Local News Articles

Election Commission Issues Five Petitions

January 9, 2016
Dwayne Page

Five petitions were issued Friday, the first day certain candidates on the August ballot could pick up qualifying papers.

The DeKalb County Election Commission office reports the following petitions were issued:

Kate Miller—School Board 4th District; W.J. (Dub) Evins—School Board 5th District; Doug Stephens—School Board 6th district; Shawn Jacobs—Smithville Aldermen; and Eddie Dwayne Blair—Liberty Aldermen.

The qualifying deadline is NOON April 7.

The Election Commission Office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

County offices to be elected locally in August, along with Assessor of Property and Constable, (the qualifying deadline which has already passed)
are: School board seats in districts 4, 5, and 6.

The seats are currently held by Kate Miller, W.J. (Dub) Evins and Doug Stephens, respectively.

City offices to be elected are:
In Smithville—three aldermen seats currently held by Shawn Jacobs, Josh Miller and Danny Washer;

In Dowelltown—a mayor and two aldermen. The seats are currently held by Mayor Gerald Bailiff and Aldermen Joe Bogle and Kevin Kent.

In Liberty—four aldermen seats currently held by Jason Ray, Paul Neal, Todd Dodd and J.D. Bratten.

State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver (District 40) and Mark Pody (District 46) are also up for re-election.

DeKalb School System Names Teachers of the Year

January 9, 2016
Dwayne Page
Leah Magness is Smithville Elementary School's Teacher of the Year
Alisha Day is Northside Elementary School's Teacher of the Year
Cynthia Pulley is DeKalb West School's Teacher of the Year
Lesa Hayes is DeKalb Middle School's Teacher of the Year
Amanda Fuller is DeKalb County High School's Teacher of the Year

The DeKalb County School System has announced its "Teachers of the Year" at the building level of the five schools in the county.

This year's honoree are Leah Magness at Smithville Elementary School; Alisha Day at Northside Elementary School; Cynthia Pulley at DeKalb West School; Lesa Hayes at DeKalb Middle School; and Amanda Fuller at DeKalb County High School.

Magness is a first grade teacher in all subjects. She is in her 9th year as a teacher.

Day teaches reading, language arts, and social studies in the fifth grade. She is in her 14th year.

Pulley is in her 8th year. She teaches all subjects in the fourth grade.

Hayes is a seventh grade math teacher and is in her 17th year.

Fuller is an eleventh grade chemistry and biology teacher. This is her 20th year in the classroom.

Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for 7th through 12th grades said "Again this year, we're going to participate in the Teacher of the Year program, which begins on the school level, moves to the system level, the regional level, and finally to the state level," she said.

Competition for system-wide Teacher of the Year continues through February, and will be announced at the Teacher of the Year Banquet in the spring. There will be three teachers chosen by a committee to compete at the regional level in March, and if selected they will represent DeKalb County at the state level competition.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers; to stimulate interest in teaching as a career; and to encourage public involvement in education.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year represents Tennessee at the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Teachers of the Year are selected competitively through five cycles: Building, System, Field Service Core Center Region, Grand Division and State; and from three categories (levels of teaching); Grades Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12.

Teachers selected at each cycle receive local recognition and awards underwritten by local sources. State recognition/awards include a banquet honoring the nine State Teacher of the Year finalists and certificates of appreciation from the Governor. In addition, the State Finalists and the State Teacher of the Year receive cash awards.

Petty Gets 15 Years as Career Offender for Aggravated Burglary and Theft

January 7, 2016
Dwayne Page
David Petty

A 54 year old Smithville man who allegedly broke into a residence in July, 2014 received a fifteen year prison sentence as a career offender Thursday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Following a sentencing hearing, Judge Gary McKenzie handed down the fifteen year term for aggravated burglary against David Michael Petty as a career offender, the maximum allowed by law. Petty got another twelve years as a career offender for theft of property over $1,000. The sentences will merge as one fifteen year term. Petty must serve at least 60% of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Petty stood trial and was convicted in DeKalb County Criminal Court Wednesday, December 9.

Both the trial and sentencing hearing were covered exclusively by WJLE.

After deliberating for less than an hour, a jury of six men and six women found Petty guilty of aggravated burglary and theft of property over $1,000 as charged in the indictment against him.

