Local News Articles

Body of Drowning Victim Recovered from Center Hill Lake

June 30, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The body of a 47 year old Gainesboro man was found by divers Monday afternoon near Cookeville Boat Dock on Center Hill Lake, the victim of an apparent drowning.

Dead is Jerry E. Stewart.

Stewart's body was located around 12:30 p.m. in about 20 feet of water approximately 300 to 400 yards from the no wake zone south of the boat dock.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Stewart was with two friends, 27 year old Doug Foster and 28 year old Jessica Harding, both of Gainesboro on a small boat jug fishing when the incident occurred late Saturday night. He says the man either fell or stepped off the boat and into the lake just before midnight.

Foster jumped in the water but was unable to save Stewart.

Foster and Harding returned to Cookeville Boat Dock to get help. Someone alerted Central dispatch around 11:55 p.m.

Members of the TWRA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, DeKalb County Rescue Squad, and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department were called to the scene and remained on the lake throughout the day Sunday and into Sunday night.

They returned to the scene Monday morning along with divers from the Putnam County and Jackson County Rescue Squads and the East Clay County Fire Department.

An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death. Sheriff Ray says it appears alcohol may have been a factor.

Sheriff Ray says he wants to thank members of the TWRA, the DeKalb County Rescue Squad, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their hard work in this effort and to the operators of Cookeville Boat Dock who provided food and drinks to those conducting the search.

Alexandria Man Arrested by Sheriff's Department in Theft Case

June 30, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department arrested an Alexandria man in a theft case last week and charged a woman with DUI in a separate case on Sunday.

35 year old Richard Barry Edmonds of Liberty Hill Road, Alexandria was charged last Monday with theft of property over $500. Sheriff Patrick Ray says Edmonds was visiting a friend on Lonnie Cantrell Road in Smithville when he allegedly took a 308 rifle from the residence without the owner's consent. He says Edmonds has admitted to taking the weapon. Bond was set at $5,000 and he will appear in court on July 17th.

22 year old Tina Hatfield of Oakley Road Liberty was charged Sunday with driving under the influence. Sheriff Ray says a deputy spotted Hatfield's vehicle sitting in the roadway on Highway 56 South and when the deputy pulled up to the vehicle, it took off. He says the automobile was weaving all over the roadway and the deputy stopped it. Hatfield, the driver, was intoxicated, having an odor of alcohol on her person. She also failed field sobriety tasks. Hatfield's bond was set a $1,500 and her court date is July 24th.

Sheriff Ray and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department wish you a happy and safe Fourth of July.

Here are some Fourth of July safety tips from Sheriff Ray.

Water safety at the pool and lake:

" If possible, swim in a supervised, marked area with a lifeguard present, and swim with others. Never swim alone.
" Enter the water feet first. Enter the water headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.
" Adults should never leave a child unobserved around water. Practice "reach supervision" by staying within an arm's length of young children and weak swimmers while they are in and around the pool, lake or ocean.
" Take frequent breaks (about once an hour) where everyone gets out of the water, drinks water, reapplies sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) and rests.
" If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore. If you can't swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
" Watch out for the "dangerous too's" - too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
" Keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use. Toys can attract young children into the pool.
" If a child is missing, check the pool first. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom, and surface, as well as the surrounding pool area.

Firework safety:

There are nearly 9,000 emergency room-treated injuries associated with fireworks a year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission. You can enjoy these Fourth of July staples safely by doing the following:
" Never give fireworks to small children, and always follow the instructions on the packaging.
" Keep a supply of water close-by as a precaution.
" Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
" Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight "a dud."
" Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.
" Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials.

Safe Grilling:

Nothing says summer quite like the smell of barbecue. Make sure safety is a key ingredient in your Fourth of July by reading the following tips for safer grilling:

" Use gas and charcoal barbecue grills outside only.
" Position grills far from siding, deck railings, overhanging branches and house eaves.
" Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
" Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
" Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using grills.
" Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use

School Board Seeks More Local Funding to Meet State BEP Requirements

June 29, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education is asking the County Commission for an additional $200,000 in funding for the school budget in 2008-09.

Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins III, during a special meeting Friday night, said the board has no alternative but to ask for the extra money. He says the state is requiring this local match under the Basic Education Program funding formula and if the county doesn't comply, state funds could be withheld. "There’s a formula the state uses with each county. It considers a county’s ability to pay their portion of the budget for the school system versus what they do pay. We’ve been paying less than what the state’s formula has been showing for a number of years."

"DeKalb County was a circuit breaker system and was protected from the full impact of the full funding formula for one year. That year has passed."

