Local News Articles

Aldermen To Consider Making Charter Changes

February 21, 2012
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen are considering making changes to the city charter.

Under a proposed resolution presented to the aldermen Monday night by Mayor Taft Hendrixson, the terms of office of the mayor and aldermen would go from two years to four years and they could receive more pay, starting with whoever is elected this year. Passage of the resolution requires at least a two thirds majority of the aldermen and approval by the state legislature before it could take effect

Action has been delayed on the resolution in order to give the aldermen and citizens a chance to become better informed on the proposals.

The mayor and aldermen have scheduled a workshop for Monday, February 27 at 7:00 p.m. at city hall to discuss the proposed changes in more detail.

If the charter is changed as proposed, each of the aldermen would receive $150 per month in pay, effective with the next term of office. The aldermen currently receive $25 for each meeting, both regular and special. That comes to $50 per month since there are usually two regular meetings per month.

The mayor's pay, which currently is $1,000 per month, could be raised to as much as $2,000 per month, as set by the aldermen effective July 1st of each year.

Regular city council meetings would be reduced from twice to once per month and special meetings would be scheduled as needed.

The mayor and aldermen's terms of office would remain staggered but under this plan, their terms would go from two years to four years and city elections, now conducted every year on the third Tuesday in June, would eventually be held every two years on the first Thursday in August to coincide with the county general elections..

Under the proposed changes, the mayor and two aldermen elected this year, June 19 would serve for a period of two years and two months. Those positions (mayor and two aldermen) would be up for election again on the first Thursday in August 2014, in conjunction with the county general election. Whoever is elected in August, 2014 would serve for four years, from September 1, 2014 to August 31, 2018.

The other three aldermen positions would be up for election in June 2013 and whoever is elected would serve for a period of three years and two months, until August 31, 2016. Those three aldermen positions would then by up for election again in August, 2020, to coincide with the county general elections.

The verbatim proposed resolution states as follows:

"Whereas, the City of Smithville, Tennessee, incorporated by Chapter 486 of the Private Acts of Tennessee for 1941, as amended, of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee; and

Whereas, the interest of the City of Smithville, Tennessee will be better served if the charter of the town is further amended; and now therefore;

Be it resolved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Smithville that:

The Honorable Senator Mae Beavers and Honorable Representative Terry Lynn Weaver are hereby requested to introduce the following act to the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee:

An ACT to amend the charter of the City of Smithville, Tennessee, being Chapter 486 of the Private Acts of Tennessee for 1941, as amended:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee:

Section 1. Section 5 of the Charter is amended by changing the following text: "That the governing body of the City of Smithville shall be known and designated as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Smithville, said governing body to consist of a Mayor and five Aldermen, each of whom shall be householders and freeholders not less than eighteen years of age and residing within the limits of the City of Smithville," SHALL BE CHANGED TO THE FOLLOWING TEXT:


Section 2. Section 5 of the Charter is again hereby amended by changing the following text: "The officials of said City shall receive the sum of twenty five dollars for each meeting, both regular and special, said sum representing the approximate out-of-pocket expenses incurred by said officials" SHALL BE CHANGED TO THE FOLLOWING TEXT


Section 3. Section 5 of the Charter is again hereby amended by changing the following text. "The compensation for the Mayor shall be set by the Board of Aldermen each year by ordinance to be effective July 1 of each year. Such compensation shall be in addition to any put-of-pocket expenses incurred by such official. SUCH COMPENSATION SHALL NOT BE LESS THAN $1,000 PER MONTH AND NOT MORE THAN $2,000 PER MONTH, PAYABLE MONTHLY, OUT OF THE CITY TREASURY". EFFECTIVE THE NEXT TERM OF OFFICE FROM DATE OF CHARTER AMENDMENT.

Section 4. Section 8 of the Charter is amended by changing the following text: "Said ordinances shall be submitted and passed on two separate readings at regular or specially called meetings of the Board, the second reading to be not less than one week and not more than two weeks from and after its first reading or introduction; CHANGED TO THE FOLLOWING TEXT: "SAID ORDINANCES SHALL BE SUBMITTED AND PASSED ON TWO SEPARATE READINGS AT REGULAR OR SPECIALLY CALLED MEETINGS OF THE BOARD."

Section 5. Section 11(6) the following text: "Whenever the office of the city judge is not filled by the appointment of some other person, the city recorder shall be the city judge" IS HEREBY DELETED. (editors note: The city judge is appointed by the aldermen to a regular two year term and is paid $1,000 per month. Hilton Conger holds that position. The city recorder does not act as city judge)

Section 6. Section 20. The following text is added at the end of the section and supercedes language pertaining to prior election dates:




Section 6. This act shall become effective when it has been approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Smithville by a vote of not less than two-thirds of the entire membership of the board after resolution is approved by the General Assembly.