Because Petty has multiple previous felony convictions in several counties dating back to 1980, Assistant District Attorney General Stephanie Johnson asked the court to sentence him as a career offender. "Mr. Petty's criminal conduct spans 35 years. He has very serious prior felony convictions. I understand they are from the 1980's but still we have someone who has persistently violated the law and obtained criminal convictions in several different counties in our state. Mr. Petty has been active in five different surrounding counties. He previously violated and has been revoked on parole twice and probation five times. This defendant has not had any measure of success on supervised release in our community. Furthermore, while he has not been charged, he has been out on an OR bond and has admitted drug use so he has continued to involve himself in illegal activity while this case was pending trial," Assistant DA Johnson told the court Thursday.

A co-defendant in the case, 44 year old Anthony Lynn Colwell pled guilty in July to aggravated burglary and received a TDOC sentence of eleven years at 45% before parole eligibility. The term is to run concurrently with a Warren County case against him. He was given two days of jail credit.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said at the time of their arrests that on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 Petty and Colwell broke into a residence on Man Hill Road and stole a jewelry box containing several items of jewelry which were later pawned at a local jewelry store and at a pawn shop in Warren County. Petty's defense essentially was that while he sold the property, he did not commit the burglary and theft.

Petty's attorney Michael Auffinger, in asking the court for leniency for his client Thursday, said that Petty was never proven to have participated in the burglary. "There was never any direct proof whatsoever that tied him to the burglary," he said.

Auffinger also pointed out that Petty voluntarily cooperated with law enforcement officers in the burglary investigation and tried to settle the debt with one of the pawn shop owners who suffered a loss because of the case. He also said Petty suffers from significant health problems and underwent surgery last week. Auffinger asked the court to make Petty's sentence at the "bottom of the range" of punishment allowed by law in this case.

Judge McKenzie found that due to seven prior felony convictions since 1980, which included three kidnappings, an assault with intent to commit a felony, and a grand larceny, Petty should be sentenced as a career offender

"Mr. Petty it looks to me that from 1980 to today there has been criminal behavior on your part," said Judge McKenzie on Thursday. " In the sentencing report there was a DUI conviction around 2003. There is a disorderly conduct in 2000. If your 1983 cases were not of a felony nature that would be one thing. If they were smaller level offenses that would be one thing but they are kidnappings. There's an assault. And then there are some drug offenses and burglaries. There is a lot of criminal history here. Based on those seven felonies I'm going to classify you as a career offender. Most individuals go their entire lives without a single arrest. Without a single conviction. The vast majority of us go our entire lives without multiple convictions. And you've got seven. The prior criminal history and multiple convictions certainly weighs strong for the state. If an individual in our community gets seven prior felony offenses then there becomes a need to protect society from releasing him back," added Judge McKenzie.

A hearing on a motion for a new trial in the case will be heard on March 21.

Smithville Awarded CDBG Grant for Sewer Plant Renovation

January 7, 2016
Dwayne Page
Head Works to be Renovated
Aeration System to be replaced
Aeration Infrastructure to be Upgraded

The City of Smithville has been awarded a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $500,000 to help fund a renovation of the headworks and to replace the aeration system at the waste water treatment plant.

The Upper Cumberland Development District applied for the grant on behalf of the city to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

"We've met with the state's ECD and the city has been officially approved for the CDBG grant for the wastewater plant," said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson during Monday night's meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. "The last time we did an update on that was 1991 other than annual maintenance that we do. Two budgets ago we approved for J.R. Wauford Engineering, the city's consulting engineer, to do site plans for the rehabilitation. That has already been done and the state has approved the plans although an environmental review process has not yet been completed. We'll probably bid it out within the next two months. I expect it to be completed by year's end. We won't have to do any other renovations for probably another 20 to 30 years. It (waste water plant) is not as bad as the water plant was but it is getting some age on it and it needs to be updated," he said

The total cost of the project is expected to be $2.88 million dollars. Although the grant will fund part of the costs, the bulk of the funding to pay for it will be appropriated from the city's water and sewer fund surplus. But the renovation can be completed without any increase to water and sewer ratepayers according to Hendrixson.

Greg Davenport of the J.R. Wauford company addressed the mayor and aldermen on the proposed project in October, 2013. "The existing wastewater treatment plant was designed in 1991 and it went into operation in 1992. It has functioned very well. The operation of that plant is top notch. The operators have done a fantastic job of preserving your infrastructure. Even so there are things that wear out with time and equipment is one of those things. After about twenty years at a wastewater treatment facility, it just gets to a point where it's time to renew it. There are really two components to the plant. The first component is the headworks which is the primary treatment. That's the screening and grit removal. Obviously the most aggressive environment is at the front end of the wastewater treatment plant. The second component is the aeration and controls. The aeration system itself is not in a failing mode but there are more energy efficient systems out there nowadays that we feel like you ought to take a look at. This would be a more pro active project. What we're proposing is a project that would renovate the headworks, which is the primary treatment device and then install a more efficient aeration system. My preliminary calculations on the aeration system show that it could save about $30,000 to $35,000 a year in electricity by switching over. The plant is twenty one years old. It's time to take an assessment of it and see what needs to be done," said Davenport.

