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Tourism Growth Noted in Chamber Chat Update

February 12, 2009
Suzanne Williams
Suzanne Williams

According to the U.S. Travel Industry Association, tourism spending in DeKalb County is continuing to grow at a good pace. The most current data report (2007) shows travel-related expenditures brought $34,360,000 to DeKalb County, which is a 7.3% increase from the previous year.

DeKalb County Tourism Fast Facts:
• In the 14-county Upper Cumberland region, DeKalb County received the third highest amount of tourism dollars & was first in increased percent change (7.3% increase).
• Tourism activity in DeKalb County produced $7.17 million in worker income/paychecks (a 7.6% increase from the previous year), $4.46 million in local county tax revenues (7.3% increase), $1.92 million in state tax revenue (6.7% increase), & 270 jobs (2.8% increase).
• Tourists spending in the county created $12,219 daily in local county tax revenues, $5,260 daily in state tax revenues, and $19,644 daily in worker paychecks.
• On an average day in DeKalb County, visitors spend over $94,000.
• The tax relief per household in DeKalb County due to tourism dollars is $913.52.
Sources: TN Dept. of Tourism, U.S. Travel Industry Assoc. & the University of Tennessee’s Tourism Institute

Thanks to everyone who attended the Chamber Annual Membership Banquet. We had over 200 in attendance. Our appreciation goes to the 2009 Leadership DeKalb Class for serving the food, Dan & Layna McCorkle for sharing their musical talents, and Boy Scout Troop #347 for the flag presentation. We are so grateful for our corporate, silent auction, and door prize sponsors who make our banquet possible. We appreciate FirstBank for sponsoring our incredible keynote speaker, Micheal Burt & express our deepest gratitude to our Corporate Sponsors -- Center Hill Realty, DTC Communications / DTC Wireless, DeKalb Community Bank, Liberty State Bank, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas, & Tenneco. Congratulations to Charlie Parker for receiving the Leadership Alumni’s “Community Leader of the Year” Award & to Ben Chapman of Lighthouse Christian Camp for being presented with the “Legacy Award.”

This year’s Leadership DeKalb class, Leadership Director Jen Sherwood, and I will be traveling overnight to Nashville for an in-depth and practical hands-on experience at the Capitol during the State Government session in March. Our many thanks go out to Middle Tennessee Natural Gas and The Inn at Evins Mill for sponsoring February’s Economic and Community Development Session.

One of the top priorities of the Chamber is to help promote local events. Help us keep our 2009 Community Calendar of Events up-to-date. Please email us at or call 597-4163 to let us know of any events, programs, or opportunities you have coming this year.
Mark Your Calendars for all the great upcoming opportunities:
• WJLE Chamber Radio Program - 1st Wednesday of every month at 8:30 AM
• Feb 19th – Justin Potter Library’s “Teen Writers' Program” (teen 13-18) at 3:30 PM
• Feb 20th - Cub Scouts Pack 347’s second annual “Friday Nite Open” - Pinewood Derby race open to the community: cub scouts, former cub scouts, family members, etc. Weigh-in begins at 5:30 p.m. Race will begin at 7 p.m. Location - First United Methodist Fellowship Building. Entry fee - $5. For more information contact Jen Sherwood at 597-4851 or Richard Judkins at 597-4213
• Feb 21st – The 2nd Annual Father/Daughter Date Night sponsored by the DCHS Football Cheerleaders from 6:30 to 9:30 PM at Smithville Church of God - Tickets: $25 includes dinner, dance, & photo. For more info or to purchase tickets, call Judith Hale at 464-7810 or Vanessa Winchester at 615-948-9543
• Feb 24th – DeKalb County “Spay Day” – For appt. or more info, call 464-1196 or 464-6104
• Feb 28th – Justin Potter Library’s Story hour (for children 3-10) at 10:00 AM with FCCLA Club and author Barbara Ebel, MD. Doctor Barbara will read her non-fiction children's book about Chester, the therapy dog, who will be at her side. Activities and book signing to follow.
• March 4th – Re-Opening of Stella Luna Art Gallery
• DeKalb Community’s Bank’s Financial Solutions Education Series – FREE & open to the public
o February 23 - Budgeting Solutions
o March 2 - Saving Solutions
o March 9 - Credit Use & Fraud Solutions
o March 16 - Investing Solutions
o March 23 - Smart Spending Solutions
o Times: 6:30 to 7:30 PM at their Smithville office
o To register or for more info, call April Martin at 597-4945.

