Local News Articles

Autopsy Confirms Identities of Elderly Couple

November 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
James and Zora Inez Tramel (Picture provided by Tramel Family)

An autopsy has confirmed that the elderly couple who died Saturday morning in a burning home at 181 Man Hill Road was 87 year old James Tramel and his wife 90 year old Zora Inez Tramel.

The couple lived at the residence

No other details have been released as to the cause of death or how the fire started.

Meanwhile, the funeral services have been set for the Tramels. The funeral for both will be Wednesday at noon at DeKalb Funeral Chapel. Elder Ricky Arnold and Wayne Simmons will officiate and burial will be in the Snow Hill Methodist Cemetery. Visitation will be Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. and Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. until the time of the service at noon.

Mr. Tramel was a member of the Snow Hill United Methodist Church. He was retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and TVA.

Mrs. Tramel was a member of the Pisgah United Methodist Church. She was also a homemaker.

Mr. Tramel was preceded in death by his parents, Dennis and Julie Arnold Tramel; brothers, Reverend Ernest Tramel, Walter Tramel, and Haskell Tramel; sisters, Nancy Nokes, Velma English, Elrisia Whitlock, Lena Van, Beatrice Bryant, and Myrtle Smith.

Mrs. Tramel was preceded in death by her parents, Benjamin and Nancy L. Zora Close Ellis; a brother, Clarence Ellis; and a sister, Fannie Lillian Carr.

The Tramels are survived by their children, Reverend James Paul Tramel of Clarksville and Linda Faye and husband Ron Phelps of Dalton, Georgia. Grandchildren, Todd Alan Phelps of Dalton, Georgia and Mark Andrew Phelps of Atlanta, Georgia. Three grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, five great great grandchildren.

Mr. Tramel is also survived by a brother, Calvin Tramel of Smithville; sisters, Ethel Keith Ashford of Smithville and Ruby Deal of Nashville.

Caregivers for both Mr. and Mrs. Tramel are JoAnn Meece and Angie West. DeKalb Funeral Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.

(The picture of the Tramels seen above was provided to WJLE by the funeral home with permission of the Tramel family)

Sheriff Announces New Program to Combat Drug Problem

November 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray
Walter Tiny Pedigo
Berna Dean Barnes
John Charles Deck Jr
Michael Anthony Ellis

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has launched a new program using the rules of probation as a tool in combating the drug problem.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says this new program involves people who have been sentenced in crimes and then placed on misdemeanor or felony probation. "When a Judge sentences a person to probation in lieu of jail time, the defendant gives up a constitutional right making him subject to a law enforcement search of his person, residence, or vehicles at anytime. Law enforcement may search a defendant's home, person, or vehicle without a search warrant. If the defendant refuses the search, the probation officer then may violate his probation. The defendant, once given a form detailing the rules of probation, must sign and date the form accepting the terms."

" We as law enforcement can use the rules of probation as a tool to help us battle the illegal sale and possession of narcotics and even use it to help us work burglary cases. Although some types of probation have no requirements in order to conduct a search, I do require my department to have at least suspicion that the defendant is doing some kind of illegal activity before we do the search. For the last two weeks, my department and I, along with a State of Tennessee Probation and Parole Officer have made home visits to ten defendants who are on parole or probation in DeKalb County. Out of the ten defendants, six either failed drug screens, were in possession of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia, or did not live at the address that they provided to the probation officer. In one case, we were able to seize more than $6,700 that was used in the illegal sales of narcotics here in the county".

"We want the public to know that if someone is sentenced to probation or parole, my department and I are going to do everything possible to see that these defendants are living up to their requirements of probation. With the state cutting money from the Tennessee Department of Corrections, we anticipate that out of the more than 4,000 inmates expected to be released, some will live here in DeKalb County. As Sheriff, I want some kind of assurance that these people will live by their requirements of parole. If the defendant refuses to live by those requirements, my department and I will do everything possible to place these defendants back into custody and out of harms way."

