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City Seeks to Resolve Differences with Animal Coalition (View facebook video of meeting here)

February 1, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen will soon have a workshop meeting with leaders of the DeKalb Animal Coalition to resolve differences between the parties especially on the issue of taking in dogs at the shelter from anywhere in the county.

Since late October, stray dogs from outside the city limits of Smithville have not been picked up or accepted at the DeKalb Animal Shelter and that will remain the policy pending the outcome of the upcoming workshop between city officials and the animal coalition.

The decision to no longer pick up or accept county dogs was made based on a motion by Alderman Brandon Cox during a special called meeting of the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen Thursday night, October 29 following a work session meeting with Marsha Darrah and Sue Puckett, Board members of the DeKalb Animal Coalition who opposed the city’s action.

City officials expressed concern with the liability and city expense of sending city employees out into the county for the purposes of animal control.

“My biggest concern is our (city) employees having to go out into the county to get these animals. All the while they are on the clock for the city using city equipment with city liability. I don’t think that is appropriate without the county being involved. We are mandated by statute for animal control in the city but not in the county. My problem is when they get called out into the county, there is no way for them to take off their city hat and put on a county hat so we have crossed boundaries here that are legally fuzzy and dubious at best. I think for our city employees we don’t need to be answering those county calls until this is straightened out,” said Alderman Cox at the October special meeting.

Although Alderman Cox now says he never intended for the city to ban all county dogs from the shelter, at the October meeting Cox made the following motion:

“I make a motion that the city employees at the animal shelter no longer go out into the county to pick up animals and that no county animals be accepted at the shelter at this time.” 

County animals already being housed at the shelter at the time of this action in October were allowed to remain there.

Alderman Danny Washer offered a second to the motion and it was approved on a voice vote of the council.

Based on Cox’s motion and the board’s action at the October meeting, shelter operators stopped accepting dogs from outside the city limits of Smithville.

During Monday night’s meeting (February 1), Alderman Cox tried to clarify his intentions. “I think there was a motion I made and it carried regarding pickup of animals in the county. The intent was that city employees and city equipment wouldn’t be used to pickup animals in the county but the result has been there has been no county animals taken at all,” he said.

“I think we need to have an actual sit down and an open discussion in a workshop on how to move this forward. Our end goal is to have an animal shelter and animal control that is high quality, which nobody has said anything other than this is a high quality shelter, but also meets the needs of the city and county and has some clarity as to whose rights and responsibilities are out there. I would like to ask anybody from the coalition to come to an open workshop with us, sit down and put everything on the table and see if we can resolve this because I think where this is headed without open communication is somebody is going to terminate something and we are all going to end up in court. My position on this is that everybody has the same goal in mind. We have a common problem and a common goal and we may  disagree on how to get there but we can’t ever agree on how to get there unless we sit down and talk,” said Alderman Cox.

Alderman Washer suggested that the county (county mayor and or members of the county commission) also be invited to the workshop to participate in the discussion.

The DeKalb Animal Shelter opened in November 2017 on Transfer Station Road behind Tenneco Automotive under the guidance of the DeKalb Animal Coalition, a non-profit organization, with a mission to provide a safe location for neglected, abandoned and abused animals; to provide an alternative low-kill policy so these animals receive medical attention, reduce overpopulation, and be cared for until they can be placed in homes. The new shelter replaced an old dilapidated dog pound which the city operated and staffed on Smith Road.

The two full time employees who work at the new shelter, Director Megan Moore and Emmaly Bennett are employed by the City of Smithville. The Coalition also funds a part time employee. The city provides a truck for the shelter which is used for animal transports and the city has other expenses related to the shelter as specified in a 99 year lease which the city entered into with the Coalition in 2015. The original agreement was for the city to fund only one full time and a part time employee but that was later changed due to the workload.

Both the City of Smithville and the DeKalb County Government appropriated $75,000 for construction of the shelter and the Coalition raised funds and borrowed money to complete it.

“We (Coalition) spent $150,000 on that building in addition (to what the city and county appropriated),” said Sue Puckett at the October meeting.

Also under a memorandum of understanding with the county, the Coalition is to pick up animals for the county when a request is made from the county mayor’s office or the sheriff’s department at a fee of $110 but city officials say the City of Smithville is not a party to that agreement.

Marsha Darrah told the mayor and aldermen at the October meeting that the Coalition was organized to serve all municipalities in the county.

