Local News Articles

State Fire Marshal Offers Fireworks Safety Tips

June 21, 2009

State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman wants to remind Tennesseans that, while fireworks are a traditional part of Fourth of July celebrations, many people are seriously injured each year by their careless use.

“We would encourage you to enjoy the holiday at a public display presented by trained professionals,” says Newman, “where compliance with state-of-the-art fire codes offers a safer way to celebrate our nation’s independence.”

If consumer fireworks are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips:

• Never allow children to handle or ignite fireworks.
• Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
• Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
• Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from homes, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
• Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
• Keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.
• Like matches and lighters, sparklers are not toys and cause hundreds of injuries every year. Sparklers burn hot, can reach temperatures as high as 1,200° F, and stay hot long after they’ve burned out. You wouldn’t hand a matchbook or lighter to a child to wave around or play with – so, don’t give a child a sparkler.

Fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries. A 2007 law prevents children under 16 from purchasing fireworks; and those who are age 16 or 17 must present a photo ID to purchase them.

For more information on firework safety, visit http://tennessee.gov/commerce/sfm/. The Department of Commerce and Insurance works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. www.tn.gov/commerce/

Public Officials Host "Eating for a Cure" Fundraiser

June 19, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Judge Bratten Cook and daughter Megan serving Randy Tramel at Eating for a Cure

Folks flocked to downtown Smithville Friday to enjoy a delicious meal and to help raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The 4th annual cook out on the square called "Eating for a Cure"was hosted by local public officials and their employees and approximately $1,500 was raised. All of the money collected will go to the Relay for Life.

Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, Trustee Sean Driver, County Mayor Mike Foster, Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, Assessor of Property Timothy "Fud" Banks, General Sessions Judge Bratten H. "Butch" Cook II, Road Supervisor Kenny Edge, County Clerk Mike Clayborn, Clerk and Master Debra Malone, Sheriff Patrick Ray, and Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley furnished the food for the annual event.

Vacant Mobile Home Destroyed by Fire

June 19, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A fire this morning (Friday) destroyed a vacant single wide mobile home, which was being used as a shed, on Lower Helton Road.

The structure belonged to James Hale

County Fire Chief Donny Green says Hale resides across the road from the trailer and his grandson was the first to spot the fire.

The blaze was reported after midnight but it was well underway by the time it was noticed so firefighters could not save it. Members of the Liberty, Temperance Hall, and Main Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS.

The fire rekindled after 3:00 a.m. and members of the Liberty Station returned to the scene.

No one was injured.

Graduation Ceremony held for Leadership DeKalb Class of 2009

June 19, 2009
Leadership DeKalb Class of 2009

Leadership DeKalb Class of 2009 graduation was held on Thursday, June 18th at the 303 North Public Square Building, Smithville.

After a welcome from Chamber President, Robin Driver, the invocation was given by Reverend Ben Chapman, Director of Lighthouse Christian Camp and recipient of the Leadership DeKalb Alumni Association 2008 Legacy Award.

Leadership Alumni 2008 Community Leader of the Year, Charlie Parker, was the night's guest
speaker and spoke on the topic "Serving Our Community." An overview of the year's sessions was assembled in powerpoint presentation by class president Brandon Miller. It was introduced by class member Tom Miller and narrated by Amy Lockhart and Leah Cantrell. Leadership Director Jen Sherwood, Chamber Director Suzanne Williams, and Leadership Alumni President Aaron Meeks presented the graduating class with plaques.

Leadership DeKalb is a 10-month program designed to bring together individuals who desire increased leadership responsibility in improving the quality of life in DeKalb County, and train these citizens with knowledge, skills and an increased awareness of opportunities so that they are involved, effective and active leaders. Each summer, applications are accepted for the next year's class. Participation is open to any who lives or works in DeKalb County and who has a desire to contribute to positive change in DeKalb County. For more information, contact Jen Sherwood at 597-4851 or the chamber office at 597-4163.

