Local News Articles

Million Dollar Lawsuit Filed in School Bus Accident

March 16, 2011
Dwayne Page
Million Dollar Lawsuit Filed in School Bus Accident
Million Dollar Lawsuit Filed in School Bus Accident

Attorneys for a local family involved in a traffic accident with a DeKalb County School bus almost a year ago filed a circuit court lawsuit Tuesday seeking a total of one million dollars in damages against the bus driver Walter Phillips, individually; DeKalb County, and Phillips' employer, the DeKalb County Board of Education.

Ashley Spivey is suing on behalf of herself and her minor children, Isaac Dyal and Alissa Dyal, asking for "a money judgment in favor of herself in the amount of $300,000; for a money judgment in favor of herself for loss of consortium in the amount of $100,000; for a money judgment in favor of her daughter Alissa Dyal, a minor, in the amount of $300,000; and for a money judgment in favor of her son, Isaac Dyal, a minor, in the amount of $300,000."

Spivey, who is represented by Nashville attorneys Blair Durham and Ben Winters of Durham and Dread, PLC., also wants a jury to try the case.

The accident occurred on Tuesday afternoon, April 27th, 2010 near the school zone at the intersection of North Congress Boulevard and Smith Road in front of Northside Elementary School. Phillips and the eighteen students aboard his bus (#3) escaped injury. However, Kenny Waymon Dyal, Jr., Ashley LeAnn Spivey, Alissa Dyal, and Isaac Dyal, who were in the 1992 Chevy Blazer that struck the bus, were injured in the crash and taken to the hospital.

After conducting the investigation that day, Lieutenant Randy Maynard of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that bus # 3, driven by 81 year old Walter Phillips, had just left the school with the students and was on Smith Road, turning south on Highway 56 when a Chevy Blazer, driven by 23 year old Kenny Waymon Dyal, Jr. of Smithville, struck the bus. Dyal was traveling north on Highway 56 (North Congress Boulevard). The impact damaged the rear left side of the bus and detached the rear axle from the frame. The bus had to be towed away and the blazer was totaled.

Lieutenant Maynard said the three persons in the Blazer with Dyal were 23 year old Ashley LeAnn Spivey and their children, a two year old girl (Alissa Dyal) and a one year old boy (Isaac Dyal).

In the lawsuit, Spivey alleges that she and her children were passengers of the vehicle operated by Kenny Dyal, Jr. traveling north on North Congress Boulevard when Phillips, who was traveling westbound on Smith Road, turned left in front of Dyal's vehicle, causing the collision.

Spivey claims that Phillips was negligent and violated state laws in that he "failed to yield the right of way; was not paying attention; failed to keep his vehicle under due and reasonable control; and was driving in a reckless manner without regard for the safety of the public in general and the plaintiffs in particular."

The lawsuit further alleges that "DeKalb County and the DeKalb County Board of Education, employers of Phillips, are and should be vicariously liable to the Plaintiff for the acts and omissions of their employee pursuant to (state law)"

As a result of the accident, Ashley Spivey alleges that she and her two children have "sustained severe, permanent painful injuries from which they have incurred and shall continue to incur pain, suffering, emotional duress, and the loss of ability to participate in and enjoy the pleasures of life, for all of which they deserve to be compensated; and that they have incurred and shall continue to incur medical expenses for the treatment of these injuries, for all of which they deserve to be compensated."

Six in the Race for Smithville Alderman

March 16, 2011
Dwayne Page
Gayla Hendrix
Cordell Walker
Danny Washer
W.J. (Dub) White
Shawn Jacobs
Aaron Meeks

The three Smithville aldermen up for re-election will be challenged in this summer's municipal election

Aldermen Shawn Jacobs, Aaron Meeks, and W.J. (Dub) White are seeking a new two year term in the city balloting on Tuesday, June 21st. All three were elected two years ago. Jacobs is completing his first term. Meeks served as alderman from 2003 to 2007 when he lost a bid for re-election. He ran again in 2009 and was elected. White served as alderman from 1993 to 2001. He served as alderman again from 2003 to 2007 when he lost a re-election bid. White ran again and was elected in 2009.

