Local News Articles

Mike Foster Speaks Out On UCDD Allegations, Pody Calls for Probe

February 18, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
County Mayor Mike Foster

State Representative Mark Pody has called for a meeting of legislators in the Upper Cumberland to search out the facts concerning allegations against the Upper Cumberland Development District and the "Living the Dream" project.

Reports of lavish spending and possible wrongdoing surfaced this week in a NewsChannel 5 investigation and since then Representative Pody said he has been busy answering calls from concerned constituents. "My phone has been ringing off the hook," said Pody in a telephone interview with WJLE Friday. "I've had many people calling me with concerns about this. I'm getting all the legislators together that represent these fourteen counties and we're going to be meeting over the next couple of weeks. We'll be meeting with the (state) comptroller's office on Tuesday. We will be asking them to fill us in on what is going on from their point of view and any investigations they have going on so we can be brought up to date. We will then be meeting with congressional leaders including Congressman Diane Black's office. We want to know exactly what is going on. We will then be going to the board members who are actually running this (UCDD) to get their input as well so we have an understanding of what is going on. We're certainly going to be very prudent with our taxpayer's money. We're just not going to let it sit out there like that. Sometimes you just hear from one side and all we've heard from right now is just from the TV reports. We've also got to hear from the other side and see what is going on. I know we have good competent (UCDD) board members and we've got to hear from them. But the perception from the taxpayers is that this is not good. We owe it to the taxpayers to investigate this and see what is going on," said Representative Pody.

The legislators are not the only ones wanting to know more. State auditors are being brought in to investigate and the UCDD board has hired the Nashville law firm of Walker, Tipps, and Malone, PLC to look into the situation.

UCDD's executive director Wendy Askins is at the center of the controversy. Askins lives rent free at the Living the Dream facility and questions have been raised as to whether she has misappropriated funds. In the four month investigation by NewsChannel 5, Askins reportedly made out UCDD checks to herself or to cash for questionable reimbursements such as meals, drinks, and gifts. Minutes of a UCDD board meeting were also altered.

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. Almost everything was already in place when the property was bought, including the house and fence. Small apartments were later built behind the main house. Most of the main house is meant to become a common area shared by the residents. Askins was apparently living there to help get the project off the ground since the home only had a few residents renting and not enough money was being generated to hire a manager to stay there all the time. Once complete, the home is intended to serve approximately twenty residents with the rent ranging from $500 to $2,000 per month, based on their income.

DeKalb County Mayor Mike Foster, who is chairman of the UCDD, met with WJLE and the Smithville Review Friday morning. During the interview, Foster said he suspects there has been some "lavish" spending but can't comment in detail because of the investigation. "I do believe there has been some lavish spending but I'm on the committee that has been appointed to investigate this and until we have more details, I don't think we need to point the finger at anybody. That's one of the reasons some of my statements (to Channel 5) look kind of goofy because we were told immediately before doing the (TV) interview that we should not make any negative or even positive comments about anyone in particular or any behavior they might have had until the investigation is over. We've got two sets of accountants looking at it. The comptroller is looking at it and the attorneys are looking at it," said Foster.

Although the Living the Dream project comes under the umbrella of UCDD, Foster said a separate board oversees the operation of it and he knew very little about it. " Living the Dream is a separate corporation, a 501C3 that was set up to build housing for elderly and disabled people," said Foster. " It was set up to be a group home for residents who have to be ambulatory. They couldn't be in a wheel chair (and live there). Sometime in the last couple of years LTD bought the house that a contractor had built and had lived in while he was building it. He later became disabled and died. The house then became vacant for a while. It was sold at auction and the LTD corporation purchased that existing home which was a pretty good sized, elegant looking house, but in reality is not very big on the ground floor especially. It's a very moderate sized house. But it had a big white fence around it and it had a barn built back behind it and it looks very luxurious. They were asking $700,000 for it but it brought around $370,000 to $390,000 at public auction. So the LTD corporation bought that house to use as a home similar to like the Fiddlers Manor that we have here in Smithville and some of those kinds of retirement homes. Then they were going to build on living quarters, about twenty rooms, behind it with a connecting atrium that connects them. The main house would be used as a common quarters where all the people who live there would come into that area to eat and do community type functions," said Foster.

