Local News Articles

Social Security Announces 3.6 Percent Benefit Increase

October 19, 2011

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 60 million Americans will increase 3.6 percent in 2012, the Social Security Administration announced Wednesday..

The 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that nearly 55 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2012. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011.

Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $110,100 from $106,800. Of the estimated 161 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2012, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Information about Medicare changes for 2012, when announced, will be available at www.Medicare.gov. For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

Stained Glass Artist Plans Customer Appreciation Open House

October 19, 2011
 Drew Trahan

After 30 years as a professional stained glass artist, Drew Trahan is scaling back operations at ArtGlass, the Silver Point studio where he designs and builds his work.

To mark his semi-retirement, he’s hosting a customer appreciation day Friday through Sunday, Oct 28-30. Anyone interested in stained glass is invited to visit him in his studio, on highway 56, just off Interstate-40 at exit 273 in Silver Point. Doors will be open from 10 until 5 each day.

“I can’t get around as well as I once could due to my health,” says Trahan. “So, I want to take an opportunity to thank all the people who have shown an interest in my work, and supported it, over the years.”

Trahan arrived in DeKalb County with his young family in 1980 from Ft. Lauderdale, where he was a lieutenant in the fire department. Primarily self taught, he started stained glass as a hobby after taking a one-hour class, and only pursued it as a career after moving here.

For more than 20 years, he worked from his studio on highway 56 north of Smithville before relocating it to Silver Point a few years ago. He’s created stained glass windows for several area churches, the Justin Potter library, Webb House, homes here and throughout the country, and the mansions of country stars like Garth Brooks and Randy Travis. He's won many awards for his work.

Visitors to the ArtGlass studio can see how Trahan designs, cuts and assembles his projects. He’s also invited several guests, and light refreshments will be served. What remains of Trahan’s completed pieces will be available. Glass hobbyists can choose from the extensive inventory of colored, textured and beveled glass Trahan is now selling below wholesale.

For more information, contact Drew Trahan at 931 858 1844

City and County Officials to Conduct Workshop over Fees for Treatment of Landfill Leachate

October 18, 2011
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster
Taft Hendrixson
Shawn Jacobs

The City of Smithville, since August 2008, has not been paying the county for the disposal of city garbage in the landfill and the county, since March 2009, has not been paying for the treatment of landfill leachate being hauled to the city's waste water treatment plant.

County Mayor Mike Foster, in a telephone interview with WJLE Monday night, said this non-payment agreement was worked out between he and Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson months ago. But according to Mayor Hendrixson, there was no such deal. He said the city's refusal to pay is based on the principle that the county should not be charging Smithville a fee to dump city garbage in the county landfill since city residents are already supporting the operation of the landfill as county taxpayers. That, he said, is double taxation. Mayor Hendrixson also questions why Smithville, which hauls its own garbage to the landfill, is expected to pay for disposal when the three other cities, whose garbage is hauled to the landfill by the county, are not required to pay for disposal.

Whatever the arrangement has been between the city and county, at least one Smithville Alderman wants city officials to revisit the issue with County Mayor Foster in a workshop which is expected to be scheduled soon.

Alderman Shawn Jacobs raised the issue during Monday night's city council meeting. "Numerous people have asked me about this. I think we're all aware that the county has been bringing many more tanks of leachate to the landfill to be processed at the city sewer plant. As of right now the city is not being reimbursed for the cost of doing that. That is a cost to ratepayers of the water and sewer department. I know its an issue that a lot of folks have brought to my attention. As a matter of fact, I think even County Mayor Foster has offered to meet in a workshop session with the board to discuss the situation and whether the city is willing to let the county have their leachate treated for free," said Alderman Jacobs.

Mayor Hendrixson, during Monday night's meeting, explained how the leachate issue came to his attention. "When they first got the new cell site over there, Mayor Foster came to me and he said until they got some build up of garbage in there we're going to have to haul out some leachate. So I told him to go ahead and haul some out. It has continued to be an on-going thing. I wasn't aware of that for a long time. But it is. Its an on-going thing and probably will be a forever thing," said Mayor Hendrixson.

"I hear there are hundreds of loads a week going in there," said Alderman Jacobs.

"I think that depends on the weather," replied Mayor Hendrixson.

