Local News Articles

Election Officials Train in Smithville

April 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
Election Officials Train in Smithville

County Election Officials from across Middle Tennessee met in Smithville Friday for a training and networking session at the county complex auditorium.

DeKalb County Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley, who serves as Vice President for the Middle Tennessee Division of Tennessee Association of County Election Officials, said the organization convenes occasionally for training. "Every so often we get together and have a training and networking session. I decided this time we would have one in DeKalb County. We had over 70 election officials from about 20 counties who attended our program Friday. We also had here from the state office, Wayne Pruett, Coordinator of the Help America Vote Act," said Stanley.


Drive Thru Mobile Food Pantry a Huge Success

April 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
Drive thru mobile food pantry Saturday morning
Volunteers deliver food to the needy
Food delivery directly to the car door

The drive thru mobile food pantry Saturday morning was a huge success.

Almost three hundred food boxes were given away and everyone in line got at least one box regardless of their income status. The event, held in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, was sponsored by the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church as part of its community outreach ministry, but other churches and community volunteers also participated.

Unlike most food distributions, those served by Saturday's mobile pantry did not have to get out of their automobiles. They simply drove thru in a pickup line as volunteers delivered the food directly to their vehicles, placing the food boxes either in the back seat or trunk.

The food boxes contained such items as bread, canned goods, peanut butter, bags of potatoes, fruits, cakes, pies, and more.

The church expresses its appreciation to the volunteers for their help Saturday and is hoping to have more mobile food pantries in the future.

Two Airlifted After One Car Crash on Smith Road

April 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
Crash Occurs Near City Park on Smith Road (Photo by SPD Corporal Chip Avera)
Two Cookeville Men Injured in Wreck (Photo by SPD Corporal Chip Avera)
Two Airlifted After One Car Crash on Smith Road (Photo by SPD Corporal Chip Avera)

Two Cookeville men were seriously injured in a one car crash this morning (Saturday) on Smith Road near the city park

Smithville Police got the call at 1:20 a.m.

22 year old Austin Neyman and 21 year old Christopher Epperson were both airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

According to Corporal Chip Avera of the Smithville Police Department, both men were traveling west at a high rate of speed on Smith Road in a 2015 Nissan Versa when the car went off the right side of the road and traveled approximately 150 feet before impact. The car struck two mailboxes and a concrete culvert and then came to rest on its side in a ditch. Both men, who were wearing their seatbelts, got out of the car under their own power before officers arrived. They were taken by DeKalb EMS to a helicopter landing zone which was set up at Northside Elementary School. One of the men was airlifted by Erlanger Life Force 2 while the other was flown out by Air Evac Life Force 2.

While the Nissan is registered to Neyman, police have not yet determined which of the two men was actually driving the car.

The accident remains under investigation by Corporal Avera and Patrolman Will Judkins of the Smithville Police Department. The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department was also on the scene of the crash along with first responders who provided assistance.

No Injuries in Car, Rig Crash

April 10, 2015
Dwayne Page
Car (right) plunges off embankment after being hit by rig (shown to left)
Mercury Grand Marquis driven by Geraldine Cook

A Smithville woman escaped injury in a Thursday afternoon traffic accident.

According to Trooper Gerald Carter of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, 87 year old Geraldine Cook of Smithville pulled onto West Broad Street in a 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis GS to go east and crossed the path of an eastbound 2014 International Tractor Trailer Rig, driven by 52 year old James Baker of Lexington, Tennessee.

After impact Cook's car went off the highway and down an embankment near a creek. Although she was taken to the hospital, Trooper Carter said Cook was not injured in the accident. Baker was also uninjured.

There were no charges.

Members of the Smithville Police and Fire Departments were on the scene to provide assistance.

Mid TN Hay & Forage Day April 21

April 10, 2015

The 2nd annual Middle Tennessee Hay and Forage Day set for Tuesday, April 21 at Jimmy Herndon’s farm in Smithville offers farmers insight to a number of pasture, hay, and beef cattle production concerns.

The field day is scheduled to get underway with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. and the program starting at 9:00 a.m. There is no registration fee for the event, and a sponsored lunch will be provided. The Herndon farm is located at 371 Herndon Lane in Smithville.

