Local News Articles

DCHS Senior Myranda Bailiff Makes Appeal for Project Graduation Donations

March 10, 2017
Dwayne Page
Myranda Bailiff

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

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

“I am a member of FFA, HOSA, the BETA Club, and the softball teams at DeKalb County High School. 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 and fun activities. 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 Bailiff.

March is Extension Month in Tennessee

March 10, 2017
Johnny Barnes, Extension Agent & County Director
Johnny Barnes, Extension Agent & County Director

March is Extension Month in Tennessee. Extension is a national educational program supported by USDA through the nation’s land-grant universities and administered with funding from state and local governments in Tennessee through offices in each of the state’s 95 counties.

County Extension offices across the state are planning various celebrations and commemorations for the state’s 107-year-old Extension program. Here in DeKalb County, the UT-TSU Extension office will be hosting a Meet & Greet for the public on the sidewalk, directly in front of the Extension Office on Friday, March 24 from 11AM-1PM. The office is located at 722 South Congress Blvd, Smithville in the County Complex. There will be various displays and information about what the Extension program offers as well as free hot dogs, popcorn, and drinks.
An integral part of the land-grant mission, Extension programs are delivered in all 95 counties of the state by subject-matter specialists, county agents and volunteers associated with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) and the Tennessee State University (TSU) College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.

“UT Extension ‘extends’ the university’s teaching and research missions to deliver research-based information and education to all the state’s citizens through youth and adult programs in every county,” said Dr. Delton Gerloff, interim dean of UT Extension. Dr. Latif Lighari oversees TSU Extension faculty as associate dean for Extension at TSU.

In addition to the traditional agricultural production recommendations available through county Extension offices, services for all citizens include the state’s award-winning 4-H Youth Development Program including its summer youth camps; family and consumer educational programs; and healthy living courses.

UT Extension also performs services for the state’s citizens, including managing the statewide Soil, Plant and Pest Center through which clients can have the quality of their soil and forage analyzed and any insect pest or plant diseases identified. Extension also trains clients in the proper use of pesticides and even operates commercially-certified kitchens where small scale vendors can prepare food items for sale while meeting state guidelines for food safety.

Tennessee Extension programs can be seen as an excellent investment of public resources. The statewide educational programs in 4-H youth development, agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, and community economic development are estimated to impact the state’s economy by more than $512 million from July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016. This amounts to a return of investment of $8.03 for every $1 in public funds invested in Tennessee Extension.

Many of UT Extension’s educational resources are also available online. From the UT Extension website choose the link to “publications” and enter the topic for which you need information to search the database of available resources. Most are available free of charge. A publications page is also available on the TSU website, which includes a list of available publications by program area. Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.

Please stop by on March 24 from 11AM-1PM and meet the staff during this time to find out more about what your local Extension Office has to offer.

DeKalb County Democratic Party to Elect Leaders at Reorganization Convention

March 10, 2017

The DeKalb County Democratic Party will hold a Biennial Reorganization Convention to elect party leaders on Saturday, March 25th at 10:00 a.m. The meeting will take place at the DeKalb County Courthouse.

Local Democrats will elect the Executive Committee for DeKalb County for a two-year term. All Democratic residents who are eligible voters of DeKalb County are urged to attend to discuss the party’s agenda and events for 2017 - 2018.

The Reorganization Convention is open to all DeKalb County Democrats. Attendees should arrive early to complete credentialing forms.

For more information, contact Jordan Wilkins at 615-464-5440.

Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital Undergoing Complete Renovation of its Emergency Department

March 9, 2017
Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital Undergoing Complete Renovation of its Emergency Department

Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital in Smithville, Tennessee has begun a complete renovation of the hospital’s Emergency Department. The construction, which began this week, is scheduled to be completed within 30 days, and will not affect the continuous operation of emergency services at the hospital.

“The purpose of the renovation is to upgrade and modernize the Emergency Department and to add features, such as a security room, which will help us be more efficient in delivering care to the community,” said Bob Burritt, Interim Director of Clinical Operations. “The Emergency Department is a main front door to the hospital.” Burritt said the investment is part of Saint Thomas Health’s commitment across the system to providing the best facilities for the region’s healthcare. Saint Thomas Health is a part of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and non-profit health system.

The Emergency Department area is being completely rebuilt, including the waiting room, the reception area, each individual treatment room and the nurses’ stations, including new flooring, new counters and painting.

“We want to assure the community that the performance of the Emergency Department will not be affected in any way during the renovation,” Burritt added. Emergency facilities have been replicated in a nearby wing of the hospital, and are fully operational.

Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital serves DeKalb County, Smithville and the surrounding region, and cares for an average of 30 patients every day in its Emergency Department.

DMS Junior Beta Club Preparing to Share "Be the Change" on a National Stage

March 9, 2017
Dwayne Page
DMS Junior Beta Club

Members of the DeKalb Middle School Junior Beta Club are making plans for a trip to the National Convention at Disney World in Orlando, Florida after winning first place at the State Convention in November for their anti-bullying drama presentation called “Be the Change”.

