Local News Articles

Three Aldermen Take Oath of Office

June 30, 2011
Dwayne Page

The three recently elected Smithville aldermen were sworn into office during a special council meeting Thursday evening at city hall

City attorney Vester Parsley administered the oath of office to the two newcomers to the council, Gayla Hendrix and Danny Washer along with Shawn Jacobs, who was re-elected to a second term as alderman. The city election was held on Tuesday, June 21.

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

Smithville Aldermen Sworn into Office from dwayne page on Vimeo.
The appointments are as follows:
Steve White-Vice Mayor and Commissioner of Water and Sewer
Shawn Jacobs- Commissioner of the Police and Fire Departments
Gayla Hendrix- Commissioner of Finance and Taxation
Cecil Burger- Commissioner of Streets and Safety
Danny Washer- Commissioner of the Sanitation Department

The board of mayor and aldermen is now made up of Mayor Taft Hendrixson and Aldermen Danny Washer, Shawn Jacobs, Gayla Hendrix, Cecil Burger, and Steve White.

During the special meeting, Mayor Hendrixson also appointed citizen representatives and aldermen to serve on various city boards.

Citizen member Hoyte Barrett and Alderman Shawn Jacobs were re-appointed to new terms on the city planning commission.

Walter Burton was re-appointed to the Smithville Electric System Board as a citizen member

Lloyd Black and Steve Hays were re-appointed as citizen members on the city beer board

Sandra Wall and Janie Knowles were re-appointed as citizen members and alderman Danny Washer was also named to the city board of zoning appeals.

The mayor and aldermen meet on the first and third Monday nights of each month at 7:00 p.m. at city hall. However, the board will not meet Monday night, due to it being the fourth of July. The next regular meeting will be Monday, July 18 at 7:00 p.m.

Vehicular Homicide Case Reduced to Attempted Aggravated Assault

June 30, 2011
Dwayne Page
Donald Ray Henson

A 52 year old man indicted for vehicular homicide pleaded guilty Thursday in DeKalb County Criminal Court to attempted aggravated assault.

Under a negotiated settlement, Donald Ray Henson received a two year sentence, suspended to time served. Henson, who was given jail credit for 267 days, will be on supervised probation

Henson was indicted for vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, and leaving the scene of an accident which resulted in the death of 44 year old Priscilla Judkins, The wreck occurred on September 15th, 2010.

As part of the plea deal, the vehicular homicide charge was reduced to attempted aggravated assault and the other two charges were dropped. Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong informed Judge David Patterson that while Judkins had suffered head and internal injuries, the state could not advance the vehicular homicide charge against Henson, based on the findings of the medical examiner in the case. Strong did not elaborate further.

According to Smithville Police Officer Matt Farmer, Henson was traveling east on Broad Street in a Dodge Caravan when he rear-ended an eastbound 1994 Toyota pickup truck, driven by Randy Paris, who was stopped at the traffic light at the intersection of Broad and South Mountain Street.

Officer Farmer said after crashing into Paris' truck, Henson left the scene, still heading east on Broad Street. Paris received minor injuries in the collision but refused EMS transport to the hospital. His truck received considerable damage.

Sheriff Patrick Ray then had a close encounter with Henson. According to the sheriff, he was driving west on Broad Street near Bumper's Drive-In and had pulled into the turning lane to make a turn when he saw the eastbound Dodge Caravan, also in the turning lane, fast approaching him. Sheriff Ray said he quickly maneuvered into the westbound lane and the van went on by him, still heading east.

Sheriff Ray said he turned around to catch up with the van and saw it turn into the parking lot of Curve's on East Broad Street. When he pulled in behind the van at Curves', Sheriff Ray said the man behind the wheel was trying to drive the van up an embankment. The van rolled back and came to a stop in the parking lot.

Sheriff Ray said when the driver got out of the van, he also noticed a woman passenger who appeared to be seriously injured. He called for an ambulance.

