Local News Articles

DeKalb County Trustee Mails Out Property Tax Statements

November 7, 2008
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Trustee Sean Driver

The DeKalb County Trustee's office mailed out the 2008 DeKalb County property tax statements Thursday.

DeKalb County Trustee Sean Driver says tax payers have until February 28th, 2009 to pay their tax bill. "Our tax notices have gone out, as of Thursday, November 6th. We had a time getting them in this year with the state being a little behind but we've got them ready to go. They are due and payable right now through February 28th, 2009. We are ready to go. Our computers are set up and ready to go with everything that involves collecting taxes."

Driver says those who still need to pay their 2007 property tax bill may do so at the Trustee's office in the courthouse. "I still have in the Trustee's Office the 2007 taxes and I will turn those over to the Chancery Court on April 1st, 2009. You can pay all of those taxes if you still need to pay those through that date. Of course, with the 2007 taxes, they are accruing a one and a half percent penalty per month if they're late."

Seniors, be sure to check with the office on the state tax relief program. Income limit for 2008 is $24,790 for single or combined household incomes.

Trustee Driver says Tennessee's tax relief program is a state-funded program that provides a rebate of credit for all or a portion of the property taxes on residential property owned and occupied by low-income elderly, low-income disabled, and disabled veteran homeowners and their surviving spouses. "There are a few changes for the elderly and disabled homeowners. That being the income limit which is set by the state of Tennessee. For DeKalb County, the 2007 combined income limit, whether sole owner or co-owner, is $24,790. That includes social security benefits, any kind of bank interest, retirement and pension, any kind of veteran's benefits, or any kind of income you may have drawn in 2007."

"With elderly homeowners, you must be age 65 or older before December 31st, 2008. The law requires us to provide evidence of that age, whether it be through a driver's license, birth certificate, or marriage license. You must own this property to get tax relief and be under the income limit for eligibility."

"For disabled homeowners, the same stipulations apply as for the elderly homeowners, except for disability, we must have acceptable evidence of disability, that being a current letter dated for 2008 that specifies the type of benefits that you receive. You have to be 100% disabled as deemed by the Social Security Administration or another agency."

"With disabled veterans and widows or widowers, you must be 100% total and permanently disabled. That being through a service connected disability. That'll be deemed by the Veteran's Administration. We have a form to fill out to send to the Veteran's Administration so they can see that you are trying to apply for tax relief. They will then let the state or tax relief program know that you do qualify as being 100% total and permanently disabled."

"For disabled veterans and widows, income is irrelevant. I think that's tremendous since our service people have served our country so well."

" Let me mention something about deadlines. When you receive your tax cards and want to apply for tax relief. If you think you meet the requirements, you can bring in your tax bill. Here's the way tax relief works in our Trustee's office. Let's say your taxes are $200. You will pay that $200 in full and we will send your application to the state to see if you are accepted and meet the requirements. This year our county is offering $91 for tax relief. You will be reimbursed the first time that $91. We'll automatically give you that tax relief year after year, but for the first time you will be reimbursed the amount of tax relief back to your home. But on the first when you pay your tax, we will take in the total amount of tax and then send your application to the state and wait for approval. So anytime between now and April 6th, 2009 you can sign up for tax relief. The state allows 35 days after our last day to collect taxes, which is February 28th, 2009. So April 6th is the last day to sign up for tax relief for 2008"

Eligibility requirements for Elderly Homeowners are as follows:

Must be 65 or older on or before December 31st, 2008
Must provide evidence of age (i.e. driver's license, birth certificate, marriage license)
Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence
Qualified applicants will receive property tax relief on the first $25,000 of their property's market value.
According to the deed of the property, Must have records of the combined 2007 income of all owners of the property not exceeding $24,790. Income (i.e. social security, SSI pension, etc)

Eligibility requirements for Disabled Homeowners are as follows:

Must have been totally and permanently disabled as rated by the Social Security Administration or any other qualified agency on or before December 31st, 2008
Must provide evidence of age (i.e. driver's license, birth certificate, marriage license)
Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence
Must have records of the combined 2007 income of all owners of the property not exceeding $24,790

Eligibility requirements for Disabled Veteran Homeowners and/or widow or widower:

Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence.
Your disability must meet one of the following categories:
A service-connected disability that resulted in (1) Paraplegia, (2) Permanent paralysis of both legs and lower part of the body resulting from traumatic injury or disease to the spinal cord or brain, (3) Loss or loss of use of, two or more limbs, and (4) Legal blindness.

