Local News Articles

Unsightly City Storage Building Being Demolished

June 16, 2010
Dwayne Page
Unsightly City Storage Building Being Demolished

An old warehouse building located across the street from city hall is being torn down today (Wednesday)

Preston Construction of Woodbury is conducting the demolition.

The Smithville Aldermen recently voted to take advantage of a Neighborhood Stabilization Program through the Tennessee Housing Development Agency which provides funds to cities and counties wanting to demolish blighted properties.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says the city owned building, located across the street from city hall on the north side, qualified for the program."I was approached by the Upper Cumberland Development District. They had some THDA funds, which in turn is HUD money for blighted areas and blighted buildings. I was approached about our white building over here. I took the liberty to make sure it (building) wasn't on an Historical site and it's not. It (building) was probably erected sometime in the 1920's. The only thing we used that for is (storing) a bunch of old stuff that probably needed to be thrown away anyway."

Once the building is removed, the property may be used for any city purpose, but under terms of the program, the property cannot be sold or leased for private purposes for a period of time, otherwise the city would have to refund all or a portion of the funds used to demolish the building.

City officials say the site will be graveled.

Mayor Hendrixson Re-Elected, Aldermen White and Burger also Win

June 15, 2010
Dwayne Page
Taft Hendrixson
Cecil Burger
Stephen White

Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson was re-elected to a third term Tuesday beating challengers Bruce Medley and Debi Loring DePriest in the Municipal Election.

Incumbent Aldermen Stephen White and Cecil Burger were also re-elected, beating challenger Shawn Beckham. White was elected to his sixth term and Burger to his third term as Aldermen.

A total of 746 people voted in the election, including 476 early (440 in person and 36 by absentee ballot) and 270 on election day (Tuesday). The City of Smithville has a total of 3,076 registered voters.

Mayor Hendrixson won with 354 votes (47.84%). Bruce Medley, a livestock producer and former Smithville mayor, came in second place with 211 votes (28.51%). Debi Loring DePriest, a teacher at DeKalb County High School, received 174 votes (23.51%) in her first run for public office.

Alderman White led the ticket with 504 votes ( 42.07%) followed by Alderman Burger with 479 votes (39.98%). Shawn Beckham, in his first run for public office, received 210 votes (17.53%) in his unsuccessful bid for alderman.

Mayor Hendrixson thanked his supporters and pledged to continue governing conservatively. "I would like to thank everyone who voted today in the city election. I would especially like to thank the ones who voted for me. I have had the taxpayers at heart for the last four years and I will continue to do that with conservative leadership and trying to take care of the taxpayers dollars. Again, I appreciate your confidence in me and I will continue doing the best I know how during the next two years. Again, I appreciate your vote. Thank you."

Alderman White also expressed his gratitude. " I want to thank all the voters who came out and voted. Those who voted for me and supported me, I thank you dearly. I'll continue to do the job, the best for the community. We have some things that will be hard decisions in the next two years, I feel, but just keep us all in your prayers and thanks again for everybody coming out and voting."

Alderman Burger, who has now been elected eleven times (eight times as mayor and three times as alderman), says he counts it an honor and privilege serving the people of Smithville. " I think I've been pretty lucky. I really want to thank my supporters for taking care of me this long. The ones who didn't support me, I don't have any ill will against them. I hope that we can carry on with the city and do the best we can with what we've got to do with. Thank you very much."

Medley said he was disappointed more people didn't vote. "I'd like to thank everybody who came out and voted and especially the ones who voted for me. I'd like to thank everybody. I just wish more people had voted."

DePriest said she too was concerned about the low voter turnout. "I want to thank all my friends and supporters who gave so much encouragement through this campaign, especially my husband and my family. I want to congratulate Mr. Hendrixson and wish him good luck. The election is over now but the work is just beginning. We can't afford business as usual unless we really want to see our town die a slow death. I think I'm more disappointed in the low voter turnout than I am anything else. I think it's sad that less than 25% of our electorate actually got out to make this decision that could have changed the outcome. But 25% of the electorate got out and they are the ones who spoke and they are the ones who said this is what they want. We've got to get involved as citizens. We need to encourage and support every public servant and employee and we also need to thank them for the outstanding job they're doing. We need to support our elected officials and every positive thing they do and we need to demand their best for we have a future here. We're writing our history every day. Let's make it a great story and let's make this a great city. God bless all. I love Smithville."

