Local News Articles

Mistake Discovered on Early Voting Smithville Election Ballot

May 29, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A mistake on the early voting ballot in the Smithville Municipal Election, in which the name Jerry Hutchins, Jr. was listed as a candidate for alderman, has now been corrected.

The ballot should have listed the name Jerry Hutchins, Sr. and not Jerry Hutchins, Jr.

In a prepared statement, Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley says "It was brought to my attention Thursday evening (May 28th) that there was a typographical error on the early voting ballot for the Smithville Municipal Election. The error was that incumbent alderman candidate Jerry Hutchins, Sr. was listed as Jerry Hutchins, Jr."

"I, along with local election commission officials and state officials, immediately began to take steps to correct the problem. Before early voting closed Friday (May 29th), the error was corrected, and the ballot on the two early voting machines now correctly reads "Jerry Hutchins, Sr.".

"Voters should rest assured that any votes cast for Jerry Hutchins, Jr. before the ballot was corrected will be counted for Jerry Hutchins, Sr."

"As indicated, I was in constant contact with the proper state officials who guided me in correcting the error, consequently, voting (and the entire election) will continue as planned."

State Election Coordinator Mark Goins told WJLE Friday says this was simply a minor typographical error and there is no reason to void the election because of it. "This is not the first time this has happened (in Tennessee). It occurs every election cycle where there is some type of mistake dealing with a name being misspelled or whatever. Occasionally this happens. But I think in this case, it's the intent of the voter. They're voting for who they think they are voting for. It's a minor typo as opposed to where somebody might be running as say "Mark Shelby" and their name is really "Mark Smith". That would be a huge issue. If the courts were to look at it, they would look at the intent of the voter and I would certainly think that the voter would be intending to vote for the person running for office. This guy (Jerry Hutchins, Sr.) is already on the city council and I don't think the voter is going to be confused."

The entire slate of candidates on the ballot are as follows:

Gary Durham, Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Shawn Jacobs, Aaron Meeks, Tonya Sullivan, Willie Thomas, W.J. (Dub) White, and Todd Van Dyne.

School Board Again Delays Action on Football Fieldhouse

May 29, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education, for the second time, has delayed granting approval for the construction of a new field house for the high school football program.

During the May 14th regular meeting of the board, Darrell Gill of the Jr. Pro Football program formally made the request stating that new field house would be built with high school football and Jr. Pro funds and that the school system would not be asked for any money. He added that most of the construction would be done with volunteer labor.

The issue was referred to the board's facilities committee, which met May 19th to study the legal and liability aspects of the proposal. The board was to have made a final decision during a special meeting which was held Thursday night (May 28th). But that decision has been postponed again until the next regular meeting on June 11th after Director of Schools Mark Willoughby received a legal opinion from an attorney for the Tennessee School Boards Association warning against possible violations of the federal Title IX law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

The concern is whether building a new field house for the high school football program, even without school system funds, would constitute a violation of Title IX when there is no similar facility for girls soccer.

Director Willoughby, in a letter to attorney Charles W. Cagle of Nashville, posed the following question: Could the construction of a new field house for a boy's football program on school property result in the need for similar facilities for girls soccer?

Cagle replied with the following response:" Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1973 states that no educational program that receives federal funding shall discriminate on the basis of sex. As a result of the adoption of these amendments, several complaints to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights have been filed concerning athletics. Indeed, several lawsuits have been filed over perceived disparities in boys and girls athletic programs. Many of these complaints/lawsuits arise over facilities that are constructed by support organizations for use by a single team. To be clear, many of these suits and complaints concern the provision of facilities, coaches, equipment, and preferential playing times for a boys athletic team versus the same considerations for a girls team. In each case, the U.S. Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights has been clear in their rulings: school systems are responsible to see that discrimination does not occur in the provision of these facilities, coaches, equipment, playing time, or other support. Even if the building proposed for DeKalb County is being built by a team support organization, DeKalb County remains responsible for seeing that the girls facilities and supports are equal to those provided to the boys team. If this is not the case, I would advise that plans need to be made to consider alterations in facilities and improvements in supports to bring the girls team into parity with the boys program."

Willoughby said Thursday night that he is not opposed to a new field house but wants the board to be fully aware of the legal issues. "I'm for a field house but I believe the board needs to be aware that should there be a Title IX complaint and should they find out that the facilities are not equal, there's not much of a defense. If the people who come and investigate and tell you to make sure that there's equality and no disparity then you will say ‘yes sir' or ‘yes ma'am' and you will do it."

