Local News Articles

Lake Home Fire Poses Problems for County Firefighters

December 9, 2012
County Fire Chief Donny Green

The DeKalb County Fire Department responded to a structure fire Saturday afternoon at approximately 12:30 p.m. at 500 Bruer Drive off of Holmes Creek Road. A neighbor saw smoke coming from the eaves of the house, owned by Timothy and Tina Dedman, and reported the fire to DeKalb 911.

The Main Station, Short Mountain Highway Station, Cookeville Highway Station, and firefighters from other DCFD stations responded to the scene. Due to the narrow and steep driveway leading to the lake home, firefighters had difficulty getting equipment near the residence and water supply to extinguish the fire and protect a nearby structure. Firefighters were successful in containing and extinguishing the fire without any damage to a nearby house, located approximately 25 feet away.

According to Chief Donny Green, there was no one at home at the time of the incident and the cause of the fire is currently under investigation. The home was a total loss. Green said that after talking with the owners, he learned that the Dedman's primary residence is in Lebanon.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS were also on the scene to assist.

Later Saturday evening, DeKalb County Firefighters were called back to the scene to extinguish the fire again.

Chevy Tahoe Used in Break-In at Jewel's Market Stolen from Glynn's Auto Sales

December 8, 2012
Dwayne Page
Chevy Tahoe used in Break-in at Jewel's Market
Stolen Chevy Tahoe Left at Jewel's Market

No arrests have yet been made in the break-in at Jewel's Market but Smithville Police now know that the Chevy Tahoe used by the two burglars to crash into the store building was stolen. It was apparently taken from the car lot of Glynn's Auto Sales on West Broad Street.

Glynn Merriman, owner of the car lot, told WJLE Friday that someone broke into his office building during the night, removing a room air conditioner and making entry through a window. Three sets of car keys were taken from the office, including one set which went to the Chevy Tahoe. Merriman said the Tahoe was the only vehicle missing from the car lot.

After stealing the Tahoe, the thieves apparently wound up at Jewel's Market on South Congress Boulevard just after midnight Friday morning where they crashed the SUV through the front doors to make entry, causing significant damage. The driver and passenger then got out of the vehicle and tried to steal the in-store ATM. The crime was captured on store video surveillance. The two men reportedly wore something covering their faces. They reportedly tied a chain to the ATM in an effort to pull it out of the store with the Tahoe. But when officers arrived, the two men abandoned the ATM and SUV and fled on foot, making their escape around back of the building and into the woods.

Nothing else appeared to have been taken from the store.

DeKalb Ambulance Involved in Three Vehicle Accident

December 7, 2012
Dwayne Page
Hoyte Hale and James Wesley Slager treated and released. No patient on board
Chevy Blazer, driven by Michael Jones, hits Ambulance
Ambulance forced into Buick Sentry, driven by Phillip Atnip
DeKalb Ambulance Involved in Three Vehicle Accident

Three vehicles, including a DeKalb County ambulance, were involved in a traffic accident Friday at the intersection of West Broad and South Mountain Street.

Central dispatch got the call at 11:24 a.m.

Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that the ambulance, a 2009 Ford, driven by 50 year old Hoyte Hale of Smithville was traveling north on Highway 146 through the intersection when it was struck in the passenger side by a 2001 Chevy Blazer, driven by 33 year old Michael Jones of Smithville, who had run a red light while traveling west on Broad Street. The ambulance was then forced from the impact into a 1993 Buick Sentry, driven by 62 year old Phillip Atnip of Smithville, who was sitting in the turning lane on Highway 146 facing south. There was no patient on board the ambulance at the time of the accident.

Hale and a front seat passenger of the ambulance, 26 year old James Wesley Slager of Alexandria were taken to DeKalb Community Hospital where they were treated and released. Jones and Atnip were not seriously injured and reportedly refused transport to the hospital from the scene. One of them later went to the hospital for observation and treatment.

Jones has been charged with a second offense of driving under the influence, violation of the financial responsibility law, and failure to obey a traffic control device.

Due to the damage, the ambulance involved in the wreck has been taken out of service.

Members of the Smithville Police Department and Smithville Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene.

Burglars Crash Chevy SUV into Jewels Market Trying to Steal ATM

December 7, 2012
Dwayne Page
Burglars Crash Chevy  SUV into Jewels Market, Trying to Steal ATM
ATM Machine Found Near Abandoned Chevy  SUV at Jewel's Market

Smithville Police are investigating a bold break-in overnight at Jewel's Market on South Congress Boulevard across from Dogwood Plaza. At last report, the two people responsible remained at large.