Others hoping to win a seat on the city council as aldermen this summer are Smithville attorney and former educator Gayla Hendrix and local businessmen Cordell Walker and Danny Washer.

All three are familiar faces on the political scene. Walker is a former Smithville alderman. Washer made a run for alderman in 2008 and Hendrix ran for state representative three years ago.

All six, Jacobs, Meeks, White, Hendrix, Walker, and Washer have qualified by petition with the DeKalb County Election Commission.

Three aldermen will be elected on Tuesday, June 21st. Each term is for two years. The terms of office for those elected will begin on July 1st.

Early voting for the Smithville Municipal Election will be June 1st through June 16th. Meanwhile, May 23rd is the voter registration deadline for the Smithville City Election.

Voters who don't live in Smithville but own property in the city may vote in the municipal election under certain conditions.

The Smithville Charter allows Property Rights Voting. The property must be a minimum of
7500 square feet and the person owning the property must reside in DeKalb County. Proof of ownership and residence must be shown by the following means: (1) A certified copy of the deed and the execution of an affidavit that the person still owns this property and (2) A copy of the most recent DeKalb County real property tax notice, and (3) Proof of residence in DeKalb County. Property rights registrants are entitled to vote but not to hold any municipal office or serve on any municipal board or commission. Proof of ownership and registration form must be provided to the Election Commission office by the May 23rd registration deadline.

Meanwhile, Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley reminds voters who have moved since registering to vote that the election commission office needs your current address on file.

"While checking the names of registered voters on some of the petitions returned recently, we noticed some voters have moved but have not informed the election commission office of their change of address," Stanley said. "Updating the record is a simple process. All the voter needs to do is fill out a change of address form, which is available at the election commission office. To see if you need to update your record, simply check the address on your voter registration card. If it is different than your current address, you need to update the information with the election commission."

"Updating the address will make your voting experience go much easier and quicker." Stanley said," and will not slow down the line at the polling place during early voting or election day."

For more information, you may contact the DeKalb County Election Commission Office which is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The phone number is 615-597-4146.

DeKalb Man Charged in Cannon County Burglary

March 16, 2011
Cannon Courier
Matthew Allen Baker

A DeKalb County man has been arrested in connection with a recent Cannon County burglary in which over $10,000 worth of items were stolen.

Cannon County Sheriff's Investigator Anthony Young said the burglary occurred on January 6th year at a home on Basham Ridge Road in Woodbury, according to a report on the Cannon Courier website.

Investigator Young arrested Matthew Allen Baker, 1022 Pine Grove Road, Smithville, on March 10.

"I received information in relation to the theft, and after a thorough investigation, determined Baker was allegedly one of the persons involved in the taking of the items," Investigator Young said.

The case remains under investigation and an additional arrest is expected, Young said.

Among the items taken were gold jewelry, guns, knives, a 42-inch flat screen TV, tools, video games and a laptop computer.

In addition to charges of aggravated burglary, theft over $10,000 and criminal trespass, Baker incurred additional charges while he was being booked at the Cannon County Jail. Baker was arrested by DeKalb County Sheriff's deputies and transported to Cannon County.

During that process, Corrections Officer Albert Summers discovered within Baker's personal property a black flashlight. Upon opening the flashlight, Summers observed that the batteries had been removed and replaced with a small plastic baggie. Inside of the baggie was a substance which tested positive for methamphetamine.

Additional charges of possession of a Schedule II drug and introducing contraband into a penal institution were levied against Baker.

Total bond was set at $30,000. Initial court date is May 3.

Department of Safety and Homeland Security to Issue New Driver Licenses, ID Cards

March 15, 2011
New Driver License Cards
New Driver License and ID Cards
New Driver License Card

Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons on Tuesday announced the state will soon issue new and improved driver licenses and identification cards. The new license and its updated security features will help combat document fraud and protect the identities of Tennesseans by using the latest credentialing technology. This is the first major revision of Tennessee driver licenses and ID cards since 2003.