"The board that I'm on (UCDD), we never saw anything about it (Living the Dream) until 2011," said Foster. " There was a loan approved by the Cumberland Area Investment Corporation (CAIC). It was just approved by the committee that I am on. Other than that, we didn't know much about the operation of this other than some transfers and a couple of loans that they had made. We had seen pictures of the house. But there is another board, the LTD corporation which is a 501C3 that sits on that (oversees Living the Dream). The only thing that we as the UCDD board did was approve some of the money that had been approved by another board and just acknowledge it. That's really all we knew about it. But we (UCDD board) started hearing about these questions(concerning Living the Dream) in December. Channel 5 was there at a meeting we had one day and several of us went out there to see the house (Living the Dream). That was the first time that I had ever seen it. At that time, it (house) was still not complete. Its my understanding that the LTD board had received a transfer of $300,000 of unrestricted money to do the start up and they had borrowed something like $730,000 from a bank in Putnam County. I think they had also borrowed like $225,000 from CAIC to get it all up and going. It was to provide living quarters for about twenty two people. The total was to be about a million and three or four hundred thousand dollars and it would be self supporting. It would refund the debt itself," said Foster.

According to the NewsChannel 5 report, Askins transferred the first $300,000 from UCDD money to Living the Dream two years ago. Recently, the UCDD board called a special meeting to retroactively approve that $300,000 seed money, saying they could find no documentation in the agency's official minutes that the board had ever actually voted on it. But, according to the report, Askins' office had provided a bogus set of minutes (to Channel 5) for February 2010 showing that the Living the Dream money had been approved.

Foster said the revelation of the "bogus" minutes is troubling to him. "He (Channel 5 reporter) asked me before this interview if I had anything that concerned me. I said yes I am concerned about some minutes that appear to have been changed. We talked about specifically what minutes they were. I don't know who changed them (minutes) but there is a set of minutes that we approved and there is a different set of minutes that have been inserted," said Foster.

As for allegations that funds may have been spent on wining and dining and possibly at political events, Foster said he has not personally participated in any such UCDD activities. "I was not at any of those things. I have attended some functions at Delmonaco which is a winery, but its like a meeting place. In fact, I've been there probably three times with our county commission with the County Technical Advisory Service (CTAS). I guess they (CTAS) rent that and have the CTAS training sessions there. I have been there to that. There's also been some comments about me saying I had never seen any of the UCDD board members drink a lot. We're never in that situation. We're either at a meeting in the UCDD building or at Leslie Town Center or at maybe one of the counties here. I won't say never, but rarely are we ever in a setting to where there is alcohol," said Foster.

Channel 5's investigation further revealed purchases of gifts for UCDD board members by Askins, allegedly at the expense of taxpayers. Foster said he has never received any such gifts.

Foster said he is bothered how that all these revelations did not turn up in the annual UCDD audit which was recently released. According to Foster, the auditor noted no findings but made seven recommendations which have already been adopted by the UCDD board. Among them was a recommendation that "consideration be given for requiring board approval of special projects to be undertaken by the agency. At the present time, the executive director (Askins) has the authority to engage in these projects as long as they comply with the purpose of the development district as defined by Tennessee Code Annotated."

Foster said he expects that the board will also appoint a chief financial officer to give regular updates to the board in the future. "One of the things we have talked about that I think you will see happen, there will be a CFO appointed or hired. A financial officer that will handle all the financial aspects of this organization and report directly to the board. Right now we (UCDD) board members are there maybe an hour and a half every two to four months. By law, we have to meet four times a year. We're volunteers. We are a part time board and receive no pay. We serve a legal or technical purpose but we don't have access to any of these papers (financial documents). We just don't do it. We don't have time to. If there are as many gross things wrong as Channel 5 says, why didn't he (auditor) pick it up and why did he not tell us? If there's this many obvious things wrong, it should have been picked up and reported. That's all we have to go by. We can only go by what the audit says because we all have things to do in our home counties," said Foster.

