Local News Articles

Jennings Loses Appeal

August 28, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Richard Jennings

Former Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings, who had sued the City of Smithville claiming he was wrongfully terminated in 2009, has lost an appeal of his case to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Jennings filed the lawsuit in DeKalb County Chancery Court in February, 2010 claiming that his termination by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen was fraudulent, arbitrary, and capricious. Jennings asked the court to have a hearing and order the city to restore him to his position with the Smithville Police Department.

Chancellor Ronald Thurman held a hearing in September, 2010 and in a final order in November affirmed the decision of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen "in all respects".

Jennings filed an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals and in a majority opinion, handed down on August 11, 2011, the appellate court, affirmed the judgment of the Chancery Court.

The Smithville board of aldermen, with four voting in the affirmative, on December 7th, 2009 upheld the city discipline board's decision in November, 2009 to terminate Jennings for dereliction of duties/negligence.

Jennings initially filed a federal court lawsuit, which was dismissed in February, 2010.

Jennings alleged that the city never established a cause for his termination, that the city violated his constitutional due process rights, and that he was the victim of age discrimination in the dismissal.

Jennings has been represented by Murfreesboro attorney Kerry Knox. No word yet on whether Jennings will exercise his further right of appeal.

TCAP Scores Count Toward Student Grades

August 28, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County students now have even more reason to perform well on TCAP exams.

Beginning last spring TCAP Achievement test scores in the third through eighth grade began comprising 20% of a student's final grades in the subjects of Math, Reading/Laguage Arts, Science, and Social Studies. The percentage increased to 25% beginning with this school year, 2011-12.

Meanwhile, the End of Course test grades for high school students now count for 25% of their final grades. The percentage last year was 20%.

The DeKalb County Board of Education last December adopted this new policy based on a recommendation by Jonathan Fontanez, who was the Supervisor of Instruction for Grades 7-12 at that time.

Fontanez explained that beginning with the 2011 spring semester, the state began requiring that each local board of education develop a policy by which scores on the TCAP achievement tests administered to third through eighth grade students comprise a percentage of the students final grade for the spring semester in the subjects of Mathematics, Reading/Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. According to Fontanez, the percentage shall be determined by the local board of education within a range of 15%-25%. The policy had to be developed and implemented by the spring semester of 2011.

According to state policy, High School End of Course test grades formerly counted for 20% of the final course grades in End of Course assessed subjects. Beginning with the 2011-2012 school year and the subsequent years following, the End of Course test grades for those assessed courses will count 25% toward a student's final grade.

Fontanez recommended that the board make the percentage for grades 3-8 coincide with the high school requirement already in place so as to help establish a measure of continuity across grades within the district.

Under the new policy, the percentage is 25% of a students final grade in class for grades 3-8 which is the same percentage used for the high school End of Course grade calculations .

Bounds Up For Another Parole Hearing in October

August 26, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Gerald Wayne (J.B.) Bounds

64 year old Gerald Wayne (J.B.) Bounds of McMinnville will be up for another parole hearing in October.

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.

2012 Political Season on the Horizon

August 25, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

The political campaigns will be firing up again in a few months.

The 2012 election season will begin with the Tennessee Presidential Preference Primaries in March and although no official announcement has yet been made, the DeKalb County Democratic Primary will mostly likely be held in March to coincide with the Presidential primaries.

On the local scene, the office of Assessor of Property will be up for election along with all seven constable positions. Each of the terms is for four years. In 2008, Assessor of Property Timothy Fud Banks was re-elected while those elected as constable were Reed Edge in the second district, Wayne Vanderpool in the third district, Paul Cantrell in the fourth district, Mark Milam in the fifth district, Cantrell Jones in the sixth district, and Johnny King in the seventh district. No one was elected in the first district.

While the local Democratic Party will be selecting its nominees through the primary process, the DeKalb County Republican Party will choose any nominees it has by convention.