Bruce Steelman, UT Extension Cannon County Agent, is a member of the planning committee for the field day. “The purpose of field days is to provide a hands-on learning experience for producers to learn the latest research based information from UT Extension. The hay and forage day has a wide variety of topics that should be a benefit to most every beef and forage producer in the area,” stated Steelman.

The list of programs include a pasture weed control demonstration showing use of common pasture herbicides with speaker Dr. Neil Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes is a Weed Management Specialist with UT Extension. Several herbicides were sprayed in March to show effects on common pasture weeds, such as buttercup, dock, and thistle. Participants at the field day will get to view the effects of the demonstration plots.

Mr. Larry Moorehead, the UT Extension Agent in Moore County, will be discussing hay storage and feeding. Mr. Moorehead is known throughout the region for his hay storage programs.

“Bull Selection, Critical to Optimizing Performance” will be the topic presented by Mr. Kevin Thompson. To help producers in decision making when purchasing a bull, Mr. Thompson will have multiple bulls on site and will go over EPD’s in selecting the correct bull for your situation. Mr. Thompson is the Director of the Middle Tennessee Research and Education Center in Spring Hill, where the University of Tennessee houses its bull test station.

Other speakers on the program include Mr. Mark Powell from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to discuss the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program. Mr. Powell is the state wide director of the TAEP. A hands-on boomless sprayer calibration demonstration will be led by UT Extension Agent Chris Hicks. Mr. Hicks is located in Smith County and has conducted numerous sprayer calibration workshops in the area.
“Mr. Herndon and his family have been gracious to let us conduct the weed management demonstration plots at his farm and host this event. He has been a great cooperator to help make this a successful event for all the attendees,” stated Michael Barry, UT Extension DeKalb County Agent.
The inaugural Hay and Forage day was held last year at David and Patricia Hutton’s farm in Morrison. UT Extension Warren County Agent Heath Nokes, recalled “Over 100 producers attended the event with more than seventy percent reporting an increase in knowledge of forage quality techniques, rotational grazing, herbicide application, and sprayer calibration.”

The field day is a multi-county program of Cannon, DeKalb, and Warren County UT Extension offices. For more information, contact Bruce Steelman (615)563-2554, Michael Barry, (615)597-4945, or Heath Nokes (931)473-8484. This program, like all UT Extension programs, is open to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability or veteran status.

Alexandria Police Department announces SAFE Campaign Participation

April 10, 2015
Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins

The Alexandria Police Department will be partnering with the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office for the 2015 Seatbelts Are For Everyone (SAFE) Campaign. The SAFE campaign is designed to increase seat belt and child passenger safety restraint usage in Tennessee. Law enforcement agencies are encouraged to participate by planning and implementing occupant protection initiatives in their communities.

Last year, Tennessee reached it highest seat belt use rate in history at 87.71% . “ We are excited to see that more people are making the right choice to buckle their seat belt, “ said Governor’s Highway Safety Officer Director Kendell Poole. “ However, historically we’ve seen that approximately fifty percent of our fatalities statewide are unrestrained. This shows us that we still have work to do. Partnering with law enforcement to back up our educational messages is the best way for us to achieve additional increases in seat belt use.”

This is the second year that the Governor’s Highway Safety Office has sponsored this campaign. Last year yielded the following results:
•1,718 child restraint violations
•30,147 seat belt citations
•773 other seat belt enforcement activities

Chief Mark Collins says the Alexandria Police Department is pleased to support the Safe program in Alexandria, to insure the safety of our citizens. Chief Collins says proper Seat Belt and Child Restraint use is vital to reducing injuries and fatalities in crashes.

It is vitally important that all drivers and passengers buckle up every trip, every time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration , most fatal crashes happen within 25 miles from home at speeds less than 40 miles per hour.

The SAFE campaign will be ongoing now through July 31st. Agencies participating in the voluntary campaign become eligible to win one of two fully equipped police vehicles at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Challenge in August.