"In late May, 2008 the BEP estimates for 2008-09 were released. These estimates show that the required local match by the state at $3,921,000. This is more than the local revenue in the tentative budget as adopted by the DeKalb County Board of Education May 14th, 2008 and presented to the DeKalb County Commission."

The local revenues in the tentative budget were $3,731,015. The final BEP allocation was released on June 25th, 2008 and reflects the same required local matching funds of $3,921,000. At this time, the State of Tennessee will require the DeKalb County Board of Education to have an additional $200,000 in local revenue in the 2008-09 general purpose school budget."

Evins added "This is something beyond our control. The state has mandated this and we will either have to abide by that or they will pull all their state funding."

The total State BEP Funding allocation for DeKalb County for 2008-09 is $12,083,000 including instructional, classroom, and non-classroom funding. The total required local matching funds for DeKalb County is $3,921,000. The total BEP funding for DeKalb County including state and local funding is $16,004,000.

The board Friday night voted 5 to 0 to amend the tentative budget to make this request of the county commission. Board members Kenny Rhody and Linda Fuston were absent.

Orifice gate to be installed at Center Hill Dam

June 28, 2008

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently performing a large construction project to correct seepage problems at Center Hill Dam. As part of environmental mitigation to continue a minimum flow into the Caney Fork River, this project includes the construction and installation of an orifice gate. The orifice gate is a steel plate with open ports and will be placed over one of six sluice gates, located at the base of the concrete portion of the dam. This orifice gate will provide an approximate 200 cubic foot per second minimum flow through the dam and will provide cold water releases and improve dissolved oxygen downstream to maintain the fishery once the seepage is cut off.

Installation of the orifice gate is scheduled for Tuesday, July 8th from approximately 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Although long-term road closures are not planned, the roadway over the dam will be reduced to one narrow lane and brief interruptions to traffic lasting 15-30 minutes each are expected to occur to allow the use of a crane to lower the orifice gate into place. Although not planned, interruptions to traffic could last as long as one hour.

Travelers, especially those with vehicles exceeding approximately nine feet in width, are encouraged to seek alternate routes during this time. The closest alternate route to drive from one side of the dam to the other is to travel I-40 which is just north of the dam. From the east end of the dam, take Highway 96 to I-40, travel I-40 west for approximately 10 miles to exit #258.

At exit #258, travel south on Highway 53 for approximately one mile before turning onto Highway 141, which leads to the west end of Center Hill Dam.

Additional information on the Center Hill Dam Seepage Rehabilitation Project may be found on the Nashville District website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/CenterHill/.

Willoughby to Sign New Contract with Board of Education

June 28, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby has agreed to terms of a new employment contract with the Board of Education.

The board adopted the agreement Friday night during a special session. The new contract takes effect July 1, 2008 and expires June 30th, 2011.

Willoughby's original contract with the board took effect July 1st, 2006 and was scheduled to expire June 30th, 2009. Even though Willoughby still had a year left on his original contract, the board decided to make a new agreement with Willoughby.

Terms and conditions are basically the same as in the original agreement.

In this contract, "the Board shall pay the Director an annual compensation of $87, 348 in twelve equal installments in accordance with Board policy and any additional State or Local increases. The Board shall evaluate the Director annually and shall review the Director's salary annually. The Board shall increase the salary of the Director during the term of his Contract each time an annual evaluation reflects that the Director has exceeded the expectations of the Board as follows: for the second year (2009-2010) a three percent increase; and for the third year (2010-2011) a three percent increase."

Under the original agreement, the school system funded Willoughby's total family health insurance package, a benefit of $13,793 per year.

Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins III explained that in the new contract, Willoughby will pay an employee match for the coverage. The school system will initially pay Willoughby's matching share for coverage of $5,103 per year, but Willoughby will then pay back $425.30 per month for his part. The state portion is $517.26 per month and $206.90 locally. Officials say this arrangement is not really an increase in salary or benefits for Willoughby except for retirement and tax purposes. "There was a misunderstanding about his medical insurance. We put $5,000 in there. That's Mr. Willoughby's matching portion for his medical insurance just as every teacher has a matching portion that they pay. That $5,000 amount was put into Mr. Willoughby's salary but in return for that, Mr. Willoughby will reimburse the school system that money on a monthly basis. So there's no increase in revenues for Mr. Willoughby. That's just put in their for specific reasons. That is not considered a pay raise because he does reimburse the board of education for that. That's the only change that has been made. Otherwise, this is the same contract as before. It's just a renewal and it's a three year contract. There was one year left on his old contract. It's not an extension of the contract. It's a renewal because of this one change (insurance). So there's two years that's been added to a one year contract. What you have before you is a three year contract."