In other business, the aldermen Monday night approved on second and final reading following a public hearing, an ordinance to update the city's cross connection regulations.

Simply put, cross connection occurs when contaminated water gains entrance to and pollutes a safe water supply. Through the careful monitoring of the City water supply system and the installation of backflow prevention assemblies, the risk of cross connection can dramatically be reduced.

A backflow prevention assembly prevents potentially dangerous substances or contaminated water from entering the public water supply. This assembly consists of a valve that allows water to enter a building but prevents the water from returning to the supply line. Cross connection contamination usually occurs if there is a loss of pressure in the water supply system. The loss of pressure can create a siphonage situation that will actually pull the water from a building back into the system.

The State Division of Water Quality requires that all public water systems maintain an active program to identify and control cross connections. This ordinance is the basis for the City's program. Everyone that installs or repairs these assemblies is required to be certified by the State of Tennessee.

Mayor Hendrixson said the city has someone certified to deal with cross connection and backflow prevention installation and repair.

During the public hearing, Waniford Cantrell said he thought the DeKalb Utility District should be asked to take similar action. The DUD is the City of Smithville's largest water customer.

Alderman Steve White asked that a letter be sent to the Langley and Taylor Pool Corporation of Nashville requesting that they come back and fix cracks that have developed in the pool since their repair work last spring. The city has a three year warranty and the company is apparently liable for work called for under the contract which was warrantied but not done properly

The aldermen voted to promote Josh Hawkins to supervisor of the sewer rehab program, filling a vacancy in the position. He will be on sixty day probation before being hired on a permanent basis.

The aldermen voted to accept Aeronautics grants approved for the Smithville Municipal Airport including a $166,667 grant for apron expansion design. The city's local matching obligation is $16,667. Meanwhile, Wes Nokes, airport manager, reported to the aldermen Monday night that he has received a verbal commitment for a $1.5 million grant to re-pave the airport runway and to pave and expand the parking area. The local matching share is $150,000.

Mayor Hendrixson also mentioned that the city won the Tennessee Association of Utility District's Region Four "Best Tasting Water Contest" last week at the Cookeville Golf and Country Club. He and the aldermen congratulated Todd Bowman, Smithville Water Plant Superintendent, and members of the staff for their work in helping attain the honor.

Architect Unveils Plan For DeKalb West FEMA Safe Room Construction Project

February 21, 2012
Dwayne Page
David Brown of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects
New addition shown on the left side of picture (at Front of DWS)

The design for a proposed 15,000 square foot addition to DeKalb West School was unveiled Saturday morning during a school board workshop meeting. A $1.8 million FEMA grant application will be filed on behalf of the school system, which if approved would fund most of the project with the rest, about $600,000 to be paid for locally.

The new construction is designed to be built in the front of the existing school.

David Brown of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects of Mount Juliet updated Director of Schools Mark Willloughby and members of the Board of Education on the project which includes eight "safe rooms"to relieve overcrowding and to shelter students, school staff, and the general public in times of severe weather. County Mayor Mike Foster and several members of the county commission also attended Saturday's workshop along with other school personnel.

Twenty three million dollars is available to eligible applicants under the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant program. During a special called meeting in December, the Board of Education voted to pay KBJM Architects, Inc. a total of $7,500 to prepare a design for the project and to pay Lashlee-Rich, Inc. of Humbolt $7,500 to prepare cost estimates and for the grant writing.

Under this FEMA grant program, the school system could apply for up to three million dollars for this project with the federal government paying 75% of the cost, if approved. The state would pay 12.5% leaving the local share at 12.5%. Any further costs related to construction not covered by the FEMA grant, including furnishing classrooms, would be funded locally. "We are proposing the addition in the front of the school," said Brown. We have eight classrooms, restrooms, a new secure entrance, an office, clinic, conference room, guidance and teacher work area all in that corridor. A janitors closet would be in the room where the generator will go. That is the addition we are proposing to meet these federal standards," said Brown.

According to Brown, the proposed new addition would not only provide more classroom space and better shelter in the event of storms, but it would make the school more secure. "Its going to be more secure," said Brown. "Once the addition is done, when I visit the school, I'll go into the vestibule. These doors are going to be locked. The only place I can go is into the main office and from there into the rest of the school. Whereas, right now I can walk in and go wherever I want to go," he said.

