Local News Articles

Community Leaders Seek Support for DeKalb County Clean-Up Campaign

May 4, 2011
Dwayne Page

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce and the DeKalb County Executive’s office would like to invite residents across the county to participate in the DeKalb County Clean Up campaign on Saturday, May 14th. This event will be held in conjunction with the Keep American Beautiful initiative going on across the country. This organization’s mission revolves around a core belief that beauty is a silent but powerful force that makes communities safer, healthier and more livable.

Mike Foster, Suzanne Williams, and Jen Sherwood on Chamber Chat from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Suzanne Williams, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, would like to remind everyone that DeKalb County’s peak tourism season is about to begin, so now is a great time to start getting things spruced up for our coming visitors. According to Williams, “I think we are all aware of the value and importance of beautification in our communities to attract newcomers and tourists to our area and to maintain a stable and growing economy.”

To get a head start on clean up, dumpsters will be set up at highly visible and convenient locations a few days prior to the main event. Dumpster locations will be at the Dowelltown Community Center, Liberty Community Center, Alexandria City Parking Lot (behind square), and the Shopping Center parking lot (close to DeKalb Ace Hardware), 702 South Congress Blvd., Smithville.

County Executive Mike Foster says, “We would like for people to come out and help clean our communities and roadways. Folks are welcome to pick their own locations to clean, or we will be glad to assign a safe place for each person to participate.”

DeKalb Clean Up volunteers are asked to come to the Chamber office located at 301 North Public Square, Smithville on May 14th between 9 AM and 11 AM to sign-in and pick up the provided trash bags, rubber gloves, bottles of water, and hand sanitizer. For early sign-up, you can stop by the Chamber anytime during regular office hours before May 14th to pick up supplies. Or if stopping by is not convenient, call the Chamber office at 597-4163 to be counted as a DeKalb Clean Up volunteer -- just give your name and the general area where you will be working. Whether you’re beautifying your street, a highway, a park, ball field, a stream, or your own home, what a difference we can make through working together!

"Peace of the 70s" Musical a Big Hit at NES

May 3, 2011
Dwayne Page

A large crowd packed the Northside Elementary School gymnasium Tuesday evening for the 5th grade musical "Peace of the 70s".

Peace of the 70's at Northside Elementary from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Students and teachers alike joined in the show featuring some of the best music from the decade of the 1970's including country, pop, rock, and even some of the favorite television commercials and TV theme songs from the era.

Remembering All in the Family and the Brady Bunch from dwayne page on Vimeo.
This crowd pleasing show was directed by Kelly Jo Birmingham

Pre-K Registration to be held in July

May 3, 2011
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow

Registration for the voluntary pre-kindergarten program in the DeKalb County School system will be conducted in July at Smithville Elementary School and DeKalb West School. The exact date has not yet been announced

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K through 6th grade, said state funding provides for a total of four pre-k classes at Smithville Elementary School and one class at DeKalb West School.

Eligible children must be four years of age by September 30th and their parents must meet the federal income guidelines.

Burklow said the registration this year will be earlier than normal. "In the past, we have had pre-K registration on the same day as our kindergarten through 12th grade registration. This summer we're going to try to do that a little differently. We know how rushed parents are trying to get from one school to the next. There's more intense paperwork that comes with the pre-K program because it is the first year of the child's entry into school. So we want to be able to slow down that process, make the parents feel a little more comfortable with the process, and be able to talk with the children and let them become familiar with a few things going on in the school," said Burklow.

"We plan on doing this (registration) in July but we do not have the exact date because we are coordinating with our principals, teachers, and coordinated school health because we want her to do some vision and hearing screening on that day. Of course, we also want our school nutrition lady, Stephanie Walker there that day. There's several people coming together that day. We'll have little stations set up for our parents to progress through that process," said Burklow

"As a reminder, on that day please bring the child's birth certificate. We need the birth certificate that has on it the raised seal of Tennessee and not the one that says "Live Birth". That's not the original birth certificate. We also need children to have a physical examination. In addition to that documentation, we will also need immunization records that are up to date. That's one of the things that is looked at very closely at the beginning of the year. Our nurses go through the school records to make sure those immunizations are up to date," continued Burklow.

"Once we have the children registered, we have certain guidelines we must meet because we apply for a grant and the grant dictates what we can and cannot do as far as students who are eligible. So when parents come in and register their children, we will keep them in numerical order. We have our folders numbered and when you're given a folder you'll go through the process of the stations with us and we'll put you on a list in the order that you come in. After we get the folders together, we have to go through and look at the guidelines. One of the first things we have to make sure of is that our children are age four on or before September 30th. That's the first guideline we have to follow is that age for our pre-K children. We do have a few classrooms that take three year old children. We try to serve our four year old children first because we want to front load those babies going into kindergarten. We want to give them the benefit of being in the school, acclamating to the school so they will feel more comfortable when they go into kindergarten," said Burklow.