Meanwhile, in this week's crime news, Sheriff Ray says 62 year old Walter "Tiny" Pedigo was charged last Monday, November 16th with possession of a schedule III drug (Hydrocodone) after a search was conducted at his residence which is located on Gentry Avenue, Smithville. Detectives found in the front pocket of Pedigo's pants, a prescription bottle that was issued in someone else's name. In the bottle were five Hydrocodone pills. Bond for Pedigo was set at $1,500 and he will appear in General Session's court on December 3rd.

47 year old Berna Dean Barnes of New Home Road Smithville was charged Monday, November 16th with possession of drug paraphernalia after a search was conducted at her residence. A safe was found under her bed that contained used hypodermic needles and straws that were individually packed into sandwich bags. Hypodermic needles, both new and used, were also found throughout her bedroom. Bond for Barnes was set at $1,000 and she will appear in General Session's court on December 3rd.

Barnes was arrested again on Friday, November 20th after a deputy saw her driving on Patterson Road in Smithville. The officer says Barnes' vehicle was weaving before she drove it into a ditch and then hit a mailbox. Barnes was stopped and she submitted to field sobriety tasks which she failed. Barnes refused to take a blood alcohol and/or drug test but did admit to the deputy that she was taking Hydrocodone. Barnes was arrested for driving under the influence and also was issued a citation for violation of the implied consent law. Her bond was set at $1,000 and she will appear in General Session's court on December 3rd.

27 year old Joshua Wayne Goff of Mocking Bird Drive, Smithville was stopped by deputies on New Home Road Dowelltown last Monday, November 16th for a traffic violation. A computer check revealed that Goff's driver's license were revoked. Goff was charged with a third offense of driving on a revoked license. His bond was set at $3,000 and he will appear in General Session's court on December 3rd.

The Sheriff's Department searched the residence of 35 year old John Charles Deck Jr. of Adcock Cemetery Road Smithville on Wednesday, November 18th. During the search, lawmen found in Deck's bedroom a piece of foil that contained three pills believed to be Oxcodone and a pill bottle under Deck's mattress that contained one and a half pills believed to be Suboxone. Also, found in Deck's bedroom was a bag of hypodermic needles. Deck was charged with simple possession of a schedule II drug, possession of a schedule III drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond for Deck was set at $3,000 and he will appear in court on December 3rd.

Also on Wednesday, 29 year old Michael Anthony Ellis of Morrison Creek Road, Gainesboro was arrested for theft of property over $1,000. Detectives allege that Ellis worked at a business on Highway 56 North and took three DVD players, an air ratchet, and an air hammer from the business without the owner's consent. Ellis then pawned the items in Cookeville. Bond for Ellis was set at $3,500 and he will appear in General Session's court on December 10th.

Deputies responded to Highway 70 West on Friday, November 20th after two complaints were called into the central dispatch about a vehicle that was driving all over the roadway. After spotting the vehicle and noticing it weaving and driving slow, deputies stopped it and found 26 year old Chasity Lynn Carter of Brush Creek Road, Brush Creek to be the driver. Carter had slurred speech and she was unsteady on her feet. Officers performed field sobriety tasks on Carter which she failed. Carter almost passed out while trying to perform the sobriety tasks. Also found in Carter's possession were fifteen diazepam pills. Carter was charged with driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance for resale. Her bond was set at $16,000 and she will appear in court on December 3rd.

19 year old Michael Joseph Lee was charged Friday with being a fugitive from justice. Lee was charged after a computer check revealed that he was wanted in Joliet Illinois for drug possession, driving under the influence, and driving on a suspended license. Lee is being held without bond until his extradition hearing on November 25th in General Sessions Court.