"We're designing this for (to withstand) a 250 mile per hour wind with debris and projectiles going that fast. So all of that construction is going to be beefed up to meet those standards. Obviously constructing a building that way is much more expensive than just your run of the mill construction. That's why the grant is there. There's no way anybody could afford to do this just on their own initiative. The grant is crucial to this," said Brown.

"The construction manager is taking a look at this design and putting together a line item materials and labor budget that will back up how much we're going to ask for (grant application). We can include all of those construction estimate items that the construction manager is coming up with. In addition we can include architect fees, the geo-technical report, and a lot of the soft costs can be rolled into this grant request as well. It is the most robust inclusive program you are ever going to come across. We're working on the grant application right now. It is due March 1," said Brown.

"Those (grant) applications go to the state hazard mitigation officer. (They) will spend about two weeks reviewing the applications prioritizing and ranking. If there is money there, then everything goes through. School projects are kind of a slam dunk. The reason they are is because they are protecting so many people per dollar that is spent. They require us to do a benefit cost analysis to go with this. So I can't go ask them for a million dollars and I'm only protecting twenty people. Here we're probably going to be asking for upwards of $1.8 million and protecting the entire school and all the staff," said Brown.

Once approved for the grant, Brown said the school system has up to three years to spend it.

Although a new larger DWS cafeteria and kitchen does not qualify under the FEMA grant as school officials had hoped, the architects have included in the design an expansion of the existing dining area. "I'm showing about a 30% increase in the cafeteria space. This will increase the core of this campus up to about 600 students," said Brown.

DeKalb West School, which opened in 1974, was built for 320 students. The current enrollment is 445 plus faculty and staff. To relieve overcrowding, a portable with two classrooms is currently located on the campus. In times of storms, officials say the general public would be welcome to take shelter with students and school staff in the safe rooms, which could accommodate up to one thousand individuals.

County Complex Nearing Completion

February 21, 2012
Dwayne Page
Exercise Room in New County Complex
New Senior Citizens Center in County Complex
Stage in Auditorium of New Complex
Gym/ Volleyball Court in New Complex
Community Kitchen in Complex

The county's new office/recreational complex is almost finished.

County Mayor Mike Foster said the contractor may wind up work this week. "Within two weeks, we'll have everything open," said Foster.

As of Tuesday, February 21, a total of $3,075,000 has been spent on the complex.

"The floors are finished pretty well throughout the building," he said. "The stage (in the auditorium) is ready to sand. Its got hardwood put on it (floor). We have to do some work on the (handicapped) ramp. Basically everything is done except touch ups," said Foster.

"The senior citizens center will be ready to move on Wednesday. The equipment is now in the exercise room and the floor is done. The (community) kitchen is done except we don't have all the equipment in. We may not have all the tables and chairs and that kind of stuff in but there will be some activities. They're doing the cooking classes already in the kitchen," said Foster.

"The gymnasium is done except we don't have the basketball goals in. We (county commission) will talk about what we need to buy for the game room Thursday night (during an all committees meeting) at the UT Extension office in the complex. We've had some donations of games and things to go in there. Clubs, banks, and other organizations have donated money to do some stuff for the kids," he said.

"Its all looking pretty good and we're all within budget," said Foster.

UCHRA, which is renting offices from the county, opened in the complex last summer and the four county officials who relocated from the courthouse, moved in last August.

The complex features an auditorium with a seating capacity of about 300; a community kitchen and cafeteria, a game room for kids, an exercise room complete with used and refurbished equipment, a gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, a senior citizens center, and rooms for the Art Revolution, Motlow State Community College, the county extension office, and other meeting rooms.

City of Smithville Wins Regional TAUD "Best Tasting Water" Contest

February 19, 2012
Dwayne Page
City of Smithville Wins Regional TAUD "Best Tasting Water" Contest

The Tennessee Association of Utility Districts (TAUD) held the Region Four "Best
Tasting Water Contest" at the Cookeville Golf and Country Club on February 15th. With judges
performing two "taste-offs" to determine the winner Smithville Water and Sewer was awarded Best Tasting Water in Region 4.

TAUD Region Four consists of Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton,
Pickett, Putnam, Roane, Smith, Trousdale, Warren and White counties.

The utilities from Region Four submitting samples of their drinking water for competition were:
Bondecroft Utility District, Byrdstown Water Department, the City of Celina, Crab Orchard Utility District, the City of Crossville, Jamestown Gas and Water, Livingston Utilities, McMinnville Utilities, Red Boiling Springs Water, Smithville Water and Sewer, Warren County Utility District, and West Warren-Viola Utility District.

