Local News Articles

School Board to Purchase School Bus Tracking System

July 16, 2011
Dwayne Page
Kelly Lee
Zonar School Bus Inspection and Tracking System

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night voted to purchase a Transportation Software program from Zonar Systems to better keep track of school buses, monitoring where they are located at all times, and recording excessive idle times, excessive speeding, etc. in order to cut down on fuel costs and to speed up repairs. It also automates and verifies bus inspections.

Kelly Lee, a representative of Zonar, addressed the board of education Thursday night. According to Lee, this GPS/Cell phone based tracking system simplifies the entire pre and post trip inspection process of a school bus. It is easy to use and captures and stores fleet performance data. The cost is $27,127. "Its basically a cell phone based system that we use to monitor fuel costs and excessive idle times, excessive speeding, and location reporting., " said Lee.

"We use what we call a zone based system that can tell where the bus is at as far as school zones and where the bus is at as far as drive out or drive home. Anything to do with where the vehicle is at during all times, we can tell you where its at. Is it running? Is it using excessive amounts of fuel? Is it speeding? Primarily is it speeding in school zones or anywhere where there is a reduced speed zone? It can tell you that," said Lee.

" If it (bus) leaves a location its not supposed to leave, it can tell you that. Totaling fuel mileage, totaling hard braking, it (system) can do all that. Also part of the request is an inspection system that ensures that all of the drivers do an entire physical inspection on the whole bus and that every inspection they do, whether it be a special needs bus or a straight bus, that everybody is doing the same inspection and a physical walk around of the vehicle. Pre-trip, post-trip, student/child check, anything like that, they (bus drivers) have to do a physical walk around of the vehicle. Its all paperless. Its all accessible on the Internet and if any driver gets pulled over by the DOT (Department of Transportation), we (Zonar) are approved in all fifty states for the DOT to view up to thirteen inspections on the system," according to Lee.

"Its cell phone based so there are situations where you won't have cell phone service but in an event where you don't have cell phone service, the system is still actually working and once you get into an area where you do have cell phone service, it recovers all the information. So none of the information is lost and its all gathered.," said Lee.

"We've got a system that we've worked with in Chicago called Freeport School System and they saved 21% on their fuel last year alone. When you're talking 21% of a fuel bill at four dollars a gallon, its a pretty hefty number. I guarantee you that the system will pay for itself or we will take it back. Part of the quote is to have two people come in and train for two days on how to use the system and if you utilize the system I can promise you, from a savings standpoint, you're going to pay for the system and when you're ensuring that every driver is doing a physical inspection every day and you know how long it has taken them in each area, and in each location you know exactly what they're riding in and you don't have to rely on a hand written inspection, you know you can view it at any time, just the safety in that alone is worth that. From the day you get the system or even a year from then, if you get a call from someone who says a certain bus was speeding in our neighborhood a year ago, all you have to do is get the address, plug it in and we can know how fast that bus was going and what time it went through there. All the information is valid based on our GPS software," according to Lee.

Meanwhile on another issue, the school board members discussed but tabled for now a proposal to offer basic life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment coverage for all employees at a monthly cost of $710 to the school system. Under the plan, each employee would be covered for a flat $10,000 for Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment coverage. The cost per employee per month is $1.44 for the Life coverage and 17 cents per employee per month ($1.61 combined for the $10,000 of coverage), based on the census provided there are 457 employees who would be covered equating to a monthly cost of $710.66 (Basic Life and AD&D combined). These quoted rates are guaranteed for three years.

Budget Committee Proposes $1.62 Property Tax Rate, an Increase of 10 Cents

July 15, 2011
Dwayne Page

Your property taxes will be going up this fall if the county commission adopts a recommendation by the budget committee.

In their final meeting before passage of the new spending plan for the county, members of the budget committee met Thursday night at the courthouse and voted to recommend a tax rate of $1.62 cents per $100 of assessed value. That's a ten cent increase above the state established certified tax rate of $1.52.

A nickel of that ten cent increase will go to schools and the other nickel will help fund the county general budget. The five cent increase budgeted for schools is less than the amount requested by the board of education.

Here's how the proposed tax rate breaks down:

County General: 83 cents
General Purpose Schools: 55 cents
Debt Service: 12 cents
Highways/Public Works: 3 cents
General Capital Projects: 9 cents
Total Tax Levy: $1.62

Meanwhile, the solid waste department is to be funded by the following monies:
Gross Receipt Tax funds deposited into the General Fund: proceeds from the state beer tax, wholesale beer tax, bank excise tax, state revenue sharing-TVA funds, interest earned on county investments (excluding interest from the central cafeteria, trust funds, or bond proceeds); hotel/motel tax funds; the county's portion of the local option sales tax; proceeds from payments in-lieu of taxes; and the alcoholic beverage tax.

