Local News Articles

County to Implement New Wage Scale for Employees Beginning January 1st

December 24, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster

A new wage scale for most county employees will take effect January 1st allowing for pay raises based on their years of service.

The county commission adopted the plan Monday night December 17.

The county implemented a wage scale for the sheriff's department last year and plans are to develop a step plan for the ambulance service next year. This plan primarily addresses the pay of clerks who work for county officials at the courthouse and county complex, librarian and assistants, landfill employees, custodians, and senior center coordinator

"We have been debating on what to do about step raises," said County Mayor Mike Foster. "We are in a three year process of getting all the county employees on steps. We wanted all of them to be based on job description which we had already done at the sheriff's office and jail (last year). We'll be doing it at the ambulance service (next year). We wound up doing a four step series based on the number of years they've worked. If they have worked from one to four years, they are in step one. Those from five to eight years of service are in step two. Employees with nine to twelve years are in step three and those with more than twelve years are in the fourth step," said Foster.

Foster had wanted to make job classification part of the equation in the wage scale along with years of service for all employees but settled on making it apply primarily to the eight employees at the landfill who will be classified as laborers, truck drivers, mechanics, and equipment operators. "Some of the landfill people were actually making as little as $8.75 per hour, which is not much. But we have moved them up (in the wage scale) and if you have gone and gotten certified to be a landfill operator then you move to another step," he said.

Currently all but one employee working for an elected or appointed public official at the courthouse and county complex earns the same salary, $23,024 per year and they will all top out under the new four step pay scale at $26,432 within four years. Some will top out quicker than others based on their years of service. One employee in the assessor of property's office who already receives $28,579 will get an increase of $750 this year for longevity. The two employees of the county mayor's office will continue to earn extra money for administering grants, which has reportedly been up to $4,200 per year.

Foster said having wage scales in place is a good thing for employees because they will know what their future raises are going to be and it helps the county in planning budgets each year. "We did take out the longevity pay because it was based on how many years they worked. In other words, you had to have worked five years before you got a little bit (of longevity pay) and it went on up from there. This way (wage scale) incorporates it (longevity) into their salary making it a better situation for employees and a better situation for us doing budgets so you know what you're budgeting each year. This way they (employees) know what to anticipate. If we (county) have money to give raises we know what it's going to be. Its just makes the budgeting process better but it also is better for the employees if they know what to expect,"said Foster.

Since the wage scale will take effect January 1st in the middle of the budget year, Foster said employees will get half of their pay raise now. "They (county commission) didn't prorate back (to July 1st) so it will start January 1st. They (employees) will get half of that raise this year. Then in July it will be fully implemented," said Foster.

New Sligo Bridge Project Could Be Let Soon, Pending New Agreement with Marina

December 24, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mark Pody
Paul Degges

State Representative Mark Pody said he is hopeful that the new Sligo bridge project can be let for bids during the first quarter of 2013, pending a new lease agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Sligo Marina.

Pody, in an interview with WJLE Friday, said any new agreement between the parties should address granting TDOT the right of way to proceed with the project. The marina's current lease with the Corps is due to expire next month.

Officials of the Tennessee Department of Transportation have been working toward right of way acquisition for construction of a new Sligo bridge for months and during a Projects Bus Tour in August, TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges told WJLE that the state had re-designed plans for the proposed project hoping to address concerns to the satisfaction of Sligo Marina.

(PLAY VIDEO BELOW OF TDOT CHIEF ENGINEER PAUL DEGGES DURING AUGUST BUS TOUR IN DEKALB COUNTY)

paul degges from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Degges told WJLE that a new offer was being made to the marina for the right of way and if all goes well, construction could be underway by next spring. "We have one property owner that we're dealing with on the project and it's the United States government through the Corps of Engineers," said Degges. "They have a lease with a marina (Sligo Marina). We're working with the Corps of Engineers but we will actually make an offer to the marina," he said.

