Local News Articles

Chamber Elects Executive Board Members and Officers

February 5, 2016
Newly elected 2016 Chamber Executive Officers

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce recently elected their 2016 Chamber Executive Board Members and welcomed 5 new Chamber Board Members at their January meeting.

Chamber Director Suzanne Williams says, “As we begin a new year, it is very exciting to announce our new Chamber Executive Board and new board members, but also bittersweet as we say good-bye to our retiring members. The 2015 Executive Committee and Retiring Board Members did an excellent job and served the Chamber well.”

The 2015 Officers were Jeff Crips, President; Shan Burklow, Vice-President; Jane Brown, Treasurer; Sherry Harris, Secretary; and Julia Vanderpool, Past President. Retiring Board Members include Sue Conley, St. Thomas DeKalb Hospital; Raul Ramirez, Federal Mogul; Sherry Harris, D&S Specialtees; Stein Prichard, Prichard Foods; and Julia Vanderpool, Cumberland Insurance.

The newly elected 2016 Chamber Executive Officers are Kathy Hendrixson, Director of the DeKalb County Library Systems, who will serve as Chamber President. Shan Burklow, Marketing Director for St. Thomas DeKalb and St. Thomas Stones River Hospitals, is Vice-President. Jane Brown of Middle Tennessee Natural Gas will be the Board Secretary. Jacob Young, manager of Edgar Evins State Park, will be the Treasurer. Jeff Cripps of Regions Bank will serve as Past President.

Also for 2016, the five new board members serving a three-year term are: Steve Johnson, DTC Communications; Jacob Young, Edgar Evins State Park; Isaac Gray, Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church; Rita Bell, Haven of Hope; and Connie Tjarks, Knot Enough Thyme.

Williams stated, “I am very grateful to the entire Chamber Board. They have been so supportive & enjoyable to work with, and we look forward to a lot of great opportunities in 2016!”

See attached pic
L to R:

2016 Chamber Executive Officers
Jacob Young, Treasurer; Kathy Hendrixson, President; Jane Brown, Secretary; Shan Burklow, Vice-President; Jeff Crips, Past President (not pictured)

Cookeville Boat Dock Has 30 Days to Appeal Court Order in Delinquent Tax Case

February 5, 2016
Dwayne Page
Judge Amy Hollars

The owners of Cookeville Boat Dock, Inc. have 30 days to appeal a court order filed this week demanding they pay almost $138,000 in delinquent property taxes owed to DeKalb County from 2004 to 2013.

The written order, signed by Judge Amy Hollars, was filed Wednesday, February 3 in DeKalb County Chancery Court. The judge gave the same ruling orally on Tuesday, November 24.


2013cv26ordercbd_rad7B968.pdf (2.47 MB)

"The total of the judgments for the years 2004 through 2013 together with all accrued interest, penalties, and fees accrued through January 31, 2016 is $137,933.34. The total is based upon a base tax for the years stated in the amount of $62,733, interest and penalty of $67,643.04, and attorney fee of $6,273.30, and court costs of $1,284", the order stated.

The court further ordered that "DeKalb County is entitled to additional penalty of 10% on all delinquent taxes" finding that T.C.A. 67-5-2410 (a)(1)(A) is the controlling statute as to additional penalty.

"It is ordered that DeKalb County is entitled to charge a 10% additional penalty on the base amount of delinquent taxes."

"It is further ordered that Cookeville Boat Dock, Inc. shall continue to accrue on any unpaid taxes, interest and penalty as set out in T.C.A. 67-5-2410 (a)(1)(A)" the order stated.

In November, Judge Hollars again found as she had earlier in the year that Cookeville Boat Dock must pay delinquent DeKalb County property taxes, but in a new ruling she granted a motion by the marina's attorney to bar the county from collecting more than 10 years in back taxes with 10 years being a statute of limitations. That ruling saved the boat dock nearly $60,000. However, the judge ruled against the boat dock when it came to the amount of interest the county could charge on the back taxes.

Judge Hollars announced her decision via a telephone conference call on November 24 with Vester Parsley, Jr., the county's tax attorney, and Jon Jones of Cookeville, the lawyer representing Cookeville Boat Dock. Clerk and Master Deborah Malone and County Mayor Tim Stribling were also present. Again, the written order was not filed until Wednesday, February 3.

