Local News Articles

Lawsuit over Leaking Water Line Set for Trial

April 24, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The towns of Dowelltown and Liberty have a lawsuit pending against contractors and engineers responsible for a water line relocation project which allegedly was not done properly resulting in multiple leaks in the Dowelltown-Liberty Water System.

The original complaint was filed two years ago and the case is tentatively set for a jury trial in DeKalb County Circuit Court this July.

The water line relocation was required due to the state's widening and improvement of Highway 70.

According to the lawsuit, Highways Incorporated of Brentwood entered into a contract with the state on February 1st, 2002 to provide certain construction work in DeKalb County. As part of it's contract in providing a water line relocation for the Dowelltown-Liberty Water System, Highways Incorporated entered into a subcontract with Civil Constructors, Incorporated of Franklin for the purposes of carrying out the construction work on the water line system. The price for doing this subcontract work on the water lines was $1-million 206-thousand 786."

"Incorporated in the contract were the bid proposal and specification documents for construction of the line relocation which were approved by Robert Neal Westerman, registered engineer for James C. Hailey & Company, Incorporated of Nashville.

Frank Buck, attorney for the towns of Dowelltown and Liberty, says after the project was completed the system sprung several leaks during the fall of 2005. "The original complaint is against Civil Constructors, Incorporated and Highways, Inc. Highways had the original road contract and Civil subbed out the moving of the water line. The Hailey Engineering Company was supposed to do the inspection and when you read the original complaint filed at the courthouse it essentially alleges that the specifications for the contract were set out in a book. There was a book that's attached to the back of the complaint, which basically has all the specifications of how you are supposed to put the water line in the ground. It is the allegation of Dowelltown-Liberty that after seven leaks, the State of Tennessee supervised an inspection, digging up three different spots, and it was discovered that the water line did not meet the specifications of the contract anywhere except in one case. For all the rest, it is alleged that the water line was not laid pursuant to the contract."

"The utility district is asking for the replacement costs taking into account inflation. Keep in mind that the water line is a plastic product and an oil product so as the price of petroleum goes up or down on the International market for a barrel of oil, then the price of that water line also goes up or down. They are asking for the replacement costs of the entire line."

The leaks caused disruptions of service to customers of the Dowelltown-Liberty Water System on several occasions and subsequent "No Drinking Water" bans were issued. Customers were requested to boil their drinking water until it was checked to make sure there was no contamination.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are the North American Pipe Corporation of Houston, Texas, the Zurich American Insurance Company of Schaumburg, Illinois and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The original complaint seeks a judgment against all defendants except the state of Tennessee for compensatory damages in the amount of $1-million, 206-thousand, 786. A judgment is also sought against James C. Hailey & Company, Inc. and Civic Constructors, Inc. for punitive damages in the amount of $5-million dollars.

DeKalb Teachers of the Year Honored at Banquet

April 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Teachers of the Year-

The DeKalb County Teachers of the Year were honored during a banquet Thursday night at the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church, sponsored by Liberty State Bank.

This year's honorees are Linda Parris and Leslie Rice at DeKalb County High School; Pat Barnes and Vicky Terrell at DeKalb Middle School; Pat Allen and Kathy Lawrence at DeKalb West School; Kathy Bryant and Carrie Gottlied at Northside Elementary School; and Karen Knowles and Crystal Young at Smithville Elementary School. Rice was unable to attend.

The principals introduced their school's teachers of the year and plaques were presented to them by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby.

Dr. Larry Locke was the keynote speaker. School Board Chairman Charles Robinson and Tom Miller of Liberty State Bank also made brief remarks.

The Teacher of the Year process begins on the school level, moves to the system level, the regional level, and finally to the state level.

Three teachers of the year, Kathy Lawrence, Carrie Gottlied, and Linda Parris were recently chosen to compete at the regional level.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers; to stimulate interest in teaching as a career; and to encourage public involvement in education.

This program is sponsored annually by the Tennessee Department of Education and the Niswonger Foundation.

(Pictured bottom row left to right: Linda Parris, Vicky Terrell, Kathy Bryant, and Karen Knowles.
Top row left to right: Kathy Lawrence, Pat Allen, Pat Barnes, Carrie Gottlied, Crystal Young)

DeKalb Jobless Rate at 11% for March

April 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County preliminary unemployment rate for the month of March was 11%, down a half a percent from the revised rate for February of 11.5%, but still up significantly from the rate for March, 2008 of 5.8%

The DeKalb County Labor Force for March was 9,840. A total of 8,760 were employed and 1,080 were unemployed.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March 2009 was released last week at 9.6 percent, 0.6 percentage point higher than the revised February rate of 9.0 percent. The United States’ unemployment rate for the month of March was 8.5 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for March 2009, released today, show that the rate increased in 74 counties, decreased in 19 counties and remained the same in two counties.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.9 percent, down from 7.0 percent in February. Perry County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 25.4 percent, up from 24.1 in February, followed by Scott County at 18.8 percent, up from 18.0 percent in February.

