Local News Articles

Motlow State awarded $5.5 million grant to build Advanced Robotics Training Center in McMinnville

November 18, 2016

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) and the governor’s office announced today that Motlow State Community College has been awarded a $5.5 million grant to build a state-of-the-art robotics training center near its McMinnville campus, according to Fred Rascoe, dean of career and technical programs for the College.

The grant is the largest ever awarded to Motlow State and will have a significant impact on the economies of Warren County and the middle Tennessee and Upper Cumberland regions.

“This is a game changer for the state of Tennessee, the middle Tennessee region, and for Motlow State,” said Tony Kinkel, Motlow president. “We are very excited about this news and we are appreciative to everyone who worked together to make this dream a reality.”

The new robotics training center will be located on 4.5 acres adjacent to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology and the Motlow State McMinnville campus, and was donated to the College by the Warren County Commission. Motlow and the TCAT are partners in the new project.

A news release from Gov. Bill Haslam's office announced the Motlow grant as being part of "the Drive to 55 Capacity Fund, an initiative designed to support colleges and universities as enrollment increases since the launch of Tennessee Promise."

“Tennessee has seen unprecedented numbers of students enrolling in college for the first time," Gov. Haslam said in the news release. "As Tennessee Promise has made college a reality for so many of our students, we are committed to providing our institutions with the resources to support them. The Drive to 55 Capacity Fund assists our campuses in getting these students to and through college, so we can continue to close the skills gap in Tennessee’s workforce.”

“This grant will enable Motlow to build a state-of-the-art robotics training center to support existing and new industries throughout the area as they utilize more industrial robots”, said Rascoe. “With the growth of manufacturing in middle Tennessee it makes sense to have a training center to support that growth.

“Currently, it is estimated there are over 7,000 robots in use within 75 miles of Motlow’s McMinnville campus and that number will only grow,” continued Rascoe. “Middle Tennessee is fast becoming a nationwide leader in advanced manufacturing, which uses robotic technology. Motlow State is vital in the process to train skilled workers to support these fast-paced industries.

“This adds another level of technology education for Motlow State,” added Rascoe. “Building upon our mechatronics technology program, this grant will only enhance Motlow’s efforts to offer highly-skilled training; meeting the needs of this fast-paced industry. As a leader in mechatronics technology training, Motlow will be poised to become a leader in advanced robotics technology training as well.”

Key personnel who helped Motlow secure the grant, along with Rascoe and Kinkel, includes Todd Herzog, owner of Accu-Router in McMinnville; Megan Farrischoate, economic development planner and assistant director for the Upper Cumberland Development District in Cookeville; Don Alexander, director of the Warren County Development Board; Bobby Cox, director of Warren County schools; Herschel Wells, county executive of Warren County; Melody Edmonds, interim vice-president for academic affairs at Motlow; and Shane Buchanan, Motlow’s director of mechatronics.
Proposals were reviewed by a team of readers from across state government, including the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Tennessee Board of Regents, and the University of Tennessee system. Based on reader scores and final approval from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, projects were selected for funding.

“As we have expanded access to higher education through the Drive to 55, it is crucial that we ensure colleges and universities have the resources to prepare students for the workforce,” Mike Krause, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said in the news release. “The process of awarding these funds was very competitive and each funded program will provide opportunity and growth to students across our state.”

DCHS Class of 2017 Seeks Donations for Project Graduation

November 18, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Rachel Fuson

Members of the DCHS Class of 2017 are asking for your support of Project Graduation.

Rachel Fuson, a DCHS Senior, urges you to stop by any DeKalb County branch office of Liberty State Bank to make a donation.

