Local News Articles

Many Community Supporters Rally Around Chief Stufano- Aldermen Fail to Override Mayoral Veto

August 6, 2007
Dwayne Page

Many community supporters of Smithville Police Chief Tom Stufano rallied to his defense during Monday night's meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen

The city board also failed to override a mayoral veto of the council's decision three weeks ago to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson, at the very beginning of the meeting Monday night, called for a vote on the override. A "yes" vote was for the veto to be upheld. A "no" vote was for the veto to be overridden. Aldermen Willie Thomas and Jerry Hutchins' Sr. voted "no" and Aldermen Steve White and Cecil Burger voted "yes". Alderman Tonya Sullivan "passed" saying "I had several concerns. I've worked with Mr (John) Pryor (city attorney) to try to come to some conclusion on that. I'm still a little undecided so I'm going to pass. I still have some concerns."

On Monday, July 16th, the Smithville Aldermen, on a 3 to 1 vote, decided to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct lodged against him by Roy Ray.

Ray has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against Chief Stufano, the Smithville Police Department, and the City of Smithville claiming he suffered injuries and that his civil and constitutional rights were violated during a misdemeanor traffic stop in February.

In a letter to City Attorney Pryor dated Wednesday, July 18th , Mayor Hendrixson gave notice that he was casting a veto to block the suspension of Chief Stufano. In it he wrote " I believe the action taken by this Board could be potential exposure to future litigation and I think any action of administrative leave for Chief Stufano is premature."

The aldermen were also made aware of the Mayor's veto.

Meanwhile, in a letter to city attorney Pryor, District Attorney General Pro Tempore Anthony (Tony) Craighead wrote last week that "The District Attorney's Office will not be requesting a TBI investigation" into the Stufano/Ray matter.

Near the end of the city board meeting Monday night, Barbara Ward presented a petition, signed by 225 people, in support of Chief Stufano.

Ward, reading from the petition, said "We, the undersigned, are residents of Smithville-DeKalb County and are signing in support of Chief Tom Stufano. We feel he has made a positive impact on our city. Along with his officers, Chief Stufano has made Smithville a safer place for tax paying citizens and a dangerous place for criminals. We're not willing to sacrifice the progress that has been made against crime in the name of politics. We feel that Chief Stufano has brought credibility, integrity, and professionalism to the Smithville Police Department."

Many who attended the meeting showed their support for Chief Stufano with thunderous applause and rousing cheers as Ward concluded her remarks and presented the petition to the mayor and aldermen.

The crowd broke out into applause and cheers again after Smithville Police Investigator Bill Elliott's remarks in support of Chief Stufano. " I'm just here to state my mind. I look out and I see a lot of people out here, most of which I've spoken to and most of which support myself, the rest of the department I work with, and my boss, the Chief."

"About three weeks ago, a decision was made I feel was very uninformed. There wasn't any facts to it and the board, I feel, made a decision without knowing what they were trying to decide. I would ask the board of aldermen here to look out and see these people. They're here to support us and you're here to represent them. I would ask the next time a decision like this is made to take some time, think about the decision you have to make, and think about the people you represent. They stand behind us. I would hope you would take the time to get to know me and the rest of the department before making a decision on my career."

Two Charged with Violation of Sex Offender Law

August 6, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department is one of the agencies responsible for the reporting of Sex Offenders.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says the Sheriff's Department does frequent checks on offenders to make sure they live at the address they have listed. Sex Offender's must report in person once within 7 days of their date of birth to the Sheriff's Department or their reporting agency. Offenders must also report anytime they change their address, employment, and/or school within a 48 hour time period.

During the last few weeks, the Sheriff's Department has charged the following people.

30 year old Billy Jason Lackey of Pine Orchard was charged on July 31st with violation of the sex offender law where he changed his address and failed to report it.

29 year old James Allen Hesson was charged with violation of the sex offender law on July 31st where he changed his address and failed to report it.

More arrests are pending.

To view all Sex Offenders in DeKalb County and other counties in Tennessee, go to www.tbi.state.tn.us and click on Sex Offender registry.

Meanwhile,. another person has been arrested in the recent DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and the Alexandria City Police Department Drug Sting.

65 year old Gordon Lee Atnip of Buffalo Valley Road Baxter was arrested on August 2nd for two counts of Sale and Delivery of a Schedule III and IV Drugs (Hydrocodone and valium). The court date is August 16th. His bond is set at $80,000.

Thunderstorm Causes Widespread Power Outage and Problems for Central Dispatch

August 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

A severe thunderstorm with high winds, heavy rains, and lightning rumbled over parts of DeKalb County Saturday afternoon causing some damage with downed tree limbs and a widespread power outage.

