Local News Articles

DeKalb Jobless Rate Drops to 7.1% in August

September 27, 2015
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for August was 7.1%, down from 8.2% in July and 8.2% in August 2014.

The local labor force for August was 7,150. A total of 6,640 were employed and 500 were unemployed.

DeKalb County's Jobless Rate for August was fifth highest in the fourteen county Upper Cumberland region.

Here's how they rank from highest to lowest:
Clay: 7.9%
Jackson: 7.6%
Van Buren: 7.5%
Fentress: 7.3%
DeKalb: 7.1%
Overton: 6.6%
Putnam: 6.1%
White: 6%
Warren: 5.9%
Cannon: 5.7%
Smith: 5.3%

County unemployment rates for August show the rates decreased in 93 counties and increased in two.

Davidson County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate in August at 4.5 percent, down from July’s rate of 4.9 percent. Knox County was 4.8 percent in August, down from 5.4 the previous month. The Hamilton County August rate was 5.7 percent, down from 6.2 in July. Shelby County was 6.9 percent in August, down from 7.4 percent the previous month.

Tennessee’s preliminary unemployment rate for August was 5.7 percent, unchanged from the previous month. The U.S. preliminary rate for August was 5.1 percent, down two tenths of one percentage point from July.

The state and national unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted while the county unemployment rates are not. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series.

Library Announces DeKalb BookShare Pilot Program

September 27, 2015
Dwayne Page
County Library Director Kathy Hendrixson and SES Librarian Jane Ramsey
Rochelle Turner of Justin Potter Library and SES Librarian Jane Ramsey

Justin Potter Library is pleased to announce its 2015-16 pilot program in partnership with Smithville Elementary School, the DeKalb BookShare program. This new program aims to expand teacher and student resources. This works by allowing Smithville Elementary School teachers to reserve various resources for their classes through Justin Potter Library, which are delivered to Smithville Elementary School weekly. By working directly with local schools, the public library system can more effectively provide students with information relevant to their homework assignments and extracurricular interests. The goal for the DeKalb BookShare is for both organizations to work together to better serve the community and students.

The DeKalb BookShare is the first program of its kind in DeKalb County, but a growing number of schools and libraries across Tennessee have already partnered for student success including Nashville and Murfreesboro. Rita Shacklett, Director of Linebaugh Public Library System, was of great assistance in sharing the details of her program. She advocates the value of such a program and its positive impact on the students. It is the mission to provide a similar opportunity for DeKalb County students.

"We at Justin Potter Library are excited to take this opportunity to help our community," said County Library Director Kathy Hendrixson. "Through our pilot DeKalb BookShare program, we hope to improve the educational resources available to our students and make Justin Potter Library more accessible to everyone. We look forward to working with Principal Julie Vincent, Librarian Jane Ramsey and the teachers and staff at Smithville Elementary School and thank them for their assistance and support in implementing this program that benefits the students," she said.

"We encourage everyone to take advantage of the free resources offered at Justin Potter Library. Our free services include Wi-Fi, public access computers, genealogy research, books, movies, magazines, and much more," added Hendrixson.

If you have any questions about the pilot program DeKalb BookShare call Justin Potter Library at 615-597-4359.

Smithville Police Arrest Suspect in Bread Theft

September 27, 2015
Dwayne Page
Captain Steven Leffew

Smithville Police recently arrested a man for stealing bread off pallets outside a local grocery store.

Captain Steven Leffew reports that 48 year old Jeffrey Lee Johnson was arrested by Detective Brandon Donnell for theft on Tuesday, September 8. According to Police, someone took bread that was setting on several pallets outside of a Smithville grocery store on Monday, September 7. After reviewing surveillance of the theft, Johnson became a suspect. During the investigation, Johnson was located and some of the bread was recovered. He was placed under arrest for the theft. His bond is $1,500.

Sergeant Brad Tatrow took a report on Monday, September 7 of someone taking a vehicle from the parking lot of Napa Auto Parts . The automobile was found near the Cannon/DeKalb line at Barnes Cemetery. 36 year old Jeffery Scott McAlister became a person of interest and upon further investigation by Detective Matt Holmes it was determined that McAlister had taken the vehicle from the parking lot, driven it to the cemetery, and left it there. McAlister was arrested for theft. His bond is $5,000.

Officer Lance Dillard arrested 41 year old Jeffery Lynn Sanders for public intoxication on Thursday, September 10. Officer Dillard was dispatched to the public square in reference to an intoxicated man in a truck. Upon arrival Officer Dillard found Sanders who was lying across the front seat of the truck. Sanders' speech was slurred. He was unsteady on his feet and couldn't control his movements. Sanders was found to be a danger to himself and was placed under arrest. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on October 29.