On Sunday, November 22nd deputies arrested 30 year old Jack Mullican Jr. of Johnson's Chapel Road Sparta after he was stopped for a traffic violation. Mullican was found to be driving on a suspended license. He also had warrants against him in a forgery case as a result of a recent investigation by the DeKalb Sheriff's Department. In that case, detectives, on October 18th received a report from a Mullican family member that someone had stolen some blank checks. On October 22nd, Mullican passed one of the checks at a store on Highway 70 West here in DeKalb County. Mullican was charged with a second offense of driving on a suspended license, theft of property under $500, and forgery. Bond for Mullican was set at $8,000 and he will appear in General Session's court on November 25th for the driving offense and December 3rd for the other crimes.

Sheriff Ray wants to remind everyone that if you have any information on any crimes such as the sale of illegal drugs or any thefts in DeKalb County, to call the Sheriff's Department's 24 hour crime tip line at 464-6400 or call Sheriff Ray at 597-4935. All calls will be kept confidential.

Elderly Couple Dies During Saturday Morning Fire

November 21, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Elderly Couple Dies During Saturday Morning Fire
Elderly Couple Dies During Saturday Morning Fire 2
Elderly Couple Dies During Saturday Morning Fire3

A fire Saturday morning destroyed the home of James and Zora Inez Tramel at 181 Man Hill Road, Dowelltown in the Snow Hill Community.

The bodies of an elderly couple, now identified as the Tramels, were found inside the home.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 9:09 a.m. County Fire Chief Donny Green says he and a county deputy were the first to arrive. " When we got there, fire was coming out of the front of the house. The care givers of Mr. and Mrs. Tramel were outside. They informed me there were two people in the house. Both were invalid. The elderly woman was in a bedroom toward the front of the house where there was heavy fire. The elderly man was in a bedroom at the rear of the house. The deputy and I went around behind the house and attempted to go in the back door to access the bedroom. But when we opened the door, there was heavy smoke and intense heat. Fire crews then arrived. They put on their protective equipment and made entry into the man's bedroom, where he was found in bed. The firefighters removed him through a bedroom window. EMS evaluated him and determined he was deceased."

"Because the fire was so intense, we (firefighters) had to bring it under control before we could make entry to locate the woman's body. Her body was in bed, in a bedroom at the front of the home."

Sheriff Patrick Ray says three other people had been in the home Saturday morning prior to the fire, a female caregiver of the Tramels, the caregiver's husband, and a daughter of the Tramels. The caregiver was not at the residence when the fire started. She had gone to the grocery store. Her husband was tending to the elderly man and the Tramel's daughter was elsewhere in the home when the fire began. After discovering the blaze, Sheriff Ray says the caregiver's husband and the daughter tried unsuccessfully to get the elderly couple out of the home. Other than his hair being singed, the caregiver's husband and the daughter escaped unharmed.

The bodies were transported to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Nashville for an autopsy. The State Fire Marshal was called to assist the Sheriff's Department in the investigation. The cause of the fire has apparently not been determined.

Sheriff Ray praised the county fire fighters for doing a superb job under difficult circumstances. "They risked their own lives and I am very proud of them. I know that members of the deceased's family are also grateful to our firefighters."

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department from the Cookeville Highway, Liberty, Belk, Blue Springs, and the Main Stations were all on site during the fire along with Tanker #1, two units from DeKalb EMS, and the Sheriff's Department.

State Audit Report Released on DeKalb County Government

November 21, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

An annual state audit of the DeKalb County government has been released which shows some deficiencies.

The "Annual Financial Report, DeKalb County, Tennessee" for the year ended June 30, 2009 was conducted by the Department of Audit, Division of County Audit, of the State of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.

The audit resulted in eleven findings and recommendations, according to the report.

It's not uncommon for the state to find deficiencies. In fact, Blake Fontenay, Director of Communications for the Comptroller's Office, says findings and recommendations result from nearly every county audit performed by the state each year.

To view the entire audit report on DeKalb County , click the following link. (Look for specific findings and recommendations by scrolling down to pages 175 to 184
http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/repository/CA/2009/DeKalb.pdf

Estes Charged with Stealing Wallet from Purse of Courthouse Employee

November 21, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Smithville woman, who allegedly stole a wallet from the purse of a courthouse employee, has been charged with theft.

