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Local News Articles

WJLE Adds New Service to Website

February 25, 2009
Dwayne Page

WJLE has added a new service to our website.

The WJLE Audio Archives features recent recordings of some programs previously aired "LIVE" on WJLE and other recordings not aired LIVE

The Archives will include recent audio recordings of Smithville City Council, Alexandria City Council, DeKalb County Commission, and DeKalb County Board of Education meetings, among other programs of interest.

When you log on to the WJLE homepage, look for the "WJLE Audio Archives" link located down the column on the left side of the screen. Click the link and then select the program to which you wish to listen.

Alexandria Aldermen Adopt New City Charter

February 25, 2009
Dwayne Page

The Alexandria Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday night voted to adopt a new city charter, replacing the original which dates back to 1937.

The proposed new charter will be sent to the Tennessee General Assembly for passage. Once it has been approved there, the new charter will return to the Alexandria Mayor and Aldermen for passage again.

Mayor Ria Baker says many provisions of the old city charter are out of date and need to be changed to conform to state law.

One of the proposed changes, which had been under consideration but not mandatory, was to conduct the Alexandria city election in conjunction with the August General Election every two years, rather than in September.

City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. says the city could have saved a lot of money by making this change. However, after having some reservations, city leaders decided against the move and will leave the city elections as they are now. Having the city elections on even years rather than odd years, would have meant that the terms of the mayor and aldermen would have been altered at least once, in order to get them back on a four year cycle. "We talked about doing (city) elections to correspond with the county elections in August, but those (county) elections don't run in odd years. (City elections are in odd years). I called the mayor and talked to her about that situation. We also talked to MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) about it and I felt like their solution wasn't too acceptable because it meant either extending some people's terms by a year or more or reducing them by a year or more".

The Alexandria City Election is held every two years in September. The terms of the mayor and six aldermen stagger. A mayor and three aldermen are elected in one year and the other three aldermen are elected in the following election. Each term is for four years.

Parsley says passage of this new charter has been more than a year in the making. "We have worked on this charter for about a year now. You folks have to pass this charter and then it has to go to the legislature and they have to have three readings to pass it. Then it has to come back to you and ya'll have to pass it by a two thirds vote and then we send it to the Secretary of State and then it becomes the charter of the City of Alexandria."

"The City of Alexandria has had some amendments to their charter (over the years) but a lot of our original charter is still antiquated. The old charter had a provision for a marshal for the town and some other things that are no longer applicable. This (new charter) sets out better (provisions) for how the town should work and function. This (new charter) was recommended by MTAS. It's not something that just came about by one person's decision. MTAS has been talking to the city about this for a little more than a year. Provisions of the new charter clear up some things that we didn't have in the original charter and it deletes some things, such as we won't have language in the charter for a city marshal anymore. It does provide for bonds and things that werent in the original charter. Several are provisions that never have been there and it does repeal certain parts that are no longer necessary."

(Click here to listen to Tuesday night's Alexandria City Council Meeting in it's entirety at

Tuesday Night Fire Destroys Barn

February 25, 2009
Dwayne Page
Fire Destroys Barn (Photo by Callie Mathews)

Members of the DeKalb County Fire Department responded to a barn fire Tuesday night.

Lieutenant Bradley Mullinax says "at approximately 8:20 p.m. DeKalb 911 dispatchers received a call of a reported structure fire in the area of 329 Petty Road. Upon arrival, firefighters discovered that the structure fire was actually a barn belonging to Bill Tisdale. The fire was well underway by the time fire crews arrived on the scene and the barn was unable to be saved. The fire was contained to the immediate area and no one was injured. Several rolls of hay and some farm equipment inside the barn were damaged."

Members of the Midway, Short Mountain Highway, Cookeville Highway, Main Station, and Johnson Chapel stations responded to render aid. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Local Scholarship Applications Due Soon

February 24, 2009
Dwayne Page
Lori Barnes

The DeKalb County High School Guidance Department is urging parents to encourage their high school seniors to submit scholarship applications by the deadlines.

School Counselor Lori Barnes says almost all local scholarship applications are due at the DCHS Guidance Office by March 17th.

