Local News Articles

Legislation Allows Cities to Apply for REDLG Loans/Grants to Aid in Economic Development

February 17, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mark Pody

Legislation is moving through the committees of the General Assembly that would make funding of up to one million dollars available for economic and industrial development to Smithville and other cities across the state on behalf of local utilities who wish to apply through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program.

State Representative Mark Pody made the announcement Friday during a visit to Smithville.

According to the Tennessee General Assembly's website, this bill (House Bill 0051 and Senate Bill 0078) authorizes all municipalities to participate as a borrower and a lender in the rural economic development loan and grant program (REDLG). Under current law, the program is only available to cities in six Tennessee counties.

Present law authorizes any municipality in Hardeman, Lincoln, Dickson, Campbell, Rhea, or Marion county to promote economic and industrial development through participation both as a borrower and a lender in various programs established by the rural electrification administration or other federal programs.

This bill rewrites this provision to instead authorize each municipality in this state to promote economic and industrial development through participation both as a borrower and a lender in the rural economic development loan and grant program established and administered by the federal rural development administration.

"The bill should be going to the calendar and rules committee next week and probably to the House floor the following week. Its going to allow Smithville to apply for up to one million dollars from Rural Development. It's a zero percent loan for areas that want more development. This will be opened up to cities in all ninety five counties. I'm hoping that any cities that want to do it will be jumping on and applying for it quickly in getting the money because it is a limited amount of money so its almost going to be on a first come, first served basis. Its used to attract industry and develop areas," said Representative Pody.

According to USDA, the RED Loan program provides zero interest loans from the
USDA to local utilities which then provide loans to local businesses; the local business
directly repays the local utility who then repays the USDA.. The maximum amount of a RED Loan is $1,000,000.

• The RED Grant program provides grants to the local utility which then establishes a
revolving loan program. Upon termination of the revolving loan fund, the grant is
repaid by the local utility to the USDA.. The maximum amount of a RED Grant is $300,000.

• In the event a loan recipient defaults on a loan, the local utility will be responsible for
repayment to the USDA, resulting in a possible increase in local government
expenditures.

• The USDA requires a participating local utility to provide a 20 percent match of funds
for which the utility is applying.

• In the event a local utility opts to participate in the REDLG program, and it is
successful, it is reasonably assumed there will be an increase in local government
revenue resulting from an increase in local business success.

Register of Deeds Warns Property Owners of Scam

February 16, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page

Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen is warning DeKalb County property owners to beware of a scam that could cost you eighty three dollars if you should fall for it.

McMillen told WJLE Friday that he has received calls in recent days from people inquiring about a letter sent to them which appears to be a bill or "Deed Processing Notice" from the Property Transfer Service in Washington D.C.

This notice encourages the recipient to send eighty three dollars to obtain a copy of his or her grant deed and property profile. The letter even includes a self addressed envelope for you to send your money to the Property Transfer Service Deed Processing Center in Westlake Village, California.

McMillen urges you not to reply to this request and don't send them any money. He said the information they seek to sell you is already available to you free of charge in the Register of Deeds Office.

Sheriff Reports Mail Box Vandalism

February 15, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

Sheriff Patrick Ray is asking for your help in solving a recent rash of mailbox vandalism incidents.

"We've had multiple reports of mailbox vandalism in the areas of Jacob's Pillar Road, Blue Springs Road, the Old Blue Springs Road, Bethel Road, Banks Pisgah Road, and Whorton Springs Road," said Sheriff Ray.

"We do have a suspect vehicle, a smaller truck. It's a white truck, believed to be a Ford Ranger. We ask you to be aware of your surroundings and if you have seen a vehicle damaging a mailbox or should see a mailbox vandalism, call the sheriff's department at 597-4935 or call the crime tip line at 464-6400," he said.

"These vandals are going around in this smaller truck and using some kind of bat or stick to bash in mailboxes. We ask that you keep your eyes and ears open and if you hear or see anything suspicious we urge you to call us at the sheriff's department," said Sheriff Ray.