In previous interviews with WJLE, Degges has said one of the major concerns is that the marina owners want the state to pay for "potential loss of business"to them during the construction of the bridge. The problem is the state cannot legally pay for those types of damages. "They're wanting to be paid for some things. In particular, he (lessee) wants to be paid for some potential loss of business due to loss of some of his parking and the impact of construction. Under state law in Tennessee, we (TDOT) are prohibited from paying those types of damages" said Degges

Normally, when an agreement cannot be reached on right of way acquisition, the state can resort to imminent domain proceedings. But in this case, condemnation is not an option because the state cannot condemn federal property.

"We originally designed the project from what we understood were to be the ways we would least impact the marina," said Degges during the August bus tour . "But when we ended up going to the marina and talking to them about how we planned on delivering the project, they really weren't all that happy with it so we've been trying to work with them. We've kind of gone back and looked at our design and we've listened to the marina (owners) and some of the concerns they have. We've tried to re-design the project to meet some of the things they've got concerns about. The bridge is actually going to be designed pretty much the same but we have gone back and looked at how we would build the bridge. We're going to be going back through the Corps of Engineers to the marina and making a new offer to them on the right of way impacts due to the construction of the project. We hope to have that to them in the very near future. Hopefully it will be more in the realm of what the marina is actually looking for which will allow us to get on with the project. Hopefully we'll get everything resolved and be able to get under contract after New Years," said Degges

The Sligo project, which was funded in the 2011-12 state budget, calls for replacement of the existing overhead truss bridge which is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The new bridge will be located a few feet to the north of the existing bridge, which will remain open to traffic during construction. The new bridge will be a continuous welded plate girder design with a composite concrete deck slab and will be 1,545 feet in length. The project typical section is two-12 foot lanes with 10 foot shoulders. The total estimated cost of the project including engineering, right of way, and construction is $31-million.

"We're going to build what we call a steel plate girder bridge with a concrete deck," said Degges. " Right now, the bridge is a truss. The truss has quite a bit of age on it. The steel of that vintage, when it starts to deteriorate, deteriorates pretty fast. So its time for us to put a new bridge in there. The bridge is somewhat narrow. The new bridge we're going to put in here will have twelve foot lanes and ten foot shoulders. It will be what most people would consider a traditional bridge in that the beams of this bridge will be under the deck. One of the challenges here is that the water is over one hundred feet deep at this location which makes the construction of the bridge somewhat more challenging. Just think about trying to pour concrete one hundred feet under water. Its a pretty tough proposition. We don't have a whole lot of that type of work in Tennessee, but we do have some. We'll build the new bridge adjacent to the existing bridge. It's a vital artery for this part of the state of Tennessee. DeKalb County is very interested in this project. This county is split by the river and transportation is a key component of the economy there. So we want to make sure we get this bridge replaced before we have to do any additional repair work to the bridge," added Degges.

Pody Supports Cut in Sales Tax on Food and Ending Funds for NPR

December 24, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mark Pody

State Representative Mark Pody said he supports Governor Bill Haslam's proposal to cut the state sales tax on grocery food by another quarter-cent.

Pody also wants to end state funding for National Public Radio (NPR).

The governor said last week that he will ask legislators next month to cut the sales tax on food from 5.25 percent to 5 percent.

"He wants to bring it down to 5 percent. Right now its at 5.25 percent," said Representative Pody in an interview with WJLE Friday. "We did reduce it a little bit last year and I believe he's got it in the budget where we can afford to do that (reduce the sales tax by another quarter percent). I think that will be a good move. It will help everybody across Tennessee equally," said Pody.

If lawmakers pass the reduction, it would mark the second year in a row that they have reduced the sales tax rate by a quarter of a cent. Cities and counties in Tennessee, like DeKalb County, add up to 2.75 percent more in local sales taxes, which are not affected by the state cut.

Haslam said he will propose, in the state budget he will present to lawmakers by early February, the second consecutive cut in the food tax. But he said he has no plans to cut it further in future years.