Applications for the 2009 Jolly Angels Scholarship are in the counseling office. Completed applications are due in the counseling office no later than April 17th.

Applications for the DTC Scholarship in memory of McAllen Foutch are due at the DTC office by the close of business on March 16th. This scholarship is for students whose parents or guardians are active DTC members.

Applications for the 2009 Smithville Women’s Club Scholarship are in the counseling office. Completed applications are due in the counseling office no later than March 30th. This scholarship is for female students only.

Applications for the 2009 DeKalb County Republican Women’s Club are in the counseling office. Completed applications are due on March 27th. Male and female students are eligible to apply.

The following scholarships are available:

DeKalb Community Hospital- for students going into the healthcare field

DeKalb Retired Teachers Award for students who will major in education.

Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club Award for female students only.

The Elzie and Nell McBride Memorial Scholarship for future MTSU students only

The DeKalb Farmers Coop Award for students going into an agriculture or related field.

The Kyle and Kenny Robinson Memorial Scholarship for student athletes

The Lucille Stewart Memorial Scholarship Award for basketball players or basketball cheerleaders going into teaching.

The Hunter Davis Memorial Scholarship for FFA members only. Due to Annette Davis, Mrs. Fletcher, or to the counseling office by March 27th.

Courtney Pirtle Memorial Scholarship for FCCLÅ members only

DeKalb County Republican Women's scholarship

Beecher and Wilma Moss Scholarship

AmVets Scholarship and AmVets Auxiliary Scholarship for students who are children or grandchildren of a veteran.

The DeKalb County Soil Conservation District Scholarship is for students majoring in agriculture. Applications are due in the counseling office by March 13th.

The DeKalb Firefighters Association Scholarship is for students who have an immediate family member or grandparent who is a firefighter, EMS, or on the rescue squad. Also for students who are in the Explorer Program.

And the Liberty State Bank, DeKalb County Scottish Rite, Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, Alan Hooper Memorial Scholarship, Eddie Crips Memorial Scholarship, DeKalb Funeral Chapel, Smithville Rotary Club, First Bank, Class of 1966, Class of 1969, the Jeff Garrett Memorial Scholarship, the Middle Tennessee Times Scholarship, the Charlene Morrison-Johns Memorial Scholarship, and the Agee Oil Company Scholarship.

Rotary International Celebrates 104th Anniversary

February 24, 2009

The Smithville Rotary Club announces Rotary International's 104th anniversary

Rotary is one of the largest and most influential international humanitarian service organizations in the world. Founded on February 23, 1905, in Chicago, today Rotary has over 1.2 million members who belong to more than 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. As volunteers, Rotary members serve the needs of their communities worldwide.

Rotary members conduct projects to address today's humanitarian challenges, including illiteracy, disease, hunger, poverty, lack of clean water, and environmental concerns while encouraging high standards in all vocations. Rotary members strive to build goodwill and peace, and provide humanitarian service in their communities and throughout the world.

Rotary's top philanthropic goal is to eradicate polio worldwide. To date, Rotary has contributed nearly $800 million and countless volunteer hours to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. Rotary is currently working to raise an additional $200 million toward a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These efforts are providing much needed operational support, medical personnel, laboratory equipment and educational materials for health workers and parents. In addition, Rotary has played a major role in decisions by donor governments to contribute over $4 billion to the effort. For more information, visit

County Commission Honors Neil Dudney

February 23, 2009
Dwayne Page
County Mayor Mike Foster Presents Neil Dudney with Resolution

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night adopted a resolution honoring Neil Dudney, long time President and Coordinator of the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival.

County Mayor Mike Foster read the resolution which states as follows:

"Whereas, it is appropriate that the DeKalb County Commission and the DeKalb County Mayor should announce their pride, respect, and admiration for people who so ably serve DeKalb County."

"Whereas, those who volunteer their time and abilities to unselfishly serve our communities should be recognized for the positive work they do."

"Whereas, Mr. Neil Dudney and many volunteers helped establish, nurture, and expand the Smithville Jamboree into a nationally recognized music and crafts event. The two-day gathering is honored as one of the top tourist events in the country."

