Local News Articles

State Fire Marshal Gives Tips On Holiday Safety

December 19, 2007

Tennessee State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman wants to remind Tennesseans to keep fire safety on their minds as they decorate their homes for this holiday season.

"Home decorations make a home cheerful and festive, but items such as string lights and Christmas trees introduce fire risks," said Newman. Every year we hear of families that have lost their homes, or worse, suffered an injury or death due to a fire caused by decorations.

These risks can be minimized by following a few fire safety tips:
· Try to keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water daily. Do not purchase a tree that is dry or dropping needles.
· Choose a sturdy tree stand so that the tree will not tip over.
· When purchasing an artificial tree, be sure it is labeled as fire-retardant.
· Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces and radiators. Try to position the tree near an outlet to keep electrical cords from running long distances
· Choose decorations made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
· Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials. Never use candles to decorate a Christmas tree.
· Purchase only lights and electrical decorations bearing the name of an independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and maintenance.
· Carefully inspect new and previously used electrical decorations for cracked sockets, frayed, bare or loose wires prior to use. Replace any damaged items. Do not overload extension cords.
· Do not mount lights in any way that can damage the cord's wire insulation (i.e., use clips, not nails).
· Turn off all light strings and decorations before leaving the house or going to bed.

The activities and excitement surrounding the holidays can make people less careful at a time when they should be more cautious, said State Fire Marshal Leslie Newman. "Keeping fire safety in mind and following a few fire safety guidelines will ensure that Tennesseans have a safe and happy holiday season.

Mayor Vetoes Proposed Budget Amendment for Golf Course- Council Fails to Override

December 17, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The City of Smithville will apparently not be spending funds this budget year for a sprinkler system at the Smithville Municipal Golf Course.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson Monday night vetoed a recent city council vote to amend this year's budget and spend $215,000 to purchase and install such a system.

The aldermen failed to overide the veto on a 3 to 2 vote. Aldermen Willie Thomas, Jerry Hutchins Sr., and Tonya Sullivan voted for the override, but Aldermen Steve White and Cecil Burger voted to sustain the veto.

It takes four votes to override a mayoral veto

At the last meeting on December 3rd, the board voted 3 to 2 to adopt a budget amendment ordinance on first reading to appropriate the money. Had it been approved on second and final reading, the city would have spent $215,000 taking $88,000 from the golf course checking account and $127,000 from the general fund account to pay for the project.

In citing his reasons for the veto, Mayor Hendrixson Monday night read from prepared remarks stating that "During the past several days and weeks, a large number of Smithville residents have contacted me about the sprinkler system that is proposed for the Smithville Golf Course."

"Only a few have expressed their opinion that it needs to be done. However, many more have expressed that they do not want to see taxpayer's money spent for this purpose."

"The Corps of Engineers is in the process of lowering the water level at Center Hill Lake in an effort to repair Center Hill Dam, which is expected to be a seven year project to complete. At this time, the effects on our pumping station and Water Treatment plant as a result of the water level being lowered, and the cost of the additional pumping station at the water intake is unknown as this time. I feel that it is more important to provide water to the approximately 16,000 residents of Smithville and DeKalb County and upgrade and maintain our Water Plant, than to spend $215,000 from our reserve funds for a sprinkler system at the Golf Course, which could cause an additional tax burden on Smithville taxpayers."

"In view of public opinion and also a number of questions concerning the Golf Course Lease, and the fact that the City is facing the possibility of having to expend a significant amount of money at the Water Treatment Plant and pumping station, I cannot in good faith agree to spend the taxpayers money on a sprinkler system for the Golf Course."

"Therefore, I veto the action taken on December 3rd, 2007 by the Board of Aldermen to amend the budget for the purpose of putting a sprinkler system at the Smithville Golf Course at a cost of approximately $215,000."

