Local News Articles

Pealer And Her Mother Reinstated at UCDD, Federal Lawsuit Settled

August 24, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Ashley Pealer

The Upper Cumberland Development District has reinstated two employees who were recently let go from their jobs and has reached a settlement agreement with one of them in her federal lawsuit against the agency

Ashley Pealer and her mother Kathy reportedly returned to work earlier this week.

Ashley Pealer filed the lawsuit against the UCDD; the man who fired her, Randy Williams, who was UCDD's interim executive director at the time; and Mike Gannon, chairman of the UCDD board. Pealer claimed her personal cell phone messages and Facebook account were hacked, a violation of her Constitutional rights.

Pealer was represented by W. Gary Blackburn of Nashville.

Allegations involved violations of the Stored Communications Act and the Wiretap Act, allegedly committed by Williams and Gannon.

Pealer claimed that after she was fired, her cell phone, issued to her by UCDD, was taken from her; that some three hundred pages of her private text messages, which were stored through Verizon, were accessed by the defendants, printed and published to various persons. Pealer alleged that at least one of the defendants used her private password to invade and access her Facebook account as well. The Defendants also allegedly intercepted a private email communication to Pealer's Facebook account, according to the lawsuit.

Pealer claimed the purpose and intent of this behavior was to embarrass and intimidate her in retaliation for her refusal to participate in or remain silent about the illegal behavior of former UCDD Executive Director Wendy Askins, and to determine the extent to which she (Pealer) was involved in disclosing illegal conduct to the news media.

Board members seeking reinstatement of Pealer and her mother finally received the necessary votes to forward that recommendation on to UCDD's new executive director Mark Farley.

DeKalb Unemployment Rate Climbs to 8.7% in July

August 24, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Unemployment Rate for July was 8.7%, up from 8.3% in June but still below the 9.3% rate in July, 2011

The local labor force for July was at 9,710. A total of 8,860 were employed and 840 were without work

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for July was fifth lowest in the fourteen county Upper Cumberland region. Here's how they rank highest to lowest

Pickett County- 13.8%
Van Buren-12.6%
White- 12.5%
Clay-10.7%
Overton-10.6%
Warren-10.2%
Fentress-10.1%
Jackson-9.5%
Cumberland-9.4%
DeKalb-8.7%
Putnam-8.6%
Cannon-8.3%
Macon-8.3%
Smith-7.8%

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for July 2012, released today, show the rate decreased in 20 counties, increased in 59, and stayed the same in 16.

Tennessee's unemployment rate for July increased to 8.4 percent, up from the June revised rate of 8.1 percent. The national unemployment rate for July 2012 was 8.3 percent, 0.1 percentage point higher than the June rate.

The state unemployment rate is 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.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 6.7 percent, unchanged from the previous month. Davidson County was 7.4 percent, up from 7.3 percent in June. Hamilton County was 8.4 percent, up from 8.3 percent, and Shelby County was 9.7 percent, unchanged from the June rate.

Work Searches Now Required to Receive Tennessee Unemployment

August 23, 2012

Beginning September 1, 2012, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will begin implementation of the Unemployment Insurance Accountability Act of 2012 requiring all unemployment claimants in Tennessee to demonstrate valid work search activity and maintain a work search log. Failure to comply with the new law will result in a loss of benefits.

Notices will be mailed next week to all claimants receiving Tennessee Unemployment Compensation informing them of the new requirements to continue receiving benefits. Those receiving federal extended unemployment benefits are already required to document work search activity.

“The Accountability Act is aptly named as it raises the bar of accountability for those receiving unemployment benefits,” said Labor Commissioner Karla Davis. “Documenting three work searches each week will require a small effort, but the consequences of not doing them are very serious.”

Labor and Workforce Development will conduct random audits of 1,000 claimants’ work search documentation each week to verify work search activity. If work search claims are found to be fraudulent, the department will stop a claimant’s benefits immediately and can suspend payments for eight weeks.