Prior to the committee taking action on the budgets and tax rate, County Mayor Mike Foster made the following prepared statement:

"With much discussion, the budget committee found it necessary and advisable to call for an increase in the property tax levy. The Tax Levy Resolution in the consolidated budget document increases the property tax levy to $1.62 per one hundred and reflects a .0986 cent increase from the equalized rate of $1.5214 and was only considered after making projections and considering long term financial stability. The driving force behind the increase was anticipated future requirements of meeting the schools "maintenance of effort" as well as meeting the local matching portion for the States BEP funding formula, with the General Fund levy increasing due to the notations listed below," said Foster

"Of particular note, the consolidated 2012 budget document changes the school board approved General Purpose School Fund budget only by lowering the amount of local revenues requested by the school board which was far above what the budget committee deemed necessary. Although the budget committee submits a tax rate resolution as noted above which increases the levy for the General Purpose School Fund by five cents on an equalized basis or seven cents when compared to the prior year, the budget committee believes that expenditures in the General Purpose School Fund budget which has been approved by the school board cannot be sustained on a long-term basis unless the DeKalb County Board of Education takes immediate steps to correct deficiencies. The budget committee made no effort in trying to identify expenditure cuts which should be a responsibility of the school board and believe that non-recurring revenues are being used for recurring expenses," said Foster.

"As noted above, the consolidated budget document also increases the levy for the County General Fund by five cents. A pay scale system was presented by the DeKalb County Sheriff and implemented into the budget in order to maintain qualified personnel in law enforcement, with longevity pay for the Sheriff's Department being cut out. Pay raises for county employees are budgeted at $1,000 per year with spending cuts being made by officeholders in order to offset some of the additional expense. Increases in utilities, workers comp, and liability insurance are included, with particular emphasis on utilities which is a best estimate due to the anticipated occupation of the new county administrative building. Although the budget projects a decline in cash fund balance for the General Fund, the budget committee does not believe the decline will be as steep as presented. The largest outlays are unknowns such as ambulance service revenues and expenditures, as well as declines in revenues due to the recession but the budget committee is confident that actions taken in prior budget years have been successful and will carry the county through the current economic downtown and projects fund stability within two budget cycles," said Foster.

Foster added that "the budget committee recommends approval of the consolidated budget and rejection of the school board approved General Purpose School Fund," he said.

All members of the budget committee voted in favor of the above recommendations on budgets and tax rate including Wayne Cantrell, Jack Barton, Jerry Scott, John Green, and Marshall Ferrell, who declared his conflict by being a school system employee, but yet voted saying that he was "voting his conscience"

The budget committee will now forward the proposed new tax rate and spending plans for all county departments to the county commission for final approval during a special meeting on Monday, August 8th at 6:00 p.m. at the courthouse. The budgets will be published as a legal notice in the newspaper next week as required by law.

The official public notice of the meeting is as follows:

The DeKalb County Commission will meet in special session on Monday, August 8 at 6:00 p.m. at the courthouse in order to consider the following agenda:

Call to order


Appropriation Resolution

Consideration of Consolidated Budget Document and Discussion of Approved School Board Budget

Resolution to Levy a Tax Rate in excess of the Certified Rate

Tax Levy Resolution

Non- Profit Resolution

Budget statements of the individual funds


This notice serves as the official intent of DeKalb County to exceed the certified tax rate.

There will also be a Public Hearing as required by law which will be held at 5:00 p.m. prior to the County Commission meeting. The public may review the proposed Fiscal Year 2011-12 Budget document during the Public Hearing.

The public is invited to attend this meeting as well as all meetings of the Board of County Commissioners

WJLE will have more details on the budgets in later news stories on the radio and at www.wjle.com.

School Board Raises Price of School Lunches

July 15, 2011
Dwayne Page

If you pay for your children's school lunches, you'll have to ante up a little more this year.

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night voted to increase the price of school lunches 10 cents, going from $1.25 to $1.35 for pre-kindergarten students to third graders and from $1.50 to $1.60 for fourth through twelfth graders. Breakfast prices will remain the same at $1.00 for all students.

Stephanie Walker from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Stephanie Walker, School Nutrition Supervisor had actually recommended that the prices be increased by twenty five cents due to the rise in food costs but at least some board members felt that was a little too much for now. "The only reason that I'm asking for a quarter increase is that USDA, using the current rates of inflation, says if a school system charges as much as $2.46 for a paid lunch it would not be required to increase prices. They want us to increase by at least five cents. The only reason I'm asking for a quarter (increase) is to cover us for about the next three years so I won't have to ask for it again. This is a requirement through USDA that we do that to reach eventually $2.46, which I feel we're far away from, but it is a plan for the future," said Walker.

