Local News Articles

Local Nursery and Crop Producers Feel Affects of Recent Hard Freeze

April 23, 2007
Dwayne Page

Mother nature dealt DeKalb County nursery and crop producers a big blow earlier this month with a hard freeze that may affect them for months to come.

Danny Pirtle of Pirtle Nursery says this freeze was one of the worst on record for this late in the year and it may take a while to assess the impact of the damage. \" This kind of cold caught everybody totally off guard. A lot of the older plants are damaged but they will probably come out of it. We have no past records to base the history on to see what happens but all the nurserymen, as a general rule, feel like the older plants will come out of it but the young tender seedlings and liners, a lot of those are probably gone. This time of year our plants are too far advanced to tolerate the freezing temperatures. The true story will tell when we start having 85 and 90 degree days. They will either bounce out of it or they will get worse.\"

DeKalb County Farm Service Agency Director Donny Green says damage assessments are being compiled by the FSA county committee. \"Well we're just beginning to see some of the affects of the freeze damage that we had. Our committee identified that we had four nights of hard freezing between April 6th and April 10th. We knew that we had some immediate damage because we saw the affects on wheat. We even had one farmer who had about 500 acres of corn that was up about three inches and we saw the immediate affects on that, but what we're seeing now, a couple of weeks later, is the devastating affects that it's had on the nursery crop. In the beginning we even thought that was going to be restricted to basically the smaller seedlings, but what we're seeing now is a lot of the three and five year old stock, that's higher in value, has suffered a lot of damage, mostly because the sap had already started up in the plant during the last couple of weeks in March, when we had those temperatures that were 80 to 85 degrees. The sap had started up and then we had this freeze that hit beginning April 6th. and what it did was freeze the liquid material inside the bark of the plant that sends the nutrients up and down the plant and it froze and busted the bark on it. What we're seeing now is damage mostly in the extremities of the trees and limbs. As the bark is busted, it becomes sort of like an open wound for parasites and diseases into the nursery plant and it's going to be a compounding problem as the crop year goes on.\"

\"Nursery is not like your row crops with corn and soybeans. You're talking about a plant value per plant and we're talking about very high dollar amounts of loss. It's very significant and it's probably more significant than the hail damage we saw back in 2003 because the hail damage was confined to a path across the county and this is very widespread. It's a regional type loss.\"

Green says many farmers have crop insurance and those who don't may quality for assistance.\" A lot of our farmers here in DeKalb County and surrounding counties have crop insurance on their field grown and container nursery. Loss adjusters will be going out to make appraisals, but I haven't heard of anyone who has had an actual appraisal completed yet. If you didn't have crop insurance, either the crop was uninsurable or you chose not to insure it. Our state office has told us at this time, that we are to inform producers of those crops to go ahead and come in and file a notice of loss with us, basically letting us know that you have a crop that's not insured or that's not insurable, that received damage, and we're documenting that now and trying to get some numbers in place in the event that there is a disaster program. I want to emphasize that we don't have any assurance that there will be a disaster program, but in the past we've had these programs and filing timely notices of loss for all the crops that are damaged is important and that's why these people who don't have crop insurance need to come in and let us know that. If you have crop insurance you need to contact your loss adjuster and let them come out and do the appraisal. We cannot take notices of losses for crops that are covered by crop insurance.\"

\"The Governor has declared all 95 counties in Tennessee disaster counties. What that means is that farmers may get low interest loans through the Farm Service Agency Offices. They are called Emergency Loans. They are lower than the normal market rate interest rates. I think it's three and three quarters percent. A lot of our farmers right now, with the situation they are in, feel like borrowing more money is not what they need. They're needing financial assistance in the form of grants and compensations for their losses. We don't have that at this time, but certainly what the Governor has done puts that in motion, sending it on up the line to Washington so that maybe we can get some money appropriated.\"

Green says it appears the wheat, corn, and hay crops have taken the hardest hits in addition to the nurseries. \"Our county committee met the second week in April and we reviewed what loss information we had. The most significant is probably going to be our wheat crops and we don't have a lot of that in DeKalb County, but we have probably 800 to 1200 acres of wheat that was planted and was already up in what they call the booting stage. That was pretty much wiped out. From the wheat producers we talked to in DeKalb County we're going to be fortunate if it's even salvageable to be harvested as wheat hay. That's a secondary use that sometimes can be used.\"

\"Probably the next crop that was affected the most dramatically is the nursery crop, both the container grown and the field grown, that were not in controlled climates. If they were outside as we typically see containers in nursery yards here in DeKalb County and Warren County, then they pretty much got impacted.\"