"I think its something that we need to at least discuss," said Alderman Jacobs." I think we owe it to the ratepayers of the Smithville water system to investigate this and decide what we need to do and to come to some kind of formal agreement because right now we don't have one".

The last payment the county made to the city for leachate treatment was in March, 2009 for February hauls. According to available records, from March 2009 to September 2011, the total amount of money the city could have tried to collect from the county for treatment of landfill leachate comes to $400,110.

The biggest month for leachate from the landfill within the last three years was in May 2009 when 274 loads totaling 1,570,300 gallons were hauled by the county to the city wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $46,920 which has gone unpaid.

This year, the lowest number of monthly leachate hauls through September was in August when 18 hauls were made totaling 81,000 gallons at a cost of $2,340 which has gone unpaid.

The city had been paying the county approximately $50,000 per year for garbage disposal but ceased payments after August 2008. The last payment made in August 2008 was for the prior quarter of April through June 2008. The total amount of money the county could have tried to collect from the city from July, 2008 to September 2011 is more than $150,000, which has gone unpaid.

Foster, during the Monday night telephone interview with WJLE, explained his version of how the arrangement between the county and the city came about. "I guess its been nearly three years ago when we were putting in a new (landfill) cell and we were getting a lot of storm water in there. Its technically called leachate but its basically storm water. Its basically water that runs into the cell and when you have that big of an opening which was like five acres, you're going to get a lot of water. We were getting about 25,000 gallons of water per acre, per inch of rain. It was just a lot of water to haul. When we opened up that new cell we were getting a lot of that (leachate) and we were paying the city for it (to treat it). I think we were paying around $140 per load.. The city was paying about $45,000 or $50,000 (to the county) for hauling their garbage to the landfill. Of course we (county) gave them a better rate than we did everybody else. I think everybody else was paying $35 per ton and they (city) were paying $25 per ton. One day we met with Mayor Taft Hendrixson and worked out an agreement where we would not pay for leachate or storm water treatment. They (city) run it through their (sewer plant) and treat it with some things that kill the bacteria in it and then dump it into the creek. Of course we (county) have to bury their garbage which costs us $35 a ton. Anyway we worked out a two year agreement to where neither the city nor the county would pay anything for that two year period which has just expired. About a month or so ago I called to see about renewing that agreement but that was the last I had heard about it until now," said Foster.

Foster said he welcomes a workshop with the mayor and aldermen to try and resolve this issue.

In May, 2009 city officials contacted Don Darden of the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) to give an opinion on the following question:

Is it possible for the county to prevent the City from taking our garbage to the County landfill? We have refused to pay the county anymore for solid waste disposal being that we pick up and take the garbage to the landfill at our expense. We feel that the City residents are being double taxed for county solid waste disposal. Any thoughts on this?

In his response, Darden said "if the county is paying its landfill expense from property taxes
county wide, then I think you are right. I ran into this same situation when I was city administrator in LaFollette. Campbell County used its second half of the sales taxes to pay landfill expenses, and LaFollette had to pay a tipping fee to dump there. If the county is using a
revenue that is not levied against its county residents who live in Smithville, then I think Smithville will have to pay," he said.

Meanwhile, in other business the board adopted on second and final reading following a public hearing proposed ordinance #435. This is an ordinance abandoning the roadway on the southside of the South Mountain Street and Adams Street intersection.

Mayor Hendrixson explained that "its on the south side of the South Mountain Street and Adams Street intersection. Its something that was never built. Its known as the Johnson/Turner addition. It happened in the 1940's but it has never been built.

The proposed ordinance reads as follows: "Whereas the Mayor and Aldermen are aware that the roadway shown on the southside addition of the Johnson/Turner addition dated May 4, 1945 has not been improved nor improved as a roadway since the construction and improvement of Adams Street.

Whereas, no landowner adjoining the roadway shown on the southside of the Johnson/Turner addition dated May 4, 1945 will be land locked by virtue of the abandonment of said roadway.

Whereas the Mayor and Board of Aldermen have concluded that it is in the best interest of the City of Smithville to abandon the roadway shown on the southside of the addition of the Johnson/Turner addition dated May 4, 1945

Now, Therefore be it ordained as follows: Section 1, the City of Smithville does hereby abandon any right, claim, easement, fee, or intent otherwise in the portion of said southside roadway from the South Mountain Street easterly intersection to the present construction of the Adams Street intersection.

