Local News Articles

Grand Jury Issues Report Complimentary of Sheriff Ray

April 9, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Members of the Grand Jury toured the DeKalb County Jail last week and issued a brief report complimentary of Sheriff Patrick Ray.

The report, signed by all members of the Grand Jury, states that \"On April 3rd, 2007, we, the Grand Jury found the condition of the county jail to be adequate or better. Sheriff Patrick Ray is changing things at the jail for the better. He is using his resources wisely. We would like to see that the county commission continues to support Sheriff Ray in his efforts.\"

Two Arrested By Sheriff's Department In Recent Thefts at Marinas

April 9, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has made two arrests in connection with recent thefts at local marinas.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 25 year old Jennifer Brazle of South Cedar Street, Gainesboro is charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $500 and 23 year old Derrick Stafford of Goad Lane, Gainesboro is charged with two counts of aggravated burglary and two counts of theft of property over $500. Bond for Brazle is $30,000 and Stafford's bond is $30,000. Both will appear in General Sessions Court on the charges April 26th.

Sheriff Ray says on February 14th, Brazle went to Center Hill Marina, broke into a houseboat, and stole a generator, four fishing rods, and other miscellaneous items.

On March 5th, Sheriff Ray says Stafford went to Cookeville Boat Dock, broke into two houseboats, and stole two generators, fishing equipment, and other miscellaneous items.

More arrests are forthcoming.

Sheriff's Department Picks Up Two More Defendants On Drug Charges

April 11, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has picked up two more defendants, charged in sealed indictments, as a result of the recent undercover drug investigation.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Nick Hollingsworth is charged with two counts of sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (Dilaudid) and Berna Dean Barnes is charged with possession of a schedule IV controlled substance (Valium) and possession of a schedule II controlled substance (Methadone)

All those indicted by the Grand Jury will appear for arraignment in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday, April 16th at 9:00 a.m.

Turnout Light But Concerns Raised At First Public Hearings On Proposed Sales Tax Hike

April 12, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The first public hearings on the proposed local option sales tax increase/property tax cut didn't attract many people Thursday night at Liberty or Dowelltown but a couple of people who did speak expressed their concerns.

At the Dowelltown hearing, Snow Hill resident Mike Antoniak suggested that the proposed sales tax hike would amount to an overall tax increase for most residents of DeKalb County, even with a property tax cut, and he took issue with recent public statements made by County Mayor Mike Foster.

Foster recently told the local media that the annual property tax bill on a $200,000 piece of property would be reduced by approximately $90 with the 19 cent reduction in the property tax rate. He said it would take nearly $8,000 in purchases by a consumer for the 1.25 cent hike in the sales tax to go over the $90 savings.

Antoniak says he did some research and found that only about 6% of the property owners in DeKalb County have land assessed at more than $200,000. Using Foster's scenario, Antoniak says for 90% of the property owners, this would not be a tax swap, as Foster contends, but a tax increase. \"The logic works until you look at what percentage of homes or properties in the county is assessed at $200,000 or more. I called the Tax Assessor's office and he referred me to the Division of Property Assessments in Cookeville. This is what she told me and I had her to repeat it. There are 1,047 pieces of property in DeKalb County, out of 17,000, assessed above $200,000. That's six percent. So that would mean for 90% of the people here, if they spend just the $8,000 (purchases where sales tax is applied) their taxes are actually going to increase. I mean $8,000 is just $150 a week for groceries.\"

As far as the overall plan is concerned, Foster still insists that it would basically amount to a tax swap, with the loss of funds from the nineteen and a half cent property tax cut to be offset by new revenue generated from the proposed sales tax hike, which is projected to be the equivalent of twenty one cents on the tax rate. Foster says the plan would give property owners a 10% tax cut while broadening the sales tax base, distributing the tax burden among a greater number of people including tourists and others who work here but reside elsewhere. \" You have a choice of broadening the base of who is paying. You can't continuously forever rely on property tax payers.\"

At the Liberty meeting, Myron Rhody, another Snow Hill resident, weighed in on the debate, saying while he supported the sales tax increase last year, he has reservations about it now. \"I voted for the sales tax increase last year because that's more fair. But I don't like this way it's coming now. It's almost like you're saying 'I'm going to twist your arm a little bit or encourage you a little bit by saying we're going to give you this (property tax cut)if you'll take that (sales tax increase) now, because it didn't go (pass) before. I'm just telling you what I have heard all over the county. It's everybody you talk to, even the ones who were for the sales tax increase the last time and voted for it. They don't like this at all. It smells fishy to them.\"

Foster responded saying \" Vote against it and it will smell like higher taxes.\"

Rhody added that he would tend to favor a wheel tax. \" You've got people who live in the projects. You've got people who are not local residents of the United States. But they all drive cars. I'm not in favor of a tax period. But we've got to have it. I'd rather see a wheel tax come in or a luxury tax. I've got a boat. You may have a boat. But we don't have to have those things to live. You have to have groceries. You have to have clothes. There are some people who are just barely getting by.\"

The county commission, in 2003, raised the property tax rate by 36 cents. Last September, the commission raised the rate by 39 cents.

