Local News Articles

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."

Missing Child Investigation Results in Drug Charges Against the Father

March 17, 2008
Dwayne Page

The father of a four month old, who took the infant with him to Nashville without telling the mother prompting a Middle Tennessee Endangered Child Alert last week, will be in court next week on drug charges.

Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings says 32 year old Michael L. Edwards of 549 Frazier Street, Smithville is charged with simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Officers found five pills and a used hypodermic needle in his vehicle after he returned home with the child last Thursday evening.

Both Edwards and his wife, Penny Edwards reside with the child at the Frazier street residence.

Officer Bradley Tatrow, in his report, states that on Thursday, March 13th at about 4:00 p.m., Penny Edwards came to the Smithville Police Department to file a missing person's report. Mrs. Edwards stated to Officer Travis Bryant that her husband, Michael Edwards, had taken the child, 4 month old Cori Alaina Edwards, on Wednesday, March 12th during the evening hours and she (mother) did not know where he took her."

"The child's name was entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) as endangered. Later that night (Thursday) while on a traffic stop at about 9:17 p.m., I was dispatched to 549 Frazier Street. I was advised that Mr. Edwards had just pulled into the driveway of his residence."

Upon arrival, I made contact with the mother, Penny Edwards, who was holding the child. After establishing the safety of the child, I asked Mr. Edwards to step outside to talk to me to see what was going on. Mr. Edwards advised me that he had a spur of the moment feeling to go see some friends in Nashville and left with the child. Central dispatch advised me that TBI wanted to speak with me about Edwards' activities in Nashville."

Edwards apparently gave Officer Tatrow and a county deputy consent to search his vehicle and they found five pills in a white bag and a needle in the floor on the driver's side.

Edwards was arrested and charged in the case. His bond totals $5,000 and he will be in General Sessions Court on the charges March 27th.

His activities in Nashville remain under investigation by the TBI.

TVA Board Approves 7-percent Rate Increase Effective April 1

March 17, 2008

The TVA Board recently approved a 7-percent increase in firm wholesale electric rates effective April 1 to help fund new power generation and energy efficiency initiatives needed to meet the growing power demand of the Tennessee Valley.

Smithville Electric System must pass along the rate hike to customers, but will not attach any local increase.

The rate adjustment will provide an estimated $300 million in additional revenue during fiscal year 2008. While amounts will vary across the Valley, residential customers may expect an increase of about $4 to $7 on monthly retail electric bills, depending on their individual energy use.

“We certainly recognize the financial challenges that consumers face as we make a recommendation to the Board on the need to increase power rates,” TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore said. “TVA is taking steps to reduce its non-fuel operating and maintenance costs by more than $400 million over the next three years. However, additional revenue is needed for long-term investments to keep the power system reliable and lessen our dependence on volatile energy markets. That will help us keep electricity reliable and affordable in the years to come.”

At its public meeting last May, the Board recognized the need for a rate adjustment to fund the implementation of the Strategic Plan. In approving the fiscal year 2008 budget in September, the Board directed TVA staff to work with local power distributors to develop a rate adjustment proposal for consideration early in 2008.

The 2008 budget includes $2 billion in capital expenditures for the addition of new power plants and work to complete Unit 2 at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. TVA needs the additional power plants to meet power demand that is growing by about 2 percent a year during peak periods.

TVA met three all-time winter records for electricity consumption in the Valley since Jan. 1. Last summer, TVA met 13 all-time summer records for power demand during the record-breaking August heat wave. When power demand is at its peak, TVA often pays four or five times normal costs for additional power from other energy suppliers.

Kilgore also reported on the lingering effects of the drought and its continued impact on reduced hydro generation – TVA’s least expensive generation source – and increases in purchased power costs. These and all other fuel-related costs are recovered through TVA’s Fuel Cost Adjustment mechanism. The FCA, which is part of monthly consumer power bills, is adjusted quarterly and can be a charge or a credit. The amount of the FCA that will take effect April 1 is expected to be available Feb. 20 and is expected to be an increase because of continuing impacts of the drought.

The 2008 budget also includes $22 million for the first phase of expanded energy efficiency initiatives and development of a plan to help make the delivery of power to consumers more efficient. As part of this initiative, the Board appointed an Ad-Hoc energy efficiency oversight committee and announced that the Board plans to hold a public listening session at the Knoxville Convention Center in early March to get public input and learn more about energy efficiency, demand reduction and renewable energy from panels of experts.

