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County Commission to Make Decision on School Land Purchase Next Month

March 29, 2011
Dwayne Page
Property on Allen Ferry Road

The DeKalb County Board of Education has until April 27th to let the property owners know whether it will be able to purchase fifty two acres on Allen Ferry Road for the future home of a new school but it can't make the transaction without the blessing of the county commission

Monday night, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby along with architect David Brown and Engineer Jim Harrison addressed the county commission on the suitability of the site now that core drilling has been conducted.

Willoughby, on behalf of the board of education, asked that the land be purchased for the development of a school in the future, whether it be a high school, elementary, or middle school. "Right now, we are just wanting to purchase land for future building needs whether its going to be a high school, middle school, elementary school, or whatever. I have asked them (architect and engineer) to look at this particular site and evaluate it. Also in doing this, I have asked them to figure out the most productive way that we can use this site. These guys have produced where everything would set on the drawings."

David Brown of KBJM Architects, Inc. of Mount Juliet brought with him a drawing of the site with a generic footprint of a 1200 student high school facility. Brown stressed that the drawing was done only to depict the size of campus the property could accommodate and does not represent any design specific to DeKalb County. "I'm on the architectural end of things. My standpoint was given the shape of the plot, could we actually physically locate everything that you would want to locate out there? As Mark (Willoughby) mentioned, who knows at this point if it would be a middle school or high school, but a high school campus is the most complex, largest thing you could build so we looked at the available area and said, can we put those things out there and arrange them in the way they need to be arranged successfully on the land that we're looking at? A high school campus has a lot more than just a school. It has the stadium, practice fields, soccer fields, baseball, softball, tennis courts, field house and whatever anticipated might be asked of us. We wanted to answer could we actually fit those things or not (on this property)? We've been able to arrange them in such a way that makes sense. We were able to do this without getting into the extreme grades (of the property) that are in the back. We were able to do all this within the property that can be easily graded. In addition to the architectural standpoint of just laying out the spaces and uses, Jim (Harrison) looked at utilities, grading, drainage, and environmental impacts. We had a geotechnical engineer go out and dig holes and evaluate the soils and basically we found what we expected to find. We do a lot of work in this area of the state and it was really no different than we're accustomed to seeing," said Brown.

In his remarks to the commission, Harrison said engineering studies found approximately 44 acres of the property to be suitable for building a school. "What we did was look at grading, utilities, water, sewer, and gas. We also looked at the roadway out along the frontage where you'd want to position drives and things that are geometrically needed for the site to work. In general, we have a rise here (on the property) that we're taking down. That material is taken down and brought to the front where the school would be built. In the studies we did recently, we had several comparison sites where we had looked at comparable sites just to look at how much grading was typically required on this size of tract and it was in the lower third from that standpoint. We looked at the utilities from the sewer standpoint. We would have to run a pump station and a course main up to connect onto the gravity sewer which is on the front of the existing high school. We met with the utilities regarding that as well as the water line. The water line has adequate pressure and flow. We've actually got a backup system from two different tanks so that helps give some redundancy and makes sure we've got a good, safe flow to protect ourselves during a fire event without any improvements to the infrastructure that are off site in that situation. Anytime you have a site like this you start looking at those unusual things. You've always got storm drainage out in the parking lot, paving on the site, and standard stuff but there are some key things that we look at including the grading and utility issues. The bottom line with our evaluation is that you have a site that lays flat enough to develop in a good fashion for the sports fields and parking in the back and the building in the front. You have a site that has enough fall. Its not too flat. It has enough fall to provide the proper drainage away from those facilities and key structures. Our evaluation is that you have adequate room at a reasonable cost, being in the lower third of those other typical sites that we've looked at. We feel like this is a very good site for a high school or some other sort of school use," said Harrison.

Harrison also addressed the issue of drainage. "The soils are pretty common for the area so what you typically do in that type of area is you build some trenches in and let it drain out properly. One of the problems with the soil out there right now is its wet and soggy but not a lot of grading has been done. Basically there's just an old trail that's been running through there. It grades to the north. When the development were to occur it would tend to drain to the north. There's a little piece of it that drains to the south but there's enough fall to get good positive drainage so you can get the water out. We actually extensively talked with a geo-technical engineer about how well that would work. We can handle that in a pretty easy fashion. In simple terms its called drying out the soils. It won't have any adverse affect (on adjoining landowners). There's a little portion of this property that drains in a way that we'll have to re-direct it. We'll make sure there's not any increase of water running off of our site onto the adjacent property. We'll also have a retention pond on the property. Obviously when you're done, there will be a lot of asphalt where you didn't have asphalt before. So as that water drains off it needs to pond up a little bit before it releases," said Harrison.

