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DeKalb County Celebrates National Public Health Week

March 27, 2019
By: Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Health Department is proud to be a part of National Public Health Week April 1-7, 2019. NPHW is about celebrating the power of prevention, advocating for healthy and fair policies, sharing strategies for successful partnerships and championing the role of a strong public health system.

“Improving the health of our residents is extremely important to us, and Public Health Week is an opportunity to remind everyone of the importance of public health in our communities,” said Michael Railling.”We look forward to continuing to work with our local partners to provide people with more opportunities to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The DeKalb County Health Department takes an active role in the health of DeKalb County residents through many primary prevention projects and programs to help prevent disease before it happens. These include:

  • Baby & Me Tobacco Free – helping pregnant women and new mothers stop smoking
  • TNSTRONG – Youth-led movement advocating for tobacco-free lifestyles
  • Community walking/biking trails
  • School Walk/Run Clubs
  • Women, Infants and Children, or WIC – supplemental nutrition for mothers and young children“In addition to primary prevention programs and projects, the DeKalb County Health Department provides numerous services including well-child exams, immunizations, birth and death certificates, and family planning,” said Michael Railling. “We encourage and invite the public to call or come by to learn about the many services we have to offer.” The DeKalb County Health Department is planning activities for National Public Health Week. The staff at the DeKalb County Health Department will be spending the day outdoors playing team building games, walking the TN Old 56 trail, and having a healthy lunch.National Public Health Week is sponsored by the American Public Health Association. Learn more at

Visit the Tennessee Department of Health online at

Connect with TDH on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn @TNDeptofHealth!

Alexandria May be Forced to Raise Water and Sewer Rates-City Under State Order to Submit Plan of Action

March 27, 2019
By: Dwayne Page

The Alexandria Mayor and Board of Aldermen are facing a decision they would rather not have to make. Raising water and sewer rates!

For at least four years Alexandria’s water and sewer fund has operated at a deficit which is in violation of state law.

During Tuesday night’s regular monthly meeting, Alexandria’s auditor, CPA John Poole addressed the mayor and aldermen with the concern.

“Our water and sewer systems combined have to show a profit at least every other year. In other words you can’t lose money two years in a row. That has occurred. You (city) lost money in 2017 and 2018. One of the things I know is going to be very difficult for this board is reviewing monies that are being spent and charged but right now we (city) are not in compliance with state rules,” said Poole.

If a utility continues to operate at a loss for more than two years, the state has the authority to force rate increases to make it solvent.

Alexandria is currently under an order from the state’s water and wastewater financing board to come up a plan for addressing the concern by April 19.

In the meantime, Alexandria has asked the municipal technical advisory service (MTAS) to prepare a rate analysis to essentially give the city guidance on how much rates should be adjusted.

Alexandria purchases the town’s water supply from the Smith County Utility District.

Over time revenues have not kept up with expenditures and the city has had other factors which have contributed to the problem including leaks in the system and a leak adjustment policy.

“We have a three and a half percent increase every year on the water we have been purchasing and we have not passed that on to the consumers,” said Elizabeth Tetlow, the city’s municipal financial officer and city recorder.

“We haven’t done it (raise water and sewer rates) in years and it is falling in our lap to correct it,” added Mayor Bennett Armstrong.

“We also had a leak adjustment policy which left the town holding the bag for money because we buy our water and it has to be paid for so we changed that policy and went to an insurance company that now covers the leaks exclusively,” said Tetlow.

In its minutes from a meeting in March, the state’s water and wastewater financing board addressed what it is seeking from Alexandria by April 19:

“Association of Utility Districts (“TAUD”), or another qualified expert to perform an updated rate analysis to include the following:

*A review of the $6.00 depreciation charge and the 11% overage increase that the Town recently implemented;

*A review of the cost of capital improvement projects and a rate structure to fund such projects;

*Creation of a capitalization policy;

*Creation of a five-year capital asset budget to be taken from the current capital asset list and to include future anticipated needs and a plan for implementing said budget; and

*A review of the current leak adjustment policy.

* The Town shall provide an update to Board staff with the updated rate analysis and an implemented or proposed plan of action by April 19, 2019”.

MTAS is expected to have the rate analysis study completed and in the hands of the mayor and aldermen by April 11.

A special meeting will be held that night (April 11) to determine what the city’s response will be to the state.

Meanwhile, the city’s engineer Jerry Warren of Warren and Associates said the city might be able to qualify for financial assistance in making improvements to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure.

“We have talked about several things regarding a plan of action. We have sent a priority ranking request letter in to the state’s revolving fund program. Hopefully we can get on their priority list which could open opportunities for funding through grants and loans. We have also discussed reviewing what is needed at the waste water plant to make improvements in  meeting discharge requirements under the new permit. Another consideration is installing automatic read meters because what we have found generally in other places where they have been installed is you realize an increase in revenue almost immediately upon putting them in because you start catching all the water that you lose through old meters and leaks at the meter,” he said.

In response to a question by aldermen Lloyd Dyer, Warren said the city has little choice but to adjust rates to satisfy the state’s order.

“If we can get the information in from the rate analysis and see what that says and if it is something we can manage as a town and implement that is what they (state) are looking for. They (state) really want you to do it (raise rates) without them having to direct that action. We don’t know exactly what that study is going to say yet but its never pretty when the state has to do it (raise rates),” said Warren.

Construction Begins on New 18,000 Square Foot Agriculture Center at Fairgrounds

March 26, 2019
By: Dwayne Page

A new 18,200 square foot agriculture center building is under construction at the DeKalb County Fairgrounds behind the commercial exhibit building.

When completed the center will serve as an indoor venue for farm and agriculture related events during the fair and throughout the year including a farmers market.  The fairgrounds will also be using five additional acres to expand parking.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture recently awarded a grant directly to the DeKalb County Fair Association to help fund the project.

According to Jeff McMillen, member of the Fair Board, the $400,000 center will be constructed in phases with the first phase (a new 100 x 150 square foot barn) expected to be finished by the end of May.

“We’re having to do this in phases because we don’t have the money to do the whole project at one time. Hopefully within a two to three year period we will have the total package completed. We’re looking at around $300,000 to $400,000 once we get the total building finished. Our goal is to get it useable for the cattle show and things of that sort for this year’s fair,” said McMillen.

The barn will feature a show arena for cattle shows and even small rodeos and horse shows. The agriculture center will also include a 40′ x 80’ heated and cooled space venue for exhibits and demonstrations during the fair and for meetings and activities throughout the year.

“It (exhibit hall) won’t be ready in time for this year’s fair but once completed we plan to use this portion of the center to display and exhibit during the fair agricultural related products grown or produced in DeKalb County.  Other times during the year, this area could be used or rented for various meetings. It will have a 2,200 square foot meeting area so there will be plenty of room for tables and chairs. It will have a small kitchen and concession area along with restrooms for men and women. It’s just another venue for people to rent space for events they have,” said McMillen.

Along with the grant and loans, the Fair Association is hoping to receive donations over time to help complete the new agriculture center. “This first phase we are doing just to get the building up and the concrete work done and all is going to cost about $220,000. We’re hoping to get enough donations and things of that sort over time to be able to fulfill other needs we have such as lighting, bathrooms and things like that,” McMillen continued.

McMillen said the new ag center will expand opportunities for showcasing more activities and events during the fair and will not replace any of the other current venues such as the Kenneth Sandlin Center or the Commercial Exhibit buildings. The existing barn will continue to be used for small events such as the poultry shows.

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