Meeting at TVA’s Chattanooga Office Complex, the Board also approved an agreement that will allow distributors of TVA power to share ownership of new TVA generation facilities. The Board elected Bill Sansom to continue as Chairman of the TVA Board.

Fire Destroys Home- Family Escapes Unharmed

March 17, 2008
Dwayne Page

A fire early Saturday morning destroyed a home in the Austin Bottoms community of DeKalb County but the family escaped unharmed.

Lieutenant Mark Young reports that at approximately 3:30 a.m. Saturday, the DeKalb County Fire Department's Austin Bottoms Station, Cookeville Highway Station, and Short Mountain Highway Station responded to a report of a fully involved structure fire on Dobbs Cemetery Road in the Austin Bottoms community.

According to Lieutenant Young, when firefighters from the Austin Bottoms Station arrived, the house was completely engulfed in flames and part of the house had already collapsed.

The owner, John Mullins and his family were able to safely escape the burning house after being awakened by smoke alarms. The house and contents were totally destroyed. The DeKalb County Fire Department received mutual aid assistance from the Putnam County Fire Department who responded with tankers to help supply the needed water to contain the fire. The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department also provided assistance on the scene.

Woman Reporting to Jail Charged with Trying to Smuggle in Drugs

March 17, 2008
Dwayne Page

A woman, who reported to the DeKalb County Jail Friday for a weekend of incarceration, was charged with trying to smuggle drugs into the facility.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 42 year old Tonya Caldwell of Walker Drive, Smithville was charged with introduction of drugs into a penal institution. Caldwell, who is serving weekends, reported to the jail on Friday.. While dressing Caldwell out, a Correctional Officer noticed a Band-Aid attached to each of Caldwell's feet. Caldwell claimed she had cut her feet and the Band-Aid was covering the wounds. Upon a further investigation by the Correctional Officers, Caldwell was found to have in her possession 4 Xanax pills and 3 Hydocodone pills hidden under the Band-Aids. Caldwell's bond was set at $10,000 and her court date is March 27th.

Meanwhile, 24 year old April Anderson of Tramel Branch Road, Alexandria was stopped Monday on Highway 56 after a "be on the lookout" was posted by the Smithville Police Department. Sheriff Ray says Anderson had already been charged with theft of property under $500 and two counts of forgery after Detectives had received a report on Anderson stealing a family member's checks. The family member came to the Sheriff's Department and made out a report after the victim noticed that two checks totaling $180 had been cashed at a market here in DeKalb County on January 15th and the 19th of this year. Anderson has been staying out of state since this incident occurred. Anderson was also arrested on a failure to appear after she did not show up for court on other unrelated charges earlier this year. Total bond for Anderson was set at $9,500 and her court date is April 3rd.

In another case, 40 year old Mark Anthony McCoy of Huddleston Loop, Smithville was charged Wednesday, March 12th with driving on a suspended license when he was stopped for a traffic violation on Highway 70. McCoy's license was suspended for frequent traffic violations. McCoy's bond was set at $1,000 and his court date is March 26th.

33 year old Donna Annette Bogle of Parkway Drive, Smithville was charged Thursday, March 13th with driving on a suspended license after she was stopped on Midway Road Smithville for a traffic violation. Bogle's license was suspended for failure to maintain proof of insurance. Bogle's bond was set at $1,000 and her court date is March 26th.

Buck Supports Lottery Scholarship Legislation To Expand Opportunities For Students

March 15, 2008
Dwayne Page

This week, the State House of Representatives moved closer to passing important lottery scholarship legislation designed to expand the opportunity for more Tennesseans to attend college.

"The original purpose of the lottery was to help send Tennesseans to college, " said Representative Frank Buck. "That purpose remains true today and years of running a surplus shows that we could be helping more people achieve the dream of a college degree."

In the Higher Education Subcommittee, a bill targeting the retention GPA of students who receive the HOPE Lottery Scholarship was approved and moved to the full House Education Committee for passage. Under the new legislation, the retention GPA for students would be revised from 3.0 to 2.75, helping to increase the retention rate among college freshmen and sophomores. Currently, more than 70% of incoming freshmen who qualify for the HOPE Lottery Scholarship lose it after the first year."

