Local News Articles

Mabe Dies from Injuries In Motorcycle Wreck on Sligo Bridge

March 22, 2008
Dwayne Page

A 51 year old man died from injuries in a motorcycle wreck Saturday afternoon at Sligo Bridge on Highway 70 east.

According to Trooper Brian Raymond of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Steve Mabe, Sr. of Alexandria was traveling east on Highway 70 on a 2004 Kawasaki motorcycle when he failed to negotiate a curve and struck a concrete curb on the west side of the bridge. The motorcycle continued east and then hit a metal guardrail. Mabe, who was wearing a helmet, was thrown from the motorcycle. Both he and the motorcycle came to rest in the east bound lane on the bridge.

Mabe was airlifted from the scene by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. where he was pronounced dead.

Central dispatch received the call of the crash at 5:50 p.m.

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, DeKalb EMS, and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department were on the scene rendering assistance.

Traffic was backed up for a period of time during the crash investigation and cleanup.

Owners of Studio Six Express Appreciation to Community For Support Shown During Fire

March 21, 2008
Dwayne Page

The owners of Studio Six Limited are praising the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and others who came to their assistance during a fire which heavily damaged the business Friday afternoon.

In an interview with WJLE Friday evening, Shan Burklow said their loss is substantial but they are grateful no one was injured "There's nothing like when you receive a phone call, that your business that you've had for seven years is on fire. We raced up here as quickly as we could. When we got here smoke was just bellowing out everywhere. The firefighters were on the scene and working aggressively to put out the fire. We were deeply concerned for our neighbors. We were concerned for downtown. We didn't know if other businesses would be involved or other apartment buildings would be involved so our prayer was just that they could contain the fire, which they did beautifully. It completely destroyed the interior of our building but that was okay as long as everybody was safe."

In a show of appreciation, Burklow says Studio Six Limited is planning to have a charity fundraiser for the fire department. "We are so grateful to the fire department and to everyone who volunteered and came out and worked selflessly for hours. We did not have a charity for the fashion show and we had been praying for the Lord to give us the right charity and for some reason we just couldn't come up with what we needed to do so today after the fire and seeing all the things the fire fighters were having to go through and the equipment that they needed and didn't have that would have made their job easier, we decided that we will raise money for the fire department. We are deeply grateful to them."

Burklow says Studio Six Limited, which has been in the process of phasing out it's downtown location, may still be reached on line at www.studiosixlimited.com. "We have been working out of Cookeville and slowly closing down the Smithville office a little at a time so we could make the move and transition, but we had not moved out any of our stuff . The photography studio is now completely closed down at this time due to fire. Our loss is substantial but you may still reach us on line."

Burklow says a lot of studio equipment still in the building at the time of the fire including props, backdrops, stands, lighting, and other items were damaged or destroyed. Even some of the family's personal belongings stored upstairs were lost.

A video of the fire is available at www.smithvillefire.com. on the Hotshots page.

Fire Causes Extensive Damage to Studio Six Limited

March 21, 2008
Dwayne Page

A fire Friday afternoon swept through the second floor level of the building where Studio Six Limited is located at 105 North Fourth Street, downtown Smithville.

The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department was called to the scene at 3:54 p.m. No one was at the business at the time of the fire and no one was injured.

Chief Charlie Parker says firefighters could see fire and smoke coming through a second floor window upon their arrival. "We had a fire on the second floor above where the Studio Six Studios is located. The fire was in the storage space on the second floor. When we arrived it was fully involved. Heavy smoke was coming from the second floor and out of the window. We made access into the second floor to get it knocked down, but it's pretty much a total loss on the upstairs part. It's burned very extensively up there. It got in through the roof area and up into the attic area. We made a stop on it right at the roof level, but it's burned pretty extensively up at the top. The first floor was not really burned but there was damage where water came through the floor. There was also heavy smoke on the bottom floor also. It's not a total loss downstairs but there's gonna be some extensive damage downstairs just due to the heat, smoke, and water."