Cookeville Communications Radio Host Lee Wray, Amanda Mainord with Upper Cumberland
Development Districts and Michael Detwiler with Congressman Diane Black participated as judges for the contest. The drinking water samples were judged on their clarity, bouquet, and taste.

TAUD will conduct the Best Tasting Water in Tennessee Contest in each of the Association's eleven regions in upcoming months. The winner of each region will participate in a statewide competition at TAUD's Business of Running A Utility Conference at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in Gatlinburg on August 9th. The statewide winner will then compete in Washington, D.C. for the Best Tasting Water in America.

The Tennessee Association of Utility Districts is the oldest rural water association in the nation and serves as the Tennessee chapter of the National Rural Water Association. TAUD serves as a source of training, technical assistance, and advocacy to over 400 water, wastewater, and natural gas utility members within the state. For more information please visit our website at www.taud.org or contact Beth Hardiman at 615-896-9022.

(Pictured above LEFT TO RIGHT STANDING: Kevin Robinson, Smithville Public Works Director and Todd Bowman, Smithville Water Plant Superintendent. FRONT ROW: Amanda Mainord, Upper Cumberland Development District; Michael Detwiler, Congressman Diane Black's Office and Lee Wray, Radio Host, Cookeville Communications)

Three Arrested During Burglary in Progress

February 19, 2012
Dwayne Page
Rodney Hugo Gora
Brent Bernard Tolbert
Sandra Lynn Culwell
James Edward Gilles
Gennia Leigh Wilson
Melinda Beth Murphy

Three people were arrested by the sheriff's department during a burglary in progress on Holmes Creek Road on Friday, February 17.

38 year old Rodney Hugo Gora of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville; 47 year old Brent Bernard Tolbert of Walling; and 28 year old Sandra Lynn Culwell of Parsley Road, Smithville are all charged with burglary and theft of property over $500. Bond for each is $7,500 and they will be in court on March 8

Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that a deputy responded to a call of a burglary in progress on Friday, February 17 at a residence on Holmes Creek Road. Entry was made through a front door.

Upon arrival, the officer found Gora, Tolbert, and Culwell standing beside of a truck that was loaded with numerous items taken from the house including a birdcage, well pressure tank, refrigerator, jigsaw, mailbox, well pump, assorted wires, sheet metal, aluminum, and buckets of nails and screws. All three were placed under arrest and the stolen items were returned to the owner.

Meanwhile, two people, 24 year old James Edward Gilles and 24 year old Gennia Leigh Wilson both of Old Snow Hill Road, Dowelltown are each charged with animal cruelty. Bond for each is $2,500 and they are to appear in court on February 23.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Friday, February 3 a deputy responded to a residence on Old Snow Hill Road to a complaint of animal cruelty. Upon arrival, the deputy found a starved boxer mixed dog, approximately one year old. He said the animal could hardly stand. It was determined that the dog belonged to both Gilles and Wilson. While the officer was there, Gilles arrived at the residence with food for the dog. The dog was taken to a local veterinarian and as of Monday, February 13 the animal was still there needing medical attention. Both Gilles and Wilson were arrested on February 13.

26 year old Melinda Beth Murphy of East Broad Street, Smithville is charged with two counts of forgery. Her bond is $7,000 and she will be in court on March 1.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Thursday, February 9, Murphy forged a check in the amount of $400. The check was taken to a Smithville bank and cashed. The victim had not signed nor authorized anyone else to sign the check. On the same day, Thursday, February 9, Murphy forged another check, this one in the amount of $612.30. She took that check to an Alexandria bank and cashed it. The victim had not signed nor authorized anyone else to sign it. Murphy was arrested on February 16. Alexandria Police also have charges against her.

More defendants have been picked up by the sheriff's department in the recent drug investigation. The following have been arrested on sealed indictments returned by the grand jury:

30 year old Brandon Wayne Caldwell (AKA) Worm: Sale and delivery of a schedule II drug in a drug free zone (2 counts) Bond $80,000.

23 year old Brandon Matthew Byford (AKA) Troll of Bell Street Apartments, Smithville: Sale and delivery of a schedule II drug; sale and delivery of a schedule III drug in a drug free zone. Bond $60,000

32 year old Christopher David Hall of Bon Aqua: Sale and delivery of a schedule II drug in a drug free zone. Bond $30,000.

All will appear in criminal court for arraignment on Friday, February 24

Election Administrator Says Early Voting Going Well

February 18, 2012
Dwayne Page
Carl Lee Webb, showing photo ID, was the first person to vote early Wednesday

More than two hundred voters have taken advantage of early voting in DeKalb County for the March 6 primaries.

Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, said so far things have gone well. "The first four days of early voting have gone extremely well. To date, we have not had anyone come to early voting who did not have a valid photo ID. Thanks to all the publicity given by WJLE and other local media, along with the massive effort made by our state office, we believe a majority of the voters are aware of the new law, and for that we are extremely thankful," said Stanley

A total of 207 persons have voted early from Wednesday through Saturday, February 15-18 including thirty three on Saturday.

One hundred thirty three have voted in the Democratic Primaries and seventy four have cast ballots in the Republican primary.

Early voting resumes Tuesday, February 21 through Tuesday, February 28. Hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.; Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.; and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until noon. All early voting will take place in the basement courtroom of the DeKalb County Courthouse. Closed February 20 for President's Day.

Remember, DeKalb County residents are required to show a photo ID at the polls.

The election commission office is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the first floor of the courthouse, room 104. The phone number is 597-4146.

Mike Foster Speaks Out On UCDD Allegations, Pody Calls for Probe

February 18, 2012
Dwayne Page
County Mayor Mike Foster

State Representative Mark Pody has called for a meeting of legislators in the Upper Cumberland to search out the facts concerning allegations against the Upper Cumberland Development District and the "Living the Dream" project.

Reports of lavish spending and possible wrongdoing surfaced this week in a NewsChannel 5 investigation and since then Representative Pody said he has been busy answering calls from concerned constituents. "My phone has been ringing off the hook," said Pody in a telephone interview with WJLE Friday. "I've had many people calling me with concerns about this. I'm getting all the legislators together that represent these fourteen counties and we're going to be meeting over the next couple of weeks. We'll be meeting with the (state) comptroller's office on Tuesday. We will be asking them to fill us in on what is going on from their point of view and any investigations they have going on so we can be brought up to date. We will then be meeting with congressional leaders including Congressman Diane Black's office. We want to know exactly what is going on. We will then be going to the board members who are actually running this (UCDD) to get their input as well so we have an understanding of what is going on. We're certainly going to be very prudent with our taxpayer's money. We're just not going to let it sit out there like that. Sometimes you just hear from one side and all we've heard from right now is just from the TV reports. We've also got to hear from the other side and see what is going on. I know we have good competent (UCDD) board members and we've got to hear from them. But the perception from the taxpayers is that this is not good. We owe it to the taxpayers to investigate this and see what is going on," said Representative Pody.

The legislators are not the only ones wanting to know more. State auditors are being brought in to investigate and the UCDD board has hired the Nashville law firm of Walker, Tipps, and Malone, PLC to look into the situation.

UCDD's executive director Wendy Askins is at the center of the controversy. Askins lives rent free at the Living the Dream facility and questions have been raised as to whether she has misappropriated funds. In the four month investigation by NewsChannel 5, Askins reportedly made out UCDD checks to herself or to cash for questionable reimbursements such as meals, drinks, and gifts. Minutes of a UCDD board meeting were also altered.

Living the Dream is an upscale retirement home for seniors on an eleven acre estate between Baxter and Cookeville in Putnam County. The home is reportedly foreclosure property which was purchased specifically for the purpose of developing a retirement facility for seniors. Almost everything was already in place when the property was bought, including the house and fence. Small apartments were later built behind the main house. Most of the main house is meant to become a common area shared by the residents. Askins was apparently living there to help get the project off the ground since the home only had a few residents renting and not enough money was being generated to hire a manager to stay there all the time. Once complete, the home is intended to serve approximately twenty residents with the rent ranging from $500 to $2,000 per month, based on their income.

DeKalb County Mayor Mike Foster, who is chairman of the UCDD, met with WJLE and the Smithville Review Friday morning. During the interview, Foster said he suspects there has been some "lavish" spending but can't comment in detail because of the investigation. "I do believe there has been some lavish spending but I'm on the committee that has been appointed to investigate this and until we have more details, I don't think we need to point the finger at anybody. That's one of the reasons some of my statements (to Channel 5) look kind of goofy because we were told immediately before doing the (TV) interview that we should not make any negative or even positive comments about anyone in particular or any behavior they might have had until the investigation is over. We've got two sets of accountants looking at it. The comptroller is looking at it and the attorneys are looking at it," said Foster.