Lieutenant Steven Leffew of the Smithville Police Department says 37 year old Patsy Estes of 621 Crestlawn Street was arrested on Tuesday, November 17th. According to the report, on that day an officer was called to the DeKalb County Courthouse in reference to a complaint of theft. When he got to County Mayor Mike Foster's office, Foster and others were watching surveillance video of the building. The suspect, Estes, could be seen on the tape wandering all over the building going in and out of several offices. She was observed going into Foster's office, staying a short period of time then leaving in a hurry. The officer spoke with Janie Knowles who works in Mr. Foster's office and who was present at the time of the theft. Ms Knowles said that she was working at her desk when she heard a noise from in front of her. She looked up and didn't see anyone at first but then noticed a person's head as she looked between her computer monitor and the monitor on the next desk. Ms. Knowles said she saw a woman who was squatted in front of her desk near a small table and on that table was a purse, belonging to Ponzell Usrey, another employee of the office. The woman stood up, identified herself as Kim Hale, and said that she was looking for James Hayes Ms. Knowles said that she recognized the woman and knew and that her name wasn't Kim Hale. After the woman left the office, Ms. Knowles noticed the purse on the table and alerted Ms. Usrey, who checked the purse and discovered that her wallet was missing. She called the Sheriff's Department. Ms. Knowles said that she later remembered the woman's name was Patsy Estes, not Kim Hale.

Meanwhile, 34 year old Jo Ann Rutland of 446 The Loop was cited on Monday, November 16th for shoplifting at the Dollar General Store. According to the citation, Manager Tammy Caughy confronted Rutland at the counter and asked her what was going on. Rutland pulled the shoe inserts from her purse and said she was getting them for the girl with her. Rutland also had some energy shots and a baby pillow. The total value of the merchandise was $30.50. Rutland is to appear in General Sessions court on the citation on December 9th.

28 year old Kenneth Lee Bain of 1530 Old West Point Road was arrested on Tuesday, November 17th for theft of property and public intoxication. Patrolman Matt Holmes reports that he responded to Wal-Mart on that day where he met with the manager who told him that they have had an open investigation on one of their employees for sometime. Officer Holmes was told that Bain, the Wal-Mart employee in question, had shown up to work and appeared to be intoxicated. Holmes was also told that Bain had been seen putting a TV in a shopping cart and putting a jacket over the top to conceal it. The manager said that as he was walking up to the front doors of the store, Bain exited, pushing a shopping cart with a jacket inside. The manager said he lifted up the jacket and saw a TV belonging to Wal-Mart concealed underneath. The merchandise was recovered and returned to the store. While speaking to Bain, Officer Holmes determined that he was intoxicated on some kind of medication. Bain was unsteady on his feet and he had slurred speech. Bain said he had taken multiple types of medication before coming to and while at work including Hydrocodone. Bain was placed under arrest and transported to the Smithville Police Department where he verbally admitted to stealing the TV and jacket and added that was the only time he had ever stolen anything from Wal-Mart.

24 year old Christopher Brian Deal of Flower Mound, Texas was arrested for DUI on Saturday, November 14th. According to the report, the arresting officer observed a dark vehicle traveling west on Highway 70 at a high rate of speed. He verified with his radar that the driver was locked in at 111 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone. The driver continued to travel west on Highway 70 weaving in and out of traffic. The officer made contact with the vehicle at the intersection of Highway 70 and Short Mountain Highway and placed Deal, the driver, under arrest for reckless driving. While speaking to him, the officer noticed that Deal had an odor of an alcoholic beverage about his breath and he admitted to drinking a couple of beers. There were no field sobriety tests administered due to the location of the stop and because Deal was under arrest for reckless driving but Deal did submit to a breath test. The results were .094. Deal was issued a citation for speeding and reckless driving and arrested for driving under the influence.

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

On Monday, November 16th, between the hours of 5:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. a bike was stolen from Wagner Towing. Rick Wagoner said he went home for lunch. The bike was chained to a pole near the roadway. When he returned to put the bike up, it was gone.