Knox County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.3 percent, up 0.2 percentage point from the February rate. Davidson County was 7.9 percent, up 0.4 from the previous month. Hamilton County was at 8.0 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from the February rate, and Shelby County was 8.9 percent, up from the February rate of 8.5 percent.

Earth Team Volunteers Answer the Call to Serve

April 23, 2009

Would you like to invest your time by working on natural resources projects that beautify your community and help farmers and ranchers protect their natural resources?

If you do, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Earth Team Volunteer Program in Tennessee has these and many other opportunities to help you accomplish that goal, said State Conservationist Kevin Brown. April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week, and this year’s Earth Team Volunteer theme is “Answer the Call to Serve.”

“If you choose to become involved in your community by volunteering, the Earth Team offers so much for you, whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, office worker, environmentalist or student,” said Brown. “If you have skills and experience and want to contribute in new ways, you can explore opportunities offered with the Earth Team.”

Nearly 500 Earth Team volunteers contributed about 8,300 hours in Tennessee last year—a value of more than $168,000 for various conservation activities, said Brown. Nationally, about 30,000 volunteers contributed more than 800,000 hours valued at over $16 million to further NRCS’s mission of helping people help the land (based on a $20.25 per hour estimate.)

“NRCS in Tennessee is proud of the dedicated volunteers who have committed their time and talents to conserving and protecting soil, water and wildlife in their communities across the state,” Brown said.

The NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Program, created in 1985, offers numerous opportunities for individuals 14 years of age or older. They help NRCS conservationists with diverse activities—from providing conservation technical assistance to teaching and generating awareness about conservation through community projects—by working on the land, in schools, with organizations, and in offices. They help with natural resource projects that improve water quality, beautify communities and reduce erosion. They also contribute their clerical, computer and writing skills in NRCS and conservation district offices across the nation.

Additional information on the Earth Team Volunteer Program is available online at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/volunteers or call 1-888-LANDCARE. NRCS is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Barn Destroyed by Fire

April 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A fire destroyed a barn this morning (Thursday) on Highway 70 east near the Gentleman's Club.

Firefighters received the call at 2:20 a.m.

Captain Mark Young says no one was at the barn at the time of the fire and no one was hurt. The cause is undetermined.

Firefighters could not save the barn and a car inside was also destroyed.

Captain Young says Randy Hawkins was believed to be either the owner or caretaker of the barn

Members of the Midway, Cookeville Highway, and Short Mountain Stations responded along with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS.

Page High School Student Job Shadows at WJLE

April 22, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jeffrey Bogle

A 16 year old Page High School student spent the day Wednesday job shadowing at WJLE.

Jeffrey Bogle of College Grove is a sophomore and is interested in pursuing a career in communications, particularly as a sports broadcaster.

Bogle is the son of Jeff and Beverly Bogle formerly of DeKalb County. He has a sister, 13 year old Bailey Bogle, and his grandmother is Evelyn Bogle, who is a resident of Alexandria.

Bogle, an avid UT football fan, says he has been influenced greatly by the former "Voice of the Vols" John Ward and has been privileged to have met and gotten to know him personally.

Station Manager Dwayne Page says "it was a pleasure to host Jeffrey for the day and show him what a typical day is like at WJLE. We wish him well as he furthers his education and urge him to continue to pursue his dream of being a broadcaster."

School Board May Use Stimulus Money to Save Positions in New Budget

April 22, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education, facing a May 15th deadline to present a tentative school budget to the county commission's budget committee, is looking for ways to balance it's proposed spending plan for the upcoming school year without eliminating positions.

Members of the board met in a workshop Tuesday night to discuss the options.

Projected revenues in the new budget are estimated to be $17-million 074-thousand 322. Anticipated expenditures are expected to be $17-million 822-thousand 740. That's a shortfall of $748-thousand 418. A total of $640-thousand 500 in BEP reserves can be programmed into the budget, but that still leaves the budget short by $108,000.

In order the balance the budget, the school board could eliminate two or three positions in the system, seek a property tax increase, or use the school system's allocation of federal stimulus money to temporarily fund local positions.

