Local News Articles

Two Injured in Monday Afternoon Crash

June 22, 2009
Dwayne Page
Two Injured in Monday Crash on Highway 70 East (photo by Callie Matthews)
Two Injured in Monday Crash (photo by Callie Matthews)

Two people were injured Monday afternoon in a two vehicle crash on Highway 70 at the top of the hill east of Sligo Bridge.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, 35 year old Christopher R. Friant of Sparta, who was traveling west on Highway 70 in a 1998 Kia Sportage, slowed for a vehicle turning left in front of him, when he skidded and lost control, making contact with an eastbound vehicle near the center line. The eastbound vehicle, a 1994 Chevrolet GEO, was driven by 21 year old Shaleen Mooney of Adams Street, Smithville.

Mooney was extricated from her vehicle by members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department Extrication and Rescue Team. She was then airlifted from near the scene by a helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Friant was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

The accident was investigated by Lieutenant Randy Maynard of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Trooper Darrell Knowles assisted. Also on the scene were members of the Sheriff's Department and the Johnson's Chapel Station of the county fire department.

Meanwhile, a 17 year old Alexandria girl was treated and released from the hospital at Carthage following a one car accident Monday afternoon on Walker Creek Road in DeKalb County.

Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says the girl, whose name he would not release because she is a juvenile, was driving east in a 2000 Hyundai when she ran off the edge of the road, overcorrected, then ran off the road again. The car went into a clockwise spin and came to rest in a creek bed facing west.

The girl, who resides on New Hope Road, was transported to the Carthage hospital by DeKalb EMS.

Peterson Files Lawsuit Against Election Commission

June 22, 2009
Dwayne Page
Lisa Peterson

Lisa Peterson, former DeKalb County election administrator who lost her job in April when a Republican-majority election commission took over has filed a lawsuit against the commission claiming they conspired before taking office to fire her.

Peterson, who had been election administrator for DeKalb County since 1998, filed the suit in Chancery Court Friday.

In the lawsuit, Peterson is asking the court to declare the action of the election commission terminating her as arbitrary, illegal, and void.

Peterson is further requesting that the court, pursuant to state law and upon a final hearing, order the election commission to immediately reinstate her to the position as administrator of elections and award her back pay, compensatory damages in the amount of $500,000 and the penalty allowed by law, and that the court grant all other relief it deems equitable and appropriate.

During a meeting of the election commission on Friday, April 24th at the courthouse, Nolan Turner, a Democrat, made a motion to place Peterson's name in nomination for re-appointment to the position. Democrat Kenneth Moore seconded the motion. Republican members Barbara Vanatta and Jim Dean voted against Peterson and Republican Chairman Walteen Parker chose not to vote.

After Peterson failed to get the three votes she needed, Dean then placed Dennis Stanley's name in nomination for administrator. Vanatta seconded the motion. Chairman Parker joined them in voting for Stanley while Turner and Moore voted no. Stanley is now the Administrator of Elections for DeKalb County

The lawsuit states that "At all times during her tenure as administrator of elections, Ms. Peterson ably performed her job and carried out the duties of the office with political impartiality and in accordance with the law and the trust placed in her to be responsible for the daily operations of their office and the execution of all elections."

"Members of the Commission are appointed in compliance with state law. Three appointees on the Commission are required to be members of the majority party in the state legislature and two appointees are members of the minority party.'

"Upon information and belief, prior to their appointment or reappointment as County Election Commissioners, the majority party appointees to the Commission committed and pledged to members and officials of the state and county Republican party, as a requisite condition of their appointment to the Commission, to replace Ms. Peterson and appoint a member of the Republican party to replace her."

"Prior to the April 24th, 2009 public meeting of the Commission, the three majority party appointees to the Commission held a meeting and communicated and deliberated in private; secretly decided and agreed to terminate Ms. Peterson's employment and secretly decided and agreed to appoint a Republican to the position of administrator of elections."

"At the April 24th, 2009 meeting of the Commission, the three majority party members of the Commission appointed a new administrator of elections, effectively terminating Ms. Peterson's employment on the sole basis of her perceived political party affiliation which differed from the majority party members of the Commission."