The driver of a Chevy Tahoe apparently backed the SUV into the building, crashing it through the front doors to make entry. The front of the store received significant damage. The driver and passenger then got out of the vehicle and tried to steal the in-store ATM.

Officers arrived on the scene with the burglary still in progress and nearly caught the would be thieves red handed but the two fled on foot into the woods behind the store.

911 received the call at 12:13 a.m. Friday morning.

The ATM machine was left outside by the vehicle.

A store clerk said nothing else appeared to have been taken from the store

Liberty Man Indicted In Fatal Traffic Accident

December 6, 2012
Dwayne Page
Johnny Lynn Hickey drove the 2004 F350 full size flat bed truck
Chris and Cleva Gammons and Troy Bruno rode in the Altima.
Johnny Lynn Hickey

A 52 year old Liberty man has been indicted by the DeKalb County Grand Jury in a June traffic accident on Highway 70 at Snow Hill that claimed the life of one man and injured two others.

Johnny Lynn Hickey is indicted on one count of vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault, and driving under the influence. He is under a $15,000 bond and will appear for arraignment in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Monday, December 10. He was arrested on Monday, December 3.

Hickey is charged in the death of 30 year old Chris Gammons who passed away Monday, July 9 at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Gammons and Hickey were among four people in the accident which occurred on Saturday morning, June 23 on Highway 70 near the intersection of Highway 96 (Dale Ridge Road) on Snow Hill.

Gammons and Troy Bruno, both of Smithville were airlifted from near the scene of the crash by Life Force and Air Evac helicopter ambulances. The other person injured in the wreck was 32 year old Cleva Elaine Gammons of Smithville, wife of Chris Gammons. Hickey was not hurt.

Central dispatch received the call at 3:28 a.m that morning.

According to Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Hickey was traveling west on Highway 70 in a 2004 F350 full size flat bed truck when he crossed the turning lane and into the path of an eastbound 2002 Nissan Altima, driven by Cleva Elaine Gammons. Chris Gammons was a front seat passenger and Troy Bruno was a back seat passenger of the Altima. Chris Gammons was ejected and landed on the highway, in front of the Altima. Bruno was trapped in the backseat and had to be extricated by members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Extrication and Rescue Team.

Bruno and Chris Gammons were transported by DeKalb EMS to a helicopter landing zone on Highway 70 at the intersection of Toad Road. One of them was airlifted by a Life Force helicopter and the other was flown out by an Air Evac helicopter. Mrs. Gammons was transported to DeKalb Community Hospital, where she was treated and released.

On the scene were Trooper Knowles of the THP, DeKalb EMS, Sheriff's Department deputies, DeKalb Fire Extrication and Rescue, and members of the Short Mountain Highway, Main Station, Liberty, and Cookeville Highway stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department.

The original complaint against Hickey stated that he admitted to consuming four beers. Several field sobriety tasks were given. Hickey did not perform as demonstrated. Hickey was transported to the emergency room of the hospital for a blood alcohol test and then to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department for booking.

The vehicular homicide indictment against Hickey alleges that he "killed Chris Gammons by the operation of the motor vehicle and that the killing was the proximate result of Hickey's intoxication, constituting the offense of vehicular homicide".

The indictments for vehicular assault allege that Hickey "recklessly did cause serious bodily injury to Cleva Gammons and Troy Bruno by the operation of a motor vehicle, and the serious bodily injury was the proximate result of Hickey's intoxication, constituting the offense of vehicular assault".

The indictment for DUI states that Hickey "unlawfully did, while under the influence of an intoxicant and/or drugs, drive or was in physical control of an automobile or other motor driven vehicle upon the public roads and highways... constituting the offense of driving under the influence of an intoxicant and/or drug, first offense".

Smithville Police Department Sponsoring Christmas Coat Drive

December 6, 2012
Dwayne Page
Beth Adcock

The Smithville Police Department is sponsoring a Christmas Coat Drive for needy children.

Records Clerk Beth Adcock, who is coordinating the coat drive, said gently used coats are needed for children, both boys and girls, from pre-school age sizes up to adult. "Right now we have some children that are not even asking for toys. They're asking for coats. My goal right now is to get these children some coats. We are requesting anybody that has any coats that they are not wearing., that they've outgrown or have stored away, if they want to clean out their closet and donate them (coats) we would be more than thrilled to take them. We just want to make sure they (needy children) have something. We're not asking anyone to go buy (new coats). We're just asking for some good used coats. Please donate coats by Friday, December 14. That will give me a week to get it all together. You can contact me here at the police department at 597-8210, extension 1 or if you see an officer you can give the coats to them and they (officers) will bring them to me," said Adcock.

