Local News Articles

Redistricting Plan to be Presented to County Commission

October 18, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission, which also makes up the redistricting committee, has completed a redistricting plan to better equalize the population count among the seven districts of the county based on the results of the 2010 census. What that means is that some residents who are currently in a particular district now will soon find themselves in another district, which also means they will have a different school board member, constable, and county commissioners representing them than those who currently serve them.

The committee met Thursday night at the courthouse to approve the plan after receiving the newly drawn redistricting map for the county from the State Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Local Government. The plan is expected to be formally approved during the next meeting of the county commission this month.

2010 census figures show that DeKalb's population is now at 18,723. In order to make them equal in population, each of the seven districts would need a population of no more than 2,675. But the districts don't have to be exactly equal in population, as long as the overall population deviation of the county is not more than 10%. DeKalb County's overall deviation is 17%

In DeKalb County, the third district has a total of 2,890 residents while the seventh district's population totals 2,881, which makes each of those districts deviation over by +8%. The second district, meanwhile, has 2,428 residents, which puts it's deviation under by -9%. Adding the +8% to the -9% puts DeKalb County's overall deviation at 17%. Since the overall benchmark is 10%, the boundaries in at least some or all of the districts will need to be adjusted to bring the overall range down to 10% or below.

Under the new redistricting plan, the highest deviations, plus or minus, will be in the fourth and sixth districts. The fourth district's population will be 2,719 with a deviation over by +1.7% while in the sixth district, the population will be 2,644 for a deviation of -1.1%, putting the county's overall deviation at 2.8%. Again, the county can have an overall deviation of up to 10%, so the 2.8% deviation under the new redistricting plan will be well within the range allowed by law.

"This tells us that we have our numbers correct now in the districts," said County Mayor Mike Foster. It did necessitate moving a few lines but basically the districts are pretty much the same as they were. Some people in some of the districts got moved to other districts because of the way the numbers fell. We hoped we could keep it all the same but we had a 17% disparity and we have to be less than 10%. Number wise, the first district now has 2,671 people and to be perfect it would have needed four more people. The second district had 2,681 which was six people too many. The third district has 2,673 and needed two more people. The fourth district has 2,719 which is 44 people too many. The fifth district has 2,666 and needed nine more people. The sixth district has 2,644 and needed 31 more people. The seventh district has 2,669 and needed six more people. This is the closest we can get to where we need to be. The state required that we be within a 10% overall range and we're now, with this plan, at 2.8%. I think most people are comfortable in the districts they are in and they don't like to move. I wouldn't want to either. But it's a necessity. All districts changed just a little. There were some districts that didn't need to change but in order to change the ones that did (need changing) we had to change them too to make it work," said Foster.

Under the new redistricting plans, the population in each district will be as follows:

First district: 2,671, a deviation of -0.1% or four persons

Second district: 2,681, a deviation of +0.2% or six persons

Third district: 2,673, a deviation of -0.1% or two persons

Fourth district: 2,719, a deviation of +1.7% or 44 persons

Fifth district: 2,666, a deviation of -0.3% or nine persons

Sixth district: 2,644, a deviation of -1.1% or thirty one persons

Seventh district: 2,669, a deviation of -0.2% or six persons

Under the law, the new redistricting plan must be in place by January 1, 2012.

Parole Hearing for Bounds Set for Thursday

October 18, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Gerald Wayne (J.B.) Bounds

As WJLE reported in August, 64 year old Gerald Wayne (J.B.) Bounds of McMinnville will be up for another parole hearing this Thursday, October 20..

Bounds, convicted of first degree murder, is serving a life prison sentence at the Southeast Regional Correctional Facility in Pikeville.

Last fall, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to concur with a recommendation by two of it's members Yusuf Hakeem and Charles Taylor that Bounds be denied parole due to the seriousness of the offense in the 1981 fatal shooting of 27 year old Sherman Wright of DeKalb County.

Following Bounds' last parole hearing in October, 2010, Hakeem and Taylor recommended that Bounds be "put off" for two years before his next parole hearing, but the state board decided instead to review Bound's case again in October, 2011.

The board requested that Bounds undergo a psychological evaluation prior to his next hearing, as was recommended by parole board members Hakeem and Taylor.

Bounds is serving a life sentence for the first degree premeditated killing of Wright, who was shot once in the head just outside the Odyssey Arcade on West Broad Street, across from the Dairy Queen. The incident occurred on the afternoon of February 2nd, 1981, allegedly over a gambling debt. The game room no longer exists. The building now serves as the location for the Discount Tobacco Outlet. Had Wright survived, he would be turning 58 years old on October 25th.