“I am a captain of the DCHS Football cheerleading squad, the Vice President of the BETA and Climate Crew clubs, President of the Science Club, and Miss DCHS. But more importantly, I am a member of the 2017 graduating class. We are raising funds for our Project Graduation event that will take place the night of graduation in May. We will have food, fun activities, and it is designed to keep us safe from the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol. In order to hold this event, we must raise funds and request the community’s help. Please stop by your local branch of Liberty State Bank in Alexandria, Liberty, or Smithville and make a donation to our account. All help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support,” said Fuson

Endangered Child Alert Has Been Issued for Eight Month Old Boy

November 17, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Xavier Billings
Andrew Lafate Billings
Adriana Nichole Billings
Andrew, Adriana, and Xavier Billings
Window Decal on Billings' vehicle

An Endangered Child Alert has been issued for an eight month old boy from DeKalb County after his parents took him and fled the scene of a wreck investigation last week in which a meth lab was found in their vehicle.

(CLICK LINK BELOW TO VIEW THE ALERT ANNOUNCEMENT)

USTN_BILLINGSDekalbCOSO.pdf (127.45 KB)

The child, Xavier Billings, may have a medical condition. His parents are 29 year old Andrew Lafate Billings and 18 year old Adriana Nichole Billings.

“On Thursday November, 10th, the Tennessee Highway Patrol worked a two vehicle accident on Highway 70 east (Sparta Highway). After 3 occupants in one of the vehicles, including the child, had been examined by EMS, the adults fled the scene with the child. During the inventory of the vehicle, the Trooper found what he believed to be a methamphetamine lab. The Trooper has taken criminal warrants in the case on both of the adults for manufacturing meth and aggravated child abuse,” said Sheriff Patrick Ray.

Since the accident, the Trooper has obtained information that the child might have a medical condition and notified the Department of Children Services.

Sheriff Ray said that at 11:19 p.m. Wednesday night, November 16, the Department of Children Services came to his office and filed a missing/endangered child report. The Sheriff said his department immediately entered the child into the National Crime Information System which prompted the Endangered Child Alert System.

The child, Xavier Billings is identified as 24 to 26 inches in height and weighs 16 to 18 pounds. He has thin blonde hair and his eyes are blue. He was last seen wearing a white onesie sleeper.

The father, Andrew Lafate Billings, is described as 5’6” in height and weighs 170 pounds. His hair is strawberry/blonde and his eyes are blue.

The mother, Adriana Nichole Billings, is 5’1” tall and weighs 105 pounds. Her hair is brown and her eyes are green.

The Billings’ have been reported to be in a maroon 2005 Nissan Sentra, tag number 2A34N4 with a decal of two Browning Deer Heads (see photo) on the back window of the vehicle.

Anyone who has any information regarding the whereabouts of these people are asked to contact DeKalb Central Dispatch at 615-215-3000 or Sheriff Ray at 615-597-4935.

Saint Thomas Health Cuts Hospital Positions

November 16, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page

In a restructuring move, Saint Thomas Health has reportedly trimmed staffs at hospitals in this region, affecting approximately 40 positions overall including 11 at Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital, several being LPNs.

The other hospitals involved are River Park in McMinnville, Highlands in Sparta and Stones River in Woodbury

In a prepared statement, hospital officials say “Saint Thomas Health is in the process of coming together as a statewide network with the goal of improving the healthcare quality and experience at an affordable cost for the patients and communities we are privileged to serve. Our statewide integration involves re-thinking some services and positions across our system to ensure the long-term strength of our organization as we continue to deliver compassionate, personalized care to those who need it most”.

The decision to integrate positions within the organization has been an ongoing issue for several months. It was just less than five months ago when the corporation announced that the DeKalb, Woodbury and Sparta facilities would immediately become under the management of a single chief executive officer, eliminating the positions of Sue Conley and Bill Little. Within the statement given at that time, Gordon Ferguson, President and CEO Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital and Regional Hospitals, stated, “There are, though, additional opportunities for consolidating operations and leadership and we need to make changes."

Saint Thomas Health is a family of Middle Tennessee hospitals and physician practices united by a single mission: to provide spiritually centered, holistic care that sustains and improves the health of the communities it serves.