Willoughby added that the major concern is with athletic programs which have their seasons at the same time of the year. "Let's say that girls soccer was in the spring, you wouldn't have to worry about it, as I understand the law. It is the teams in which their games are going on simultaneously. It doesn't have to be on the same night. But if the boys have a nice locker room and the girls soccer team is playing the next week, they should also have a nice locker room."

According to Willoughby anyone could lodge a complaint whether it be a parent or concerned citizen, triggering an investigation. "Here you've got someone (Jr. Pro and High School Football Program) wanting to give you $50,000 (new building), and they're going to do everything to the building and we've got a federal law that basically says as long as nobody complains you're hunky dori. If somebody complains, you've got to have a facility that is just as good (for another athletic program). It's the federal government and usually they give you two years, but if don't fix whatever they say to fix, we don't get federal funds and we don't operate (schools)."

But whether or not a new field house is built, could the school system already be in violation of Title IX since there is an existing field house and no facility of any kind for the soccer program?

DCHS Football Coach Steve Trapp said he believes building a new field house could actually address some of these very concerns. "We're moving out of a facility (existing field house) and on their (soccer) game nights, we don't have a problem with them using that (existing field house). It's going to be used by the middle school football team when they have a home game and Jr. Pro football has a right to use that when they have games on Saturdays. But when soccer boys or girls, spring or fall, have a game they will be free to use those facilities. I don't think there would ever be a complaint if they are allowed to do that. This will make it better for everybody. They will have a place on their game nights and that's more than they've got right now."

In response, Willoughby said this probably wouldn't solve the problem since the existing field house would not be a place the girls soccer team could call their own.

Gill, during Thursday night's meeting, renewed his request for board approval. "I would like to see you approve it just for the fact that our kids have worked hard and our parents have worked hard. We've got a great opportunity to get a nice facility at no cost to the county. I hate to see our kids deprived because we're worried about somebody complaining."

Board member W.J. (Dub) Evins III said he came to the meeting Thursday night prepared to vote for the request but now has reservations after learning of Cagle's legal opinion.

Board member Bruce Parsley said he felt it was unfair to compare soccer and football. "I just don't think we can compare football with girls soccer. I think you compare girls soccer with boys soccer, as long as they're even, that's fine. Or baseball and softball, or girls basketball and boys basketball, but you can't compare football because it's not an exclusive male sport."

Board member Kenny Rhody responded, "I can't see us not being able to provide this for our kids because of fear of what might happen. Somebody might complain, but our kids need this."

Board member Johnny Lattimore made a motion, which was approved, to postpone final action until the June 11th school board meeting. In the meantime, Willoughby will ask Cagle to give his legal opinion as to whether the school system would be in compliance with Title IX by allowing the girls soccer, middle school football, and Jr. Pro football programs to share use of the existing football field house during the fall sports seasons. Since neither of the teams play at the same time, each one could use the facility on their particular game day

The new fieldhouse, a 50 x 70 foot block exterior structure with a metal roof, would be located near the existing facility between the practice field and playing field. It would be for the Tiger football program complete with a dressing room area, locker room, training room, utility room, showers and bathrooms, an office for the coach, and two dry storage areas, one of which would be for the youth football league.

Willoughby, in his letter to Cagle, also asked if "there are specific building requirements of which the board should be aware concerning the construction of the football field house."

In his response, Cagle wrote, " I am advised that the field house is to be constructed on school board (public) property and that the cost for this construction is to exceed $25,000. As such, the building must conform to the laws relating to construction of public works projects."

"As this is new construction and not a renovation of, or an addition to, an existing structure and, since the site of the construction is to be on school board property with a cost exceeding $25,000, the law states clearly that there must be plans, specifications, and estimates that are prepared by a qualified registrant (in this case, a licensed architect or engineer). This school board has the duty to insist upon compliance with the law and is the agency against whom fines will be levied for non-compliance."

"I know the school board appreciates the citizens who head this effort. However, please be aware that there are legal and programmatic considerations outlined in this memorandum relating to further specific responsibilities of the school board in the acceptance of the offer."

Sheriff and SRO Officer Release Annual School Activity Report

May 28, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Sheriff Patrick Ray and School Resource Officer Kenneth Whitehead have compiled stats for the 2008-2009 year from all the schools in the county.