Walker said by increasing prices now, it will hopefully prevent the food service budget from going into the red in the future. "This is also hopefully to try not to get in the red. A lot of schools feel like they will go in the red and that they will use their a la carte money to cover them for those months that they go in the red. A la carte is just individual items sold within the schools such as french fries. If you get a meal and you wanted an extra french fry, that would cost fifty cents and that's considered a la carte. So they're using their a la carte process to cover them going into the red. However, we don't sell a lot of a la carte. Our main school is the high school where we provide a la carte. Every now and then in the elementary schools they can buy an extra meal, but that's about all we do. So this is just to decrease the potential of going into the red," said Walker

Even with the increase, Walker said DeKalb County will be in line with or below what most other school systems in the area charge for school lunches and many of them are also raising prices . "I feel like we have done a really good job at keeping our lunch prices as low as we can and out of the county comparisons in the area that I have provided you (school board) only three are not going up (on prices) that were the same price as us," said Walker

When asked by board member Johnny Lattimore if she would feel comfortable with only a ten cent increase, Walker said it would be much easier in making change with a quarter. "The reason that I chose not to do a dime is because of the volume of kids coming through the lunch line and the amount of change that we have to deal with. Its just better if they deal with quarters," said Walker.

Board member Bruce Parsley said he was concerned about the increased costs being passed on to the parents in a quarter versus a dime. "I've got three kids in the school system and I've got a friend who has five kids in the system and the difference between a dime and a quarter over a year's time is close to two hundred dollars," said Parsley.

Lattimore added "I would be more in favor of going with a dime (increase) right now and if we need another dime next year, come back and get another dime," he said.

More than sixty percent of DeKalb County students qualify for either free or reduced priced meals which means much of the school system's food service budget is supported by federal funds under this assistance program. The rest is borne locally by those who can afford to buy their own breakfasts and lunches. The food service budget does not receive any local property or sales tax dollars to operate.

In other business, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby presented his monthly update on personnel.

Jimmy Sprague has been employed as an interim Transportation Manager

Penelope Mason has resigned
Michelle Fontanez, DCHS teacher has resigned
Jonathan Fontanez, Secondary Supervisor of Instruction has resigned

Amy Tobitt, DCHS teacher, has been granted a leave of absence as requested.

Man In Prison for Reckless Homicide Says He Doesn't Deserve Parole

July 14, 2011
James Vernon Speaking at Parole Hearing Via Video Conference (WJLE Photo)
Joseph David "Joey" Clark (WJLE Photo)
Clark's Mother and Grandfather Teresa Prater and Harold Gay(WJLE Photo)
James Vernon at the time of his arrest in 2009

A Rock Island man, serving a four year sentence for reckless homicide, may have blown any chance he had to be set free from prison after telling a state parole board member Thursday that he should not be granted early release.

The parole hearing for 40 year old James P. Vernon was held at the Cookeville offices of the Tennessee Board of Probation. Neither Vernon nor the state parole board member, Lisa Jones were present in Cookeville for the hearing. Jones presided by video conference from her office in Savannah while Vernon was connected by video from the Turney Center Industrial Complex in Hickman County, where he is incarcerated. Members of the victim's family and the assistant district attorney general, who were present in Cookeville, could see Jones and Vernon on a television monitor and they could be seen by Jones and Vernon on a monitor from their locations.

James P. Vernon Parole Hearing from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Vernon, convicted of reckless homicide in the brutal beating of 24 year old Joseph David "Joey" Clark on Center Hill Lake in July, 2009, received the four year prison sentence in DeKalb County Criminal Court on January 26th.

Teresa Prater from dwayne page on Vimeo.
After a thirty minute hearing Thursday and just before delivering her decision to vote against parole, Jones asked Vernon for a comment on why he should be set free. "You have an opportunity now to tell me why you believe that I should vote to parole you today".

Vernon responded, " I don't think you should".

Jones then asked " So you do not believe that you should be paroled"?

Vernon answered " No ma'am"

Jones concluded "Because of the serious nature of the crime of which you have been convicted, I can't vote to parole you. My vote is going to be to balance your sentence. I have but one vote. Your case is not final today. Your case is a three vote case. You have one vote to balance your sentence. Your file will now be forwarded to other board members across the state until there are three votes (concurring). That usually takes three to four weeks. If you are inclined you have limited rights to appeal."

Harold Gay from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Vernon has already served a total of twenty three months since his initial arrest and subsequent conviction. His sentence is set to expire on January 28, 2013, although that date could be moved back.

Originally charged with first degree murder, Vernon stood trial on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 in DeKalb County Criminal Court for second degree murder. Later that evening the jury, made of up six men and six women, returned from it's deliberations with a verdict of reckless homicide.

Assistant District Attorney Greg Strong from dwayne page on Vimeo.
State prosecutors said Vernon was responsible for the death of Clark, who was severely beaten during an attack on a houseboat at Center Hill Lake July 7th, 2009. Clark died a week later from his injuries at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. The fight was apparently over Vernon's missing wallet, which he accused Clark of stealing. The assault occurred in DeKalb County, only a short distance from Horsehoe Bend Marina, which is in White County.