"In general, the debate from a lot of folks is about what tax can we cut next," said Governor Haslam in a Memphis Commercial Appeal report. "We've cut the Hall (the state's limited personal income tax on investment income), eliminated the gift tax, are phasing out the inheritance tax and are cutting the food tax by 10 percent of the total (state) tax. That's nothing to sneeze at," he said.

"But ... we've got to balance the revenue and expense side. I'm always amazed how many people want us to cut taxes but they don't want us to cut any programs," said Governor Haslam.

Representative Pody said the state has sufficient funds to cover the costs in cutting the sales tax on food but beyond that he would like to see the state cut funding to NPR. "Right now we have almost an extra $500 million that has come in above and beyond what we have budgeted. This would be more than enough to make up for that (sales tax cut). Some of that cost is already going to be going to TennCare costs and other increases that we have, but there would be enough to do it," said Pody.

"There are more cuts I believe we can make in the budget. In fact one of them is NPR. I don't believe that any organization should be competing with other private organizations. I don't think the government should be in the mode of picking and choosing who they are going to help, if they're not going to help everybody equally. That's one place I'd say we should be cutting," said Pody.

What about public television? "There are so many stations out there right now, that the public has a choice of where they want to go," said Pody. "We don't need to be picking up that kind of costs. If the public wants it, they can make their donations on their own. They can publicly pay for it with their own private funds and it can still be a viable option as an independent business. It does not have to be run or funded by the government," said Representative Pody.

UCHRA Transportation Raises Money for Home Delivered Meals Program

December 24, 2012
by: 
By RANDALL KILLMAN, Field Operations Program Specialist
UCHRA Transportation Raises Money for Home Delivered Meals Program

Recently, the Transportation Department at Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency did a fundraiser to assist the Home Delivered Meals Program that the agency administers in the 14 county regions, better known as “Meals on Wheels”.

The employees decided to raise the money by selling Boston Butts. The Butts were purchased at a discounted rate from Jerry’s IGA in Livingston, TN, and then prepared by agency employee Steve Lancaster who is known over the region for his BBQ skills. Many of the employees sold the Boston Butts, assisted Lancaster in the preparing, and then delivered the Butts to the generous people who purchased them.

Rebecca Harris, Transportation Director, stated “I am so proud to work with such a caring group of people and I am thrilled we were able to help such a great program.”

The effort resulted in raising $2056.01 for this program that delivered hot meals to seniors homes across the Upper Cumberland. It takes $1820.00 per year to feed one person for a year through the Home Delivered Meals Program.

Linda Tramel, Field Services / Nutrition Director at UCHRA stated that, “we are so appreciative of the efforts of all that helped with this fundraiser and as a result of their generosity we will now be able to remove one senior off of the waiting list this year”.

This program is designed for the elderly and adults with disabilities to remain in their own homes, avoiding premature institutionalization by providing a nutritionally balanced noontime meal up to seven days per week.
The Home Delivered Meals Program has served 184,626 meals to people in the Upper Cumberland this 2011-12 fiscal year alone.

Luke Collins, Executive Director of UCHRA said, “It is my goal to remove as many seniors as possible from the Meals on Wheels waiting list, and our team is helping do just that”.

To learn more about the Home Delivered Meals Program or any of the other 62 programs UCHRA offers call 931-528-1127 or visit www.uchra.com.

CUTLINE: The UCHRA Central Office Transportation staff present the Nutrition Program with a check for monies raised through Transportation’s Boston Butt fundraiser.

