Local News Articles

WJLE Radiothon Planned To Raise Funds for Second Habitat for Humanity Home Here

June 1, 2007
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County residents can help make home ownership a reality for a local family with donations to the second Habitat for Humanity Radiothon Fundraiser on WJLE Friday, June 15th from 9 until 12.

Monies raised will be applied toward lot purchase, materials and construction of the second Habitat home on Adams St. in Smithville. “Our goal is to begin construction of a three-bedroom house later this summer,” says Nolan Turner, president of the local Habitat chapter. “In 2005, we raised over $25,000, and we hope to exceed that this year.”

The home will be built for Felicia Gibbs, a divorced single mother, and her children Dasia, 4, and Trystan Seth, 9 months old. Felicia grew up in Alexandria, attended DeKalb West Elementary School, and graduated from DeKalb County High School in 2001. She has been working since she was 15 and is raising her children on her own. They currently reside in Smithville where she is employed by Bumper’s Drive-In Restaurant.

“Felicia and her children have all the qualities we look for in partner families. She is cooperative, humble and eager to work,” says Turner. “I hope everyone who shares our commitment to help those who are less fortunate will support our efforts by contributing to this fundraiser.”

The Gibbs family met criteria used by Habitat to identify the best candidates for successful home ownership: demonstration of need, ability to pay, and willingness to partner with Habitat. Recipients of Habitat-built homes must make a downpayment and put in hours of “sweat equity” before construction can begin. After the house is built, they assume a 20-year interest-free mortgage for the purchase price, based solely on the price of materials and related services. These costs are projected to be in the $40,000 to $45,000 range, with monthly payments ranging between $200 and $300.

Gibbs says this opportunity represents “a dream come true. This is the kind of blessing I’ve prayed for...I am so grateful, excited and eager to get started.”

“Knowing I will own a home provides a feeling of security for me and my children,” she adds. “When I signed the agreement, I felt I was signing for the beginning of my life. I am so thankful to Habitat, everyone who will help make this dream come true and to God. He has been so good to me and my family.”

Radio listeners can phone in a pledge and challenge other members of the community to make a donation by calling 597-4265, 215-5316 and 215-5317 during the Friday morning event. Donations of any amount will be appreciated.

For information on making a pledge or donation, please contact these officers of the Habitat Board of Directors: Nolan Turner, president; Tecia Pryor, vice president and chairperson of the Development Committee, 597-7370; Nancy Lewis, secretary; or Glenda Davis, treasurer. You may also leave a message on the Habitat voicemail at 215-8181 and a board member will return your call.

Several Goats Perish In Saturday Morning Barn Fire

January 20, 2007
Dwayne Page

Several goats perished in an early morning barn fire Saturday on Dobbs Cemetery Road in the Austin Bottom community of DeKalb County.

Captain Jeff Williams of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department says the fire was reported around 3:30 a.m. Saturday and members of the Johnson's Chapel Station responded.

Williams says the fire was well underway by the time it was discovered and reported and firefighters could not save the barn nor the goats. Some equipment, tools, and a four wheeler were also destroyed in the blaze.

The 50 x 50 foot two story barn belonged to Keith Thorpe. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Meanwhile Assistant Fire Chief Roy Merriman says firefighters responded Thursday night to the residence of Jack Sharp at 688 Saw Mill Road in the Temperance Hall community. The home was a rental belonging to Tammy Robinson.

The fire was reported at 6:11 p.m. and members of the Temperance Hall, Liberty, and Short Mountain Highway Stations responded.

Firefighters were unable to save the home. No one was injured.

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Dowelltown Woman Accused Of Buying Merchandise And Obtaining Cash With Stolen Credit Card

January 22, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 30 year old Dowelltown woman has been arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, charged with fraudulent use of a credit card belonging to a member of her family.

Carla Denise Chapman of Snow Hill Road is charged with four counts of fraudulent use of a credit card. She is under a $4,000 bond and will be in General Sessions Court on the charges February 1st.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Chapman stole a credit card from a family member and went to the Region's Bank location on the public square downtown Smithville on January 11th and 12th where she used the card to make withdrawals from an ATM machine in the amount of $1,710.

Sheriff Ray says Chapman also used the credit card to purchase gasoline from DeKalb Market on January 15th, $826.00 worth of jewelry from Houston's Jewelry on January 15th, and $383 worth of merchandise from Pamida on January 16th.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Ray is asking for the public's help in solving recent thefts of copper and other metals which wind up being sold as scrap metal.