County officials say if the sales tax referendum is approved by the voters in a special election on Thursday, May 17th, which would raise the local option sales tax rate from 1.5 to the maximum of 2.75%, the county commission will reduce the property tax rate by at least nineteen and a half cents.

Whether or not the sales tax referendum is approved, county officials have not ruled out the possibility of some other tax increase or new tax within the next four or five years, should the need arise, due to inflation.

School Board Considers Policy To Prohibit Use of Cell Phones By Students during School Hours

April 13, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Students will be allowed to possess cell phones at school, but they won't be permitted to use them under a new policy adopted on first reading by the Board of Education Thursday night.

Under the proposed policy regarding cell phones, \"Students may possess personal communication devices, such as cell phones, while on school property. However, the personal communication device must be in the off mode and must be kept in a backpack, purse, or similar personal carry-all and may not be used during school hours. The principal or his or her designee may grant a student permission to use a personal communication device at his or her discretion. A device used outside these parameters shall result in confiscation of the device until such time as it may be released to the student's parent or guardian. A student in violation of this policy is subject to disciplinary action.\"

The proposed policy further states that \"Use of cameras on personal communication devices is strictly prohibited on school property or at school functions. A student in violation of this policy is subject to disciplinary action.\"

As for personal electronic devices, the proposed policy states that \"Personal electronic devices such as CD players, Ipods, or MP3 players may be stored in backpacks, purses or personal carry-alls. However, the use of the devices during school hours is strictly forbidden. Use of improper storage of the personal electronic device will result in confiscation of the device until such time as it may be released to the student's parents or guardian. A student in violation of this policy is subject to disciplinary action.\"

The school board will act on the proposed policy on second reading at the next meeting May 10th at the high school cafeteria.

Three Arrested By Smithville Police on Various Charges

April 16, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Three people have been arrested by the Smithville Police Department since Friday.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says on April 13th Smithville Police Officers working selective traffic enforcement for speeding stopped 33 year old Edward Ralph Roberts of 229 Robinson Road in Liberty for excessive speed on West Broad Street. A computer check disclosed that Roberts was currently driving on a suspended license. He was arrested and charged with Driving on a Suspended License, No Insurance and Speeding and transported to the DeKalb County Jail. His bond is $3,000.

Meanwhile, Chief Stufano says On April 14th Smithville Officers investigating a reported suspicious person complaint at Evins Manor Apartments found a male walking around the complex knocking on apartment doors at 11:30 p.m. Further investigation noted that 22 year old Stephen Hunter Pugh of 234 Sweetwater Road in Liberty was also in possession of drug paraphernalia. He was subsequently arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond.

Chief Stufano further reports that on April 15th at approximately 3:30 a.m. Smithville Police responded to the BP Gas Station on South Congress Boulevard to a reported drunk driver. Upon arrival 24 year old Charles Michael Blanchfield of 3770 Seven Spring Road in Smithville was found passed out at the gas pumps with the vehicle motor still running. Also found in his lap was a plate, straw and narcotics. In his hand were a plastic bag containing 7 marijuana cigarettes, 6 Hydrocodone tablets and 2 Xanax tablets.

Blanchfield was eventually awakened and placed under arrest and transported to the DeKalb County Jail. Charges included DUI, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Possession of Drugs for Sale and Delivery. Bond was set at $27,000.

Two More People Served With Sealed Indictments On Drug Charges

April 18, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has picked up two more people named in sealed indictments returned by the grand jury earlier this month on drug charges.

Josh Goff and Steve Stanley are each charged with two counts of sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (Dilaudid).

They are among more than 40 people indicted by the grand jury as a result of a six month undercover drug investigation by the Sheriff's Department.

Corps Announces Plans To Close Some Campsites and Shorten Camping Season at Others

April 18, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Nashville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today that Anderson Road Campground on J. Percy Priest Lake will not open for the 2007 recreation season. The closure is temporary and the Corps anticipates reopening the campground in the spring of 2008. The popular picnic area, beach, launching ramp and fitness trail at Anderson Road Recreation Area, referred to as the Day-Use area, will open April 18.

Reductions in the recreation portion of the overall operations and maintenance budget made it necessary to close Anderson Road Campground, close several campsites and shorten the camping season at a few other campgrounds in order to reduce costs.