The mayor and aldermen-elect will begin their new two year terms of office July 1st. They will most likely be sworn into office sometime before that date.

The other three aldermen, whose terms will expire next summer, are Aaron Meeks, Shawn Jacobs, and W.J. (Dub) White.

Here's how the results break down for each candidate:

Mayor Race:

Taft Hendrixson:
Absentee: 17
Early Voting: 234
Election Day Machine #1 : 47
Election Day Machine #2 : 56

Total: 354

Bruce Medley:
Absentee: 12
Early Voting: 123
Election Day Machine #1: 30
Election Day Machine #2: 46

Total: 211

Debi Loring DePriest:
Absentee: 7
Early Voting: 79
Election Day Machine #1: 55
Election Day Machine #2: 33

Total: 174

Alderman Race:

Stephen White:
Absentee: 28
Early Voting: 308
Election Day Machine #1:82
Election Day Machine #2; 86

Total: 504

Cecil Burger:
Absentee: 21
Early Voting: 298
Election Day Machine #1: 79
Election Day Machine #2; 81

Total: 479

Shawn Beckham:
Absentee: 11
Early Voting: 108
Election Day Machine #1: 44
Election Day Machine #2; 47

Total: 210

DeKalb Utility District Announces Water Rate Increases

June 15, 2010
Dwayne Page

Rates for most customers of DeKalb Utility District will be increasing effective with bills due on July 10th.

Basic rates for customers who use up to 2,000 gallons per month will increase from $16.50 to $17.50. For monthly usage above 2,000 gallons up to 5,000 gallons, the costs will be an additional $6.50 per thousand, which is an increase of a dollar per thousand gallons. Customers who use more than 5,000 gallons per month will pay an additional $7.00 per thousand. These rates will apply to all customers except in the Gassaway and Silver Point service areas.

A customer, for example, who uses 6,000 gallons of water per month will see their bill increase from $38.50 to $44.00 plus tax.

Jon Foutch, DUD manager, says the utility has little choice but to adjust rates since the operation is currently running in the red. "We knew that we would be operating in the red this year but the state won’t let us do that for two years in a row.". The state requires water utilities to be financially self supporting. Foutch adds that this rate increase has nothing to do with the City of Smithville’s plans to raise it’s water rates. The DUD purchases most of it’s water supply from the City of Smithville. The DUD pays the city $1.90 per thousand gallons.

Foutch says the DUD has not raised water rates for most customers since 2007. Customers in the Silver point area (across Hurricane bridge) have not seen a DUD rate increase since 2004. Foutch says in order to provide service to the Silver Point area, the DeKalb Utility District has to purchase water from Baxter, which buys its water from the City of Cookeville. Because it costs more for the DUD to deliver water to the Silver Point area, customers there are under a different rate structure.

For example, a customer in the Silver Point service area who uses 6,000 gallons of water per month will see their bill increase from $60.00 to $71.60 plus tax.

Basic rates for Silver Point area customers who use up to 2,000 gallons per month will go from $20.00 to $26.70, effective with bills due on July 10th. For monthly usage above 2,000 gallons up to 5,000 gallons, the costs will be an extra $11.10 per thousand, an increase of $1.10 per thousand. Customers (Silver Point area) who use more than 5,000 gallons per month will pay an extra $11.60 per thousand, an increase of $1.60 per thousand gallons.

Effective July 1st, water customers in the Gassaway area will be served by the DeKalb Utility District instead of the City of Woodbury. Foutch says Woodbury, which also gets it’s water from DUD, currently provides service to the Gassaway area, but under an agreement with Woodbury, DUD will take on about eighty customers in the Gassaway area and serve them directly.