A total and permanent disability rating from a service-connected disability

A 100% total and permanent disability rating from being a prisoner of war.

The Veteran's Administration Office determines eligibility from the applicant's information in the Trustee's Office forwarded to the State of Tennessee.

If you meet these requirements you may apply in the Trustee's Office as soon as you receive your property tax bill. The deadline to apply is 35 days after February 28th, 2009 or April 6th, 2009.

If you have any additional questions concerning the tax relief program, come by the Trustee's office in the courthouse or call 597-5176.

Firefighters Battle Thursday Wildland Fire

November 7, 2008
Wildland Fire

The DeKalb County Fire Department was called to a reported forest fire on Ponder Road near Center Hill Lake Thursday.

According to Lieutenant Brad Mullinax, when fire units arrived, they discovered about 10 acres of wildland was burning. DeKalb 911 also dispatched members of the Tennessee Division of Forestry to assist in controlling the fire.

The fire was in a remote location and no structures were in immediate danger. Firefighters worked vigorously for about 4 hours before finally containing the blaze which, by then, had burned approximately 20 acres.

The DeKalb County Fire Department responded with its brush truck and an engine from the Main Station. Due to the large extent of the fire, volunteers from across the county were called in to assist.

Police Stop Smithville Man for Speeding and Find Marijuana

November 7, 2008
Dwayne Page

A 40 year old Smithville man faces drug charges after recently being stopped by police for speeding

David Leon Pirtle of Gentry Avenue is charged with possession of a schedule VI controlled substance for sale and delivery. His bond is $25,000 and he will be in court on the charge November 13th.

In his report, Officer Matt Holmes states that "On October 30th on Highway 146, Pirtle was stopped for speeding. After Pirtle pulled into his driveway on Gentry Avenue, Officer Holmes approached the vehicle and saw Pirtle pushing something in his pants. Officer Holmes claims he asked Pirtle what he had in his pants and Pirtle pulled out a plastic bag containing one ounce of marijuana. A box of sandwich bags was also found in the vehicle. In addition to the box of Glad sandwich bags and marijuana, Officer Holmes also found scales.

Meanwhile, 28 year old Joseph Lovell of King Ridge Road was charged with driving on a suspended license on October 30th. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court November 13th.

Officer Matt Holmes, in his report, states that on October 30th on Highway 70, Lovell was operating a motor vehicle and was stopped for a seat belt violation. A computer check revealed his license was suspended.

41 year old Billy Wayne Neal of Morse College Road was charged with driving under the influence on Saturday, November 1st. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court on November 13th,

Officer Scott Davis reports that on November 1st at the Hardees parking lot, Neal was passed out behind the wheel of a vehicle. He had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. He performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks and be blew a .132 on a breathalyzer test.

Jonathan A. Bright of Hendersonville was charged with assault last Saturday. His bond is $1,000. Officer Travis Bryant reports that on Saturday, November 1st at 104 Windham Street, Bright assaulted a 17 year old boy by jumping out of his vehicle and hitting him several times in the face and head with his fists, causing the juvenile to need emergency treatment. After the assault, Bright got in his vehicle and left.

32 year old Fernando Ortega of Atnip Street was charged recently with no drivers license and cited for excessive noise, and for no registration and no insurance.

Officer Matt Farmer reports that Ortega was stopped on Short Mountain Street for excessive noise. Upon speaking with him, Ortega advised that he did not have a license. A computer check revealed that he has no license and only had an I.D.