Sheriff Ray says \" We have had a lot of thefts of copper wire, copper pipes, air conditioner units, and some farm equipment including a heavy disk, tobacco setter, and seed spreader.\"

He says the Sheriff's Department is asking the operators of area scrap yards to obtain copies of photo ID's on people coming to their businesses to sell scrap metal.

If you have information that may help solve the crimes contact the Sheriff's Department at 597-4935.

DeKalb EMS To Get A New Home

January 22, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night voted to exercise an option to purchase the old Fina Market building at the corner of South Mountain Street and Meadowbrook Drive as the future home of the DeKalb County Ambulance Service.

County Mayor Mike Foster says the purchase price of the building is $125,000.

The ambulance service, for the last several years, has been located on Highway 56 north in Smithville but Foster says the building is too small for today's needs and is in need of repair. \" We looked at 27 pieces of property, trying to find a suitable place to relocate the ambulance service. The building we're using now is very small and in need of repair, the septic system is causing problems, and the building is only big enough to shelter two units (ambulances) and they need a place to shelter five units.

Sumner Regional Medical Center is under contract with the county to operate the ambulance service for $163,000 per year, and the county, which owns the ambulances, buys a new one each year. This year's budget includes $80,000 for the purchase of a new ambulance.

Foster says Sumner Regional has agreed to buy an ambulance this year and let the county use the $80,000 budgeted for a new unit to go toward the purchase of the building. Foster says the existing ambulance service building on the Cookeville highway could be sold at auction and the money from the sale used to help fund the purchase of the new location. The remaining money needed for repairs and updates could be borrowed if it is not available in the budget. Sumner Regional has also agreed to pay the county monthly rent on the building in the amount of $1,500.

According to Foster, the old Fina Market building would meet the county's needs. \"The building is 125 feet long and 40 feet wide and is situated on three lots that are 300 feet along Meadowbrook Drive and 137 to 150 feet wide in depth. The building has a roof on it that is four years old. The two central systems are four years old. It has two bathrooms and a kitchen in it. We'll have to do some modifications on it and submit our plans to the city planning commission for approval. The building is almost perfectly situated and suited for this because it's on a four lane highway and the ambulance service, by agreement, will not run sirens until they get away from the building and into the major intersections to protect the neighborhood.

In other business, the commission voted to purchase emergency license plates for volunteer firefighters and members of the Rescue Squad who meet certain conditions. Foster says this is a small token of appreciation from the county to them. \"To show our appreciation to our volunteers who work for the county, including the volunteer firemen for the City of Smithville, Alexandria, Liberty, Dowelltown, and the volunteer firemen from DeKalb County and the Rescue Squad, we would like for the county to purchase one emergency license plate for each volunteer fireman and rescue squad member who has completed one year of service and training and who meets the requirements of their department chief. A list will be supplied to the county by the department chief each year. They cannot serve for one year and then sit out forever and still get the free license plate.\"

The commission also voted to apply to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for water line extensions by the DeKalb Utility District to serve over 131 people in the Marshall Medlin Road, Pumpkin Hollow, Alexandria to Dismal, and Henley Hollow area and the Dry Creek, Possum Hollow, and Frazier Hollow area. If approved, the grant will be funded at no cost to DeKalb County. The DUD will pay the 10% matching obligation. The project cost will actually exceed the amount of the grant, but the DUD has committed to seek a Rural Development Grant and Loan combination to complete the project.

The commission also adopted a budget amendment in the amount of $306,532 as federal grant pass through funds for a six mile, six inch water line replacement in the Johnson's Chapel community, which will include the addition of nine or ten fire hydrants.

County Officials Consider Another Public Referendum On Local Option Sales Tax Hike

January 22, 2007
Dwayne Page

The county commission may be interested in taking another shot at increasing the local option sales tax here from 1.50% to the maximum of 2.75%, but in order to do it, the public would have to approve it by a majority vote in a public referendum.

County Mayor Mike Foster addressed the issue with the county commission Monday night but no action was taken to initiate another referendum

The first referendum to adopt the increase failed at the polls last August by 252 votes, losing 1,898 to 1,646.

But County Mayor Mike Foster says some people have since had reservations about voting against it.