On Thursday, November 19th, Officer Scott Davis was dispatched to 456 West Broad Street (City Cafe) in reference to a robbery. Upon arrival, Officer Davis made contact with the complainant Ms. Tracy Howell who stated that she had just opened the business and put the money bag down on the counter and went to unlock the game room when possibly a white male, 5'10", wearing a black jacket and jeans pulled a knife and said "give me your money" or words to that effect. Ms. Howell stated that the suspect grabbed the money bag and fled out the door in an unknown direction of flight. At the time of this report, the clerk did not know how much money was taken during the robbery.

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

Lieutenant Leffew, Officer in Charge of the Police Department, would like to remind the public that "We do have a Tip Line, 464-6046 that you can call with any information you have on a crime or suspicious activity. All information will be strictly kept confidential and all callers will remain anonymous. We want your information, not your name."

Adcock Receives Commendation

November 20, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
 Lieutenant Steven Leffew Presents Commendation to Beth Adcock

An employee of the Smithville Police Department has been presented a commendation.

Beth D. Adcock, Police Records Clerk, received the honor Thursday by Officer in Charge of the Department Lieutenant Steven Leffew. The commendation was also signed by Mayor Taft Hendrixson and Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks.

The commendation states " On behalf of the City of Smithville Police Department I would like to commend you for your recent actions and diligent efforts in your capacity as Police Records Clerk. Your determination and efforts in the continued performance of your duties exemplify your outstanding work ethic. Your continuous professionalism enables the citizens of Smithville and your fellow co-workers to know that the Smithville Police Department is always striving for quality service. You have served with distinction and are a credit to the Smithville Police Department and the City of Smithville. I appreciate your input and current performance and for that you are hereby formally recognized and commended with a copy of this commendation becoming a part of your personnel record.

Thank you and congratulations for a job well done

Habitat For Humanity Selects Partner Family

November 20, 2009
 Habitat Partner Family

The DeKalb County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity is pleased to announce their third partner family.

Following the application process, the Kim McCowan family was selected to work with Habitat.

In addition to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, Habitat homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor (sweat equity) into building their Habitat house and the houses of others. Construction will begin as soon as possible.

Volunteers and partner family members pictured from left to right: Sharon Evans, Kim McCowan and granddaughters Haley, Carrie and Katelyn, Lisa Garrison, Tom Janney and John Quintero.

Armed Robbery Reported at City Cafe

November 19, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

An armed robbery occurred this morning (Thursday) at City Café at 456 West Broad Street.

Lieutenant Steven Leffew, Officer in Charge of the Smithville Police Department, says officers were called to the restaurant at 4:59 a.m where an employee stated that while she was preparing to open for business, a white male, approximately five feet, ten inches tall came in, produced a knife and said "give me your money". The man was wearing a black jacket and blue jeans.

The clerk had laid down a money bag on the counter and the man grabbed it, left the store, and fled in an unknown direction. The bag contained an undetermined amount of money.

No one else was in the restaurant at the time. The employee was not injured.

If you have any information that could help solve this or any other crime in the city then call the crime stoppers tip line at 464-6046. All information is strictly confidential. Lieutenant Leffew says "remember we want your information, not your name."

Concerns Raised about Sligo and Hurricane Bridges during Town Hall Meeting

November 19, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
TDOT Director of Structures Ed Wasserman
State Senator Mae Beavers
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
Town Hall Meeting on Bridges

Many people, concerned about both Sligo bridge and Hurricane bridge, let their voices be heard Wednesday evening during a town hall meeting at city hall, held by State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver.

Some blamed the Bredesen administration and TDOT for not addressing the problems, some accused Beavers and Weaver of not doing more, but all want the bridges either fixed or replaced as soon as possible. If not, local officials fear that DeKalb County's economy could suffer more setbacks with lost jobs and less tourism.