“A top priority of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is safeguarding the identity of Tennessee citizens to prevent identity theft and document fraud,” said Commissioner Gibbons. “The new cards will be the most secure our state has issued to date.”

All current Tennessee licenses and IDs will remain valid until the expiration date; at that time, license holders will apply for a newly-designed card. New card production began on a pilot basis on Tuesday, March 15 in Gallatin. The new cards will begin to roll out across the state starting at driver license stations in the four metropolitan areas (Davidson, Knox, Hamilton, and Shelby Counties) later this month. Statewide implementation of the new card is expected to be completed at all locations within four to six weeks.

“Tennessee driver licenses have not been updated in eight years, and the technology behind them is eight years old,” Gibbons explained. “These new cards utilize the latest technology. They are more secure and are designed to be more difficult to counterfeit, alter, or duplicate,” he stressed.

The driver license and ID cards include several upgraded design and security features, including:

·new banner showcasing Tennessee landmarks and icons;

·new background design;

·enlarged organ donor symbol, when authorized;

·multiple date of birth placements on front and back of the card;

·vertical format to distinguish driving privilege from identification only cards;

·digital portrait and signature, both stored in a permanent database, to easily verify identification;

·lamination, with a tamper resistant coating and holographic designs;

·machine-readable barcodes for law enforcement purposes; and

·applicable class, endorsements, and restrictions printed on back of the card.

“The existing licenses are still valid. There is no need for citizens to get a new license before their existing licenses expire,” stressed Driver Services Director Michael Hogan. “But anyone applying for a new license or renewing an existing license will receive the newly designed format,” he added.

To help protect identities and prevent document fraud, the state of Tennessee requires all new applicants for a driver license or identification card to present the following:

·proof of lawful status in the United States to include U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residency or authorized stay in the U.S.;

·proof of identity to include birth certificate, visa, or passport;

· verification of Social Security number with Social Security Administration; and

· proof of Tennessee residency.

Fees for the new driver license and ID will not change. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Driver Services Division annually issues 1.5 million licenses and ID cards to Tennesseans. For more information on the new driver license and ID card or to conduct business online, please visit http://www.tn.gov/safety/dlmain.htm.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County in Search of Next Partner Family

March 15, 2011

Looking for an affordable opportunity to put your family in your own home?

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is now searching for their next partner family and has begun accepting applications for the fourth house to be built. The location of the next home is on Hayes Street in Smithville.

An Informational Meeting and Application Fair will be held on Tuesday, March 29th at 6 p.m. in the basement of the DeKalb County Courthouse in downtown Smithville. During the meeting, families will receive help in completing the application and will be given information about the Habitat Program.

If you are unable to attend the meeting, you may call the Habitat phone number 615-215-8181 and leave your name, address and phone number and a Habitat volunteer will contact you to provide additional information and perhaps mail an application to you.

To be considered, completed and signed applications must be postmarked by Thursday, April 21, 2011.

The purpose of Habitat is to build homes with families and sell the houses at no profit and no interest to families who could not otherwise afford a house. This Christian ministry is financed through private donations and utilizes volunteer labor and donated materials, if possible.

Habitat guidelines are basically 3 major qualifications: need for housing, ability to pay and a willingness to partner. In addition, partner families must have been a resident of DeKalb County for at least 1 year prior to March 2011 and must be a US citizen or have permanent resident alien status.

A Family Selection Committee will consider applications, based on those major qualifications as well as some other general guidelines as follows:

"Must have a housing need: For example, no indoor plumbing, poor heating, leaks in the roof, overcrowding ( 3 to a bedroom), unsafe or unsanitary conditions

"Ability to Pay

"For a family of 4, the maximum allowable annual income is $25,520, which is 55% of the median income for families in our community. If you are age 60 or have a special needs household member, the maximum allowable annual income level for a family of 4 is $27,840. The income levels vary according to family size. You may get detailed information specific to your family at the informational meeting on March 29.

"With your permission, we will verify employment and other income, verify checking and savings account balances, get a statement from your current landlord, have a credit check completed and and a criminal background check.