Deputy Whitehead says in a letter to the Sheriff “As you can see it has been a busy year. I have met with many students and dealt with all kinds of problems throughout this school year. I feel that due to this contact I have helped these students deal with some problems and that my presence at the school does wonders for the student body. I hope that the school system and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department continues to see the importance of the School Resource Officer Program and what benefits it can obtain from having it. I have enclosed the 2008-2009 school year SRO report.”

The reports are as follows:

DeKalb West-
Assist Deputies- 1
Advisory Sessions with Students- 17
Advisory Sessions with Parents- 5
Advisory Sessions with Teachers or Staff- 16
Classroom Lectures- 4
Special School events- 4
Meetings attended- 2
Total for year- 49

Smithville Elementary
Advisory Sessions with Students- 2
Advisory Sessions with Parents- 2
Advisory Sessions with Teachers or Staff- 3
Total for year- 7

Northside Elementary
Assist Deputies- 1
Advisory Sessions with Students- 1
Advisory Sessions with Parents- 3
Advisory Sessions with Teachers or Staff- 3
Classroom Lectures- 1
Special School events- 3
Court Appearances- 1
Total for year- 13
1 citation wrote for cigarettes

DeKalb Middle School
Misdemeanor Arrests- 8
Drug Arrest- 4
Assist Deputies- 5
Advisory Sessions with Students- 60
Advisory Sessions with Parents- 24
Advisory Sessions with Teachers or Staff- 32
Special School events- 17
Court Appearances- 5
Motorist assist- 1
Total for year- 156

DeKalb High School
Offense reports- 7
Misdemeanor Arrests- 27
Drug Arrest- 8
Assist Deputies- 37
Advisory Sessions with Students about School- 699
Advisory Sessions with Students about Family- 4
Advisory Sessions with Students about Law Enforcement- 283
Advisory Sessions with Parents- 111
Advisory Sessions with Teachers or Staff- 308
Conflict resolutions- 6
Classroom Lectures- 31
Special School events- 56
Meetings attended- 13
Court Appearances- 17
Medical Assists- 2
Motorist assist- 20
Club Meetings- 4
Others not listed- 319
Cigarettes Citations- 27
Fights- 18
Unruly- 2
Total for year- 1999

Sheriff Ray says “Our School Resource Officer is stationed at the DeKalb High School, but responds to all schools in the county. For the safety of our children and school staff, I feel that the School Resource Officer is a great tool for our school system. I will be looking forward to meeting with the Director of Schools, Mr. Mark Willoughby, for the upcoming 2009-2010 school year and continuing the School Resource Officer position in our school system.”

DeKalb County Jobless Rate for April at 10.7%

May 28, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County unemployment rate for April was 10.7%, down slightly from 11% in March, but still much higher than the 5.1% rate in April, 2008.

The local labor force for April was 9,830. A total of 8,780 were employed and 1,050 were unemployed.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April at 9.9 percent is 0.3 percentage point higher than the revised March rate of 9.6 percent.

The United States’ unemployment rate for the month of April was 8.9 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for April show that the rate increased in 29 counties, decreased in 59 counties and remained the same in seven counties.

Lincoln and Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.3 percent. Perry County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 23.9 percent, down from 25.6 in March, followed by Scott County at 18.3 percent, down from 18.8 percent in March.

Knox County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.4 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from the March rate. Davidson County was 8.0 percent, up 0.1 from the previous month. Hamilton County was at 8.3 percent, up 0.3 percentage point from the March rate, and Shelby County was 8.9 percent, unchanged from the March rate.

Nine People Sentenced in Criminal Court

May 28, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Nine people appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court last Friday to settle their cases before Judge David Patterson.

The following persons entered pleas under negotiated settlements with the prosectuors:

44 year old Wendell Lee Gibbs pleaded guilty to theft over $10,000 and received a six year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Corrections, to serve 244 days. He must make restitution to be determined in a separate hearing. Gibbs must perform 40 hours of community service work. The case is to run consecutive to any other case against him.

25 year old Thomas Jacob Sims pleaded guilty to theft under $500 and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended except for 60 days to serve. He must make $250 restitution and pay $50 to the economic crime fund.. He was given jail credit of 41 days.

29 year old David L. Martin pleaded guilty to a second offense of driving under the influence and misdemeanor vandalism. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in each case to run concurrently. He must serve 45 days and then be on probation.. Martin was also fined $615, ordered to pay $250 to the economic crime fund, and his license has been revoked for two years. He must also attend anger management classes and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment.

