Local News Articles

New City Budget May Include Increases in Water and Sewer Rates

June 1, 2009
Dwayne Page

Water and sewer rates for Smithville customers may increase as of July 1st with passage of the budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The proposed new budget totals $6-million 074 thousand 558 dollars but the Smithville aldermen took no action on it Monday night.

Alderman Tonya Sullivan said she is concerned that the proposed rate hikes are too high and wants more time to study the budget. She recommended that a workshop be held. " As I looked over the water and sewer rates that are in here, they've increased drastically. We were supposed to have a workshop on this budget. We have not had a workshop and I feel that at this time that we need more time to consider this budget. I put that in the form of a motion. There may need to be an increase. I think that's something we need to work out to see where we might can cut our budget. Economic times are tough. I don't know if we can hit the public with a large amount all at one time. It may need to be spread out over a period of time."

Mayor Taft Hendrixson said the water and sewer fund is currently running in the red and if that continues two years in a row, the state will adjust the rates if the city doesn't act. Mayor Hendrixson says the major reason for the higher costs of operation is in electricity and to a lesser extent, chemicals. "We haven't had an increase since 1998. Right now the minimum bill for a thousand gallons of water is $7.47, I believe. With the new rate, it would be $10.00. We're operating the water and sewer department in the red this year to the tune of probably close to $200,000. Now the state department will only let us do that for two years, then they will come in and set our rates. If our rates remain the same, they're (water and sewer fund) is probably going to operate in a deficit again next year. I want to do it (rate increase) as less as I can, but for a minimum usage of two dollars and a half a month (increase), it is not a large amount."

According to page 13 of the proposed 2009-10 budget, the water and sewer fund ended the year on June 30th, 2008 with a net income of $330,384.

When the 2008-09 budget was adopted in June, 2008, the projection was that on June 30th, 2009 the water and sewer fund would be in the red by $149,410 as indicated on page 13 of the (2008-09) budget. The revised budget shows that the water and sewer fund will be in the red by $229,344 as indicated on page 13 of the proposed (2009-2010) budget.

The water and sewer fund is projected to finish the year on June 30th, 2010 in the red by $35,308 as indicated on page 13 of the proposed 2009-2010 budget.

Alderman Cecil Burger agreed with Alderman Sullivan that a workshop should be held before any action is taken on the new budget. " I thought for about three months we were going to set a date to do that and then last week I got this (budget), just figures thrown out with no explanation, where they come from, who put them there, or nothing."

The aldermen voted 5-0 to schedule the workshop for Monday, June 8th at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

Alderman Sullivan said the firefighters and other department heads could also have input at the workshop. "They (firefighters) have provided a list of equipment they need. We could discuss it at the meeting. Any other department heads can come to that meeting if they are not happy with this budget."

The city's financial consultant, Janice Plemmons will be asked to attend the workshop.

Under the proposed new budget, the rate for city water customers would increase from the current level of $3.50 to $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus a $1.25 increase from the current rate of $3.50 to $4.75 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are 50% higher. Outside city rates would increase to $7.50 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $7.25 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage

The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District is $1.85 per thousand gallons but will increase to $1.90 for January 1st, 2010 sales.

The rate for city sewer customers, under the new budget, would increase from the current level of $3.62 to $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of usage plus a one dollar increase from the current rate of $3.25 to $4.25 per thousand gallons thereafter.

Water tap fees for customers inside the city limits would jump from $400 to $1,000 for a three quarter inch water line and the sewer tap fee would go from $400 to $800 for a four inch sewer line. If the lines are larger, the fees are $2,000 for water and $1,200 for sewer..

For customers outside the city limits, water tap fees would increase from $525 to $1,500 for a three quarter inch line. Fees would go from $525 to $1,000 for a four inch sewer line. If the lines are larger, then the fees would be $2,500 for water and $2,000 for sewer.

Mayor Hendrixson says the city has been losing money under the current rate structure for tap fees.

The single largest project in the proposed new budget is the renovation of the water treatment plant which is to be funded from almost $4 million in available water and sewer department reserves..The city is also hoping to receive a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to help fund the project. The rehab is not the reason for the proposed water and sewer rate increases.
The proposed budget does not include funds for any full time volunteer firefighters. In April, Fire Chief Charlie Parker and other members of the department met with the mayor and aldermen in a workshop to formally make the request. The firefighters want their all volunteer unit to become a combination department with a few full time firefighters as well as volunteers.
In the proposal, the firefighters requested that the city fund two full time firefighter positions per 24 hour shift, for a total of six positions along with an administrative person. They also asked that some extra funds be designated in the budget for training and that the firefighters pay scale be changed. Currently, the firefighters each receive $15 per call.

Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at almost 62 cents ($.6194 cents) per $100 of assessed value.

The proposed budget calls for city employees with up to four years of service to get their automatic step pay increases as defined in the wage scale but there would be no cost of living increase. City employees with more than four years of service, who have topped out on the wage scale would also get no cost of living adjustment.

Proposed capital outlay expenditures in the general fund for the new year come to $860,000. Specific projects are as follows: Financial Administration- $20,000 unspecified; Parks and Recreation- $15,000 unspecified; Public Works/Buildings and Grounds- $20,000 unspecified; City Hall Building Alteration per ADA- $30,000 including $5,000 for handicapped rehabilitation and $25,000 unspecified; Fire Protection- $15,000 unspecified; Street Department- $20,000 including $10,000 for downtown beautification and $10,000 unspecified; Police Department- $15,000 unspecified; Swimming Pool- $10,000 for capital repairs; Airport- $730,000 unspecified (grant funds); Animal Shelter- $5,000 unspecified; Sanitation Fund- $5,000 and Drug Fund- $10,000 unspecified.

Proposed water and sewer fund Fixed Asset Additions: 1 truck- $5,000; an update of the water plant and engineering fees- $1,750,000; a sewer rehabilitation camera-$25,000. Debt repayment-principal: bonds- $220,000.

Although these capital outlay projects are budgeted, they all may not be funded during the year.

Smithville Police to Crack Down on Unauthorized Parking

June 1, 2009
Dwayne Page
Police Chief Richard Jennings

The Smithville Police Department plans to crack down on unauthorized parking in handicapped spaces and in fire lanes on private or city property.

Chief Richard Jennings, in a news release Monday, says that "the police department is enforcing state law which states that stopping, standing, or parking is prohibited in specific places. A vehicle parked in a handicapped parking place that does not display a certificate, placard, or a disabled veteran's license plate will be cited. This also includes parking in the fire lane on private or city property."

Chief Jennings says the Smithville Police Department would like to remind citizens that this is an enforceable violation and to take care when parking.

Sheriff Releases Weekly Update on Arrests

June 1, 2009
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has arrested several people since last Tuesday on various charges including DUI, driving on revoked, suspended, or no license, and public intoxication,

Sheriff Patrick Ray, in his weekly update, says deputies arrested 25 year old Lorenzo Aguilar Hernandez of Mitchell Avenue, Cookeville on Tuesday, May 26th after he was involved in a one car accident on Vaughn Lane, Smithville. Authorities learned that Hernandez's license was revoked for a driving under the influence charge on February 28th, 2008 in Wilson County and November 28th, 2008 in Putnam County. Hernandez was charged with a third offense of driving on a revoked license and his bond was set at $3,000. He will appear in court on June 11th.

County officers responded to an accident at the intersection of Webb Lane and Students Home Road on Thursday, May 28th and arrested 47 year old James Allen Hargrove of Old Bildad Road, Smithville. Deputies detected an odor of alcohol on Hargrove's person. Hargrove submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed. He did admit to drinking a 12 pack of beer. Hargrove was charged with a first offense of driving under the influence, driving on a suspended driver's license, and violation of the implied consent law. His bond was set at $2,500 and he will appear in court on June 11th.

On Friday, May 29th, deputies responded to a domestic call at a business in the Ragland Bottom area of the county. 48 year old Rickey Dewayne Hice of Salem Road ,McMinnville was arrested for public intoxication. Hice was very loud and arguing with his wife in the business and he had a strong odor of alcohol on his person. Hice's bond set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on June 11th.

Also on Friday, deputies arrested 45 year old Donald E. Maxey of Earhart Road, Hermitage for driving on a suspended license. Maxey was stopped on Highway 70 East for a traffic violation and upon running Maxey's driver's license; officers learned Maxey's license was suspended for failure to file security after an accident. Maxey's bond was set at $3,000 and he will appear in court on June 24th.

