Local News Articles

Mandatory 10-Digit Dialing Starts Saturday for Phone Customers

February 27, 2015
Dwayne Page
Craig Gates

Telephone customers are reminded that ten digit local dialing will be required to complete a call beginning Saturday, February 28.

Because the existing supply of 615 area code numbers is running out, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority last year announced plans to implement the new (629) area code. Known as an 'Area Code Overlay,' this change ensures availability of an ongoing supply of telephone numbers.

According to rules of the Federal Communications Commission, when two area codes serve the same region, callers are required to change the way they dial local calls. While customers do not have to change their existing area code or phone number, they will be required to ten-digit dial all local calls (area code and seven-digit telephone number).

In addition to landlines, ten digit dialing will also apply to cell phones, fax machines, and other communication systems .

Beginning February 28, 2015, everyone in the 615 area code will be required to dial ten digits (area code + telephone number) and starting March 28, 2015, new telephone lines or services may be issued numbers using the 629 area code, if 615 numbers are no longer available. Currently, DTC Communications still has an ample supply of 615 area code numbers.

Craig Gates, Chief Executive Officer of DTC Communications urges DTC customers to be prepared for ten digit dialing. "It will be a change. It's going to take some education, especially once that mandatory time hits because people are not going to be ready for it. A lot of people are going to continue to dial seven digits and not think about it. When that day comes, I imagine we're going to start getting some calls from those people who haven't heard or forgotten about it," he said.

Caplinger Appointed to DeKalb Beer Board

February 26, 2015
Dwayne Page
Caplinger Appointed to DeKalb Beer Board

Rhonda Caplinger was appointed to the DeKalb County Beer Board Monday night by the county commission. She succeeds Bazel Dick Knowles, long time fifth district member of the beer board who recently resigned his position.

Caplinger will serve out Knowles' unexpired appointed term.

Other members of the beer board are First district-Jim Stagi, Second district- Frank Thomas, Third district- Edward Frazier, Fourth district-Robert Rowe, Sixth district- Leonard Dickens and Seventh district- Johnny King.

Jacob Young Named Manager of Edgar Evins State Park

February 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
Jacob Young

A former DeKalb County resident is returning home to become the new manager of Edgar Evins State Park.

Jacob Young, who has been a Park Ranger for ten years at Roan Mountain State Park, begins his new duties on March 1.

"I grew up in Liberty. My mom is Sherry Williams and my grandparents were the late Georgia and Morris Young. I attended DeKalb West School and DeKalb County High School," Young told WJLE.

" I got my degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. When I graduated college I went to work at Edgar Evins State Park as a seasonal interpretive ranger working under Mr. Carl Halfacre. I quickly fell in love with Tennessee State Parks that summer and shortly after that I was hired as a fulltime park ranger at Roan Mountain State Park in Carter County, Tennessee. I have been at Roan Mountain for 10 years. I worked there 8 years as a ranger and the last 2 years as the park manager," said Young.

"I have been married to Crystal Young for 11 years and we have three children, 8 year old Madyson, 5 year old Kylie, and 1 year old Hunter. We are currently in the process of adopting Kylie and Hunter," Young said.

"I love state parks and it is an honor for me to know that we are providing quality outdoor opportunities for our friends, family, and especially our children. God has Blessed me and my family so much and we are excited about this new opportunity," added Young.

"The Friends of Edgar Evins State Park had a very special regard for Carl Halfacre, the former Park Manager who retired last fall. We are expecting to also have a great working relationship and friendship with the new manager as well. We are looking forward to working with Mr. Young to enhance the park experience for all," said Fount Bertram, President of Friends of Edgar Evins State Park

Late Night Fire Destroys Two Story Home on Sparta Highway (VIEW VIDEO)

February 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
Doyle Hendrix Residence Destroyed by Fire
Pickup Truck Parked Near Home Destroyed by Fire

A late night fire Tuesday destroyed the two story residence of Doyle Hendrix at 1492 Sparta Highway.

911 received the call at 11:25 p.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green told WJLE that the fire was well underway by the time it was reported and the home could not be saved. A pickup truck near the residence was also destroyed in the blaze. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Members of the Midway, Short Mountain Highway, Cookeville Highway, and Main Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the tanker truck and manpower from other county fire stations.

