Local News Articles

Board of Education Making Plans for Future School Building Program

October 11, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education is making plans for a school building program to meet existing and future space and curriculum needs.

Under consideration is a proposal to build a new high school for grades 9 to 12, renovate the existing high school making it into the new location for DeKalb Middle school for grades 5-8, make renovations and additions to DeKalb West School, make Northside Elementary a school for grades 2 to 4, and make Smithville Elementary a school for Pre-K and first grade. The total project cost is between $34-million and $40-million dollars.

Members of the school board met in a workshop session Thursday night, prior to the regular meeting, with Mike Brock, David Brown, and Pam Huddleston of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones, and Morris Architects, Incorporated. The company has two locations, one in Mount Juliet and another in Knoxville.

This firm has prepared, at no cost to the county or school system, a facility study which shows the classroom capacity, the actual student population, and the core capacity of each school. Brown says the purpose of the study is to "gather enough information from the director, teachers, administrators,and the community, and then put it all together from our architectural and school design perspective to give you some ideas as to what the status of your schools are right now and what your options are for handling growth and overcrowding and how to address issues should you decide to build new or add on to existing schools."

Brown explained that the classroom capacity, on the elementary school level, is based on the BEP student/teacher ratio formula. The core capacity is the number of students for which the school was designed and built to accommodate.

According to the survey, DeKalb West School has a classroom capacity of 470, a student population of 428, and a core capacity of 320. Since the core capacity number should be larger than the classroom capacity and student population, Brown says this means that DeKalb West School is "growing by more students than they have school to handle".

Brown says the core capacity is also exceeded by the student population at Smithville Elementary School. According to the survey, the classroom capacity at SES is 740, the student population is 645, and the core capacity is 528.

The study shows that student overcrowding is currently not a major concern at Northside Elementary and DeKalb Middle School as far as infrastructure, but Brown says "that doesn't mean there are not other issues there. One of the most critical issues you can face is overcrowding or exceeding the infrastructure of the school. There are some issues on that front at DeKalb West and Smithville Elementary, but not quite as bad at Northside and DeKalb Middle School."

According to the study, the classroom capacity at Northside Elementary School is 575, the student population is 526, and the core capacity is 750.

At DeKalb Middle School, the classroom capacity is 620, the student population is 527, and the core capacity is 800.

Brown explained that there is a different set of design criteria for high schools. While elementary schools are designed around classroom BEP student/teacher ratios, high schools are designed around curriculums and courses offered.

The student population at DeKalb County High School is 821 and the core capacity is 1000. Brown explained that while the typical size of a high school is 175 to 200 square feet per student, DeKalb County High School is at 145 square feet per student, and the reason the core capacity number is larger than the student population is primarily due to the addition of the cafeteria a few years ago, which created more square footage, but didn't fully address other curriculum issues. Brown says new or more modern elementary schools are now usually designed for 125 square feet per student and 150 square feet per student for newer middle schools.

The architects have proposed that a new high school be built for grades 9 to 12. This facility would not only address the space and curriculum needs at the high school level but would also avoid large addition/renovation projects at the middle school and elementary schools. The approximate student population would be 850 with a core capacity of 1,200 for a core utilization of 70% and an average of 212 students per grade. A new 1,200 student high school facility (with athletic fields) would cost $28-million to $32-million dollars.

The plan calls for renovation of the existing high school into a grade 5-8 DeKalb Middle School with an approximate population of 675 and a core capacity of 1,000 with a core utilization of 68% and an average of 168 students per grade.

According to the study, DeKalb West would remain a Pre-K to eighth grade school but there would be additions and renovations to increase the core capacity of the school. The plan calls for the kitchen/cafeteria to either be expanded or replaced as well as the addition of four classrooms. The approximate population would be 428 with a core capacity of 600, a core utilization of 71%, and an average of 48 students per grade. The proposed addition would increase the core capacity. The estimated cost of making the addition to DeKalb West including a new kitchen/cafeteria, classrooms, and administration would be $1.5 million to $2- million dollars.