Man Gets Probation in Child Sex Crime

April 10, 2015
Dwayne Page
Thomas Copenhaver

A 45 year old man, accused in a child sex crime, was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Wednesday, April 8th after pleading guilty to the charge of sexual battery.

Thomas Copenhaver received a six year sentence suspended to supervised probation except for time served. He had been in jail for almost sixteen months from December 10, 2013 to April 8, 2015. His name will be on the state's sexual offender registry. Copenhaver was indicted by the Grand Jury in April 2014 for aggravated sexual battery in this case.

Copenhaver was accused of a child sex crime involving a family member (niece).

Meanwhile, in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Monday, April 6th, 38 year old Stacey Ashford pled guilty to delivery of a schedule III drug and received a three year sentence, suspended to judicial diversion probation. She must pay a $2,000 drug fine. Ashford was given 51 days jail credit.

38 year old Martha Silcox pled guilty to three counts of vandalism over $1,000. She received a total sentence of five years on probation. Silcox was given two years in two of the cases to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to the third case, in which she received three years.

21 year old Killian Blake Ellis pled guilty to three counts of vandalism and received a total sentence of five years on probation. Ellis was given three years in two of the cases to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to the third case, in which he received two years.

26 year old Christine Moore pled guilty to attempted sale of a schedule III drug. She received a two year sentence, suspended to supervised probation. She was fined $2,000. If fines and costs are paid, she will be on unsupervised probation for the second year of the sentence. Moore was given 31 days jail credit.

27 year old Philando Darnell Fullilove pled guilty to sale and delivery of a schedule II drug. He received a four year suspended sentence to run consecutive to another sentence he is currently serving. Fullilove was fined $2,000. He was given jail credit from January 30 to April 6, 2015.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby to Step Down Thursday, April 16

April 9, 2015
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby

Mark Willoughby's last day as Director of Schools will be Thursday, April 16.

Director Willoughby has agreed to terms in a negotiated settlement as offered by the Board of Education. The agreement was signed today (Thursday) by Director Willoughby and Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, on behalf of the School Board.

"I wish Mr. Willoughby only the best in his retirement and hope he enjoys being with his family," said Chairman Evins.

Under the agreement, Willoughby's tenure as Director will end by the close of business on Thursday, April 16. He will be paid his salary and receive all insurance benefits through June 30th, the day Willoughby had announced last month to be the date of his retirement. Funds are already in the school system's budget to pay Willoughby.

An interim Director is expected to be named by the Board of Education on Thursday, April 16.

Willoughby has served as Director of Schools since July 1, 2006. His current contract, approved last year, was supposed to run through June 30, 2017.

The actual "buyout" agreement is as follows:

Negotiated Settlement Agreement Release of All Claims

"Know All Men by These Presents:

"That, Mark B. Willoughby, Director of Schools for the DeKalb County, Tennessee school system (hereinafter, "Mr. Willoughby" or "Releasor") , for and in consideration of the sums stated herein, does hereby release and discharge the DeKalb County, Tennessee Board of Education from the present contractual agreement to serve as Director of Schools."

"For, and in consideration of the execution of this Release, the School System agrees to pay to Mr. Willoughby:

(1) The salary established for the position of Director of Schools that he formerly occupied, such salary amount being the same as the salary rate paid upon the effective date of the purchase of his contract, and for a period extending through June 30, 2015;

(2) All insurance benefits in effect on April 6, 2015 through and including a period ending on June 30, 2015

(3) During the term of this agreement, no additional personal leave days shall accrue and salary and benefit payments shall not increase or decrease.

(4) Such salary and benefits shall be paid upon the regularly scheduled dates established by policy or practice for all currently employed licensed personnel."

"Mr. Willoughby shall return keys, computers, telephones, credit cards, other property of any sort or type and any other school owned or leased assets in his possession to the secretary to the Board by the close of business on April 16, 2015."

"The parties further agree that they will not disparage each other in any manner or medium of communication, to any persons or entities, regardless of whether they are public or private, or of a professional or personal nature."

"This Release is entered into in the State of Tennessee and shall be construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Tennessee. Any legal proceeding brought to enforce or interpret the provisions of this Release shall be brought in the trial courts for DeKalb County in the State of Tennessee. The parties consent to jurisdiction and venue in said court."