• The Appalachian Center for Craft is taking registrations for all of their 2009 Workshop Sessions – For more info, go to: or stop by the Chamber for a Workshop Catalog.

Join our efforts in working together to promote our great county and its businesses. For a membership application or community improvement nomination form, call the Chamber at 597-4163 or visit us at 301 North Public Square, Smithville.

Smithville Police Department to Conduct Sobriety Checkpoints

February 11, 2009
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department will be conducting sobriety checkpoints and enhanced traffic enforcement on Friday in an ongoing effort to provide safer roadways for the public. The Smithville Police Department will continue to work with the Governors Highway Safety Office in an effort to keep our roadways safe.

The Governor's Highway Safety Office is Tennessee's advocate for highway safety. This office works with law enforcement, judicial personnel, and community advocates to coordinate activities and initiatives relating to the human behavorial aspects of highway safety.

The GHSO's mission is to develop, execute, and evaluate programs to reduce the number of fatalities, injuries, and related economic losses resulting from traffic crashes on Tennessee's roadways. The office works in tandem with the National Highway Safety Administration to implement programs focusing on occupant protection, impaired driving, speed enforcement, truck and school bus safety, pedestrian and bicycle safety and crash data collection and analysis. Programs administered by the Governor's Highway Safety Office are 100% federally funded.

Crop Disaster Program Sign-up Ends February 27th

February 11, 2009
Donny Green

Donny Green, County Executive Director for DeKalb County Farm Service Agency alerts producers that sign-up ends February 27, 2009, for the Crop Disaster Program (CDP), which provides payments for 2005, 2006, or 2007 crop-year losses due to a natural disaster.

“DeKalb County Farm Service Agency has issued over $750,000 for 2005-2007 crop losses in DeKalb County,” said Green. “We encourage qualified farmers to take advantage of this assistance.”

Crop producers who did not have crop insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program coverage during the year of the disaster are not eligible for compensation.

The ending date of February 27 applies to the receipt of a signed and completed FSA-840 application along with supporting documentation and required forms available at your county FSA office. No late filed applications will be approved.

More information on CDP and other USDA disaster assistance programs is available at the DeKalb County Farm Service Agency (FSA) office by calling 597-8225, extension 2, or visiting the office at 647 Bright Hill Road in Smithville. Information can also be found on FSA’s Web site at

Three Charged with Child Neglect after Children Found in Unsanitary Conditions

February 9, 2009
Dwayne Page
Michael Eugene Evans
Steven Scott Wheeler
Kimberly Diane Wheeler

Children found living in unsanitary conditions at two separate homes has resulted in child neglect charges against three people.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 34 year old Michael Eugene Evans is charged with two counts of child neglect. Bond for him is set at $15,000 and he will be in court February 19th.

According to Sheriff Ray, deputies responded to a residence on Colvert Lake Road Thursday to do a welfare check on children living at the residence. There, officers found Evans passed out on a couch leaving two children unattended. Upon entering the home, deputies found the children, a 10 year old and a 9 month old, living amidst dog feces. Cockroaches could be seen throughout the residence including the baby's play pen. Strong fumes from a kerosene heater were also detected in the home. Deputies contacted authorities at Children Services who investigated and found the baby's bottom to be red and raw because the child's diaper had not been changed regularly.

The next day, Friday, 43 year old Steven Scott Wheeler and 37 year old Kimberly Diane Wheeler were charged with two counts of child neglect after deputies responded to a call on The Loop Road in Smithville

According to the complaint, an intoxicated man was trying to administer medication to children.

