Local News Articles

(UPDATE) Repair Crews Working to Restore Water Service to Liberty Customers

June 18, 2018
Dwayne Page

Repair crews of the Dowelltown-Liberty Water System have been busy since Sunday searching for a water line break which resulted in an interruption of service for many customers in the Liberty area.

The break was discovered Monday night and will be repaired this morning (Tuesday)

Until the break is fixed, the Dowelltown-Liberty Water utility will be serving customers in the Liberty area via an emergency tap from the DeKalb Utility District.

DCHS Students Attend Volunteer Girls State

June 18, 2018
Dwayne Page
Sarah Anne Colwell, Madi Cantrell, Macy Hedge, and Addison Oakley

Four DeKalb County High School students attended Volunteer Girls State at Lipscomb University from May 27, 2018 until June 2, 2018. The program is sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary (Smithville Rotary Club sponsored one participant) and designed to promote citizenship and leadership in rising high school juniors across the state. Sarah Anne Colwell, Madi Cantrell, Macy Hedge, and Addison Oakley (pictured left to right) represented DCHS at the program.

Chief Wants Another City Police Officer

June 18, 2018
Dwayne Page
Mark Collins

Chief Mark Collins is seeking another full time officer position for the Smithville Police Department.

During a budget work session with the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen Thursday night, Chief Collins said another police officer is needed to help the department keep up with the growing number of calls.

According to Chief Collins, the police department is answering from 225 to 275 calls per week with two officers per shift. If the city were to add another position, the new officer could be assigned to the second shift which is particularly demanding.

Chief Collins is also requesting that the city alter the wage scale for entry level police officers to make their pay more competitive with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department.

“I would like to revamp the pay scale on the patrolman level. Entry level for a police officer is $14.10 per hour and they top out at $19.65 per hour. I would like to do away with the $14.10 per hour, start them at $15.21 per hour, and top out at $20.48 per hour to stay competitive with the county. It would only affect five employees,” said Chief Collins.

Earlier this year the county commission adopted a new wage scale for the Sheriff’s Department. Entry level pay for deputies is now $15.72 per hour and they top out on the sixth tier at $19.17 per hour.

The department needs police cars. Chief Collins said the city can purchase two pre-owns each with less than 50,000 miles on them for a total of $44,000.

The police department’s evidence reporting software needs an upgrade. Chief Collins said a newer program can be purchased for $12,897. “The system we use now is 20 years old and outdated. With the new software, each officer can sit at a computer and type in what the evidence is and the computer will print out a bar code to put on the evidence bag. It can be scanned and logged in. With the new program we will have to furnish the computer but the company will provide the software, scanner and tech support on how to run it,” he said.

Chief Collins said the city needs to look toward relocating the police department headquarters at some point in the future. He said the existing department, which has been located inside city hall since 1974, is too small and lacks privacy and security.

“We need a new police department. The total square footage is 1,196 feet. The booking area is 169 square feet with two desks and that is where 99% of the police work occurs. The space for storing records is 165 square feet and the evidence area is 160 square feet. The two holding cells encompass 160 square feet and we have offices upstairs. We need to start planning because this facility is unsafe for officers and the public. It lacks privacy and there is no way to secure it when we bring people in,” added Chief Collins.

Meanwhile Public Works Director Kevin Robinson is asking the city for funding in the water and sewer department budget to replace 400 feet of sewer lines on Bright Hill Street. The cost is $40,000.

Robinson also wants to purchase a new pickup truck and a used utility truck with a dump bed. The total cost for the trucks is $45,000.

The elevator at city hall is currently out of service and must be upgraded with newer technology in compliance with state requirements. The city has budgeted $60,000 for the expense of repairing and updating the elevator.

The city’s fire hydrants need to be cleaned and color coded. The cost is expected to be $25,000 which includes the cost of renting the machine to clean the hydrants. “My guys can clean them but we may need to hire a part time person to paint them,” said Robinson.

