Local News Articles

UCHRA Receives Additional $2.3 Million In Low-Income Energy Assistance

December 2, 2008
UCHRA Receives Additional LIEAP Funding

“The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (UCHRA) has received an additional $2.3 million in Low-Income Energy Assistance funding for low-income consumers,” Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director, announced.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services has informed UCHRA that funding for its Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been increased to $3,772,800, an increase of $2.3 million above its original allocation for the year that ends June 30, 2009. “The increase in LIHEAP funds allows UCHRA to serve almost 9,000 households in the 14-county area,” explained Bennett.

In DeKalb County, approximately 544 households will be served expending $176,882. Currently, UCHRA has funding available to approve all eligible applications that have been received in their offices. Bennett encouraged individuals who meet program guidelines to apply for funding this year, even if they have not previously been served. The increased funding is the result of actions taken by Congress to assist low-income families during the current economic crisis. UCHRA Board Chairman Mike Foster, County Mayor of DeKalb County, said “the UCHRA Board is pleased with this new allocation to serve all those eligible for assistance during these difficult times.”

The LIHEAP program provides financial energy assistance to eligible low-income households one time during the year. To qualify for assistance, a household’s income must not exceed 125% of the US poverty level. For example, a family of four can earn a monthly household income of up to $2,208.33. Priority for service is based upon a point system. Points are awarded based upon each household’s percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines (125% maximum), and points are awarded for the percent of a household’s income used for home energy costs.

“Households with vulnerable household members receive additional points for the following: elderly member (60+), disabled member, children less than 6 years of age, member referred by Adult Protective Services, and six or more individuals. First priority for service is given to households with the highest total points, and UCHRA works down the list until all available funds are spent. Assistance benefit levels (based on priority points) range from a one-time payment of $300 to $375 made payable to the household’s designated vendor and can be used for electricity, natural gas, LP gas, kerosene, wood, or coal,” Lee Webb, UCHRA Community Services Director, stated.

Emphasis is being placed on recruiting income-eligible families with children under the age of 6 to apply for LIHEAP assistance. Even though the point system appears to have favored elderly individuals, this year elderly households as well as families with young children will receive assistance. The point system will allow 15 points for elderly individuals (60+), 15 points for individuals with disabilities, and 15 points for families with children. “Everyone who meets the income eligibility criteria should receive assistance,” stated Michael Nesbitt, Smith County Mayor and UCHRA Aging Community Services Committee Chairman.

“Upper Cumberland families in need have been on the increase. This increase in funds represents a successful effort on the part of the UCHRA Board and staff to provide more LIHEAP program funds for qualifying families. This infusion of additional funds has come at the best possible time,” remarked Brock Hill, Cumberland County Mayor and UCHRA Finance Committee Chairman.

All UCHRA county offices are accepting LIHEAP applications between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. DeKalb County UCHRA is located at 527 West Main Street, and the telephone number is (615) 597-4504.

(Pictured front row, from left to right are John B. Mullinix, Fentress County Executive, Mike Foster, DeKalb County Executive and Chairman of the UCHRA Board of Directors, Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director, Michael Nesbitt, Smith County Mayor and Chairman of the UCHRA Aging and Community Services Committee, Curtis Hayes, Mayor of Livingston – Pictured back row, from left to right are Ray Ringley, Overton County Human Resource Representative, Kim Blaylock, Putnam County Executive, Ruth Ann Woolbright, Putnam County Human Resource Representative and Lee Webb, UCHRA Community Services Director.)

Two Enter Pleas in Criminal Court

December 2, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Two people appeared for sentencing in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday before Judge Leon Burns, Jr.

23 year old Brandon C. Bias pleaded guilty to escape and driving on a suspended license.

He received a one year sentence on the escape charge, all suspended to TDOC probation except for 60 days. He must pay $100 to the economic crime fund.

Bias also received a sentence of 5 months and 29 days on the driving offense, all suspended. He must pay a fine of $50.

The sentences are to run consecutively

27 year old Sabina Solano pleaded guilty to attempt to sell a schedule II controlled substance and theft over $1,000.

She received a two year sentence in the drug case, the first year of which she will be in the community corrections program with the balance on DOC probation. She received a two year sentence in the theft case to run concurrently with the drug case. She must make restitution of $490 to DeKalb Community Bank and $120 to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department. She was given 30 days jail credit.

