Local News Articles

The LOOP- A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

June 11, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

We unanimously passed a budget on Friday afternoon, June 4th, after weeks of contentious negotiations. After some of us held the line against Democrat-proposed tax increases and fought for the removal of wasteful expenditures, the budget proposal finally agreed upon does not include either but still protects funding for priorities. In addition, we left a healthy amount in the state’s reserves accounts, including $429,207,100 in the Rainy Day Fund and TennCare Reserve Fund. The combined total of all reserve accounts will be $615.4 million. The 2010 budget is $28.6 billion after we made approximately $650 million in cuts.

The Governor’s original budget proposal also included over $130 million in tax increases, which House leadership denounced as a tactic to balance the budget. Part of the tax increase plan included an $85 million tax on single article sales and an additional $50 million by increasing taxes on cable, long-distance telephone services, and free continental breakfasts that hotels and motels sometimes provide. We also reached a consensus on several contentious items such as the Career Ladder program, Agriculture Enhancement Grants, and state employee bonuses.

Career Ladder
The legislature approved the Career Ladder program in 1983 as a form of incentive pay for educators. If teachers hit certain benchmarks, their pay was supplemented. The program was closed to new entrants in 1994, and shrinks every year due to attrition. Estimates for the 2010-2011 fiscal year indicate approximately $5.4 million in savings because of retirements. Although there was discussion of removing Career Ladder funding from this year’s budget, the program was ultimately included with temporary funding and totals $34.5 million.

State Employee Bonuses
The Governor had originally proposed a 3 percent one-time bonus for state employees costing $164.7 million but lawmakers felt that was excessive in a year when layoffs were occurring. The proposal in the final budget would provide for a one-time bonus of $50 per every year of service. Employees will receive a minimum of $150 and a maximum of $1,250 and the bonus is contingent upon the state collecting over projected revenues. If given, we believe the bonuses would likely happen in the fall of this year.

Federal money still in jeopardy
The budget cautiously allocates federal funding that has not yet been approved by the U.S. Congress, but funds only “contingency items” that is essentially ‘extras’ with these dollars. The state was expecting Congress to have already approved the nearly $340 million in one-time funding, but Congress left on Memorial Day break without acting on the extension. The funds will provide for upgraded radios for state troopers, an unnamed economic development project, the demolition of several dilapidated buildings at the University of Tennessee’s Health Sciences Center, and the Civil Rights Museum. A portion would also be used on a post-flood tourism campaign to demonstrate that “Tennessee is open for business.”

Flood relief
In light of the devastating floods at the beginning of May, we included flood relief in the budget to the tune of $19.9 million. Flood relief plans were discussed at length during budget negotiations as we recognize the need for aid. Proposed methods for funding flood relief proposals included using cash from the state's Rainy Day Fund, using a portion of stimulus money, and through various tax relief measures. Ultimately, the legislature settled on a plan that eliminates the state and local sales tax on major appliances, residential building supplies, and residential furniture. To receive a refund from the Department of Revenue, flood victims must have purchased the equipment between May 1, 2010, and September 30, 2010. The total amount that can be received is $2,500 and the claimant must file a single application with the Department of Revenue by November 30, 2010, along with satisfactory proof from FEMA showing damage. The refunds are allocated out of the state’ s General Fund.

Technical Corrections
The “technical corrections” bill submitted each year by the Administration has evolved over time from legitimate technical changes in the Tennessee Code Annotated to a tax bill that supplements the state’s General Fund. Conservatives have fought for returning the legislation to a true “technical” corrections measure for many years, and this year the legislature was successful. Three months ago, the technical corrections bill was laden with more than $130 million in tax increases to balance the budget. We stripped the taxes from the bill, which now includes tax relief, flood victim assistance, and economic development measures. The final vote on the legislation was 92-2.