21 year old John Anderson pleaded guilty to passing a forged prescription and received a two year sentence, all suspended to probation upon payment of court costs and a contribution of $150 to the economic crime fund. He must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow all recommendations.

19 year old Clinton Cope pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to 48 hours to serve. The sentence is to run concurrently with a General Sessions Court case against him. He will lose his license for one year and must attend alcohol safety education classes. Cope was fined $365.

28 year old Steve Merriman pleaded guilty by information to reckless endangerment. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to CPS probation.

29 year old Eric Jarvis pleaded guilty to forgery and received a two year sentence, all suspended to probation. The sentence is to run consecutive to a parole violation against him but concurrently with a Rutherford County case. He will be on DOC probation and must pay $250 to the economic crime fund. Jarvis must also make restitution to DeKalb Community Hospital in the amount of $1,243

38 year old Michael E. Brown pleaded guilty to joyriding and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to probation. The sentence is to run consecutive to a Cannon County case against him. He must pay $250 to the economic crime fund.

47 year old David Pack pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and received a 30 day suspended sentence on unsupervised good behavior probation. He was fined $50

Three Arrested in Apartment Burglary

May 27, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have charged three people in connection with a recent break-in at Center Hill Village Apartments at 1222 South College Street.

33 year old Jo Ann Ortega Rutland is charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $1,000 while 32 year old Sharon Roseann Barnwell and 28 year old Brandon Smith are each charged with theft of property over $1,000. Bond for Barnwell and Smith is $5,000 each and Rutland's bond is $15,000. All three will appear in court on June 11th.

Officer Matt Holmes reports that when Jose Narvaez arrived home from work on Thursday, May 21st, he noticed that someone had entered his residence through a rear bedroom window and taken approximately $3,300 worth of property including clothes, jewelry, DVD's, DVD players, cell phone, amplifier, alarm clock, clothes basket, and VHS tapes.

Meanwhile, 24 year old Omera Martinez Lopez is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $3,500 and he will be in court June 11th.

Officer Matt Farmer reports that he responded to a domestic call at 670 Miller Road on Wednesday, May 20th. Upon speaking with the victim, she stated that her boyfriend had kicked her in the side as she was trying to get her stuff to leave the apartment. Officer Farmer says Lopez answered the door but did not want him to speak to the woman.

34 year old Misty Dawn Shehane is charged with simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance (Percocet). Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court June 18th.

Officer Randy King reports that he responded to Walmart to a report of a shoplifter. Upon arrival, he found one female in the vehicle and the other (Shehane) was inside the store. When Shehane came out of Walmart, Officer King asked her about some items that were in the vehicle that she didn't have a receipt for. When asked if there was anything in her purse, she opened it and a pill bottle was found with the label torn off. She was placed in custody after the officer found two pills believed to be percocet.

39 year old Jose Eugenio Sagahon was charged with driving on a revoked license. Bond is set at $1,500 and he will be in court on June 18th.

Officer Randy King reports that on Monday, May 25th, Sagahon was operating a motor vehicle at South Mountain Street and Jackson Street. Knowing his license was revoked for a DUI, Officer King stopped the vehicle and placed Sagahon under arrest.

Felicia A. Walz was charged with a second offense of driving on a suspended license and driving under the influence. Her bond is $3,000 and she will be in court on May 28th.

Officer Travis Bryant reports that on May 12th, Walz was operating a motor vehicle on Bryant Street and was stopped for failure to use a turn signal. She did not have a drivers license and a computer check revealed that her license was suspended on March 17th, 2008 in Wilson County and there were offenses against her in Cannon County on December 11th, 2001. She was charged with DUI because she had slurred speech and was unsteady on her feet. She performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and did take a blood test.

Qualifying Deadline Approaching for Alexandria City Election

May 27, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Alexandria City Election will be held Thursday, September 3rd. A mayor and three aldermen will be elected that day. The positions are currently held by Mayor Ria Baker and Aldermen, Charles Griffith, Eddie Tubbs, and Tony Tarpley. The qualifying deadline for the election is noon on Thursday, June 18th at the DeKalb County Election Commission Office. Call 597-4146 for more information. Meanwhile, Early Voting in the Liberty City Election will be held Monday, July 27th through Saturday, August 1st at the courthouse. Times have not yet been set. A mayor and two aldermen will be elected in Liberty on Thursday, August 6th. The candidates are the incumbents, Mayor J. Edward Hale, Jr. and Aldermen Jarrett Pistole and Howard Reynolds, Jr. All are running unopposed.