The boat dock owners have refused to pay their taxes since 1998 which now comes to more than $200,000 including taxes, interest, penalty, court costs, and attorneys fees. As a result of the judge's decision, the boat dock will NOW owe the county only $137,933.04 for the delinquency from 2004-2013

Jones initially argued for the marina that Tennessee law violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against a lessee of the United States in favor of lessees of the State of Tennessee. It was argued since the boat dock pays fees to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which are used, in part, to pay DeKalb County a sum of "in lieu of taxes," that having to pay property tax to the county was, in effect, double taxation.

In April Judge Hollers ruled that the boat dock's challenge to the tax was invalid in part because the Supremacy Clause "does not prevent a state or local government from imposing a tax on an individual or a corporation 'using government property in connection with a business conducted for its own private gain."

The attorney for the marina later filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider her ruling. Jones argued that the county cannot collect taxes beyond 10 years; that the judge's ruling on the "Supremacy Clause" of the U.S. Constitution was incorrect; and that the amount of interest the county wants to charge is above what is allowed by law.

In the motion for "additional consideration of issues," attorney Jones pointed to a Tennessee law that states, "All taxes assessed against real property and personal property in this state shall be barred, discharged and uncollectible after the lapse of 10 years from April 1 of the year following the year in which such taxes become delinquent, whether suit be brought within that time or not to collect the taxes."

Judge Hollars sustained Jones' motion on the 10 year bar based on TCA 67-5-1806. " Here it's not an action for recovery. There has been no payment under protest or otherwise. We do not have an action that is or has been before an administrative appeal before the state board of equalization so I think I have to rule that the 10 year bar does apply here so Cookeville Boat Dock will be relieved of several years of their taxes," said Judge Hollars.

As for the interest issue, the defendants argued "prejudgment interest may be awarded by courts or juries in accordance with the principles of equity at any rate not in excess of a maximum effective rate of 10 percent per annum."

While Judge Hollars granted the motion to bar the county from collecting delinquent taxes beyond 10 years, she denied the request to prohibit the county from assessing the current rate of interest and penalty.

She also affirmed her earlier ruling on the constitutionality of the tax.

Smithville Fire Department Applies for Grant

February 4, 2016
Dwayne Page
Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker

The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department has submitted an application for a grant to purchase mobile computing devices or tablets for the city's fire trucks.

Chief Charlie Parker updated the mayor and aldermen on the project Monday night. He said the grant is a Federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant in the amount of $45,696 and if approved the city's match would be $2,200.

"We got the grant (application) submitted a couple of weeks ago. The grant would be for mobile computing devices or tablets to be installed in the trucks. The grant would also include all the hardware, software, licensing and everything that goes into getting them connected into the trucks. If we do get the grant it would help us on our ISO point. It would also allow the firefighters to have more information in the field," said Chief Parker.

The city has also purchased and the fire department received new Jaws of Life hydraulic rescue equipment which was funded in this year's budget.

The department now has three sets of tools for vehicle extrication.

"In this year's budget you (aldermen) voted and appropriated money to purchase new hydraulic rescue equipment, the Jaws of Life. We have already received it and have it in operation. We now have three sets including the new set that we bought and the two older sets. One of them is the original set that we bought in the 1980's when we started doing vehicle extrications. We then got a newer set we bought a few years after that. We're still trying to sell the newer (second) set. The older set we're not going to get much money out of but with the newer set we might get a little more money to at least buy a new tool to go toward our new set. When we bought this new hydraulic set it was kind of a starter kit because the initial cost to do everything we needed is around $46,000 and we spent about $25,000 just to get started. It gives us a starting point we can build on," Chief Parker continued.

The Chief also asked the aldermen to allow the department to loan the oldest set of tools to the Alexandria Fire Department which is planning to start its own rescue extrication team. The aldermen approved the request. "I would like to ask the board if it's possible for us to loan the oldest set of tools to the Alexandria Fire Department. They are in the process of trying to start a rescue/extrication team down there. They have a crew and already have several members certified in using the tools. Some of them even came up and trained with us too. We would like to help them out and let them have our oldest set. It's still useable. We were using it up until we just replaced it. We'd like to see if we could loan that to them to help them get started until they can buy or get something on a grant. It would be understood that the tools would be their responsibility with no liability coming back to us on that. I have talked with the Alexandria Fire Chief and we'll make sure they are going to accept the responsibilities of it," said Chief Parker.