Chief Parker says firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to the apartment building next door. " Next door there's apartments, both upper and lower. We had a lot of smoke coming from around the brick and everywhere else by the fire wall up at the roof level. We were concerned about it moving over into the other apartments. We made access to the upper and lower apartments and there was no smoke in either one of those. There's a brick fire wall in between it too so that helped save that part of it. As far as we know, there was no smoke or fire damage in the apartments."

A woman and child were reportedly evacuated from the adjacent apartment building as a safety precaution.

Chief Parker expressed his thanks to Smithville Electric System, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas, the Smithville Police Department, and DeKalb EMS for their assistance. "We want to thank Smithville Electric. They did help us access the roof area. It's kinda tough getting a ladder up there because it's so high up, but we got them to bring their boom truck up here where we could get up there to check the roof area and make sure the fire didn't break through the roof. We do appreciate them. They pulled the meters. The gas company was here to help us also."

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

A video of the fire is available at www.smithvillefire.com. on the Hotshots page.

City Sounds Siren Alert Wednesday During Severe Weather Warning

March 21, 2008
Dwayne Page

The old siren on top of city hall was sounded a couple of times Wednesday afternoon when a severe weather warning was issued for DeKalb County.

Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson says the city has been planning to conduct a test of the siren but actually got to use it in an emergency situation Wednesday.

Hendrixson says city officials sounded two blasts on the siren after contacting central dispatch and learning that a severe thunderstorm and possibly a tornado was detected by radar in parts of Warren and Cannon County and could be heading toward DeKalb County.

There was apparently no major storm damage in DeKalb County.

Alderman Tonya Sullivan recently asked at a city council meeting that the siren be re-activated in the event of threatening weather for Smithville.

Buck Says DeKalb County Expected to Receive $572,000 in Additional K-12 Funding

March 20, 2008

State Representative Frank Buck of Dowelltown has announced that DeKalb County would be receiving an estimated $572,000 in additional educational funding for 2008-09 thanks to the Schools First Initiative passed last year.

"When we first started talking about reforming the Basic Education Program, it was so taxpayer dollars could go directly to local schools while helping everyone's property taxes to remain low," Buck said. "Last year DeKalb County saw an increase of $820,000 and this year we're able to continue that trend by providing another $572,000 for next year."

The projected 2008-09 BEP 2.0 funding numbers are expected to increase average teacher salaries to $39,000, while the burden on local governments to raise property taxes will continue to be reduced. The total percentage of instructional cost contributed to local school systems by the state will increase next year to 71.5%.

"Thanks to the reforms we implemented last year, lower and middle class income families are continuing to see improvements in their local schools," Buck said. "We must continue to improve our public education system here in Tennessee so that every child in our state has a chance at the best education possible."

In addition to increasing K-12 funding by over $340 million, lawmakers last year also added over $25 million for additional pre-kindergarten classrooms, raising the total number to 934. Currently, over 17,000 students are enrolled in pre-K programs across the state, and this year the House plans to expand classes even further with another $25 million in funding, offering pre-K instruction to all of the over 78,000 four year olds in Tennessee.

"We expanded college education through the Tennessee Lottery Hope Scholarship., we continue to expand funding for K-12 schools, and this year we hope to give every child in Tennessee, regardless of background, the opportunity to get off on the right foot with pre-K, " Buck said. "Education is the foundation of a successful life in this country and, as a legislator, I'm going to do all I can to make sure a quality education is available to the students and families of my district."

The House Education Committee is scheduled to discuss education funding next week.

IRS Rebate Checks Are Coming, But Beware Of Scams

March 20, 2008
Congressman Bart Gordon

Many Middle Tennessee residents have contacted me with questions about what they need to do to receive a rebate through the economic stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. Through this plan, more than 130 million Americans will receive funds to help jumpstart the nation's economy.

One common question is about the size of rebate checks. Individuals are eligible to receive from $300 to $600, and couples are eligible to receive up to $1,200. An additional $300 per child is available for parents.

The Internal Revenue Service will distribute the rebates from May to July. Rebates sent by direct deposits will go out in May, but paper checks will take a while longer. So, if you have filed your taxes, all you need to do now is wait.