The vote was 5 to 0 for approval. All members were present except Kenny Rhody and Linda Fuston.

Governor Bredesen Announces Grant for Smithville Municipal Airport

June 27, 2008

Governor Phil Bredesen announced today that $75,000 in aeronautics grant funds have been approved for the Smithville Municipal Airport.

“As our communities continue to grow and thrive, it becomes increasingly important that our airports stay competitive and efficient at meeting the needs of the travelers who use them,” said Bredesen. “The Smithville Municipal Airport is vital to this region’s economy and travel system, and I’m pleased to support its continued growth.”

Funds from this aeronautics grant will be used for installation of a fuel farm.

“It’s important to keep our airports up to date in order to remain competitive in the aeronautics industry,” said Representative Frank Buck. “I’m pleased to see the Governor and TDOT pledging these funds for improvements at the Smithville Municipal Airport.”

The grants are made available through the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division.

“This division administers federal and state funding to assist in the location, design, construction and maintenance of Tennessee's diverse public aviation system,” reported TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “We are pleased to be able to provide millions of dollars each year for the betterment of our airports through our grant programs.”

Except for routine expenditures, grant applications are reviewed by the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission (TAC), which is a five member board charged with policy planning and with regulating changes in the state airport system plan.

TAC Chair Belinda Anderson explained, “Our board examines the applications carefully to ensure that the proper state and local matching funds are in place and that the grants will be put to good use.”

The TDOT Aeronautics Division has the responsibility of inspecting and licensing the state’s 126 heliports and 75 public/general aviation airports. The Division also provides aircraft and related services for state government and staffing for the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission.

Senator Mae Beavers also helped secure these funds for the Smithville Municipal Airport.

One Man Seriously Injured in Thursday Night Crash

June 27, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

One person, an Hispanic male, was seriously injured in a one vehicle crash Thursday night on Highway 70 near the high school.

The man, Baltasar Hernandez-Cruz of 1780 Old West Point, Smithville, was driving west in a 2001 Ford Explorer SUV when he crossed over all lanes, jumped a curb, went off the highway, and struck a tree in the yard of the Doston Caplinger residence at 1125 West Broad Street.

A passerby discovered the wreck and reported it around 11 p.m.

The man was airlifted from the high school/middle school parking lot and flown to Erlanger Hospital by a Life Force helicopter ambulance.

The accident was investigated by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Others on the scene included DeKalb EMS, the Smithville Police Department, and the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and extrication team.

(Click on picture to see a larger image)

DeKalb Jobless Rate Climbs to 5.6% in May

June 27, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for May was 5.6%, up from 4.9% in April and 4% in May, 2007

The local labor force for May was 10,440. A total of 9,860 were employed and 590 were unemployed.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May is at 6.4 percent, 1.0 percentage point higher than the April revised rate of 5.4 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of May was 5.5 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for May show that 94 counties increased. Trousdale County had the only decrease in unemployment, down 0.1 percentage point from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, up 0.8 from the April rate of 3.4 percent. Perry County had the state's highest at 13.1 percent, up 0.8 from the April rate of 12.3 percent, followed by Lauderdale County at 10.8 percent, up from 9.2 percent in April.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate at 4.6 percent, up 0.8 from the April rate of 3.8 percent. Davidson County was 5.0 percent, up from 4.1 in April. Hamilton County was at 5.0 percent, up 0.7 from the April rate of 4.3 percent, and Shelby County was 6.3 percent, up from the April rate of 5.5.

Leadership DeKalb's Class of 2008 Conducts Graduation

June 26, 2008

Leadership DeKalb's Class of 2008 Conducts Graduation

Leadership DeKalb celebrated the completion of its tenth class with a dinner and graduation ceremony on June 17th. The event was held at Barbara’s Cedar House Restaurant.

Members of the Class of 2008 are: Larry Briggs; Unipres USA; Michelle Burklow DeKalb Co. Board of Education; Brian Craven, SHIROKI North America/Sunbelt Realty; Chase Ferrell, DCHS student/Rotary Scholar; Michelle Fowler, Stones River/DeKalb Community Hospital; Lisa Garrison, Liberty State Bank; Tim Hintz, owner, Fresh Chairs/Off Beaten Path Studio Tour; Shawn Jacobs, WMOT-FM/MTSU; June Keith, DeKalb Community Bank; Terry McPeak, DTC/MTEMC; Kate Miller, Family Medical Center Pharmacy; Jane Ramsey, Smithville Elementary School; Tara Jane Atnip-Summers, Atnip Chiropractic Clinic; Tyler Woods, DCHS student.