Pictured L to R: Randall Killman, Field Operations Program Specialist; Lloyd Williams, Mobility Manager; Riley Sparks, Fleet Operations Manager; Gail Stephenson, Transportation Personnel Coordinator; Dusty Ledbetter, MIS Software Developer; Pam Redmon, Nutrition Project Director; Linda Tramel, Field Services/Nutrition Director; Becky Harris, Transportation/Services Director; Steve Lancaster, Mobility Manager; Danny Hill, Commodities/Van Pool Coordinator; Kelly Dishman, Field Operations Program Specialist; Judy Draughn, Transportation Contracts/Accounts; Teresa Johnson, Assistant Transportation Contracts/Accounts; and Jeff Walling, Commodities. Those who assisted in the fundraiser who are not pictured are: Cindy Stanley, Assistant Director of Transportation; Tony Smith, Director of General Services; and Terry Alley, Project Coordinator Transportation Services.

"Love Lights a Tree" for the American Cancer Society

December 24, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
"Love Lights a Tree" for the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society invites you to make a special donation in honor or in memory of a loved one during the holiday season through "Love Lights a Tree". A special memory board has been erected on the south side of the courthouse that lists the names of your loved ones.

The names of the honorees are as follows:

Lisa Anderson, Tracie Webb Baker, Dortha Barnes, Shelly Cross, Earl D. France, Radley Hendrixson, Eddie Hobson, Lois Horn, Jo Doris Johnson, Walter Johnson, Betty Malone, Amy Lynn Miller, Josh Miller, Linda Milligan-Ferguson, Karen Milligan-Hylton, Katrena Moore, Ann Pack, Larry Scurlock, Margie Smith, Willie Turner, Polly Turner, Sandra Wall, and Susan Young.

The names of those remembered are as follows:

Cecil Adkins, Mai Akin, John D. Akin, Angela Allen

Rebecca Beason, Martha Bluhm, Jesse Bluhm, Alan Bradford, Jo Puckett Bradford, Larry Bratten,

Jeremy Caldwell, Joshua Caldwell, Johnny Cantrell, Frances Cantrell, Clifton Cantrell, Jodie Cantrell, Tracy Cassity, Will Allen Cathcart, Martha Cathcart, Ersie Cherry, Jennifer Clark, Mary Collins, Barbara Colvert, Bob Cook, James (Buddy) Cook, Pam (Baker) Cook, Arlo Cook, William Smith (Bill) Craig, Jr., Eva Crook, Grady Crook, W.C. Crook, Walter Cubbins, Wilma Cubbins,

Vera Bell Davenport, Vanice King Davenport, Frank Davis, Ravanelle Driver, Earl Driver, Lynn Duke, H.C. Duke, Onie Durham, Woodrow Durham, Tony Durso,

Donnie L. Edge, Ruth Elder,

Geraldine Fish, Kathy Foster, Willie Foutch, Billy J. France, James Alvie France, Jamie Frazier, John Larry Frazier, Billie Ann Frazier, Jo Ronald Frazier, Woodrow Frazier, Leonard M. Freeman, Margaret Freeman, Leonard M "Buddy" Freeman, Violet Fuson, Edsel Fuston, Jean Fuston, Hoyt Fuston, Sybil Fuston,

Walter Gassaway, Dessie Brown Gassaway, Royce T. Givens, Jr., James Goodwin, John Paul Grubb,

Brownie Haley, Lucille (Cook) Harris, Esker Harrison, Eva Harrison, Bertie Hayes, Rex Hayes, Mallow Herndon, Russell Herndon, Vada Pauline Herndon, Edward Hobson, Kenneth Howard, Elby Howard, Joe Huffman, Marvin Hutson, Sarah L. Hutson,

Charles L. Johnson, Linnie Johnson, Robert Joines, Johnnie Joines, McKinley Jones, Jim B. Judkins, Len Judkins, Marie Judkins, Earl Judkins,

Jennifer Renea Kincaid,

Nadine Luna, Brackett Luna, Angel Mahler, Billy Malone, Ida Malone, Carolyn Maynard, Helen Jones Mayo, T.C. McMillen, Gail Milligan,