State Board of Education Seeks Public Feedback on Social Studies Standards

February 4, 2016
Dwayne Page

The state board of education is seeking public feedback on social studies standards for grades K-12.

Public review of the standards, which outline what students are expected to know and do by the end of a course or grade is the first step in a standards review that will last over a year.

The public may provide comments and make suggestions online at http://apps.tn.gov/tcas

The website is open until April 30.

The current social studies standards were approved in 2013 and first implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

In recent months. there has been a growing concern across the state over how students learn about religion in social studies classes, particularly the study of Islam.. Students in the sixth and seventh grades currently learn about major world religions in the context of world history.

The Tennessee State Board of Education (SBE) is responsible for reviewing academic standards every six years, and recent legislation (Public Chapter 423) specifically outlines the process for review, including this website for public feedback, of the English language arts (ELA), math, science, and social studies standards. Currently, the social studies standards are available for review through April 30, 2016.

Social Studies Standards

This website is currently open for the first of two windows of public feedback on the state social studies standards. This first window will close April 30, 2016. You will find the current social studies standards posted on this site. The SBE will work in conjunction with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) to collect all of the comments submitted to this website. Educator development teams will review the website feedback this summer and make revisions to the standards. Another draft set of standards will be posted following these changes in fall 2016 and an appointed Standards Recommendation Committee will make the ultimate recommendation for new social studies standards to the SBE in early 2017.

For more information about the standards review process for all subjects, please visit: http://www.tn.gov/sbe/topic/standards-review. Questions or concerns can be directed to TNStandardsReview@tn.gov.

Election Commission Issues Four Petitions for Smithville Alderman

February 3, 2016
Dwayne Page
Gary Durham
Shawn Jacobs
Josh Miller
Danny Washer

Four persons have been issued qualifying petitions by the election commission to run for Smithville Alderman in August.

Gary Durham and incumbent Aldermen Danny Washer, Shawn Jacobs, and Josh Miller plan to be candidates. Three aldermen positions are up for election on Thursday, August 4. Those seats are currently held by Washer, Jacobs, and Miller.

Those elected will serve a four year term.

The qualifying deadline for the Smithville Election is Noon April 7.

Meanwhile, two other municipal elections are scheduled for August 4.

A mayor and two aldermen will be elected in Dowelltown and four aldermen will be chosen in Liberty.

Those who have been issued qualifying petitions by the election commission to date are:

Pam Redmon for Mayor of Dowelltown

Jason Ray for Liberty Alderman (4 year term)

Eddie Dwayne Blair for Liberty Alderman (4 year term)

J.D. Bratten for Liberty Alderman (1 year term)

The qualifying deadline is Noon April 7

Three school board members will be elected on August 4 including one from the 4th, 5th, & 6th districts.

Persons who have obtained qualifying petitions to date are:

Kate Miller in the 4th district

Barry Mabe in the 5th district

W.J. (Dub) Evins, III in the 5th district

Doug Stephens in the 6th district.

The qualifying deadline is Noon April 7

Meanwhile, State Representative nominees from the 40th & 46th districts will be selected in the Tennessee Democratic and Republican Primaries on August 4. The qualifying deadline is Noon April 7.

DeKalb Democrats to Host Mass Meeting

February 3, 2016
Dwayne Page
Bill Freeman to Speak at Democratic Party Mass Meeting

The DeKalb County Democratic Party will hold a Mass Meeting for local and state Democratic candidates, Saturday, February 13, 2016, to kick off the election year. The event will take place at the DeKalb County High School cafeteria, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Meet the candidates for Constable, City Council, School Board, Property Assessor, and State Representative.

Mr. Bill Freeman, a potential candidate for the office of Governor, will be the keynote speaker. State Representative John Ray Clemmons of Nashville will be speaking for the Hillary for America campaign. Michelle Davis a volunteer with the Bernie Sanders campaign will also speak.

The event will feature live music, coffee, donuts, and conversation.

DCHS Lady Tiger Ashli Chew Signs with Bryan College

February 2, 2016
Dwayne Page
Senior DCHS Lady Tiger Ashli Chew signed Tuesday with Bryan College in Dayton Tennessee to play Collegiate Basketball next year. Pictured here with her parents and coaches at DCHS and Bryan

DCHS Lady Tiger Ashli Chew has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee next season.