Any Republican and Democratic nominees for the offices of Assessor of Property and Constable will face off in the August 2012 DeKalb County General Election.

Meanwhile, school board members will be elected from the fifth and sixth districts in the DeKalb County General Election in August, 2012. Each term is for four years. W.J. (Dub) Evins, III is the fifth district school board member and Bruce Parsley represents the sixth district. School board members do not run as party nominees but as non-partisan candidates.

Meanwhile, the offices of State Representative, U.S. Congressman, and U.S. Senator will also be up for election in 2012. The positions are currently held by State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, Congressman Diane Black, and U.S. Senator Bob Corker. Nominees for these offices will be selected in the Tennessee Democratic and Republican primaries in August and will run against each other in the Tennessee General Election in November, 2012. The terms of office for State Representative and U.S. Congressman are for two years and six years for U.S. Senator. The Presidential election will also be held in November 2012

In Smithville, a Mayor and two aldermen will be elected in the municipal election next June. Those positions are currently held by Mayor Taft Hendrixson and Aldermen Steve White and Cecil Burger.

DeKalb Jobless Rate Drops to 9.7% in July

August 25, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for July dropped to 9.7%, down from 10.3% in June. The rate for July, 2010 was 9.4%

The Labor Force in DeKalb County for July was at 10,150. A total of 9,160 were employed and 980 were unemployed.

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for July was third lowest among the fourteen counties of the Upper Cumberland region as follows:

Pickett County- 14.8%
Overton- 12.7%
Van Buren- 12.2%
Clay- 12%
Fentress- 11.7%
White- 11.5%
Warren- 11.4%
Jackson- 10.6%
Macon- 10.6%
Cumberland- 10.5%
Smith-9.8%
DeKalb-9.7%
Cannon- 9.3%
Putnam-9.2%

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for July show that the rate decreased in 90 counties. Five counties increased including Houston, Obion, Overton, Smith and Weakley.

Tennessee's unemployment rate for July was 9.8 percent, unchanged from the June revised rate. The national unemployment rate for July 2011 was 9.1 percent, down from the June revised rate of 9.2 percent.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.2 percent, down from the June rate of 6.7 percent, followed by Williamson County at 6.7 percent, down from 7.2 percent. Scott County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 19.8 percent, down from 20.8 percent in the previous month, followed by Pickett County at 14.8 percent, down from 15.0 percent in June.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.5 percent, down from 8.0 percent in June. Hamilton County was 8.4 percent, down from 9.2 percent the previous month. Davidson County was 8.5 percent, down from 9.1 percent in June, and Shelby County was 10.6 percent, down from the June unemployment rate of 11.1 percent.

Saturday Is Free Hunting Day in Tennessee

August 25, 2011

All Tennesseans are reminded that Saturday, Aug. 27 is Free Hunting Day in Tennessee when state residents may hunt without a license. The annual event coincides with the opening day of squirrel season.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides the free day in hopes of increasing interest in hunting. Squirrel hunting is one of Tennessee's oldest and favorite traditions. The day serves as an excellent opportunity for persons to experience the enjoyment of the sport. Regular hunters are encouraged to introduce friends and family members (young and old) to the outdoors sport. It is also an excellent opportunity for those folks who have not tried hunting in a while to get back into the woods.

On Free Hunting Day, state resident hunters are exempt from hunting licenses and WMA permits requirements. Many of the WMAs are open to hunters seeking public access on Aug. 27. Hunters are asked to check the information for particular WMAs in the newly-published 2011 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide which is available online at www.tnwildlife.org or copies are available at any TWRA regional office or at most outlets where licenses are sold.

Hunter education requirements have not been waived for Free Hunting Day. Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 is required to have successfully completed a hunter education course. A one-time, one-year apprentice license is required for those born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 if the hunter education course has not been completed.

Hunters are allowed to harvest up to 10 squirrels a day from this Saturday through Feb. 28, with each hunting day beginning a half-hour before sunrise and ending a half-hour after sunset.