Director Brad Mullinax says the 911 Central Dispatch Center was also affected. "There was quite a bit of damage across the county. A lot of the county experienced power outages and DTC pretty well took a direct hit at their central office. Around 4:30 p.m., 911 dispatchers contacted me and reported that they were experiencing problems with the administrative 911 line. I arrived at the 911 center shortly after that and discovered that one of our main administrative lines, 215-3000, was not functioning properly. We did some further testing and discovered that our 911 trunks were down as well. I immediately contacted DTC the best way I could because their repair line was down and we weren't even able to contact that number. I called the plant manager at home and he told me he was aware they were experiencing some problems and said he'd give me a call back as soon as he arrived at the central office."

"When I got here and discovered what we had, we took action and forwarded our 911 trunks to Putnam County 911. They (Putnam County) were the secondary piece out for our area. They took our 911 calls and relayed them to us over a mutual aid radio frequency. We actually routed everything to Putnam County. There are some areas of the county on a wireless telephone call that does hit Cannon County's piece out and we did receive a call of a structure fire in the area that hit Cannon County's tower. That was reported to C-Com and in turn they relayed it to us. We did everything we could to try to get those calls routed as soon as we could over to our secondary piece out."

"I have to compliment them (DTC). When I talked to the plant manager, he was trying to do some things from home, but I think he was unable to remotely administer the phone switch from there, so he immediately got enroute. We were their number one priority. They got on our problem first and foremost and within probably an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes after I reported the incident, we started seeing things come back up so I was very pleased with their service."

Saturday Fires Cause Extensive Damage

August 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

Fires destroyed one home and caused extensive damage to another residence as well as a pickup truck Saturday.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says the first fire occurred around noon at the mobile home of Gary Hawkins at 6125 Lancaster Road.

Hawkins claims he was connecting a 100 pound propane tank, when flammable gases from the leaking tank ignited, causing the mobile home to catch on fire along with a fiberglass camper shell on his pickup truck.

Hawkins got in the truck and drove it to the Long Branch Camp area near Center Hill Dam, where he backed it down a boat ramp about 25 feet offshore into the lake to extinguish the fire. His efforts at putting out the blaze in this manner were unsuccessful but members of the DeKalb County Fire Department main station and the Temperance Hall station came to the scene and extinguished the fire after Campbell's wrecker service pulled the truck from the water. Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the TWRA were also on the scene.

Green says there was apparently no release of pollutants or contaminants into the lake as the result of the burning truck in the water, which would have required an environmental cleanup.

Meanwhile, Hawkins' mobile home was too far gone by the time it was reported and could not be saved. Green says it burned to the ground.

The second fire occurred later in the day at the home of Jonathan Willoughby at 1151 New Home Road.

After a passing thunderstorm, which caused a power outage, the Willoughby family left their residence to visit a neighbor, and the fire started while they were gone.

Green says neighbors reported seeing flames and heavy smoke coming from the Willoughby home.

Firefighters were alerted and rushed to the scene. They were able to keep the fire contained to a front bedroom and the attic area, but the home received extensive heat, smoke, and water damage.

Members of the DeKalb County Fire Department's main station responded along with the Cookeville Highway, Short Mountain Highway, Blue Springs, and Liberty stations as well as DeKalb EMS and county deputies.

Smithville Police Arrest Man for Indecent Exposure

August 4, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police Detectives have arrested 66 year old Jimmy Arnold of 6886 Short Mountain Road, Smithville for Indecent Exposure.

Chief Tom Stufano says the victim reported this week that a man approached her and her infant child at Greenbrook Park and exposed his privates to her. The victim screamed and told the man, now identified as Arnold, that she was calling the police. The man left the scene in his vehicle just prior to police arrival. Detectives assigned to the case were able to establish an identity of the man and found that Arnold was responsible for the crime. Further investigation disclosed that Arnold had been a custodian for the DeKalb School system and allegedly had participated in this type of activity before. Arnold was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail. His bond is $1,000.

Smithville Police have also arrested 25 year old Willie Ray Murphy of 303 Man Hill Road, Dowelltown for DUI 2nd Offense and Driving on a Revoked Driver's License. Officer's observed Murphy driving erratically and when stopped, Officer's found that Murphy was under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. Additional information also disclosed that Murphy had a revoked driver's license for DUI. Murphy's vehicle has been seized under the state's forfeiture act. He was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $4,000 bond.

Meanwhile, Smithville Police have arrested 24 year old Erik Cortez Suarez of 1250 Smith Road, Smithville for Driving on a Revoked Driver's License. During the course of the investigation Officer's determined that Suarez's license was revoked for DUI and he was illegal alien. Under Tennessee law Suarez was arrested for the driving offense and his vehicle was seized under the state's forfeiture act. He was transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond.

