Local News Articles

State House Acts to Expand Scholarships to Nearly 12,000 Tennessee Students

May 24, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

On Wednesday, The State House of Representatives passed legislation to provide for college scholarships for approximately 12,000 Tennesseans.

"This bill helps nearly 12,000 Tennesseans achieve the American dream of earning a college degree," said Representative Frank Buck. "By helping more students retain the HOPE Scholarship, we're going to improve Tennessee's graduation rates and erase college debt for thousands of local students."

The new legislation places $359.5 million of lottery reserve funds into an endowment that is expected to produce recurring revenues of over $27.5 million. These revenues will fund the expansion of Tennessee's HOPE Scholarship, reducing the retention GPA from 3.0 to 2.75 for the first three years of college, followed by a per semester minimum of 3.0 for every semester after a student's junior year. The funds will also allow students to extend the amount of time they may maintain the HOPE Scholarship to 5 years.

"So many things can happen during a student's college experience, and to allow one bad semester to ruin a child's long term future is against everything that the HOPE Scholarship stands for," Buck said. "With these recurring dollars, we can help nearly 4,000 students a year retain their scholarship and continue their education. Many Tennesseans have to work to get through college and we're going to help these folks."

In addition to the expansion of the HOPE Scholarship, the bill also funds up to 5,000 need-based TSAC grants designed to help students who currently qualify for financial assistance. The new legislation will also fund the "Helping Heroes Act of 2008," a grant service that will assist returning Tennessee soldiers from Irag and Afghanistan with college and cover the shortfall that is currently created by the federal GI bill.

"Our brave men and women returning home from war deserve a fully-funded college education and thanks to the Helping Heroes Act, Tennessee soldiers will," Buck said.

Upon signature by Governor Phil Bredesen, the new legislation is slated to go into effect on July 1st, 2008.

Early Voting Begins Wednesday for City Election

May 24, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Early voting for the Smithville Municipal Election begins Wednesday, May 28th.

Voting will be held Mondays through Saturdays, May 28th through June 12th in the basement courtroom of the courthouse. Voting hours will be Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

A mayor and two aldermen will be elected on Tuesday, June 17th.

Candidates for mayor are Incumbent Taft Hendrixson and challenger Faye Driver Fuqua.

Aldermen contenders are incumbents Steven White and Cecil Burger and challengers Danny Washer and Alford Webber.

On election day, the polls will be open from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. also in the basement of the courthouse.

Woods and Turner Receive White Rose Awards at DCHS Graduation

May 23, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tyler Woods
Tayla Turner
Travis Woodward

Tyler Woods and Tayla Turner received the White Rose Awards from Principal Kathy Hendrix. Travis Woodward received the Citizenship Award.

Click on an image to see larger.

It was a night of tears and cheers for members of the Class of 2008 at DeKalb County High School Friday evening on the occasion of their graduation.

Three of the most outstanding members of the class were singled out for special recognition. This year's White Rose Awards went to Tyler Woods and Tayla Turner while the Citizenship Award was presented to Travis Woodward.

The White Rose is presented to a boy and girl from the class for outstanding achievement and leadership, academics, and other activities. The Citizenship Award is given to the senior who has demonstrated outstanding service, devotion and loyalty to DeKalb County High School. The honors students were also recognized during the program.

A total of 154 students received diplomas during the commencement, each one shaking hands with Director of Schools Mark Willoughby as their names were called by Principal Kathy Hendrix.

In remarks to the Class, Valedictorian Nick Winchester urged his fellow students to make good use of their education. " As Edward Koch once said, "The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse. As we sit here amongst our family and friends, this is not only a time to celebrate all the hard work and dedication, but a time to reminisce on all the memories that have made our high school career the one it was. Cherish these days and hold them close to your heart. There are never going to be anymore like them. As we think about the long journey we just completed, we could have never done it if it weren't for the teachers. If I do say so myself, they have done a spectacular job with us. As each of you set for the road ahead, remember Jeremiah 29:11 that states, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Keep your goals high and reach for the stars."

Class Officer Tyler Woods advised the graduates to let God guide them. " We are here to hopefully shed perspective on what it is we've accomplished, where it is we've come from, and what we have in store for our future. The greatest years of our life will not come in one era. It will come day by day as we let God make it what he wills. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. " Proverbs 3:5-6. It is so powerful to me. God is sovereign and if we want to be truly in control we must surrender control."