Lawmakers fight to protect Tennesseans from federal overreach of healthcare
We passed House Bill 2622 Tuesday night with a vote of 53-32, after months of wrangling in committee. The bill prohibits the legislature from requiring any person to participate in any health care system or plan. Opponents attempted to attach poison pill amendments and use complicated parliamentary procedures in an effort to kill the bill. Because the House and Senate versions differed, the legislation went to a conference committee. Although most of us present voted for the conference committee report, it failed to obtain the fifty constitutional votes for passage and died along party lines with a 44-39 vote.

We have fought all year to enact a proposal to counter the federal health care takeover, believing that expanding government programs is rarely an effective solution to complex issues. Further, proponents have argued the federal government’s takeover of healthcare will only prove to balloon the cost of healthcare services to the states.

Legislature reaches agreement on workers’ compensation law
We voted this week on complex legislation that ensures fairness in construction industry bidding, protects general contractors from workers’ compensation claims filed by subcontractors and addresses employee misclassification. Earlier in the year, the General Assembly approved legislation calling for the immediate suspension of a law passed in 2008 due to unintended effects of the act to require sole proprietors and partners engaged in the construction industry to carry workers’ compensation coverage on themselves. Since January, the legislature has been discussing alternative ways to address gaps in coverage for workers in construction companies without harming small business owners.

The new law requires everyone in the construction industry to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance or be specifically exempted. Sole proprietors and partners in the construction industry will have to carry insurance on themselves, but they can obtain an exemption from the requirement. The exemption is limited to certain members of the construction industry including, but not limited to, officers of a corporation, a sole proprietor, members of a limited liability company, or a partner in a limited partnership. In addition, those who request an exemption must be current in paying all taxes. No more than three people on any one commercial job are eligible to claim an exemption.

The measure also substantially increases penalties for employers who fail to comply with the law. The bill set different effective dates for various provisions, phasing in the new law slowly. The final product came after months of discussions between us, the Department of Commerce and Insurance and various representatives of the construction industry. The bill passed 87-7.

Tennessee General Assembly adjourns sine die, ties up loose ends
The legislature adjourned “sine die” at 1:15 a.m. on Thursday, June 10, 2010, officially ending the 106th General Assembly. This week, we took up several matters after passing the budget last Friday, and below are some of the items that received approval at the eleventh hour.

The State House of Representatives voted 61-30 to override the Governor’s veto on a measure that allows licensed carry permit holders to carry firearms into establishments that serve alcohol. It was the second time the legislature has overridden the Governor’s veto on the proposal, and the law took effect immediately on June 4, 2010.

Senate Bill 440 was approved by us this week amid complaints from some opponents. The bill requires felons to have paid all court costs associated with their conviction before the restoration of their voting rights. Some of us argued that it is a choice to engage in criminal behavior, and felons must be prepared to deal with the consequences of that decision. After much discussion, the bill passed 70-23.

House Bill 670 would require jailers to determine whether or not their inmates are in the country legally, and set the wheels in motion to have them deported if it is found they are illegal. The legislation was amended several times as some of us attempted to exempt their individual counties from the requirement and the House and Senate ended passing different versions, forcing the bill into a conference committee. The changes were finally reconciled and the only counties exempted are Davidson and Shelby Counties. The final proposal was approved 84-3.

DeKalb Fire Making Progress in Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers

June 11, 2010
Donny Green

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department is making huge strides with its recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters thanks to a $190,000 4-year grant awarded to the Department in 2008. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant is a 100% federal grant, with no local matching requirement from county government, and DeKalb County is one of the few Tennessee counties awarded this grant.

Chief Donny Green says that DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department is a unique volunteer fire department because most departments are not county-wide departments. DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department covers all the areas of DeKalb County outside the city limits of Smithville and Alexandria while providing fire response, vehicle rescue, medical first responders, and a fire safety and prevention program. Today, the department has a membership of 75 active firefighters, including a Chief, Assistant Chief, 2 Captains, and 5 Lieutenants that are all 100% volunteer that provide emergency responses out of 11 substations strategically located across the county.