Northside Elementary would become a school for grades 2 to 4. The second grade would be moved from Smithville Elementary and the fifth grade would go from Northside to DeKalb Middle School. This would relieve the pressure on SES without requiring an addition at Northside. The approximate population at Northside would be 508 with a core capacity of 750, core utilization of 67%, and an average of 170 students per grade. The renovation at Smithville Elementary, Northside, and DeKalb Middle Schools is projected to be $750,000 to $1.5 million dollars.

By moving the second grade to Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary's student population would be back within the natural core capacity of the school without an addition, although some minor renovation would still be needed. The approximate student population at SES would be 477, the core capacity 528 and the core utilization would be at 90%.

The study further finds that since there is not a need for another elementary school in this configuration, the existing DeKalb Middle School could be re-tasked as an Adult Learning Center, Alternative School, offices, etc.

Again, the preliminary budget to fund this project comes to $34-million to $40-million which includes, in addition to the construction costs, $650,000 to $750,000 for furniture and equipment; $500,000 to $600,000 for technology; $1.8 million to $2.2 million in fees for site survey, geotechnical, civil engineering, environmental, fire marshal, legal, design, printing and a 3% contingency of $900,000 to $1 million dollars.

The budget figures do not include additional code required upgrades to existing facilities and do not include land acquisition costs. The figures may change based on site survey, environmental and geotechnical information not yet provided. These budget figures should be valid for 12 to 18 months.

This facility study was only presented to the board for review during the workshop and was not discussed during the regular meeting Thursday night. The board has taken no action on it.

MTUD's Enoch says Expect Lower Natural Gas Prices this Winter

October 11, 2007
Dwayne Page

Natural gas customers could see lower home heating costs this winter

Les Enoch, CEO of Middle Tennessee Natural Gas, told WJLE Thursday that prices have stabilized. "There is good news for winter heating bills. Natural gas prices have stabilized and if the weather is about the same as last year, gas bills should be about 4% lower."

"The District has made a concerted effort to stabilize prices for our customers benefit and we believe we've been successful. The District's cost of gas has stabilized as a result of several factors, including favorable purchasing strategies, abundant storage, and increased production activity. A significant portion of our winter supply is already in storage. We are currently 95% full and the price is lower than last year. This helps all of us and of course we're passing the savings along to our customers."

Enoch urges consumers to conserve as much energy as possible to save even more money this winter."Now is a good time to winterize your home. Improving insulation levels, weatherstripping, changing the filters, and keeping thermostats at the lowest possible comfort level will all save energy and reduce gas bills. For example, during the winter, for every degree you lower your thermostat, you save about 3% on your heating bill"

Corker Addresses Concerns of Farmers and Nurserymen About Disaster Relief

October 11, 2007
Dwayne Page

In addition to the farmers, the early freeze and the summer drought has hit the nursery business hard and many nurserymen are hoping to cash in on federal crop insurance.

However, according to the growers, crop insurance only covers dead plants. So while a row-crop farmer can till under a brown field of soybeans, nurserymen must wait, and even if damaged plants survive, growers say consumers would not likely pay full price for them.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker heard from some nurserymen Tuesday during his town hall meeting in Smithville.

Congress has declared the entire state an agriculture disaster area, but that only qualifies those enrolled in the federal crop insurance program for low-interest loans, and many don't want to take on more debt.

Corker says he understands the problem ."Lamar (Alexander) and I both lobbied the Agriculture Secretary to have our state named a federal disaster area, which he did. We did it both for the freeze in the spring and for the drought later this year. The problem with that is, all it does is make the agriculture community able to access loans, and you can imagine, if you lose a year's production and then you borrow money to cover that, all it does is dig a deeper hole that sometimes takes seven to twenty years to dig out of."

"There are a couple of things happening. First, Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama is offering an amendment during this next session, before we leave for the year, to change the date upon which access to direct disaster relief occurs. It's going to be made to the end of this fiscal year, which would cover the drought that has taken place in the State of Tennessee. Secondly, the agriculture bill is coming through. The Senate mark up right now actually has a permanent category for disaster relief."