\"We had about 500 acres of corn that was out and we don't know the extreme affects that it's going to have on our hay and pasture crops, although we can be assured that hay yields are going to be significantly down for the spring cutting because the stop in growth development. We may see some people have to extend their feeding period of hay to supplement the loss of pasture growth that we had because of this.\"

\"We went in last fall into a very dry situation and the fall hay cuttings were basically nothing. We were already short. We pretty much, for the last few years, have had to depend on our spring cuttings of hay to carry us through the year and starting out like this has stunted the hay growth dramatically and will cause a problem for our first cutting of hay. If the weather pattern continues into the summer and fall like we have had in the last few years, hay shortages are going to be critical this year.\"

DeKalb County Sheriff's Department Gets New Drug Dog

April 23, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb Sheriff's Department now has a Malinois K-9 narcotic detector dog to fight the illegal use and sale of drugs.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says \"The Sheriff's Department bought the dog with monies that were seized through drug investigations and no tax dollars were required for this purchase. We also took one of the county owned SUV's and installed a cage in the rear of the vehicle. This vehicle can transport the K-9 drug dog and can also transport one inmate safely. \"

The dog's name is Banshee. She is 2 years old. Banshee and her handler Deputy Mike Agee have undergone intense training through Thunderhawk Kennels in Jackson County.

Sheriff Ray says that Banshee has been welcomed to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department by one local business owner. \"Sandy Brown of S C B Enterprises and TN Barn Builders has kindly donated a dog kennel and free dog food from her business.\"

According to Sheriff Ray, Banshee has already stepped up to the plate by making two positive drug hits on vehicles this last week. \"On Thursday, deputies stopped a vehicle on Highway 56 North due to a traffic violation. The driver, 25 year old Joshua Johnson of Hendrixson Road Smithville was found to have a suspended driver's license. When Johnson was asked to step out of the vehicle, a cigarette tin containing 2 pills believed to be hydrocodone fell from his person. Deputy Agee and K-9 Banshee checked the vehicle and after a positive drug hit from Banshee, deputies found a set of scales with a white powdery residue believed to be cocaine and a straw containing a white powdery residue. Johnson was charged with driving on a suspended license, simple possession of a schedule III drug (Hydrocodone), and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond was set at $3,000 and Johnson's court date is May 10th.\"

Also on Thursday, Sheriff Ray says \"24 year old Michael Duane Vanpelt, II of Monroe Henley Ridge Road Silver Point was stopped on Allen's Ferry Road for a traffic violation. Deputy Agee and K-9 Banshee checked the vehicle and after a positive drug hit from Banshee on the driver's side door, deputies found a bag of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in Vanpelt's possession. Vanphelt was arrested and charged with simple possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. A $2,000 bond was set and Vanpelt's court date is May 10th.

Sheriff Ray says \"I believe Banshee will be a valuable tool for our Department by helping to identify and help rid our streets of drug dealers. Our plans are to use any and all resources at our disposal, such as Banshee, for the betterment of our county.\"

Smithville Police Officer Involved In Fatal Car Crash

April 24, 2007
Dwayne Page

A Smithville Police Officer was involved in a fatal head-on crash with another vehicle Monday night on Foster Road.

Sergeant Billy Prater of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 34 year old Officer Callie Matthews was responding to a call around 10:30 p.m. traveling north on Foster Road in her 2001 Crown Victoria police car. According to statements given by witnesses and Officer Matthews, Sergeant Prater says she was traveling with the car's emergency lights on and the siren off.

As she crested a hill, Sergeant Prater says Officer Matthews applied her brakes to the point of lock up, went into a skid, crossed the center of the street, and made head-on impact with a southbound 2001 Kia Rio, driven by 18 year old Andrew B. Ferris of Cooper Lane, Smithville.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department's Extrication Team were summoned to the scene to help cut Ferris out of his vehicle. He was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Officer Matthews and a passenger of the Kia Rio, 21 year old Brian A. Webber of West Main Street, Smithville were removed from their vehicles and taken by EMS to the parking lot of the Calvary Baptist Church, where they were airlifted by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Sergeant Prater says Officer Matthews is stable while Webber remains in critical condition at Erlanger Hospital.

The crash remains under investigation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team.

Sergeant Prater says there was no evidence of alcohol. He says Officer Matthews was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the crash, but Ferris and Webber were unrestrained.

Smithville Police Chief Thomas J. Stufano says \"The City of Smithville would like to extend our deepest condolences and prayers to all of the victims and families\"

Chief Stufano says Officer Matthews was responding to a dispatched \"prowler\" call in the area of Dry Creek Road and Foster Road when the accident occurred.