Drive Thru Mobile Food Pantry Set for Saturday

April 9, 2015
Dwayne Page
Drive Thru Mobile Food Pantry Set for Saturday

As part of its community outreach ministry, the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church is sponsoring a drive thru mobile food pantry Saturday morning rain or shine.

In partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, the church plans to prepare enough food boxes to serve up to 288 families regardless of their income status, on a first come, first served basis.

Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. and the food will be delivered from 9:00 a.m. until noon. Unlike most food distributions, those being served by the mobile pantry will not have to get out of their automobiles. They will drive thru in a pickup line and volunteers will deliver the food directly to their vehicles, placing the food boxes either in the back seat or trunk. Cars will line up facing north on College Street across from the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

"It's a mobile food pantry but it's also a drive thru. The recipients will stay in their cars. They will line up starting at 8:00 a.m. on College Street and when we have everything prepared and organized we'll start the line moving, hopefully around 9:00 a.m. Recipients will drive through. As they enter in we'll have a team there to put a box of food in their cars, either in their back seat or trunk," said spokesman Eddie Merriman.

"We will line up right across from the church (Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church) on College Street. We'll start registration at 8:00 a.m. We'll need the name of the recipients and how many families are being served. We're limited to two families per vehicle to make sure we have enough food," added spokesperson Teresa Trapp Brown.

According to Merriman, the food boxes will be large enough to feed a family for up to a week. "We have a pretty good list of food. It's a lot of basic staples including canned goods, dried goods, and we'll have some dairy products along with some produce to give away. We'll have enough food for up to 288 families. When you complete going through the line, you will have a really good sized box of groceries. It's more than bread. We'll have things like canned green beans, peanut butter, a bag of potatoes, dried pinto beans, canned corn, canned chunk chicken, and some cakes and pies. We don't know everything we'll get until that morning. But it'll be a lot of good stuff to make meals to feed a family for probably a week," he said.

Although the mobile food pantry is sponsored by the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church, others may make donations or volunteer to help. "We partner with Second Harvest. We basically buy a 53 foot trailer of food. We'll have about 20-24 pallets of food. The food costs us $2,000 and $500 for transportation but that feeds a lot of families. We would be willing to accept any donations. If anyone wants to help we sure would appreciate it," said Merriman.

Others have already volunteered to help on Saturday. "It's not just our church. Almost every church in this town has come together and will have volunteers to help. That is such a blessing. It's not about a church. It's about being the hands and feet of Jesus," Merriman said.

The church is hoping to have more mobile food pantries in the future.

For more information call 615-464-7896

Judge Says Cookeville Boat Dock Must Pay Property Taxes

April 8, 2015
Dwayne Page
Circuit Court Judge Amy V. Hollers
Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc.

A judge has ruled Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. must pay the ad valorem (property) taxes on the boat dock property that it has refused to pay since 1998. The total tax bill owed comes to more than $200,000 including interest and penalties

Circuit Court Judge Amy V. Hollers has found the boat dock’s claims that such a tax was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and was discriminatory under Tennessee’s Constitution are not valid.


2011cv42opinionandorder_rad66098.pdf (1.28 MB)

In her ruling, Judge Hollars wrote “neither the Supremacy Clause nor any principle of state law prevents DeKalb County from assessing Cookeville Boat Dock for its ownership interest in the boat dock facilities. The court must reject Cookeville Boat Dock’s constitutional challenge to the assessment of ad valorem taxes on its property.”

The boat dock had argued such a tax could be characterized as “double taxation” since it pays fees to the United States Army Corps of Engineers which are used, in part, to pay DeKalb County a sum in lieu of taxes. The owners of the dock further argued a section of Tennessee’s Constitution “violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States by discriminating against a lessee of the United States in favor of lessees of the State of Tennessee.

The judge said the boat dock’s attempt to “raise a ‘double taxation’ argument fails because the amount received by DeKalb County from the lease payments to the federal government is not a tax by the county.”

She went on to rule that “it is well-established that 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.’”