Campers who had reservations affected by the closures will be contacted and given a full refund. Reservations may be made at Corps campgrounds online at www.recreation.gov, by calling 877-444-6777.

The reduction to Nashville District?s recreation budget resulted from overall reductions to the Operations and Maintenance budget for fiscal year (FY) 2007. Following several continuing resolutions to the federal budget, a final resolution for the remainder of the year left the Corps? Nashville District with a $5 million reduction from FY 2006 levels. The budget cuts are not related to the repairs at Wolf Creek Dam as that funding is from an entirely different appropriation.

More than 35 million visitors used Nashville District lakes last year and Resource Managers expect the same visitation rates this year.

?We want to provide the best service we can,? said Ralph Ownby, deputy director of Operations, ?with available resources and we can best do that by concentrating our efforts on the majority of recreation areas while temporarily closing one campground and parts of other campgrounds. We regret any inconvenience to campers.?

In addition to Anderson Road Campground, closures will also affect Corps of Engineers campgrounds at Center Hill, Cheatham, Cordell Hull, and Dale Hollow Lakes in Tennessee and Lake Barkley in Kentucky.

At Center Hill Lake, a section of Ragland Bottom and Floating Mill Campgrounds will open later and close earlier in the year.

At Cheatham Lake, Harpeth River Campground will open on May 1, one month later than originally scheduled.

At Cordell Hull Lake, Salt Lick Campground will open May 24, two weeks later than originally scheduled, and 50 percent of the campsites will close on September 4, three weeks earlier than originally scheduled.

At Dale Hollow Lake, one section of Lillydale Campground will be closed for 2007.

At Lake Barkley, one loop of Canal Campground will close earlier in the year.

?We will make every effort to accommodate visitors to Corps lakes at alternate sites in the event their favorite Campground is affected,? said Corps spokesman Bill Peoples.

Senate Approves Measure Increasing Penalties for Sexual Predators

April 18, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

State Senate Bill 326 by Senators Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and Diane Black (R-Gallatin) unanimously passed the Senate on Thursday. It proposes to increase the sentence for a person convicted of child rape.

?We are going to make Tennessee a safe haven for children,? said Beavers. ?Sexual predators in Tennessee need to be behind bars, and they need to stay there.?

As amended, Senate Bill 326 proposes to set the minimum penalty for rape of a child at 25 years in prison, with the maximum being life in prison. Currently the penalties are 15 to 60 years in prison.

Due to the increased incarceration time, the legislation would increase state expenditures by $7,690,700. This year, the Governor has included funding for the measure in the proposed budget.

?A lot has been said about Florida?s Jessica?s Law?, said Black. ?There are portions of our law that are already more strict than Florida?s law. This bill brings us more in line with Jessica?s Law, while keeping our laws tight.?

The bill will have to pass the House and be signed by the Governor before becoming law.

Dowelltown Man Gets Eight Year Sentence In Wilson County For Reckless Vehicular Homicide

April 20, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

30 year old James T. Evans of Dowelltown pleaded guilty Monday in Wilson County Circuit Court to vehicular assault and two counts of reckless vehicular homicide stemming from an April 2005 wreck that killed his cousin and a friend.

The Lebanon Democrat reports that Evans received a total sentence of eight years, one year of which must be served in jail before he is eligible for release on probation

The six car fatal traffic accident, which occurred at the Highway 109 interchange of Interstate 40, killed Evans' cousin, 28 year old Martisha Annice League of Smithville and 23 year old Victoria Susan Dyer of Baxter, who were both passengers in his car.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the crash occurred in the outer lane of I-40 westbound, where three cars were stopped and a fourth car was slowing to a stop due to an earlier accident further ahead on the interstate.

Evans' vehicle approached the traffic jam traveling at a high rate of speed and did not slow down in time to avoid a crash.

Evans' vehicle did crash into the car in front of it, causing a five-car pile-up.

After the initial crash, Evans' vehicle was hit by a sixth vehicle that was \"traveling at an Interstate speed,\" according to the THP report, and tried unsuccessfully to avoid the crash by driving into the median.

Dyer, one of the four other passengers in the Evans vehicle, was flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.

Also flown to Vanderbilt was 48 year old Dana Marie Ragan of Kingston Springs, the driver of one of the vehicles involved in the crash. Ragan's injuries were the reason for the vehicular assault charge.

The Lebanon Democrat reports that Evans and all his passengers had consumed alcohol directly prior to the accident, with the exception of one underaged passenger, according to the case file.

Evans' reckless vehicular homicide charges were downgraded from charges of vehicular homicide. The state dismissed charges of reckless endangerment and driving under the influence of intoxicants.

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