Mayor Hendrixson also Monday night vetoed another recent 3 to 2 vote of the city council to hire a certified recorder to help Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson take the minutes of the meetings, at least until he completes his certification.

Again, the council failed to override the veto on a 3 to 2 vote. Alderman Sullivan, Hutchins, and Thomas voted for the override, but Aldermen White and Burger voted to sustain the veto.

At the last meeting on December 3rd, Alderman Hutchins made the motion to hire a certified recorder. "We've been having some problems with the minutes and I would like to make a motion that we get a certified recorder to be present at the board meetings until Mr. Hendrixson gets through his schooling since we have had some confusion with the minutes."

In citing his reasons for the veto, Mayor Hendrixson Monday night reading from prepared remarks stated that " The purchase of a $6,900 sound system for the City Council Chambers and Meeting room,that records all City Council meetings, and the fact that the Aldermen are asked at each meeting before approval of the minutes if they have any corrections or additions to the minutes of the previous meeting and are given the opportunity to correct any mistakes, and that a certified court reporter could cost as much as $16,000 to $17,000 over the next 10 or 11 months, I hereby veto the action taken by the Board of Aldermen on December 3rd, 2007 to employ a court reporter to be present at all City Council meetings."

The ban remains on the sale of fireworks inside the city limits of Smithville.

The mayor and aldermen Monday night voted 3 to 2 to make no changes in the city regulations, which have prohibited the sale of fireworks for twenty five years.

Aldermen Sullivan and Burger voted to keep the city regulations on fireworks as they are, while Aldermen Hutchins and Thomas voted to pursue passage of a new ordinance lifting the ban. Mayor Hendrixson broke the tie by voting with Sullivan and Burger. Alderman White refrained from voting, citing a conflict since he sells fireworks outside the city limits during the Fourth of July each year.

Since 1982, the city has prohibited the sale of fireworks but in recent weeks Jewel Redman, owner and operator of Jewel's Market on South Congress Boulevard, has requested that the ban be lifted to give city businesses and others the same opportunity to sell fireworks as those outside the city limits.

At the last meeting on December 3rd, the board voted to have an ordinance prepared to repeal the ban, paving the way for passage of a new one that authorizes the sale of fireworks with specifics on rules and regulations.

Aldermen Thomas, Hutchins and Sullivan voted for it. Alderman Burger voted no and Alderman White refrained from voting.

But on Monday night (December 17th) Alderman Sullivan said she had some reservations about making changes after receiving some phone calls from concerned citizens. She then made the motion that the city code not be changed regarding the issue of fireworks and that no further action be taken.

Although he refrained from voting, Alderman White agreed with Sullivan saying he believed the ban should be left in place. " There was a reason for the ordinance that we have now and I think it should stand as it is. I don't see any reason why there would need to be fireworks sold inside the city limits. We're not that big of a city. There's plenty of spots outside the city limits that do sell and there's plenty of spots open for anyone that would like to sell them outside the city. I also think that it's a safety issue and it could be a legal issue."

Alderman Hutchins pointed out that sales of fireworks within the city would have generated some additional fees and tax revenue.

The board voted 5 to 0 to open bids on the hay contract at the airport.

Since the early 1990's, Hugh Washer has held the contract to cut hay on the airport property. He pays the city $400 per year.

City Attorney Pryor says the initial deal was a one year contract with two, one year options for renewal, but instead of re-bidding after that time, the city has allowed Washer to keep cutting the hay each year at the rate of $400 per year.

Mayor Hendrixson says contracting this service is a good deal for the city. "We get whatever money we can get to let someone cut the hay off of that (property). If we don't do that, we have to keep it bushhogged ourselves, using city money, equipment, and time. We've been getting $400 per year, so whatever we get is extra and we don't have to do it."

Alderman Sullivan made a motion to open up the bidding. The hay contract will be good only for two years, after which time, the board must re-bid the contract. The successful bidder must meet all specifications including applying 200 pounds per acre of triple 19 fertilizer or equivalent on the property each year.

