Local News Articles

Smithville Walmart Employee Claims Discrimination in Lawsuit

October 9, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville Walmart Employee Claims Discrimination in Lawsuit

A Cookeville woman, who works as an invoice associate at the Smithville Walmart store, is one three Tennessee women suing Walmart. Shawn Gibbons, like the other two women, is claiming she "was discriminated against because of my gender in both pay and promotions".

Gibbons alleges in the lawsuit filed Tuesday, October 2 in U.S. District Court that she was paid less than men who performed the same jobs and that she has been denied entry into the management trainee program.

Gibbons' complaint states as follows "On or about October 1993, I started working as an Associate at the Cookeville store. On or about September 2001, I transferred to the store in Athens, Alabama. In June 2003, I was transferred to the store in Sparta as an instock Guarantor. In October 2003, I was then transferred to the store in Algood and in January 2004, I was transferred to the store in Huntsville, Alabama. In March, 2004, I was transferred back to the store in Algood as an Office Associate/Instock Guarantor. Throughout the rest of 2004 until October 2006, I traveled for weeks at a time in many stores throughout Tennessee, such as Ashland City, Camden, Soddy Daisy, Athens, Jamestown, Cookeville, and Jacksboro. In October, 2006, I transferred to the store in Smithville as an Office Associate, where I am currently employed. Prior to starting at Wal-Mart, I had six years of retail experience working for Roses stores and Kmart."

"During the eight years I was in the Cookeville store, it was my understanding that the male employees were often paid more than women. Several different men who spoke with me told me that they made between $1.00 and $2.00 more per hour than I was making, even though they had the same jobs. There are males that have been with the company less than five years and they make almost as much as I do even though I have been with the company almost 18 years. When I asked management about the discrepancies in pay, they just brushed me off and told me that they were not allowed to discuss pay. It was also much more difficult for women to get merit raises than it was for men, who seemed to get them easily. When women wanted a merit raise, it would be for 25 or 50 cents. Men could simply request a raise and their pay would be increased by up to two dollars at a time. From my experience at Wal-Mart, I believe that the disparity in pay that I witnessed is part of a broader pattern or practice of denial of equal pay to women in my store, district, and region. I believe that this unfair disparity in pay lasted for the duration of my employment with Wal-Mart."

"On or about 1995, I became a Department Manager in the Floral Department of the Cookeville store. In 1999, I first tried to get into the Management Training Program. Management told me and several other women who were also interested that we needed to have more experience as department managers before we would be eligible. At the time I started with Wal-Mart, I already had six years of retail experience, and by the time I applied for the Management Training Program, I had been a department manager for at least four years, having managed both the Floral Department and the Garden Center. Further, I had helped with multiple store set-ups, remodels, and relocations. All this was not enough, according to the District Manager, to qualify me for the program. Male applicants, however, never seemed to have a problem being accepted into the program even without these qualifications. Nine times out of ten, all the available spots in the program were filled with males. Some of the successful male candidates had only two years of experience at Wal-Mart and no prior retail experience. Even though the District Manager told me I didn't have enough experience to be accepted into the program, he accepted three males with less experience than I had. I again applied to enter the Management Training Program in 2003, and was once more deterred by the District Manager. He explained to me that I would have to accept a $2,000 pay cut in order to enter the program. Even though I had been a loyal and hardworking employee of Wal-Mart for ten years and had won several awards for improving the sales of the departments I was managing, I was told I would have to accept a lower pay rate, comparable to male employees with significantly less experience and tenure that were just starting in the program. By 2006, I had requested many times to be entered into the Management Training Program and had become so frustrated with the process that I gave up applying. To further illustrate how Wal-Mart discriminated against me with respect to promotions, my current store manager, was previously my associate in Cookeville. He had a college degree and was allowed to move up in the company while I was not. Through all the years, I have worked at Wal-Mart, all but one store manager has been male. I believe that I, and other female employees who were similarly situated, have been discriminated against because of our sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended."

This lawsuit is the third of its kind against Walmart in the country in the past year. The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a class action lawsuit in 2011 representing 1.6 million women who worked at Walmart on the grounds that their allegations were too varied to show the company engaged in a specific nationwide pattern and practice of gender bias.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told the AP that the company has strong policies banning discrimination. "As we have said all along, these claims are unsuitable for class treatment because the individual situations are so different and because the claims of these three people are not representative of the hundreds of thousands of women who work at Walmart," Hargrove told the AP.

