Local News Articles

State Lawmakers Recognize 50th Anniversary of DCHS Band Program

October 14, 2013
Dwayne Page
DCHS Band performing at Homecoming Parade

The Tennessee General Assembly has recognized the DeKalb County High School Fighting Tiger Marching Band on its 50th anniversary.

During half time of the DeKalb County high school football game with York Institute Friday night, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver read the following proclamation:

"Whereas, the art of creating music has long been an important part of humanity, serving as a voice for those traits that make us truly human, preserving our history and forging bridges between diverse cultures; and

Whereas, the members of the General Assembly are proud to recognize the DeKalb County High School Marching Band on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of that August and

Whereas, with the consolidation of the county's high schools in 1963 the formation of the DeKalb County High School Fighting Tiger Marching Band, under the directorship of Don Behm, came about, and from 1964 through 1968, Mike Williams stood as the band director; and

Whereas, in 1969 the gentleman who would come to be known as the Grandfather of the DeKalb County High School Marching Band, Fowler Stanton, began an eight-year stint as director, during which time the Fighting Tiger Marching Band excelled and was a force of over 100 students; and

Whereas, from 1977 until 2007, a plethora of others served as director of this distinguished group of student musicians; however, Mr. Stanton was never far away from the practice of performance fields. Faithfully, he encouraged every student who pursued their musical talents in band and steadfastly, he supported every director who led the band over the last one-half of a century;

Whereas, from 1980 until 1997, with the exception of a one- year hiatus, Randy L. Rhody, a former student of Mr. Stanton was director of bands, and he ushered in a new era of music and growth for DeKalb County High School. His leadership would take this program to new levels and create a wealth of talent that would garner regional and national recognition for the program, and he kept it on a continuous track of distinction and high acclaim for which it is still known today; and

"Whereas, in 1997, Shannon Pirtle became band director and for seven years, he, too marshaled continuous improvement in the excellent band program of DeKalb County Schools, and

Whereas, ensuing yearly changes of directors, however, deterred stability and disrupted the continuity necessary to foster and affirm musical excellence among individual students and the body collectively and produce the stellar field performances to which the schools and the community were accustomed; and

Whereas, now under the directorship of Jonathan Wright, who assumed that position in 2008, the DeKalb County Schools band program has thrived and regained its high status as a powerhouse of talent, fostering the musical talents and performance interests of middle school students now as has been done with high schoolers across the past five decades; and

Whereas, over the past 50 years, the DeKalb County Schools' band program and music instruction has enriched the lives of students and yielded countless awards in scholastic competitions; and

Whereas, as in the past, today's band members enjoy the unfettered support of staff, band boosters and alumni; and the businesses and people of the community as a whole, and it is fitting and timely that this legislative body recognize the DeKalb County Fighting Tiger Marching Band on their 50th anniversary; now, therefore.

I, Beth Harwell, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the One Hundred Eighth General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, at the request of and in conjunction with Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody and Senator Mae Beavers, do hereby proclaim that we congratulate the director and members of the DeKalb County High School Fighting Tiger Marching Band on the occasion of their 50th anniversary and extend to them our best wishes for success in every future endeavor.

Proclaimed in Nashville, Tennessee on this the 10th day of October, 2013."

DeKalb County Walk Across Tennessee Underway

October 14, 2013
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Walk Across Tennessee Underway

The DeKalb County Walk Across Tennessee contest kicked off Thursday night at Greenbrook Park.

A total of eight teams and nearly 80 individuals will be vying for the rotating trophy as well as cash prizes. The teams participating this year are the Tenacious Turtles, Southern Discomfort, Red Hot Chili Steppers, Greyhound Zippers, Stranger Than Fiction, Far and Wide Walkers, The Lunatics, and The Dream Team. The contest is conducted by the UT Extension office in DeKalb County.

According to UT Extension Agent April Martin, “If you didn’t get to attend the kickoff and sign up your team, registration will still be accepted through Thursday, October 17. There is a very small registration fee of $5. Just stop by our office, the Smithville Senior Citizens Center, or the County Complex building. Information can also be download from the UT website at http://dekalb.tennessee.edu.” Call 597-4945 for more information.

"Courthouse Gang" Wins Habitat Chili Cook-Off

October 12, 2013
Dwayne Page
Sean Driver, Katherine Pack, and Mike Clayborn of "Courthouse Gang"
DeKalb County Board of Education Group

The DeKalb County Officials "Courthouse Gang" claimed first place for "Best Chili" at the 10th Annual Habitat for Humanity Chili Cook-Off Friday downtown.