The current rate structure for Gassaway customers will mostly remain unchanged. Customers who use up to 2,000 gallons per month will continue to pay a minimum bill of $18.55. For monthly usage above 2,000 up to 5,000 gallons, the costs will be additional $7.15 per thousand. The DUD will be adding a third tier rate for Gassaway customers who use more than 5,000 gallons per month, $7.55 per thousand (over 5,000 gallons).

Legislative Update from State Senator Mae Beavers

June 15, 2010
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers.

Session finally came to a close last week as the state was able to pass a budget and conclude its business. The budget process consisted of weeks of negotiations, mainly with Senate Republicans attempting to pass a responsible budget against the will of many House Democrat and Republican leaders.

After passing a conservative budget out of the Senate Finance Committee, Senate leaders were constrained by members of the State House in what spending they could cut to balance the budget, and negotiations with House leaders allowed numerous pork projects to be included into the budget, in addition to raiding Tennessee’s “Rainy Day” savings account by hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I applaud the Senate for attempting to pass a conservative budget during these hard economic times,” said Senator Beavers. “However, due to certain House members’ wish lists when it came to pork projects that are not affordable during these times, in addition to spending hundreds of millions of dollars from our rainy day fund, I had to vote against this budget. It’s a shame that House members would rather spend, spend, spend and borrow, borrow, borrow rather than operate within our means. My family operates in a pay-as-you go fashion…and the state of Tennessee needs to do the same.”

Senator Beavers Proud to Have Passed Tennessee Health Freedom Act Twice this Session – Discouraged with the State House for Refusing to Protect Tennesseans from Obamacare

On Friday, June 4th, Senate leaders enacted a procedural method that revived the Tennessee Health Freedom Act. The original Health Freedom Act, SB 3498, was sponsored by Senator Beavers and passed the Senate Floor overwhelmingly last February. Yet, due to parliamentary maneuvers and side-deals being struck by House members and the House Speaker, that bill was killed last week in a budget subcommittee.

“The House Speaker cast a tie-breaking vote to kill that bill in committee last week,” said Senator Beavers. “The House committee then decided to pass out a similar, but substantially weaker bill to cover their tracks; however, all of the members knew that bill had not moved in the Senate. Their attempt to only advance the version that was dead in the Senate was their attempt to kill the Tennessee Health Freedom Act.”

The legislature was then left with a predicament in that there were two different versions of a bill that sought to protect Tennesseans from unconstitutional provisions of the national healthcare bill; however, both of their companion bills were stalled in the opposite legislative chamber. Therefore, SB 2560 was recalled from committee and brought straight to the Senate Floor. The only way the Senate agreed to recall the bill was to have an amendment that would put Beavers’ version of the Tennessee Health Freedom Act onto the bill since that was the only amendment that had been through the Senate committee process. If the Senate had not adopted that version of the bill, the bill would have been dead.

“This was an unusual procedural motion,” acknowledged Senator Beavers. “However the difference between this motion and others that have failed in the past is that this amendment has been vetted in committee and passed overwhelmingly in February. To me, it’s not a question of politics, it’s a matter of policy and principle…the Tennessee legislature needs to send a firm message to Washington that we do not agree with their unprecedented and unconstitutional national healthcare legislation. My amendment protected Tennesseans from the federal government, the other bill only said that the state legislature could not impose mandatory healthcare – which is irrelevant because it’s the federal government, not the state, who will impose such a mandate.”

Then, after passing the Senate overwhelming for the second time, the Tennessee Health Freedom Act failed to receive the necessary 50 votes to pass in its final form in the House of Representatives.

“I was incredibly discouraged that House Democrats voted to kill this bill,” said Senator Beavers. “The Senate did every maneuver we could to resurrect this bill - even passing the Tennessee Health Freedom Act once in February and then again last week.”

Many Democrats cited the reason for their vote being that Tennessee's Attorney General said it was likely unconstitutional, yet Senator Beavers argued that such a statement was merely his opinion. "The only way you could say that my bill is unconstitutional would be if you believe Obamacare is constitutional – and the State Senate said loud and clear that we do not think it is…it’s the Attorney General's job to defend the policies of this state, and there is no way that an unconstitutional federal law should trump a constitutional state law!"

