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January 2021

Hwy 25 Down to One Lane Starting Next Week for Rockfall Mitigation Project

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will be beginning a rockfall mitigation project near the area known as Petty Bluff on Dixon Springs Hwy (Highway 25) north of the Hwy 80 and Hwy 25 intersection by the end of the month.

From Monday, January 11, through Monday, January 18, traffic control measures will be installed. Traffic will be limited to one lane at a time with temporary automated signals on each end of the closure. The roadway will be reduced to one lane for the duration of the project. The current estimated completion date is September 30, 2021.

The project’s scope is scaling and trim blasting of the existing rock face to remove loose rocks, impediments, and vegetation/trees where root growth could cause rocks to dislodge in the future. A wire mesh rockfall drape will be installed along the rock’s face after completing the scaling and trim blasting.

Please see below for the approximate location of the lane closure based upon the provided TDOT information.

Lottery Tickets Taken During Armed Robbery in Gordonsville

On the evening of December 22, 2020, Gordonsville Police were dispatched to the Exxon gas station in Gordonsville at 477 Gordonsville Hwy.

The clerk reported that one male subject requested to purchase $30 worth of lottery tickets. While the clerk was completing the transaction, the subject produced a firearm and demanded the lottery tickets. The clerk handed over the tickets, and the subject fled out the front door on foot.

Later, the lottery tickets were attempted to be redeemed at a store in Jackson, TN; however, the clerk of that store informed the subject that they could only be redeemed at the corporate offices of the lottery commission in Nashville. The subject left the Jackson, TN store in a black Chrysler minivan.

The individual was described as a black male of about six feet in height, wearing a gray zip-up hoodie and blue jeans. The subject is believed to be an opportunistic robber who was traveling down Interstate 40.

Local Poker League Collects Cans for Help Center

Carthage, TN – (January 1st, 2021) Ebel’s Tavern Poker League collected 2,732 cans for the Smith County Help Center, located in Downtown Carthage. The Help Center is a non-profit organization helping those in need of assistance with food, utilities and emergency needs. It operates on donations made by concerned individuals, businesses and churches.

Ebel’s Tavern, a local restaurant known for its “American Surf & Turf”, atmosphere and live events, started a free Wednesday night poker league over the summer. What began with just a simple fun game between friends, developed into a National League Slot, competing with other leagues across the nation. The league boasts of nightly prizes of gift cards and increases all the way up to seats being awarded for cash games in Las Vegas.

While prizes are a huge incentive, the biggest incentive is the community it provides. “This game has brought together people who never knew each other and created lasting relationships that have gone beyond just poker.” says Shenia Pellum, the league organizer. “To see the camaraderie that has developed among the players, manifest into love and service to our local community has been absolutely amazing!”

“This can be a win for everyone in the community. You’ve got a bunch of people who love to hang out with each other and are so inclusive and welcoming of everyone to the table.” says restaurant owner, Cole Ebel. “Why not incentivize those same great people to raise donations for a good cause while having fun? The beauty of it all is it’s 100% voluntary.”

The league will be collecting donations for the Smith County Pregnancy Help Center next month, including diapers and wipes. The Pregnancy Help Center offers life-affirming compassionate care to women, men and children who face pregnancy related issues.

This is a community submitted article. Article submissions may be sent to news@smithcountyinsider.com for consideration of publication.

Emmanuel House’s Taste of River City Fundraiser Postponed; Donations Encouraged

Letter submitted by Emmanuel House Board President Monica Mowdy.

As president of the board of directors of the Emmanuel House, I have been blessed to be a part of this wonderful organization. The Smith County Emergency Shelter for Women and Children, Inc. (also known as The Emmanuel House), has flourished in Smith County thanks to the generous individuals here as well as many other supporters from churches to businesses. Many of you have provided faith support, taught classes, provided transportation, and donation of much needed personal items and Christmas gifts. There have also been many wonderful employers that have offered employment to our residents. Thank you for taking a chance on us. We absolutely could not help women take that next best step in their lives without each and every one of you.