The city is in search of a new city attorney.

Mayor Hendrixson read John Pryor's letter of resignation to the board Monday night. In the letter, Pryor wrote, " I have decided to pursue other career opportunities which prevent me from continuing in my position as city attorney. I have enjoyed working with each of you and have found this experience very educational. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work with you and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors."

Pryor will serve until December 31st.

The city voted to advertise that the position is open and to seek applicants.

The board also voted 4 to 1 to advertise, seeking another certified water plant operator.

Alderman Sullivan, concerned about overworked water plant employees and some who are not certified, made the motion. "The overtime is pretty substantial. We've paid out for the year to date, almost $19,000, which in my mind would be enough to go ahead an advertise for another certified water plant operator to help fill those positions and to help cut down on the amount of overtime. We've stretched some of them (employees) kind of thin."

Alderman White asked Sullivan "What kind of salary are you thinking of?"

Alderman Sullivan responded " This would equate to somewhere around 10 to 11 dollars an hour, if you pay full time, whatever the pay salary is. When we're paying overtime, we're paying time and a half so we need to reduce that, and we need another certified person there on that third shift."

Sullivan continued, "I've had numerous phone calls. I think the citizens were not aware that people there were not certified. I've had a lot of concerns, saying we need to have safe drinking water and a certified water plant operator is obviously needed. If we're going to try to stick to input from our citizens, then that's my motion."

Aldermen Sullivan, Thomas, Hutchins, and Burger voted to advertise the opening of the position. Alderman White voted no.

Three Arrested in Burglary Investigations

December 17, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Burglary investigations last week led to the arrest of three people by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Detectives arrested 32 year old Waylon Ray Farless of R. Arnold Road, Smithville on Wednesday, December 12th for burglary and theft of property over $500.00.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Farless allegedly entered an outbuilding on Patterson Road and took 4 chainsaws, a leaf blower, and a battery jump pack valued over $500. He says Farless has admitted to the crime. Farless is under a $40,000 bond and his court date is December 20th.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, December 13th, 33 year old Joseph John Chadwick of Highway 100 Centerville and 38 year old Syntella Marie Boswell of McClemore Street, Dickson were arrested for attempted burglary after they were caught breaking into a home on Highway 53 in Alexandria.

Sheriff Ray says a witness saw both subjects around the residence on Highway 53 and contacted the Alexandria Police Department. Officers then went to the home and found that Chadwick and Boswell had attempted to enter by kicking in the back door. The home is located just outside the Alexandria city limits.

Alexandria officers contacted the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and during the investigation, detectives discovered that Chadwick and Boswell had allegedly stolen other items in Giles County. Sheriff Ray says Giles county detectives will be filing charges against them there.

He says both Chadwick and Boswell have a lengthy criminal history of violent crimes. Bond for them was set at $25,000 each and their court date is December 20th.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, December 15th, deputies responded to a one vehicle accident on Highway 56 South. The officers arrested 32 year old Elmi Desena Ahedo of West Broad Street, Smithville for DUI . Ahedo was also cited for a violation of the implied consent law, no driver's license, and no proof of insurance.

Sheriff Ray says Ahedo was northbound on Highway 56 South in a 2002 Nissan Xterra when he lost control and overturned. The vehicle came to rest right side up and Ahedo and tried to leave the scene. The vehicle also struck a mailbox. Ahedo was found to be under the influence of alcohol and bond was set at $1,500. His court date is January 10th..

In the late hours of Saturday, December 15th, 26 year old Hector Giron of Oriole Drive McMinnville was charged with DUI. DeKalb County deputies received a call of a motor vehicle accident on Highway 56 South. Sheriff Ray says Giron was Southbound in a 1996 GMC Sonoma when he lost control and hit a ditch. Giron was found to be under the influence of alcohol. Giron's bond was set at $1,500 and his court date is January 10th.