The National Convention will be held June 24-28 but in order to make the trip, the club must raise more than $17,000. Several fundraisers have already been held and more are planned according to Lori Hendrix, DeKalb Middle School teacher and Junior Beta sponsor. “We need to raise approximately $17,000 and so far we have done a fashion show where we raised nearly $5,000. Next week at the parent teacher conference at Northside and Smithville Elementary we are going to be doing a soup supper where parents can stop and buy a quart of soup and the crackers for $5.00. They can take it home and heat it up. We are also doing a pancake breakfast which is this Saturday, March 11 at Applebees in McMinnville. We’re always taking donations. Lots of businesses have already turned in lots of donations. If you would like to make a donation you may send it attention to Lori Hendrix at DeKalb Middle School or donations may also be dropped off at First Bank to Brenda Cantrell. We are taking a charter bus down there which will cost us about $7,000. Hotel rooms are also about $10,000 for the group but that cost does not include any meals or anything else for the children. That’s just for their room, board, and transportation. We have lots of parents who are going but we have about ten children going who will not have their parents with them,” said Hendrix.

Josh Isaac, who wrote and choreographed the skit, said “Be the Change” sends a powerful message.

“I wanted to do something that was different but also something that put a message out there. What big of a message than bullying? That is something I think almost everyone can relate to at some time in their life. Social media bullying is something that is very much affecting all of our kids nowadays. We put this skit together. The kids came together. They really only had four to five practices which is an amazing feat in itself but we came together. I have never choreographed 48 kids together in my life. That was a little challenging but they worked hard and it paid off,” said Isaac.

“It’s called “Be the Change” and its basically about a group of kids bullying a girl. One of the kids steps out and says he doesn’t want to do that anymore and the choreography shows that. By one person changing it causes an affect on everyone. I feel like that is what we need in our schools and in our world because it just takes one to cause that affect for all,” he continued.

Isaac said the group is already preparing for the national competition. “We have already started working. We’re about to start going into high gear. We have new choreography. It’s a lot harder choreography with better props and other things we plan to do to make it appeal more on a national level. These kids are working so hard not only to raise the money for the trip but also in the choreography and getting themselves ready.The most exciting thing is about just sharing the message of this video “Be the Change”. Its going to be on a national level with a national stage. On the state level there were 8,000 people out there watching. This will be an even bigger place for us to show that everyone can make a difference”.

The community is urged to get behind the Junior Beta Club students and support them. “Our community has all come together to just be part of this, That’s a great thing about living in DeKalb County. Everyone rallies together. We truly have some of the best staff at DeKalb Middle School. Lori Hendrix and Tonya Sullivan work so hard. They don’t have to do this. They are doing this on their own. Its stressful but they are making a difference in these kids lives,” Isaac concluded.

Liberty Mayor and Aldermen Seek to Change Election Cycle

March 8, 2017
Dwayne Page

The Liberty Mayor and Aldermen have begun the process of changing the city charter regarding future municipal elections to put them on a two year cycle to run in conjunction with county general elections. The terms of the mayor and aldermen would still be four years as they are now.

During Monday night’s monthly meeting, the mayor and aldermen adopted a resolution asking State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver to introduce legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to amend the city’s charter to make the changes.

Under the existing charter, Liberty elects its city officials in a four year cycle but in back to back years. For example, three aldermen were elected in 2016 and this year (2017) a mayor and two aldermen are to be elected. Without a change the cycle would be repeated in the years 2020 and 2021.

In order to get future city elections on a two year cycle, the Liberty mayor and aldermen want to reschedule this year’s city election to August, 2018 to coincide with the county general election and to extend by one year the terms of the current board members whose terms end in 2017.

If approved by the legislature and then adopted again by at least a two thirds majority vote of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the elections would be every two years beginning in August 2018.

Haidyn Hale is the new "Classroom Champion"

March 8, 2017
Dwayne Page
Haidyn Hale is the new "Classroom Champion"
Attorney Jim Judkins, DMS Principal Randy Jennings, Chad Hale, Haidyn Hale, Melissa Odom, and Dwayne Page of WJLE

This week’s “Classroom Champion” award goes to Haidyn Hale, a seventh grader at DeKalb Middle School.

The award was presented by Smithville Attorney Jim Judkins and Dwayne Page of WJLE .

Haidyn is the 12 year old daughter of Melissa Odom and Chad Hale of Smithville. She has a sister, Hailey Ball. Hale is an active member of the Junior BETA Club at DeKalb Middle School, an athlete on the DMS soccer team, and a member of the basketball cheerleading squad. Haidyn was a cast member in the play “Christmas in Neverland” at DMS and is a member of the First Assembly of God. Her favorite subject in school is math.

“Haidyn is a young lady who strives to excel in both the classroom and her extracurricular activities. She exemplifies characteristics of a model student,” said her 7th grade teacher Suzette Barnes.

In an effort to recognize achievements of students in the DeKalb County School System, WJLE has partnered with attorney Judkins in featuring a “Classroom Champion” each week for the next several months.

The name of the student selected each week will be announced on WJLE and will be featured on the WJLE website. Each student winning will receive a plaque and a gift certificate.