Vernon, who testified during the trial in his own defense, said that he met Clark on the fourth of July, 2009 during an outing on the lake. Two days later, July 6th Vernon said Clark showed up at his boat, just to hang out. Vernon invited him inside but a short time later, Vernon said Clark suddenly left, saying he had to go. Vernon looked around and noticed that his wallet, which he kept on the bar near the dining table, was missing. Thinking that Clark took it, Vernon followed after Clark and confronted him about the wallet, which he said contained $50. Clark denied taking the wallet and Vernon apparently never found it.

The next night, July 7th, Vernon said he showed up at a friend's houseboat and that Clark later arrived. Witnesses testified that Clark was already at the boat when Vernon got there. Vernon apparently confronted Clark again about the wallet. Clark denied taking the wallet and then made another comment which apparently caused Vernon to become angry. Vernon began punching Clark. According to the witnesses, Vernon inflicted three or four blows to Clark and then continued beating him after he fell to the floor unconscious, even though witnesses tried to restrain Vernon and called for him to stop.

Clark's mother Teresa Prater, spoke against Vernon's early release during Thursday's parole hearing. "Joey was my son. My one and only child. This man (Vernon) has no idea how many lives that he has ruined. This man entered a boat that he was not even invited onto and he beat my son. The first three licks he was unconscious and he continued to beat him, stomp him, and kick him in the head. He (Vernon) has never shown any remorse. He has never said he was sorry. He did this and he should be punished for it. Four years is not near enough for what he has done and I don't think that he should get any leeway at all. My son was in the hospital for eight days. I got to see him twice a day. When I went in that room I could not touch him. I could not speak to him. All I could do was stand there and watch my baby die. For eight days he fought for his life til he couldn't fight anymore," said Prater.

Prater's father and Clark's grandfather Harold Gay also pleaded against parole for Vernon. " I don't think justice was done to start with at the trial. The man didn't get anything near what he deserved. I don't think the man should be released at such an early time for the heinous crime that he committed, beating this kid to death. There's no proof that Joey took the wallet. Anyway, if he did (steal the wallet) to beat a man to death over $50 is uncalled for and inhuman. I don't think the man should be released," said Gay.

Greg Strong, an Assistant District Attorney who helped prosecute the case, added that the state's position is that Vernon should remain in prison. "He still doesn't show any remorse for the death of Joey Clark. He talked about that he has a good relationship with his adult daughter but based on his actions, the family that sits here with me today will never have any kind of relationship with their son. I don't think he has dealt with any kind of anger issues. I think they are still present. As witnesses recounted what happened after about two to four punches to his head, Mr. Clark was no longer even able to defend himself and the beating continued by some witness accounts up to twenty punches and some kicks as well. He still won't accept the accountability for that. The state takes the position and I support fully the family in this that the time that he has served is in no way commensurate with the action that he took on that night on a houseboat and I don't know that any amount of time could be. He has taken away any chance of a relationship that this family has with Mr. Joey Clark. The state is adamantly opposed to parole in this situation," said Strong.

Earlier during the hearing, state parole board member Jones asked Vernon about the incident leading up to the beating of Clark. The following is that exchange between Jones and Clark:

Vernon: "Mr Clark had stole something from me and while meeting with him a couple of days later after the theft offense, we got into a fight about it."

Jones: "How do you know Mr. Clark was the one who stole something from you"?

Vernon: "Because we were the only two in the room and when he left the room the item was gone".

Jones: "What do you believe he stole from you"?

Vernon: "My wallet"

Jones: "How long had you known Mr. Clark"?

Vernon: "That was the second time I had ever met him".

Jones: "The information I have is that you severely beat him. He was hospitalized and I believe he died as a result of that beating a few days later. Is that what you know"?

Vernon: "Yes ma'am"

Jones: "Were drugs or alcohol involved in this"?

Vernon: "I had been drinking"

Jones: "Was there not a better way to handle the situation other than beating the man to death"?

Vernon: "Yes ma'am"

Jones: "How would you have handled this current situation differently"?

Vernon: "I could have just got up and walked away and just dealt with the loss of what he stole from me"

Jones also asked Vernon about a previous misdemeanor aggravated domestic assault case against him involving his girlfriend which was on his record at the time of the beating of Clark.

Jones: " What about with your girlfriend, in that instance"?

Vernon: "In the report that you're probably reading, it says that I beat her up, which isn't the case, as she later stated in court".

Jones: "Why then did you get the misdemeanor aggravated domestic assault offense"?

Vernon: "Because that's what the judge give me"

Jones: "But you maintain that you did not do that"?

Vernon: "I did not severely beat her, no ma'am. She tried to stab me with a pair of scissors and I shoved her away from me and she went over a chair and hit her nose on a chair and her nose was bleeding when they (officers) got there"

Jones: "You have an opportunity now to tell me why you believe that I should vote to parole you today"?

Vernon: "I don't think you should"

Jones: "So you do not believe that you should be paroled"?