Approximately 500 bowls of chili were served and over $3,500 was raised towards the building of the next Habitat house in DeKalb County.

The DeKalb County Board of Education "Storybook Chili" won first place for "Best Decorated Booth".

Receiving second place for "Best Chili" was The Inn at Evins Mill “Groundbreaking Chili”, and Middle Tennessee Natural Gas “Pipeline Pirates” took third place.

DeKalb County Officials “The Courthouse Gang” received second place for "Best Decorated Booth" and Indian Creek Baptist Church “Indian Summer Chili” got a third place award.

Eight teams participated in the annual event, including “Storybook Chili” from the DeKalb County Board of Education; “Hot Checks Chili” from DeKalb Community Bank; “The Courthouse Gang” from the DeKalb County Officials; “Pipeline Pirates” from Middle Tennessee Natural Gas; “The Bean Counters” from Tom Janney, CPA and Associates; “Indian Summer Chili” from Indian Creek Baptist Church; “Groundbreaking Chili” from The Inn at Evins Mill; and “No Liability Chili” from the DeKalb County Bar Association.

Delicious baked goods were provided by members of area churches, DCHS cheerleaders, and the DCHS Tiger Pride Bakery.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is a locally run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing organization. Habitat for Humanity builds and renovates houses in partnership with volunteers and families in need, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. The houses then are sold to those in need at no profit and with no interest charged. To contact Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County, please call 215-8181.

Body Found Floating in Center Hill Lake

October 11, 2013
Dwayne Page
Body being loaded onto mini van

A fisherman found a badly decomposed body floating in Center Hill Lake Friday morning in the area of Edgar Evins State Park and Center Hill Marina.

The identity of the deceased has not been determined. An autopsy will be conducted.

Officials say the body was face down in the water about four hundred yards upstream from the mouth of Cove Hollow. The water depth in that area is about ninety feet.

Members of the TWRA, DeKalb County Rescue Squad, DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, DeKalb EMS, Corps of Engineers Park Rangers and Edgar Evins Park Manager Carl Halfacre responded.

The body was brought to shore by boat and loaded onto a mini van at an Edgar Evins State Park Boat Ramp.

Smithville Firefighters Visit Elementary School (SEE VIDEO HERE)

October 11, 2013
Dwayne Page

As part of October Fire Safety month, Chief Charlie Parker and members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department paid a visit to Smithville Elementary School Friday morning to talk about fire safety and to show the children the new ladder truck.


Walleye in Center Hill Lake threatened by low dissolved oxygen levels

October 11, 2013
Dwayne Page

Over the past few weeks several dead walleye have been observed at Center Hill Lake. Walleye prefer a cool-water habitat, which means they are usually located fairly deep in the lake this time of year. This year the dissolved oxygen levels in this zone are very low. Data collected yesterday indicated that the only area deeper than about 35 feet that contains any oxygen is a zone between depths of 60-to-90 feet, and even there the levels are quite low.

"This isolated zone of cool, oxygenated water has gotten much smaller over the last few weeks as natural processes in the lake have depleted oxygen from the water. If there are significant numbers of walleye and other fish trapped in this zone they may not be able to survive long enough for the lake to mix and restore oxygen to these lower depths," said Bob Sneed, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Water Management Section chief.

The low oxygen levels are primarily due to a series of rainfall events during the spring and summer that resulted in a loss of oxygenated water from persistent higher flows from the dam. A lower lake pool while maintenance is ongoing at the dam is also a contributing factor.
Cooler nights are helping to restore oxygen levels at lower depths, but Corps officials aren’t sure yet if large numbers of fish could be affected before mixing of oxygen at lower depths can occur.

Sneed said that warmer lake temperatures also translate into warmer water temperatures in the Caney Fork River downstream of Center Hill Dam where a major put, grow, and take trout fishery is managed by the Tennessee Wildlife and Resources Agency.

"The trout are likely to be stressed and they may not feed as aggressively as normal, but I would not expect a major die-off of fish in the river," Sneed said. "We will continue to blend sluice gate releases with hydropower releases to support the downstream environmental resources."
There are no physical or operational actions that can be applied to alleviate this condition. Corps of Engineers and TWRA staff will continue to work together and monitor the situation.

For more news and updates please go to http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil and follow the Nashville District at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps.