“You’ve got a beautiful building and a well run shelter which is much better than what you had before” said Darrah.

City officials say the City of Smithville has more than done its part.

“In fiscal year 2015 (before the new shelter was built) we spent roughly $60,000. In 2016 we spent $63,071. In 2017 we spent $64,000. In 2018, not counting the $75,000 that we gave toward building the shelter, we spent $118,372. In 2019 we spent $103,000 and in 2020 we have spent almost $115,000 so we have almost doubled what the city has been spending since before the building was built and what we have been contributing,” said Janice Plemmons-Jackson, the city’s financial advisor at the October meeting.

“What we committed to originally was one full time and a part time employee, a vehicle and utilities. In addition to that you have some salary payroll taxes, insurance, retirement, repairs and maintenance, supplies, uniforms, the vehicle operation, and we do insure the building. They (Coalition) insure the contents, etc. So our costs have doubled yet we are getting no revenue (from the shelter). I don’t see a whole lot of what they are contributing other than they have got the building in place for us,” said Jackson.

At the time (October) 67% of the animals coming to the shelter were from the county.

The lease/contract as adopted between the City of Smithville and the Animal Coalition in 2015 specified the following terms and conditions:

* The City is to lease to the Coalition the property for a term of 99 years beginning September 1, 2015 and ending August 31, 2114.

*The City shall pay to the Coalition the sum of $75,000 that has been appropriated for one-half of the anticipated cost for the erection of the animal shelter upon the land leased by the City to the Coalition.

*The Coalition shall be responsible for the erection of the building

*The City agrees to pay all utility bills connected with or which may accumulate directly or indirectly to Coalition’s term of occupancy.

*The City agrees that it shall be liable for and make all maintenance and structural repairs for the outside of the building, including roof and the heating and air conditioning units, except if caused by the negligence of the Coalition. The Coalition shall be responsible for maintenance of the inside of the building.

*The City shall not be responsible for any personal property placed on the premises by the Coalition, its agents, servants or employees, and it is understood and agreed that it is the Coalition’s responsibility to secure appropriate insurance to cover its personal property from any losses. Any personal property remaining on the premises 30 days after termination of this lease shall be and become the property of the City.

*The City shall insure the building with a reputable insurance company in a sufficient amount to replace the building if destroyed by natural disaster, fire, or other means.

*The City shall continue to provide to the Coalition the full time employee, as well as the part time employee and the animal control vehicle, to assist in the day-to day operation of the animal shelter and will budget funds for this purpose from year to year, subject to approval of the Coalition.

*The Coalition will maintain proper shelter and care for all domestic and wild animals and fowl that come into its custody.

*The Coalition will maintain suitable office hours at the animal shelter for the convenience of the public and for the purpose of transacting business in connection with the duties under this lease and for the purpose of receiving animals or for accepting applications for the redemption of impounded animals.

*The Coalition will, through duly appointed and legally qualified agents and officers, diligently enforce all animal regulation laws and ordinances and will capture and impound animals found running at large in the City in violation of those certain ordinances relating to stray animals and to the restraint of dogs running at large.

*The Coalition will provide proper food, water, shelter, and other humane treatment for such animals and fowl while they are in the Coalition’s possession and until placed or otherwise humanely disposed of by the Coalition.

*The Coalition will cooperate with the Health Department by following procedures required by the ordinance concerning persons or animals bitten by an animal in the City.

*The Coalition will investigate all reports of violations of City ordinances relating to animal control and regulation and, when warranted by the facts, shall cause to be prosecuted all persons charged with violation of said ordinances.

*The Coalition will be responsible for scheduling and overseeing all volunteers and staff.

*The Coalition will be responsible for providing foster homes and the adoption of the animals.

*The Coalition agrees to indemnify and keep harmless the City from all losses, damages, liabilities and expenses which may arise or be claimed against the City and be in favor of any person arising from the use or occupancy of said premises by the Coalition or arising from any acts, omissions, neglect or fault of Coalition, Coalition’s agent, employees or invitees.

*The Coalition agrees to take out and maintains public liability insurance with a reputable insurance company against property damage, personal injury, or death arising out of the use or occupation of the leased premises. The City shall be named as co-insured on all such policies, and Coalition shall furnish the City with a certificate of said coverage. Such coverage shall not be decreased or canceled without 30 days’ written notice to the City. All such policies shall be written as primary policies. This section shall not affect the indemnity or hold harmless provision in Section 17.