To read about the different versions of Tennessee Health Freedom Act (SB3498 and SB2622), you can visit http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/Amend/SA0829.pdf; http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/Bill/HB2622.pdf; and the compromise reached: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/106/CCRReports/CC0027.pdf

Two Warren County Men Charged with Burglary of Houseboat

June 14, 2010
Dwayne Page
John Houston Simons
Luther J. George

Two McMinnville men were arrested by the Sheriff's Department last week, charged in connection with the burglary of a houseboat at Pates Ford Marina.

19 year old John Houston Simons of Nortcutt Cove Road, McMinnville and 24 year old Luther J. George of Greenwood Drive, McMinnville were charged on Wednesday, June 9th with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $1,000. Bond for both men was set at $10,000 and they will appear in court on July 15th. Sheriff Patrick Ray says a deputy responded to a call at the Pates Ford Marina and arrested the two men after they were found to have entered a houseboat without the owner's consent and removed two televisions from the boat.

Meanwhile in another case, 19 year old Donald E. Yarbrough, Jr. of Luttrell Drive Smithville was charged Wednesday, June 2nd with statutory rape. Deputies were called to answer a complaint on Woodbury Highway in Liberty After arrival they spoke to Yarbrough about allegations that he had sexual contact with a 14 year old female. Yarbrough admitted to deputies that he had been having sex with the girl. After an investigation into the crime, Yarbrough was arrested. His bond was set at $5,000.

52 year old James Herbert Thomen of Capshaw Drive, Cookeville and 35 year old Sean Keller of Window Cliff Road, Baxter were charged Monday, June 7th with driving under the influence. Keller was also issued a citation for refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test. Bond for both was set at $1,000 and they will appear in court on June 17th. According to Sheriff Ray, a deputy received a call about a fight in the Austin Bottom area of the county. Upon arrival, the officer spotted two vehicles driving away from the area. He stopped one of the cars on the Austin Bottom Road. The other car stopped behind them. The deputy noticed that the driver of the first car, Thomen, had an odor of alcoholic beverage. Thomen submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed and he was very unsteady on his feet. The deputy then checked the driver of the second vehicle, Keller, and detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage on him. Keller also submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed. Keller was unsteady on his feet and he refused to take a blood alcohol test.

46 year old Gary Wayne Ponder was arrested Tuesday, June 8th on a sealed indictment charging him with two counts of sale and delivery of a schedule II drug and two counts of sale and delivery of a schedule II drug in a drug free zone. The charges against Ponder are the result of the Sheriff's Department's Drug Round Up back in April. Bond for Ponder was set at $60,000 and he will appear in court on June 18th.

21 year old Aaron Preston Battle of Lakeridge Run Nashville was arrested on Saturday, June 12th and charged with theft of property over $1,000. His bond is set at $8,500 and he will appear in court on June 24th. According to Sheriff Ray, a deputy received a report of a stolen four wheeler at the Four Seasons Marina. Following an investigation, the officer arrested Battle for the theft. Battle admitted that he took the four wheeler from the marina without the owner's consent.. The four wheeler was valued at $3,000.

Diana Moon Wins Relay 5K

June 14, 2010
Dwayne Page
Relay Co-Chair Rhonda Caplinger, Diana Moon, Jim Wall, Jason Mahan

Diana Moon was the overall winner of the Relay 5K held Saturday morning in Smithville to benefit Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. She ran the course in twenty six minutes and nine seconds.

Jim Wall had the second best time at 26:26 and Jason Mahan came in third overall at 26:43

In the One Mile Fun Run, Ethan Jenkins, who took first place, finished the course in ten minutes and six seconds followed in second place by Luke Jenkins at 10:40 and William Clendenen whose time was 13:42

Casey Midgett, 2010 Chairman of Relay for Life, said more runners took part in this year's event. " We had a good crowd of 45 participants which was up from 23 runners last year. We had two races, the 5K and the Fun Run, which both began at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the east end of Green Brook Park."

