Local News Articles

Ninth Annual Operation Dry Water Weekend June 30-July 2

June 25, 2017

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be participating in Operation Dry Water, June 30-July 2. Operation Dry Water is a national weekend of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) awareness and enforcement campaign directed toward reducing alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities.

Operation Dry Water is held the weekend prior to the Independence Day (July 4) holiday to give BUI enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season. The TWRA is teaming with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). Operation Dry Water was started by the NASBLA in 2009.

TWRA boating officers will saturate high traffic areas on reservoirs across the state. Along with the use of life jackets and other safety practices, officers want boaters to be aware of the effects and ramifications of alcohol use. The TWRA will be intensifying efforts to detect and apprehend boat operators who are operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In 2016 during Operation Dry Water, there were 10 boating under the influence (BUI) arrests across the state. TWRA boating officers checked more than 4,000 vessels, issued 175 citations, 113 warnings, and assisted 94 boaters. There were four injury accidents and three property damage accidents reported.

Operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 percent or higher is illegal in Tennessee, the same as operating a motor vehicle. Penalties may include fines, jail, boat impoundment and the loss of boat driving privileges.

Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.

For more information on Operation Dry Water, visit www.operationdrywater.org.

DMS Junior BETA Club Departs for National Convention in Orlando

June 24, 2017
Dwayne Page
DMS Junior BETA Club Departs for National Convention in Orlando
DMS Junior BETA Club to present "BE THE CHANGE" at National Convention

Members of the DeKalb Middle School Junior Beta Club departed by charter bus today (Saturday) on a trip to the National Convention at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The club punched its ticket to Nationals after winning first place at the State Convention in November for their anti-bullying drama presentation called “Be the Change”.

The National Convention is underway now through Wednesday, June 28.

Josh Isaac, who wrote and choreographed the skit, said “Be the Change” sends a powerful message. Isaac spoke with WJLE in March. He is currently in the hospital and was unable to make the trip to Florida.

“I wanted to do something that was different but also something that put a message out there. What big of a message than bullying? That is something I think almost everyone can relate to at some time in their life. Social media bullying is something that is very much affecting all of our kids nowadays. We put this skit together. The kids came together. They really only had four to five practices which is an amazing feat in itself but we came together. I have never choreographed 48 kids together in my life. That was a little challenging but they worked hard and it paid off,” said Isaac.

“It’s called “Be the Change” and its basically about a group of kids bullying a girl. One of the kids steps out and says he doesn’t want to do that anymore and the choreography shows that. By one person changing it causes an affect on everyone. I feel like that is what we need in our schools and in our world because it just takes one to cause that affect for all,” he continued.

“The most exciting thing is about just sharing the message of this video “Be the Change”. Its going to be on a national level with a national stage. On the state level there were 8,000 people out there watching. This will be an even bigger place for us to show that everyone can make a difference,” he said.

Isaac said everyone associated with the club is thankful to the community for the financial donations and other support shown. “Our community has all come together to just be part of this, That’s a great thing about living in DeKalb County. Everyone rallies together” Isaac concluded.

Mayors Ask County Not to Impose Reappraisal Fees on Cities

June 24, 2017
Dwayne Page
Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss
Liberty Mayor Dwight Mathis
Alexandria Mayor Bennett Armstrong

Mayors in three of DeKalb’s four municipalities are asking that the county commission not force their cities to pay more for the cost of property reappraisals, an expense that the county could have been charging them for 28 years.

Although DeKalb County has never enforced it, a state law was passed in 1989 requiring municipalities that collect a city property tax to ante up more in the county’s costs of real property reappraisals and audits of personal property, unless an agreement is reached to waive the charge.

Mayors Jimmy Poss in Smithville, Dwight Mathis in Liberty, and Bennett Armstrong in Alexandria have sent letters to County Mayor Tim Stribling and to the County Commission asking that the county waive the fees saying they are struggling with their own budgets and that the proposed assessment fees are “unreasonable and unnecessary”.

Assessor of Property Shannon Cantrell recently learned of the state law during a meeting of assessors and made County Mayor Stribling aware of it. Cantrell also shared what he learned with members of the county budget committee, the city mayors, and the entire county commission at Stribling’s request.

