Local News Articles

First Day of School Education Celebration Set for Monday Evening

July 31, 2010
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow
2009 First Day of School Education Celebration

The Fifth Annual First Day of School Education Celebration for DeKalb County will be held on Monday, August 2nd from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. downtown around the courthouse square.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-Kindergarten to 6th Grade, says the event is free and all parents and students are urged to attend to help kick off the new school year. "Our goal is to provide an evening of activities, education, and enjoyment for the residents of DeKalb County. We will be having information booths, passing out school supplies, refreshments, and various activities for the students to participate in while promoting education."

"This will also provide a time for our teachers and parents to come together to build a foundation for new and positive relationships, right from day one."

"Our First Day of School Celebration is an opportunity for our schools to take a leadership role in re-enforcing and improving relationships among parents, teachers, students, and the community. This is the one day each year when it is both easiest and most important to enlist families as partners in our children's education. This is a great time for us to engage our families and make them feel welcome into our schools."

"So come out and join us. Everything is free that evening. We'll have free school supplies, free food, snacks and lots of community people coming together to make this event possible."

"I want to thank the many volunteers who put in hours and hours getting this event ready for our children. Jennifer Mitchell, Jamie Vickers, Pamela Poss, Angela Johnson, Suzette Barnes, Melissa Pirtle, Gina Denman, Lisa Norton, Danielle Collins, and Kelly Garrett are on the Education Celebration committee."

"There are many volunteers, churches, and organizations that come together to make this event possible for our children so they are able to start school with new supplies and a great positive attitude."

If you would like to help with this event please call Michelle Burklow at 597-4084.

This celebration is totally free of charge to those who attend so make plans now to join the fun downtown Smithville on Monday, August 2nd.

County Planning to Address Problem of Stray Dogs and Cats

July 31, 2010
Dwayne Page
Dogs at the Animal Shelter

Funds are included in the proposed new county budget to hire an animal control officer, at least on a part time basis, to pick up stray dogs and cats.

County Mayor Mike Foster says $20,000 has been included in the new budget to fund the position. "We're anticipating hiring a full time, or at least a part time, employee to do that (pick up stray dogs and cats). I'm sure we don't get near as many calls as the city does, but we do get some calls that need to be answered."

"We're going to need some policies in the event of a dog bite where the animal can be quarantined for ten days and make that the standard policy. That needs to be addressed."

" We have a lot of elderly people who have dogs that come to their house that are strays and we just need a way of dealing with it in a humane and orderly way with some rules and regulations."

" I think the position would be part time. We don't really know for sure. It depends on how many hours that are actually required and what the call volume is but what we have in mind is to use that person for a lot of other things (in addition to picking up stray animals). If he or she is not doing something (picking up strays), they'll be working somewhere else, either at the landfill or at the jail, or somewhere. They won't be sitting over there (at the animal shelter) waiting for the phone to ring but they'll have some other job to do."

The strays would be kept at the animal shelter just off Smith Road in Smithville.

Smithville Woman Charged with Stealing Items from Truck

July 30, 2010
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have charged a woman with stealing items from a truck parked at Food Lion last week.

24 year old Tracy Ann Thomason of 446 The Loop was arrested on Wednesday, July 28th for burglary and theft of property. On Thursday, July 22nd, Lieutenant Steven Leffew took a report from David Elliott who stated that he had parked his truck in Food Lion's parking lot. When he returned to his truck he found a female inside. Elliot asked her what she was doing. The woman then got out of his truck, got into a blue car, and left. Elliott took down the plate number of the car. He also noticed that his Ipod and other items were missing. While conducting a follow up investigation, Detective Matt Holmes spoke with Ms. Thomason and she admitted to taking the items from Elliott's truck and selling them. Bond for Thomason is $6,000 and her court date is August 12th.