L.B.J.& C. Accepting Applications for Head Start

February 15, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
LBJ & C Head Start Center

L.B.J.& C. Head Start is currently accepting applications to provide free comprehensive child development services to children 3-5 years of age from low-income families in a full day program. Services are also offered to meet the special needs of children with disabilities. L.B.J.& C. Head Start helps all children succeed.

L.B.J.& C. Head Start provides children with activities that help them grow mentally, socially, emotionally, and physically. The L.B.J.& C Head Start recognizes that, as parents, you are the first and most important teachers of your children. They will welcome your involvement in L.B.J.& C. Head Start activities, and will work as partners with you to help your child and family progress.

Children who attend L.B.J.&C. Head Start participate in a variety of educational activities, receive free medical and dental care, free healthy meals and snacks, and enjoy playing indoors and outdoors in a safe environment.

L.B.J.& C. Head Start staff members will offer your child love, acceptance, understanding, and the opportunity to learn and to experience success.

For more information contact the Smithville Head Start Center at 615-597-5168.

Two Injured in Traffic Accident on Highway 70 at Snow Hill

February 15, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
2008 Toyota Corolla driven by Tina Cazee
2005 Toyota Camry driven by Peggy Duke Hicks

Two people were injured in a traffic accident Tuesday night on Highway 70 at Snow Hill.

Trooper Jeremy Wilhite of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said 73 year old Peggy Duke Hicks, driving a 2005 Toyota Camry, pulled from Highway 96 (Dale Ridge Road) into the path of a 2008 Toyota Corolla, driven by 55 year old Tina Cazee, who was traveling west on Highway 70. Both Hicks and Cazee were taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital for treatment.

The accident occurred around 6:50 p.m.

DCHS Building Trades Home Could be Finished by April

February 14, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Building Trades Instructor Gary Caplinger (wearing glasses) giving instruction
Building Trades Class in Action
Building Trades Home Under Construction at DCHS
Members of DCHS Building Trades Class

Students in the DeKalb County High School Construction Technology (building trades) program are making great progress on the latest home now under construction.

Up until two years ago, all homes built through this program were constructed on lots which had been purchased by the school board for this purpose. This meant that students in the class and their teacher would have to load up on a bus and travel back and forth between the school and the construction site each school day until the project was completed.

But now for the second time, a home is being built on campus at DeKalb County High School. When it is completed, the house will be sold and the owner will have it moved to his or her own lot.

Class instructor Gary Caplinger told WJLE Thursday that students began work on the home, a 1,456 square foot structure, in the latter part of fall and expect to have it finished by April. "It's a three bedroom, two bath house. Its 26 x 56. We're at the point where we lack having one small wall having all the interior walls, all the walls done and completed. The next step is we're going to align the walls and get them straight. After we do that we'll probably put on the house wrap. And then we'll start putting the trusses up. After that we'll put the decking on and the shingles and then we'll probably pretty much be finished at that point. We will set the windows and doors and do the house wrap on the exterior part. This house will be finished for vinyl siding," he said.

Before the first on-campus home was built in 2011, Career and Technical Education director Brad Leach addressed the school board on the reasons for building these houses at school. "The on-site building brings the building back to the campus at the high school. The students don't need transportation. Tools don't have to be transported. Everything is done right there close to the building trades classroom. The students are within walking distance. Its actually in between the band tower and the bus garage. We have a permanent footer and foundation where the house is constructed. After that, whoever wants to buy the house, they are responsible for paying for the house at the price that the construction teacher sets. The buyer is then responsible for all costs of moving the house and taking the house to wherever lot they want to put it on," he said.

Since the home will have to be moved, some finishing work will be required by the owner once its relocated. "Its to be roughed in on the inside. It will be roughed in for plumbing. It will have the windows and doors in it and the roof will be covered. It will have a shingled roof. Its just a basic house. The reason it's a basic house is because when you go to move that and you've done a lot of interior work you could have some problems inside so its just a basic shell. I would call it a dried in house with the rough ins done," said Leach.

"The buyer will have a lot already purchased most likely," said Caplinger,. "He will build a foundation and he will set this house on his foundation. I think its really a good deal for anyone that's looking to buy rental property or maybe they want to live in it. It is a good cheap way to go. Hopefully, when we get this one finished and put it on the market and sell it maybe we can start a new one by the fall semester," said Caplinger.