Director Mark Willoughby says the option to use the stimulus money seems to be the best under the circumstances. "The options are to do away with some positions, which we do not want to do. All employees are doing a good job and we want to keep them. We are not planning on eliminating any positions. We feel like all our positions are very needed. The federal stimulus money is one place where we may be able to come up with $108,000 but that is something that will have to be voted on by the board."

"We're waiting to see what our final budget is going to be from the state. Should we use the stimulus money the way that's been explained to us, we would have to say that we were going to use that (money) because of a shortfall in the budget. We would have to say we were going to eliminate certain positions and then we would fund those positions with the stimulus money. That would have to be voted on by the board. That is one of the options we have. In talking with several of the Upper Cumberland Directors, I think that's something that may be pretty common that's going to be used this time."

Director Willoughby says he would have preferred to use the stimulus money for other needs. "The stimulus money is there to enhance the education program that school systems across the state already have. We were hoping to use all that money to purchase things such as computers and software. We have a lot of computers which are outdated. We have a lot of software we need to upgrade. There are some computers which are just not working and need to be replaced. We might have used that money to place another elementary teacher or two to help out with some special needs children. That was the first intentions, but as the economy continued it's downturn, the federal government made it so we could use it to keep from cutting people out of jobs."

Willoughby says plans are to make cuts where possible in the budget without seeking a property tax increase. "We don't have much more to eliminate. We figured fuel costs pretty high last year because fuel was going up like crazy, and that's one of the things we've cut down a pretty good amount this time. There's different things in the budget (we've cut), a thousand dollars here, a thousand dollars there. I wouldn't say it's a pretty budget but we're trying to make it so it won't affect the taxpayers without any problem. We don't plan on asking for a tax increase at this time. Of course that's going to be the board's decision. That's not my decision. That's not something we want to do right now during these economic times. Now is not a good time to be putting more burden on the taxpayers."

The proposed budget includes no local pay raises for personnel other than step increases. Those who have already topped out on the pay scale would not get a pay raise in this budget.

Director Willoughby says the spending plan does include a small increase to help match employee's health care benefits." We're looking at no more than a one percent increase in local spending. That's almost inconceivable with the rate of inflation. We would love to possibly give a one or two percent increase to our employees on what we pay for their insurance. Keep in mind that we pay 18% of teacher's insurance so we'd like to add one or two percent more to that. For non-certified employees, we pay 50% of their insurance and we'd love to pay one or two percent more for that also."

School board members who attended Tuesday night's workshop were Chairman Charles Robinson, John David Foutch, Joan Draper, and Bruce Parsley.

Robinson said another workshop will be held to crunch the budget numbers again before the next school board meeting on Thursday, May 14th to formally act on the tentative budget. Amendments can be made to the proposed budget up until final passage by the county commission this summer.

Recovery Act Helps Laid Off Workers and Low-Income Adults

April 21, 2009

Governor Phil Bredesen and Commissioner James Neeley announced today the availability of training funds to dislocated workers and low-income adults in Tennessee. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provides a one-time appropriation to Tennessee of $21.2 million for dislocated workers and $9.2 million to low-income adults to pay for training and support services.

“The training, particularly in emerging occupations, that will be provided with these Recovery Act funds will help prepare unemployed Tennesseans for new jobs at a time when that’s more important than ever,” said Bredesen.

ARRA funding is anticipated to increase participation of the dislocated worker program by more than 1,300 (40%) over the number of individuals who received training services last year. Adult services are expected to increase by approximately 2,000 slots, or 20 percent, over last year.

“Being out of work is especially difficult in this economic environment,” said Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development James Neeley. “Many laid-off workers and adults haven’t had to worry about updating their skills for years, and this Recovery Act funding provides an opportunity to do just that.”

Dislocated workers and low-income adults who qualify for the ARRA funds must apply for the assistance at their local Tennessee Career Center. Individuals are assessed and training opportunities are chosen from a local list of approved training providers. In addition to occupational skills training, Adult Education and literacy preparation are available for earning a GED. Those receiving approved training may also receive travel allowances and child care assistance while they are upgrading their skills.

These Recovery Act program funds will be available from April 2009 through June of 2010.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will speed economic recovery, create and save jobs, and provided needed services to Tennesseans. For more information, visit www.tnrecovery.gov or www.recovery.gov, or the Department of Labor’s Recovery Web page at: www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/EconomicFunding.html.

Children in Smithville Day School Visit WJLE

April 21, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Children in Smithville Day School Visit WJLE

Several children in the Smithville Day School at the Smithville Church of Christ visited WJLE on a field trip Tuesday morning.