The fire rekindled at 4:36 a.m. and the Midway station returned to the scene.

No one was at home at the time of the fire and no one was injured.


Man Gets Probation For Theft of Cemetery Vases

February 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
Gary Christopher Ponder

A 27 year old man who was charged last year with stealing bronze vases from cemetery tombstones and then selling them at a scrapyard received two years probation in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday, February 20

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

Gary Christopher Ponder pled guilty to theft over $1,000 and received a two year sentence on supervised probation. The sentence is to run consecutive to his current probation in another case.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on or about March 24, Ponder allegedly took eleven bronze vases from eleven different graves (tombstones) at DeKalb Memorial Gardens. He then took the vases to a scrap yard in Woodbury where he sold them. The approximate value of the vases was more than $1,000.

20 year old Patrick Jess Gilliam of Rogersville, Tennessee pled guilty to one count of evading arrest and one count of reckless endangerment. He received a two year sentence in each case, all suspended to supervised probation. The sentences are to run consecutively or back to back for a total of four years. He was given jail credit from December 12, 2014 to February 20, 2015.

Sheriff Ray said that on October 16, 2013 two Sheriff's Department Detectives responded to an unwanted guest call on Highway 56 north. They stopped a vehicle and checked for warrants on the two persons in that automobile. The passenger had an active warrant against him out of Hawkins County. The detectives approached the vehicle, opened the door, and asked the passenger to get out. The driver, Gilliam, then took off at a high rate of speed on Highway 56 north endangering the lives of the two detectives.

One of two women charged last year with introduction of contraband into the jail after sending a greeting card containing suboxone strips to family members incarcerated there was sentenced Friday.

28 year old Rebecca Marie Dickens pled guilty to the charge and received a three year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. She has requested judicial diversion. Dickens must pay a $2,000 fine and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the recommended treatment. The case against a co-defendant, 54 year old Tammy Elizabeth Burton, apparently remains pending in court.

According to Sheriff Ray, Dickens and Burton mailed a greeting card to prisoners Corey Dickens and Travis Davenport on Friday March 7, 2014. The card arrived at the jail on Monday, March 10. Corey Dickens is Rebecca's husband and Davenport is Burton's son. Correctional officers found the subxone strips concealed inside the card "They (Dickens and Burton) tore loose one of the double backings in the card and inserted the suboxone strips," said Sheriff Ray.

35 year old Abigail Vogel pled guilty to introduction of contraband into a penal institution. She received a three year sentence, suspended to probation. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, April 26, 2013 Vogel was arrested for another offense and brought to the jail for booking. After arriving, Vogel was asked several times if she had anything on her person that was illegal that the officers needed to know about. She replied no. When the correctional officer searched her before being booked, a plastic bag containing a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana was found in Vogel's pocket.

23 year old Michael Leichtfuss pled guilty to introduction of contraband into a penal institution. He received a three year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He was fined $2,000 and must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the recommended treatment. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, April 14, 2014 Leichtfuss was observed on video surveillance at the jail performing a suspicious act. When correctional officers investigated, Leichtfuss rose to his feet and a pill believed to be xanax, a Schedule IV drug, fell from his person onto the floor near his bunk. Leichtfuss admitted that the pill belonged to him.

43 year old Peggy Peoples pled guilty to two counts of attempted delivery of a schedule III drug. She received a three year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. The sentence was suspended to judicial diversion probation. She must pay a $2,000 fine to the drug fund.

75 year old Harry Vedder pled guilty to possession of a schedule VI drug and was granted judicial diversion probation for two years.

41 year old John Deck pled guilty to sale of a schedule II drug and received a three year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation by community corrections. He was fined $2,000 and must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the recommended treatment. Deck was given 81 days jail credit.

32 year old Christopher Newsom pled guilty to sale of a schedule II drug and received a three year sentence, suspended to judicial diversion probation. He was fined $2,000.