UCDD serves Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Van Buren, Warren, and White counties.

Foster said UCDD serves the counties in a variety of ways. "The people on the board I am on are primarily concerned with grants, trying to help the elderly, and trying to do things that benefit the individual communities. They apply for Community Development Block Grants. That's the main thing we're concerned with. Many of the other programs are under their own separate corporations and boards," said Foster.

According to the UCDD website, the agency has programs that serve the Older Adult population through the Area Agency on Aging and Disability. UCDD serves children and families with the Relative Caregiver Program and Special Projects Department. It meets infrastructure needs with the Community and Economic Development Team. The Housing Department addresses housing needs for underserved populations. Through the Research Department the agency seeks new and innovative programs to better serve communities. UCDD works to preserve the unique cultural and natural assets of the region through Cultural Resources Management. The Cumberland Area Investment Corporation helps develop small businesses, and it helps local communities plan transportation projects through Rural Planning Organizations.

Woman Injured in One Car Crash Cited for Texting While Driving

February 17, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Car hits utility pole guide wire and overturns on Allen Ferry Road

An 18 year old Smithville woman, allegedly texting while driving, was injured in a crash on the Allen Ferry Road Friday afternoon.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Josie Danielle Culwell was driving north in a 2003 Nissan Maxima when she abruptly went off the road to the right and into a ditchline at the edge of a field. The car struck a utility pole guide wire, slid around, and then rolled over on its top near the ditch. Culwell climbed out of the car through an open window. She was later taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Culwell was issued citations for not wearing her seatbelt, failing to maintain her lane of travel, and for texting while driving.

In addition to DeKalb EMS and Trooper Jennings, members of the Smithville Police Department, the Cookeville Highway Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, and workers of local electric and telephone utilities were on the scene.

Change of Address Required for Some Residents Due to 911 Mapping Updates

February 16, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Brad Mullinax

In order to correct anomalies in the local 911 map, the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District has announced that the addresses of approximately five hundred locations are being changed as the state converts to the new Next Generation 911 digital system, a move which is expected to mean more reliable service throughout Tennessee.

Letters are being sent to DeKalb County residents who will be affected by the changes.

Brad Mullinax, Director of the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (911 center), told WJLE Thursday that the state is requiring that these changes be made. "We have some addressing anomalies that have been brought to our attention by the state. We're undergoing some major changes with 911 in Tennessee and these changes will make for difficult times for some people in our community. The end result is going to be good but it will be a little bit of an inconvenience to some of our citizens. Basically we have to send our maps to the state Geographical Information Systems (GIS) office. We did that but they have sent those maps back to us after checking them. We started out with about 2,100 addressing anomalies across the county but we've been able to sort through and fix about 1,600 of these without having to change people's addresses. Unfortunately we found about 500 addresses that are so bad and so wrong that we're having to change them. I know this is not popular with folks and it's a time consuming process for people to have to change their address but unfortunately we don't have any choice. These changes are necessary in order to comply with the new state mandated NG911 ," said Mullinax

Last September, the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) announced the completion of the first phase of the state's conversion to Next Generation 911 (NG911). "We're going through an upgrade right now and it's called Next Generation 911," said Mullinax. " Its basically going to be a large IP based network that will connect all 911 centers in the state of Tennessee. With that change, the calls are actually going to be routed out of Nashville. Our maps are going to have to be correct at the selective router in Nashville for them to decide which county the calls should be routed to. We're having to fix these addressing anomalies so that the state computer will know which way these calls need to be routed," said Mullinax.