The county commission discussed the issue but took no action during its monthly meeting in May. However the county budget committee has recommended that projected revenue to be derived from the cities share be included in the 2017-18 budget which will be up for passage by the county commission in July. The county commission is expected to revisit the issue during its regular monthly meeting Monday night, June 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse.

In the letter, the mayors wrote, “We the mayors of the City of Smithville, Town of Liberty, and Town of Alexandria would like to state our opposition to a proposal requiring the towns to pay one half of the reappraisal dues within the town limits of each municipality. Each municipality feels that the attempt to collect this fee is both unreasonable and unnecessary. Each municipality is struggling with their own budgets and do not need another assessment for the citizens. Therefore we respectfully request that the county commission refrain from approving this reassessment fee against the towns,” the letter stated.

Under state law, local costs of reappraisal of real properties within a city shall be paid one half by the county and one half by the city, unless there is an agreement between the city and county to waive the fees. Any city paying one half of local costs of reappraisal shall pay those costs directly to the county government with jurisdiction over the property being reappraised and shall pay those costs during the fiscal year in which the reappraisal is finalized. The cities of Smithville, Alexandria, and Liberty would be affected since they collect city property taxes. Dowelltown does not have a city property tax rate and would not be affected.

State law also requires cities to be responsible for sharing in the county’s costs of contracted personal property audits.

Based on 2016 numbers, Smithville’s portion would be $14,718 for real property parcels and $1,514 for its share of personal property auditing. Liberty’s costs would be $1,295 ( real property parcels) and $6.00 (personal property auditing). Alexandria’s share would be $2,814 (real property parcels) and $20.00 (personal property auditing).

Under state law, cities have the option of paying the real property reappraisal costs on a yearly basis or in a lump sum in the fifth year of the reappraisal cycle.

State Establishes Fair Market Value for Cherry Hill Community Center Property

June 24, 2017
Dwayne Page
Cherry Hill Community Center

The county has not yet received an official notice but has learned that the state has established a fair market value of $7,200 for the Cherry Hill Community Center property on Cookeville Highway.

County Mayor Tim Stribling briefed the county commission on the matter Thursday night during an all committees meeting at the courthouse. The issue is expected to be discussed again during the regular monthly meeting of the county commission Monday night, June 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse.

The excess land committee of the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Right of Way Division met in January and granted approval for the sale of the land clearing the way for the county’s outright ownership of the Cherry Hill Community Center property.

Although the state deeded the 0.24 acre site to DeKalb County in August, 1981, a restriction currently requires the county to use the property for public purposes. After taking control of the site in the 1980’s the county constructed the Cherry Hill Community Center there. In recent years community interest in the center has waned and the building is now in need of repairs. Members of the county commission have expressed an interest in either disposing of the property or leasing it.

In order to have the “public use” deed restriction removed and for the county to assume total control of the property, the county commission several months ago authorized County Mayor Stribling to file with the Tennessee Department of Transportation an application for “Conveyance of Interest of Surplus TDOT Right of Way”.

County Mayor Stribling explained that this process requests the state to ascertain the fair market value of the property should the county decide to purchase it.

“The committee has determined that the public use restriction can be released if fair market value is paid by the county. After all necessary approvals have been obtained you will be issued and executed a release of all restrictions,” according to a letter to the county from TDOT’s Right of Way Division.

“If we do buy the property at fair market value then that restriction for public use will be removed from the deed,” said County Mayor Stribling.

The county is not required to buy the property from the state.

In other business Monday night, the county commission will consider reappointing Genrose Davis, Jane Ramsey, and Bobby White to new three year terms on the DeKalb County Library Board. The commission will also act on a continuing budget and tax rate resolution to keep county government operating passed June 30 until the new budget is adopted for the 2017-18 fiscal year next month.

Trustee Sean Driver is also expected to give a report to the commission on property tax collections. As of Thursday, June 22, the DeKalb County Trustee’s Office had collected 96.43% of the $8.8 million in 2016 county property taxes to be collected for the year. That includes property, residential, commercial, personal, and public utility taxes.

Chamber Announces Project Welcome Mat Winners for Fiddlers Jamboree

June 24, 2017
Dwayne Page
Middle Tennessee Natural Gas received the Chamber’s “People’s Choice” award
Project Welcome Mat award for “Most Original” sign goes to DeKalb Middle School
Project Welcome Mat’s “Best Worded” sign award goes to Liberty State Bank

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners of the 2017 "Project Welcome Mat" in time for the Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival June 30 and July 1.

