Local News Articles

New Sligo Bridge Included in Governor's Transportation Program

April 28, 2011
Dwayne Page
November 2009 photo of Sligo bridge

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Transportation Commissioner John Schroer have released a three-year transportation program, which includes replacement of Sligo bridge in DeKalb County.

Sligo bridge, to be funded with passage of the state's 2011-12 budget, is among more than 152 individual projects in 59 Tennessee counties included in the three year program which provides $1.7 billion for highways and bridges. The proposal has been presented to the Tennessee General Assembly.

Transportation projects in TDOT's Region Two, which includes DeKalb County, will be funded through TDOT's state and federal aid program. TDOT officials have previously said that the estimated cost to replace Sligo bridge is $30 million dollars.

The new Sligo bridge is expected to be erected some sixty feet to the north of the existing bridge and plans are for traffic to continue on the old bridge while the new structure is under construction. Right of way acquisition with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and any other adjoining landowners must also be resolved.

State Senator Mae Beavers told WJLE Thursday that the Governor's announcement is great news for DeKalb County. "I'm delighted that Sligo bridge is included in the budget. I'm further delighted that this Commissioner of Transportation has committed to not using bonds, not borrowing money. I think that's important especially with the way the economy is right now. That was a big issue in some of our campaigns and I'm happy to announce that not one penny has been borrowed. All of the money thus far to fix the bridges and roads have come from the federal and state money. I'm delighted that Sligo bridge has been included and I think the people of DeKalb County are going to be happy that finally we're getting some relief on the Sligo bridge," said Senator Beavers.

"A quality transportation system is vital to the continued growth of the state's economy and increasing job opportunities for our residents," said Governor Haslam. "The commissioner and I believe this three-year program balances the needs of communities across the state and makes solid investments in Tennessee's infrastructure."

"Taking a multi-modal approach to transportation planning allows TDOT to be responsive to the citizens of this state, tailoring projects to provide the greatest benefits in both our urban and rural areas," said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. "The department will address a number of needs through this three-year program, including congestion relief, improving access to communities, and the replacement or repair of dozens of aging bridges."

To view a complete list of projects and programs funded through the 2011-2014 three-year multimodal program visit http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/mediaroom/documents.htm.

Another Day of High Winds, Heavy Rains for DeKalb County

April 27, 2011
Dwayne Page

From high winds early in the morning to high water during the afternoon, DeKalb County was pounded yet again by another day of springtime storms Wednesday.

Dowelltown Home Surrounded by Rising Creek Waters from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Portions of DeKalb County were placed under a tornado warning at least three times during the day but no touchdowns were reported, although high winds from the storms blew down trees in various locations and caused some power outages. DeKalb County Schools were also closed for the day due to the storms.

Creek Overflows at Dowelltown from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Heavy downpours of rains caused street flooding in many areas and several creeks overflowed. High water forced the closure of a portion of the Old Nashville Highway at Dowelltown for a period of time. Rising creek waters also came dangerously close to a few homes, especially at Dowelltown and Alexandria, but apparently no one had to be evacuated.

Another Dowelltown Home Threatened by Flood Waters from dwayne page on Vimeo.
No widespread structure damage was reported across the county although the Industrial Machine Services facility in Alexandria will need some roof repairs due to the high winds.

Smithville Beer Board Grants Permit to Mercadito Chabelita

April 27, 2011
Dwayne Page

Another Smithville business has been licensed to sell beer.

The Smithville Beer Board Monday night approved the application of Pablo Gonzalez-Rosales to sell beer at 408 East Broad Street known as Mercadito Chabelita after finding that the applicant met all criteria in accordance with city codes.

Members of the beer board voting in favor were Lloyd Black, Steve Hays, Annette Greek, and Cecil Burger. Farron Hendrix was absent.

A total of twelve city businesses are now licensed to sell beer in Smithville including Walmart, Food Lion, Dollar General Store, Mapco Express, Kwik-N-Ezy, Jewel's Market, Village Market, South Congress BP, West Broad BP, Eastside Citgo, El Mariachi, and now Mercadito Chabelita.

End of Course Assessments Begin Next Week

April 26, 2011
Dwayne Page

Jonathan Fontanez, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12, reminds students and parents about the upcoming state assessments.

Jonathan Fontanez Speaking of Upcoming Testing from dwayne page on Vimeo.