According to Mullinax, the DeKalb ECD has the authority to change the numbers of street addresses but not road names. That is left up to the county and the cities. "We're granted that power (address changes) by state law. Its very systematic the way we do these addresses. We go out and measure each road. We have a formula that we plug the measurements into to come up with your address," said Mullinax. "What we're changing is just the numbering itself. We do not have the authority to change road names, that has to be acted on by the county commission or the city of Smithville, whichever governing body oversees those streets. We do have some road names that have been changed by the county commission. We're sending out letters notifying folks of these street name changes and then we're giving them a new address with their new street name. But we (DeKalb ECD) are not changing any street names. We don't have the authority to do that. We're just passing on and re-addressing those numbers based on these new street names," said Mullinax.

In many cases, the so called "anomalies" involve odd numbered addresses on the side of the roads where even numbered addresses are supposed to be and vice versa. "Its all over the county," said Mullinax.. "There is no particular area. They go from the city of Smithville all the way from the east to the west and from the north to the south. We're running into problems all over the county. Many of these are numbers that we found that are addressed on the wrong side of the road. For instance, we have an odd number on the even (number) side of the road or an even number on the odd (number) side of the road. Basically what that means is that if you're going up a road, the odd numbered (addresses) should be on the lefthand side of the road and the even numbered (addresses) should be on the right. So if we have a mixture (of odd and even numbers on the same side of the street) we have to correct those because they will not map," said Mullinax.

Some residents affected have already received their letters and have expressed an unwillingness to go along with the changes, according to Mullinax. "We've had some people say they're not going to change their address. You probably could have gotten by with that a few years ago but with the new advances in technology at the postal service, the way they deliver mail is directly affected by the address that we (DeKalb ECD) give the post office so it is crucial for you to change your address when we stipulate for you to do so because if you don't there is a chance you won't get your mail. It may get sent back. We are notifying everyone (affected) and once you get that letter, its pretty clear on the date when the address (change) is supposed to be effective. We're also sending a copy of that letter to their post office. We're encouraging people to notify their utilities of their changes. We're giving everybody at least a thirty day notice to change these addresses. I want to apologize to the citizens of our county for having to do this but we are doing it for their best interest. We want to be able to find them in the event of an emergency and for there not to be any kind of delay in finding them." said Mullinax.

In its September media release, the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) announced that the core infrastructure of the Next Generation 911 (NG911) will allow individual 911 centers across the state to connect to NG911.

"The completion of Phase I of the NG911 project is a significant milestone," said TECB Chair Randy Porter. "We want to thank our partners at AT&T and TCS for their efficient and effective work. We're now ready to test the core and move forward with the next phase – connecting local 911 centers to the core."

NG911 is essentially a digital version of 911 transmitted over the State of Tennessee's existing statewide Internet Protocol (IP) network, NetTN. The conversion is similar to converting televisions from analog to digital. In this case, 911 trunks are being converted from antiquated, copper-wire technology to the latest in digital communications capability.

"NG911 will mean more reliable 911 services for our citizens," said TECB Executive Director Lynn Questell. "It will allow for uninterrupted service in the case of power outages and other disasters that may knock out a 911 center. Call transfers will be seamless and the system will have 100 percent redundancy – essentially meaning that if one center goes out, a fully functioning backup will be available. The bottom line is NG911 will mean the very best technology is being deployed to keep Tennessee citizens safe."

The core infrastructure of the NG911 network includes four centers to aggregate emergency communications traffic. These centers are in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Additionally, two centers provide traffic routing of 911 calls.

The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board ensures that every citizen can effectively access the life-saving power of 911. The TECB is composed of nine members from across the state of Tennessee – including five 911 professionals and representatives of cities, counties and the general public. It is administratively attached to the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. www.tn.gov/commerce/

"Budding Authors Publishing Party" Held for First Methodist Pre-School Students

February 16, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

A "Budding Authors Publishing Party" was held for students in the Smithville First United Methodist Church Pre-School Thursday night at the Christian Fellowship Center.

The students, their parents, and teachers celebrated the release of a hardback book featuring writings and illustrations of the students themselves.

During the party, each child was asked to point out or read from the things he or she had written and drawn on their pages of the booklet.

