Local News Articles

Assessor Candidates Make Their Formal Announcements During Democratic Mass Meeting

January 12, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The three Democratic candidates for Assessor of Property in the February 5th DeKalb County Democratic Primary formally made their announcements Saturday morning during a local party mass meeting at the high school.

Democratic Incumbent Assessor Timothy (Fud) Banks will be challenged for the nomination by Roy D. Merriman, a former Third District County Commissioner and a member of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, and Willie Thomas, who is also a Smithville Alderman and a Seventh District County Commissioner.

In making his announcement, Banks said " It has been a great privilege to serve as your property assessor and I am asking for your help and support again to continue doing this. I have made a lot of great friends in the years I've been there. I'm going to ask everybody again, if I haven't seen you and asked you today or before, for your vote and support and if I can ever help any of ya'll, feel free to hollar."

Thomas, in reference to recent media reports about him, started off his brief remarks by saying, "I am the real Willie Thomas, and I am standing up. I want you all to know that. I am running for tax assessor. I thank everyone of ya'll. I need ya'll's vote and support. God bless you."

Merriman, in making the announcement, spoke of his family. "My wife Lisa and I have been married for 22 years. I have two children, Kayla and Kelsey. I am a volunteer firefighter and I have been serving the county for seventeen years and four years on the county commission. I'd appreciate your vote and support. God bless you."

Democrats running for Constable in the February 5th Primary include Incumbent Wayne Vanderpool in the Third District, Democrat Paul Cantrell in the Fourth District, Democratic Incumbent Mark Milam in the Fifth District, Democrat Cantrell Jones in the Sixth District, and Democrats Mary Ann Thomason and Johnny King in the Seventh District.

Milam was the only candidate who formally announced during the mass meeting Saturday. "I appreciate the opportunity to be seeking re-election. I was first elected in 1992. My wife Pat and I live on the Old West Point Road in Smithville. I count it an honor and privilege to have been your constable in the fifth district for the last four terms. I have enjoyed working with state, county, and city law enforcement agencies. I am running unopposed but I am still grateful for your vote."

Members of the DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee met Saturday morning and re-elected Faye Fuqua as local party chairperson. Billy Hawkins and Jim Judkins were named co-vice chairmen, and Fay Iverlette was returned as secretary. The young democrat chairman is Larry Bain and Russell Ambrose and Luke Willoughby were named youth coordinators. Jackie Smith is women's chairperson for the local party.

Justin Walling, Field Representative for Congressman Lincoln Davis and State Chairman of the County Chairs for the Democratic Party was the guest speaker during the mass meeting.

Willoughby Gets Support from School Board in Latest Evaluation

January 11, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Midway through his three year contract, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby appears to continue to have strong backing from the Board of Education.

The board conducted it's annual evaluation of the Director's performance on Tuesday, as well as a self evaluation, and Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins III says Willoughby passed with flying colors.

Evins addressed the issue during Thursday night's school board meeting. "On Tuesday, the board in a workshop, as we do every year, did a self evaluation of the board. That's a way, an instrument of evaluating ourselves to look and see what we have accomplished versus what we should accomplish and there's no A's or B's it's just a matter of looking at what you have done and what you need to do and try to move forward with that. We also did our yearly evaluation of the Director of Schools and it was the consensus of the board that Mr. Willoughby has done what's been expected of him and furthermore done more than what's been expected of him and we're very pleased. I feel like we've had a productive year and the evaluations from the board in essence shows that Mr. Willoughby has gone beyond his call of duty to take his position and try to move things to a new level and we appreciate that."

Willoughby, later in the meeting, expressed his appreciation to the board. "I really appreciate the positive evaluation, but if it wasn't for the people that surround me and make me look good it wouldn't have been a positive evaluation so I want to say thank you to all those people that work hard to make me look good. It's not me but it's the people around me who help me out. I go to them and ask them a lot of questions. We've got a lot of excellent employees in our school system and I'm just really thankful to be working with such a professional staff, they're wonderful."

Willoughby's employment contract, which began July 1st, 2006, is for three years with his salary being reviewed by the Board each year. According to the approved contract, "The Board shall pay the Director an annual compensation of $77,500 in twelve equal monthly installments in accordance with Board policy and any additional state or local increases. The Board will review the Director's salary annually and the Board will increase the salary of the Director during the term of this contract each time an annual evaluation reflects that the Director has exceeded the expectations of the Board as follows: second year, a five percent increase and the third year, a three percent increase."

Willoughby presented his monthly report on personnel during the meeting Thursday night.

Stevie Cripps has been employed as a substitute custodian.

