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Local News Articles

TDOT Chief Engineer Updates Public on Plans for Sligo Bridge

December 15, 2008
Dwayne Page
TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges Addresses Plans for Sligo Bridge
Concerned Citizens Listen to TDOT Engineer Paul Degges

A decision on whether to repair or replace Sligo Bridge may still be months or years away, depending upon the availability of funds.

Paul Degges, Chief Engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, addressed a room full of concerned citizens Monday night at the courthouse, as to the plans for the bridge.

State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver hosted the meeting.

Degges says the state has inspected the bridge and found it to be safe. "We've got a truss bridge over the river. It's about 24 feet wide. We inspect all of our bridges every two years to try to make sure that the bridge is in good shape and it's safe to keep traffic on it. We came back a few years ago and put a second reinforced steel concrete deck over the old deck on this bridge. So it actually has two bridge decks on it. The older deck down underneath is having some deterioration problems. You may have noticed we have some netting under there. It's not a structural issue with the bridge. The netting is to keep stuff from falling down and hitting somebody. From a structural condition, the bridge is structurally in pretty good shape for a bridge this age. So it is safe to drive on. We don't have any issues with safety."

If a new bridge is built at Sligo, Degges says it would be designed differently than the existing structure. " The steel in a truss bridge like this is a different technology than we use today. The steel we use in bridges today is a much higher strength steel. It's much more resistant to rust and weather. We're proposing a new bridge over the river at 1,545 feet long. One of the things we're also looking at based on current traffic is that we want to make sure we have two twelve foot lanes and full shoulder widths on the bridge. We also want to be prepared in the future to be able to come in and widen the bridge so we would put a wider sub-structure in the river and then in the future if we needed to widen the bridge out we could do that. This bridge is a unique structure in that the water is 137 feet deep from normal pool down to the bedrock below the mud in the river. That is probably the deepest water work we have ever done in the state of Tennessee."

While no decision has yet been made to replace the bridge, Degges says the state can now proceed with right of way acquisition. "We have gotten through the preliminary design phase of the process that gives us a set of plans to go buy right of way with. We're in the right of way acquisition phase right now to buy the right of way to build the new bridge. We've cleared the environmental hurdles and we're buying the right of way right now".

Degges says it would cost about $32 million to replace Sligo bridge at today's estimates, while a rehab would be about $12 million and extend the life of the bridge by 10 to 15 years. " A replacement job here is 32 million dollars. That is roughly half of the amount of federal funds that we (state) get in a year. We get about $60 million a year in federal funds for bridge replacements and by law I have to put about 15% of that money on county highways. So it's ($32 million) a big lick with 20,000 bridges in the state of which about 8.000 are on the state highway system."

"We would probably get about 50 years out of a new bridge and have the ability to widen or rehab it with relatively minor impacts to the traveling public. Truss bridges are a much different issue because since the truss is overhead, you're limited on the width, so to be able to come in there and do any (rehab) work on this bridge would be very difficult without having to close the bridge for at least some time. What we've looked at is for about $12 million and maybe a little cheaper, we could do a rehab on the truss and probably buy ourselves ten to fifteen years. To do the rehab work, we would probably have to have at least two to three different time frames of a total closure within the order of a month."

"From a time frame standpoint, between two and four years from now this bridge is going to be in a condition to where we're going to have to replace the bridge or do a rehab on it."

According to Degges, if funding could be secured for a bridge replacement, the project could be under contract within fifteen months. "Based on our current funding, it was unclear how we could come up with the $32 million plus or minus to replace the bridge. However, a stimulus package is being talked about in Congress right now. That could forseeably put a lot of money in Tennessee for transportation projects. If that's the case, this bridge may or may not qualify for the stimulus money. If it does not, other money could be freed up which could be applied to the bridge."

"A second opportunity is a proposal offered by TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely with the approval of Governor Bredesen called a bridge bonding program. In Tennessee, we are a pay as you go state. We have zero debt on your transportation system. We don't borrow money to build a road. We wait until we have the money and then we let the contracts. So with a pay as you go system, we're not paying interest on debt. We're taking all of the money you pay in fuel taxes and title and registration fees to build roads. In general, the General Assembly has been very proactive in pushing TDOT to live within it's means so that's what we're trying to do. But bonding is a tool and under that program, we could do about seven to nine years worth of work in about three years. This bridge would fit the criteria of that program."

"If we were able to find the funding for this project, I could see us under contract in maybe fifteen months or less if we were going to go with the new bridge. If the money doesn't materialize somewhere, I would guess somewhere between two and four years from now we would be looking at a rehabilitation project on the existing bridge."