*The Coalition will collect all board, adoption, and impoundment fees and shall keep proper financial records to account for same. The Coalition will permit the City, at all reasonable times, to inspect and audit such records and shall make such reports of monies received as shall be required.

*The Coalition shall keep full and accurate records of all animals taken into custody and impounded, showing the date, place, reason, and manner whereby animals were brought into custody with a description of the animal and a record of its final disposition.

*The Coalition shall, in addition to the other duties outlined herein, be subject to call to rescue any injured animal or any animal or creature which is trapped, or is other unnaturally restrained and shall be responsible for providing humane treatment for same.

*The City hereby reserves the right to inspect the premises occupied by Coalition at any reasonable time.

*In the event the property is destroyed by fire or other acts of God or perils, the City is obligated to rebuild the building with the insurance proceeds, and, when rebuilt, this lease shall continue. Upon destruction or condemnation of all or a portion of the demised premises, the Coalition shall have the right, at its sole discretion, to stay at the premises or to cancel this agreement, on 30 days’ written notice without any further liability.

*In the event of failure of the Coalition to perform the terms and provisions of this lease, same shall constitute a breach of this lease and shall give the City, at option, the right to declare this lease forfeited, without notice or demand, and to take possession of said property and to recover any damages sustained as a result thereof, and, likewise, a failure on the part of the City to perform the terms and provisions of this lease shall give the Coalition the right to declare this lease forfeited and vacate said property without liability resulting from such breach.

*The property herein leased and the contract herein is not to be subleased, sold, mortgaged, or assigned by the Coalition, except with the written consent of the City. However, the City shall not unreasonably withhold or delay such consent.

*This agreement is to be governed by the laws of the State of Tennessee, and it is mutually understood and agreed to by the parties hereto that the City will defend this contract with all due and proper diligence should it be challenged by any action in law.

*City covenants and agrees with the Coalition that upon Coalition observing and performing all the terms, covenants, and conditions herein that the Coalition may peaceably and quietly enjoy the premises hereby demised.

*All covenants, promises, and agreements herein contained shall be binding upon, apply, and inure to the benefit of the devisees and successors of the parties hereto.

*This agreement contains the entire contract and agreement of the parties hereto and is signed in duplicate by the authorized officials of each party, with each party holding an executed copy hereof.“

DeKalb Health Department Announces COVID Self Testing

February 1, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Health Department will be offering COVID-19 self-testing opportunities to adults beginning Monday, February 1.

The Everlywell testing will be available on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. From 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. The self-tests are not approved for children under age 18. Anyone unable to register online can still receive standard COVID-19 tests on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. at no charge.

For the Everlywell testing:

*Persons must be 18 years of age or older to test
*Must have a smartphone to register your test and put in your information
*Need to have a working email
*Test yourself
*Results come back in 3-5 business days

Standard Covid-19 Testing will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.
*All ages can be tested
*Nurse will administer the test
*Results come back in 24-48 hours

DeKalb Jobless Rate increased to 7.3% in December

February 1, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

The latest jobless numbers show unemployment increased in each of Tennessee’s counties during December 2020, according to new data released by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD).

DeKalb County’s jobless rate for December was 7.3%, up from 5.7% in November, 2020 and 3.9% in December 2019.

The local labor force for December 2020 was 7,755. A total of 7,190 were working and 565 were unemployed.

There were six counties with an unemployment rate of less than 5% in December, 88 counties had rates greater than or equal to 5%, and one county had a rate higher than 10%.

Williamson County recorded December’s lowest unemployment rate among Tennessee’s 95 counties. The rate did increase 0.9 of a percentage point during the month to 4.2%. One year ago, Williamson County’s jobless rate was 2.1%.

Lake County had the state’s highest unemployment rate for the month. At 10.6%, the county’s rate increased by 2.5 percentage points in December. The new rate is 5.5 percentage points higher than it was in December 2019.

Statewide, unemployment increased in December. The preliminary, seasonally adjusted rate for December came in at 6.4%, an increase of 1.2 percentage points from November’s revised rate of 5.2%.

Nationally, unemployment held steady between November and December at 6.7%.

Tennessee employers are searching for employees to keep their businesses moving forward as the state’s economy continues to rebound. There are currently more than 230,000 open positions posted on the state’s workforce development website,

TDLWD also offers the Tennessee Virtual American Job Center (VAJC). The new website located at allows Tennesseans to research different programs, from different state agencies, that can help them remove barriers to employment so they can move back into the workforce.

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