Principal Kathy Hendrix, in her remarks to the class, admonished the graduates to confront life's challenges and work to achieve their dreams. " Graduation marks the end of high school and the beginning of a bright future. But more importantly, it marks achievement. It's a ceremony of honor and recognition. Your teachers, parents, and grandparents have given you the foundation, the base upon which to build. The rest will be largely up to you. I would challenge you tonight never to stop learning. Cultivate and exercise your mind as you go through life. Stay focused on your goals in life. Sometimes you may fall down. Get right back up and go forward. Acknowledge your obstacles. Don't empower them. If you're not prepared for your journey and everyday challenges, search for what you can do to help get you prepared. Finally, I hope you will find tasks worthy of your abilities. Confront challenges deserving of your enthusiasm and work to achieve your dreams."

Thursday Night Wreck Claims the Lives of Two Men

May 23, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Two men died in a one car crash Thursday night on Highway 96 (Medley Amonett Road) north of Edgar Evins State Park in DeKalb County near the Putnam County line.

Dead are 54 year old Thomas Carr of Nashville and 32 year old Larry League, Jr. of Smithville.

According to Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Carr was driving a 2004 Hyundai Accent north on the Medley Amonette Road when he failed to properly negotiate a curve because of his speed, left the road to the right and made impact with a rock wall and then hit a large tree. The car then overturned ejecting League, who was not wearing a seatbelt, and partially ejecting Carr, who was restrained in the vehicle. Both died at the scene.

Trooper Jennings, who was called at 9:35 p.m., says a passerby spotted the wreck and called 911.

Trooper Jennings was assisted in the investigation by Officer Johnny Farley of the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT).

Officers of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department were also on the scene along with members of the Cookeville Highway Station and Extrication Team of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, DeKalb County EMS, and Medical Examiner Terry Martin.

Trooper Jennings says there was evidence of alcohol and drugs at the crash scene.

The deaths of Carr and League, mark the 6th & 7th traffic fatalities of the year on DeKalb County roads.

Fish signs softball scholarship with Maryville

May 21, 2008

DCHS Tigerette, Kayla Fish, will continue her softball career at Maryville College, next year. The senior made it official on Tuesday, as she signed an athletic scholarship with the East Tennessee school.

Fish will be coached at the four-year program by her brother, Danny Fish, a DCHS alum who just completed his sixth season as head coach of the Scots program. Danny Fish said he believes Kayla will fill a void on his team, and will be a team player, despite the family connection.

"I know it'll be a sister playing for her brother, but it's going to be tough; tougher on her than it will be on me," Fish said. "I like to think of myself being able to differentiate the relationships between brother and sister, and player and coach. Kayla shoud be able to come right in, if she works really hard, and help us out. We lost a couple of outfielders from this season's team, so we'll see what happens."

Fish said academics will also be of the utmost importance, which, Kayla conceded, was one of the factors in her choosing Maryville.

"She's going to be a good student-athlete, which is something we put a great deal of emphasis on at Maryville College," said Fish, who boasts a 100-percent graduation rate during his six-year Maryville tenure. "There's plenty of opportunity for her at Maryville, so we'll see what she makes of that opportunity."

Tigerette coach, Danny Bond, believes Kayla Fish will do well at the next level and wishes his senior the best.

"She's been a class act all the way through," Bond said. "She's been a very dedicated young lady, having played basketball, softball, and worked hard in the classroom. I think she'll be very successful at Maryville. I'm very happy for her and I think she'll be very successful."

Maryville College is an NCAA Division III school, and is a member of the Great South Atlantic Conference. The Lady Scots were 19-19 in 2008, and graduated another former DCHS player, Ashley Redmon, at the conclusion of the season.

DeKalb Middle School Celebrates Student Achievement During 8th Grade Graduation

May 20, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Members of the 8th grade class at DeKalb Middle School participated in graduation exercises Tuesday morning in the gym.

Nick Winchester, the 2008 Valedictorian at DeKalb County High School, was the guest speaker.

In his remarks to the 8th graders, Winchester urged them to always strive to do their best. " S- set your sights on your goals. T-tackle the obstacles that are in your way. R- reach new heights with every trial you face. I- be innovative with your ideas. V- possess virtuous character and E- endeavor to do great things. Strive to be your very best in everything you do, not just in high school, but in your personal life, your Christian life, and in all other areas of life. Be unique, be ready to accept the challenges that face you in high school. Work hard to meet the goals you and your parents have for you. And by all means, have fun. These next four years will pass by so quickly. You will think you're never going to get there and all of a sudden you're accepting your diploma and throwing your cap in the air. Don't take life too seriously and don't let it slip by you either. Enjoy it, work hard, and play hard. Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. Good luck and congratulations."

Principal Randy Jennings presented academic awards to students with the highest grade point averages in the eighth grade.