"At the April 24th, 2009 meeting of the Commission, which was chaired and controlled by a majority party member, the Commission failed to consider "the knowledge and experience of such prospective appointee in the following areas: administrative, managerial, instructional, communication, budgetarial, purchasing, promotional, legal, and general office skills and other related skills necessary to fulfill the statutory requirements of administrator" when evaluating its prospective appointee as mandated by state law."

"It is unlawful to impose a political test for the office of administrator of elections. Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee states as follows: That no political or religious test, other than an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this State."

The lawsuit alleges that "The termination of Ms. Peterson was arbitrary and illegal, without cause, and contrary to the legal obligations of the Commission; it was in direct violation of the Open Meetings Act, State law, and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee."

Peterson further alleges that "The Commission violated the Open Meetings Act, State law, which applies to the DeKalb County Election Commission, by a majority of its members' meeting, communicating, and deliberating in private, secretly decided and agreeing to terminate Ms. Peterson's employment, and secretly deciding and agreeing to appoint a Republican to the position of administrator of elections prior to the April 24th, 2009 public meeting of the commission."

"The Commission's act of terminating Ms. Peterson and appointing a new Republican administrator of elections should be deemed null and void."

Peterson is being represented by the law office Blackburn & McCune, PPLC in Nashville. Gary Blackburn is the lead attorney of the firm.

Beavers and Weaver Vote Against State Budget and Bridge Bonding Bill

June 22, 2009
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Opposed to the idea of the state borrowing money, State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver both voted against the bridge bonding bill last week in the General Assembly.

The legislature initially considered a bill to issue $350 million in bonds next year for approximately 100 bridges around the state, but rather than borrow the money all at once, state lawmakers adopted a version of the bill to spread it out over four years, giving them a chance to reconsider if the state's financial situation continues to worsen.

Senator Beavers, in an interview with WJLE Friday, said Sligo Bridge remains on the list of "high priority" bridges and she is hopeful that the Tennessee Department of Transportation will use available funds to replace it without the state having to issue general obligation bonds. " I'm against bonding. We're in a place where in Washington they're absolutely borrowing our children and grandchildren into the biggest hole we've ever seen in this country. And for the state to take the same path as the federal government and pass the bonding bill on roads, bridges, or anything, I think was irresponsible. It was more of a statement about my principles personally and the way I've lived my life. We don't borrow money using credit cards when you can't afford to repay it. I think Government should be run the same way."

"What happened on the bonds, there were $350 million in bonds on bridges proposed. The Governor had planned to pay for those over a twelve year period and to pay the interest with stimulus money. It was irresponsible to do that because we knew that the stimulus money would not last that long. So the version of the bill that passed was one to issue $87 million a year for the next three years. It did not extend it out over twelve years," said Beavers

Senator Beavers says lawmakers have been told the state could eventually get more federal stimulus money and those funds, if they come in, could be used for highest priority bridges including Sligo. "The State Comptroller thinks more stimulus money is coming in. He said the money was there."

If additional stimulus money does not come in, Senator Beavers says the state would have the authority to issue general obligation bonds to fund the Sligo project. "The list (of bridges) that we originally had in the budget, the highest priority list that we had seen, had the Sligo bridge as the number two bridge. So if the (Transportation) Commissioner does the right thing and the stimulus money comes in, it (Sligo bridge) will be number two to be funded. If the stimulus money does not come in and they do end up issuing these bonds, it should still be in that first issue of bonds in November. I think you'll see some decision made. You know how political decisions can get on the hill and I would make no guess but I would certainly hope that the Commissioner would do the right thing for the people of DeKalb County, especially those people who would be so seriously affected by the closing of that bridge should that have to occur in the next two or three years. I have stressed that the Sligo bridge and the Cordell Hull bridge (in Smith County) have got to be done."