New Report Card Introduced for Kindergarten and First Grade Students

October 10, 2013
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow

As part of the new Common Core State Standards initiative, the DeKalb County School System has introduced a new standards-based report card for kindergarten and first grade students.

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The purpose of the new reporting system is to provide parents and teachers with more accurate information about students' progress toward meeting the specific content standards for the various subjects taught at each grade level.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K through 6th grade, informed the Board of Education Thursday night that the new report card has already gone out for the first nine weeks of school. "We're very excited that we did get that completed. Kindergarten and first grade had a standards-based report card going home the first nine weeks. I was able to attend DeKalb West School's parent-teacher conference this evening and I was able to speak with several of the parents coming down the kindergarten and first grade hallway. I received lots of positive comments. We talked about how that this is an opportunity for parents to polish skills with their child. I think they (parents) were really amazed at how much the students will be learning this school year," she said.

"I've had a couple of compliments on it as well," said fourth district school board member Billy Miller. "They (parents) really like it. They like where their kids are at. They know there are probably some deficiencies going on so this (report card) distinguishes those a little bit better so they (parents) know what to work on," he said.

Dr. Danielle Collins, Federal Programs Supervisor, visited Smithville Elementary School's parent-teacher conference and also received positive comments from parents. "They appreciate that they now can help their child on specific standards at home .They actually know what their child needs extra help in," she said.

Burklow said plans are to start working on a standards-based report card for second graders after Christmas and to have it in place next year.

With the standards-based report card, educators know whether all students are learning what they should in each grade by monitoring the skills listed on the report card.

Traditional report cards usually assign one grade for reading, one for math, one for science and so on. On a standards-based report card, each of these subject areas is divided into a list of skills and knowledge that students are responsible for learning. Students receive a separate mark for each standard.

Instead of letter grades, the standards-based report card grades students by numbers 1-4. " Category 4 would mean students are advanced," said Burklow at a previous school board meeting. " That means they have an understanding of the standards, the skills. It exceeds the grade level expectations. Earning a 3 would mean that students are proficient in understanding the skills and meet grade level expectations. We want all students to be at that proficient level. So a 3 would mean that they are right on target for gaining all their academic information for the school year. A 3 would be something to celebrate. A 2 would mean that the student has a basic understanding of the skill/skills being tested. This child is progressing toward mastery but needs a little polishing on a specific skill. A 1 would mean that the student has minimal understanding. Here again, teachers and parents would work together, intervene with that student so that they would progress up to mastery," said Burklow.

In other business, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby updated the school board on personnel moves since the last meeting.

Those employed as substitute teachers since September are:

Jean Hope, Ann Frazier, Katie Merriman, Tiffanie Martin, Yvonne Hale, Michelle Critser, Jenny Trapp, Kerry Polk, Michael Hattaway, Joy Whitman, Meghan Padgett, Helga Thompson, Jordon Roller, Erin O'Loughlin, Bethany Cornelius, and Kim Taylor.

Lisa Hull, a teacher was granted a leave of absence as requested.

The board gave approval for an overnight FFA trip to the 2013 National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky October 29 through November 2.

Board approval was granted for an overnight DCHS Beta Club trip to attend the National Beta Club state convention at Gaylord Opryland November 24-26.

Approval was given for two day basketball games at DeKalb Middle School (play at Warren County November 22 and for Warren County to play here on December 9)

Director Willoughby also gave a brief update on the DeKalb West School building project. He said the contractor will start pouring concrete Friday morning, October 11.

The next regular monthly school board meeting will be Tuesday, November 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the Board of Education Building. The board will have a workshop on Tuesday, October 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Board of Education Building on the development of a five year plan.

More Indictments Against Wendy Askins

October 13, 2013
Dwayne Page
Wendy Askins

Wendy Askins is facing more charges.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s case against the former executive director of the Upper Cumberland Development District resulted in a grand jury indictment against her Tuesday for taking money from the Upper Cumberland Development District to use toward the Living the Dream home, a home built as an independent living home for middle income seniors in Putnam County.

