Local News Articles

New Industry Off to Great Start

June 4, 2015
Dwayne Page
Chris Vanatta (left) and Tim West
Cabinets made by Master Custom Cabinetry of TN. Inc
Kitchen Cabinets made by Master Custom Cabinetry of TN. Inc

Smithville's newest industry is off to a great start

After only eight months in operation, Master Custom Cabinetry of TN. Inc. is already preparing to relocate to a larger facility within the next two weeks.

The company, manufacturer of custom cabinets, began operations in October after renting the old popcorn factory building on Miller Road. The owners, President Tim West and Vice President Chris Vanatta soon realized that the facility would not be large enough to meet the growing demands for their products. They have since purchased the old Texas Boot building just down the street.

Both West and Vanatta spoke with WJLE in an interview Tuesday.

"We opened October 1, 2014 and began setting equipment. We started with Chris and I and two other employees setting equipment. In November 2014, we started up production with one set. In December we began taking on two or three sets per week (smaller jobs). By January 1 we were in full production. We're outgrowing this location. This building (old popcorn factory) is 32,000 square feet. We're using 23,000 square feet of it. We're going to need more square footage in order to be able to hire the people and put in the extra processes to get the job done," said West.

"Within the next week or two, we'll be relocating to the old Texas Boot building. We're currently moving things but we won't be completely up there for probably two weeks," added Vanatta.

According to West, the company currently employs around twenty five people but plans are to add hundreds more over the next few years. "Our first year is going well. We started laying foundations in the very beginning in putting things in place. But the sales grew so fast that between Chris, myself, and another office person we could not keep up with it so we've had to bring extra people in to do separate jobs. We were trying to wear many hats and do several different jobs. It didn't take but a few months to outgrow that. Our ultimate plan is going to be like a seven to eight year plan. We'd love to get to a $50 million dollar a year company, which would employ 350 plus people based on those sales," he said.

While the industry is capable of dealing directly with the consumer for custom work, they primarily sell to distributors and designers. " It's mainly custom cabinets but we do basically any type of cabinetry or wood work that they need for their house including trim, book cases, entertainment centers, vanities, etc. People can come by and tell us what they need. We would need a set of drawings and any pictures of what you would like. We can show you some door styles and color blocks but we're not a design house. We are doing a few local jobs but most of ours is through distributors," said Vanatta.

Master Custom Cabinetry currently does business in six states. By bringing in revenue from other places, West said the company is contributing to the economy in Tennessee. "We're currently selling in six states and bringing in revenue from other states that is distributed a lot here in Tennessee not only with employment, but we deal with local businesses, hardware, and supply places. We try to do everything we can locally as far as buying from local vendors. The majority of the other vendors we do have as far as hardwoods and plywood and things of that nature. They are all Tennessee based. So we are distributing the money back into the state of Tennessee," West said.

Master Custom Cabinetry is an equal opportunity employer and while skilled laborers are preferred, on the job training is available. "We have some people that have training in a specialized field. For example, in our finish department, we have people with training in finish, but we also have hired people we are training in finish," said West.

"We want to start training people three deep. For example, if you have one guy that's over the cutting department, we want him to train two other people so that if he gets sick or goes on vacation, it's not a big deal. He can leave without having to worry about the job getting done. If you've got two other people filling in for him, it keeps the production and flow going. We don't want people to work harder. We want to make it to where they can work smarter and enjoy what they are doing," West continued.

As for wages, West said the industry is competitive with others in the area and plans to offer attractive benefits to employees. "We're trying to be competitive. Our wages depends on their experience as to where we start them out at. Our very entry level jobs start at $8.50 per hour. We look at it at 30 days as far as how fast they progress and then every six months we review their performance and set goals for them. As long as they make the goals and they're at work like they should be then they will get their raises every six months until they top out. We're still in the process of determining where that top out is. We also want to try and give the employee a bonus two times a year for the person who is working on the floor. We want to be able to give them a bonus at Christmas and when they take their vacation," added West.

"One of the best benefits we're going to try to do as a company is we're only going to shut down during the Christmas holidays. We will probably shut down for three or four days during the Christmas season to let the whole company off. As far as the summer vacation, what we're going to do for the employees is let them plan a time when it is convenient for them and their spouse or family. They'll be able to plan their vacation when they need it or when it will be best for them. We're going to work with them on that. After they are here for one year, they will have one week of paid vacation. Probably after three years, they'll get two weeks. We're still trying to determine where that three week vacation mark will be. We haven't decided on that," said West.