The 2008 SAFER Grant will continue through March 2013. The grant provides 100% federal funding to provide incentives to get new volunteers recruited and to retain the volunteers already on the department. Among the incentives are reimbursement for fuel expenses ($10 per call), as volunteers use their own personal vehicles to respond to emergencies. Another incentive to both new recruits and veteran members is the annual training incentive awards. Members who attend 100% of the monthly training drills get $400, and members who attend at least 75% of the monthly training drills get $200 each year. In 2009, the department had 31 of our 61 members attend 100% of monthly training drills and 17 members attend at least 75% of monthly training drills. Thus far in 2010, we have 52 of our 75 volunteer firefighters who have 100% monthly training drill attendance.

Chief Green says the results from this grant have been remarkable. In 2009, DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department was named as one of the top departments, from among all paid and volunteer departments across the State of Tennessee, as having the most certified training hours. In 2009, there were only 8 other volunteer fire departments in Tennessee that had more training hours than DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, and for 2010, the department is on track to exceed the 2009 training hours.

As for the recruiting of volunteer firefighters, Chief Green says the department is exceeding the quarterly goals of the grant project. At the beginning of the grant period in 2008, the department had 61 active volunteer firefighters in the 11-station department. Our goal in the grant project is to increase our volunteer staff by at least 2.75 firefighters for each quarter in the grant period. Today, we have 75 active volunteer firefighters on board and we are meeting and exceeding our membership goals. The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department’s ultimate goal is to have around 120 volunteer firefighters. That would provide a staff of about 11 volunteer firefighters per station.

Chief Green says he is strongly opposed to having to resort to paid firefighters. “I think hiring firefighters would have a very negative financial effect on our county’s budget. We are confident that DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department can continue to provide good service to our citizens while excelling in recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters and providing them with excellent training opportunities. Our effectiveness has already been proven with the Insurance Service Office (ISO). The cities of Liberty and Dowelltown have already reaped the benefits of having their homeowner’s insurance premiums drastically reduced, going from an ISO class protection rating 9 to a class protection rating 6,” says Chief Green.

Since 2001, the Department has been awarded over $1.7 million in local, state, and federal grants that have allowed equipment to be upgraded across the county-wide operation. These equipment upgrades were made, with very minimal local tax dollars, to prepare the county for an upcoming ISO evaluation where the Department will attempt to lower the entire county’s ISO rating to help reduce homeowner’s insurance premiums for DeKalb County residents.

“Lowering our ISO rating is a win-win situation for DeKalb County,” says County Mayor Mike Foster. “Our county fire department is continuing to be successful in obtaining grants, recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters who are committed to training and providing good fire protection services to our citizens. Our citizens are safer, and if we are able to reach our goal of obtaining a lower ISO rating, our insurance rates should go down saving a considerable amount of money for our home and property owners. Our volunteer firefighters are better trained and equipped and this keeps volunteer morale high. Many of our sister counties and cities have not been as fortunate in recruiting and retaining qualified volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters are a valued asset to our county.”

“As long as we can continue provide adequate response and properly trained firefighters, I see no reason that DeKalb County cannot sustain an all volunteer fire department. After all, this is the “volunteer” state and all of our firefighters have a great sense of pride in being able to provide a great volunteer service to our communities,” says Chief Green.

If you are interested in learning more about the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, or would like information on how to be on our team and become a volunteer firefighter, you can visit the Department’s website at: www.dekalbfire.com or call the Main Station at 615-597-2609 and leave a message.

Organizers Gearing up for 39th Annual Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival

June 10, 2010
Dwayne Page
Jack Barton

The 39th annual Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival is set for Friday and Saturday, July 2nd & 3rd.