Emily Bass, director of the pre-school, said the project was about two months in the making. "Tonight we've been enjoying a night of listening to the children read stories they have written about things they love and enjoy. This was a project put together by one of our parents, Mandy Dakas. The kids each took time and wrote in their very own handwriting and illustrated all by themselves. Each one did a page. We then had them (pages) compiled and printed together into a class hardback booklet. This class is made up of our pre-kindergarten kids, ages four and five, and they will be graduating in May and going on to kindergarten. So this (book) is a special keepsake for them and their parents," said Bass

Students (publishers) participating were Avery Agee, Landon Colwell, Caroline Crook, Andrew Dakas, Annabella Dakas, Milas Driver, Dallas Kirby, Madeline Martin, Melody McConnaughey (absent Thursday night) Addison Miller (absent), Layla Newby, Katherine Knowles, Emily Robinson, Owen Snipes (absent), Braelyn Teachout, and Tiara Patrick.

Teachers are Reta Steffe and Lauren Hansard.

New County Clerk's Office Soon to Offer Duplicate Title Printing Service

February 16, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
County Clerk Mike Clayborn Greets Customer at Drive Through Window
Clerk Employees Tammy Pack (Left), Leslie Tramel (Center), Krissa Beers (Right)
Customers at Counter in County Clerk Office
County Clerk Office Waiting Area

The DeKalb County Clerk's Office is prepared to begin printing duplicate titles once authorization is given by the state.

County Clerk Mike Clayborn said this service will be an added convenience to the people of DeKalb County. "We've been working on this for some time now. Probably about a year. We have all of our equipment in place including all of our computers and printers but we're waiting on the state to send us the title paper and the numbers. We've hit a snag. At the present time the state is not sending out any new contracts. We have to contract with the state to do this and right now it (delay) has something to do with funding. There are other counties that are in the same boat we're in. They're waiting to be able to do this for their people. We're waiting on the state to give us a contract to do that. I've been assured by the state that as soon as they can they will. I was hoping to get this thing up and going by March. I had everything in place to do that and I never really dreamed that I couldn't get a contract but I can't get one right now. We're waiting but I've been assured that in the near future we'll have one. When they give us a contract we'll be able to print your duplicate titles and you won't have to go out of town to do it. So we're ready and have the equipment in place and the people ready to do it. Now we're just waiting on the state to give us the okay and we'll be up and running," said Clayborn.

Remember too that the county clerk's office is now on South Congress Boulevard. Even though the office was relocated from the courthouse to the new complex in August, Clayborn said many people still don't know. "We're having some problems with people finding us. They're still going to the courthouse. But we've not been at the courthouse since August 23. I would like for everyone to understand that we have moved to the new county complex. We're in the first room on the right when you enter the new building. We're located at 732 South Congress Boulevard. That's on the end nearest the old Peking Restaurant. We still have the same hours of operation, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. The only time we're not open on Saturday is when a holiday weekend falls on a Friday or Monday," said Clayborn.

The new clerk's office also features a drive through window. "We're certainly proud of our new drive through window. We ask that people take advantage of it because its for renewals only. Current renewals. You don't have to get out of your car. You don't have to climb any steps. Just pull up to the window and give us your renewal form and we can do it (process) for you in about three to four minutes and then you'll be ready to do. More people are finding it. But if you want to get out and come in to see the new county complex, we welcome you to come in. But if its rainy or bad outside and you don't want to get out of your car, just come up to the drive through window and we'll be more than glad to wait on you there,' said Clayborn.

Magistrate Dismisses Certain Claims In Federal Lawsuit Against County

February 14, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

A U.S. Magistrate Judge has granted defense motions to dismiss certain claims in a federal court lawsuit against DeKalb County over the death of an inmate while in the custody of the Sheriff's Department two years ago.

Doris Hullett filed the lawsuit over a year 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".

The lawsuit alleges 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.