Although the Living the Dream project comes under the umbrella of UCDD, Foster said a separate board oversees the operation of it and he knew very little about it. " Living the Dream is a separate corporation, a 501C3 that was set up to build housing for elderly and disabled people," said Foster. " It was set up to be a group home for residents who have to be ambulatory. They couldn't be in a wheel chair (and live there). Sometime in the last couple of years LTD bought the house that a contractor had built and had lived in while he was building it. He later became disabled and died. The house then became vacant for a while. It was sold at auction and the LTD corporation purchased that existing home which was a pretty good sized, elegant looking house, but in reality is not very big on the ground floor especially. It's a very moderate sized house. But it had a big white fence around it and it had a barn built back behind it and it looks very luxurious. They were asking $700,000 for it but it brought around $370,000 to $390,000 at public auction. So the LTD corporation bought that house to use as a home similar to like the Fiddlers Manor that we have here in Smithville and some of those kinds of retirement homes. Then they were going to build on living quarters, about twenty rooms, behind it with a connecting atrium that connects them. The main house would be used as a common quarters where all the people who live there would come into that area to eat and do community type functions," said Foster.

"The board that I'm on (UCDD), we never saw anything about it (Living the Dream) until 2011," said Foster. " There was a loan approved by the Cumberland Area Investment Corporation (CAIC). It was just approved by the committee that I am on. Other than that, we didn't know much about the operation of this other than some transfers and a couple of loans that they had made. We had seen pictures of the house. But there is another board, the LTD corporation which is a 501C3 that sits on that (oversees Living the Dream). The only thing that we as the UCDD board did was approve some of the money that had been approved by another board and just acknowledge it. That's really all we knew about it. But we (UCDD board) started hearing about these questions(concerning Living the Dream) in December. Channel 5 was there at a meeting we had one day and several of us went out there to see the house (Living the Dream). That was the first time that I had ever seen it. At that time, it (house) was still not complete. Its my understanding that the LTD board had received a transfer of $300,000 of unrestricted money to do the start up and they had borrowed something like $730,000 from a bank in Putnam County. I think they had also borrowed like $225,000 from CAIC to get it all up and going. It was to provide living quarters for about twenty two people. The total was to be about a million and three or four hundred thousand dollars and it would be self supporting. It would refund the debt itself," said Foster.

According to the NewsChannel 5 report, Askins transferred the first $300,000 from UCDD money to Living the Dream two years ago. Recently, the UCDD board called a special meeting to retroactively approve that $300,000 seed money, saying they could find no documentation in the agency's official minutes that the board had ever actually voted on it. But, according to the report, Askins' office had provided a bogus set of minutes (to Channel 5) for February 2010 showing that the Living the Dream money had been approved.

Foster said the revelation of the "bogus" minutes is troubling to him. "He (Channel 5 reporter) asked me before this interview if I had anything that concerned me. I said yes I am concerned about some minutes that appear to have been changed. We talked about specifically what minutes they were. I don't know who changed them (minutes) but there is a set of minutes that we approved and there is a different set of minutes that have been inserted," said Foster.

As for allegations that funds may have been spent on wining and dining and possibly at political events, Foster said he has not personally participated in any such UCDD activities. "I was not at any of those things. I have attended some functions at Delmonaco which is a winery, but its like a meeting place. In fact, I've been there probably three times with our county commission with the County Technical Advisory Service (CTAS). I guess they (CTAS) rent that and have the CTAS training sessions there. I have been there to that. There's also been some comments about me saying I had never seen any of the UCDD board members drink a lot. We're never in that situation. We're either at a meeting in the UCDD building or at Leslie Town Center or at maybe one of the counties here. I won't say never, but rarely are we ever in a setting to where there is alcohol," said Foster.

Channel 5's investigation further revealed purchases of gifts for UCDD board members by Askins, allegedly at the expense of taxpayers. Foster said he has never received any such gifts.

Foster said he is bothered how that all these revelations did not turn up in the annual UCDD audit which was recently released. According to Foster, the auditor noted no findings but made seven recommendations which have already been adopted by the UCDD board. Among them was a recommendation that "consideration be given for requiring board approval of special projects to be undertaken by the agency. At the present time, the executive director (Askins) has the authority to engage in these projects as long as they comply with the purpose of the development district as defined by Tennessee Code Annotated."

Foster said he expects that the board will also appoint a chief financial officer to give regular updates to the board in the future. "One of the things we have talked about that I think you will see happen, there will be a CFO appointed or hired. A financial officer that will handle all the financial aspects of this organization and report directly to the board. Right now we (UCDD) board members are there maybe an hour and a half every two to four months. By law, we have to meet four times a year. We're volunteers. We are a part time board and receive no pay. We serve a legal or technical purpose but we don't have access to any of these papers (financial documents). We just don't do it. We don't have time to. If there are as many gross things wrong as Channel 5 says, why didn't he (auditor) pick it up and why did he not tell us? If there's this many obvious things wrong, it should have been picked up and reported. That's all we have to go by. We can only go by what the audit says because we all have things to do in our home counties," said Foster.