Pictured from left: Front - Tiffany Winchester, DCHS Student; Esther Hernandez, Translator, La
Hermosa Methodist Church; Rhonda Caplinger, Liberty State Bank; Amy
Lockhart, Premier Realty at Center Hill Lake; Jen Sherwood, Leadership
Director; Leah Cantrell, DeKalb Community Hospital; Janna Gillard, Gillard
Publishing/DeKalb County Guide; Claudette Lasser, Law Office of Harry
Lasser; Cheryl Ludwig, Appalachian Center for Craft

Back - Nick Nokes, DTC Communications; Tom Miller, Liberty State Bank; Jason
Ray, State Farm Insurance; Brandon Miller, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas

City Budget Adopted on First Reading

June 19, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen Thursday night met briefly in special session and adopted on first reading the proposed six million dollar budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year which begins July 1st.

Water and sewer rates will remain the same to start the new year with no increases. Water and sewer tap fees will also remain at the same levels and property taxes will not be increased.

The budget includes a two percent pay raise for city employees and a five dollar increase per call for the volunteer firefighters, going from $15 to $20 per call.

Since full time employees with at least ten years of service with the city will be getting a three weeks paid vacation, Mayor Taft Hendrixson proposed to give volunteer firefighters with at least ten years of service an extra $250 at the end of the year as payment in lieu of vacation. However, Alderman Tonya Sullivan said that could be addressed by the new council, and made a motion to adopt the new budget as is, with no further changes. Alderman Jerry Hutchins, Sr. seconded the motion and Aldermen Willie Thomas, Cecil Burger, and Steve White all voted yes.

Mayor Hendrixon's proposal could be voted on as a budget amendment after the new council takes office.

The aldermen will consider second and final reading passage of the proposed budget in a special meeting on Tuesday, June 30th at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

Two Candidates Qualify for Alexandria Election-Four Positions to be Filled

June 18, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A mayor and three aldermen will be elected in Alexandria on Thursday, September 3rd but only two people met the qualifying deadline Thursday at noon to get their names on the printed ballot.

Mayor Ria Baker will be running for a full term as mayor and alderman Tony Tarpley will be running for a full term as alderman.

The positions are currently held by mayor Baker and aldermen Tarpley, Eddie Tubbs, and Charles Griffith.

Anyone wanting to run as a write-in candidate still has an opportunity to get in the race.

Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley says under state law 2-7-133 subsection (i), any person wanting to be elected by write-in ballots shall complete a notice requesting such person's ballots be counted no later than 12 noon 50 days before the election" which in this case is July 15th.

According to Stanley, "If the ballot still isn't full, any vacancies would be filled by the board of mayor and aldermen after the election, as I understand the law."

Meanwhile, the last day to register to vote in the Alexandria election is August 5th.

The last day to register to vote in the Liberty election is July 7th.

Early voting for the Liberty election is July 27th-August 1st.

TDOS Reminds Motorists: Never Leave Children Unattended in a Vehicle

June 18, 2009

As we approach the summer months, the Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) reminds motorists that children and pets should never be left unattended in a vehicle.

“It is important to remember that children and pets can become ill from heat exhaustion when left in a hot car,” stated Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “Motorists should never leave a child or animal unattended in a car, even with the windows down. Even if it’s just a few moments, it’s extremely dangerous.”

On a typical sunny, summer day, the temperature inside a car can reach potentially deadly levels within minutes. Experts say the damage can happen in as little as ten minutes. Even on a mild day at 73 degrees outside, an SUV can heat up to 100 degrees in ten minutes and to 120 degrees in just 30 minutes. At 90 degrees outside, the interior of a vehicle can heat up to 160 degrees within several minutes.

“Cracking the window to let air in does little to protect children from the effects of heat buildup in a parked car,” stated Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Mike Walker. “Not only could you suffer the loss of a loved one from leaving them in an unattended vehicle, you could face jail time and stiff penalties.”

Heat exhaustion can occur at temperatures above 90 degrees and heat stroke can occur when temperatures rise above 105 degrees. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. With respiratory systems that are still developing, children are particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion.

Depending on the seriousness of the offense, a person can be charged with penalties ranging from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class A Felony for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. TCA Code 39-15-401 provides that “any person who knowingly, other than by accidental means, treats a child under eighteen years of age in such a manner as to inflict injury commits a Class A misdemeanor. If the abused child is six years of age or less, the penalty is a Class D felony. TCA Code 39-15-402 carries a possible Class B or Class A felony for aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment. Class A Misdemeanors carry a penalty of not greater than 11 months, 29 days or a fine up to $2,500, or both. Class A Felonies can carry a penalty of not less than 15 nor more than 60 years. In addition, the jury may assess a fine not to exceed $50,000.