Section 2 This ordinance shall take effect upon second and final reading"

The aldermen also voted to accept a bid from Highways Incorporated in the amount of $84.50 per ton for hot mix to do some street paving. It was the lowest of the two bids received. The other bid came from Lo-Jack in the amount of $84.75 per ton.

Dawson Wanted by Police in Severe Beating of Another Man

October 18, 2011
Dwayne Page

A 38 year old man is facing charges of aggravated burglary, domestic assault, and aggravated assault upon his arrest after an incident Saturday, October 1st at a residence on Oak Street.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said Art Lee Dawson of Grand View Avenue, Smithville remains at large.

According to Chief Caplinger, Dawson entered the Oak street home uninvited where his ex-girlfriend was staying and allegedly assaulted her. Another man, who was also there at the time, intervened telling Dawson that he would have to leave. Dawson then turned on the man allegedly beating him severely about the face with his fists. Dawson also allegedly struck him with a tall lamp and coffee table. The man was later taken to the hospital. Dawson fled before police arrived.

If you know of Dawson's whereabouts you are urged to call the Smithville Police Department's crime tip line at 464-6046.

Meanwhile, three people have been charged with evading arrest after a police pursuit on Friday, October 7. A fourth person remains at large in this case.

37 year old Tammy Gail Nunley, 38 year old Roxanne White, and Scott L. Sykes are all charged with evading arrest. Bond for each is set at $1,500 and are due to appear in court on October 27.. The fourth person will be charged with felony evading and reckless endangerment.

Chief Caplinger reports that a Smithville Police Officer tried to pull over a Nissan Altima for a traffic offense on Broadstreet, when the vehicle "took off". A police pursuit ensued from Broad Street onto Highway 56 south to County House Road and ended in a hay field. The four persons in the car got out and fled on foot. One of them, Nunley, surrendered to police at the scene. The other two, White and Sykes were picked up the next day. The fourth person, the driver of the car, has not yet been arrested.

32 year old Scotty Wayne Knowles and 20 year old Latasha Nicole Cantrell were arrested on Wednesday, October 12 and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

Chief Caplinger reports that Smithville Police Officers went to a residence on Snow Street, responding to complaints of possible drug activity there. Both Knowles and Cantrell were at the residence along with another woman, 30 year old Christina Johnson.

Police confronted Knowles, who is under state probation. He gave officers consent to search and they found in his boot a hypodermic needle. Police also searched a camper outside on the premises and found a metal container which held six hypodermic needles. Cantrell allegedly claimed the needles belonged to her. Both Knowles and Cantrell were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond for each is $1,500 and they will appear in court on November 17.

Johnson was picked up for violation of probation.

37 year old Marcia Ann Raymer of Watertown was issued a citation for theft of property in a shoplifting case at Walmart on Friday, October 7. She was allegedly caught with several items that she had not paid for. The total value of the merchandise came to $90.12. She will be in court on November 3.

19 year old Christopher Thomas Pack is charged with two counts of vandalism under $500. He is under a $2,000 bond and will be in court on October 27.

According to Chief Caplinger, Pack went to a home on Anthony Avenue to see his girlfriend. When she wouldn't let him in, he allegedly caused some damage to a vehicle at the residence before he left. Pack allegedly returned later while no one was at home and caused some damage to a back door of the residence. He was later arrested at his Adams Street home and charged in the case.

41 year old Mark Anthony Hopkins is charged with simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana). Hopkins is under a $1,500 bond and he will be in court on October 27.

Chief Caplinger reports that police were called to an apartment complex on Foster Road where someone had reported hearing a fight taking place in one of the apartments. By the time officers arrived, the suspect believed to have been involved had left the scene. About an hour later, police were called back to the apartment complex in answer to another disturbance call. Hopkins was outside the apartment as police arrived and one of the officers saw him place something in a jack-o-lantern. There they found in a pill bottle a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana.

35 year old Lonnie Lynn Wheeler is charged with domestic assault of his wife on October 14, causing her to require treatment at the emergency room of the hospital. He is under a $2,500 bond and he will be in court on November 3.