"I do have some parents who call and say, My child is supposed to go to kindergarten but they're not ready for kindergarten. We cannot take five year old children into the program unless there is some type of circumstance that we can go to the state department about. For the most part, five year old children are required to register for kindergarten," said Burklow.

"The second thing we look at is our children who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. That's why we want Ms. Stephanie Walker there because she will have the new guidelines. The guidelines change every year. She can look at the income the parents turn in and see if they qualify right there," added Burklow.

"If we do not get our program filled up, we do look at children with disabilities, those that may have an English as a second language, children in state custody, or those at-risk for failure due to circumstances of abuse or neglect."

"At Smithville Elementary we have eighty slots for pre-K students and twenty slots at DeKalb West. We do have a curriculum that we go by. It's not one of those you'll see in the first, second, or third grade. It's totally different. It's play. These children learn through play. We have stations set up all day long where the children are learning. They're playing together but they're learning their alphabet, learning math, social studies, and science skills. This is really a hands-on program, getting them ready to go to kindergarten," concluded Burklow.

Governor's Cuts Force Local Governments to Look Elsewhere for Help with Planning

May 2, 2011
Dwayne Page

As part of Governor Bill Haslam's Jobs4TN plan, all employees in state run regional planning offices will lose their jobs when those offices close permanently in mid-July.

With the cuts, state planners will no longer be assisting local communities with growth planning, and local governments will have to look elsewhere, perhaps to private entities, to fill that role.

The City of Smithville and DeKalb County governments are currently served by state planners from the Cookeville regional office, which helps many communities in the Upper Cumberland area with planning efforts. Planners convene with the Smithville Planning Commission on the first Thursday night of each month and the DeKalb County Regional Planning Commission on the second Monday night every month.

During those meetings, state planners give advice in helping local planning commissions draft ordinances and land-use regulations, such as subdivision development guidelines and zoning. They also assist with mapping and serve as a resource for surveyors, engineers, developers, realtors, and property owners.

During Monday night's council meeting, Smithville Alderman Shawn Jacobs asked Mayor Taft Hendrixson what impact this will have on the city

Untitled from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Mayor Hendrixson said he has received a letter from officials of the Upper Cumberland Development District who are working toward taking over the planning program once the state drops it in July. " I received a letter from UCDD and they are in the process of trying set it up where they will take this over if the fourteen counties (Upper Cumberland) and the cities in those counties would like for them to do this. I think they're (UCDD) very capable of doing this. They're trying to get it all put together," said Mayor Hendrixson.

"Our planner from the state will be here through June. Of course we won't have a planning commission meeting in July. He will be here this Thursday night and then the first Thursday night in June, said Mayor Hendrixson.

"We (city) pay $1,830 per quarter to the state for their assistance in this planning. I don't know what UCDD will charge but I have an idea that it will be in line with what we have been paying. That's something they will let me know. They are checking to see if there is enough interest in the Upper Cumberland area for them to do it. I surely think there will be," said Mayor Hendrixson

Alderman Jacobs added that "I want to go on record that this is pound wise and penny foolish and I highly disagree with the Governors actions".

The cuts are part of Governor Haslam's Jobs4TN plan which calls for a "significant reorganization" effort that he says will create jobs but will also result in a 35% reduction in Tennessee Economic and Community Development staff, cuts that will largely come from these regional planning offices across the state.

The Jobs4TN program will also establish regional "jobs base camps" for which the Upper Cumberland Development District has been named. UCDD has sent out letters to communities, like Smithville and DeKalb County, currently served by local planners, letting them know of the services that will be available.

Smithville Water Plant Rehab Could be Completed by July or August

May 2, 2011
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Water Plant rehabilitation project could finished by July or August.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson updated the aldermen Monday night on how much money has been spent on the rehab to date. "To date, the city has spent $1,609,080 out of our (city funds) on the water plant renovation. The CDBG block grant money spent is $300,674. That brings the total to $1,909,754 that has been spent on the water plant. We are well on our way to getting that completed, probably by July or August," said Mayor Hendrixson

Mayor Taft Hendrixson Discusses Water Plant Rehab from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Work began last August by the W&O Construction Company of Livingston, who was awarded the construction bid in February 2010 by the board of aldermen at a cost of $2,542,000. The city was awarded a $500,000 community development block grant administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help fund the project. But the bulk of the funding, $2,342,000 is being appropriated from the city's water and sewer fund surplus.