Britney Campbell Makes Mid-State…Again!

December 16, 2007
by: 
By DCHS Band Boosters

For the third year in a row, Britney Campbell, a freshman at DeKalb County High School, has been chosen to represent Middle Tennessee in its most prestigious musical ensemble, Tennessee’s Mid-State Band. On Saturday, December 8th, Britney traveled to McGavock High School in Nashville to audition for Mid-State, which selects its musicians from the Middle Tennessee area based on the students’ level of musical ability. At the junior high level, any 7th – 9th grade student in Middle Tennessee can audition. During the audition process, each student is tested in three general areas of musicianship. Students will be asked to perform a prepared piece of music, which is a song that has been rehearsed prior to the audition date. Students will also be required to demonstrate their ability in playing scales, a basic pattern of musical notes. They will also be tested on sight-reading skills, which displays the ability to perform a song without having to rehearse it.

Among the 200 clarinet players in grades seven through nine who auditioned for this event, Britney was ranked sixth. She will play in Mid-State’s elite band, the Gold Band, which represents the top musicians in the entire Middle Tenneessee area. The Silver Band is the second ranking band, followed by the 7th and 8th grade band, which is not open to freshmen.

In January 2008, all the students who made the Mid-State Bands will rehearse in Murfreesboro. Students will only have a couple of days to prepare for a concert, which will be held at Middle Tennessee State University. DeKalb County High School’s Band Director, Kristin Reagh, says, “It is a wonderful experience for all involved students because they get an opportunity to play with the most talented and motivated students from all over the middle Tennessee area.”

In addition to playing clarinet in the high school band, Britney also plays percussion in the DCHS Winter Drum Line. This ensemble is completely extracurricular, and meets twice a week in the band room to prepare for an indoor marching show to be performed in February 2008.

Britney is the daughter of Mike Campbell and Kimberly Cox of Smithville. Britney's dad says, "This is the third year in a row that she's made Mid-State and she's improved her position every year. I'm very proud of her. She works really hard for this every year.”

To learn more about the band, log onto www.DekalbBand.com

Christmas Spirit Alive and Well in Alexandria

December 15, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Santa Claus made another DeKalb County appearance Saturday afternoon during the Alexandria Christmas Parade.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered downtown, in spite of colder temperatures and the threat of rain, to experience the sights and sounds of this annual event and to have a chance at winning some prizes.

The Alexandria First Baptist Church won first place and $100 in the float competition and the church's Mother's Day Out entry took second place and $75.00. Kevin Bandy, driving a vintage automobile, received third place and $50.

Ballot Set for Tennessee Presidential Preference Primaries

December 15, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County voters will get to choose their preferences in the Tennessee Presidential Primaries on Tuesday, February 5th.

Voters must declare in which primary they will be voting, either Democratic or Republican. You cannot vote in both.

The candidates for President in the Democratic Primary are Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson.

Candidates for President in the Republican Primary are Rudy Giuliana, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Alan Keyes, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, and Fred Thompson.

Grants Awarded to Five Local Organizations by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

December 15, 2007

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has awarded $13,083 in grants to DeKalb organizations to help respond to specific needs of the region.

"The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee believes in the present and future of Middle Tennessee and supports DeKalb County organizations working to improve the quality of life in our communities," said Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation. "The people of Middle Tennessee should be very proud of the extraordinary work being done by local nonprofits addressing a variety of needs from public education and animal welfare to children and seniors."

Specific discretionary grants include:

Freckles Friends Pet Shelter, Inc. has received a grant to provide spay/neuter services to pets of low-income families in DeKalb County.

New Frontiers Challenge Center has received a grant to provide Internet access and laptop computers to young men in residence.

In partnership with the Tennessee Arts Commission and funded by the Tennessee General Assembly, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee facilitates two other grant programs - Arts Build Communities and Student Ticket Subsidy.