Vernon: "No ma'am"

Jones: "Mr. Vernon there's no doubt that the lives of the family and friends of Mr. Clark will never be the same. You could and should have walked away or handled the situation in a different way. But instead you beat a man until he lost his life. That being said, because of the serious nature of the crime of which you have been convicted, I can't vote to parole you. My vote is going to be to balance your sentence. I have but one vote. Your case is not final today. Your case is a three vote case. You have one vote to balance your sentence. Your file will now be forwarded to other board members across the state until there are three votes (concurring). That usually takes three to four weeks. If you are inclined you have limited rights to appeal", said Jones.

Jones noted that Vernon had no criminal convictions as a juvenile but has a record of three misdemeanors as an adult, in addition to the reckless homicide felony. Those previous charges include the aggravated domestic assault on his girlfriend in which he received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days with 10 days to serve on weekends; a theft of property up to $500; and a failure to appear.

Vernon said he is a graduate of Warren County High School and completed a vocational course in welding. His last place of employment was Ace Fence in Warren County from 2007-08. He left Ace to work for himself as a handyman and carpenter.

Vernon is divorced and has an adult daughter, in her early 20's. Vernon said he has a good relationship with her.

According to Vernon, he now holds a maintenance position at Turney and has had no disciplinary problems or write-ups since being incarcerated.

If granted parole, Vernon said he would have a home with his parents. As for a job, Vernon said he would like to go to driving a truck.

DeKalb County Fair to Feature More Than Twenty Rides on the Midway

July 14, 2011
Dwayne Page
Kite Flyer Ride Coming to Fair
Kite Flyer

The Family Attractions Amusement Company has already moved in several rides to the DeKalb County Fairgrounds with several more to come by opening day of the fair on Monday.

Josh Macaroni, one of the owners of Family Attractions Amusement, said this year's fair will feature over twenty rides including the Dizzy Dragon, Pirates Bluff, Train, Wind Jammer, Badlands, Merry-Go-Round, Duckboats, Monster Truck, Fun Slide, and Kiddy Bounce for the family and kids along with spectacular rides like the YoYo, Tempest, Bumper Cars, Scrambler, Alibaba, Spider, Kite Flyer, Avalance, Sea Ray, Gondola Wheel, and more.

Unlimited rides will be available each night for $18.00. Wednesday will be Discount Ride Night-
Arm Bands Only for $14.00.

Untitled from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Admission to the fair is $3.00 per person. Children age four and younger will be admitted free! Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. Parking is Free

The DeKalb County Fair opens Monday, July 18 through Saturday, July 23 in Alexandria.

Fish Gets Three Year Sentence for Attempted Rape

July 13, 2011
Dwayne Page
Mark Fish, Jr
Matt Gilles
Matthew Baker
Stephanie Perry
Jamie L. Hodges
Tony Reeder

A 25 year old man, charged with statutory rape, pleaded guilty to attempted rape in a negotiated settlement in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Tuesday.

Judge David Patterson sentenced Mark Fish, Jr. to three years to serve at least 30%. He was given jail credit of 230 days.

Fish was originally charged with statutory rape.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on or about October 12th, 2010 while at a residence on Blue Springs Road, Fish allegedly unlawfully had sex with a 15 year old female without her consent. Sexual penetration was made by force. The female stated that she was asleep at the time of the incident and when she awoke, she told him to stop, but he did not.

Meanwhile, in other cases 25 year old Matt Gilles pleaded guilty to sale of a schedule II controlled substance (cocaine) and received a six year sentence to serve 90 days. He was given credit for time served. The remainder of the sentence has been suspended to supervised probation. Gilles was also fined $2,000.

29 year old Matthew Baker pleaded guilty to two counts of second offense driving under the influence and aggravated assault. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in each of the DUI cases with 45 days to serve to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to a three year sentence in the aggravated assault case to be served in the community corrections program. Baker is under a restraining order to stay away from the victim in the case. He was given 89 days jail credit.

26 year old Stephanie Perry pleaded guilty to promotion of meth and was granted judicial diversion. She must pay a $2,000 fine.

23 year old Jamie L. Hodges pleaded guilty to promotion of the manufacture of methamphetamine and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine). She received a three year sentence in each case to run consecutively for a total of six years. Hodges will be on supervised probation for three years in the meth manufacturing promotion case. In the delivery of meth case, she is to serve three years at 30%. Hodges was given jail credit of 283 days and fined $2,000.

45 year old Tony Reeder pleaded guilty to a third offense of driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation except for 180 days to serve. He will lose his license per department of safety regulations.

47 year old Charles W. Smithson, Jr. pleaded guilty to a second offense of driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days with 45 days to serve. He will then be on probation. The sentence is to run consecutive to another case against him. Smithson was given jail credit for 90 days of time served.