UCDD serves Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Van Buren, Warren, and White counties.

Foster said UCDD serves the counties in a variety of ways. "The people on the board I am on are primarily concerned with grants, trying to help the elderly, and trying to do things that benefit the individual communities. They apply for Community Development Block Grants. That's the main thing we're concerned with. Many of the other programs are under their own separate corporations and boards," said Foster.

According to the UCDD website, the agency has programs that serve the Older Adult population through the Area Agency on Aging and Disability. UCDD serves children and families with the Relative Caregiver Program and Special Projects Department. It meets infrastructure needs with the Community and Economic Development Team. The Housing Department addresses housing needs for underserved populations. Through the Research Department the agency seeks new and innovative programs to better serve communities. UCDD works to preserve the unique cultural and natural assets of the region through Cultural Resources Management. The Cumberland Area Investment Corporation helps develop small businesses, and it helps local communities plan transportation projects through Rural Planning Organizations.

Woman Injured in One Car Crash Cited for Texting While Driving

February 17, 2012
Dwayne Page
Car hits utility pole guide wire and overturns on Allen Ferry Road

An 18 year old Smithville woman, allegedly texting while driving, was injured in a crash on the Allen Ferry Road Friday afternoon.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Josie Danielle Culwell was driving north in a 2003 Nissan Maxima when she abruptly went off the road to the right and into a ditchline at the edge of a field. The car struck a utility pole guide wire, slid around, and then rolled over on its top near the ditch. Culwell climbed out of the car through an open window. She was later taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Culwell was issued citations for not wearing her seatbelt, failing to maintain her lane of travel, and for texting while driving.

In addition to DeKalb EMS and Trooper Jennings, members of the Smithville Police Department, the Cookeville Highway Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, and workers of local electric and telephone utilities were on the scene.

Change of Address Required for Some Residents Due to 911 Mapping Updates

February 16, 2012
Dwayne Page
Brad Mullinax

In order to correct anomalies in the local 911 map, the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District has announced that the addresses of approximately five hundred locations are being changed as the state converts to the new Next Generation 911 digital system, a move which is expected to mean more reliable service throughout Tennessee.

Letters are being sent to DeKalb County residents who will be affected by the changes.

Brad Mullinax, Director of the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (911 center), told WJLE Thursday that the state is requiring that these changes be made. "We have some addressing anomalies that have been brought to our attention by the state. We're undergoing some major changes with 911 in Tennessee and these changes will make for difficult times for some people in our community. The end result is going to be good but it will be a little bit of an inconvenience to some of our citizens. Basically we have to send our maps to the state Geographical Information Systems (GIS) office. We did that but they have sent those maps back to us after checking them. We started out with about 2,100 addressing anomalies across the county but we've been able to sort through and fix about 1,600 of these without having to change people's addresses. Unfortunately we found about 500 addresses that are so bad and so wrong that we're having to change them. I know this is not popular with folks and it's a time consuming process for people to have to change their address but unfortunately we don't have any choice. These changes are necessary in order to comply with the new state mandated NG911 ," said Mullinax

Last September, the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) announced the completion of the first phase of the state's conversion to Next Generation 911 (NG911). "We're going through an upgrade right now and it's called Next Generation 911," said Mullinax. " Its basically going to be a large IP based network that will connect all 911 centers in the state of Tennessee. With that change, the calls are actually going to be routed out of Nashville. Our maps are going to have to be correct at the selective router in Nashville for them to decide which county the calls should be routed to. We're having to fix these addressing anomalies so that the state computer will know which way these calls need to be routed," said Mullinax.

According to Mullinax, the DeKalb ECD has the authority to change the numbers of street addresses but not road names. That is left up to the county and the cities. "We're granted that power (address changes) by state law. Its very systematic the way we do these addresses. We go out and measure each road. We have a formula that we plug the measurements into to come up with your address," said Mullinax. "What we're changing is just the numbering itself. We do not have the authority to change road names, that has to be acted on by the county commission or the city of Smithville, whichever governing body oversees those streets. We do have some road names that have been changed by the county commission. We're sending out letters notifying folks of these street name changes and then we're giving them a new address with their new street name. But we (DeKalb ECD) are not changing any street names. We don't have the authority to do that. We're just passing on and re-addressing those numbers based on these new street names," said Mullinax.