Upon arrival, officers found Steven Scott Wheeler passed out on the couch. They also found four small children in the home. In a bedroom where a four year old and a five year old were staying, officers found a full beer that was open and a pill bottle of Xanax. In addition, a bag of marijuana was recovered from a child's bedroom closet.

According to Sheriff Ray, the home was unsanitary with cigarette butts on the floor and trash thrown all over the residence. While there, deputies interviewed Kimberly Diane Wheeler who also lives at the residence. She allegedly admitted that the home was unsanitary.

In addition to the child neglect charges, Steven Scott Wheeler was also charged with simple possession. Bond for Kimberly Diane Wheeler was set at $10,000 and $11,500 for Steven Scott Wheeler. Both will appear in court on February 19th.

Man Arrested in December Robbery at Sonic

February 9, 2009
Dwayne Page
Eddie Leroy Taylor
Craig Anthony Hill

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has apparently solved a December 2nd robbery at the Sonic Drive-In with the arrest of a 42 year old Smithville man.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Eddie Leroy Taylor of A.B. Frazier Road is charged with aggravated robbery.

According to detectives, Taylor who was dressed in camouflage and wearing a mask, attacked a 17 year old car hop who was serving a customer. Taylor allegedly grabbed the employee's money belt and threw the car hop to the ground. Taylor then dragged the employee across the concrete parking lot until the money belt broke lose causing bodily injury to the car hop. Taylor then fled with the money belt which contained approximately $75 in cash.

In addition to the aggravated robbery, Sheriff Ray says Taylor is also charged in two other recent theft cases.

According to detectives, Taylor took a drill belonging to a work crew doing electrical work on the First Baptist Church building on Church Street in Smithville. The drill has not been recovered.

Meanwhile, Taylor and another man, 37 year old Craig Anthony Hill of Holmes Creek Road, Smithville, have been charged with burglary and theft of property over $1,000..

Sheriff Ray says detectives charged Taylor and Hill after an investigation into a break in on Floyd Drive in Smithville where over $2,800 worth of power tools were stolen. The two men allegedly cut a pad lock off of a utility trailer to gain access. Hill allegedly pawned some of the tools in McMinnville. Many of them have been recovered.

Bond for Hill was set at $125,000. Taylor's total bond is $240,000. Both will appear in court on February 12th.

Meanwhile, deputies arrested 35 year old Jimmy B. Martin of Hurricane Ridge Road, Smithville last Wednesday for a 3rd offense of driving under the influence. Deputies spotted Martin's vehicle on Highway 70 East and observed him swerving from the yellow line to the white line. After stopping the vehicle, officers noticed that Martin had slurred speech and he was unsteady on his feet. Martin also failed field sobriety tasks. Martin has two other DUI convictions in DeKalb County. His bond was set at $4,500 and he will appear in court on February 12th.

37 year old Mary June Wright of Keltonburg Road, Smithville turned herself in at the DeKalb County Jail Thursday to serve 10 days as ordered by the courts. Upon searching Wright, a female correctional officer found that she had a package that was wrapped in cellophane containing tobacco, a lighter, 5 pills believed to be Hydocodone, 15 Klonopin pills, and numerous particles and powder believed to be Klonopin. Wright was charged with introduction of drugs into a penal institution. Wright's bond was set at $7,500 and her court date is February 26th.

On Friday, 42 year old Fowler Stoney Ramsey of Rolling Acres Road, Smithville was charged with theft of property under $500. Detectives say Ramsey stole a leaf blower at a residence on Rolling Acres Road in Smithville on January 23rd. The leaf blower has since been recovered. Ramsey's bond was set at $5,000 and he will appear in court on March 19th.