Senator Beavers also voted against passage of the state budget, preferring instead a Senate version of the spending plan, which the House rejected. "At the end of last week, the Senate thought they had a good version of the budget worked out that I could vote for. Actually they had taken about $67 million in cuts that the Governor had on a proposed list of cuts back before the revenue projections came in on June 6th. Well on June 6th the Governor decided to go with the high end of the revenue projections for the next year and he based his budget on that. We thought that was a bad idea, not knowing what the economy was going to do, and seeing the decreasing revenues in the State of Tennessee. So we (Senate) came up with our own budget. The budget did not include the bonding for the bridges but it set out language in it that when the next stimulus money comes in, it would be for the top six high priority bridges, two of which are Sligo bridge and Cordell Hull bridge in Smith County. But all of that went sour the first of the week. The State House did not like our (Senate) budget and they started negotiating and unfortunately what we came out with, I didn't like, so I voted against the budget, voted against the bonding bill, and voted against breaking the "Copeland Cap" which ties the growth of the state government budget to the growth of personal income. With the stimulus money, it put us over that (cap) and it will put us in a dire situation next year unless the economy really gets going, and we just don't see that happening. I thought it was inconsistent to vote against breaking the "Copeland Cap" and then vote for the budget because I think they go hand in hand."

"We have to have a balanced budget in the State of Tennessee. With the budget that was passed I think we're going to see some dire circumstances this next year and more drastic cuts. I saw this year as one in which we could ward off some of the drastic cuts that would have to be made next year but I think this budget was pretty irresponsible in that respect."

"Unfortunately some state employees lost their jobs this year. I really have an issue with that when I still see some pork in the budget for museums, fish hatcheries, and other things. I took issue with some of the things that went on this year."

Meanwhile, in her weekly legislative wrap, State Representative Weaver gave her reasons for opposing the budget and the bridge bonding bill. "You just can't spend what you do not take in. Tennessee cannot act like Washington and just print more money. We must act responsibly by taking a conservative fiscal approach."

" The budget we were given contained many good things I support however it also consisted of many irresponsible principles that I could not swallow. Rather than making the tough cuts this year that every other state is making, this budget passes the buck assuming that our revenues are growing. Basing our budget on what we think we will take in is a recipe for disaster. So along with eleven other fellow members, I voted to send it back to the drawing board. This is not the time to borrow money we cannot afford. If the Governor is so intent on borrowing why not borrow money to fund the "pork" projects like the museums in Memphis? But no, instead he chose to put our most important bridges at risk of being funded at all."

" Although this budget decreased the Governor's original plan by 10%, we are still $1.2 billion dollars short in revenues, growing the government by $6 billion dollars during this administration and now using one time stimulus funds on recurring expenditures. It would be like making your monthly mortgage payment with your one time tax refund! This would not be done in our household budget and it certainly should not be done on our State Budget."

" Again I stood true to my principles and did what I believed was right for the state of Tennessee. I believe history will prove that a "no" vote was the right vote on this budget."

"Concerning the two bridge projects, Sligo and Cordell Hull, I worked hard to ensure they both be placed in the budget, of which they are. However the Governor instead chose to put our most important bridges on the Bonding Bill. Last I looked both were top priority bridges for 2010."

"Due to the fact that I had the privilege to work closely with the top financial officers of the state, our Treasurer and Comptroller, it gave me the opportunity to understand this most complicated bill called the Governor's budget. Our Constitution requires a balanced budget be passed by June 30th. In order to prevent a government shut down this budget passed and I could not support it."

Sheriff's Department Makes Five Arrests

June 22, 2009
Dwayne Page
Brandon Lynn Tallent
Felicia Ann Murphy
David Edward George

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has arrested three persons since last Wednesday on drug related offenses, one man for public intoxication, and another for DUI.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 25 year old Brandon Lynn Tallent of West Broad Street Smithville was arrested Wednesday, June 17th for possession of drug paraphernalia after a deputy spotted him sitting in a vehicle on Herman Road. The officer found three used hypodermic needles and four cut straws in the waistband of Tallent's pants. Bond for Tallent was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on July 16th.

