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Congressman Gordon Comments on DeKalb County’s Current Economic Situation

February 3, 2009
Dwayne Page

With the statewide unemployment rate at a 22-year high, Tennessee’s Labor and Workforce Department announced that DeKalb County’s unemployment rate increased from 8.2% to 9.2% from the month of November to December.

“More than 100 people in DeKalb County alone lost their jobs in one month,” said Congressman Bart Gordon. “My heart goes out to each of these workers and their families. I have heard from a number of people who live in DeKalb, and we all share the concern that things are going to get a lot worse before the economy recovers.”

According to the preliminary statistics from Tennessee’s Labor and Workforce Department, 940 people are currently unemployed in DeKalb County. Many more people have either stopped looking or are underemployed. In November, the number of unemployed persons in the County was 835. These figures stand in stark contrast to the economic situation in December of 2007 when the unemployment rate was 5.0% in DeKalb County.

“We are at the defining moment in this economic crisis – if we don’t pass an Economic Recovery bill, the next two years are going to be painful for Middle Tennesseans and people across the country.”

Economists from across the political spectrum have stated that the current economic situation is likely to last for another two years unless strong action is taken. Many have indicated that unless the government intervenes, the nationwide unemployment rate could reach, and possibly exceed, 10%.

“It is about jobs, jobs, jobs – we must do everything we can to create more jobs in Tennessee and throughout the country,” added Gordon. “Last week, the House started the process of crafting an Economic Stimulus package. I am committed to working in a bipartisan way with my House and Senate colleagues, and the President, to ensure that the bill is improved. The final form should include a combination of tax cuts and smart spending initiatives that will effectively help to get our economy back on track.”

The House and Senate are working to pass a final draft of the Economic Stimulus package and have it ready for President Obama’s signature before President’s Day on February 16th.

City Council Moves to Rezone Property for Apartment Complex

February 3, 2009
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night adopted on first reading an ordinance to rezone property
that may soon become the location for an apartment complex for low-income grandparents raising a child.

The two acre site, owned by Bruce Medley and David Bryan , is located at 721 Bright Hill Road and to the rear of Fiddler's Manor and other property owners on Walker Drive.

The Smithville Planning Commission voted on January 5th to recommend to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen the re-zoning of the property from R-1 low density residential to R-3 high density residential.

The proposed Fiddlers Manor Annex would actually be situated on 1.76 acres of the property. Site plans have not yet been considered for approval by the planning commission.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded a $1.67 million grant to build eight apartments in Smithville for low-income grandparents who are raising a grandchild.

The grant was awarded to the Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD) as part of HUD's Demonstration Program for Elderly Housing for Intergenerational Families.

UCDD was one of only two organizations to receive HUD's Demonstration grant (the other organization is based out of Chicago).

Larry Webb who runs the Cumberland Regional Development Corporation – UCDD's nonprofit housing construction partner – explained, in a prepared news release, that the grant money will be used to build six two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom units. Rent will be based on 30 percent of the grandparent's income minus any medical expenses they have. In addition, UCDD will pay the utility bills.

The proposed re-zoning of the property will be up for second and final reading passage following a public hearing at the next city council meeting on Monday, February 16th at 7:00 p.m.

In other business, the Aldermen approved the list of officers and members of the Smithville Fire Department for 2009 as presented in a letter by Chief Charlie Parker.

Officers and members of the department are:

Chief Charles Parker; Honorary Assistant Chief Robert Eller; Deputy Chief Hoyte Hale; Captain Jeff Wright; Lieutenants Danny Poss, John Poss, Donnie Cantrell, and Kevin Adcock; Firefighters, Anthony Wright, William Brown, Davey Ferrell, Charles Young, Wallace Caldwell, Dusty Johnson, Gary Johnson, James R. Hunt, Stephanie Brown, Stephanie Wright, Joseph Hall, and Glenn Lattimore; and Photographer, Greg Bess.

Glen Lattimore is a new member who has met the 90 day requirements of the department and has been approved for membership.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson wanted to appoint Walter Burton to replace the late John Bill Evins as a member on the Smithville Electric System Board but the aldermen said no. The vote was 3 to 2. Aldermen Tonya Sullivan, Willie Thomas, and Jerry Hutchins, Sr. voted against the appointment while Aldermen Steve White and Cecil Burger voted in favor. The position will remain vacant for now.

Meanwhile, the city apparently gets good marks in it's latest compliance evaluation of the wastewater treatment plant.