County Mayor Mike Foster and several county commissioners posed questions to both the architect and engineer about the property including second district member Jack Barton, who shared his concerns about the useable price per acre of this site."What this body would really like to see is all of your figures brought down to a useable price per acre. If your dirt work is "x" amount and the unuseable acres is this (certain) amount, then is the (useable price per acre) at eight thousand dollars an acre, nine thousand dollars an acre, or is it more accurately fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen thousand dollars an acre? It would be good to know what your true cost is before you build and then you could say are there other options? It's the fiduciary obligation of this board to explore all those (options)," said Barton.

In response to questions, Harrison said "We had a number of sites that we looked at in Watertown (for a new school) and every one of those sites had unusable land on it. In fact the site that they ultimately chose had probably about 20% of the land area on that site that was not useable for different reasons. We compared those useable versus non useable areas and then we compared the costs that could change to that evaluation that we did there and under the costs that could change we came up with $2.1 million on this site (Smithville) and the average we had for the sites we looked at in Watertown was $2.7 million. That's a comparison cost that we use which includes grading, utilities, water and sewer. It's the average of the total extraordinary cost items that we found on each site. There were five sites (in Watertown) and that $2.7 million was the average," said Harrison.

According to Harrison excavation will include some 230,000 cubic yards of grading on the site at a cost of $8.00 per cubic yard and a sewage pumping station will have to be installed. "We actually have sewer costs at $49,000 and for the pump station at $125,000. That's for the on-site pump station and to carry it out to the sanitary sewer manhole in front of the existing high school," said Harrison.

In January, the school board voted unanimously to enter into a contract to buy this property, subject to approval by the county commission and a favorable site assessment study by the engineers.

The site, which is located near the existing DCHS/DeKalb Middle School campuses, belongs to Mark and Karen Adams, Melvin and LeeAnn Crips, and Billy Crips. The purchase price is $374,000.

Under terms of the contract, the school system has a 90 day "due diligence" period to have an engineering firm conduct core drilling, inspections of the title to the property, the environment condition of the land, and other site assessments to determine whether the property is satisfactory for it's intended purposes. That has now been completed.

If within the 90 day period, the property is found to be unsuitable, the school system may notify the sellers, who would then be required to return the $10,000 earnest money put down by the school system.

The school board has the money to purchase the property from its allocation of state BEP funds, but the county commission must agree to allow the board to spend the money by approving a budget amendment.

During Monday night's meeting, County Mayor Mike Foster asked the architect and engineer to provide the county commission with more information on the site studies in time for a workshop on April 14th. The commission will then be prepared to make a final decision on the purchase by the next regular meeting on April 18th.

SCORE Cites DCHS for Reform Efforts in Improving Graduation Rate

March 29, 2011
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County High School has been singled out for special recognition by a grassroots group focused on improving Tennessee's schools.

The education reform group State Collaborative on Reforming Education, formed by former U.S. Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, released its annual report last Thursday and cited DCHS for its "Promising Practices" of innovative reform efforts in raising the graduation rate from 67% in 2003 to 91% in 2009.

The SCORE report, which has grades for every county in the state, addressed how DCHS made the turnaround.

The following account appears in the SCORE report:

In 2003, DeKalb County's lone high school was reporting a disappointing 67% graduation rate and was placed on the state's "targeted assistance school" list, a distinction reserved for schools that are failing to meet minimum benchmarks in achievement and graduation, according to the report.

To make matters worse, the school's record keeping had fallen into disarray, which meant that in addition to subpar academic performance, it had lost track of students who were being counted as dropouts.

"As a faculty and staff, we saw that we were in trouble," said DeKalb County High School principal Kathy Hendrix, herself a graduate of DCHS who rose through the ranks (she taught for 20 years to become principal right around the time that the state identified the school as problematic. "We knew we were in a hole and had to get ourselves out of it."

Tired of underperforming, DCHS launched a focused turnaround effort that has paid dividends and cut the dropout rate. The fix, a combination of common-sense strategies and aggressive interventions that address DCHS's unique problems, but that any school or school system can emulate. But it wasn't easy.