41 year old Cynthia Vaughn pled guilty to TennCare Fraud and sale of a schedule III drug. She received a three year sentence in each case to run concurrently and all suspended to supervised probation. She has requested judicial diversion. She must make restitution of $104.90 to TennCare and $25 to the Smithville Police Department.

56 year old Janice Darlene Strange pled guilty to sale of a schedule II drug and received a three year sentence, all suspended to TDOC probation on judicial diversion. She was fined $2,000.

23 year old Alexander Piasecki pled guilty to possession with intent to sell and received a two year sentence, suspended to judicial diversion supervised probation. He was fined $2,000

24 year old Hugo Godinez Juareg pled guilty to reckless endangerment and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on supervised probation.

36 year old John Perry pled guilty to assault and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation. He was given jail credit of 55 days.

27 year old Robert Wright, III pled guilty to a second offense of driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days suspended to 90 days to serve and 28 days of inpatient treatment. He was fined $610 and will lose his license per Department of Safety regulations. He was given 90 days jail credit.

32 year old Kevin Manning pled guilty to driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended except 48 hours. He was given jail credit for seven days. Manning must pay a fine of $350 and he will lose his license for one year. Manning must also attend an alcohol safety school and undergo and alcohol and drug assessment.

38 year old Brian Raynes pled guilty to driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days and will be on supervised probation except for 48 hours to serve. Raynes was fined $360 and he will lose his license for one year.

50 year old Pamela Moyers pled guilty to driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days to serve 48 hours. She will be on supervised probation and was fined $350.

Landfill Not Full Yet

February 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
New Solid Waste Transfer Station
Solid Waste Transfer Station behind Tenneco Automotive
Solid Waste Transfer Station Still in Development

Although plans are underway to build a solid waste transfer station, there appears to be no rush to have it operational anytime soon now that the county's consulting engineer has determined that the existing Class I landfill still has a remaining life of more than two years.

In a report to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Division of Solid Waste Management dated January 27, 2015, Ronnie Reece of Professional Engineering Services of Sparta wrote that the remaining life of the Class 1 Landfill for the DeKalb County Felts Cell "D"/Vickers Tract Phase 1 is two years and three months. The landfill is estimated to be filled to capacity during the month of March 2017.

County Mayor Tim Stribling made the county commissioners aware of the report during last Thursday night's All-Committees workshop and again during Monday night's regular monthly meeting. He also made available to the commissioners copies of Reece's report to TDEC.

"The landfill life calculations are based on projected amounts of waste received and an estimated compaction rate. If any of these projected quantities change during the continued operation of the Class 1 Landfill facility, so will the life of the landfill," according to Reece's report.

Last August, the county commission voted to enter into a five year contract with Smith County to dispose of DeKalb County's solid waste at the rate of $29.00 a ton after the transfer station becomes operational. During Monday night's meeting, County Mayor Stribling said the engineer is recommending that the county use more of the existing landfill site still available before paying another county to take its solid waste. "Our engineer suggested to use some of this landfill that we still have instead of paying to have it hauled and put in somebody else's landfill. It's not like that we've got to have a transfer station up and going in a month or two. We've got some time to gradually cross over," he said.

Meanwhile, work will continue toward completing the transfer station so that it will be ready when needed. " The transfer station work should be done probably the first of March. That's as far as the buildings are concerned. We've still got some utilities to be put in. The water and gas have to be installed. Probably sometime during the latter part of this year we'll try to get the transfer station up and going but we still have some equipment that will have to be bought. We've still got to have a loader and things like that for the transfer station. We've still got to have some utilities installed in order to get the buildings up and going," said County Mayor Stribling.

The commission last August awarded a bid to Elk Mountain Construction of Cookeville to build the transfer station, which is located in the Smithville Industrial Park on Highway 70 east behind Tenneco Automotive. Elk Mountain's base bid was $1,308,092 with a deductive alternate of $425,077 from the base bid for road work into the proposed facility.

After the transfer station is in operation the county will close its existing Class I landfill but develop a Class III/IV site on the same property for the disposal of construction material, household furniture, and other non-household garbage.