During the city council meeting Monday night, Mayor Hendrixson read a letter from an official of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Cookeville Field Office. "On January 15th, personnel from the Tennessee Division of Water Pollution Control conducted a compliance evaluation inspection at the Smithville Wastewater Treatment facility. The purpose of this inspection was to determine compliance with the NPDES discharge permit and to evaluate the reliability of the data submitted on the monthly operation reports."

"The Smithville Wastewater Treatment Facility is operating under a permit re-issued in 2007. The permit and laboratory records were available for review at the facility. The review of the MOR for the year 2008 was conducted. No affluent violations have been noted. The wastewater treatment plant laboratory was found to be clean and well equipped. with an established quality control and quality assurance program in place. Calibration records indicate the laboratory instruments are being properly maintained.. I would like to thank Mr. Bobby Pinegar and his staff at the Smithville Wastewater Treatment Facility for their time and courtesy during the inspection."

Mayor Hendrixson, after reading the letter, added " I, for one, would like to congratulate Mr. Bobby Pinegar, Mr. Gary Prater, and Mr. Anthony Haseman for their diligent work at our wastewater treatment plant. There were no violations found."

Aldermen Vote to Budget $1.4 Million in Available Funds for Water Plant Rehab

February 2, 2009
Dwayne Page
Greg Davenport-Consulting Engineer for J.R. Wauford Company

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night voted 3 to 2 to budget $1.4 million from almost $4 million in water and sewer fund reserves in order to make renovations to the water treatment plant.

The money will be set aside during the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which begins July 1st.

Alderman Tonya Sullivan, who brought up the issue, thanked the board for taking this action in a prepared statement after the meeting. "I would like to thank the board for having the insight to take swift action to ensure the safety of our water. Safe drinking water is at the forefront now with the board committing $1.4 million for the next budget year for the water treatment plant renovations. This board put a good foot forward in securing safe water for all citizens in DeKalb County. The leadership that was exemplified will make a lasting impact on generations to come."

Aldermen Sullivan, Jerry Hutchins, Sr. and Willie Thomas voted in favor while Aldermen Cecil Burger and Steve White voted no.

The city recently applied a second time for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to help fund the water plant rehab project and Alderman White said he was concerned that if the city commits to spending this much money now it might jeopardize the city's chances of getting the grant.

Meanwhile, the aldermen also voted 5 to 0 to have the city's engineering firm, the J.R. Wauford Company provide an updated report at the next meeting on the upgrades that need to be made at the water plant and the cost estimates.

The most recent report by Wauford on the condition of the water plant was released in January 2008.

Alderman Sullivan said she toured the water plant on January 19th, 2009 and saw for herself the conditions there.

The following is an exchange between Alderman Sullivan and Mayor Taft Hendrixson during Monday night's meeting

Alderman Sullivan:"The state of the water department, on the day that I went, looked like a makeshift water department. Mr. Mayor, how many times have you been to the water plant?"

Mayor Hendrixson: "Well, I don't know how many times."

Alderman Sullivan: "What state did you find it in when you went? When I went, there was standing water, electrical panels, there's equipment that's leaking and not functioning properly. There are infractions from the state that are in here (January 2008 Wauford engineering report) that have not been repaired. There are recommendations from Wauford that call for a renovation of this plant. We've not taken action on that and this report has not been made available to this board."

Mayor Hendrixson: "I asked (January 2008) that we put $900,000 out of city money (matching funds) to get a CDBG Block Grant for $500,000"

Alderman Sullivan: "But we didn't" (get the grant)

Mayor Hendrixson: "We didn't but we're putting in again (for the grant)"

Alderman Sullivan: "This water plant is in a state of emergency. Had that ice storm hit Smithville instead of Kentucky (last week) we would be the ones without water because you don't even have generators down there."

Mayor Hendrixson:" There's never been one (generators) down there."

Alderman Sullivan: "No, but they (generators) are in the (Wauford) report. They are recommended to be there."

Mayor Hendrixson: "Yes"

Alderman Sullivan: "Mayor you are jeopardizing 15,000 people by not taking action."

Mayor Hendrixson: I can't take action myself Ms. Sullivan, the board has to do this."

Alderman Sullivan: "Okay, that's my intent tonight. If we had fixed the problems as they happened as opposed to letting it go long term we wouldn't have to spend $1.4 million."

Mayor Hendrixson: "What did you find we needed to fix?"

Alderman Sullivan: Well sir, I think everything that the engineering firm has recommended, we need to fix."