The children were interviewed on the radio and sang "Jesus Loves Me"

The Smithville Day School is a pre-school program that meets every Tuesday and Thursday. There are five classes and children from eighteen months to pre-kindergarten are served. During this time, the primary objective is to provide an exciting and rewarding environment for your child. Some of the goals are to increase your child's language development, improve physical development, increase intellectual development, master hand/eye coordination activities, enhance fine and gross motor skills, increase awareness in interpersonal relationships, stimulate by exposure in the areas of arts and crafts, teach moral and cultural values concerning honesty, obedience, friendship, and trust.

A Bible lesson is taught every day. During this time, your child is taught the difference between right and wrong, the feelings experienced when they have done something wrong, and the values of trust, honesty, obedience, and respect for their parents. Children are taught about the many Bible characters in the Old and New Testaments and how these stories are applied to each child's life. Above all, the children are taught they we should love God.

For more information, call 615-597-6308 or Frances Hedge at 597-4975.

Pictured above left to right (seated front row) Courtney London, Lilly Ellis, Katie Colwell, and Olivia Taylor (seated back row left to right) Silas Cross, Ty Panker, Kolter Kilgore, Dawson Bandy, Avery South, and Matthew Keaton.

City Making Plans to Reactivate Water Fluoridation

April 20, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen voted 5-0 Monday night to re-activate fluoridation of the city's water supply, but no date certain has been set on when that will occur. It could be weeks or months.

City officials say the machine that feeds the fluoride into the water system broke down about a year and a half ago and was never repaired or replaced.

At the April 6th meeting, Smithville physician Dr. Steven Cooper and dentist Dr. Mitchell Tatum addressed the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen asking that the fluoridation be re-activated for the benefit of the citizens.

Concerned citizen Gary Durham, who first raised the issue several weeks ago, isn't happy that the city never fixed the problem when it occurred, that city leaders never notified the public when the fluoride treatment had been discontinued, and that there now may be an extended delay.

Alderman Steve White made a motion that the treatment be started again, and to let the public know when, but that the city first consult with officials of Wauford Engineering Company about whether the new fluoride machines should be installed now or included as part of the design of the rehabilitation of the Water Treatment Plant. Alderman Tonya Sullivan requested that any needed safety equipment to support the fluoride treatment procedure also be purchased before the process is begun.

In other business, Mayor Taft Hendrixson briefly mentioned that a workshop was held Thursday night to discuss the firefighter's request but that more discussion will follow on that issue during budget preparation time.

Smithville firefighters want their all volunteer unit to become a combination department with a few full time firefighters as well as volunteers. They are also asking that some extra funds be designated in the budget for training and that the firefighters pay scale be changed.
In the proposal, the firefighters want the city to fund two full time firefighter positions per 24 hour shift, for a total of six positions along with an administrative person.

Concerned citizen Faye Sandosky addressed the mayor with some questions about how members are appointed to the Industrial Development Board and Smithville Electric System Board. "At the last meeting, at the city attorney's advice, the previous appointments to the Smithville Electric Board and the Industrial Board were set aside. I don't know either of the gentlemen personally. My concern is that at no time have the requirements of the job or the selection criteria been mentioned here. I have a few very simple questions before any further actions are taken on the appointments. I would like the mayor to respond since he makes the appointments."

"What does the job require? What is the criteria? Is diversity a consideration? Does the manager of Smithville Electric and or the Smithville Board provide input? What benefits go along with the appointment? What do eligible residents/citizens of the city need to do to have their names considered and is it too late for that?"

Mayor Hendrixson responded " I don't have to answer these questions. These are my appointments and I make the decisions. The board either approves them or disapproves them.

" The Job requirements? They make decisions on these boards that they are appointed to."
" What is the criteria? I have contacted both of these boards and they both recommend those two people that I appointed."

"Diversity? I know I have appointed some women on some boards since I have been here."
"Does the manager of Smithville Electric and the Industrial Board provide input? Yes ma'am they do."

"What benefits go along with the appointment of an industrial board? To my knowledge they get one meal every quarter, if they meet every quarter. Most of the time they don't meet that often. On the Smithville Electric Board, I don't know what they get paid, if anything. They do have some fringe benefits to go along with those appointments such as insurance."

"What do they do to have their names considered? Well, again that's my appointments to make and the board of each one of these places have recommended that I appoint the ones I did."

At the April 6th meeting, the aldermen voted 4-0 to set aside the appointments of Tim Stribling to the Industrial Development Board and Walter Burton to the Smithville Electric System Board after City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. issued an opinion that the mayor should have first notified the aldermen in writing of his intentions before making the appointments, according to the city charter.

The mayor has not yet re-submitted the names for consideration and those positions remain vacant.

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