"Willingness to Partner

"If approved for a Habitat house, we will ask that you be willing to join in programs to learn and practice budgeting, home repair and home maintenance.

"If approved for a Habitat house, we require that all adult household members ( 18 years and older) be willing to work a combined total of 500 hours of "sweat equity", with 100 of those hours completed before construction. Children who are members of the household may help with "sweat equity" by improving their grades in school and having good attendance at school.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is very anxious to help another family have their dream of home ownership become a reality.

Man Charged with Statutory Rape of 15 Year old at SES during "Read Night"

March 14, 2011
Dwayne Page

A 25 year old man is facing a statutory rape charge after allegedly having sex with a fifteen year old girl in an unoccupied classroom at Smithville Elementary while the school was hosting a "Read Night" program on Monday evening, March 7th.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger is asking the public for help in locating Roel Celaya Sosa aka Carlos Oliver Aldino, who has not yet been arrested and may have fled. Sosa, who lived in Apartment-A at 615 South Mountain Street, was employed at Zelenka Nursery as a crew leader. Workers there told police Monday, March 14th, that Sosa has failed to show up for work in recent days and indicated that he might have gone to Mexico.

Detective Matt Holmes, who is investigating the case, told WJLE Monday that on the night of the offense, the fifteen year old girl was at the school to look after her younger brother who was participating in"Read Night", a teacher supervised program where parents and students come to school after hours and read together. The mother of these two children had apparently dropped them off at the school and then returned later to pick them up.

After arriving at the school that night, the fifteen year old met up with Sosa and they separated themselves from others in the building. Police have declined to make public more details about the encounter between the two, fearing it might harm the prosecution of the case. According to Detective Holmes, a custodian later saw Sosa and the victim standing in the hallway and told them they were not supposed to be there.

The next day, Detective Holmes said the custodian informed Principal Dr. Bill Tanner of the incident and he contacted the victim's mother. She then reported it to School Resource Officer Kenneth Whitehead, who contacted the Department of Children Services and Detective Holmes.

Although Sosa has not been found, Smithville Police have seized his green Chevy Tahoe. The vehicle was found parked at Sosa's residence. Detective Holmes said police believe he drove it to the school to commit the act, which is use of a vehicle in the commission of a felony.

State Legislation Clarifies that Counties have No Line-Item Veto Authority over Election Commission Budgets

March 14, 2011
State Senator Mae Beavers

A bill sponsored by State Senator Mae Beavers makes clear that county governments do not have the authority to make line-item vetoes in the budgets of local election commissions.

Senator Beavers told WJLE Monday that this legislation simply clarifies already existing case law. "I just want to set the record straight on what we're doing. We are clarifying the law according to the case law. Decisions have been made in court as to some of these things so we're just clarifying the law to be in line with the case law," said Senator Beavers.

"The bill says county commissions have no line-item veto authority over the election commission budget. That has been case law for ever and ever as to any entity in the county. I found that out when I served on the county commission (Wilson County). I've been there. I've done that. I'm not going to do anything to harm the county. But county commissioners simply can't go through each and every budget and cut out the line items that they want to cut out. I know how county commissioners feel. I've been there. I've felt the same way. But I was told at that time that we did not have line item veto authority over anybody's budget. So this is just clarifying the law," said Senator Beavers

"The court has also ruled in the past that (election commissions) are a state agency more or less but they're funded by the county and they (election commissioners) have to present a reasonable budget. The law already says that the budget can't be any less than the year before. This bill clarifies that if the county commission does not fund them (election commissions) in a reasonable manner with the money they need to conduct elections, that they (election commissions) can go to Chancery Court and ask the court to make a ruling. That's not anything new. We're just clarifying the law," according to Senator Beavers.

"There's no reason for anybody to get excited. If they think this is going to cost the county money, it's not. We got the fiscal note on this Sunday and there is no fiscal impact to the state or the county. Its simply not going to harm the county at all. Its not changing things," said concluded.

Present law generally requires each county to fund the operations of its election commission. If a county fails to appropriate funds sufficient to pay expenses that are reasonably necessary for the discharge of the statutorily mandated duties of its county election commission, the commission is authorized to petition the chancery court of the county in which such election commission is located to compel the appropriation of such funds.

