Local News Articles

Change of Address Required for Some Residents Due to 911 Mapping Updates

February 16, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Brad Mullinax

In order to correct anomalies in the local 911 map, the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District has announced that the addresses of approximately five hundred locations are being changed as the state converts to the new Next Generation 911 digital system, a move which is expected to mean more reliable service throughout Tennessee.

Letters are being sent to DeKalb County residents who will be affected by the changes.

Brad Mullinax, Director of the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (911 center), told WJLE Thursday that the state is requiring that these changes be made. "We have some addressing anomalies that have been brought to our attention by the state. We're undergoing some major changes with 911 in Tennessee and these changes will make for difficult times for some people in our community. The end result is going to be good but it will be a little bit of an inconvenience to some of our citizens. Basically we have to send our maps to the state Geographical Information Systems (GIS) office. We did that but they have sent those maps back to us after checking them. We started out with about 2,100 addressing anomalies across the county but we've been able to sort through and fix about 1,600 of these without having to change people's addresses. Unfortunately we found about 500 addresses that are so bad and so wrong that we're having to change them. I know this is not popular with folks and it's a time consuming process for people to have to change their address but unfortunately we don't have any choice. These changes are necessary in order to comply with the new state mandated NG911 ," said Mullinax

Last September, the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) announced the completion of the first phase of the state's conversion to Next Generation 911 (NG911). "We're going through an upgrade right now and it's called Next Generation 911," said Mullinax. " Its basically going to be a large IP based network that will connect all 911 centers in the state of Tennessee. With that change, the calls are actually going to be routed out of Nashville. Our maps are going to have to be correct at the selective router in Nashville for them to decide which county the calls should be routed to. We're having to fix these addressing anomalies so that the state computer will know which way these calls need to be routed," said Mullinax.

According to Mullinax, the DeKalb ECD has the authority to change the numbers of street addresses but not road names. That is left up to the county and the cities. "We're granted that power (address changes) by state law. Its very systematic the way we do these addresses. We go out and measure each road. We have a formula that we plug the measurements into to come up with your address," said Mullinax. "What we're changing is just the numbering itself. We do not have the authority to change road names, that has to be acted on by the county commission or the city of Smithville, whichever governing body oversees those streets. We do have some road names that have been changed by the county commission. We're sending out letters notifying folks of these street name changes and then we're giving them a new address with their new street name. But we (DeKalb ECD) are not changing any street names. We don't have the authority to do that. We're just passing on and re-addressing those numbers based on these new street names," said Mullinax.

In many cases, the so called "anomalies" involve odd numbered addresses on the side of the roads where even numbered addresses are supposed to be and vice versa. "Its all over the county," said Mullinax.. "There is no particular area. They go from the city of Smithville all the way from the east to the west and from the north to the south. We're running into problems all over the county. Many of these are numbers that we found that are addressed on the wrong side of the road. For instance, we have an odd number on the even (number) side of the road or an even number on the odd (number) side of the road. Basically what that means is that if you're going up a road, the odd numbered (addresses) should be on the lefthand side of the road and the even numbered (addresses) should be on the right. So if we have a mixture (of odd and even numbers on the same side of the street) we have to correct those because they will not map," said Mullinax.

Some residents affected have already received their letters and have expressed an unwillingness to go along with the changes, according to Mullinax. "We've had some people say they're not going to change their address. You probably could have gotten by with that a few years ago but with the new advances in technology at the postal service, the way they deliver mail is directly affected by the address that we (DeKalb ECD) give the post office so it is crucial for you to change your address when we stipulate for you to do so because if you don't there is a chance you won't get your mail. It may get sent back. We are notifying everyone (affected) and once you get that letter, its pretty clear on the date when the address (change) is supposed to be effective. We're also sending a copy of that letter to their post office. We're encouraging people to notify their utilities of their changes. We're giving everybody at least a thirty day notice to change these addresses. I want to apologize to the citizens of our county for having to do this but we are doing it for their best interest. We want to be able to find them in the event of an emergency and for there not to be any kind of delay in finding them." said Mullinax.