Mayor Hendrixson: "I agree and I want to do it."

Alderman Sullivan: "Is there a reason during your tenure that you haven't fixed it or brought it before this board to fix?"

Mayor Hendrixson:"I'm trying to get a half million dollar grant. I brought this before the board."

Alderman Sullivan: "You have the money in the bank to fix it."

Mayor Hendrixson: "We do"

Alderman Sullivan: "Then that's what we should be doing, we shouldn't wait until it falls apart and we're in a state of emergency, such as Kentucky is in, before we do this."

Mayor Hendrixson: "I don't think it's (water plant) about to fall apart at any time. It does need some repair and I want to do it. I've proposed to put $900,000 out of city money."

Alderman Sullivan: "But you didn't propose to start action."

Mayor Hendrixson: "No I wanted to wait to see if we could get a half million dollars given to us."

Alderman Sullivan: "Alright, but we didn't get it."

Mayor Hendrixson: No, but we're trying again.'

Alderman Sullivan: "We can't keep waiting."

Greg Davenport, consulting engineer for the J.R. Wauford Company, also addressed the mayor and aldermen Monday night concerning the condition of the water plant. "It was originally constructed in 1966 and it was updated in 1978 as well as the pumps at the intake or pump house at the lake."

"Smithville was successful in obtaining about $2 million in CDBG grants for rehabilitation of the sewer system over the last ten years. Then as the cat kind of got out of the bag on sewer rehab, Smithville came to me and said ‘what should we do?'. I said well your water plant needs some work so lets put in a CDBG grant for that. This application was filed probably in January, 2008. That has become a highly competitive program and I believe Smithville missed it (getting grant) by one municipality. In other words, if there were thirty in there and you guys were number sixteen, then fifteen and up got funded."

Concerning findings at the water treatment plant, Davenport said "as part of the report, we went through each of the unit processes and more or less determined some of the weaknesses that the plant has. As you can see in the report, it's about $1.4 million worth of work. Some of the things that are wrong at the plant, in my opinion need to be fixed immediately, like the switch gear problems down there at the high service pumps. The water in the slab. That needs to somehow be addressed. It's unsafe."

"Some of the things that need to be done are not really what you'd call emergency items, but they need to be done. For instance, the plant control system. It needs to be renovated and updated to what I call state of the state. The filter under drains have been in there since 1978. They are porcelain style and with grout they are prone to crack. Is it creating an unsafe condition for the citizens as of this minute? My opinion is no but it's undesirable."

"The standby power is an item that could create a catastrophe. The probability of that is not very high. I can't answer how expeditiously you should pursue those things. All I can do is present the risk to you. And the risk is if you have a major ice storm, you could be without water. But that is not something that the state wrote you up for per se in their report. It's something that they would like to see."

Man Caught Speeding Arrested on Drug Charges

February 2, 2009
Dwayne Page
Ernest Paul Barnwell

A 38 year old Smithville man was arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department Thursday when officers found him with drugs after trying to stop him for speeding.

Ernest Paul (Hot Rod) Barnwell of Hawkins Drive was charged with possession of a schedule II drug (Dilaudid) for sale and delivery, possession of a schedule III drug (Suboxone) for sale and delivery, possession of drug paraphernalia, 3rd offense of driving on a revoked license, and possession of brass knucks which is a prohibited weapon.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says on Thursday while on an extra patrol on King Ridge Road, Dowelltown, a deputy spotted a 1993 Dodge Intrepid driving at a high rate of speed. The officer attempted to stop the vehicle but the driver kept going. The car turned onto New Home Road and stopped at a residence. The driver, Barnwell, exited the vehicle and ran behind a house and attempted to enter the residence through the backdoor.

Officers found a container on Barnwell containing 17 Dilaudid pills and 1 Suboxone pill. They also found in Barnwell's car, a duffle bag containing 2 syringes and a set of brass knucks. In addition, officers discovered that Barnwell was driving on a revoked license.

Barnwell's bond was set at $111,000 and he will appear in court on February 19th.

Deputies also seized Barnwell's vehicle and $48 in cash.

Meanwhile on Friday deputies responded to a fight call on Potts Camp Road, Smithville in the Jefferson Community.

Upon arrival, Sheriff Ray says the officers found 46 year old Joseph Allen Maples, 36 year old Louise Ann Gorney, and 18 year old Timothy Christopher Schanck of Potts Camp Road, Smithville, and a 17 year old male, who was visiting, in an intoxicated state.

