Local News Articles

DeKalb Native and Nurse Seeks Living Kidney Donor

January 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
 Donna Kaye Ritter

After spending years helping others as a nurse, Donna Kaye Ritter doesn't enjoy asking for help. But the 43-year-old DeKalb County native is in need of a new kidney and is seeking a match from a living donor for an eventual transplant.

Ritter, daughter of Berle and Mamie Billings of Smithville, suffered damage to both kidneys as a result of high blood pressure while she was pregnant with her only child, Corwin, who is now 10 years old. Donna, her husband Paul, and Corwin reside in Murfreesboro.

"The kidney issue mostly started when I was pregnant with Corwin. The blood pressure went out of control and because of it being so high, it damaged the kidneys causing them not to work properly. Shortly after Corwin was born I discovered that I still had about 30% of my kidney function remaining. I dealt with that for a long time. Now I've gone down to 19% and after you get to 19% that's when the doctor's start talking transplant or dialysis and how we're going to deal with it in the future. I decided if I could avoid dialysis at all I would rather go for the transplant. So I have started reaching out to people to see if I could possibly find a match before I get to the point where it's a drastic need. If I can find my own donor, a living donor who is compatible with me, the process of getting a kidney could be much faster than just being on a list and waiting because that could take a long time. Dialysis is also very hard on the body and the family," said Ritter.

Because of her condition, Donna gave up her nursing career before Corwin was born. "Due to the pregnancy, my blood pressure medicine wasn't working that well and I was basically on bed rest from about the time I was six weeks pregnant until he was born. I haven't worked since my pregnancy and have been seeing doctors regularly to monitor my health," Ritter continued.

This is not Ritter’s' first bout with health issues. She was diagnosed with Lupus as a child. "I was 11 years old and in the sixth grade. The high blood pressure was part of the Lupus. I've been on blood pressure medicine since sixth grade because of it. Lupus is a lifelong condition. It’s an auto-immune disease which means my immune system attacks my own body, it cannot tell the difference between my normal cells and a possible virus or infection. For this reason I have been on medication to control it since I was 11" she said.

Ritter encourages everyone to consider becoming an organ donor. "Kidneys are the number 1 needed organ for transplantation. If you feel like you want to help, even if you are not a match for me, you may be a match for someone else. It is a gift of life. It would be so much appreciated."

For more information visit Vanderbilt Transplant at http://www.vanderbilthealth.com/transplant/ or if you would like to contact Ritter send an email to caffeinebuzzdsgn@bellsouth.net or dkpepperpuppy@msn.com and be sure to include "transplant" in the subject line.

Donna Ritter is a 1990 graduate of DeKalb County High School. She later earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Nursing and a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology at MTSU. Her husband Paul is a Graphic Designer.

City Officials Commend Police Chief

January 11, 2016
Dwayne Page
Police Chief Mark Collins (photo from October)

Smithville Chief of Police Mark Collins seems to be off to a good start.

During a meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen last week, Chief Collins was commended for his efforts in making police more visible in the city especially around school zones and for reducing overtime within the department.

Collins was named to the position November 2 and took over on November 23.

"I enjoy seeing a lot of the extra patrols in the school zones," said Alderman Josh Miller.

"I think that's important. There's a lot of people and a lot of activity around those schools at that time and the more we're there the more visible we are and people are aware of it. We sure don't want any accidents or anything to happen. We don't want them to happen to anybody but we sure don't want them to happen to a school bus or those kids. That's important," said Chief Collins.

"I've had a lot of good comments about the police being out and working," Mayor Jimmy Poss said.

"I've had comments about that too. You (police) are more visible lately it seems," added Alderman Gayla Hendrix.

"We plan on continuing that too", said Chief Collins.

Alderman Shawn Jacobs asked Chief Collins about how he was dealing with overtime in the department. "I know we've had a lot of overtime in the department in years past and I know because the way officers are scheduled some of that is necessary. But how is that going right now? Are you being able to control the amount of overtime? Is that something we need to address as far as personnel?