Meanwhile, Adcock said the police department is planning a Christmas party for needy children and families. "We are planning a Christmas party for underprivileged children and families who are really needing help during this holiday season," said Adcock. The party will be Friday, December 21 upstairs in the community room of city hall. We are working with Second Harvest getting the names (of those in need). We will be sending out letters inviting them. We will be providing food. We'll have carolers and a local pastor will be reading about the birth of Christ. Santa will be there and we'll be giving some presents. This is our first year of doing this. We are trying to give back to the community and let the children know that they can come to these officers if they are in need of anything. We want to make sure we have a good public relationship with them. We want to help these children and the families," said Adcock.

TBI Arrests Brush Creek Woman For Soliciting Minor

December 5, 2012
Sabra Swaims Gentry

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today arrested a Smith County woman for soliciting a minor after opening an investigation at the request of the District Attorney General last month.

Sabra Swaims Gentry, 35, of Brush Creek, Tenn. was indicted by the Smith County grand jury on one count of solicitation of a minor after sending sexually explicit texts and having sexually explicit conversations with a minor in November 2012. Gentry is the former cheerleading coach at Smith County High School. She was arrested and booked into the Smith County Jail today.

McMinnville Man Injured In Crash After High Speed Pursuit

December 4, 2012
Dwayne Page
McMinnville Man Injured In Crash After High Speed Pursuit
Aaron Gribble Injured in Crash

A 22 year old McMinnville man was injured in a one car crash at Warren County after trying to outrun a state trooper in a pursuit which started in DeKalb County just after midnight Tuesday morning.

Felony charges are pending against Aaron Gribble.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that he was north on Highway 56 headed toward Smithville in the Seven Springs area of DeKalb County at around 12:23 a.m. when he saw a vehicle traveling south at a high rate of speed toward Warren County. Trooper Jennings said after clocking the vehicle by radar traveling at 92 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour speed zone, he turned around to make a stop for the violation but the driver of the vehicle, a 2003 Lincoln LLS refused to pull over. The car continued south into Warren County at speeds over 100 miles per hour until it turned left on Highway 287 East (Green Hill Road) in Warren County. The car continued a short distance on that road until it went out of control in a curve, entered a ditchline, and overturned. The car came to a final rest on its top with the driver, Gribble, trapped inside. Gribble had to be extricated from the car.

In addition to Trooper Jennings, members of the North Warren Fire Department, Warren County EMS, and Warren County Sheriff's Department were on the scene. Gribble was transported by ambulance to Riverpark Hospital in McMinnville.

City May Consider Sunday Beer Sales and On Premises Permits for Restaurants

December 4, 2012
Dwayne Page
Danny Washer

The City of Smithville does not allow stores with off premises permits to sell packaged beer on Sundays and the city prohibits on-premises permits, which keeps restaurants from being licensed to serve beer with meals in their establishments.

At least one alderman wants that changed.

In an interview with WJLE Tuesday, Alderman Danny Washer said he plans to seek a change in the city's current beer ordinance. "Nobody is pushing me to do it. It's something I've been looking into for a while and I'd even thought about it before I got elected," said Alderman Washer.

The city's existing beer ordinance states that "It shall be unlawful for any beer permit holder to make or allow any sale of beer between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m. during any night of the week, at any time on Sunday, and at any time on Christmas Day".

Alderman Washer said he understands those who may oppose a change in the beer ordinance based on a religious point of view, but public convenience and the economic impact is something to consider as well. "We're losing a lot of income on Sunday. People who want to buy beer and go to the lake, to watch a ball game or what have you, they have to go to other counties to buy it (on Sunday). We're one of the few that don't sell it on Sunday. That money could stay here and benefit us," said Alderman Washer.

According to the 2012-13 budget, actual Wholesale Alcoholic Beverage Taxes collected by the city for the year ending June 30, 2011 came to $190,697. Alderman Washer said additional tax revenue generated by on-premises and Sunday beer sales would help keep city property tax rates down."We've got one of the lowest tax rates anywhere and we'd like to keep it that way. But everything (costs) goes up and to afford everything we're going to need for the City of Smithville we're going to need some new income otherwise the only way we're going to keep going like we are is to raise taxes sooner or later. This will help that. We also have a lot of people on fixed incomes that can't afford for their taxes to be raised. I think the opportunity is there to bring in more funds for Smithville that we're not getting," said Alderman Washer.