Sergeant Travis Bryant arrested 63 year old Ernest Eldridge for aggravated domestic assault on Thursday, September 10. According to Police, a verbal altercation became physical when Eldridge allegedly attempted to choke a family member. His bond is $5,000 and he will make a court appearance on October 1.

Officer Will Judkins cited 18 year old Issac Corbin Beck for possession of alcohol on Saturday, September 12. Officer Judkins received consent to search Beck's vehicle and found a bottle of Crown Royal and nine cans of beer.

45 year old Joseph Lamar Birdsong was arrested for DUI on Sunday, September 13. Sergeant Brad Tatrow received a call of a possible intoxicated person leaving Mapco Express. While patrolling the area, Sgt Tatrow spotted the vehicle which was traveling in the wrong lane. The driver was operating the vehicle erratically. The automobile was weaving and the driver appeared to have trouble negotiating curves. Sgt Tatrow initiated a traffic stop and spoke with the driver, Birdsong who had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person. Birdsong was unsteady on his feet and his speech was slurred. Birdsong submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on October 1.

33 year old Lacy Lee West was arrested for domestic assault on Sunday, September 13. Corporal Chip Avera was called to check out a possible domestic incident. He discovered that what started out as being verbal later turned physical between the parties. The victim had scratches on neck and hand and a red mark on the cheek. Bond for West is $2,500.

Nine days later on Tuesday, September 22, Lacy West was arrested again, this time for public intoxication. According to the warrant, Corporal Chip Avera was dispatched to a residence and found West in the front yard burning trash at 12:41 am. She had a strong odor of alcohol coming from her person. Her eyes were red and watery. Her speech was slurred and she was unsteady on her feet. West had been warned on two previous occasions about being drunk in public, becoming a nuisance, and being a danger to herself and the public. She was placed under arrest for the safety of others and herself. Her bond is $1,500.

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Set for Today

September 26, 2015
Dwayne Page
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Set for Today at Smithville City Hall

The DeKalb County Prevention Coalition is encouraging you to do your part in properly disposing of your unused medications on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Saturday, Sept. 26. Misuse of prescription medication can put your health at risk and lead to accidental overdoses, poisoning addiction, and possible death.

Locally, you may drop off your unused or unwanted medications at Smithville City Hall on Saturday, September 26 from 10:00am to 2:00pm. The drug take-back box is located inside Smithville City Hall so local residents can return their unwanted, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs for safe disposal.

“It is so important to discard unused prescription medications from your home to ensure they are not obtained, misused, and abused by family and friends,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “By joining in Drug Take-Back Day, you will be taking the best approach in removing unused, unwanted, or expired prescription drugs from your home and eliminating the possibility they’ll harm someone else who gets their hands on them.”

Take the following steps to get rid of Prescription Drugs from your home:

•Check for unused prescriptions in your medicine cabinets, under the sink, in kitchen drawers, purses, and other containers or bags.

•Bring prescriptions in their original containers and remove all labeling on packages, bottles and containers before disposing, to ensure your protection and privacy.

“This is a great partnership with law enforcement. It’s free, anonymous and no questions asked,” said Commissioner Varney. “We need to do all we can to encourage people to participate, as the rate of prescription drug abuse in Tennessee is high, as are the number of accidental poisonings.”
It is estimated that more than 1,000 people in Tennessee die each year from drug overdoses. Many of those deaths could have been prevented if unused prescriptions were disposed of properly.

“Every pill that’s not properly disposed of is a chance it will result in an unintended overdose of death,” said Commissioner Varney. “I urge all Tennesseans to take part in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, so these unused drugs don’t harm those we love and care for the most.”

The DeKalb County Prevention Coalition urges DeKalb County residents to come out to this event and drop off any unwanted, unneeded, or expired prescription medication. This is confidential and no names or information will be collected.

Deer Archery-Only Hunting Season Opens Saturday

September 26, 2015
Dwayne Page
Deer Archery-Only Hunting Season Opens Saturday

The 2015 deer archery-only hunting season opens statewide in Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 26. The archery season dates in all three of the state’s deer hunting units are the same. The dates are Sept. 26-Oct. 30 and Nov. 2-6.

Tennessee is divided into three deer units for better management, A, B, and L. DeKalb County is in Unit A. The antlerless deer bag limits are four in Units A and B deer management areas and three per day in Unit L areas. The antlered deer bag limit is a total of two for the entire deer season. A hunter may take his two antlered deer during any season, but no more than one per day.