The timely and targeted plan includes seniors on Social Security, disabled veterans and others who do not have tax liability. In a normal year, these folks would not be required to file an annual return with the IRS, but this year it is necessary to receive a rebate. The paperwork people fill out by sending in a tax return is what allows the IRS to process a rebate check and keep illegal immigrants and others seeking handouts from getting one.

Taxpayers should also be aware that scam artists are using the rebate plan to target people with e-mails and phone calls to lure them into revealing personal information that could be used for identity theft. The IRS warns taxpayers to safeguard their personal and financial information, such as Social Security and bank account numbers.

As Rockvale resident David Brown knows, the people who operate these scams can be persistent. He has received multiple calls from people claiming the IRS needs his bank account information so he can receive a rebate check or other funds. When Mr. Brown received his first call from someone who claimed to need his bank account information so the Internal Revenue Service could process his tax rebate, he grew suspicious, asked questions and refused to give out his information. Mr. Brown did the right thing.

The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails, and it does not contact people by phone for personal information. When a person files taxes, the IRS gets all the information it needs to process a tax rebate check. If you signed up for direct deposit when you filed your taxes, you will
also receive your tax rebate by direct deposit. If not, the IRS will mail your rebate just as it would mail your tax refund check.

If you think you have received a scam phone call or e-mail, you can report the information to the IRS by sending an e-mail to phishing@irs.gov. The IRS can use that information to warn others or even track down the people responsible for the scam.

For more information on the tax rebates, contact the IRS at www.irs.gov or 1-866-234-2942. Or contact my Murfreesboro office at (615) 896-1986.

Two Running for Mayor-Four for Alderman in Smithville Election

March 20, 2008
Dwayne Page

Two candidates will be in the race for mayor and four candidates will be seeking one of two alderman seats in the Smithville Municipal Election June 17th.

Incumbent Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson will be challenged for re-election by Faye Driver Fuqua

The candidates for aldermen include Incumbents Stephen White and Cecil Burger and challengers Danny Washer and Alford Webber.

The qualifying deadline was noon Thursday, March 20th

In other election news, four candidates have qualified to run for Alderman in the Liberty City Election on August 7th.

Three Aldermen will be elected in Liberty. Those positions are currently held by Jerry Johnson, Paul Neal, and Dwight Mathis. Johnson, Mathis, and Neal have qualified to seek another term. Todd Dodd will also be in the race.

The Dowelltown City Election will also be held on August 7th to elect a mayor and two aldermen.

The positions in Dowelltown are currently held by Mayor Gerald Bailiff and Aldermen Joe Bogle and Jr. Bratten.

The first candidate to qualify for alderman is Elizabeth A. Redmon of Dowelltown.

The qualifying deadline for both the Dowelltown and Liberty elections is 12 noon on April 17th and the last day to register to vote is July 8th.

Two school board members will be elected on August 7th.

The positions are currently held by W.J. (Dub) Evins III in the fifth district and Linda Fuston in the sixth district.

Evins and Fuston have not yet qualified but intend to be a candidates for re-election.

The qualifying deadline to run for those positions is noon on Thursday, April 3rd.

April 3rd at noon is also the qualifying deadline for candidates for State Representative. The Democratic and Republican Primaries for the office will be August 7th and the General Election is in November.

Democratic candidates who have qualified with the DeKalb County Election Commission for State Representative include Jeff Barrett, Gayla C. Hendrix, and Cleveland Derrick Bain of DeKalb County, and Dean Sircy and Carl (Hix) Jones both of Westmoreland.

Nicky Rittenberry of Lafayette and Terri Lynn Weaver of Lancaster have qualified to run in the Republican Primary for State Representative.

Meanwhile Ray Amalfitano of Dixon Springs will be an Independent candidate for State Representative in the November 4th General Electon.

DeKalb, Smith, and Macon Counties make up the 40th legislative district.

Incumbent Democratic State Representative Frank Buck is not seeking re-election.