Henson was placed in custody by Smithville Police at the scene and Judkins was taken by EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital. She was later airlifted by a helicopter ambulance and flown to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville where she died.

Henson, who was believed to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash, told police that his brakes "went out" and that his accelerator "hung". He also had in the van several cans of beer, three empty liquor bottles, and at least one bottle of Tequila which was half full.

State Fire Marshal McPeak offers fireworks safety tips for July Fourth

June 30, 2011
Dwayne Page

State Fire Marshal and Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak 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 McPeak, “where compliance with state-of-the-art fire codes offers a safer way to celebrate our nation’s independence.” July is Fireworks Eye Safety Awareness Month, and the State Fire Marshal’s office is partnering with the Tennessee Academy of Ophthalmology to raise fire safety awareness across the state.

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. Also worth noting: A law passed this year that goes into effect July 1 reclassifies sky lanterns as special fireworks exclusively for use by commercial operators, and bans both their sale to and use by private consumers.

For more information on firework safety, visit http://tn.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/

Pre-K Registration set for July 18

June 30, 2011
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow

Registration for the voluntary pre-kindergarten program in the DeKalb County School system will be conducted July 18 at Smithville Elementary School and DeKalb West School.

You may register your child for pre-kindergarten from 7:45 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. at Smithville Elementary School and from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. at DeKalb West School. Parents should bring the following items for their children:

Original certificate of birth

Verification of physical examination within the last six months

Certification of Immunization

Proof of Income for All Household Members

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K through 6th grade, said state funding provides for a total of four pre-k classes at Smithville Elementary School and one class at DeKalb West School.

Eligible children must be four years of age by September 30th and their parents must meet the federal income guidelines.

Burklow said the registration this year will be earlier than normal. "In the past, we have had pre-K registration on the same day as our kindergarten through 12th grade registration. This summer we're going to try to do that a little differently. We know how rushed parents are trying to get from one school to the next. There's more intense paperwork that comes with the pre-K program because it is the first year of the child's entry into school. So we want to be able to slow down that process, make the parents feel a little more comfortable with the process, and be able to talk with the children and let them become familiar with a few things going on in the school," said Burklow.

"As a reminder, on that day please bring the child's birth certificate. We need the birth certificate that has on it the raised seal of Tennessee and not the one that says "Live Birth". That's not the original birth certificate. We also need children to have a physical examination. In addition to that documentation, we will also need immunization records that are up to date. That's one of the things that is looked at very closely at the beginning of the year. Our nurses go through the school records to make sure those immunizations are up to date," continued Burklow.

"Once we have the children registered, we have certain guidelines we must meet because we apply for a grant and the grant dictates what we can and cannot do as far as students who are eligible. So when parents come in and register their children, we will keep them in numerical order. We have our folders numbered and when you're given a folder you'll go through the process of the stations with us and we'll put you on a list in the order that you come in. After we get the folders together, we have to go through and look at the guidelines. One of the first things we have to make sure of is that our children are age four on or before September 30th. That's the first guideline we have to follow is that age for our pre-K children. We do have a few classrooms that take three year old children. We try to serve our four year old children first because we want to front load those babies going into kindergarten. We want to give them the benefit of being in the school, acclamating to the school so they will feel more comfortable when they go into kindergarten," said Burklow.

"I do have some parents who call and say, My child is supposed to go to kindergarten but they're not ready for kindergarten. We cannot take five year old children into the program unless there is some type of circumstance that we can go to the state department about. For the most part, five year old children are required to register for kindergarten," said Burklow.

"The second thing we look at is our children who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. That's why we want Ms. Stephanie Walker there because she will have the new guidelines. The guidelines change every year. She can look at the income the parents turn in and see if they qualify right there," added Burklow.

"If we do not get our program filled up, we do look at children with disabilities, those that may have an English as a second language, children in state custody, or those at-risk for failure due to circumstances of abuse or neglect."