Alderman Sullivan to Present Resolution on Public Comments at City Council Meetings

November 6, 2008
Dwayne Page

Smithville Alderman Tonya Sullivan is introducing a resolution to establish procedures for city residents to speak at city board meetings.

The proposed resolution may be discussed at the next city council meeting on Monday, November 17th at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

Alderman Sullivan says this resolution will provide and insure the following: Citizens will have three minutes to voice their concerns on any matter, citizens will have an opportunity to be heard before votes are cast by speaking at the beginning of the meeting, the "comments by citizens" session will be a part of the agenda, so that your voice will be heard. "I have a responsibility to the citizens of Smithville to establish a process for their voice to be heard. This resolution, if passed, will insure that citizens can speak on issues before the board votes. In the past, the board hasn't heard from the citizens until the end of the meeting and votes have already been cast. This resolution will benefit the public and the board. This has been a long time coming and is a much needed resolution. This resolution is to insure that the citizens of Smithville are always heard. I invite you to call the mayor and your aldermen and express your concerns. I encourage your attendance at the November 17th meeting and I will continue to be your voice. I will continue to stand up for you and I will continue to do my best for the city. Please, don't be silenced. Let your voice be heard. Contact the mayor's office and your city alderman and encourage them to vote for this resolution."

The proposed resolution states that " Whereas, in our system of representative government, the Mayor and City Board members are charged with the responsibility of informing themselves and making sound decisions that affect the lives of the citizens of Smithville; and

Whereas, it is a commonly accepted practice in Tennessee cities to provide an opportunity for citizens input, as part of the board meetings so long as such comments are not permitted to degenerate into debates between citizens and the Mayor or board members; and

Whereas, it is the desire of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Smithville that citizens be provided the opportunity to make comments at board meetings in accordance with established procedures; and

Now, therefore, be it resolved:

Citizens of the City of Smithville are hereby authorized to make comments at the beginning of each regular or special called meeting of the board, in accordance with the following:

The person desiring to speak should rise, address the Chair, and when recognized, state their name and address. Only residents of the City of Smithville shall be allowed to speak during the "comments by citizens" part of the board's agenda, unless requested to do so by the board.

After providing the required information, the person shall be allowed to speak for three minutes on any matter of concern to the citizen.

All citizens comments shall be directed to the Mayor. The Mayor may address questions to individual aldermen, but in no event will the citizen be permitted to call names, question the integrity or motive of individual aldermen, or make personal or derogatory comments.

It is the responsibility of the Mayor to maintain order at city board meetings."

Alderman Sullivan says "the citizens depend on the mayor and aldermen to conduct business in a fair and just manner. Listening to the citizens should always be our business."

DeKalb Foster Children's Fund Seeks Support

November 6, 2008
Dwayne Page

With the holiday season fast approaching, the Department of Children's Services is planning a visit from Santa for DeKalb County children in foster care.

Friends of DeKalb County Foster Children urge you to remember that not all children this Christmas will take part in a celebration with their own families. Children who have lived in an abusive or neglectful home will be sharing Christmas with their foster family, and for many, this means with strangers. Often these children wonder if Santa Clause has their new address, or whether or not he will bring them any gifts this year.

While the department is able to provide for everyday needs of children in state custody, there are not enough funds available to purchase Christmas gifts and for other special occasions such as birthdays and graduations. For this reason, foster care Christmas depends on the generosity of the general public.

Annette Greek, Treasurer for the DeKalb County Foster Children's Fund, says your support is needed for the 40 children from DeKalb County now in foster care. If you or your organization would be willing to help these children by providing a monetary donation, please make checks payable to "DeKalb County Foster Children Fund" and mail to: DeKalb County Foster Children Fund, Attention: Annette Greek, 400 West Public Square, Smithville, Tennessee 37166.

Greek says she will be glad to accept your cash donation at Webb's Drug Store.

Greek says since the ages of these foster children vary, a cash donation is preferable to gifts.

Red Cross Opens Office in Cookeville

November 5, 2008
Mary Frank Madera

The American Red Cross has opened a satellite office in Cookeville to better serve the residents of the Upper Cumberland Region.

