Local News Articles

Residents Seeking Water Services Attend Public Hearing on CDBG Grant Application

January 8, 2014
Dwayne Page
County Residents Seeking City Water
County Mayor Mike Foster & Grant Administrator Amanda Mainord at public hearing

Several residents showed up for a public hearing Tuesday night at the courthouse expressing their desire for water services.

The county is making plans to apply for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which if approved would assist the DeKalb Utility District in extending water lines into certain areas of the county not already served.

The DUD would be responsible for paying the grant's local 20% matching requirement.

County Mayor Mike Foster said surveys have been made to determine which areas could benefit from this project. The public hearing was also held as part of the grant application process. "We have to conduct this public hearing to get input from the public to know where the wants and needs are. That's why we're here tonight to determine that," he said.

According to Foster, many of the residents in the targeted areas have to live with poor quality water or little or no water. "I think it's a really important thing that we try to get water into some of these areas. Some of them (residents) have sulfur water and salt water. Some have no water. They are using cisterns . Some haul water and put it in a tank. Some just have seasonal water. When the spring gets dry in the summer they don't have water. Others have no water pressure much. It's in an area that really does need help. I've heard of them digging wells several hundred feet deep and not getting water. It's primarily on Oakley Hollow, Tramel Branch, Alexandria to Dismal, the Lower Helton area that goes over to Temperance Hall, Green Pasture, which is by Dry Branch, and a little bit up Dry Creek and Givens Hollow. We have done surveys on all but about three of the roads and we know how many houses are on each road," said Foster.

A similar grant was approved two years ago to extend water lines to a portion of this area but that project did not include everyone who needs water. "We did one grant that went (extended lines) from Liberty to Dismal. One went about half way up Dismal. Another one went up Dismal to Tramel Branch and turned right. It's just in sections that we've been trying to piece all this together. Now we want to come back down Dismal toward Oakley Road in that area," said Foster

Amanda Mainord of Grassroots Planning & Consulting will be the grant administrator. Those who have received a survey concerning this project are asked to please fill it out and send it into the county mayor's office as soon as possible. The grant application is due by the end of February.

"We will send in the application in February. We'll probably be notified in October (if the grant is approved). If we get the money, we'll get started on this project," said Foster.

There are no guarantees that the grant will be approved. "There will probably be 125 applications. Last year they (state) funded 65 so we have about a 50/50 shot of being approved," Foster concluded.

City May Again Require Paper Ballots for Property Rights Voters

January 7, 2014
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen are being asked to consider adopting an ordinance to keep city property rights voters from possibly having to go to two places to vote in all future Smithville Municipal Elections which will be held in conjunction with the August County General Elections and or State Primaries starting this year.

The aldermen adopted a similar measure for the city liquor referendum in November 2012, but that was just for the one ballot issue.

Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley made the request during Monday night's city council meeting. "If you recall back in 2012 when there was a referendum during a county wide election in November I came to you and asked you to pass an ordinance to allow property rights voters to vote by paper ballot so they would not have to go to two or three different voting places on election day," said Stanley. "You did that but you did it for that election only. Now that your election has moved from June to August, it will always fall on a county wide election so I am here tonight asking you to consider adopting an ordinance and then notifying us of that adoption for us to allow property rights voters to vote by paper ballot. They do need to have their property registered with us. They have to come by and register as a property rights voter," he said.

No action was taken Monday night, but an ordinance will be prepared for the aldermen to consider at an upcoming meeting.

Under such ordinance, city property rights voters could only vote by absentee or paper ballot in all future city elections, beginning this August. They would still be free to vote in person at their own precinct or during early voting for other offices on the county general or state primary ballots

Without such an ordinance, the city's property rights voters would likely have to go to two places to vote on election day in August. They would vote at their regular precinct by machine in the county wide election and state primaries, and then would have to come to one of the four precincts in Smithville to vote just in the city election. This process would only apply to property rights voters, those who live outside the city in DeKalb County but who have property inside the city and are qualified to vote in a city election.