In its September media release, the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) announced that the core infrastructure of the Next Generation 911 (NG911) will allow individual 911 centers across the state to connect to NG911.

"The completion of Phase I of the NG911 project is a significant milestone," said TECB Chair Randy Porter. "We want to thank our partners at AT&T and TCS for their efficient and effective work. We're now ready to test the core and move forward with the next phase – connecting local 911 centers to the core."

NG911 is essentially a digital version of 911 transmitted over the State of Tennessee's existing statewide Internet Protocol (IP) network, NetTN. The conversion is similar to converting televisions from analog to digital. In this case, 911 trunks are being converted from antiquated, copper-wire technology to the latest in digital communications capability.

"NG911 will mean more reliable 911 services for our citizens," said TECB Executive Director Lynn Questell. "It will allow for uninterrupted service in the case of power outages and other disasters that may knock out a 911 center. Call transfers will be seamless and the system will have 100 percent redundancy – essentially meaning that if one center goes out, a fully functioning backup will be available. The bottom line is NG911 will mean the very best technology is being deployed to keep Tennessee citizens safe."

The core infrastructure of the NG911 network includes four centers to aggregate emergency communications traffic. These centers are in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Additionally, two centers provide traffic routing of 911 calls.

The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board ensures that every citizen can effectively access the life-saving power of 911. The TECB is composed of nine members from across the state of Tennessee – including five 911 professionals and representatives of cities, counties and the general public. It is administratively attached to the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. www.tn.gov/commerce/

"Budding Authors Publishing Party" Held for First Methodist Pre-School Students

February 16, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

A "Budding Authors Publishing Party" was held for students in the Smithville First United Methodist Church Pre-School Thursday night at the Christian Fellowship Center.

The students, their parents, and teachers celebrated the release of a hardback book featuring writings and illustrations of the students themselves.

During the party, each child was asked to point out or read from the things he or she had written and drawn on their pages of the booklet.

Emily Bass, director of the pre-school, said the project was about two months in the making. "Tonight we've been enjoying a night of listening to the children read stories they have written about things they love and enjoy. This was a project put together by one of our parents, Mandy Dakas. The kids each took time and wrote in their very own handwriting and illustrated all by themselves. Each one did a page. We then had them (pages) compiled and printed together into a class hardback booklet. This class is made up of our pre-kindergarten kids, ages four and five, and they will be graduating in May and going on to kindergarten. So this (book) is a special keepsake for them and their parents," said Bass

Students (publishers) participating were Avery Agee, Landon Colwell, Caroline Crook, Andrew Dakas, Annabella Dakas, Milas Driver, Dallas Kirby, Madeline Martin, Melody McConnaughey (absent Thursday night) Addison Miller (absent), Layla Newby, Katherine Knowles, Emily Robinson, Owen Snipes (absent), Braelyn Teachout, and Tiara Patrick.

Teachers are Reta Steffe and Lauren Hansard.

New County Clerk's Office Soon to Offer Duplicate Title Printing Service

February 16, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
County Clerk Mike Clayborn Greets Customer at Drive Through Window
Clerk Employees Tammy Pack (Left), Leslie Tramel (Center), Krissa Beers (Right)
Customers at Counter in County Clerk Office
County Clerk Office Waiting Area

The DeKalb County Clerk's Office is prepared to begin printing duplicate titles once authorization is given by the state.

County Clerk Mike Clayborn said this service will be an added convenience to the people of DeKalb County. "We've been working on this for some time now. Probably about a year. We have all of our equipment in place including all of our computers and printers but we're waiting on the state to send us the title paper and the numbers. We've hit a snag. At the present time the state is not sending out any new contracts. We have to contract with the state to do this and right now it (delay) has something to do with funding. There are other counties that are in the same boat we're in. They're waiting to be able to do this for their people. We're waiting on the state to give us a contract to do that. I've been assured by the state that as soon as they can they will. I was hoping to get this thing up and going by March. I had everything in place to do that and I never really dreamed that I couldn't get a contract but I can't get one right now. We're waiting but I've been assured that in the near future we'll have one. When they give us a contract we'll be able to print your duplicate titles and you won't have to go out of town to do it. So we're ready and have the equipment in place and the people ready to do it. Now we're just waiting on the state to give us the okay and we'll be up and running," said Clayborn.