Claimants are required to conduct three work searches each week. A valid work search activity is considered any of the following:

Registering at www.jobs4tn.gov and applying for jobs online

Completing a job application in person or online

Mailing a job application and/or resume, as instructed in a public notice

Making in-person visits with employers who may have job openings

Sending job applications to employers

Interviewing with potential employers in person or by telephone

Registering for work with private employment agencies, placement services or hiring unions

Using the employment resources available at Tennessee Career Centers that may lead directly to a job
Attending job search seminars, career networking meetings, job fairs or employment-related workshops that offer instruction in improving individual skills for obtaining employment

Claimants who don’t receive guidance and work search logs in the mail can find information both on the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Internet site at www.tn.gov/labor-wfd or at the nearest Tennessee Career Center. For Career Center locations visit http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/cc/cccounty.shtml.

Tennessee’s 2012 Free Hunting Day is Saturday, Squirrel Season Opens

August 23, 2012

All Tennesseans are reminded that Saturday, Aug. 25 is Free Hunting Day in Tennessee when state residents may hunt without a license. The annual event coincides with the opening day of squirrel season.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides the free day in hopes of increasing interest in hunting. Squirrel hunting is one of Tennessee’s oldest and favorite traditions. The day serves as an excellent opportunity for persons to experience the enjoyment of the sport. Regular hunters are encouraged to introduce friends and family members (young and old) to the outdoors sport. It is also an excellent opportunity for those folks who have not tried hunting for some time.

On Free Hunting Day, state resident hunters are exempt from hunting licenses and WMA permits requirements. Many of the WMAs are open to hunters seeking public access on Aug. 25. Hunters are asked to check the information for particular WMAs in the newly-published 2012 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide which is available online at www.tnwildlife.org or copies are available at any TWRA regional office or at most outlets where licenses are sold.

Hunter education requirements have not been waived for Free Hunting Day. Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 is required to have successfully completed a hunter education course. A one-time, one-year apprentice license is required for those born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 if the hunter education course has not been completed.

Hunters are allowed to harvest up to 10 squirrels a day from the opening day of squirrel season through Feb. 28, with each hunting day beginning a half-hour before sunrise and ending a half-hour after sunset.

In addition to squirrels, those species that have a year-round season will be open as well. The year-round species include armadillo, beaver, coyote, groundhog, and striped skunk.

For more information about hunting in Tennessee, visit TWRA’s website at www.tnwildlife.org or contact your nearest TWRA Regional Office.

DeKalb Man Charged Under New State 911 Call Law

August 22, 2012

A DeKalb County man, arrested in a Cookeville domestic assault case, has also been charged there under a new state law, which makes it a crime to prevent someone from calling 911 for help

36 year old Alan Matthew Mooney of Old Snow Hill Road, Dowelltown, is charged
with domestic assault and with "interference with an emergency call" in the case, according to a report in the Herald-Citizen of Cookeville.

The charges stem from an August 11 incident at the Cookeville, residence of Mooney's estranged wife.

According to a report by Cookeville Police Officer Adrienne Lintz, Mooney allegedly went to his wife's home to pick up their two children and became embroiled in an argument with her after demanding to see her phone

"She said he had her in a bear hug from behind and pulled the phone from her hands as she was attempting to call 911."

Mooney then allegedly took the phone, one child, and the woman's keys and left the area in her vehicle. Baxter Police later picked him up at Love's Truck Stop in that town, Officer Lintz's report says.

Officer Lintz took the woman to the location to retrieve her child and her car and then transported Mooney to the Putnam County jail, charging him with domestic assault and interfering with an emergency call.

His bond was set at $1,500, and he has a Sept. 10 court date.

The new state law went into effect July 1, making it a criminal offense to prevent someone from making a 911 call or from seeking help in an emergency.

The new law says, "An individual commits an offense if the individual intentionally renders unusable a telephone that would otherwise be used by another individual to place a telephone call to 911 or to request assistance in an emergency from a law enforcement agency, medical facility, or other agency or entity, the primary purpose of which is to
provide for the safety of individuals

Federal Mogul to Maintain Strong Workforce in Smithville, Despite Relocation of Some Jobs

August 21, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

Some sixty to seventy jobs created at Federal Mogul in Smithville within the last year due to flooding in Thailand will soon be returning to Asia, according to Jim Burke, director of corporate communications for Federal Mogul.