Solano also pleaded guilty to an amended charge of casual exchange. She received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, to serve 30 days on weekends beginning December 5th, with the balance on probation to run concurrently with the community corrections in the other drug case. She must pay a $750 fine and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and perform 40 hours of public service.

Sheriff Ray Offers Tips to Guard Against being a Victim of Crime

December 1, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

It's the holiday season and Sheriff Patrick Ray wants to remind you of some tips to guard against being a victim of crime.

Sheriff Ray says “This time of the year, we are asked to donate money to certain groups of people or civic organizations, including some within the county. There are scammers who are calling people within the county and asking for donations. If you want to make monetary donations to these groups, be sure the groups are legitimate and make sure they are collecting donations. Ask the caller to give you a phone number where you can call back and make the donations. Then hang up and investigate by calling the organization to make sure they are taking donations."

Sheriff Ray adds "Also this time of the year is when we see a rise in burglaries within the county. Statistics show that burglaries account for nearly one-third of the index of crimes in the United States. We as law enforcement officials ask you to be alert within your neighborhood.
• Always lock your doors and windows when you leave your home.
• Leave a key to your residence with a family member or trusted friend.
• When not at home, use a timer to turn lights off and on within your residence.
• Make sure to secure items such as four wheelers, go carts, motorcycles, and lawn mowers in a garage or chain them to a tree.
• Recognize suspicious activities such as strange vehicles driving slowly back and forth on the roadway or strange people going door to door, especially the rear doors of homes.
• Be aware of people selling items such as power tools, guns, or jewelry at a very low price. These items may be stolen.

If you see a suspicious person or vehicle within your neighborhood, get the basics- Who, What, When, and Where. Know WHO the person is and get a good clothing description as well as the make, model, color, and tag number of the vehicle when available. Know WHAT the person or vehicle was doing, and WHEN this occurred. Know WHERE the person or vehicle is or where they were last seen. While all this information is very valuable to law enforcement, you should never put yourself in danger to retrieve this information.”

Call the Sheriff's Department for more information or to report a crime or suspicious activity at 597-4935.

Intoxicated Woman Found with Pills in her Pocket

December 1, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

An intoxicated woman at the courthouse last week was found to have pills in her possession.

28 year old Cindy Armstrong Lemons of Whorton Springs Road, Smithville was arrested in the case.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says deputies were summoned to the DeKalb County Courthouse Tuesday where someone had spotted a woman who appeared to be very intoxicated. The caller advised that a lady was unsteady on her feet and had a very slurred speech. When Deputies arrived they found Lemons, who was placed under arrest for public intoxication. Upon a search incident to arrest, deputies found two pills in her front pocket. The pills were identified to be Hydrocodone a schedule III drug. Lemons was charged with public intoxication and simple possession of a schedule III drug (Hydrocodone).Her bond was set at $2,000 and she will appear in court on December 4th.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, 18 year old Dustin Allen Pedigo of King Ridge Road Dowelltown was spotted by a deputy on Highway 70 west. Pedigo's vehicle, which was weaving, ran off the roadway striking the sidewalk. Pedigo was stopped and he submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed. Pedigo was charged with driving under the influence and his bond was set at $1,000. He will appear in court on December 11th.

"Christmas on the Square" set for Thursday Evening

November 30, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page
Suzanne Williams

Come celebrate "Christmas on the Square" Thursday evening, December 4th from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. downtown Smithville.

Suzanne Williams, Executive Director of the Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce says activities will include an "Open House" at the courthouse, Children's Train & Inflatables (if weather permits), wonderful music , featuring Thea Tippin, Susie Guerin, and Fluty and the Flutones, and the Smithville First Baptist Church "Signs of Love", among others inside the newly renovated Lifeworks building on the north side of the square next door to the Chamber office, and great downtown shopping. Justin-Potter Library will present "A Magical Christmas" at 6:00 p.m. featuring a performance by magician Bruce Amato & his "Holiday Magic" show and a special visit from Santa. · Pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus by Double J Photography will be made from 5 PM to 7 PM in the yellow building next door to the Chamber.

Williams says you have a special invitation to share in the fun. " Be sure to take advantage of all the great downtown shopping. Businesses will be open extended hours with great gift ideas. It'll be a wonderful night to get out and visit with friends, shop, and get a lot of nice treats. We invite everyone and hope you'll come."

