Local News Articles

Representative Terri Lynn Weaver Has Concerns with Bill Requiring Seat Belts on School Buses

April 8, 2017
Dwayne Page
DeKalb School Bus Involved in Minor Accident in October 2014 (Only two students, an educational assistant, and the driver were on board at the time and there were no injuries)
Terri Lynn Weaver

Legislation spurred by a 2016 Chattanooga school bus crash that killed six children passed the Tennessee Senate Education Committee Wednesday with seven senators saying yes and one member passing.

The bill now goes on to the Finance Committee.

On Tuesday, the House Transportation Committee approved the bill on a 9-7 vote, moving it along.

The bill would require all new Tennessee school buses purchased beginning July 1, 2019, to come equipped with safety-restraint systems approved by the National Transportation Safety Board. In a successful effort to cut costs to state and local government, the bill sponsor earlier this week removed the requirement that all buses must have the safety belts as of July 1, 2023. Instead, the bill relies on new belt-equipped buses eventually replacing buses without belts.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, a member of the House Transportation Committee and Subcommittee Chair of Transportation, voted no saying she has reservations about the bill. “The argument is what would happen if you have children as young as kindergarten and first graders strapped in seatbelts and the bus goes off a bridge into water or a fire ignites. In two minutes a bus can be in flames. How are these children going to get out of these buses? Who is going to make sure they get unlatched? We have to consider that,” Representative Weaver told WJLE in a LIVE Radio interview Friday morning.

“Since 2009 we have had ten deaths of children and one adult in school bus accidents and that is eleven deaths too many but one school bus accident on a bridge or in a fire with children who cannot get out as quickly as normal, you could have 20 or 30 deaths,” she added.

There are an estimated 9,000 school buses in Tennessee with some 600 of them replaced annually, according to a legislative fiscal note. A new bus costs about $100,000. Having them come equipped with seat belts adds about $10,000 more per bus, the fiscal note says.

The move to drop the mandatory 2023 implementation date for seat belts slashed projected costs of the bill dramatically. It now would boost state expenditures by $2.15 million a year going forward, with the money going to local schools. Local schools' cost would be $12.91 million annually going forward.

Originally, the bill would have cost the state nearly $12 million a year for five years and school systems about $70 million a year over a six-year period.

Congressman Diane Black Speaks at DeKalb GOP Reagan Day Dinner

April 7, 2017
Dwayne Page
DeKalb GOP Chair Mingy Bryant with Congressman Diane Black at Reagan Day Dinner Friday night at County Complex
Congressman Diane Black greeted by Walteen Parker, Donny Green, and Sheriff Patrick Ray and wife Dessa Ray

Congressman Diane Black supports President Donald Trump’s decision to take military action in response to the deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria on Tuesday.

Representative Black, who was in Smithville Friday night for the annual Reagan Day Dinner sponsored by the DeKalb County Republican Party, told WJLE that the U.S. missile strikes Thursday night on a Syrian airbase should send a clear message to the Bashar al-Assad regime.

“I do believe we have to react when we have a tyrant who is killing his own people. I am proud that the president made that decision that he was going to show that the United States is not going to stand for those kinds of atrocities,” said Congressman Black.

Meanwhile, Congressman Black said she is pleased the U.S. Senate confirmed President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court this week. The vote was 54-45.

Democrats had staged a highly unusual filibuster to block the nominee but Republicans responded by changing the long-standing Senate rules to allow filibusters of Supreme Court nominees to be broken with 51 votes rather than the previous 60.

“I frankly believe the Senate rules are crazy to begin with because a majority should be 51 and not 60 so the changing of those rules obviously was necessary because of the Democrats being very partisan. Judge Gorsuch is a good man. A man who had many good things said about him by the very people who said they wouldn’t support him so this was very partisan and I am glad they (Senate Republicans) did what they did. We needed a good man like Judge Gorsuch on our Supreme Court. I am very proud of that,” said Congressman Black.

On healthcare, Congressman Black, who chairs the House Budget Committee, said she is optimistic that the Trump administration and congressional Republicans can still reach common ground on a bill that could win enough votes for House approval.

“We are continuing to work on the healthcare bill. I am insistent that we are going to get this healthcare bill passed. The people of Tennessee and across this country are suffering under Obama Care. We see rising premiums and rising co-pays where people cannot use their insurance. And in many places there is not even an option any longer because insurers have pulled out of the market. We’re going to keep working until we get this right and we pass this for the American people,” Congressman Black said.