"With so many losing their scholarships, it's obvious that a change is needed," Buck said. "Working students and students who struggle when they first start college shouldn't be penalized the rest of their college career. A college degree is not just for the elite or the privileged, but for all those who want to attend higher education."

In an interview with WJLE Thursday, Buck says he supports revising the GPA from 3.00 to 2.75. " I understand there is a compromise in the making that will suggest that you can keep your lottery funding of the HOPE scholarship at 2.75 but that you must raise it up to be fully funded. That's one of the compromises that may be coming out. I really think we probably ought to lower it to 2.75 during the first year because a lot of these kids are just adjusting to college and a very high percentage of them have been losing that scholarship the first year. There are a lot of kids that don't come from a really good environment and they are not goofing off. They are trying. You know a 2.75 is almost a B average so I really think that is probably what we ought to do."

On another issue, Representative Buck says the state gasoline tax may have to be increased before too long. "There is no way around it. Keep in mind that the last time the gas tax was raised petroleum was selling at about $30 a barrel or less. It may have been around $25 a barrel. It is now $100 a barrel. The problem that you have is that every time you lay a yard of asphalt of repaving, that product is costing three or four times as much as it used to and the last time the gas tax was raised was around 1992. Not only that, but that bulldozer that builds the highway is using diesel fuel that costs three or four times as much as it used to cost. What choice do we have? if we're going to have good roads, at some point in time, we're going to have to (raise gas tax) whether we like it or not. Our costs keep going up."

Another costly project is the proposed replacement of Sligo bridge, which has state officials thinking that it would be more cost effective to remodel the existing bridge. Buck says bridge construction there will also cause traffic problems for a long period of time. "We've got the problem with Sligo bridge. That thing is $23 million. That's what it's going to cost to rebuild that bridge. They are now trying to decide whether or not they can remodel the floor for five or ten million dollars and save that old bridge, but again the problem you get into is if they do that, that thing will be closed for a year to two years. That would mean people in DeKalb County would have to drive 50 miles (alternate route) to get to the other side of Sligo bridge. What is making that bridge so terribly expensive is the fact that the water is so deep over there. It's not just the cost of the bridge per se. It is the cost of the footers that makes it so horribly expensive. The bridge is not unsafe yet. They tell me it is not ready to cave in but that at some point in time in the very near future we're either going to have to put a new deck on that thing or we're going to have to build a new bridge right beside it. They indicated to me that they looked at building a new bridge, but once they got into it, they began to realize that the footer to the bridge is so expensive, they then began to look at refurbishing the old one. The federal government gives so much for bridge replacement, but apparently the feds have cut back on the money as well. So it's a crisis not only at the state level but it's also on the federal level. But what are we going to do? We can't allow our bridges to fall in. They've had a net underneath Sligo bridge for about two years now to keep the concrete from falling on the fishermen's heads down there. They've also inspected Hurricane bridge which is the same design as the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota. The difference is that they were rebuilding that bridge or remodeling it in Minnesota and they put a bunch of building materials out there on that bridge and just stored it, which put a lot more weight on that bridge than it should have had. So they contributed to a very substantial degree to the failure of that bridge."

Buck also supports stronger penalties on scrap metal thieves and a law requiring a registry for the sale of precious metals. "We've got to do something to jack up the penalty. Whenever these thieves are going out here and stealing air conditioners out of churches, something has to be done. I don't know what they get for that copper, but it's not that much. But there are people who are having to pay $4,000 to $5,000 to replace their central air units and these thieves are getting, maybe $200. We must do the same kind of thing as we did with ephedrine and cold medicines. Whenever we made people register to buy that cold medicine, which was a necessary ingredient to make crystal meth and the pharmacies couldn't just sell it across the counter anymore, that cut down the meth business very substantially. We're going to have to do the same thing with precious metals. We have no choice."

On illegal immigration, Buck says he has mixed emotions." This is a terrible issue. Here we've got an estimated 20 million people in this country who are illegal aliens. We don't know who they are and where they are, but they have come across the border. We've got to get some kind of reasonable policy. I don't know what you do in these circumstances, as long as you have a situation like our nursery and tobacco business. If we didn't have these workers we couldn't ultimately grow the nursery stock that we do or get the tobacco in. We've got to develop some reasonable method because we need the labor in this country. Maybe we need to let them come in from Mexico on a visa but then make them go back home after the visa expires. Register them, find out who they are. There's bound to be some kind of middle ground that's workable in this case. If they're here on a visa and have to go back to Mexico before they can return, that's another possible solution. Make them go back home, then if they've been here, and have been a good citizen, not given us any trouble or been in our jails, then give them another visa to come back. But make them go home first. And for all those folks who have gotten into a lot of criminal trouble while they are here, they need to go back and stay down there."