"Whereas, the Jamboree helps perpetuate our local mountain music and craft history. This event also helps finance many of DeKalb County charities, volunteer organizations, county functions, and churches from food booth sales and sales tax receipts."

"Whereas, DeKalb County's many attributes are presented to a National TV audience because of the Jamboree committees' and Mr. Dudney's years of work,"

"Now, therefore, be it resolved by the DeKalb County Commission that July 3rd, 2009 be officially named ‘Neil Dudney Day'"

"Be it further resolved that this resolution and a presentation be also given to Mr. Neil Dudney as part of the opening ceremony of the Smithville Jamboree on July 3rd, 2009."

"Be it further resolved that this resolution of appreciation be spread across the records of this meeting and preserved as a lasting part of our respect and pride in the Smithville Jamboree and Mr. Neil Dudney."

Due to his health, Dudney has had to step down as Coordinator of the Fiddler's Jamboree.

Meanwhile, in other business, the county commission adopted a resolution establishing maximum speed limits on Holiday Haven Road and a portion of Old Sparta Road.

The resolution states that "Whereas, persons living on Holiday Haven Road from Highway 56 north to the split on the east end of the Holiday Haven Road and persons living on the old Sparta Road from the eastern city limits of Smithville to the intersection with Highway 70 east wish to enhance the safety and livability in their communities by asking the DeKalb County Commission to establish a maximum speed limit in these areas."

"Whereas, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has looked at Holiday Haven Road from Highway 56 North to the split toward the east end of Holiday Haven Road and at the Old Sparta Road from the eastern city limits of Smithville to the intersection of the Old Sparta Road and Highway 70 east. A maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour has been recommended by the Tennessee Highway Patrol for these roads."

"Whereas, it is the desire of the DeKalb County Commission to help provide a safer living condition by establishing speed limits of 35 miles per hour on these two roads as requested by people living in the area and the Tennessee Highway Patrol."

"Now, therefore, the DeKalb County Commission hereby establishes a maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour on Holiday Haven Road from Highway 56 north to the eastern end of Holiday Haven Road near the split of that road and a maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour on the Old Sparta Road from the eastern city limits of Smithville to the intersection with Highway 70 east for that portion of the Old Sparta Road."

(Click here to listen to the County Commission meeting in it's entirety as broadcast LIVE on WJLE Monday night.

DeKalb Children's Service Council Recognizes Supporters During Appreciation Dinner

February 23, 2009
Dwayne Page
Clata Redmon presents plaque to Corporate Sponsor John White of Walmart
Members of DeKalb Childrens Service Council

The DeKalb County Children's Service Council held an appreciation dinner Saturday night at the Smithville Rotary Building to recognize accomplishments of the organization and to honor corporate sponsors and other volunteers who have supported efforts of the group.

The council is a non-profit, tax exempt organization that works in partnership with other community groups, local businesses, and individuals to improve our county. It was formed in March, 1998 under the Tennessee Department of Children's Services as a community based organization with a focus on keeping at-risk children and youth out of state custody.

Over the years, the council has expanded this scope to include the welfare of all DeKalb County children, youth, and their families. To facilitate this mission, the council is incorporated and has received 501C-3 non profit status and is able to receive grants and donations for the purpose of developing recreational and service activities for families.

Clata Redmon, secretary and grant writer, presided over Saturday night's program and highlighted some of the achievements over the past ten years including partnering with corporate sponsor Walmart along with the residents and leaders of Dowelltown to help raise funds for new playground equipment there. Redmon says more than $18,000 has been raised but more money will be needed to fund the project, which is expected to cost more than $29,000.