After investigating, officers discovered that Gorney had bought a 12 pack of beer and brought it to the Potts Camp home where she and her boyfriend, Maples, allowed Schanck and the 17 year old to consume the alcohol knowing the two were under the legal drinking age of 21.

Maples and Gorney were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Their bond was set at $1,500 each. Schanck was charged with under age consumption and his bond was set at $1,000. All three will appear in court on February 12th. A petition will be taken on the juvenile for underage consumption.

On Thursday, deputies stopped 24 year old Joshua R. Cripps of Hodges Road, Smithville on Highway 56 South for driving with his lights off after dark.

Sheriff Ray says upon running Cripps' drivers license, deputies learned that it was suspended. Officers also found a knife with a blade length of over 6 inches located between the seats of the vehicle which Cripps was apparently using for protection.

Cripps was arrested for driving on a suspended license and possession of a prohibited weapon. Officers also issued Cripps a citation for driving with his lights off after dark. Cripps' bond was set at $5,000.00 and he will appear in court on February 26th.

On Friday, 22 year old Christopher Peter Mulford of Ginger Drive Smithville was charged with public intoxication after he reported to the DeKalb County Jail to serve weekends for a drug offense. Sheriff Ray says correctional officers noticed Mulford to have slurred speech and he was unsteady on his feet. Mulford did admit to taking Hydrocodone and Xanax before coming to the jail. Mulford's bond was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on February 11th.

On Saturday, deputies responded to a fight call on Page Drive in Smithville. While at the scene, 27 year old Gary Thomas Woodard of Page Drive pulled up in his vehicle. Deputies asked Woodard for his license and discovered that he was driving on a suspended driver's license. Woodard was charged with driving on a suspended driver's license (4th offense). His bond
was set at $4,000 and he will appear in court on February 11th.

On Sunday while on a traffic stop on Highway 70 East, deputies spotted a vehicle coming toward them at a high rate of speed. Sheriff Ray says the vehicle came close to hitting the officers. One of the deputies took off after the vehicle and observed it driving in the turning lane. The officer stopped it and found the driver to be 39 year old Juan Manuel Rivera of Short Mountain Street, Smithville. Deputies noticed a strong odor of alcohol on Rivera's person and he was very unsteady on his feet. Rivera did admit to consuming alcohol. He was charged with driving under the influence and his bond was set at $1,500. He will appear in court on February 12th..

On Monday, February 2nd, officers responded to a reckless driver call on Rosewood Lane in Smithville. and stopped 38 year old Jerry Wayne Harper of Rosewood Lane. After talking to and then allowing Harper to leave, officers observed him go into a residence and assault his
girlfriend by hitting her in the chest with his fist and pulling her hair. The officers got to Harper and the victim and placed him in custody. When the officers told Harper to put his hands behind his back, he refused. Deputies were able to cuff Harper and they discovered that he had a knife on his belt with a blade exceeding 5 inches in length which he apparently kept for personal protection. Harper was charged with domestic assault, possession of a prohibited weapon, and resisting arrest. Harper's bond was set at $11,000 and he will appear in court on February 12th.

State Representative Weaver Introduces Bill to Allow Home-Schooled Students to Participate in Public School Athletics

January 31, 2009
Dwayne Page
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver has introduced a bill that authorizes home-schooled students to participate in athletics in public schools if they comply with certain conditions. -

Under the bill, home-schooled students may participate in interscholastic activities at the public school to which the student would have been assigned by the local board of education, if:

(1) The student legally resides in the school district;
(2) The student's parent or guardian complies with notice requirements for home schooling;
(3) The student's parent or guardian applies in writing to the principal before the beginning date of the season for the activity in which the student wishes to participate;
(4) The student is at or above grade level as demonstrated by assessment testing;
(5) The student meets the same standards for acceptance in the activity as public school students; and
(6) The student meets all TSSAA eligibility requirements that are not in conflict with the provisions of this bill.

This bill prohibits any public school student who has been unable to maintain academic eligibility to participate in interscholastic activities from participating as a home- schooled student for the duration of the year in which the student becomes ineligible and the following year. Any such student could become eligible for the third year by showing that the student is at or above grade level as demonstrated by assessment testing.

This bill prohibits any public school team or group from being impeded from competition against other schools' teams merely because the school's team has home-schooled students participating.