Based upon a finding that the federal court lacked jurisdiction, Magistrate Judge John S. Bryant recently dismissed Hullet's claim under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, her wrongful death claim, and her claim for medical negligence without prejudice but stated in the order that she could "pursue these claims in Tennessee Circuit Court". Hullett's claim under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act was also dismissed for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. The Court will retain jurisdiction of Hullet's state law claims for civil conspiracy and outrageous conduct as well her claim for punitive damages. The case is set for trial in December.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include DeKalb County; Patrick Ray, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff; Kenneth Ray, Rick Smith, Jim Hendrix, Mark Nichols, Ernie Hargis, Kyle Casper, individually and in their official capacities; John Does 1-4; Renee Riddle, LPN; Robert Alan Stultz, PA; and Southern Health Partners, Inc.

Hullett is seeking compensatory damages against all defendants, jointly and severally in the amount of $750,000; an award, including loss of consortium in the amount of $750,000; punitive damages in the amount of $1,250,000; attorney fees and litigation expenses in an amount to be determined at trial; and treble damages; plus such other and further legal and or equitable relief to which she may be entitled or the court deems proper.

Early Voting Begins Wednesday, Voters Reminded to Bring Photo ID's

February 14, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Scott Cantrell, Bryan Keith, Timothy "Fud" Banks
A driver license is one of several acceptable forms of photo ID for voting

Early voting for the March 6 elections begins Wednesday, February 15 and for the first time DeKalb County residents will be required to show a photo ID at the polls.

Dates and hours for early voting are Wednesday, February 15 through Tuesday, February 28 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.; Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.; and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until noon. All early voting will take place in the basement courtroom of the DeKalb County Courthouse. Closed February 20 for President's Day.

The election commission office is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the first floor of the courthouse, room 104. The phone number is 597-4146.

Remember, as a voter you must declare which primary in which you intend to vote. For example, if you declare your intention to vote in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary, you cannot vote in either the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary or the DeKalb County Democratic Primary (for Assessor of Property and Constable). Likewise, if you choose to vote in the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary and the DeKalb County Democratic Primary (for Assessor of Property and Constable), you cannot vote in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary

If you choose to vote in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary you may vote for one of the following candidates:

Michele Bachman
Newt Gingrich
Jon Huntsman
Gary Johnson
Ron Paul
Rick Perry
Charles "Buddy" Roemer
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum
Uncommitted

The Republican ballot also lists the names of Delegates At Large for Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney (Committed and Uncommitted) as well as Delegates in the 6th Congressional District for Gingrich, Paul, Perry, and Romney (Committed and Uncommitted).

If you choose to vote in the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary, the only name listed is Barack Obama and Uncommitted.

The DeKalb County Democratic Primary ballot features the Assessor of Property race. The candidates are listed as follows:

Timothy "Fud" Banks
Scott E. Cantrell
Bryan Keith

Constable candidates are on the ballot in the following districts:

3rd District:
Wayne Vanderpool

4th District:
Paul Cantrell

5th District:
Mark Milam

6th District:
Richard Bullard
Carl Lee Webb

7th District
Johnny King

Four More Defendants Charged in Grand Jury Sealed Indictments Arrested by Sheriff's Department

February 14, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Michael Stewart Brown
Teddy Allen Snipes
Dennis Charles Ellis
Samuel Wade Walker
Nathan Joe Trapp
Joseph Eric Kile
Victoria Chantel Tate
Scotty Dale Farmer

Four more persons have been arrested named in sealed indictments on drug charges returned by the grand jury earlier this month as part of an undercover investigation by the sheriff's department.

The following are those defendants and their charges:

36 year old Michael Stewart Brown of McMinnville- Sale and delivery of a schedule III drug in a drug free zone ( Bond $30,000). He was arrested on Monday, February 6

35 year old Teddy Allen Snipes of Smithville- Sale and delivery of a schedule IV drug (2 counts) ($40,000 bond). He was arrested on February 6

50 year old Dennis Charles Ellis of Smithville- Sale and delivery of a schedule II drug ( $30,000 bond). He was arrested on February 6.

33 year old Samuel Wade Walker of Smithville- Sale and delivery of a schedule II drug in a drug free zone ( $40,000 bond).