Woodward and Herman Receive Allen D. Hooper Memorial MVP Basketball Awards

March 18, 2008
Dwayne Page

Travis Woodward and Katie Herman received the Allen D. Hooper Memorial Most Valuable Player Awards during the annual DeKalb County High School Basketball banquet held Tuesday night at the Smithville First United Methodist Church Christian Fellowship Center..

The MVP trophies were presented by Chad Kirby of Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. The awards are named in memory of Kirby's grandfather.

Kirby also presented the Allen D. Hooper Memorial Most Valuable Cheerleader Award to Amber Evans.

Tiger Coach Lynus Martin presented the individual awards to members of his team. This year's winners are:

Best 6th Man- Hunter Stewart
Most Improved Player- J.J. Herriott
Best Practice Player and Smartest Player- John Malone
Hustle Award- Hunter Poteete
MVP, Best Athlete, Best Passer, Best Defender and Best Ball Handler- Travis Woodward
Best Offensive Player and Best Foul Shooter-Payne Denman.
Best Attitude-Dustin Jennings
Best Rebounder- Zach Rowland

The individual Lady Tiger Awards were presented by Assistant Coach Amy Tobitt. This year's winners are:

Best Practice Player- Kristina Stephens
Most Aggressive and Best Defender- Morgan Page
Most Improved Player- Victoria Bennett
Best Teammate- Lauren Hansard
Best Offensive Player- Cynthia Woodward
MVP-Katie Herman

Cheerleader Coach Walteen Parker presented the individual cheerleading awards. This year's winners are:

Most Improved- Kendra Foutch
Captain Award-Amber Evans and Lacey Parchman
Tiger Spirit-Lacey Parchman
MVP- Amber Evans
Dance-Alison Curtis
Jump- Jessica Cook
Gymnastics- Jessica Cook

One year cheerleading awards went to Elicia Cantrell and Camry White. Two year awards were presented to Caroline Carter, Kendra Foutch, and Amanda Ours. Three year awards went to Rosemary Apple, Jessica Cook, Alison Curtis, and Mindy Mofield. Four Year Awards were presented to Amber Evans and Lacey Parchman

City Judge Dismisses Horse Case

March 18, 2008
Dwayne Page

Smithville Municipal Judge Hilton Conger, following a lengthy hearing Tuesday, dismissed a citation against Seth Billingsley alleging that he was in violation of city property maintenance regulations and creating a nuisance for neighbors in the community by having horses on his property.

Seth and his wife Janohn Billingsley reside at 857 Anthony Avenue and the horses are kept in an adjoining pasture between Anthony and Luttrell Avenue on Waycross Way.

Had Billingsley been found in violation, Judge Conger may have only imposed a $50 fine. He apparently had no authority to force Billingsley to remove the horses from the property as City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. pointed out during his closing statement before the judge's ruling.
"I really don't think the city has the authority or the court to ask that the Billingsley's move their horses. I don't think that is provided for in the ordinance. It does provide for a fine and that's all. It can be a violation for each time but we're only asking about this one violation and not for each day or each occasion that it occurred."

Billingsley was cited into city court by the police department. Chief Richard Jennings says he surveyed the property on Friday, November 23rd and found probable cause to issue the citation after smelling the odor of horse manure coming from the property. Lieutenant Steven Leffew was with Chief Jennings at the time of the investigation and also smelled the odor but said he did not find it noxious or offensive.

Five of the closest neighbors to the horse pasture were among those who testified Tuesday for the city claiming that they could smell the odors from their homes.

Thomas Smith, who resides at 857 Luttrell Avenue, said that last summer he experienced a problem with flies and the smell of horse manure which made it hard for him to cook out.

Russell Watson, of 847 Anthony Avenue, testified that he could not detect the scent from his home but that he did smell the odor on the lots he owns next to his home, where he grows a garden and Irises each year.

Jean Hayes, of 849 Luttrell Avenue, said the odor has been bad at times. "I don't set on my front porch as much in the summer time. The flies are worse and I can't cook out sometimes because of the smell." She said blowing winds and the drought last summer seemed to intensify the odor problem..