Saint Thomas Health is the leading faith-based health-care system in Tennessee and is a part of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world's largest Catholic health system.

Askins to Report to Federal Prison January 9

November 16, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Wendy Askins

Wendy Askins is to report to federal prison on January 9

The former director of the Upper Cumberland Development District will be spending eighteen months in a minimum security federal women’s prison in Alderson, West Virginia.

Askins entered a plea on August 31 to two counts of theft from a federally-funded entity stemming from the “Living the Dream investigation and was sentenced on October 28. The sentence will run concurrently with a state sentence after her plea in Putnam County Criminal Court on October 31 to forgery over $60,000. After her release, Askins will be on supervised probation for two years. She must also pay restitution of $233,000 to the UCDD.

Meanwhile, her co-defendant, Larry Webb, will be sentenced December 8. His sentencing was originally set for Monday, November 14. Webb pleaded guilty August 7, 2015, to one count of bank fraud.

According to a report in the Herald Citizen, the anticipated offense level is seven, which carries a guideline range of up to six months. Under the plea agreement, Webb should be sentenced to time served and three years of supervised release.

County Clerk to Host Blood Drive and Organ Donor Awareness Event

November 16, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss

As “the Season for Giving” draws near, DeKalb Countians are invited to participate in a special Blood Assurance blood drive and public awareness observance for Tennessee Organ Donor Services.

The event, sponsored by DeKalb County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss, will be held on Tuesday, November 29 at the Smithville Senior Citizens Center in the County Complex. The mobile blood drive, conducted by Blood Assurance, will take place in front of the Senior Center from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. It’s being called the “DeKalb County Neighbors Helping Neighbor’s Program”. Along with the blood drive, information will be shared by representatives of Tennessee Donor Services and Donate Life Tennessee on the importance of organ and tissue donation including personal stories from donor recipients and families of donors.

The holidays seemed the perfect time to schedule such an event, said County Clerk Poss, during a season when people are in the spirit of giving and sharing. “Thinking of the upcoming holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas, I immediately think of joyful memories many make with family and friends. I am also mindful of others during this time and throughout each year who are in need of donation whether it be blood, bone marrow or organ,” he said.

“Most of us consider gifts as personal items we can touch, see, smell, taste or physically use, all purchased with money. For many it’s not until adulthood before we realize our most important gift is life and good health. As we approach the upcoming seasons let us remember through Christ’s gift of his bloodshed, death and resurrection he paid our expense and again offers each another free gift of forgiveness of sins and everlasting life only by accepting him as our Lord and savior,” Poss continued.

“Blood Assurance is the local supplier of blood and blood products in Smithville to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital. We also provide blood directly to other area hospitals in McMinnville and Sparta but we are the regional blood center that gives back all of the blood locally. We have blood drives throughout the year across all of our territories. Blood Assurance is in five states including Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, and North Carolina. We have centers and mobile blood drives,” said Mindy Quinn, Marketing Manager of Blood Assurance.

“I have been a blood donor for about 4 years know. I have donated to both American Red Cross and Cookeville Blood Assurance. Either is doing good work for others. However; I prefer donating to Cookeville Blood Assurance when possible. By donating through Cookeville Blood Assurance they provide their collections to several surrounding local hospitals and families in our area,” Poss said.

“The importance now is the time of year. Once the holidays kick in, donations start to slow down. The holidays are also when usage from area hospitals goes up because more people are traveling and on the road and unfortunately there will be more crisis situations from vehicle accidents and things where hospitals need to ensure that the supplies are there. We reach out to our communities, especially around Thanksgiving and then straight on through winter time to make sure that we are able to provide the blood supplies that are needed,” added Quinn.

“Individuals need to be age 18 or older to donate blood or 16 or 17 with parental consent. We do a mini-medical with everyone that comes in so you don’t necessarily have to worry about where you’ve been traveling. But as long as you have parental consent and you weigh at least 110 pounds or more, you are eligible to come in and give. All donors who give blood will be given a long sleeved tee shirt. It’s our “Peace, Love, Blood Donation” tee shirt and everyone will also be entered in a drawing to win a “Family Four Pack” to Rock City. We’re hoping for at least 30 donors on that day,” said Quinn.