Those jobs, along with the loss of 120-125 others being re-located to Mexico will have an impact on the workforce here, still Federal Mogul intends to keep approximately 700 jobs with no plans of pulling up stakes in Smithville. "We did notify our employees that we will be moving some of our work to other facilities, but relative to the entire workforce in Smithville, its only a small amount," said Burke.

According to Burke, the creation of those jobs here from Thailand was never intended to be permanent. " Due to the flooding in Thailand, we moved some of that work to Smithville for a period of time. That move was never expected to be permanent. We do a lot of work for customers in Asia so it makes more sense to move those jobs back to Asia, which is where they came from in the first place about a year ago," said Burke.

As for the relocation of jobs to Mexico, Burke said those will be moved for "logistical reasons"

Funny Musical "Forever Plaid" to be Presented Labor Day Weekend in Smithville

August 21, 2012
Funny Musical  "Forever Plaid"  to be Presented Labor Day Weekend in Smithville

Towne Centre Professional Productions Presents "Forever Plaid" by Stuart Ross August 31 through September 3 at the DeKalb County Complex Auditorium on South Congress Boulevard.

Enjoy a special Labor Day weekend performance of this wonderful and heart-warmingly funny musical.

Show Times:
Friday, August 31, 7:30 pm
Saturday, September 1, 7:30 pm
Sunday, September 2, 2:00 pm
Monday, September 3, 7:00 pm

Forever Plaid synopsis
The setting is simple: four microphones, a piano and the bass. From the back of the house we hear heavenly voices chanting. Four men carrying candles and dressed in white dinner jackets walk through the audience, singing, "Deus Ex Plaid." Francis, the leader and most confident member of the group, leads them through the audience, "Holy Canoli! We're finally back on earth." For, once upon the time, on February 9th 1964, this semi professional harmony group was on their way to their first big gig at the airport Hilton cocktail bar, Fusill-Lounge. While driving in their cherry-red 1954 Mercury convertible, they were rehearsing their finale, "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing." They were just getting to their favorite E flat diminished seventh chord when they were slammed broadside by a school bus filled with eager Catholic teens from out of Harrisburg. The teens were on their way to witness the Beatles make their U.S. television debut on the Ed Sullivan show, and miraculously escaped uninjured. The harmony group, however, was killed instantly.

While they're still technically dead, they have their voices, and bodies, and dinner jackets. They talk to the audience trying to figure out what year it is. 2012! To fight the tension caused by 40-plus years in limbo, they decide to sing. "And now, for the first time on this or any other planet. Forever Plaid!" Though they never got to do the show when they were alive, the stars have conspired with the expanding holes in the ozone layer to do the show now. Singing in the closest of harmony, squabbling boyishly over the smallest intonations and executing their charmingly outlandish choreography with over-zealous precision, the "Plaids" are a guaranteed smash, with a program of beloved songs and delightful patter that keeps audiences rolling in the aisles when they're not humming along to some of the great nostalgic pop hits of the 1950's.

For tickets, call Towne Centre Theatre at 615-221-1174 or online at www.townecentretheatre.com

Brentwood Arts Society was established in 2004 with the purpose of promoting the Arts in Middle Tennessee, providing opportunities for local artists and performers to display their talents and to provide programs in the arts for young people. The first program was to provide financial and other support to Towne Centre Theatre at 136 Frierson Street in Brentwood, Tennessee. Since 2006, TCT has provided local artists with gallery space to exhibit their work to the public and underwrote the production of six plays a year in the theater. Next year, TCT is expanding to 7 shows a year, providing even more opportunies for local actors, artists and theater-goers.

TCT was built in 1885 and served as Williamson County School, a one room, wood frame schoolhouse. In 1905, the building was purchased by the Mt. Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church and, with several alterations and additions, was a church for 100 years until 2005. That year the building was purchased by Investors Towne Center Partners I, LP and converted into a small community theater with a gallery room for art exhibits, and lease to the Brentwood Arts Society. The Society has a desire to preserve history, promote the arts and improve the culture of our communities.

The Society's future plans for the Brentwood area include a larger facility with two auditoriums, ample visual arts exhibition space, classrooms and meeting rooms. Professional theater, art classes, camps and events of various types would find a home at this facility.