"At Smithville Elementary we have eighty slots for pre-K students and twenty slots at DeKalb West. We do have a curriculum that we go by. It's not one of those you'll see in the first, second, or third grade. It's totally different. It's play. These children learn through play. We have stations set up all day long where the children are learning. They're playing together but they're learning their alphabet, learning math, social studies, and science skills. This is really a hands-on program, getting them ready to go to kindergarten," concluded Burklow.

Alexandria Aldermen Take First Reading Action on Ordinance to Increase Water and Sewer Rates

June 28, 2011
Dwayne Page

Due to rate increases passed down from the Smith County Utility District and to get their own city water and sewer fund out of the red, the Alexandria Aldermen Tuesday night adopted an ordinance on first reading to increase rates.

Second and final reading passage of the ordinance will be scheduled at the next meeting on Tuesday, July 26 at 7:00 p.m. at the Alexandria City Hall, following a public hearing.

City Attorney Vester Parsley reads ordinance as Alexandria Aldermen Vote to Increase Water and Sewer Rates from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Under the plan, the minimum bill for Alexandria water and sewer customers would increase by a total of ten dollars per month, going from $29.50 to $39.50.

The rate for Alexandria water customers would increase from $14.75 to $19.75 for a minimum bill up to 2,000 gallons. Customers would pay an extra 70 cents per additional 100 gallons of usage. The minimum sewer bill up to 2,000 gallons would also increase by $5.00, going from $14.75 to $19.75.

Water customers outside the corporate limits would see their rates jump from $21.30 to $28.52 per month for a minimum bill of up to 2,000 gallons. Customers would pay an extra 70 cents per additional 100 gallons of usage per month.

The ordinance states that the municipality of the Town of Alexandria is forced to increase the rates "due to the rate increases from the Smith County Utility District and to meet the financial obligations of the Water and Sewer Departments". The City of Alexandria purchases its water supply from the Smith County Utility District.

The increase will be effective upon passage on second and final reading in July.

Under state law, if a utility's water and sewer fund operates in the red for two years in a row, the state could force the utility to raise rates to make it self supporting. Mayor Ria Baker said the city's water and sewer fund ran in the red this past year.

Members of the Alexandria council are Aldermen Pat Jackson, Tony Tarpley, Addie Farley, Derrick Baker, and Darrell Dixon. Baker was absent Tuesday night. Vester Parsley is the Alexandria city attorney.

County Writes Off Bad Debts Owed to DeKalb EMS

June 28, 2011
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night voted to write off over $200,000 in bad debts owed to the ambulance service.

County Mayor Mike Foster said this is being done for accounting purposes and efforts will continue to collect. "I have a list of write-offs, $277, 280. I would ask that we let (County attorney) Hilton (Conger) look it over and that it be adopted as a write-off, subject to his inspection. There will still be an effort made to collect it. These are not deemed uncollectible. They're still collectible. Its just a legal procedure to where we write off the balance. The (state) auditor tells us we have to do it. We've been pleasantly surprised by the ambulance service in that we thought it would lose about $300,000 a year, plus we had to purchase an ambulance each year. This year it is actually about breaking even. We're collecting roughly $900,000 and expending roughly $900,000," said Foster.

In other business, caution lights may soon be erected at the intersection of US 70 and highway 83 near Kilgore's Restaurant, where severl serious traffic accidents have occurred in recent years, the latest being last Saturday.

The county has been making plans to put light there for several months. The state has authorized the county to proceed at the county's expense and Monday night, the county commission voted to seek bids for the project."I have an estimate from Stansell Electric. Their estimate is $27,583. This would include overhead flashers on wood poles at the intersection. Its to put up caution lights on either side of highway 70 and stop lights highway 83. I need a motion from you to bid the caution lights," said County Mayor Mike Foster. The commission gave its approval.

The county commission, several months ago, also voted to look in the possibility of erecting street lights to better illuminate two other intersections at highway 70 and Hurricane Ridge Road and at highway 70 and Dry Creek Road near Dowelltown. But Foster said that would be a more difficult project to undertake because of state requirements. "The state has said we would have to get somebody to come and conduct a survey to tell us how many street lights we need at those dark intersections. Its ridiculous because all we're trying to do is illuminate two or three dangerous intersections. I more or less didn't do any more about it because they told us it would probably be about $6,000 to do the study. All we want to do is put up two street lights", said Foster.