The rural setting of the 850-student DCHS, in a county whose economy is dominated by relatively low-wage manufacturing jobs, has posed special problems for motivating students, as many were dropping out to earn money or saw limited post-graduation opportunity.

To address these issues, DCHS's turnaround included earning a grant to help institute distance learning classes at the school while expanding course offerings generally. The school now also offers dual enrollment courses that allow students to earn both college and high school credits for certain course work, giving college-bound seniors a leg up.

In addition to offering more rigorous courses, the school took a thorough inventory of its less successful students, began formal processes for communicating with parents about their child's performance and attendance, and cleaned up record-keeping data so that the school could identify-early and accurately- the students who were at risk for dropping out or failing.

Administrators and teachers now call parents of students who have received incomplete or failing grades to ensure that their children begin before and or after-school remediation.

Teresa Johnson, who graduated from the school in 1979 and whose son is a DCHS senior this year, said the school's communication with parents has been helpful. "I'm a single mom and I do it all, so I want them to call me with anything that happens," she said.

Other programs include an adult high school offering flexible hours for students who have dropped out to work or raise a family and intercessions during summer and fall breaks for students to bridge whatever gaps may exist in their coursework.

The results over the last seven years have been striking. The graduation rate increased to 91% in 2009, and the average ACT score rose from 19.4 in 2003 to 20.8 as of 2009. Perhaps most notably, DCHS fell off the state's target list in 2009 and was recognized on the Tennessee Department of Education's 2009 "Celebration List" for attaining good standing for the first time.

"A lot of this is ownership," Hendrix said. "It's our high school. We all know each other. A lot of us grew up here. And so we wanted to get our high school back where it needed to be".

"To be economically competitive and increase job growth, Tennessee must improve its public education system," said SCORE Chairman Frist. "This annual report gives a comprehensive look at education reform in Tennessee, highlights innovative successes across the state, and gives clear recommendations and direction for improvement in public K-12 education. Tremendous progress has been made in the Volunteer State in the last year. But this report clearly shows that important work remains to ensure that every Tennessee child graduates high school prepared for college or the workforce."

The report includes a Year In Review, outlining the significant progress that Tennessee made in education in 2010, and highlights four "Promising Practices" of innovative reform efforts in different regions of the state.

In addition, the report outlines four priorities that SCORE believes will be crucial to continued progress in 2011. These priorities include:

Sustained policy leadership in education reform from state leaders, including legislators, educators, and business and community leaders. These leaders must ensure that recent reforms are successfully implemented and push forward with other reforms, especially those related to more directly connecting the state's new teacher evaluations system to hiring, tenure, and compensation decisions.

A comprehensive strategy for improving the pipeline of district and school leaders through the launching of a statewide initiative to create a network of high quality school leadership programs. These programs would recruit, train, and support highly effective school leaders.

A relentless focus on instructional quality by ensuring that there is an effective teacher at the front of every classroom. This requires connecting the state's new teacher evaluation system to high-quality feedback and professional development opportunities, and by creating and expanding mentoring programs for new and low-performing teachers.

Increasing the capacity of the Tennessee Department of Education by aggressively recruiting high-quality staff to the Department, and strengthening the Department's regional offices so they can support individual local districts in implementing reforms

"These four priorities are crucial to maintaining the historic momentum in education that Tennessee has experienced," said Senator Frist. "They are based in the belief that successful implementation, and not just policy change, is critical to seeing real improvement in student achievement."

The full report can be viewed here: http://www.tnscore.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Score-2010-Annual-Repo...

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with state and local governments to encourage sound policy decisions in public education and advance innovative reform on a statewide basis.

Center Hill Dam Rehab Transitions to Next Phase

March 29, 2011
Dwayne Page
Center Hill Dam Rehab Project Aerial View
Concrete Barrier Wall to be Constructed in Earthen Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has announced that the seepage rehabilitation project at Center Hill Dam will soon be transitioning from deep foundation grouting to constructing a foundation barrier wall in the earthen portion of the dam.

