Local News Articles

Local Red Cross Seeks Donations for Storm Relief Efforts

March 1, 2012
Dwayne Page

Local Red Cross volunteers, who have been rendering assistance at the scene of the storm damage on Cookeville Highway, are asking the public to donate food and bottled water for all those helping in the recovery and storm cleanup efforts. Monetary donations will also be accepted. If you would like to donate, stop by the Red Cross office in the new county complex on South Congress Boulevard.

DeKalb County Red Cross Volunteer Oscar Boyd explains in the following video how you can help.

Efforts to Recover Body of Storm Victim to Resume Thursday Morning

March 1, 2012
Dwayne Page

Rescue workers and volunteers will resume efforts Thursday morning to recover the body of a woman who died when her home collapsed from high winds Wednesday afternoon on Alpine Lane in the Holiday Haven area.

The name of the woman has not yet been released.

The storm, which some believe produced a tornado, left a scattered path of destruction just to the north east of Smithville off Cookeville Highway from the Pine Grove Road and Holiday Haven area to Ponder Road, Puckett's Point, and then on to the Falling Water and Backbone areas in the Johnson's Chapel Community.

Aside from the fatality, no injuries were reported but several homes, garages, and other structures were damaged by the high winds or from trees that fell on them and power lines are down which has caused power outages for many residents.

DeKalb County Fire Chief Donny Green said the recovery operation was called off Wednesday night but will resume at daybreak Thursday. "At this point, we're in the recovery stage of the operation. We have confirmed we have a body trapped inside a collapsed structure. That (home) has pretty much been demolished. We're going to stop operations tonight but we're still going to be planning our approach on how we're going to try and do this (recovery operation) safely," said Chief Green.

"We're going to try and pick back up at daybreak tomorrow (Thursday) and continue the recovery operation to get in and recover the body. We're sending a lot of our outside resources back tonight but they're coming back early in the morning to help us get in with the planning process on how we're going to approach this," he said.

When asked if this storm actually spawned a tornado, Chief Green said there has been no official confirmation but a county firefighter claimed to have spotted a funnel cloud.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said he called in all deputies Wednesday afternoon to help in providing security. "We're providing security and backup to the rescue squad and fire department. We've gone around searching houses. That's what we've done today. We've also secured the scenes where there has been damage to homes. Tonight a lot of them don't have electricity so we've got a security plan in effect. I called in all the deputies today to assist with this and we'll have them throughout the night and into tomorrow," said Sheriff Ray.

In addition to local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, EMS, rescue squad, and Emergency Management Agency coordinator Charlie Parker, several agencies and emergency services from outside the county have also responded. "Its really been overwhelming at the support we've received from all of our agencies in the county as well as adjoining counties and cities and beyond who have come to help us. We've had extra law enforcement to come in. Extra fire and EMS and rescue services have come in. We can't say enough about the support we've had during this unfortunate event," said Chief Green.

Local Red Cross volunteers, who have been rendering assistance on site, are asking the public to donate food and bottled water for all those helping in the recovery and storm cleanup effort. Monetary donations will also be accepted. If you would like to donate, stop by the Red Cross office in the new county complex on South Congress Boulevard.

Three DeKalb County School Buildings Damaged by Storm Winds, SCHOOLS CLOSED THURSDAY

February 29, 2012
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County High School, DeKalb Middle School, and the DCHS Vocational School buildings received damage from high winds during a severe thunderstorm Wednesday afternoon.

As a result, DeKalb County schools will be closed Thursday.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby told WJLE that the extent of the damage will be evaluated Thursday morning. "This evening (Wednesday) the storm came through and I don't know if it was a tornado at the middle school and high school," said Willoughby. It was probably just high winds blowing. But after the worst of it got over myself and the maintenance crew went on top of the buildings. We've got some damage to the middle school, the facial part of the middle school and evidently some large cuts in the roof. We haven't found those cuts but lots of water have come into certain parts of the school. At the vocational building we had a large window almost blown out of the frame. We've got some electrical problems throughout the high school and maybe the middle school and vocational school also. We're trying to clear those up. We're just waiting until tomorrow morning (Thursday) so we can get into the buildings to see what's really wrong. A tree blew down behind the vocational school at the high school and damaged a fence. The high school football scoreboard looks like its twisted around.. We've got a lot of aluminum off the facial board of the vocational school that is blown off onto the street. We've seen metal on top of the buildings from different places. We're not sure where its come from. But there's damage to where we don't want to let the kids go into the school buildings tomorrow morning (Thursday) so that's why we've decided to close schools. We'll evaluate some things tomorrow (Thursday). Hopefully we'll be back in school Friday morning. We've got people showing up from the insurance and roofing companies tomorrow morning (Thursday) to help us get things going," said Willoughby.