Other programs and projects sponsored or supported by the DeKalb County Children's Service Council over the years include installation of restrooms and water fountains at the Smithville Airport Park in collaboration with the City of Smithville; supporting the construction of a handicapped ramp at Rotary Youth building; obtaining a grant from Tennessee Arts Commission and Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to sponsor the Nashville Ballet for two years; obtaining a grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission and Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to sponsor fifteen shows of a professional story teller; obtaining funds to purchase and distribute tote bags filled with school supplies to approximately 300 kindergarten children for two years; sponsoring accelerated reading classes; sponsoring a class of special education students; raising funds to sponsor a Vista worker for a year; sponsoring a Saturday morning readers club at the housing projects community room; sponsoring a disabled child to be able to go to New York and showcase his artistic talent; sponsoring a community needs assessment by inviting a Vanderbilt professor to speak to the community; sponsoring a Mental Health Awareness Fair; supporting " A Night to Talk" at the high school; sponsoring a Mental Health Fair at Greenbrook Park; involvement in pre-Jamboree warm-ups; helping the Alexandria Friends sell their cook books; purchasing a stone on the walking path dedicated to the youth of DeKalb County; sponsoring a "Free Family Fun and Community Resource Fair" for the past three years; and purchasing a "Fatal Vision" drug and alcohol awareness education kit for school and community use, among others.

Redmon presented special awards to Walmart of Smithville and to NHC Healthcare Center, corporate sponsors who support the DeKalb County Children's Service Council. NHC serves as the regular meeting place for the group.

Other supporters recognized who were unable to attend included Sheriff Patrick Ray, Tom Janney, Judge Bratten Cook II, and the operators of Bumper's Drive-In

Three members of the organization were singled out for special recognition, Kenneth Neal, Wanda Redman, and Vonda Brown. Others recognized for their support were Faye Fuqua, Connie Beltz, Grady Prichard, Merle Harris, Jeanette Neal, and Jason Neal

Youth Council members include Dustin Brown, Haley Brown, C.J Harris., Katie Stutts, Jessica Goldstein, and Elizabeth Lawson.

Officers are President Vonda Brown; Vice-President Kenneth Neal; Secretary and Grant Writer Clata Redmon; Treasurer Merril Harris; Accountant Tom Janney; and Reporter and Publicity Chair Carol South.

Silcox Charged with Theft in Credit Card Investigation

February 23, 2009
Dwayne Page
Tonya Silcox
Connie Gale Ashford

A Liberty woman, accused of fraudulent use of credit cards from a family member, has been charged with theft by the Sheriff's Department.

37 year old Tonya Gay Silcox of West Main Street, Liberty was arrested Tuesday for one count of theft of property over $1,000, one count of theft of property under $500, and fraudulent use of a credit card.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says detectives of the Sheriff's Department arrested Silcox after she had taken five credit cards from a family member and used at least one of the cards to buy goods or to receive cash withdrawals from several banks totaling $1,319.93. More charges are forthcoming. Silcox's bond was set an $85,000 and she will appear in court on March 12th.

Meanwhile, 25 year old Steven Darrell Bly of West Bryant Street Smithville was charged last Tuesday with driving on a suspended license after he was stopped on Big Hurricane Road by a county deputy who had prior knowledge of Bly's suspended license. After being stopped, Bly told the deputy that someone had stolen his driver's license. A computer check revealed that Bly's license was suspended on November 5th, 2008 for failure to pay child support. Bly was then arrested. Bly's bond was set at $1,000.and his court date is February 25th.

46 year old Connie Gale Ashford of Sycamore Road, Woodbury was arrested Tuesday on West Main Street in Liberty after deputies spotted her vehicle weaving. After she was stopped, officers obtained consent to search Ashford's vehicle and found a cigarette pack containing four yellow pills believed to be oxycodone and one white pill believed to be xanax. Ashford was arrested and charged with two counts of simple possession of a schedule drug. Ashford's bond was set at $3,000 and her court date is February 26th.

Dates set for Hunter Safety Education Course

February 23, 2009
Dwayne Page
TWRA Officer Tony Cross

A Hunter Safety Education Course will be held March 9th, 10th, 12th & 13th at the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church on Highway 83 and Golf Club Lane in Smithville from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. nightly.

TWRA Officer Tony Cross says participants must attend all four nights to complete the course. Students must be at least nine years of age by March 9th. There is no charge for the course. Register on the first night of the course. For more information call Tony Cross at 597-9625.

