Local News Articles

Sheriff's Department Makes Eight Arrests on Charges from Driving Offenses to DUI, Thefts, and Drug Crimes

June 25, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has made eight arrests within the last week on charges ranging from DUI and thefts to drug offenses.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 31 year old Cheri Herriott of Colvert Lake Road, Smithville was stopped on a traffic violation June 18th. She was charged with driving under the influence, possession of a schedule IV controlled substance (Valium), possession of a schedule III drug (Hydrocodone), possession of a schedule IV controlled substance (Xanax), and possession of drug parpahernalia. Her bond is set at $5,000 and her court date is July 18th.

22 year old Christy Martin of Colvert Lake Road, Smithville was also charged with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (Cocaine), simple possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond is set at $55,000 and her court date is June 21st.

In another case, 40 year old Melissa Petty of Banks Pisgah Road, Smithville was stopped on Highway 56 north June 20th. She was charged with driving on a suspended license. Her bond is set at $1,500 and her court date is July 5th.

48 year old Ricky Devault of Talphia Road, Dowelltown was arrested for DUI and driving on s suspended license on June 21st. Devault was stopped on Man Hill Road in Dowelltown on a traffic violation. His bond is set at $6,000 and he will be in court July 5th.

44 year old Edward Judkins of Sparta Highway, Smithville was charged with driving on a suspended driver's license on June 22nd after he was caught driving on Braswell Lane. His bond is set at $3,000 and his court date is July 5th.

29 year old Eddie Winnett of Forest Avenue, Watertown was stopped on a traffic violation on Johnson's Chapel Road June 22nd. He was arrested for simple possession of marijuana, simple possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving on a suspended driver's license. His bond is $7,500 and his court date is July 5th.

26 year old Rickey Lynn Martin of Judkins Lane, Smithville was arrested for theft of property under $500 on June 23rd. He allegedly stole a Gameboy game machine and a game from a yard sale at a residence on Keltonburg Road.

A 17 year old juvenile allegedly stole a vehicle from Winter Drive, Dowelltown on June 24th. Sheriff Ray says after the juvenile took the vehicle, he drove it to a gas station and tried to buy cigarettes. The juvenile got scared, took the vehicle to Man Hill Road, Dowelltown, and set the vehicle on fire. The juvenile fled the scene but was spotted by a deputy on Old Snows Hill Road. The juvenile admitted to stealing the vehicle and was charged with theft over $5,000 and vandalism over $5,000.

Sumner Regional Plans to Give Up Operation of DeKalb EMS

June 25, 2007
Dwayne Page

Sumner Regional Medical Center, which has been operating the DeKalb County Ambulance Service for several years, will soon be ending it's agreement with the county.

County Mayor Mike Foster told the county commission Monday night that Sumner Regional is \"going out of the ambulance business\".

The decision the county commission will have to make within a few weeks is whether to contract with another entity to run the local ambulance service or for the county to once again assume the operation of it.

Sumner Regional Medical Center is currently under contract with the county to operate the ambulance service for $163,000 per year, and the county, which owns the ambulances, buys a new one each year. Sumner Regional rents the ambulance service building for $600 per month and had agreed to rent the new location for $1,500 per month.

Foster says the county will have ninety days to make a change once the official notice has been received from Sumner Regional, but the county commission may want to act sooner \"We've had conversations with two new groups (interested in the ambulance service). I have also requested the paperwork, including audits, etc of the Sumner General operation, of which we are entitled, to see how the expenditures and revenues were. Within the next 30 days we will need to decide either on a new contract (with some other group) or whether the county wants to go back into the ambulance business. I have talked with Smith County and Overton County. They are running their own (ambulance services). One of them is actually making a couple hundred thousand dollars a year on theirs. I know the ones of you who have been on the county commission a lot longer than I have been here don't want to revisit that (county operating the ambulance service) but we may want to look at that. All the ambulances that are here are owned by the county and the building is owned by the county, so we're in a good position. We can either negotiate a contract with another company or we can go into business. I don't yet have a strong feeling either way, but I think we need to look at it from all aspects and see what is the proper thing that we need to do. If we get the proper people to run it and the proper people to collect the bills, I think it might be a positive thing (for the county to run it). Otherwise, it might be a very negative thing.\"

The county commission, earlier this year voted to exercise an option to purchase the old Fina Market building at the corner of South Mountain Street and Meadowbrook Drive as the future home of the DeKalb County Ambulance Service. The purchase price of that building was $125,000.