Remember too that the county clerk's office is now on South Congress Boulevard. Even though the office was relocated from the courthouse to the new complex in August, Clayborn said many people still don't know. "We're having some problems with people finding us. They're still going to the courthouse. But we've not been at the courthouse since August 23. I would like for everyone to understand that we have moved to the new county complex. We're in the first room on the right when you enter the new building. We're located at 732 South Congress Boulevard. That's on the end nearest the old Peking Restaurant. We still have the same hours of operation, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. The only time we're not open on Saturday is when a holiday weekend falls on a Friday or Monday," said Clayborn.

The new clerk's office also features a drive through window. "We're certainly proud of our new drive through window. We ask that people take advantage of it because its for renewals only. Current renewals. You don't have to get out of your car. You don't have to climb any steps. Just pull up to the window and give us your renewal form and we can do it (process) for you in about three to four minutes and then you'll be ready to do. More people are finding it. But if you want to get out and come in to see the new county complex, we welcome you to come in. But if its rainy or bad outside and you don't want to get out of your car, just come up to the drive through window and we'll be more than glad to wait on you there,' said Clayborn.

Magistrate Dismisses Certain Claims In Federal Lawsuit Against County

February 14, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

A U.S. Magistrate Judge has granted defense motions to dismiss certain claims in a federal court lawsuit against DeKalb County over the death of an inmate while in the custody of the Sheriff's Department two years ago.

Doris Hullett filed the lawsuit over a year ago in the death of her son, Jackie Lee Snider, who was arrested December 31, 2009 and died on January 30, 2010 after being taken from the jail to DeKalb Community Hospital. According to the lawsuit, "the medical examiner reported that Snider died of pancreatitis, which is an extremely painful and serious medical condition. If Snider's pancreatitis had been treated on or before the morning of January 30, 2010, Snider would have survived without permanent, long term consequences".

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants violated Snider's constitutional rights when they denied him reasonable medical care for his serious medical condition, thereby causing him extensive pain and suffering and ultimately death.

Based upon a finding that the federal court lacked jurisdiction, Magistrate Judge John S. Bryant recently dismissed Hullet's claim under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, her wrongful death claim, and her claim for medical negligence without prejudice but stated in the order that she could "pursue these claims in Tennessee Circuit Court". Hullett's claim under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act was also dismissed for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. The Court will retain jurisdiction of Hullet's state law claims for civil conspiracy and outrageous conduct as well her claim for punitive damages. The case is set for trial in December.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include DeKalb County; Patrick Ray, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff; Kenneth Ray, Rick Smith, Jim Hendrix, Mark Nichols, Ernie Hargis, Kyle Casper, individually and in their official capacities; John Does 1-4; Renee Riddle, LPN; Robert Alan Stultz, PA; and Southern Health Partners, Inc.

Hullett is seeking compensatory damages against all defendants, jointly and severally in the amount of $750,000; an award, including loss of consortium in the amount of $750,000; punitive damages in the amount of $1,250,000; attorney fees and litigation expenses in an amount to be determined at trial; and treble damages; plus such other and further legal and or equitable relief to which she may be entitled or the court deems proper.

Early Voting Begins Wednesday, Voters Reminded to Bring Photo ID's

February 14, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Scott Cantrell, Bryan Keith, Timothy "Fud" Banks
A driver license is one of several acceptable forms of photo ID for voting

Early voting for the March 6 elections begins Wednesday, February 15 and for the first time DeKalb County residents will be required to show a photo ID at the polls.

Dates and hours for early voting are Wednesday, February 15 through Tuesday, February 28 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.; Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.; and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until noon. All early voting will take place in the basement courtroom of the DeKalb County Courthouse. Closed February 20 for President's Day.