Enforcing the borders of this country is a difficult task, but Buck says deporting illegals is also a problem, especially concerning those who have given birth to children while they're here. "Remember they have kids while they're here and our Constitution provides that a child born on American soil is an American citizen. They may have illegal alien parents, but once that baby is conceived and born in this country, they're an American citizen. Our border with Mexico is so long and we have so much shoreline, it's going to be very difficult to build a wall around America, it's just almost impossible."

Buck says he tends to agree with the Bush administration that a path to citizenship is probably the best solution. "I disagree with (President) Bush about a lot of things, but one of the compromises they were working on was to give them (illegal immigrants) a certain period of time to come in here and register and get legal. I don't think we ought to give them any gifts but we need to make them learn English and do all the kinds of things that naturalized citizens have to do."

Buck adds that one reason the Congress may be slow to act is because illegal immigrants are paying into the Social Security System. " A lot of them are using invalid or fake social security numbers, but withholding taxes are coming out of their paychecks. That money is going into that Social Security system and it ain't never coming back out again. Not to them it won't because with a bad or fake Social Security number, they will never get to draw any benefits. It's propping up our Social Security system and it's delaying the Congress from having to make a decision about the future solvency of Social Security."

Another top issue is proposed expansion of the Pre-Kindergarten program in Tennessee. Buck says the local Director of Schools and two school board members have expressed their opinions. "You know Governor Bredesen is just determined to do it. I've had the Superintendent and two board members come down there and indicate to me they think the money could be better spent other places. That's a very controversial matter. But whenever two board members and my Superintendent come by and tell me that the money could be better spent in other places, that causes me to stop and think. After all, they are in the trenches. They know more about education than I do. I'm going to check it out in these other counties. I want the opinion of the educators in the other counties. There is a very substantial dispute about that matter. It's also a matter of the wisest use of the money. My understanding is that the difference in those kids that have it (pre-k) and those that do not have it disappears somewhere around the third grade. Kids from disadvantaged homes probably do need that (pre-k) but for our kids, we kept books around all the time. Our children were exposed to books. Our grandchildren are exposed to books. There are some families that don't do that. But that's what Head Start is for. The truth is money is tight and sales tax revenues are down. We're going to have to make every wise use of every dollar we've got. We need to look at the pre-K program and make the best use we can of that money."

State Senator Mae Beavers’ Legislative Update

March 14, 2008

Tennessee may soon require convicted sex offenders to provide email addresses and screen names to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), under legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers said the bill would strengthen Tennessee’s laws against child sex offenders and better protect children online.

“Child sexual predators know how to reach their victims via the Internet,” said Beavers. “I believe this legislation will be an effective tool for law enforcement to find and prosecute these offenders.”

According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, one of five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the web. However, only 25 percent of the children who encountered the approach told a parent or adult.

The legislation, SB 2594, would require that convicted sex offenders provide email addresses, chat names, instant message screen names, and any other online electronic communications information to the TBI as part of their routine and annual information collection requirements. The TBI would be authorized to transmit that information electronically to companies that provide pre-screening services. In order to obtain information from the TBI, this bill requires the requesting business or organization to agree to notify them when a comparison indicates that a registered offender's email address, instant message, chat, or other Internet communication name or identity is being used on their system. Finally, the bill would also provide stiff penalties and/or incarceration for the falsification or omission in providing this information to the TBI.

Beavers said other studies show teens are willing to meet with strangers, with 16 percent of them considering meeting someone they have talked to online. Eight percent have actually met someone they only knew online.

Recently, a Tennessee convicted sex offender’s vehicle was stopped during a routine search in Nashville and was found with five male children, ranging in age from 12-13 years-old. The sex offender met one of the boys on MySpace, a popular social networking site. The five juveniles were in the vehicle with the offender for three hours, and officers discovered that none of them had any relation to the defendant, police records indicate. Earlier this year, MySpace announced a national partnership with 49 states to implement greater security measures for sites available to teens online.