Larry Johnson has retired as Materials Supervisor

The following employees have been granted a leave of absence as requested, Julie Pugh, an educational assistant at DeKalb Middle School; Sabrina Kirksey, a teacher at Smithville Elementary School; Marla Beshearse, a teacher at Northside Elementary School; and Penny Bilyeu, teacher at Smithville Elementary School.

Willoughby also updated the school board on the progress of the Freshman Academy. "I know there were some questions when we started this and a lot of hard work has gone into it and I praise the high school for that. I think the number of students not passing this year compared to last year with the freshman class is over a 50% improvement and I take my hat off to them, they've done an excellent job. Last year in the fall we had twenty students that had made two "F's" on their report cards for the semester. At this time, we don't have any freshmen students that have made two "F's" so that is a big improvement and the number of students that have made any "F's" is down at least 50%."

The board awarded bids on the sale of surplus property. The Mid South Bus Center of Murfreesboro was awarded bids to purchase two 1995 Model Blue Bird Busses for $2,877 each; Dean Johnson was awarded a bid to buy a 1994 John Deere 72 inch cut mower for $207; and Eddie Driver got the bid to purchase a Sanborn Blackmax 5 horsepower two stage air compressor 80 gallon tank for $102.

City Beer Board Recommends Study of Possible Sales on Sunday and Christmas Day

January 10, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Beer Board Thursday night voted to recommend that the city council consider allowing stores with beer permits to sell on Sunday's from one until six p.m. and all day on Christmas Day.

City businesses licensed to sell beer are currently prohibited from making beer sales during those times under existing city regulations and any change in the rules would have to be made by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen on two separate readings of an ordinance and after a public hearing.

Ronnie Dale of the Budweiser Company and K.C. Johnson of the Miller Company both of Cookeville came before the board to ask that Sunday beer sales be considered and they provided some statistics on tax revenue in cities and counties that do and don't permit Sunday sales.

Dale and Johnson claim that Smithville could stand to gain as much as $60,745 in additional tax revenue per year from Sunday beer sales.

The Middle Tennessee Tax Revenue Comparison Report reveals that the City of Smithville, with a population of 4,198 and no Sunday beer sales, generated $154,233 in beer tax revenue in 2006, or $36.73 per person whereas the City of Livingston, that does allow Sunday beer sales with a population of 3,517, generated beer tax revenue of $173,586 in 2006, or $49.35 per person. Dale and Johnson say these figures are based on the 17% tax collection that each municipality gets from the sale of beer.

According to the report, towns with even smaller populations, such as Baxter and Celina that allow Sunday beer sales, generated more per capita beer tax revenue than Smithville, $48.99 per person for Baxter and $53.70 for Celina.

The report further shows that cities with Sunday beer sales average $50.68 per capita, which is $14.47 more per person annually than cities without Sunday beer sales. Dale and Johnson say that in Smithville, with a census population of 4,198, that could mean an additional $60,745 per year in tax revenue.

The report also compares the percentage of revenue growth from beer sales in selected cities and counties over an eight year period from 1998 to 2006 based on the 17% tax collections.

In the counties of Cannon, DeKalb, Fentress, Macon, Smith, and Van Buren and the cities of Lafayette, Pikeville, and Sparta (combined), where no Sunday beer sales are allowed, the average percentage of beer tax revenue growth from 1998 to 2006 was 9.5%

In the counties of Clay, Cumberland, Jackson, Putnam and the cities of Auburntown, Algood, Baxter, Celina, Crossville, Cookeville, Gordonsville, and Livingston (combined), where Sunday beer sales are allowed, the average percentage of beer tax revenue growth from 1998 to 2006 was 25%.

Dale and Johnson say actual beer tax revenue in DeKalb County, outside the city, dropped by 39% over the eight year period going from $133,365 in 1998 to $81,780 in 2006, and while actual numbers were not provided, Dale and Johnson claim that Smithville's beer tax revenue has increased during that time, because more stores in the city are now selling beer, such as Wal-mart and Food Lion, among others, which has taken some beer business away from stores in the county.

Beer board member Steve Hays made a motion that a recommendation be made to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that a study and decision be made on whether beer sales should be allowed on Sundays from 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. and all day on Christmas Day. Board members Annette Greek, Lloyd Black, and Farron Hendrix all voted in favor of the recommendation. Alderman Willie Thomas, another member of the beer board, was absent.

The issue may be brought up for discussion at the next city council meeting on Monday, February 4th.

Smithville Food Store Granted Beer Permit

January 10, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Food Store will soon begin selling beer.

