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Smithville Denied $1 Million Grant for New Sidewalk Construction

June 30, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

The City of Smithville’s plans to build new sidewalks and improve pedestrian crossings with up to $1 million in grant funding will have a wait a little longer.

During a special meeting Thursday evening, June 25 Mayor Josh Miller informed the aldermen that the city’s grant for a Tennessee Department of Transportation Multi-Modal Access Grant has been denied.

This program is a 95/5% match for construction of up to $1 million. If fully funded, the city would have received $950,000 in grant funding with a $50,000 local match requirement for construction of new sidewalk and crosswalk improvements along the State Route 26 (Highway 70) and State Route 56 (Congress Boulevard) corridors and intersections. Ragan-Smith Associates of Nashville designed the project at a cost of up to $5,000.

“We were not successful in getting the Multi-Modal Grant this year and one of the reasons they said we were not successful is because the gap is so long where there is nothing (sidewalks) and it (grant application) didn’t score high enough,” said Mayor Miller.

The city plans to change the scope of the project and re-apply for the grant next year. Another company, James C. Haley of Nashville, will handle the design and engineering for this project with no up-front fees. Haley would be paid for services rendered only if the city gets the grant.

“The scope of this project would be sidewalks so far out Highway 70 (Sparta Highway) and possibly redoing the intersection on Highway 56/70. Maybe, if there is money left, doing something on the Short Mountain Highway/Highway 70 intersection as well to dress it up,” added Mayor Miller.

If approved the city could get up to $950,000 in grant funding with a local match of $50,000.

The grant application will be filed and if approved be administered on behalf of the City by the Upper Cumberland Development District.

In other business, Renee Steff has been appointed to succeed Dr. Steven Cooper as a member of the Smithville Industrial Development Board. Cooper has resigned.

In Public Works, Tyler Fulton has been hired at Greenbrook Park to replace another worker who has resigned and Michael Wiley will be going to work in the sanitation department to replace Darrell Atkins who has retired.

In the Police Department Cody Jenkins has been hired as a patrol officer. He comes from the Watertown Police Department.

Officer Brandon Donnell has been promoted to detective to fill a vacancy.

Officer Will Judkins has been promoted to the rank of sergeant and Officer Tyler Patterson will become a corporal in charge of the Field Training Officer (FTO) program.

Sergeant Travis Bryant will be going back to patrolman.

New City Budget Year Begins Wednesday, July 1 with No Property Tax or Water/Sewer Rate Increases

June 30, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

Funding for construction of a new police department building and the creation of another paid firefighter position are among the extras included in the new 2020-21 fiscal year budget which was adopted on second and final reading Thursday night, June 25 by the Smithville Board of Aldermen during a special called meeting.

The vote was 5 to 0.

After a 25 cent property tax increase a year ago, the city apparently has ample funds in the general budget to operate for the next year. The city ended the fiscal year in June 2019 at $38,235 in the red. By the close of the 2020 fiscal year on June 30, the city is projected to finish in the black by $366,685 and by $394,596 in June 2021.

The largest city spending project is construction of a new police department building.

Although the city general fund is in good financial condition, the water and sewer fund, at least on paper, is a different story.

Water and sewer rates were last increased in 2017 yet the city is about to finish its second year operating in the red which may force the mayor and aldermen to take another look at rates again next year (2021-22) .

According to the budget, the city’s water and sewer fund finished in the hole by $72,748 in 2019 and is projected to be in the red by $164,233 come June 30, 2020. Next year the problem is expected to be even worse finishing at a deficit of $217,013. But those numbers are somewhat deceiving in that revenues are projected to actually exceed cash expenditures next year by almost $550,000 not counting depreciation. However the state requires a utility to account for depreciation even though it is a non cash expense. When the city’s water and sewer depreciation expense totaling $795,000 is figured into the equation along with the cost of a new Ford F150 pickup truck at $28,000 the department is then expected to show a loss of $217,013.