Currently , the company works one shift but it may have to alter that as the business continues to grow. "When we go up there (new location) our main goal is to have one shift but there will be times when we will be running either a split shift or two shifts and we may even work toward having a full second shift at some point," said Vanatta.

"Our normal work schedule week is Monday-Thursday. We work 10 hour days. That's our 40 hours. If we have overtime to do, we have Friday left for that. At this point we've had to work about every Friday," added West.

Both West and Vanatta said they want their company to be family friendly and supportive of the community. "We try to create a family atmosphere. In the morning, we have meetings for those who want to participate. We actually have a prayer meeting. We pray for any family needs they have. We want to be a Christian based company and put God first in everything we do. We truly want to be a community based company. We want to support the community. We want to give back to this town and the people," West concluded.

Corps offers guided tours of Center Hill Dam Power Plant

June 4, 2015
Corps offers guided tours of Center Hill Dam Power Plant

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is offering the public free guided tours this summer of the Center Hill Dam Power Plant. Approximately one and a half hours in length, the tours are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, July 18 and Aug. 29.

Tour size is limited and is on a first-come, first-serve basis. All guests including minors are required to submit a request form at least five business days prior to the tour and receive confirmation from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District. Registered tour participants will be required to check in at the lock located at 270 Lancaster Road in Lancaster, Tenn. and receive a brief introduction prior to visiting the powerhouse.

Center Hill Lake Resource Manager Kevin Salvilla said that the Corps provides the public an opportunity to see how hydropower provides the region with “green” energy and to learn more about the benefits that the lake provides such as flood risk reduction, recreation and water supply.

“We have two tours scheduled for this summer so we encourage people to sign up and come see Center Hill Dam and the powerhouse,” Salvilla said.

Center Hill Dam on the Caney Fork River is one of the multipurpose projects that make up the Corps of Engineers’ system for development of the water resources of the Cumberland River Basin. The dam and Lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938 and the River and Harbor Act of 1946. The project was completed for flood control in 1948. Three power generating units provide a total hydroelectric capability of 135,000 kilowatts.

To request a tour registration form and to learn more about the tours’ rules and details, please call the Center Hill Lake Resource Manager’s Office at (931) 858-3125, or visit the Center Hill Lake website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Locations/Lakes/CenterHillLake/OpenHouseTo.... Registration forms can be filled out in-person at the Center Hill Lake Resource Manager’s Office at 158 Resource Lane near the dam in Lancaster, Tenn.

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also visit Center Hill Lake’s Facebook

Candlelight Vigil Ceremony for Colten May Set for Saturday

June 3, 2015
Dwayne Page
Colten Alexander May

A memorial service for 23 month old Colten Alexander May featuring a candlelight vigil and balloon release is set for Saturday, June 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Evins Park across from the Post Office downtown Smithville.

The program is being held in remembrance of the child who died last month and to promote child abuse awareness. Jennifer Wilkerson, Executive Director of the Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center will be the guest speaker. Chris Moore of the Smithville Church of God will serve as moderator. LIVE music will also be part of the program.

Dana Poss, organizer of the event, urges everyone to attend to show support for this effort. More white tapered candles are needed. If you would like to make a donation of candles call Dana at 615-597-4745 extension 4 at city hall. Attendees are also asked to wear blue shirts in recognition of child abuse awareness

2016 To Be Active Election Year

June 3, 2015
Dwayne Page
2016 To Be Active Election Year

After a busy election year in 2014, DeKalb County voters get a break this year except in Alexandria where town leaders will be chosen in September. But the campaign season will gear up again in 2016 with a Presidential election along with several local races.

In DeKalb County, the Assessor of Property Office and all seven constable positions will be up for election. The incumbents are Assessor Scott Cantrell and Constables Chad Curtis in the first district, Chris Tramel in the second district, Travis Bryant in the third district, Paul Cantrell in the fourth district, Mark Milam in the fifth district, Carl Lee Webb in the sixth district, and Johnny King in the seventh district.