Like so many other individuals, businesses and other non-profit organizations, The Emmanuel House has been hit hard by the COVID-19 virus, but we have persevered thanks to generous people like you. As expected, some of our funding was affected due to cancellations and postponements of fund-raisers. It was our plan to hold our second annual Taste of River City on January 21, 2021; however, the Board of Directors have decided it would be best to wait until later in the New Year. We have a meager budget that is supported in part by the rent the residents pay. The rest of the funding comes from donations, grants and sponsorships and the decision to postpone is not one taken lightly due to the financial impact it could have on our operations.

Here is where you can help! As you plan your giving for the new year, I am personally asking that you consider including the Emmanuel House as one of the fine Smith County non-profit organizations. The easiest ways you can give are:

Mail a donation to:
The Emmanuel House PO Box 344 Gordonsville, TN 38563

Or send to:
Citizens Bank
Routing #: 064107729
Account #: 12277223

Thank you again for the support you have provided in the past and what you will give in the future. Remember to keep an eye out for an announcement regarding the new date for our next Taste of River City!


Monica Mowdy


Smith County Weather Report – January 7, 2021

by Steve Norris, Smith County Insider Weather Correspondent

It looks like it could be next Tuesday before we get much above 45 degrees as a cold air mass is sitting over Tennessee, and we’re going to have chances of a little precipitation off and on into early next week. Keep up with the latest forecast because any of these systems can change quickly and bring slick road conditions as we drop below freezing at night. It continues to look like we’re going to get more winter weather from mid-January on through most of February, so I think we’re going to have some really interesting days down the road. Usually, if we get lots of winter weather in January and February, we get an early spring, and I don’t think that folks would be upset about that.

Be prepared for anything. On January 3, 2000, we hit 72 degrees, and Clarksville hit 71 degrees. January 7, 1988, brought six to ten inches of snow across Middle Tennessee. Just six years ago, on the 7th of 2014, temperatures dropped to 3 below zero in our area and 9 Below in Crossville. If you have any weather questions, drop me an e-mail at weather1@charter.net

DTC Communications awarded federal grant to expand in Smith, Wilson and Trousdale counties

DTC Communications awarded federal grant to expand in Smith, Wilson and Trousdale counties

Smith County Mayor Jeff Mason

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — DTC Communications is using federal grant funding to expand fiber optic broadband into areas of Middle Tennessee that currently do not have access to reliable internet service.

The Alexandria-based telecommunications cooperative received about $3.2 million to expand fiber broadband into parts of Smith, Wilson and Trousdale counties. About $2.2 million comes from a U.S. Department of Agriculture ReConnect grant, and the remainder comes from a Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development grant, which was made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Funding from these grants will cover about 75% of the total project cost. DTC will cover the rest.

The grants will deploy about 127 miles of new fiber in areas that currently do not have broadband access. The new networks will serve about 670 homes and businesses in this area.

From left: Levoy Knowles, Tennessee Broadband Association Executive Director; Chris Townson, CEO of DTC; Jeff Mason, Smith County Mayor; and Bennie Curtis, Vice-President of DTC board.

State Senator Ferrell Haile, whose District 18 includes a portion of this project area, praised the USDA, the state ECD, and the leadership of DTC Communications for bringing broadband to these rural communities.

“The pandemic has taught us that, if you’re confined to home trying to stay safe, you must have broadband access for education and business,” Haile said. “Without broadband, you’re isolated from so many opportunities. This fiber project will bring critical connectivity to the people in these counties who need it to function in today’s world, and I appreciate the team effort of everyone involved to make this project happen.”

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, who represents a portion of the project area in House District 40, agrees.

“Broadband is a vital, must-have utility, just like water and electricity,” she said. “I am thrilled at the progress being made to connect rural Tennessee homes and businesses to a strong broadband infrastructure. We will stay the course until everyone in our state is connected.”

State Sen. Mark Pody’s District 17 includes a portion of the project area.

“We’re committed to solving the rural broadband challenge in Tennessee,” he said. “Our residents need broadband, our businesses need broadband, our schools and doctors’ offices and government agencies need broadband. The health crisis we’ve experienced for the past several months has highlighted that need. You’ll continue to see the legislature supporting the efforts of companies like DTC as they build fiber networks into our rural communities.”

Tennessee Broadband Association Executive Director Levoy Knowles praised members like DTC for working to bring this technology to people in rural parts of the state.