7th Annual History Hayride Saturday at Edgar Evins State Park

October 8, 2012
History Hay Ride
Re-enactors portray Historical characters
History Hayride Features Re-enactors

Reservations are now being taken for the Seventh History Hayride at Edgar Evins State Park, which will be held on Saturday, October 13 starting at 2 p.m. Admission is still only $10 per person, including light refreshments, for this wholesome family friendly event. Participants are asked to arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled wagon departure time for registration and other pre-loading activities.

The History Hayride sells out early every year so take time to make your reservations now by calling the park office at (931) 858-2114 or toll free at 1-800-250-8619. Cash or checks are due at the event, with a non-refundable advance deposit required for groups of four or more.

There will be nine wagon loads running about 30 minutes apart, stopping at ten or eleven sites where costumed re-enactors will portray characters and scenes representative of the history of the park and the area. The wagon trip will last approximately 90 minutes, departing from and returning to the Visitors Center where there will be cozy seating around the campfire and refreshments served inside.

Honoring the observance of the 150 year anniversary of the War Between the States there will be some new characters from that time period as well as some of the old favorites. “Old” characters include The Black Widow of Hazel Green (played by a new actress), Milton the Moonshiner, Mrs. Roley League, the Bible carrying, pistol packing mama of two Civil War soldiers, and Luke Denney, the legendary moonshine hauler.. Some of the new characters are local Civil War soldier, Captain Prettyman “Purt” Jones, and the lucky boy who found a valuable pearl in a mussel shell out of the Caney Fork.

The History Hayride is presented by the Friends of Edgar Evins State Park, along with park and other TN State employees. Fount Bertram, President of the Friends of Edgar Evins State Parks, suggests people dress warmly in layers and bring a blanket for the hayride as it tends to get chillier on the wagons with winds coming off the lake. For more information visit the Friends website at http://foeesp.ne1.net

For those wishing to make this a weekend or overnight outing there are cabins and camping facilities at the park. Information will be available at the same phone numbers given for reservations. In addition, The Galley Restaurant at the marina will offer a 15% discount that evening for patrons of the hayride

Luna Charged with Aggravated Assault

October 8, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Robert Justin Luna
Ross Matthew Peterson
Robert Roy (Bobby) Atnip, Jr.
Vicky Lenae Alvis
Keith Hall Hamilton
Rodney Hugo Gora
William Jeffery Hale

A 27 year old DeKalb County man has been arrested for allegedly beating up on a female family member.

27 year old Robert Justin Luna of Joe Turner Road, Smithville is charged with aggravated assault. His bond is $12,500 and he will be in court October 11. Luna has been incarcerated in White County on other charges. He was transported here for a court date last Thursday, October 4. At that time, he was served with this warrant for aggravated assault.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on August 29, Luna allegedly assaulted a family member with a pool stick at his residence on Joe Turner Road. Luna then forced the woman into a vehicle and drove her to a creek on Barnes Mill Road where he allegedly held the woman's head under water. Luna allegedly kicked the woman, struck her in the chest and face, and then strangled her until she passed out. Luna later forced her to lay back in his vehicle while he drove away. After Luna ran out of gas, the woman was picked up by another person and transported to the hospital emergency room. The woman suffered black eyes, a busted nose, and red marks on her chest and neck. She also had contusions on her arms, hands, and legs.

23 year old Ross Matthew Peterson of Midway Road, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court October 25

Sheriff Ray said that on September 18, Peterson allegedly took from a residence on Midway Road, a gold slide bracelet, a gold locket, and a checkbook. The total value of the stolen goods was more than $1,000. Those items have been recovered. The case was investigated by a criminal detective of the sheriff's department.

42 year old Robert Roy (Bobby) Atnip, Jr. is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court October 11.

Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, October 2 Atnip allegedly assaulted a family member at his residence on Allen Ferry Road by hitting her in the face with his hand causing the victim's mouth to bleed. As a result, she required treatment at the emergency room of the hospital.

41 year old Vicky Lenae Alvis of Sparta Highway, Smithville is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license. Her bond is $5,000 and she will be in court on October 25.

Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, October 2 a sheriff's department drug detective saw Alvis operating a motor vehicle on Midway Road. Knowing that Alvis' license were revoked, the officer stopped the vehicle. Alvis had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on her person and she was unsteady on her feet. Alvis submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. She also submitted to a blood alcohol test. A computer check confirmed that her license were revoked on October 13, 2011 for DUI. Alvis was arrested and taken to the jail for booking.

39 year old Keith Hall Hamilton of Mount Juliet is charged with driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on November 1. He was also issued a citation for failure to maintain his lane of travel.

Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, October 5, Hamilton was operating a motor vehicle on Highway 70 when he was stopped by a deputy for crossing the fog line, almost hitting the curb. Hamilton's speech was very slow. He was unsteady on his feet. His pupils were constricted and unreactive to light or motion. He admitted to having taken Tramadol earlier. Hamilton submitted to but performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. He also submitted to a blood test. He was placed under arrest for DUI by drugs and transported to the jail for booking.

39 year old Rodney Hugo Gora of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville is charged with theft of property under $500. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on November 1.

Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, October 5, Gora allegedly took a chainsaw from property on Parsley Lane, valued at less than $500. The chainsaw was returned to the owner before the officer arrived on the scene.

William Jeffery Hale of Oakley Road, Liberty is charged with unlawful possession of a weapon. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court October 11.

Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, October 6, a deputy stopped at a residence on Cedar Street in Liberty to do a knock and talk at the home of Hale, a felon. When asked about guns, Hale told the officer that he had two guns, a 30:30 rifle with six bullets and a 12 gauge shotgun with one shell. As a convicted felon, Hale is not supposed to have possession of weapons. Hale was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

Mallory Sullivan Finishes Second in Region, Advances to State Golf Tournament

October 8, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mallory Sullivan

DeKalb County junior Mallory Sullivan is scheduled to compete this week in the Class A/AA state golf tournament at Willowbrook in Manchester.

Sullivan finished second with an 82 in the Region 4-A/AA tournament last Wednesday at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay to qualify for the state tournament

The state appearance is the third-straight for Sullivan.

The region tournament was originally scheduled for Monday, but heavy rains forced a two-day postponement.

Meanwhile, the District 8-A/AA champion DeKalb County boys team finished in third place in the region tournament last week with a 326, behind champion Signal Mountain (302) and runner-up Notre Dame (316)

Zach Martin turned in the Tigers' best finish, in 10th place with a 79. Ethan Roller was close behind with an 80, followed by Hayden Ervin (81) and Cory Kijanski (86). Dylan Young (90) was also in the lineup.

Joe Black Effort Takes Stray Animals Off City's Hands

October 8, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

Under an agreement with the city, members of the Joe Black Effort has removed all animals from the Smithville dog pound and plans to accept any other strays brought to the shelter in an effort to find homes for them.

Joe Black Effort supporters want to eventually establish a no kill shelter locally so that abandoned animals won't have to be euthanized.

Two months ago we held our first "DeKalb Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals' meet and greet.," said Joe Black member Rene Stufano. "The mayor and Monica Summers who works at the pound were there along with many Joe Black members and other interested parties.. We discussed the situation and also the idea of Joe Black taking the animals out of the pound at some point and all of the puppies now because the pound has parvo. After our discussion we felt that the conditions sounded a lot better than what we thought according to reports from other people," she said.

"This was a big decision, but in the moment (last Friday) it was the only one we were capable of making. We went to City Hall and called the mayor. We also called Alderman Gayla Hendrix who was attentive. She made arrangements for us to get a key (to the shelter). When we went in (shelter) the conditions were deplorable. All of the animals were frightened. They were fed, there was food out everywhere in big pans but the place itself was filthy, the dogs were filthy and some of them were sick or injured. We carried them all out and took them immediately to the vet for tests and shots. Presently they are all in foster homes," said Stufano

"Our intent was not to undermine our city authorities and certainly not to condemn or hurt the present care takers of the pound. I believe they were contracted to be there 40 hours a week which isn't nearly enough time to properly care for the facility. There are 168 hours in a week, which leaves the pound unattended for 128 hours a week. I believe the city thought it was being taken care of. There is no blaming here, no fingers to point, we only need to move forward from here," she said

"Our only intent is to see to the well being of the rescue animals and to take care of them until they can be placed in loving homes," added Stufano.

City officials hope to find common ground with the Joe Black Effort for a long term solution to the problem.