"In the future I'm going to propose to the council a plan that I have come up with how I would love to see the department staffed and manned. I know we're in the middle of a budget that we've got in place now and I don't want to do anything to disrupt that but I have got a plan and program I would like to see. It would require a new officer and with that I could staff and put people where I need them most which would definitely cut down on overtime. I believe the overtime has gone down in the last month or so. I do try to keep a better watch on that. I know overtime is going to happen at times. Its inevitable. We've got court and other things that are going to happen. But I don't like to use overtime when we don't have to. We need to save it for a rainy day. With the new schedule I would like to see in the future, it would eliminate that because there would always be an extra person on shift in case someone calls in sick or something happens," said Chief Collins.

Meanwhile, Chief Collins said the department has received a new police car and assault rifles that had been ordered before his arrival as Chief. "The transition into the new job has gone well. The assault rifles that you guys (city officials) ordered are here. We're in the process of getting those handed out to the officers. I have handed them out already to the supervisors. We've got to get some training. I want to make sure everyone has training before I issue those. We're in the process of getting that set up. We should have it done this month. We should have them (assault rifles) all in the cars with all the guys (officers) soon. I think there are only two officers that have not had AR training in the past so we're in pretty good shape there. And the new patrol car is here. We had the lights put on (last Wednesday). It is now an official patrol car," he said.

In November the aldermen voted to accept a bid from King's Firearms and More Law Enforcement Division in Columbia to purchase thirteen fully stocked semi-automatic Smith & Wesson assault rifles for the police department. The total cost is $18,223.

School Board Appreciation Week set for Jan. 24-30

January 10, 2016
Dwayne Page
Board of Education, Director of Schools, and Secretary

Governor Haslam has declared January 24-30 as School Board Appreciation Week in Tennessee. This week helps build awareness and understanding of the vital functions our locally elected boards of education play in our community. Public school districts from across the state are joining together to celebrate School Board Appreciation Week and honor local board members for their commitment to their local districts and its children.

Members of the DeKalb County School Board are Danny Parkerson, Jerry Wayne Johnson, Jim Beshearse, Kate Miller, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, Doug Stephens, and Shaun Tubbs.

TSBA Executive Director Dr. Tammy Grissom said that “School systems are the backbone of our communities, and these men and women devote countless hours to making sure our schools are helping every child. They spend time studying the issues and regulations and make the tough decisions when called upon. They provide the type of accountability people expect.”
The key work of school boards is to raise student achievement by:

Creating a vision for what the community wants the school district to be and for making student achievement the top priority;

Establishing standards for what students will be expected to learn and be able to do;

Ensuring progress is measured to be sure the district’s goals are achieved and students are learning at expected levels;

Being accountable for their decisions and actions by continually tracking and reporting results;

Creating a safe, orderly climate where students can learn and teachers can teach;

Forming partnerships with others in the community to solve common problems; and
Focusing attention on the need for continuous improvement by questioning, refining and revising issues related to student achievement.

Dr. Grissom also stated that “our local school boards give every citizen a voice in the education decision making process. Their contribution is a year-round commitment.”

The Tennessee School Boards Association, a statewide, nonprofit organization, is a federation of the state’s local school boards. The mission of the Tennessee School Boards Association is to assist school boards in effectively governing school districts. Through the years, TSBA has helped school boards and their members reach their highest potential through association programs, meetings and services. TSBA also provides school board members a collective voice in matters of legislation and public education concerns. To learn more about TSBA, visit our website at www.tsba.net.

Election Commission Issues Five Petitions

January 9, 2016
Dwayne Page

Five petitions were issued Friday, the first day certain candidates on the August ballot could pick up qualifying papers.

The DeKalb County Election Commission office reports the following petitions were issued:

Kate Miller—School Board 4th District; W.J. (Dub) Evins—School Board 5th District; Doug Stephens—School Board 6th district; Shawn Jacobs—Smithville Aldermen; and Eddie Dwayne Blair—Liberty Aldermen.