The Smithville Beer Board Thursday night granted Kevin Means' application to sell beer at Smithville Food Store.

Under the city regulations, a business applying for a beer permit cannot be closer than 400 feet (front door to front door) to a church or school. Smithville Food Store is near Smithville Elementary School and the First Assembly of God.

City Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson, who presided over Thursday night's meeting due to a vacancy in the beer board chairmanship, said that Means meets all the requirements. "Mr. Kevin Robinson (City Public Works Director) measured from the elementary school and it was 1100 feet from front door to front door. They didn't do the church (measure the distance). Anybody can eyeball it and tell it's more than 400 feet."

Hendrixson says the church is making plans to move to a new location on the Cookeville Highway and the church property is being rezoned to commercial." The rezoning application has already passed the planning commission. They're (the church) looking to sell and build out on Highway 56 north. As soon as they make a sale, they will no longer be there. The zoning will come before the board (city council) at the next meeting. It will be up to them to pass it but it did pass the planning commission to be rezoned."

Hendrixson says Smithville Food Store also easily met the inventory requirements. " The inventory must be greater than $20,000 or $25,000. It's well passed that. It's up in the hundreds of thousands of dollars as far as inventory goes. From what I can tell it meets the requirements.

Prior to the vote, Hendrixson called for a public hearing on the application, but no one spoke.

Mean's application was approved on a 4 to nothing vote.

Beer board members Steve Hays, Lloyd Black, Annette Greek, and Farron Hendrix all voted in favor. Alderman Willie Thomas was absent.

In other business, Annette Greek was named chairman of the city beer board.

Sheriff Presents Donated Cell Phones to Victims of Domestic Violence

January 10, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

On behalf of the citizens of DeKalb County, Sheriff Patrick Ray on Thursday presented DeKalb Court Advocate Kellie Nash from the Cookeville Genesis House donated phones the Sheriff's Department has collected from residents here.

Nash says "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 of an emergency. The cell phones only will call 911. Nash 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 or you may call the 24 hour Genesis House Crisis Line at 1-800-707-5197 or 931-526-5197.

Sheriff Ray says he wants to thank the Citizens of DeKalb County for their donations and the department will be collecting used cell phones again this year. You may drop off any cell phones and chargers at the Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's Department Gets $5,000 Grant

January 10, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation Governor’s Highway Safety Office.

The Sheriff’s Department has teamed with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office to reduce the number of alcohol related accidents and driving under the influence offenses in the county.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says “This grant will furnish much needed items such as traffic vests, traffic cones, flashlights, and other items used when we conduct sobriety check points here in the County. This is one of many grants that we will apply for through the Governor’s Highway Task Force.”

Sheriff Ray added that this grant is a no match grant, which means, no local tax dollars are needed to support the grant.

Opponents Circulating Petitions Against Proposed County Building Codes- Foster Believes Many People Misinformed

January 10, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Petitions are being circulated in opposition to proposed building codes for DeKalb County.

County Mayor Mike Foster says he believes many people may be misinformed about the plans.

In October, the DeKalb County Commission began the process of formulating regulations for non-agricultural residential and commercial construction under the 2006 International Building Code.

The commission adopted three resolutions, as recommended by the county's building and safety committee, establishing general guidelines for construction, but specific regulations for DeKalb County at that time were not yet established. The final plan will be presented to the county commission again for passage in a few weeks after a public hearing.

Foster says the county needs a set of building codes in order to protect the homeowners. "Since I've been in office, I know of ten houses that have been built on wrong lots or partially on wrong lots. We've had houses slide off the hillside. We've had foundations fall, retainer walls fall. We had one house where the floor joists spanned seventeen feet, six inches and it turns out they were 2x6's. To span that length, it should be at least a 2x12. It's unscrupulous builders cutting corners that are costing the homeowner a tremendous amount of money. Probably the biggest investment the average person will make in their lifetime is their house. To me, the way I look at it, it's just like an insurance policy to say that we have a person (inspector) who is unrelated to the builder and unrelated to the homeowner going out there and checking to see it's done properly and safely. It's a safety issue as much as a compliance issue."

Under the plan, Foster says permits would be required for new non-agricultural residential and commercial construction. "They're based on the 2006 International Residential Building Code. You would have a site plan where you draw a little map of your land. You would mark the corners of your lot with flags to make sure it's on the right lot and then there would be a footer inspection. You would dig your footer and they would go out and check the width, depth, the soil, and the slope and everything to make sure it was what it needed to be or if you did a slab, they would check that. Then they would come back and check the foundation to make sure the foundation was square, that it had the anchor bolts in it, that it was water proof, that it had adequate openings and ventilation. Then they would come back and do the framing to make sure you had complied with the proper size framing and that your headers and everything was done like it should have been done. Then when you got your plumbing in, they would come in and cap it off and air pressure test it to make sure you don't have any leaks in your walls, or anything that would cause you a problem on down the road. They would check the mechanical and then they would come back and do a final inspection to make sure everything was correctly and safely done."

