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Local News Articles

Cantrell Accuses City of Overcharging Water Customers for Sewer

May 17, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Is the City of Smithville overcharging city water customers for sewer?

Local resident Waniford Cantrell believes so.

When the aldermen adopted the budget last year, they increased water and sewer rates. City customers are now paying $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of usage plus $5.00 for each additional thousand gallons

Sewer rates also increased to $5.00 for the first thousand plus $5.00 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage

For example, if your monthly water bill is ten dollars then your sewer bill would be ten dollars making your total monthly bill twenty dollars.

Waniford Cantrell Accuses City of Overcharging for Sewer Services from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Cantrell, who addressed the mayor and aldermen Monday night, said he has been checking his own bill and has obtained bills from friends and neighbors and has discovered that in every case, sewer charges are higher than water charges by $3.62. Cantrell insists that, according to the budget, sewer charges should be equal to the water fees and no more.

Cantrell said the city should not only correct the billing to make this right, but it should give a rebate to the 2,300 water and sewer customers who he believes have been over billed since the budget was enacted last year.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson challenged Cantrell on his assumption saying that he doesn't believe the city is overcharging for sewer services. The mayor said the city is required by state law to charge everyone a fair user flat rate fee of $3.62 over and above regular city rates, which does put monthly fees for sewer higher than water charges. However, according to Mayor Hendrixson this flat rate user fee for sewer is nothing new. It has been budgeted and charged to customers for several years.

Cantrell pointed out that no such fee is spelled out in the budget and that if it wasn't included in the spending plan, it should not be passed on to water and sewer customers.

City Officials Oppose Funding Lifeguards During Private Pool Parties

May 17, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tony Poss Addresses Mayor and Aldermen

As the opening day of the swimming season approaches, the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen and the tenant of the golf course/swimming pool are at odds on how many lifeguards are needed at the city swimming pool and whether the city should pay their wages during private pool parties.

Last year three lifeguards were on duty at the pool under a previous tenant but Tony Poss, the tenant now, said Monday night during the city council meeting that three is not enough. He is asking for the city to fund at least four lifeguards at the pool this summer, and possibly as many as five. Poss said lifeguards would be needed not just during regular pool hours but during private pool parties at night. "We're going to request that we have five lifeguards there at all times on each shift or a minimum of four to keep that pool safe. Three, we don't feel is enough. We're looking at rotating these four or five lifeguards during the day and have three new fresh ones coming on at night (during pool parties). In my opinion we can't operate this pool with three lifeguards. We can but it is not safe. We need a minimum of four," said Poss.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson asked Poss "Do you know yet what your state requirements are (on lifeguards)?

Poss replied "No".

Mayor Hendrixson answered "Well in my opinion that will determine how many you've gotta have".

Meanwhile Mayor Hendrixson and city attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. argued that the city should not be paying for lifeguards after hours, because private pool parties are privately booked and not generally open to the public. "Pool parties are not open to the public. If you have a party over there at night, your family can't go swim during somebody else's pool party. Whatever you (Poss) charge (for pool parties) should be figured into your charges on that (for lifeguards). Taxpayers shouldn't be paying for private party lifeguards," said Mayor Hendrixson

City attorney Parsley agreed saying "I assume pool parties ought to pay for themselves".

Poss claims nothing in his lease with the city calls for him to hire his own lifeguards during pool parties. He said that's the city's responsibility. "Our impression was that in the contract we have with the city, you guys agreed to pay all lifeguards wages. There were no stipulations about if we had a pool party. When we set our fees on that (pool parties) we were under the assumption that you all were going to pay for the wages". Poss said several pool parties have already been booked at $100 for members and $200 for non-members. "We've done sold memberships based on golf and the pool. We can't go back on that now. That wouldn't be fair," said Poss.

The actual lease states as follows: "The tenant (Poss) shall be responsible for the operation of the Smithville Swimming Pool, to include the hiring of certified lifeguards, however the landlord (City) shall pay their salaries during all hours of operation."