36 year old Jason Bradley Cripps of 774 Four Seasons Road was arrested on Friday, July 23rd for simple possession of a schedule II drug, theft under $500 and driving on a suspended license. K-9 Officer Brad Tatrow responded to DeKalb County Ace Hardware to investigate a complaint of a possible shoplifter. Cripps allegedly confessed to the theft and took Officer Tatrow and Detective Matt Holmes to where he had disposed of the items in an attempt to conceal them. Cripps gave Officer Tatrow verbal consent to search his person and two small pills believed to be oxycodone in an unmarked pill bottle were found in his left cargo pocket. Cripps also stated that he had driven to Ace Hardware and a computer check of his license revealed them to be suspended. Bond for Cripps is $4,000 and his court date is August 19th.

38 year old Rey David Ceniceros of 322 West Broad Street was arrested for assault on Wednesday, July 28th. Lee Willfido informed Corporal Travis Bryant that he had been in an altercation with Ceniceros over a civil matter. Ceniceros allegedly chased Willfido from the parking lot to the rear of the apartment building. During the altercation, Willfido suffered a cut over his left eye. Bond for Ceniceros is $1,000 and his court date is August 19th.

33 year old Brandy Mae Egerton of 396 Page Drive was arrested on Thursday, July 29th for simple possession of a schedule II drug. K-9 Officer Bradley Tatrow was called to Wal-Mart to investigate a complaint of a possible shoplifter. Upon speaking with an employee of Wal-Mart, Officer Tatrow learned that Egerton had taken a bottle of fingernail polish. When confronted, Egerton said she did not take anything from Wal-Mart. She gave Officer Tatrow permission to search her vehicle and purse. During the search, Officer Tatrow found the fingernail polish in Egerton's purse and it was returned to Wal-Mart. Also recovered from Egerton's purse was a pill bottle filled with assorted pain medication and a metal pill fob containing four yellow pills believed to be oxycodone. Bond for Egerton is $1,000 and her court date is August 19th.

Meanwhile, anyone having information on crimes is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

Sometime between 9:00 p.m on Saturday, July 17th and 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 18th someone went to Green Brook Park and vandalized the playground by throwing paint on the equipment, turning picnic tables over and breaking a Dogwood tree. The damage is estimated to be around $1000.

On Sunday, July 25th Officer Scott Davis was dispatched to Caldwell's Drug Store at 511 West Main Street as the business alarm was going off. Officer Davis discovered that an unknown suspect(s) had attempted to break out the front door glass and the window at the drive thru. No entry was made and the owner of the business was contacted to secure the business.

On Monday, July 26th Lieutenant Steven Leffew was dispatched to Johnny's Drugs at 516 West Main Street for an attempted breaking and entering. An unknown suspect(s) had tried to pry open the back door causing damage but no entry was made. The owner stated the incident occurred sometime after noon on Saturday.

Any information received that will help the Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

Hurricane Bridge Rehab due for Bid Letting This Fall

July 30, 2010
Dwayne Page
Jennifer Flynn

The rehabilitation of the Hurricane Bridge under the state's bridge bonding program is due for construction bid letting sometime this fall according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Jennifer Flynn, Community Relations Officer in the Chattanooga TDOT Office told WJLE Friday that the exact date for the bid letting has not been set but will be sometime this fall. "We're currently scheduled to let the bridge rehab project sometime in the fall of this year. We're in the process of getting our permits and everything all in order to let that project. The rehabilitation project will replace the deck at the bridge. New guardrails will be installed and it will strengthen the steel structure underneath and make the bridge a lot safer and it won't have to be weight posted anymore upon completion of the project. The estimate (to do the work) is $12 to $15 million right now but we won't really know until the bids are opened on the project and let to contract. It's part of the bridge bonding program."

The rehabilitation of Hurricane Bridge is among the projects to be funded through TDOT's Better Bridge bonding program in the fiscal year 2010-11 state budget, which was approved by the legislature this year.

Meanwhile the county will continue to fund "flaggers" at Hurricane Bridge until the state begins work on the bridge.