"They (codes) do not in anyway apply to any kind of an agricultural building unless it's commercial. If you build a barn, a dog house, a chicken house, or whatever you build, it does not require a permit. If you're doing routine maintenance on your house, you do not have to have one (permit). If you paint your house, put in a sidewalk, put a new roof on, put vinyl siding on, you would not need a permit. If you build a new house or if you're building an addition to your house you would need a permit simply to make sure that it was built to codes and that you are getting what you are paying for."

"Anybody can build a house for themselves or to sell, one every two years. That person could pull the permit and then hire someone to do the work. Any carpenter, whether licensed or not, can do $25,000 worth of work on that house. So somebody could come in and frame it and they don't have to have a license. Somebody could come in and hang sheet rock and they don't have to have a license. Someone could put the roof on and they don't have to have a license. But collectively, if one person does more than $25,000 worth they would have to be a licensed contractor and they would have to have liability insurance, which again protects the homeowner."

Foster says the fees generated from the building permits would go toward funding the position of a building codes inspector. "One fee would cover the inspections and if you had a question and you felt uncomfortable about it, they would come back and inspect it free. The bigger the house, the more the inspection fees because of more inspections that would be incurred. The average cost of a house built in DeKalb County is $93 a square foot and they (committee) have voted to base it on $80 a square foot as the cost and then there's a fee system set up. On a house that probably you or I would build, it would probably be in the neighborhood of $450. The bigger houses around the lake, for example, that are on steep lots, would be proportionately bigger with larger fees. It's (codes) absolutely not meant to make money. It's to pay for the building inspector, his benefits, and for a vehicle for him to come and go in.'

Those who fail to comply with the building codes would be subject to penalties. "If you built a house and you didn't have a permit, they would fine you twice what the normal permit would be, that's what other counties do. We're not to that point. The guy (inspector) that we've talked to, we've all kind of agreed that the first year would be a learning phase for everybody. They would still have to get the permit if this goes into place because we have to pay this guy to do the inspections and we don't want it to be a burden on the other taxpayers. It's kind of like a user fee. It's a user fee, insurance policy the way everybody is looking at it and a safety issue. The way we have talked about doing it, the permits would probably be purchased at the tax assessor's office."

Subject to final approval by the county commission, Foster says the proposed building codes may be implemented by spring. " The commission has voted to proceed with it. We've ordered the (code) books and they will be in the county court clerk's office on display for anybody to come in and look at. We'll put them over there and after the proper period we'll have a public hearing on it and then proceed with whatever the commission wishes to do. We're probably looking at somewhere between 60 and 120 days of getting everything in place. If they do it, it would hopefully go in place maybe by April or May, somewhere in there."

DeKalb Fire Department Releases 2007 Incident Response Summary

January 9, 2008

The DeKalb County Fire Department has compiled its 2007 Incident Response Summary.

Overall, 2007 fire incident responses in the county were up by 102 calls from 2006. In 2006, the department responded to a total of 288 fire incidents. The department responded to 390 fire incident responses in 2007. This count does not include the 394 rural medical first responder calls that county fire department personnel responded to.

With DeKalb County's rural population growing at rates higher than the cities' population growth in DeKalb County, the department continues to experience annual increases in the number of structure fires within the county jurisdiction. Also, for 2007, the extremely dry and hot weather pattern, resulted in the dramatic increase in wildland, grass, and debris fires.

The below chart provides a breakdown of each type of fire incident response that the department responded to in 2007:

Incident Type:

Structure- 66 (Year 2006) 69 (Year 2007)

Wildland/Grass/Debris- 50 (2006) 100 (2007)

Auto Wrecks- 129 (2006) 129 (2007)

Auto Fires 13- (2006) 23 (2007)

Landing Zones- 10 (2006) 11 (2007)

Extrication/Entrapment-19 (2007)

Hazmat 0 0

Alarms 17 (2006) 33 (2007)

Misc. 3 (2006) 6 (2007)

TOTAL 288 (2006) 390 (2007)

Police Chief Concerned About Traffic Congestion in SES School Zone

January 8, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings is concerned about a growing traffic congestion problem in the school zone near Smithville Elementary.