The election commission office is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the first floor of the courthouse, room 104. The phone number is 597-4146.

Remember, as a voter you must declare which primary in which you intend to vote. For example, if you declare your intention to vote in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary, you cannot vote in either the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary or the DeKalb County Democratic Primary (for Assessor of Property and Constable). Likewise, if you choose to vote in the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary and the DeKalb County Democratic Primary (for Assessor of Property and Constable), you cannot vote in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary

If you choose to vote in the Republican Presidential Preference Primary you may vote for one of the following candidates:

Michele Bachman
Newt Gingrich
Jon Huntsman
Gary Johnson
Ron Paul
Rick Perry
Charles "Buddy" Roemer
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum
Uncommitted

The Republican ballot also lists the names of Delegates At Large for Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney (Committed and Uncommitted) as well as Delegates in the 6th Congressional District for Gingrich, Paul, Perry, and Romney (Committed and Uncommitted).

If you choose to vote in the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary, the only name listed is Barack Obama and Uncommitted.

The DeKalb County Democratic Primary ballot features the Assessor of Property race. The candidates are listed as follows:

Timothy "Fud" Banks
Scott E. Cantrell
Bryan Keith

Constable candidates are on the ballot in the following districts:

3rd District:
Wayne Vanderpool

4th District:
Paul Cantrell

5th District:
Mark Milam

6th District:
Richard Bullard
Carl Lee Webb

7th District
Johnny King

Four More Defendants Charged in Grand Jury Sealed Indictments Arrested by Sheriff's Department

February 14, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Michael Stewart Brown
Teddy Allen Snipes
Dennis Charles Ellis
Samuel Wade Walker
Nathan Joe Trapp
Joseph Eric Kile
Victoria Chantel Tate
Scotty Dale Farmer

Four more persons have been arrested named in sealed indictments on drug charges returned by the grand jury earlier this month as part of an undercover investigation by the sheriff's department.

The following are those defendants and their charges:

36 year old Michael Stewart Brown of McMinnville- Sale and delivery of a schedule III drug in a drug free zone ( Bond $30,000). He was arrested on Monday, February 6

35 year old Teddy Allen Snipes of Smithville- Sale and delivery of a schedule IV drug (2 counts) ($40,000 bond). He was arrested on February 6

50 year old Dennis Charles Ellis of Smithville- Sale and delivery of a schedule II drug ( $30,000 bond). He was arrested on February 6.

33 year old Samuel Wade Walker of Smithville- Sale and delivery of a schedule II drug in a drug free zone ( $40,000 bond).

In addition to the sealed indictment on the drug charge, the sheriff's department has charged Walker and another man in a separate case with theft of property over $1,000.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Walker and 29 year old Nathan Joe Trapp of Smithville went to Smithville Rental Center on East Broad Street Tuesday, February 2 and allegedly stole 940 pounds of metal racks valued at more than $1,000, taking it to a local recycling center where they sold it. Bond for each is $5,000 on this charge and they will be in court on February 16.

In other cases, 34 year old Joseph Eric Kile of Smithville is charged with violation of the sex offender registry. His bond is $25,000 and he will be in court on February 16.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Thursday, February 9 Kile was picked by a sheriff's department detective for violation of probation. An NCIC check showed that he was a violent sex offender. Kile admitted to living in DeKalb County for about a week. He violated the sex offender registry by not registering within the time mandated by law.

20 year old Victoria Chantel Tate of Smithville is charged with assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. He bond is $4,500 and she will be in court on February 23.

According to Sheriff Ray, while two correctional officers were escorting inmates on foot from court back to the jail on Thursday, February 9, a sheriff's department sergeant saw a woman, identified as Tate, run toward the inmates trying to speak to one of them. As she approached, Tate ran into one of the correctional officers, causing him to fear bodily injury. Tate was placed under arrest but as the sergeant was attempting to handcuff her, she kept trying to pull away from him. Her actions caused public alarm and safety issues.