Foster says Page Brothers Construction has been doing the renovation work on the new building. \"The contract was awarded to Page Brothers to do the work on the ambulance service building that they're moving along with that. We hope to be ready to move in it in two or three months.\"

The ambulance service, for the last several years, has been located on Highway 56 north in Smithville but Foster says the building is too small for today's needs and is in need of repair.

Board of Education Adopts New School Budget

June 27, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education Tuesday night adopted the tentative school budget for 2007-2008, subject to approval of the county commission.

The spending plan, with expenditures totaling $17.1 million dollars, is based on the same local property tax rate of 73 cents per $100 of assessed value for schools along with some money from the sinking fund (local option sales taxes). The school budget includes $3.8 million in local funding along with funds from state BEP reserves as well as other state and federal sources.

The budget includes a state salary increase for certified personnel of 3%; an increase for teachers based on their years of service as per state scale; an increase for those who have earned a degree advancement as per scale; and a local increase in the teacher salary as per scale. Teachers with six to ten years of service would get a local increase for the year of $150. Those with 11-15 years would get a local raise of $200. Teachers with 16-20 years can expect a $250 raise. Those with 21-25 years would get an increase of $300 and teachers with 26 years of service or more would get a local pay raise of $400. Elementary and Secondary Principals, Assistant Principals, and Supervisors would not get a local pay raise this year.

The budget includes a local 3% pay raise for support staff as well as a local step increase as per scale. One lead custodian per school would receive a 25 cent per hour increase and one lead maintenance worker would be paid based on the mechanics pay scale, giving him a pay raise. Support staff would be allowed to use two sick leave days per school year as personal days if needed. However, they would receive no additional days.

Golf and Tennis Coach positions at DCHS would receive an additional $1,000 in supplement pay.

Pay scales would be rounded, as presented.

Social Security and Medicare percentage rates will remain the same; the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System retirement percentage for certified staff will increase to 6.24%, with no increase in the retirement percentage for support staff.

Medical insurance costs are budgeted to increase by 10% and the cost to update the school web site would be $1,000.

The budget includes $80,000 for two additional teaching positions at DCHS for the freshman academy; $80,000 for two extra teaching positions if needed; $40,000 for one teaching position needed at Smithville Elementary School; $80,000 for two teaching positions needed at Northside Elementary School; and $20,000 to increase a half time English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching position to a full time position.

Under the special education program, the budget includes $40,000 for one additional teaching position at DCHS; one vision position retained in the budget; one speech language position retained in the budget; and additional costs have been included for anticipated Leave of Absences and possible degree advancements.

The budget includes $20,000 for one county wide Attendance Clerical position and an increase in benefits for a support staff position.

The spending plan includes a Coordinated School Health Grant of $90,000 for a coordinator, a clerical position, along with benefits and supplies.

An increase has been figured into the budget for increased utility costs, supplies, fuel, etc.

Thousands Expected For Fiddlers Jamboree

June 27, 2007
Dwayne Page

Thousands will be flocking to Smithville for the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival Friday and Saturday, July 6th & 7th.

The musical competition kicks off on Friday morning, July 6th at 9:00 a.m.