Chief Jennings, speaking at Monday night's city council meeting, said there is a large number of vehicles each day trying to get to the school on Walker Drive, from East Bryant Street and Congress Boulevard and that these automobiles often block eastbound traffic which could cause accidents.

He asked Mayor Taft Hendrixson to appoint a committee to come up with a plan to address the problem. "We've received some complaints about the traffic at the elementary school. I've been over there for the last couple of weeks in the mornings and afternoons. As you know we widened Walker Drive to accommodate the cars picking up the children in the back of the school. But also, what happens is the vehicles are out on Bryant Street and they go all the way down Bryant Street to Highway 56 and around the corner. Well what happens there is they block the whole eastbound lane of Bryant Street. So when cars are trying to go east, they get over in the westbound lane, and they almost hit head on the cars going west. I've seen them have to drive onto the grass of the church to go around and it's everyday. I think the school zone is actually in the wrong place. There should be lights on Bryant Street and Walker Drive instead of out on Highway 56. That's where I think the school zone should be. I'd like to ask you to form a committee so we could look at this problem and se if we couldn't come up with an answer."

Mayor Hendrixson appointed himself and Chief Jennings to the committee along with Aldermen Jerry Hutchins Sr. and Willie Thomas and Public Works Director Kevin Robinson. The committee will also invite Principal Bill Tanner and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby to join them in the discussions.

City Makes Plans for Proposed $1.4 Million Water Plant Rehab Project

January 7, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The city is making plans to upgrade the forty year old Smithville Water Treatment Plant.

The total project cost is estimated to be $1.4 million dollars, but the city will apply for a half million dollar Community Development Block Grant, which if approved, would help fund part of the costs. The grant program is administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

All five aldermen voted in favor of the resolution authorizing an application for the grant, following a public hearing during Monday night's city council meeting. Officials say it may be six to eight months before the city hears back on whether the application is approved.

Vantage Consulting Services will prepare all the necessary documents for the completion of the grant application at no charge to the city and will perform all administrative services for the project, should the grant be approved.

Faye Leonard of Vantage Consulting Services says the city has been fortunate to receive several CDBG grants in the past for improvements to the city's sewer system but the grant program is much more competitive these days with more applications and fewer dollars to go around. "The city has been fortunate to receive four of these block grants in the past for sewer rehab over the last several years and a lot of work has been done on the sewer system as a result, but it's getting much more difficult. There's less and less grant money, and it's becoming more competitive. Just to let you know how competitive this has gotten, this past fiscal year, 2007, there were 150 applications submitted statewide and there was only enough money to approve about sixty of those. So the grant funds are getting less and less and there's more and more applications so it's very competitive. We'll do the best we can with the application. Due to the age of the plant and the need for the project, we hope that it will score well. I'm guardedly optimistic about it. It's really a needed project but since it is so competitive and there are such few grant dollars, there's no guarantee. I just wanted to be clear about that. The last grant that was applied for under this program for sewer rehab here was not successful."

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says the city proposes to fund the local share of $900,000 over a three year period from the Smithville Water & Sewer Revenue Fund. " This $900,000 that we have proposed here as the city's share, that will be in three different budget years. It will be in the 2008-09 budget, the 2009-10 budget, and the 2010-11 budget. I talked with the engineer today and he said it will probably be late in the year 2009 before this would be a viable project ready for bid. So it would be approximately $300,000 per year in each of three years. That way you don't have to come up with all the money at the same time. This water plant is forty years old. We're doing some emergency repairs on it this year. It's something that had to be done. There has been very little repairs done on the water plant. There's not even a back up generator system down there for the intake or the water plant. That's something that I think is necessary. At least we're showing the State of Tennessee that we are willing to put money in to get their money. That plant has been good to us for a long time but it's going to have to be repaired."

J.R. Wauford & Company will produce a preliminary engineering report for the proposed project at no charge to the city. Should the grant be approved, Wauford will design plans, inspect the construction, and perform other required engineering services for the project.

The total estimated project cost is $1.4 million dollars broken down as follows:

Renovate Filters with New Underdrains and Media- $250,000
Blower and accessories for Air Scour- $40,000
New 40 HP Backwash Pump, Rebuild Existing Pump for Standby- $90,000
Convert Filter Instrumentation including Water System Telemetry- $300,000
Modifications to Existing 1967 Clearwell- $10,000
New Chemical Bulk Storage and Containment- $60,000
Electrical Work- $200,000
New Standby Generator at Intake and at Plant- $200,000

Engineering: Design- $95,000
Construction Administration and Observation- $80,000
Administrative- $23,500
Environmental- $1,500
Project Contingencies- $50,000

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