Election Commission to Hold Town Hall Meeting on New Photo ID Law

October 17, 2011

A new law that will require voters to show a valid photo ID at the polls won't go into effect until next year, but in preparation for this new requirement, the DeKalb County Election Commission will hold a town hall meeting to inform the public of the change in the law.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, November. 1, on the first floor of the DeKalb County Courthouse. The purpose of the meeting is to present information regarding the new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2012. The town hall meeting will include a presentation, followed by a question and answer period.

The major points of the law include:

•A voter is required to produce a federal or state government-issued photo ID before being allowed to vote. Some examples of a valid photo ID, even if expired, are a Tennessee driver license, U.S. passport, Department of Safety photo ID card, state or federal employee photo identification card, or a U.S. military photo ID. Student college IDs will not be accepted for voting purposes.

Free photo IDs may be obtained from any Department of Safety driver license testing station. Registered voters must sign an affidavit stating that the photo ID is for voting purposes, that they are a registered voter, and that they do not have any other valid government-issued photo ID. The Department of Safety will not issue a free photo ID if the person already has a valid government-issued photo ID

•Voters who are unable to produce a valid photo ID will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, which is a paper ballot, at the polls. Voters casting a provisional ballot will have until two (2) business days after Election Day to return to the election commission office to show a valid photo ID.

•Voters with a religious objection to being photographed, or voters who are indigent and unable to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee - for example, the voter cannot pay for a birth certificate for proof of citizenship - may sign an oath affirming to the information and will be allowed to vote on the machines.

•Voters who vote absentee by mail, voters who are hospitalized, and voters who live in licensed nursing homes or assisted living centers and vote at the facilities are not required to show photo IDs. Registered voters over the age of 65 may request an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

“The goal of the town hall meeting is to educate the public and prepare voters for the upcoming 2012 elections,” Dennis Stanley, administrator of elections said. “We want voters to have plenty of time to obtain a valid photo ID if they do not already possess one. We encourage everyone to attend the November 1 meeting.”

For more information about the new voting requirements, contact Mark Goins, coordinator of elections, or Andrew Dodd, elections specialist, in the state Division of Elections at 1-877-850-4959 or your local county election commission at 597-4146, Room 104 of the DeKalb County Courthouse in Smithville.

BPW Club Announces New Pageant along with Fall Fest and Autumn Princess

October 15, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Lauren Elizabeth Colwell
Emma Brooke Jennings

The Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club, in addition to the annual Fall Fest and Autumn Princess, will be starting a new Autumn Sweetheart pageant on November 5 at DCHS.

This new pageant, to become an annual event, will feature girls ages 11-14 in the 6th, 7th, & 8th grades.

The Fall Fest is open to high school aged girls from 14-18 and the Autumn Princess pageant is for girls ages 7-10.

The reigning Fall Fest is Lauren Elizabeth Colwell, the 15 year old daughter of Trent and Christie Colwell of Smithville.

The Autumn Princess is Emma Brooke Jennings, the eight year old daughter of Chad and Shelly Jennings of Smithville.

Applications have been distributed at all schools and are also available at the Smithville Review. Deadline for entry is October 28.

The events are scheduled for Saturday, November 5 at the DeKalb County High School Gymnasium with the Autumn Princess beginning at 3 p.m. and the other pageants immediately following.

Two Charged with Initiation of a Process to Manufacture Methamphetamine

October 15, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Bradley Pugh
Rikki Elizabeth Holland
Angel Claire Alexander

Two people were arrested by the Sheriff's Department last Monday, October 10 after a deputy allegedly found suspected meth lab components in their truck on Seven Springs Road.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that 32 year old Bradley Pugh of Old Bildad Road, Smithville is charged with initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. His bond is $100,000 and he will be in court on November 10

28 year old Rikki Elizabeth Holland of Underwood Road, McMinnville is charged with initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine. Her bond is $75,000 and she will be in court on November 10.

According to Sheriff Ray, a deputy was called to check out a vehicle parked on the side of Seven Springs Road. When he arrived, the officer found Pugh, unconscious behind the steering wheel. Holland was a passenger. After waking up Pugh, the deputy obtained from him consent to search and found coffee filters and batteries inside the vehicle. In the back of the truck, the officer found a plastic tote and two bags containing chemical products that were altered for the manufacture of methamphetamine. A prescription bottle bearing Pugh's name was found in the bag with the chemicals. The deputy also discovered a loaded handgun on the drivers side of the truck.