State Senator Beavers Releases Legislative Update

January 31, 2009
State Senator Mae Beavers

With organizational tasks out of the way, the 106th General Assembly will soon reconvene to tackle the important issues facing Tennessee during the new legislative session. Topping this year's agenda will be consideration of a balanced budget in one of the worst financial years faced by lawmakers in a long time. "We cannot afford to continue to live beyond our means, as we have gone from a surplus to a massive deficit in only a few years," said Senator Mae Beavers. Being one of the only Senators to vote against Gov. Bredesen's budgets in the past, Sen. Beavers will once again scrutinize the way this state's finances are operated. Tennessee's year-to-date collections for five months are currently $407.8 million below the budgeted estimate. The state could be left to deal with as much as $780 million to a $1 billion shortfall by the end of the budget year in June.

One of the most concerning trends affecting our state's budget is the rising unemployment rate. Most lawmakers agree that Tennessee must be aggressive in bringing new jobs to better weather the economic storm. This makes economic development and job creation a top priority of the upcoming legislative session. Job losses have accelerated to around 7 percent. That number could rise to 8.5 percent to 9 percent before the economy turns around according to the state's leading economists. Almost all sectors of jobs are in decline, bringing forward the issue of how the state's unemployment fund will fare if the economy does not turn around.

Expect the solvency of the fund to be a topic for discussion this session when the General Assembly convenes. Tennessee's unemployment fund had a balance of about $517 million as of November. Experts say a drop below the $400 million level would cause great concern.

Finally, legislation is expected to be introduced again this year to provide a two-thirds majority to override Tennessee's constitutional amendment that requires state spending to stay within the rate of growth of Tennessee's economy. Called the "Copeland Cap," this amendment to the state's constitution was approved by Tennessee voters in 1978. It stipulates that state spending cannot grow faster than the rate of growth of the state's economy, measured by the growth of incomes of Tennesseans. The goal is to keep spending growth at a level where the people's income growth can afford it without a tax increase. Currently the cap can be overridden with a simple majority vote.

The state's economic downturn and the rise in unemployment provides legislators with serious challenges. The General Assembly has adjourned until February 9, 2009 to assign offices and await budget details. The governor is expected to deliver his budget address at that time.

Judicial Selection Commission -- Legislation that would continue the current Judicial Selection Commission stalled during the last legislative session, an action that puts the Judicial Selection Commission, which makes recommendations for the selection of the state's judges, in wind down this year. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Beavers will be at the center of the discussion on how to constitutionally and effectively select Tennessee's judges. At a minimum, Senate Republicans want to see a change in the way the Judicial Selection Commission functions, allowing more input from groups seeking membership on the commission. Currently members of the commission are selected from a list of special interest groups as prescribed by law.

Many legislators believe there are important constitutional issues which need to be addressed and that reform is needed to have a fairer and more open process with greater accountability. The state's constitution in Article VI, Sections 3 and 4, says judges shall be elected by qualified voters. Expect the Judiciary Committee and legislature to debate whether or not the Tennessee Plan, which does allow for a retention ('yes' or 'no') vote after a judge's term, satisfies that requirement in its current form. This issue will be one of the key matters for legislators to act upon during the 2009 legislative session.

Open Containers - Sen. Beavers will soon file a bill to curb drunk driving that is more likely to receive favorable consideration of lawmakers, due to the positive financial impact. This bill bans open containers of alcohol in vehicles in Tennessee, and would allow the state to have control over $12 million in federal highway funds. Currently, if a state does not achieve compliance with this federal program requirement, a portion of that state's federal-aid highway construction funds are redirected. Passage of this legislation would not only curb drunk driving, but provide needed flexibility with road money as revenues for transportation needs are dire.

Constitutional Amendments - Thus far, three constitutional amendments await action this year. One is a resolution that would give Tennesseans the opportunity to restore their voice in determining what state law should be regarding commonsense protections for abortions. The resolution failed in a Democrat-controlled House subcommittee last year, despite strong support among members of both the House and Senate. The election of four new Republicans in the House may boost its chances this year. Sen. Beavers pledges to fight for the unborn as she plans to once again co-sponsor the resolution.

A second constitutional resolution would amend the Tennessee Constitution by protecting the right to hunt and fish, while a third would clarify the current prohibition of a state income tax. The amendment specifies that the legislature as well as Tennessee counties and cities shall be prohibited from passing either an income tax or a payroll tax, which is a tax on employers that is measured by the wages they pay workers. A payroll tax has been proposed by elected officials in Shelby County and elsewhere as a way around an income tax ban. "I will continue to take every measure possible to ensure that the people of the 17th District and this state do not reap the devastating consequences of a state income or payroll tax," said Sen. Beavers.