Fire Guts Home in Wolf Creek Community

July 13, 2011
Dwayne Page
Donny Green Photo

A Wednesday morning fire gutted a home in the Wolf Creek Community on Medley-Amonett Road just across the line in Putnam County.

Central dispatch received the call at 5:03 a.m.

DeKalb County Fire Chief Donny Green said a passerby spotted smoke coming from the two story residence and called 911. Members of the Temperance Hall, Main Station, and Cookeville Highway stations responded along with DeKalb EMS, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, and Carl Halfacre, manager of Edgar Evins State Park.. Green said the structure, apparently used a vacation home, was unoccupied.

When firefighters arrived they discovered the home was located about fifty feet outside of DeKalb County in Putnam County. DeKalb County firefighters battled the blaze until Putnam County stations could get there and continued to provide assistance after they arrived.

The home was extensively damaged.

Green said the cause of the fire was not immediately known. The names of the owners were also unavailable.

School Board Revises Request for Tax Increase

July 13, 2011
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education has updated it's proposed school budget again and now seeks a property tax increase of almost eleven cents.

During another workshop and special meeting Tuesday night, the school board was forced to revise it's budget again after discovering that a line item adjustment was unnoted in the action taken during Monday night's workshop and special meeting.

Board members Monday night left the impression that they had cut the original request for a tax increase down to six and a half cents. But by Tuesday, they discovered the oversight in the calculations and had to schedule another special meeting for Tuesday night to correct it, before the spending plan was re-submitted to the county budget committee. After plugging in the numbers that were inadvertently unnoted, they discovered that the actual property tax hike needed to fund this budget is now 10.96 cents, not six and a half cents.

In it's original request when the tentative school budget was adopted in May, the board of education sought a seventeen cent increase in the property tax rate. But since then reappraisal has been completed and the amount of local money generated by each one cent on the property tax rate has been revised. So the board's initial seventeen cent increase is now closer to sixteen cents.

If no change is made in the tax rate, the new certified rate to fund schools is expected to be 52 cents or $2-million 204-thousand 260, which is sixteen cents less than what the school board is requesting to support schools for the coming year, with all the new positions and pay raises the board wishes to fund.

Members of the county budget committee have previously voted to fund the pay raises, which would be about a five cent tax increase for schools, but not other extras in the proposed school budget. Last week, County Mayor Mike Foster asked Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and the school board to find places to make cuts in their budget.

The school board met Monday and Tuesday night for that purpose. But while the board has trimmed it's request for a property tax hike of sixteen cents by five pennies or $211,948, down to around eleven cents, they are seeking new money from the local option sales tax or sinking fund in the amount of $169,560, and though that is not property tax money, it is the equivalent of four cents. That puts the overall request for new funding at the equivalent of fifteen cents, just one cent or $42,388 below the board's original request of sixteen cents.

The school budget now projects total revenues at $19-million 444-thousand 014 and total expenditures of $19-million 932-thousand 993, a difference of $488-thousand 979 which means in order balance the budget, an actual tax increase of 11.54 cents would be needed.

After meeting in special session Tuesday night, Director of Schools Willoughby hand delivered a copy of the new proposed school budget to County Mayor Foster and members of the budget committee who were meeting at the courthouse. Foster said no action would be taken on the budget until he and members of the committee had more time to review it.

The budget committee is expected to make its final recommendations on all county budgets Thursday night during a meeting at 6:00 p.m. at the courthouse. The new budgets and tax rate will then be published as a legal notice in the newspaper and presented to the county commission for final approval at a meeting in early August.

County Budget Committee Recommends Pay Scale for Sheriff's Department Employees

July 12, 2011
Patrick Ray

In an effort to make wages of sheriff's department employees more competitive the budget committee Monday night, July 11 voted to recommend to the county commission that a new four tiered pay scale be established and funded in the new 2011-12 spending plan. The extra cost to the county in implementing the plan comes to around $300,000 in the new budget.

Committee members Jack Barton, Wayne Cantrell, Jerry Scott, John Green, and Marshall Ferrell all voted for the proposal. Larry Summers was absent.

All other full time county employees would get a $1,000 pay raise for the year in the new budget, which equates to about a 50 cent per hour increase, subject to approval of the full county commission. .

As WJLE reported first last week, deputies and detectives at the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department are some of the lowest paid law enforcement officers in the state, according to Sheriff Patrick Ray.

DeKalb has fallen behind counties of similar size and population in recent years in what it pays law enforcement officers and Sheriff Ray's concern is that he will continue to lose more experienced personnel in the months ahead unless the county takes action to catch up.

In a meeting recently with the county budget committee, Sheriff Ray said he has lost five employees since last October because they have found jobs in law enforcement that pay better elsewhere. Sheriff Ray was asked to compile information on pay rates in other counties of similar size to give the committee some idea of where to start. Sheriff Ray provided those comparisons as well as a proposed pay scale for his staff. County Mayor Mike Foster and the budget committee reviewed Sheriff Ray's request, but apparently found it a little excessive. They asked him to get with Foster and come up with a more workable plan.