On Saturday, deputies responded to a domestic call at a business on Highway 53 in Alexandria. Through an investigation, officers learned that 23 year old Ronald L. Haller of Hickory Hill Lane, Hermitage had assaulted a female after they had run out of gas on Nashville Highway. Deputies say Haller pulled the female out of the vehicle by her legs and beat her head against the top of the vehicle. Officers saw signs of the assault on the victim's legs and elbows. They also detected a strong odor of alcohol on Haller's person and he had red watery eyes.

Haller was charged with domestic assault and public intoxication. His bond was set at $4,500 and he will appear in court on February 26th.

Two other people who were with Haller and the female, 19 year old Richard A. Ellithorpe and 20 year old Jaquice E. Carr both of Sports Road, Mt Juliet were charged with under age consumption after deputies detected an odor of alcohol on their persons. Bond for both was set at $1,000 each and they will appear in court on February 26th.

Habitat for Humanity Names New Officers and Board Members

February 7, 2009
Habitat Officers for 2009- Tom Janney, Sharon Evans, Lisa Garrison, Glenda Davis

The Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County, Inc. has announced its new officers for the 2009-2010 year.

Tom Janney is the new president. Sharon Evans, vice president; Lisa Garrison, secretary; and Glenda Davis, treasurer.

Meanwhile, new members of the local Board of Directors of Habitat are Adela McGeehin, Michael Carpenter, Lisa Garrison, Hearon Puckett, Kim Wheeler and Larry Green.

Retiring after serving six years on the Board of Directors are Marie Blair, Nolan Turner, Nancy Lewis and Gary Johnson. Other retiring directors are Jason Lohorn and Steve Osment.

Habitat for Humanity is an ecumenical Christian housing ministry, providing families in need with the opportunity for affordable home ownership.

Volunteers and donors assist in building the homes and Habitat for Humanity sells the homes to the Partner Families at cost with no-interest mortgages.

Is Your TV Going to Work after June 12?

February 6, 2009

To prevent more than 6 million U.S. households from having their television service cut off on February 17th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation today to extend the nationwide digital television (DTV) transition to June 12, 2009.

“Without this extension, close to 40,000 Tennessee households would not been able to watch TV after February 17th,” said Congressman Bart Gordon. “While most people won’t be affected by the DTV transition, the 115-day extension will give people who have rabbit ears on their TV sets time to get converter coupons and purchase equipment they need to ensure their TV continues to work.”

Television stations were scheduled stop broadcasting analog signals and exclusively broadcast in digital on February 17, 2009. After that date, analog televisions that rely on antennas would have gone black unless they were connected to a digital-to-analog converter box.

“It is important for everyone to figure out if they are going to be affected by the transition,” said Gordon. “If you have already made the transition, this delay will not affect you at all. Also, if you have a digital television or a television connected to cable, satellite, or other pay TV service, you do not need to do anything.”

For viewers who are using an antenna and have an analog TV they purchased before 2004, you will need a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to watch broadcast television on that set after June 12th. If you have not gotten a converter box yet or applied for a converter box coupon, call 1-888-388-2009 or go online to

Currently, there is a waiting list of over 3 million households nationwide for converter box coupons from the federal government, which includes 39,593 Tennessee households according to the Department of Commerce. In addition, there is converter box shortage of at least 2 million units. For these reasons, the transition deadline was extended to June 12th.

For people who are on the waiting list, you should receive a coupon soon. The Economic Recovery bill currently being debated includes provisions that will increase the number of coupons the federal government is able to give to consumers. Converter boxes cost $40-70, and the government is offering two $40 coupons per household to purchase boxes.

The House-passed bill, which the Senate approved last week, now goes to the President, who is expected to sign it into law. For more information about the DTV transition, go to

Class of 2009 Honor Students Named at DCHS

February 6, 2009
Dwayne Page
Kesha Staley- 2009 DCHS Valedictorian
Kelly Merriman- 2009 DCHS Salutatorian

DeKalb County High School has released the names of this year's Honor Students including the 2009 Valedictorian Kesha Staley and the Salutatorian Kelly Merriman.