Alderman Sullivan Wants Action on Rehab Project at Water Treatment Plant

January 29, 2009
Dwayne Page
Smithville Water Treatment Plant
Water Intake Pumping Location
Water Plant Location
Water Plant Location 2

Smithville Alderman Tonya Sullivan believes the Smithville Water Treatment Plant is long overdue for rehabilitation and if it doesn't come soon, she is concerned about the quality of the drinking water, the safety of city employees working there, and the availability of water in case of a power failure without backup generators.

On Monday night, Alderman Sullivan says she will bring up the issue during a meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. "I will be asking the board for a re-evaluation of the Smithville water treatment plant by Wauford Engineering and a full written report to be given. I will also ask for the board to take immediate action to make the repairs. Currently, the City of Smithville has approximately $4 million that can only be spent on water and sewer. Nothing other than water and sewer. The time to replace and repair is now. It is state mandated. There can be no more excuses."

City officials say approximately $200,000 was spent updating water filter valves and for a new telemetry system during the 2007-08 budget year.

In January, 2008, Mayor Taft Hendrixson presented a resolution, adopted by the aldermen, authorizing an application for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to help fund the proposed $1.4 million rehabilitation project at the water treatment plant. Mayor Hendrixson, at the time, said the city planned to fund the local share of $900,000 over a three year period from the Smithville Water & Sewer Revenue Fund at approximately $300,000 per year in each of three years. Later in the year, city officials learned that the grant application was not approved.

In November, 2008, Mayor Hendrixson again presented a resolution, adopted by the aldermen, authorizing the application for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to address water system needs including adding a portable pump to support the raw water intake to make it capable of drawing water during periods where the lake water level is drastically lowered and for improvements to address the renovation of the existing water treatment facility.

Alderman Sullivan says she has always been an advocate for safe water, but she became even more concerned after reading a January 2008 preliminary engineering report on the water treatment plant by Wauford Engineering. She decided to speak out on the issue again, after visiting the plant on January 19th, 2009 and discovering for herself the conditions there. " Safe water has been at the root of my service to this community. My first interest in the city government was sparked five years ago when my own water had rusty fibers and solids running through my pipes. From that point on I decided to get involved and make sure the citizens of Smithville and DeKalb County would have quality water. But today, I'm taking this time to inform the citizens of a situation that could very well be a crisis situation. The Smithville water treatment plant is in a critical state. The state of Tennessee reported eleven infractions in February, 2007. Following that report, the board asked the Wauford Engineering firm to report on the conditions of the water treatment plant and to recommend in a written report their findings to the board. Improvements to be made by Wauford did overlap with that of the state mandated improvements. The state gave a time line as to when the repairs were to be made. The City of Smithville has ignored the mandates and neglected to make repairs needed and this may have jeopardized the quality and safety of the water."

" It appears that the conditions of the existing facility are currently below average. I took the opportunity to tour the water treatment plant myself on Monday, January 19th, 2009. The plant, in it's current condition is unsafe for the employees due to standing water and high voltage electrical panels. All drains are collapsed and allowing water to be standing and they appear to be irreparable without running new lines. Pumps and equipment are outdated. Some as far back as 1967. And it is pot luck as to which pump will actually function on a given day."

" The state scored the water treatment plant at a 76 which is a provisional score. That was in February, 2007. The provisional score means that infractions were to be completed in order to raise the score. These infractions to date are still incomplete. As a matter of fact, this issue has been swept under the carpet. Not until the CDBG grant, that was applied for failed, did this board decide to seek further information confirming our suspicions. Some of the excuses given for not taking action on this is expense and costs. The Wauford report states in 2008 that the cost would run approximately $1.4 million for repairs. Now that this has been neglected, the cost will have to be re-evaluated. Repairs and replacements are even more extensive now and more expensive."

"Most of the equipment has outlived it's usefulness. Renovation is necessary to provide safe and potable water. Some of the infractions that were reported by the state are: filter underdrain replacement, a new air scour blower, new standby backwash pump, (A failure of this pump for any period of time will result in citizens being without water), a new plant and system telemetry control, (The current one is antiquated, prone to failure, and creates an emergency condition). Modification of a 1967 clearwell, modifications to chemical storage and feed equipment, and new standby diesel generators are needed at the intake and water treatment plant in case of power outage."