Meanwhile, the county commission adopted a continuing budget resolution to keep county government operating past the end of the current fiscal year June 30 until a new budget is approved.

County Mayor Foster has scheduled budget committee meetings for July 5th, 7th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 18th, 19th, and 21st at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse. He said the budget must be adopted by the county commission no later than August 15th.

TDOT Statewide "Projects Bus Tour" Makes First Stop in DeKalb County

June 28, 2011
Dwayne Page

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer began his statewide "TDOT Projects Tour" Tuesday and the first stop was in DeKalb County.

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer and Chief Engineer Paul Degges from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Several local and state officials joined the Commissioner and other TDOT representatives on the bus tour locally to view Hurricane bridge, where a rehabilitation construction project is now underway, and to Sligo bridge, where a replacement construction contract is expected to be awarded later this year as part of TDOT's "Three Year Program".

TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges at Hurricane Bridge from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Among those on the DeKalb County bus tour with Commissioner Schroer were State Senator Mae Beavers, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, County Mayor Mike Foster, Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson, and other interested local persons.

During the bus ride and at the bridge locations, TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges and other transportation officials discussed the specifics of both local projects.

The Sligo project, which has been funded in the 2011-12 state budget, calls for replacement of the existing overhead truss bridge which is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The new bridge will be located a few feet to the north of the existing bridge, which will remain open to traffic during construction. The new bridge will be a continuous welded plate girder design with a composite concrete deck slab and will be 1,545 feet in length. The project typical section is two-12 foot lanes with 10 foot shoulders. The total project length including bridge and approaches is approximately 0.8 mile. The total estimated cost of the project including engineering, right of way, and construction is $31-million.

Roadway and bridge plans are being finalized. Discussion is being held with the US Army Corps of Engineers concerning Right of Way easements and the permit application is nearing completion. The project is scheduled to go to construction in late 2011.

TDOT Officials said work on the Hurricane bridge consists of a certain amount of strengthening to the steel truss members and some additional stringers which actually support the concrete deck. The existing rails and deck will eventually be removed from the bridge and replaced with a lite weight concrete deck. The bridge will also be repainted .

In October, 2010 TDOT awarded the bid to OCCI Incorporated at $26.9 million. The contractor has until October 31st, 2013 to complete the project.

TDOT's Region Two Bus Tour is the first of four events that will be held this summer in East, Middle, and West Tennessee. This portion of the Region Two Tour will wind up in Cannon County on Friday, July 1

For more information on the "TDOT Projects Tour", please visit www.tn.gov/tdot/tour/

Two Arrests Made in Recent Thefts

June 27, 2011
Dwayne Page
Richard Spencer Raby
Justin Dale Estes
Sean William Cavanaugh

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has made two arrests in recent thefts.

Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that 23 year old Richard Spencer Raby of Brush Creek is charged with two counts of burglary and one count of theft of property over $1,000. His bond totals $11,000 and he will be in court on August 4.

Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, June 11, Raby allegedly entered a building on Oakley Road without the owner's consent. Two Suzuki motorcycles were taken, valued at over $1,000. The motorcycles were recovered at Raby's residence in Smith County.

Raby returned to the same property two days later on Monday, June 13 and allegedly entered a building, belonging to the same victim. This time the victim saw Raby coming out of the building and later identified him in a photo lineup. Raby was arrested on Thursday, June 16.

Meanwhile, 20 year old Justin Dale Estes of Judkins Lane, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $500. His bond is $3,500 and he will be in court on June 30.

Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, June 16 Estes allegedly took two hot water heaters from a residence on Judkins Lane valued at $700 without the owner's consent. He then sold them for cash at a recycling business in DeKalb County. Estes allegedly admitted to committing the theft. He was arrested on Friday, June 24.