Meanwhile, Shan Burklow says Studio Six Limited will be making free family portraits during Christmas on the Square. " As you know we're no longer in Smithville, but we were in business for over eight years in DeKalb County, so to show our thanks we're going to do free family portraits at Christmas on the Square starting at 6:00 p.m. and we're giving away the film so you'll get a cd with a photo release. Bring in your family of up to six people and get a free family picture. We'll be at the building next to the Chamber of Commerce."

For more information, call the Chamber office at 597-4163

Unemployment Benefits Extended for Thousands of Tennesseans

November 29, 2008

An estimated 26,000 Tennesseans will qualify for another round of extended unemployment benefits under federal legislation signed by President Bush, with hundreds more becoming eligible each day. Unemployed Tennesseans can collect up to 26 weeks of unemployment normally. In June, Congress approved the first 13 week extension due to the downturn in the economy. The second extension was signed November 21 by the President.

The new legislation provides up to seven more weeks of benefits to those who participated in the first extension for a total of 20 weeks. Then if Tennessee's unemployment rate remains above six percent, unemployment claimants will qualify for another 13 weeks for a possible total of 59 weeks of benefits for eligible claimants.

The legislation provides that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs to extend the benefits. The money will not be drawn from Tennessee's unemployment trust fund.

"This move by our congressional representatives in Washington comes at a crucial time for Tennessee and for our nation," said Governor Phil Bredesen. "Unemployed people across the country are having a tough time getting back to work, and this extension will provide needed assistance to Tennesseans during their job search."

The Department of Labor & Workforce Development is currently reviewing files to determine who may be eligible. Those who are currently receiving basic or extended benefits will transition automatically when they exhaust. Those who have already exhausted their benefits and qualify will be notified by mail. No one will be required to come into a local Labor & Workforce Development Office or Career Center. Nor will they be required to call the unemployment claims center.

Individuals who received the first extension and exhausted those benefits will receive an application in the mail to update their benefit records. If they are still unemployed, they should return the application form by mail. Individuals who are determined eligible should expect to receive their first extended unemployment compensation payment in two to three weeks.

"This federal extension is very much needed for unemployed Tennesseans," said Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner James Neeley. "Our department will do our best to get these benefits to the claimants as quickly as possible."

FirstBank Announces "Coin Bandit" Fundraising Program

November 29, 2008

FirstBank, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and Ellsworth Systems, LLC, (ESI) announced plans for a new fundraising partnership today. For the next year, "Coin Bandit" self-service coin machines will be in each of the 12 Middle Tennessee FirstBank financial centers.

Customers, associates and community members are encouraged to donate their loose change at any one of the participating FirstBank locations. The coin machine will count the donation and provide the giver with the total of his or her donation. In this case, a penny can make a difference in the life of a child.

"It is fitting that we are launching this program the week of Thanksgiving," said Jim Ayers, FirstBank chairman. "It is a time to remember our blessings and to reach out to those who are in need. FirstBank associates are dedicated to making a difference in the communities where we live and work. We are proud to help raise funds for the Children's Hospital."

"We're excited about this unique fundraising opportunity with FirstBank. The community's contributions through the Coin Bandit machines will help to support many of our programs," said Kevin Churchwell, M.D., CEO of the Children's Hospital.

"It is with great pleasure that we partner with Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and FirstBank to provide a year-round donation channel for those in need," said Gary McGuire, vice president sales and marketing of Ellsworth Systems, LLC (ESI).

The Children's Hospital is a nonprofit facility. No child who needs its services is denied care on the basis of limited ability to pay. As part of a world-renowned academic medical research center, Children's Hospital has access to the most advanced care available and is continually searching for more answers to serve families. Children's Hospital reaches children from Nashville to all Middle Tennessee counties and regions beyond. To learn more, visit www.vanderbiltchildrens.org.

County's Recycling Program Being Affected by the Economy

November 27, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The county's recycling program has been affected by the economy .

County Mayor Mike Foster, during the commission meeting Monday night, said the contractor, who has been taking the county's recycled materials, has stopped for now, because it's no longer profitable for him." We have encouraged people to recycle and people were really adopting it and going on with it, but like everything else with the economy, the price of the stuff that's being recycled, especially cardboard, has gone down. It went from about $100 a ton to about $20 a ton. Plastic, proportionately went down. I was told today (Monday) that steel was back up to about six cents. It was a dime but went to a penny and a half. You wouldn't think it, but China is probably the world leader in recycling and what they do or don't do affects the price of cardboard, paper, plastics, and metal because they are the chief user of it."