"This has been the worst drought in any recent time, I mean the losses the farmers have had across this state are real. I've been on farms all across this state. It is real and it's been devastating and the tragedy of it is that it's been at a time when they actually could have made some money this year. I mean corn prices are up, commodity prices are up across the board, and this was going to be one of those banner years.

"It looks like in the Senate bill this year, we will have a permanent category for disaster relief or direct payment assistant that will be offered, so I think we have solutions working. Hopefully they are going to pass, but I assure you we are very aware of what's happening here and we've spent a lot of time discussing it with Farm Bureau and Farm Service Agency officials."

Bill and Kim Luton of Cumberland Nursery have said in a previous report that the cold snap in April damaged or destroyed every plant that couldn't be brought into a greenhouse. They've since trimmed the nursery's staff by more than half. They estimate at least a half-million dollars lost at their nursery, alone, a third of their annual revenue.

Tennessee Congressman Lincoln Davis, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, and others visited with Warren and DeKalb County growers last month in McMinnville and heard many of these same concerns.

The Luton's say insurance adjusters "don't understand us, the policies don't favor us, and considering this is the worst year we've had in memory, this should be the year crop insurance pays out."

Tigers Finish Third in State

October 10, 2007

The DeKalb County High School Tiger golf team shot a 322 on Wednesday, the second and final day of the Class A-AA State Tournament, and finished third out of the eight-team field.

Tiger sophomore, Payne Denman, meanwhile, shot a 76 on Wednesday, and finished with a 147, good enough for a tie for fourth place among individual medalists. Goodpasture's Joe David, the leader after the first day of tournament play, maintained his lead on day two, and finished with a 135 to win the event by two strokes over Dylan Waters of David Lipscomb.

Lipscomb, meanwhile, captured the team State Tournament title, with a two-day score of 599. University School of Jackson, which held a four stroke lead over Lipscomb after Tuesday's play, ended up in second place, with a team score of 609.

Grant Goodwin was next in line for DeKalb County on Wednesday, as he shot a 78 to finish with a two-day score of 156. Austin Garrett and Tyler Robinson each shot an 84 on Wednesday. Garrett ended up with a 159, while Robinson shot a 172 over the two-day event. Grant James came in with an 88 on Wednesday, and finished with a 173.

The Tigers, who was in third after first round play on Tuesday with a 309, did finish with the best State Tournament team score among public schools in the Class A-AA division. They end the season with a 49-24 team record.

On the girls' side, DeKalb County's Shay Sullivan shot an 87 on Wednesday, which gave her a two-day total of 171. Her score put her in a tie for 23rd place among individual girls. Shelby Gilbert of Notre Dame won the girls' individual honors, with a two-day score of 146.

The State Golf Tournament was played at the Old Fort Golf Course in Murfreesboro.

DeKalb Special Education Department Presents "Navigating the Maze"

October 10, 2007

DeKalb County Schools’ Special Education Department in partnership with The Arc of Tennessee’s Project LINK (Leaders In Education Networking for Kids) and, Family Voices of Tennessee and the SIG (State Improvement Grant), are proud to present “Navigating the Maze” with Julie Sullivan.

Families who have children with special health care needs, disabilities are invited to come learn how to navigate the different related systems in Tennessee. The training will happen from 6 to 8 pm, Tuesday, October 23 at DeKalb County High School.

This informative workshop explores services for families with children with special health care needs or disabilities. Programs for children from birth thru adulthood will be discussed, including eligibility criteria, income guidelines, whether program is federally mandated or not, and if is available throughout the state of Tennessee. Laws and federal policies that affect families with children with special health care needs or disabilities will also be explored. Families will learn how to access appropriate services available for their children in Tennessee.

For more information, contact Gina Arnold, DeKalb County Schools’ Special Education Department at 215-2105 or Loria Richardson, The Arc of Tennessee’s Project LINK (Leaders In Education Networking for Kids) at 215-2065.

U.S. Senator Corker Holds Town Hall Meeting in Smithville and Proposes Affordable Health Care Bill

October 10, 2007
Dwayne Page

U.S. Senator Bob Corker has proposed legislation to make health care more affordable.