In addition to the sealed indictment on the drug charge, the sheriff's department has charged Walker and another man in a separate case with theft of property over $1,000.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Walker and 29 year old Nathan Joe Trapp of Smithville went to Smithville Rental Center on East Broad Street Tuesday, February 2 and allegedly stole 940 pounds of metal racks valued at more than $1,000, taking it to a local recycling center where they sold it. Bond for each is $5,000 on this charge and they will be in court on February 16.

In other cases, 34 year old Joseph Eric Kile of Smithville is charged with violation of the sex offender registry. His bond is $25,000 and he will be in court on February 16.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Thursday, February 9 Kile was picked by a sheriff's department detective for violation of probation. An NCIC check showed that he was a violent sex offender. Kile admitted to living in DeKalb County for about a week. He violated the sex offender registry by not registering within the time mandated by law.

20 year old Victoria Chantel Tate of Smithville is charged with assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. He bond is $4,500 and she will be in court on February 23.

According to Sheriff Ray, while two correctional officers were escorting inmates on foot from court back to the jail on Thursday, February 9, a sheriff's department sergeant saw a woman, identified as Tate, run toward the inmates trying to speak to one of them. As she approached, Tate ran into one of the correctional officers, causing him to fear bodily injury. Tate was placed under arrest but as the sergeant was attempting to handcuff her, she kept trying to pull away from him. Her actions caused public alarm and safety issues.

35 year old Scotty Dale Farmer of Hickman is charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $500. He was arrested on Friday, February 10. His bond is $10,000 and he will be in court on February 16

Sheriff Ray reports that on Wednesday, January 18, Farmer allegedly entered a residence on Hickman Road by prying open a back door. He allegedly stole a diamond ring, two silver rings, two knives, and an ipod touch with a total value of more than $500.

20 year old Clay Andrew Baine of Smithville was issued a citation for possession of alcohol by a minor after being involved in a recent traffic accident on Lakeview Drive. Upon arrival, the investigating officer made contact with Bain who had a can of Keystone lite beer in a cup holder of the vehicle. He will be in court on March 22

Habitat Seeking to Build HOPE for Another Partner Family

February 13, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
1st Habitat Partner Family Home on Adams Street
2nd Habitat Partner Family Home on Adams Street
3rd Habitat Partner Family Home located on Hayes Street

Members of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County have helped build HOPE for three partner families within the last five years and they would like to reach out to another family this year.

If you would like to experience the dream of home ownership you are invited to attend an
informational meeting and application fair on Thursday, February 16 at 6 p.m. at the First United Methodist Fellowship Center in Downtown Smithville across the street from Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Families will receive information about the Habitat Program and assistance to complete the application.

The third Habitat home on Hayes Street in DeKalb County was completed during the summer of 2010 for Kim McCowan and her grandchildren. The other two homes, completed within the last five years for the Denise Perry and Felicia Gibbs families, are located on Adams Street.

"We are seeking a partner family for 2012," said Marie Blair, chair of the Family Selection Committee for Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County. " To help people learn all about Habitat, we are having an informational meeting to explain all about Habitat. We will help you fill out an application and let you know what will be expected if you become a partner family," said Blair.

Applications must be postmarked by March 30. "We will help you at the February meeting and if you are unable to attend the meeting you can call Habitat and leave a message. One of the volunteers will call you back. The phone number is 215-8181," said Blair.

While Habitat provides resources and assistance, partner families are expected to do their part in helping build and pay for the homes. "I want to make sure everyone understands that this is not a free house," said Blair. " The house does belong to the partner family but its an opportunity for them to buy a house at no interest. They will pay only for the house. The family gets to help select the colors of their rooms, the kind of floors they want, etc. Of course there are some guidelines. We have some different house plans depending on the size and shape of the lot but the family does get to be involved in that (selecting house plans). The way they make their down payment is called sweat equity. That means the partner family actually works on the house. The children can help. They can earn sweat equity partly by staying in school, improving their grades, and having perfect attendance. It's a whole big family project," said Blair.