29 year old Felicia Ann Murphy of West Main Street, Smithville is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond was set at $1,500 and she will appear in court on July 23rd. Meanwhile a no bond was issued on a violation of probation against her and she will appear in court on that offense June 26th. Sheriff Ray says on Thursday, June 18th, a deputy went to Murphy's residence to serve a violation warrant on her. When Murphy spotted the officer, she tried to leave. The deputy also noticed that she was holding an object close to her. Murphy was told to stop but she did not. After apprehending Murphy, the officer found on the floor where she was standing, a used cut straw and a hypodermic needle.

Also on Thursday, a county deputy spotted a vehicle on the side of the roadway on Highway 70. The officer talked with the driver who appeared to be intoxicated. Arrested was 37 year old Sandro Naun Valladores of Wade Street, Smithville. Valladores was unsteady on his feet and had a smell of alcohol on his person. Valladores was also seen repeatedly stepping into the on coming traffic lane. Valladores was charged with public intoxication. His bond was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on July 2nd.

On Saturday, June 20th, a county deputy spotted 35 year old David Edward George of West Main Street, Smithville in a store parking lot on Highway 56 South. The officer had knowledge of an active warrant on George and was given consent to search his vehicle. Found in the vehicle were hemostats, a razor blade, ink pen barrel, and a piece of tile all containing drug residue. Also found on George's person were eleven pills believed to be Oxycodone. George was charged with possession of a schedule II drug (Oxycodone) for sale and delivery and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond for George was set at $7,500 and he will appear in court on July 23rd..

Also on Saturday, 22 year old Lazaro Romo Garcia of Cecil Hale Road, Smithville was charged with a 4th offense driving under the influence and a 2nd offense of driving on a revoked license after deputies received a complaint about a vehicle sitting in the roadway on Cecil Hale Road. Garcia was unsteady on his feet and had a strong odor of alcohol on his person. He also failed field sobriety tasks. Garcia admitted to drinking beer. His license was also checked and they were found to be revoked for a 3rd offense of driving under the influence. Garcia's bond was set at $6,500 and he will appear in court on July 23rd.

Fire Destroys Storage Building

June 21, 2009
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County firefighters were called to Bethel Road shortly after 12:30 a.m. Saturday where a storage building, belonging to Jason Z. Cripps, was on fire.

According to DeKalb County Fire Chief Donny Green, the building was fully involved in flames when the owner discovered the fire and made the call to 911. The storage building and all contents were totally destroyed and the cause of the blaze remains undetermined at this time.

Fire units from the Blue Springs Station and the Short Mountain Highway Station responded along with the department's tanker truck. DeKalb EMS, THP, and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department were also on hand to provide assistance.

State Fire Marshal Offers Fireworks Safety Tips

June 21, 2009

State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman wants to remind Tennesseans that, while fireworks are a traditional part of Fourth of July celebrations, many people are seriously injured each year by their careless use.

“We would encourage you to enjoy the holiday at a public display presented by trained professionals,” says Newman, “where compliance with state-of-the-art fire codes offers a safer way to celebrate our nation’s independence.”

If consumer fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips:

• Never allow children to handle or ignite fireworks.
• Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
• Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
• Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from homes, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
• Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
• Keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.
• Like matches and lighters, sparklers are not toys and cause hundreds of injuries every year. Sparklers burn hot, can reach temperatures as high as 1,200° F, and stay hot long after they’ve burned out. You wouldn’t hand a matchbook or lighter to a child to wave around or play with – so, don’t give a child a sparkler.

Fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries. A 2007 law prevents children under 16 from purchasing fireworks; and those who are age 16 or 17 must present a photo ID to purchase them.

For more information on firework safety, visit http://tennessee.gov/commerce/sfm/. The Department of Commerce and Insurance works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. www.tn.gov/commerce/

Public Officials Host "Eating for a Cure" Fundraiser

June 19, 2009
Dwayne Page
Judge Bratten Cook and daughter Megan serving Randy Tramel at Eating for a Cure

Folks flocked to downtown Smithville Friday to enjoy a delicious meal and to help raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The 4th annual cook out on the square called "Eating for a Cure"was hosted by local public officials and their employees and approximately $1,500 was raised. All of the money collected will go to the Relay for Life.

Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, Trustee Sean Driver, County Mayor Mike Foster, Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, Assessor of Property Timothy "Fud" Banks, General Sessions Judge Bratten H. "Butch" Cook II, Road Supervisor Kenny Edge, County Clerk Mike Clayborn, Clerk and Master Debra Malone, Sheriff Patrick Ray, and Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley furnished the food for the annual event.

Vacant Mobile Home Destroyed by Fire

June 19, 2009
Dwayne Page

A fire this morning (Friday) destroyed a vacant single wide mobile home, which was being used as a shed, on Lower Helton Road.

The structure belonged to James Hale

County Fire Chief Donny Green says Hale resides across the road from the trailer and his grandson was the first to spot the fire.

The blaze was reported after midnight but it was well underway by the time it was noticed so firefighters could not save it. Members of the Liberty, Temperance Hall, and Main Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS.

The fire rekindled after 3:00 a.m. and members of the Liberty Station returned to the scene.

No one was injured.

Graduation Ceremony held for Leadership DeKalb Class of 2009

June 19, 2009
Leadership DeKalb Class of 2009

Leadership DeKalb Class of 2009 graduation was held on Thursday, June 18th at the 303 North Public Square Building, Smithville.

After a welcome from Chamber President, Robin Driver, the invocation was given by Reverend Ben Chapman, Director of Lighthouse Christian Camp and recipient of the Leadership DeKalb Alumni Association 2008 Legacy Award.

Leadership Alumni 2008 Community Leader of the Year, Charlie Parker, was the night's guest
speaker and spoke on the topic "Serving Our Community." An overview of the year's sessions was assembled in powerpoint presentation by class president Brandon Miller. It was introduced by class member Tom Miller and narrated by Amy Lockhart and Leah Cantrell. Leadership Director Jen Sherwood, Chamber Director Suzanne Williams, and Leadership Alumni President Aaron Meeks presented the graduating class with plaques.

Leadership DeKalb is a 10-month program designed to bring together individuals who desire increased leadership responsibility in improving the quality of life in DeKalb County, and train these citizens with knowledge, skills and an increased awareness of opportunities so that they are involved, effective and active leaders. Each summer, applications are accepted for the next year's class. Participation is open to any who lives or works in DeKalb County and who has a desire to contribute to positive change in DeKalb County. For more information, contact Jen Sherwood at 597-4851 or the chamber office at 597-4163.

Pictured from left: Front - Tiffany Winchester, DCHS Student; Esther Hernandez, Translator, La
Hermosa Methodist Church; Rhonda Caplinger, Liberty State Bank; Amy
Lockhart, Premier Realty at Center Hill Lake; Jen Sherwood, Leadership
Director; Leah Cantrell, DeKalb Community Hospital; Janna Gillard, Gillard
Publishing/DeKalb County Guide; Claudette Lasser, Law Office of Harry
Lasser; Cheryl Ludwig, Appalachian Center for Craft

Back - Nick Nokes, DTC Communications; Tom Miller, Liberty State Bank; Jason
Ray, State Farm Insurance; Brandon Miller, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas

City Budget Adopted on First Reading

June 19, 2009
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen Thursday night met briefly in special session and adopted on first reading the proposed six million dollar budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year which begins July 1st.

Water and sewer rates will remain the same to start the new year with no increases. Water and sewer tap fees will also remain at the same levels and property taxes will not be increased.

The budget includes a two percent pay raise for city employees and a five dollar increase per call for the volunteer firefighters, going from $15 to $20 per call.

Since full time employees with at least ten years of service with the city will be getting a three weeks paid vacation, Mayor Taft Hendrixson proposed to give volunteer firefighters with at least ten years of service an extra $250 at the end of the year as payment in lieu of vacation. However, Alderman Tonya Sullivan said that could be addressed by the new council, and made a motion to adopt the new budget as is, with no further changes. Alderman Jerry Hutchins, Sr. seconded the motion and Aldermen Willie Thomas, Cecil Burger, and Steve White all voted yes.

Mayor Hendrixon's proposal could be voted on as a budget amendment after the new council takes office.

The aldermen will consider second and final reading passage of the proposed budget in a special meeting on Tuesday, June 30th at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.


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