This year's winners are as follows: People’s Choice – Middle Tennessee Natural Gas; Most Original –DeKalb Middle School ; and Best Worded- Liberty State Bank.

"We want to thank all the businesses and DeKalb Middle School for using their message signs to welcome Jamboree visitors. It’s vitally important to make sure that our guests know how appreciated and important they are," said Suzanne Williams, Executive Director of the Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce.

Middle Tennessee Natural Gas received the Chamber’s “People’s Choice” award for helping to promote the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival with its message “Cloggers, Crafts, and Fiddlesticks, Welcome to Jamboree 46”.

The Chamber of Commerce presented the Jamboree Project Welcome Mat award for “Most Original” sign to DeKalb Middle School for the message “The Music, The Food, The Crafts...OOH WEE, Welcome to Our Jamboree”

The Chamber of Commerce presented the Project Welcome Mat’s “Best Worded” award to Liberty State Bank for the sign “Banjo Picks, Guitar Licks, & Fiddlin’ Sticks all at Jamboree 46”.

NHC Smithville #1 in Customer and Employee Satisfaction

June 24, 2017
NHC Smithville #1 in Customer and Employee Satisfaction

NHC Smithville recently obtained the highest customer satisfaction and highest employee satisfaction of all eleven NHC centers in the Central Region.

Customer satisfaction is an important measure in delivering high quality healthcare. Surveys are mailed out to patients and their families on a regular, year round basis to rate the care and services they or their loved one received. The surveys are returned anonymously to a third party vendor, MyInnerview, for analysis and summarization. NHC Smithville had the highest customer satisfaction for the month of April, and currently has the highest overall score for the past 12 month’s average.

“Having the highest customer satisfaction in our region is a significant accomplishment,” said Clint Hall, Administrator. “Our expectation is excellence, nothing less. Our partners work closely to make sure that we communicate effectively with our patients and families. And most importantly, we listen to our customers as they tell us what they hope to achieve and accomplish. We can then put together an effective plan to help them reach those goals.”

Employee satisfaction is also an important measure in delivering high quality healthcare. NHC refers to its employees as “partners”; because that is a more accurate description for the important role they serve in the organization. Surveys are completed anonymously via an online third party portal, Relias Learning, during the month of March. For this past survey period, over 100 employees completed the satisfaction survey.

“All of our partners, from housekeeping to nursing, therapy to dietary, recreation to medical records, maintenance, laundry, and administration, serve a vital function for our customers,” Hall said. “It takes a committed group of talented partners to make this organization run smoothly. We are a family who is committed to helping each other grow as professionals and as individuals. It is an honor and privilege to be a part of the NHC Smithville family.”

For more information about NHC Smithville, visit www.nhcsmithville.com or call (615) 597-4284.

Blood Drive Collects 18 Units and Raises Money for Senior Centers

June 24, 2017
Dwayne Page
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss presents funds raised through blood drive to Smithville Senior Citizens Director Pam Redmon
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss presents funds raised through blood drive to Alexandria Senior Citizens Director Sandy Brown

Eighteen units of blood were collected during Wednesday’s “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” Blood Drive, an effort which could save or contribute to the well being of up to 54 lives.

More than $400 was raised for both the Smithville and Alexandria Senior Citizen Centers thanks to several local elected and appointed county officials who donated $2.00 for every blood donation collected to be divided equally between the two centers.

The drive was sponsored by Cookeville Blood Assurance and DeKalb County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss. All blood collected from the Cookeville Blood Assurance Center supplies the needs of hospitals in our communities first.

The blood drive/fundraiser was supported by Assessor of Property Shannon Cantrell, Trustee Sean Driver, Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, Road Supervisor Butch Agee, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, County Mayor Tim Stribling, Sheriff Patrick Ray, and General Sessions Judge Bratten Cook, II along with Clerk and Master Deborah Malone and Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley.