Smithville Police Charge Man with Evading Arrest after Responding to Burglary in Progress

October 8, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Randy Caplinger

Smithville Police arrested a man for evading arrest after assisting the sheriff's department in possibly foiling a burglary in progress last Sunday, September 30.

Chief Randy Caplinger said 30 year old William Travis Malone is charged with evading arrest. Corporal Travis Bryant assisted the Sheriff's Department in responding to a burglary in progress at an old barn at the corner of Allen's Ferry Road and Holmes Creek Road. Upon arrival Corporal Bryant was flagged down by neighbors informing him that the suspect was hiding in an old silo. Corporal Bryant approached the silo, identified himself, and asked the suspect to come out. The suspect, Malone, took off running but was found a short time later lying down among tall weeds. His court date is October 11.

35 year old Crystal Rae King was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia on Friday, September 28. Chief Caplinger said that while on a call at Wal-Mart, an officer saw King attempting to throw a needle in the trash can. King will be in court on November 15.

52 year old Linda Sue Murphy and her son 37 year old Dewayne Dovie Thompson were cited for shoplifting on Saturday, September 29. Chief Caplinger said that Murphy was shopping in Wal-Mart and knowingly and intentionally attempted and assisted her son, Thompson in concealing items on Thompson's person in an attempt to deprive Wal-Mart of their property. Their court date is October 12.

25 year old Jonathon Carltion Armour was cited for theft of property on Monday, October 1.. The victim filed a report on September 27 stating that someone had stolen a box containing miscellaneous copper pieces from his front porch. Upon investigation it was found that Armour had taken the copper belonging to the victim. His court date is October 25.

30 year old Nicholas A Hollingsworth was cited for simple possession and drug paraphernalia on Tuesday, October 2. Hollingsworth was stopped for a traffic violation and upon a search of his vehicle, the officer found paraphernalia used for illegal drugs. A pill was also found, believed to be dilaudid. His court date is October 25.

Meanwhile, anyone with information on any criminal activity is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

Any information received that will help the Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

Liberty Mule Thunder Run Set for November 10

October 6, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Liberty Mule Thunder Run

The Smithville Thunder travel baseball team is pleased to announce the inaugural running of the Liberty Mule Thunder Run, a 5K road/trail race and 1-mile fun run to be held on November 10 at Salem Baptist Church in Historic downtown Liberty.

The race director and coach Danny Jenkins said the race will get underway at 8:00 a.m. with the fun run taking place first, followed by the 5K. The fun run course will be out and back on Main Street toward downtown while the 5K course will head west out Highway 70 and loop around behind DeKalb West School.

"The 5K route is really unique in that it has some elements of both road and trail running," Coach Jenkins said, "and I would rate it as a very easy and accommodating course for beginners and inexperienced runners. And, as its our first time staging this event, it is also a good place for intermediate runners to get that elusive age-group ribbon," said Jenkins.

Entry forms can be obtained from several public locations in the area, on line at smithvillethunder.org or by contacting Coach Jenkins at 615-464-7540.

(Liberty Mule image being used here with permission from the owners of the trademark)

Mahaney Gets Two Years Probation for TennCare Fraud

October 5, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Krista Mahaney

A Smithville woman, charged with TennCare fraud involving "doctor shopping," or using TennCare to go to multiple doctors in a short time period to obtain controlled substances, pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday.

Under a negotiated settlement, 27 year old Krista Mahaney pleaded guilty to TennCare fraud. Judge Leon Burns, Jr. sentenced her to two years, all suspended to supervised probation, She must make restitution to TennCare in the amount of $1,113 and she will lose her TennCare benefits.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), in a joint investigation with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office, announced the arrest of Mahaney in January. She was originally charged with two counts of fraudulently using TennCare to obtain controlled substances by "doctor shopping."

The charges accused Mahaney of seeing more than one physician within a 30-day period for the purpose of getting prescriptions for Suboxone, a drug used to treat heroin addiction by mimicking the effects of the drug without the addictive qualities. The physician office visits and the medications were paid for by TennCare.

"The unauthorized use and abuse of prescription drugs is a serious crime, and it's compounded when TennCare is used to subsidize the activity," Inspector General Deborah Faulkner said. "We're committed to ensuring that TennCare benefits are not used for the purchase and eventual distribution of these drugs to people they weren't prescribed for."
TennCare fraud is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of up to two years per charge in prison.