"As far as winners, we had a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place overall for the 5K and a 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall for the Fun Run."

"For the 5K, we also gave out a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place award for four age categories."

Midgett says all proceeds will benefit the DeKalb County Relay for Life. "Right now we think we have made about $1,600 off of the race itself, which will now, preliminarily, push our entire Relay total to around $56,500 for 2010. We still have some more fundraisers to go this summer and our goal, now, is to try to get to $60,000."


Fun Run

1st Ethan Jenkins 10:06

2nd Luke Jenkins 10:40

3rd William Clendenen 13:42

Age Brackets


1 Katherine Clendennen 45:49

2 Amelia Patterson 45:52

3 Eli Gill 51:25


1 Makenzy Hendrix 32:32

2 Adriane Brown 37:24

3 Brooke Lind 38:24


1 Diana Moon 26:09

2 Jason Mahan 26:43

3 Samuel Sliger 29:04


1 Lindy Jenkins 28:54

2 Missy Clendennen 30:41

3 Phyllis Asberry 31:56


1 Jim Wall 26:26

2 Tim Robinson 29:56

3 Judy Tatanish 32:13

60 +

1 Danny Jenkins 28:03

2 Janice Cochran 43:59

(Photos provided by Casey Midgett)

Prominent Local Business Woman Dies

June 12, 2010
Dwayne Page
Wilma Hibdon Hooper

85 year old Wilma Hibdon Hooper, a well known local businesswoman who was owner and operator of Love-Cantrell Funeral Home in Smithville for more than 50 years died Saturday at NHC of Smithville. Hooper was also a former owner of Love-Cantrell Funeral Home in McMinnville and she once owned a grocery store in the Smithville area for many years. She was also a member of the Banks Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

The funeral will be Monday at 5:00 p.m. at the Chapel of Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Junior Hibdon and E.H. Denman, Jr. will officiate and burial will be in DeKalb Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. and Monday from 9:00 a.m. until the time of the service at 5:00 p.m.

She was preceded in death by her parents, George Washington and Ada Genella Johnson Hibdon; her husband, Allen D. Hooper; and a brother, Junior Hibdon.

Survivors include a daughter and son-in-law, Diane and Deloy Kirby; a granddaughter and grandson-in-law, Renee and Brad Hennessee; a grandson and granddaughter-in-law, Chad and Shelia Kirby; three great grandsons, James and Zackary Caplinger and Dallas Kirby; and a great granddaughter, Brylee Kirby all of Smithville. One sister, Virginia Miller of Brentwood. A special niece, Emogene Hardy of Brentwood. Brothers and sisters-in-law, T.M. and Juanita Hooper of Smithville, Jack and Marlys Hooper of California, Billy and Mary Jane Hooper, and Billie Ruth Hooper all of Smithville. One special great niece, Donna and husband Charlie Hicks of Nashville. One special great nephew, Randy and wife Diane Knowles of Nashville.

Love-Cantrell Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. The family requests that donations be made, in lieu of flowers, to the Allen D. Hooper Memorial Fund.

Craig Charged with Domestic Assault and Resisting Arrest

June 12, 2010
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have charged a 32 year man for assaulting his wife and then trying to resist arrest.

Gabriel D Craig of 620 Potts Camp Road was arrested on Monday, June 7th for simple domestic assault, simple assault, resisting arrest with violence and violation of bond conditions. Officer Scott Davis was dispatched to the Food Lion parking lot where he met with the victim of the domestic assault. The victim stated that she and her husband, Gabriel Craig got into a verbal argument and sometime during the argument Craig bit her right forearm causing a visible injury. Craig had left the scene and was found in the old Smithville Food Center parking lot. Officer Davis made contact with Craig and took him back to the scene of the altercation. While Craig was in the back of Officer Davis' patrol car he became argumentative with the officer, who was giving him directions and when Officer Davis attempted to place him under arrest for the assault against his wife, Craig began using force in an attempt to keep the officer from placing handcuffs on him. Craig attempted to kick and bite Officer Davis while being handcuffed. With the assistance of Officer Matt Holmes, Officer Davis gained control over Mr. Craig after several minutes and Craig was placed into custody. . Craig had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear and he was under bond from a previous domestic assault on the victim. Bond for Craig is $29,000 and his court date is June 10th.