The outstanding senior, who scored her 1,000th career point as a high school player Monday night against Upperman met with her coaches, family, teammates, and coaches from Bryan College for the signing Tuesday morning at DCHS.

"I've always wanted a basketball scholarship. I've always wanted to continue my career because I've worked so hard for it. I've gotten looks from a few different places but I went and toured Bryan and I absolutely loved it. I love everything about it. It's a Christian school and it's pretty close to home. It's a place where I think I could really play and really reach my full potential. I decided the first time I went that this is where I want to go," Chew told WJLE .

"We're excited about Ashli. I guess I could say what is not to like about Ashli? She is an all around great kid and great student. She has a great work ethic and is a great basketball player. She is a great fit for Bryan College in what she stands for in her personal life, spiritual life, and athletic life," said Bryan Head Coach Jason Smith.

Lady Tiger Coach Joe Pat Cope said Ashli overcame injury early in her high school playing career to become a leader in this program. "She tore an ACL her freshman year and was out her sophomore year otherwise she would probably be at 1500 points now. She has just worked so hard to battle back from that. It looks like she has a good chance to be the Valedictorian of her class. She has a 4.9 grade point average. As far as her work ethic, nobody surpasses it. I called her Saturday to talk about the signing and she was with a personal trainer in Smyrna working on her game. That's just the kind of kid she is. Ashli is constantly in the weight room, working or shooting and that is why she is at this level," said Coach Cope.

Ashli said reaching the 1,000th point milestone as a high school player was also a special moment. "That is really awesome. I think there has only been seven females in DeKalb County that has ever gotten 1,000 points so that itself is substantial. But as Coach Cope said I had a knee injury as a freshman and I was released in the middle of my sophomore year. When I returned I was rusty and knew it would be really hard to get my 1,000th point but I just have some awesome teammates and coaches who really push me. It's just a really big honor to be part of it," said Chew.

Bryan College is a Christian liberal Arts College and a member of NAIA's Appalachian Athletic Conference. "This is my fifth year at Bryan on the women's side. We are currently 19-3 and tied for first place in our conference. We are in a good spot. We start three freshmen so we're still young. I only have one senior who plays significant minutes so we're a program that is at the top of our level right now and we're still young so we have a long way to go," said Coach Smith.

(PICTURED ABOVE: SEATED- George Chew (father), Ashli Chew, and Lori Chew (mother); STANDING- Assistant Coach Josh Agee, DCHS Lady Tiger Head Coach Joe Pat Cope, Bryan Head Coach Jason Smith, and Bryan Assistant Coach Bryon Lawhon)

County Mayor Speaks Out Against Marina Tax Exemption Bill on Capitol Hill (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

February 2, 2016
Dwayne Page
County Mayor Tim Stribling

Should marina owners be exempt from payment of county property taxes?

DeKalb County officials are concerned about state legislation which if approved would exempt from property taxes, any property owned by the federal government and leased to marina owners or operators who lease the federally owned property and make in lieu of tax payments on such property.

County Mayor Tim Stribling testified before the State House Local Government Committee Tuesday morning, February 2 on the impact such a law would have on DeKalb County. He said if such legislation were adopted, DeKalb County could stand to lose thousands of dollars in personal property tax collections.

"We have eight marinas on Center Hill Lake. For us to lose this tax would amount to about two and a half cents on our property tax rate. A penny brings in about $44,000. The money we generate from the boat docks from the personal property tax is about $108,000. That money goes to our general purpose fund. The money that the Corps of Engineers gives to DeKalb County amounts to about $95,000 and that goes into our landfill. To lose this tax would be a burden on the taxpayers, on the farmers, and on the working class," said Stribling.

"These boat docks have a tremendous value. A lot of counties would like to have what we have but they don't and I am as proud as I can be of them. They bring in a lot of people but they also depend on our services, our emergency services, our county fire department, our sheriff's department, our ambulance service, rescue squad, and our landfill. They (marinas) all need those services. To pay a tax on personal property is no different than anyone else operating a business. I operated a car dealership business from 1984 to 2006. We paid our real estate tax and we paid a personal property tax on our equipment inside our dealership. So this is not a tax as such that the boat dock's think they are paying to the Corps. It's a lease," he continued.

"I just want you to know that this (tax exemption legislation) would affect our economy. We would have to make up that two and a half cents (local tax money) somewhere," Stribling concluded.