One Person Confirmed Dead In Holiday Haven Area From Wednesday Afternoon Storm

February 29, 2012
Dwayne Page
Garage destroyed on Ponder Lane

A severe thunderstorm, which may have spawned a tornado, has claimed one life and caused significant structure damage to homes, garages, and outbuildings in the Cookeville Highway area.

County Fire Chief Donny Green told WJLE that damage assessments are still underway. "We're in the Cookeville Highway area and we have what appears to be a tornado touchdown. It may have touched down in a couple of areas of the county, one being off of Holiday Haven Drive, where it looks like we have a confirmed fatality. The second being at the end of Puckett's Point. We're trying to investigate at this time to see if it was the same tornado. Apparently we've also had significant damage in the falling water area which is around Johnson's Chapel. We have responders here from our county and from adjoining counties. We're still in the assessment phase. We've had significant structure damage but no reports of other injuries other than the fatality," said Chief Green.


The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for DeKalb County at 3:46 p.m. and central dispatch/911 received the first reports of damage two minutes later.

Local veterinarian Dr. Scott Little said he was at his residence on Ponder Lane when the storm struck "There was the weirdest noise. In fact my father texted me and said there's a weird sound outside. And there certainly was. I got the kids up and put them into a closet. I was looking out the windows to see what was going on. When the wind started blowing really hard I went and got back in the closet and I guess it wasn't sixty seconds later when I came back out that all the trees all around the house were blown down. They say it (tornado) sounds like a train and that is certainly what it sounded like. It was a constant sound. It wasn't like anything I've ever heard. The sound lasted for maybe about two minutes and it was hard to tell where it was coming from. I would assume it was just the sound of the wind," said Dr. Little

While the wind destroyed a garage belonging to his nearest neighbor Ronnie Burton, Dr. Little said his home didn't get much damage. "It blew a window out but there wasn't much damage to the house at all. A lot of trees around the house fell down," he said

No one on Ponder Lane was injured

Early Voting Turnout for Primaries Way Below Four Years Ago

February 29, 2012
Dwayne Page

If early voting is any indication, turnout may be lower for the DeKalb County Democratic Primary and Tennessee Presidential Preference Primary than four years ago.

The DeKalb County Election Commission reports that a total of 696 people cast ballots during the early voting period from February 15-28 including 447 who voted in the Democratic Primary and 249 who voted in the Republican Primary.

In 2008, a total of 4,507 people cast ballots in the local and state primaries including 3,206 who voted on election day and 1,294 who either voted early or by absentee. There were seven provisional ballots cast.

In the 2008 Assessor of Property race alone, 2,903 people voted. There were three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination that year. This was the total vote for that race including election day and early voting/absentees.

A total of 3,057 voted in the Tennessee Democratic Presidential Preference Primary in 2008 which featured Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and other contenders for the nomination. In DeKalb County, Clinton received 2,410 votes to Obama's 347. Three hundred voters went for other candidates.

In the Tennessee Republican Presidential Primary, a total of 1,344 voted locally four years ago with Mike Huckabee getting the most support in DeKalb County at 573 followed by 399 for John McCain and 267 for Mitt Romney. The rest of the votes were divided among the other candidates.

Polls at all sixteen precincts will be open across the county on Tuesday, March 6 from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

WJLE will have exclusive LIVE local election return coverage when the polls close at 7:00 p.m. on AM 1480/FM 101.7 and LIVE streaming at www.wjle.com.

Two Store Owners Denied Beer Permits Under Former Regulations, File New Applications

February 28, 2012
Dwayne Page
D& D Market
Jewel's Market and Pizza

Operators of two local businesses, who previously couldn't qualify for a beer permit because they were deemed to be too close to churches in their neighborhoods, filed new applications for a license Tuesday after the county commission changed the minimum distance regulations Monday night.

Debra W. Sacran of D& D Market is seeking an off premises permit to sell beer at the store she and her husband David operate at 7166 Short Mountain Highway, Smithville.

Viva Gail Johnson has filed an application for an on and off premises permit to sell beer at Jewel's Market and Pizza on North Congress Boulevard, Smithville.