In June, the aldermen ratified a new city charter, as approved by the Tennessee Legislature that changes the city elections from June to August and makes the terms of office for the mayor and aldermen, four years instead of two.

The new charter also extends voting rights to county residents that own commercial property in the city (two persons per deed) and allows property rights voting for county residents who own at least 3,500 square feet of property in the city.

DUD Applies for TRLP Funding to Build Water Plant

January 7, 2014
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Utility District

The DeKalb Utility District, having already secured loans and grants through USDA Rural Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission to help fund the construction of its own water treatment plant is now seeking additional help through the Tennessee Revolving Loan Program rather than the bond market.

The DUD board held a public hearing Thursday night, January 2 at its office in Smithville. "The purpose of the public hearing was to solicit comments from the public for the state revolving loan fund which will partially fund the water treatment plant project instead of going to the private bond market. This is a much better deal. The interest rates are much less than what they are on the private bond market and the district would get $500,000 in debt forgiveness (grant) money. This loan program, if approved, would fund basically half of the project so from a financial point of view it's a great deal for the district," said Buddy Koonce, the DUD's utility engineer in an interview with WJLE after the hearing.

DeKalb Utility District plans to construct a water treatment plant near Holmes Creek Road with a storage capacity of three million gallons a day. The DUD has initially been approved for storage of two million gallons a day.

Over the last two years the DUD has lined up several million dollars in loan/grant funding for building the water plant and related infrastructure including a USDA Rural Development $5,000,000 loan/ $1,250,000 grant and a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

In May 2012, the DUD board adopted a bond resolution for the authorization and issuance of waterworks revenue refunding and improvement bonds not to exceed $9-million 250-thousand dollars in an aggregate principal amount for the water treatment plant project. But if the DUD is approved for funding through the Tennessee Revolving Loan Program, bonds will not be necessary. "With this money, we will not have to visit the bond market. That is taken completely out of the picture, " said DUD Manager Jon Foutch.

The State Revolving Fund Loan Program, through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, provides low-interest loans to cities, counties, utility districts, and water/wastewater authorities for the planning, design, and construction of drinking water facilities.

"The project consists of a two million gallon a day water treatment plant, raw water intake, transmission lines from the intake up to the water plant, and transmission lines out to the distribution system. As part of the project, we've got lines in basically the southern part of DeKalb County to tie in some parts of the distribution system," said Koonce during the public hearing.

"As soon as funds are released from Rural Development and as soon as we get approval from the State Revolving Loan, we expect to bid that job sometime in early spring. I expect a fourteen to eighteen month construction period. It should be finished by the end of 2015," added Koonce.

Meanwhile, the City of Smithville and DUD ratepayers are continuing their legal fight to keep the DeKalb Utility District from building the plant. An appeal remains pending in Davidson County Chancery Court. If the city is not successful with the appeal, the DUD will most likely be free to begin construction.

A robo call, apparently ordered by the city's public relations firm the Calvert Street Group, was placed to DUD customers on Thursday reminding them of the public hearing. Only one DUD customer showed up for the hearing and he did not speak.

DUD Chairman Roger Turney suggested that the robo call was misleading in that it said the meeting was going to affect rates. "Nothing that we are doing tonight in this meeting has anything to do with rates," said Turney. "In fact, with this loan and grant, the hope is that in the future its going to keep rates lower if anything. The state has already ruled that the things (rate adjustments) we have in place so far are sufficient to cover our costs and that everything is in good shape. This meeting tonight in no way is going to cause rates to go up," he said.

In anticipation of building the water plant, the DUD has already raised water rates twice, by seven percent each year in 2012 and 2013. Original plans were to raise rates again in 2014 by another seven percent.

Turney suggested if an adjustment in rates is needed anytime soon it could be blamed on the City of Smithville for drastically inflating DUD's water rates, as of January 1st. "We have received a 144% increase in the cost of our water starting this month from the City of Smithville. There may have to be some rate adjustments because of that but it would have nothing to do with this grant in anyway. The only increase that may be coming is as a result of the 144% increase from $2.05 to $5.00 per thousand gallons from the City of Smithville. That will be addressed later," he said.