"We really do need a family," she said. " If you can make a house payment of between $300 and $400 a month and you don't have lots of other debt or if you do have debt, please attend the meeting. We're starting a new program to hopefully help families who need to get their finances in order. If you have interest in owning your own home and don't want to have to think about moving again and where your children can play in their own yard, come to the meeting on February 16," said Blair.

Volunteers are also needed to help when the time comes to start construction. " If you think you don't know anything about building, we have contractors that will tell you what to do," said Blair. "But all of us can pick up the trash from the work site. We have good support from our church community. They provide lunch when people are over there working on the house. Anything you can do, we can use your help. There are people who will be willing to show you what to do. We do have construction experts that do things like the foundation, the roof, and those things. We're just looking for people of all ages who want to help so if you want to volunteer you can call that same phone number (215-8181) and say I'd like to volunteer and work on the house," said Blair.

To qualify as a partner family, applicants must meet the following basic criteria:

1. Be a DeKalb County resident for at least 1 year.
2. Be a U.S. Citizen or have permanent resident alien status.
3. Have a housing need. For example, current conditions may be overcrowded, unsanitary, unsafe, temporary or cost prohibitive.
4.Have an ability to pay. Applicants must provide proof of income and ability to pay a monthly mortgage.
5.Be willing to partner. Qualified families will participate in budgeting and home maintenance classes as well as help in the construction of their own home.

If you are unable to attend the February 16th meeting, you may call 615-215-8181 and leave your name, address and phone number. A Habitat volunteer will contact you to provide additional information and perhaps mail an application to you.

To be considered, completed and signed applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 30, 2012.

The purpose of Habitat is to build houses and sell them at no profit and no interest to families who could not otherwise afford their own home. This Christian ministry is financed through private donations using volunteer labor and donated materials whenever possible.

Saving Lives Officially Underway

February 13, 2012
by: 
Chase Ferrell, DeKalb County Relay for Life Promotions/Media Chair
Saving Lives Officially Underway

The Relay for Life season is officially off to a great start! The DeKalb County Relay for Life Kickoff was this past Tuesday (February 7th) at the “Coaches vs. Cancer” basketball game at the high school, and I must say I was truly impressed with the amazing turnout! The DeKalb County basketball teams showed their breast cancer awareness support by wearing hot pink shirts saying “Hoops for Hope” and Cannon County sported light pink tees with the official breast cancer awareness ribbon on the front. A large majority of the crowd also showed their support for not only the basketball game but also for awareness of the terrifying disease that takes the lives of many men, women and children every year. Our Relay Committee set up a table outside the gym and sold pom-poms, bracelets and signed up teams on a constant basis throughout the night. I can’t thank you enough for your incredible support!

You may be wondering where the money goes that you donated; well, many people do not realize that Tennessee spent 10.2 million dollars last year on breast cancer research. This research goes to finding a cure, and doctors and scientists work around the clock to speed up the process in order to save as many lives as possible. Breast cancer does not only affect women as many men are diagnosed each year so it’s important for EVERYONE to get screened on a regular basis. The death rate for breast cancer has gone down an incredible amount since last year so it’s vital that we continue to support the American Cancer Society to insure they have the funds they need to save lives. My grandmother was a breast cancer survivor and she lived a wonderful life until God called her home in September of 2010, therefore, this organization has a special place in my heart. I will do my best to keep all of you updated (via newspapers, WJLE, Facebook and email) with information on all our upcoming events. You’ll be shocked with all the awesome ideas we’ve come up with!

If you are a business that would be interested in promoting the DeKalb County Relay for Life then please email us and let us know so we can get information to you! You, in return, will get free publicity on our end as a Relay Sponsor.

For more information on how you can get involved with the DeKalb County Relay for Life, or to see all the photos taken at the events (which you are more than welcome to tag yourself in), please visit: www.facebook.com/DeKalbRelay or email: dekalbrelay@gmail.com

Remember, every step we take is one step closer to finding a cure! Let’s get DeKalb County excited about saving lives!

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