In a separate case, 50 year old Angel Claire Alexander of Lebanon is charged with a first offense of driving under the influence. She was further issued a citation for failure to maintain her proper lane of traffic resulting in a one vehicle accident on Highway 70. Her bond totals $1,500 and she will be in court on November 10.

Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, October 12 while operating a vehicle on Highway 70, Alexander was involved in an accident. She had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on her person and she was unsteady on her feet. A bottle containing some vodka was in the vehicle and she allegedly admitted to drinking it. Alexander refused to submit to field sobriety tasks but she did submit to a blood test.

County Property Tax Notices to be Mailed Soon

October 14, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sean Driver

2011 DeKalb County property tax notices are expected to be mailed out within a few days and once you get your card you may pay your taxes without penalty through February 29th, 2012, according to Trustee Sean Driver.

"We received our notices on Thursday, October 6 and we are working on those right now in the Trustees office. We haven't mailed them out yet. It takes us a little while to work them before we can get them into the mail. We are uploaded to our computer system and are receipting right now so if you don't want to wait on the card and want to get them out of the way and pay them, we are loaded and receipting everyday. Once we work those cards, its going to be another week. Today is Friday, October 14 so we are looking at another week before we begin mailing those cards," said Driver.

"We do have something new this year for individuals who can't get it (payments) postmarked for mailing by the end of December and want to get those in for 2011 to count off on their income taxes. We have a night box right there as you enter the door on the left hand side of the main entrance. You can drop your taxes (payment) in the night box. 2012 is a leap year and we do have an extra day up until February 29 (to get taxes paid on time). A lot of people take advantage of that extra day to pay their taxes," said Driver.

The county offered discounts last year for early payment of property taxes, but Driver said no discounts are being offered this year. "We, as the Trustees Office, did present it to the county commission but it did not pass. That's okay, we'll try it again another year," he said.

DeKalb County property owners may pay their taxes by debit or credit card either in the Trustee's office or at www.tennesseetrustee.com. " Through Business Information Systems, we are set up at www.tennesseetrustee.com and you can pay your taxes on-line. Of course there is a fee through Business Information Systems of 2.75% that is charged to your card, whether it be debit or credit card. If you want to do an e-check, its only 1 ½%. This is a handling fee through Business Information Systems at the www.tennesseetrustee.com website. There are approximately 65 trustees out of the 95 counties that are using this system. It is very user friendly and it does help the individual," said Driver.

Seniors, be sure to check with the trustee's office on the state property tax relief program. The income limit is $26,830 for single or combined household incomes.

Trustee Driver said Tennessee's tax relief program is state-funded and provides a rebate of credit for all or a portion of the property taxes on residential property owned and occupied by low-income elderly, low-income disabled, and disabled veteran homeowners and their surviving spouses. "There is always an income limit affiliated with the Tax Relief program and for 2011 the income limit is $26,830. That is the same income limit as for the 2010 tax year so there's not been an increase in the income limit. When you come in to apply for the tax relief on your property tax, the state requires you to bring in the 2010 income. Of course you are applying for 2011 tax relief but the state requires the 2010 annual income and for this year if you qualify and you are under that limit and you own that property this year you will get $101 off your property taxes from the state of Tennessee. Those individuals I have had on tax relief in the past from the 2010 year and prior, I was able to get another $50 off from the county along with the $101 off from the state. Again the $50 off from the county is for those individuals who have already been on tax relief", said Driver.

"What you need to bring to us if you want to try to apply for tax relief is proof of your 2010 income and it must be under $26,830," said Driver. " We will also need a copy of your drivers license and your social security number. This not only includes you as an applicant, but all owners on your deed and or those who are living with you. They will also need to bring in their drivers licenses and their social security numbers," he said.

Amendments now require that the income of an applicant's spouse be counted regardless of whether the spouse has an ownership interest in the property, according to Driver. Also, it does not matter whether the spouse actually resides on the property or whether it is the spouse's legal residence. So long as the applicant is married, the applicant's spouse is treated, for income purposes only, just like a co-owner of the property. "Something new this year for the tax relief program, those individuals that are on the deed with more than one owner, not just as a sole owner, we do need all signatures this year for those individuals that have been on tax relief, said Driver. We need all signatures. That's something new this year. That's handed down from Social Security. We will need all signatures. In the past we only needed just the one applicant's signature so that's a change for us this year. So we're going to mail out letters with your tax relief cards and forms describing what I've been talking about here. We want you to pay attention to those letters especially if you have already been on tax relief. If you need more information, don't hesitate to either stop by or you can call us at 615-597-5176. The deadline to apply for this (tax relief) is 35 days after the last day of taxes which is February 29, 2012 or April 5. Again, April 5 will be the last day that you can apply for tax relief," he said.