“Access to broadband means more opportunities in education, health care, economic development and so much more,” Knowles said. “There are many places in Tennessee where these opportunities don’t exist because they don’t have access to reliable internet, but our members believe everyone deserves access to this life-changing technology.”

The grants allow DTC up to two years to complete the projects, but DTC CEO Chris Townson said they hope to have the project completed by the end of 2021.

“These residents do not have access to fast, reliable internet, but under our board of directors’ leadership, DTC employees are working hard to change that,” he said. “Fiber broadband is the fastest, most advanced internet available, and we are bringing it to unserved and underserved portions of Tennessee.”

State Rep. Clark Boyd, whose District 46 represents part of the fiber project area in Wilson County, says for businesses and residents in this area, having access to fast, reliable fiber broadband is a necessity.

“As we see more and more people working from home, whether it be because of COVID-19 or a choice their company has made, or students who need internet access for homework, broadband is paramount to their ability to do that,” he said. “I am very proud to see DTC get this money. They have proven to be great partners and are serious about delivering broadband to the underserved and rural areas in Tennessee.”

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto agrees.

“It’s exciting to know that broadband will be available in 2021 to the more remote portions of Wilson and surrounding counties. This year has certainly taught us that communication is critical now more than ever. This will benefit not only those unserved portions of our county but also those who need to communicate with them, frequently, like our teachers and health care providers,” he said. “I’d like to thank the Tennessee Broadband Association and DTC for their hard work in advocating for fiber broadband in areas that need it most in Wilson County. We appreciate all you do.”

Smith County Mayor Jeff Mason says the project will help connect areas in the county that haven’t had access to fiber broadband before.

“As we’ve seen the world change in the last 10 months, we’ve also seen the need for fiber broadband become that much more of an important need, especially in our rural communities,” he said. “Chris and his crew at DTC have been great to work with, and they’ve gone above and beyond to search out these grants and get service to these areas.”

In Trousdale County, residents and businesses will also be greatly impacted by the project.

“It’s going to provide internet service to those people who previously didn’t have an option,” said Stephen Chambers, mayor of Trousdale County. “I’d like to thank DTC for extending service to that area in Trousdale County and thank the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and USDA for putting the grant forward.”

Studies show that access to broadband is one of the key factors businesses consider when deciding whether to locate in a specific area. It is also proven to increase property values by as much as $5,400.

The Tennessee Broadband Association is made up of independent and cooperatively owned telecommunications companies like DTC Communications that connect almost 30% of the state to broadband and related services. Together, TNBA members have invested more than $240 million in recent years to connect rural Tennessee to fiber broadband networks.

For more information about TNBA, visit tennesseebroadband.com. To learn more about DTC Communications, visit dtccom.net.

Weekend Fire Destroys RV in Pea Ridge

Photo Credit: Jennifer Herndon Baril

A fire was reported on the 300 block area of Pea Ridge Rd on Saturday afternoon. The initial call came in about 4:30 pm, and both the Forks River and Central District fire departments were dispatched to the area.

An RV owned by Robert Hickman was destroyed in the fire. Mr. Hickman had left and was not present when the fire started. The cause of the fire is still pending further investigation. No injuries were reported.

On scene support was also provided by the Smith County Emergency Medical Service and Smith County Sheriff’s Office.

Keep Smith County Beautiful Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service Scheduled for January 18, 2021

Start the new year out right by volunteering in our community! The Keep Smith County Beautiful committee is hosting a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 18, 2021.

The day will begin at 9:00 a.m., following a light breakfast at the Smith County Ag Center.  Gloves and safety vests will be provided to all volunteers, and community service hours will be verified if needed. The day will end with a light lunch at 1:00 p.m.

This is a great family event and an opportunity to be a positive example for youth in our community. Make it a day on, not a day off!

Join the Keep Smith County Beautiful committee in serving the community through cleanup and beautification!

For more information about this volunteer event, contact Barbara Kannapel at 615-489-5900 or Erika Ebel at 615-739-3649. You may also visit the Keep Smith County Beautiful Facebook page.