Last year, nationwide, there were at least 42 deaths in the United States due to hyperthermia after being left inside hot cars, trucks, vans and SUV’s. (Source: San Francisco State University)

Make sure your child is safe this summer and always follow a few simple tips:

Safety Tips:

• Children should never be left alone in a vehicle, not even to run a quick errand.
• Be sure that all occupants leave the vehicle when unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping babies.
• Children can set a vehicle in motion. Always lock your car and ensure children do not have access to keys or remote entry devices.
• If a child gets locked inside, call 911 and get him/her out as soon as possible.
• Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway.
• Keys should never be left within reach or sight of children.
• If you see a child or animal unattended in a car, be proactive and call 911.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services is taking similar steps to protect children transported by child care providers. To learn more, visit: http://www.tennessee.gov/humanserv/news/09/news-06-03-09.pdf and http://www.tn.gov/humanserv/adfam/cc_main.html.

New Warren County Driver Service Center to Open

June 18, 2009

The Tennessee Department of Safety (TDOS) is opening a new Driver Service Center in McMinnville, Tennessee, and closing the one currently located at 1350 Sparta Street. The new facility will be located at 594 Vervilla Road in McMinnville.

The current Warren County Driver Service Center will be closed on Monday, June 22, 2009, and will open for business at its new location on Wednesday, June 24, 2009, at 7:00 a.m. Normal hours of business will continue to be Tuesday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On the second Wednesday of each month, the facility opens one hour late for a monthly staff meeting.

The relocation gives TDOS the opportunity to move into a larger space that will allow the department to serve customers more efficiently. In the early 1980’s, the Driver Service Center moved into the 1,400 square feet modular building on Cadillac Drive. It was adequate for serving customers at that time, but the population in McMinnville has grown significantly since then and more space was needed. The Driver Service Center was moved to a temporary facility on Sparta Street in February 2008 until the new facility could be constructed. The new facility will be nearly 6,000 square feet. Members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol will also utilize some of the space.

Customers may also utilize the full-service Driver Service Centers in Coffee, Rutherford and Putnam counties.

Jacobs, White, and Meeks Win City Election

June 16, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Shawn Jacobs
W.J. (Dub) White
Aaron Meeks

Three new aldermen were elected Tuesday in the Smithville Municipal Election.

Shawn Jacobs, W.J. (Dub) White, and Aaron Meeks defeated the incumbent aldermen, Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan, and Willie Thomas.

Jacobs led the ticket with 403 votes (19.3%), White had 364 (17.4%) and Meeks received 303 votes (14.5%)

Sullivan had 289 votes (13.8%), Hutchins 237 (11.3%), Thomas 227 (10.8%), Gary Durham 224 (10.7%), and Todd Van Dyne 40 (1.9%)

A total of 811 people voted in the election, including 590 during the early voting period and 221 on Tuesday.

Jacobs, White, and Meeks will officially begin their two year terms on July 1st. They will likely be sworn into office during a special meeting of the city council prior to July 1st.

The position of alderman is not new to Meeks and White. They have both served as alderman before. In fact they both were unseated in their bids for re-election two years ago. Jacobs ran unsuccessfully for alderman for the first time two years ago, losing by only twelve votes.

The city council will be made up of Shawn Jacobs, W.J. (Dub) White, Aaron Meeks, Cecil Burger, and Stephen White. The mayor is Taft Hendrixson.

The terms of Hendrixson, Burger, and Stephen White will expire June 30th, 2010.

The following are the votes for each candidate in the election Tuesday:

Gary Durham-
Early Voting-150
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 16
Election Day-58
TOTAL-224

Jerry Hutchins, Sr.
Early Voting-153
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 21
Election Day-63
TOTAL-237

Shawn Jacobs
Early Voting-273
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 14
Election Day-116
TOTAL-403

Aaron Meeks
Early Voting 204
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 14
Election Day-85
TOTAL-303

Tonya Sullivan
Early Voting 190
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 15
Election Day-84
TOTAL-289

Willie Thomas
Early Voting-155
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 17
Election Day-55
TOTAL-227

Todd Van Dyne
Early Voting-27
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 3
Election Day-10
TOTAL-40

W.J. (Dub) White
Early Voting-245
Absentees (Paper Ballots) 19
Election Day-100
TOTAL-364

Smithville Aldermen Say No to Water and Sewer Rate Increases

June 15, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night voted 5 to 0 to keep water and sewer rates at their current levels to start the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which begins July 1st.