June Nixon,

J.W. Pack, Bertha Parker, Hudson Parker, Pauline Parsley, Nina V. Phillips, Edna Pauline Phillips, C.T. Phillips, Sr., Dr. Jerry Puckett, Clyde L. Randolph, Mary Randolph, Vada I. Reeder, Bertie Reeder, George R. Reeder, Jack G. Rhody, Horace Rosson,

Kevin Sanders, Donald Smith, Virgil Smith, Nan Smith, Glen D. Smith, Ruby Smithson, Bruce Smithson, Christopher Stanley, Jordon Steinbach,

Burnace E. Terrell,

Arzie Usrey

Austin Vaughn, Edna Vaughn,

James F. Waggoner, Green Wall, Maud Wall, Eveleen Walls, Jvan Walls, Ruth Webb, Dennis Webb, W.A. (Bill) Young, and Juanita Young.

The names are in "honor of" and in "memory of" for a donation of five-dollars per name. The tree display board is located on the south side of the courthouse lawn. The Love Lights A Tree forms are available at First Bank, Liberty State Bank, DeKalb Community Bank and Regions Bank. For more information contact Committee Co-Chairs: Ivadell Randolph at 615-464-8129, Renee Cantrell at 615-597-4551, Barbara Ashford at 615-417-5653, Melanie Judkins at 615-597-1132 or Lynda Luna 615-597-5837.

Love Lights A Tree will continue thru December 31.

Saturday Fire Leaves Family Homeless for Christmas

December 22, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Saturday Fire Leaves Family Homeless for Christmas
Home of Randy and Glenda Eaton Destroyed by Fire
Fire Destroys Eaton Home
Saturday Fire at Eaton Home near Alexandria

A fire three days before Christmas has left a DeKalb County family homeless.

County Fire Chief Donny Green told WJLE that the residence of Randy and Glenda Eaton at 389 Old Liberty Road near Alexandria was destroyed by fire Saturday morning. The Eaton's were renting the home from the owner, Tommy Malone.

Central dispatch received the call at 10:08 a.m.

According to Chief Green, the Eaton's daughter, Leah Burchfield was in her bedroom when she discovered the fire across the hall in another bedroom. She then ran to the bathroom to alert her mother, who was taking a shower. 911 was notified and firefighters were dispatched to the scene.

Members of the Liberty, Main Station, and Short Mountain Highway stations of the county volunteer fire department responded along with the tanker truck, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS. Chief Green said mutual aid assistance was requested of the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department and they arrived on the scene to help. "They (Alexandria firefighters) did a good job and we really appreciated their help", said Chief Green.

The home was lost in the fire but the family was able to salvage some of their belongings. "Upon arrival, we found heavy fire coming from the back bedroom windows and roof. We worked hard to try to extinguish and contain the fire, but it had already spread into the attic area of the house causing significant fire, heat, smoke, and water damage throughout the entire structure," said Chief Green.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross is now helping the family with their immediate needs. "The family lost most of their personal items and furnishings. DeKalb County Red Cross personnel were summoned to the scene to help the family with immediate food, clothing, and shelter needs," said Chief Green.

Although the cause of the fire cannot be determined at this time, Chief Green said statements made by the Eaton's indicate the home could have had an ongoing electrical issue that will be considered when making a determination of the cause.

Ironically, firefighters were called to the same home on Friday afternoon at around 1:38 p.m. after the family's artificial Christmas tree caught on fire in the living room, sparked by an extension cord powering a strand of lights. Chief Green said the family was at home at the time and Mr. Eaton used a blanket to smother the flames. The damage in that incident was confined to a small area of carpet under the tree. There was no significant structural damage

According to Chief Green, the fire on Friday was in no way related to the fire on Saturday and no foul play is suspected in either fire.

Smithville Police Department Throws Christmas Party for Needy Families

December 22, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

Many underprivileged children and their families were treated to a Christmas party Friday night at city hall hosted by the Smithville Police Department.

The party was complete with food, gifts, Christmas carols, the true message of the Christmas story presented by local ministers, and an appearance from Santa, his elves, and Mrs. Claus.