As WJLE reported Tuesday, the county commission Monday night voted seven to five to rescind the 2,000 foot rule that the county has had in place since 1939 and adopt 800 feet as the minimum distance required between a store seeking a beer permit, and a church, school, or other place of public gathering measuring in a direct line, the nearest point to the nearest point. From the building to the building.

Sacran was denied a beer permit in July 2009 because her store was measured to be only 856 feet from the Mount Pisgah Free Will Baptist Church. With the change in the minimum distance requirement to 800 feet, Sacran will now most likely qualify for a beer permit.

Johnson's application was denied last October by the beer board because Jewel's Market and Pizza is within 2,000 feet of the new First Assembly of God. She too will most likely qualify now that the minimum distance rule has been changed.

In an interview with WJLE Tuesday evening, Sacran said she and her husband are delighted with the county commission's decision. "We are relieved with the conclusion. This has been an ongoing thing for us since 2009. All we've asked the entire time is to be able to compete and we're very thankful that its over. I just want to thank those commissioners and folks behind the scenes that have understood that this needed to be done and that we needed to get off of a 1930's law with the county. Our city (Smithville) has been up to date for a lot of years. We just appreciate that they (commissioners) understood that this was a business decision and that it was good for the county," said Sacran

According to Sacran, it has become more difficult for small country stores like her's to survive over time now that the larger retail chain stores have moved in. "When we came out here, Smithville did not have a Walmart. There was no Rite Aid. Many of the things that are going on in the city now were not even there then. We've found it harder and harder to compete and this economy has been very hard on all of us. All we've ever asked is to be able to compete fairly across the board," said Sacran

The DeKalb County Beer Board will meet Thursday night, March 1 at 6:00 p.m. at the courthouse to vote on the acceptance of the Sacran and Johnson applications, along with another application for an on and off premises permit from a group filing as Back 9, LLC doing business as Riverwatch. The group is associated with the North Alabama Bank, Bank of LincolnCounty. Final action on approval of these applications will come during the April 5 beer board meeting.

Members of the DeKalb County Beer Board are Harrell Tolbert, Frank Thomas, Dick Knowles, Jim Stagi, Mack Harney, Robert Rowe, and Edward Frazier.

Hurricane Bridge to Close for One Night

February 28, 2012
Hurricane Bridge to Close Thursday, March 1 beginning at 8:00 p.m.

Tennessee Department of Transportation contract crews will close the Hurricane Bridge on State Route 56 over the Caney Fork River in DeKalb County to all traffic on Thursday, March 1 beginning at 8:00 p.m. and ending at 6:00 a.m. CST on Friday, March 2. The closure is necessary to allow the contractor to pour a portion of the new concrete deck. The work is part of a $26.9 million rehabilitation project which is scheduled to be complete in October 2013.

The work is weather dependent. If the contractor is unable to perform the work on Thursday evening, it will be rescheduled to take place on either the evening of Tuesday, March 6 or Wednesday, March 7 during the same time period.

Message boards will be in place to notify drivers of the closure. While the bridge is closed, all traffic will be redirected to the currently posted truck detour that utilizes I-40 at Exit 254 to SR-53. The bridge will be reopened to normal one-lane signal-controlled traffic by 6:00 a.m. the following morning. The current weight postings of 10 tons for two-axle vehicles and 18 tons for vehicles with three or more axles will continue to remain in effect and will be strictly enforced.

For travel and TDOT construction information visit the TDOT SmartWay web site at www.tn.gov/tdot/tdotsmartway or call 511 from any land-line or cellular phone. You can also receive traffic alerts via TDOT’s multiple Twitter feeds, including statewide traffic tweets @TN511 or Chattanooga area alerts @Chattanooga511. Smart phone users can use the TDOT SmartWay Mobile website at http://m.tdot.tn.gov/SmartWay/ to access TDOT’s SmartWay cameras and information on construction related lane closures and incidents on interstates and state routes.

As always, drivers are reminded to use all motorist information tools wisely and Know Before You Go! by checking travel conditions before leaving for their destination. Drivers should never tweet, text or talk on a cell phone while behind the wheel.

Sixth District School Board Seat Remains Vacant (SEE VIDEO HERE)

February 27, 2012
Dwayne Page

The county commission can't decide on who should take Bruce Parsley's place on the school board in the sixth district.

Two persons, Boyd Trapp and Doug Stephens, want the position but the county commission was deadlocked six to six Monday night on which of the two should get the seat.

County commissioners voting for Trapp were Elmer Ellis, Jr from the first district, Bobby Joines from the second district, Jerry Scott from the third district, Jeff Barnes and Marshall Ferrell from the sixth district, and Jimmy Poss from the seventh district.

