Local News Articles

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.

Joe Black Seeks United Effort in Addressing Problem of Stray and Abused Animals

December 4, 2012
Dwayne Page
Renee Stufano Speaking with City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr.

The Joe Black Effort, a not for profit group, is trying to establish a DeKalb County Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals.

Renee Stufano and Martha Conger, members of the Joe Black Effort, addressed the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen Monday night, offering to help address the issue of stray, neglected, and abused animals in DeKalb County.

M2U00917 from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Stufano said the Joe Black Effort is willing to volunteer at the dog pound to help take care of the animals and they want a waiver drawn up that seeks to hold harmless the city and county from liability. "The Joe Black Effort, a not for profit organization, formed to help the animals in DeKalb County," said Stufano. "We have a few different things we would like to see accomplished. The first thing we have seen is that there is an issue in the county about stray, neglected, and abused animals. All of us can agree that there is a problem. We wish to offer a temporary solution. We've already spoken with the county (commission). We are not asking for an answer today. But because it is a county wide issue and a lot of us are from the county, we would like to offer to volunteer at the pound to help take care of the animals. Clean up after them. The ones that need medical attention, take them out and get their medical attention. Get them fostered and adopted. The third thing we'd like to accomplish is to create a county wide coalition that has members of every city, not just Smithville, and members from the county commission to oversee the needs of the animals in DeKalb County. The Joe Black Effort is a non for profit rescue. We rehabilitate, take care of animals, and re- home them. We have one leaving for New York on December 12. We had one picked up today. There is a very good network for us to place animals. I think we can do a little bit better with the pound that we have now and I think our final destination will be a real rescue for the whole county. I'd like for you to think about perhaps letting some volunteers come and help. We're happy to sign waivers or disclosures so that we wouldn't hold the city or county responsible. We're offering to come in for free. It doesn't get any better than that," said Stufano.

Martha Conger also stressed the need for a waiver to allow the volunteers to begin helping. "What we need at this time is permission to volunteer," said Conger. "We need to get a waiver drawn up so that the city or county is not liable. I know there is a question about insurance and whether or not your (city) insurance will cover it. But we would like to see that happen. In addition to that we are forming a DeKalb County Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals. Basically that is a cooperative effort of both private and public sectors for the purpose of jointly implementing humane strategies for helping the abused and neglected animals of DeKalb County. What we hope to do is work with city officials and county officials. We may be talking to you individually about sitting on that coalition," added Conger.

City attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. told Conger that the city and county would have to work together in resolving the liability issue. "There's a double problem. The county owns the building and the city is running it," said Parsley. " I've talked to the county attorney (Hilton Conger) and we've got to work out a resolution as to if somebody falls in the building or somebody gets bit so we're working on that but we haven't been able to get our heads together to finalize it," he said.

EOC Testing Underway at DCHS

December 3, 2012
Dwayne Page
Lisa Cripps

End of Course testing began Monday at DeKalb County High School.

According to Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12, this test will count 25% of each student's final grade in each course. "I would like to encourage each student to get a good night's rest and be on time each day for the testing. These tests are important for the students because it's a part of their grade but also it counts into our final school system's report card, which is averaged with the spring EOC assessment scores. Its really important for everyone," said Cripps .

Directly after our EOC testing, the high school will be reviewing for their final exams, which will be taken right before winter break," said Cripps. These exams also count 25% of the student's final grade for that particular course," she said.

In December we will have our two week break. This our second one (break). We'll have an abbreviated school day on December 19. Students will return to school on January 3. However, our teachers will return on January 2 for a stock pile day which will be a work day for them," said Cripps.

"We'd like to thank our teachers for the hard work they put in everyday to ensure the best quality education for DeKalb County students," said Cripps

Meanwhile, to support students and teachers' readiness for our new PARCC assessment and to reflect the shifts in the new common core state standards for English-Language Arts, Cripps said the Tennessee Department of Education has made significant format changes to the TCAP Writing for the 2012-13 school year. That is in February.

"The Writing Assessment, which will continue to be given to fifth grade, which would be a narrative; in eighth grade, an explanatory; and in eleventh grade, an argumentative. Those will now be tested not just on one particular day, but they will have a week window of opportunity to do that. The two key changes that we have for that is a format change, which means the assessment will be text based, which means the students will be required to read a passage and then cite evidence from that text in their response. That's a lot different from just brain storming on a topic and writing what they feel or their position on something or a story," she said.

"To build readiness for PARCC on-line we will be testing eighth grade and eleventh grade's assessment for writing on-line," said Cripps. "The test will be expanded to sixty minutes to allow them time to read the text and to write to that source. The teachers and students have been participating in practice prompts to prepare for these changes. These changes help us with our common core standards and the new assessment that we will have in 2014-15," she said.

"We are also gearing up for our second constructive response test in February. That is in a series of three for all students in grades 3-8 math. This test has four questions. You may think that's not a lot for math. But these questions are very rigorous and they require the students to think through the problem with multiple steps and to follow the directions to the t," said Cripps

"The common core state standards in math present an opportunity to engage the Tennessee students really deeply in the problem solving and the mathematical thinking that build the fundamental adaptive math skills necessary for life after high school. Of course, we're thinking college and career ready when they leave our high school," she said.

"Finally, in March at the high school, our eleventh graders will take the ACT which shows the students how prepared they are for college. We've been doing a series of tests for these students during their educational journey. In eighth grade we took the explore tests, which is through the ACT and in tenth grade they take the plan test. In eleventh grade, all eleventh graders must now take the ACT," said Cripps.

"I'd like to encourage every student in eleventh grade, not to wait until March to start preparing and reviewing. I'd like to encourage you to start doing that now. Think back on your specific subject areas and start a review. Of course the high school will do some reviewing before the ACT but there are some things on line that you can do and I would encourage you to do that. Each student should start reviewing now. That will help you a lot to do well on that test," she said.

"Tennessee has been a state on the cutting edge of rigorous changes in education for the last few years. It's a challenge for our staff and our students to adapt to all these changes. But together we have continued to achieve and meet the challenges that come our way every day. We feel very blessed to work in DeKalb County. I would like to take this opportunity to say that we hope everyone has a restful break during winter break. We hope that everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year," Cripps concluded.


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