Brenda Foster, of 570 Miller Road, also complained about the odors and flies, which she testified were very offensive to her. Foster said her husband, Walter Foster, who died last week, had also been concerned about this problem and tried for the past two or three years to get something done about it. Foster added that she often visits and helps take care of Mary Turner, who lives across the street from her, and she can smell the scent there too.

Carolyn Thomas, of 854 Luttrell Avenue, testified that she and her husband Willie Thomas can't cook out or entertain company outside because of the smell and the flies. She said it was worse in the summer time and when the wind was blowing. Thomas testified that this has been a problem ever since the horses have been there and that there is no way to avoid the smell.

However, Janohn Billingsley, during her testimony, produced a photograph she had taken, showing the Thomas' at an outside gathering at the their home with some people in December 2007, on a day when the weather was nice. Billingsley said the Thomas' were outside for at least an hour.

Others who testified for the city were Wendy Bain and Thomas Vaughn. Bain, daughter of Willie and Carolyn Thomas said she visits her parents daily and has noticed the odors and flies, which she finds offensive. She added that the smell seems to be worse during the heat of the day.

Vaughn, who lives at 801 Luttrell Avenue, said he has been walking regularly for the past couple of years since having heart surgery in 2005 and smells the horse manure each time he walks by the property.

Several neighbors were also called to testify for the defense including Wallace and Carolyn Caldwell of 866 Anthony Avenue, Jesse and Patsy Drury of 862 Anthony Avenue, W.J. Page of 826 Anthony Avenue, Dwayne Page of 841 Luttrell Avenue, Frankie Caldwell of 920 Earl Avenue, Efrain Rivera of 846 Anthony Avenue, Bill Phillips of 842 Luttrell Avenue, Jill Watson of 847 Anthony Avenue, Tina Rowland of 839 Anthony Avenue, Tiffany Huggins of 827 Anthony Avenue, and Wendy McCoy of 846 Anthony Avenue. All stated that they could either smell no odors from the horse pasture or that it wasn't strong enough to be offensive to them.

Three city officials testified for the defense, Mayor Taft Hendrixson, Alderman Steve White, and City Building Codes Inspector Eugene O'Neal.

Mayor Hendrixson said he owned property on Kendra Drive and would often pass by the horse pasture when he was in the area, especially after this became an issue, but he never detected any odors.

Alderman White, who was already familiar with the area as a mail carrier, said he has driven by the horse pasture on several occasions since the complaints have surfaced and has never smelled any odors.

O'Neal testified that he has inspected the property six times since July, 2006 and has never detected any offensive smells from horse manure there.

Gerald England, former pastor of the Temple Baptist Church on Miller Road, and Thurman Hudson, a deacon at the church, testified that they have never experienced any problems with flies or offensive odors during church fellowship cookouts and meetings. The fellowship hall is only a few feet from the Billingsley's horse stalls.

Sandy Brown, President of the DeKalb County Humane Society, testified that she has inspected the horse pasture about six times since September, 2007 and found the property and the horses well kept, with no major problems with flies or manure.

Seth Billingsley testified that he has kept from two to four horses on this property since 2005. During his testimony, Billingsley said he keeps the horses and property well maintained. He claims the stalls are cleaned out once or twice daily depending on the need and that the manure from the pasture is usually collected weekly and provided to others for use as fertilizer. He said fly control products are also used in his operation along with a bedding of pine pellets in the stalls to help maintain a cleaner environment for the horses.

The citation against Billingsley alleged that he was in violation of a city ordinance in regard to:

"Health and Sanitation nuisances."

The ordinance states that "It shall be unlawful for any person to permit any premises owned, occupied, or controlled by him to become or remain in a filthy condition, or permit the use or occupation of same in such a manner as to create noxious or offensive smells and odors in connection therewith, or to allow the accumulation or creation of unwholesome and offensive matter or the breeding of flies, rodents, or other vermin on the premises to the menace of the public health or the annoyance of people residing within the vicinity."

The ordinance also states that "No animal or fowl shall be kept in such a place or condition as to become a nuisance either because of noise, odor, contagious disease, or other reason."