"It is testing time at the secondary level in Tennessee once again and we are looking at beginning our testing season on May 3rd, 4th, & 5th with secondary assessments, end of course assessments in Algebra I, English X, and Biology I. The following week we will continue our testing in the areas of English IX, U.S. History, and Algebra II. The state has also rolled out a new assessment this year in 11th grade English, English III. We'll also have final exams toward the end of the month and then graduation on May 20th," said Fontanez.

"We just want to remind everyone to make the necessary preparations for these assessments. Be sure students that you get enough rest the night prior to these assessments and eat a good breakfast and come to school ready to do well on these end of course assessments", said Fontanez.

Hardcastle Seeks Parole in 2009 Aggravated Burglary and Robbery of Elderly Alexandria Woman

April 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
Debralee Hardcastle

A 31 year old woman, serving an eight year sentence for the aggravated robbery and burglary of an elderly Alexandria woman, may learn within days if she will be granted an early release.

A parole hearing was held last Monday, April 18th for Debralee Mai Hardcastle at the White County Jail in Sparta where she is currently incarcerated.

Hardcastle was charged on August 23rd, 2009 in an early Sunday morning assault on her 95 year old landlord, Lilae Belle Gilliam, at the residence they shared at 309 West Main Street in Alexandria.

Hardcastle pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court on October 15th, 2010 to one count of aggravated robbery and one count of aggravated burglary. She received an eight year sentence to serve in the robbery case and three years to serve in the burglary. The two sentences are to run concurrently as one eight year term and concurrently with a Wilson County violation of probation against her.

She was given jail credit for time served from August 23rd, 2009 to October 15th, 2010.

Last Monday, Hardcastle appeared before parole hearing officer Don Fox asking that she be granted an early release. Hardcastle expressed remorse for her crimes adding that the actions were fueled by her past drug use. Two members of Hardcastle's family also spoke in her behalf along with her drug counselor.

Assistant District Attorney Greg Strong and Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins spoke in opposition to Hardcastle's release due to the seriousness of the crime, the victim's advanced age, and due to the close relationship Hardcastle once had with the victim as landlord and tenant.

At the conclusion of the hearing last Monday, Fox announced that he would recommend to members of the state parole board that Hardcastle not be granted parole. If at least a majority of the parole board members concur, then Hardcastle will have to wait two years before her next parole eligibility. A final decision is expected within a few days.

After her arrest on August 23rd, 2009, Chief Collins reported that Hardcastle had been charged with especially aggravated burglary, especially aggravated robbery, and especially aggravated assault in the attack on Mrs. Gilliam. Hardcastle was also charged at the time with theft under $500 in a separate case.

According to Chief Collins, Gilliam, who lived alone, rented a portion of her home to Hardcastle and another woman less than a month before this incident occurred. They apparently moved here from Wilson County. Both dwellings in the Gilliam home were under the same roof but had separate entrances.

Chief Collins said Hardcastle, in order to alter her appearance, dressed disguised as a man and then left her room around 3:15 a.m. He said she went outside, went around the house, and knocked on Mrs. Gilliam's side door. When Mrs. Gilliam answered the door, Hardcastle, holding a 14 inch knife, forced her way inside and demanded the elderly woman's medication. Mrs. Gilliam, who apparently did not recognize Hardcastle, resisted and tried to defend herself. Though she fought off the attack, Gilliam suffered lacerations and bruises from blows to her head and upper body.

After the assault, Hardcastle returned to her room, taking three bottles of medication from Gilliam's residence. Mrs. Gilliam, bleeding from the attack, dropped to her hands and knees, crawled to the foyer near the door and began screaming for help.

Apparently in an attempt to avoid arousing suspicion as to her involvement, Hardcastle removed her disguise, changed her clothes, cleaned up and went back to assist Mrs. Gilliam and called 911.

Gilliam was transported by DeKalb EMS to UMC Medical Center in Lebanon where she was treated and released.

Chief Collins said after interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence at the scene, Hardcastle was identified as a suspect.. She was picked up for questioning, but she refused to cooperate or give a statement. She was subsequently charged in the case.