Still, Mayor Hendrixson insists it's not right nor legal for city taxpayers to fund the cost of providing lifeguards during private pool parties. "We have figured approximately twelve thousand dollars for three lifeguards at seven hours a day for nine weeks and it's going to run with benefits, FICA about twelve or thirteen thousand dollars. They will be our employees and we're going to pay for them, but I don't think we can take taxpayer's money and pay for these private parties," said Mayor Hendrixson.

As for the number of lifeguards the city will pay for, Poss and city officials will check with the state to determine the minimum number of lifeguards required per number of swimmers at a given time.

Meanwhile, the aldermen voted 3 to 0 to pay lifeguards minimum wage this summer. Aldermen Steve White and W.J. (Dub) White abstained from voting since Steve's daughter who is also W.J.'s granddaughter has worked at the pool as a lifeguard.

The pool is expected to be open by Memorial Day.

City Opposes DUD Plans to Build its Own Water Treatment Plant

May 16, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb Utility District has resurrected a proposal to build its own water treatment plant off Holmes Creek Road in the Yolanda Hills Drive area and Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson and members of the city council are not happy about it.

If the DUD goes through with it's plans, the City of Smithville stands to eventually lose it's largest water customer and over a half million dollars in sales each year. That could mean increases in water rates to city customers as well as those served by DUD, according to Mayor Taft Hendrixson.

In 2004, officials of the DeKalb Utility District entered into a ten year agreement with the City of Smithville to purchase water at $1.60 per thousand gallons with a five cent escalator increase per thousand gallons each year of the ten year contract. The DUD currently pays $1.95 cents per thousand gallons. The contract is scheduled to expire in 2014. By law, the city must sell the DUD water at no less than cost. According to this year's budget, actual sales to "other districts" (DUD) for the year ending June 30th, 2009 was $541,286.

In order to build this proposed $10 million water plant, the DUD needs financial assistance and is seeking help through USDA Rural Development's loan/grant program. The aldermen, apparently in an effort to derail DUD's funding for this project, voted Monday night to send a letter, written by Mayor Hendrixson, to the USDA stating the city's opposition.

In the letter to Bobby M. Goode, State Director of USDA Rural Development, Mayor Hendrixson wrote on behalf of the City of Smithville " It has come to our attention that the DeKalb Utility District has a pending pre-application with your agency to fund a water treatment plant and raw water intake which reportedly involves over $10 million. Smithville currently furnishes DUD water at a rate of $1.95 per thousand gallons under a contract through 2014. We have furnished DUD with water at reasonable rates since its inception and we desire to continue to do so," wrote Mayor Hendrixson.

The letter goes on to state that "If your agency approves this funding and the facilities are built, the results will be disastrous for Smithville, DeKalb County, and the customers of the DUD."

"Smithville is completing a $2.8 million modernization of our water treatment plant which has a capacity of 4.0 million gallons per day; our source of supply is Center Hill Lake, however our intake is on the main channel which provides best quality water. Our water demand over the past year averaged less than 45% of capacity with peaks at slightly over half capacity which, of course, includes DUD," wrote Mayor Hendrixson.

"If DUD builds a water treatment plant, their water rates to their customers will have to be increased considerably in order to pay their loan and fund depreciation as per state law and Smithville's rates will have to be increased because we will require the same operating expertise at our treatment plant even with a slight reduction of labor. Our reduced cost of power and chemicals will not come close to covering the amortization, including depreciation, of the current improvements," according to Mayor Hendrixson's letter.

"As you can see, we have plenty of capacity to furnish DUD water for expansion, we are selling it at a reasonable rate, and we have no objection to their expansion. It would be a gross waste of available monies to fund another water treatment plant as well as a detriment to several thousand people," concluded Mayor Hendrixson.

