Local News Articles

Budget Committee Asks School Board to Make Cuts In Proposed New Budget

July 8, 2011
Dwayne Page
School Officials Meet with County Budget Committee

County Mayor Mike Foster and the budget committee of the DeKalb County Commission met with members of the Board of Education and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby Thursday night to review the proposed school budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year which calls for pay raises, the hiring of several new personnel, and a seventeen cent increase in the property tax rate.

The budget committee has already previously voted once to reject the budget requests for new spending to create positions. They have only okayed the proposed pay raises.

During the meeting Thursday night at the courthouse, Director of Schools Willoughby renewed the requests for new positions and the tax increase, based on school needs.

Saying that the budget requests were financially unsustainable at this time, County Mayor Mike Foster asked the school board to revise its proposed budget and make cuts where possible.

The school board will meet in a workshop to consider making those cuts Monday night at 6:00 p.m. followed by a special meeting at 8:00 p.m. to formally adopt the revisions in the proposed school budget.

The county budget committee will meet again to review other aspects of the county budget Monday night at 6:00 p.m.

The county's property tax rate is currently $1.46 per $100 of assessed value. The new certified tax rate, as established by the state after reappraisal, is expected to be $1.52. Even though the certified rate is higher than the current rate, it is supposed to generate to the county about the same amount of total local revenue, because of the overall drop in assessments countywide since the last reappraisal.

Still, a tax increase appears to be coming, even with the new certified rate. Steve Bates, the county's financial advisor, told the budget committee Thursday night that a five cent tax hike would be needed to fund the school system's pay raises and the county general fund needs more revenue as well.

While no vote has been taken by the budget committee, based on their discussions, the new tax rate could be as much as $1.57 to $1.60, if adopted by the budget committee and the county commission.

Foster said all budgets must be ready for passage by no later than next Friday, July 15 so that the county commission can get them adopted by early to mid August.

DeKalb Deputies Among Lowest Paid in State, Sheriff Asks County for More Competitive Wages

July 7, 2011
Patrick Ray

Deputies and detectives at the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department are some of the lowest paid law enforcement officers in the state and Sheriff Patrick Ray wants to change that.

In a meeting recently with the county budget committee, Sheriff Ray said he has lost five employees since last October because they have found jobs in law enforcement that pay better elsewhere.

DeKalb has fallen behind counties of similar size and population in recent years in what it pays law enforcement officers and Sheriff Ray's concern is that he will continue to lose more experienced personnel in the months ahead unless the county takes action to catch up. "Since October, I've lost four or five of my deputies. Most of them have been in my department for quite sometime. Some of them are over four year deputies. All of them pretty much have moved because of the pay. They've found better jobs somewhere else and some of those places offer benefits like health insurance," he said.

During a recent meeting with the budget committee, Sheriff Ray was asked to compile information on pay rates in other counties of similar size to give the committee some idea of where to start. "They asked me to get information on what other counties were paying their deputies, comparable to our county size and population and I have done that. I took six out of the ten smallest counties in the state based on the 2000 census, including Pickett, the smallest in the state with around 5,000 people, and learned that of those six counties, we were paying less than them." said Sheriff Ray.

For example, DeKalb County, with a population of 17,423 (based on the 2000 census), pays its deputies $10.96 cents per hour while Pickett County, with a population of 4,945, pays deputies $12.78 cents per hour. Detectives in Pickett County earn $13.28 cents an hour compared to $12.99 in DeKalb County.

Smith County, with a population closer in size to DeKalb County at 17,712, pays deputies $14.86 cents per hour compared to $10.96 in DeKalb County. Smith County detectives make $16.58 cents per hour compared to $12.99 in DeKalb County.

The City of Alexandria pays its patrolmen $11.50 per hour and $12.50 per hour for the sergeant position.