Fire Chief Asks City for Pay Raise and More Help

June 17, 2018
Dwayne Page
Charlie Parker

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker has renewed his request for the city to fund another full time paid firefighter position for the department and he is asking for a pay raise for himself.

Parker met with the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen during a budget work session Thursday night at city hall.

Except for Chief Parker, the Smithville Fire Department is made up of 25 volunteers.

Chief Parker was put on the city payroll six years ago at $35,350 per year plus benefits. Since then the city has raised his pay to more than $46,000 per year plus benefits.

While Chief Parker did not specifically mention Thursday night what his salary should be, at least one alderman, Shawn Jacobs believes the salary of the fire chief should be commensurate with what the police chief earns, $62,336 (base pay) plus benefits.

In his request for more help, Chief Parker said the department is finding it more challenging to recruit new volunteers.

“I have guys who have been with the department for 25 to 35 years but they are starting to slow up a little bit. These are the guys who do 75% of the calls. As they start bowing out of the picture, I don’t have a robust big bunch of young people to take over. When that happens we will really be in bad shape. Right now about three guys is all we can count on during the day time depending on who is off work that particular day. I have two others who do general handyman things. They may be in town today but have to be somewhere else tomorrow. We don’t have new people stepping up to do that,” he said.

Chief Parker said another full time firefighter could help take up the slack when the department is short handed especially during a daytime call.

“As it is right now with one person, I can’t really safely go out and respond to a lot of calls alone. I can go out in a supervisory position but it’s hard to take out the fire truck, activate the pump, squirt water and keep the traffic away. I really need at least two people to help with that. With another full time firefighter, we would be better staffed to do a lot of the day time responses including wreck calls that we go to in assisting the police department with traffic, fire hazards, and fluid leaks,” said Chief Parker.

Another full timer could also share in upkeep and maintenance of the fire hall and equipment along with other tasks. Currently, the city is planning to contract with a company to do GPS mapping, maintenance, and flow testing of the city’s nearly 300 fire hydrants.

“Once we get the fire hydrants painted, flow tested, and numbered I would be glad to take that on as an annual thing if we could get some help. We also have 9,000 square feet of buildings to keep up and over $3 million worth of equipment between the fire trucks, air packs, and the rest. We could use help with that,” he continued.

Chief Parker said his long range goal is to have at least six full time fighters. Recognizing that the city may never be able to afford a fully staffed department, Chief Parker said six full timers with part timers to cover vacations and sick days would be sufficient. That would put two firefighters on duty 24 hours a day and the shifts could be 24 hours on and 48 hours off. “They could take care of 75% of the calls including responses to alarms, small wrecks, and small fires. Volunteers could be called in for the bigger things,” he said.

In making a request for a pay raise, Chief Parker pointed to the demands of his job.

“Last year we had 215 fire calls and I came back 110 times after my 8 to 5 hours to respond to fire calls which ranged from 7 o’clock in the evening to 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. My other duties include maintaining training records and certifications for all volunteers, clerical work, gathering fire and dispatch reports and entering them into a computer system for state and national reporting. I also apply for grants; do inspections for several businesses, churches, schools and public buildings; conduct classes in CPR training, usage of fire extinguishers, first aid, and general fire safety for various groups; Install smoke detectors for the public; participate in Career Days at the schools and other community service projects and events; perform general maintenance of the fire hall and equipment; and participate in regular training classes and meetings with fellow firefighters".

Chief Parker wants the city to budget funds for re-painting the stairway between city hall and fire hall and for signage at the fire hall. He said lettering could be mounted on the building for $4,500 or less if the signage is just on one side. Parker also wants a sign erected on the grounds of the fire hall.

The chief is further asking that the city increase insurance coverage for firefighters. “I would like to take out a different firemen insurance policy than we have right now. It needs to be updated. I have a price from an insurance company that covers fire departments and the price they quoted would be about $2,100. The policy we have right now is for $1,000. This will better take care of the firefighters in addition to worker’s compensation in case they were to get hurt and had to be out of work. The benefits are better,” said Chief Parker. If approved the city would take bids later this year.