In a statement released to WJLE Friday morning on behalf of DUD ratepayers, Darden Copeland, Managing Director of the Calvert Street Group said the DUD's stated purposes for the funding at the public hearing may not be the proper use of the State Revolving Loan Fund.

“The State Revolving Loan Fund’s ‘Intended Use Plan’ clearly states that these monies are not to be used for ‘Future Growth’ nor ‘Economic Development’. Yet these are some of the exact reasons given by the DUD in explaining this project to the public.” “Further, the ‘Intended Use Plan’ says that the Fund should not be used for ‘Water Rights’ issues. In some ways, this is a struggle between Smithville and the DUD over the water rights in Center Hill Lake and who should have the right to serve the customers of DeKalb county."

“We doubt the state wants to chose sides in this local matter, especially when there is no evidence the new DUD water treatment plant will substantially increase the service area for water customers. In fact, there is evidence the water rates will go up for both city of Smithville residents, as well as DUD customers, which seems run counter to the intent of the SRF.”

“It is unclear whether the state believes this project is necessary. On a scale of 20 to 100 ‘Priority Points’, the DUD project received a low score of 25. It is unclear if or when this project will get funded," wrote Copeland.

Attempts to Thaw Frozen Water Pipes Sparks Fire

January 7, 2014
Dwayne Page
Chief Donny Green

A Smithville property owner learned the hard way Monday night how that trying to thaw a frozen water pipe with a heat source can cause a fire.

County Fire Chief Donny Green told WJLE that firefighters were called to a vacant home on Robinson Road where the owner, Jerry Scott had inadvertently caught a floor joist on fire while trying to thaw a pipe. No one was living there at the time. The home was being used for storage. " He had gone there Monday afternoon and discovered his water pipe had frozen," said Chief Green. "He was trying to thaw the pipe using a heat source when he inadvertently caught a floor joist on fire. It spread inside the house to an interior wall behind the kitchen sink. Firefighters were able to reach the fire and kept it contained to the kitchen wall around the sink," Chief Green continued.

The fire damage was minor and confined to a 4' x 4' area although some smoke spread through the house. Members of the Main Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded.

Chief Green admonishes all homeowners to exercise extreme caution when thawing water pipes and if you have questions as to what should be done, contact a professional plumber for advice.

Meanwhile on Friday night, county volunteer firefighters were called to 1841 Vandergriff Hollow Road off Dry Creek Road where a truck parked inside a barn had caught fire. The barn contained a living quarters in the upper portion of the building. "We got on the scene and found the truck fully involved. The flames were endangering the barn," said Chief Green. "We got the fire out and pulled the vehicle away from the barn. The truck was destroyed but the barn only had minor charring to the interior. There was some damage to the living quarters but no one was hurt," he said.

Members of the Liberty and Main Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Departments responded along with the tanker truck and DeKalb EMS.

Old Time Country Community Radio Show moves to Fridays

January 6, 2014
Dwayne Page
Chris Tramel and Reed Vanderpool
Old Time Country Community Radio Show Moving to Fridays

The Old Time Country Community Radio Show has a new format and is moving to Fridays at 8:00 A.M. With new hosts, Chris Tramel and Reed Vanderpool, the show now focuses on traditional country music favorites, as well as offering local interviews, special guests and comedy skits.

The show first hit the airwaves on WJLE in the mid-80s and has carried on, in one form or another, to its present day format. Produced by local retired school teacher and former host of the show, Ben Herman, the show still has the hometown feel it’s been known for, but now with a fast-paced radio show set-up.

Over the years the show has seen many hosts, including Ralph Vaughn, Dwayne Page, Luther Luna, Ben Herman, and Sandy C. Brown. Tramel and Vanderpool bring new life to the show, offering their own brand of humor, as well as playing the classic hits that have made country music what it is today.