38 year old John William Cline is charged with domestic assault. He will be in court on November 3. Chief Caplinger said Cline came to a woman's residence demanding money and her vehicle. He then swung his fist at her before throwing an open beer can at her.

43 year old David Howard Dixon is charged with public intoxication and simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance.

Chief Caplinger reports that police were called to a residence on Bell Street where an unwanted visitor was bothering the home owner. Police arrived and found Dixon who had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person. He was unsteady on his feet and had trouble standing. Dixon told police he thought he was in Warren County. Officers found on him a plastic bag containing what is believed to be marijuana.

Redistricting Plan to be Presented to County Commission

October 18, 2011
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission, which also makes up the redistricting committee, has completed a redistricting plan to better equalize the population count among the seven districts of the county based on the results of the 2010 census. What that means is that some residents who are currently in a particular district now will soon find themselves in another district, which also means they will have a different school board member, constable, and county commissioners representing them than those who currently serve them.

The committee met Thursday night at the courthouse to approve the plan after receiving the newly drawn redistricting map for the county from the State Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Local Government. The plan is expected to be formally approved during the next meeting of the county commission this month.

2010 census figures show that DeKalb's population is now at 18,723. In order to make them equal in population, each of the seven districts would need a population of no more than 2,675. But the districts don't have to be exactly equal in population, as long as the overall population deviation of the county is not more than 10%. DeKalb County's overall deviation is 17%

In DeKalb County, the third district has a total of 2,890 residents while the seventh district's population totals 2,881, which makes each of those districts deviation over by +8%. The second district, meanwhile, has 2,428 residents, which puts it's deviation under by -9%. Adding the +8% to the -9% puts DeKalb County's overall deviation at 17%. Since the overall benchmark is 10%, the boundaries in at least some or all of the districts will need to be adjusted to bring the overall range down to 10% or below.

Under the new redistricting plan, the highest deviations, plus or minus, will be in the fourth and sixth districts. The fourth district's population will be 2,719 with a deviation over by +1.7% while in the sixth district, the population will be 2,644 for a deviation of -1.1%, putting the county's overall deviation at 2.8%. Again, the county can have an overall deviation of up to 10%, so the 2.8% deviation under the new redistricting plan will be well within the range allowed by law.

"This tells us that we have our numbers correct now in the districts," said County Mayor Mike Foster. It did necessitate moving a few lines but basically the districts are pretty much the same as they were. Some people in some of the districts got moved to other districts because of the way the numbers fell. We hoped we could keep it all the same but we had a 17% disparity and we have to be less than 10%. Number wise, the first district now has 2,671 people and to be perfect it would have needed four more people. The second district had 2,681 which was six people too many. The third district has 2,673 and needed two more people. The fourth district has 2,719 which is 44 people too many. The fifth district has 2,666 and needed nine more people. The sixth district has 2,644 and needed 31 more people. The seventh district has 2,669 and needed six more people. This is the closest we can get to where we need to be. The state required that we be within a 10% overall range and we're now, with this plan, at 2.8%. I think most people are comfortable in the districts they are in and they don't like to move. I wouldn't want to either. But it's a necessity. All districts changed just a little. There were some districts that didn't need to change but in order to change the ones that did (need changing) we had to change them too to make it work," said Foster.

Under the new redistricting plans, the population in each district will be as follows:

First district: 2,671, a deviation of -0.1% or four persons

Second district: 2,681, a deviation of +0.2% or six persons

Third district: 2,673, a deviation of -0.1% or two persons

Fourth district: 2,719, a deviation of +1.7% or 44 persons

Fifth district: 2,666, a deviation of -0.3% or nine persons

Sixth district: 2,644, a deviation of -1.1% or thirty one persons

Seventh district: 2,669, a deviation of -0.2% or six persons

Under the law, the new redistricting plan must be in place by January 1, 2012.

Parole Hearing for Bounds Set for Thursday

October 18, 2011
Dwayne Page
Gerald Wayne (J.B.) Bounds

As WJLE reported in August, 64 year old Gerald Wayne (J.B.) Bounds of McMinnville will be up for another parole hearing this Thursday, October 20..

Bounds, convicted of first degree murder, is serving a life prison sentence at the Southeast Regional Correctional Facility in Pikeville.