Candidate Petitions Available Friday

January 7, 2016
Dwayne Page

Candidate petitions for the August 4 elections will be available beginning Friday, January 8.

Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, said petitions can be picked up as early as Friday by candidates for School Board, candidates for various positions in Smithville, Dowelltown and Liberty and for State Representative. Petitions must be returned by NOON April 7.

County offices to be elected locally in August, along with Assessor of Property and Constable, are: School board seats in districts 4, 5, and 6.
The seats are currently held by Kate Miller, W.J. (Dub) Evins and Doug Stephens, respectively.

City offices to be elected are:
In Smithville—three aldermen seats currently held by Shawn Jacobs, Josh Miller and Danny Washer;

In Dowelltown—a mayor and two aldermen. The seats are currently held by Mayor Gerald Bailiff and Aldermen Joe Bogle and Kevin Kent.

In Liberty—four aldermen seats currently held by Jason Ray, Paul Neal, Todd Dodd and J.D. Bratten.

State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver (District 40) and Mark Pody (District 46) are also up for re-election.

WJLE Radio Shopper Returns January 21

January 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
WJLE's Dale Carroll will co-host the RADIO SHOPPER program with Dwayne Page Thursday Morning, January 21

WJLE and participating local businesses are giving you a chance to bid on and buy merchandise at a discount in the RADIO SHOPPER on Thursday, January 21.

Starting at 9:00 a.m. that morning, WJLE will be opening up the phone lines for you to bid on various items from F.Z. Webb & Sons Gifts, DeKalb County Ace Hardware, DeKalb Farmers Coop, Kilgore's Restaurant, Bumpers Drive-In, Cantrell’s the home of Fluty and Fluty’s Shoes, and more to be added!

WJLE will set a minimum bid on each item and continue the bidding until the item is sold. The program on Thursday will be limited to around three hours. If we have more items to sell, the program will resume on another day.

If your business would like to participate, contact Dwayne Page at 615-597-4265.

It’s going to be fun and exciting! Be sure to be by your radio and your telephone on Thursday, January 21 at 9:00 a.m. and call in a bid to RADIO SHOPPER on WJLE. The program will also be streamed LIVE at www.wjle.com.

Law Requiring Insurance Verification for Vehicle Registration Not Yet in Effect

January 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss

Contrary to some recent media reports the James Lee Atwood Law (also known as the Insurance Verification Law) has not yet gone into effect.

According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue insurance verification for vehicle registration DOES NOT go into effect now. There are parts of the law that are in effect now, such as increased fines for not showing proof of insurance to a law enforcement official when a person is pulled over for a violation.

"Many news channels reported that effective January 1 County Clerks were required to have proof of insurance prior to vehicle registration. Currently County Clerks are not required to verify insurance prior to registration. However the state law for having insurance and providing proof to law enforcement is in effect," said County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss.

The Department of Revenue is still in the planning phase of developing a system for insurance verification. The law as it is currently written requires that the system be functional by January 2017.

New City Bridge May Not Be Completed Until Next Fall

January 5, 2016
Dwayne Page
Holmes Creek Road Bridge Closed over Fall Creek

It may be next fall before a new bridge is in place on Holmes Creek Road over Fall Creek in Smithville.

Until then residents in the area and other motorists will have to continue making a detour by way of Riley Avenue or Allen's Ferry Road.

The bridge, at the bottom of town hill behind Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, has been closed since October 30.

The state forced the City of Smithville to close the bridge due to a Tennessee Department of Transportation Evaluation Report which detailed various bridge deficiencies making it potentially unsafe.

The project is being funded under the state's 1990 Bridge Grant Program. The Tennessee Department of Transportation will pay for 98% of the costs to replace the bridge. The local matching portion is 2%.

During Monday night's meeting the Mayor and Aldermen discussed the project with Public Works Director Kevin Robinson and City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson.

"I talked to Kyle Hazel probably two or three weeks ago. He is the engineer over the bridge. It's in the design phase right now. They're projecting it to be done maybe by late summer or fall," said Robinson.