The 52 year old Askins of Cookeville was indicted by the Putnam County grand jury on one count of theft over $60,000, one count of money laundering and one count of forgery. While employed as the executive director Askins inserted into the February 16, 2010 Upper Cumberland Development District board meeting minutes a paragraph stating that $300,000 was to be transferred to the Cumberland Regional Development District for an independent living home. TBI’s investigation revealed that the transfer of funds was never discussed at the meeting. Askins transferred $300,000 out of the Upper Cumberland Development District account and used the money for the Living the Dream home. The home was built to provide an independent living environment to middle income seniors in the area. Although Askins had a residence in Putnam County, she and her daughter used the Living the Dream home as their primary residence. TBI investigated the case with the Office of the Attorney General and the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

The UCDD employed Askins as its executive director for 17 years prior her being released from the position. Askins turned herself in on the charges Tuesday at the Putnam County Jail and was released on a $25,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in court on November 12, 2013.

Askins was indicted by a federal grand jury two weeks ago on a variety of charges, including conspiracy, theft of more than $1,000, bank fraud, money laundering and making a false statement.

Askins' assistant, Larry Webb was also indicted on those same charges, while former UCDD Board Chairman and DeKalb County Mayor Mike Foster was indicted on one charge of making a false statement.

DUI Charge Against O'Neil Dismissed

October 9, 2013
Dwayne Page

A driving under the influence charge against Smithville Building Inspector Eugene O'Neil has been dropped.

O'Neil appeared with his attorney Tony Hagan in DeKalb County General Sessions Court Monday before Judge Tiffany Gipson of Jackson County. Judge Gipson is assigned to hear cases in which Judge Bratten Cook, II has a conflict.

Hagan, in a prepared statement to WJLE, said that "In March 2013, Smithville Building Inspector Eugene O'Neil was charged with DUI and other related charges. Today, the State of Tennessee dismissed all charges against Mr. O'Neil," he wrote.

"Mr. O'Neil would like to thank all of his friends who stood by him during this difficult time," Hagan concluded.

Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong told WJLE that "the state could not produce results of the blood test from the TBI crime lab and had no choice but to dismiss the case," he said.

O'Neil, off duty at the time, was stopped by Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol on Friday, March 1. The traffic stop occurred on Golf Club Drive. O'Neil submitted to field sobriety and blood tests, according to Trooper Johnson.

Judge Patterson Hands Down Sentences in Several Theft Cases Friday, October 4

October 9, 2013
Dwayne Page
Judge David Patterson

Three people caught after allegedly breaking into a barn on Joins Road in February were sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday, October 4.

36 year old Andy Joe Certain, 35 year old April Lee Hollingsworth and 53 year old Kelly Lee Hollingsworth appeared before Judge David Patterson. All three entered guilty pleas under negotiated settlements.

Certain pleaded guilty to burglary and unlawful possession of a weapon. He received a four year sentence for the burglary and two years on the weapon charge. The two terms are to run concurrently for a total of four years. Certain is to serve at least 30% of the sentence as a range one offender but he has been given jail credit for 167 days. Certain must also forfeit the weapon.

April Hollingsworth pleaded guilty to burglary and received a four year sentence, suspended to probation except for 89 days to serve. She has been given jail credit for 89 days. The sentence is to run consecutive to a case against her in Rutherford County.

Kelly Hollingsworth pleaded guilty to attempted burglary and received a two year suspended sentence to run consecutive to other cases against her.

Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE that Certain and the two Hollingsworth's allegedly entered the barn on Joins Road through the barn doors and took numerous old and antique farm equipment, valued at $1,500.

According to Sheriff Ray, deputies arrived at the scene before the three intruders left and the stolen property was unloaded from their vehicle and returned to the owner.

36 year old Lisa Michelle Porterfield pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and received a six year sentence to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The sentence is to run concurrently with a violation of probation case against her in DeKalb County but consecutive to a Warren County violation of probation. She was given credit for 30 days served last November and time served from May 21 to October 4.

Sheriff Ray said that on October 9, 2012 Porterfield allegedly broke into a residence on Campbell Road by kicking in the front door. She allegedly stole from the home a Honda transmission, a battery, push mower, tire and rim, in-door heaters, 13 inch television, a microwave, and several other items with a total value of more than $1,000. The case was investigated by a criminal detective of the sheriff's department.

A woman accused of vandalism, burglaries, and thefts at a local marina in May received a total sentence of four years .

36 year old Stephanie Lee Vanatta pleaded guilty under a negotiated settlement to two counts of burglary, two counts of auto burglary, one count of theft over $1,000, and one count of vandalism.

She is accused of breaking into and taking items from two pontoon boats, committing vandalism of an automobile, and breaking into and stealing items from two other vehicles at Sligo Marina.