The proposed 2009-2010 budget for the City of Smithville originally included an overall increase in water and sewer rates of 37%. The city's financial consultant Janice Plemmons Jackson told the aldermen in a workshop last Wednesday that the proposed increase was necessary since the city has not raised it's water and sewer rates in several years and revenues haven't kept pace with costs. According to Jackson, revenues have increased by 28% since 1999 but expenditures have risen by 77%. And while the city ended the 2007-08 fiscal year in the black by $330,384 in the water and sewer department, this year the city could be at a break even point or in the red. The actual net income or loss for the year apparently won't be known until after June 30th.

Jackson says if the water and sewer fund operates in the red for two years in a row, the state could force the city to raise rates to make the utility self supporting.
The alderman asked Jackson to figure the proposed overall rate increase at about 18% so they could make a cost comparison.

During Monday night's meeting, Alderman Tonya Sullivan presented a print out from Caney Fork Electric showing that total electrical usage at the water plant has increased by 31% since June, 2007 and that the average costs are up by 37% over the last two years. Sullivan says she believes this surge may be due to the inefficiency of the existing pumps.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says officials of Wauford Engineering, who are designing plans for the rehab of the water plant, agree. "I have talked with Greg Davenport and he has come to the conclusion that these pumps may be using excess electricity because of their age. He is going to propose all new pumps instead of using rebuilt pumps. That may be where a lot of this is coming from."

Alderman Sullivan says she believes costs will come down once the water plant rehab is completed, so it may not be necessary to raise rates right now. "I don't think this is something that we need to jump to conclusions and start raising prices based on inefficient equipment. We are already in the process of replacing that equipment. If we repair or replace those pumps, I anticipate that we will continue to be in the black, as opposed to being borderline in the red.."

In response, Mayor Hendrixson said the savings may not be enough. " Greg (Davenport) thought that maybe the inefficiency would be no more than seven percent."

Mayor Hendrixson added that it's important to always have a little money left over from year to year in the water and sewer fund, and not run so close to the vest. "Just remember, over the years we've put a little extra money up (saved) every year, and now we've got the money to do (rehab) our water plant. Otherwise, we'd be floating bonds or borrowing money."

Alderman Willie Thomas made a motion that the water and sewer rates stay the same to start the new budget year, with no increases. Alderman Jerry Hutchins, Sr. seconded the motion. Aldermen Tonya Sullivan, Cecil Burger, and Steve White all voted in favor.

Alderman Sullivan pointed out that the city council could revisit the water and sewer rates at any time during the year "if numbers are not what we anticipate."

City water customers will continue to pay $3.50 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $3.50 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are 50% higher. The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District is $1.85 per thousand gallons but will increase to $1.90 for January 1st, 2010 sales.

City sewer customers, under the new budget, will continue to pay the flat usage rate of $3.62 plus $3.25 per thousand gallons thereafter.

The aldermen also voted 5 to 0 to keep the water and sewer tap fees at the same rate, even though Mayor Hendrixson said the fees are not sufficient to cover costs." According to everything I can find out, we're losing money on every tap we make, especially sewer taps."

Water tap fees in the proposed budget for 2009-2010 would have gone from $400 to $1,000 for a 3/4 inch line and from $400 to $800 for a four inch sewer line. Larger lines would have been $2,000 for water and $1,200 for sewer taps. Outside the city limits, water taps would have gone from $525 to $1,500 for 3/4 inch water lines and from $525 to $1,000 for four inch sewer lines. Larger lines would have increased to $2,500 for water and $2,000 for sewer taps.

Alderman Steve White initially made a motion to raise those fees as called for in the proposed budget, but his motion died for the lack of a second. Alderman Jerry Hutchins, Sr. then moved that the tap fees remain the same, without any increases and revisit it at a later date. Alderman Willie Thomas seconded the motion. Aldermen Tonya Sullivan, Cecil Burger, and Steve White all voted in favor.