25 year old Michael Brandon Redmon of 7592 McMinnville Highway was arrested Monday, June 7th for public intoxication. Officer Jerry Hutchins made the arrest. His bond is $1,000 and his court date is June 24th.

Anyone having information on the following offenses is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

On Tuesday, June 8th Sabrina Lattimore reported that someone had taken her debit card from her vehicle parked at Omega Apparel between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Any information received that will help the Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

The LOOP- A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

June 11, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

We unanimously passed a budget on Friday afternoon, June 4th, after weeks of contentious negotiations. After some of us held the line against Democrat-proposed tax increases and fought for the removal of wasteful expenditures, the budget proposal finally agreed upon does not include either but still protects funding for priorities. In addition, we left a healthy amount in the state’s reserves accounts, including $429,207,100 in the Rainy Day Fund and TennCare Reserve Fund. The combined total of all reserve accounts will be $615.4 million. The 2010 budget is $28.6 billion after we made approximately $650 million in cuts.

The Governor’s original budget proposal also included over $130 million in tax increases, which House leadership denounced as a tactic to balance the budget. Part of the tax increase plan included an $85 million tax on single article sales and an additional $50 million by increasing taxes on cable, long-distance telephone services, and free continental breakfasts that hotels and motels sometimes provide. We also reached a consensus on several contentious items such as the Career Ladder program, Agriculture Enhancement Grants, and state employee bonuses.

Career Ladder
The legislature approved the Career Ladder program in 1983 as a form of incentive pay for educators. If teachers hit certain benchmarks, their pay was supplemented. The program was closed to new entrants in 1994, and shrinks every year due to attrition. Estimates for the 2010-2011 fiscal year indicate approximately $5.4 million in savings because of retirements. Although there was discussion of removing Career Ladder funding from this year’s budget, the program was ultimately included with temporary funding and totals $34.5 million.

State Employee Bonuses
The Governor had originally proposed a 3 percent one-time bonus for state employees costing $164.7 million but lawmakers felt that was excessive in a year when layoffs were occurring. The proposal in the final budget would provide for a one-time bonus of $50 per every year of service. Employees will receive a minimum of $150 and a maximum of $1,250 and the bonus is contingent upon the state collecting over projected revenues. If given, we believe the bonuses would likely happen in the fall of this year.

Federal money still in jeopardy
The budget cautiously allocates federal funding that has not yet been approved by the U.S. Congress, but funds only “contingency items” that is essentially ‘extras’ with these dollars. The state was expecting Congress to have already approved the nearly $340 million in one-time funding, but Congress left on Memorial Day break without acting on the extension. The funds will provide for upgraded radios for state troopers, an unnamed economic development project, the demolition of several dilapidated buildings at the University of Tennessee’s Health Sciences Center, and the Civil Rights Museum. A portion would also be used on a post-flood tourism campaign to demonstrate that “Tennessee is open for business.”

Flood relief
In light of the devastating floods at the beginning of May, we included flood relief in the budget to the tune of $19.9 million. Flood relief plans were discussed at length during budget negotiations as we recognize the need for aid. Proposed methods for funding flood relief proposals included using cash from the state's Rainy Day Fund, using a portion of stimulus money, and through various tax relief measures. Ultimately, the legislature settled on a plan that eliminates the state and local sales tax on major appliances, residential building supplies, and residential furniture. To receive a refund from the Department of Revenue, flood victims must have purchased the equipment between May 1, 2010, and September 30, 2010. The total amount that can be received is $2,500 and the claimant must file a single application with the Department of Revenue by November 30, 2010, along with satisfactory proof from FEMA showing damage. The refunds are allocated out of the state’ s General Fund.