In addition to the pay, Sheriff Ray said the benefit package with some other law enforcement agencies is much better. "The City of Smithville is another competitor of ours. They start their officers at between $13.09 and $16.30 per hour. That's what some of their officers are making as just regular patrolmen. Their part-time officers make $14.17 per hour which is a whole lot more than our deputies. Plus they get almost eight thousand dollars worth of health insurance, eighty five dollars worth of life insurance, and $276 worth of dental insurance," said Sheriff Ray.

DeKalb County pays a little over $200 per month toward health insurance for employees who enroll in the county plan, but Sheriff Ray said because officers receive such a low wage, they still can't afford it. In addition, a mandatory five percent comes out of their wages toward retirement in the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System.

The following are the current hourly wages for DeKalb County Sheriff's Department positions:

Detectives (3 positions): $12.99 per hour or $27,024 per year
School Resource Officer (1 position): $10.96 per hour or $24, 514 per year
Deputies (14 positions): $10.96 per hour or $24,514 per year
Sergeant (1 position): $12.51 per hour or $26,023 per year
Correctional Officers(15 positions): $9.92 per hour or $22,174 per year
Correctional Officer/Training Officer (1 position): $22,674 per year
Secretaries/Correctional Officers (4 positions): $10.66 per hour or $22,174 per year
Litter Guard (1 position): $10.66 per hour or $22,174 per year
Cook (1 position) $10.11 per hour or $21,024 per year

The chief deputy is a salaried position and he receives $37,523 a year.

"By law we can work our law enforcement personnel 43 hours per week without any overtime. We do twelve hour shifts at the sheriff's department, the deputies, correctional officers. The rest of them are on eight and a half hour shifts," said Sheriff Ray.

Sheriff Ray said he isn't asking for any more benefits for his employees, only that their wages be more competitive. "We're not asking for more than what our county population is. As a matter of fact, we're asking for a whole lot less. We just want to be competitive"

According to Sheriff Ray, what normally occurs is that the county pays for new officers to become trained and certified only to see those officers move on to better paying jobs and the county lose that investment. The county is then forced to start all over again paying for the training of officers to replace them. "The county pays around $3,500 to get each officer through the academy (Walters State Community College Academy) as well as their salary while they are in the academy for eight weeks, along with their uniforms, vests, gun belts, and things like that. Plus, we often have to pay another officer overtime to work the shift of the one in the academy until he graduates."

The county does make an effort to recoup some of the costs if an officer leaves within the first two years of employment, according to Sheriff Ray. "If we send somebody (to the academy) we do a two year (employment) contract with them but if they quit within those two years we pro-rate that for them to pay us back," he said

A loss of experienced officers can also affect the quality of law enforcement. "If the correctional officers are there, they understand the operation of the jail and the knowledge of our booking procedures and releasing of inmates. Officers and detectives, with time, gain informants and become better acquainted with the public which helps them solve crimes but that becomes much more difficult with newer officers coming in all the time."

Sheriff Ray said that when he has a shortage of deputies, he moves up correctional officers into those positions.

During the latest budget committee meeting Tuesday night, county commissioners asked that Sheriff Ray and County Mayor Mike Foster work together to come up with a pay scale or proposal for them to consider.

Sales Tax Holiday August 5-7

July 7, 2011
Dwayne Page
Tennessee Sales Tax Holiday

The 2011 Sales Tax Holiday is coming up in August providing three full days of tax breaks on certain clothing, school and art supplies, and computer purchases.

The holiday begins Friday, August 5 at 12:01 a.m. and ends Sunday, August 7 at 11:59 p.m. During the designated three-day weekend, consumers will not pay state or local sales tax on select clothing with a price of $100 or less per item, school and art supplies with a price of $100 or less per item, and computers with a price of $1,500 or less. These items are exempt from state and local sales tax in Tennessee during the holiday. Local governments are held harmless and are reimbursed lost sales tax revenues by the state.

Any individual can make a tax-free purchase during the holiday. However, items purchased for use by a trade or business are NOT exempt.

