Local News Articles

County Commission To Decide Future of Ambulance Service Monday Night

August 16, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

County Commission To Decide Future of Ambulance Service Monday Night

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night is expected to decide whether the ambulance service should be brought back under the county's control.

County Mayor Mike Foster says two private companies, Pro Med and Trans Med were interested in contracting with the county and recently presented proposals for the Emergency Services Committee to consider. However, Foster says committee members felt more comfortable with the county running the ambulance service and will make that recommendation to the county commission Monday night. Trans Med wanted a $300,000 a year supplement and Pro Med asked for a $65,000 supplement to operate the ambulance service.

Sumner Regional, which has been operating the DeKalb Ambulance Service for a $163,000 supplement per year, will be giving up the operation this fall.

Foster says the proposed budget includes an expenditure of $1.2 million to operate the ambulance service this coming year with proposed revenues at between $800,000 and $900,000, should the commission vote for the county to assume control of the EMS service. The budget includes funds to pay a staff of nine paramedics, five EMT's, a director, a secretary, and to buy a new ambulance, equipment and to pay for utilities and other costs. "We want to make sure that we have a good, solid ambulance service, that we charge very reasonable rates, and that we continue to have competent people. We want to try to keep as many of these people as want to work."

The county commission will meet in special session Monday night at 6:30 p.m. in the basement of the courthouse to vote on the future of the ambulance service. A public hearing will be held at 6:00 p.m.. WJLE plans LIVE coverage.

Two Escape Serious Injury In Tuesday Wreck

August 15, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Two people escaped serious injury in a traffic accident on the Old Blue Springs Road Tuesday.

Lieutenant Brian Lawson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 20 year old Johnathan Keith of New Home Road, Smithville was not injured but 42 year old Betty Lawson of 302 Big Woods Road, Smithville was taken by Warren County EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital with minor injuries. She was treated and released.

According to Lieutenant Lawson, Keith was driving north on the Old Blue Springs Road in a 1997 Olds and partially crossed into the southbound lane while negotiating a curve which caused the two vehicles to sideswipe.

Lawson's vehicle, a 2001 Ford Explorer, overturned on it's top in the middle of the road. Keith's car came to rest in the northbound lane.

Members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department also came to the scene to assist.

Both drivers were wearing their seatbelts. There were no charges or citations.

Marijuana Found In Helicopter Fly Over of DeKalb County

August 15, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Governor's Task Force on Marijuana Eradication and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department found and destroyed 453 marijuana plants Monday during a helicopter fly over in portions of DeKalb County.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says some of the marijuana was found off of Short Mountain Highway and in one area off Indian Creek that could only be reached by boat. Officers of the TWRA assisted at that location.

Sheriff Ray says some of the marijuana was found growing in patches and some was scattered.

If you have any information that could help authorities find more marijuana or solve other crimes, contact the Sheriff's Department at 597-4935.

Meanwhile, another person has been picked up on sealed indictments returned by the Grand Jury last week.

Sheriff Ray says 29 year old David Allen Neisz, Jr. of Green Pasture Road, Alexandria is charged in sealed indictments with four counts of aggravated statutory rape and three counts of theft of property over $1,000 and two counts of burglary.

Bond for Neisz is set at $75,000 and he will be arraigned in Criminal Court on Monday, August 20th.

Three Charged in Trespassing, Vandalism, & Theft Case

August 15, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Three Charged in Trespassing, Vandalism, & Theft Case

Two juveniles got into more trouble than just playing hooky from school Monday.

They are facing charges of vandalism, burglary, and theft, while an adult, 40 year old Sandra Kay Thomason of Restview Avenue, Smithville is charged with criminal trespassing. Her bond is set at $3,500 and she will be in General Sessions Court August 30th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says the two juveniles, instead of going to school Monday, allegedly stole a couple of bicycles on Restview, Avenue and rode them all the way to a home on Blue Springs Road, where they allegedly entered and stole a Rugar 9 millimeter handgun. The gun was later found hidden under the Bethel Church on Bethel Road.

After leaving the home on Blue Springs Road, the juveniles then went to a house on Bethel Road, where the owner is in the process of remodeling the dwelling to be sold. Finding no one there, the boys allegedly entered the house and broke out windows, lights and light fixtures, a commode, and knocked holes in the walls.

The boys called Thomason on a cell phone and she arrived later. While they were there, the prospective buyer of the home showed up. One of the juveniles immediately fled and the other one left after the man came into the house. The man briefly spoke to Thomason, and while he was on the phone contacting the owner of the property and later law enforcement, Thomason left the house.