DeKalb Fire Department Seeks Purchase of Backup Generator

February 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
County Fire Chief Donny Green

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department wants to use excess funds from a FEMA grant to help fund the purchase of a stationary natural gas-powered backup generator at the Main Station on King Ridge Road.

During Monday night's county commission meeting, County Mayor Tim Stribling read from a letter by County Fire Chief Donny Green making the request. But since the county would have to come up with approximately $6,500 to help pay for it County Mayor Stribling suggested that the budget committee consider it first and make a recommendation to the full commission next month. Stribling's recommendation was approved on a voice vote by the commission. Second District Commissioner Joe Johnson voted against waiting fearing the county might risk losing the extra grant funds since the project has to be completed by July 16.

Chief Green made his initial request to the county commission last Thursday night during an All-Committees workshop. He said the left over FEMA grant money was from the purchase of equipment for the county fire department. "We had a 2013 FEMA grant that we bought equipment with. Through competitive bidding we had some money left over from the grant project. They're pretty strict about what you can do with it. In the project, we had bought some exhaust fans, hydrant gate valves, hose, etc. We bought pretty much what we needed to equip all our trucks the way they needed to be. When we got done, we had $12, 598 left. We have three options. We can increase the quantity of items purchased under the grant. We can send it (excess grant money) back to them (FEMA), or seek a grant amendment and do a critical infrastructure facility improvement which has to benefit multiple agencies," he said.

In his letter requesting an informal meeting with County Mayor Stribling and the County Commission's Emergency Services Committee, Chief Green wrote that the purpose was to discuss a plan to install a stationary natural gas-powered backup generator at the Main Station on King Ridge Road. "This generator is needed to allow essential equipment functionality when electrical power service is interrupted. This facility, if equipped with a backup power source, could easily be used as a public shelter, an alternate site for 911 Dispatch Center operations, and/or a location for EMS to operate from during electrical power interruptions".

"We have $12,598 in excess funds from an active FEMA grant that we have been authorized by FEMA to use to install this generator. Additionally, we have worked to secure some community grants to help us fund this project including a Middle Tennessee Natural Gas Utility District "Project Hometown Help" Grant for $1,000 and a Walmart Community Grant for $350".

The project cost to purchase a 25kW 120/240 volt, natural gas fueled generator with automatic transfer switch and installation of the generator and all components to make it "turn-key" ready is estimated to be $20,438. That would leave a budgeting shortfall of $6,489 which would be needed to fund it.

According to Chief Green's letter, "if we do not take action to complete this project by July 16, 2015, we will lose the $12,598 in FEMA excess grant funds."

County Mayor Stribling said there is ample time for the budget committee to consider this and for the entire commission to possibly vote on it in March and then bid it in April.

No More "Snow Days" For DeKalb School System

February 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby

The DeKalb County School System has run out of "snow days".

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said as of Monday, February 23 no more "snow days" remain and starting today (Tuesday, February 24) and any further days missed will have to be made up either during or at the end of the school year. Students have missed a total of eleven days of school due to inclement weather counting today.

Ten days are built into the school calendar each year for "snow days" or inclement weather and three days are included for so called "stockpile" or "early release" days which are used as professional development. On the stock pile day, teachers have in-service but students do not attend. Students are sent home early on "early" release days. The school system has already used its stock pile day and all but one of its early release days for the school year.

If more days are missed between now and May 26th, the school board will have to decide how to make them up. State law requires students to be in school a certain number of days each year. Director Willoughby said he plans to ask the State Commissioner of Education to grant a waiver on at least three snow days while Tennessee has been under a state of emergency due to the winter weather.

The remainder of the school calendar for the year is as follows:

Schools will be closed for spring break March 30 through April 3

No school for students Memorial Day, Monday May 25.

The last early release day is Friday, March 6

Students will not attend on Friday, May 22. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend. Friday, May 22 is also graduation day at DCHS. The last day of school will be Tuesday, May 26. That will be an abbreviated school day and report cards will be sent home.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Tuesday, March 10 at DeKalb County High School from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will also be held from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Thursday, March 12 at DeKalb Middle School, Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary, and DeKalb West School.

DCHS report cards will be sent home on Monday, March 9 and at all other schools on Tuesday, March 10.