Weight limits were recently posted on Hurricane bridge which is now apparently forcing industries to use alternate routes to access the Interstate to transport their products by trucks. Other small businessmen and loggers who use large trucks, speaking during Wednesday night's meeting, say they too will suffer economic hardships.

Representative Weaver and Senator Beavers have been criticized by some who feel they should have voted for the state budget and or the bridge bonding bill, and that the Bredesen administration and or TDOT is delaying the local bridge projects because of it.

However both Weaver and Beavers insist that this is not the case and that Paul Degges, Chief Engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation confirmed it in a meeting with them this week.

Representative Weaver said she has always supported the bridge projects locally, but opposed the bonding bill because she didn't want to put the state in more debt, especially when it wasn't a sure thing that Sligo bridge would be included. Weaver says she believes the state should continue to follow the "pay as you go approach". "The rumor has been going around that I did not support the bridge because I did not vote for the bonding. That is absolutely not the case. The bonding bill passed. The money is there. The money has always been there for the bridge. So it's not a matter of money. It's a matter of prioritizing."

Senator Beavers also defended her vote against the bonding bill, " There was talk it (Sligo bridge) would be in the (federal) stimulus package. It was but got taken out because the right of way acquisition was not complete. I didn't vote to put the state in debt by bonding bridges and as it's proven out we wouldn't have gotten the bridge (Sligo) this year anyway because it (project) simply wasn't ready. I don't apologize for being a conservative. I'm conservative with my money and I'm going to be conservative with your money. Paul Degges says we have two or three years before we have to address the issue of Sligo bridge but those bridges (Sligo and Hurricane) are on our priority list and they will be done. We've worked on it. TDOT is working on it. Everybody is doing what they can to get it done as fast as we can."

Among the critics during Wednesday night's meeting was former State Representative Frank Buck, who said that the Bredesen administration and TDOT have known about the problems with Sligo bridge since at least 2006, but apparently have done little to address it. Buck says he doesn't trust the administration on this issue and doesn't believe they intend to do anything. And while admitting that he wished he could have done more to advance the project during his time in office, Buck still criticized Senator Beavers and Representative Weaver saying basically if the administration won't cooperate then we should be able to count on them for help.

Later in the meeting, Ed Wasserman, TDOT Director of Structures, addressed the safety issue regarding Sligo bridge. Apparently there are at least two layers of concrete on the bridge and the layer underneath is breaking up. "Specifically with regard to the Sligo bridge, it is safe as long as you observe the posted loads that are on that bridge. Your concerns about the chunks of concrete coming off ( from under the bridge). That is more of an emotional issue than a structural issue. They way that slab works is that it is the re-enforcing steel in the bottom that carries the load. The concrete on the top carries the compression load, the bottom is the tension steel. That steel is all intact. The primary purpose for the cover on the bottom is to protect the steel. The steel is still in good shape. It would be more desirable if it (concrete) was all there but the point of it is it carries the same load with or without it. The bridge is still safe. We're still monitoring the bridge on a frequency of about every six months. So the bridge is safe as it is. The netting up there (under the bridge) is because we don't want concrete chunks falling on the boaters or whoever else is underneath the bridge."

"With regard to the Hurricane bridge, if you observe the postings that are on it, then the bridge is perfectly safe."As to the scheduling of things, these are very expensive structures, we have a limited overall amount of money to deal with statewide. While you have every right to be concerned and feel that your bridge is the top priority in the state, there are people in other areas in the state with a bridge in similar condition and they feel theirs needs to be top priority. We are going to keep your bridges safe until such time as they get replaced on whatever schedule that works out to be. If the revenue stream continues, then we're going to be able to get to your bridges, both of them."

"In the case of Sligo, you opted for replacement. At one time we offered that we could rehabilitate the bridge, require a closure of about a month and a half or two months initially followed by one lane traffic for about eighteen months, and with that we could strengthen the Sligo bridge and put it back in non-posted condition, but the public opinion that reached us was that this really wasn't acceptable, you wanted a new bridge. A new bridge costs considerably more and will take longer to get the funds. With the Hurricane bridge, it will be repaired because there's not any chance that we can afford to replace that bridge."