Under state law, if a utility continues to operate at a loss for more than two years and doesn’t address it, the state has the authority to force rate increases to make it solvent. The mayor and aldermen may soon commission a rate analysis to essentially give the basis for a plan of action to address the concern should the state’s water and wastewater financing board become involved.

The proposed budget keeps the property tax rate at 89.9 cents per $100 of assessed value. Current water and sewer rates will be kept at the same level. City water customers currently pay $7.25 per thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are $10.88 per thousand. City sewer customers pay $6.75 per thousand gallons.

The new budget also includes funding for:

* A 2% cost of living pay raise for city employees except for police officers stepping to a higher level on the department’s five tier wage scale

*Another paid firefighter position at $31,636 base salary (Plus benefits)

*2 new Dodge Charger police cars: $62,000

*New chipper truck with bed for the street department: $60,000

*New pickup truck for the fire department: $35,000

*$150,000 for street paving

* State COVID-19 grant: $135,774 to be spent as follows :$70,000 for tornado warning sirens, $43,000 for 16 air bottles and 10 sets of turnout gear for the city fire department, $14,000 for city hall roof repairs, $2,000 for two in car radios for the police department, and $5,500 for office computers at city hall.

* Airport: $527,725 grant for obstruction clearing.

* $35,000 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for cost of repairs being made at Center Hill Dam. Under federal law, water utilities permitted by the Corps to draw water from lakes, including Center Hill are required to share in the costs for making repairs. Smithville is authorized to draw from the lake approximately two million gallons of water a day.

Although E911 director Brad Mullinax had requested the city up its annual contribution to the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District by $45,000 to fund another dispatcher position, the city will keep its contribution at the same level of $120,000 this coming year with no increase.

Construction Expected to Begin Soon on New Smithville Police Department Building

June 30, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

Construction is expected to begin this summer on a new Smithville Police Department building.

City officials have already adopted a new budget and bond resolutions to secure funding but efforts continue to cut costs of the projected $2.7 million project without sacrificing needs.

Mayor Josh Miller and Police Chief Mark Collins said Thursday night, June 25 that they have received good news on that front from Wayne Oakley of Studio Oakley Architects, LLC of Lebanon who designed the proposed building, prepared construction documents, and assisted the city in putting the project out for bids.

“What he (Oakley) told me on the phone is that as of right now the project has been cut to $2,414,000 but he believes that when all is said and done the final cost would be around $2,380,000 with all the changes he and I have made. For example we changed the tile and counter tops. They were able to change some of the design in the roof. It had 10 foot ceilings but that has been changed. We did all that without changing the design. It is still very functional,” said Chief Collins.

“It looks like right now the savings is $270,000 but he (Oakley) said all the numbers are not in and he thinks the savings will be a little bit more. He told the Chief and I to allow for $2.4 million. That is close to a $300,000 savings,” said Mayor Miller.

The cost of furnishings to the new building are not included in the construction project.

Mayor Miller said the contractor is ready to go to work and could get started right away once the city is ready to proceed.

In May, the aldermen voted unanimously to adopt a debt management policy and an initial bond resolution in preparation for the issuance of bonds. The vote was 4 to 1 on the more detailed bond resolution which actually authorizes the issuance and sale of general obligation improvement bonds not to exceed $2.7 million. Alderman Brandon Cox voted against it. The action came prior to first reading passage of the city budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year which includes debt service funding of $172,310 or less for the first year of the project with a projected payout schedule over 20 years The budget was adopted on second and final reading last Thursday night, June 25 to take effect July 1.

The Boyce Ballard Construction Company of Murfreesboro had the lowest bid on the new police department project at almost $2.7 million for a total roofed area of 12,800 square feet which includes a 1,400 square foot sally port.

Plans are to build the new police department on the north side of the city hall/fire department complex at Don Cantrell Street on land donated to the city.

The proposed facility encompasses a front lobby, records clerk office, hallways, three holding cells, armory, conference and training rooms, offices for the chief, captain, detectives, and other officers, rooms for records, evidence, investigations, filing reports, locker room, electrical room, closets, restrooms, break room, and a sally port.

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