Awarded in March 2008, the grouting contract was the first major project of the seepage rehabilitation effort. The grouting filled voids and soil-filled openings in the rock foundation and prepared for the safe construction of a concrete barrier wall. More than 1.5 million gallons of grout have been successfully placed in the rock foundation along the 800-foot-long earthen dam, 2,700-foot-long left rim and 700 feet downstream of the earthen dam, making the dam safer. Now that the grouting project is complete, proposals are being evaluated for the formation of that barrier wall to ensure long-term stability of the earthen dam, according to Project Manager Linda Adcock. "The scope of the rehabilitation of the foundation is primarily two fold. The first step, which has been completed, is deep foundation grouting. Grout is a flowable concrete. It's a very thin concrete mix. The contract that we recently completed which took about three years from 2008 to 2011 pumped 1.5 million gallons of grout into the rock foundation of Center Hill. It was done through the earthen portion of the dam down into the rock foundation below and about 3,000 feet beyond the dam, if you're looking downstream to the left. That's why we've excavated the rock on the left. The large excavation that you see is actually a working platform from which we were able to move the grouting equipment along that left rim and pump the grout into the ground. This grout fills the holes in the rock and seals the foundation and reduces seepage. The dam is actually safer now because of the grouting," said Adcock.

The district anticipates awarding the 2.5-year-long contract by the end of May to construct the permanent seepage barrier for the earthen dam's foundation, according to Adcock. "The second step is the real permanent feature of the fix and that is a concrete cutoff wall. We have gone out for proposals from contractors. These are very specialty contractors that do this work building deep foundation cut off walls and we are in the process of evaluating proposals from contractors. We hope to have a contract awarded by the end of May. The cutoff wall primarily is a minimum two foot thick concrete wall which will be placed down through the earthen embankment and then down into the rock for the length of the earthen embankment which is about 800 feet long. Its that earthen embankment that is really the most vulnerable for seepage and the movement of material which is called piping. When seepage becomes piping it is a serious condition. We do know that we have seepage but we have not seen piping of material in the earthen embankment but we're being very pro-active with this rehabilitation program. The grouting has made the dam safer but it is a temporary fix. Grouting typically doesn't last much longer than ten to fifteen years so the concrete cutoff or barrier wall is the long term solution to make the earthen portion of the dam safe," said Adcock.

Seepage has been occurring at Center Hill dam since it was built but Adcock said measuring devices indicated an increase in the level of leakage a few years ago, prompting a study and a request by the Corps for funding to fix it. "The reason we're going to spend seven to eight years and hundreds of millions of dollars is because the dam has a history of foundation seepage problems. This is because of the type of geology that the dam is founded in and the way it was constructed back in the 1940's and early 1950's. The seepage problems could cause the dam to have problems. The earthen portion specifically. So we are rehabilitating the foundation to keep the earthen portion of the dam safe. This seepage has been going on since the dam was built in 1952. We have monitored it over the years. We have instruments throughout the dam. We have measuring devices that tell us if the water is moving through the dam. Some water moving through dams is normal. All dams leak but that leakage must be maintained at a low level. When it starts to increase then that's when we need to pay specific attention. We saw signs that the seepage was increasing. We completed a study in 2006. It got approved at our Washington level and we had funding for the rehabilitation starting in 2007," said Adcock

According to Adcock, the Corps has no plans to do any grouting underneath the concrete portion of the dam because the original grout curtain is still holding, "Our original plan was also to grout beneath the concrete dam but we have done additional investigations since we first started and there was a grout curtain put in during the 1940's as part of the original construction. We have evidence that this grout curtain is still doing its job. Its still working under the concrete portion of the dam. The concrete portion is not part of the dam that we are concerned with seepage and piping because it can't pipe or be pulled away by the water moving under it," said Adcock.

Original plans were also to stop the seepage around the right side of the dam, but Adcock said after further studies, the Corps has decided against trying to plug that leak. "Originally we talked at our public meeting about trying to shut that off. We have since done a lot of investigation of that rock and the seepage. That seepage moves quickly around the right end of the dam. We know that from some chemical analysis of the water. We do not believe that this rock can fail the dam catastrophically. We will monitor that seepage but we do not plan to shut it off. Its just normal seepage around the dam, through the rock and around the concrete. It's not dangerous. It does provide a good oxygenated flow into the Caney Fork River for the trout and other habitat. I know the fishermen like it. You often see fishermen around that waterfall," said Adcock

After the barrier wall is completed by 2013, Adcock said the third and final phase will begin. "It will likely be for a general contractor to do some cleanup work and regrading. We would like to leave Eisenhower Park, which we had to close due to all of this construction, and put in a public access there and some parking and restroom facilities so that the public can access the lake again at the dam.,"concluded Adcock

The total project cost is $295-million.

