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TDOT Plans Bid Lettings for DeKalb County Projects

January 10, 2017
Dwayne Page
Veterans Memorial Bridge on College Street over West Broad

Two DeKalb County projects are scheduled for upcoming bid lettings by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

TDOT plans to let for construction next month repairs to the Veterans Memorial Bridge on College Street in Smithville. “The project to repair the bridge on College Street over State Route 26 (US 70) in Smithville is currently in the February 10, 2017 letting. That means that bids will be opened for the project on that date,” Jennifer Flynn, TDOT Community Relations Officer told WJLE

Meanwhile, the Highway 56 project has been funded and is scheduled for a May bid letting. The original plans called for building a four lane road from south of the Warren County line (in Warren County) to near Magness Road in DeKalb County. TDOT now proposes to build a new two lane road (typical section) with twelve foot lanes and ten foot paved shoulders and passing lanes along the 3.30 mile existing alignment.

“The project to widen a 3.3-mile section of State Route 56 from south of the Warren County Line to Magness Road has been funded for construction and is currently tentatively scheduled to be in the May letting. It was to have been let earlier, but some further coordination was needed with the Federal Highway Administration before the project could go forward. This project was one of the first to be included in our Expedited Project Delivery process, and we are working closely with FHWA to ensure that the EPD process runs smoothly. The project is for a two-lane roadway to be constructed within the Right of Way (ROW) purchased for the initial 4-lane design. The design also includes passing lanes in some areas,” said Flynn.

This portion of the highway is currently a two lane road with eleven to twelve foot lanes and two to eleven foot shoulder widths.

According to TDOT officials, the rate of severe crashes on this portion of Highway 56 is (0.250) double the state average (0.128) for rural two lane routes but that the decision to scale back the project was out of financial necessity. At last report, the total projected cost was to be $7,611,000, a savings to the state of $12,800,000 from TDOT's original plans for this portion of Highway 56, which would have cost $20,411,000.

Body Recovered From Center Hill Lake Believed to be Missing Georgia Man (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

January 10, 2017
Dwayne Page
Body Recovered From Center Hill Lake Believed to be Missing Georgia Man

The family of 22 year old Vincent McKeever Rossetti may soon get closure.

Members of the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad and others this morning (Tuesday) recovered a body from Center Hill Lake at Sligo Marina which is believed to be the Peachtree City, Georgia man who has been missing since December 18.

“At 7:30 a.m. today a dock worker for Sligo Marina found a body at the Sligo Marina as he was doing morning maintenance on the dock. The body was found floating by a pier. A call was placed to DeKalb Central Dispatch of the discovery. Members of the DeKalb Sheriff’s Department, Smithville DeKalb Rescue, Corps of Engineers, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Officers arrived on the scene and recovered the body from the water,” Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE.

The body will be sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Nashville for positive identification and cause of death.

Its been more than three weeks since Rossetti went missing near the lake. Rossetti was last seen alive on Sunday, December 18 and his car, a Lexus, was found later in the parking lot of Sligo Marina beside Highway 70. The search was concentrated on the lake in the area of Sligo bridge and Marina almost daily from the time he was reported missing. In addition to a visual search, sonar was used to detect any objects in the water or at the bottom of the lake. Wayne Hubbs even flew his gyrocopter early in the search to get an aerial view of the area. Others who assisted included the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and volunteers from Florida and Georgia including the CUE Center for Missing Persons who brought in cadaver dogs.

A Trooper of the Tennessee Highway Patrol saw Rossetti on Sunday, December 18 near the DeKalb/White County line. “At 3:05 p.m. on Sunday December 18th, the Tennessee Highway Patrol checked on a vehicle that was parked on the side of the roadway in White County close to the DeKalb County/White County line. The driver was found to be Vincent McKeever Rossetti. Rossetti was entered into the Georgia Crime Information Center as a missing person out of Georgia. The Trooper called an ambulance to the scene to check Rossetti out. White County EMS transported Rossetti to Highland Medical Center in Sparta. One of the White County EMS personnel drove Rossetti’s vehicle to the hospital for him. Rossetti was treated and released from the hospital before his family could pick him up. When Rossetti’s family arrived at the hospital, the White County Sheriff’s Department issued a BOLO (Be on the lookout) on Rossetti to all law enforcement agencies,” said Sheriff Ray.