This bill specifies that counties do not have the authority to make line-item vetoes to items in their election commissions' budgets. This bill specifies that the decision whether to petition a chancery court for an appropriation lies solely within the commission's discretion. This bill designates clear and convincing evidence of unreasonableness as the burden of proof that a county must meet in order to defeat a commission's petition to compel an appropriation. This bill also requires that the county must pay the commission's legal fees that are associated with the commission's funding.

Parents Make Sure Students Immunizations Up To Date

March 14, 2011
Dwayne Page
Dee Anna Reynolds

Dee Anna Reynolds, DeKalb County School Health Coordinator, has issued a reminder to parents to make sure your children have their required immunizations up to date.

Speaking during the school board meeting Thursday night, Reynolds said " for the parents and guardians regarding immunizations for next year, any student who will be entering seventh grade next year will have to be current on their DTP vaccinations. That's the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. They will also need proof of varicella immunity. That's the chickenpox. There's four ways they can do that: date of birth before 1980, which that's not going to be any of our seventh graders; history of chickenpox illness diagnosed by a healthcare provider; documentation of two doses of varicella; vaccine given at least twenty eight days apart, excluding doses given earlier than four days before their first birthday; or documentation of a blood test if they do not have doctor documentation," said Reynolds.

"For our high school seniors who are entering colleges or universities this year, they are also going to need proof of that varicella immunity (those same four ways); their second dose of MMR which is the measles, mumps, and rubella; and they may also need an additional tetanus depending upon when they did get their DTP," said Reynolds.

"I'd like to also remind parents to keep their children up to date on immunizations because we do check those each year a few weeks after school starts up. Those must be on the correct form. Those can be obtained from the health department, the Tennessee Department of Health, or private physicians. If you have questions about immunizations you can learn more on the Tennessee Department of Health website," added Reynolds.

The Loop: A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

March 14, 2011
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a weekly legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

Health Care Freedom Act Passes General Assembly, Headed to Governor for Signature

The “Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act” passed the House this week, meaning the legislation is now on its way to the Governor for his signature. This bill’s passage is part of a larger effort by the General Assembly to not only encourage job growth, but protect the valuable jobs already in Tennessee.

The legislation was an integral piece for many legislators’ agendas over the last two years. A majority of House Members felt it was necessary for Tennessee to take action and protect the State from job losses that would have inevitably occurred due to the onerous mandates stemming from the federal health care law. More importantly, the legislation protects the integrity of individual rights for Tennesseans.

Essentially, the soon-to-be law ensures every person within Tennessee is free to choose or decline any mode of health care services without penalty or punishment from the government. Additionally, it prohibits Tennessee officials from interfering with the health care insurance decisions of every Tennessean.

On Monday, the bill passed in an overwhelming, bipartisan fashion with a 70-27 vote. The bill sponsor said, “I believe this bill sets a precedent for States to begin protecting their citizens from a federal government that taxes too much, spends too much, and regulates too much. Tonight, with one voice that has been a long time coming, Tennessee tells Washington, ‘no’.” It was such a huge honor to carry this bill in the House.

Jobs Agenda Keeps Rolling Along in Tennessee

While the country is still grappling with the effects of a harsh recession, Tennessee’s economy continues to prove many experts wrong. In a mid-week announcement, the Governor and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development announced another company was expanding their facility in the Volunteer State. Tennessee has seen a surge of relocations and growth from many companies over the last few years that view our right-to-work State as a low-tax haven with a strong and qualified worker base.

The Japanese company is expanding its Coffee County manufacturing facility with a $32 million investment that will provide 70 news jobs to the area.

The ECD Commissioner stated this is another win for Tennessee's push to improve unemployment, especially in rural counties. The Governor added, “Japan has long been Tennessee’s largest foreign investor nation, and we are particularly grateful for the growing presence of Japanese companies in the Volunteer State and the investment and jobs they bring.”

Governor’s Education Reform Agenda Begins Moving in House

On Wednesday, the initial plank of the Governor’s education reform agenda began moving in the House with passage of the teacher tenure reform in the House Education Subcommittee.