Spring Blossom and Little Miss & Mister Pageants set for Saturday Night

March 28, 2011
Dwayne Page
2010 Junior Miss Haley Marie Hale
2010 Little Miss Queen Kenlee Renae Taylor
2010 Little Mister King Anthony Gage Trapp

The 2010 Junior Miss Haley Marie Hale of Smithville will crown her successor during Saturday nights annual Spring Blossom Pageant at the DCHS gym, sponsored by the Smithville Women's Club.

Hale is the 14 year old daughter of Melissa and Chad Hale.

Meanwhile the 2010 Little Miss and Mister, Kenlee Renae Taylor and Anthony Gage Trapp, will also be retiring after reigning for a year. Taylor is the five year old daughter of Cindy and Ken Taylor of Smithville and Trapp is the seven year old son of Amanda and Tony Trapp of Smithville.

Saturday nights activities begin with the Little Miss & Mister at 4 p.m. followed by the Spring Blossom pageant. The Little Miss & Mister contestants are between the ages of four and six and the participants in the Spring Blossom are girls in sixth through eighth grades.

This years pageant features nine handsome boys and thirty-nine beautiful girls competing for the title of Little Mister King and Little Miss Queen. For the Spring Blossom there are sixteen young ladies vying for the title of Junior Miss Queen.

Little Mister contestants include: Andrew Reece Vickers, Kotler Garrett Kilgore, Jase Glendon Bain, Brayden Seth Creek, Dylan Chase Bogle, Toby Lee Hayes, Landon Speaks, Trevor Matthew Kirby, and Holden Craig Trapp.

Little Miss participants are: Lydia Grace Johnson, Addison Hale, Jaylynn Nichlos, Kiley Isabella Speaks, Micah Bogle, Katelyn Knight, Alexis Riley Hawkins, Courtney Elizabeth London, Katie Patterson, Addison Grace Miller, McKenzie Faith Sanders, Ashlynn Knight, Katherine Irene Knowles, Leah Michelle Hayes, Allyson Roxanne Fuller, Kathryn Alysse Hale, Melanie Bogle, Briahna Ryan Murphy, Nadia Celeste Creek, Natalie Snipes, Carlee Elizabeth West, Madelyn Rose Ray, Kyra Michelle Baker, Addison Gray Roller,Katherine Dell Gassaway,Graceson Elise Boyd, Elizabeth Carlene Gaines, Peyton Elizabeth Norris, Ella Rea Florida, Addison Jean Puckett, Hannah Dawn Hall,Kendall Michelle Davis, Kora Lin Kilgore, Katherine Ann Vickers, Haidyn Renee Hale, Jenna Elizabeth Wright, Jazmine Elaine Wagner, Kylee Raegan Cantrell, and Elaina Bryce Turner.

The Spring Blossom contestants are: Alexis Kasara Davis, Hailey Nicole Glass, Bethany Brooke Poss, Morgan Marie Vickers, Meranda Kay Atnip, Alyssa Kayleen Funk, Brooke Danielle Roller, Kacie Brooke Bain, Hannah Walker, Kelsey Sueanna Hedge, Tyra Graham, Amisti Jae Loftis, Mariah Faith Jones, Rachel Fuson, Casey Elizabeth Vickers, and Bethany Burke.

All contestants are to attend the pageant rehearsal on Friday, April 1, beginning at 5:30 p.m. for the Little Miss and Mister participants and at 7 p.m. for the Spring Blossom contestants.

Studio Six Limited will be offering portrait packages the night of event. Pageant photos will begin at 3 p.m Admission is $3 (excluding contestants only) for anyone four and older and concessions will be available throughout the evening. The pageants are sponsored by the Smithville Women's Club.

A Look at the Tennessee Legislature

March 28, 2011
Dwayne Page
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

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

Since taking office in January, the Governor has made clear his vision for wholesale reform of Tennessee’s education system. He has said student achievement should be the cornerstone of any educational initiative. Legislators agree and have stated on numerous occasions that promoting teacher excellence is one way to ensure that vision becomes a reality for Tennessee students.

The Speaker and Lieutenant Governor have confirmed their respective Chambers will aide the Governor’s quest to raise standards in our classrooms. This week, major legislation was advanced to that end in the House.