Party nominees and any Independents for the offices of Assessor of Property and Constable will be on the August 2016 General Election Ballot along with school board candidates in the fifth and sixth district as well as in the fourth district (to fill the remaining two years of an unexpired term). All terms are for four years. Those school board seats are currently held by W.J. (Dub) Evins, III in the fifth district, Doug Stephens in the sixth district, and Kate Miller in the fourth district (appointed to fill two years of her husband Billy Miller's unexpired term).

The Smithville, Liberty, and Dowelltown Municipal elections will also be held in August 2016. Again, all terms are for four years.

In Smithville, voters will elect three aldermen. The incumbents up for re-election are Shawn Jacobs, Josh Miller, and Danny Washer.

A mayor and two aldermen will be elected in Dowelltown. The positions are currently held by Mayor Gerald Bailiff and Aldermen Joe Bogle and Kevin Kent.

Liberty voters will choose four aldermen. Three of them to serve four years and the fourth to fill the remaining one year of an unexpired term. The three positions up for election to new four year terms are now held by Jason Ray, Paul Neal, and Todd Dodd. The person elected to the fourth seat will serve the last year of an unexpired term. J.D. Bratten currently holds that position.

In this year's Alexandria election, three aldermen are to be elected, each to serve a four year term. Meanwhile, a mayor and two other aldermen are to be elected to fill vacancies or the remaining two years of unexpired terms. The sitting members are Mayor Tony Tarpley and Aldermen Pat Jackson, David Cripps, John Suggs, and Bennett Armstrong. All are serving as appointees except for Jackson, who was elected in 2013 and still has two years remaining in his term.

Free Fishing Day Set for Saturday

June 3, 2015
Free Fishing Day Set for Saturday

Tennessee’s annual Free Fishing Day is Saturday, June 6 when anyone may fish free without a license in the state’s public waters.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides the free day in hopes of increasing interest in fishing. The day allows anyone the opportunity to try this great outdoor sport, especially children. In addition, children ages 15 and younger may fish without a license beginning on Free Fishing Day through the following Friday (June 12).

Meanwhile, the annual Pea Ridge Kids Fishing Rodeo will be held at the big pond in the Pea Ridge Wildlife Management Area on Saturday, June 6 from 7:00 a.m. until noon. Kids through age fifteen may participate. Lunch, soft drinks, and prizes will be available for the kids.

The day and week are annual events in Tennessee and are great opportunities to introduce children to the enjoyment and excitement of a day on the water catching fish. The TWRA is among several organizations planning special fishing events, primarily for youngsters. The TWRA annually stocks several thousand pounds of fish for various events.

Free Fishing Day and Week apply to Tennessee’s public waters, TWRA owned and operated lakes, and state park facilities. Some privately owned pay lakes continue to charge during this special day and week. Anglers may consult with lake operators if there are any questions about a particular facility

No Property Tax or Water Rate Increases Anticipated in Smithville

June 3, 2015
Dwayne Page
Seated: Mayor Jimmy Poss and Alderman Gayla Hendrix; Standing: Danny Washer, Jason Murphy, Josh Miller, and Shawn Jacobs
Hunter Hendrixson

Although the Mayor and Aldermen have not yet held their first budget discussions for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the City Administrator and Smithville's financial consultant have been at work.

"We're not looking at any property tax increase this year and no water rate increase for city residents," said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson during Monday night's regular monthly meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

"Janice Plemmons-Jackson (City Financial Consultant) and I have been working on the budget. We're about 85% complete with it as far as the day to day operations and line items. The only thing left is any type of pay wage increase and any capital outlay projects for this coming budget year," Hendrixson told the mayor and aldermen.

"I think we can have you a rough draft (proposed budget) by the end of the week. That way you will have time to look over it. I am still waiting on a couple of departmental heads to get me their wish list. I'll send that to you with the costs and what they are looking for. I can send it electronically. If you want to set up a budget workshop or we could open up the meeting and have a workshop/ meeting where you can vote on the budget if you choose to that same night," Hendrixson continued.

While the state wants the city to have a new budget approved by July 1, Hendrixson said a continuing resolution could be adopted until final passage if the aldermen don't meet the deadline. "The state requires you to pass a budget by July 1 of each year. If you don't you're required to pass a continuing budget resolution. We've had to do that once before. I think it was in 2010. It's not the end of the world or anything but we prefer to have one passed by July 1 if at all possible," said Hendrixson.