In many cases, the so called "anomalies" involve odd numbered addresses on the side of the roads where even numbered addresses are supposed to be and vice versa. "Its all over the county," said Mullinax.. "There is no particular area. They go from the city of Smithville all the way from the east to the west and from the north to the south. We're running into problems all over the county. Many of these are numbers that we found that are addressed on the wrong side of the road. For instance, we have an odd number on the even (number) side of the road or an even number on the odd (number) side of the road. Basically what that means is that if you're going up a road, the odd numbered (addresses) should be on the lefthand side of the road and the even numbered (addresses) should be on the right. So if we have a mixture (of odd and even numbers on the same side of the street) we have to correct those because they will not map," said Mullinax.

Some residents affected have already received their letters and have expressed an unwillingness to go along with the changes, according to Mullinax. "We've had some people say they're not going to change their address. You probably could have gotten by with that a few years ago but with the new advances in technology at the postal service, the way they deliver mail is directly affected by the address that we (DeKalb ECD) give the post office so it is crucial for you to change your address when we stipulate for you to do so because if you don't there is a chance you won't get your mail. It may get sent back. We are notifying everyone (affected) and once you get that letter, its pretty clear on the date when the address (change) is supposed to be effective. We're also sending a copy of that letter to their post office. We're encouraging people to notify their utilities of their changes. We're giving everybody at least a thirty day notice to change these addresses. I want to apologize to the citizens of our county for having to do this but we are doing it for their best interest. We want to be able to find them in the event of an emergency and for there not to be any kind of delay in finding them." said Mullinax.

In its September media release, the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) announced that the core infrastructure of the Next Generation 911 (NG911) will allow individual 911 centers across the state to connect to NG911.

"The completion of Phase I of the NG911 project is a significant milestone," said TECB Chair Randy Porter. "We want to thank our partners at AT&T and TCS for their efficient and effective work. We're now ready to test the core and move forward with the next phase – connecting local 911 centers to the core."

NG911 is essentially a digital version of 911 transmitted over the State of Tennessee's existing statewide Internet Protocol (IP) network, NetTN. The conversion is similar to converting televisions from analog to digital. In this case, 911 trunks are being converted from antiquated, copper-wire technology to the latest in digital communications capability.

"NG911 will mean more reliable 911 services for our citizens," said TECB Executive Director Lynn Questell. "It will allow for uninterrupted service in the case of power outages and other disasters that may knock out a 911 center. Call transfers will be seamless and the system will have 100 percent redundancy – essentially meaning that if one center goes out, a fully functioning backup will be available. The bottom line is NG911 will mean the very best technology is being deployed to keep Tennessee citizens safe."

The core infrastructure of the NG911 network includes four centers to aggregate emergency communications traffic. These centers are in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Additionally, two centers provide traffic routing of 911 calls.

The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board ensures that every citizen can effectively access the life-saving power of 911. The TECB is composed of nine members from across the state of Tennessee – including five 911 professionals and representatives of cities, counties and the general public. It is administratively attached to the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. www.tn.gov/commerce/

"Budding Authors Publishing Party" Held for First Methodist Pre-School Students

February 16, 2012
Dwayne Page

A "Budding Authors Publishing Party" was held for students in the Smithville First United Methodist Church Pre-School Thursday night at the Christian Fellowship Center.

The students, their parents, and teachers celebrated the release of a hardback book featuring writings and illustrations of the students themselves.

During the party, each child was asked to point out or read from the things he or she had written and drawn on their pages of the booklet.

Emily Bass, director of the pre-school, said the project was about two months in the making. "Tonight we've been enjoying a night of listening to the children read stories they have written about things they love and enjoy. This was a project put together by one of our parents, Mandy Dakas. The kids each took time and wrote in their very own handwriting and illustrated all by themselves. Each one did a page. We then had them (pages) compiled and printed together into a class hardback booklet. This class is made up of our pre-kindergarten kids, ages four and five, and they will be graduating in May and going on to kindergarten. So this (book) is a special keepsake for them and their parents," said Bass

Students (publishers) participating were Avery Agee, Landon Colwell, Caroline Crook, Andrew Dakas, Annabella Dakas, Milas Driver, Dallas Kirby, Madeline Martin, Melody McConnaughey (absent Thursday night) Addison Miller (absent), Layla Newby, Katherine Knowles, Emily Robinson, Owen Snipes (absent), Braelyn Teachout, and Tiara Patrick.

Teachers are Reta Steffe and Lauren Hansard.


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