Preliminaries will be held in the following categories:

Old Time Appalachian Folksinging (solos and duets); Flat Top Guitar; Junior Clogging (ages 13-39); Junior Buck Dancing (ages 13-39); Dobro Guitar; Mountain Dulcimer; Hammer Dulcimer; Novelty Event; Old Time Fiddle Band; Autoharp; Gospel Singing (solos); Country Harmonica; Old Time Banjo; Gospel Singing (duets, trios, and quartets); and Mandolin.

The top three acts in each category will be called back for the finals on Friday night and a first, second, and third place will be awarded.

All first place winners get $125, except the Old Time Fiddle Band, which gets $525 for first place.

Second place winners get $100 and third place winners receive $75. The Old Time Fiddle Band second place winner gets $425 and $325 for third place.

On Saturday, July 7th, starting at 9:00 a.m., preliminaries will be held in the following categories:

Junior Fiddlers (ages 13-39); Junior Old Time Appalachian Flatfoot dance (ages up to 39); Senior Old Time Appalachian Flatfoot dance ( ages 40 and over); Senior Buckdancing (ages 40 and over); Senior Clogging (ages 40 and over); Bluegrass Banjo; Bluegrass Band; Senior Fiddlers (ages 40 and over); and Square Dancing.

Preliminaries will be held in each event and then the top three finalists will be called back Saturday night to compete for first, second, and third place.

Prize money in most categories is $125 for first place; $100 for second place; and $75 for third place.

Awards for Junior Fiddlers and Senior Fiddlers are $225 for first place; $175 for second place; and $150 for third place.

Prizes for Bluegrass Band are $525 for first place; $425 for second place; and $325 for third place.

Awards for Square Dancing are $400 for first place; $300 for second place; and $200 for third place.

The winners of the Junior and Senior Fiddling competition will square off for the Grand Champion Award, the Berry C. Williams Memorial Trophy at the conclusion of the festival. The winner gets $300.

Meanwhile, the National Championship for Country Musician Beginners will be held Saturday afternoon, July 7th during the Jamboree featuring competitions for children, up to age twelve, in the categories of Buck Dancing, Clogging, Dobro Guitar, Mandolin, Five String Banjo, Flat Top Guitar, and Fiddle.

Preliminaries will be held in each event and then the top three finalists will be brought back to compete for first, second, and third place.

Prizes are $100 for first place, $75 for second place; and $50 for third place. One child will receive the Best Overall Instrumental Entertainer Trophy Award and $125 and the top fiddler will get the James G. \"Bobo\" Driver Memorial Trophy and $175.

In addition to the on-stage musical entertainment, the Fiddlers Jamboree will feature hundreds of crafts, plenty of delicious food; and lots of shade tree picking around the public square.

WJLE will broadcast most of the on-stage entertainment LIVE.

One Candidate Drops Out And Another Gets Back In Alexandria Alderman Race

June 28, 2007
Dwayne Page

First he was in, then he was out, now he is back in again.

The DeKalb County Election Commission comfirms that James R. Walker, who had withdrawn his candidacy for Alderman in the Alexandria City Election September 6th, has now decided to get back in the race.

The other candidate who had withdrawn, Henry Walker, is still out of the race.

In a prepared news release, Administrator of Elections Lisa Peterson, writes \"Yesterday, June 27th, Mr. James Walker and Mr. Henry Walker filed withdrawal notices indicating they did not wish to be a candidate in the September 6th Alexandria Municipal Election.\"

\"Today, June 28th, Mr. James R. Walker has filed a statement with the DeKalb County Election Commission requesting that his name be placed back on the Alexandria ballot.\"

\"Today (June 28th) at noon was the deadline for anyone to withdraw as a candidate for the Alexandria Election.\"

\"Those slated to be on the ballot are Derrick Baker, Shelia Clayborn, Maureen Tubbs, and James Walker.\"

\"The deadline for new registrations for those living in the city of Alexandria is August 8th.\"

\"The city charter allows property rights voting, which means if a person lives outside the city but owns property within the city limits, they may register and vote. Property rights voters are required to register at the election commission office and bring proof of ownership by the registration deadline of August 8th.\"

\"If anyone has any questions please call the Election Commission Office at 597-4146 or stop by the office. The Election Commission office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.\"

Early voting begins August 17th and ends September 1st.