Last week, a "Notice of the Availability of an Environmental Assessment" was published in one of the local newspapers stating that "The USDA, Rural Utilities Service has received an application for financial assistance from the DeKalb Utility District. The proposed project consists of the construction of a new water treatment plant on approximately 30 acres of land, which the DUD owns, near Holmes Creek Road. The project also consists of a raw water intake near the location of the former Holmes Creek Marina on Center Hill Lake, three new pump stations, and necessary transmission lines to accommodate water distribution throughout the DeKalb Utility District's service area."

Jon Foutch, DUD manager, told WJLE Monday that the DeKalb Utility District is growing, adding more customers, and the utility wants its own water treatment plant in order to better control its future water supply expansion issues. Currently, the DUD purchases almost all of its water supply from the City of Smithville except for the Silver Point Community of DeKalb County. DUD buys water to serve that area from the City of Baxter at $6.50 per thousand gallons.

According to Foutch, another plant would increase the area's water capacity which could be used as a selling point for possible industrial expansion and recruitment. Plus, he said the city and DUD could work together in times of crisis. "If something were to happen to the Smithville treatment plant or DUD's plant we could lean on each other. All we would have to do is turn on a few valves since we're already connected to each other. We could support each other," said Foutch.

Foutch also stressed that officials of the DUD have no ill will toward city officials and are not taking this action because of any personal vendettas. "We're not wanting to build a treatment plant because we are mad at the City of Smithville. We just feel it's the best business decision for DUD," said Foutch.

The DUD already has settled with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a storage volume fee arrangement to draw up to two million gallons a day, once the plant is completed and in operation, according to Foutch. And should the DUD be unsuccessful in it's efforts to secure USDA Rural Development Loan/Grant funds, the utility is prepared to proceed with the plans through other funding sources. "We have had an outside firm come in and look at our books and they have said this is feasible for us. So even if we don't get the grant money, we can proceed with financing through another avenue," said Foutch.

Foutch said Rural Development funding would be the best option for the DUD and it's customers because the utility could potentially qualify for grant monies which would not have to be repaid. For example, on a $10 million project, Foutch speculated that the DUD could possibly obtain a $3 million grant along with a $7 million loan. However, without the grant funds, the DUD would be responsible for re-payment of the entire $10 million loan, through another funding agency.

If the financing can be worked out, Foutch said construction could begin as early as the end of 2012. DUD officials are hoping that the plant would be completed and ready for operation by 2014.

This is not the first time the DUD has seriously considered building its own water treatment plant. In January, 1999 the DUD was awarded a $1 million Rural Development Grant and a $2,380,000 loan. In addition to the money for the water plant, another $500,000 was made available to the project from a Community Development Block Grant for an elevated water storage tank which now stands at the top of Snow Hill. The tank was built to solve the problem of water pressure in some areas.

However when it came time to build the water plant, the DUD apparently discovered that the costs were much more than the available grant/loan funds. While DUD had sufficient local reserves to make up the difference and assurances from Rural Development for extra financial help if needed, the DUD decided instead to enter into negotiations with the City of Smithville for a new water rate. Some of the loan/grant funds were later used to make other improvements to the existing infrastructure.

Fifth Grade DARE Graduation held at Northside Elementary School

May 16, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Fifth Grade Essay Winner Kelsie Merriman Holds "Daren the Lion"
Essay Winner Kelsie Merriman with Judge Bratten Cook II
Fifth Grade DARE Essay Winners at NES

Fifth graders at Northside Elementary School received pins and certificates during the annual DARE graduation ceremony held Monday

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program was conducted by DARE Instructor and Chief Deputy Don Adamson of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Patrick Ray addresses 5th Grade DARE Graduating Class from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Each student prepares an essay during the course and those with the best essays from each class are recognized and awarded. This year's essay winners at Northside are:

Fifth Grader Kelsie Merriman Reads her Winning DARE Essay from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Kyle Justice from Amy Raymond's class
Calista Jones from Amanda Griffith's class
Hailey Redmon from Carrie Gottlied's class
Jayla Angaran from Ginger Wenger's class
Taylor Reeder from Alisha Day's class
Kelsie Merriman from Cheryl Vance's class
Evin Dyer from Melissa Hale's class

Kelsie Merriman was the over-all winner and she read her essay during Monday's program. In addition to the award, prizes, and recognition, Merriman gets to keep "Daren the Lion" the DARE Mascot. Judge Bratten Cook II also presented her a check for $50.