"The consequences of citizens not having potable water are dire. Without renovations, it is anticipated there will be turbidity violations that would require citizens to boil their water. Failure to address these problems place every citizen in Smithville and DeKalb County and all those that drink this water in a state of danger. There are state and federal regulations that require this protection for all citizens. For safety, the water is being independently tested and it has been reported that there are no e.coli present in the water. However, testing for metals, turbidity, and other characteristics are due in soon. All the information that I have reported for the citizens comes directly from the Wauford Engineering firm's findings and from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Office from their report."

The January 2008 Wauford report states that " The purpose of this is to report recent findings at the Water Treatment Plant which indicate that the basic facilities are in good shape but that there is a significant amount of equipment and other items which have outlived their useful life and for which parts are no longer obtainable. Renovation of this plant is necessary to ensure an adequate and safe supply of potable water for the citizens of Smithville."

"Regulatory Action: A sanitary survey was conducted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Water Supply personnel on February 20th, 2007 at the Smithville Water Treatment Plant. Several issues were raised during the survey resulting in a survey score of 76 which is considered in the "Provisionally Approved" category by TDEC. Some items discovered during the inspection include turbidity violations, chemical storage and feed problems, improper chlorine ventilation, and painting and renovation at the raw water intake."

"Proposed Improvements: The improvements proposed to the Smithville Water Treatment Plant consist of filter underdrain replacement, a new air scour blower, new standby backwash pump, new plant and system telemetry and SCADA system, modifications the 1967 clearwell, modifications to chemical storage and feed equipment, and new standby power at the intake and water treatment plant."

"In March of 1993, an ice storm raged across Tennessee and caused the City of Smithville to be without power for an extended period resulting in the City nearly running out of potable water. The outage time for Smithville is exacerbated by the fact that DeKalb County consists of a very wooded hilly terrain which results in numerous power line failures due to falling trees. Although this is an infrequent condition; the consequences of Smithville running out of potable water are dire. For this reason, standby diesel generators are proposed at the raw water intake and at the plant to maintain water production during power failures. These renovations are estimated to cost $1.4 million."

"Conclusion: The Smithville Water Treatment Plant is in serious need of renovation to continue to produce a plentiful safe supply of drinking water. The condition of the existing facilities is below average. Without renovation, it is anticipated that the plant will experience more turbidity violations that could result in boil water advisories for the citizens of Smithville. It is recommended that the Smithville Water Treatment Plant undergo renovations estimated to cost $1.4 million."

(Alderman Sullivan made pictures during her visit to the Smithville Water Treatment Plant and Water Intake Location on January 19th, 2009) Click the following link to view those pictures.

PDF icon Engineering Report.pdf14.88 MB

DeKalb County Unemployment Rate Rises to 9.2% in December

January 29, 2009
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's jobless rate in December rose to 9.2%, up from 8.2% in November, and a big jump from 5% in December 2007.

DeKalb County's Labor Force for December was 10,180. A total of 9,240 were employed and 940 were unemployed.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December was 7.9 percent, 0.9 percentage point higher than the November rate of 7.0 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of December was 7.2 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for December 2008, released today, show that the rate increased in all 95 counties. All counties also recorded over-the-year unemployment rate increases.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 5.0 percent,
up 0.5 percentage point from the November rate. Perry County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 20.1 percent, up from 17.8 in November, followed by Lauderdale County
at 15.3 percent, up from 13.9 percent in November.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate at 5.7 percent, up 0.5 percentage point from the November rate. Davidson County was 6.0 percent, up 0.6 from the previous month. Hamilton County was at 6.5 percent, up 0.5 percentage point from the November rate, and Shelby County was 7.5 percent, up from the November rate of 6.9 percent.

UCHRA Seeks Matching Funds for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

January 29, 2009

The UCHRA is seeking matching funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

“I am pleased to announce that with the additional funds UCHRA has been awarded through its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, UCHRA will be able to serve approximately 9,500 low-income households with energy assistance in the 14-county service area this year,” announced Phyllis Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director. “That is a significant increase over the 4,544 served during the past program year,” she continued, “However, we are still falling short of providing assistance to all eligible applicants.”

“When the direct services budget of UCHRA’s 14- county Low Income Home Energy Program, which provides one-time per year energy assistance to low-income households, was increased by the Department of Human Services effective December 1, 2008 from $1,230,327 to $3,084,980, more than 150%, it was hoped every eligible household that applied for assistance this year could be served,” explained Lee Webb, Community Services Director. However, as the economy has worsened and more jobs lost, the requests for assistance, especially from first-time applicants, have sky rocketed. Today, more than 80% of the available funds have been used to assist households with energy payments, and some counties have exhausted their LIHEAP allocations, which are distributed to counties based upon a formula provided by the State.