Technical Corrections
The “technical corrections” bill submitted each year by the Administration has evolved over time from legitimate technical changes in the Tennessee Code Annotated to a tax bill that supplements the state’s General Fund. Conservatives have fought for returning the legislation to a true “technical” corrections measure for many years, and this year the legislature was successful. Three months ago, the technical corrections bill was laden with more than $130 million in tax increases to balance the budget. We stripped the taxes from the bill, which now includes tax relief, flood victim assistance, and economic development measures. The final vote on the legislation was 92-2.

Lawmakers fight to protect Tennesseans from federal overreach of healthcare
We passed House Bill 2622 Tuesday night with a vote of 53-32, after months of wrangling in committee. The bill prohibits the legislature from requiring any person to participate in any health care system or plan. Opponents attempted to attach poison pill amendments and use complicated parliamentary procedures in an effort to kill the bill. Because the House and Senate versions differed, the legislation went to a conference committee. Although most of us present voted for the conference committee report, it failed to obtain the fifty constitutional votes for passage and died along party lines with a 44-39 vote.

We have fought all year to enact a proposal to counter the federal health care takeover, believing that expanding government programs is rarely an effective solution to complex issues. Further, proponents have argued the federal government’s takeover of healthcare will only prove to balloon the cost of healthcare services to the states.

Legislature reaches agreement on workers’ compensation law
We voted this week on complex legislation that ensures fairness in construction industry bidding, protects general contractors from workers’ compensation claims filed by subcontractors and addresses employee misclassification. Earlier in the year, the General Assembly approved legislation calling for the immediate suspension of a law passed in 2008 due to unintended effects of the act to require sole proprietors and partners engaged in the construction industry to carry workers’ compensation coverage on themselves. Since January, the legislature has been discussing alternative ways to address gaps in coverage for workers in construction companies without harming small business owners.

The new law requires everyone in the construction industry to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance or be specifically exempted. Sole proprietors and partners in the construction industry will have to carry insurance on themselves, but they can obtain an exemption from the requirement. The exemption is limited to certain members of the construction industry including, but not limited to, officers of a corporation, a sole proprietor, members of a limited liability company, or a partner in a limited partnership. In addition, those who request an exemption must be current in paying all taxes. No more than three people on any one commercial job are eligible to claim an exemption.

The measure also substantially increases penalties for employers who fail to comply with the law. The bill set different effective dates for various provisions, phasing in the new law slowly. The final product came after months of discussions between us, the Department of Commerce and Insurance and various representatives of the construction industry. The bill passed 87-7.

Tennessee General Assembly adjourns sine die, ties up loose ends
The legislature adjourned “sine die” at 1:15 a.m. on Thursday, June 10, 2010, officially ending the 106th General Assembly. This week, we took up several matters after passing the budget last Friday, and below are some of the items that received approval at the eleventh hour.

The State House of Representatives voted 61-30 to override the Governor’s veto on a measure that allows licensed carry permit holders to carry firearms into establishments that serve alcohol. It was the second time the legislature has overridden the Governor’s veto on the proposal, and the law took effect immediately on June 4, 2010.

Senate Bill 440 was approved by us this week amid complaints from some opponents. The bill requires felons to have paid all court costs associated with their conviction before the restoration of their voting rights. Some of us argued that it is a choice to engage in criminal behavior, and felons must be prepared to deal with the consequences of that decision. After much discussion, the bill passed 70-23.

House Bill 670 would require jailers to determine whether or not their inmates are in the country legally, and set the wheels in motion to have them deported if it is found they are illegal. The legislation was amended several times as some of us attempted to exempt their individual counties from the requirement and the House and Senate ended passing different versions, forcing the bill into a conference committee. The changes were finally reconciled and the only counties exempted are Davidson and Shelby Counties. The final proposal was approved 84-3.

DeKalb Fire Making Progress in Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers

June 11, 2010
Donny Green

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department is making huge strides with its recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters thanks to a $190,000 4-year grant awarded to the Department in 2008. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant is a 100% federal grant, with no local matching requirement from county government, and DeKalb County is one of the few Tennessee counties awarded this grant.