Through the OIG Cash for Tips Program established by the Legislature, Tennesseans can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions. Anyone can report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 toll-free from anywhere in Tennessee, or log on to www.tn.gov/tnoig and follow the prompts that read "Report TennCare Fraud."

Meanwhile, in other cases Friday, 24 year old Steven Andrew Cantrell pleaded guilty to sale of a schedule III controlled substance (Dihydrocodeune) and received a two year sentence, suspended to supervised probation. He was fined $2,000

30 year old Willie Murphy pleaded guilty to burglary and theft over $1,000. He received a four year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other and concurrently with a violation of probation against him. Murphy must make restitution of $1,275 to Smithville Rental Center. He was given jail credit of 202 days.

23 year old Cougar Wayne Pursley pleaded guilty by information to reckless driving and received a sentence of five months and 29 days on probation. He was fined $350.

28 year old Desiree Snyder pleaded guilty to promotion to manufacture methamphetamine and prescription fraud. She received a two year sentence in each case, all suspended to supervised probation. The two sentences are to be served consecutively or back to back for a total of four years. Snyder was fined $2,000 and she must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment. Her probation is to be transferred to Michigan. Snyder was given nine days jail credit.

27 year old David Turner pleaded guilty to sale of a schedule III drug and received a suspended two year sentence. He was also fined $2,000.

32 year old William Wayne Graham pleaded guilty to sale of a schedule II controlled substance. He received a six year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Corrections and was fined $2,000.

41 year old Michael Thomas pleaded guilty by information to reckless endangerment and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation by community corrections. The sentence is to run concurrently with his current probation.

25 year old Justin Thomas pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and received a three year sentence, suspended to supervised probation. The sentence is to run consecutive with Wilson County cases against him.

20 year old Marv Cash pleaded guilty to theft over $500 and received a one year sentence, all suspended to probation. He has requested judicial diversion.

27 year old Robert Justin Luna pleaded guilty to theft under $500 and criminal trespass. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in the theft case, all suspended except for ten days. He must make restitution of $100 to the victim and pay $100 to the economic crime fund. Luna received a 30 day suspended sentence in the criminal trespass case. The sentences are to run concurrently with each other and with a White County case against him for domestic assault.

28 year old Rhonda J. Goff pleaded guilty to promotion of methamphetamine and received a two year sentence, suspended to probation with community corrections. She was fined $2,000. Goff must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow any treatment recommendations. She was given 49 days jail credit.

34 year old Jerry Goff pleaded guilty to initiation to manufacture methamphetamine and received an eight year sentence to serve at 30% before his release eligibility date. He was fined $2,000. The sentence is to run concurrently with a violation of probation case against him. Goff was given jail credit of 211 days.

50 year old Earl Yost pleaded guilty to a third offense of driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to probation except for 120 days to serve. Yost was fined $1,110 and he will lose his drivers license for five years. He will report to jail on October 19.

21 year old Travis Davenport pleaded guilty to possession of a schedule VI controlled substance for resale and received a two year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He was fined $2,000. The sentence is to run concurrently with his current CPS probation.

23 year old Porsche Cantrell Batey pleaded guilty to introduction of contraband. She received a three year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation except for one year to serve. The sentence is to run concurrently with a general sessions court case against her. Cantrell was given jail credit from March 4 to June 7.

9th Annual Chili Cook-off and Bake Sale Set for November 2nd

October 5, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Board of Education won the "Best Chili" Award Last Year

Who makes the best chili in DeKalb County? Find out on Friday, November 2nd when Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County hosts its 9th annual Chili Cook-off and Bake Sale at the 303 Building on the square

Chili will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can purchase your bowl for $5.00, eat all the chili you want, and vote for your favorite chili and the best decorated booth. Handmade pottery bowls will be available for $10.00. Delicious baked goods will also be for sale.

"We are looking forward to another great day of good food and fellowship at the chili cook-off," said Nolan Turner, president of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County. "We have broken ground for our fourth home and construction is underway," said Turner. "The proceeds from the Chili Cook-off will be used towards building our next house and give us momentum to continue building in DeKalb County. A strong turn out for the chili cook-off will help get us there faster," he said.