Mason Sentenced on Attempted Kidnapping Charge

April 7, 2017
Dwayne Page
John Thomas Mason
Dustin Allen Sullivan
Michael George Rowland

A Smithville man charged recently with especially aggravated kidnapping after holding another man at gunpoint and taking his car appeared for sentencing in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday, April 3

John Thomas Mason of Smithville Highway, Smithville entered a plea by criminal information to the lesser offense of attempted especially aggravated kidnapping and theft over $1,000. He received a ten year sentence on the kidnapping charge as a range 1 offender to serve six months of the term with the rest to be served on TDOC probation. Mason got a two year sentence for the theft as a range 1 offender with the term suspended to probation. The sentences are to run concurrently with each other. Mason is to make restitution of $6,246 to one victim and $371.64 to another.

Mason was previously arrested with a co-defendant, 35 year old Christina Love Johnson and charged with theft of property over $1,000. Mason was also previously charged with possession of contraband in the jail and assault.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Monday, December 19, 2016 the Sheriff’s Department received a report of a stolen 2005 Toyota Corolla, valued at $6,000. Two days later, on Wednesday December 21 Mason and Johnson were found in possession of the car in Warren County. A further investigation revealed that Mason held a man at gunpoint in the car forcing him to drive to Midway Road and then he took the car at gunpoint.

The case against Johnson remains pending in court.

22 year old Dustin Allen Sullivan of Jackson Street, Smithville entered a plea by criminal information to burglary, resisting arrest, and evading arrest. He received a four year sentence in the burglary case suspended to supervised probation and 11 months and 29 days in each of the other two offenses to run concurrently with each other. He was ordered to make restitution of $9,485 to the victim.

Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, January 27 a detective and deputy conducted a traffic stop on Cecil Hale Road in Smithville. Sullivan was a passenger of the vehicle. He had active warrants against him. Sullivan was asked several times by the detective to step outside the vehicle but he refused. Sullivan was forcibly removed from the automobile as he continued to resist. Sullivan was then handcuffed and transported to the jail for booking.

In the burglary case, Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, October 22, 2015 Sullivan allegedly broke into a building on Sink Creek Road and took several mechanics tools including wrenches, rachets, sockets, and pliers valued at more than $12,000. Tools from the victim's property were later found in the homes of both Sullivan and a co-defendant.

30 year old Michael George Rowland entered a plea to attempted possession of meth over 0.5 grams for sale and delivery and unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. He received a six year TDOC sentence to serve in the drug case and two years on the other charge. The two terms are to run concurrently with each other. He is to forfeit his weapon and make $100 restitution to the Smithville Police Department. Rowland was fined $2,000. He was given jail credit from August 26, 2016 to April 3, 2017.

According to Smithville Police, officers were called to a residence on Friday, August 26, 2016 to investigate a possible physical domestic. Upon arrival, they spoke with Rowland and his wife. They asked Michael to step outside. During a safety pat down, an unloaded 38 Smith & Wesson hand gun was found on Michael and he removed four live rounds and one spent round from his pocket and turned them over to the officer.

After receiving consent to search, other officers inside the home noticed a small box wrapped in duct tape lying on the kitchen floor. They pulled back the tape and discovered it was a Marlboro cigarette box. Inside the box was a plastic bag containing approximately 1.6 ounces of a crystal like substance that tested positive for Methamphetamine. Also on the living room floor were two more handguns.

Rowland is a convicted felon out of Ohio.

39 year old Crystal King entered a plea by criminal information to possession of drug paraphernalia and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on supervised probation. The term is to run consecutive to her current DeKalb County probation.

33 year old Jason Knowles entered a plea to driving on a suspended license and received six months supervised probation

FCCLA Students Compete at State Leadership Conference

April 7, 2017
Dwayne Page
Johnnie Golden, Cody England, and Ashley Reynolds

These students recently competed at the FCCLA State Leadership Conference.

Johnnie Golden and Cody England placed bronze in the Culinary Arts Events and Ashley Reynolds placed 2nd, Silver and will be advancing to National Competition July 2-6

Aldermen Delay Action on Fireworks Ordinance

April 7, 2017
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen have delayed action on an ordinance lifting the ban on the sale of fireworks in the city limits of Smithville.

Although the issue was on the agenda Monday night, City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson asked the aldermen to wait until the May meeting to take action in order to provide more time to work out details of the ordinance.

“I have a sample ordinance from MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) and I have gone through it but there are still quite a few questions and they haven’t gotten back with me. We still have time before the (fireworks) season to pass an ordinance. I want to research this a little bit more before I present this to you. There are some things like how much we’re going to charge for permits and other things that they (MTAS) needs to answer before I present it to you. There are also state regulations that go with this and I don’t want the city to do anything that goes against the state regulations,” said Hendrixson.

The city has prohibited the sale of fireworks since 1982.