County officers responded to an accident on Dale Ridge Road Friday and found 25 year old Joseph Lee Merriman of Dale Ridge Road to be the driver of the vehicle. Deputies noticed Merriman to be unsteady on his feet and he had slurred speech. Merriman submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed. Merriman admitted to taking a pill but he could not tell the officer what the pill was. Merriman was charged with driving under the influence His bond was set at $1,500. He will appear in court on June 18th.

Deputies stopped a vehicle on 70 West for a traffic violation on Saturday, May 30th. The driver, 20 year old Paulino Roberto Depaz of Oberlin Circle, Maryland, did not have a license. Depaz was charged with no driver's license and his bond was set at $1,000. He will appear in court on June 25th.

Also on Saturday, deputies arrested 47 year old Joe R. Hall of Mack Floyd Road, Sparta for driving under the influence. Hall was involved in an accident at the intersection of Dale Ridge Road and Chapman Hollow Road. Officers noticed that Hall was unsteady on his feet and had a strong odor of alcohol on his person. Deputies performed field sobriety tasks on Hall which he failed. Bond for Hall was set at $1,500 and he will appear in court on June 25th.

Semi Truck Crashes into Dairy Queen Building

June 1, 2009
Dwayne Page
Semi Crashes through Dairy Queen
Semi Crashes through Dairy Queen9032

A tractor trailer rig, driven by 42 year old William Gossett of Gordonsville, crashed through the dining area of the Dairy Queen building on West Broad Street around 7:04 a.m. this morning (Monday)

Gossett, who was driving for Classic Carrier Express of Monteagle, was not injured. The restaurant was also closed at the time of the accident and no one was there.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who is investigating, said Gossett was traveling east on Highway 70 when "the tractor trailer exited the roadway to the right, struck a sign in front of Larry's Discount Grocery. The sign was then thrown through and busted the front door of the store (Larry's)."

"The tractor trailer continued eastbound traveling through the parking lot of Susie's Restaurant. It also took down their sign." (Susie's Restaurant was also closed at the time).

"The truck then entered the westbound side of Dairy Queen, went completely through the building, and exited through the other side, where it came to a final rest, with most of the vehicle still inside the building."

Trooper Jennings says Gossett was enroute to Monteagle at the time of the crash and there was no load on board. "It's unknown at this time why the driver exited the roadway. He states that the the only thing he remembers is leaving DeKalb Market after getting something to eat. We don't know if he had a medical problem or what at this time. That's still under investigation."

Others on the scene were Trooper Allen England of the THP and members of the Smithville Police and Fire Departments.

Larry Hancock, owner and operator of Larry's Discount Grocery, says he was outside loading dog food into a customer's vehicle when he heard a noise. Hancock said the semi then brushed against a utility pole as it went by and then proceeded straight through the parking lot in front of Susie's Restaurant and into the Dairy Queen."

Hancock says other than the sign and the front door glass, his building received no other damage but the electricity was off for a while this morning while the electric company replaced a transformer on the utility pole hit by the truck.

John and Amy Bourne, owners and operators of the Dairy Queen, say while they are still in shock with what happened to the restaurant, they are very happy that the truck driver, nor anyone else was injured in the accident. "It was in God's hands for sure with him not being hurt after seeing what the truck looks like and with it going clear through the building," said Amy Bourne.

Ms. Bourne says the Dairy Queen usually opens for business at 8:30 a.m. so no one was in the building at the time of the crash, but if the mishap had occurred an hour later, there probably would have been someone there. "The first thing I thought about was the person driving the truck. After I found out that he was okay then everything else started racing through my mind about the building and how that the Dairy Queen has been a landmark for Smithville. It was heart breaking."

It's unknown right now if the restaurant can be repaired or will have to be rebuilt, but Ms Bourne says the business will be re-opened. "We have structural damage all the way to the back of the building. We have roof damage from the front to the back. Equipment, cake cases, we don't have any idea as to the dollar amount of the damage. If you think it looks bad outside, you ought to see what the inside looks like. It is really, really, bad."

"We ask the public to be very patient. It's going to take a while to get everything up and going again. We don't know if this building will have to be completely torn down or if it can be repaired. It's so early, we don't know anything right now."

Smithville Car Lot Building Heavily Damaged by Fire

June 1, 2009
Dwayne Page
Fire Damages Chads Auto Sales
Fire Damages Chads Auto Sales

A fire this morning (Monday) caused extensive damage to Chad's Auto Sales at 415 Dry Creek Road.