The legislation passed the House Education Subcommittee with a strong 9-4 vote. As written, the reforms will require an educator to be on the job five years instead of the current three before being granted tenure. Additionally, in a common sense move, the legislation makes poor performance a reason for tenure to be revoked. These reforms will ensure Tennessee’s next generation is being taught by the best and brightest teachers. The bill places student achievement and excellent teacher performance as the main priorities for Tennessee’s educational system. The bill now goes before the full Education Committee for approval.

In related news, the Education Subcommittee passed an equal access bill that allows for other professional organizations to represent our State’s teachers. Currently, only one union is allowed to represent educators, essentially silencing thousands of teachers across the State. Next week, the Education Subcommittee will deal with legislation that reforms charter school requirements, including lifting the cap on the number of those schools. After that, the Subcommittee will move on to consider changes to the mandatory negotiating authority of the unions.

Agreement Reached That Allows Tennessee Veterans Day Flag Tradition to Continue

House and Senate Members announced this week they have been informed about an administrative change will take place to allow for the long-standing practice of placing American flags on the graves of veterans in Tennessee's veteran cemeteries on Veteran's Day. The lawmakers have worked with the Governor and the Veterans Affairs Commissioner to make the appropriate administrative changes to permit volunteers, like the Boy Scouts, to place the flags on the graves.

The cemeteries fall under the federal Floral Regulations for the gravesites of military veterans which prohibits the practice except on Memorial Day. Adherence to those regulations raised many concerns and questions by community organizations and others who sought to decorate the graves with flags last year on Veteran's Day. The administrative change anticipates a change in the federal regulations.

The VA Commissioner remarked, “Placement of flags on the graves of our heroes reflects honor and respect. It makes a public statement that the State of Tennessee shall never forget the many sacrifices of a few so that all can enjoy our freedom. Changing this policy is the right thing to do.”

Governor to Deliver His First State of the State Address Next Week

In what is often a highly-anticipated speech to highlight the priorities of Tennessee’s government, the Governor will deliver his first State of the State Address on Monday, March 14th. The House and Senate will enter into a Joint Convention in the House Chambers at 5:45p.m., with the Governor delivering the address at 6:00p.m.

The address offers all Members of the General Assembly and the citizens of Tennessee a unique chance to hear directly from the Governor about his Administration’s top initiatives. Tennesseans can expect to hear about economic growth, limiting government, education reform, and budget proposals, among many other important topics.

As always, I am so honored to represent each and every one of you. Please continue to keep me and the rest of the Legislature in your thoughts and prayers. Hope to see you all very soon.

DeKalb Jobless Rate Jumps to 10.3% in January

March 13, 2011
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate jumped from 9.4% in December to 10.3% in January according to new numbers released Thursday by the state. Still, the local jobless rate was better than the rate of 11.3% recorded in January, 2010.

DeKalb County's Labor Force in January, 2011 was at 9,990. A total of 8,960 were employed and 1,030 were unemployed

Among the fourteen counties of the Upper Cumberland, DeKalb County recorded the second lowest jobless rate for the month of January.

Pickett County- 18.4%
Van Buren- 14.1%
White- 14.1%
Clay- 13.6%
Fentress- 13.1%
Macon- 12.2%
Smith- 11.5%
Putnam- 9.6%

Tennessee's unemployment rate for January was 9.5 percent, up 0.1 from the December rate. The national unemployment rate for January 2011 was 9.0 percent, 0.4 percentage point lower than the December rate.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for January 2011, show that the rate increased in 95 counties.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.7 percent, up from the December rate of 6.2 percent. Scott County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 23.2 percent, up from 19.7 percent in the previous month, followed by Pickett County at 18.4 percent, up from the December rate of 15.4 percent.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.5 percent, up from 6.8 percent in December. Hamilton County was 8.7 percent, up from 7.6 percent the previous month. Davidson County was 8.6 percent, up from 8.1 percent in December, and Shelby County was 10.4 percent, up from 9.4 percent in December.


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