The TWRA makes the recommendation that all archery hunters obtain a 2015-16 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide. The guide lists the counties and bag limits for each of the different deer management units. The guides are available where hunting and fishing licenses are sold and on the TWRA website, www.tnwildlife.org.

During the opening weekend of the 2014 deer archery-only season, 2,764 deer were harvested. Other recent opening weekend totals have been 3,076 in 2013, 3,128 in 2012, 2,811 in 2011 and 2,404 in 2010.

Hunters are reminded that they must possess the appropriate licenses and permits. Any hunter born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 is required to carry proof of satisfactory completion of a hunter education class or be in possession of the Apprentice Hunting License (along with other required licenses), while hunting any species in Tennessee.

Bomb Threat Disrupts School Day at Smithville Elementary

September 25, 2015
Dwayne Page

A bomb threat at Smithville Elementary disrupted the school day Friday forcing administrators to have the approximately 570 students and staff bused to Northside Elementary School where they spent the remainder of the day. No one was injured and no explosives were found.

Central dispatch received a call from the school's SRO reporting the incident at 10:07 a.m.


Once the automated call reporting the threat was received at the school, administrators sprung into action to begin evacuation of the building.

"I received a telephone call from Smithville Elementary School that they had received a call that an explosive device was on the school premises. At that point, Attendance Supervisor Joey Reeder and I went to the school. By the time I arrived, Principal Julie Vincent and Assistant Principal Anita Puckett had evacuated the school building. At that point I talked with the administrators and we decided to evacuate the students from Smithville Elementary to Northside Elementary and that's where we decided to keep them for the rest of the day," said Director of Schools Patrick Cripps.

Only seven and a half minutes elapsed between the time Cripps placed a call to Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague to get buses in route until the last child was removed from Smithville Elementary. Cripps credited Sprague and the bus drivers for their quick response.

Members of the Smithville Police and Fire Departments also quickly converged on the scene along with the Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS.

Authorities conducted a walk through of the school but found nothing suspicious. Bomb sniffing dogs from outside the county were unavailable Friday morning because of similar bomb threats in other mid-state counties but, according to Cripps, dogs are expected to be brought in to do a sweep of the SES building either Friday night or Saturday morning.

Cripps expressed his appreciation to administrators, staff, and the community for their response to the crisis. "It's a call you never want to get but everything fell into place. Everybody just pulled together. The administration, faculty, and staff at Smithville Elementary and Northside, the school bus garage, the sheriff's department, Smithville Police Department, and Smithville Fire Department. I just want to say thank you for all the help that you gave. I also want to thank the students. It was an emotional time for them. The teachers did a great job too keeping them (students) calm. And I'd like to thank the parents for their cooperation. I was told that once students arrived at Northside we had parents helping get those children off the buses with umbrellas covering them from the rain. I want to thank everyone for what they did for our children. It was a whole group effort. The central office staff went down and helped both schools to get students and teachers in places where they needed to be. I would like to thank everyone for all the cooperation and help," concluded Cripps.

DCHS Celebrates Homecoming

September 25, 2015
Dwayne Page
Sophomore Float Wins First Place in Homecoming Parade
Homecoming Queen Hannah Renea Walker and attendants, Kaitlyn Roller, Breanna Gibson, Lynlee Judkins, Kaylene Ferguson, and Jailyn Bolding in DCHS Homecoming Parade

DeKalb County High School students celebrated the last day of Spirit Week with a Homecoming Day parade on a rainy Friday afternoon.

The Tiger football team's homecoming opponent Friday night is the Macon County Tigers and the floats in the parade had a Tiger versus Macon County theme.

The parade featured Homecoming Queen Hannah Renea Walker and her attendants, class and club floats, lots of decorated cars and trucks, county and city law enforcement officers, and fire fighters, among others. The event concluded with a pep rally led by DCHS Football cheerleaders and a performance by the DCHS band on the square.

Winners of the float competition were as follows:
First Place: Sophomore Class
Second Place: Spanish Club
Third Place: Freshman Class
Fourth Place: Senior Class
Fifth Place: Junior Class

Best Decorated Automobiles:
First Place: Anna Malone
Second Place: Sam McMillen
Third Place: Erin Perry


SES First Graders Learn Doubles Rap to help with Addition Facts (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

September 25, 2015
Dwayne Page

Mrs. Whitney Brelje and Mrs. Leah Magness' first grade classes at Smithville Elementary School have learned a Doubles Rap to help with addition facts. "It's the doubles baby, Here we go, Here we go!..." (VIEW VIDEO BELOW)

Mrs. Brelje's students: Alexa Acosta, Gloria Guerra, Jerika Carter, Marco Cuellar, Nohely Vidal, Dakota Dodson, Levi Griffin, Yandel Herevia, Rayna Johns, Miah Johnson, Brylee Kirby, Thomas Liggett, Levi Singleton, Jonathan Sobotka, Austin Sosa, Cali Stembridge, John Summers, Taylor White, and Seth Young.