Wasserman said that neither bridge had deteriorated to the point that they would have to be closed and added that the state would spend funds to do emergency repairs to keep the open if need be.

Senator Beavers told WJLE Wednesday morning that "They're (TDOT) doing the analysis right now (on Hurricane Bridge) to see what kind of steel and bolts were used so they have a better idea just what the status of the bridge is. It may come down to removing those extra lanes that they put on a few years ago. They are in the process of trying to find out exactly what they need to do on that bridge."

One of the concerned citizens who spoke during the meeting was Brian Terry of Smithville. Afterwards, he talked with WJLE. "My concern is that everybody knows that the bridge is in disrepair. Obviously, they wouldn't be having these meetings and planning it without it. What they have is estimates and estimates are not 100%. The bridge that failed in Minnesota, I'm sure they had estimates on that. They were in the process of repairing it when it failed. I'm just concerned that too much time is going to get wasted with political maneuvering and we're going to get a couple of tractor trailers that are overloaded that are going to go over it (bridge) and weaken it and then the next morning two or three school buses will go over it and it collapses. There is no amount of political agenda or budget or anyone's personal pride that's worth a school bus full of children."

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby says this too is a concern for him. "I became aware that there was a 10 ton limit posted on Hurricane Bridge. Our buses are basically 10 tons. So we're going to have to make some adjustments. We're going to talk to the Department of Transportation as early as possible. Tonight, we've been told by the director of structural division of Tennessee's Department of Transportation that it is okay to operate a passenger bus across Hurricane bridge. I am going to get in contact with the people at the Tennessee Department of Transportation and get it clarified maybe a little bit more."

After the meeting, Senator Beavers said she understood the people's frustrations. "People are very upset in this county as they should be. We got what answers we could out of TDOT on Monday when we met with them and we feel assured that they are going to address this bridge in the near future. I think people here just wanted some answers. They just want to know that their children are safe crossing that bridge. These trucking companies want to know that they are not going to be out of business tomorrow because the bridge has to be closed. I certainly understand the feelings of the people up here. We're going to continue to work as hard as we can to try and get things going. The specific language in the budget this year said that the TDOT commissioner would make the call on the priorities on bridges so that's who people need to contact. They need to contact the commissioner of Transportation and ask him to make the Sligo bridge and now the Hurricane bridge priorities because I think we're in a desperate situation up here with the economy, with businesses perhaps having to move out of your county. Your representatives are very concerned about it and working every day to try and get it done."

Representative Weaver also called for more public input. "This is a hot issue. This is an item of concern. I'm working as hard as I know to work. I made a plea that we need more voices and more people to be involved. I want people to know that it is not one person who makes the call here. It takes many. It takes a team. So I welcome the calls to the Governor's office. I welcome the calls to the TDOT commissioner's office from the constituents who travel those bridges. I know how serious this is. We're talking about safety and jobs, not to mention the tourism and the people that want to come up here and enjoy the lake."

Weaver says she also paid a call on Fred Edgington, plant manager of Star Manufacturing this week, who is concerned about how the status of the bridges is affecting his company. "I wanted to introduce myself to him and let him know that I was extremely concerned about the job situation. I picked Star because of the truck route that they were using. As far as the re-route on these bridges, an eighteen wheeler could come by way of Highway 96 (Dale Ridge Road) but it's extremely dangerous to do that with the way the road is. The reroute on that is like 70 miles. He's got to pay the driver and for extra fuel so there's added costs and if that gets to be too much of an inconvenience, he'll have to cut costs somewhere else. So it is a serious issue."

State Lawmakers say Local Bridges Still in Line for Rehab or Replacement

November 18, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
TDOT Crew Inspecting Sligo Bridge Wednesday
Sligo Bridge
Hurricane Bridge

State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver say they have been assured by officials of the Tennessee Department of Transportation that both Sligo Bridge and Hurricane Bridge are in line for rehab or replacement at some point.