Sheriff Ray says she was picked up by officers just down the road from the house.

The parents or guardians of the boys were contacted and later arrived with them at the jail.

Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook II has signed an order for the boys to be placed in Juvenile Detention in Putnam County, pending their court date.

Sheriff Ray says one of the boys has been under house arrest before for engaging in similar behavior.

The boys may also face charges by Smithville Police.

Anderson Charged with Simple Possession In Grand Jury Sealed Indictment

August 14, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Four persons were named in sealed indictments returned by the DeKalb County Grand Jury last week and one of them has been arrested.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 19 year old John David Anderson of Tramel Branch Road is charged under a sealed indictment with simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance. His bond is set at $1,000 and he will be arraigned in Criminal Court on Monday, August 20th.

Meanwhile in other crime news, Sheriff Ray says 30 year old Christopher Daniel Gibbs of Crowley Lane, Dowelltown is charged with public intoxication. Gibbs, who is serving weekends at the DeKalb County Jail for driving under the influence, reported to the jail on Friday in an intoxicated state. He will appear in General Sessions Court on the public intoxication charge on Thursday, August 23rd. His bond is $1,000.

23 year old Jose Martinez of West Colonial Street, Woodbury has been charged with driving under the influence, driving on a suspended license, and reckless endangerment.

According to Sheriff Ray, a DeKalb County Sheriff's Department Detective was driving on Highway 56 south late Friday night and met Martinez who was traveling in the opposite direction. Martinez veered over into the detective's lane and ran him off the road.

Sheriff Ray says before the detective could get turned around to get in behind Martinez, he had forced two other vehicles off the road.

The officer eventually pulled over Martinez and placed him under arrest.

His bond is set at $7,000 and he will be in General Sessions Court on the charges on Thursday, August 23rd.

In another case, 23 year old William Loftis of Cecil Hale Road, Smithville was charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

Sheriff Ray says Loftis wrecked his vehicle Saturday night on the Alexandria to Dismal Road. After hitting a ditch, his vehicle overturned and came to rest back on it's wheels. Loftis got out of the car and set out on foot to find a residence where he could place a phone call. According to Sheriff Ray, Loftis went to several homes, but no one let him come in to use their phones. In the meantime, the Sheriff's Department was contacted and officers responded, but could not find Loftis, who stayed hidden until the next morning when he was spotted walking on the Alexandria to Dismal Road.

His bond is set at $1,000 and he will be in General Sessions Court on the charge August 30th.

Attorney Calls Allegations Against Richard Jennings "Preposterous"

August 14, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Lebanon attorney Adam Parrish predicts that former Smithville Police Lieutenant Richard Jennings, who was fired on Thursday, will soon be vindicated and he calls the allegations against his client "preposterous"

Jennings was terminated from the Smithville Police Department for alleged violations of police department policies and procedures as well as possible violations of state and federal law. He is accused of removing weapons, inventory files, ammunition, and other items from the police department, some of which were allegedly found in his personal possession.

Parrish, in a telephone conversation with WJLE Friday afternoon, said " We think the allegations against Mr. Jennings are preposterous. They are nothing more than an attempt to discredit and humiliate him, simply because Mr. Jennings is privy to information that is particularly damaging to Chief (Tom) Stufano and the department. It's our belief he will be completely vindicated before the five man board."

Jennings was placed on suspension with pay pending termination on Friday, August 3rd, following an internal police department investigation.

On Thursday afternoon, the case against Jennings was presented to the city's discipline hearing authority, which is made up of Mayor Taft Hendrixson, Police Commissioner Cecil Burger, and City Recorder Burnace Vandergriff. After hearing the evidence, the vote was 3 to 0 to terminate Jennings.

Neither Jennings nor his attorney were present for Thursday's hearing. Jennings was aware of the hearing but Parrish notified city attorney John Pryor that Jennings was waiving his right to appear before the three member discipline board and would appeal his case to the entire board of mayor and aldermen, which has the final say, at the next meeting on Monday, August 20th at 7:00 p.m.

Board of Education Forced to Make Cuts in Proposed New School Budget

August 14, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night adopted a revised school budget for the 2007-2008 this fiscal year, making $113,274 in cuts from the previous proposed budget passed on June 26th and submitted to the county budget committee for approval.