Corker held a town hall meeting Tuesday in Smithville and discussed health care among other issues. "Our Census Bureau says there are 800,000 Tennesseans today that don't have health insurance. It also says we have about 47-million Americans at any one point and time, not everyone at once, that do not have health insurance. I know those numbers are disputed all the time and it doesn't matter. The point is there's a lot of people in our country that don't have health insurance and I think it's one of the major issues that those of us who have the privilege of serving in the capacity that I do, need to deal with. I think we have a moral obligation to deal with that issue."

"Some of the major company CEO's in America are in Washington lobbying to go to a single payer government run health care system. The reason they are doing that is because they are obviously facing International competition, it's a cost in their product, and they don't feel like they can compete. So you combine those efforts with the fact that we have a lot of people in our country that don't have health care benefits, and my concern is that if we don't do something in this country to provide the opportunity for every American to access private, affordable, quality health care, then I'm afraid that we are going to move toward government health care, which I think would be bad for our country."

"I've offered a bill in the Senate, named "The Every American Insured Act". This bill looks at the tax code and makes some changes that create an opportunity for every American to have access to at least, through tax credits, a major medical policy. It is absolutely revenue neutral, meaning that it doesn't add one penny to the federal deficit. By making sure that everybody has access to health insurance, it does away with the cost shifting that occurs in our health care system. Today, if you have a private health insurance plan, the cost of insuring you is in that plan, but also the cost of those 47-million Americans that don't have health insurance and show up in the emergency room is also in that plan, because somebody has to pay the tab, and so by everybody having access to private health care, it actually lowers the cost of insurance to each individual in the country."

Curves and DeKalb Community Hospital are Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

October 9, 2007

Curves® of Smithville, part of the world’s largest franchisor of fitness clubs, and DeKalb Community Hospital today announced they will be teaming up for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraiser during October Breast Cancer Awareness month to create awareness of breast cancer and to raise funds to help eliminate it. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States.

Curves of Smithville has plenty of ways for everyone to get involved. New members who join between October 8 and 20 will pay only $25 for their membership down payment when they show proof of a current mammogram or report doing regular doctor check ups. Curves is also accepting donations to the American Cancer Society that can be made to validate a survivor or in memory of a loved one who has fallen to cancer.

“Curves of Smithville is committed to helping the women in our community live healthier, stronger lives,” said Lorraine Snead, Curves Owner. “Breast cancer will touch about one in every eight women, but breast cancer death rates are going down. This decline is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and having access to improved treatment. Regular exercise is part of the fight against breast cancer. By encouraging women to get mammograms and rewarding them for doing so, we are helping to fight and even eliminate breast cancer in our lifetime. That’s something we take very seriously.”

DeKalb Community Hospital is also making strides to help women live healthy and full lives. The hospital is conducting a mammogram drive and is giving out pink totes as gifts to the women who come in and receive their mammogram in October. Carla Mick, Director of the Radiology Department states, “The totes are definitely a hit. We are also providing mammograms at a reduced price this month to help those women currently without insurance or with insurance that doesn’t cover this screening. All women should really get their first mammogram by age 40 and then yearly thereafter. If you have a family history of breast cancer then you shouldn’t wait until you are 40. Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early. We hope as many women as possible will call to schedule their mammogram. You can call 215-5530 to schedule yours”.

October is Fire Prevention Month

October 9, 2007

What should you do if there's a fire in your home? Get Out!

The State Fire Marshal's Office reminds Tennesseans that preparing for a home fire in advance greatly increases a family's chance of survival. That means having an escape plan and practicing it.

Fire death is a serious problem in Tennessee and the State continually ranks among the five worst in fire death rate nationwide. Governor Bredesen has officially proclaimed October as Fire Prevention and Safety Month.

Here are some helpful tips to prepare for a home fire:

· Develop a plan. Draw a floor plan of all levels of the house; find the two best escape routes from each room; make sure each route is unobstructed and if it involves climbing through windows, make sure they are operable; review the plan with your spouse and children.