Last fall, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to concur with a recommendation by two of it's members Yusuf Hakeem and Charles Taylor that Bounds be denied parole due to the seriousness of the offense in the 1981 fatal shooting of 27 year old Sherman Wright of DeKalb County.

Following Bounds' last parole hearing in October, 2010, Hakeem and Taylor recommended that Bounds be "put off" for two years before his next parole hearing, but the state board decided instead to review Bound's case again in October, 2011.

The board requested that Bounds undergo a psychological evaluation prior to his next hearing, as was recommended by parole board members Hakeem and Taylor.

Bounds is serving a life sentence for the first degree premeditated killing of Wright, who was shot once in the head just outside the Odyssey Arcade on West Broad Street, across from the Dairy Queen. The incident occurred on the afternoon of February 2nd, 1981, allegedly over a gambling debt. The game room no longer exists. The building now serves as the location for the Discount Tobacco Outlet. Had Wright survived, he would be turning 58 years old on October 25th.

Election Commission to Hold Town Hall Meeting on New Photo ID Law

October 17, 2011

A new law that will require voters to show a valid photo ID at the polls won't go into effect until next year, but in preparation for this new requirement, the DeKalb County Election Commission will hold a town hall meeting to inform the public of the change in the law.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, November. 1, on the first floor of the DeKalb County Courthouse. The purpose of the meeting is to present information regarding the new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2012. The town hall meeting will include a presentation, followed by a question and answer period.

The major points of the law include:

•A voter is required to produce a federal or state government-issued photo ID before being allowed to vote. Some examples of a valid photo ID, even if expired, are a Tennessee driver license, U.S. passport, Department of Safety photo ID card, state or federal employee photo identification card, or a U.S. military photo ID. Student college IDs will not be accepted for voting purposes.

Free photo IDs may be obtained from any Department of Safety driver license testing station. Registered voters must sign an affidavit stating that the photo ID is for voting purposes, that they are a registered voter, and that they do not have any other valid government-issued photo ID. The Department of Safety will not issue a free photo ID if the person already has a valid government-issued photo ID

•Voters who are unable to produce a valid photo ID will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, which is a paper ballot, at the polls. Voters casting a provisional ballot will have until two (2) business days after Election Day to return to the election commission office to show a valid photo ID.

•Voters with a religious objection to being photographed, or voters who are indigent and unable to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee - for example, the voter cannot pay for a birth certificate for proof of citizenship - may sign an oath affirming to the information and will be allowed to vote on the machines.

•Voters who vote absentee by mail, voters who are hospitalized, and voters who live in licensed nursing homes or assisted living centers and vote at the facilities are not required to show photo IDs. Registered voters over the age of 65 may request an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

“The goal of the town hall meeting is to educate the public and prepare voters for the upcoming 2012 elections,” Dennis Stanley, administrator of elections said. “We want voters to have plenty of time to obtain a valid photo ID if they do not already possess one. We encourage everyone to attend the November 1 meeting.”

For more information about the new voting requirements, contact Mark Goins, coordinator of elections, or Andrew Dodd, elections specialist, in the state Division of Elections at 1-877-850-4959 or your local county election commission at 597-4146, Room 104 of the DeKalb County Courthouse in Smithville.

BPW Club Announces New Pageant along with Fall Fest and Autumn Princess

October 15, 2011
Dwayne Page
Lauren Elizabeth Colwell
Emma Brooke Jennings

The Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club, in addition to the annual Fall Fest and Autumn Princess, will be starting a new Autumn Sweetheart pageant on November 5 at DCHS.

This new pageant, to become an annual event, will feature girls ages 11-14 in the 6th, 7th, & 8th grades.

The Fall Fest is open to high school aged girls from 14-18 and the Autumn Princess pageant is for girls ages 7-10.

The reigning Fall Fest is Lauren Elizabeth Colwell, the 15 year old daughter of Trent and Christie Colwell of Smithville.

The Autumn Princess is Emma Brooke Jennings, the eight year old daughter of Chad and Shelly Jennings of Smithville.

Applications have been distributed at all schools and are also available at the Smithville Review. Deadline for entry is October 28.