“This is our way of recognizing and celebrating the achievements of the future citizens and leaders of the community. It can benefit their learning and overall school atmosphere and climate. The students' selection is based on academic performance, responsibility and work ethic, leadership abilities, and citizenship and character,” said Judkins.

DeKalb West Names March Students of the Month

March 8, 2017
Bill Conger
DeKalb West Names March Students of the Month

DeKalb West School has named its March Students of the Month. Congratulations to Bane Averitte, Kindergarten, Molly Carpenter, 1st Grade, Ben Barton, 2nd Grade, Caitlin Shoemake, 3rd Grade, Kenson Moss, 4th Grade, Blair Gipe, 5th Grade, Brett Walker, 6th Grade, Brayden Antoniak, 7th Grade, and Nick Cothern, 8th Grade. The school recognizes students based on their grades, character, and other traits that make them an outstanding student.

Pictured Front Row Left to Right: Molly Carpenter, Bane Averitte, Ben Barton, and Caitlin Shoemake

Back Row Left to Right are Assistant Principal Joey Agee, Blair Gipe, Brayden Antoniak, NIck Cothern, Brett Walker, and Kenson Moss.

Community Urged to Show Appreciation to School Bus Drivers

March 8, 2017
Dwayne Page
Community Urged to Show Appreciation to School Bus Drivers
Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague

Have you hugged a school bus driver today?

The DeKalb County School System is recognizing the outstanding job performance of the 30 plus bus drivers who transport students to and from school and school-related events throughout the year.

The official observance is on Saturday, March 18 but bus drivers will be recognized locally on Friday, March 17.

“We’re going to celebrate it on Friday, March 17 at the schools. We want to bring recognition to our drivers and show them our appreciation. DeKalb County is blessed with good drivers,” said School Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague.

Bus drivers are the first contact children have with the school system each day and while their job is challenging it is also rewarding.

“We run right at 1,200 miles per day. We carry anywhere from 2,000 to 2,200 students per day. My drivers’ main objective is to get the children to and from school safely and we do that every day. We run 32 buses on routes. I have 32 drivers plus I have four substitute drivers including myself. I have seven handicapped aids who ride my special needs buses. I have two aid substitutes. These drivers are out in adverse weather conditions in the cold, rain, and snow. They are up before daylight doing pre-trips on buses. You can’t just get anybody to drive a school bus. They are special people. You don’t realize the difference they make in a child’s life just by being a school bus driver. They go above and beyond. They listen to the kids. They have a good relationship with them,” said Sprague.

To be a school bus driver, Sprague said one must have a commercial driver license and be recertified each year. “All drivers are required to have a CDL with a P&S endorsement. That’s not easy to get. The state comes out once a year and they do a recertification every year when we have our annual bus inspection. All my drivers are up to date. We’ve got good drivers,” he said.

Sprague urges the community to show its support for DeKalb County’s school bus drivers especially during this observance.

“If your child rides a bus say thank you to the bus drivers. They do a good job and they take care of the babies. That’s the main thing. To take care of these kids,” he concluded.

Employees of the school system's transportation department are Michael Agee, Danny Bond, Dwayne Cantrell, Shannon Cantrell, Shara Cowan, Debbie Eaton, Ricky Edwards, Marshall Ferrell, Julie Fitts, Tina Fletcher, Linda Fowler, Bill Fowler, Lynn Griffith, Orlando Guzman, Terry Hall, Darnette Hibdon, Melissa Hicks, Kathy Jacobs, Danny Jenkins, Dwight Knowles, Frances Lawson, Daniel Lawson, Donnie Lewis, Roy Merriman, Ronald Merriman, Linda Gail Pack,Jimmy Poss, Ashley Redmon, Myron Rhody, Jimmy Sprague, Carol Swope, Ken Taylor, Bobby Taylor, B.J. Thomason, Cindy Washer, Danny Washer, and Angela Wilkerson.

Long Awaited Bridge Almost Completed

March 8, 2017
Dwayne Page
Long Awaited Bridge Almost Completed

After more than sixteen months since the Holmes Creek Road bridge was ordered closed by the state due to deficiencies, frustrated residents and motorists longing for the re-opening of the road over Fall Creek will soon get their wish.

The new bridge will be completed within a few days after the railing and paving projects have been completed.

The bridge, at the bottom of town hill behind Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, has been closed since October 30, 2015.

The state forced the City of Smithville to close the bridge due to a Tennessee Department of Transportation Evaluation Report which detailed various bridge deficiencies making it potentially unsafe.

As WJLE has reported in previous weeks, the contractor, Twin K. Construction of Helenwood, Tennessee began work in early October and the completion date under the contract is March 18th.

In September, the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen accepted Twin K’s bid of $687,791. It was the lowest of the five bids submitted and was recommended for approval by the city’s engineer for the project. In addition to the construction bid, other added costs including engineering, design, and inspection fees, geotechnical exploration, right of way, temporary construction easement, asbestos study, and permits, put the total project at $778,655.

The project is being funded under the state's Bridge Grant Program. The matching cost to the city is going to be $196,625


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