Staley is the daughter of Tim and Debbie Staley. She is in the DCHS Band, French Club, Literature Club, FBLA, HOSA, and Beta Club.

Merriman is the daughter of Ronald and Denise Merriman. She is in the Literature Club, French Club, FBLA, Yearbook Staff, Science Club, and Beta Club.

Students among the top twenty senior academic ranking from numbers one to twenty are as follows:

Kesha Staley, Kelly Merriman, Brooke Pack, Jordan Howe, Anderson Webb, Megan Pack, Rebecca Lawrence, Victoria Bennett, Thomas West, Amanda Reed, Kara Young, Megan Merriman, Jessica Strickland, Krysta Ferrell, Shay Sullivan, Ryan Leiser, Avarie Maynard, Carrie Herrin, Amanda Price, and Tiffany Winchester.

Students earning "Highest Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.8 to 4.0 in alphabetical order are:

Rosemary Apple, Victoria Bennett, Nicole Burger, Allison Curtis, Justin Dunaway, Josh Emerton, Macy Felts, Krysta Ferrell, Caleb Gash, Carrie Herrin, Jordan Howe, Matthew Lawrence, Rebecca Lawrence, Ryan Leiser, Avarie Maynard, Kelly Merriman, Megan Merriman, Jeff Miller, Megan Osborne, Brooke Pack, Megan Pack, Amanda Price, Amanda Reed, Kesha Staley, Jessica Strickland, Shay Sullivan, Anderson Webb, Thomas West, Tiffany Winchester, and Kara Young.

Students earning "High Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.6 to 3.79 include Russell Ambrose, Adam Arnold, Corey Dodd, Cody Hawkins, Dustin Lattimore, Josh Lester, Anna Little, Malinda Mofield, Nathan Neal, Brandon Owen, Corey Poss, and Nikita Young..

Those earning "Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.2 to 3.59 include Preston Adcock, Emilee Anderson, Kirt Bandy, Carolyn Bass, Brian Bates, Chynna Cade, Courtney DeHoet, Kayla Hale, John Herriott, Shane Hickman, Turner Hobby, Amber Judkins, Lauren Kemp, Alisha Majors, Kimberly Majors, Whitney Moss, Justin Poteete, Jessica Richards, Francisco Rodriguez, Stephen Rogers, Logan Roller, Sonny Stults, Allyson Trapp, and Luke Willoughby.

The Class of 2009 at DeKalb County High School will graduate in May.

Hall Residence Destroyed By Fire

February 5, 2009
Dwayne Page

A fire early Thursday morning destroyed the home of Martha Hall at 3754 Holmes Creek Road.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says the call came in at 1:35 a.m. and members of the Main Station, Cookeville Highway, and Short Mountain Highway Stations quickly responded.

According to Chief Green, Ms. Hall was at home asleep when she was awakened by an alarm and her barking dog. She discovered a large fire in the front portion of her home and escaped with her dog. Ms. Hall ran to a neighbors house and knocked on the door, but could not awake them, so she got in her car and drove to DeKalb Market to call for help.

Chief Green says the fire was well underway by the time firefighters arrived and they could not save the home or any of the contents.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze, to keep it from spreading to a neighbor's house about thirty feet away.

Ms. Hall and her dog made it out of the burning home without any injuries.

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

Three Qualify to Run for Alderman in Smithville Election

February 3, 2009
Dwayne Page

Incumbent Alderman Willie Thomas, former Alderman W.J. (Dub) White, and Gary Durham are the first candidates to officially qualify to run in the Smithville Municipal Election in June.

Three other persons have also picked up qualifying petitions but have not yet returned them including Incumbent Alderman Jerry Hutchins, Sr., former Alderman Aaron Meeks, and Shawn Jacobs.

Lisa Peterson, Administrator of Elections, says candidates have until NOON on Thursday, March 19th to qualify. The deadline to register to vote in time for the election is May 18th.

Three Aldermen will be elected on Tuesday, June 16th. The positions are currently held by Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan, and Willie Thomas. Each term is for two years.


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