"At around 11:52 p.m. on Sunday night, December 18 Troopers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol found the car in the parking lot of Sligo marina. The vehicle was left unattended and Rossetti was nowhere to be found. A ground search was conducted by officers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department. The Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad was summoned to Sligo Marina at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, December 19,” Sheriff Ray said.

“I appreciate the hard work of the Smithville-DeKalb Rescue Squad and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in searching the area for the last 3 weeks,” he concluded.

City Recognizes Man for Heroic Actions in Rescuing Child from Mobile Home Fire

January 10, 2017
Dwayne Page
Smithville Police Chief Mark Collins, Jerry Estes, and Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker

The Smithville Police and Fire Departments paid tribute Monday night to a man who risked his own life to save a 23 month old child during a mobile home fire last month at 1276 South Mountain Street.

Jerry Estes was presented a plaque for his act of bravery during the monthly meeting of the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen. Smithville Police Chief Mark Collins and Fire Chief Charlie Parker made the presentation.

“Mr. Estes on behalf of the Smithville Police and Smithville Fire Departments we want to present you this plaque. Bravery is the quality of spirit that enables one to face danger or pain without showing fear. The Smithville Police and Fire Departments wish to acknowledge Mr. Jerry Estes for his selfless act of bravery on December 4, 2016,” said Chief Collins in presenting Estes the plaque.

The fire on Sunday, December 4 claimed the lives of 27 year old Jeremy Shelton, 36 year old Crystal Fults, and 4 year old Caylix Johnson. Two others, 26 year old Heather Standridge and 23 month old Brantley Johnson were injured.

Estes, a passerby, spotted the fire and saw Standridge standing outside the trailer yelling that her children, the Johnson siblings, were still inside. 911 was alerted at 12:12 p.m. and members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and Police Department were summoned along with backup from the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department.

According to Chief Collins, Estes climbed through a window, grabbed the 23 month old child, and pulled him to safety. After firefighters arrived, Lieutenant John Poss of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department rescued the 4 year old child. Shelton and Fults perished in the fire.

Standridge and the Johnson children were taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital. Standridge and the 23 month old, Brantley Johnson were later transported to Vanderbilt Hospital. The 4 year old child, Caylix Johnson died at the hospital in Smithville.

“I just did what anybody else would have done in trying to get those kids out,” said Estes in receiving the plaque.

Mason Charged with Especially Aggravated Kidnapping

January 9, 2017
Dwayne Page
John Thomas Mason

A 22 year old Smithville man has been charged with especially aggravated kidnapping after holding another man at gunpoint and taking his car.

Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR_4.pdf (2.24 MB)

John Thomas Mason of Smithville Highway, Smithville is under a $15,000 bond and his court date is January 19. Mason was previously arrested with a co-defendant, 35 year old Christina Love Johnson and charged with theft of property over $1,000. Mason was also previously charged with possession of contraband in the jail and assault.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Monday, December 19 the Sheriff’s Department received a report of a stolen 2005 Toyota Corolla, valued at $6,000. Two days later, on Wednesday December 21 Mason and Johnson were found in possession of the car in Warren County. A further investigation revealed that Mason held a man at gunpoint in the car forcing him to drive to Midway Road and then he took the car at gunpoint.

On the contraband offense, Sheriff Ray said that while being incarcerated Mason was gathering his jail issued items on Thursday, December 22 when he dropped a round silver container which was found to have 20 blue pills believed to be Xanax, a schedule IV drug, and 10 orange pills thought to be Opana, a schedule II drug.

In the assault case, Sheriff Ray said that on Christmas Eve Correctional officers at the jail witnessed by video surveillance Mason assault another inmate. Mason struck the victim repeatedly causing him bodily injury.

Aldermen Adopts Ordinance Addressing Water Theft

January 9, 2017
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen

Anyone caught stealing water from the City of Smithville is subject to criminal prosecution and civil penalties under a proposed policy ordinance adopted on first reading in December by the Smithville Board of Aldermen.

The aldermen again adopted the ordinance on second and final reading Monday night, January 9 during the regular monthly meeting.

Although violators have been criminally prosecuted in the past the city has apparently had no formal policy or ordinance spelling out the terms of civil penalties and the state is recommending that it be done according to City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson

“We have had some issues with theft of water, especially this year. We recently prosecuted a gentleman and he has to make restitution on it. This (theft) does go on. Not a whole lot but it does happen. Anyway the state mandates that we have a policy,” said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson .

Under the new “Water and Sewer Policy and Procedures” ordinance , theft is defined as “tampering with city equipment or stealing service which is grounds for discontinuance of utility service.

If evidence suggests that a theft of services has occurred, a “Notice of Violation” may be mailed or otherwise delivered to the accused at the discretion of the City Administrator or Mayor.

The accused will be subject to a $100 violation payment as well as service call charges and costs of labor and replacement parts as detailed by the city.

If the city determines that theft of services has occurred, it reserves the right to adjust the customer’s current bill and the bills for the past twelve months of usage. If the approximate amount of service that was stolen cannot be reasonably determined, the (accused) customer’s usage will be set at two to four times the minimum bill, as set on a case by case basis by the City Administrator or the Mayor according to the facts of each case.

Service will not be restored until all payments are made including the adjusted payment for water service, violation payment, all service call charges, labor, replacement parts, and reinstatement of service charges.

Service will be reinstated only during regular working hours Monday through Friday except in the case of an emergency.

Discontinuance of service by the city shall not release the customer from liability for payment of services and the city shall not be liable for any loss or damage resulting from the discontinuance of service.

The customer whose name appears on the application for service is the person responsible for payment of all charges.

In the event any customer fails to pay any city fee or charge, the customer shall pay all costs of collection including court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the city in collecting such sums.

The city shall have the right to refuse to render service to an applicant or to any member of an applicant’s household who is living at the same address whenever such person is delinquent on any payment to the utility or had his or her service discontinued because of a violation of the regulations or policies of the city.

Under the ordinance, theft of service shall include but not be limited to the following:

*Opening valves at the curb or meter that have been turned off by city personnel

*Breaking, picking, or damaging cut-off locks

*By-passing meters in any way

*Taking unmetered water from hydrants by anyone other than an authorized official of a recognized fire department, fire insurance company, or utility for any purpose other than firefighting, testing or flushing of hydrants.

*Use of sprinkler system water service for any purpose other than fire protection

*Removing, disabling, or adjusting meter registers

*Connecting to or intentionally damaging water lines, valves, etc for the purpose of stealing or damaging city equipment

*Moving the meter or extending service without permission of the City of Smithville Water and Wastewater Department.

*Any other intentional act of defacement, destruction or vandalism to utility property or act that affects city property.

*Any intentional blockage or obstruction of city equipment.

New Crisis Text Line for Students

January 9, 2017

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) and Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 text-messaging support line for people in crisis, recently announced the launch of a partnership bringing crisis support to anyone in the state. People in Tennessee can text “TN” to 741-741 to connect with a crisis counselor.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults ages 15-24 in Tennessee and for the United States at large. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were 945 recorded suicide deaths in our state in 2014. Many teens and young adults use their phones for texting instead of talking, so the Crisis Text Line offers an alternative means of contact for people who might not reach out for help otherwise.

Crisis Text Line provides access to a trained crisis counselor who can provide immediate support and referrals not just for suicidal thoughts, but also for anxiety, depression, child and domestic abuse, substance abuse, eating disorders, human trafficking, and beyond. More information about the Crisis Text Line is available via their website. Non-emergency information about suicide and other crisis resources are available on the TSPN website.

In 2014, the latest year for which county-specific figures are available, DeKalb County's age-adjusted suicide rate was 15.6 per 100,000 people, translating into three reported suicide deaths. This number of suicides in DeKalb County for 2014 is the same as the previous year but the local rate is higher than the state average of 14.4 per 100,000 population for 2014 as reported by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network

Case Against Alleged Courthouse Arsonist Still Pending in Court

January 6, 2017
Dwayne Page
Gary Wayne Ponder

After almost seven months, the case against a man believed responsible for starting a fire inside the courthouse remains pending in court.

Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR_4.pdf (2.24 MB)

52 year old Gary Wayne Ponder, charged with aggravated arson, is currently on house arrest meaning he can’t leave home except for his own court appearances or to see a doctor. He is not allowed to be in the courthouse or anywhere else at any other time. His case was recently bound over from General Sessions Court to the DeKalb County Grand Jury, which meets again in April.