The holiday also includes purchases of qualified items sold via mail, telephone, e-mail or Internet if the customer orders and pays for the item and the retailer accepts the order during the holiday for immediate shipment, even if delivery is made after the exemption period.

If a customer wishes to order a certain tax-free item during the holiday and it is not in stock, the item remains tax-free upon delivery. In other words, backlogs and backorders outside the buyer's control will not affect the exempt status of tax free items. Intentionally delayed sales are taxable.

Qualified items previously placed on layaway are exempt when the final payment is made during the holiday. Items are also exempt if placed on layaway during the holiday and the final payment is made after the exemption period.

Examples of exempt items include:

· Clothing: Shirts, dresses, pants, coats, gloves and mittens, hats and caps, hosiery, neckties, belts, sneakers, shoes, uniforms whether athletic or non-athletic and scarves

· School Supplies: Binders, book bags, calculators, tape, chalk, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, notebooks, paper, rulers and scissors

· Art Supplies: Clay and glazes; acrylic, tempera and oil paints; paintbrushes for artwork; sketch and drawing pads; and watercolors

· Computers: Central processing unit (CPU), along with various other components including monitor, keyboard, mouse, cables to connect components and preloaded software (Note: While the CPU may be purchased separately, other items must be part of a bundled computer package in order to be eligible.) iPad's are eligible for tax exemption, video games and consoles are not.

Please visit www.tntaxholiday.com to learn more about the items exempt from sales tax.

DeKalb County Schools Re-Open for Registration August 1

July 7, 2011
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County students will head back to school next month.

Registration for all students will be Monday, August 1st. That will be an abbreviated school day from 7:30 a.m. until 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday, August 2nd will be an administrative day

The first full day of school for all students will be Wednesday, August 3rd.

DCHS Registration for students new to DeKalb County will be July 18th and 19th from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm. Students should bring birth certificate, immunization records, proof of DeKalb County residence and any school records from previous school. Also, DCHS students may pick up their schedules on the above dates and times.

A system wide professional development day will be Monday, July 25th at DCHS and all teachers from all schools must attend from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

All teachers will report to DCHS for a system wide professional development on Tuesday, July 26th . All teachers will report to their individual schools on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday July 27th, 28th, & 29th from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. each day.

Students will not attend on Monday, Labor Day, September 5th.

Schools will be closed for the fall break October 10th-21st

Students will be off for the Thanksgiving holiday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, November 23rd, 24th, & 25th and for the winter break December 19th through December 31st. Friday, December 16th will be the last day students attend before winter break and that will be an abbreviated school day. Students will return after the holidays on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Schools will be closed for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 16th and for President's Day, Monday, February 20th.

Schools will be closed for spring break April 2nd-6th.

Students will not attend on Tuesday, May 22nd. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend. The last day of school will be Wednesday, May 23rd. That will be an abbreviated school day and report cards will be sent home.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Tuesday, October 4th and Tuesday, March 13th at DeKalb County High School from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will also be held from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Thursday, October 6th and Thursday, March 15th at DeKalb Middle School, Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary, and DeKalb West School.

Report cards will be sent home on Monday, October 3rd, Thursday, January 5th, and Monday, March 12th.

AYP-EOC/Gateway Testing at DCHS will be Tuesday through Thursday, December 6th-8th and May 1st-3rd at DCHS and a make-up AYP-EOC/Gateway Test will be Friday, December 9th and May 4th.

ACT Test for the 11th grade will be Tuesday, March 20th

Writing Assessment for the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades will be Tuesday, February 7th. Writing Assessment make-up will be Wednesday, February 8th.

TCAP testing of elementary students will be April 26th through May 4th

(Stockpile Days) Professional Development/Instructional Days will be held from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 7th and Monday, January 2nd. Students will not attend on those days.