Anyone wishing to qualify as a write-in candidate must file a notice with the Election Commission Office no later than 50 days prior to election day. The last day to file as a write-in candidate is July 18th.

The Alexandria Mayor and Board of Aldermen is currently made up of Mayor David Cripps and Aldermen Charles Griffith, Sarah Walker, James Keys, Eddie Tubbs, Jimmy Mullinax, and Jim York.

Smithville Aldermen Take Oath Of Office

June 30, 2007
Dwayne Page

The three Smithville Aldermen elected on June 19th were sworn into office to begin their two year terms Saturday during a special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at city hall.

General Sessions/Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook II administered the oath of office to Aldermen-elect Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan, and Willie Thomas.

After the swearing in ceremony, Mayor Taft Hendrixson appointed each of the alderman to oversee a city department.

The appointments are as follows: Steve White-Vice Mayor and Commissioner of the Water and Sewer Department; Jerry Hutchins, Sr.- Commissioner of Streets and Safety; Willie Thomas- Commissioner of the Finance and Taxation; Tonya Sullivan-Commissioner of Sanitation; and Cecil Burger - Commissioner of the Police and Fire Departments.

City Council to Consider Passage of New Ordinance Governing Access to Public Records

July 1, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen Monday night will consider passage of a new ordinance governing access to public records.

The new ordinance basically sets fees for making copies of records requested by the public.

Questions have arisen concerning the legality of certain portions of the city's existing ordinance. That ordinance is expected to be repealed, upon passage of a new ordinance.

Under the proposed new ordinance, \"Copies of open records that are requested during regular business hours are required to be provided the requester, within a reasonable time at a cost of twenty five cents per page, unless otherwise excepted in the ordinance. Fees for items such as, but not limited to, cd roms, computer disks, and audio/video cassettes, will be charged at the rate paid for such items by the city. All fees and charges for records shall be due and payable at the time such costs are incurred. City staff may require pre-payment of fees and charges for copies where the fees and charges would exceed twenty dollars.\"

\"Removal of original open records, including personnel records, from the offices of the city is strictly prohibited.\"

\"If copies of personnel records of city employees are requested, the City Recorder, or other city staff authorized by the City Recorder, shall notify the employee, for whom the records are requested, which documents have been copied, and to whom they have been provided. The employee shall be notified that the information has been requested within 48 hours.\"

\"Accident Reports provided by the Smithville Police Department shall be provided to anyone requesting the reports at a cost of four dollars per report. The city has determined that this is a reasonable charge, inasmuch as it is the same amount that is charged for such reports by the Tennessee Department of Safety under state law, and other cities in Tennessee.\"

\"It shall be the policy of the City of Smithville to cooperate fully with any Tennessee resident requesting the right to inspect and/or receive copies of open records at a reasonable charge; however, the city staff is prohibited from undertaking research projects to place records requested in any other form than normally maintained by the city, unless the requester agrees to pay for changing the form.\"

The proposed new ordinance states that \"The law provides that the city may stipulate that requests be received during regular business hours, and the city staff shall have a reasonable time to comply with requests for information.\"

\"The City may not provide copies of public records that violate an individual's right to privacy as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.\"

\"The City has the right to charge a reasonable charge for reproducing or copying records.\"

\"The City has the right to verify that the requester of information is in fact a Tennessee resident.\"

If the ordinance is adopted on first reading, second and final reading passage will be scheduled at the July 16th city council meeting.