Those voting for Stephens were Jack Barton from the second district, Bradley Hendrix from the third district, Wayne Cantrell and David McDowell from the fourth district, Jerry Adcock from the fifth district, and Larry Summers from the seventh district.

Two members, John Green from the fifth district, and Mason Carter from the first district were absent Monday night.

County Mayor Mike Foster could have broken the tie but chose not to do so.

Later in the meeting, following a short recess, the commissioners took another vote but the result was the same, a tie.

The commission will likely try again at the next meeting on March 26. The position will remain vacant until then.

Last month, the commission voted to accept applications from anyone in the sixth district who was eligible to apply. The deadline for receiving applications was February 6th. Trapp and Stephens were the only persons who responded.

The commission conducted interviews of both men last Thursday night during an all-committees meeting and scheduled a vote to select one of the two men during Monday night's regular monthly meeting (last night).

Parsley, who was elected in 2008, resigned as of December 31, 2011 to pursue a teaching career. His term expires August 31st. The person appointed by the commission to fill the vacancy will serve through August 31st.

Both Trapp and Stephens have said they intend to run for a full four year term in the August County General Election.

County Commission Makes It Easier For Some Stores To Get Beer License (SEE VIDEO OF VOTE HERE)

February 27, 2012
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission has made it easier for some businesses in the county to get a beer license.

Even though the issue was not on the agenda, the commissioners Monday night by a vote of seven to five adopted a motion to reduce the minimum distance requirement from 2,000 feet to 800 feet between stores seeking to sell beer and places of public gathering such as churches and schools.

The change becomes effective immediately.

Fourth District Commissioner David McDowell made the motion to rescind the measure establishing the existing 2,000 foot rule and set 800 feet as the new minimum distance requirement. Third District member Bradley Hendrix offered a second to the motion.

Those voting in favor in addition to McDowell and Hendrix were Second District Commissioner Jack Barton, Fourth District Commissioner Wayne Cantrell, Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock, and Seventh District Commissioners Jimmy Poss and Larry Summers.

Members voting against the change were First District Commissioner Elmer Ellis, Jr., Second District Commissioner Bobby Joines, Third District Commissioner Jerry Scott, and Sixth District Commissioners Jeff Barnes and Marshall Ferrell.

Two members of the commission, John Green of the fifth district and Mason Carter of the first district were absent Monday night.

During last Thursday night's all-committee's meeting, Jewel Redmon, owner of Jewel's Market & Pizza on the Cookeville Highway, asked the commissioners to re-visit this issue during their meeting Monday night (last night). Redmon has been trying for months to get a beer license at his store but has been denied by the county beer board because the store is too close to the new First Assembly of God Church.

While the issue was not specifically listed on the agenda, it was brought up under other business. Fifth district member Jerry Adcock made a motion not to raise the issue again for at least six months "whether it passes or not" this time (Monday night) since it has been a matter of discussion for several months. But his motion failed to receive a second.

County Attorney Hilton Conger said the commission could not take action to limit a member from "putting a motion on the floor".

First District member Elmer Ellis, Jr. suggested that more notice be given so that the public has a better opportunity to express their opinions on a matter that is so controversial

Seventh District member Larry Summers said that the public was given an opportunity to share their views two months ago, and some people did address the commission, when the issue was put to a vote the first time.

In December, some members of the commission tried to change the distance requirement from 2,000 feet to 400 feet but that proposal died on a seven to seven tie vote. Eight votes were needed for passage that night and County Mayor Mike Foster refused to break the tie.

The 2,000 foot distance regulation is the maximum allowed under state law and it has not been changed since the county adopted it in October 1939. The county has the authority to make the minimum distance something less than 2,000 feet but it cannot be greater than 2,000 feet.

With the change, any business owner who meets all other requirements may now apply for a permit to sell beer as long as his or her establishment is within 800 feet of a church, school, or place of public gathering measuring in a direct line, the nearest point to the nearest point. From the building to the building.

Smithville Firefighters Called to Work Shed Fire

February 27, 2012
Dwayne Page

Smithville Volunteer Firefighters responded to a fire Monday afternoon at a work shed at 815 Dry Creek Road.

Fire Chief Charlie Parker said the property belongs to Dwight Mathis but that Forrest "Frosty" Byrd has it rented. Chief Parker said according to Byrd, some sparks ignited the fire while workers were cutting and grinding some metal.

The shed received fire and smoke damage but firefighters were able to bring it under control. No one was hurt.


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