Passage of the proposed 2009-2010 budget was postponed until Thursday night, June 18th at 6:30 p.m. at city hall. Alderman Sullivan said she needed more time to study the document and made a motion to put it off. The motion was adopted unanimously.

The budget includes a two percent pay raise for city employees and a five dollar increase per call for the volunteer firefighters, going from $15 to $20 per call.

In other business, Gary Durham addressed the mayor and aldermen complaining that the city administration decided to increase fees for backdoor garbage pickup from $10 to $25 per month without consulting the aldermen or seeking their approval. "If you want to raise it, that's not a problem, I think the method of your increase is a problem."

Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson says only a few residents subscribe to this service, mostly in the golf course area, and letters were sent, alerting them as to the increase. He says it was treated as a "day to day' operation matter. The aldermen took no action to reverse the decision so the increase will be imposed.

The aldermen voted 5 to 0 to adopt an ordinance on second and final reading amending the city's personnel policy to give city employees with ten consecutive years of service a three week vacation with pay.

The amendment states that "after ten years of consecutive service of full time officers and employees, there will be three weeks of paid vacation."

During the public hearing on this issue, former Smithville Mayor Waniford Cantrell asked that similiar consideration be given to the volunteer firefighters, perhaps in the form of "payment in lieu of vacation."

Cantrell said while city employees have received regular pay raises over the years, firefighters have not had an increase since he was mayor 25 years ago. "We've gone 25 years without giving them anything. All of our employees have been getting their step raises and cost of living raises while our firemen keep coming for $15 per call and on a two hour call that's not even paying them minimum wage. I'm concerned that we're not treating them right. That's shameful."

Mayor Hendrixson pointed out that the proposed budget for 2009-2010 includes an increase in pay for the firefighters.

The aldermen also voted 5 to 0 to adopt an ordinance amendment on second and final reading establishing a flat rate court cost of $85.00 for the Smithville City Court.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says "the city currently has court costs ranging from $20 to $95. Most towns around us have gone to a flat court cost. This ordinance proposes an $85 court cost straight across the board. It just simplifies the court costs and the record keeping."

The ordinance states as follows: Whereas, the Municipal Court Reform Act of 2004 allows cities to set and collect reasonable municipal court costs in the amounts prescribed by ordinance;

Whereas, the City of Smithville has determined that it is necessary to establish reasonable court costs for the City Court.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Smithville, as follows:

Section 1. The following section is hereby amended:

In all cases heard and determined by him, the city judge shall impose court costs in the amount of $85.00.

One dollar of the court costs in each case shall be forwarded by the court clerk to the state treasurer to be used by the administrative office of the courts for training and continuing education courses for municipal court judges and municipal court clerks. The above amount does not include the $13.75 litigation tax levied by the State of Tennessee.

An ordinance was approved on second and final reading levying a litigation tax for the City of Smithville

Mayor Hendrixson says "On every case that goes before our city court, there's a state litigation tax of $14.75 which goes to the State of Tennessee. Our clerk has to send it to the state. DeKalb County and, as far as I know, everyone around us, has their own litigation tax. It's only people that break the laws of the City of Smithville, who will be paying this, it won't be your taxpayers. It's just a way to help operate the police department without raising taxes on the taxpayers. It will be an additional $13.75 city litigation tax."

The ordinance states as follows: Whereas, Public Chapter 488 of the Public Acts of 1981, which imposed a state litigation tax, has been interpreted by opinions of the State Attorney General as allowing cities to levy a litigation tax in the same manner as the litigation tax now levied by state law in an amount not to exceed the amount of such state litigation tax; and

Whereas, the City of Smithville does not impose a litigation tax as authorized by law and desires to levy such a tax to help pay for court and police related expenses; and

Now therefore, be it ordained by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Smithville that:

Section 1. Effective on the first day of each month following passage of this ordinance, a city litigation tax shall become effective as follows;

On cases in the city court there is hereby levied a city litigation tax to match the state litigation tax of $13.75

Section 2. The privilege taxes levied pursuant to this ordinance shall be paid to the City Recorder monthly to be used to assist in paying for the operation of the city court and the police department.

Section 3. This ordinance shall become effective on the first day of the month following the final passage of this ordinance."

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