Man Injured In Tuesday Night Wreck Facing Charges

August 4, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 38 year old man, seriously injured in a one car crash Tuesday night, has been released from Vanderbilt Hospital and is facing a possible felony DUI charge.

Trooper Shannon Brinkley of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Michael Shane Reid of Hendersonville was traveling east on Highway 70 in a 2005 Ford Mustang when he failed to negotiate a curve at the bottom of the hill at Sligo Bridge, left the roadway, went airborne, struck several trees, overturned, and plunged some eighty yards down an embankment.

Reid was ejected from the car and was found clinging to a log to keep from falling off a bluff into the lake.

A fisherman on the lake heard the crash around 10:00 p.m. and reported it.

Officers quickly responded and found where the vehicle had run off an embankment. They soon discovered the car and found Reid. A deputy helped pull him to a safer place on the embankment until more help could arrive.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says he would like to commend the DeKalb County Rescue Squad, County Volunteer Fire Department, and DeKalb EMS who were on the scene within minutes. He says they got to Reid, secured him in a basket, and brought him back up to the top of the hill.

Reid was flown by a helicopter ambulance to Vanderbilt Hospital with serious back and head injuries.

Committee Again Votes to Recommend That County Assume Operation of EMS

August 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

The County Emergency Services committee Thursday night again voted to recommend to the county commission that the ambulance service be brought back under the county's control.

The committee made the same recommendation last month but some members began to have second thoughts after considering the potential cost to the county.

County Mayor Mike Foster says after further study, committee members now feel more confident with their decision.

The vote Thursday night was 5 to 1. Committee members voting in favor were Larry Summers, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Wayne Cantrell, Jeff Barrett, and Jerry Scott. Willie Thomas voted against it.

Foster says two private companies, Pro Med and Trans Med were interested in contracting with the county and presented proposals for the committee to consider. However, Foster says committee members felt more comfortable with the county running the ambulance service. "Trans Med was an attractive offer except they wanted a $300,000 a year supplement. Pro Med was an attractive option. They wanted a $65,000 supplement. The committee wants to maintain a really good service like we have had, which has been run by Sumner Regional. We don't get many complaints about the ambulance service. We get good reports about them. In the past we were having some reports that the prices were too high but we talked to them about it six or eight months ago and they reduced those prices. We want to establish rates that are fairly common with our neighbors. We've got to keep in mind what the TennCare and Medicare rates are and base our prices on what they pay. The primary concern is that we have a line of continuity, that we don't miss a beat when we change employers. We feel like we can do a smoother transition with the county running it than we can with a complete new company coming in that might bring in new employees and shuffle these (current) employees around."

According to Foster, "The first year will probably be a little more expensive. We have been supplementing it (ambulance service) by $163,000 a year plus buying a new ambulance each year. You have to keep in mind that this is not a money making proposition. It's a service to the people of the county. We would like for it to break even, but we're realistic enough to know that it probably won't. We will probably still subsidize it somewhere between $155,000 and $200,000 plus the purchase of an ambulance each year. This entire ambulance service will probably cost the county about $1.1 million a year. We're hoping it will bring in revenue of $900,000 a year. When the county ran it (ambulance service) several years ago, it was losing a great deal of money. We have got to run it as a business. The secret to it is to collect as much of the fees as are due, but that we keep the fees lower than a private company would have."

Sumner Regional, which has been operating the DeKalb Ambulance Service for several years, will be giving up the operation this fall.

The county commission will be asked to approve the committee's recommendation at the next meeting on Monday, August 27th at 6:30 p.m.

TDOT To Inspect Five Deck Truss Bridges Including Hurricane Bridge in DeKalb County

August 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)this week held an event to educate the public about the condition of bridges across the state, and the rigid inspection process designed to ensure the safety of the bridges for the motoring public.

"The tragedy in Minneapolis certainly brings the issue of bridge safety to the forefront," said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. "We want to assure everyone that the integrity of our bridges is a top priority at TDOT and we will continue to look for any improvements that could be made to our Bridge Program."

Tennessee's inventory of bridges includes five deck truss bridges, which are similar in construction to the bridge which collapsed in Minneapolis. TDOT will immediately inspect the five deck truss bridges. The bridges are located at:

Jefferson County - I-40 over the French Broad River (this bridge is slated for replacement)
Carter County - State Route 67 over the Watauga River
DeKalb County - State Route 56 over the Caney Fork River (Hurricane Bridge)
Sullivan County - Netherland Inn Bridge (this bridge is slated for replacement)
Knox County - Gay Street Bridge over the Tennessee River

There are 19,519 bridges on public roads in the state of Tennessee. These bridges fall into two categories for the purpose of distributing state and federal funds. On-system bridges are those maintained, owned and operated by the state. They are found on the Interstate System, the National Highway System and the State Route System and include 8,114 bridges. There are 11,405 off-system bridges on roads owned, maintained and operated by local governments.