35 year old Scotty Dale Farmer of Hickman is charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $500. He was arrested on Friday, February 10. His bond is $10,000 and he will be in court on February 16

Sheriff Ray reports that on Wednesday, January 18, Farmer allegedly entered a residence on Hickman Road by prying open a back door. He allegedly stole a diamond ring, two silver rings, two knives, and an ipod touch with a total value of more than $500.

20 year old Clay Andrew Baine of Smithville was issued a citation for possession of alcohol by a minor after being involved in a recent traffic accident on Lakeview Drive. Upon arrival, the investigating officer made contact with Bain who had a can of Keystone lite beer in a cup holder of the vehicle. He will be in court on March 22

Habitat Seeking to Build HOPE for Another Partner Family

February 13, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
1st Habitat Partner Family Home on Adams Street
2nd Habitat Partner Family Home on Adams Street
3rd Habitat Partner Family Home located on Hayes Street

Members of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County have helped build HOPE for three partner families within the last five years and they would like to reach out to another family this year.

If you would like to experience the dream of home ownership you are invited to attend an
informational meeting and application fair on Thursday, February 16 at 6 p.m. at the First United Methodist Fellowship Center in Downtown Smithville across the street from Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Families will receive information about the Habitat Program and assistance to complete the application.

The third Habitat home on Hayes Street in DeKalb County was completed during the summer of 2010 for Kim McCowan and her grandchildren. The other two homes, completed within the last five years for the Denise Perry and Felicia Gibbs families, are located on Adams Street.

"We are seeking a partner family for 2012," said Marie Blair, chair of the Family Selection Committee for Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County. " To help people learn all about Habitat, we are having an informational meeting to explain all about Habitat. We will help you fill out an application and let you know what will be expected if you become a partner family," said Blair.

Applications must be postmarked by March 30. "We will help you at the February meeting and if you are unable to attend the meeting you can call Habitat and leave a message. One of the volunteers will call you back. The phone number is 215-8181," said Blair.

While Habitat provides resources and assistance, partner families are expected to do their part in helping build and pay for the homes. "I want to make sure everyone understands that this is not a free house," said Blair. " The house does belong to the partner family but its an opportunity for them to buy a house at no interest. They will pay only for the house. The family gets to help select the colors of their rooms, the kind of floors they want, etc. Of course there are some guidelines. We have some different house plans depending on the size and shape of the lot but the family does get to be involved in that (selecting house plans). The way they make their down payment is called sweat equity. That means the partner family actually works on the house. The children can help. They can earn sweat equity partly by staying in school, improving their grades, and having perfect attendance. It's a whole big family project," said Blair.

"We really do need a family," she said. " If you can make a house payment of between $300 and $400 a month and you don't have lots of other debt or if you do have debt, please attend the meeting. We're starting a new program to hopefully help families who need to get their finances in order. If you have interest in owning your own home and don't want to have to think about moving again and where your children can play in their own yard, come to the meeting on February 16," said Blair.

Volunteers are also needed to help when the time comes to start construction. " If you think you don't know anything about building, we have contractors that will tell you what to do," said Blair. "But all of us can pick up the trash from the work site. We have good support from our church community. They provide lunch when people are over there working on the house. Anything you can do, we can use your help. There are people who will be willing to show you what to do. We do have construction experts that do things like the foundation, the roof, and those things. We're just looking for people of all ages who want to help so if you want to volunteer you can call that same phone number (215-8181) and say I'd like to volunteer and work on the house," said Blair.

To qualify as a partner family, applicants must meet the following basic criteria:

1. Be a DeKalb County resident for at least 1 year.
2. Be a U.S. Citizen or have permanent resident alien status.
3. Have a housing need. For example, current conditions may be overcrowded, unsanitary, unsafe, temporary or cost prohibitive.
4.Have an ability to pay. Applicants must provide proof of income and ability to pay a monthly mortgage.
5.Be willing to partner. Qualified families will participate in budgeting and home maintenance classes as well as help in the construction of their own home.

If you are unable to attend the February 16th meeting, you may call 615-215-8181 and leave your name, address and phone number. A Habitat volunteer will contact you to provide additional information and perhaps mail an application to you.