The bill was filed last year by Republican State Representative Cameron Sexton of Crossville and by Republican State Senator Bo Watson of Hixson but it stalled in committee. Hearings have resumed on the proposal again this year.

Under the proposed legislation, state law would be amended by adding subsection which states that
(1) If any federally owned property is leased to any taxpayer that owns or operates a marina, yacht club, dock, or similar property located on the federally owned property, and the taxpayer has entered into a payment in lieu of tax agreement with the United States or an agency of the United States, then the federally owned property, the taxpayer’s marina or similar property, and any leasehold interest in these properties, shall be exempt from taxation.

(2) As used in this subsection (f), “payment in lieu of tax agreement” means an agreement requiring that the taxing authorities receive payments or other charges directly from a lessee of the property or from any other sources on account of the property.

(3) The exemption provided under this subsection (f) shall be provided in the same manner as exemptions from taxation provided under this chapter for property owned by this state or political subdivisions and leased by private lessees making in lieu of tax payments.

In November, Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars ruled that Cookeville Boat Dock must pay a portion of delinquent DeKalb County property taxes which it has owed since 1998. Under the law, the county cannot collect more than 10 years of the marina's back taxes due to a 10 year statute of limitations

Aldermen Vote Extra Week of Vacation for City Employees with 20 Years of Service

February 2, 2016
Dwayne Page
Smithville Mayor and Aldermen

Smithville employees who have worked for the city twenty years or more will get a total of four weeks of paid vacation.

The aldermen voted to amend the city's personnel policy on first reading Monday night to provide for the extra vacation time. Second reading will come at the next meeting on March 7.

Currently city employees with ten years get a total of three weeks of paid vacation.

Alderman Josh Miller raised the issue Monday night.

"I was contacted last month by a city employee about vacation time. I think what our policy says right now is that once you get ten years you get three weeks of vacation. And after ten years no more (vacation) time is added through retirement. I just think that is a long time not to get any kind of increase in vacation time. All they are getting is a cost of living raise after that anyway. I am asking the board that at twenty years plus, anyone who has been here that long that on their twenty year anniversary that you get another week of vacation time on that for a total of four weeks," said Alderman Miller.

City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson said currently five employees would benefit immediately from this action. "We've got five employees currently. We have Phillip Wilkey who has been here going on 31 years. Candy Gregory has been here almost 28 years. I think this week will be Jimmy Taylor's 28th year. Bobby Pinegar has been here 25 years and Jan Wilkins is coming up on her 20 year anniversary so it affects five employees. Our next closest one is Captain Steven Leffew in the police department at 16 years," said Hendrixson.

Alderman Miller made a motion to grant the extra vacation time for employees with twenty years or more. Alderman Shawn Jacobs offered a second to the motion. Aldermen Danny Washer, Gayla Hendrix, and Jason Murphy all voted yes.

(UPDATED) Body of Missing Horseback Rider Found Monday

February 1, 2016
Dwayne Page
Micheal Minnear

A man last seen alive Sunday riding a horse was found dead Monday afternoon by members of the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad about a half hour after they were summoned to start looking for him.

Dead is Micheal Minnear.

Minnear and others had reportedly been riding horses together but he later decided to go home and separated from the group. When he didn't show up at home, a search began.

Members of the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad joined the search just before noon Monday and found Minnear's body at the bottom of a ravine off Holmes Creek Road shortly after noon.

"We got the official page at 11:43 a.m. Monday and went looking for someone riding a horse who had been missing since Sunday," said Joe Johnson of the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad. "We got our equipment together, spread into four groups, and started looking in the area from the Herb Cottage all the way to Cordell Love Road. At about 12:15 p.m. two of our Rescue Squad members spotted what appeared to be a horse at the bottom of a ravine on Holmes Creek Road (the road across from the Golf Course) about half a mile down the road on the right. They walked down in the woods to get a closer look and saw a red horse standing in the creek. They also noticed a body laying near the horse. Rescue Squad members converged on the scene and found it was the person we had been looking for. We did not approach the body until we called the sheriff's department. Two Sheriff's Department investigators, who had also been looking for him, came and did their investigation. We then got ropes and a stokes basket, lowered about 350 feet down, recovered the body, and brought it back up," said Johnson.

Johnson expressed his appreciation to fellow Rescue Squad members for their part in the search including Dustin Johnson, who coordinated the groups in using four wheelers, gators, and trucks in covering the area.


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