The police department obtained names of the families in cooperation with Second Harvest and letters were sent inviting them to the party

"We want to make sure we (police department) have a good public relationship with them. We want to help these children and the families," said Beth Adcock, police department records clerk who was largely responsible for organizing the party.

Car Plows Into Building due to Stuck Accelerator, No Serious Injuries

December 21, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Car Plows Into Building
Pack Car Hits this Parked Mini-Van Before Running into Building

No one was seriously injured in a bizarre accident Friday morning in which a car traveling through a parking lot, struck another vehicle and then plowed into a building on East Bryant Street.

Central dispatch was notified at 11:10 a.m.

Corporal Travis Bryant of the Smithville Police Department told WJLE that 85 year old Ernest Pack, driving a 2000 Dodge Stratus, was driving through the parking lot around back of Doc's Detail when his accelerator apparently stuck. The car went out of control and hit the rear of a parked Town and Country mini-van belonging to Billy Cripps. Pack's car then came around the parking lot and ran into a building belonging to Charles Atnip, which is used for storage. The force of the impact into the building and a central heat and air unit caused an adjacent small tree to fall onto another parked car, a 2010 Kia Optima, belonging to Alvina Levan.

Pack was treated at the scene by DeKalb EMS but he refused to be transported to the hospital by ambulance. Pack's wife, who was also in the car with him, was not injured.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and Extrication and Rescue Team were also on the scene to provide assistance.

Smithville Police Make Arrest in Local Holiday Scam

December 21, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Gregory Scott Redmon

A Smithville man, conducting a holiday scam in the name of a church fund drive for children, was arrested Thursday after Smithville Police began receiving public complaints.

54 year old Gregory Scott Redmon of Midway Road is charged with theft of property under $500. His bond is $3,500 and he will be in court on January 3.

Chief Randy Caplinger said Redmon approached several people telling them he was taking up money for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church Children's Fund Drive. There was no such legitimate fund drive. Redman had a coffee can that held about ninety five dollars in cash and checks

According to the police report, Patrolman Matt Farmer was dispatched to the area of Caney Fork Electric Cooperative on East Broad Street around 4:00 p.m. Thursday in reference to a suspicious person trying to take up money in a Maxwell House coffee can for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. A vehicle matching the description was seen at the Smithville Animal Clinic. Patrolman Farmer and Detective Matt Holmes stopped the vehicle and found Gregory Scott Redmon to be the driver. "Redmon's attire matched the description given by a complainant," according to the report. "In the front seat was a blue plastic Maxwell House coffee can with "Cumberland Presbyterian Children's Fund Drive" on the lid. We checked with Larry Green from the local Cumberland Presbyterian Church, who stated that they did not take up money except at the building. Mr Redmon then said that he was with the one (church) in Watertown. We contacted Tommy Nicks, the pastor there and he said that they did not take up money in that manner either. Mr. Nicks also stated that he did know Mr. Redmon, but that they had a parting a while back. I (Patrolman Farmer) went back to the vehicle and advised Mr. Redmon that we were going to have to hold the money and coffee can until the investigation was completed. Mr. Redmon said "But this is my Christmas money! I mean church's money. Well most of the money is mine except for the check and a couple of dollars". Mr Redmon was given a receipt for the items taken and he was arrested for theft (by fraud)," according to the report.

Funeral Home Gives Community a Chance to Show Concern for Victims of Connecticut Shooting

December 21, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

A local funeral home is giving area residents a chance to remember those killed during the school shooting in NewTown Connecticut last Friday.

DeKalb Funeral Chapel invites people from DeKalb and surrounding areas to stop by today through January 2 to sign a register book to express condolences to the families of the victims. Michael Hale, owner of the funeral home, said that "it's a way to let those people affected by the tragedy to know they are in our thoughts and prayers".

He said the register book will be sent to a funeral home in NewTown Connecticut to be shared with families of the school and community.

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