2021 4-H Chick Chain Registration Now Open

2020 Chick Chain Winners: Abby Malone and Kacie Malone

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken will definitely come first for many Smith County 4-H’ers who choose to participate in the 4-H Chick Chain Project.

The 4-H Chick Chain gives 4-H members the opportunity to develop an understanding and working knowledge of good poultry management and marketing practices. As with any 4-H livestock project, Chick Chain teaches personal responsibility by working with animals that depend on the 4-H member to provide proper feed, housing, care, and management. The member also develops self-esteem and decision-making skills that will be beneficial throughout their life.

Smith County’s Chick Chain project involves a 4-H member purchasing baby chicks and raising them for laying hens. The day-old chicks should arrive in April. The 4-H member provides housing, brooding equipment, feeders, waterers, and feed.

After raising a set of birds in the Chick Chain Project, 4-H’ers participate in the Smith County 4-H Poultry Show which is held in October. The 4-H member selects their best three birds, and they are judged as a pen with the other entries. Trophies, ribbons, and prizes are awarded to the best entries. An auction will also take place where 4-H’ers will have the opportunity to sell their hens to local buyers.

Upon successful completion of the project, the 4-H member has a flock of laying hens. This often develops into a small business where the 4-H member may sell the excess eggs. Participants may also have fully developed laying hens available for sale.

Orders for this year’s Chick Chain are due in the 4-H office by Monday, February 1st. Australorps and Rhode Island Reds are this year’s breeds, and 4-H’ers can purchase between 12 and 25 chicks for $3 each. Order forms can be picked up at our office or found on our website at http://smith.tennessee.edu. If you have any questions or need more information, please call the Smith County Extension Office at 735-2900.


Tennessee Highway Patrol Locates Two Missing Kentucky Teenagers in Smith County

Photo Credit: Tennessee Highway Patrol

The Tennessee Highway Patrol recovered two missing teenagers, Benjamin Combs and Summer Combs, from Knott County, Kentucky, on Tuesday, January 6, 2021, on Interstate 40 in Smith County near mile marker 259.

The Kentucky State Police had been searching for the two missing teens, who were last seen in the Hindman community of Knott County, Kentucky, since January 2, 2021.

Tennessee State Trooper Melching stopped a black 1987 Chevrolet S-10, matching the description of the vehicle the teens were believed to be traveling in, at about 10:30 am. The teenagers were placed into protective custody to be picked up by their guardians and are safe.

Gov. Lee Announces New COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Tool

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced a new digital tool to help inform Tennesseans when they will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“In addition to creating a strong infrastructure for distribution, we’re currently one of the top states in the nation for total doses administered, vaccinating more than 150,000 Tennesseans in just two weeks,” said Gov. Lee. “This tool is yet another step we’re taking to provide Tennesseans with critical information as our vaccine supply increases and more phases become eligible.”

The eligibility tool allows users to opt-in to receive updates and notifications about their vaccine phase and provides risk-based and age-based phase information at the county level.

Vaccine phases and the current estimated vaccine timeline can be found here.

The eligibility tool and COVID-19 information can be accessed at https://covid19.tn.gov/.

Sophie Linder Named Top Junior Girl’s Golfer in State for 2020

Photo Credit: Tennessee Golf Association

Sophie Linder closed out her impressive 2020 campaign by being honored as the Tennessee Golf Association’s 2020 Girls’ Junior Golfer of the Year. She was also named to The Tennessean All-Midstate on December 27th and is a finalist for the Tennessean’s Middle Tennessee girls golfer of the year, which will be announced later this year. In addition, she received All-State honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association on January 4th.

Linder’s success results from a great work ethic and determination to play in the LPGA one-day. Linder competes year-round in various elite competitions, usually against individuals older than herself, and is regularly found at the top of the event leaderboards.

Linder, a sophomore at Gordonsville High School, won her second consecutive TSSAA state title at the 2020 TSSAA Small Class Girls’ Golf Championship and five Sneds Tour events, including Masters victories at Old Fort, Bear Trace – Harrison Bay, Willowbrook, Vanderbilt Legends, and Montgomery Bell. She also competed in other elite events this year, including finishing third at the TN Junior PGA Girls Championship and TN Golf Association Girls Junior and a top-10 finish at the TN Women’s Amateur.