On Thursday, in a landslide vote of 64-32, the teacher tenure reform legislation easily won approval in the House. The bill’s sponsor said, “We said last fall that we would do what it takes to make Tennessee the number one destination for high-quality jobs in the South. That included top-to-bottom reforms in business regulation and education. This is yet another promise kept to Tennesseans that we are committed to bringing accountability to the classroom to ensure every student is led by a great teacher.” The House Majority Leader added, “The Governor laid out a clear vision for raising standards and bringing more accountability to our educational system. We’ve done just that with passage of this legislation. With high-performing teachers, our students will receive the training and skills they need to be successful in the workforce. That means more and better jobs for Tennesseans.”

On Wednesday, the charter school initiative started its legislative trek. The House Education Subcommittee held debate on the legislation and is expected to vote on the measure next week. The legislation will do away with the current restriction on the number of charter schools allowed in Tennessee and provide greater access to a quality education to Tennessee students. These measures, along with other initiatives moving through the House, will ultimately lead to a more diverse and skilled workforce in Tennessee, bringing in more businesses and jobs to the Volunteer State.

U.S. Senator Corker Visits the General Assembly, Offers Strong Conservative Message

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) paid a visit to the General Assembly where he spoke with Members and gave an encouraging message about the work being done in Nashville.

The Senator spoke to the Members about international affairs and education matters but spent the majority of time talking about the fiscal crisis facing our nation. He remarked, “…I was here to encourage them to help us motivate lawmakers throughout our state at the federal level and to talk with their citizens that they represent, their constituents, about how important it is to take action.” He pointed out he was proud of the efforts to rein in spending at the State level and hopes to lead the federal government to follow suit.

The Senator was welcomed by the Speaker and introduced by the Lieutenant Governor and afterwards took questions from the Members about issues facing Tennessee.

Work of the Governor and General Assembly Lead to Job Growth in West Tennessee

The State received encouraging news during the week as a federal grant had been approved for construction to begin on a new deepwater port in Northwest Tennessee on the Mississippi River. However, the grant would have been removed had it not been for the hard work of the Governor and some Members of the House.

For several weeks now, the Governor and legislators from West Tennessee have highlighted the fact Tennessee needed to find resources to continue moving forward with construction plans for the forthcoming Port at Cates Landing. When it is finished, the port will lead to approximately 1,700 jobs and bring in a much-needed economic boost of $354 million to the local economy. The facility will be the deepest port on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, LA and Saint Louis, MO. The positive commerce and shipping effects of the project will be felt throughout Tennessee.

Empowering Educators with Equal Access Bill Moving Through the House

The House moved legislation touted as a “new way forward” on education reform this week by passing HB 130 out of the House Education Committee. The pro-teacher legislation gives a voice to all teachers who have not had a voice in education negotiations over matters in the classroom. The bill, like many other common sense measures working their way through the Legislature, promotes student achievement and allows teachers to be rewarded for excellence in the classroom through items like merit pay.

The bill calls for a collaborative effort at the education negotiating table between all interested stakeholders and allows for “equal access” to all professional teaching associations. The Governor recently stated his support for the measure because it, “(G)ives superintendents greater flexibility in making personnel decisions and supports my central focus of doing what's best for children in Tennessee classrooms.” The bill now moves on to the Budget Committee for consideration.

General Assembly Begins Work on Health Care Compact

Tennessee is poised to take the lead in reasserting the role of States with recent legislative maneuvers—a priority for many voters in last fall’s elections who believed the federal government has stepped into areas not meant for Washington.

After passing the Health Care Freedom Act two weeks ago and the Governor signing it into law, the Legislature started working on the Health Care Compact. The Compact is a multi-State effort to rein in the federal government and allow States to determine their own individual plans for health care coverage for their citizens. The States utilize federal resources for the programs and get to determine the amount of government interference over health care decisions.

The Act envisions a partnership among the States and Congress to bring more transparency, accountability, and individual responsibility to health care at the local level, instead of allowing the bureaucracies of Washington to run the system. The measure currently is being debated in the House Health Committee.

Compromise Bill Calls for Phase Down Reduction of Telephone Intrastate Access Charges

March 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
Les Greer

Rural telephone companies, including DTC Communications will be forced to reduce their intrastate access charges to AT&T and other larger carriers beginning April 1, 2012 under legislation making its way through the Tennessee General Assembly.