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen are still working toward preparation of the city budget for 2018-19 and will act on 1st reading passage of it Thursday night, June 21 at 6 p.m. at city hall.

Chamber Seeks More Financial Support from City

June 16, 2018
Dwayne Page
Suzanne Williams

The Chamber of Commerce would like to have more financial support from the City of Smithville and the DeKalb County government in its mission of promoting the county and tourism.

The County makes an annual contribution of $17,500 to the Chamber while the City of Smithville adds $10,000. But that ranks far below what other counties in the Upper Cumberland Region donate to their Chambers of Commerce.

During a budget work session Thursday evening, Chamber Director Suzanne Williams addressed the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen asking for a $5,000 increase in the city’s annual contribution. She plans to approach the county budget committee next week.

“I know there are so many important things but I am passionate about what I do. I love promoting this county. I ask that you consider making an extra contribution so I am not having to raise funds all the time,” said Williams.

To help support the operation of the Chamber, various fundraisers are held during the year. The chamber also has 160 members who pay membership dues averaging $135 each per year.

In her role as Chamber Director, Williams explained that she mainly promotes tourism and community development and supports the County Mayor, who is the county’s economic development director. Williams also represents DeKalb County as a member of 14 boards. “I think that is important because it helps us build relationships in the region and throughout the state,” said Williams

The local chamber is active, Williams continued and has been successful in helping secure grants in recent years, including for downtown revitalization. With grant funding through that particular program, participating property owners of commercial buildings on the public square, who also made a commitment of funding, have been able to make repairs and upgrades including painting, façade improvements, along with new awnings and signs. Williams said those grants have resulted in a half million dollars in improvements to downtown property owners.

Williams said the Chamber has also secured a developmental co-op grant for a new tourism video which has been prepared to help promote DeKalb County.

Of course, Center Hill Lake and the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree are two of the county’s largest tourist attractions and Williams said officials of the Tennessee Department of Tourism have been supportive in making a special effort to promote them in more publications and magazines.

Next year, the National Model T Ford Club of America is planning to make a stop in downtown Smithville on its national tour bringing 400-600 people to town to show off their Model T’s.

Tourism is big business in DeKalb County. Last year, Williams said tourists spent $45 million here, a 5.4% increase from the previous year. It was also the 3rd largest percentage increase in state.

Yet, while DeKalb County is among the leaders in regional tourism dollars, other counties in this area are doing more to support their Chambers.

According to Williams, the Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce receives $30,000 from the county there and $30,000 from Sparta along with proceeds from a Hotel-Motel tax.

The Carthage-Smith County Chamber receives $56,117 from the city and county combined there.

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen were non-committal on more funding for the Chamber. They are still working toward preparation of the city budget for 2018-19 and will act on 1st reading passage of it Thursday night, June 21 at 6 p.m. at city hall.

DTC Presented $1.7 Million Broadband Grant

June 16, 2018
Amanda Martin, Chris Townson, Crystal Ivey and Sammie Arnold.

In January of this year, DTC Communications was awarded a $1.725M grant to make more high-speed broadband Internet available to rural Tennesseans. On Friday, June 15, officials from the State of Tennessee made the presentation of the grant funds to DTC CEO, Chris Townson, during a special ceremony.

The presentation was made at Haley Farms, located on Haley Road in Watertown. Amanda Martin, Broadband Director for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), Crystal Ivey, Broadband Grant Program Manager, and Sammie Arnold, Assistant Commissioner of Strategy and Legislative Affairs made the presentation at the ceremony, which included comments from Townson and Martin, as well as various state and local officials in attendance. Haley Farms owner, Bob Haley, also led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“DTC Communications exists to improve the quality of life for our members and the region we serve,” stated CEO Chris Townson. “Receiving this grant from the TNECD allows DTC to extend the reach of our mission to serve the unserved and underserved in portions of Wilson and Smith Counties. DTC’s new fiber optic network in the grant areas means enhanced E-Connectivity, which is the foundation for better education, entertainment, economic development, government, business and more - DTC Fiber means opportunity.”