Other accolades for Linder in 2020 included being named the MVP of the East Team at the TN Junior Cup hosted by Scott Stallings and being low qualifier with her partner at the Inaugural The Scotty tournament. One of her favorite events was the Tennessee Cup at the Golf Club of Tennessee, where she and other junior golfers from across the state raised money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Linder stated, “I am honored to win this award because there are so many talented golfers across the state. I appreciate the Tennessee Golf Association and hope to represent them well.”

Linder begins her 2021 campaign at the Annika Invitational at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, FL on January 15th.

Food for Thought: Sugar

By Mary Parker Draper, Extension Agent – Smith County

With all the sweet treats that have tempted us over the holidays, we may find ourselves craving sugar more than usual. Is sugar addictive?

We think of addiction being from alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, but scientists have found that sugar is as addictive as some hard-core drugs. Today, there is much concern about the amount of sugar in our diet and the harm it can cause to our health.

It is believed by many people that the primary harm caused by sugar is that it leads to obesity and related diseases.  However, researchers claim that sugar is a toxin that causes all sorts of lifestyle diseases, including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

To the question “Can sugar really be addictive?”, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues a definition of addiction. The FDA defines addiction as a craving for and continued use of a substance that is hazardous to your well-being. Research has found that chemical reactions in animals to sugar has similar effect as to cocaine.  Even with this finding, whether sugar is addictive is still debatable. However, we know that for many of us, giving up sweets is very difficult.

Sugar can stimulate the brain in the same way as hard drugs. Getting off sugar leads to withdrawals and cravings. Detox is a trend to help reduce sugar intake. Does it really work? A gradual decrease in daily sugar may be the best solution.

Sugar doesn’t just come from sweets, but is also hidden in processed foods, breads, and drinks. Sodas can contain as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar per can. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults get no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar a day. Sugar is often found in foods we do not think of containing sugar. When restricting sugar intake, think about checking sugar content in bread, crackers, salad dressing, ketchup, and light mayonnaise. Reading labels is important to help reduce sugar intake.

Check out the following tips to help in sugar reduction:

  • Serve smaller portions of sweets and desserts
  • Switch to unsweetened beverages like water
  • Avoid impulse buying of sugary foods
  • Do not offer sweet foods as a reward, especially to children
  • Make fruit your everyday dessert
  • Make sweet treats really “treats,” not everyday food items
  • Read the labels of food items carefully and choose those with less sugar
  • Avoid foods that have been modified to be low fat, but have increased sugar

Visit www.choosemyplate.gov to get more advice on general nutrition and to help reduce your sugar intake.


Impossible Taco Pie

1 pound ground beef, browned with onions and drained

1/2 cup chopped onions

1 package taco mix

1 (4 oz) can green chiles, drained

1 1/4 cups milk

3/4 cup Bisquick baking mix

3 eggs

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease pie plate. After you brown hamburger and drain, stir in taco mix and pour into pie plate. Top with green chiles. Beat milk, eggs, and baking mix until smooth. Pour over mixture, then add tomatoes and cheese. Bake until knife inserted comes out clean. Serve with chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, and lettuce. Submitted by Vickie Givens, Defeated FCE Club.

Smith County Schools Return to Class on January 5, 2021 with Hybrid Schedule

Smith County students will return to class after Winter/Christmas break on Tuesday January 5, 2021; however, the previous hybrid schedule will still be in effect countywide. Students began a hybrid learning schedule on November 30, 2020. The hybrid schedule is planned to run through Friday, February 12, 2021. Students are expected to participate in class and complete assignments five days a week through in-class instruction and virtual remote instruction. The school calendar for the school year has not been altered. Click here to download a printable PDF version of the 2020/2021 Smith County School Calendar.

As part of the plan, every student in the county will participate in hybrid learning on Wednesdays; however, the rest of the week’s schedules vary by their grade, name, and school. Each school has published a detailed schedule for its students. Please see the links below for each school in the county.

Carthage Elementary School

Defeated Elementary School

Forks River Elementary School

Gordonsville Elementary School

Gordonsville High School

New Middleton Elementary School

Union Heights Elementary School

Smith County Middle School

Smith County High School

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