While the need for blood donors is great, so is the need for organ and tissue donors. “Right now in the United States there are over 120,000 people waiting for that life saving transplant and in Tennessee there are 2,900. Most of them are waiting for a kidney transplant. The need is great. Nationally 22 people die each day waiting for a transplant. That could be your neighbor, the people who wait on you in the grocery store, or checks you out. It could be a church member. Organ and tissue donation touches all of us at some point in time whether we realize it or not,” said Sharon Pakis, Public Relations Education Manager for Tennessee Donor Services and Donate Life Tennessee.

“County Clerk Poss has invited us to come up and spend the day on Tuesday, November 29. For us it’s to educate people in DeKalb County on the importance of organ and tissue donation and how signing up or saying “yes” to organ and tissue donation allows you to save lives or enhance lives through donation. We will have two individuals with us. One is an organ recipient whose life was changed by the gracious gift of someone who donated an organ. The other one is an individual whose family member was either an organ or tissue donor. They are going to do presentations at 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to tell their stories and help people understand the importance of organ and tissue donation,” Pakis continued.

“After attending my first organ donor meeting I was overwhelmed by their services and the gratitude of both recipients and the donors’ families. The stories shared were absolutely amazing. To hear a recipient give thanks to a donor and their family for extending a loved one’s life by donating a heart, lung, kidney, or whatever the organ, bone or tissue may be can only be realized and truly appreciated by seeing, hearing and feeling the love shared from both sides,” said County Clerk Poss.

“Nationally our goal is to have over 50% of Americans signed up as organ and tissue donors because 98% of the people in the United States say they support organ and tissue donation but nationally only 50% have signed up. In the state of Tennessee, we are at about 39%. We are a little below the national average and we would like to be at least with the national average. In DeKalb County 32% of individuals who are over the age of 18 with a driver license or state ID have registered to be an organ and tissue donor,” said Pakis.

“You may sign up to be an organ and tissue donor when you get or renew your driver license or you may go to www.donatelifetn.org and register online. This puts your name into the official Donate Life Tennessee Organ and Tissue Registry. It’s very easy. We invite people to come out on November 29 and learn more about organ and tissue donation and find out how they can save lives. We are excited about the opportunity and we hope to see a lot of folks from DeKalb County,” added Pakis.

"Please support and take part in this event. Every person matters. Come out and give blood or just experience the amazing stories that will be shared from both organ and tissue donor recipients and donor families. We will begin donating blood at 1:00 p.m. ending around 6:00 p.m. The Tennessee Organ Donor Services will have a table set up with educational materials and representatives will be available to answer questions about how their services extends the lives of many in need. We will also have snacks and refreshments available. We look forward to the community’s support,” County Clerk Poss concluded.

"Fill the Police Car" Collection Drive Seeks Food, Toys, and Coats

November 15, 2016
The Smithville Police Department is partnering with Cash Express to "Fill the Police Car" on Black Friday, November 25th at 126 E. Bryant Street.  Fill the police car with food, toys, and coats.

Cash Express will be hosting a "Fill the Police Car" event on Black Friday, November 25th at noon until? at their business location 126 E. Bryant Street. The Smithville Police Department is partnering with Cash Express in this event and providing the vehicle to fill up with food, toys, and coats. Please stop by with your gift of love and grab a bite to eat as there will be food available.

The food collected will be donated to "God's Food Pantry" where it will be distributed to families that need help with food. The coats will be donated to local schools to provide warmth to children that do not have one and adult coats will be donated to the Clothes Closet where citizens will be able to obtain one from them. The toys will be donated to St Gregory's Catholic Church where they will be distributed to families that are in need of something extra this year.