Once completed, the school board will likely accept sealed bids on the sale of the home. Money from the sale will go back into the building trades program to start another house.

Postal Service Proposes to Reduce Hours at Silver Point Post Office

February 14, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Silver Point Post Office

The U.S. Postal Service is looking to reduce the operating hours of the Silver Point Post Office, similar to the plan recently enacted at the Alexandria Post Office.

A public meeting was held on Tuesday, February 5 at Silver Point to give postal customers in the area a chance to express their views.

The Silver Point Post Office is currently open from 6 a.m.-noon and 1:30-3:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 6 a.m.-11 a.m. Saturdays.

The proposed changes would leave the post office open 7:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Mondays-Fridays and from 6 a.m.-11 a.m. on Saturdays.

More than 750 surveys were recently mailed to Silver Point residents, and of those who responded, 85 percent indicated they preferred the realignment of open hours rather than the other options which included providing mail delivery service to residents and businesses by rural carrier or highway contract route, creating a "village post office" by moving post office facilities to a local retailer, library, town hall or government center, or offering service from a nearby post office, the closest of which would be 12.5 miles away in Smithville, 12.8 miles away in Chestnut Mound or 13.2 miles away in Cookeville.

Changes at the Alexandria Post Office took effect, Saturday January 26, providing six hours of window service each weekday. The facility retail hours are now from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. with lunch from noon until 1:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Saturday window service hours were not reduced and access to delivery receptables were not changed as a result of the POST Plan realignment of weekday window service hours at Alexandria. Customers still have access to their mail receptacles 24 hours a day and Post Office Box mail is still available daily for pick-up by 10:00 a.m. Monday-Friday, and at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

David Walton, spokesman for the Tennessee District of the United States Postal Service, in a telephone interview with WJLE last Thursday, said the Silver Point Post Office is among 13,000 across the country being considered for shortened retail hours."Back in May of last year, the Postal Service announced a new strategy in which we looked at the smallest post offices across the country and decided to reduce the retail hours at 13,000 of them nationwide. Before we proceed with this, what we're doing is going into these communities and we're holding community meetings. Originally we wanted to close about 300 post offices nationwide but we got such a push back from communities who wanted to keep their post offices open. So what we tried to do is create a strategy that would be a win-win situation for both the postal service and communities. So before we make any changes, we're going into these communities and holding a community meeting. Prior to that meeting, we will send out a letter letting customers know what our intentions are. But in that letter is a survey and its giving customers four options, one being that they can keep the post office in their town open at reduced hours, or there's three other options but all of those entail closing the post office. Most of the time, these communities opt to keep their post offices open but at reduced hours. The Silver Point meeting was held on Tuesday, February 5. Normally what happens at these meetings, usually about a week or so thereafter, they will post at the post office the decision, whether it is to keep the post office open at reduced hours or whatever it is that the community has decided. Normally, the soonest that those changes could take effect would be in thirty days but some times it is much longer than that," said Walton.

According to the United States Postal Service website, the postal service is currently projecting a $14 billion net loss in fiscal year 2012. In order to help reverse their losses, many offices across the country are attempting to shorten their open hours instead of closing down completely.

Silver Point postal customers with questions or concerns may call 931-858-4950 and leave a message to pass on to the corporate office, where the final decision of new hours will be made no sooner than 60 days after last Tuesday's meeting. After two years, the Silver Point Post Office will be up for evaluation again, and any changes made will be based on the location's revenue between now and then.

DeKalb Sheriff's Department Makes Arrest in Three County Pursuit

February 14, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Sheriff's Department Makes Arrest in Three County Pursuit
Dodge Dakota
Site of Manhunt on Bright Hill Road
State Trooper sits by Guardrail where Brown Crashed
Brown's truck hits Guardrail on Bright Hill Road
Dodge Dakota being towed from Bright Hill Road
Van Buren County K-9 Truck also damaged

The man who led authorities on a three county pursuit Wednesday afternoon has been arrested thanks to an investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

35 year old Howard Eugene Brown of Green Acre Drive, Smithville was found at home with his wife Wednesday evening. He had apparently returned home on foot after crashing and bailing out of the pickup truck he was driving on Bright Hill Road. Brown was taken into custody by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, who had developed him as a suspect during an investigation. The sheriff's department already had an active violation of probation warrant against Brown.