Jack Barton, Fiddler's Jamboree Coordinator, says this year's festival promises to be entertaining and efforts are being made to book more crafters. "Things are shaping up well. We're probably a little bit behind schedule on crafters. We've added a street that has been closed for the last three years. We're very close to having the same number of crafters we had last year and I think most people were pleased with the crafts we had here and how full the streets were but by adding Third Street it's given us another thirty to forty booths in play that we need to fill, but we're getting in quite a few each day and we hope to have every street full that we originally had. There's roughly about 227 spots but all the numbers are not consecutive the way we've had the booths over the years. Some booth (spots) have been "x"ed out for emergency exits and things like that. We're continually challenged because fewer and fewer people do the traditional Appalachian crafts but we still strive to make sure this is a handmade event, so people do need to create their own items and not resell an item."

As for the on-stage competitive events, Barton says there won't be much change from last year. "We restructured the events somewhat last year and changed the rules on some of the square dancing events and we added youth square dancing for Friday. Last year we had three youth groups in that event. This year I think there will be a lot more youth groups in that on Friday."

Barton says the Fiddler's Jamboree is facing some challenges financially because of the economy and the loss of some corporate sponsors, but a grant has been awarded to help market the festival to a wider audience. "We were very fortunate to have been awarded a Tennessee Arts Commission grant. The TAC by the General Assembly has it's own license plate, the funds from which support the arts. But also any vanity plate that you have in the state, a certain percentage of that goes to the Tennessee Arts Commission, and they award grants throughout the state for good things that improve the arts and the culture of Tennessee. We got a $2,100 matching grant and we matched $2,100 with it and we've stretched it as far as we can. We've gotten rack cards. If anyone has ever visited a rest stop or a welcome center in the state you can see panels of these rack cards advertising anything from Cumberland Caverns to Dollywood, and those sorts of things. The Fiddler's Jamboree is now represented and that was funded, in part, thanks to the Tennessee Arts Commission."

See Video of the 2009 Grand Champion Fiddler Gailanne Amundsen of Florida

"The other project we're doing that is going to help us in fundraising and continued support of the Jamboree is a three and a half to four minute promotional video that can sum up what the Jamboree is, what it means to people, and what our needs are in regard to support because in these economic times the biggest thing that is hurting the Jamboree is that it's becoming harder and harder to get that bigger corporate support that we've enjoyed in the past. A lot of events have either had to unfortunately go under or some have become charging admission. Our sister event, Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro, for the first time in their history, is starting to charge admission and that is something the Jamboree never wants to have to do. We're a family friendly event and a free event. But I want to be honest with the community and the people who love the Jamboree, the last couple of years the Jamboree, while it is a non-profit and we don't want to make money, we've actually lost some money. It roughly takes us, in a given year, around $65,000 to $70,000 to put on a Jamboree, which includes about $13,500 in prize money that we give out back to the contestants. As a non-profit there are some years that the Jamboree, prior to my being involved, has probably enjoyed some surpluses. But if it weren't for those surpluses we would have had a hard time last year and this year putting on a Jamboree."

"It's been unique economic times. A lot of people are out of work. A lot of corporations have downsized so it's been really challenging. We've been able to rely on some of our reserves to put on the Jamboree. We want to try and reach out with all sorts of modern media. Last year we introduced a face book page and we were actually tweeting during the event. What we're trying to do this year is to figure out ways that people can support us with gifts in kind and rather than an outright exchange of money, maybe we can help each other out. We've got this insulation of these corporate offices. Whether it's Lowes or Cracker Barrel, Wal-mart, or any of these bigger corporations, many of them are not afforded any lattitude at the local level to give. It all has to be a decision made at a higher level. These are people who have never heard of the Jamboree. If you can sum up in three and a half or four minutes (in a promotional video) what it means to come to a Jamboree and what it means to the youth that continues this music and what we are continuing on tradition wise in Appalachian music, it's going to help sell us."

Preliminaries will be held in the following categories on Friday, July 2nd starting at 9:00 a.m.