Eagle Scout Nick Goff Honored by County Commission

December 15, 2008
Dwayne Page
Johnna Goff (Nick's mother), Nick Goff, and County Mayor Mike Foster

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night adopted a resolution to honor Eagle Scout Nick Goff.

County Mayor Mike Foster read the resolution "Whereas, it is fitting that the DeKalb County Commission and the DeKalb County Mayor should announce their pride, respect and honor in the young people of our community who so capably fulfill their requirements and duties to reach lofty goals and levels of achievement."

"Whereas, Nick Goff has performed the years of tasks to work his way to the highest honor bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America. Nick Goff has worked to a level achieved by a very select few and has earned the Eagle Award."

"Whereas, the DeKalb County Commission and the DeKalb County Mayor wishes to thank Nick Goff, his family, other scouts who helped and his leaders for the honors they have brought to themselves and DeKalb County."

"Now therefore, be it resolved by the DeKalb County Commission that December 15th, 2008, be officially named Eagle Scout, Nick Goff Day."

"Be it further resolved that this accomplishment be spread across the records of this meeting and preserved as a lasting part of our appreciation to Eagle Scout Nick Goff."

His parents are Danny and Johnna Goff of Smithville. He is a Junior at DeKalb County High School. He attends New Bildad Primitive Baptist Church.

Foster says "when he was a Cub Scout Nick earned the Arrow of Light award. He crossed into the boys scouts in April, 2003 and has worked hard to obtain the rank of Eagle. His Eagle project was putting up a sign at Cannady Cemetery and doing some landscaping. He has earned twenty six merit badges and performed countless hours of service for his community. He completed the requirements for Eagle Scout on November 24th and this past summer he attended Philmont High Adventure Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico."

Senator Beavers and Representative Weaver file bill to prevent voter fraud or voting by illegal aliens

December 15, 2008

Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) have filed legislation to make sure voters in Tennessee have the photo identification to guard against fraud and assure only U.S. citizens vote.

The bill allows for a number of various forms of photo identification to be used including a driver’s license, military identification, a valid passport, various forms of government employee identification cards, and any federal and state-issued identification cards that contain photographs of the voter.

“The courts have upheld the rights of states to protect the integrity of our elections through photo identification,” said Senator Beavers. “We have a right to protect our state from voter fraud and abuse. It is time for Tennessee to pass this legislation.”

According the National Conference of State Legislatures, seven states specify that voters must show photo identification, including Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana. In no state is a voter who cannot produce identification turned away from the polls. All states have some sort of recourse for voters without identification to cast a vote or provide for a provisional ballot. The bill filed by Beavers and Weaver, SB 3, provides for a provisional ballot which would only be counted if the central provisional ballot counting board is able to verify current and valid identification of the voter.

“This legislation makes it clear to everyone that Tennessee has the right to make sure that those voting are legitimately casting their votes, and are U.S. citizens,” echoed Representative Weaver. “I look forward to moving this bill forward in the 2009 legislative session.“

Sheriff's Department to Conduct Sobriety Checkpoints during the Holidays

December 15, 2008
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department will be conducting sobriety check points and saturated patrols starting on December 23rd through January 1st for the enforcement of drivers who are impaired.

The Sobriety Check Points will be conducted on the following Highways: Highway 56, Highway 70, Highway 53, Highway 96, and Highway 146. Saturated patrols will be conducted on County and State roads within DeKalb County.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says “The public’s safety is a top concern for me and my department. We will be doing saturated patrols and Sobriety Check Points for intoxicated people who choose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive. Nearly 23,000 people are killed every year in alcohol-related traffic accidents. Statistics show one life is lost every 22 minutes in alcohol-related traffic collisions."

"Law Enforcement uses these saturated patrols and sobriety checkpoints as a tool to reduce the number of intoxicated drivers on our highways and to diminish the amount of pain, suffering, and death that results from intoxicated driving. "

"Anyone who believes they have spotted an impaired driver is urged to call the Central Dispatch Center at 215-3000”

UCHRA Receives Additional Weatherization Assistance Program Funds

December 13, 2008

“The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (UCHRA) has received an additional $614,802 in Weatherization Assistance funding for low-income consumers,” Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director, announced.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services has informed UCHRA that funding for its Weatherization Assistance Program has been increased to $1,012,288, an increase of $614,802 above its original allocation for the year that ends June 30, 2009. “The increase in LIHEAP funds will allow UCHRA to weatherize approximately 260 homes in the 14-county area,” explained Bennett.

In DeKalb County, approximately 15 homes (an increase of 9) will be weatherized expending $41,537. Bennett encouraged individuals who meet program guidelines to apply for WAP assistance this year, even if they have not previously been served. The increased funding is the result of actions taken by Congress to assist low-income families during the current economic crisis. UCHRA Board Chairman Mike Foster, County Executive of DeKalb County, said “the UCHRA Board is pleased with this new allocation to serve additional low income households during these difficult times.”