County Gets a Bargain on Travel Trailers from Federal Surplus

July 1, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Government has purchased three travel trailers from federal surplus for one thousand dollars each to be used by the Sheriff's Department, the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, and a county garbage collection convenience center.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says the travel trailers were originally obtained by the federal government for Hurricane Katrina victims but are no longer needed. \"We gave one thousand dollars a piece for them. The estimated total value of all three of them new is $65,000. These trailers have heating and cooling capabilities, along with restroom facilities. We will remove the bed area from the trailer, install some radio equipment, and make it a critical response unit. We'll use it in the events of tragedies, such as murders, drownings, missing persons, or any kind of rescues. That way we can do on the scene interviews with victims and witnesses. We'll also use it for weather related disasters, such as flooding and tornadoes. That way we'll have a place where all the emergency personnel can coordinate with the volunteers. We also want to use it for crime prevention and education for citizens and we'll take it to the schools and let children walk through it so they can see what it looks like. We'll also be sharing our trailer with the City of Smithville, the City of Alexandria, and any county department that needs any kind of help with anything, along with state agencies and surrounding counties for any command post or whatever they need.\"

County Mayor Mike Foster says one of the trailers will be used at a local garbage collection convenience center. \" We're going to use ours at one of our convenience centers. We've been buying these little portable buildings, and by the time we insulate them, put a commode in them, and all that, we've got about four thousand dollars in them. We'll have a thousand dollars in this one and all we'll have to do is take it there, level it, and hook it up. It's got heating and cooling, it's already wired, and it's got plenty of space. We'll take the bedroom out of it and use that for office space. If we can get two more of these trailers, we can use them at other convenience center locations where we have buildings that need replacing. This one will probably wind up serving the convenience center on the south side of town out on Highway 56 because we'll soon have to move that location (because of the state highway improvement project) and that little building there now will probably never stand the move because it's in pretty bad shape.\"

County Fire Chief Donny Green says one of the trailers will be for the County Volunteer Fire Department. \"We got this for the fire department but we'll be sharing it with the 911 Communications Center. I've talked with the director and we're going to install some backup equipment, such as radios and lines that we can hook up to the telephones in the event that there's a catastrophe at the 911 center such as a fire or something that would prevent them from dispatching temporarily. This would then become a mobile type backup center that we would use for that. In addition, we also plan to do some prevention and education type activities out of it for the schools and senior citizens and offer more outreach in the communities, such as showing how smoke alarms work and the importance of having them installed in homes.\"

Man Arrested by Smithville Police for Domestic Assault

July 2, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police investigating a reported Domestic Assault at 194 Village Place in Smithville arrested 32 year old Frank Smith. Chief Tom Stufano says \"Officers determined that Smith and his wife had been arguing which resulted in Smith slamming her against a wall and then wrapping his hands around her throat. He says the woman had bruises and red marks as a result of the assault. Young children present during the assault ran out of the house to a friend's home. The children's account of the violence was the same as the victim's story.\" Smith was charged with Domestic Assault and he was transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $2,500 bond.

Officers also arrested 26 year old Terry Reeder of 516 East Main Street in Smithville for Public Intoxication. Chief Stufano says \" Smithville Officers responding to a fight in progress at Hardee's parking lot found Reeder arguing with a female over custody exchange of a child. The female, seeing Reeder intoxicated, denied the exchange for the child's safety. Reeder became uncontrollably upset and unruly causing commotion in public due to his intoxication.\" He was subsequently arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond.

Chief Stufano says Smithville Officers working traffic enforcement stopped a vehicle for no tail lights. Upon running driver's license information, police found that 21 year old Steve Roberts of Eagle Creek Road, Smithville was driving on a suspended driver's license. Roberts was placed under arrest and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond. He was also charged with operating an unregistered vehicle and no tail lights.

The city will be hosting the Fiddler's Jamboree this week and Chief Stufano says the Police Department would like to remind our residents that officers will be on normal patrol during this eventlooking for suspicious activity in our neighborhoods. Residents who see persons suspected of driving under the influence are encouraged to contact law enforcement so that they can assess the situation. Smithville Police will also have extra patrols in the downtown area during the Jamboree celebration.