Arts Build Communities serves to strengthen communities by funding projects that nurture artists, arts organizations, and arts supporters in each of Tennessee's 95 counties. Those eligible to apply for ABC are tax-exempt nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, public or private educational institutions (K through college), school boards, or governmental agencies.

Friends of the Appalachian Center for Craft of Tennessee has received an Arts Build Communities grant to support artist fees for presenters.

The Student Ticket Subsidy program is designed to ensure that Tennessee's school-aged children have access to live performance. The program is available to public school students, and the Fund reimburses ticket costs for children in the 40 counties The Community Foundation covers.

Smithville Elementary School has received a Student Ticket Subsidy grant to send 206 students to Art Center of Cannon County.

DeKalb West Elementary School has received a Student Ticket Subsidy grant to send 414 students to Wood & Strings Theatre.

These discretionary, Arts Build Communities and Student Ticket Subsidy grants are part of The Foundation's annual grant making process that will distribute over $1,301,295 to over 300 nonprofit organizations and schools throughout 36 Middle Tennessee counties.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee oversees more than 615 charitable funds. In the past sixteen years, The Community Foundation has distributed $320 million to community programs and institutions. Currently, The Community Foundation manages endowment, unrestricted and memorial funds totaling $426million. It is located at 3833 Cleghorn Avenue, # 400, Nashville, Tennessee 37215. For more information, call 615-321-4939 or visit www.cfmt.org.

DeKalb County Fire Department receives Federal Grant

December 14, 2007

The DeKalb County Fire Department will receive a $195,957 U.S. Department of Homeland Security vehicle acquisition grant, U.S. Representative Bart Gordon announced.

"Many communities struggle to maintain EMS and firefighting services," said Gordon, a member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. "Even though demands on EMS providers and firefighters have increased tremendously over the years, the resources they depend on to provide their life-savings services have not.

"That's why Congress initiated the Assistance to Firefighters Program, which is similar to the highly successful COPS program that put more than 100,000 new police officers on the nation's streets."

Chief Donny Green said the department will use the funds to purchase a tanker that can haul 2,500 gallons of water. Currently, the only fire truck that covers the entire 305 square miles of DeKalb County is a 1979 converted milk truck.

"The rural parts of DeKalb County don't have fire hydrants, so we have to haul water to the fire," Green said. "This will let us be a whole lot more efficient in the county and in providing mutial aid to the surrounding cities and counties."

The DeKalb County Fire Department's 11 substations respond to calls from Smithville and Alexandria and DeKalb and Cannon counties.

In addition to improving efficiency, the new fire tanker should help the department recruit and retain volunteers and decrease homeowner insurance rates.

"Just being able to provide water and a safer truck for the firefighters is one part of it,", Green said. "One of the things insurance looks at is how the fire department hauls water. Part of the homeowner's premium is based on how local fire protection is rated."

The tanker will cost nearly $206,000 with DeKalb County providing 5% matching funds.

Sheriff's Department Charges Two Men in Drug Case

December 14, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant on Thursday at the home of 39 year old Mark (Truck) Robinson on Anthony Avenue in Smithville.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says officers made at least one drug buy from Robinson's residence and during the search, they found 193 Xanax pills, 203 empty prescription bottles with numerous individuals' names on them, hemostats, rolling papers, roach clips, syringes, and a pill grinder.

Another individual, 37 year old Walter Redmon of Sparta Highway, Smithville was also at the residence. Sheriff Ray says Redmon was found to have a syringe in his pants pocket.

Robinson is charged with possession of a schedule IV drug (Xanax) for sale and delivery and
possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $26,500

Redmon is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and a bond was set at $1,500. Both are scheduled to be in General Sessions Court on January 3rd.

Sheriff Ray says officers seized the cash from Robinson and more arrests are pending.

Willoughby Updates School Board on Personnel

December 13, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby presented his monthly report on personnel to the Board of Education Thursday night.