The aldermen voted to declare a two story brick home near the airport park surplus property on Allens Chapel Road. The city recently had to purchase the house for demolition and the trees around it will have to be removed because of FAA regulations prohibiting obstructions within the airport’s glide zone. The home was purchased using TDOT Aeronautics grant funds. The city’s local grant match was 5%.

First Time Homebuyer Seminar Saturday

April 6, 2017
Dwayne Page
First Time Homebuyer Seminar Saturday

The Real Estate Team will be hosting a First Time Homebuyer Seminar on Saturday, April 8 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at 3263 Nashville Highway, Smithville.

You are invited to stop by for answers to questions concerning buying a home. A lender will also be there to explain the loan process, credit requirements, how to fix your credit, and to provide other details about how to buy your first home.

The event is hosted by Jennifer Hannah and Holly Slager-Williams. Ben Sweeney of First Cumberland Mortgage will be there and the Mason Jar will be providing a free lunch.

WJLE will have a LIVE broadcast on site from 10:30 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. For more information call 615-597-9200.

Landis Charged with Forgery

April 6, 2017
Dwayne Page
Roxanne Landis

Smithville Police have charged a local woman with forgery.

32 year old Roxanne Landis was arrested on Wednesday, March 29. Landis could be seen on video surveillance at Wal-Mart passing a forged check belonging to her victim. From July 15, 2016 to July 28, 2016 Landis allegedly passed a total of six checks at Wal-Mart totaling over $700.00 which were forged on the victim's account. Her bond is $6,000 and her court date is April 13.

31 year old Justin L. Murphy was arrested for domestic assault on Saturday, March 11. Murphy allegedly assaulted his victim by punching her in the left shoulder repeatedly leaving a visible bruise. His bond is $4,000.

50 year old Howard Ronald Cook Jr. was arrested on Monday, March 13 for aggravated assault and violating an order of protection. Cook allegedly produced a knife while trying to gain entry into a room where his victims were staying. One of the victims was the petitioner of an order of protection against Cook. His bond is $6,000 and the court date is April 6.

31 year old Laura Beth Elmore Farris was cited for fraudulent use of a credit card on Monday, March 20. Farris could be seen on surveillance video at Kwik N Ezy using someone else’s credit card. The victim had an active police report on file for fraudulent activity on his card. Upon investigation, police discovered that Farris had found the card on the ground at DeKalb Market and then used it without the owner's permission at Kwik N Ezy on Monday, March 13. Her court date is April 6.

33 year old Jeremy Daniel Loader was cited for simple possession on Monday, March 27. Police were called to Dairy Queen where a man was observed beating on the glass after hours. The officer spoke with the man, Loader and after obtaining consent to search his vehicle, found three yellow long bar shaped pills believed to be Alprazolam under the driver's seat. Loader could not provide a prescription for the medication. His court date is April 20.

60 year old Lawrence F. Phaup was arrested for driving under the influence on Tuesday, March 28. Phaup was allegedly traveling 57 mph in a 40mph speed zone. Upon initiating a traffic stop and making contact with Phaup, the officer observed an odor of a fermented beverage about his person. Phaup consented to field sobriety tasks and he performed poorly on them. Phaup was taken into custody and cited for speeding. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is April 20.

30 year old Nikita Dawn Clark was arrested for a third offense of DUI on Wednesday, March 29. Police were called to perform a welfare check on a woman found slumped over the steering wheel of a vehicle in the parking lot of Larry's Discount Grocery. The officer awoke the woman, Clark but she appeared disoriented, not knowing where she was or what was happening. Clark had slurred speech and couldn't perform field sobriety tasks due to a knee problem. A cut up straw and pill residue were also found in the passenger seat of her vehicle. Bond for Clark is $4,500 and her court date is April 6.

City Bracing for Water and Sewer Rate Increases Over Next Few Years

April 6, 2017
Dwayne Page
Smithville Mayor and Aldermen (older photo)

The City of Smithville will have to raise water rates by 45% over the next five years once it loses its largest customer, the DeKalb Utility District. The DUD has built its own treatment plant and plans to start producing water soon.

In addition, Smithville residents will be hit with a sewer rate hike of 40% over the next four years in order to fund depreciation due to renovations underway at the waste water treatment plant.

A 45% hike would increase customers water rates from $5.00 per thousand gallons to $7.69 per thousand over five years. A 40% increase in sewer rates over four years would result in an increase from the current rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons to $7.33 per thousand.

Greg Davenport of the J.R. Wauford Engineering Company and Buddy Petty of Rate Studies Incorporated of Nashville shared with the mayor and aldermen in January the results of the latest water and sewer rate study.