Mrs. Magness' students: Lilly Anderson, Paityn Barnes, Brooklyn Bogle, Caylee Brotherton, Eli Crook, Jaycee Daley, Gavin Edwards, Brooklyn Fuson, Makenlee Gard, Cooper Odom, Owen Roberts, Ryder Stanfield, Michael Thomason, Tucker Webb, and Auston Wood.

Owner of Log Home Company Found Guilty in Assault of Disgruntled Customer

September 24, 2015
Dwayne Page
Maureen Espino Park
Lawton Duane Park

A DeKalb County couple, who claims to sell fully built log homes, appeared in General Sessions Court Thursday on charges they assaulted a disgruntled customer who confronted them at a local restaurant.

After a hearing, Judge Bratten Cook, II found 47 year old Maureen Espino Park guilty of assault and unlawful possession of a weapon. Judge Cook dismissed an assault charge against her husband, 47 year old Lawton Duane Park. Mrs. Park received a sentence of 30 days on the weapon charge and six months for the assault but she will be on probation. She was also fined a total of $100 plus court costs.

The Parks' were arrested by Smithville Police on Thursday, August 27 after a Michigan man, Danny Hall confronted them at McDonald's Restaurant in Smithville claiming they had defrauded him. Hall claims he and his wife ordered a brand new log home through the Starry Hill Log Homes website in January, a company run by the Parks and paid $36,000 but never got the logs to build the home.

During the confrontation at McDonalds which was captured on video, Hall was allegedly assaulted by the Parks. While finding Mrs. Park guilty of the assault, Judge Cook dismissed the case against Mr. Park after reviewing the video and reportedly determining that he appeared to be trying to break up the fight. Mrs. Park was charged with the gun offense after police found the weapon in her purse during the assault investigation for which she had no permit.

Aside from the assault incident, the Parks could be facing more problems. Officials of the District Attorney General's Office confirm that the Parks are under investigation by the TBI based on customer complaints concerning the Parks' log homes business. In addition to Hall, Kenny Tripp from Smithville, and customers in Chattanooga, as well as Texas and Kentucky, reportedly have said they paid the Parks for homes as well and never got them.

Mr. Park, a pastor, reportedly offers regular Bible studies at the New Heart Outreach located on Broad Street in Smithville.

DeKalb Animal Coalition to Present "The Civil War in DeKalb County" (VIEW VIDEO BELOW)

September 24, 2015
Dwayne Page

You have an opportunity to help support the DeKalb Animal Coalition and learn about the Civil War in DeKalb County during a special program by Thomas G. Webb, DeKalb County Historian on Saturday, September 26 at 7:00 p.m. at the DeKalb County Complex Auditorium.

Adult admission is $10 per person and $3.00 for all students. Proceeds from the evening's entertainment will go to the DeKalb Animal Coalition, a tax deductible organization dedicated to building a new animal shelter for our community.

In the video segment above, Webb told WJLE that his remarks will be only about the Civil War in DeKalb County, and not about the Civil War in general.

"I'll talk about the Civil War in DeKalb County and as it affected DeKalb Countians," he said.

"We had soldiers who went to the big battles and went to Virginia, Georgia, and other places. But just our soldiers who were in those places is all I'll be talking about," Webb said.

"When I was very young, I knew that Tennessee was a Confederate state and I expected all the soldiers from Tennessee to be Confederate. And I was surprised when I read Mr. Will T. Hale's History of DeKalb County to find that we had a lot of Confederate soldiers but we also had a large number of Union soldiers. As it turned out we had about two thousand Confederate soldiers and we had about 700 Union soldiers. DeKalb County had as many Union soldiers as the six surrounding counties put together. And I'm going to talk about why we had so many Union soldiers in this county whereas the surrounding counties did not have. And that's going to be one of my main subjects," said Webb

The Civil War ended 150 years ago in April, 1865. So why do hard feelings related to that war still linger?. Why did so many DeKalb Countians join the Union Army? Why did DeKalb County civilians experience such intense and prolonged suffering? Why did some DeKalb Countians first join the Confederate Army and subsequently join the Union Army? What was life like for Prisoners of War? Confederate flag controversy: One Historian's Perspective.


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