"Right now, our contractor says he's losing too much money to continue it. We're trying to bale it and just break even on it with people from the landfill. Somebody said, just take it and dump it in the landfill, but I think that's being extremely deceptive if we tell someone we're going to recycle your stuff and then carry it over there and dump it. We're not going to do that. We're either going to tell people we're going to freeze this until we get the contractor back when the price goes up or we're going to work and try to get it baled, get it covered, and just leave it over there and store it until the price goes up to where we can afford to haul it. We're just going to play it by ear, minute by minute."

"We all want to do it. It's all a really good thing. But I understand the contractor. If he's losing $400 a load, then he's got to have a bigger truck and it's not working. It saves us about $35 to $40 a ton for every ton we keep out of there (landfill) so even if we break even on it, it's still saving us money. We've been hauling from both sides of Highway 56, Snow Hill, and Alexandria to the old landfill for him (contractor) and dumping it in the building and he was baling it. When it was working, it was working well, but as the price went down, the building has become full and we don't have anywhere to dump it. I've been getting calls because we're not dumping it, but I've told them at the landfill that under no circumstances would we take it over there and dump it and tell people we're recycling it because that's wrong."

Meanwhile, the county commission voted to spend $12,500 to purchase a used truck from Putnam County for the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department. The truck, equipped with a generator and lights, will replace a 1975 truck being used by the department for rescue and extrication services. The truck being purchased by the county has about 72,000 miles on it.

In other business, the county commission re-appointed members to the 911 board and staggered the terms. Current members Ron Rogers, Jerry Scott, Billy Adcock, and Marshall Ferrell will serve through October 31st, 2012 and current members Elmer Ellis, Jr., Wayne Cantrell, Steve White, and County Mayor Foster will serve through 2010.

DeKalb Jobless Rate Up to 7.4%

November 26, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for October was 7.4%, up from the rate for September of 7% and significantly higher than the 4.6% rate recorded in October, 2007

The local labor force for October was 10,300. A total of 9,540 were employed and 760 were unemployed.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October was 7.0 percent, 0.2 percentage point lower than the September rate of 7.2 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of October was 6.5 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for October show that 53 counties decreased. The rate increased in 27 counties and remained the same in 15 counties.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 4.7 percent, down 0.3 percentage point from the September rate. Perry County had the state's highest at 17.4 percent, up from 16.7 in September, followed by Lauderdale County at 14.5 percent, up from 13.1 percent in September.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate at 5.0 percent, down 0.3 percentage point from the September rate. Davidson County was 5.5 percent, down from 5.8 the previous month. Hamilton County was at 6.1 percent the same as the September rate, and Shelby County was 7.1 percent, down from the September rate of 7.4.

Governor Bredesen Announces Litter Grant for DeKalb County

November 26, 2008

As part of the effort to StopLitter™ in Tennessee, Governor Phil Bredesen and TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely today awarded DeKalb County with a litter grant in the amount of $34,237.

"Each year volunteers pick up around 25 million pounds of roadside litter in Tennessee alone," said Bredesen. "Litter is an eye-sore, it's costly to clean up and can be harmful to our environment, but it's totally preventable. These funds will be used by counties across the state to organize their pick-up efforts and conduct educational campaigns to teach children and adults about the importance of keeping Tennessee beautiful."

Litter grant funds are distributed annually by TDOT to all 95 Tennessee counties.
Senator Mae Beavers represents DeKalb County in the Tennessee General Assembly.
"TDOT awards approximately $3 million each year to help local communities in their efforts to stop litter in Tennessee," said Nicely. "These funds are obtained through the collection of a specialty tax on the malt beverage and soft drink industry through the Litter Grant Bill which was enacted by the General Assembly in 1981."

The funds that each county receives are determined by county road miles and county population in order to ensure an equitable distribution statewide. Funds must be used for litter pick-up activities and litter prevention education. Education funding can be used in a variety of ways, such as sharing litter control awareness with schools, citizens and businesses.

Through the litter pick-up program, approximately 25.5 million pounds of roadside litter were picked up on approximately 292,000 miles of county roads, and approximately 45,000 miles of state routes.

To find out more about Tennessee's Litter Grant program, please visit: http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/environment/beautification/littergrant.htm

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