Foster says if a referendum is held and passes, the county commission will reduce the property tax rate by some amount. The commission, last September, raised the property tax rate by 39 cents to $1.90 per $100 of assessed value. \"We've had a couple of work sessions to talk about it and I think the consensus of the commission is they would like to pass the sales tax referendum in order to take part of the property tax back off of what was put on (in September). If it is proposed, all of the commission would sign an agreement to do that (vote to reduce the property tax) and publish it in the local newspapers. They want people to know this is not smoke and mirrors.\"

Foster says it's not known yet how much extra revenue would be generated from the additional sales tax, but it should be significant with tourist attractions like Center Hill Lake and the Fiddler's Jamboree and new retail outlets like Wal-Mart. \"It's an unknown as to how much extra revenue the new retail outlets are going to bring in because you don't know how much it's going to impact negatively on something else so the first year will really be just a guess.\"

Foster says if the local option sales tax is increased, the county will realize a greater tax benefit from the tourist dollars that are spent here.\" It only makes sense to pass some of that (increased sales tax) on to the tourists and let them pay their part because we also have to provide to them law enforcement and EMS services and road upkeep while they're here. We get a lot of benefit from tourists and we appreciate that but they should shoulder part of the tax load rather than it being all on property owners.\"

According to Foster, taxes are still lower in DeKalb County than any other county in the state. He says DeKalb and Johnson County have the lowest local option sales taxes, DeKalb County is still among the lowest in property taxes, and there is no wheel tax here.

If a second referendum is held this spring, the tax hike could take effect with the 2007-2008 budget year, July 1st.

Two Charged With Attempted Arson

January 23, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, assisted by the Alexandria Police Department, may have thwarted an attempted arson while on a separate investigation late Monday night.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 60 year old Wilburn Estes of Avant Circle, Alexandria and his ex-wife, 56 year old Margaret Lack of Liberty Hill Road, Alexandria are each charged with attempted arson.

They apparently went to a residence on Cemetery Street in Alexandria with the intention of getting revenge on a man who allegedly refused to pay $120 for some tools he bought from their son, 32 year old Hugh Don Estes, who was recently involved in a traffic accident and is now paralyzed.

Sheriff Ray says he, another county deputy, and an Alexandria Police officer went to the Cemetery Street residence around 11:30 p.m. Monday night on another investigation and as the officers pulled up to the home, they saw a man running from behind the house toward a parked car. The man (Estes) jumped in the car, and the vehicle sped away, driven by a woman (Lack).

Sheriff Ray says he pulled the car over about a mile down the road and the other two officers joined him after they finished up at the house talking to the resident on Cemetery Street. After gathering information from Estes and Lack, the officers released them, not yet knowing about the attempted arson.

A few minutes later, the resident on Cemetery Street called for the officers to return to his home, saying there were gas fumes in his house coming from the central heat and air unit. Sheriff Ray says upon further investigation, the officers found at the back of the man's house, a box containing a big pillow and other clothing along with two gallons of gasoline, a rubber glove, and a dust mop.

The officers then went to the residences of both Estes and Lack and picked them up for questioning. Based upon the evidence collected and incriminating statements made by Estes, he and his ex-wife were charged in the case.

New Toll-Free Litter Hotline Now Available

February 1, 2007
Dwayne Page

Tennesseans who are tired of trash along state roadways now have a new tool to report litter bugs. The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced today a new toll-free litter hotline, 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837). The litter hotline is part of the new statewide anti-litter campaign, StopLitter?. The hotline provides a way for Tennesseans to report people they witness littering along the state?s roadways, such as a person throwing a paper cup or cigarette butt out of a window, or an item falling from an unsecured load.

?The new toll-free litter hotline gives citizens the ability to Stop It,? said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. ?Now anyone who witnesses a person littering can report it and trigger action to improve the quality of the environment and the cleanliness of our roadways. Tennessee has some of the best roads in the nation. With everyone?s help, we can have some of the cleanest, too.?

Citizens who witness a litter bug in action can call 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837). Callers will reach a recording that asks them to provide information about the vehicle. The information that will be requested includes:

license plate number (Tennessee plates only)
type and make of the vehicle
day and time the incident occurred
location where the incident occurred
the type of item tossed or blown from the vehicle

TDOT will mail a letter to the registered owner of the vehicle along with a StopLitter? car trash bag or portable ashtray and other anti-litter information. The letter is a gentle reprimand reminding the recipient that littering is against the law and punishable by a fine of up to $1500.