When UCHRA’s LIHEAP budget was amended in December a new category, “Leveraging Fund” in the amount of $300,836, was added by the State to the budget. For every $1 of non-federal funds that UCHRA can document as being spent to assist LIHEAP-eligible households, UCHRA will receive $2 from the Leveraging Fund to assist additional clients with LIHEAP energy assistance. The leveraging budget represents almost 860 additional eligible households that could be served. LIHEAP eligibility is based simply upon documentation of the fact that the applicant’s household income does not exceed 125% of the federal poverty guideline (e.g., $26,500 for a family of 4). The fact that a household has received LIHEAP assistance does not prohibit claiming additional non-federal dollars used to assist them as matching funds.

The non-federal funds do not have to flow directly through UCHRA. If for example, if a church assists a household with paying its utility bill, and it documents the income and reports the amount of the assistance to UCHRA, the LIHEAP Program can draw down double that amount in leveraging funds. Some utility companies generate funds, though a “round-up” or voluntary contribution program, which are allocated to community-based organizations to assist families in crisis to pay utility bills. In order for UCHRA to be able to use those non-federal funds for leveraging, organizations would have to (1) document that the household served meets the 125% poverty guideline and (2) report the household name and amount of assistance to UCHRA. Even if the organization chooses to also serve households above the 125% poverty level it could report to UCHRA only those that meet the income guidelines.

“With the critical need for energy assistance funds during this financial crisis it will be a shame if UCHRA is unable document $150,418 in non-federal energy assistance being spent to assist LIHEAP-eligible households in order to receive an additional $300,836,” stated Bennett. “We request that utility companies, community-based organizations, churches, and individuals utilizing non-federal funds to assist families with energy expenses to contact the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency. “Our staff will work with businesses, organizations, and individuals to determine if it will be possible to use their energy assistance funds to leverage additional federal dollars, so that even more low-income households in need of energy assistance may be served,” stated Webb.

Interested parties may contact Sandy Carter, LIHEAP Manager, at UCHRA’s Central Office at 931-528-1127 or the DeKalb County UCHRA Office at 615-597-4504.

New Filing Method to Speed Filing of Lack-Of-Work Claims

January 28, 2009

Beginning Thursday, Jan. 29, Tennessee workers will have another means for filing initial claims for unemployment insurance. This new service is a temporary measure to help relieve the state’s overloaded telephone network for processing claims.

“In addition to using telephone, Internet, or paper claims forms, claimants will now be able to go to one of 22 Career Centers across the state to take part in a small group session to file their claim,” said Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner James Neeley. “Our phone lines have been overwhelmed by the volume of claims we are processing. Offering another means for filing initial claims will help us serve those who have lost their jobs more efficiently.”

During the meetings claimants will complete their required forms and learn how to certify their eligibility on a weekly basis, either online or by phone. Weekly eligibility certification is required as long as they are receiving unemployment benefits. At the end of the session, staff will review and process the claims onsite.

Commissioner Neeley emphasized the new option is limited to those who are filing simple lack-of-work claims. Other types of claims, such as voluntary quit or discharge, will not be processed in these sessions.

In order to file during a group meeting, the claimant must have been laid off from his job due to lack of work and must have a separation notice or letter from the employer stating that the separation was because of lack of work or reduction in force (sometimes written as furloughed).

Tennessee employers are urged to provide each of their employees a separation notice stating separation due to lack of work. The separation notice form can be found at

Times of Sessions

Mass claims sessions will be held at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. local time on Mondays and Thursdays and at 8:30 a.m. on Fridays. It is not necessary to make an appointment. Meeting rooms will accommodate a limited number of claimants. Weekly mass claims sessions will continue as long as necessary.

What You Will Need

You will need to have the following requirements to participate in a mass claims session:

Must have been separated for lack of work or reduction in force

Worked only in Tennessee for the last 18 months

Has a separation notice or letter from employer stating lack of work as reason for layoff

Two forms of ID – driver’s license or state photo ID card and a second form of identification, such as a birth certificate or utility bill in your name

Social Security Number

Address and telephone number

Separating employer's name, address and telephone number

Last day worked and places of employment for the last 18 months


The following Career Centers are offering mass claims sessions in this area:
Cookeville 3300 Williams Enterprise Drive
McMinnville 107 Lyon Street
Murfreesboro 1313 Old Fort Parkway


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