The grant is a product of Governor Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, and was awarded by the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development.

“In communities across Tennessee, broadband is an essential service that will increase economic investment and growth to help businesses, families and individuals thrive,” Governor Haslam said, in announcing the grant recipients back in January. “With the assistance of these grants, underserved communities will now have access to broadband that will benefit not only the communities themselves, but the state as a whole. These grants are a step in the right direction for our state and will help Tennessee reach its full potential.”

DTC Communications serves residents in Cannon, DeKalb, Rutherford, Smith and Wilson counties. The grant covers areas near Plunkett Creek and Rawls Creek roads in Smith County and areas near Watertown in Wilson County.

“Having DTC’s broadband internet impacts not only individuals in Smith County, but the local economy as well,” said Smith County Mayor, Michael Nesbitt. “This grant is helping DTC extend fiber to several local residents in a completely unserved area. It is exciting that people without quality internet today will soon be connected with world-class gigabit service, meaning they will have access to emergency services, can do homework or classes online, seek out new jobs, or even work from home. This project matters to the people of Smith County. Thank you to the Department of Economic and Community Development, our state and local leaders, to DTC, and all that worked on this grant. It is a tremendous asset having a rural telecommunication cooperative in our community.”

“I’m so thankful for people like DTC, our Tennessee Economic Development, and county commissioners that fight for our rural area. With DTC’s investment and grant money received, this will make tremendous differences in the lives of our people,” said Wilson County Mayor, Randall Hutto. “This is a huge deal for Wilson County. I can’t thank the folks who’ve been involved with this enough. My hat’s off to them for making a difference in the lives of the individuals in Wilson County and in Smith County, so again thanks to DTC for what they’ve done to make this happen.”
With the TNECD grant, more than 800 residents, who currently do not have quality internet, will now have access to high speed fiber service.

“DTC is proud to have a long history of serving rural Tennesseans,” said Townson. “We are thankful for the opportunities this grant provides. The benefits of building a fiber optic network in this area will be experienced for generations to come.”

DTC Communications is a member owned telephone cooperative established in 1951. The cooperative supplies communication and entertainment products and services to residential and business customers primarily throughout Middle Tennessee.

Northside Summer School Students Present Play About Civil Rights Activist (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

June 15, 2018
Dwayne Page

Fourth and fifth grade summer school students at Northside Elementary School presented “The Unstoppable Ruby Bridges” Friday afternoon for the public.

The play was based on Ruby Nell Bridges Hall, an American civil rights activist, who was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960.

The play was directed by Teacher Alisha Day and produced by Teacher Kristy Lasser.

M2U02789 from dwayne page on Vimeo.

After the presentation a group of students performed a song about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. followed by second and third graders participating in a reader’s theater

Supreme Court Ruling in Minnesota Case Relating to Political Apparel at Polls Doesn't Apply in Tennessee

June 15, 2018
Dennis Stanley

A Supreme Court ruling in a Minnesota case relating to “political” apparel at polling places has no impact on current Tennessee law, said Dennis Stanley, DeKalb County Administrator of Elections.

“We know some people will hear the national media reports on that court ruling and think they can now wear campaign material at the polling place and that is not the case,” Stanley said.

In Minnesota Voters Alliance vs. Manksy, the Court struck down a Minnesota law that banned “political” apparel at polling places. The Court determined the law was unconstitutional because it was overbroad and too hard to uniformly enforce. For example, NRA, Black Lives Matter, and I am Pro Life shirts could have been barred under the Minnesota law.