28 year old Ashley J. Ferrell of Shady Drive, Smithville was issued a citation on Thursday, June 16 for no headlights and driving on a suspended license. His court date is August 10

Sheriff Ray reports that on Thursday, June 16 at around 11:30 p.m., a deputy was patrolling on Highway 56 north when he spotted a vehicle driving without any headlights on. The officer stopped the vehicle and made contact with the driver, Ferrell and a computer check revealed his license to be suspended for failure to satisfy a citation.

30 year old Jason Wayne Connell of Nashville was issued a citation on Monday, June 20 for driving on a suspended license. His court date is July 28. Sheriff Ray reports that on Monday, June 20, an officer stopped Connell for questioning on a trespassing complaint. A computer check of his drivers license revealed that they were suspended in Florida.

45 year old Sean William Cavanaugh of Oak Drive, Smithville is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence. Cavanaugh's bond is $3,000 and his court date is August 4.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Saturday, June 25 a deputy was called by another officer working a wreck on Sparta Highway to check on a possible intoxicated driver in the area. The officer made contact with the driver, Cavanaugh and detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person. Cavanaugh submitted to several field sobriety tasks and performed poorly on them. He refused to submit to a blood alcohol test.

25 year old Caleb Rigsby of Dale Ridge Road, Dowelltown was issued a citation on Sunday, June 26 for driving on a suspended license and failure to yield. His court date is August 10

Sheriff Ray reports that on Sunday, June 26 at 9:55 p.m. an officer was patrolling on Highway 70 west when he spotted a vehicle pulling out of the intersection of Old Snow Hill Road and Highway 70. The vehicle failed to yield to on-coming traffic. The deputy pulled over the automobile and made contact with the driver, Rigsby. A computer check revealed that his license were suspended in Warren County.

Pre-Registration Deadlines Nearing for 13th Annual Fiddler 5K

June 27, 2011
Dwayne Page
Tecia Puckett Pryor

Pre-registration deadlines are looming for the 13th Annual Fiddler 5K and One-Mile Fun Run which will be held on Saturday, July 2 at 7 a.m. in downtown Smithville. All proceeds from the race will be used in building the 4th Habitat for Humanity home in DeKalb County, which will be constructed this fall.

Tecia Pryor, Race Director, said if you would like to register for the race, you can print out a registration form at www.fiddler5k.com. "Also you can pick it up my office which is 312 West Broad Street next to Griffin's Fruit Market. The deadline for registering by paper is Monday, June 27. If you want to pre-register on-line you can do that at www.active.com. Search for our race on there. The on-line pre-registration is available until Wednesday, June 29 at midnight. By pre-registering, it'll save you a few bucks and some headaches on race morning. If you would like to get involved with the race but don't necessarily want to run the course or walk in the one mile fun run, please let me know. We can always use volunteers to help stuff goody bags, get the t-shirts ready, or help with race day registration and working the food table. Call 597-7370".

For more information and a registration form, log onto www.fiddler5K.com or call Tecia Pryor at 597-7370. You may also register online at http://www.active.com/event_detail.cfm?event_id=1957397. Come run and have fun for a great cause!

Kitchen Fire Causes Damage to Mathis Home

June 27, 2011
Dwayne Page

A Dowelltown couple, after being away from home for several hours, discovered a fire there when they returned Saturday afternoon.

Central dispatch received the call at 5:33 p.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green told WJLE that Steve Mathis and his wife, who reside at 7528 Nashville Highway, Dowelltown had left home around noon to go to Murfreesboro. As they returned around 5:30 p.m. and opened the garage door to park their vehicle, they saw that the garage was filled with smoke. As the Mathis' entered the home, they found fire and smoke coming from the kitchen and called 911.

Chief Green said firefighters made entry into the home and found the fire in the kitchen near where a dishwasher and coffee maker were located. Fire damage was contained to that portion of the kitchen although heat and smoke spread throughout the house. No one was injured.

Members of the Main Station, Liberty Station, and Tanker #1 responded along with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.


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