Brentwood Arts Society, in association with Towne Centre Productions, plans to present a series of events in Smithville, Tennessee in the Dekalb County Community Center Theater. The first event, a musical play called "Forever Plaid" will run this Labor Day Weekend. Other events through the winter are on the drawing board and, pending good community support, will be produced on weekends just before Halloween and Valentines Day, and for three weeks after Thanksgiving Day. There will be roles available for local actors, especially children, in the Christmas production set for the three weeks after Thanksgiving. This is professional theater and an excellent opportunity for local residents to experience live theater close to home. Other future productions in Smithville, and at nearby Lakeside Resort, are being considered.

Efforts Underway to Help Revitalize Downtown

August 21, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Alan Webb, Steve White, Suzanne Williams, and Wade Smith with 3D Model of Stage
Logo design by Shan Burklow

Members of Tennessee Downtowns Program Steering Committee attended Monday night's city council meeting to show a small 3-D model design for the new open-air stage to be built in Evins Park in Downtown Smithville this fall. The park is located behind city hall. "The stage will be a welcome and beautiful addition to the county allowing for outdoor concerts, performances, and other community events for the public to enjoy and use," says Tennessee Downtown Committee chair Steve White.

"This is just one facet of our many plans for the downtown revitalization efforts," says Chamber Director & TN Downtowns Steering Committee Member Suzanne Williams. "We are excited to partner with the Evins Foundation on this initial project and believe this to be one of the many successes coming out of the committee's hard work, vision, and planning."

The committee has received $8,500 in grant funding along with a $1,000 donation from the Smithville Rotary Club to build the stage. Construction is expected to begin within the next six weeks using skilled and unskilled volunteer labor.

The open-air stage is part of an effort by the committee to help revitalize downtown, Smithville.

In December, 2010, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that Smithville was among 12 communities selected to participate in Tennessee Downtowns, a competitive community improvement program for cities and counties seeking to revitalize traditional commercial districts. Smithville was among several Tennessee communities with central business districts at least 50 years old which were eligible to apply for a downtown revitalization package. Mini-grants were also made available to local downtown business owners who wanted to join in the effort.

A total of sixteen Smithville building owners have been awarded $500 in mini-grants by the committee for investing a minimum of $1,000 in exterior improvements to their buildings.

TN Downtown Programs Mini-Grant Recipients
Keith W. Blair, 406 W. Public Sq.
Frank Buck, 125 W. Walnut St.
Attorney Gayla Hendrix, 301 N. Public Sq.
Phillip & Marilyn Cantrell, (Cantrell's Clothing Store), 115 & 117 W. Main St.
Fluty's Shoes, 120 W. Main St.
Henrietta Hale, 109 W. Main St.
Attorney J. Hilton Conger, 208 E. Public Sq.
Richard H. Williams, 105 N. 4th St.
Thomas Janney, 115 W. Market St.
Attorney Vester Parsley, 111 W. Main St.

Gail Webb, 400 Public Sq.
Pam Redmon (The Flower Box), 114 W. Walnut St.
Alan Webb, Main St. (between former Smithville Dress Shop & Fabric Store)
Attorney Jeremy Trapp,
Annette Greek, 103 W. Main St. (former Playground Kids)
Paul Violet, 102 W. Main St.

Charlie Parker Hired as Full Time Smithville Fire Chief

August 21, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Charlie Parker Hired as Full Time Smithville Fire Chief

After serving 32 years as a city volunteer fire fighter, including over 21 years as a volunteer fire chief, Charlie Parker is now a full time paid administrator or fire chief for the City of Smithville.

By a vote of 5-0, Parker was officially hired Monday night by the aldermen for this position, created in this year's city budget. The city advertised but Parker was the only applicant for the job.

He was recently interviewed by Mayor Jimmy Poss, Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson, and Alderman and Police/Fire Commissioner Shawn Jacobs. "He (Parker) has dedicated his life to the fire department and I appreciate it," said Mayor Poss.

"I was lucky I got to put 21 years of experience of on the job training on my resume," said Chief Parker. "Its been my honor to serve the citizens of Smithville for that long," he added.