Old Time Appalachian Folksinging (solos and duets); Flat Top Guitar; Junior Clogging (ages 13-39); Junior Buck Dancing (ages 13-39); Dobro Guitar; Mountain Dulcimer; Hammer Dulcimer; Novelty Event; Youth Square Dancing, Old Time Fiddle Band; Autoharp; Gospel Singing (solos); Country Harmonica; Old Time Banjo; Gospel Singing (duets, trios, and quartets); and Mandolin.

The top three acts in each category will be called back for the finals on Friday night and a first, second, and third place will be awarded.

On Saturday, July 3rd starting at 9:00 a.m., preliminaries will be held in the following categories:

Junior Fiddlers (ages 13-39); Junior Old Time Appalachian Flatfoot dance (ages up to 39); Senior Old Time Appalachian Flatfoot dance ( ages 40 and over); Senior Buckdancing (ages 40 and over); Senior Clogging (ages 40 and over); Bluegrass Banjo; Bluegrass Band; Bluegrass Fiddle, Senior Fiddlers (ages 40 and over); and Square Dancing. The winner of the Bluegrass Fiddle will receive the Neil Dudney Award, named for the former longtime President and Coordinator of the Fiddlers Jamboree.

Preliminaries will be held in each event and then the top three finalists will be called back Saturday night to compete for first, second, and third place.

The winners of the Junior and Senior Fiddling competition will square off for the Grand Champion Award, the Berry C. Williams Memorial Trophy at the conclusion of the festival.

Meanwhile, the National Championship for Country Musician Beginners will be held Saturday afternoon during the Jamboree featuring competitions for children, up to age twelve, in the categories of Buck Dancing, Clogging, Dobro Guitar, Mandolin, Five String Banjo, Flat Top Guitar, and Fiddle.

Preliminaries will be held in each event and then the top three finalists will be brought back to compete for first, second, and third place.

One child will receive the Best Overall Instrumental Entertainer and the top fiddler will get the James G. "Bobo" Driver Memorial Trophy.

In addition to the on-stage musical entertainment, the Fiddlers Jamboree will feature hundreds of crafts, plenty of delicious food; and lots of shade tree picking around the public square.

WJLE will broadcast most of the on-stage entertainment LIVE.

Mayor and Two Aldermen to be Elected Tuesday- 470 Vote Early

June 10, 2010
Dwayne Page
Debi Loring DePriest
Taft Hendrixson
Bruce Medley

A total of 470 people cast ballots during the early voting period for the Smithville Municipal Election from May 26th through June 10th.

According to the DeKalb County Election Commission, 440 voted in person and 30 voted by absentee ballot.

This is the lowest early voting turnout for a Smithville Municipal Election since 2006 when 425 voted early. Here's how the vote breaks down each day during the early voting period: May 26th: 23, May 27th: 27, May 28th: 32 , May 29th: 40, June 1st: 30, June 2nd: 36, June 3rd: 53, June 4th: 25, June 5th: 38, June 7th: 23, June 8th: 40, June 9th: 28, and June 10th: 75.

Election day is Tuesday, June 15th. Voting will be from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on the first floor of the courthouse. That will be the only polling location for the city election. WJLE will have LIVE election return coverage Tuesday night starting at 7:00 p.m. on FM 101.7/AM 1480 and at www.wjle.com.

A mayor and two aldermen will be elected, each to serve a two year term.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson is being challenged for re-election by former Smithville mayor and cattle producer Bruce Medley and DCHS teacher Debi Loring DePriest.

Incumbent Aldermen Cecil Burger and Stephen White face opposition from Shawn Beckham. The terms of office for those elected will begin on July 1st.

The following numbers represent city voter turnout over the last four years;

In 2006, 425 voted early and 271 cast ballots on election day.
In 2007, 555 voted early and 183 election day
In 2008, 684 voted early and 279 election day
In 2009, 590 voted early and 221 election day

Businesses Urged to Participate in Project Welcome Mat

June 10, 2010
Dwayne Page
Suzanne Williams

The Smithville- DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce is encouraging all local businesses to help welcome visitors to the 39th annual Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival by participating in the 9th annual "Project Welcome Mat".