Earlier this year, city voters rejected proposals in public referendums to permit liquor sales by eligible businesses and restaurants. But unlike those issues, changing the beer ordinance to allow Sunday sales and on premises permits for restaurants does not require a public referendum. The ordinance can be amended on a majority vote of the Board of Aldermen, on a first reading, public hearing, and then a second reading.

City officials plan to consult with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) for advice on how any proposed change in the beer ordinance should be handled.

This is not the first time an effort has been made to change the restrictions regarding Sunday beer sales, according to Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson. "Back in January, 2008 the Smithville Beer Board voted to recommend Sunday and Christmas Day beer sales to the city council. The aldermen at that time chose not to act on their recommendation. The estimated figure from the state at that time would have been an additional $50,000 in yearly tax revenue. That comes to $250,000 that the city could have collected since the Beer Board's recommendation to the council at that time through 2012," said Hendrixson. "Adding on-premise permits would likely increase that tax revenue depending on how many permit holders there are. Currently, restaurants with an on-premises permit can serve beer that is located outside of the city limits in DeKalb County. Alexandria is the only city in DeKalb that allows Sunday beer sales off-premise (packaged) at this time," according to Hendrixson. " Other surrounding cities allowing Sunday beer sales are Gordonsville, McMinnville, Baxter, Cookeville, Watertown, and Auburntown just to name a few. With locals and all the tourists that come to Center Hill lake each season the city is leaving tens of thousands of tax revenue dollars on the table each year that other surrounding cities are enjoying just by selling beer seven days a week rather than six days like Smithville does at this time. Smithville enjoys one the lowest property tax rates compared to other cities of this size and by finding other revenue sources to fund the city those property taxes will remain one of the lowest around," Hendrixson concluded.

City Seeks Cost Estimates for Adding Sewer to Unserved Areas

December 4, 2012
Dwayne Page

City officials will ask Smithville's engineering firm, the J.R. Wauford Company, to come up with estimates on what it could cost to make city sewer available to a handful of places in town that don't have access to the service.

Alderman Shawn Jacobs raised the issue at the city council meeting on November 19. "If I'm not mistaken, there are houses in the city limits that don't have sewer. And I know we also have some areas that have requested annexation. What is keeping us from running sewer to the houses that are currently in the city limits that don't have sewer?. I certainly think we should provide them sewer before we start thinking of annexing any other areas that might be requested or specified in our five year land use plan. There may be some grant money available," said Alderman Jacobs.

Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson said Monday night that since the last meeting city officials have done some checking and found the areas in town that don't currently have access to city sewer services. "Alderman Jacobs had a question at the last meeting on why all city residents don't have sewer service. To be honest I don't really know," said Hendrixson. " But we have several spots in town. We have a couple on Riley Avenue, Braswell Lane. We have two houses across from the high school on Highway 70. There's one on Martin Road off by the Smith Road Park. We've talked a little bit about it but I don't know that we've really come up with an answer yet. I guess we can get sewer to them," said Hendrixson

"Most of them (locations) will have to be under pressure systems," said Public Works Director Kevin Robinson."But before you do anything you'll have to get an engineer in here to draw them up just to see what the cost of it would be. That's the only thing I know to tell you," said Robinson.

"Do we have a total number of residences," asked Alderman Jacobs

"There's nine houses on Braswell Lane," according to Robinson. "There's one on Martin Drive there by Smith Road Park. There's three on Riley Avenue but they can tie on to the new Clark Lance subdivision. There's two by the high school but there you would probably have to (go through or under) the state highway which don't come easy," said Robinson.

Hendrixson and Robinson mentioned that the last major city sewer installation project was on Pack Circle at Allen's Ferry and Holmes Creek almost twenty years ago. "I think there were sixteen lots serviced in 1993," added Robinson. " Its on a pumping system. It actually runs across the golf course and ties down on Riley Avenue," he said.

"They (each house) have individual pumps," said Hendrixson. "Once you put them in the city has to maintain them. I think at the time that cost around $100,000 almost twenty years ago," he added.

"I just wonder if this is something we might consider for next year's budget to have our engineers take a look at it and just give us an idea of what it might cost to do that," said Alderman Jacobs. " I do think we ought to try to extend all the basic services of the city to all the residents if we can. We've got a very solvent water and sewer fund at the moment," he said.

"We can ask the J.R. Wauford company to do a study," said Hendrixson. " I'd say by the next couple of months we could have a rough estimate on what it would cost. Hopefully we could put in for some grants," he said.

"I would like to see us do that just for our own information and so we can plan for the future," said Alderman Jacobs.


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