City Budget now a done deal!

June 24, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

A done deal!

During a special called meeting Thursday evening, the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen adopted on second and final reading following a public hearing passage of the budget ordinance for the 2022-23 fiscal year which begins July 1.

Water and sewer rates, which went up by 2% last year, will increase by 4% but city property tax rates will remain the same at 0.7523 cents per $100 of assessed value which is expected to generate $1,350,000.

The budget includes an 11% pay raise for all city employees.

The new water rates for city customers will be $7.70 per thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits will be $11.55 per thousand. City sewer customers will pay $7.17 per thousand. Tap fees are also being increased.

In addition to the employee raises, the mayor’s pay is being increased from $1,000 to $2,000 per month ($24,000 per year). Pay for each of the five city aldermen will also be doubled from $50 to $100 per meeting (regular and special meetings) and will include workshop meetings (up to $2,400 per year total budgeted for each member).

The new budget also includes the addition of a third paid firefighter (budgeted salary $35,131 plus benefits); making the part-time airport manager position full time (budgeted salary $40,000 plus benefits), increasing the salary of the golf pro shop/pool manager to ($36,000 plus benefits),increasing the 25 volunteer firefighters pay from $25 to $35 per call (total budget $70,000); purchasing a small garbage truck ($115,000), two police cars and related equipment ($82,000), a new roof for the city hall building ($100,000); two new heat and air units for the city hall building ($42,000); the refurbishment of the playground and benches at Green Brook Park ($48,000); tire changer and balancer for the public works department ($15,000); fire department portable radios, new air bags and controller, pickup truck, and site work training (total $61,000). Funds are also included for street paving ($335,000 including $250,000 grant); $699,012 in an obstruction clearing grant for the airport; Fixed asset water and sewer department additions: meter reading software ($12,000), tube settlers ($30,000), and replacement of sewer lines ($703,000 using half of the Federal American Rescue Plan Act Grant Funding).

Through a longstanding agreement, the City of Smithville, DeKalb County Government, and the DeKalb School District, share in the annual cost of paying two traffic control officers in the school zones mornings and afternoons (during the school year) at Northside Elementary School and at DeKalb Middle School/DCHS. The positions are filled by two constables who each earn $17 per hour up to 440 hours per year. Subject to final approval of the funding bodies, the city, county, and school district this year are budgeting an increase in their share of the cost to bring the constables up to $20 per hour for this service.
The city’s annual contribution the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad is increasing from $2,000 to $3,000 with passage of this budget.

General Fund Debt Service for the new police department building is projected to be $172,550 for the year including $100,000 in principal payments and $72,550 in interest on long-term debt.

According to the budget, the city general fund is projected to finish the 2022-23 year with a $244,440 surplus but the surplus for the water and sewer fund is expected to be only $6,403 by June 30, 2023.

Ending cash by June 30, 2022, in the general fund is estimated to be $5,873,189 and $3,803,848 in the water and sewer fund.

Paraplegic driver involved in car crash found with large amount of drugs

June 23, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

The paraplegic driver involved in a one car crash Wednesday on Highway 70 at Snow Hill was found with a large amount of marijuana, Fentanyl, and cocaine.

29-year-old Dajuion Shaw of Lavergne was airlifted from near the crash scene and flown to Vanderbilt Hospital. Criminal charges are pending because of the drugs found on him.

According to Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Shaw was traveling east on Highway 70 driving recklessly and at a high rate of speed in a 2018 Infinity. As he was trying to pass several vehicles in the turning lane, he lost control and ran off the right side of the road into a ravine before hitting a rock embankment and overturning in the yard of 3697 Nashville Highway. Shaw used hand controls to operate the car.

Shaw had a backpack which held a large bag of marijuana and some empty baggies believed to be for resale packaging. Shaw also had on a diaper which held a baggie containing a large amount of Fentanyl pills along with powder cocaine and crack cocaine.

Members of the DeKalb County Fire Department, Sheriff’s Department, and EMS were also on the scene.

Budget Committee Supports Funding for Full-Time Soil Conservation District Tech Position

June 22, 2022
By: Dwayne Page

Should the county budget funding for a full-time technician with the DeKalb County Soil Conservation District? Yes, according to the county budget committee who voted earlier this month to include money in the 2022-23 budget for the position, but the good news is the county would not have to go it alone. The county, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service would share in funding it.

If approved by the county commission, the county would budget $38,817 including salary and benefits but would be reimbursed $21,000. The actual cost to the county would be $17,817.

Richard Hanson, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) district conservationist for DeKalb and Cannon Counties, addressed the county budget committee with this request last month.

Hanson said the technician position is needed to help the district provide more services to local farmers and landowners.

“The district has been presented with an opportunity to develop a cost shared District Technician position that would administer state and federal conservation cost share programs. The way the cost share positions usually work is that the county would create an employee position and provide at least $9,000 annually toward it. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture would give the county $9,000 annually toward the position and the NRCS would provide $12,000 annually. Additionally, the NRCS would provide the county employee daily supervision, office space, a computer, IT support, training, access to a vehicle and access to all the necessary online NRCS tools to complete state and federally funded conservation projects,” said Hanson.

“The Soil Conservation Service works with farmers and landowners to preserve the natural resources of the county through a partnership between the USDA, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and the DeKalb Soil & Water Conservation District,” said Hanson. “The district and these partners administer funds that are allocated to them from the USDA, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, US Fish and Wildlife, and other agencies but we need people to do the work. This grant opportunity will provide the state with more technicians to deal with the intensifying needs of agriculture and soil erosion that we have noticed across the state and southeast in general. We need more technicians on the ground because our work is becoming more intense and harder to do,” said Hanson. “Currently DeKalb County has one district employee that is our secretary/office administrator. Through USDA and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, we would be able to receive grant money toward adding a Soil Conservation Technician in the local office,” Hanson continued.

Hanson said Soil & Water Conservation projects already bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the county and adding this position would help generate even more revenue to the local economy. Hanson provided the following data for the last five years: 2017: $263,000; 2018: $309,473; 2019: $148,057; 2020: $529,115.00; and 2021: $371,422 totaling (over five years): $1,621,067.00.

“Our office brings money into the county through Tennessee Department of Agriculture, USDA, and US Fish and Wildlife grants, among other sources and all of that money brought in is spent locally and used in the community on local farms, forestry, cattle grazing, and row cropping operations among others,” said Hanson. “For 2022 the office in DeKalb County alone is to bring in $525,000 in conservation assistance programs and that is using me (Hanson) and one other person. We could be doing a lot more work for the county and our customers by adding a technician. As of right now my primary focus is USDA programs which means we leave a lot of money on the table with TDA programs. The primary goal of the technician position is to help us increase our spending through TDA programs to get more money going into the local economy by assisting more farmers and landowners. We only spend about $30-40 thousand dollars right now of TDA money. We could spend probably $150-200 thousand dollars easily if we had a technician,” said Hanson.

“We work with farmers on natural resource conservation. A lot of the work is geared toward water and soil quality improvements. We look at the health of the watershed and allocate funds to projects that might help water and soil health and agricultural operations in the water shed such as fencing cattle out of creeks, providing alternative water sources like hooking farmers up to a city water tap or drilling a well and providing them watering facilities for their animals. We also do cover cropping and offer forest help in this area. We have a degrading hardwood health problem in the state, so we work to help people with invasive species eradication, forest management plans, and anything related to natural resource protection,” said Hanson.

If the county commission decides to fund the technician position as recommended by the budget committee, that person would be considered a county employee but serve under the direction of the DeKalb County Soil Conservation District Board of Directors.

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