After Brown was taken to the DeKalb County Jail Wednesday night, Van Buren County authorities were notified and they returned to Smithville to interview Brown. During the questioning, Brown admitted that he was the man they were chasing in the pursuit. Van Buren County officials plan to charge Brown with driving under the influence, reckless endangerment, and evading arrest. Other charges may also be brought against him in the case. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Brown is on probation for criminal impersonation, theft, and aggravated criminal trespassing.

Sheriff Ray told WJLE that the pursuit began in Van Buren County Wednesday afternoon after a K-9 officer there, driving a Dodge Ram 4 x 4 pickup, stopped to check on a black Dodge Dakota pickup truck that had stopped on the side of the road. "The Van Buren County K-9 officer was driving by and saw a truck sitting on the side of the road," said Sheriff Ray. "It was a black Dodge Dakota pickup. He (officer) thought it was a stranded motorist. He (officer) pulled in behind the truck and activated his blue lights. The driver of the truck got out and approached the officer. The officer asked the man if he was having trouble. The man said no, that he didn't want to text while driving. The officer ran a (computer) check of the license plate on the truck and asked for a driver's license (computer) check based on the license plate information. The check revealed no drivers license. The driver then jumped in the truck and took off," said Sheriff Ray.

After his arrest, Brown told investigators that he had just finished shooting up drugs right before the officer stopped to check on him, according to Sheriff Ray.

The Van Buren County K-9 officer initiated a pursuit which turned onto Highway 111 north into White County and then west on Highway 70 from Sparta. White County authorities joined Van Buren County in the chase and notified DeKalb central dispatch at 12:43 p.m. that the pursuit was approaching DeKalb County. Members of the Sheriff's Department and Smithville Police Department were planning to set up at the intersection of West Broad Street and Congress Boulevard when word came that the pursuit had reached Smithville but had turned from Highway 70 onto Evins Mill Road. Local officers then repositioned themselves to other locations hoping to intercept the pursuit.

The chase continued on Evins Mill Road, to Cripps Lane, and then onto Bright Hill Road. An off duty state trooper of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Dewaine Jennings was at his residence on Bright Hill Road when he heard about the approaching pursuit. He got a spike strip from his patrol car and placed it on Bright Hill Road in front of his house. When the truck came speeding by, it hit the spike strip and some of the tires blew out. The truck then sped out of control as it approached the sharp curve on Bright Hill Road and struck a guardrail. The Van Buren County K-9 officer's vehicle also received some minor damage when it too apparently sideswiped the guardrail.

According to Sheriff Ray, after the truck came to a stop, the man (Brown) bailed out the drivers side door of the truck, jumped over the guardrail and disappeared into the woods on foot. A search immediately ensued by officers of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Smithville Police Department, along with K-9 units from Van Buren and Putnam Counties and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Sheriff Ray said the K-9 dogs picked up the man's scent and followed a trail through the woods to Highway 56 near Harney's Nursery and the New Life United Pentecostal Church, where the dogs lost the scent. Authorities suspect that the man (Brown) crossed the highway and then walked to his home on Green Acre Drive, a short distance away.

Smithville Elementary School, which is in the area of the search, was placed on lock down status until dismissal time at 2:45 p.m. as a precaution. As schools closed for the day, Smithville Police, the Sheriff's Department's School Resource Officer, and constables were nearby monitoring school traffic as parents picked up their children while other students boarded buses to go home.

Initially, Van Buren County authorities thought the suspect in the pursuit was another man, Ray Underwood. Sheriff Ray said he expressed doubts about that after viewing the video from a camera in the Van Buren County's officer's vehicle. After the truck wrecked, the video shows the man getting out of the vehicle and escaping on foot. But Sheriff Ray said the blurry image captured on the video appeared to be someone other than Underwood. He said the man's build did not fit Underwood's profile.