A passerby spotted the fire and reported it at 3:58 a.m.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department quickly responded but Chief Charlie Parker says the blaze was well underway by the time it was reported and firefighters found the structure fully involved upon their arrival..

Chief Parker says two or three vehicles in the car lot received some heat damage but were not destroyed.

The cause of the fire is undetermined. No one was there at the time of the blaze and no one was injured.

The Smithville Police Department and DeKalb EMS were also on the scene.

A total of 491 Vote Early in City Election through Wednesday

May 31, 2009
Dwayne Page

A total of 491 people have voted in the Smithville election through Wednesday, June 10th

The daily voting totals are as follows:
Wednesday, May 27th- 51
Thursday, May 28th-48
Friday, May 29th-50
Saturday, May 30th-38
Monday, June 1st-25
Tuesday, June 2nd-38
Wednesday, June 3rd- 18
Thursday, June 4th-54
Friday, June 5th-29
Saturday, June 6th-21
Monday, June 8th-35
Tuesday, June 9th-37
Wednesday, June 10th-35

Twelve absentee ballots were cast prior to May 27th.

Early voting continues through Thursday, June 11th in the basement courtroom of the courthouse

Voting hours are 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Three aldermen will be elected on Tuesday, June 16th

A look at the Tennessee Legislature

May 31, 2009
Terri Lynn Weaver
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Greetings Folks of the Fortieth…
Count your many blessings even if you can not get your yard mowed!

Here is what is happening on the Hill
As we enter the homestretch of the first legislative session of the 106th General Assembly, House lawmakers began a thorough review of the budget this week. In a presentation to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz emphasized the increasingly dismal revenue numbers as a reason for the deep cuts presented in the new budget proposal.

Revenue continues to drop
Although the state’s revenue has been declining since the beginning of 2008, revenues for the last few months have been particularly low. The decline in sales tax revenue had been a fairly steady 6 percent until it accelerated last month and dropped to an approximate 10 percent decline. Making matters worse are declining revenues on big ticket items such as homes and cars.

Commissioner Goetz outlined that the technical corrections bill, which legislators have yet to see, should produce roughly $63 million through closing tax “loopholes” and increasing a myriad of fees on various services and industries.

While the Administration is arguing that these increases will offset other cuts, House members are concerned that some of the provisions are far-reaching, and some even place an increased burden on small businesses, which are already facing difficulties with the struggling economy.

Reserves in good shape, stimulus money will plug holes
The state’s various reserves accounts are in good shape, with the state’s Rainy Day Fund standing at $750 million. The federal match for TennCare has also increased, freeing up more state dollars to be directed elsewhere. The Administration is proposing to use the stimulus funds to plug holes, but
concerns have been raised about that tactic. The stimulus is essentially one
time money, but the Administration has proposed using some of it to fund recurring items in the budget—something House members have cautioned against doing since February.

The budget is typically among the last bills passed by the legislature before adjournment. The General Assembly will carefully review language in the amendment in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee next week and make any needed changes before the bill goes to the full body for final consideration.

Judicial selection process reformed, legislation passes Senate, House on Thursday
The House approved legislation Thursday, after a lengthy debate, that reforms the selection process for the state’s appellate and Tennessee Supreme Court judges. Legislators have debated the issue for nearly 16 weeks in the committee system, hearing testimony from dozens of attorneys, former judges, current judges, and scholars. The Judicial Selection Commission, a component of Tennessee’s current plan for appointing judges, is set to expire next month.

The bill, Senate Bill 1753, sets up a new nominating commission with fewer attorney members and less special interest input. Lawmakers indicated they would still pursue a separate measure that would call for a Constitutional Convention to let the people decide whether or not they want to elect the judges or opt to continue a system of nomination by a commission, followed by a retention vote from voters.

Tennessee’s Constitution says judges must be “elected by the qualified voters of the state.” The lengthy debate in the legislature has focused on whether or not the selection process with a retention vote meets that test, with detractors saying that it blatantly violates the constitution.

The legislation provides for a 17-member Judicial Nominating Commission that would have at least 10 attorney members. After being appointed through this process, the judges would stand for approval by the voters who could decide whether or not to "retain" or "replace" them, a move that proponents say is more clean than the current ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the ballot regarding the retention of judges.

If voters decide to replace a judge, an interim judge would be appointed by the governor until the next election. At that point, the people could decide who would fill the slot through a popular election, which is the same process by which the state’s trial judges are currently selected.