County Mayor Mike Foster says the proposed new county budget includes $25,000 for this expense.

Since April 15th, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has posted a "flagger" on each end of the bridge to monitor traffic across the bridge, which has state posted weight limits.

Any vehicle (trucks, school buses, emergency vehicles, etc) above the posted weight limit are subject to being stopped Mondays through Fridays from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on both ends of the bridge to allow one truck to come across the bridge at a time.

In January, the DeKalb County Commission approved a plan to provide the "flaggers" through at least September and to apply for a state grant to help recoup the county's costs.

Smithville Police Investigate Three Vehicle Wreck at Busy Intersection

July 29, 2010
Dwayne Page
Sparta Woman Driving This 1999 Ford Taurus Injured
Truck and Chevy Trailblazer Involved in Wreck (Photo by Travis Bryant)

Several people were involved in a three vehicle traffic accident Thursday afternoon at the traffic light in the intersection of Broad Street and South Congress Boulevard.

Central Dispatch received the call at 4:04 p.m.

According to Corporal Travis Bryant of the Smithville Police Department, who investigated the accident, 48 year old Carl Washer of Smithville was driving a Center Hill Nursery truck, attempting to turn left from East Broad Street onto South Congress Boulevard as 57 year old Marlene Lawera of Sparta was traveling east on Broad Street in a 1999 Ford Taurus. The two vehicles crashed in the intersection and the force of the impact caused the Taurus to push the Center Hill Nursery truck into another vehicle, a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer, driven by 38 year old Kim Roller of Smithville, which was stopped in the turning lane facing north on South Congress Boulevard, waiting to turn left onto Broad Street.

Lawera, who was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital, was apparently the only person injured in the accident. Two eleven year old boys were passengers with Washer.

Corporal Bryant was assisted at the scene by K-9 Officer Brad Tatrow, Chief Randy Caplinger, and Investigator Matt Holmes. Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department also came to the scene to wash down the street.

DeKalb County has a New Attorney

July 29, 2010
James M Judkins

DeKalb County has a new attorney.

James M Judkins now is associated in the practice of law with local attorney, J. Hilton Conger. Their address is 200 South Third Street; hours are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.; and the telephone number is 615-597-4087.

Judkins graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor of Science degree in history. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the Nashville School of Law.

His mother is LeAnn Foutch Judkins and his brother is McAllen Foutch Judkins both of Smithville. His maternal aunt is Lucy Foutch of Hermitage. His father was the late Marlon Judkins.

His paternal grandmother is Macon Knowles Judkins of Smithville. His paternal grandfather was the late H.J. Judkins. His maternal grandparents were the late Sallie and McAllen Foutch.

Schools to Get Slightly More Local Funds due to Growth in new Budget, but to Receive One Cent Less from the Property Tax Rate

July 28, 2010
Dwayne Page

Teachers and other certified personnel and support staff are budgeted a small pay raise under the proposed 2010-11 tentative general purpose spending plan for schools, which is expected to be acted on by the DeKalb County Commission on August 10th.

The proposed $18 million budget has already been recommended for approval by the county's budget committee but it appears the property tax rate for schools will also be trimmed by one cent from 49 cents to 48 cents per $100 of assessed value. County Mayor Mike Foster says the one cent reduction will not adversely affect the school system. In fact, he says since one cent of the tax rate generates more money than last year due to growth, schools will be getting $59, 956 more in local funds this year than last year exceeding the school board's request for $33,000 in additional local monies in the new budget.

The overall county property tax rate will remain the same without an increase at $1.46 per $100 of assessed value. The tax rate breaks down as follows:

County General 75 cents, up by 8 cents from last year and up by 20 cents from two years ago
Highway/Public Works- 3 cents
General Capital Projects- 8 cents, up by 1 cent from last year
Debt Service-12 cents, down by 8 cents from last year
General Purpose Schools- 48 cents, down by 1 cent from last year

One cent of the tax rate generates $43,920 in local money with a 5.75% delinquency rate figured into the equation.