2014 Property Taxes Due Saturday

February 23, 2015
Dwayne Page
 Trustee Sean  Driver

The Trustee's Office would like to remind you that Saturday, February 28 is the last day to pay the 2014 property taxes before penalties start accruing March 1.

Since the deadline falls on Saturday, Trustee Sean Driver said the Trustee's office will be open that day from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

The Trustee's Office is also open regular hours from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday- Friday. "Remember, if the last day comes and you can't make it to the post office to postmark your payment, we do have a drop box on the outside wall of the county offices section of the county complex. If you choose to use the drop box that weekend (February 28) we will gather the mail on Monday, March 2 from the drop box and no penalties will be applied to your 2014 tax bill," said Driver.

Driver said you have four options for paying 2014 property taxes. "You can come by in person at the Trustee's Office or you may mail in your payment. We also offer online bill pay at www.tennesseetrustee.com. You go to that website and select DeKalb County and then follow the instructions. Business Information Systems has set this up for Trustees across the state and there is a fee to use your debit or credit card. If you do pay online the fee to use your debit or credit card is 2.75% of your total tax bill. Or you can use an e-check for $2.50 on any total. Online accepts Mastercard, Visa, Discover, and American Express. Business Information Systems collects the fees, not DeKalb County" said Driver.

"We are also accepting partial payments in any amount. Remember, whatever portion of taxes is unpaid for 2014 using the partial payment plan, only the portion left unpaid will accrue at 1.5% penalty and interest per month starting March 1. The office can still receive partial payments on 2013 delinquent taxes up until March 31" said Driver.

Any 2013 unpaid property taxes will be turned over to the Chancery Court on April 1 for collection. "We have mailed out a reminder for those taxes that are left unpaid for 2013. If those taxes for 2013 are not paid before April 1 we will be sending that file to the Chancery Court on April 1. We can still receive partial payments on 2013 taxes up to that date," said Driver.

The Trustee's Office also offers the State of Tennessee Tax Relief. "If you would like to check on a possible tax relief for 2014, come and see us at 732 South Congress Boulevard, Room 103 or call us at 597-5176," said Driver. " The last day to sign up for tax relief is April 6.

UCEMC Members Targeted by Utility Scam

February 23, 2015
Dwayne Page

Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation (UCEMC) cautions members to be on alert for a telephone scam that is plaguing UCEMC’s service areas.

Scam artists are calling a home or business posing as a co-op or utility employee and threatening to shut off service unless the consumer provides immediate payment using a credit card. The caller may also request that members call a 1-888 number to provide their credit card information.

“The calls sound official, and the caller ID may even display the utility name,” says Jimmy Gregory, General Manager of UCEMC. Caller ID spoofing is the practice of causing the telephone network to indicate to the receiver of a call that the originator of the call is a station other than the true originating station. For example, a Caller ID display might display a phone number different from that of the telephone from which the call was placed. The term is commonly used to describe situations in which the motivation is considered malicious by the speaker or writer. “This scam is particularly harmful to consumers because there is no way to track or recover the money.”

Officials stress that UCEMC will:

•NEVER call members to request credit card, banking or other financial information over the telephone.
•NEVER call members threatening immediate disconnection unless a payment is made. Some co-ops do give members with a first time delinquent account a courtesy call prior to disconnection.
•NEVER ask to enter your home unless you initiate the request for co-op personnel to perform a specific service. Co-ops do this only by appointment and with a member’s prior knowledge.

“We are asking co-op members to be wary of any phone calls,” Gregory says. “If in doubt, hang up immediately, and contact your local UCEMC District Office at: Carthage 615-735-2940; Cookeville 931-528-5449; Gainesboro 931-268-2123; Livingston 931-823-1213 or 800-261-2940. Be certain you are dealing with an official representative of the cooperative.”

UCEMC is a cooperative owned by its members. It distributes electric power through more than 4,500 miles of lines to more than 47,000 meters located primarily in Jackson, Overton, Putnam, Smith Counties and northern DeKalb County, with additional members served in the fringe areas of Clay, Fentress, Macon, Pickett, White and Wilson. Visit www.ucemc.com to learn more.


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