The qualifying deadline is NOON April 7.

The Election Commission Office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

County offices to be elected locally in August, along with Assessor of Property and Constable, (the qualifying deadline which has already passed)
are: School board seats in districts 4, 5, and 6.

The seats are currently held by Kate Miller, W.J. (Dub) Evins and Doug Stephens, respectively.

City offices to be elected are:
In Smithville—three aldermen seats currently held by Shawn Jacobs, Josh Miller and Danny Washer;

In Dowelltown—a mayor and two aldermen. The seats are currently held by Mayor Gerald Bailiff and Aldermen Joe Bogle and Kevin Kent.

In Liberty—four aldermen seats currently held by Jason Ray, Paul Neal, Todd Dodd and J.D. Bratten.

State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver (District 40) and Mark Pody (District 46) are also up for re-election.

DeKalb School System Names Teachers of the Year

January 9, 2016
Dwayne Page
Leah Magness is Smithville Elementary School's Teacher of the Year
Alisha Day is Northside Elementary School's Teacher of the Year
Cynthia Pulley is DeKalb West School's Teacher of the Year
Lesa Hayes is DeKalb Middle School's Teacher of the Year
Amanda Fuller is DeKalb County High School's Teacher of the Year

The DeKalb County School System has announced its "Teachers of the Year" at the building level of the five schools in the county.

This year's honoree are Leah Magness at Smithville Elementary School; Alisha Day at Northside Elementary School; Cynthia Pulley at DeKalb West School; Lesa Hayes at DeKalb Middle School; and Amanda Fuller at DeKalb County High School.

Magness is a first grade teacher in all subjects. She is in her 9th year as a teacher.

Day teaches reading, language arts, and social studies in the fifth grade. She is in her 14th year.

Pulley is in her 8th year. She teaches all subjects in the fourth grade.

Hayes is a seventh grade math teacher and is in her 17th year.

Fuller is an eleventh grade chemistry and biology teacher. This is her 20th year in the classroom.

Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for 7th through 12th grades said "Again this year, we're going to participate in the Teacher of the Year program, which begins on the school level, moves to the system level, the regional level, and finally to the state level," she said.

Competition for system-wide Teacher of the Year continues through February, and will be announced at the Teacher of the Year Banquet in the spring. There will be three teachers chosen by a committee to compete at the regional level in March, and if selected they will represent DeKalb County at the state level competition.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers; to stimulate interest in teaching as a career; and to encourage public involvement in education.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year represents Tennessee at the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Teachers of the Year are selected competitively through five cycles: Building, System, Field Service Core Center Region, Grand Division and State; and from three categories (levels of teaching); Grades Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12.

Teachers selected at each cycle receive local recognition and awards underwritten by local sources. State recognition/awards include a banquet honoring the nine State Teacher of the Year finalists and certificates of appreciation from the Governor. In addition, the State Finalists and the State Teacher of the Year receive cash awards.

Petty Gets 15 Years as Career Offender for Aggravated Burglary and Theft

January 7, 2016
Dwayne Page
David Petty

A 54 year old Smithville man who allegedly broke into a residence in July, 2014 received a fifteen year prison sentence as a career offender Thursday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Following a sentencing hearing, Judge Gary McKenzie handed down the fifteen year term for aggravated burglary against David Michael Petty as a career offender, the maximum allowed by law. Petty got another twelve years as a career offender for theft of property over $1,000. The sentences will merge as one fifteen year term. Petty must serve at least 60% of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Petty stood trial and was convicted in DeKalb County Criminal Court Wednesday, December 9.

Both the trial and sentencing hearing were covered exclusively by WJLE.

After deliberating for less than an hour, a jury of six men and six women found Petty guilty of aggravated burglary and theft of property over $1,000 as charged in the indictment against him.