Early Voting Begins Friday on Sales Tax Referendum

April 26, 2007
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County voters will start going to the polls Friday to cast their vote on the proposal to increase the local option sales tax from 1.5% to 2.75%.

If approved, the overall state sales tax rate in DeKalb County would go from 8.5% to 9.75%, however the county commission has pledged to reduce the property tax rate by nineteen and a half cents.

The rate was increased by 39 cents last September.

Early voting on the referendum begins Friday, April 27th and ends Saturday, May 12th. The special election day will be Thursday, May 17th.

All early voting will be done in the basement courtroom of the DeKalb County Courthouse. Voting will be held every day except Sunday.

Voting hours are from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Thursday hours are from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

On election day, May 17th, the polling places at all sixteen precincts will open at 8 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

The wording on the ballot will read:


Mock Disaster Drill Scheduled at Northside Elementary School

April 27, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Emergency Planning Committee in conjunction with DeKalb County Schools, DeKalb Community Hospital, and local Emergency Responders will conduct a MOCK DISASTER DRILL at Northside Elementary School on Tuesday, May 8th from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m.

This drill will be held to test the effectiveness of DeKalb County?s Emergency Response Plan and DeKalb County School?s Safety Plan. There will be emergency responders from many different agencies on scene during the drill. DO NOT BE ALARMED BY THE PRESENCE OF EMERGENCY RESPONDERS.

For questions or concerns contact:

DeKalb Community Hospital 215-5000
DeKalb County Schools 597-4084
Northside Elementary 597-1575

Board Recommends Gibson's law License Remain Suspended

April 28, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court has recommended that District Attorney General Bill Gibson's law license remain suspended.

Gibson was re-elected last August to a new eight year term as District Attorney for the 13th Judicial District, which includes DeKalb County, but in September his law license was temporarily suspended after allegations surfaced that Gibson had corresponded with a convicted murderer, whom he had prosecuted, without the knowledge of the man's defense attorney

The letters from Gibson to Chris Adams allegedly offered legal and spiritual counseling

Since the suspension, Gibson has been trying to get his law license re-instated, but the three member panel of the BPR, which was appointed to hear the petition, issued a report Thursday stating that Gibson's actions in two cases during the past few years constituted a complete betrayal of his obligations to the people in his district as well as a willful disregard of his ethical obligations as a lawyer.

As the controversy was heating up over Gibson's letters to Adams, authorities discovered another case in which Gibson may have acted unethically. The D.A. is accused of trying to get the drug conviction of a Cookeville woman, set aside without telling the judge in the case about his friendship with the defendant, Tina Sweat.

According to the BPR panel's report, Gibson used the powers of his office to manipulate the system and deceive a judge in order to help Sweat and says his denial of that obvious truth was deeply alarming to the panel hearing his petition. The report further states that Gibson's denials of manipulating the system to help Sweat indicate that he is either willing to lie under oath to protect himself or lacks even a rudimentary understanding of his ethical responsibilities as a lawyer.

Gibson remains under investigation by the TBI

A brief news release issued by the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility on Thursday states that \"On September 25, 2006, the Supreme Court entered an Order temporarily suspending William E. Gibson from the practice of law. Mr. Gibson, through counsel, filed a Petition to Dissolve or Amend the temporary suspension on October 25, 2006. A hearing was held on March 25 and 26, 2007 before a panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility. On April 26, 2007, the Hearing Panel filed their Report and Recommendation finding that Mr. Gibson continues to pose a threat of substantial harm to the public and therefore the Panel recommends that Mr. Gibson's temporary suspension not be dissolved.

Another BPR-appointed panel of lawyers is expected to be chosen to decide how Gibson is to be disciplined for his alleged violations of ethics standards.

Over Five Hundred Vote Early on Sales Tax Referendum

April 28, 2007
Dwayne Page

A total of 520 DeKalb County voters have cast ballots with one day left of early voting on the proposal to increase the local option sales tax from 1.5% to 2.75%.

A total of 70 voted on Friday, April 27th including personal appearance and by mail ballots, 21 voted on Saturday, 36 -Monday, 46- Tuesday, 38- Wednesday, 44-Thursday, 42-Friday, 31-Saturday, May 5th, 34-Monday, 31-Tuesday, 41- Wednesday, 57-Thursday, and 29 on Friday

If approved, the overall state sales tax rate in DeKalb County would go from 8.5% to 9.75%, however the county commission has pledged to reduce the property tax rate by nineteen and a half cents.

The rate was increased by 39 cents last September.

Early voting on the referendum continues through Saturday, May 12th. The special election day will be Thursday, May 17th.