Businesses having changeable signs or marquees are asked to post welcome greetings for our Jamboree visitors. The wording may be only a simple "Welcome to the Jamboree" or as elaborate as you choose. Executive Director of the Chamber, Suzanne Williams, says, “With thousands of visitors coming into town, every effort should be made by the local merchants to show our guests that we appreciate them and welcome their business. The program has been successful over the past years with many businesses participating. Let's keep on showing folks how friendly the DeKalb County / Smithville area can be!”

All businesses may participate in "Project Welcome Mat." There will be recognition awards in 3 categories: "Best Worded," "Most Original" and the "People's Choice Award." Plaques will be presented to winners along with media recognition.

If your business would like to participate in the contest, email the Chamber at dekalbtn@dtccom.net or call 597-4163. Wording should be in place no later than Friday, June 25th.

Free Fishing Day set for Saturday, June 12th

June 10, 2010
Dwayne Page
TWRA Officer Tony Cross

Free Fishing Day in Tennessee is Saturday, June 12 when anyone in the state may fish free without a license in Tennessee's public waters.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency provides the free day in hopes of increasing interest in fishing. The day allows anyone the opportunity to try this great outdoor sport, especially children. In addition, children ages 13-15 may fish without a license beginning on Free Fishing Day through the following Friday (June 18).

As part of Free Fishing Day, TWRA officer Tony Cross says children may fish Saturday, June 12th at the Wildlife Management Area pond at Pea Ridge. "Up at Pea Ridge, we will be having our Pea Ridge Fishing Rodeo at the pond on the Wildlife Management area. It will run from 7:00 a.m. until approximately noon on Saturday, June 12th. We will be furnishing all the kids lunch and drinks and we will have prizes for each participant. Children ages 15 and younger will be eligible to participate in the fishing rodeo. Anyone sixteen or older is not eligible. We ask that if you have access to a fishing rod or pole to bring that with you. Bring a chair and maybe an umbrella to keep the sun off of you. If you want to bring your own bait you are welcome to do so but we will furnish, probably some night crawlers. So just come on up. We hope to have a great day of fishing."

The day and week are annual events in Tennessee and are great opportunities to introduce children to the enjoyment and excitement of a day on the water catching fish. The TWRA is among several organizations planning special fishing events, primarily for youngsters. The TWRA annually provides several thousand pounds of fish for stocking for various events.

Free Fishing Day and Week apply to Tennessee's public waters, TWRA owned and operated lakes, and state park facilities. Some privately owned pay lakes continue to charge during this special day and week. Anglers may consult with lake operators if there are any questions about a particular facility.

Seniors Begin Receiving Rebates to Cover Prescription Drug Gap

June 10, 2010
Congressman Bart Gordon

Congressman Bart Gordon announced that beginning this month, seniors who fall into the Medicare Part D coverage gap, or donut hole, will receive a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of prescription drugs.

"The Medicare Part D donut hole has left many seniors scraping by to keep up with life-saving prescriptions they depend on. The donut hole forces many seniors on fixed incomes to choose between food and medicine, cut their recommended dosages, or simply do without prescribed medication," Gordon said. "These rebates will provide immediate help, and reforms recently signed into law will provide a permanent fix to this error."

Under current Medicare policy, seniors' prescription drugs are covered until their costs exceed $2,830 for the year. After that point, seniors must pay out of pocket for their medications, some of which are too costly at full price for those on a fixed budget. Coverage does not resume until their costs hit $6,440 and can be covered by catastrophic care.

The rebate checks will offer relief to the 85,000 seniors in Tennessee who will be affected by the donut hole this year. The checks are the first step in the phase-out of the donut hole initiated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. Beginning in January 2011, seniors that fall into the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs. The donut hole will be closed entirely in the next 10 years, saving Tennessee seniors a total of $1.7 billion.