The case was investigated by the Alexandria Police Department in cooperation with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Aldermen Postpone Work to Make City Pool ADA Compliant

April 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
Steve White (right) speaking with Taylor Dobbs (center) and Tony Poss (left)

The Smithville Municipal Swimming Pool isn't as accessible for the physically challenged as it should be in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the city has until next spring to bring it into compliance.

In February, the aldermen voted to accept a bid from the Langley and Taylor Pool Corporation of Nashville in the amount of $83,649 to replace the fiberglass coating of the pool and that work will be finished by May 10th but the renovation project didn't include making the pool more user friendly for the handicapped. City officials were apparently unaware at the time that the ADA requirements had to be met by next year.

During a special meeting on the issue Monday night, the aldermen considered proceeding with the renovations to accommodate the handicapped now. However, since no specific plans have yet been drawn up and facing the possibility that any such work would not be completed in time for the swimming season, the aldermen decided to delay the project until at least after the summer.

Alderman Steve White said while he understands the work will have to be delayed, he would have preferred to do it now. "I brought this up to the guys over there at the pool (Langley and Taylor) back whenever they first came in probably a couple of months ago. He was supposed to be getting with the owners of the company and the health department to let us know what requirements and specific things we would need like grade, jets, drain vents and all. Of course, they kind of dropped the ball and here we are two months later and we still haven't found out anything. This is one of the things that eventually we will have to do and that is to make it handicapped accessible. The zero entry is something that I've been wanting to do for quite a while. Its not going to be near as expensive if we (city) do the work. The main thing will be the labor expenses. If the city employees do it you're looking at using probably two to three guys for roughly four to five days. We'll have some electrical that will have to be moved more than likely. We really won't know until we get in there and tear the deck off. There are probably some drain lines that will have to be re-routed. You'll have some water lines that'll have to be re-routed. The drains will have to be spouted off each side of it instead of across it. The water lines could be elbowed down and put back in. The electrical could be run around. Our guys do concrete work all the time. We're not going to be looking at that much expense on the concrete. Probably five or six yards of concrete at the most. The other expense will be whatever the pool guy charges to plaster approximately three hundred more square feet of the pool area," said White

Taylor Dobbs of the Langley and Taylor Pool Corporation met with the mayor and aldermen Monday night and reviewed some of the city's alternatives in making the pool renovations for the handicapped. "Its not so much that you want to just be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, you're actually wanting to create a way for anyone to access the pool regardless of physical condition. However it is important to note that since that pool is so large you'll have to have a secondary means of entry so even if you do the zero entry concept, which is going from a zero grade and gradually sloping into the pool, you're also going to have to have a secondary means of entering the pool and that can be a portable chair lift. Any pool over 300 feet has to have one so you'll be looking at incurring that expense as well. The two primary options are the zero entry and the portable chairlifts. If you decide to do the chairlift, you'll need two of them because the pool is so large. That would be your primary and secondary means of entry. If you just do the zero entry, you'll have to have a secondary entry, either the chairlift or a transfer wall which is kind of a hand hold you use to climb into the pool over a wall. I don't think that would be very easy for a handicapped person to use. Then there's the transfer system which is basically a staircase or steps that each have their own little rail that persons can use to bump themselves into the pool. That would be another option. You could possibly do just a concrete ramp," said Dobbs.

Alderman Aaron Meeks said whichever option the city should choose, plans will have to be drawn up and submitted to the state health department for approval and that will take time, delaying the start of the swimming season at the pool. "The first thing you've got to do is have plans drawn up by someone who is authorized or qualified to draw up the plans of what you want to do. You have to submit that to the state for approval. That could take thirty days and if it (plans) has to be changed it could take another thirty days. That could go on for who knows how long? It could be the beginning to mid June before they could have it ready for the pool to open. The swimming season is then missing. As I understand it, we don't have to do this (project) this year. We have until next year to have all this done. I would prefer to see some costs in writing and plans in writing drawn up about what we've talked about doing and whatever alternatives we might have along that line. That's what I would like to see," said Meeks

Mayor Taft Hendrixson suggested that the project be delayed for now. "The way it looks to me if we're going to do this, time wise the pool might not even be open this year if we go ahead and start this now. It might make sense to go ahead and open it (pool) this year and make plans to do that next year before the pool opens," said Mayor Hendrixson.

The aldermen voted to postpone the project until at least after the summer and ask the Langley and Taylor Pool Corporation to further study the options and suggest the best alternative for making the city swimming pool ADA compliant.