The graduation opened with a welcome from Kerry Davis, President Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce. An invocation was led by class member Tyler Woods. Key-note speaker Tecia Puckett Pryor, local attorney and Leadership DeKalb Alumni Association Community Leader of 2007, entertained and inspired with the amazing story of bringing Habitat for Humanity to DeKalb County. All fourteen members of the Class of 2008 participated in the graduation. They began their presentation with a song from class member Chase Ferrell, followed by a Year-In-Review in a “time capsule” format. Members of the class spoke on each of the nine sessions from the year and placed a memento of that session in a box for the Class of 2028. The overview also included an inventive and fun PowerPoint presentation, assembled by Brian Craven, honoring the class members and highlighting favorite speakers and activities throughout the year. Alumnae and chamber board member, Sandy Brown, brought many laughs to the group with some comments celebrating 10 years of Leadership DeKalb. Plaques of completion were awarded to each graduate by Jen Sherwood, Leadership DeKalb program director, and Suzanne Williams, chamber of commerce executive director.

The Leadership DeKalb program consisted of nine sessions over nine months. It covered local and state current issues in government affairs and economic development, challenges in education and health care, and an exploration of resources and opportunities for DeKalb County and its citizens. Discussions with current local leaders and leadership skill-building topics such as team-building, leadership styles, group dynamics, problem solving, and community service were also fundamental training elements for the class. Leadership DeKalb will begin a new class in September of 2008.

For more information on becoming a member of the upcoming class, please contact Jen Sherwood at 597-4851 or the chamber of commerce at 597-4163.

County Commission Honors Jimmy Walls

June 25, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission is honoring a long time local civic leader for his service to the community.

County Mayor Mike Foster recognized Jimmy Walls during Monday night's county commission meeting.

A plaque will be presented to Walls on stage of the Fiddler's Jamboree next week.

Reading from a resolution, Foster said " Whereas, from time to time, it is appropriate for DeKalb County to recognize people who unselfishly serve our County. It is therefore fitting that the DeKalb County Commission and County Mayor honor Jimmy Walls for the service he has given his Country, his County, and his State."

"Whereas, Jimmy Walls has served Mount Herman Baptist Church and the Boy Scouts & Cub Scouts of America.. He has served for 15 years in the National Guard and the United States Post Office. He has also served on various Commissions and Boards and any job asked of him by the City of Smithville and DeKalb County."

"It is therefore, with a great sense of pride, that we declare July 5th, 2008 as Jimmy Walls day, in honor of all the many contributions he has made to our community."

"Jimmy Walls is a member of the Mount Herman Baptist Church and serves as Sunday School Director, Vacation Bible School Director, and is Chairman of Deacons."

"Jimmy worked with the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts and served as Cub Master for several years."

"He joined the Tennessee National Guard in February, 1953 and served for 15 years. He was discharged with the rank of Staff Sergeant in February, 1968. His job in the company was Supply Sergeant."

"Jimmy began his career with the U.S. Postal Service in Smithville in March, 1954. He started as City Carrier and in September, 1971 he was appointed Rural Letter Carrier in Smithville. In December, 1995 Jimmy retired from the U.S. Postal Service with a total of forty one years and nine months service. During these years as a rural carrier, he assisted many people in need on the mail route. On one occasion during a bitterly cold day in December, he came to the rescue of an elderly woman who lived off the main road, but part of the rural route. She had been lying in the yard for about two hours and was unable to get up. She was barefoot and in short sleeves. She said 'I knew my only chance was when the mail carrier came along, because no one else was going to be here until 4:30 p.m.' He pulled his coat off and put it over her, then called for assistance in getting the lady back into her house. There were many other occasions when he was asked to assist people in need."

"In the sixties and early seventies, Jimmy was active in the Smithville Jaycees, and held every office on the local level. In 1964, he received the Distinguished Service Award. He worked on many local projects that were a benefit to the City and County. In 1970, he was given a JCI Senatorship award. He was awarded a life membership in the Tennessee Jaycees, and was also a Colonel and Commander of the Tennesee Jaycee Volunteer Corp."

"In December 1982, he was apointed by the Mayor and City Council to the Smithville Planning Commission. On April 4th, 1983, he was elected Secretary and served as Secretary until August 6th, 1992. At this time, he was elected Chairman of the Smithville Planning Commission. He served as Chairman for a total of 14 years. He resigned December 21st, 2007, serving a total of 25 years on the Smithville Planning Commission.'

"In July, 1987, he was appointed to the City of Smithville Board of Zoning Appeals. He served as Vice-Chairman and Chairman. He resigned December 2007, serving a total of 20 years.'

"In January, 2004 Jimmy was appointed as a member of the DeKalb County Joint Economic and Community Development Board, and resigned December, 2007."

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