Chief Donny Green says that DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department is a unique volunteer fire department because most departments are not county-wide departments. DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department covers all the areas of DeKalb County outside the city limits of Smithville and Alexandria while providing fire response, vehicle rescue, medical first responders, and a fire safety and prevention program. Today, the department has a membership of 75 active firefighters, including a Chief, Assistant Chief, 2 Captains, and 5 Lieutenants that are all 100% volunteer that provide emergency responses out of 11 substations strategically located across the county.

The 2008 SAFER Grant will continue through March 2013. The grant provides 100% federal funding to provide incentives to get new volunteers recruited and to retain the volunteers already on the department. Among the incentives are reimbursement for fuel expenses ($10 per call), as volunteers use their own personal vehicles to respond to emergencies. Another incentive to both new recruits and veteran members is the annual training incentive awards. Members who attend 100% of the monthly training drills get $400, and members who attend at least 75% of the monthly training drills get $200 each year. In 2009, the department had 31 of our 61 members attend 100% of monthly training drills and 17 members attend at least 75% of monthly training drills. Thus far in 2010, we have 52 of our 75 volunteer firefighters who have 100% monthly training drill attendance.

Chief Green says the results from this grant have been remarkable. In 2009, DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department was named as one of the top departments, from among all paid and volunteer departments across the State of Tennessee, as having the most certified training hours. In 2009, there were only 8 other volunteer fire departments in Tennessee that had more training hours than DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, and for 2010, the department is on track to exceed the 2009 training hours.

As for the recruiting of volunteer firefighters, Chief Green says the department is exceeding the quarterly goals of the grant project. At the beginning of the grant period in 2008, the department had 61 active volunteer firefighters in the 11-station department. Our goal in the grant project is to increase our volunteer staff by at least 2.75 firefighters for each quarter in the grant period. Today, we have 75 active volunteer firefighters on board and we are meeting and exceeding our membership goals. The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department’s ultimate goal is to have around 120 volunteer firefighters. That would provide a staff of about 11 volunteer firefighters per station.

Chief Green says he is strongly opposed to having to resort to paid firefighters. “I think hiring firefighters would have a very negative financial effect on our county’s budget. We are confident that DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department can continue to provide good service to our citizens while excelling in recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters and providing them with excellent training opportunities. Our effectiveness has already been proven with the Insurance Service Office (ISO). The cities of Liberty and Dowelltown have already reaped the benefits of having their homeowner’s insurance premiums drastically reduced, going from an ISO class protection rating 9 to a class protection rating 6,” says Chief Green.

Since 2001, the Department has been awarded over $1.7 million in local, state, and federal grants that have allowed equipment to be upgraded across the county-wide operation. These equipment upgrades were made, with very minimal local tax dollars, to prepare the county for an upcoming ISO evaluation where the Department will attempt to lower the entire county’s ISO rating to help reduce homeowner’s insurance premiums for DeKalb County residents.

“Lowering our ISO rating is a win-win situation for DeKalb County,” says County Mayor Mike Foster. “Our county fire department is continuing to be successful in obtaining grants, recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters who are committed to training and providing good fire protection services to our citizens. Our citizens are safer, and if we are able to reach our goal of obtaining a lower ISO rating, our insurance rates should go down saving a considerable amount of money for our home and property owners. Our volunteer firefighters are better trained and equipped and this keeps volunteer morale high. Many of our sister counties and cities have not been as fortunate in recruiting and retaining qualified volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters are a valued asset to our county.”

“As long as we can continue provide adequate response and properly trained firefighters, I see no reason that DeKalb County cannot sustain an all volunteer fire department. After all, this is the “volunteer” state and all of our firefighters have a great sense of pride in being able to provide a great volunteer service to our communities,” says Chief Green.

If you are interested in learning more about the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, or would like information on how to be on our team and become a volunteer firefighter, you can visit the Department’s website at: www.dekalbfire.com or call the Main Station at 615-597-2609 and leave a message.


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