Putnam Election Commission Case Could Affect DeKalb County

April 25, 2011
Dwayne Page

A Chancery Court ruling in Putnam County over whether the state or county should bear the costs of attorney's fees in a federal lawsuit against the Republican majority of the election commission is expected to affect DeKalb County as well.

The Tennessee Supreme Court's specially appointed Chancellor in the case, Judge Donald Harris, has found that the county, not the state, is responsible for the Putnam County election commission's legal expense in defending the lawsuit filed against it by the former administrator of elections. The Chancellor also ruled that Putnam County must pay the election commission's legal fees for action taken against the county due to non-payment of attorneys fees.

Judge Harris recently held a hearing on the matter in Putnam County Chancery Court.

In the ruling, Judge Harris wrote that "the entity responsible for providing legal representation to the Putnam County Election Commission would likewise be responsible for providing legal representation for any member of the election commission sued in their official capacity," wrote Harris.

According to the Herald-Citizen, the chancery court case stems from a federal lawsuit filed in 2009 by former Putnam election administrator Nancy Boman, who claims she was removed from her post because of her perceived political affiliation and that three new Republican commissioners at the time -- Terry Herrin, Jean Cody and Joan Ross -- violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The election commission hired its own attorney and filed its own suit weeks after Boman's was filed, when Putnam County attorney Jeff Jones said the county was not responsible for paying its legal fees.

Jones argued that the Tennessee attorney general is responsible for providing for the commission's defense in federal court because county election commissioners are state actors. That was the opinion, in fact, of Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman Jr. in a December order filed in that federal lawsuit, he said.

"The court agrees with the characterization that both the members of the Putnam County Election Commission and the Putnam County Administrator of Elections as being state employees. However that status does not result in the State Attorney General having the duty to represent the members of the county election commission when they are sued in their official capacity or in the State of Tennessee having the responsibility to fund the expense of their legal representation. Tennessee Code Annotated 2-12-109(a) provides: Except as otherwise provided by law, it is the responsibility of the county to fund the operations of its election commission. This language makes the expenses incurred by the election commission in the conduct of its operations the responsibility of Putnam County unless there is a specific provision elsewhere in Code that makes them the responsibility of another entity," wrote Harris.

"It is the opinion of the court that Putnam County, as a matter of law, is responsible for the reasonable cost of that representation and for any liability imposed as a result of the pending federal action. It has refused to assume that responsibility. Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-12-101 (c) (4) provides that "if, in order to properly discharge its duties, the county election commission has to bring legal action against a county or municipality, the compensation for the commission's legal representation shall be borne by the county or municipality as the case may be." Thus, Putnam County is also responsible for the legal expenses of the Putnam County Election Commission in bringing the action," wrote Harris.

Deputy Janet Kleinfelter with the Tennessee attorney general's office had asked during the hearing that the action against Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. -- who, along with Putnam County Executive Kim Blaylock, was named as a defendant in the chancery case -- be dismissed. She said the county was the party responsible for legal defense based on a series of Tennessee statutes.

Attorney John Harris, III of Nashville, representing the Putnam County Election Commission and the three individual commissioners named in the federal lawsuit, told the judge that he also believed the cost of the federal case -- as well as the chancery court action -- should be borne by the county.

Based upon the Chancellor's ruling, it appears that DeKalb County would also be required for payment of the legal expense of the local election commission.

In March, the DeKalb County Election Commission voted 3-2 to hire the same attorney Putnam County has employed, John Harris, III to represent them in a federal lawsuit brought in 2009 by the former administrator of elections, Lisa Peterson.

That decision came after the county's insurance carrier recently withdrew its legal representation based on the December federal court ruling that the local election commissioners were "state actors" and after the state attorney general, Robert E. Cooper, Jr., in a letter to Election Commission Chairman Walteen Parker, wrote that the commission could not rely on the state to provide a defense and would have to hire its own legal counsel in the case.

Since the court has ruled that the election commissioners cannot be held liable for monetary damages, John Harris said the only significant remaining issue to be decided is the "injunctive relief" claim in the lawsuit.

DeKalb is among about a dozen counties in Tennessee where lawsuits have been filed by former administrators of elections asserting that they were not re-appointed to those positions because of their political party affiliation.