I took my oath of office as a member of the 106th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee to faithfully support the Constitution of this state and the United States Constitution. I passionately believe in our sacred document. Therefore when stated in Article IV Section 3 ‘The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state” my friends you can not get any clearer then that.

In closing…
It is an honor to serve you and I look forward to seeing more of you when session concludes. Blessings!

On The Beaten Path Art Fair Set For Saturday

May 31, 2009

Fans of fine art and craft should head to Smithville Saturday June 6 for the second annual On The Beaten Path Summer Event. It runs from 10 until 5 in the yard of Stella Luna Art Gallery, 412 College Street, a short walk or ride from downtown Smithville in DeKalb County

In event of rain, it will be held Sunday, June 7, from noon until 7 p.m.

“We’ve put together an intimate art fair for anyone who appreciates fine art and craft,” says Louis Colombarini, Stella Luna co-owner and a founding member of event sponsors Off The Beaten Path. “There will be kid’s activities, live music, food, and several craft demonstrations. It’s a great opportunity to see the work of regional artists.”

Columbarini expects more than 15 exhibitors, including six artists featured on the Off The Beaten Path Fall Tour in October. Saturday’s line-up includes displays of jewelry, pine needle craft, painting, folk art, woodwork, clay, blown glass, and steel fire pits, all available for purchase. Several demonstrations are planned, including fabric spinning and blacksmithing.
There will also be a raffle, with $1 donations for a chance to win one of four original works of art.
For more information contact Louis Colombarini at 615.597.4004.

Off The Beaten Path is an affiliation of professional artists, skilled in contemporary and traditional crafts, who live in and draw inspiration from the scenic hill country of rural DeKalb and Cannon Counties in Middle Tennessee. Collectively, they promote the arts and their work through community outreach, educational programs and free events, culminating in the annual fall tour for which the group is named.

During the Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour, held the last full weekend of October, members open their studios to the public for a firsthand look at the materials, mastery and settings empowering their creativity. For more information, visit them online at www.offthebeatenpathtour.com

County Clerk Says Small Businesses Could be Affected by Proposed Change in State Law

May 30, 2009
Dwayne Page
County Clerk Mike Clayborn

DeKalb County Clerk Mike Clayborn wants to advise and alert all small business owners of an issue which he says will directly and adversely affect them.

On Tuesday, June 2nd, a State Senate Subcommittee will consider legislation for the Tennessee Department of Revenue to remove business tax administration from county clerks across the state. Clayborn is encouraging all business owners to attend the meeting at Legislative Plaza.

"I strongly oppose the attempt to take away the issuance of business licenses and the collection of business taxes from the county clerks. This has very serious ramifications for all my constituents and business owners across Tennessee. I do not believe the Department of Revenue can offer the same level of helpfulness and one-on-one frontline support that county clerks have provided since 1971,"said Clayborn.

Clayborn says county clerks not only process tax returns received by mail, but they spend countless hours each week assisting local taxpayers personally. Also, many daily telephone inquiries receive prompt response. In many instances, new businesses need their license immediately in order to open a bank account and purchase products to sell. Counties can do this on the spot.

Small business owners may especially have more difficulty in submitting tax returns to the Department of Revenue without one-on-one assistance from local government. Clayborn says it is this level of customer service that he feels is very important.

"The department references ‘regional offices' but I do not think taxpayers will appreciate having to drive three or four counties over to actually receive help from a live person."

"With the state registering these entities and collecting these dollars, there becomes a veil of secrecy, not only over the distribution of the money, but a shadow of uncertainty as to what types of businesses and activities are springing up on our hometown streets."

He says city and local governments stand at risk with a shift from a local to a state function.

County Clerk Clayborn encourages any concerned parties, especially those who own small businesses to show up and voice their opinions. The meeting will be held at Legislative Plaza, Room 12 at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 2nd.

Kelly Services has Immediate Job Openings at Federal Mogul

May 29, 2009
Dwayne Page

Kelly Services has IMMEDIATE INDUSTRIAL JOBS at Federal Mogul in Smithville. If you have recent manufacturing experience, can pass a drug and background screen, this may be the perfect opportunity for you! Call Kelly Services toll free at 1-866-513-5694 or locally 215-8900 or apply in person Monday-Thursdays 9am-11am or 1pm-3pm Remember, IMMEDIATE JOBS AVAILABLE NOW.


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