“The Court made it clear it was not ruling on ‘the constitutionality of laws that are not before us,’ meaning its decision only affects Minnesota,” Stanley said.

The Supreme Court previously upheld Tennessee’s law in 1992. Tennessee law, Stanley said, is more specific about what is not allowed within the 100-foot boundary and polling place.

T.C.A. 2-7-111 prohibits “display of campaign posters, signs or other campaign materials, distribution of campaign materials, and solicitation of votes for or against any person, political party, or position on a question” in the polling place and within 100 feet of each entrance to the building containing the polling place.

The Supreme Court pointed to similar laws from other states as potential ways Minnesota could properly regulate what can be worn or displayed in a polling place.

Board of Education Forced to Downsize Its Request for Teacher Pay Raises

June 14, 2018
Dwayne Page
Board of Education and Director of Schools at Work Session prior to Thursday Nights Regular Monthly Meeting

The Board of Education has been forced to downsize its request for teacher pay raises.

During its regular monthly meeting Thursday night following a one hour work session, the Board voted to revise its proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year after the budget committee of the county commission rejected the first proposal last month.

The Board is asking that all certified personnel including teachers be given a $600 local pay raise in addition to the $600 increase they are getting from the state for a total of $1,200. Support staff would also get a local $600 pay hike under the board’s new request.

The School Board initially wanted to give teachers and other certified personnel a $2,400 local pay raise along with the $600 state increase and $1,500 for support staff.

In addition to the reduced proposed pay raises, the board has revised its requests in other areas.

“The county commission (budget committee) requested that we go back to last year’s budget (funding levels) and we did for the most part except for the smaller pay raises and areas where we thought there may need to be an increase such as insurance, utilities, and other needs,” said Director of Schools Patrick Cripps.

Funding to implement a Dyslexia Program for children at the elementary school grade level has been eliminated. The board cut its requests for $215,000 in new money to buy science textbooks down to $65,000. One new school bus will be purchased instead of two buses, a savings of $100,000.

Money to purchase Chrome Books for the 3rd through 5th grades at a cost of $240,000 will be carried over since it was budgeted this past year and not spent. Students from the 6th grade through high school already have Chrome Books. Extra funds ($20,000) is still included to repair and replace existing Chrome Books.

The proposed budget still includes $10,000 in new spending for meeting mandates of state evaluation and testing.

Due to the increasing demands of technology, the board still plans to make a current half time computer tech position full time ($13,150 in new money) which would give the school system three techs.

Extra funds are included for employee matching benefits and $2,500 to help schools cover their phone bills.

The proposed general purpose school budget now totals $23,217,059 for the 2018-19 fiscal year, an increase in spending of $890,816 from this past year.

The revised budget for schools will be submitted to the county budget committee for review and approval next week.

Thirteen Teachers Granted Tenure

June 14, 2018
Dwayne Page

Thirteen teachers have been granted tenure by the Board of Education.

The school board made it official during Thursday night’s monthly meeting upon the recommendation of Director of Schools Patrick Cripps.

The following teacher have successfully completed the probationary period of five years and received evaluations demonstrating an overall performance effectiveness level of above or significantly above expectations as required for tenure:

Mollie Bratten, Suzanne Gash, Martha Melching, Shelia Vanatta, Amee Cantrell, Josh Gulley, Josh Odom, Jenny Cantrell, Sara Halliburton, Heather Shehane, Trent Colwell, Cathleen Humphrey, and Ashlee Thomason.

Meanwhile, Director Cripps gave his monthly report on personnel to the board.

Those granted a leave of absence as requested are:
Rachel Desimone, Galen Brown, Sara Halliburton, Nadina Martel, and Leslie Parsley

Those who have resigned or retired are:
W.C. Braswell, resigned
Alexandra DiRaimo, resigned
Thelma Martin, retired
Rhonda Merriman, resigned
Denise Rutland, retired
Cynthia Wilson, retired
Tiffany Wheatley, resigned


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