“Hopefully, this bill will keep these convicted sex offenders from using the Web to contact children,” she added.

There are 600,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. An estimated 150,000 of these offenders have been “lost” in the system.

Beavers said action to strengthen Tennessee’s sexual offender laws build on legislation passed last year including:

The Tennessee Jessica Lunsford Act which implemented the 25-year minimum mandatory sentence for sex offenders and global positioning system (GPS) monitoring for those under community supervision

A measure to create a class of “child sexual predators,” who upon a second or subsequent conviction would be required to serve 100 percent of their sentence

A new law to add rape of a child and aggravated rape of a child to felony murder offenses

Legislation to extend the group of people required to give DNA samples to those convicted of a misdemeanor sexual offense

A measure requiring sex offenders to report a change in employment status

A new law ensuring that sex offenders who enter a plea of “nolo contenderes” or who are found guilty by a jury or court in any other state or country register with the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry

Legislation that aims to strengthen Tennessee’s new law against the hiring of illegal aliens has advanced in the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill is one of a series of proposals being considered by the State Senate this year that would address illegal immigration reform.

“This bill is one of several bills pending before us that will crack down on the hiring of illegal aliens in the workplace in Tennessee,” said Senator Beavers. “Our legislature is taking a comprehensive look at bills to stop the flow of illegal aliens within Tennessee’s borders.”

Currently, only state or local government agencies can file complaints against companies who knowingly hire illegals with the Department of Labor. The bill, SB 3647, approved by the committee deletes this requirement and instead allows any person who has reason to believe that an employer has knowingly employed an illegal alien to file a complaint. It also requires that the complaint be in writing and under oath, and imposes a penalty for intentionally falsifying information.

The current law, which went into effect on January 1, allows the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development to take away an employer’s business license for up to one year if the employer is found to knowingly employ an illegal immigrant. The complaints filed with the Department of Labor are followed with an investigation. If probable cause is found, a hearing is held. If the employer is found to have employed an illegal immigrant, their business license can then be revoked, suspended or denied.

The full Senate gave final approval this week to legislation clarifying that Tennessee employers have a right to institute an English-in-the-workplace policy. The bill, which was passed by a vote of 30 to 0, makes it clear that an English-in-the-workplace policy is not considered discrimination on the basis of national origin while the employee is engaged in work.

Protection of employer rights in instituting English-in-the-workplace policies has increased both in the states and on the national scene since the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) began prosecuting employers who required that English be spoken while conducting business. One notable case involved a Salvation Army thrift store in Framingham, Massachusetts, where two employees refused to learn English and were subsequently fired after being given a year’s notice to learn the language.

Under the bill, SB 2849, a person would not be considered to be engaged in work during any meal period, rest period, or any other break. The bill is permissive and only applies during the period in which the person is required to perform official duties associated with their employment.

“This bill is permissive,” said Senator Beavers. “It simply says that if employers want to require that employees speak English while on the job, they can do so. There are many occupations where there could be real safety concerns if there are court rulings holding that other languages are the ‘civil rights’ of workers while on the job.”

Issues in Brief

Sales Tax Holiday bill becomes law -- The governor signed into law legislation sponsored by Senator Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) this week to move the state’s spring sales tax holiday to the last weekend in April so that it will not interfere with businesses that close for Easter. The holiday, which was designed to provide relief to taxpayers by instituting a temporary sales tax exemption on certain items, was scheduled by law for the weekend of March 21 – 23. Those dates coincide with both Good Friday and Easter this year. Senate Republicans were instrumental in the passage of several tax reform initiatives during the past legislative session, including Senator Mae Beavers’ (R-Mt. Juliet) bill that reduced the sales tax on food and created the spring sales tax holiday.

Auto theft -- The full Senate approved legislation sponsored by Senator Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) to reduce auto theft in Tennessee. The bill, SB 2858, would require scrap metal processors who purchase vehicles with the intention of dismantling or salvaging them to provide proof of ownership. Any vehicle purchased that is over ten years old and which does not contain the motor or is inoperable, would not require a title but must have a written statement signed by the seller or their agent stating they have a lawful right to sell and dispose of the vehicle. It also requires records on those transactions be kept for five years, including the name and address of the buyer, the amount they paid for the vehicle, date of sale, description of the auto, VIN number, and the license plate number of any vehicle transporting the automobile.