Sheriff Patrick Ray, who spoke during the DARE graduation, told the students that "D.A.R.E. is a cooperative effort by the DeKalb Sheriff's Department, DeKalb County School System, parents, and the community. "I ask you today students, to take this valuable information and apply it to your lives, now and forever."

Others who made remarks during the ceremony were Northside Principal Dr. Gayle Redmon, Judge Cook, and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby.

Other public officials on hand for the DARE graduation program, in addition to Sheriff Ray and Judge Cook, were County Mayor Mike Foster, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, and Trustee Sean Driver.

(BOTTOM PHOTO LEFT TO RIGHT: Chief Deputy Don Adamson, Taylor Reeder, Kyle Justice, Calista Jones, Kelsie Merriman, Evin Dyer, Hailey Redmon, Jayla Angaran, Sheriff Patrick Ray)

Sheriff's Department Presents 149 Donated Cell Phones to Genesis House

May 16, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray and Family Advocate Deborah Goodwin

On behalf of the citizens of DeKalb County, Sheriff Patrick Ray last week presented Family Advocate Deborah Goodwin from the Cookeville Genesis House 149 donated used cell phones the Sheriff's Department has collected from residents here.

Goodwin said "I want to thank the Citizens of DeKalb County for their cell phone donations. We take the donated phones, refurbish them, and give them to our clients as a way to contact law enforcement in case they find themselves in immediate danger or have an emergency. The cell phones only will call 911. Goodwin said that every 14 seconds in our country, a woman is battered by her intimate partner and every 5 years, more women are killed by domestic violence than Americans killed in the Vietnam War."

Sheriff Ray also expressed his concern about domestic violence adding that 20% of all murders are domestic violence related and 76% of rape and sexual assaults are committed by husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, family members or acquaintances. Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence may contact Sheriff Ray at 597-4935 for information or for a ride to a domestic shelter in Cookeville. You may also call the 24 hour Genesis House Crisis Line at 1-800-707-5197 or 931-525-1637.

Sheriff Ray said he wants to thank the Citizens of DeKalb County for one of their largest cell phone donations ever and to remind you that the department will be collecting used cell phones again this year. You may drop off any cell phones at the Sheriff's Office. "If you have a cell phone you no longer plan to use, whether or not it is functional, just drop it by the Sheriff's Department. The Sheriff's Department collects these phones during the year and makes an annual donation on behalf of DeKalb County to the Genesis House," said Sheriff Ray.

Stringer Charged in Recent Burglary and Theft Case

May 16, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
James W. Stringer
Leoncio Celaya Ramirez
Walter D. Crawford

An arrest has been made in a recent burglary and theft investigation by the Sheriff's Department.

34 year old James W. Stringer of Morgan Drive, Smithville is charged with one count of burglary, theft of property over $500, and theft of property over $1,000. His bond totals $15,000 and he will be in court on the charges June 9th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that on Friday, April 15th, Stringer allegedly entered a barn at Pea Ridge Road and Dry Creek Road with the intent to commit a theft. Entry was made through a fence behind the barn. Items taken from the barn included a Honda 4-wheeler, a John Deere Radiator, a 12 horsepower Briggs and Stratton motor, a cast iron block for a motor, a Gravely tiller, Gravely side cycle mower attachment, a box of assorted radio parts, miscellaneous electrical motors, and five bundles of fence posts. The estimated value of the stolen items comes to $1,175. Stringer has allegedly admitted to taking these things. The detective who filed the charges has recovered the stolen 4-wheeler.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, April 20th Stringer allegedly entered property at Pea Ridge Road and Dry Creek Road and stole a 1986 year model 125 Honda 4-wheeler, valued at $500, which was behind a shed. Stringer has allegedly admitted to taking the 4-wheeler.