“Everybody knows a big water rate increase is coming. You cannot lose your largest water customer by far without a massive increase. I think you are selling more water to them (DUD) than you use inside the city. We also looked at your sewer system,” said Davenport.


During Monday night’s meeting (April 3), City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson gave copies of Petty’s detailed report to each alderman and the mayor.

Hendrixson suggested a workshop be set up for Petty to again explain the numbers before the city moves forward on a plan to address the concerns

“This is the final report from Mr. Buddy Petty who was here a few months ago who we had a workshop with. We couldn’t get them here tonight to go over this but I told them I would pass it out to you. There is quite a bit to look at here. What we’re hoping to do is set up a another workshop in the next few weeks and have Buddy sit down here and go through the numbers and explain it to you. There is a lot in here (report). A lot of information, charts, graphs, etc. It shows where we are going over the next three to four years without the DeKalb Utility District. They (DUD) are still hooked on to the City of Smithville. They haven’t yet converted over to their plant 100% but I think they are in the process of it. They are still a City of Smithville customer. Unfortunately over the next three to four years we are probably going to have to raise our rates to some extent to make up for the loss of revenue. It (report) shows the percentage of increase needed to keep the water and sewer utility in the black. We can’t go two years in a row operating in the red otherwise the state will determine that for us,” said Hendrixson.

Liberty Senior Citizens Center Closes

April 5, 2017
Dwayne Page
The Liberty Senior Citizens Center operated out of the old Liberty High School Building

The Liberty Senior Citizens Center has closed.

The last day of operation was Friday, March 31, almost 30 years after it was chartered in 1987.

The Liberty Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently took action to close the center due to concerns of its continued viability. “The center was closed as a result of low attendance of participants who live in the Town of Liberty along with the expense of operation to the Town of Liberty, Patty Ray, Director of the Upper Cumberland Area Agency on Aging and Disability told WJLE

According to a spokesperson in Liberty, the number of participants at the Liberty Center had fallen off over the past year which had an impact on available funding for the center. The numbers didn’t add up to get enough funding to keep the center viable.

“The majority of all senior centers’ funding comes from local governments, fundraisers and grant opportunities. A contract between the AAAD and the Town of Liberty provided a small amount of funding for specific services to be provided at the center,” said Ray

“The funding formula, which determines the amount of dollars designated for the center, has not significantly changed, but the way funds are reimbursed has changed for the purpose of accountability for the dollars spent on the specific services being purchased,” she continued.

“The same funding formula and contract reimbursement methods are used for all participating senior centers across the Upper Cumberland. The AAAD contracts with DeKalb County for senior center services in Smithville and with a free-standing Board for senior center services in Alexandria,” Ray said.

“A variety of programs are offered in senior centers across the Upper Cumberland. The AAAD contracts with the centers for the following services: Education; Health Education; Health Screening; Physical Fitness; Recreation; Resource Information; Telephone Reassurance; and Evidence Based programs,” added Director Ray.

With Liberty having closed the center, participants who took part in activities there may now go to the Alexandria or Smithville Senior Citizens Center.

City Officials Frustrated with Bridge Repair Delays

April 5, 2017
Dwayne Page
Veterans Memorial Bridge on College Street
Smithville Mayor and Aldermen
State Representative Mark Pody

Local officials are not happy that it’s taking so long to fix the Veterans Memorial Bridge on College Street over Broad Street.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation let bids for the project Friday, February 10 and Mid-State Construction Company, Inc. had the apparent lowest bid at $238,600.58.

The bid was initially expected to be awarded by mid-March with construction to follow. The completion time on the project was to have been on or before September 30. But TDOT rejected the bid.

“The project was rejected in the February letting because the bid prices came in too high. We are looking at ways to lower them and once we decide on how to do this we will re-let the project and see what we get. We understand that it is an inconvenience, but we must be good stewards of the public’s money and look for fair and equitable prices,” Jennifer Flynn, TDOT Community Relations Officer told WJLE

During Monday night’s meeting of the city council, Mayor Jimmy Poss and Aldermen said they wanted state lawmakers to intervene with TDOT in an effort to expedite the project.

In a LIVE radio interview with WJLE Tuesday morning, State Representative Mark Pody said he planned to meet with TDOT officials this week to discuss the project. “I am meeting with TDOT to see what we can do to speed up this project. I can’t tell TDOT who to get their bids from because they have to go through that process but because it has been delayed I can ask what we can do to start moving this thing along much faster,” said Pody.

The bridge was damaged in June, 2016 when a DeKalb County Landfill truck, driven by 54 year old Roger Chapman, hit the underside of the bridge as it was traveling east on Broad Street. Although the truck carried no dumpster at the time, the lift was up. The bridge has been closed since the accident.


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