The events are scheduled for Saturday, November 5 at the DeKalb County High School Gymnasium with the Autumn Princess beginning at 3 p.m. and the other pageants immediately following.

Two Charged with Initiation of a Process to Manufacture Methamphetamine

October 15, 2011
Dwayne Page
Bradley Pugh
Rikki Elizabeth Holland
Angel Claire Alexander

Two people were arrested by the Sheriff's Department last Monday, October 10 after a deputy allegedly found suspected meth lab components in their truck on Seven Springs Road.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that 32 year old Bradley Pugh of Old Bildad Road, Smithville is charged with initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. His bond is $100,000 and he will be in court on November 10

28 year old Rikki Elizabeth Holland of Underwood Road, McMinnville is charged with initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine. Her bond is $75,000 and she will be in court on November 10.

According to Sheriff Ray, a deputy was called to check out a vehicle parked on the side of Seven Springs Road. When he arrived, the officer found Pugh, unconscious behind the steering wheel. Holland was a passenger. After waking up Pugh, the deputy obtained from him consent to search and found coffee filters and batteries inside the vehicle. In the back of the truck, the officer found a plastic tote and two bags containing chemical products that were altered for the manufacture of methamphetamine. A prescription bottle bearing Pugh's name was found in the bag with the chemicals. The deputy also discovered a loaded handgun on the drivers side of the truck.

In a separate case, 50 year old Angel Claire Alexander of Lebanon is charged with a first offense of driving under the influence. She was further issued a citation for failure to maintain her proper lane of traffic resulting in a one vehicle accident on Highway 70. Her bond totals $1,500 and she will be in court on November 10.

Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, October 12 while operating a vehicle on Highway 70, Alexander was involved in an accident. She had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on her person and she was unsteady on her feet. A bottle containing some vodka was in the vehicle and she allegedly admitted to drinking it. Alexander refused to submit to field sobriety tasks but she did submit to a blood test.

County Property Tax Notices to be Mailed Soon

October 14, 2011
Dwayne Page
Sean Driver

2011 DeKalb County property tax notices are expected to be mailed out within a few days and once you get your card you may pay your taxes without penalty through February 29th, 2012, according to Trustee Sean Driver.

"We received our notices on Thursday, October 6 and we are working on those right now in the Trustees office. We haven't mailed them out yet. It takes us a little while to work them before we can get them into the mail. We are uploaded to our computer system and are receipting right now so if you don't want to wait on the card and want to get them out of the way and pay them, we are loaded and receipting everyday. Once we work those cards, its going to be another week. Today is Friday, October 14 so we are looking at another week before we begin mailing those cards," said Driver.

"We do have something new this year for individuals who can't get it (payments) postmarked for mailing by the end of December and want to get those in for 2011 to count off on their income taxes. We have a night box right there as you enter the door on the left hand side of the main entrance. You can drop your taxes (payment) in the night box. 2012 is a leap year and we do have an extra day up until February 29 (to get taxes paid on time). A lot of people take advantage of that extra day to pay their taxes," said Driver.

The county offered discounts last year for early payment of property taxes, but Driver said no discounts are being offered this year. "We, as the Trustees Office, did present it to the county commission but it did not pass. That's okay, we'll try it again another year," he said.

DeKalb County property owners may pay their taxes by debit or credit card either in the Trustee's office or at www.tennesseetrustee.com. " Through Business Information Systems, we are set up at www.tennesseetrustee.com and you can pay your taxes on-line. Of course there is a fee through Business Information Systems of 2.75% that is charged to your card, whether it be debit or credit card. If you want to do an e-check, its only 1 ½%. This is a handling fee through Business Information Systems at the www.tennesseetrustee.com website. There are approximately 65 trustees out of the 95 counties that are using this system. It is very user friendly and it does help the individual," said Driver.

Seniors, be sure to check with the trustee's office on the state property tax relief program. The income limit is $26,830 for single or combined household incomes.