Man Pleads Guilty to Aggravated Assault for Stabbing his Brother

July 6, 2011
Dwayne Page
Heladio Nunez Gutierrez

A 35 year old Smithville man, charged with aggravated assault after he allegedly stabbed his brother three times with a knife last December, pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Thursday, June 30

Under a negotiated settlement, Judge David Patterson sentenced Heladio Nunez Gutierrez to a three year sentence, all suspended to good behavior probation except for six months to serve. He was given credit for time served from December 17, 2010 through June 30th, 2011.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said Gutierrez was arrested Friday, December 17th at a residence on Blue Springs Road, accused of assaulting his brother Ricardo Gutierrez by stabbing him in the side with a knife. After the first attack the victim began running, trying to get away, but Gutierrez chased after him and stabbed him twice again. Ricardo Gutierrez was taken to the hospital for treatment. His injuries were apparently not life threatening. Gutierrez, the assailant, admitted to the assault.

A 38 year old Liberty man charged with vandalism after his car crashed into posts supporting a walkway canopy, cut down a small tree, and then hit the brick exterior of the cafeteria's outdoor dining area at DCHS last September, was sentenced in criminal court Thursday.

Under a negotiated settlement, Steven Blake Goad pleaded guilty to vandalism over $500 and received a two year sentence, all suspended to probation. He must make restitution on the insurance deductible in an amount to be determined

43 year old Greta Lynn Higgins pleaded guilty by information to reckless endangerment and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation.

21 year old Christopher Garrett pleaded guilty to introduction of contraband into a penal institution and manufacturing methamphetamine. He received a total sentence of nine years including three years to serve in the contraband case to run concurrent with a violation of probation against him but consecutive to the meth case in which Garrett received a six year sentence to be served on state probation. He was given jail credit for time served from August 1st to November 17th, 2010, January 21 to May 20th, 2011 and from June 15th to June 30th, 2011.

31 year old Aubrey Rigsby pleaded guilty by information to evading arrest and vandalism. He received a total sentence of three years including two years in the evading case, all suspended to supervised probation except for time served. Rigsby also received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in the vandalism cases, all suspended to supervised probation. The two sentences are to run consecutively with each other. Rigsby was given jail credit of 160 days.

30 year old Corey Thomas pleaded guilty to simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation except for time served. He was fined $250. The sentence is to run concurrent with his present probation in another case. Thomas was given jail credit from May 28 to June 30.

43 year old David Howard Dixon pleaded guilty to theft over $1,000 and aggravated assault and received a three year sentence in each case, all suspended to supervised probation. He received a total sentence of six years. The two sentences are to run consecutively. He is to make restitution in an amount to be determined later.

22 year old Aaron Battle pleaded guilty to theft over $500 and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He is to contribute $150 to the economic crime fund.

26 year old Amanda Lattimore pleaded guilty to promotion to manufacture methamphetamine and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation except for time served. She was fined $2,000. Lattimore is applying for judicial diversion.

49 year old Linda Barrett West pleaded guilty to simple possession of a schedule II and III controlled substance and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in each case, all suspended to supervised probation. She was also fined $750. The sentences are to run concurrent with each other and with her probation in another case.

26 year old Jessica Hubbard pleaded guilty to two counts each of sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (suboxone) and received a total sentence of six years or three years in each case to run consecutively, suspended to supervised probation. She was also fined $2,000.

53 year old Harold Hutchings pleaded guilty to initiation to manufacture methamphetamine. He received a sentence of eight years to serve. The term is to run concurrent with a White County violation of probation against him. He is to undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and pay a $2,000 fine. Hutchings was given jail credit of 169 days.

28 year old Brandon Gurley pleaded guilty to sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance and manufacturing meth. He received a total sentence of nine years including three years in the sale and delivery case to serve and six years on the manufacturing charge, suspended to supervised probation. The two sentences are to run consecutively with each other. He was fined $2,000

29 year old Robert Prater pleaded guilty to possession with intent to sell a schedule III controlled substance. He received a two year sentence, all suspended to probation. He must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and pay a $2,000 fine.