In conclusion, Judge Hollars ordered that the boat dock “pay the unpaid ad valorem taxes assessed for all years in question, together with all applicable penalties and interest.”

From 1998 through the 2013 tax year, owners of Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. have been named as defendants in DeKalb County Chancery Court lawsuits filed against delinquent taxpayers. The amount Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. owes through 2013 in delinquent taxes comes to $195,959.89 (taxes on personal property and leased property including the base tax plus interest and penalty, attorneys fees, and court costs). Further penalties are assessed each month. Additionally for the 2014 tax year, the Trustee's Office reports that Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort Inc. owes a total $8,460 (including interest and penalty for April)

In a Chancery Court delinquent tax lawsuit, the marina owners claim that they can't be forced to pay ad valorem (property) taxes on constitutional grounds. But in 2013, Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. (Bob) Cooper, Jr. gave an opinion that the marina's claim is without merit and should be dismissed by the court.

The attorney for Cookeville Boat Dock, Jon E. Jones of Cookeville contends the owners of the marina are being discriminated against in that the county is trying to force them to pay ad valorem taxes on the boat dock facility which is leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (federal government property) while other properties in Tennessee leased from the state or local government entities (under Article II, Section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution) are exempt from payment of ad valorem taxes. This, he claims is a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution making the tax assessment against Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. invalid. In 2013 Jones filed an amended answer to the county's Chancery Court lawsuits against delinquent taxpayers including Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort along with a counter complaint seeking a declaratory judgment for his clients.

In her "Opinion and Order", Judge Hollars gave a narrative of the case as follows:

"Cookeville Boat Dock, Inc. owns and operates a commercial boat dock and concession on land that is leased from the federal government, Cookeville Boat Dock has been assessed ad valorem taxes on the boat dock property since 1998. Because Cookeville Boat Dock has not paid these taxes, the boat dock property has been included in the delinquent tax proceedings covering years 1998 through 2011. Cookeville Boat Dock has not been assessed for the underlying real estate, which is owned by the federal government, or for any leasehold interest in the real estate. Instead, Cookeville Boat Dock has been assessed only for the buildings and other structures that make up the boat dock property. Public records list Cookeville Boat Dock as the owner of this property."

"Cookeville Boat Dock has not challenged the tax assessments before the county board of equalization or appealed any county board action to the state board of equalization. Cookeville Boat Dock has not paid the taxes under protest or instituted a suit against the taxing authority to challenge the imposition of the tax as "unjust or illegal, or against any statute or clause of the constitution of this state."

"Instead, Cookeville Boat Dock moved to dismiss "all claims for collection of real property taxes against it", arguing that, for tax years prior to the effective date of the statute's 2004 amendment, Tennessee Code Annotated (state law) did not apply "to boat docks, marinas, or other related structures, and such properties were not taxable as real property". Cookeville Boat Dock also raised what might be characterized as a "double taxation" or "taxation equivalence" defense in these delinquent tax proceedings. In support of this argument, Cookeville Boat Dock noted that, pursuant to its lease for commercial concession purposes, it must "pay fees to the United States Army Corps of Engineers which are used, in part, to pay DeKalb County a sum in lieu of taxes". Much later, in June of 2013. Cookeville Boat Dock filed an Answer and Counter Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, wherein it asserted that Article II, Section 28 of the Constitution of Tennessee violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States by discriminating against a lessee of the United States and in favor of lessees of the State of Tennessee, its counties, its municipalities, or other local governmental entities. Cookeville Boat Dock asks the court to declare (1) that Article II, Section 28 of the Constitution of Tennessee is invalid, and (2) that the real property subject to Cookeville Boat Dock's lease for commercial concession purposes is exempt from ad valorem taxation. The State of Tennessee, through the office of the Attorney General, answered Cookeville Boat Dock's Counter-Complaint and submitted a Brief defending the constitutionality of Article II, Section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution. Therein, the State asserted that Cookeville Boat Dock's constitutional challenge is without merit and procedurally barred. After submitting trial briefs, DeKalb County and Cookeville Boat Dock requested that the court decide the legal issues based upon the briefs submitted."


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