The Nashville Area Chapter oversees services to 36 counties, including Putnam, DeKalb, Clay, Jackson, Overton, and White.

The new office will be located at One South Jefferson, Suite 201, Cookeville, in the old First National Bank building on the square and will be managed by Cookeville native, Mary Frank Madera (Swaim).

Madera returns to Middle Tennessee after serving the Chattanooga Area Chapter of the American Red Cross as Director of Development. Ms. Madera has held executive positions with diverse nonprofits including United Way, Cheekwood and TPAC. She is a graduate of Tennessee Technological University, the inaugural class of Leadership Putnam, and a 17-year Rotarian and current member of the Cookeville Rotary.

“I am so happy to be back home in Cookeville,” says Madera. “The Red Cross mission to prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters and other emergencies has never been greater.”

On its very first day, the Red Cross provided a canteen effort for volunteers in the Overton County search and rescue, assisted a retired Staff Sergeant through their Services to Armed Forces, and extended financial assistance to a family of three whose house had burned down the night before.

Madera hopes past volunteers will come by and say hello. “We need their experience not only to serve during crisis but to help us grow our services across the Upper Cumberland—ensuring that the Red Cross is there for our neighbors in their time of greatest need.”

The new office plans to also offer Lifesaving Skills Courses including CPR, First AID and Babysitter’s Training as well as volunteer orientation classes for Upper Cumberland residents who wish to become a trained Red Cross volunteer. The vision of the Nashville Area Red Cross is to recruit and train 10,000 volunteers throughout the region, making Middle Tennessee the safest and most prepared region in the country. This satellite office is another step towards that goal, as the Red Cross increases its presence in the Upper Cumberland.

The Red Cross Cookeville Office will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8 am – 4pm and can be reached at (931)528.3475.

For media inquiries, please contact Jill Gorin, Spokesperson for the Nashville Area Red Cross, at (615) 456-2250.

The Red Cross provides services to victims of disaster, such as a residential fire, flood, tornado and other emergencies. Other services include CPR/AED/First Aid training, services for our armed forces and their families, including mental health counseling and communication in the case of a death, birth, illness or emergency, and tracing for families separated from their loved ones due to civil unrest in their native country.

About the Nashville Area Red Cross: The Nashville Area Regional Chapter oversees 36 counties and six Red Cross community chapters in Middle Tennessee. The 17 counties served directly by the Chapter include: Cheatham, Clay, Davidson, DeKalb, Dickson, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, Van Buren, White and Wilson counties. The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization, led by volunteers, that provides relief to victims of disaster and helps people prevent, prepare and respond to emergencies. The American Red Cross is not a government agency. All disaster assistance is free, and is funded solely by local donations. To make a gift, call (615) 250-4264.

Farm Service Agency Committee Elections

November 5, 2008
Donny Green

Election ballots for the DeKalb Farm Service Agency’s local committee election have been mailed to all eligible voters in Local Administrative Area # 2, the western portion of DeKalb County. Ballots must be completed and returned in person or postmarked no later than December 1, 2008. The Committee will meet December 2 to canvass, tabulate, and elect a committee person to represent farmers in the western portion of DeKalb County (Local Administrative Area (LAA) #2, currently represented by County Committee Vice-Chairperson
Randy Campbell.

The farmer-elected committee is your voice in USDA’s programs here in DeKalb County. Members of the committee work with area farmers to maintain the local focus on many USDA programs, inform people of what’s available, and help producers understand how the programs work. “Committee members work to help shape national programs into working local programs,” says Donny Green, County Executive Director of the DeKalb County Farm Service Agency.

Jack Campbell was nominated as a candidate and will be the only candidate listed on the ballot. Write-in nominations are accepted and should be written on the official ballot. All candidates must meet eligibility requirements to hold the office on the Committee.