The addition of the statewide hotline signals a new strategy in the effort to stop litter in Tennessee.

?Littering is not only an eyesore, it costs taxpayers money,? said TDOT Chief of Environment and Planning Ed Cole. ?Last year, more than $11 million was spent on litter clean-up and prevention efforts in Tennessee. Thousands of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers also contribute their time and energy picking up litter from the state?s highways each year. The litter hotline allows people to address this problem but still remain anonymous.?

?The answer to the littering problem involves more than just cleaning up trash. Prevention is the key solution,? added Edith Heller, Keep Tennessee Beautiful State Leader. ?We hope everyone will join us in this effort by calling the hotline when they witness someone littering from a vehicle.?

Alexandria Aldermen Vote To Contract With 911 Board

January 23, 2007
Dwayne Page

Rather than risk losing non-emergency police dispatch services for the town, the Alexandria City Council Tuesday night voted to enter into a contract with the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (911 Board) and pay $26,000 a year in monthly installments for the city's part in support of the operation.

All four aldermen in attendance voted \"yes\" including Charles Griffith, Sarah Walker, James Keys, and Jim York. Aldermen Eddie Tubbs and Jimmy Mullinax were absent.

For the last two years, the City of Alexandria has not been paying for the service and currently owes $52,000, but 911 Board Chairman Ron Rogers told the Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday night that the board had decided to forgive the past debt, if the city would make a commitment to make their $26,000 annual payment from now on and sign a contract with the board. Otherwise, the 911 board would give a 30 day written notice that while it would continue to dispatch all emergency calls, it would no longer provide non-emergency services for the City of Alexandria.

Alderman Griffith explained that the reason for non-payment was not because the city was trying to be difficult or didn't want to pay, but because of budget constraints.

When the E-911/ Central Dispatch Center was in the planning stages, the DeKalb County Government, City of Smithville, and City of Alexandria agreed to appropriate funding for a non-emergency, twenty four hour a day, seven day a week answering service and direct dispatch of non-emergency calls for their law enforcement agencies.

In his presentation to the board, Bradley Mullinax, Director of Emergency Communications, says the DeKalb County Government and City of Smithville each pay $108,000 a year and the City of Alexandria's part is $26,000. He says these figures for the cities are based on population size. DeKalb County E-911 funds the remainder of the costs associated with emergency and non-emergency dispatch personnel totaling approximately $135,000.

Mullinax explained that the city's payment of $26,000 a year is not to provide the emergency 911 service because that is funded from charges of 65 cents to DeKalb County residents and $2.00 to businesses on their telephone bills. The 911 fees cover the response to 911 emergency calls and direct dispatch of those calls and for the 911 addressing service for the citizens of the county.

The city's payment, he says, is to cover costs of answering and dispatching the non-emergency calls that are received from the citizens of the town. A non-emergency call is any call that does not pose an immediate threat to life or property.

Mullinax further explained that the city's payment also covers costs of accessing information from the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC) system, for record management, and to record and provide information from callers and responders for the city.

Mullinax says the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District answers all emergency 911 calls and all non-emergency administrative calls for three law enforcement agencies including the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and the Smithville and Alexandria Police Departments, as well as three fire departments, DeKalb County, Smithville, and Alexandria; one EMS agency (DeKalb County Ambulance Service); and one Rescue Squad

Mullinax says if the City of Alexandria were to choose to go it alone and not contract with the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District, it would be much more expensive than $26,000 per year, perhaps as much as $95,000 for the first year and $80,000 per year thereafter in order to set up a dispatch system and to meet all the state and federal requirements to operate it.

Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins later told the Mayor and Aldermen that the services provided by the Central Dispatch system were \"crucial\" to his department and that he would not want his officers pulling over anyone without those services, because it is too dangerous.

Since Collins has been Police Chief, the city has collected several thousands of dollars in fines from speeding tickets, and Collins says he believes that money could be a source of funding to offset the city's costs of continuing the service with Central Dispatch.

Collins says neither he nor his officers write tickets to anyone unless they exceed the speed limit by at least twelve miles per hour, but there are enough of those, that the department could easily write as many as fifty tickets per month.

In other business, Alexandria Fire Chief Shelie \"Pee Wee\" Askew submitted a letter to the board announcing his retirement as chief, although he will continue to serve as a first responder.