The mayor and aldermen Monday night set a budget workshop/special meeting for Tuesday, June 16 at 4:00 p.m. at city hall. "Once you pass it on first reading you can always tweak it. You can't pass it no less than seven days from the first reading. You would be looking at no less than June 23 before we could have another meeting. We'll see what the departmental heads request. We'll meet on June 16 and go from there," Hendrixson concluded.

Cookeville Boat Dock Asks Judge to Reconsider Tax Ruling

June 2, 2015
Cookeville Boat Dock Asks Judge to Reconsider Tax Ruling

Cookeville Boat Dock is asking a judge to reconsider a recent ruling that it must pay over $200,000 in DeKalb County property taxes, interest and penalties.

The boat dock has refused to pay the taxes since 1998 and Judge Amy Hollers ruled in April that the dock’s challenge to the tax was invalid.

The boat dock’s attorney now argues the county cannot collect taxes beyond 10 years; that the judge’s ruling on the “Supremacy Clause” of the U.S. Constitution was incorrect; and that the amount of interest the county wants to charge is above what is allowed by law.

In the motion for “additional consideration of issues,” attorney Jon Jones points to a Tennessee law that states, “All taxes assessed against real property and personal property in this state shall be barred, discharged and uncollectible after the lapse of 10 years from April 1 of the year following the year in which such taxes become delinquent, whether suit be brought within that time or not to collect the taxes…”

As for the interest issue, the defendants argue “prejudgment interest may be awarded by courts or juries in accordance with the principles of equity at any rate not in excess of a maximum effective rate of 10 percent per annum.”

The motion states that the county “has not provided a breakdown regarding its proposed computation of prejudgment interest. However, defendant (boat dock) expects the county will claim prejudgment interest at a rate of 18 percent per annum. This exceeds the maximum rate of prejudgment interest this court is allowed to award.”

The defendant goes on to suggest the interest rate “should correspond with the interest rate DeKalb County has paid during the relevant time.” Showing documentation the county borrowed money or issued bonds in recent years at rates varying from one to 5.5 percent, the defendant claims “these rates should provide the upper limit on an award of prejudgment interest that the court may make in this case.”

In relation to the “Supremacy Clause,” the defendant asks the court “to reconsider its opinion in this regard.”

Initially the defendant had claimed a section of Tennessee law violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against a lessee of the United States in favor of lessees of the State of Tennessee. It was argued since the boat dock pays fees to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which are used, in part, to pay DeKalb County a sum of “in lieu of taxes,” that having to pay property tax to the county was, in effect, double taxation.

Judge Hollers ruled last month the Supremacy Claus “does not prevent a state or local government from imposing a tax on an individual or a corporation ‘using government property in connection with a business conducted for its own private gain.’” The defendant now claims “the court ‘short circuited’ the issue of whether” the state law “is reconcilable with the Supremacy Clause.”

City Making Plans to Build Taxiway at Airport

June 2, 2015
Dwayne Page
Wes Nokes
Smithville Airport Runway

Plans are in the making for the construction of a taxiway at the Smithville Municipal Airport.

The Aldermen Monday night approved a request by Airport Manager Wes Nokes to apply for another aeronautics grant through the Tennessee Department of Transportation to acquire property adjacent to the airport for the project. If approved, the grant would be 95% funded. The city's matching portion would only be five percent or around $6,600.

"I have just come here tonight to ask your permission to apply for a grant for property purchase for the airport. This will serve in allowing us to build our full length parallel taxiway. It's between six and seven acres total. It basically amounts to a long narrow strip and moving a fence in order to meet our safety distances. The total cost for this project is going to be between $135,000 and $140,000. The variation would be for appraisals and that sort of thing. It will cost the city five percent which will be around $6,600," said Nokes.

"The FAA has mentioned for several years that the biggest safety issue we have is that we don't have a taxiway. Currently, when our planes depart they have to pull out onto the runway and taxi down the runway to either end. There is always a risk of somebody not seeing you and then coming in and landing and hitting you head on. This will prepare us to build that parallel taxiway. This is the first step in meeting that by acquiring this property," he said.

"We're at the point now where the FAA wants us to fix this major safety issue before they give us any more money (grants) in the future for revenue producing projects, such as building T-hangars and that sort of thing. They have been very generous over the last few years in giving us as much money as they have but they have reached a point where they're saying we've got to take care of our housekeeping before we give you anything else to make money with, "added Nokes.