To be considered, completed and signed applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 30, 2012.

The purpose of Habitat is to build houses and sell them at no profit and no interest to families who could not otherwise afford their own home. This Christian ministry is financed through private donations using volunteer labor and donated materials whenever possible.

Saving Lives Officially Underway

February 13, 2012
by: 
Chase Ferrell, DeKalb County Relay for Life Promotions/Media Chair
Saving Lives Officially Underway

The Relay for Life season is officially off to a great start! The DeKalb County Relay for Life Kickoff was this past Tuesday (February 7th) at the “Coaches vs. Cancer” basketball game at the high school, and I must say I was truly impressed with the amazing turnout! The DeKalb County basketball teams showed their breast cancer awareness support by wearing hot pink shirts saying “Hoops for Hope” and Cannon County sported light pink tees with the official breast cancer awareness ribbon on the front. A large majority of the crowd also showed their support for not only the basketball game but also for awareness of the terrifying disease that takes the lives of many men, women and children every year. Our Relay Committee set up a table outside the gym and sold pom-poms, bracelets and signed up teams on a constant basis throughout the night. I can’t thank you enough for your incredible support!

You may be wondering where the money goes that you donated; well, many people do not realize that Tennessee spent 10.2 million dollars last year on breast cancer research. This research goes to finding a cure, and doctors and scientists work around the clock to speed up the process in order to save as many lives as possible. Breast cancer does not only affect women as many men are diagnosed each year so it’s important for EVERYONE to get screened on a regular basis. The death rate for breast cancer has gone down an incredible amount since last year so it’s vital that we continue to support the American Cancer Society to insure they have the funds they need to save lives. My grandmother was a breast cancer survivor and she lived a wonderful life until God called her home in September of 2010, therefore, this organization has a special place in my heart. I will do my best to keep all of you updated (via newspapers, WJLE, Facebook and email) with information on all our upcoming events. You’ll be shocked with all the awesome ideas we’ve come up with!

If you are a business that would be interested in promoting the DeKalb County Relay for Life then please email us and let us know so we can get information to you! You, in return, will get free publicity on our end as a Relay Sponsor.

For more information on how you can get involved with the DeKalb County Relay for Life, or to see all the photos taken at the events (which you are more than welcome to tag yourself in), please visit: www.facebook.com/DeKalbRelay or email: dekalbrelay@gmail.com

Remember, every step we take is one step closer to finding a cure! Let’s get DeKalb County excited about saving lives!

State and U.S. Flags Presented to Corey Tate of U.S. Air Force

February 13, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Terri Lynn Weaver, Timothy Tate, Corey Tate, Christie Tate Brown, Mae Beavers

Family and friends gathered at the Midway Community Center Sunday to welcome home Corey Tate who recently joined the U.S. Air Force.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver and State Senator Mae Beavers were also on hand for the occasion to present Tate a Tennessee State flag and a United States flag which were both flown over the state capitol recently in his honor with certificates signed by Governor Bill Haslam.

Tate, son of Timothy Tate and Christie Tate Brown, joined the U.S. Air Force three and a half months ago and has been stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Tate completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and then attended Tech school at Fort Sam Houston.

Tate, who returned home over the weekend, is here until February 20 and then he will be leaving for the Aviano Air Base in Italy. Tate will complete his first tour of duty in two years.

Sligo Bridge Project on Hold Until Right of Way Issue Resolved

February 12, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sligo Bridge
Paul Degges
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The state is ready to proceed with plans to build the new Sligo bridge but can't move on the project until a disagreement over right of way acquisition is resolved.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation, which has been in negotiations with the Corps of Engineers and its lessee Sligo Marina, recently made another offer to purchase right of way for the bridge and is now waiting for a response. An answer is expected by the end of the month. Terms of the offer have apparently not been publicly disclosed.

As WJLE first reported on December 29, TDOT had hoped to have the new Sligo bridge project ready for bid letting by now.

Although the Corps is the only property owner involved, TDOT apparently has to take into consideration concerns of Sligo Marina, which is located next to Sligo bridge.