The project at the water plant includes the installation of new high service pumps; new electrical breaker boxes, new storage tanks, new automated water filter control panel, new chlorinator, new liquid fluoride feeder system, the addition of a new standby generator, among many other renovations and improvements
In other business Monday night, the aldermen voted to donate $500 to the DeKalb County High School Project Graduation. Lora Webb, speaking on behalf of the DCHS senior class, came before the mayor and aldermen asking for a donation.

Brandon Donnell was hired as a full time certified police officer now that he has successfully completed his 60 day probationary period. Donnell's pay will go from $11.71 to $13.09 per hour.

Tony Chapman was hired in the sanitation department now that he has completed his 60 day probationary period. His pay will go from $9.65 to $11.03 per hour.

Mayor Hendrixson reported that the Smithville Electric System board last week voted to donate to the city a 1985 model Ford F800 bucket truck being taken out of service. The aldermen voted to send a letter to SES giving notice that the city will accept the truck. Mayor Hendrixson said the city could make good use of this truck on certain occasions. " Smithville Electric System has bought one or two new bucket trucks and is donating one taken out of service to the city. It has 52,000 miles on it but it's been run a lot. They (SES) put a new motor in it about three years ago. It will need a minimum of $3,000 spent on it to put the boom in good operational shape. We won't use it everyday but its something that will come in handy at certain times," said Mayor Hendrixson.

County Firefighters Respond to Car Fire

May 2, 2011
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department was summoned to South Tittsworth Road on Saturday afternoon where an automobile caught fire.

Untitled from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Members of the Keltonburg and Short Mountain Highway Departments responded. The vehicle was destroyed but no one was injured.

The name of the owner and occupants were unavailable.

Sheriff Releases Weekly Update on County Crime News

May 2, 2011
Dwayne Page
Tina Lynn Cazee
Melissa Jean Culwell
James Harold Brassell, Jr

In his latest report on recent crime news in the county, Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that 53 year old Tina Lynn Cazee of Hickman is charged with driving under the influence. Her bond is $1,500 and her court date is June 9th. On Monday, April 25th Cazee was involved in a property damage accident while operating a motor vehicle on Smith Fork Road. The investigating officer found her to be unsteady on her feet and her speech was slurred. Cazee performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. She did submit to a blood test.

Meanwhile, 43 year old Melissa Jean Culwell of South Mountain Street, Smithville is charged with failure to appear. Her bond is $1,500 and her court date is May 5th. Sheriff Ray reports that
Culwell was due to report to the DeKalb County Jail on Friday, April 29th at 6:00 p.m. to serve a weekend sentence but she showed up late.

30 year old James Harold Brassell, Jr. of Pleasant Shade is charged with one count of driving on a revoked license and a second offense of driving under the influence. He was also issued a citation for violation of the implied consent law. His bond totals $4,500 and he will be in court on May 12th. According to Sheriff Ray, on Saturday, April 30th, a deputy was dispatched to Highway 56 to check out a complaint about a reckless driver. The officer spotted a vehicle on the left side of the road with the lights on. The driver was slumped over the wheel. The deputy stopped to check on the welfare of the driver. The car doors were locked. It took the officer about ten minutes to get inside the vehicle. Brassell was found to have a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he could not walk without assistance. He refused to submit to a blood test. Brassell performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. EMS arrived at the scene to check on him but he refused assistance. A computer check also revealed that his drivers license were revoked due to a DUI offense against him on October 14th, 2009 in Wilson County.

24 year old Jason Sturdivant of Page Drive, Smithville is charged with driving on a suspended license. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on May 11th. Sheriff Ray reports that on Sunday, May 1st an officer was performing a welfare check on a vehicle parked at Mystik Market on Highway 56. The driver, Sturdivant, was found to be slumped over the steering wheel with the vehicle's engine still running. The officer had prior knowledge that Sturdivant had a suspended drivers license. Sturdivant also has other driving on suspended license charges pending in court. His license were suspended on October 16th, 2009 for failure to satisfy a citation.

A Look at the Tennessee Legislature

May 1, 2011
Dwayne Page
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

House votes to renew tax on hospitals to avert TennCare cuts

The Tennessee legislature has raised and extended for another year a hospital tax it first levied last year to generate revenue that – when combined with federal 2-for-1 matching money – will help avoid over $1 billion in TennCare cuts.

The bill increases the 3.52 percent tax on hospital net income to 4.52 percent and extends it to July 1, 2012. State officials have acknowledged it’s likely to be extended annually, like a similar nursing home tax enacted nearly two decades ago and renewed yearly.