In a joint appearance on WJLE Wednesday morning, but Senator Beavers and Representative Weaver say they met Monday with Paul Degges, Chief Engineer for TDOT, who says both bridges will eventually be fixed or replaced. In fact, Senator Beavers says Hurricane Bridge might even be a higher priority with the state than Sligo. "We had a good meeting with the Chief Engineer this week. Those bridges are in line to be done. They have to prioritize the bridges and that's exactly what they did this year. Paul Degges, Chief Engineer has repeatedly said that they have two to four years to do something about the Sligo Bridge. It's not as desperate as some other bridges in the state. They just have a limited amount of money. They have to prioritize to get everything done. We felt really good about the meeting the other day. The Sligo and the Hurricane Bridge are in line to be done and at this point it looks like the Hurricane Bridge may even take priority over the Sligo Bridge."

Representative Weaver says the reason the state is taking a closer look at Hurricane Bridge is because it is a similar type bridge as the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota a couple of years ago. "In light of what happened in August 2007 with the Minnesota bridge, the Hurricane Bridge. which is a truss bridge as well, has received much attention because it is the same kind of bridge and for the safety of the people who cross over it they have started inspections on it. Right now, as of the meeting on Monday, we were told that they are still in the process of analyzing the status of the bridge. This bridge was built in 1944 and during the 1970's, the bridge was widened which has caused some concern as to extra stress on the Hurricane Bridge. So it is very possible that the Hurricane Bridge will be bumped up (repaired ahead of schedule)."

Senator Beavers added "Hurricane Bridge was built in 1944 back during World War II. They're doing the analysis right now to see what kind of steel and bolts were used so they have a better idea just what the status of the bridge is. It may come down to removing those extra lanes that they put on a few years ago. They are in the process of trying to find out exactly what they need to do on that bridge."

TDOT has posted weight limits on both Sligo Bridge and Hurricane Bridge which has raised worries about whether the bridges are safe. Representative Weaver says TDOT has been made aware of those concerns."They posted a weight load limit on the Hurricane Bridge which is a concern with the factories, like Star Manufacturing and Federal Mogul and those type of businesses here. I talked with the manager of Star Tuesday and his question is simply if it's a safety issue then when are they (bridges) going to get fixed. That is the question we brought to TDOT. They posted the signs to not add the extra stress but they are still analyzing this bridge (Hurricane). They still don't have the details on the deterioration of the bridge, etc. so I guess if you see a weight load sign I would embrace that. Unfortunately it's going to cost some extra routing for these bridges. The point is a sign was put up on the bridge so we need to abide by it the best that we can."

Senator Beavers says one of the issues regarding Sligo is acquiring the necessary right of way for a new bridge, which takes time. "As far as the Sligo Bridge goes, everybody thought it was imperative that it be done this year but from talking with TDOT, it was not ready for the stimulus money. There's a hangup with the marina. They are having to work things out with them to move it. There's a huge cost there so there have been a few complications with acquiring the right of way for the Sligo Bridge and that has been holding things up with it at this point."

"They told us this week that they are hoping the Sligo Bridge will be ready next budget year for a letting but that's a year to year thing and until they get that worked out with TVA on the land acquisition that they need for the right of way, they can't say anything for sure whether it'll be done next year. But I want to stress again that Paul Degges, TDOT Chief Engineer, has always said there is a grace period here. He has said we've got two to four years before we have to do anything with the Sligo Bridge. So we've got a period of time to work on it. They assured us Monday, it is line to be done. People say, you didn't get the bridges in the budget this year because Mae Beavers didn't vote for the bond bill, but Degges said that is absolutely not true. It was not ready."

Some have criticized both Representative Weaver and Senator Beavers for voting against the bridge bonding bill and the state budget earlier this year (both of which passed without their support) and that somehow their actions have may have caused the Governor's administration and TDOT from expediting the Sligo bridge project. Click here to read a previous account of why Beavers and Weaver voted against the budget and bonding bill. http://www.wjle.com/node/7960

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