29 year old Leoncio Celaya Ramirez of Bonner Street, McMinnville is charged with leaving the scene of an accident with property damage. His bond is $3,500 and he will be in court on June 2nd. Sheriff Ray reports that on Friday, May 13th, Ramirez was involved in a motor vehicle accident on Highway 56 south and that he left the scene on foot. EMS spotted Ramirez about one mile from the scene. Ramirez admitted to the officer making the arrest that he was the driver of one of the automobiles involved in the mishap.

44 year old Walter D. Crawford of Bluhmtown Road is charged with resisting, stop, frisk, halt, arrest, or search; unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia; simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana); and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. His bond totals $27,500 and he will be in court on June 2nd. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, May 15th two deputies went to Bluhmtown Road to do a welfare check on a fifteen year old female. The girl told the officers that she was afraid of her uncle, Crawford, with whom she resides. The girl stated that Crawford had sexually assaulted her, that he had guns in the home, and that he was a felon. Crawford admitted to the guns being in the residence but when the officers asked him if he were a felon, Crawford responded that he didn't know. When asked if he had been charged with any sexual offenses, Crawford replied "no". However, a check through central dispatch revealed that Crawford is a sex offender. After finding guns in his bedroom, officers placed Crawford under arrest for possession of a weapon by a felon. As they were confiscating the weapons from the bedroom, the deputies saw, in plain view on a dresser, a plastic bag with two packs of rolling papers and marijuana. A pipe was also found on top of the bag. The weapons seized included two pistols, eleven long guns (rifles), and five shotguns. The deputies asked Crawford to turn around and place his hands behind his back. When the officers tried to place handcuffs on Crawford, he pulled away. Force then had to be used in order to handcuff him.

Counties No Longer Required to Purchase New Voting Machines

May 15, 2011
Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker

Thanks to a bill that has cleared the legislature, counties are no longer required to purchase new voting machines, thus saving property taxpayers thousands of dollars while still maintaining the integrity of the election process.

The state Senate passed a measure Thursday that makes the purchase of Optical Scan voting machines permissive rather than mandatory. The state House had passed the measure earlier and the bill now goes to the governor.

Had the legislature not acted in this session, counties would have been forced to purchase new voting machines in a move that many considered "an unfunded mandate." If Governor Haslam signs the latest legislation, individual county election commissions will have the option of going to
the new machines or staying with the equipment currently in use.

"This was a compromise to the original legislation adopted a few years ago and one that many election administrators and election commission members throughout the state applaud," said Dennis Stanley, DeKalb County's Administrator of Elections.

Under the original act passed in 2006, each county in Tennessee would have been required to use the precinct-based Optical Scan voting system beginning with the 2012 November election. A bill was introduced this year that would implement the plan only if the legislature included a specific
recurring appropriation in the General Appropriations Act for the 2011-2012 fiscal year to cover all the increased costs to the individual counties. That bill was amended to allow counties the option to go to the different voting system and the state would pay for the machines. However,
counties will bear the burden of recurring expenses with the new system. Optical scan voting machines utilize both a paper and electronic system in which voters mark a paper ballot which is then scanned (or read) by an electronic machine. Once the vote is recorded, the paper ballot is
automatically dropped into a sealed container. DeKalb County currently uses what is known as a DRE voting system, an electronic machine that records a vote without the use of paper ballots.
"The voting machines we have now were first used in late 2006 and are working as advertised," said Walteen Parker, local election commission chairman. "At this point, there is no need to go to a different system that, in the view of many, actually opens the door to fraud and obviously
will result in increased expenditures."

Many proponents have argued the optical scan voting system assures a person's vote is counted correctly by providing a paper trail and voters receive a paper receipt upon completing the voting process. But Stanley said that is not totally true. "In reality, there is no way a voter can verify how his or her ballot is counted once it is scanned into the machine. And certainly, there is no
paper receipt given the voter, which would open the door to vote-buying," he said. "Proponents of the optical scan machines have been misinformed on their use and the use of the current system we have in place here."