Gordon noted the elimination of the donut hole is just one of several health insurance reform measures that will directly benefit Tennessee seniors. Beginning in January, Medicare recipients will no longer be charged co-payments for preventive services such as screenings. Local care options for seniors in rural counties will improve as primary care doctors and general surgeons are offered incentive bonuses for practicing in rural areas. Medicare Advantage recipients' premiums will decrease over the next 10 years.

"These reforms take commonsense steps to ensure seniors get the benefits they depend on, and the reforms do this in a fiscally responsible way," Gordon said. "I've had seniors stop me on the streets, call on the telephone and write letters telling me how hard it is to buy medicine while trying to pay their other bills. Some have even told me they simply cannot afford to buy medicine and eat, too. That is an unacceptable choice, and it's one reason why health insurance reform is vital."

Gordon encourages Middle Tennessee seniors to learn more about what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act means for them by visiting www.house.gov/bart for more information.

"Hot Rod Power Tour" Includes Stop in Smithville

June 9, 2010
Dwayne Page
Hot Rod Power Tour" Includes Stop in Smithville

The "Hot Rod Power Tour" made it's way through Smithville today (Wednesday). Participants in the tour left this week in Newton, Iowa enroute to Mobile, Alabama. Many of the drivers stopped in at Bumper's Drive-In as part of the tour and made their way toward Chattanooga after they left.

The "Hot Rod Power Tour", sponsored by Hot Rod magazine, is an organized tour where hot rodders drive a pre-planned route throughout the United States. It began in 1995 when Hot Rod staff members decided to take some of their project cars on a cross-country drive from Los Angeles, California to Norwalk, Ohio.

Thousands of people participated along the way but only seven participants (other than staff members) made the entire journey and were inducted into the original "Long Hauler Gang". Since its inception, this event has continued to gain in popularity and is now one of the most anticipated automotive events each year. It is typically six to eight days in length and held in late May or early June. In recent years, the tour has evolved to become what is essentially a continuous trek around the United States in that it begins in or near the location that it ended in the previous year. Each stop is combined with events or activities that vary as much as the participants themselves.

Hot Rod is the oldest magazine devoted to hot rodding having been published since 1948.

Proposed New City Budget Includes Increases in Water and Sewer Rates

June 8, 2010
Dwayne Page

Water and sewer rates for Smithville customers will increase with the passage of the 2010-11 city budget if the spending plan is adopted in it's current form.

The proposed budget, totaling $5-million 642-thousand 574, has been prepared by Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson and the city's financial consultant, Janice Plemmons-Jackson. The document was presented by Mayor Taft Hendrixson to each of the five aldermen Monday.

Members of the council have not yet met to discuss the budget and could make revisions before any final action is taken. The new fiscal year begins July first and normally the budget is approved by that date. The aldermen could adopt a continuing budget resolution if they don't meet the deadline. The city's budget ordinance has to be adopted on two separate readings before it can take effect.

City officials say the water and sewer fund is currently running in the red and if that continues two years in a row, the state will adjust the rates if the city doesn't act. The state requires municipal water and sewer systems to be financially self supporting. City leaders say Smithville has not raised water rates since 1998.

According to the proposed new budget, the city's water and sewer fund is projected to finish the year on June 30th, 2010 in the red by $306,464. A major reason for that is apparently because the city is required to take into account depreciation which amounts to $100,000 for the water and $260,000 for the sewer operation. City officials say metered water sales are also projected to be down by $17,000 by the end of the fiscal year, June 30th. Under the proposed 2010-11 budget, the city is still projected to be in the red by $154,993 on June 30th, 2011, even with the proposed rate increases, unless cost savings are implemented during the year.