Trustee Driver said Tennessee's tax relief program is state-funded and provides a rebate of credit for all or a portion of the property taxes on residential property owned and occupied by low-income elderly, low-income disabled, and disabled veteran homeowners and their surviving spouses. "There is always an income limit affiliated with the Tax Relief program and for 2011 the income limit is $26,830. That is the same income limit as for the 2010 tax year so there's not been an increase in the income limit. When you come in to apply for the tax relief on your property tax, the state requires you to bring in the 2010 income. Of course you are applying for 2011 tax relief but the state requires the 2010 annual income and for this year if you qualify and you are under that limit and you own that property this year you will get $101 off your property taxes from the state of Tennessee. Those individuals I have had on tax relief in the past from the 2010 year and prior, I was able to get another $50 off from the county along with the $101 off from the state. Again the $50 off from the county is for those individuals who have already been on tax relief", said Driver.

"What you need to bring to us if you want to try to apply for tax relief is proof of your 2010 income and it must be under $26,830," said Driver. " We will also need a copy of your drivers license and your social security number. This not only includes you as an applicant, but all owners on your deed and or those who are living with you. They will also need to bring in their drivers licenses and their social security numbers," he said.

Amendments now require that the income of an applicant's spouse be counted regardless of whether the spouse has an ownership interest in the property, according to Driver. Also, it does not matter whether the spouse actually resides on the property or whether it is the spouse's legal residence. So long as the applicant is married, the applicant's spouse is treated, for income purposes only, just like a co-owner of the property. "Something new this year for the tax relief program, those individuals that are on the deed with more than one owner, not just as a sole owner, we do need all signatures this year for those individuals that have been on tax relief, said Driver. We need all signatures. That's something new this year. That's handed down from Social Security. We will need all signatures. In the past we only needed just the one applicant's signature so that's a change for us this year. So we're going to mail out letters with your tax relief cards and forms describing what I've been talking about here. We want you to pay attention to those letters especially if you have already been on tax relief. If you need more information, don't hesitate to either stop by or you can call us at 615-597-5176. The deadline to apply for this (tax relief) is 35 days after the last day of taxes which is February 29, 2012 or April 5. Again, April 5 will be the last day that you can apply for tax relief," he said.

Property Tax Relief Eligibility requirements for Elderly Homeowners are as follows:

Must be 65 or older on or before December 31st, 2011
Must provide evidence of age (i.e. driver's license, birth certificate, marriage license)
Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence
Qualified applicants will receive property tax relief on the first $25,000 of their property's market value.
According to the deed of the property, Must have records of the combined 2010 income of all owners of the property not exceeding $26,830. Income (i.e. social security, SSI pension, etc)

Eligibility requirements for Disabled Homeowners are as follows:

Must have been totally and permanently disabled as rated by the Social Security Administration or any other qualified agency on or before December 31st, 2011
Must provide evidence of age (i.e. driver's license, birth certificate, marriage license)
Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence
Must have records of the combined 2010 income of all owners of the property not exceeding $26,830

Eligibility requirements for Disabled Veteran Homeowners and/or widow or widower:

Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence.
Your disability must meet one of the following categories:
A service-connected disability that resulted in (1) Paraplegia, (2) Permanent paralysis of both legs and lower part of the body resulting from traumatic injury or disease to the spinal cord or brain, (3) Loss or loss of use of, two or more limbs, and (4) Legal blindness.

A total and permanent disability rating from a service-connected disability

A 100% total and permanent disability rating from being a prisoner of war.

The Veteran's Administration Office determines eligibility from the applicant's information in the Trustee's Office forwarded to the State of Tennessee.

If you meet these requirements you may apply in the Trustee's Office as soon as you receive your property tax bill. The deadline to apply is 35 days after February 29th, 2012 or April 5th, 2012.

If you have any additional questions concerning the tax relief program, come by the Trustee's office located in the new complex on South Congress Boulevard (Highway 56 south) or call 597-5176. "A lot of people are still trying to find us. When you drive out on Highway 56 south, like your going toward McMinnville, we are where the old Smithville Food Center, Fred's, and Pizza Inn shopping center used to be. We're across the road from Food Lion and Liberty State Bank. We're on the same parcel of land where Ace Hardware is at and our address is 732 South Congress Boulevard. We're on the south end of the building actually where Pizza Inn and Fred's used to be. Four of us have moved out there from the courthouse, including the county court clerk, the register of deeds, the trustee's office, and the property assessor. We have been there over a month and business is going well. I also want to thank the public and voters for allowing me to serve them for another year as your trustee," said Driver.


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