Charter Schools – Legislation extending the life of charter schools in Tennessee was heard in the Senate Education Committee. The bill, sponsored by Senate Education Chairman Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville) would also make a very conservative expansion of student eligibility to public charter schools to fill any empty slots with students who are classified “at risk.” Tennessee has the most restrictive public charter school law in the nation. Currently, a student must be from a "failing" school or the student must be a "failing" student. Tennessee's charter schools passed their first real performance test this year when the State Comptroller's Office of Education Accountability issued its findings to the General Assembly. The study showed a higher percentage of middle and high school students in charter schools scored "proficient" or "advanced" in 35 comparisons with their traditional school counterparts, while the traditional school students scored higher in 18 of the comparisons.

Election of Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State -- The full Senate approved 20 to 10 a resolution calling for the election of Tennessee’s lieutenant governor and secretary of state. The lieutenant governor is currently elected by the State Senate every two years, while the secretary of state is elected by House and Senate members in a joint session every four years. The proposal to change the state constitution would have to pass both chambers this year; and then again by a two-thirds vote in the next General Assembly before it could be voted on by Tennesseans in the 2010 election.

Health Care Tax Credits -- The Senate Finance’s Tax Subcommittee considered but deferred until next week, action on two bills to provide health care tax credits. One bill, SB 3936, sponsored by Republican Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) would provide a Hall Income Tax deduction for premiums paid by the taxpayer for long term care insurance. The credit would be in an amount equal to the total amount of premiums paid by the taxpayer. The other bill, SB 2659 , sponsored by Republican Caucus Chairman Diane Black (R-Gallatin) would establish tax credits for small business owners who offer health insurance to their employees and dependents.

Endangered Child Alert for Smithville Infant Cancelled

March 14, 2008
Dwayne Page

A Middle Tennessee Endangered Child Alert was issued Thursday by the Smithville Police Department for 4 month old Cori Alaina Edwards.

The child was apparently with her father Michael L. Edwards.

According to the alert, Mr. Edward's wife last spoke with Michael L. Edwards on March 12, at Noon. He advised he was traveling to a hardware store in Smithville. There had been no contact with Edwards since that time until he returned home with the baby Thursday evening.

The baby is now in her mother's custody.

Buck Says He Will Not Endorse Any State Representative Candidate During Primary Season

March 13, 2008
Dwayne Page

Retiring Democratic State Representative Frank Buck says he will not endorse any candidate to succeed him during the primary season

In an interview with WJLE Thursday, Buck said it would not be appropriate for him to support one candidate over another during the Democratic Primary. "If anybody tells you or the public that I am endorsing any one candidate over another, they are simply not telling the truth. I have not said anything like that to any of the candidates that have come by and talked with me. I've made it very clear to everyone of them who have come by that in the primaries I'm not going to endorse anybody and anyone who tells the public otherwise is simply not telling the truth."

"The matter of gaining the trust of the public is going to have to be done by the candidates themselves. There are dozens of issues that are dealt with during the General Assembly that you cannot anticipate from one year to the next. The members of the General Assembly have to make judgment calls. They have to make decisions and over innumerable matters. It is up to the candidates to get out here and make the public understand whether or not they can be trusted. Anytime you have a new representative who is elected to vote on that many different issues, this is a leap of faith to some degree on behalf of the public. They have to try to decide to vote for whoever they think will be fair, who will try to use the position for the interest of the counties and the public, and not to use the position for their own benefit. All these things are matters of confidence of the public in the representative. One person cannot give trust and confidence to some other candidate. The candidates themselves have to convince the public that they're worthy of trust and that simply has to be done by the candidates. Simply put, I'm doing exactly what I ought to do. These candidates ought to have to get out here and convince the public themselves and for that very reason I feel like it's highly inappropriate for me to embrace anybody. They need to get out here and convince the public themselves."


Follow Us


News Feed

WJLE Radio

2606 McMinnville Hwy
Smithville, TN 37166

Phone: 615 597-4265
FAX: 615 597-6025
Email: wjle@dtccom.net

Local News

6:30 A.M.
7:30 A.M.
8:55 A.M.
12:00 NOON
4:00 P.M.
9:45 P.M.

DTC Communications

Fiddlers Jamboree