Woman's GEO Tracker Runs Off Road Into Trailer Home

July 6, 2011
Dwayne Page
1992 GEO Tracker Runs into Trailer Home

A 53 year old Smithville woman escaped injury but got in trouble with the law after she lost control of her 1992 GEO Tracker and ran into the front of a trailer home Tuesday morning.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said Patricia Oaks of Short Mountain Highway was traveling on West Bryant Street when she lost control and went into a ditch. Oaks overcorrected and came back across the road and into a trailer park where she struck the front of a mobile home at 204 West Bryant Street. Both vehicle and trailer home received minor damage.

Corporal Travis Bryant reported that Oaks was unsteady on her feet and had slurred speech. She performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and submitted to a blood test. Oaks was placed under arrest for DUI and simple possession. An unmarked prescription bottle was found containing ten oval shaped pills believed to be Loratab. Oaks was also issued citations for failure to follow proper lane of travel and for violation of the financial responsibility law.

Man Shot Monday Now Faces Charges

July 5, 2011
Dwayne Page
Steven Darrell Bly

A 27 year old Smithville man, who was shot in the arm after trying to forcibly enter a residence on Possum Hollow Road to make contact with his ex-girlfriend Monday morning, has formally been charged in the case.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said Steven Darrell Bly of Bell Street, is charged with aggravated burglary and violation of an order of protection.

According to Sheriff Ray, 911 received a call at 1:29 a.m. Monday morning from a man who reported that he and his girlfriend were at home when someone burst into the residence through a window. The man (homeowner) then grabbed a pistol and shot the intruder, Bly, in the left arm. Bly was not armed.

Deputies were dispatched to the scene and Bly was taken by DeKalb EMS to a landing zone which was set up on Highway 70 between the city limits and DeKalb Market. Bly was boarded on a Life Flight helicopter ambulance and flown to Vanderbilt hospital.

Sheriff Ray said Bly's wound was non-life threatening and he was treated and released

The aggravated burglary charge alleges that on Monday, July 4th Bly did enter the home of the victim on Possum Hollow Road with the intent to commit an assault. According to Sheriff Ray, Bly tried unsuccessfully to enter the residence through a door, so he broke out a window and gained entry.

Sheriff Ray added that Bly violated an order of protection placed against him by his girlfriend by going to this residence where she was staying on Possum Hollow Road and making a forced entry to make contact with her.

Bly's bond totals $20,000. His court date is July 14.

Two Dead, Seven Injured in Warren County Crash

July 5, 2011
Dwayne Page
Two Killed and Seven Injured In Two Car Crash
Woodbury woman and three children Injured in this car

Two people from Brush Creek lost their lives and seven others, including two from Smithville were injured in a two car head-on crash in Warren County Monday afternoon.

Dead are 31 year old Derrick Reeder and 24 year old Brittnay Fitts.

Those injured are 24 year old Kara Funk and 22 year old Brandon Byford both of Smithville, 24 year old Tammy Edwards of Woodbury and four juveniles including three from Woodbury and one from Gordonsville.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that the crash occurred around 1:35 p.m. on the Shelbyville Road in Warren County. It was investigated by Trooper Dwaine Jennings and Lieutenant Randy Maynard.

According to the THP, 24 year old Tammy Edwards of Woodbury was driving east on Shelbyville Road in a 1995 Ford Mustang as 31 year old Derrick Reeder was heading west in a 1997 Accura. The THP reports that Edwards' car crossed over the center line causing Reeder's vehicle to go into a slide when he locked his brakes. The two cars then hit head-on in the center yellow line of the highway.

Edwards and three children passengers were injured including a five year old boy, a four year old boy, and a two year old girl all from Woodbury

Reeder died in the crash along with a passenger, 24 year old Brittnay Fitts. Other passengers with Reeder who were injured are 24 year old Kara Funk and 22 year old Brandon Byford, both of Smithville, and an eleven year old girl from Gordonsville

Weekend Fire Causes Extensive Damage to Smithville Home

July 5, 2011
Dwayne Page
Fire Damages Home at 417 Hayes Street

A midnight fire caused extensive damage to the residence of Wendy Bowling at 417 Hayes Street in Smithville Friday night/Saturday morning.