The Weatherization Assistance Program provides basic insulation and weatherization measures to homeowners and renters to assist them in reducing energy costs while safeguarding their health and safety. Licensed contactors perform the work. To qualify for assistance a household’s income must not exceed 125% of the US poverty level. For example, a family of four can earn a monthly household income of up to $2,208.33.

Priority for service is based upon a point system. Points are awarded based upon each household’s percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines (125% maximum). “Households with vulnerable household members receive additional points for such criteria as having an elderly member (60+), a disabled member, children less than 6 years of age, a member referred by Adult Protective Services, six or more household members, and having been on the waiting list for more than one year. First priority for service is given to households with the highest total points, and UCHRA works down the priority list until all available funds are spent in the county,” Lee Webb, UCHRA Community Services Director, stated.

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

All UCHRA county offices are accepting WAP applications between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. DeKalb County UCHRA is located at 527 West Main Street, and the telephone number is (615) 597-4504.

Many Enjoy Holiday Fun Saturday during Alexandria Parade

December 13, 2008
Dwayne Page
Santa and Mrs. Claus at Alexandria Christmas Parade

Many people gathered in downtown Alexandria Saturday to enjoy the holiday fun of annual Alexandria Christmas Parade

State Senator Mae Beavers served as Grand Marshal of the Parade.

The DeKalb County Fair Little Miss Float won first place and the Red Hats Sassy Belles took second place.

Among the church or religious float entries, the Liberty United Methodist Church won first place while the Upper Helton Baptist Church received second place.

Charles Cantrell was awarded first place in the vintage automobile category for his 1956 orange Corvette while second place went to Brad Driver for his 1969 Camaro Supersport.

To see pictures of the Alexandria Christmas Parade, click the following link:

First Assembly of God Conducts Groundbreaking Ceremony

December 13, 2008
First Assembly of God Groundbreaking

First Assembly of God recently held a Groundbreaking Ceremony to begin the construction of their new church located on Highway 56 North. The new facility will include a 400 seat capacity sanctuary, classrooms, administrative offices, and Christian life center.

Pastor Glenn Burks opened the ceremony with prayer and a brief history of the church. Special guest speakers included Suzanne Williams, Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce Director; Taft Hendrixson, City Mayor; and Mike Foster, County Mayor.

"The new sanctuary and Christian life center will help us to minister more effectively to this community and surrounding areas," says Glenn Burks, pastor. "It will provide more space for our youth and children's programs, along with a larger sanctuary to fulfill the vision for the harvest. Our desire is to reach more people for the Lord. We want this building to glorify God and be a blessing to this community."

City Mayor Taft Hendrixson and County Mayor Mike Foster began the groundbreaking followed by the pastor, church council, and building committee. Many church members and their families, along with representatives from Heritage Construction Company and J. Mark Rodger Architectural Firm, were in attendance to celebrate the groundbreaking and vision for the church.

"We invite everyone to come worship and see God's great blessings unfold as we unite together to reach the harvest for the Lord," says Glenn Burks, pastor. First Assembly of God is currently located on 614 Murphy Street in Smithville. Service times are: Sunday School 10:00 a.m.; Sunday Worship 10:45 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.; Wednesday Worship and Children/Youth Classes 7:00 p.m.

The church ministries include a van ministry reaching children and families; God Gives Hope campaign proclaiming the gospel through billboards and other programs; a radio ministry, Words of Hope, broadcasted weekdays at 6:20 a.m. on WJLE; and the Angel Food Outreach Ministries offering grocery relief to the community and surrounding areas at a reduced cost.

Mabe Pleads Guilty to Attempted Second Degree Murder

December 12, 2008
Dwayne Page
Steve Mabe, Jr

35 year old Steve Mabe, Jr, charged in the shooting of 33 year old Donnie Stanley, Jr. over a year ago, received an eight year sentence in DeKalb County Criminal Court Thursday, but he has been released on supervised probation by community corrections.

Mabe, who was indicted in April on a charge of attempted first degree murder, pleaded guilty to attempted second degree murder in the case. He was represented by Lebanon Attorney Jack Lowery.

Mabe, in a separate case, also pleaded guilty to sale of a schedule II controlled substance and received a six year sentence, to run concurrently with the eight year sentence. He was given credit for 392 days of time served from November 15th, 2007 to December 11th, 2008 and must pay a $2,000 fine in the drug case.

The presiding judge was David Patterson.

The shooting occurred on November 14th, 2007 at Stanley's home on Toad Road.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that Stanley was shot once in the right side of his face and the bullet protruded into the neck. While he survived, Stanley now suffers from permanent damage apparently caused by the shooting.