The proposed cuts will be made in the categories of legal services- $15,000, liability insurance- $18,694, workman's compensation insurance- $45,280, natural gas- $16,800, building and contents insurance- $10,000, diesel fuel- $5,000, and vehicle and equipment insurance- $2,500.

Funds for proposed pay raises for school system employees and new positions will not be cut.

The spending plan, with expenditures totaling $17-million ,059-thousand, 026 dollars, is based on the proposed local property tax rate for schools of 57 cents per $100 of assessed value, a cut of 16 cents from last year. However, the county plans to give back to schools an amount equivalent to 16 cents from the local option sales tax fund (sinking fund).

Three members of the seven member school board were absent Thursday night which meant all four members present had to vote unanimously to adopt the amended budget. However the vote was only 3 to 1 for passage. Board members Johnny Lattimore, Joan Draper, and Kenny Rhody voted in favor while board member Charles Robinson voted no.

Realizing that the vote failed, Chairman Lattimore called for a recess. After the meeting was recalled to order, Robinson reluctantly changed his mind and decided to vote for passage of the amended budget. In a prepared statement, Robinson expressed his concern that the county commission is not willing to give schools more money. "The original budget proposed called for no tax increase using figures provided by the county mayor. Every year, when we as a board come to this process, we must look at the future of education. Far too many times, we take steps backwards or march in place. We must march forward. I am realistic. I know we can't afford a Cadillac school system, but we should be able to have a loaded Ford. The county commission cut property taxes 20 cents and 16 cents (of the cut) is from education. Mr Willoughby has stated that these proposed cuts will not affect students."

The Board of Education previously requested in local taxes $3-million 834-thousand 900 dollars, however the county commission will only agree to fund in local taxes $3-million 694-thousand, 357 dollars for schools, a difference of $140,543 dollars. However, the school board has added back $27,269 from State Basic Education Program funds to keep the actual budget cuts at $113,274.

Total revenues for schools comes to $16-million 405-thousand 226 dollars versus total expenditures of $17-million 059-thousand 026 dollars. To make the budget balance, the school board plans to appropriate $653,800 of the Basic Education Program Reserves

The budget includes a state salary increase for certified personnel of 3%; an increase for teachers based on their years of service as per state scale; an increase for those who have earned a degree advancement as per scale; and a local increase in the teacher salary as per scale. Teachers with six to ten years of service would get a local increase for the year of $150. Those with 11-15 years would get a local raise of $200. Teachers with 16-20 years can expect a $250 raise. Those with 21-25 years would get an increase of $300 and teachers with 26 years of service or more would get a local pay raise of $400. Elementary and Secondary Principals, Assistant Principals, and Supervisors would not get a local pay raise this year.

The budget includes a local 3% pay raise for support staff as well as a local step increase as per scale. One lead custodian per school would receive a 25 cent per hour increase and one lead maintenance worker would be paid based on the mechanics pay scale, giving him a pay raise. Support staff would be allowed to use two sick leave days per school year as personal days if needed. However, they would receive no additional days.

Golf and Tennis Coach positions at DCHS would receive an additional $1,000 in supplement pay.

Pay scales would be rounded, as presented.

Social Security and Medicare percentage rates will remain the same; the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System retirement percentage for certified staff will increase to 6.24%, with no increase in the retirement percentage for support staff.

Medical insurance costs are budgeted to increase by 10% and the cost to update the school web site would be $1,000.

The budget includes $80,000 for two additional teaching positions at DCHS for the freshman academy; $80,000 for two extra teaching positions if needed; $40,000 for one teaching position needed at Smithville Elementary School; $80,000 for two teaching positions needed at Northside Elementary School; and $20,000 to increase a half time English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching position to a full time position.

Under the special education program, the budget includes $40,000 for one additional teaching position at DCHS; one vision position retained in the budget; one speech language position retained in the budget; and additional costs have been included for anticipated Leave of Absences and possible degree advancements.

The budget includes $20,000 for one county wide Attendance Clerical position and an increase in benefits for a support staff position.

The spending plan includes a Coordinated School Health Grant of $90,000 for a coordinator, a clerical position, along with benefits and supplies.

An increase has been figured into the budget for increased utility costs, supplies, fuel, etc.

The amended budget will be presented to the county budget committee for approval. The county commission is scheduled to adopt the new budgets and set the property tax rate on Monday, August 20th at 6:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Director of Schools Willoughby presented his monthly report on personnel to the board Thursday night.

