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Missing Surgeon, Bounds hearing top news for second half of 2011
(This is the second in a two-part series summarizing the top local news stories of 2011)The last half of 2011 passed in DeKalb County with the naming of a new county extension agent, a new CEO for DTC, a new county budget, and more than one dissapearance on Center Hill Lake.JULY* Will McMeans of Lester, Alabama won the Berry C. Williams Memorial Award at the 40th annual Fiddler's Jamboree after the Grand Finale Fiddle-Off between the best Junior and Senior Fiddler of the event.McMeans took the top prize by beating Senior Fiddling contest winner Don Sadler of CookevilleCara Digiovanni of Greenbrier was crowned the Grand Champion fiddler and was awarded the prestigious James G. "Bobo" Driver Memorial Award. * Two people died and seven others were injured in a two-car crash in Warren County.Derrick Reeder, 31, and 24-year-old Brittnay Fitts were killed in the accident.Injured were 24-year-old Kara Funk and 22-year-old Brandon Byford of Smithville, 24-year-old Tammy Edwards of Woodbury and four juveniles.According to the THP, Edwards was driving east on Shelbyville Road in a 1995 Ford Mustang while Reeder was heading west in a 1997 Acura.Edwards' vehicle apparently crossed the center line, hitting Reeder's vehicle head on.* Michael Barry was named the new director of the local UT Agricultural Extension Service in July.Barry took over from long-time county agent Steve Officer, who retired from the position on July 1.Barry began his career in White County in 1994, then served at the Warren County Extension Office for 14 years before coming to DeKalb.A Whitehouse native, Barry earned a Bachelor's degree at MTSU and a Masters degree at UT-Knoxville. AUGUSTRichard Jennings, former Smithville Police Chief and long-time employee of the department who filed suit against the City of Smithville for wrongful termination in 2009, placed his case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals and lost in August.The lawsuit, filed in DeKalb County Chancery Court in February, 2010 alleged that his termination from the position of police chief was fraudulent, arbitrary and capricious. Represented in the suit by Murfreesboro attorney Kerry Knox, Jennings had also asked the court to order the city to restore him to his position with the Smithville Police Department.On Dec. 7, 2009, the board of aldermen upheld the city discipline board's November 2009 decision to terminate Jennings for dereliction of duties/negligence with four votes in favor of dismissal.Jennings initially filed suit in federal court, which was dismissed in February, 2010.Chancellor Ronald Thurman presided over a hearing in September, 2010, and issued a final order in November, affirming the decision of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen “in all respects.”An appeal was then filed on Jennings behalf with the Tennessee Court of Appeals, who handed down a ruling on Aug. 11, 2011, again affirming the Chancery Court’s ruling in a majority opinion.Jennings’ suit claimed that the city never established any cause for his termination, that the city violated his constitutional due process rights, and that he was the victim of age discrimination.Jennings still has the right to appeal the case further.* The DeKalb County Fire Department's Insurance Services Office (ISO) service area rating improved from a Class 9 to a Class 6 in August.The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department was also recognized as one of Tennessee's elite fire departments for outstanding training achievement for the third year in a row.The department logged 1,393 training hours and was recognized as a Silver Level fire department in Tennessee for 2010-11.* The county commission voted 12-2 to increase the overall property tax rate to $1.62 cents per $100 of assessed value, an almost 10-cent increase over the certified tax rate of $1.5214 set by the state.Five cents of the tax hike was earmarked for the school system and the other five cents will go in to the county general fund.The commission unanimously voted down on the school board's budget, which included an 11.54-cent tax hike for schools and an additional $169,000 in funding from the sales tax/sinking fund.The commission instead voted 13-1 to adopt a consolidated budget recommended by the budget committee.* The body of 10-year-old Elizabeth Grace Hathaway was recovered from the Hidden Harbor Marina area of Center Hill Lake after she fell from a houseboat and drowned during a Labor Day boating tragedy.The body of the child, who was not wearing a life jacket, was near the back of the family's houseboat, which was docked at the marina.* Craig Gates was named the new CEO of the DeKalb Telephone Cooperative in September.Gates, a 27-year veteran of the telecommunications industry, began his career in 1984 and previously served as chief operating officer and vice president for Project Mutual; a cooperative in Rupert, Idaho.OCTOBER* Nashville surgeon William Coltharp went missing while kayaking on Center Hill Lake on Oct. 2, and has yet to be located.An empty handgun case belonging to Coltharp was found near the Hurricane boat ramp, and a witness reported that he had seen a man loading a concrete cylinder onto a kayak before paddling away on the day the doctor went missing.