"The way this came about was every other year they (state inspectors) come through and do an inspection and send us a report telling us what we need to do. Usually it's just clearing sediment from underneath the bridge and checking on the signed tonnage that's allowed to cross it. Right before Halloween this year they issued a statement saying the bridge would be closed in two weeks. There was nothing we could do about it. They (state) are paying for 98% of it but it is still a big inconvenience for anybody living in that area. Unfortunately it (project) is going to move slowly. They've got to do site tests and core samples. They also have to obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers because the creek is a tributary to the lake. Then they have to bid it out and whoever is awarded the contract will have 120 days to complete the project. It's a long process," said Hendrixson.

Alderman Gayla Hendrix, who has long pushed for the construction of sidewalks on that street leading from town to the golf course area, asked if the bridge could be made wide enough to allow for pedestrians should sidewalks later be built on the street. "While they are refurbishing the bridge, it would be really great if they could add sidewalks to the bridge, you know, expand it then maybe we could tie into it (later)," she said.

"I can ask the engineer and see", replied Robinson.

"I've already asked that question and I didn't exactly get an answer," said Mayor Jimmy Poss.

"They are promising to try and straighten it up (street) and take some of that curve out of it. That needs to be done.

"As far as the sidewalks, he said we already have 33 feet (bridge width) including two twelve foot lanes so it will be wide enough (for pedestrians)," Mayor Poss added.

The new bridge and a portion of the street around it are also expected to be striped.

Early Voting Hours Set for March 1 Primaries (VIEW SAMPLE BALLOT HERE)

January 5, 2016
Dwayne Page
Dennis Stanley

Early voting hours for the March 1 Presidential Preference Primaries and DeKalb County Democratic Primary have been set by the DeKalb County Election Commission.



Following a plan that has been in place the past few years, the Commission voted to set the following early voting hours:
Mondays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Thursdays 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Saturdays 9 a.m. to Noon.

Early voting will be held at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Smithville and the voting days are February 10-23 except President’s Day (February 15) when the courthouse will be closed.

“The Commission is always interested in arranging the schedule to accommodate a wide range of voters,” said Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections. “This schedule does that as there are two periods of afternoon voting times to accommodate those who work, along with the Saturday hours.”

“This is a lengthy ballot due to the number of presidential candidates and the Republican delegate candidates,” Stanley continued. (see ballot pdf) “Voters are encouraged to take advantage of the early voting opportunities so the lines will not be as long on election day.”

Meanwhile, “In an effort to create a pleasant, non-disruptive and orderly atmosphere without undue delays for all voters, the legislature passed a new law effective this month concerning using cell phones in the polling place,” Stanley said. “The law prohibits using mobile electronic or communication devices by voters for telephone conversations, recording or taking photographs or videos while inside the polling place. The law also allows for the silencing of cell phones.”

“The Tennessee Division of Elections has created an ‘app’ called GoVoteTn which contains a lot of voting information individualized for each voter,” Stanley continued. “Voters will be able to access this ‘app’ or others if needed for informational purposes, but phone conversations are not allowed, the phones must be silenced and any election content on the phone cannot be shown to other voters.”

“This ‘app’ is a great tool to use in order to be prepared when you step into the voting booth,” Stanley added. “When voters are unprepared, they slow down the entire voting process for all voters and may have their time in the voting booth limited pursuant to T.C.A. 2-7-118(a).”

Kiosk Remains Down for Maintenance in County Clerks Office

January 5, 2016
Dwayne Page
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss

The self-service Kiosk in the DeKalb County Clerk's Office remains unavailable until further notice due to system maintenance.

Kiosk service was discontinued December 30 at 4:30 p.m. but was to be operational again by Monday, January 4 at 8:00 a.m. "The Kiosk remains out of service until further notice. We have had numerous unsuccessful attempts Monday and today (Tuesday) with several calls inquiring as to the availability of using the machine," said County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has announced that Tennesseans may now renew their driver license every eight years instead of five years. The change will include all classifications of driver licenses and identification licenses.

The legislation to increase the renewal years was proposed during the 2015 legislative session. Senator Nicely and Representative Goins introduced the bill to help decrease wait times and improve customer traffic flow at driver services centers.

“This is another step to improve the quality of our driver services and help better serve the existing population as well as plan for future growth here in Tennessee,” Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “It’s our goal to enhance our driver services and provide convenient options for our customers.”

The new eight year license will include all forms of driver licenses and identification licenses, including commercial driver license and motorcycle license.
“We are pleased with the support of the Governor and the members of the General Assembly who continue to work with our department to improve our driver services division to better serve our growing state,” Gibbons said.

The Department of Safety and Homeland Security regrets the inconvenience with the Kiosk


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