Under the proposed new budget, the rate for city water customers would increase from the current level of $3.50 to $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus a $1.50 increase from the current rate of $3.50 to $5.00 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage. Outside city rates would increase to $7.50 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $7.50 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage

The rate for city sewer customers, under the new budget, would increase from the current level of $3.62 for a flat usage rate to $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of usage plus a $1.75 cent increase from the current rate of $3.25 to $5.00 per thousand gallons thereafter.

For example, city water customers who use 4,000 gallons per month would pay $40.00 per month plus tax, including $20.00 for water and $20.00 for sewer. The simplest calculation is to add $5.00 per thousand gallons of usage per month for water and sewer:

(4,000 gallons per month @ $5.00 per thousand= $20.00 for water bill)

( 4,000 gallons per month @ $5.00 per thousand =$20.00 for sewer bill)

The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District for water is $1.90 per thousand gallons but would increase to $1.95 beginning with January 1st, 2011 sales.

Water tap fees for customers inside the city limits would jump from $400 to $600 for a three quarter inch water line and the sewer tap fee would go from $400 to $600 for a four inch sewer line. If the lines are larger, the fees will continue to be cost plus 10%.

For customers outside the city limits, water tap fees would increase from $525 to $800 for a three quarter inch line. Fees would go from $525 to $800 for a four inch sewer line. If the lines are larger, then the fees will continue to be cost plus 10%.

The new budget calls for the property tax rate to remain the same at almost 62 cents ($.6194 cents) per $100 of assessed value.

The proposed budget calls for city employees with up to four years of service to get their automatic step pay increases as defined in the wage scale and a cost of living increase of 3.4% based on the consumer price index. City employees with more than four years of service, who have topped out on the wage scale would only get the cost of living increase.

Proposed capital outlay expenditures in the general fund for the new year come to $330,000. Specific projects are as follows: Financial Administration- $20,000 unspecified; Parks and Recreation-$5,000 to pave a basketball court, $15,000 for a 1.5 mile walking trail, and $5,000 for a fence; Public Works/Buildings and Grounds- $15,000 for a trailer; City Hall Building - $25,000; Fire Protection- $15,000 unspecified; Street Department- $20,000 including $10,000 for downtown beautification and $10,000 unspecified; Police Department- $15,000 unspecified; Swimming Pool- $10,000 unspecified; Airport- $200,000 including $190,000 for grant projects completion and $10,000 unspecified; Animal Shelter- $5,000 unspecified; Sanitation Fund- $5,000 and Drug Fund- $5,000 unspecified.

Proposed water and sewer fund Fixed Asset Additions: Automatic meter readers project- $360,000; update of water plant and engineering fees- $2,700,000; sewer rehabilitation camera $125,000; Debt repayment-principal: bonds- $233,560.

Although these capital outlay projects are budgeted, they all may not be funded during the year.

The proposed budget breaks down as follows:

General Fund: $3,022,500
Special Revenue Fund-Sanitation: $277,350
Water & Sewer Fund: $2,141,808
Drug Fund: $5,250
Appropriation of Surplus-Drug Fund: $34,000
Appropriation of Surplus-Water & Sewer Fund: $154,993
Appropriation of Surplus- Sanitation Fund: $6,673

Total Revenues: $5,642,574

General Fund: $3,014,570
Special Revenue Funds Sanitation: $284,023
Water & Sewer Fund: $2,296,801
Drug Fund: $39,250
Surplus in General Fund: $7,930

Total expenditures: $5,642,574

Liberty Man Airlifted after Monday Crash

June 8, 2010
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Firefighters and EMS Personnel Assist Roy Myatt at Crash Site

A 60 year old Liberty man was injured around 3:00 p.m. Monday afternoon after he wrecked his truck on Highway 53 at Liberty.

Trooper Mike Phillips of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Roy Myatt was driving a 1996 Chevy pickup truck south on Highway 53 when he went off the right side of the road, up an embankment, and struck a rock.

Myatt was airlifted from the scene by a helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Members of DeKalb EMS and the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene.

(Photo by Callie Matthews)


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