According to TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges, 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.

In a telephone interview with WJLE in December, Degges said this has been the primary sticking point in the negotiations. "The Corps of Engineers has leased this property to a lessee (Sligo Marina). 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. So since we're kind of in a disagreement," said Degges.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver has weighed in on the issue saying, in an interview on WJLE Friday morning February 10, she is concerned that the bridge project is being delayed. "When we noticed that the (bid) let wasn't taking place, I just happened to call and say ‘okay what's the deal'?. I had not known there was actually some meetings with the Corps and the owners of the marina and their lawyers. So there were some back and forth offers being made. Apparently, the problem is that the owners of the marina fear that they are going to lose business while this bridge is being constructed. TDOT has already appropriated two million dollars, and they didn't have to do that, to build a retaining wall to keep those (marina) parking places they were worried about. The bridge will be built (a few feet away from) the old existing bridge so there is still going to be ample space to maneuver. Plus, they will be doing the heaviest construction during the winter months when the marina won't have as much traffic," said Representative Weaver.

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.

"Our process is, and this is all in state law, that for any typical project we do an appraisal," said Degges. " We make an offer and if the property owner thinks it's a fair price then we buy the property. If they don't think that the price is fair, it goes to the attorney general's office for condemnation. Probably about 75% of the property we buy in a given year, we negotiate and people negotiate with us. About 25% of what we buy goes through the condemnation proceedings. There's nothing bad about condemnation. It's just that's the process used to make sure that people have the ability to feel that they're getting the appropriate value for their real estate. In this particular case, since the property is owned by the Corps of Engineers, the United States government has sovereign immunity over the state of Tennessee. In other words, we cannot condemn the federal government. So since we're kind of in a disagreement, the question is can we condemn the property? The Corps of Engineers has determined that we cannot condemn their lessee. So that's kind of got us in a situation here. Not only is the project contingent on us getting the right of way, but the Corps of Engineers also issues us water quality permits. So we can't finish up the permitting process nor can we get the right of way to actually build the project until the issue is resolved," said Degges.

Representative Weaver said it isn't right for any business to hold a road or bridge project "hostage" in this manner. "Any business, whether you're having a highway built in front of you or a bridge, its maybe going to be a little inconvenient for you. That's just a part of life. What a marina or any business cannot do is hold the Department of Transportation hostage and say ‘well I'm not going to let you do this (build a bridge) because I'm going to miss "x" amount of money in business. That is unconstitutional. But if something like that could proceed then its almost as ludicrous to say ‘okay now that the bridge is done or now that the new road is in, you as a business now need to pay the Department of Transportation for all the new business and the increased traffic you will get'. That's not going to happen," she said.

According to Representative Weaver, if the stalemate continues the bridge project, which has already been funded in the state budget, could be delayed another year. She added that further delays could also impact the Corps' decision on whether to renew Sligo Marina's lease, which comes up for renewal next year. "The Corps is involved because of the land where the marina is. We don't foresee this but the worst case scenario would be if they can't come up with any agreement, which would be unfortunate for everybody, then in 2013 the (marina's) lease is up for renewal. The Corps could deny the lease. If that were to happen then they (marina) would lose and we lose because it would take another year to get that (bridge project) going. Plus the two years it would take to build the bridge. So everybody would lose out on that. I don't want that to happen. This bridge is vital. It needs to be moving along. We have the money budgeted for it and we need to proceed for the good of everyone concerned. I'm hoping they'll see this and move forward," said Representative Weaver.

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. I believe it's right at 80 years old. 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.

Pages

Follow Us


facebook.jpg

News Feed
feed.png

WJLE Radio

2606 McMinnville Hwy
Smithville, TN 37166

Phone: 615 597-4265
FAX: 615 597-6025
Email: wjle@dtccom.net

Local News

6:30 A.M.
7:30 A.M.
8:55 A.M.
12:00 NOON
4:00 P.M.
9:45 P.M.

DTC Communications

Fiddlers Jamboree