The bill on its way to passage is a compromise between the smaller and larger telecommunications companies. The original bill, which had the support of most state legislators, would have called for an immediate reduction in the access fees resulting in a loss of revenue to the rural carriers, including DTC Communications by hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly.

Under the compromise bill, rural telephone companies including DTC will be forced to reduce their intrastate access charges in a phase down over the next six years, starting April 1st, 2012 until the rate is just under two cents per minute, the same as the interstate access fees.

Les Greer, CEO of DTC Communications, told WJLE Friday that the local cooperative will still lose revenue under this legislation, but since it is a phased in reduction, DTC will have time to adjust. "The reason we wanted to leave things as they were is because we have a contractual arrangement between the large carriers and DTC. It was governed by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority and the TRA set those rates. We (DTC) are charging all of those carriers the same rates and they have not changed since 1992. We didn't think the legislature ought to be setting retail rates between two commercial enterprises. Their (large carriers) argument was that the interstate rate is much lower than the intrastate and that they (rates) ought to all be the same. But there are some other components that help offset those lower revenue streams on the interstate rate that this bill does not take into account," said Greer.

"On the interstate rate, we (DTC) are currently charging just under two cents per minute. We charge just under four cents per minute for the intrastate rate. The bill proposes to take the intrastate rate down to the interstate rate. This will impact DTC Communications roughly about $115 to $120 thousand dollars a year for each year of the phase down and the phase down will start in April, 2012. This buys time for us to figure other revenue sources or other ways to increase revenues to offset that loss of revenues," said Greer.

"I would like to thank all the members of the cooperative and the business community (who supported us) on this bill with our legislators. I would especially also like to thank State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver for all the hard work they've done on our behalf. Unfortunately, we weren't as successful as we would have liked to be but I do appreciate their efforts and the efforts of the employees of DTC for speaking out on this issue," Greer concluded.

As amended, the legislation will reduce the disparity between intrastate and interstate access fees by a rate of 20 percent each year for five years beginning April 1, 2012 and each subsequent April 1.

When a customer places a telephone call, it generally travels over multiple networks, which are owned by different telephone companies, en route to its destination. To compensate owners for the use of their networks, telephone companies charge each other for calls that originate on each others networks. The carrier whose customer places the call pays a per-minute charge to the carrier whose customer receives the call. When the call is a long distance call, the charges are referred to as access charges.

There are two kinds of access charges. Calls that originate in one state and terminate in a different state are subject to interstate access charges. These calls are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and are the same throughout the U.S. Calls that originate and terminate within the same state are subject to intrastate access charges and fluctuate throughout the state. It is the intrastate access charges that this bill addresses.

Senate Bill 598 establishes a requirement that all telephone companies in Tennessee charge other telephone companies the same rate for connecting calls into their network, whether the calls originate inside or outside the state. It establishes a defined transition period during which intrastate access rates will be brought down in equal steps to the same level as interstate access rates.

The bill also provides the ability for telephone companies to account for increases in interstate access rate changes, which are federally governed, and change their intrastate rates to mirror federal changes. In addition, it requires all telephone companies to file and maintain a tariff price list with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority setting their access rates and structures.

Fire Destroys Home on Hurricane Ridge Road

March 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
Fire Destroys Home of Larry Bain, Sr. at 650 Hurricane Ridge Road

A fire destroyed the home of Larry Bain, Sr. at 650 Hurricane Ridge Road Saturday morning.

Central dispatch received the call at 5:22 a.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said a neighbor spotted the blaze and called 911 but the fire was already well in progress by the time it was discovered. The blaze consumed the house and all of Bain's belongings inside the home.

Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to a shed behind the house, where shop and farm equipment were stored, although the structure did receive some minor heat damage.

Fire on Hurricane Ridge Road from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Members of the Main Station, Cookeville Highway, Blue Springs, and Short Mountain Highway stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the tanker truck and equipment vehicle. The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS were also on the scene.

No one was home at the time of the fire and no one was injured.

Chief Green said the cause of the fire is undetermined but it appeared to have started in the living room area.

14th Annual Relay for Life June 3rd

March 25, 2011
Dwayne Page
Cancer Survivors from 2010 Relay for Life

The 14th annual Relay for Life in DeKalb County will be held starting Friday, June 3rd at Greenbrook Park, going all night until early Saturday morning, June 4th.

Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society's signature event, is a fun-filled overnight experience designed to bring together those who have been touched by cancer. At Relay, people from within the community gather to celebrate survivors, remember those lost to cancer, and to fight back against this disease. Relay participants help raise money and awareness to support the American Cancer Society in its lifesaving mission to eliminate cancer as a major health issue. During Relay For Life events, teams of people gather and take turns walking or running laps. The events are held overnight to represent the fact that cancer never sleeps. Through the survivors' lap and the luminaria ceremony, the people who have faced cancer first hand are honored, and those who have been lost to this disease are remembered.

But, Relay isn't about taking laps -- it's about coming together in the fight against cancer. It's a time to remember those lost to this disease and celebrate those who have survived. It's a place where people connect with others, share the cancer experience, and find comfort and solace. And it's an opportunity to build hope for a future where cancer no longer threatens the lives of the people we love.

As volunteers and donors, your efforts support research, education, advocacy, and services that allow the American Cancer Society to offer help and hope to people across the country when they need it most. By joining together at Relay, we celebrate life, friendship, and an opportunity to work to defeat cancer for future generations.

In 2010 in DeKalb County, the American Cancer Society provided 33 people with 92 patient services. Twenty five nights of lodging were also provided at the Nashville Hope Lodge along with gas for 155 trips to treatment through the Transportation Grant Program.

On June 3rd, the community will gather together as one group to help in the battle against cancer. At Greenbrook Park in Smithville, dozens of teams, volunteers, community leaders, and citizens will enjoy the annual Relay for Life event. Plans are to have lots of entertainment and food available that evening, starting at around 6:00 pm. Planning for the Relay is a year round event and the organizers hope that you will enjoy what they have in store for you. Relay is the largest community event held in DeKalb County. Please join in for this special night and have lots of fun helping raise money.

Corps to Conduct Periodic Test of Emergency Evacuation Siren at Long Branch Campground

March 25, 2011
Dwayne Page

The Corps of Engineers will be conducting a periodic test of an emergency evacuation siren at Long Branch Campground, located directly below Center Hill Dam, on Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10 a.m.

This siren serves the Long Branch and Buffalo Valley Recreation Areas immediately below the dam. Additionally, neighboring private landowners downstream of the dam may possibly hear the siren. The test will last for approximately one minute.

This is only a test.

In the unlikely event of a breach of the dam, the siren will be activated and an evacuation plan put into effect to assist the visiting public in the Long Branch and Buffalo Valley Recreation Areas. Anyone with questions should call the Center Hill Lake Resource Manager’s Office at 931-858-3125.

Storm Damage in Alexandria

March 23, 2011
Dwayne Page
Ominous storm clouds over Highway 53 in Alexandria

A severe thunderstorm which apparently spawned a tornado blew through Alexandria Wednesday evening causing some structure damage to a few homes and outbuildings.

Two buildings on the DeKalb County Fairgrounds known as Jennings Produce and Jennings Barber Shop were completely destroyed. Heavy damage was also inflicted on the Alexandria City Park and the Alexandria Lions Club Softball Field.

The Mahome community between Alexandria and Watertown was also hit hard with damage to homes and barns and numerous uprooted or blown down trees.

Assistant Fire Chief for the City of Alexandria, Caleb Roth also reported damage at homes on East Main Street just off the town square in Alexandria. "We were dispatched out to a power line down in the street on East Main Street around 6:30 p.m. We got there with one engine and a squad truck with several personnel. We found power lines down. It appeared to be maybe straight line winds or possibly a small tornado touched down. Approximately five to seven houses had some damage. Lots of roof metal pulled off, siding, and furniture all over the place. We found ten to fifteen trees down in the area and power lines in the road. We did several patrols around the town and that's about the most extensive damage we came up with. No one was hurt. We checked all the houses in this area and everybody was safe."

Tony Griffith, who resides at 119 East Main Street in Alexandria, said he was at a gas station near his home when he learned that DeKalb County was under a tornado warning and that the storm was approaching Alexandria. Griffith said he got in his pickup truck and headed for home. He was about 200 yards from his house when he saw the debris from the storm blowing across the street. "I was coming up the road from the gas station when I saw stuff twisting and blowing across the road on East Main Street. It was blowing my pickup truck too. You could feel the wind. When I got home I ran into the basement and made sure everybody was okay."

Griffith said the storm caused some minor damage to his home and destroyed a shed. Several of his neighbors also experienced damage to their homes although apparently no one was left homeless.


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