One Killed, Another Injured in Wreck on Cookeville Highway

May 26, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Silver Point Man Dies in Two Vehicle Crash on Cookeville Highway

One man was killed and another was injured in a two vehicle wreck this afternoon (Tuesday) on Highway 56 north near Keystop Market (Robert's Grocery).

Dead is 43 year old Gerald F. Soules, Jr of Silver Point.

61 year old Kenneth D. Shepherd of Cookeville was transported by EMS to Cookeville Regional Medical Center. His injuries were not believed to have been life threatening.

Trooper Michael Robertson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says the accident occurred around 1:28 p.m. about ten feet south of 3638 Cookeville Highway.

According to Trooper Robertson, Soules was driving south in a 2002 Chevy Cavalier when he failed to negotiate a curve and crossed into the path of a northbound Dodge Durango SUV belonging to the Tennessee Department of Conservation, driven by Shepherd. The Durango struck the Cavalier in the passenger side.

The THP reports that both men were wearing their seatbelts.

Trooper Robertson was assisted in the investigation by Sergeant Greg Tramel and Sergeant Keven Norris of the THP's Critical Incident Response Team.

Soules' death marks the 4th traffic fatality of the year on DeKalb County Roads.

Hundreds Expected to Vote Early in Smithville Election

May 26, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville voters will begin going to the courthouse Wednesday, May 27th to cast their ballots for alderman in the Municipal Election.

Early Voting will be held Wednesday, May 27th through Thursday June 11th. All early voting will be in the basement courtoom of the courthouse from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Thursdays.

The Incumbents seeking re-election are Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan, and Willie Thomas. Challengers are Gary Durham, Shawn Jacobs, Aaron Meeks, W.J. (Dub) White, and Todd Van Dyne.

Last year, in which a mayor and two aldermen were elected, a total of 963 people cast ballots including 684 early voters, which was a new early voting record for a Smithville Election. A total of 279 voted on election day in 2008.

In the 2007 city election, in which three aldermen were elected, a total of 738 people voted including 555 early voters and 183 on election day.

In 2006, in which a mayor and two aldermen were elected, a total of 696 voted including 425 early voters and 271 on election day.

Numbers of voters in city elections from the year 2000 to 2005 are as follows:

Year 2005: 70 voters including 28 early voters and 42 on election day
Year 2004: 800 including 450 (early) and 350 (election day)
Year 2003: 450 including 231 (early) and 219 (election day)
Year 2002: 833 including 442 (early) and 391 (election day)
Year 2001: 473 including 218 (early) and 255 (election day)
Year 2000: 642 including 313 (early) and 329 (election day)

Election day is Tuesday, June 16. Voting will take place in the basement courtroom of the courthouse. The polls will open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. Everyone waiting in line at 7:00 p.m. will be allowed to vote. To vote in the Smithville Election you must be a registered voter and be a resident of the city or be registered as a property rights voter. Please bring identification with you when you come to vote.

WJLE will have LIVE election return coverage starting at 7:00 p.m. at the courthouse or hear the results LIVE on-line at www.wjle.com

Heroes remembered During Memorial Day Service

May 25, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Doyle Smith, Edward Frazier, and Chuck Olson
Warren Johns and Edward Frazier

Members of the local American Legion POST #122 and The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #7623 hosted a Memorial Day observance Monday morning at the 303 Building downtown Smithville.

Commander Edward Frazier moderated the program, Chuck Olson offered the opening prayer, and Doyle Smith led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. The group "4 the Lord" entertained with gospel and patriotic music.

Warren Johns, the guest speaker, spoke of the brave service of patriotic heroes past and present. "There's more than 150 veterans of service to their country who live in this county walking in our midst. They don't talk about their record in military service because they beat their swords into plowshares.. They marked a trail of goodness and leadership in this town. No amount of thanks, no amount of praise, no amount of words, can ever appropriately honor what they've done. But there are some things we can do. We can make sure their years after service are well cared for and that once a year at least we come to honor them and that's what we're doing today. Secondly, we can walk in their trail to try to fill the big footsteps they have left for us. And not just for us, but for our children and our grandchildren who are inspired by their example. Finally, just a week ago, one of the aldermen introduced the idea of naming our airfield "Veterans Field". I'm sure it will pass. That will honor every one of you."

At the conclusion of the program, a wreath was laid at the veterans memorial monument outside the courthouse.

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