Adam James had the highest GPA at 99.5 followed by Riley Young with a 99.1

Others included:
Whitney England with a GPA of 98.4
Erin Colwell- 98.3
Katie Merriman- 98.1
Lelah Ambrose- 97.6
Victoria Tatrow- 97.2
Johnna Hensley- 97.0
Jessica Garrison- 96.9
Jonathan Edwards- 96.8
Jessica Ball- 96.6
Heather Hughes- 96.1
Alyssa Young-96.1

Bullard Asks City to Help Maintain Bridge on His Property

May 20, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Smithville man came before the mayor and aldermen Monday night asking that a small narrow bridge accessing his property from Holmes Creek Road, be maintained by the city.

Jamie Bullard of 435 Holmes Creek Road says since the city has to cross the bridge to access public utilities, the city should help him maintain it, even though he and another person own the bridge. "What I've got, basically, is a bridge that my neighbor and I have to maintain. We have to maintain this for the city to cross. All these utilities are on the other side. I've asked the city for four years to help me fix this bridge. The city tells me it's a private bridge, even though your (city) employees cross it. We have a UCHRA van that hauls anywhere from five to ten handicapped children and they cross this bridge. We have the electric company that crosses the bridge. Natural gas (company) crosses the bridge. And we've even got the police officers that cross the bridge. What I'm saying is that I had to buy this access across the bridge. I don't mind the city crossing this bridge for all your utilities, for your man holes, and for everything else. But there's no reason why I should pay for the utilities and pay for a bridge for you to cross, and you don't help me."

City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. told Bullard that the city could not legally spend public funds on private property. "You've just said that the bridge is private property, yours and someone else's, Ms Walker's. The city cannot repair or replace a bridge that they don't own."

Bullard said if the city was not willing to help him, then he might not let the city cross the bridge to get to those utilities.

Parsley said the city has easements and Bullard could not refuse the city access. "At some point in time the city acquired an easement, either on paper or by prescriptive rights by the use. Somebody gave it to them (city). Maybe they didn't do the proper documentation but those (easements) were there before you (Bullard) ever moved in. You can't cut the city off from using an easement to maintain that line."

Bullard responded, "The easement that the city uses to get to my water meter was not there prior to my being there. It was put in there since I've been there and I bought that easement."

Parsley asked, "Then you own the easement for the bridge and you're saying you own the bridge, you and this other lady?"

"Yes sir" answered Bullard.

Parsley continued, "Then the city doesn't have a legal obligation to repair that bridge."

Bullard replied, "That's right and I don't have a legal obligation to allow the city to cross my bridge."

Parlsey concluded, "You can't stop the city from maintaining their easement."

Alderman Willie Thomas made a motion that the city conduct some research and revisit the issue at another meeting. Alderman Tonya Sullivan seconded the motion "to research where the city's easement is located and what we have to do to maintain our easement."

Meanwhile Bullard accused Mayor Taft Hendrixson of favoritism. He claims the city did some work in the area and that a relative of the mayor benefitted from it. "I see a lot of special favors being given to a lot of people. Mayor, you just told me that you cleaned out under the bridge on Holmes Creek Road. I looked under that bridge and it is not cleaned out. But what you did was you dug your cousin a new creek and you built it up with gravel."

Mayor Hendrixson denies the allegation. "Those gravels were put on a sewer line that was washed out and being exposed.

Parsley said the state instructed the city to do some clean out work around the Holmes Creek Bridge. "The state sent the city a letter. They (state) had inspected the bridge there and they required the city to keep that clean. The city responded by getting their crew to clean the debris out so it would pass inspection. I believe they also put a load limit on that bridge that was required by the state. They were also required to send a photograph showing that the bridge had been posted and that the debris under it had been cleaned out. So that's the reason that area was cleaned."

State to Set Speed Limits in All DeKalb County School Zones At 25 MPH

May 20, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

All speed limits in school zones in DeKalb County will be 25 miles per hour by the time school starts again this fall.

Local officials recently made the request of the State Department of Transportation and Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson said Monday night during the city council meeting that TDOT has granted approval.

The school zone on Highway 70 at DeKalb County High School and DeKalb Middle School will go from 15 mph to 25 mph and the school zone on Highway 56 north at Northside Elementary School will be reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph. The school zone at Smithville Elementary School will be changed from 15 mph to 25 mph and will be relocated from Highway 56 south to East Bryant Street.

The school zone at DeKalb West School on Highway 70 at Liberty will remain 25 mph.

City Swimming Pool Scheduled to Open Memorial Day If Repairs are Completed

May 20, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Municipal Swimming Pool is scheduled to open by Memorial Day if repairs can be completed in time.

Last month, Secretary Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson said Donald Page from the Department of Health met with city officials and made some recommendations on what he thought needed to be done before opening the pool. "He commented on the interior of the pool being rough as far as the liner goes. We have limited lights. He said only 50% were functional and we need to look at getting those repaired. There's been some uplifting of some of the concrete around the pool or part of the deck. Depth markings and the hand railing also need to be repaired."

