’s ridiculous. We’ve got to do something about it. I don’t want to look out my front door and see it and I know of lot of others don’t. It’s bringing down property values. On one street there’s a couch, mattress, and TV laying out in the yard and has been for months. That’s just one example. It’s getting out of hand. We have got to start enforcing this ordinance,” said Alderman Washer.

“We (city sanitation department) don’t pick up couches, mattresses or things like that. We have sent them (violators) letters but they are not keeping their property up,” said Mayor Jimmy Poss.

“We have an ordinance it just may need to be updated. I’m just afraid the fines we have in place now are archaic,” added City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson.

“We have building codes we have to go by. How can anyone put up a carport or garage out of tin with a plastic roof over it or different colors of tin,” asked Alderman Washer?. "And there are yards that need to be cut. When the weeds start getting up high enough that you can't see the trash then that's bad," added Washer.

“I’ll send you (aldermen) a copy of our current ordinance and by the time we meet again (June 5) if we need to amend it to put more (enforcement) teeth in it we can,” said City Administrator Hendrixson.

The city's "Minimum Property Maintenance Requirements" states that "no person owning, leasing, renting, occupying, including vacant lots, shall maintain or allow to be maintained on such property, except as may be permitted by any other city ordinance, any of the following conditions visible from any public street or alley:

Junk, litter and trash;
Outdoor nuisances dangerous to children, including but not limited to abandoned, broken or neglected equipment, machinery, or any appliance with a latching door;

Shopping carts in any front yard, side yard, rear yard or vacant lot of any property;

Dead, decayed, diseased or hazardous trees, or any other vegetation a majority of which (excluding vegetation located in flowerbeds, or trees, or shrubbery or existing hayfields) exceeds twelve (12) inches in height, or which is dangerous to public health, safety, and welfare, located in any front yard, side yard, rear yard, or upon any vacant lot".

The city's property maintenance ordinance provides for enforcement stating that "It shall be the duty of the Building Inspector of the City of Smithville to serve notice upon the property owner of record in violation. The property owner shall be notified in writing specifying the nature of the violation, specifying the corrective measures to be taken, and require compliance within not more than 30 days. The notice may be served upon the owners of the premises where the violation is located by:

Posting notice in plain view on the property in violation, or sending notice by mail.

The date the notice is posted or received by the offender shall serve as the beginning of the specified time period allowing for corrective action."
The ordinance further states that "Failure by the property owner to take corrective action to bring the property within compliance shall constitute a violation and be a civil offense."

"Any person violating this chapter shall be subject to a civil penalty of $50 for each separate violation of this chapter. Each day the violation of this chapter continues shall be considered a separate violation," according to the ordinance.

City Takes Step Toward Lifting Ban on Sales of Fireworks

May 2, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen

Fireworks sales inside the City limits of Smithville may be permitted in time for Independence Day celebrations

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen Monday night took the first step toward lifting the ban which has been in effect since 1982.

Under the proposed ordinance, which was adopted on first reading, a vendor may apply for a permit good for 12 months at a fee of $500 but sales would only be permitted from June 20 through July 9 and from December 21 through January 5 covering the time periods of Independence Day and New Year’s Day.

Applicants must also adhere to state laws applicable to the sales of fireworks as well as other regulations outlined in the city ordinance.

Second and final reading passage is planned at the next meeting of the mayor and aldermen on June 5

Wilkins Accuses Senator Beavers of Trying to Keep Lisa Peterson from Serving on Election Commission

May 2, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jordan Wilkins

The Chairman of the DeKalb County Democratic Party is taking issue with State Senator Mae Beavers over a measure she has tried to get passed in the General Assembly that would keep Lisa Peterson from serving as a member of the local election commission.

Peterson, a former Administrator of Elections in DeKalb County, mounted an unsuccessful legal challenge after she lost her position when Republicans took control of the election commission in 2009.

Wilkins recently recommended Peterson for a term on the local election commission to replace Richard Hearon Puckett, who resigned. The Tennessee Election Commission, which has the final say, approved Peterson’s appointment.

Senator Beavers has sought legislation this year to bar anyone from serving on a county election commission if he or she has ever been in litigation against that particular election commission and lost the case.