While the department does track deficiencies in bridges this by no means indicates a safety issue with the bridges. The term "Structurally Deficient" means that components of the bridge may be damaged or deteriorated, but not necessarily to a critical point where safety is an issue. Based on inspection and evaluation of bridges, TDOT will determine whether the bridge should be posted with a weight limit or should ultimately be closed, thus ensuring the safety of motorists.

"We have 17 bridge inspection teams who work diligently to ensure that each bridge across the state is inspected at least every two years," added TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges. "If there is any indication of a serious issue with a bridge, it is closed immediately."

Tennessee has been working to improve the conditions of its bridges for the last two decades. From 1982 until 2005, TDOT dedicated more than $1.5 billion to its Bridge Program. Approximately $100 million will be placed toward bridge programs this fiscal year. Annually, approximately $6.5 Million is dedicated to TDOT's Bridge Inspection Program.

Commissioner Nicely added, "We want to assure the public that we are confident the bridges in Tennessee are safe and are working to ensure that they remain safe into the future."

Committee Nears Completion on Proposed County Budget

August 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

The budget committee of the county commission met Thursday night and voted to publish a summary of the proposed new budget in the local newspapers.

The committee may meet again to make some minor revisions before submitting the spending plan for approval to the county commission at it's next meeting on Monday, August 27th.

The committee proposes to cut the property tax rate by 20 cents from $1.90 to $1.70 per $100 of assessed value.

The proposed tax rate breaks down as follows:

County General Fund- 62 cents (a cut of five cents from last year)
Solid Waste- 19 cents (an increase of one cent from last year)
Debt Service- 29 cents (the same as last year)
Highways- 3 cents (the same as last year)
General Purpose Schools- 57 cents (a cut of 16 cents from last year)

Foster says even though the property tax rate for schools is being recommended for a sixteen cent cut, the county plans give back to schools the equivalent of sixteen cents from the local option sales tax fund or sinking fund.

The total county budget comes to $32,717,412.

The budget breaks down as follows:
General Fund- $5,781,689
Courthouse & Jail Maintenance- $80,425
Local Purpose Fund- $1,962,776
Drug Control- $20,908
Highways- $2,060,868
General Purpose Schools- $17,172,300
School Cafeteria Fund- $1,154,200
Debt Service- $1,264,,216
General Capital Projects- $784,210
Solid Waste- $2,435,821 (Includes a six year note for up to $1,225,000 to build a new cell at the landfill- a carry over project from last year)

Foster says the proposed budget includes a pay raise of 25 cents per hour for county general employees and a $250 bonus for employees with five years of service. Employees with up to ten years of service would get an extra $50 bonus for each year of service beyond five years.

Final Slate Of Candidates Set For DTC Election of Directors

August 2, 2007
Dwayne Page

The final slate of candidates is set for DTC Communications’ election of directors next month.

Directors will be elected in four exchanges, including the Auburntown (464), Gordonsville (683), Temperance Hall (548), and Woodland (765) exchanges.

Incumbents Roy N. Pugh, Robert Don Malone, and David Parker are running unopposed in the Auburntown, Temperance Hall, and Woodland exchanges, respectively.

The Gordonsville exchange is represented by two candidates: Incumbent James H. Dillard, Jr. and David A. Watson who qualified by petition.

Voting for directors will take place at the cooperative’s annual meeting on Saturday, Sept. 15 and during early voting Monday-Wednesday, Sept. 10-12. Thursday, Sept. 6, will be the last day to make changes to your membership for the 2007 election.

Hours and locations for early voting include:
Early Voting Hours
Mon., Sept. 10 – Noon to 7 p.m.
Tues., Sept. 11 – Noon to 7 p.m.
Wed., Sept. 12 – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Early Voting Locations
Kenneth Sandlin Building, DeKalb County Fairgrounds, Alexandria
Gordonsville Clinic/DTC Conference Room, 126 JMZ Drive, Gordonsville
DeKalb County Courthouse, Room 100, 1 Public Square, Smithville
DTC Training Center (former Woodbury phone store), located beside the DTC Customer Service Center, Woodbury

On Saturday, Sept. 15, gates to the DeKalb County Fairgrounds in Alexandria will open at 11:45 a.m., with voting from noon until 4 p.m. The business meeting will begin at 4 p.m. or once the last person in line at that time has voted.

Only DTC members may vote, and each member must present identification. For a single membership, only that individual may vote. Either member of a joint membership may vote, but not both. In the case of a business membership, a business affidavit is required.

For questions regarding membership and voting guidelines, refer to the by-laws section included in the current DTC phone directory, or call DTC at 615-529-2955.


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