Once eligible voters receive their ballots, careful attention should be given to the instructions provided on the ballot that outline proper procedures for voting in this election. Voters can vote for only 1 nominee listed, or can write-in only 1 eligible candidate on the ballot. Voted ballots can be mailed back to the DeKalb FSA, or can be hand delivered to the FSA.

All ballots must be returned, or postmarked, by December 1 in order to be considered valid. Ballots will be opened and tabulated in a public meeting at the DeKalb County USDA Service Center, located at 647 Bright Hill Street in Smithville, at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, December 2. Contact the DeKalb County FSA office at 597-8225, ext. 2 for more information.

FSA committee elections are open to all voters without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, marital status, or disability.

McCain, Alexander, Gordon easily carry DeKalb County

November 4, 2008
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County voters chose John McCain, Lamar Alexander and Bart Gordon overwhelmingly in their respective races Tuesday.

McCain, the Republican Senator from Arizona, carried all 16 DeKalb County precincts, plus early voting and absentees to easily out-distance Illinois Senator, Barack Obama, in their race for the White House. McCain earned 4,085 votes in DeKalb County to 2,832 for Obama, the Democratic candidate.

Meanwhile, incumbent U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander also carried all 16 DeKalb County precincts, early voting and absentees, earning 3,914 votes to 1,861 for Democratic challenger, Robert D. Tuke. Incumbent Sixth District Congressman Bart Gordon also completed a clean sweep of DeKalb County, and led the local ticket with 4,852 votes to 1,108 for Independent challenger, Chris Baker.

A total of 7,190 DeKalb County voters turned out for the election, including 4008 early voters and absentees combined and 3,182 on election day for a total of 53.69%

Complete DeKalb County election return results can be found at http://www.wjle.com/node/37.

Weaver wins State Representative race

November 4, 2008
Dwayne Page
Terri Lynn Weaver

Republican Terri Lynn Weaver will succeed long-time Democratic State Representative Frank Buck in the House of Representatives from the 40th Legislative District.

Weaver defeated Democratic challenger, Cleveland Derrick Bain in all three counties of the district, and garnered 57-percent of the total vote. Weaver finished with 11,288 total votes to 8,540 for Bain, who earned 43-percent of the total vote. Ray Amalfitano, the Independent candidate, received 817 votes district-wide.

DeKalb County had the closest vote total in the race, as Weaver earned 3,223 votes to 3,188 votes for Bain, a difference of only 35 votes. The largest margin came from Macon County, where Weaver accumulated 4,098 votes to 2,095 votes for Bain. In Smith County, Weaver earned 3,967 votes to 3,257 votes for Bain.

Weaver carried 11 of the 16 DeKalb County precincts including Belk, Blue Springs, Cherry Hill, Dowelltown, Edgar Evins State Park, Johnson's Chapel, Liberty, Middle School, Rock Castle, Snow Hill, and Temperance Hall.

Bain carried 5 precincts including Alexandria, Church of Christ Annex, Courthouse, Elementary School, and Keltonburg. He also had a majority of the combined early/absentee vote.

A total of 7,190 DeKalb County voters turned out for the election, including 4008 early voters and absentees combined and 3,182 on election day for a total of 53.69%

Complete DeKalb County vote totals can be found at http://www.wjle.com/node/37.

City Leaders at Odds Over Allowing Public Comments at all Council Meetings

November 3, 2008
Dwayne Page

Should the public be allowed to speak at a city council meeting?

For years, the public has been given the opportunity to speak near the end of most, if not all, regular Smithville City Council meetings. However, Mayor Taft Hendrixson and City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. said Monday night that the council does not have to open the floor for public comments, except during a public hearing, which has been advertised. The mayor, at his discretion, may also grant a request from individuals to be included on the agenda, in advance, if they wish to speak to the board during a meeting.

Monday night as the aldermen concluded their business, Mayor Taft Hendrixson sought a motion to adjourn without asking for public comments. A move that didn't set well with three of the aldermen, especially Tonya Sullivan.