Those employed for the 2007-2008 school year since last month include:

Shelly Painter, Guidance Counselor at DCHS. She replaces David Gash who transferred to an Assistant Principal position at DCHS; Amelia Phillips, cafeteria worker at Smithville Elementary School; Wendy Green, Educational Assistant; Rebecca Satterfield, Educational Assistant in Special Education at DCHS; Lynn Pichey, substitute teacher and or substitute cafeteria worker; Barbara Johnson, teacher at DeKalb Middle School in Special Education. She replaces Joe Ruch who resigned; Melissa Thurman, Educational Assistant in Special Education at DeKalb Middle School. She replaces Dee Dee Miller who resigned; Heather Cornelius, Educational Assistant at Northside Elementary School; Jennifer Agee, Educational Assistant at Smithville Elementary School. She replaces Cathy Beltz who resigned; Dianne Page, Educational Assistant at DeKalb Middle School; Trent Colwell, Special Education Assistant at Northside Elementary School; Clay Dickerson, Math teacher at DCHS; Eric Helton, Math teacher at DCHS; Lori Page, English teacher at DCHS; Daniel Seber, Special Education teacher at DCHS; Renee Beaty, teacher at Smithville Elementary School; Michael Crockett, teacher at Northside Elementary School; Jenny Stephenson, teacher at DeKalb Middle School 6th grade Social Studies, Nathan Thomason, football assistant; Linda Vickers, cafeteria worker at DeKalb West School; Amy Fletcher, English as a Second Language (ESL) Educational Assistant; Kenderly Cripps, Educational Assistant at DCHS; Lillian Purnell, Teacher of Pre-School at Smithville Elementary School (a new position-newly funded in the Pre-K program); Dee Anna Persinger, School Health Coordinator (a new position-newly funded by a state grant); and Samuel Vantrease, DeKalb Middle School Football Assistant.

Transfers are as follows:

Annie Walker, Educational Assistant, transferred to the Regular Pre-School Program at Smithville Elementary School; Layra Crook, Teacher, transferred to Smithville Elementary School Pre-School; Penny Bilyeu, Teacher, transferred from DCHS to the Special Education Pre-School at Smithville Elementary School; Carrie Lee, Teacher, transferred from Special Education Pre-School to a regular teaching position at Smithville Elementary School; Beth Pafford, Teacher, transferred to a regular first grade position; Misty Franklin, Teacher, transferred to Kindergarten. She replaces Lynda Luna who retired; and Amy Young, Teacher, transferred to Pre-School at DeKalb West School.

Resignations:

Dorothy Fay Adkins, custodian at Northside Elementary School

Leave of Absence, as requested, Kimberly Crook, 4th grade teacher at DeKalb West School.

Richard Jennings Fired from Police Department- Plans Appeal to the City Council

August 13, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Lieutenant and former Chief Richard Jennings has been fired from the Smithville Police Department for alleged violations of police department policies and procedures as well as possible violations of state and federal law. He is accused of removing weapons, inventory files, ammunition, and other items from the police department, some of which were allegedly found in his personal possession.

Since last Friday, August 3rd, Jennings has been on suspension with pay pending termination, following an internal police department investigation, and Thursday afternoon, the case against him was presented to the city's discipline hearing authority, which is made up of Mayor Taft Hendrixson, Police Commissioner Cecil Burger, and City Recorder Burnace Vandergriff. After hearing the evidence, the vote was 3 to 0 to terminate Jennings.

Neither Jennings nor his attorney were present for Thursday's hearing. Jennings was aware of the hearing but his attorney, Adam Parrish of Lebanon, notified city attorney John Pryor that Jennings was waiving his right to appear before the three member discipline board and would appeal his case to the entire board of mayor and aldermen, which has the final say, at the next meeting on Monday, August 20th at 7:00 p.m.

WJLE was unable to reach Jennings Thursday afternoon, but he returned our calls Thursday night. Jennings would not make any comment about the allegations against him or his termination and he referred all questions to his attorney. Mr. Parrish was in court Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

The statement of violations (allegations) against Jennings are as follows:

Violation of the Smithville Police Department Policies and Procedures Section 4- 803 (2)- Failure to take proper care of city equipment, or theft of city property.

(1). The removal of (1) AR-15 machine gun and (3) concussion hand grenades and a 14 inch tactical shotgun from the department armory and found in (Jennings) personal possession (personal vehicle, personal residence).

(2) Smithville Police Department Official Inventory files, inclusive of dates April 20th, 2007- July 29th, 2007.