The show’s announcer and reporter, Steve Quick, also offers interviews with people from around the county, as well as those involved with the music industry in Nashville and the surrounding area. Other contributors to the show include Steve Merriman, Lou Ann Sanders, and Julia Cantrell.

The Old Time Country Community Radio Show can be heard Friday mornings at
8:00 on WJLE 101.7 FM/1480 AM, or be heard through live streaming at www.wjle.com. Past shows can be heard through WJLE’s archive at www.wjle.com. The show also has a following on Facebook, where photos, links to country artists, and comments are shared.

Icy Road Conditions Contributes to Traffic Accident on Braswell Lane

January 6, 2014
Dwayne Page
Chevy Tahoe driven by Anthony Black
2010 Chevy Equinox driven by 17 year old girl

Icy road conditions contributed to a traffic accident Monday afternoon on Braswell Lane.

Captain Steven Leffew of the Smithville Police Department told WJLE that a 17 year old Smithville girl was driving east in a 2010 Chevy Equinox when she apparently slid on an icy spot in the road while trying to negotiate a curve. Her car turned sideways in the street and into the path of a westbound 2007 Chevy Tahoe, driven by 58 year old Anthony Black of Smithville. Both vehicles went into a ditch after impact.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and DeKalb EMS came to the scene but there were no injuries.


January 6, 2014
Dwayne Page








Arrests Made for Burglary, Theft, Vandalism, and Domestic Assault

January 6, 2014
Dwayne Page
Edward Lee Judkins, Sr.
Michael Anthony Leichtfuss
Chrissy Michelle Evans

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has made arrests in recent days for burglary and theft, vandalism, and domestic assault.

51 year old Edward Lee Judkins, Sr. of Jefferson Road, Smithville was arrested on December 30 and charged with burglary and theft of property over $500. His bond is $10,000 and he will be in court on January 9th. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on November 20 Judkins allegedly broke into a shed at a residence on Adamson Branch Road. Entry was made by force and the door to the shed was damaged. Judkins allegedly took various weight equipment from the shed. The weight equipment was recovered from behind Judkins' camper trailer where he lives on Pea Ridge Road. The case was investigated by a criminal detective of the Sheriff's Department.

22 year old Michael Anthony Leichtfuss of Old Eagle Creek Road, Smithville is charged with vandalism under $500. His bond is $1,000. He will be in court on January 30. Sheriff Ray said that on December 8, Leichtfuss allegedly vandalized property on Johnson's Ridge Road, causing over $300 in damage to a door and door frame. The case was investigated by a criminal detective of the Sheriff's Department.

40 year old Chrissy Michelle Evans of West Main Street, Dowelltown is charged with domestic assault. Her bond is $5,000 and she will be in court on January 16. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, January 5 a deputy was dispatched to Evans' residence on a domestic violence call. Upon arrival, the officer spoke with the victim, Evans' husband. He had a cut on his left ear and scratches on his hand and back. He told the officer that he had been attacked by his wife. When the deputy spoke with her, Evans allegedly admitted to attacking him. She was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

Roads Remain Hazardous

January 6, 2014
Dwayne Page

All roads in DeKalb County, primary and secondary roads, remain hazardous, according to Brad Mullinax, Director of the Central Dispatch/911 Center.

He advises motorists to stay at home unless travel is necessary. For updates on state road conditions, contact the Tennessee Highway Patrol at 931-526-6143. For other public assistance call Central Dispatch at 215-3000 or 911 in an emergency.

DeKalb Woman Gives Birth to First Baby of 2014 in Warren County

January 5, 2014
Dwayne Page
Aleisha Bunch with her newborn son Elliot

A DeKalb County couple are the proud parents of the year's first baby born in Warren County.

Elliot Bunch, son of Richard and Aleisha Bunch of Smithville, arrived at 7:54 a.m. on New Year's Day at River Park Hospital in McMinnville. The child reportedly weighed seven pounds and twelve ounces and was twenty one inches long. The baby boy was delivered by Dr. Vanessa Streicher.

The family received gifts from several local businesses in Warren County.


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