In addition to squirrels, those species that have a year-round season will be open as well. The year-round species are armadillo, beaver, coyote, English sparrow, groundhog, nutria, pigeon, starling, and striped skunk.

For more information about hunting in Tennessee, visit TWRA's website at www.tnwildlife.org or contact your nearest TWRA Regional Office.

Now Recruiting for Leadership DeKalb Class of 2012

August 24, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Leadership DeKalb is seeking participants for its 14th class to run September 2011 – June 2012. The first class is Tuesday, September 20.

The program's mission is to develop a diverse pool of business and community leaders, and to provide them with the information and tools needed to become more effective and active leaders in creating positive change in DeKalb County.

Anyone who lives or works in DeKalb County is encouraged to join the upcoming class. For more information, please contact Jen Sherwood at 615-464-0645 or the chamber office at 597-4163

Leadership DeKalb is an adult leadership enhancement program. This program is for individuals who are or show the desire for the role of community trustees. Participants study the county in-depth, strengthen leadership skills and build a network of fellow leaders through the Leadership DeKalb classmates and alumni. Leadership DeKalb shapes our county's future with knowledgeable, effective and active leaders.

Each year, twelve individuals who live and/or work in DeKalb County are selected to participate in the September to June program. Selection into Leadership DeKalb is competitive, based upon a written application. The selection committee considers candidates' involvement in the community and demonstration of their current or future leadership potential. The overall diversity among the class participants - including occupation, age, heritage, gender, education and geography -- plays a significant role in the selection process. Tuition is $175 and is expected to be paid at least in part by the participant. Tuition scholarships are available.

The following dates provide the selection schedule for the Class of 2012:

September 1 - Deadline for application

Class of 2012 Program Schedule

Program Meeting Days Time Topics

Tuesday, Sept 20, 2011
8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Opening Retreat (full attendance required)

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011
8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Team building-Being a Change-Agent (Health Care & Quality of Life)

Tuesday, Nov 15, 2011
8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Networking (Local Government)

Thursday, Dec 15, 2011
8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Cooperation- (Justice System)

Thursday, Jan 19, 2012
8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Resource Allocation-(Economic Development)

Thursday, Feb 16, 2012
7:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Decision Making- (Education)

Mon-Tues, March 12-13, 2012
2 p.m Monday - 5 p.m. Tuesday
Advocacy (State Government)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Visioning-(Community & Communications)

Monday, May 14, 2012
8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Implementing Your Passion (CHL)

Thursday, June 19, 2012
5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Graduation

Participants must be committed to attending all sessions, and a maximum of only 10 excused hours may be missed throughout the year in order to successfully complete the program. Opening retreat and graduation are required.

For questions or more information, contact the chamber office at 597-4163 or Jen Sherwood at 615-464-0645.

Alexandria City Election Upcoming with Only One Name on Ballot

August 24, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Alexandria City Election is set for Thursday, September 1 but only one name is on the ballot.

Darrell Dixon, a current alderman, was the only person to qualify to run in the election. Three aldermen were to be elected.

According to the DeKalb County Election Commission, no one else can be elected that day in this election, even by write-in. Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, said persons attempted to be elected by write-in ballots had to complete a notice requesting his/her votes be counted no later than NOON July 13. Since no one met that deadline, no write-in votes can be counted on election day.

Members of the Alexandria council are Aldermen Pat Jackson, Tony Tarpley, Addie Farley, Derrick Baker, and Darrell Dixon. One position remains vacant. The Mayor is Ria Baker.

Howard Charged with Evading Arrest

August 23, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Johnny Michael Howard

A 48 year old man had a run in with the law last Saturday, August 20

Johnny Michael Howard of Billings Road, Sparta is charged with two counts of evading arrest, one count of resisting arrest, one count of public intoxication, and one count of criminal impersonation. His bond totals $7,500 and he will be in court on September 1.

Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that on Saturday, August 20, a deputy was called to respond to a possible assault at a location on Highway 70. When he arrived, the officer spotted Howard but when Howard saw the officer, he began to run. A few minutes later, Howard returned, but when the deputy identified himself as an officer, Howard ran away again. The deputy went after Howard but lost him in the woods. Later, another officer showed up and made contact with Howard. When the deputy identified himself as an officer, Howard ran but this officer caught him within some thirty yards. Howard said the reason he ran was because he is on probation in White County.

Howard was charged with resisting arrest after refusing the deputy's commands to remain flat on the ground and to place his hands behind his back. He kept trying to get up off the ground.

The criminal impersonation charge was filed against Howard after he told the arresting officer that his name was Jimmy Bain. After further questioning, he admitted that his real name was Johnny Howard. Howard was also charged with public intoxication after the officer found that he had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet

Meanwhile, 25 year old Kaitlyn Ann Snuffer of Cookeville is charged with driving on a suspended license. Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court on September 7. She was also issued a citation for having an expired tag on her vehicle and for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance).Snuffer will appear in court on the citations on September 28.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Monday, August 15, Snuffer was pulled over by a deputy on Highway 70 for having an expired license tag. A computer check revealed that her license were suspended on September 4, 2010 in North Carolina for failure to appear.

County Commission Soon to Act on Redistricting Plan

August 22, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission, which also makes up the redistricting committee, is working on a 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 find themselves in another district once a plan is adopted, which also means they will have different school board, constable, and county commissioners representing them than those who currently serve them.

The committee met last Thursday night at the courthouse for the first time to review proposals with David Tirpack, GIS Manager for the State Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Local Government. In addition to all fourteen members of the county commission, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley also serve on the committee.

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%.

Tom Fleming, Director of the Office of Local Government for the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, said in a phone interview with WJLE on Friday, that the overall 10% deviation range in population is the benchmark. DeKalb County's deviation range exceeds that by seven percent at 17%. The overall range is calculated by determining the difference between districts with the highest and lowest relative deviation. For example, if the highest and lowest deviations are +5% and -4% respectively, then the overall range is 9%. "You're (DeKalb County) in a deviation of 17% overall as it relates to the differential between the low and the high. The courts, in the past, have used what we call the 10% rule. The overall deviation between the low in a district and the high in the highest district. You want the relationship between the high and the low to be somewhere below 10% to be sure that you fall within those guidelines. Ten percent is the standard guideline," said Fleming.

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.

Fleming explained that in order to make the needed adjustments, the county will have to go by census blocks in shifting population groups from one district to another. "The county commission district lines must be on census block boundaries. Those are basically streets, rivers, and things like that. Visible features which have been set out by the census bureau. Each block has a population in it and the way you change the districts is you move each block from one district to the other as the redistricting committee directs. However, it is the function and responsibility of the county commission. What we do (State) is provide a service. We don't have the power to veto what they (county) do. We only provide a service and assistance to them. But the responsibility for the redistricting is with the county commission," said Fleming.

Voting precincts could also be affected by whatever decision the county commission makes on
redistricting, according to Fleming. "If there's very little change in the districts then that probably won't affect the voting precincts. It might affect a few voters. The thing I want to emphasis here is its not about voters, its about representation. Its about total population and the representation for the county," added Fleming.

Currently, the first district has a population of 2,517, a deviation of -6% or 158 persons fewer than 2,675.

In the second district, the population count is at 2,428, a deviation of -9% or 247 persons fewer than 2,675.

The third district population is 2,890, a deviation of +8% or 215 more than 2,675.

The fourth district's deviation is -7% or 193 fewer than 2,675 at 2,482

The fifth district's population is only off by -1% at 2,654, just 21 persons fewer than 2,675

The population in the sixth district is at 2,871, a deviation of +7% or 196 persons more than 2,675.

The seventh district has a population of 2,881, a deviation of +8% or 206 persons more than 2,675

Under the law, the county commission must adopt and have the new redistricting plan in place by January 1, 2012.

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