Special Event Station To Be Held At Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree

June 23, 2017
Freddy Curtis
Freddy Curtis operating the contact desk

The DeKalb/Cannon County Amateur Radio Club will be conducting a Special Event Station during the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree on Saturday, July 1st, 2017 from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the front entrance of the Justin Potter Library. Ham radio operators will utilize their skills to contact other amateur (Ham) stations throughout the US and worldwide to publicize and show local support for the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree. These contacts will take place on the following frequencies in the Amateur Radio Bands: 14.280 (USB), 14.045 (CW), 7.275 (LSB) & 7.045 (CW) MHZ. The public is invited to come by and participate in this event. All amateurs in the area are asked to monitor 145.49 MHZ for more information.

The DeKalb/Cannon County Amateur Radio Club is an organization of amateur radio operators from DeKalb and Surrounding Counties and is an affiliated club of the American Radio Relay League. Call 597-9563 for additional details and information.

Picture caption: Freddy Curtis operating the contact desk

Steven Jennings Signs Contract, Gets $1.9 Million Bonus

June 23, 2017
Dwayne Page
Steven Jennings, Surrounded by Family, Signs Contract with Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced Thursday they have signed Steven Jennings to a contract.

Jennings, who was taken by the Pirates in the second-round of the Major League Baseball Draft last week and 42nd overall, will receive a $1.9 million bonus, which is reportedly $264,500 over the slot value for his pick.

The right-handed pitcher from DeKalb County High School spoke with WJLE Friday morning from Pittsburgh by phone . “I signed Thursday afternoon. We flew to Pittsburgh. We left on Monday and got up here and got settled in. We took a tour of the city. We walked around the city and did some fun stuff. We got a tour of the PNC Park and then met with them at their administrative office and signed a contract,” he said.

Jennings said he will be flying to Tampa, Florida where he will spend the next three months playing rookie ball. “I am in the airport at Pittsburgh. I’m flying to Tampa to start playing rookie ball. I will be there until September and then I will get to come home for the rest of September. After this first year goes they assign you to wherever they want you to go,” said Jennings.

To date the Pirates have signed 25 of their 40 picks. Their highest unsigned pick is third-rounder Dylan Busby, who is playing in the College World Series with Florida State.

Local Educator Retires After 36 Years

June 22, 2017
Bill Conger as a special feature for WJLE
Lisa Cripps

Lisa Cripps relaxes in her rocking chair, one of six sitting across a lengthy porch along the front of her house. She sips a cup of coffee and takes in the view of the 200-acre farm in Liberty that belonged to the grandfather of her husband of 40 years, Jerald Cripps. It’s an ideal way to spend her day now that the DeKalb County Schools Supervisor of Instruction has said good-bye after 36 years in education.

“I’m pretty excited about retirement,” Cripps told WJLE in a recent interview.

Even though she’s stepping down from her first career, Cripps won’t be kicking back in that rocker too much. She will be working out of the county complex as the Drug Prevention Coalition Coordinator for DeKalb County.

“I’ve already been job shadowing the current coordinator just a little bit and really feel I have circled back to my love of science and drug education I taught many years ago,” says Cripps.

“I think drug prevention is a mission in the state of Tennessee,” says Cripps, who has felt called over the years to be involved in Christian mission work. “I think it’s starting to get a lot of attention from the higher up political people, so I hope to help in their efforts to battle this problem".

Besides her new position, Cripps will stay busy working on the farm.

“I do enjoy farming. A lot of people don’t know that about me. We raise Charolais cattle on two farms. What I’ve been doing the last week—bush hogging, fencing, and raking hay when the weather permits,” she adds.

Most importantly for this mother and grandmother is devoting more time to her family.

“I have six grandchildren that I love dearly and plan to spend a lot of time with them, as well as, the rest of our large family. The Frazier family has been very blessed over the years”.

Cripps’ children are Matt, a supervisor for UPS, (wife Melody), Jordan (wife Nicole), a Tool and Die maker, and Justin (wife Tiffany), a pharmacist who works in Murfreesboro and McMinnville hospitals.

Her oldest grandson, Christian, started in PreK at DWS this past school year.

“That’s where I started teaching so it’s pretty special to have him at DWS. [The principal] Mrs. Sabrina Farler has already asked me to be one of the school's volunteers, so I will be volunteering in the schools when I can.”

She also hopes to do more traveling. She and her husband have visited a lot of places including Brazil on a missionary trip. They recently went on a cruise to Alaska to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary and her retirement.

Her Career in Education
With both parents as educators, it probably seemed destiny for Cripps to go into education. Her father, Woodrow Frazier, was the first principal at DeKalb West School, and her mother, Louise who will be 100-years-old in July, started the first elementary library at Smithville Elementary School.