Domestic Kitchen - Tennessee Food Safety Course to be Offered

April 25, 2011
Dwayne Page
Farmers Market

Vendors at the farmers market and others who use a domestic kitchen to prepare, manufacture and sell food to the public can ensure their facilities meet Tennessee Department of Agriculture regulations through an upcoming course in Nashville next month.

The one-day course, Domestic Kitchen - Tennessee Food Safety Certification, will be held 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., May 12th, at the Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville. The course will cover regulations for establishments using domestic kitchen facilities for bakery and other non-potentially hazardous foods intended for sale. The cost for certification is $100.00.

County Mayor Mike Foster said participants in the course must submit an application along with the fee prior to May 12th. Applications are available at the county mayor's office in the courthouse.

The purpose of the domestic kitchen rules is to allow individuals to commercially prepare, manufacture and sell ‘non-potentially hazardous' foods that are prepared in the home while ensuring that the public's health is protected.

These foods would include: sale of home-prepared jam, jellies, baked-goods and some candies, etc.

For a more thorough description of when domestic kitchen certification is required and what foods can be produced in your home kitchen, check out this Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture webpage or the complete Domestic Kitchen Regulations.

Photos Needed for DeKalb County Pictorial History Book

April 24, 2011
Dwayne Page
Ria Baker and Judy Fuson

If you have any old pictures of yesteryear life in DeKalb County, you're urged to make them available for the compilation of a pictorial history book through Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series.

Images of America: A History of American Life in Images and Texts is a unique new resource cultivated from Arcadia Publishing's award-winning series of local history books. At completion, it will include historical images and texts, celebrating the places and faces that give DeKalb County its spirit and life. All of the images and texts will enable users to explore the depth of the history of the county, as well as its cultures, architectural features, and more.

Ria Baker and Judy Fuson are compiling photos for the book.

Baker said that's where you can be of help. "We are working on a book about DeKalb History with the Arcadia Publishing Company. We are looking for pictures and information to put in the book. If anybody has any good history pictures we can scan we ask for your help. We'll come to your home and scan the pictures or we can pick them up, scan them, and bring them back to you or we can meet you at the library in Alexandria or Smithville and scan them there. We need pictures with information to go along with them and everybody will be asked to sign a release stating that they don't mind their pictures being put in the book.. The publishing company wants us to have it to them by September. Hopefully, they'll have the book out by January, 2012.. The sooner we can get the pictures from you, that would be great. We don't want somebody who has a great picture to miss having it in the book so if you have a photo you want to contribute we certainly want it and even if we can't use it in the book we still want to put it on a cd and place it in the libraries for people to access it if they want to," said Baker

Fuson adds "We're just compiling pictures that will illustrate the history of our county. We're looking for things of the past. Businesses from old times and the old country stores around the county as well as the towns of Liberty, Alexandria, Dowelltown, and Smithville. Not just businesses, but the early settlers, the religious life, schools, special events, entertainment, life from early times. We'd like to devote one chapter of this book to the people who lived where the lake is now. We hope to do another book later on that. Each image will have a caption telling who, what, where, and when. Everybody who contributes a picture will be acknowledged. On every picture it will tell who it came from. We have to scan these pictures a particular way. The publisher gave us guidelines to follow on how to scan the pictures. We would like to have original copies of the pictures to scan. We won't keep the pictures and we won't send them away. We can come to your home and scan them or you can bring them to us and have us scan them. We'll also accept old post cards. Sometimes people have old post cards with pictures of local areas. We can do those too," said Fuson

If you have pictures you'd like to contribute or have scanned for the book, call Ria Baker at 529-2840, Judy Fuson at 597-6397, or WJLE at 597-4265.

Easter Egg Hunt Attracts Lots of Children to Greenbrook Park

April 23, 2011
Dwayne Page
Easter Egg Hunt Prize Winners
Easter Egg Hunt at Greenbrook Park

Dozens of children and parents enjoyed an Easter egg hunt on Saturday at Greenbrook Park. The fourth annual egg hunt was sponsored by AmVets and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary.

Prizes were awarded in three age groups.

Alandria Bates won the category for kids up to three years of age.

Claytin Fish took home the top prize in the four to seven year old division

Courtney Ambrose was the winner among eight to twelve year old children.

Kids also took part in games, egg coloring, a bunny toss, and more.


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