In his closing argument, City Attorney Parsley said the burden of proof had been met to find Billingsley in violation of the city ordinances. "What we have heard today is that those who live very close by all said that at times the smell is offensive to them. The ordinance doesn't say how many people have to consider it offensive. I think one would not be sufficient, maybe even two, but we've got at least four folks who have come up here and testified about being neighbors. That they consider it offensive and it's interfering with their peaceful enjoyment of their property and because of that we feel that we've carried the burden of proof which is only by the preponderance of the evidence."

Sarah Cripps, attorney for the Billingsley's, disagreed. "Even two witnesses from the police department who visited the property don't agree on what they smelled, whether they smelled anything, or whether it was a nuisance to them. I cannot believe this statute should be interpreted to mean that one, two, or a few people in an entire neighborhood can be held to change the character of that neighborhood. Some people said they saw more flies, some people said they didn't. But I do not believe in any way, shape or form, the city has carried it's burden to prove that there exist a nuisance on this property. The city's own officials could not even support the city's conclusion or the assertions of the citation that there exists a nuisance pursuant to these statutes. I think the citation ought to be dismissed and I'm asking the court to do that."

In dismissing the citation, Judge Conger, said the city's reliance on the "Health and Sanitation nuisances" regulation in this case is "misplaced".

"I do not find by the preponderance of the evidence that the condition of the property or the use made of the property here amounts to a health or sanitation nuisance. Then we're left with the city ordinance which deals with keeping animals in such a place as to become a nuisance, either because of noise, odor, contagious disease or other reason. I think basically from the proof I've heard here today, we're confined to whether or not the maintenance of this property and these horses on this property constitute a nuisance by reason of odor. I do not find by the preponderance of the evidence that maintenance of the horses has contributed or caused a nuisance because of contagious disease or other reasons."

Judge Conger added, "The court is then confronted with the issue of whether this conduct on behalf of Mr. Billingsley arises to the level of a nuisance. The court would observe that none of us live in a bubble. There are sights, sounds, and smells that may offend one person and not another. All of our sensibilities are different. What I have to judge this by is what would offend a reasonable person. The city has not, thus far, chosen to ban keeping animals in the city limits. It hasn't chosen to ban the keeping of livestock. That is within the authority and power of the city to do so. Up to this date, the city has not chosen to do that. So, the mere keeping of livestock within the city limits is not a violation of the city ordinance."

"This court cannot determine this case by the number of witnesses who have testified. All the witnesses who have testified have been sincere and genuine and the court does not feel that there is a credibility issue here. Some people said they smelled manure. Others say they didn't. I don't think one is telling the truth and one is not telling the truth. We have two chief complainants, Brenda Foster and Carolyn Thomas who said that the odors emanating from the Billingsley property has affected the use of their property. One of the things that the court has noted is an exhibit showing the Thomas' using their property outdoors on December 11th, which was approximately 20 days after this citation was written, having some sort of gathering in their back yard. That is persuasive to the court to observe those photographs."

"The court must be swayed by a preponderance of the evidence. After hearing all the testimony in this case, I haven't been swayed. The proof is in favor of the defendants in this case. It sounds like from all indications they have done a rather admirable job of keeping things under control there with the horses. It sounds like they've done what they could do."

During the hearing, Billingsley's attorney Sarah Cripps tried to point out that there were no official complaints about the horses until after Willie Thomas was elected to the city council last summer, even though the horses have been on this property since 2005. Thomas lives across the street from the horse pasture.

Judge Conger didn't buy that argument. "I don't put any great weight on the fact that this citation was issued and the complaints started coming after a particular person (Willie Thomas) was elected to the city council. Maybe that's why he ran for city council. That's a way you get things done sometimes is through the political process. I don't put any great weight on the fact that the complaints did not rise to the level of an investigation until after Mr. Thomas was elected. And I don't put any great weight on the fact that no one ever came to the Billingsley's and complained. That's just not persuasive."

"I find that the city has not carried the burden by a preponderance of the evidence in this case."


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