(3). Removal and personal possession of miscellaneous items depicted on Smithville Police Department Evidence Receipts 3044-3051 to include: (905) rounds of .223 ammunition, (97) shotgun rounds (various calibers), H&K parts, tools and (1) machine gun streamlight laser/flashlight from the Smithville Police Department.

Violation of the Smithville Police Department Policies and Procedures Section 4-803 (11)-Intentional deviation from established work procedures without authorization from the Supervisor.

(1) Did take numerous items from the Police Department without authorization (all items listed above)

(2) Assigned to maintain logistical support of department's equipment inventory and did not maintain inventory control logs for departmental inspection.

To be filed:

Violation of TCA (state law)- Possession of an unauthorized machine gun and explosives.

(1) Lieutenant Jennings was acting out of the scope of his assigned duties and employment by removing a city owned federally registered machine gun from city property without authorization, to his personal possession.

(2). Lieutenant Jennings was acting out of the scope of his assigned duties and employment by removing (3) concussion hand grenades from the police department armory and keeping them at his personal residence without authorization.

Violation of TCA (state law)- Theft of Property.

(1.) Lieutenant Jennings did take without permission of the owner (City of Smithville):

(1) AR-15 machine gun and (3) concussion hand grenades, and Remington Tactical Shotgun.

(2) (905) rounds of .223 ammunition, (97) shotgun rounds, (10) AR-15 clips, and miscellaneous tools were taken from the police department without permission. Items were later turned over by Lieutenant Jennings with a receipt being signed by Lieutenant Steven Leffew, Evidence Custodian.

(3) Lieutenant Jennings did remove a Tactical Police Radio from the police department without authorization.

(4) Lieutenant Jennings did remove Smithville Police Department Official Inventory Files, inclusive of dates April 20th, 2007- July 29th, 2007.

In accordance with TCA (state law), the officer must be notified of the charges and sanctions and given an opportunity to respond with counsel.

Before any dismissal, demotion, suspension without pay or transfer for punitive reasons, the officer shall be notified in writing of all charges, the basis therefore, and the action which may be taken.

The police officer shall be given an opportunity, within a reasonable time limit after the date of the written notice provided, to respond orally and in writing to the charges. The time limit shall be determined by the agency, but in no event shall it be less than (5) calendar days unless agreed to by the police officer.

Two Arrested in January Robbery of Liberty State Bank

August 13, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Two people have been arrested for the January robbery of Liberty State Bank in Liberty.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 32 year old Vasco (Trey) Landrum and his wife 27 year old Angel Landrum of Possum Hollow Road, Dowelltown were arrested Wednesday night and charged with robbery. Bond for each is $100,000 and they will appear in General Sessions Court on the charges August 16th. The Landrum's are also facing federal charges.

Seven months ago, on Thursday, January 11th, two people pulled off a noon time robbery at the Liberty office of Liberty State Bank taking several thousands of dollars in cash and checks before making their getaway.

Sheriff Ray says the robbers, a male and a female, entered the bank around 12:45 p.m.

Pictures from the bank's surveillance cameras revealed that the female was wearing coveralls and a paintball mask that covered her head. The male was wearing coveralls and a hoodie with a sheet covering part of his face.. He was also wearing a dark colored back pack with an orange colored letter "T" on it.

Sheriff Ray says the female passed to a bank employee a note which stated that this was a robbery while the male then went behind the counter and helped himself to the money from a cash drawer.

The two then left the bank then drove to their home, where they burned the clothes they wore during the robbery as well as the checks they had stolen and some of the money that been ripped or torn, fearing that it would be traceable.

Neither of the bank robbers produced a weapon during the hold up and none of the bank employees were injured.

Sheriff Ray says the Landrum's have given statements implicating themselves in the robbery.

Meanwhile, in a separate investigation, 31 year old Steven Anderson of Cecil Hale Road, Smithville is charged with statutory rape.

He was arrested Wednesday night, accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17 year old female since she was age sixteen.

His bond is set at $100,000 and he will be in General Sessions Court on the charge August 16th.

Grand Jury Issues Brief Report on County Jail

August 9, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Members of the Grand Jury toured the DeKalb County Jail this week and issued a brief report.

The report, signed by all members of the Grand Jury, states that " As a body, we, the grand jury, feel as though that the DeKalb County Jail was found to meet the standards set forth by the state, as well as provided adequate treatment for sick or injured inmates, and they ensure the safety and comfort of all inmates."

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