Police Department to Offer Chaplain Services

June 2, 2015
Dwayne Page
Dwayne Cornelius

The Smithville Police Department is officially offering Chaplain services.

During Monday night's monthly meeting, the Smithville Aldermen approved Captain Steven Leffew's request to have local minister Dwayne Cornelius serve as Chaplain for the police department to provide spiritual and emotional support for members of the department as well as families affected by serious crimes or other tragic events. The Chaplain, serving on a volunteer basis without pay, will be available for guidance and counseling. The city will fund his training and provide the attire he will wear in the role as Chaplain to better identify himself to the public.

Cornelius, pastor of the New Life United Pentecostal Church, who has agreed to take on the duties will not promote any particular religious faith in his role as Chaplain. His counseling is to be non-denominational.

Captain Leffew said that while the Chaplain service is officially new to the police department, Cornelius has already been acting as Chaplain in an unofficial capacity for the last few years. "Pastor Cornelius has pretty much been playing the role of the Police Chaplain unofficially and he has done a tremendous job. We're really proud to have Dwayne a part of the police department family. He is heavily involved with the police department. He actually opens our department meetings now with prayer," said Captain Leffew.

"The Chaplain services would be volunteer. The only thing I would request would be that the Police Chaplain proper specialized training for Police Chaplains. I would also like for the Police Chaplain to be properly identified if he is called to the scene for his help. Maybe some nice dress shirts, may be embroidered to identify him," added Captain Leffew.

According to Captain Leffew, the duties of the Police Chaplain may include, but not be limited to:

*Accompanying a police officer to assist with notification of any suicide death or serious injury

* Offering prayers, assistance and spiritual support for families or victims of any tragic event.

* Working with police officers to assist in any kind of crisis situation where the presence of a trained Chaplain might help.

* Counseling police department members that may be in stress or may have experienced a traumatic event. Any such assistance shall be privileged and confidential between the officer involved and the Chaplain.

*Visiting with sick or injured

*Offering prayers at special occasions

*Assisting the police department in the performance of appropriate ceremonial functions

*Serve as a liaison between the police department and the community in all matters of religious welfare

*The Police Chaplain shall be on call at all times. Any police officer may utilize or call out the Police Chaplain based on officer's discretion.

Smithville ISO Classification Upgraded

June 1, 2015
Dwayne Page
Charlie Parker

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker shared some good news with the mayor and aldermen Monday night.

The Insurance Services Office (ISO) is upgrading the City of Smithville's Public Protection Classification rating from a Class 6 to a Class 5/5x effective this summer which could result in lower homeowners insurance premiums for some families. This is the second ISO rating upgrade for the city within the last six years. In 2009, the rating improved from a Class 7 to Class 6.

According to Chief Parker, ISO collects and evaluates information from communities on their fire suppression capabilities. The information is analyzed using a Fire Suppression Rating Schedule and then assigns a Public Protection Classification number

"I just wanted to let the board and the citizens know that we received our notice from the ISO a couple of weeks ago that our new Public Protection Classification ISO rating is being lowered. We're going from a Class 6 down to a Class 5/5x which is a new split classification they are doing but it is good news that we are getting our ISO lowered. That does mean that we are making some progress in trying to continue to lower the rate," said Chief Parker.

As the new classification goes into effect, Chief Parker said homeowners are encouraged to check with their insurance carriers to find out if this new ISO rating will reduce their insurance premiums. " Hopefully this will help our citizens get some lower (insurance) rates (premiums) depending upon which company they have. Different companies do different things. Not all companies will go just by the ISO rating. But I have talked to ISO and most insurance companies will purchase information from ISO so they (insurance companies) use it somewhere in their formula. They may not use it here locally but in the corporate offices they use that information. It will eventually lower some rates even if it doesn't directly do so in the first little bit (right away). Some insurance companies will drop (premiums) automatically when the (ISO) rate does. Others may take longer but as our classification gets lower its just going to help the whole fire protection classification for the city. As the new classification takes effect probably in about a month, citizens should check with their insurance companies. The may get (qualify for) lower premiums," said Chief Parker.

In recent years the Smithville Fire Department has made improvements in equipment and services including the addition of a ladder truck. Chief Parker said more improvements are planned. "We have started working, even as early as last year, on some things to improve including training to get it (ISO) rating even lower".


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