To address the problem, the budget committee proposes that entry level pay for a first year deputy be increased from the current level of $10.96 per hour to $12.87 per hour or $28,777 per year. The pay would increase each year until the fourth year when a deputy would top out at $15.31 per hour or $34,233 per year.

Pay for a first year detective would increase from the current rate of $12.99 per hour to $16.63 per hour or $34,590 per year. A four year detective would top out on the pay scale at $18.54 per hour or $38,563 per year.

The following is the new salary scale for members of the Sheriff's Department as proposed by the county budget committee, compiled by County Mayor Mike Foster and Sheriff Patrick Ray

Chief Deputy:
$19.30 per hour or $39,573 per year

First Year- $16.63 per hour or $34,590 per year
Second Year-$16.82 per hour or $34,985 per year
Third Year- $17.20 per hour or $35,776 per year
Fourth Year- $18.54 per hour or $38,563 per year

Patrol Sergeant:
First Year- $16.63 per hour or $34,590 per year
Second Year-$16.74 per hour or $34,819 per year
Third Year- $16.85 per hour or $35,048 per year
Fourth Year- $17.09 per hour or $35,547 per year

First Year- $12.87 per hour or $28,777 per year
Second Year- $13.23 per hour or $29,582 per year
Third Year- $13.98 per hour or $31,259 per year
Fourth Year- $15.31 per hour or $34,233 per year

Correctional Officers:
First Year- $11.50 per hour or $25,714 per year
Second Year- $11.93 per hour or $26,675 per year
Third Year- $12.36 per hour or $27,636 per year
Fourth Year-$12.79 per hour or $28,598 per year

First Year-$9.92 per hour or $20,633 per year
Second Year-$10.03 per hour or $20,862 per year
Third Year-$10.26 per hour or $21,340 per year
Fourth Year-$10.58 per hour or $22,006 per year

The following are the current hourly wages for DeKalb County Sheriff's Department positions:

Detectives (3 positions): $12.99 per hour or $27,024 per year
School Resource Officer (1 position): $10.96 per hour or $24, 514 per year
Deputies (14 positions): $10.96 per hour or $24,514 per year
Sergeant (1 position): $12.51 per hour or $26,023 per year
Correctional Officers(15 positions): $9.92 per hour or $22,174 per year
Correctional Officer/Training Officer (1 position): $22,674 per year
Secretaries/Correctional Officers (4 positions): $10.66 per hour or $22,174 per year
Litter Guard (1 position): $10.66 per hour or $22,174 per year
Cook (1 position) $10.11 per hour or $21,024 per year

The chief deputy is a salaried position and he currently receives $37,523 a year.

Meanwhile, the budget committee Monday night also recommended budgeting $5,000 for WCTE-TV in Cookeville to help defray costs of producing the Fiddlers Jamboree. The money would go specifically to assist the televison station in post-production of the Jamboree for the nationally televised two-hour highlight show.

Tuesday night, the budget committee voted to cut the contribution to the Chamber of Commerce from the requested $20,000 down to $15,000 in the new budget for the year.

Dare2Fair Next Week

July 12, 2011
Dwayne Page

The Grandpa Fair of the South kicks off Monday through Saturday July 18th through July 23rd.

With the theme "DARE2FAIR..It's a Sweet Ride ", this year's DeKalb County Fair will feature a fun filled week of activities including rides by the Family Attractions Amusement Company and two new events, Mud Drag Racing on Thursday night and the Lawn Mower Derby on Friday night as part of the Demolition Derby.

(Click here to view video clip of 2010 demolition derby at the fair)

Fair Manager Jeff McMillen said these new events should add even more excitement to an already entertaining fair. "The Mud drag racing is basically four wheel drive vehicles that run on a 150 foot track. They run against a clock. They're not actually lined up side by side. It's a time event. This is the best new attraction we've added in the last couple of years. We took away the four wheel drive rock climbing (Off Road Challenge) because it just wasn't drawing the number of spectators that we thought it should. We feel like this event will fill in that gap for us," said McMillen.

Click here to view video clip of 2010 rodeo steer riding event at DeKalb County Fair

"Probably one of the most interesting things we'll have this year is the lawn mower derby. During the demolition derby we've always had this down time between classes so this year we have added a lawn mower derby," said McMillen.

"Another event that we are working on is the corn hole tournament. That has become a popular thing in our community and across the state. We're going to try to put that together. Hopefully, it will be in a tent so that if it rains we can go ahead and have it anyway," said McMillen.

Click here to view video clip of Tony Luna portraying Billy Ray Cyrus at 2010 Vintage Fashion Show

The fair will be bringing back the Open Rodeo, the Demolition Derby, and Super Tractor and Truck Pull, Go Kart Racing, Four Wheelers and Motorcycle Racing, DeKalb Idol, the Vintage Fashion Show, and many other popular attractions.