The amendment to Senate Bill 0925 states that “no person may serve as a member of a county election commission if the person has been a plaintiff in litigation against the county election commission on which the person seeks to serve and the court ruled in favor of the county election commission”.

Wilkins is accusing Beavers of targeting one person, Peterson, in seeking such action.

“Senator Mae Beavers has committed an egregious act of pettiness and vindictiveness by proposing an amendment that violates a number of provisions in State and Federal Constitutions,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins further alleged that Senator Beavers is also abusing her power as a State Senator.

“The proposed amendment (Senate Amendment 0223) to Senate Bill 0925/House Bill 0671 targets a particular individual, Lisa Peterson of DeKalb County, who was recommended by the DeKalb County Democratic Party to fill one of two seats on the local Election Commission,” Wilkins explained. “Since the Democrats are the minority party, the Republicans are allowed to select three and the Democrats to select two Commissioners.”

According to Wilkins, both candidates recommended by the DeKalb County Democratic Party were approved by the State Election Commission on April 3, 2017. Later that same day, Sen. Beavers proposed SA0223 to a bill that had already passed the House. Wilkins said the purpose of the amendment is to deny Mrs. Peterson the right to serve as a Commissioner on the DeKalb County Election Commission.

“The position put forth by Sen. Beavers is that since Mrs. Peterson had sued the DeKalb County Election Commission this should render her ineligible to serve as Commissioner,” he explained. “Sen. Beavers’ proposed amendment is intended to use the law retroactively to remove Mrs. Peterson from the DeKalb County Election Commission. Mrs. Peterson has been sworn in by the State and has been elected by unanimous consent by the DeKalb Election Commission to serve as its secretary for the next two years.”

Wilkins went on to state that not only does Sen. Beavers’ proposed amendment violate the principles of the two-party system guaranteeing each political party the right to select their choice of commissioners to represent their respective interests on the commission, it is an abuse of power.

According to the legal opinions sought by Wilkins and others, Sen. Beavers’ proposed amendment, on its face, is unconstitutional, based on the following:

1.Sen. Beavers’ proposed amendment violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by prohibiting a person who has sued an entity or persons serving in that entity from serving in a public office, thus violating the guaranteed constitutional right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

“Citizens are guaranteed the right to file suit in our court system and not be punished or denied an opportunity to be of service to the public because they have availed themselves of their constitutional right to do so,” Wilkins said.

2.The proposed amendment is a violation of the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 10, which states that no state shall … pass any bill of attainder or Ex Post Facto law. “A bill of attainder was a legislative act that singled out one or more persons and imposed punishment on them” (Justice William H. Rehnquist).

“SB0925 was amended with SA0223 to single out one commissioner that the State Election Commission unanimously approved to serve on the DeKalb County Election Commission,” Wilkins explained.

3.SA0223 is a violation of Ex Post Facto Law. Article 1, Section 10 of the United States
Constitution states that “no state shall pass any bill of attainder, Ex Post Facto Law,”
and Article 1, Section 11 of the State Constitution states that principle of law: a state
cannot pass a retroactive law.

“Therefore, a retroactive law is unconstitutional,” he said. “It violates both Federal and State Constitutions.”

“We should expect more from Senator Beavers than her unconstitutional targeting of an individual willing to provide public service,” Wilkins said. “Shouldn’t Senator Beavers, for example, be more concerned about healthcare, education, job opportunities and improved infrastructure for the citizens of our state?”

Sparta Woman Charged with Assault of Six Month Old Child

May 2, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Vickie Lenae Alvis

A 46 year old Sparta woman has been charged with public intoxication and assault after committing a disturbance at the Ragland Bottom Day Use Area and sticking her tongue in the mouth of a six month old child.

Vickie Lenae Alvis of North Carter Street, Sparta is under a $3,000 bond and her court date is May 18.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on April 29 a deputy responded to the Ragland Bottom Day Use Area where someone was causing a disturbance. Upon arrival the officer spoke to Alvis who was very unsteady on her feet. She had a strong odor of alcohol on her person and her speech was slurred. She was placed under arrest for her safety and that of the public. Through that investigation, the officer learned of another complaint on Alvis while she was at the day use area. A detective was assigned to the case and learned that Alvis allegedly assaulted a six month old child by putting her tongue in the child’s mouth. The child’s mother witnessed the assault.

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