Cripps graduated D.C.H.S. in 1976 and immediately went to her parents’ alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University. At first she set her sights on psychology, but it wasn’t long before she switched majors to education. After earning her Bachelor’s degree, she served a short stint substitute teaching until she was hired in 1980 to teach reading and math in the upper grades at DeKalb West.

“When I first started teaching, Jean Hayes was the principal, and I did a little math teaching,” Cripps recalls. “I found out pretty quickly I did not have the love of math that some of my siblings have, my sister's Judy Kimbrell, retired Safety Coordinator, Peggy Thomas, Career Tech teacher, Kathy Hendrix was a math teacher at the high school before she became principal at DCHS, Deborah Fuson, retired accountant, my late brothers, John Frazier, was a physicist, who got the experiments ready to go up in the space shuttle, and Ronnie, who worked in Automotive Industry" .

Fortunately, she later moved to teaching science.

“I’m glad that science is what I fell in love with and got the opportunity to teach, because it really is in everything that surrounds and affects all living things".

During her tenure at DWS, she included Boating Safety and Hunter Safety in her curriculum at the request of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. In fact, once she received Teacher of the Year for Hunter’s Safety.

While working fulltime and raising her three children, Cripps studied for her Master’s degree at MTSU at night. After she finished her studies in administration in the middle of 1995 Cripps was called upon to transfer to Smithville Elementary as Assistant Principal.

“I had always worked with older children, but really grew to love those little children,” Cripps fondly remembers. “It was the only school in our system that wasn’t accredited, so I was told right up front by Mr. Ernest Ray (Superintendent of Schools at the time), we need to get this school accredited. It also was maxed out—850 students—. As a matter of fact, my office was the same broom closet Anita Puckett’s is still in today.”

“We started in and got a team together. Jane Groom was my co-chair. We had a team that worked really hard, and we got accredited that next year. That was a great accomplishment there. We also did some facelifts to that school, got some asbestos out and did some things there that really needed to be done.”

After five and a half years at SES, the assistant principal jobs were eliminated and Cripps was transferred to teaching at Northside Elementary School.

“In my life I have never entered a job that I didn’t feel like God had opened a door for me to enter,” Cripps explains. “I never did feel like that NSE was right fit for me and really was prayerful during that time, had a team praying with me. I never unpacked anything. All my friends would come by and they would say, Lisa, we’ll help you unpack. I said, ‘Don’t touch a thing! I do not feel a calling for here’.”

With her items still in boxes, Cripps got the call to teach science at DeKalb Middle School when Tom Hill moved to the computer lab.

“I was there right at ten years at DeKalb Middle School and loved the age group and subject assignments. That was really a family atmosphere, and I taught with Pat Barnes, Gail Kirksey, Vicky Terrell, Lori Hendrix, Tonya Sullivan, and Tena Davidson, I could name on. Just so many awesome people there and I enjoyed my time teaching science and reading.”

While at DMS, Cripps was named Teacher of the Year in 2008 for the county. A year later, she became the first and only teacher so far to win that prestigious honor at the regional level.

But it’s not necessarily the awards that mean the most to the veteran educator.

“If I had to look back at some of the big events of my life I’d have to say I have really enjoyed working in my church, Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church. I enjoy serving there alongside my husband Jerald, and the other would be working with all the wonderful children over the years. It has been a joy to witness all their success after graduating."

In 2011, she heard about an opening for a supervisor’s position at the central office.

“I applied and served in as supervisor for the last six years. I will tell you, in all my years in education, administration is the hardest job you’re going to be in. It’s certainly the most stressful and you wear many job hats. ”

“I knew the first week I was on the job why God had placed me there. I am thankful for the overall knowledge of how a school system functions. You know the old saying, the grass is greener on the other side, until you have to start mowing it. That rings out very true for those in administration."

“I have learned a lot about people over the years. I’m thankful for my time there at Central Office and will forever remember my lasting friendships there".

After six years in that position and more than 3 decades total in education, the beloved educator is moving on with the next chapter of her life.

“I have enjoyed my years in education and look forward to whatever God opens the door for me to do in the future. I believe the key for any successful system is to work as a team and clearly communicate. It will be exciting to watch the progress our school system makes in the future, “Cripps said.


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