Sheriff Ray said that Mabe was charged with the shooting based on the statement given by Stanley and other evidence gathered during the investigation. Sheriff Ray never publicly gave a possible motive.

After the shooting, officers spotted Mabe in his vehicle on Short Mountain Highway and they arrested him, after he pulled into the parking lot of Kilgore's Market.

The case was investigated by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Meanwhile, in another case, 42 year old Debbie Carol H. Cantrell pleaded guilty Thursday to facilitation of delivery of a schedule II controlled substance. She received a two year sentence but will be on probation.. She must pay a $2,000 fine.

Drought Declaration Announced for DeKalb County

December 12, 2008

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and U.S. Representatives David Davis (R-Tenn. 1), John Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn. 2), Zach Wamp (R-Tenn. 3), Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn. 4), and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn. 6) today announced that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Edward T. Schafer has declared seven counties in Tennessee as disaster areas due to losses caused by drought. According to Secretary Schafer’s declaration, “This designation makes farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for assistance from the Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met.”

The following seven counties were declared as primary natural disaster areas: Carter, Cumberland, De Kalb, Loudon, Roane, Sullivan, and Trousdale.

In addition, 23 contiguous counties may also be eligible for disaster assistance. Those counties are: Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Cannon, Fentress, Hawkins, Johnson, Knox, Macon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Putnam, Rhea, Smith, Sumner, Unicoi, Van Buren, Warren, Washington, White, and Wilson.

“I’m glad that Secretary Schafer has announced this declaration for seven counties in our state that have experienced some of the driest seasons in our state’s history,” Alexander said. “With this declaration from the Secretary of Agriculture, Tennessee farmers should be able to get the help they need.”

“I was proud to support Governor Bredesen’s request for a drought declaration and I am pleased that Secretary Schafer has made assistance available for eligible producers in these counties who have been affected by the persistent drought,” Corker said. “I hope the designation and subsequent assistance will provide some help to these farmers as they work to recover from the severe weather conditions that have plagued our region for the last two years.”

"I am glad that the USDA has declared these hard hit counties eligible for drought assistance,” said Congressman David Davis.

“I am pleased that the federal government will be offering support to Tennessee farmers as they deal with the effects of this year’s drought,” said Congressman Duncan. “These farmers work very hard every day to put food on our table and contribute to our Nation’s economy. By receiving this declaration, they will be able to apply for assistance to help get them through this tough time.”

“This USDA declaration provides some relief to the farmers in Tennessee who were hit with tough conditions this year, and whose families are having a hard enough time weathering today’s economic conditions,” said Congressman Wamp.

“We have seen in past years the effect a drought can have on Tennessee’s farmers and economy, and I will be working closely with my colleagues to help out wherever we can in these difficult times,” said Congressman Lincoln Davis.

“This drought has destroyed crop yields and hurt county economies across Middle Tennessee and throughout the rest of the state,” Congressman Gordon said. “With this declaration, the many affected farmers and their families in counties like De Kalb and Trousdale can begin to rebuild and prepare for the start of the next farming season.”

Russell Watson Receives Agricultural Educator Outstanding Service Award

December 10, 2008

A local educator has been presented an Outstanding Service Award by the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

Russell Watson of Smithville, an educator in the Warren County School System, was named to receive the award last Friday at an award's luncheon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Throughout his 41 years of teaching, Watson has been very involved in the curriculum changes for many agriculture courses. Early in his career, he realized the need to incorporate courses that were not all production agriculture into the program. With McMinnville being considered the "nursery capitol of the world," Watson began to incorporate courses such as greenhouse management and agribusiness. These kinds of courses were more relevant to his students' lives, which led to increased learning and improved retention.
Watson has served on state and national curriculum committees, and he served as a reviewer for many textbooks now on the market. He began to incorporate math, science and language into the curriculum, giving agriscience courses the opportunity to count towards core credits.

Along with his service to agricultural education as a whole, Watson has also been very successful in his own classroom. Whether it is because of the changes he has made or simply his passion and dedication to the profession, he is doing something right. His agriculture department and FFA chapter has seen numerous American and state FFA degree recipients, national and state finalists in proficiency award areas, and 40 national gold chapter emblems. His students have also been very motivated in continuing their education, with many of them receiving not only a Bachelor's degree, but masters and doctorates as well. His students are not the only ones that have been influenced by Watson's work; his service has continued into the professional organizations in which he is involved. Watson is someone to whom students and fellow teachers alike can look to for advice.

"Mr. Russell Watson has not only served as an educator and FFA advisor, but as a mentor to his students," said Tracy Risinger, Warren County School System Career and Technical Education Director. "It is easy to see that his accomplishments during his 41 year tenure have definitely made a difference in the lives of his students."


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