Smithville Police charged Ponder on Wednesday, June 15 after he was observed on the courthouse surveillance video system intentionally lighting fire in a newspaper recycling bin on the first floor vestibule. The video showed that on Tuesday, June 14 Ponder grabbed newspapers from the recycling bin and started the fire by lighting them with a cigarette lighter. The fire damaged the wall behind the recycling bin and cracked a window in the vestibule near the first floor entrance of the courthouse.

County Mayor Tim Stribling told WJLE Friday that the total damages to the courthouse caused by the fire came to $120,706.52, which is the amount of the claim paid by the county’s insurance provider.

After the fire smoke had to be cleared from the courthouse, new ceiling tiles and dry wall work were required and a broken glass in the vestibule doorway had to be replaced.

A breakdown of the costs is as follows:

ServPro: $102,212.95.

Matt Stanley Construction:$18,030.75

Martin & Glenn Glass: $463.00

The county is also installing a new fire alarm system in the courthouse provided by FireTeam of Tracy City at a cost of $35,363.81. The system will meet the latest International Fire Codes.

Courthouse Getting New Fire Alarm System

January 6, 2017
Dwayne Page
FireTeam Corporation Installing new Fire Alarm System at Courthouse

The DeKalb County Courthouse is getting a new full coverage fire alarm system.

When a fire was started in the first floor vestibule on Tuesday, June 14, county officials learned something they had not known. The courthouse fire alarm system in place at the time did not work.

To improve fire safety and bring the 47 year old courthouse up to International Fire Codes, the county sought bids to purchase a new fire alarm system. FireTeam Corporation of Tracy City was awarded the bid at $35,363.81.

“Upon viewing the courthouse a bid was placed to meet International Fire Code 2012 and NFPA National Fire Protection Association 72 to provide complete coverage to the building because it does not have a sprinkler system. That complete coverage covers smoke detectors and heat detectors in every room including bathrooms, closets, etc. so that the building is completely covered in the event of any situation. Also included is duct detectors in the HVAC units which in the event that any smoke is detected in the duct system of the air conditioning and heating system it will shut it down and create an alarm so that it does not accentuate the spread of fire. In the event of a fire in any location, it will shut down the HVAC unit so that it does not spread potential smoke throughout the building which allows for a safer egress of the occupants,” said Glen Cockburn of Fire Team Corporation in an interview with WJLE Friday.

“The new alarm system also includes elevator recall which basically provides that if there is a fire on any given floor the elevator will go to the floor that does not have a fire, open its doors, allow egress from the elevator and then shuts down. The only way it can be used after that is firefighters must insert a fire key to activate the elevator system again. There is also protection in that if there is a fire in the elevator pit it will notify the firefighters that there is a fire in the pit so as not to use the elevator with the fire key,” said Cockburn.

“With the complete coverage there has to be a way to notify the occupants so there are horn strobes almost in every office unless it’s a small office that is close to an exterior horn strobe. There are also strobes only. They are in the bathrooms to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act standards so that if there is a person with a given handicap utilizing the restroom then they will know there is a fire,” Cockburn continued.

“The system at the courthouse will be monitored by FireTeam and in the event of a fire 911 will be notified. At the same time that 911 is notified if its during business hours, the county mayor’s office will also be contacted to notify him of the fire,” added Cockburn.

The work is 75% complete and should be finished soon.

Start Times Changed for DCHS Basketball Games Saturday

January 6, 2017
Dwayne Page

The start times for the DCHS basketball games Saturday against White County in Smithville have been changed due to the wintry weather conditions.

The Lady Tigers' game will start at 2:00 p.m. Saturday followed by the Tigers' game at the DCHS Gym.

The games were originally scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m.

Meanwhile the DCHS Tigers vs Trousdale County game, which was cancelled Thursday night, will be played on Thursday, January 26 at 5:30 p.m. That's the boys game only. The girls game has already been played.

Rescue Squad Summoned to Center Hill Lake Thursday

January 6, 2017
Dwayne Page
TWRA at Hurricane Bridge Recreation Area
Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad returning to Hurricane Bridge Recreation Area

The Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad was summoned to Center Hill Lake Thursday morning after someone reported something floating in the water near the mouth of Mine Lick Creek.

Members of the Rescue Squad put in at the Hurricane Bridge Recreation area boat ramp and went to investigate accompanied by the TWRA.

The obstacle found floating turned out to be an overturned small paddle boat that had been in the lake for some time.


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