Property Tax Relief Eligibility requirements for Elderly Homeowners are as follows:

Must be 65 or older on or before December 31st, 2011
Must provide evidence of age (i.e. driver's license, birth certificate, marriage license)
Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence
Qualified applicants will receive property tax relief on the first $25,000 of their property's market value.
According to the deed of the property, Must have records of the combined 2010 income of all owners of the property not exceeding $26,830. Income (i.e. social security, SSI pension, etc)

Eligibility requirements for Disabled Homeowners are as follows:

Must have been totally and permanently disabled as rated by the Social Security Administration or any other qualified agency on or before December 31st, 2011
Must provide evidence of age (i.e. driver's license, birth certificate, marriage license)
Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence
Must have records of the combined 2010 income of all owners of the property not exceeding $26,830

Eligibility requirements for Disabled Veteran Homeowners and/or widow or widower:

Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence.
Your disability must meet one of the following categories:
A service-connected disability that resulted in (1) Paraplegia, (2) Permanent paralysis of both legs and lower part of the body resulting from traumatic injury or disease to the spinal cord or brain, (3) Loss or loss of use of, two or more limbs, and (4) Legal blindness.

A total and permanent disability rating from a service-connected disability

A 100% total and permanent disability rating from being a prisoner of war.

The Veteran's Administration Office determines eligibility from the applicant's information in the Trustee's Office forwarded to the State of Tennessee.

If you meet these requirements you may apply in the Trustee's Office as soon as you receive your property tax bill. The deadline to apply is 35 days after February 29th, 2012 or April 5th, 2012.

If you have any additional questions concerning the tax relief program, come by the Trustee's office located in the new complex on South Congress Boulevard (Highway 56 south) or call 597-5176. "A lot of people are still trying to find us. When you drive out on Highway 56 south, like your going toward McMinnville, we are where the old Smithville Food Center, Fred's, and Pizza Inn shopping center used to be. We're across the road from Food Lion and Liberty State Bank. We're on the same parcel of land where Ace Hardware is at and our address is 732 South Congress Boulevard. We're on the south end of the building actually where Pizza Inn and Fred's used to be. Four of us have moved out there from the courthouse, including the county court clerk, the register of deeds, the trustee's office, and the property assessor. We have been there over a month and business is going well. I also want to thank the public and voters for allowing me to serve them for another year as your trustee," said Driver.

DeKalb County Earns Three-Star Certification

October 14, 2011
DeKalb County Earns Three-Star Certification

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty announced today that DeKalb County has achieved certification under the state’s Three-Star program for excellence in economic development.

“Our goal is to create a business friendly climate that gives companies the confidence to invest and expand in Tennessee,” Hagerty said. “Solid community development is a crucial aspect in this process by providing the foundation needed for successful economic development.”

DeKalb County is now eligible to receive additional incentives under the guidelines of the Tennessee Three-Star program.

In order to receive the certification, communities are required to meet criteria in planning, leadership, community, business and education and work force development categories. Incentives for receiving the certification include identification on all FastTrack infrastructure and job training applications; eligibility for matching grants, if criteria set by ECD are met; earning points in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program; assistance from ECD’s regional field staff and the sharing of “best practices” in community development; and the establishment of a strategic plan that is updated annually with measurable goals, specific actions, responsible parties and a timeline.
Beginning in 1980, the Three-Star program has now grown to 89 programs certified, representing more than 340 cities and towns.

To view and download photos of DeKalb County with Governor Haslam and Commissioner Hagerty, visit www.tn.gov/ecd and click the “Governor’s Conference Award Photos” button on the right.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies which help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. To find out more, go to www.tn.gov/ecd.

(Pictured above left to right: Smithville Alderman Steve White, Commissioner Bill Hagerty, Chamber Director Suzanne Williams, Governor Bill Haslam, and State Senator Mae Beavers)

Board of Education Seeks Traffic Study Near Schools in Smithville

October 14, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Board of Education wants the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen to formally request the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) to conduct a cost free study of traffic flow patterns and to make suggestions for relieving congestion on highways at Northside Elementary as well as DCHS and DeKalb Middle School in Smithville.

On Thursday night, the board voted to formally ask the city to make this request of MTAS.

