Local News Articles

Counties No Longer Required to Purchase New Voting Machines

May 15, 2011
Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker

Thanks to a bill that has cleared the legislature, counties are no longer required to purchase new voting machines, thus saving property taxpayers thousands of dollars while still maintaining the integrity of the election process.

The state Senate passed a measure Thursday that makes the purchase of Optical Scan voting machines permissive rather than mandatory. The state House had passed the measure earlier and the bill now goes to the governor.

Had the legislature not acted in this session, counties would have been forced to purchase new voting machines in a move that many considered "an unfunded mandate." If Governor Haslam signs the latest legislation, individual county election commissions will have the option of going to
the new machines or staying with the equipment currently in use.

"This was a compromise to the original legislation adopted a few years ago and one that many election administrators and election commission members throughout the state applaud," said Dennis Stanley, DeKalb County's Administrator of Elections.

Under the original act passed in 2006, each county in Tennessee would have been required to use the precinct-based Optical Scan voting system beginning with the 2012 November election. A bill was introduced this year that would implement the plan only if the legislature included a specific
recurring appropriation in the General Appropriations Act for the 2011-2012 fiscal year to cover all the increased costs to the individual counties. That bill was amended to allow counties the option to go to the different voting system and the state would pay for the machines. However,
counties will bear the burden of recurring expenses with the new system. Optical scan voting machines utilize both a paper and electronic system in which voters mark a paper ballot which is then scanned (or read) by an electronic machine. Once the vote is recorded, the paper ballot is
automatically dropped into a sealed container. DeKalb County currently uses what is known as a DRE voting system, an electronic machine that records a vote without the use of paper ballots.
"The voting machines we have now were first used in late 2006 and are working as advertised," said Walteen Parker, local election commission chairman. "At this point, there is no need to go to a different system that, in the view of many, actually opens the door to fraud and obviously
will result in increased expenditures."

Many proponents have argued the optical scan voting system assures a person's vote is counted correctly by providing a paper trail and voters receive a paper receipt upon completing the voting process. But Stanley said that is not totally true. "In reality, there is no way a voter can verify how his or her ballot is counted once it is scanned into the machine. And certainly, there is no
paper receipt given the voter, which would open the door to vote-buying," he said. "Proponents of the optical scan machines have been misinformed on their use and the use of the current system we have in place here."

Stanley said if the bill had become mandatory, it would have cost the local property taxpayers an estimated $60,000 more during the 2012 calendar year. "Even with the state purchasing the machines, the increased costs of printing the ballots, purchasing different voting booths and transporting the larger machines to and from the voting precincts would have been the
county's responsibility," he said.

"To give you an example of the increased expenditures, the database for the recent August DeKalb County General and State Republican and Democratic primaries totaled $2,000. If we had to print paper ballots for each of those elections, all held on the same day, the cost would have
been between $15,000 and $18,000. As long as the current machines provide an accurate picture of the voters' wishes, I see no need to spend thousands of dollars to change voting systems," he added.

Stanley and Parker took occasion to thank both Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver and State Senator Mae Beavers for their support of the compromise legislation. "They have been responsive to the needs of both the voter and the taxpayer," Parker said. "Their understanding of election issues has been a real plus and we appreciate help with this legislation."

Outstanding 4-H Members Honored during Banquet

May 14, 2011
High school members pictured with Steve Officer
Eli Oliver, Willliam Cain, Kirkland Smallwood, Morgan Vickers, and Lydia Trail
Junior 4-H members

The DeKalb County 4-H Club Banquet was held recently to honor outstanding 4-H members.

TOP PHOTO: High school members pictured with retiring 4-H Agent Steve Officer (front row): Erin Cantrell-Pryor, Alyssa Young, Katie Haggard, Mary Knowles, and Amanda Laxton. Second row: Kayley Green, Steve Officer, Elizabeth Sanders, Olivia Norton, Cassie Cain, Danielle Knowles, Katie Frazier, and Tyler VanHoose. Third row: Matthew Cain and Hayley Perry (photo by April Martin).

High school members pictured with retiring 4-H Agent Ron Rogers (front row): Erin Cantrell-Pryor, Alyssa Young, Katie Haggard, Mary Knowles, and Amanda Laxton. Second row: Kayley Green, Steve Officer, Elizabeth Sanders, Olivia Norton, Cassie Cain, Danielle Knowles, Katie Frazier, and Tyler VanHoose. Third row: Matthew Cain, Hayley Perry and Shelby Mulloy (photo by April Martin).