Hutchins Sues Mayor and City Over Pay Dispute

February 23, 2009
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police Investigator Jerry D. Hutchins, Jr. has filed a Circuit Court lawsuit against Mayor Taft Hendrixson and the Municipal Government of the City of Smithville over a pay dispute.

Hutchins, son of Smithville Alderman Jerry Hutchins, Sr., claims he should have been compensated at $17.19 per hour, as approved by the aldermen last year, and that Mayor Hendrixson had no authority to cast a veto in this matter, since only the aldermen can hire and set the rate of pay for employees as part of the hiring process under city laws.

He is being represented by Lebanon Attorney Adam Parrish

On January, 29th 2008, the aldermen voted 3 to 1, in a special meeting, to hire Hutchins as Police Investigator over Mayor Hendrixson's objections that neither Hutchins nor the other two applicants for the job met the city's qualifications. Police Chief Richard Jennings said Hutchins was qualified as an investigator and recommended him. Aldermen Willie Thomas, Tonya Sullivan, and Jerry Hutchins, Sr. voted for Hutchins. Alderman Steve White voted against him. Alderman Cecil Burger was absent. Alderman Hutchins stated his "personal interest" for the record but voted for his son stating he was voting his conscience. But while Hutchins was hired, the aldermen did not address his rate of pay. (Click here to read the full account of the January 29th, 2008 story at

On February 18th, 2008, the board initially voted 3 to 2 to set Hutchins' pay at $15.95 and increase it to $17.19 after sixty days on the job. Aldermen Thomas, Sullivan, and Hutchins voted for it but Aldermen White and Burger voted against it. Mayor Hendrixson cast a veto of the board's action saying starting Hutchins' pay above other employees in the department was unfair. As a compromise, the board voted 5 to 0 to start Hutchins at a sergeant's rate of pay, $11.89 per hour and increase it to $13.13 per hour after sixty days until a pay scale could be established for the "investigator" position. According to the 2008-09 city budget, Hutchins, with the annual cost of living adjustment, is now making $13.70 per hour, apparently still the same as a sergeants pay rate. (Click here to read the full account of the February 18th, 2008 story at

The complaint states that prior to January, 2008, Hutchins was employed as a deputy in the Wilson County Sheriff's Department. After being advised of an opening in the Smithville Police Department, Hutchins, who had four years of prior law enforcement experience, applied for the job of police investigator and participated in a full interview process with the understanding that the position would pay $17.19 per hour, which the lawsuit alleges is the same rate as his predecessor Officer Steven Deffendoll was earning.

According to the lawsuit, Hutchins was ultimately approved for the job and was officially hired on January 28th, 2008. His official first day of employment was February 19th, 2008. Upon taking the job, Hutchins resigned from the Wilson County Sheriff's Department.

The complaint states that Hutchins' rate of pay was approved by a majority vote of the Board of Aldermen but Mayor Hendrixson vetoed it, which he had no authority to do, and proposed a rate of pay substantially lower than that previously offered to Hutchins. According to the lawsuit, Mayor Hendrixson's actions were due to Hutchins relationship to Alderman Hutchins and were made in bad faith and for no legitimate purpose.

The lawsuit further states that the board adopted a temporary pay rate and reserved the matter for an additional hearing on March 3rd, 2008. Hutchins received some relief and his rate of pay was increased slightly to $13.13 per hour.

Hutchins claims that the defendants by and through their agents represented to him that the position of Police Investigator was to be compensated at a rate of $17.19 per hour and that he (Hutchins) relied on that information when he resigned from one position (Wilson County Sheriff's Department) to accept the job offered by the city (Smithville). Hutchins further claims that since the defendants, by and through their agents, have refused to pay him at the rate of pay represented, he has suffered a pecuniary loss entitling him to damages.

Hutchins is asking that the court find the defendants directly, individually, and vicariously liable for the injuries he has sustained; that the court award a judgment against the defendants in an amount deemed just and adequate to compensate him for injuries; that the court award a judgment for punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the trier of fact; and that the court award a judgment awarding attorney's fees and discretionary costs incurred in this action.


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