If anyone is unable to stop by Cash Express during the event and wants to help someone this year, you can drop off any of your items at many local businesses. Collection boxes are set up at 150 businesses in DeKalb County so there is one or more available near you. The collection boxes will be taken up by December 9.

For questions concerning this event, you may contact Jamie Dawson or Athena Knauer at Cash Express, 615-597-3427.

Byrge Gets Three Years Probation for Theft

November 15, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Nicholas Byrge
Jeffrey Sanders
Scott Pedigo

In DeKalb County Criminal Court last Tuesday, 26 year old Nicholas Byrge entered a plea by information to theft over $1,000 and received a three year sentence all suspended to supervised probation. He was given jail credit from July 14 through November 8. He must make restitution of $1,850 and is under a restraining order to keep away from the victim. Byrge must also undergo an alcohol and drug assessment. Byrge is alleged to have stolen on May 16 a Bushmaster .223 rifle and a .22 rifle valued at over $1,000.

43 year old Jeffrey Sanders entered a plea by information to possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and received a three year sentence to run concurrently with a violation of probation against him. He must serve at least 30% of the term before his release eligibility date. Sanders was given jail credit from August 8 through November 8. The offense occurred on July 25.

26 year old Nicholas Byrge entered a plea by information to theft over $1,000 and received a three year sentence all suspended to supervised probation. He was given jail credit from July 14 through November 8. He must make restitution of $1,850 and is under a restraining order to keep away from the victim. Byrge must also undergo an alcohol and drug assessment. Byrge is alleged to have stolen on May 16 a Bushmaster .223 rifle and a .22 rifle valued at over $1,000.

49 year old Scott Pedigo entered a plea by information to reckless driving and received six months on probation supervised by CPS. Smithville Police said that on February 11, 2015 Pedigo was found to be unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle. After being awakened, Pedigo submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. His speech was slurred and he was very unsteady on his feet.

Governor Issues Regional Ban on Burning in 51 Counties Including DeKalb

November 15, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued a proclamation declaring a regional ban on burning in 51 counties including DeKalb in response to the ongoing drought and destructive wildfires throughout Middle and East Tennessee.

Effective immediately, residents in counties covered by the regional ban are not permitted to conduct any open-air burning. The ban includes campfires, and burning of brush, vegetation, household waste or construction debris. The ban will remain in effect until December 15. The counties under the ban are listed below.

Currently the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) Division of Forestry is fighting 67 wildfires across nearly 16,000 acres in the Cumberland and East Tennessee districts.

A violation of a burn ban is punishable as a Class A misdemeanor which carries a fine of $2,500 and/or up to 11 months, 29 days in jail.

Robertson and Sumner counties continue to be under a burn ban issued by TDA Commissioner Jai Templeton. A governor’s ban includes municipalities, whereas a commissioner’s ban is superseded by municipal ordinances.

Residents in counties not included under any of the current bans must obtain a safe debris burning permit to burn brush, vegetation, household waste or construction waste. The TDA Division of Forestry, however, does not expect to issue any permits until the state receives substantial precipitation. A violation of burning without a permit is punishable as a Class C misdemeanor which carries a fine of $50 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Daily updates on the wildfire situation, active burn bans and tips to protect your home and property can be found at www.burnsafetn.org.

Counties under a regional burn ban:

Anderson

Bledsoe

Blount

Bradley

Campbell

Cannon

Carter

Claiborne

Clay

Cocke

Coffee

Cumberland

Dekalb

Fentress

Franklin

Grainger

Greene

Grundy

Hamblen

Hamilton

Hancock

Hawkins

Jackson

Jefferson

Johnson

Knox

Loudon

Macon

Marion

McMinn

Meigs

Monroe

Morgan

Overton

Pickett

Polk

Putnam

Rhea

Roane

Scott

Sequatchie

Sevier

Smith

Sullivan

Trousdale

Unicoi

Union

Van Buren

Warren

Washington

White

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