SECOND PHOTO FROM TOP:Junior High 4-H members receiving awards were: Eli Oliver, Willliam Cain, Kirkland Smallwood, Morgan Vickers, and Lydia Trail (photo by April Martin).

BOTTOM PHOTO: Other Junior 4-H members receiving awards were (front row, left to right): Derek Young, Tyree Cripps, Olivia Fuson, and Casey Vickers. Second row: Luke Green, Wyatt Martin, and Caitlyn Lawrence (photo by April Martin).

DeKalb Community Bank Hosts Luncheon for DCHS Top Ten Students

May 14, 2011
Dwayne Page
DCB Hosts Luncheon for DCHS Top Ten Students

DeKalb Community Bank recently hosted a luncheon in honor of the DeKalb County High School Top Ten Students.

Those in attendance were Brittany Campbell, Martha Webb, Tia Menix, Heather Owens, Ethan Duke, Clark Adcock, Tyler Seymour, Olivia Norton, Weston Rhody, speakers Joey Agee, DeKalb Middle School and Justin Nokes, recent TTU graduate, and Gentry Barnes, President DeKalb Community Bank.

Noted Ventriloquist David Turner Entertains at Justin Potter Library

May 13, 2011
Dwayne Page

Noted ventriloquist David Turner and Friends entertained participants in Friday's Older American's Day celebration at Justin Potter Library

Turner, a resident and native of DeKalb County, performed with his pals "Tad Short", "Johnny Cash", "Willie Nelson", "Elvis", and "Maynelle"

David Turner from dwayne page on Vimeo.
The month of May is recognized nationally as Older Americans Month, a time when the vast contributions of older adults are recognized . Justin Potter Library joins in the national celebration each year by hosting Older Americans Day. This year's theme was "Connecting the Community". Participants enjoyed the fellowship and received door prizes, goody bags, and sack lunches.

DeKalb Schools to Close for Summer on Thursday, May 26

May 13, 2011
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County Schools will close on time on Thursday, May 26

During Thursday night's Board of Education meeting, the school board had planned to approve executive action taken by Director Mark Willoughby to amend the calendar to make up a school day lost due to severe weather on Wednesday, April 27th.

Plans were to extend the school year by one day, moving the last day of school from Thursday, May 26 to Friday, May 27.

However, Willoughby informed the board Thursday night that the state has granted the school system's request for a waiver so that the lost day will not have to be made up. Therefore, the school calendar will not have to be changed. (Click here to listen to the entire school board meeting)

Students will not attend on Wednesday, May 25th. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend. The last day of school will be Thursday, May 26. That will be an abbreviated school day and report cards will be sent home.

DCHS Principal Kathy Hendrix Addresses School Board from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Meanwhile, DCHS principal Kathy Hendrix reminded the board Thursday night that high school graduation is set for Friday, May 20 at 7:00 p.m. on the football field and that Senior Awards Day will be Thursday, May 19 at 8:30 a.m. in the gym.

School Board Seeks 17 cent Property Tax Increase to help Fund New Budget

May 13, 2011
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby

The DeKalb County Board of Education is seeking a seventeen cent increase in the local property tax rate to help fund the new school budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year which begins July 1st.

The school board adopted the proposed tentative general purpose and food service budgets during the monthly meeting Thursday night which was held at the DCHS cafeteria. All six board members present voted in favor. Sixth district member Bruce Parsley was absent.

The general purpose budget totals $20-million 146-thousand 303 consisting of local monies but mostly state funding. In order the make the proposed budget balance a total of $666,893 is needed from the Education Jobs Fund, which is federal one time monies; an appropriation of $658,016 from the school system's allocation of Basic Education Program (BEP) reserves for equipment and capital outlay expenditures; and a seventeen cent increase in the local property tax rate. If approved, the local tax rate for schools would increase from the current level of 48 cents to 65 cents per $100 of assessed value. One cent of the tax rate is estimated to generate $44,323.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby outlined during the meeting and then further discussed with WJLE afterwards the need for some of the extras in the proposed new budget including the following: (Click the following link to hear Willoughby's comments made to WJLE)