In addition to the $2-million 127-thousand 365 for schools generated by the 48 cent tax rate, the county commission is transferring $1-million 540 thousand from the $2-million 247-thousand 464 local option sales tax fund to help operate schools this year along with $580,534 to fund the school debt service for payment on the Northside Elementary School and roof at Smithville Elementary School. The state BEP allocation for schools is $12-million 508-thousand dollars.

The school budget includes a $400 increase per certified position and a 25 cent per hour increase for all support staff positions along with the step increases per salary scales and adjustments for degree advancement per salary scales.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby says the total amount of the increase for raises comes to about $150,000 including local matching for social security, retirement, etc, but it's an increase the school system needs to fund, since personnel haven't had a local increase in pay in quite sometime.

The proposed tentative budget also includes one new special education resource teacher for DeKalb County High School to help meet the new diploma requirements. One of the current school nurse positions and two special education assistants, under this budget, would be funded from general purpose schools, rather than federal as they have been in the past. One part-time special education vision teacher position would become full time under this budget.

Perhaps, the category making the single largest impact on the budget is in the state mandated increase in the school system's contribution to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement, going from 6.42% to 9.05% for teachers and from 5.18% to 6.28% for support staff. That totals well over $239,000.

The bottom line on total school expenditures for next year comes to $18,029,136, exceeding total revenues by $770,476. In order to balance the budget, the school board has asked for an appropriation of $712,000 of the local school system's share of state Basic Education Program (BEP) reserves as one-time expenditures and $58,476 of Technology Reserves. The school board did not seek an increase in the local property tax rate for schools, but did request an increase in local revenue of $33,744 over last year's budget to round out this proposed spending plan.

Willoughby says this is another "bare bones" budget. "We have figured a budget that is very close. Not any excess in there. We have figured a pay raise for all our employees. When we look at where their pay was two years ago compared to where it is now, our teachers are actually making less now than what they did two years ago. The state had given them a bonus. That bonus has gone away. This year we have a $400 pay increase for our teachers and we have a 25 cent per hour increase in there for support staff, which on an eight hour day out of ten months would equal $400, the same as for the teachers. This is again a bare bones budget. We're asking for approximately $33,000(increase) from the county and we actually think that would be growth money so we hope this budget will be accepted by the county commission. Keep in mind that while there is very little money in there for pay raises, approximately $150,000 in pay raises for our system, everything (cost of living) has gone up for our employees also, whether it be gas, food, etc. Our employees have needs so we have included that raise in there, which there hasn't been one for our employees for a while."

No Discounts Likely for Early Payment of Property Taxes This Fall

July 27, 2010
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County property owners got a discount last fall for paying their property taxes in October or November, but don't look for that this year.

Although Trustee Sean Driver has proposed to the county budget committee that the discounts be offered again this year, County Mayor Mike Foster told the local media Friday that it is unlikely that the county could afford to do it this year, because "our fund balances are being hit a little more".

Last year, Trustee Driver proposed offering a two percent discount to those who paid their taxes in October and a one percent discount for taxes paid in November. The savings to county taxpayers, who took advantage of it, came to a total of $31,165.

Foster says the county does plan to offer again local property tax relief of up to $50 for those who qualify for the state property tax relief program, a proposal which was presented by Trustee Driver last year and approved by county commission. Driver has asked that the extra tax relief be granted for another year. The costs to the county would be about $18,000, according to the proposed new budget.

DeKalb Fire Department Receives State Award for Training

July 27, 2010
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Fire Department Receives Award for Training

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department was recognized Monday night by the Tennessee State Fire and Codes Academy for being tops in the state in training.

Ed Himes, director of the Fire Service Program with the academy, presented the department a special award during the county commission meeting. "Each year the fire academy tracks the number of training hours that each fire department in this state completes. They fall into three categories. The Silver category is a fire department that trains with the fire academy less than 2,000 hours. The Gold is 2,000 to 4,000 hours and the Platinum is 4,000 hours and above.