Those employed since last month include Wallace Caldwell, Gregory Muskopf, and Dwayne Cornelius as substitute bus drivers, Santos Cabellero as cafeteria worker, and Keith Huling in transportation,.

Debbie Parchman was transferred from a substitute teacher position to an educational assistant at DCHS.

Amy Tobitt, DCHS teacher, was granted a leave of absence as requested.

Larry Johnson, Materials Supervisor has resigned.

Willoughby announced that Johnson's position will not be filled. "I just wanted to let the board know that my intention is to reorganize our supervisory personnel, taking into consideration the fact that we not be filling our material supervisor position. It is my plan to divide the position of curriculum and instructional supervisor (pre-k through 12th grade) into a pre-k through 6th grade and a 7th through 12th grade curriculum instructor supervisor. Michelle Burklow will take over the pre-k through 6th grade and Dr. Carol Hendrix will take over the 7th through 12th grade. At the same time, I will delegate the responsibilities of the materials supervisor position to our different supervisors. I will also post the position for a new federal programs director. We will take applications through the month of December. We will start interviewing in January. I think these moves will be real good for the children of our school system. Our folks (supervisors) will be able to be in the classrooms and into the schools more and I think it will make our education more efficient for the children."

In other business, the board voted to participate in an energy conservation program, subject to a review and approval by the county commission.

Under the program, the school system could apply for an interest free loan of up to $500,000 and contract with a company to make energy conservation retrofits to existing school buildings, such as heating, air conditioning, and lighting. The loan would be repaid over seven years from the savings in energy costs, due to those improvements. In order to participate, the school system would have to commit $9,500 to have the company prepare a detailed energy study to identify areas that need to be addressed. The costs could be paid for out of the energy savings to the school system.

The board voted to accept sealed bids to sell some surplus equipment including two 1995 Blue Bird buses, a 1994 John Deere 72 inch cut mower, and a Sanborn Blackmax 5 horsepower two stage 80 gallon tank air compressor with motor and compressor (needs to be overhauled). Bids will be opened at the next meeting on January 10th.

The board adopted a policy that authorizes the Director of Schools to obtain credit cards for business travel expense for general purpose and federal programs funds. Credit cards may only be used by authorized employees for legitimate school business expenditures. The issue of credit cards is not intended to circumvent the school system's policies and procedures on purchasing.

Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins recommended passage of the policy. " We have a lot of programs that we send different members of the faculty to and they end up putting a lot of these charges on their personal credit cards so I'm recommending that we authorize the director of schools to apply for this credit card. These charges run into several thousands of dollars on personal credit cards and I think we, as a government body, need to get away from that. It will be the director's responsibility and the credit cards will be maintained by him."

The board also voted to make a DCHS course change for the spring semester 2008 by changing ‘Problems and Solutions in Technology 3813" to "Technological Systems 3811".

In a letter to the board, Brad Leach, Career and Technical Education Director at DCHS, wrote that " This change is needed because a vast amount of competencies and standards for the "Problems and Solutions in Technology" course requires Internet access in order to be completed. The "Technology Systems" course does not require extensive amounts of research and Internet use to complete the competencies and standards."

"Due to the limited use of Internet in our Career and Technical Education programs, additional standards and competencies in Career and Technical Education program area courses will be evaluated and additional course changes may occur in the future. The goal of the "Career and Technical Education" programs and the use of Perkins funding we receive is to provide the necessary equipment and technology to teach students the standards and competencies needed, improve, expand, and modernize quality career and technical education programs, including relevant technology, and to provide activities to prepare all students for high skill, high wage, or high demand occupations that will lead to self sufficiency."

The board, as required by state law, will conduct the annual evaluation of the Director of Schools job performance on Tuesday, January 8th at 6:00 p.m. during an informal workshop. The results of the evaluation will be reported during the next regular meeting on Thursday, January 10th. A board self evaluation will be also be scheduled soon.

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