Because Petty has multiple previous felony convictions in several counties dating back to 1980, Assistant District Attorney General Stephanie Johnson asked the court to sentence him as a career offender. "Mr. Petty's criminal conduct spans 35 years. He has very serious prior felony convictions. I understand they are from the 1980's but still we have someone who has persistently violated the law and obtained criminal convictions in several different counties in our state. Mr. Petty has been active in five different surrounding counties. He previously violated and has been revoked on parole twice and probation five times. This defendant has not had any measure of success on supervised release in our community. Furthermore, while he has not been charged, he has been out on an OR bond and has admitted drug use so he has continued to involve himself in illegal activity while this case was pending trial," Assistant DA Johnson told the court Thursday.

A co-defendant in the case, 44 year old Anthony Lynn Colwell pled guilty in July to aggravated burglary and received a TDOC sentence of eleven years at 45% before parole eligibility. The term is to run concurrently with a Warren County case against him. He was given two days of jail credit.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said at the time of their arrests that on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 Petty and Colwell broke into a residence on Man Hill Road and stole a jewelry box containing several items of jewelry which were later pawned at a local jewelry store and at a pawn shop in Warren County. Petty's defense essentially was that while he sold the property, he did not commit the burglary and theft.

Petty's attorney Michael Auffinger, in asking the court for leniency for his client Thursday, said that Petty was never proven to have participated in the burglary. "There was never any direct proof whatsoever that tied him to the burglary," he said.

Auffinger also pointed out that Petty voluntarily cooperated with law enforcement officers in the burglary investigation and tried to settle the debt with one of the pawn shop owners who suffered a loss because of the case. He also said Petty suffers from significant health problems and underwent surgery last week. Auffinger asked the court to make Petty's sentence at the "bottom of the range" of punishment allowed by law in this case.

Judge McKenzie found that due to seven prior felony convictions since 1980, which included three kidnappings, an assault with intent to commit a felony, and a grand larceny, Petty should be sentenced as a career offender

"Mr. Petty it looks to me that from 1980 to today there has been criminal behavior on your part," said Judge McKenzie on Thursday. " In the sentencing report there was a DUI conviction around 2003. There is a disorderly conduct in 2000. If your 1983 cases were not of a felony nature that would be one thing. If they were smaller level offenses that would be one thing but they are kidnappings. There's an assault. And then there are some drug offenses and burglaries. There is a lot of criminal history here. Based on those seven felonies I'm going to classify you as a career offender. Most individuals go their entire lives without a single arrest. Without a single conviction. The vast majority of us go our entire lives without multiple convictions. And you've got seven. The prior criminal history and multiple convictions certainly weighs strong for the state. If an individual in our community gets seven prior felony offenses then there becomes a need to protect society from releasing him back," added Judge McKenzie.

A hearing on a motion for a new trial in the case will be heard on March 21.

Smithville Awarded CDBG Grant for Sewer Plant Renovation

January 7, 2016
Dwayne Page
Head Works to be Renovated
Aeration System to be replaced
Aeration Infrastructure to be Upgraded

The City of Smithville has been awarded a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $500,000 to help fund a renovation of the headworks and to replace the aeration system at the waste water treatment plant.

The Upper Cumberland Development District applied for the grant on behalf of the city to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

"We've met with the state's ECD and the city has been officially approved for the CDBG grant for the wastewater plant," said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson during Monday night's meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. "The last time we did an update on that was 1991 other than annual maintenance that we do. Two budgets ago we approved for J.R. Wauford Engineering, the city's consulting engineer, to do site plans for the rehabilitation. That has already been done and the state has approved the plans although an environmental review process has not yet been completed. We'll probably bid it out within the next two months. I expect it to be completed by year's end. We won't have to do any other renovations for probably another 20 to 30 years. It (waste water plant) is not as bad as the water plant was but it is getting some age on it and it needs to be updated," he said

The total cost of the project is expected to be $2.88 million dollars. Although the grant will fund part of the costs, the bulk of the funding to pay for it will be appropriated from the city's water and sewer fund surplus. But the renovation can be completed without any increase to water and sewer ratepayers according to Hendrixson.