Last year, the DeKalb County Board of Education won the "Best Chili" award, and "Blessed and Highly Flavored" from Allen's Chapel and Buckner's Chapel Methodist Churches followed in second place. "Wild West Gang" from the DeKalb County Board of Education also won first place honors in the decorating contest. The event raised $3,000.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is a locally run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing organization. Habitat for Humanity builds and renovates houses in partnership with volunteers and families in need, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. The houses then are sold to those in need at no profit and with no interest charged.

For more information on the Chili Cook-off and Bake Sale, contact Tecia Pryor at 597-7370. To contact Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County, call 215-8181.

UMRB To Conduct DUD Rate Review; Lacks Jurisdiction to Hear Petition on Water Plant

October 4, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Four members of DUD board (Older Photo)
DUD Attorney Keith Blair

The Utility Management Review Board, citing the lack of jurisdiction, decided Thursday that it would not consider a petition filed by concerned citizens and ratepayers on whether or not the DeKalb Utility District should build a water treatment plant. But the UMRB will act on the petitioners request for a DUD rate review. That issue could be addressed at its December 6 meeting.

A petition, signed by more than 1,000 persons was submitted to the Tennessee Comptroller and Utility Management Review Board in July asking for a state review of rates charged by the DUD and its plan of services including the proposed water treatment plant. The petition drive was spearheaded by the Calvert Street Group, a Nashville public relations company, hired by the City of Smithville in April to better educate the public, from the city's perspective, on the impact of the plan by the DeKalb Utility District to build its own water treatment plant.

The UMRB met Thursday in Nashville and the issue regarding the petition and the DUD was tops on the agenda. During that meeting, the UMRB ruled that it had no jurisdiction to consider the petition as to the proposed water treatment plant. A decision apparently shared by Greg Cothron, Assistant General Counsel for the state comptroller's office, who had apparently recently rendered an opinion that the petition had failed to provide a basis for review by the UMRB and that the UMRB lacked jurisdiction to hear it. "On the jurisdictional issue only with regard to whether the UMRB has jurisdiction to consider the petition before it, the UMRB essentially approved a motion setting forth that they did not have jurisdiction on the question of whether or not DUD should be building a water treatment plant," said DUD attorney Keith Blair during the DeKalb Utility District's monthly board meeting Thursday afternoon.

But while the UMRB chose not to weigh in on the water plant issue itself, it has agreed to conduct a rate review, according the Blair. "So at the next hearing of the UMRB and their next regular meeting is December 6, I am assuming at this point that the rate review process will be on the December 6 docket at the UMRB. This just came down today (Thursday) so that's essentially all I know at this point," said Blair.

"The mission of the Tennessee Comptroller and the Utility Management Review Board is to look for duplicity, for taxpayer waste to protect ratepayers, and rate increases that are out of line with what their plans and their debt management policy calls for," said Darden Copeland of the Calvert Street Group.

The petition filed with the UMRB states "DUD ratepayers ask the UMRB to find that the DUD acted wrongly in approving the financing of the construction of a redundant water treatment facility in DeKalb County and in its service expansion and resulting rate increases and take all necessary action to provide DUD ratepayers with all appropriate relief afforded to them under the laws of the state of Tennessee."

DUD officials are anxious to get this matter settled as quickly as possible. In a recent letter to Cothorn and UMRB Board Coordinator Joyce Welborn, Blair wrote "As you are aware, DUD has taken significant steps to initiate the construction of a water treatment plant as well as making plans to restructure certain long term debt for additional cost savings to their customers. Once the petition in question was filed, at a time when the closing of the bonds to finance this project was imminent, DUD cautiously delayed the closing and finalization of the financing of this project in order to obtain proper verification from UMRB that the petition had no merit and, most importantly, that the UMRB did not have jurisdiction to consider the issues presented."

"With this pending petition, DUD continues to suffer monetary losses each day due to their inability to proceed forward with the planned refinancing and water treatment plant. It is clearly evident that interest rates and construction costs are at an all time low. The interest rates and construction rates will no doubt increase in the coming months which will damage DUD financially causing them to spend more on this project than anticipated which potentially could result in additional rate increases. Further, the longer that this issue is in limbo, the longer that DUD will have to purchase water from the City of Smithville, the proponent behind the petition in question."

"A delay will do nothing but prolong the final resolution of this matter and cause DUD continued delay and financial loss that will do nothing but hurt the customers of DUD. A delay only benefits the petitioner, with no due cause being shown and severely hurts DUD each day that passes without resolution." wrote Blair.

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