In August, Board Chairman Charles Robinson wrote a letter to Rex Barton, Police Management Consultant for MTAS, requesting a traffic study at Northside Elementary, DCHS and DeKalb Middle School. "On behalf of the DeKalb County Board of Education, I am requesting a traffic study. We are experiencing congestion and difficulty entering and exiting three of our schools. The locations are Northside Elementary on North Congress Boulevard and DCHS and DeKalb Middle School on West Broad Street in Smithville."

Barton responded in a letter to Robinson in September, stating that the request would have to come from the City of Smithville "An MTAS Public Works Consultant and I can review the infrastructure and traffic patterns to determine what physical or traffic flow changes might benefit the traffic issues around the schools"

"MTAS exists to provide consulting services to Tennessee cities. The schools you reference are in the city of Smithville, but the city will have to make the request for the traffic study. I am copying this letter to Mayor Taft Hendrixson to ensure he is aware of your request".

The Board of Education Thursday night adopted a resolution paying tribute to custodians.

The resolution states:

"Whereas, our school custodians have a long list of responsibilities to tend to daily, which includes everything from emptying waste baskets to spot cleaning walls and light fixtures; and

Whereas, custodians frequently go above and beyond the call of duty to help keep schools free of dirt and germs that may cause illness and make our schools unattractive; and

Whereas, custodians are at the school long before anyone else arrives and well after everyone else has left; and

Whereas, like western sheriffs cleaned up their towns, our custodians clean up our schools by getting rid of the gangs of germs and eliminating their hideouts, protecting the students on campus by sending trash and garbage away for good and much more; and

Whereas, our school custodians are such an important part of our school staff that our schools could not operate properly without them

Therefore, be it resolved, that the DeKalb County School Board expresses appreciation to our custodians for all that they do to make our schools good places for students to grow and learn.

Be it further resolved, that each school is encouraged to celebrate the October 27, 2011 Custodian Appreciation Day by getting students, employees, and parents involved and in saying a heartfelt "thanks" to their custodians.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby updated the board on personnel.

The following persons have been employed since last month:

Anita Conley, Rhonda Pilgrim, and Judy Wright as substitute cooks/cafeteria workers
Dianne Werth, DCHS teacher
David Stanley, Donald Haggard, and James Lewis as substitute bus drivers

Leave of Absence:
Marla Beshearse, teacher at Northside Elementary School, granted a leave as requested
Carrie Lee, teacher at Smithville Elementary School, granted a leave as requested

Resignations:
Amy Tobitt, teacher at DCHS
Tonya Roberts, Educational Assistant at DeKalb West School
Neal Brown, bus driver

Transfers:
Jennifer Martin, Educational Assistant transferred from Northside Elementary to DeKalb West School replacing Tonya Roberts. David Stanley transferred to a full time bus driver replacing Neal Brown.

In other business, the board voted to formally request that the county commission allow school system related expenditures up to $10,000 without competitive bidding, which is the same limit allowed under state law. The current limit is $5,000 under the DeKalb County Private Chapter #63, Section 3.

The board set the date of the 2012 DeKalb County High School Graduation for Friday, May 18 at 7:00 p.m. on the football field.

Four People Injured in Wreck near Sligo

October 13, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Victoria Lawson of Kentucky Injured in this 2006 Nissan
Three from Nashville Injured in this 1996 Toyota Camry

Four people were injured in a two car crash Thursday on Highway 70 just west of Sligo bridge.

Trooper David Hickey of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 25 year old Kristin Byrd of Nashville was driving east in a 1996 Toyota Camry when she crossed the double yellow line into the path of a westbound 2006 Nissan driven by 28 year old Victoria Lawson of Smithgrove, Kentucky.

Passengers with Byrd were 33 year old Africa Sunshine Brown and 31 year old Dwayne Mack both of Nashville.

All were transported to DeKalb Community Hospital by DeKalb EMS.

Trooper Hickey said Byrd would be cited for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance) and failure to exercise due care.

DeKalb Depot Delivers Utility Trailer for County Fire Department

October 13, 2011
Photo by Callie Matthews

The DeKalb County Fire Department recently took delivery of a new enclosed utility trailer from DeKalb Depot.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said the trailer will be used to transport the fire department's John Deere Gator recently acquired through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, the trailer will be used to transport other emergency equipment as needed.

Chief Green added that his department is especially appreciative to DeKalb Depot for their assistance in helping obtain a purchasing discount that allowed the department to work within a tight budget to purchase the trailer.

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