After launching its own investigation and developing Brown as a suspect, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department went to Brown's home on Green Acre Drive to serve the violation of probation warrant on him. Although Brown was home, his vehicle was not there. Investigators noticed that Brown had scratches on his body. Brown's wife told investigators that Brown said he had been to Dunlap that day and had not driven home in the truck. According to her, Brown said he had encountered a passing police pursuit on the way home and apparently had to leave the truck behind after being forced off the road.

The truck Brown was driving is apparently registered to an Hispanic man in Davidson County. Sheriff Ray said Metro-Nashville will be asked to help locate the owner of the truck.

"I am very proud of my department for working throughout the day and well into the night on this case until the one responsible for this senseless crime was arrested," said Sheriff Ray.

"My department and I felt very early on into the investigation that the accused subject (Underwood) was not the individual involved in this crime and with the use of our investigational resources, we not only cleared this individual (Underwood) that was accused of this crime, but was able to apprehend the proper person (Brown)," added Sheriff Ray.

DMS Teacher to Receive Belz-Lipman Holocaust Educator Award

February 13, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Anita Puckett

DeKalb Middle School Teacher Anita Puckett is among the winners of the 2013 Belz-Lipman Holocaust Educator Award.

The Tennessee Holocaust Commission (THC) recently made the announcement.

Puckett, an 8th grade Reading/History Teacher, and the other educators receiving the award will get a $1500 scholarship which can be used to develop new curriculum, purchase resources and attend trainings that will help further engage their students in the study of the Holocaust. The award ceremony will take place on April 8, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. in Legislative Plaza in room LP12, as part of The Tennessee Holocaust Commission's Annual Day of Remembrance Holocaust Commemoration. The commemoration is free and open to the public.

Each year, three educators are chosen, one each from East, West and Middle Tennessee, to receive a financial award to develop new curriculum, purchase resources or attend trainings to help engage their students in the study of the Holocaust.

Distinguished recipients of the award have attended international conferences on Holocaust education, served as teacher-fellows to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and served as educational liaisons for the THC.
The award is open to teachers in the state of Tennessee with at least two years of experience teaching the Holocaust in the classroom.

The winners of the Belz-Lipman Holocaust Educator Award are announced each year at the annual Day of Remembrance Ceremony.

Since 1995 the Tennessee Holocaust Commission (THC) has sponsored the Belz-Lipman Holocaust Educator Award. Established by Memphis entrepreneurs and philanthropists Jack A. Belz and Ira Lipman, the award recognizes outstanding educators who excel in the teaching of the Holocaust. Each year educators from East, West and Middle Tennessee are honored. Past recipients of the award have gone on to attend international conferences, been appointed as teacher fellows to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and served as educational liaisons for the THC.

DeKalb County School System Names Teachers of the Year

February 12, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Amanda Rhoady
Sandy Willingham
Tammy Payne
Suzette Barnes
Joey Reeder

The DeKalb County School System has announced it's "Teachers of the Year" at the building level of the five schools in the county.

This year's honoree are Amanda Rhoady, a first grade teacher at Smithville Elementary School; Sandy Willingham, a third grade educator at Northside Elementary School; Tammy Payne, a fourth grade teacher at DeKalb West School; Suzette Barnes, a seventh grade educator at DeKalb Middle School; and Joey Reeder, a History teacher at DeKalb County High School.

Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for 7th through 12th grades said "Again this year, we're going to participate in the Teacher of the Year program, which begins on the school level, moves to the system level, the regional level, and finally to the state level," she said.

Competition for system-wide and regional levels will continue throughout February. Should these teachers win at the regional level, they will represent DeKalb County at the state level in March.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers; to stimulate interest in teaching as a career; and to encourage public involvement in education.

This program is sponsored annually by the Tennessee Department of Education and the Niswonger Foundation.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year represents Tennessee at the National Teacher of the Year competition, which is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic, Inc.

Teachers of the Year are selected competitively through five cycles: Building, System, Field Service Center Region, Grand Division and State; and from three categories (levels of teaching); Grades Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12.

Teachers selected at each cycle receive local recognition and awards underwritten by local sources. State recognition/awards include a banquet honoring the nine State Teacher of the Year finalists and certificates of appreciation from the Governor. In addition, the State Finalists and the State Teacher of the Year receive cash awards from the Niswonger Foundation.

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