Alderman Steve White made a motion to adjourn and Alderman Cecil Burger offered a second to the motion, but when it was put to a vote, Aldermen Tonya Sullivan, Willie Thomas, and Jerry Hutchins' Sr. voted against adjourning the meeting. So for nearly twenty minutes, the meeting remained in session as the mayor and aldermen sat quietly around the meeting table with no business left to transact.

The discussion began as follows:

Mayor Hendrixson: "Since the board has nothing else, do I have a motion to adjourn?"

Alderman Sullivan: "No, I think you have to open it up to the public."

Mayor Hendrixson: "No ma'am, I don't have to."

Alderman Sullivan: "Is there some reason we're changing the format from what we normally do?"

Mayor Hendrixson: "When you open the floor, you need to probably announce, and Mr.(city) attorney you can tell me if I'm wrong on this, for a public hearing. When you open the floor, you have a public hearing. You have to advertise that you're going to have a public hearing and we haven't advertised that we're going to have a public hearing tonight on anything."

Alderman Sullivan: "I'm not sure why we're changing our format. That's all I'm asking. I wasn't aware we were changing that. I don't have anything else to add but we typically open it up to the floor. You normally give them three minutes to speak."

Mayor Hendrixson: "I think we may have been in error on that."

Alderman Sullivan: "For years?"

City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr.: " There's no reason that we have to open the floor to anything. If people want to put something on the agenda, I think you could have a policy to allow them, at some time before the meeting, to ask to be put on the agenda, but there's absolutely no reason to open it up. It may have been a custom but there's no law that says we have to open it up to the public."

Alderman Sullivan : "We tend to want people to be involved and then we don't want to allow any opportunity."

Mayor Hendrixson: "I think from here on out, If you want on the agenda just let me know and I'll get you on the agenda. You'll be on the agenda and we won't have to have a public hearing."

Alderman Sullivan : "That's normally at your discretion."

After the nearly twenty minute stalemate, Alderman Sullivan made the following motion. " Mr. Mayor, I make a motion that we allow the public to speak. I put that in the form of a motion that they are allowed at least five minutes to speak at the end of each meeting, when properly called upon. I put that in the form of a motion. If we need to advertise for a public hearing then we need to be advertising. These meetings are advertised and I will not be a part of silencing the audience or the citizens of Smithville. It's always been our policy that you allow, through the most heated times during my year of service, you have allowed the public to speak under your tenure and I will not be a part of you silencing them for whatever reason."

Mayor Hendrixson : "I'm not silencing them. They can get on the agenda if they like."

Alderman Sullivan : "Yes sir, but normally you call for people to speak, if they like to and I'm putting that in the form of a motion at this time. I've been here for the most heated discussions in a year's time and you never silenced anyone. You allowed everybody to speak. I've stayed here to nearly eleven o'clock at night at times to hear the public. That was their prerogative and their right and we need to be listening. I don't know if there's anybody here that has anything to say, but I think it is wrong to adjourn this meeting without giving the opportunity."

Mayor Hendrixson: "I think most every meeting from the state legislature on down, if you want to speak you need to get on the agenda."

Alderman Sullivan : "I put this in the form of a motion, to allow, at the end of a meeting, the public to ask questions if they desire or to speak if they desire (for) five minutes. You (mayor) limited them to three (minutes). Roberts Rules of Order says they can have up to ten (minutes). I think five minutes would be appropriate."

Aldermen Sullivan, Thomas, and Hutchins voted in favor of the motion.

Mayor Hendrixson then asked Sullivan, since her motion passed, if it went into effect immediately or at the next meeting.

Alderman Sullivan responded, "I won't adjourn this meeting until the public has an opportunity to speak."

Mayor Hendrixson then relented saying "I'll open it this one time, but I'm going to get directions from the attorney on whether it's considered a public hearing or not, before I will do it again."

Alderman Sullivan answered, "If it turns into a public hearing and we need to advertise then that's what we need to do. We don't need to change things in the middle of the stream."

Mayor Hendrixson then turned to the audience and asked if anyone wanted to speak to the board. No one did.

The meeting was then adjourned on a 5 to 0 vote.


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