Chief Stufano adds that members of the Police and Fire Departments are strongly recommending the proper use and handling of fireworks during the upcoming 4th of July holiday. The dry season along with improper handling of fireworks can cause serious injury and fires. Have a safe holiday and enjoy the festivities.

Ferris Files Lawsuit Against Police Officer and City of Smithville Over Fatal Car Crash

July 2, 2007
Dwayne Page

A Circuit Court lawsuit was filed Friday against the City of Smithville, the Police Department, and Police Officer Callie Matthews, who was involved in a fatal car crash in April on Foster Road that claimed the life of Andrew Ferris

Ferris' mother, Angela Ferris, is suing individually and as next of kin to her son.

Ferris basically claims that the officer was negligent in following city policies and state laws regarding public safety and that the city has failed to properly train and discipline it's officers, including Matthews.

She is seeking a judgment for compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, as well as attorney fees.

The lawsuit alleges that on or about April 23rd, 2007, Andrew B. Ferris was operating his vehicle in a safe and prudent manner and traveling in a southerly direction on Foster Road in Smithville and that Officer Matthews, operating a vehicle owned by the Smithville Police Department and the Municipal Government of the City of Smithville, was responding to a call traveling in a northerly direction on Foster Road.

Ms. Ferris claims that Officer Matthews failed to follow established departmental policies regarding the use and operation of that vehicle and it's safety/emergency equipment and that she was traveling at a very high rate of speed.

According to the lawsuit, Officer Matthews had utilized her emergency equipment and emergency signals were \"flashing\" but that she did not activate her siren and thus there was no audible warning or notice to other vehicles alerting of her approach.

The complaint alleges that Officer Matthews failed to maintain control of her vehicle and traveled into Ferris' lane of travel, that the officer struck the vehicle being driven by Ferris causing extensive property damage to his car, and that as a proximate and direct impact of that collision, Ferris suffered extensive physical injuries, which ultimately resulted in his death.

Ms. Ferris alleges negligence in that Officer Matthews owed her son and the public a duty of due care in the operation of her vehicle, but that she breached that duty when she failed to maintain control of her vehicle, that she was driving in a reckless and careless manner without regard to the safety of others, and that as a direct and proximate result of her negligence, Andrew Ferris suffered fatal injuries.

According to the lawsuit, Officer Matthews violated state laws in that she was driving reckless in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; exceeding the speed limit; and driving an emergency vehicle at excessive speed endangering life and property.

State law authorizes the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle to exceed the speed limits so long as it does not endanger life or property. The exemptions granted to an emergency vehicle shall apply only when such vehicle is making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirement of applicable state laws.

These provisions shall not relieve the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons, nor shall they protect the driver from the consequences of his reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Ms Ferris further alleges that Officer Matthews violated the Smithville Police Department's Policies and Procedures regarding \"Crime in Progress Calls\". The policy states the officer, operating a vehicle enroute, will proceed to the scene swiftly but safely, taking into account weather, road, and traffic conditions as well as his own driving capabilities.

According to the complaint, the negligence of Officer Matthews, by violation of statutes, established departmental policies and as set out in common law, constituted a proximate cause of the collision and of the injuries and damages to Ferris.

The lawsuit further alleges that the City of Smithville and the Police Department owed Ferris a duty to protect him and to exercise due diligence in the hiring, training, and disciplining of it's employees and staff, but that the city and police department breached that duty by failing to enforce or initiate policies designed to protect the safety of the public, and failing to adequately train, discipline, and monitor it's employees in the proper use, care, and operation of city vehicles and emergency equipment.

Ms. Ferris claims she has suffered a loss of benefit and consortium from the parental relationship, entitling her to damages; that she has been caused to suffer great emotional, physical, and psychological pain and injury; that she has suffered loss of life; loss of future earning capacity; and has incurred considerable medical, burial expenses, loss to property; and has incurred the expenses of an attorney.

Ms. Ferris is represented by Lebanon attorney Adam W. Parrish.


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