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department logged 3,203 hours.

"This year the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department finished number one in the state in the training of volunteer fire fighters and number six in the state of all fire departments, including the big fire departments like Memphis who was in that top category," said Himes.

"We wanted to meet with you (county commission) and congratulate your department. It speaks volumes of the leadership you have in the fire department here, the commitment of the members, and the dedication and commitment of this group to fund and support your fire department the way you do."

Assistant Fire Chief Roy Merriman and James Pennington, the training coordinator and training officer accepted the award on behalf of the department.

(Pictured above left to right: Assistant County Fire Chief and Training Coordinator Roy Merriman, Training Officer James Pennington, and Ed Himes, Director of the Fire Service Program of the Tennessee State Fire and Codes Academy) PHOTO BY CALLIE MATTHEWS

Court Officers Now Required to be Full Time and POST Certified under State Law

July 26, 2010
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department currently has a total of four part-time deputies who serve as court officers for the General Sessions, Juvenile, Chancery, Circuit and Criminal Courts. But under state law, the department will soon be required to have only full time POST certified courtoom officers.

According to a recent opinion by the Tennessee Attorney General, based on a 2008 state law. "Deputy sheriffs are required to be certified as peace officers by the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission. Under state law, deputy sheriffs assigned to the courts must also successfully complete forty hours of POST approved basic training in courthouse security and sixteen hours of annual training."

Sheriff Patrick Ray says he has been in consultation with the County Mayor and county commission about the law and funds to make the transition are included in the proposed new budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year. "I was notified by the Tennessee Sheriff's Association back in the early part of June that they had received a state attorney general's opinion on court officers and what the requirements of those court officers would be. They sent me a copy of it We looked at it and they do state in there that the (court) officers are to work a minimum of 40 hours per week in a full time position and be certified by the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission in Nashville. So I went to the county commission and explained to them what the state attorney general's opinion was and I also had the county attorney look at it and give his opinion. He also reaffirmed that they (court officers) were going to have to be certified."

Sheriff Ray says when not in court, these officers can be assigned to other duties including serving papers. He says an idea has also been discussed, but not yet approved to help pay for this additional expense. " I talked with the county commission about offsetting how much it was going to cost in our budget to do that (have four full time certified court officers) and there was some talk that they (county commission) might raise the fees of civil papers and criminal warrants and when these court officers are not in court, they could be serving civil papers and state warrants. These (full time court officers) will have full powers just like a regular deputy. They can make arrests and work calls. We can use them for anything. They're not paid from court funds. They can work different shifts and do whatever we need them to do."

In addition to their certification, Sheriff Ray says these court officers will be required to put in a certain amount of hours toward courtroom security, even after this year. "They'll have to do their forty hours of in-service just like the regular deputies do and then they'll have so many hours of courtroom security that they'll have to do in addition to that forty hours. So they'll have a little more training time than most of our regular deputies do."

"The county commission has already granted approval for me to go ahead and get these four officers trained that we plan to use in the courtrooms. We have three people who are going to the academy and we've hired one person who has already sent himself through the academy. We tried to find people who were already certified so we wouldn't have to pay the expense of sending them through the academy."

"Right now in my budget I've got funds for four part-time court officers. The courts require two armed officers for each judge's courtroom. We've hired people to fill those slots and the county commission has allotted me some money in my budget for this transition period to be able to pay them while sending these other people to get them certified. Once they're certified, then the rest of what's left out of that part-time money will go to these full time salaries."

Sheriff Ray added that this change was not something anybody sought locally but was necessary because of state law. "This was not a decision of mine or the county commission. It's a mandatory law that we have to comply with. They did not give us any options."

Sheriff Ray says all four full time court officers will be used on any day when court is in session. If two courts are in session at the same time, the four officers will be assigned, two per courtroom.


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