The board voted to select Wesley Slager as the new Alexandria Fire Chief.

The board also voted to hire Cody Jenkins as a full time police officer. He will join Chief Collins and officer Chris McMillen on the force.

Chief Collins says there are sufficient funds in the budget to fund the position.

Family Left Homeless By Thursday Fire

January 26, 2007
Dwayne Page

A DeKalb County family was left homeless by a midday fire Thursday.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says firefighters were called to the home of Nick and Stacey Robinson at 249 Pittman Road in the Four Seasons community around 11:20 a.m. after a passing motorist saw flames coming from the trailer home and phoned 911 to report it.

Green says the trailer was too far gone by the time firefighters arrived. The home and all the family's belongings were destroyed.

No one was at home at the time of the fire and no one was injured.

The cause of the blaze is undetermined.

Member's of the Midway, Keltonburg, Short Mountain Highway, Cookeville Highway, and Belk stations responded along with a tanker truck.

Green says the Robinson's were renting the trailer and had no renter's insurance. They have three small children.

An account has been set up for this family at DeKalb Community Bank and a donation from you would be appreciated.

The family is currently staying at the home of Gary and Wanda Russell, 2560 McMinnville Highway behind WJLE.

The are accepting donations of clothing, toys, furniture or anything that anyone would like to donate. They can be reached at 597-5886.

Sizes needed include Baby Boy 9 months old - wearing 18 to 24 months, diapers # 4; Little Girl, age 3 - wearing 4-5 clothes, 10-11 shoes; Boy, age 5 - wearing 6-7 clothes, shoes 3; Man - 36 X 32 pants - XL shirts - 11 shoes; Lady - 9 - 11 pants - M shirt - 8 1/2 shoe.

Corps Announces $220-Million Rehab Plan To Fix Seepage Problem At Center Hill Dam

January 27, 2007
Dwayne Page

Plans are underway to correct seepage problems around Center Hill Dam. It's a project that may take several years to complete and cost more than $220 million dollars.

Officials of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say Center Hill Dam was designed and built in the 1940's in a karst limestone foundation that is prone to seepage. Seepage is the movement of water through and under a dam. All dams have some seepage as the impounded water seeks paths of least resistance through the dam and its foundation. Seepage must, however, be controlled in both the velocity and quantity to keep the dam safe. Seepage can clearly be seen coming through the rock bluff formation near the dam.

Original designers recognized the nature of the rock and the potential for seepage through the relatively thin rim sections and acknowledged that maintenance would be required to keep the dam safe. The Corps has closely monitored seepage since the 1960's and has completed several limited grouting programs in an attempt to slow and control the seepage. Grout is a mixture of sand, cement, and water that can be placed into drilled holes into the foundation soil and rock to close any openings.

Foundation conditions continue to slowly worsen because clay filled joints are eroding in the rock within the rims and dam foundation. If untreated, this erosion would eventually jeopardize the two earthen embankments (main dam and saddle dam) and the integrity of the rims. The Nashville District of the Corps of Engineers has recently received Washington approval to begin a major rehabilitation project to ensure the long term safety of the dam.

The approved rehabilitation plan includes modern concrete cut off walls constructed within the entire length of the main dam and saddle dam embankments. These walls will extend deep into the rock foundation to effectively cut off seepage through the embankments and therefore protect the earthen portion of the dams from internal erosion. The approved plan also includes placing balance stabilized grout (durable and long-lasting grout) beneath the entire dam and along both sides of the dam.

Fish depend on continuous cold water, which the seepage has historically provided. The Corps plans to replace the cold seepage downstream by replacing a small undependable hydropower unit in the powerhouse. The existing 55 year unit was intended to provide back-up power to start the larger turbines. It will be replaced by a new 2 megawatt unit that will produce hydropower and provide the optimal minimum flow downstream.

The total cost of the rehabilitation plan will likely exceed $220 million. The Corps expects major work will begin in 2007 and the entire rehabilitation will take 5-8 years to complete.

Plans to accelerate the work are being considered. Ongoing work includes design and base mapping. Drilling into the dam foundation for rock information has begun. Initial grouting is planned to begin in the summer of 2007.

This grout will make the dam safer by filling voids within the foundation. Cut off wall construction will likely follow the grouting and is anticipated to begin in 2008.


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