Parker will be paid a salary of $35,350 per year plus health, life, and dental insurance benefits, like all other city employees. Parker will be allowed flex time or comp time if he needs to take time off for working extra hours beyond a forty hour work week due to fire calls and training.

Parker said his duties will keep him busy but he won't always be at the fire hall. "I am trying to work out some kind of schedule where I will be here (fire hall) at certain times to meet with people and set appointments and things like that. I also have a lot of businesses and factories that I've got to see in town doing pre-plans and some other things that we're already working on. So there will be quite a bit of time when I'm not at the fire hall. Its going to be come and go for me. I'm also comfortable with using the comp time, because most of my time with the crew (firefighters) won't be until after five or six o'clock and sometimes we're here until nine or ten o'clock at night," said Chief Parker.

"This pre-planning he (Parker) is talking about is work that really hasn't been getting done," said Alderman Shawn Jacobs. "They've been trying to do it through their volunteers at our factories and places like that which have volatile chemicals, the airport and places like that. But realistically with a volunteer force, most of them work during the day and they can't get out there and do these pre-plans for our industries and businesses. So we're going to be a lot safer from a community standpoint, once Charlie gets out and is able to do that. This is one of many benefits we're going to get from having a full time fire chief," said Alderman Jacobs.

Meanwhile, the city is seeking a FEMA SAFER Grant, which if approved would fund the hiring of more full time city firefighers for up to two years, at no cost to the city.

Proposed Ordinance Requires Absentee Voting for City Property Rights Voters in November Referendum

August 21, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night adopted an ordinance on first reading to keep city property rights voters from possibly having to go to two places to vote in November with the city liquor referendum on the ballot along with the Tennessee General and Presidential elections. Under the ordinance, city property rights voters could only vote by absentee ballot in the city referendum. They would still be free to vote in person at their own precinct or during early voting at the courthouse for President, State Representative, Congressman, and for U.S. Senator.

Second and final reading passage will follow a public hearing at a special meeting of the Mayor and Aldermen on Monday, August 27 at 5:00 p.m. at city hall. If adopted on second reading, the ordinance would only apply to property rights voters participating in the November 2012 election and they would be notified by the election commission. This ordinance would not apply to any future city elections.

"This is going to make it easier for everybody, especially the voters and hopefully increase turnout," said Alderman Shawn Jacobs.

Voters county wide, at all sixteen precincts, will be casting ballots for candidates in the Presidential election along with U.S. Senate, Congressional, and State Representative races in November. But in the City of Smithville, which includes the Courthouse, Middle School, County Complex, and Church of Christ Annex precincts, city voters will also be voting in a referendum on
whether to allow liquor stores in the City of Smithville. Only voters residing inside the city limits and property rights voters, who own property in the city but who live outside the city in DeKalb County and are qualified to vote, will be allowed to cast ballots in this referendum.

Without this ordinance, approximately 160 property rights voters would likely have to go to two places to vote on election day in November. They would vote at their regular precinct by machine in the county-wide election, and then would have to come to one of the four precincts in Smithville to vote just in the referendum. That referendum vote will likely be on a paper ballot. This process will 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.

Without this ordinance, If city property rights voters choose to cast ballots during early voting, they will likely have to come to the courthouse and vote in the county-wide election by machine and then go through the line again to vote by paper ballot just in the city referendum. Again, this process will 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.

The ordinance states, "Whereas, the City of Smithville allows individuals who are non-resident property owners the right to vote in City elections; and

Whereas, T.C.A. 2-6-205, establishes a procedure permitting those non-resident property owners to vote by absentee ballot if an ordinance is passed within the requirements set out in said statute:

Now, Therefore, be it ordained by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, that

Section 1. By passing this ordinance it does hereby require that those non-resident property owners for the referendum which is on the ballot for the November 6, 2012 ballot shall be required to vote absentee for said referendum.

Section 2. This ordinance shall be effective only for the November 6, 2012 ballot for the City of Smithville.

Section 3. The DeKalb County Election Commission shall notify the non-resident property owners as set out in T.C.A. 2-6-205 of the requirements of this ordinance.

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