All early voting will be done in the basement courtroom of the DeKalb County Courthouse.

Voting hours are from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.

On election day, May 17th, the polling places at all sixteen precincts will open at 8 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

The wording on the ballot will read:


Smithville Man Arrested on Rape Charges

April 30, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 26 year old Smithville man has been arrested by the Police Department on rape charges.

Smithville Police Chief Thomas J. Stufano says Derek Charles Riggs of 329 Smith Road was arrested Friday on two counts of Rape of a Child and two counts of Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Child under age 7.

According to Chief Stufano, \"Smithville Investigators assigned to the Sexual Assault unit had received information from a family member that Riggs was having sexual contact with his two biological children ages 4 and 6 in a motor home he was staying in on Smith Road. Through a series of interviews with family members and the juvenile victims along with forensic information, Investigators were able to determine that Riggs had sodomized and raped his four year old daughter and six year old son on a number of occasions. Smithville Police conducted a taped interview with Riggs who did admit to the sexual contacts. Riggs was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $400,000 bond. The children will remain in the custody of their mother. \"

Chief Stufano says \"This is the second high profile case involving the rape of infant and minor children within recent months. Smithville Police have created a specialized unit to handle sexual assaults and are working very closely with the Department of Children Services, the DeKalb County School system, and the District Attorney's Office. It is incumbent upon everyone to report suspicious activity involving our most precious resource, our children. The citizens of Smithville have been extremely helpful in detecting suspicious activity in our city neighborhoods. Neighborhood Crime Watch is working!

Sheriff's Department Drug Investigation Results In Two Arrests

April 30, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, conducting a drug investigation at a Bell Street residence on Saturday, arrested two people.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 26 year old Samer Abdalla of East Marthona Street, Madison is charged with unlawful possession of a schedule II controlled substance (Dilaudid) and possession of drug paraphernalia and 23 year old Megan Lann of Bell Street, Smithville is charged with unlawful possession of a schedule III controlled substance (Hydrocodone) and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sheriff Ray says deputies, during their investigation at Lann's residence, found four dilaudid pills on Abdalla and paraphernalia including straws containing a yellow and white powdery residue. Officers also found on Lann, white pills believed to be hydrocodone and paraphernalia including straws and hypodermic needles.

Bond for Abdalla is set at $12,000, and $5,000 for Lann. Both will appear in General Sessions Court on the charges May 10th.

Meanwhile, in other cases 29 year old Lonnie Miller of Asbury Park Apartments in McMinnville is charged with theft over $1,000.

Sheriff Ray says Miller is charged with stealing from a residence on Bright Hill Road a 14 foot utility trailer loaded with sheet rock . The theft occurred on March 16th.

In a separate case, Sheriff Ray says a deputy stopped a vehicle on Highway 70 east on Sunday, April 29th and arrested 35 year old Alberto Cedillo of Pleasant Shade Highway, Carthage. He was charged with a first offense of driving under the influence and cited for violation of the implied consent law. His bond is $1,500.

Meanwhile, another person has been picked up on a sealed indictment returned by the Grand Jury in April as a result of the Sheriff's Departments undercover drug investigation. Sheriff Ray says 25 year old Amber Johnson is charged with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance and sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance over .5 grams (cocaine). Her bond is $20,000.

Relay For Life Set For Friday, May 11th

May 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

Relay For Life is set for Friday, May 11th at Greenbrook Park.

It's is a fun-filled overnight event designed to celebrate survivorship and raise money for research and programs of your American Cancer Society. During the event in DeKalb County, teams of people gather at Green Brook Park and take turns walking laps around the walking trail. Each team tries to keep at least one team member on the track at all times.

Relay For Life represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day cancer will be eliminated.

The theme for this year's Relay for Life will be \"Amazing Race\" .

The all night event begins Friday at 5:00 p.m. at Green Brook Park featuring lots of food, fun, and entertainment. Local cancer survivors will be introduced at 6:00 p.m. and each one will give a testimony and mention how long they have battled and survived the illness. The introduction will be followed by a Cancer Survivors Walk around the trail.

Thirty three teams specializing in various fun filled activities and food booths will be set up throughout the park, all raising money for the event. And then at 9:00 p.m. a special luminaria ceremony will be held to remember those who have lost the fight against cancer as well as the survivors.

You may order a luminaria in honor or in memory of a friend or loved one today by calling Violet Fuson at 597-4483 or Ivadell Randolph at 597-5296. You may also purchased them during Relay for Life Friday evening at the park.

Last year's event raised $100,000 dollars. The goal this year is $105,000.


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