A 3.2% pay raise for certified and support staff

Five new teacher positions (total funds needed $225,000):
One Northside Elementary School 5th grade teacher
One Northside Elementary School physical education teacher
One DCHS math teacher
One county wide instruction coach teacher
One band assistant teacher

Two new assistant soccer coach positions (total funds needed $5,570)

One new support staff position-DCHS site coordinator (total funds needed $33,580)

One new teacher position-DCHS special education teacher (total funds needed $45,000)

Three teacher positions which have been funded from federal stimulus (ARRA) money to be returned to the local general purpose fund now that the ARRA funds have been exhausted. (Total funds needed $135,000

One educational assistant position which has been funded from ARRA money to be returned to the local general purpose budget (Total funds needed $15,000)

Three new assistant principal positions with benefits (Total funds needed $229,100)
One at DeKalb West
One at Northside Elementary
One at Smithville Elementary

The proposed new budget also includes the following increases:

Textbook adoption (Math)- $40,000
Updated hardware/software Accounting Department- $40,000
Minimal increase in utility costs- $6,000
Increase in maintenance of plant supplies- $23,000
Increase in fuel costs: $124,000
Increase in capital outlay- $200,000 (mostly for DCHS science lab upgrades)

The spending plan will be presented to the budget committee of the county commission and if it meets with approval there, then it will go before the entire county commission in August for final approval. If the committee does not approve, then the proposed new school budget could be subject to some revisions by the board of education.

Robinson Child Struck by Car Released from Hospital

May 13, 2011
Dwayne Page

A young child, who was rushed to Vanderbilt Medical Center by DeKalb EMS Thursday evening after being hit by a vehicle, has been released from the hospital and is going to be okay.

Buddie Robinson, father of three year old Zeva Robinson, told WJLE Friday evening that his daughter suffered only superficial wounds and no internal injuries as a result of the accident. Robinson said he and his wife Donna want to thank everyone for their concern and prayers.

911 received a call at 6:15 p.m. Thursday that a three year old child had been hit by a car in the parking lot of the Bill Page Ballpark in Smithville.

Smithville Police said the child was playing near a gravel pile outside the fence in the parking lot when a 17 year old Rock Island girl, who was backing out of her parking spot in a 1987 Ford Probe, didn't see the youngster and accidentally struck her.

Robinson said Zeva was first taken by EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital and then transported to Vanderbilt.

Smithville Fire Department called to Car Fire

May 13, 2011
Dwayne Page

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and Smithville Police responded to a car fire Thursday night on West Broad Street.

Central dispatch received the call at 11:00 p.m.

Car Fire from dwayne page on Vimeo.
The car was parked in front of a shop/garage building across from Gordon's Hardware.

The cause of the fire is apparently undetermined. No one was injured.

Board Gives Approval for Development of Softball Field at DeKalb Middle School

May 13, 2011
Dwayne Page

A DeKalb Middle School softball field will be developed on the campus starting this summer.

The Board of Education Thursday night gave approval for the project, which will be paid for through fundraisers by the booster club and school softball fund.

Principal Randy Jennings said the initial phase entails developing the field including dirt for the infield and grass for the outfield and installing a fence which is estimated to cost $17,000.

DeKalb Middle Principal Randy Jennings Address School Board from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Plans are to eventually build a press box with a concession stand, bathrooms and storage areas, purchasing the materials at cost and using donated labor to construct.

The Lady Saints softball team currently plays at another location in town off campus.

Thirty Three Students Served by Adult High School This School Year

May 12, 2011
Dwayne Page

Susan Hinton, Adult High School Instructor/Supervisor, gave her annual report to the board of education and the Director of Schools Thursday night.

Hinton explained that a total of thirty three students were served for the current year and that the current enrollment is ten. There are five graduates for the year including three summer school students. Seven transferred to the GED program upon turning eighteen. Twelve dropped (including attendance, transferred, or moved).

Susan Hinton Giving Annual Report on Adult High School from dwayne page on Vimeo.
Hinton said students must take a reading test upon enrolling in the Adult High School. Any student who does not read on an 8.5 grade level or higher is ineligible to take any high school credits. Remedial reading and remedial course work is required by the state. There have been fifteen remedial reading students taught this school year.

Hinton also read essays prepared by two of her students.


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