(Click here to view video clip of 2010 Super Tractor Pull at the Fair)

The Off Road Challenge will not be part of this year's fair line-up of events

McMillen urges fair goers to take the time to enjoy lots of delicious foods from the food booths and stop by to see the many commercial, agricultural, and women's exhibits.

The Kenneth Sandlin Center will be open Monday through Friday from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Click here to view video clip of 2010 Go Cart Racing at the Fair

All Perishable items ONLY will be accepted on Saturday, July 16th from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Premium books are now available at DeKalb Community Bank, Liberty State Bank, Prichard's Foods in Alexandria, the Chamber of Commerce Office, the U.T. Extension office and at libraries and post offices in DeKalb County. It can also be downloaded from the fair website as well at www.dekalbcountyfair.us.

Take a stroll down Memory Lane and enjoy nightly entertainment at the Memory Lane Stage in Memory Village, sponsored by DeKalb Community Bank. The DeKalb County Fair Memory Lane Stage Line-Up is as follows:

The following events are scheduled:

Monday, July 18
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Donny Barthelemy
7:45 p.m.- 8:45 p.m. Burden Rock Band

Tuesday, July 19
6:30 p.m.- 7:30 p.m.: Born for This-Zachary Allen
7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m.: Kingdom Reign-Zachary Allen

Wednesday, July 20
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Lil John-Magician
7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m.: Mercedes Luna

Thursday, July 21
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: The Evermean Evergreen Cloggers
7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m.: Terri Lynn Weaver

Friday, July 22
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Ronnie Wison Band
7:45 p.m.-until?: The Mid-State Cloggers

Saturday, July 23
6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.: Pickin Friends
7:45 p.m.-8:45 p.m. Abigail Rose

Monday, July 18th: National Anthem at 5:45 p.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion; Cattle Show at 6:00 p.m. at the Tot Kelly barn; Rodeo at the T.C. McMillen Arena at 6:30 p.m.; Junior Fair Princess Pageant for contestants ages 13-16 at 6:00 p.m. followed by the Fairest of the Fair Pageant for contestants ages 17 to 20 at the Lions Club Pavilion. $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 19th: Visit from WSMV's Snowbird; the Little Mr. and Miss Pageant for contestants ages 4-6 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion with a concert by The Springs to follow; Go-Cart Racing at 6:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena; and a Horse Show at 7:00 p.m. at the Grandstand; $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 20th: Little Miss Princess Pageant for contestants ages 7-9 at 6:00 p.m. followed by the Miss Sweetheart Pageant for those ages 10-12 at the Lions Club Pavilion; Four Wheeler and Motorcycle Racing at 6:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena; $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Thursday, July 21st: Senior Citizen Day activities at 9:00 a.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion; 4-H Chick Chain Show at 5:00 p.m. at the Tot Kelly barn; Junior Goat Show at 6:00 p.m. at the Tot Kelly barn; a Baby Show at 6:00 p.m. followed by a Vintage Fashion Show at the Lions Club Pavilion; and Mud Drag Racing at the T.C. McMillen Arena at 7:00 p.m.; $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Friday, July 22nd: Toddler Show for contestants 13 months to 47 months at 6:00 p.m. followed by DeKalb Idol Final Competition at the Lions Club Pavilion; a Super Truck and Tractor Pull at 7:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena; and a Demolition Derby/Lawn Mower Derby at 7:00 p.m. at the Grandstand; $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 23rd: Horseshoe Tournament at the Tot Kelly barn at 1:00 p.m.; Gospel singing at the Lions Club Pavilion at 6:00 p.m.; Super Tractor and Truck Pull at 7:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena: and a $1000 cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m.

One thousand dollars in cash will be given away each night, Monday through Saturday at 9:30 p.m. at the Lion's Club Pavilion and you must be present to win. If no one presents the winning ticket within three minutes, the money will be saved and given away on Saturday night in increments of $1,000. Your fair admission ticket is your ticket for the cash drawing.

Rides on the Midway will be provided by the Family Attractions Amusement Company. Unlimited rides will be available each night for $18.00. Wednesday will be Discount Ride Night- Arm Bands Only for $14.00

Admission to the fair is $3.00 per person. Children age four and younger will be admitted free! Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. Parking is Free!

Every night is T-shirt night! Wear any DeKalb County Fair T-shirt from ANY YEAR and ask for your ticket to win the newest fair T-shirt during the cash giveaway at 9:30 p.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion. Request tickets at the gate.

Sign up to compete in the DeKalb Idol competition Monday through Thursday backstage at the Lions Club Pavilion from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. The registration fee is $10.00. The final competition will be Friday, July 22 at 7:00 p.m. following the Toddler Show at the Lion's Club Pavilion. You could win a $300 cash prize and a $100 People's Choice Award.

For more information, call 529-FAIR or visit on-line at www.dekalbcountyfair.us.


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