· Know how to escape. First, feel the door with the back of your hand. A hot door means a fire is on the other side and you should choose an alternate escape route. If the route is smoky, stay low and crawl along the floor where the air is safer to breathe.

· Choose a safe meeting place. Pick a tree or other landmark that is a safe distance from the house. All members of the family should come to this place once they get out.

· Call 911 from a neighbor's house. Never call from inside a burning house. Your chances of escaping decrease every second you remain inside.

· Never go back inside a burning house. Toys and valuables are replaceable. people aren't.

· Practice the escape plan twice a year. If a fire occurs, confusion will set in if the plan has not been rehearsed. There is no time to waste. Practicing will make the response to a fire become second nature.

"There are many things a person can do to reduce fire risks before a fire starts, but one of the most important things is being familiar with an escape route. Many fire deaths and injuries can be prevented simply by getting out of the house," said Tennessee State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman. "We urge all Tennesseans to start preparing and continue fire prevention tactics all year long."

For more information on home fire safety, visit http://www.state.tn.us/commerce/sfm. You may also visit www.dekalbfire.com or www.smithvillefire.com.

Man Arrested for Aggravated Burglary and Evading Arrest by Smithville Police

October 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 24 year old man was arrested by Smithville Police Saturday, charged with aggravated burglary, public intoxication, and evading arrest.

Chief Richard Jennings says Gabino Garcia Rosa of 530 Miller Road allegedly broke into the apartment residence of Bridget Annette Brock at 211 West Main Street and then fled in an attempt to escape.

The case was investigated by Officers Joey Jones and Matt Holmes.

According to the Affidavit of Complaint, Smithville Police Officers were at the Brock residence at 211 West Main Street on a burglary call and obtained a description of the suspect. The man was later seen on Market Street and when an officer yelled at him, he ran, but was later found at 303 South College Street, where he was arrested.

Rosa is accused of entering the Brock residence by unlocking the door through a broken window without the owner's consent with intent to commit a felony.

Rosa will be in General Sessions Court on the charges October 18th.

In the arrest report, Officer Jones writes that "At approximately 10:28 p.m., I arrived at 211 West Main Street where I made contact with Brittany Ann Brock, who advised that a Hispanic male, whom she knew, had broken into the apartment where she and her mother (Bridget) were sleeping. This man reached through a window, opened the door, and walked in. Brittany stated that she told him to get out but he would not leave. She then stated that he tried to get her to take something he had in his hand which was in a plastic bag, but she told him again to get out. Again, he would not leave. She then called 911. When the officers arrived, Brock stated that the man darted out of the house and went around back. After a brief search of the area, a neighbor stated that she saw a man running across the road, behind the apartment complex , and up the road."

Officers later found the man under some trees and brush in the back yard at 303 South College Street. He was taken back to the scene of the burglary and Brock positively identified him as the man who broke into her home.

Rosa allegedly told police after his arrest that he had earlier drunk several beers and smoked some marijuana. Police say he could not stand up straight without help and he had a strong odor of beer on his person and breath.

Three Arrested by Smithville Police Department in Theft Scheme

October 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department has broken up a theft scheme with the arrest of three people.

19 year old Samantha Rene Devault of Highland Drive was arrested for forgery. Smithville K-9 Officer Craig Capps says Devault allegedly stole checks from a family member and went to Wal Mart in Smithville, forged the checks, and obtained merchandise, an infant car seat valued at $153.57. After DeVaullt obtained the merchandise, 31 year old Tyrone DeWayne Owens and 26 year old Michael Chad Owens of Shady Drive Smithville allegedly returned the item to Wal Mart and received cash back in the amount of $153.57, knowing the item was purchased with a forged check.

DeVault is charged with forgery and her bond is $25,000. Tyrone Owens is charged with facilitation of a felony (theft) and his bond is $25,000. Michael Chad Owens is charged with facilitation of a felony (theft).

Meanwhile, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged Michael Chad Owens with burglary and theft of property under $500.00. Sheriff Patrick Ray says Owens allegdly broke into a house on Shady Drive Smithville and stole a Play Station II game. Owens bond was set at $61,000.


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