Jimmy Lewis, operator of the golf course and swimming pool, at that meeting, said based on Page's advice, he could not open the pool until the repairs were made "He told me not to even get the permits until that was fixed. The liner has cracks in it and our insurance won't cover it. You'll have to re-fiberglass it. The fiberglass has got to be redone. We're supposed to open Memorial Day but it takes two weeks to get it filled up and the water right and people are already calling about booking summer swimming parties."

Since that meeting, city maintenance workers have done some repair work while the Leisure Specialities Company has been patching cracks in the pool.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson addressed the issue during Monday night's city council meeting. "Mr. (Roger) Bowman who is repairing that over there, his workers today (Monday) told Mr. (Kevin) Robinson (City Public Works Director) that they would probably be through with all the crack repairs today (Monday). They may lack a little bit on tiling those steps. So it's basically ready for Mr. Lewis to get ready to open."

Willoughby Renews Request for Authorization to Seek Land for New High School

May 19, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, on behalf of the DeKalb County Board of Education, Monday night renewed a request for authorization from the county commission to seek land for the possible future home of a new high school.

Director Willoughby and Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins III made the initial request last month and were told by County Mayor Mike Foster that the issue would first have to be addressed by the budget committee of the county commission.

Willoughby, during Monday night's meeting, raised the issue again. " The school board has authorized me to ask the county commission to give me authorization to seek and negotiate a tract of land for future growth, and this is only for land, to bring back to the county commission and to seek your recommendation and approval on it."

The county commission took no vote on Willoughby's request but County Mayor Foster told Willoughby that the school board could seek land and then make a proposal to the budget committee which would still have to consider it. " I've talked with a few of the (county) commissioners here tonight and we understand the importance of confidentiality when you're looking at this land. I think all of them pretty well agree that it should be your job to do it (seek land) in a confidential manner and look at it and bring back your proposal to the budget committee and present it to them and let them recommend to the full commission at that time. We're a long way from approving budgets and we've got to find revenue sources and those kinds of things. I think that will give us a couple of months to do our business and you can do your due diligence that way."

The board would like at least 60 acres and possibly more for future construction of a new high school, but the county commission must first grant approval of such a purchase and authorize the funding.

The school board is currently evaluating at least three sites as possible suitable locations. Purchasing land would be the first phase in an overall building plan which includes construction of a new high school for grades 9 to 12, renovating the existing high school making it into the new location for DeKalb Middle school for grades 5-8, making renovations and additions to DeKalb West School, making Northside Elementary a school for grades 2 to 4, and making Smithville Elementary a school for Pre-K and first grade. The total project cost is between $34-million and $40-million dollars, not counting the land purchase.

Meanwhile, the DeKalb County Board of Education, last Thursday night, presented the proposed tentative 2008-09 school budget to the budget committee of the county commission during an informal meeting held at the courthouse.

Other county department heads also made budget requests during the meeting.

The school board met in special session last Wednesday afternoon to adopt the proposed tentative budget.

Total expenditures projected for 2008-09 are $17,949,306. Total projected revenues are $16,979,885, a shortfall of $969,421.

In order to balance the proposed budget, the school board proposes an appropriation of $412,921 from the school fund balance and $556,500 from Basic Education Program reserves. The local property tax rate for schools would remain the same at 57 cents per $100 of assessed value under this plan.

The proposed school budget includes funding in the regular instruction program for three new teaching positions in the system as needed based on student enrollment, along with a new gifted teacher position in the special education program, a new position in the vocational education program, an additional school nurse along with a new part-time clerical position to support the school coordinated health program, and a new clerical position for the guidance department of DeKalb County High School.

A one time bonus of $200 per certified employee is included in the proposed budget and support staff would get a 2% pay raise along with any step increases as per the school system's salary scale. The budget also reflects increases in teacher salaries by degree advancement and years of experience.

The budget also includes projected increases due to inflation, including a 10% increase for health insurance, a 10% increase for electricity, plus increases for supplies and materials, textbooks and fuel.

For example, in the line item for fuel, the school board budgeted $147,000 for diesel this fiscal year, 2007-08 and has already spent $141,500, with two more deliveries of diesel fuel expected before the end of the fiscal year June 30th. The school board has budgeted $350,000 for diesel fuel in the proposed 2008-09 budget. A total of $13,000 was budgeted this year for gasoline, but next year, the board has increased it to $19,000.

School officials say the proposed spending plan is still very tentative because the state has not yet provided hard numbers on how much the system can expect to receive in state funding.

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