Vanatta received a two year sentence in each of the two burglary cases to run consecutively for a total of four years. She also got a two year sentence in the theft case, a one year term for vandalism and one year in each of the two auto burglary cases but all those sentences are to run concurrently or together with each other and with the burglary cases. Her total sentence is four years.

Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, May 23 Vanatta allegedly entered a pontoon boat at Sligo Marina and took two fish locators, a tool bag containing miscellaneous tools, a solar battery charger, and an electric fish cleaner all valued at less than $500.

Vanatta allegedly entered another pontoon boat and took two flashlights, a can of WD 40, a set of tools, two quarts of oil, and miscellaneous tools all valued at less than $500.

Vanatta further allegedly entered a Ford pickup truck by breaking out the glass on the driver's side and taking a gas can, extra car keys, and a boat latch lock.

The same day, Vanatta allegedly entered a Toyota by breaking out the back glass and taking a bag containing several keys, a first aid kit, a thirty one bag, flip flops, a cleaning kit, and two Sam's cooler bags all valued at less than $500.
She also allegedly damaged a 2006 Chevy HHR vehicle by leaving marks on both of the driver side and passenger side doors causing over $500 in damage.

50 year old Tony Beasley pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and received a four year sentence to serve. The sentence is to run concurrently with another term he is now serving.

49 year old Trina Matthews pleaded guilty to theft over $1,000 and received a three year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. She must also make restitution to the victim in the case. Matthews was given jail credit from April 11 to October 4.

19 year old David Tyler Hutchins pleaded guilty to burglary and received a three year sentence but he will be on supervised judicial diversion probation. He must make restitution of $1,342. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, October 12, 2012 Hutchins allegedly broke into an outbuilding on Green Hill Road in Liberty by kicking in the front door. He allegedly stole a chainsaw, leaf blower, a cordless screw driver set, battery charger, and various other items including a 1997 Honda Four Wheeler, all valued at over $1,000.

21 year old Travis Marcus Melton pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated burglary. Melton received a four year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other and all suspended to supervised probation. He was given jail credit from August 6 to October 4.

Sheriff Ray said that on February 29, 2012 Melton allegedly broke into a residence on Johnson Chapel Road by kicking in a back door. He allegedly took a 20 gauge shotgun, two flat screen TV's, a DVD player, a chain saw and other various items all valued at over $1,000.

Meanwhile on the same day, February 29 Melton also allegedly broke into another home on Johnson Chapel Road through a window. Melton allegedly took a 46 inch flat screen TV, DVD player, laptop computers, a digital camera, and other various items all valued at more than $1,000. The case was investigated by criminal detectives of the sheriff's department.

Melton was further named in sealed indictments returned by the grand jury in August.

The indictments allege that "On or about the 1st day of March, 2012, Melton did intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly enter the habitation of the victim with the intent to commit theft of property, constituting the offense of aggravated burglary and that he "did knowingly exercise control over certain property, to wit: a 12 gauge shotgun, 12 gauge ammunition, a Disney Pellet Rifle, a .22 Ruger handgun, ammunition, a 52 inch flat screen television, a DVD player, a leather jewelry box, $25 cash, several knives, an air compressor, tools, a tool box, pillow cases, several bottles of liquor, a gas can, a hatchet with sheath, a machete with sheath, a Browning hunting knife with sheath, two fishing poles with reels, a coke machine key and $3 in change, being over the value of $1,000, the property of the victim, constituting the offense of theft."

In another case, the indictments allege that "On or about the 3rd day of March, 2012, Melton did intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly enter the habitation of the victim with the intent to commit theft of property, constituting the offense of aggravated burglary and that "Melton did knowingly exercise control over certain property, to wit: a Henry .22 lever action rifle, being under the value of $500, the property of the victim, constituting the offense of theft."

37 year old Lonnie L. Wheeler pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and theft over $1,000. He received a four year sentence in the theft case, suspended to probation. Wheeler got a sentence of 11 months and 29 days for the DUI to serve 48 hours and then be on probation. The two terms are to run consecutively for a total of five years. He is to pay a $350 fine and he will lose his driving privileges for a period of time.

Wheeler was accused of stealing a 1992 Honda Accord from the Walmart parking lot on Monday, January 21.

Chief Randy Caplinger said Smithville Police received a call of a stolen vehicle taken from the Walmart parking lot. Officers went there to check the video footage, which showed a person, identified as Wheeler, stealing the vehicle. The car, which belonged to a Walmart employee, was later recovered near the Warren County line.


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