Stanley said if the bill had become mandatory, it would have cost the local property taxpayers an estimated $60,000 more during the 2012 calendar year. "Even with the state purchasing the machines, the increased costs of printing the ballots, purchasing different voting booths and transporting the larger machines to and from the voting precincts would have been the
county's responsibility," he said.

"To give you an example of the increased expenditures, the database for the recent August DeKalb County General and State Republican and Democratic primaries totaled $2,000. If we had to print paper ballots for each of those elections, all held on the same day, the cost would have
been between $15,000 and $18,000. As long as the current machines provide an accurate picture of the voters' wishes, I see no need to spend thousands of dollars to change voting systems," he added.

Stanley and Parker took occasion to thank both Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver and State Senator Mae Beavers for their support of the compromise legislation. "They have been responsive to the needs of both the voter and the taxpayer," Parker said. "Their understanding of election issues has been a real plus and we appreciate help with this legislation."

Outstanding 4-H Members Honored during Banquet

May 14, 2011
High school members pictured with Steve Officer
Eli Oliver, Willliam Cain, Kirkland Smallwood, Morgan Vickers, and Lydia Trail
Junior 4-H members

The DeKalb County 4-H Club Banquet was held recently to honor outstanding 4-H members.

TOP PHOTO: High school members pictured with retiring 4-H Agent Steve Officer (front row): Erin Cantrell-Pryor, Alyssa Young, Katie Haggard, Mary Knowles, and Amanda Laxton. Second row: Kayley Green, Steve Officer, Elizabeth Sanders, Olivia Norton, Cassie Cain, Danielle Knowles, Katie Frazier, and Tyler VanHoose. Third row: Matthew Cain and Hayley Perry (photo by April Martin).

High school members pictured with retiring 4-H Agent Ron Rogers (front row): Erin Cantrell-Pryor, Alyssa Young, Katie Haggard, Mary Knowles, and Amanda Laxton. Second row: Kayley Green, Steve Officer, Elizabeth Sanders, Olivia Norton, Cassie Cain, Danielle Knowles, Katie Frazier, and Tyler VanHoose. Third row: Matthew Cain, Hayley Perry and Shelby Mulloy (photo by April Martin).

SECOND PHOTO FROM TOP:Junior High 4-H members receiving awards were: Eli Oliver, Willliam Cain, Kirkland Smallwood, Morgan Vickers, and Lydia Trail (photo by April Martin).

BOTTOM PHOTO: Other Junior 4-H members receiving awards were (front row, left to right): Derek Young, Tyree Cripps, Olivia Fuson, and Casey Vickers. Second row: Luke Green, Wyatt Martin, and Caitlyn Lawrence (photo by April Martin).

DeKalb Community Bank Hosts Luncheon for DCHS Top Ten Students

May 14, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
DCB Hosts Luncheon for DCHS Top Ten Students

DeKalb Community Bank recently hosted a luncheon in honor of the DeKalb County High School Top Ten Students.

Those in attendance were Brittany Campbell, Martha Webb, Tia Menix, Heather Owens, Ethan Duke, Clark Adcock, Tyler Seymour, Olivia Norton, Weston Rhody, speakers Joey Agee, DeKalb Middle School and Justin Nokes, recent TTU graduate, and Gentry Barnes, President DeKalb Community Bank.

Noted Ventriloquist David Turner Entertains at Justin Potter Library

May 13, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Noted ventriloquist David Turner and Friends entertained participants in Friday's Older American's Day celebration at Justin Potter Library

Turner, a resident and native of DeKalb County, performed with his pals "Tad Short", "Johnny Cash", "Willie Nelson", "Elvis", and "Maynelle"

David Turner from dwayne page on Vimeo.
The month of May is recognized nationally as Older Americans Month, a time when the vast contributions of older adults are recognized . Justin Potter Library joins in the national celebration each year by hosting Older Americans Day. This year's theme was "Connecting the Community". Participants enjoyed the fellowship and received door prizes, goody bags, and sack lunches.

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