Greg Davenport of the J.R. Wauford company addressed the mayor and aldermen on the proposed project in October, 2013. "The existing wastewater treatment plant was designed in 1991 and it went into operation in 1992. It has functioned very well. The operation of that plant is top notch. The operators have done a fantastic job of preserving your infrastructure. Even so there are things that wear out with time and equipment is one of those things. After about twenty years at a wastewater treatment facility, it just gets to a point where it's time to renew it. There are really two components to the plant. The first component is the headworks which is the primary treatment. That's the screening and grit removal. Obviously the most aggressive environment is at the front end of the wastewater treatment plant. The second component is the aeration and controls. The aeration system itself is not in a failing mode but there are more energy efficient systems out there nowadays that we feel like you ought to take a look at. This would be a more pro active project. What we're proposing is a project that would renovate the headworks, which is the primary treatment device and then install a more efficient aeration system. My preliminary calculations on the aeration system show that it could save about $30,000 to $35,000 a year in electricity by switching over. The plant is twenty one years old. It's time to take an assessment of it and see what needs to be done," said Davenport.

Candidate Petitions Available Friday

January 7, 2016
Dwayne Page

Candidate petitions for the August 4 elections will be available beginning Friday, January 8.

Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, said petitions can be picked up as early as Friday by candidates for School Board, candidates for various positions in Smithville, Dowelltown and Liberty and for State Representative. Petitions must be returned by NOON April 7.

County offices to be elected locally in August, along with Assessor of Property and Constable, are: School board seats in districts 4, 5, and 6.
The seats are currently held by Kate Miller, W.J. (Dub) Evins and Doug Stephens, respectively.

City offices to be elected are:
In Smithville—three aldermen seats currently held by Shawn Jacobs, Josh Miller and Danny Washer;

In Dowelltown—a mayor and two aldermen. The seats are currently held by Mayor Gerald Bailiff and Aldermen Joe Bogle and Kevin Kent.

In Liberty—four aldermen seats currently held by Jason Ray, Paul Neal, Todd Dodd and J.D. Bratten.

State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver (District 40) and Mark Pody (District 46) are also up for re-election.

WJLE Radio Shopper Returns January 21

January 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
WJLE's Dale Carroll will co-host the RADIO SHOPPER program with Dwayne Page Thursday Morning, January 21

WJLE and participating local businesses are giving you a chance to bid on and buy merchandise at a discount in the RADIO SHOPPER on Thursday, January 21.

Starting at 9:00 a.m. that morning, WJLE will be opening up the phone lines for you to bid on various items from F.Z. Webb & Sons Gifts, DeKalb County Ace Hardware, DeKalb Farmers Coop, Kilgore's Restaurant, Bumpers Drive-In, Cantrell’s the home of Fluty and Fluty’s Shoes, and more to be added!

WJLE will set a minimum bid on each item and continue the bidding until the item is sold. The program on Thursday will be limited to around three hours. If we have more items to sell, the program will resume on another day.

If your business would like to participate, contact Dwayne Page at 615-597-4265.

It’s going to be fun and exciting! Be sure to be by your radio and your telephone on Thursday, January 21 at 9:00 a.m. and call in a bid to RADIO SHOPPER on WJLE. The program will also be streamed LIVE at www.wjle.com.

Law Requiring Insurance Verification for Vehicle Registration Not Yet in Effect

January 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss

Contrary to some recent media reports the James Lee Atwood Law (also known as the Insurance Verification Law) has not yet gone into effect.

According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue insurance verification for vehicle registration DOES NOT go into effect now. There are parts of the law that are in effect now, such as increased fines for not showing proof of insurance to a law enforcement official when a person is pulled over for a violation.

"Many news channels reported that effective January 1 County Clerks were required to have proof of insurance prior to vehicle registration. Currently County Clerks are not required to verify insurance prior to registration. However the state law for having insurance and providing proof to law enforcement is in effect," said County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss.

The Department of Revenue is still in the planning phase of developing a system for insurance verification. The law as it is currently written requires that the system be functional by January 2017.


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