The hospital tax exempts government-owned hospitals like the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, rural critical-access hospitals, free-standing rehabilitation hospitals and pediatric research hospitals like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Its approval last year was credited with avoiding cuts that would have closed The Med.

The tax won overwhelming, bipartisan approval in both chambers. The law stipulates that hospitals cannot pass on the tax to patients through higher fees. Lawmakers made much of that, plus the THA’s backing and the fact that the bill titles the fee as an “assessment” rather than a “tax.” The tax will generate $449 million from the hospitals, which will draw down an additional $870 million in federal Medicaid funding, for a total of over $1.3 billion for health care.

House Passes Override of Nashville Discrimination Ordinance

The House has passed a bill that would void a Nashville ordinance barring companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city. The measure was approved 73-24 on Monday.

The proposal would prohibit local governments from creating anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than the state's own laws. Under state law it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.

The Nashville ordinance prohibits companies that discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity from receiving city contracts. It does not apply to local governments' hiring policies for their own workers. An amendment to remove Nashville from the proposed legislation failed.

Pro-Business Tort Reforms Move to House Floor

Legislation that caps non-economic damage awards at $750,000 and at $1 million in cases where victims suffer certain catastrophic injuries was given final approval to move to the House Floor next week for full consideration by the Chamber. The bill also caps punitive damages meant to punish accidental negligence by businesses or individuals. Awards for injuries that can be quantified, such as medical care, rehabilitation, or loss of income, are not capped.

The bill is a central focus of the Majority’s legislative agenda. Proponents of the legislation believe these reforms will bring stability to the legal environment companies have to account for when considering relocation to Tennessee or doing business here.

On numerous occasions, the Majority Leader has talked about the fact this reform will drastically improve the business prospects for Tennessee. “Leveling the playing field so Tennessee is more competitive with other States in the region is the smart thing to do for our citizens,” he said recently.

Constitutional Amendment to Ban State Income Tax Moves Through General Assembly

The House Finance, Ways & Means Subcommittee this week approved a measure that calls for a constitutional amendment that forever bans a State income tax in Tennessee. While many are comfortable with the Tennessee Constitution saying as much, many legislators believe there needs to be a concrete prohibition enshrined in Tennessee law to prevent future legislators from examining an income tax as a source of revenue.

Our State has carefully cultivated a low-tax, business-friendly image and passage of this bill will help make sure we never ruin that reputation. The measure now goes to full Finance Committee.

Tennessee was recently ranked as one of the friendliest States for business development and small business creation. Additionally, it was placed in the top five States for its low tax burden and certainly is something to be proud of and something to continue to protect.

Associates of Smithville Walmart Raising Money for Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt

May 1, 2011
Dwayne Page
Vonda Brown and Jennifer Cantrell

Walmart associates of Smithville are launching special fundraising activities over the next six weeks in support of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt as part of the Children's Miracle Network.

Vonda Brown and Jennifer Cantrell of the Smithville Walmart store said you can help .

Since the Smithville Walmart has been in business, Cantrell said more than $17,000 has been raised. The goal this year is at least $10,000 but associates would like to raise as much as $20,000. Local fundraising events include: Cupcakes for mom on Saturday, May 7th in time for Mother's Day from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.; an intra-company ballgame featuring Walmart associates and their families at Cookeville on Saturday, May 14th ; a yard sale in the grassy area near DTC on Saturday, May 21st from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. (Rent your spot for the yard sale today because space is limited-Funds raised through rentals only. Yard sale participants keep their sale proceeds); a hot dog and hamburger grill out on May 28-30; a photo contest May 31st through June 10th; and a beauty pageant inside the store at the apparel department starting at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 11th.

The need is great. According to Cantrell and Brown, 749 children from DeKalb County were treated just within the last year at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

Children's Miracle Network is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children's hospitals. Each year, the 170 Children's Miracle Network hospitals provide the finest medical care, life-saving research and preventative education to help millions of kids overcome diseases and injuries of every kind.

Walmart's support for the Children's Miracle Network began in 1987. Since then, Walmart and Sam's Club associates, customers and members have raised and contributed more than $500 million for Children's Miracle Network hospitals.

Meet the DCHS Class of 2011

April 30, 2011
Dwayne Page
WJLE congratulates all members of the DCHS Class of 2011

Meet the DeKalb County High School Class of 2011

Click the following link to see a photo gallery featuring members of the class (some photos unavailable)


WJLE congratulates all members of the Class of 2011 at DCHS

Graduation is set for Friday, May 20th at 7:00 p.m. on the high school football field


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