Central dispatch received the call Saturday morning at 12:04 a.m.

Ms Bowling said she, her husband Kevin and children 9 year old Chantz and 5 year old Briella were asleep when they were awakened by a smoke alarm. The family discovered the fire coming from a back room in the home and escaped unharmed. Ms. Bowling told WJLE that the smoke alarm may very well have saved their lives.

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker said while the fire started in the rear portion of the home, it spread to other parts of the house causing substantial damage.

The cause is undetermined.

In addition to the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department, the Smithville Police Department was also on the scene.

Alabama Man Wins Fiddlers Jamboree's Biggest Award

July 2, 2011
Dwayne Page
Will McMeans
Jamboree Coordinator Jack Barton Presents Award to Will McMeans

The Grand Champion Fiddler of the 40th annual Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival is Will McMeans of Lester, Alabama.

More Pictures

He won the Berry C. Williams Memorial Award Saturday night after the Grand Finale Fiddle-Off between the best Junior and Senior Fiddler.


More Pictures

McMeans made it to the fiddle off by winning the Junior Fiddling competition and he won the Grand Championship by beating the winner of the Senior Fiddling contest Don Sadler of Cookeville.

Will McMeans from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Winners in the Saturday session of the Fiddler's Jamboree are as follows:

Junior Fiddlers (Ages 13-39): First Place-Will McMeans of Lester, Alabama; Second Place- Chris Gray of Lawrenceburg; and Third Place- Austin Vick of Lyles, Tennessee.

Junior Old-Time Appalachian Flatfoot Dance (Ages up to 39): First Place- Chris Stewart of Bon Aqua; Second Place- Justin Frazor of Woodbury; and Third Place Matthew Campbell of Murfreesboro.

Senior Old-Time Appalachian Flatfoot Dance (Ages 40 & Over): First Place- Tommy Scruggs of Hartsville; Second Place- Jeff Yates of Adams, Tennesse; and Third Place- Tommy Jackson of Franklin

Tennessee Toe Tappers from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Senior Buck Dancing (Ages 40 & Over): First Place- Lonnie Stewart of Fairview; Second Place- Jeff Yates of Adams, Tennessee; and Third Place- Eileen Stewart of Nashville.

Bluegrass Fiddle (Neil Dudney Award): First Place- Tori Huntley of Loretto; Second Place- Will McMeans of Lester, Alabama; and Third Place- Chris Gray of Lawrenceburg. The Neil Dudney Award was presented to Huntley by members of Mr. Dudney's family..

Rocky Top Revue of Franklin take 3rd place in Square Dancing competition from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Senior Clogging (Ages 40 & Over): First Place-Lonnie Stewart of Fairview; Second Place-Eileen Stewart of Nashville; and Third Place- Jeff Yates of Adams, Tennessee

Bluegrass Banjo: First Place-Weston Stewart of Anderson, Alabama; Second Place- Kurt Stephenson of Dyersburg; and Third Place- Buddy Robertson of Callahan, Florida.

Harpeth River of Franklin takes 2nd place in square dancing from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Bluegrass Band: First Place-Cross Connection of Dyersburg; Second Place- A Step Ahead of Greenbrier; and Third Place-Straight Line Drive of Big Rock, Tennessee.

Senior Fiddlers ( Ages 40 & Over): First Place- Don Sadler of Cookeville; Second Place- Perry B.C Cooper of Knoxville; and Third Place- Delmer Holland of Waverly

Square Dancing: First Place-Tennessee Toe Tappers of Pleasantville; Second Place- Harpeth River of Franklin; and Third Place-Rocky Top Revue of Franklin.


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