Local News Articles

Warren County Utility District Interested in Selling Water to DUD

February 10, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb Utility District may have another source of water at a better price than what the City of Smithville is offering.

DUD Manager Jon Foutch said the Warren County Utility District is interested in selling water to the DeKalb Utility District. Foutch addressed the issue with the DUD board members during Thursday's monthly meeting. "I talked with Mike Green. He actually called me. We had been talking back and forth about an emergency connection. He said right now he might would have to extend a line but he could possibly supply us with at least half of the water we would need at a much lower cost than what the City of Smithville is charging now. If that doesn't change, it is definitely a possibility we're going to look at because when all this is said and done we want to have an emergency connection with them (Warren County). Green said for us to keep this in mind because they are in the business of selling water also," said Foutch.

Even if the DUD makes a deal to connect with Warren County, it will still proceed with plans to build its own water treatment plant.

The DUD board members took no action Thursday.

Man Found Intoxicated at McDonalds

February 10, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

In recent city crime news, Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger reports that 42 year old Richard Brandon Turner is charged with public intoxication. His bond is $1,500. Chief Caplinger said that on Sunday, January 26 police were dispatched to McDonalds Restaurant to check on a man passed out at a table. Upon arrival, an officer made contact with Turner and awoke him. Turner had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. Turner was arrested for public intoxication.

34 year old Chris Mooneyham is charged with aggravated burglary and public intoxication. His bond is $7,500 and he will be in court on February 13. Chief Caplinger said that on Thursday, January 23 Mooneyham went to a residence and knocked on the door. When the occupant came to the door, Mooneyham tried to force his way into the house. He got partially into the residence when he was detained. Police then arrested Mooneyham and brought him to the jail for booking. He was very unsteady on his feet. His speech was slurred and he was very disoriented.

29 year old Roxanne Landis is cited for theft of property. Chief Caplinger said that on Thursday, January 23, Landis entered the Dollar General Store and took items, which were recovered in her purse. She will be in court on February 13.

44 year old Robert Atnip, Jr. is charged with forgery. His bond is $5,000 bond. Chief Caplinger said that on Friday, January 31, Atnip allegedly took a check book belonging to a family member and forged a check at Walmart in the amount of $2,391.

39 year old Donald Gray is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. His bond on each charge is $3,000. Chief Caplinger said that on Thursday, January 16 police were dispatched to a residence on College Street in response to an unwanted guest call. Upon arrival, officers made contact with a tenant of the apartment, who said she did not want Gray there. When officers told Gray he was not wanted there he became very irate toward the officers and refused to follow their commands. He was placed under arrest. After being arrested, he refused to let the officers handcuff him. He had to be taken to the ground to be cuffed. He was then brought to jail.

38 year old Tiffany Allen is cited for theft of property. Chief Caplinger said that on Tuesday, January 14 an officer was dispatched to the Dollar General Store in reference to a shoplifter. An officer made contact with Allen. She was found to be in possession of several items from the store concealed in her purse, which had not been paid for. They were recovered. Her court date is February 13.

Meanwhile, Chief Caplinger said Floyd Caulder was arrested on Thursday, January 9 after police were informed by dispatch in Bradley County that Caulder was supposed to be in court there. He had warrants against him for domestic violence and for theft of a vehicle. He was located and taken into custody. Caulder was then sent back to Bradley County. The vehicle was also recovered.

From the Sheriff's Department, 55 year old Mary Leann Vandergriff of Nashville Highway, Liberty is charged with resisting arrest and for a violation of probation. Her bond on the resisting charge is $1,500 and she is being held without bond for the violation of probation. She will be in court February 13. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, February 7 a sheriff's department deputy and detective served a warrant on Vandergriff for violation of probation. While making the arrest, Vandergriff resisted, pulling away from the officers, and refusing to comply with their commands. The officers had to use force in placing her into custody. Vandergriff was transported to the jail for booking.

44 year old David Dewaine Anderson of Gard Lane, Smithville is charged with driving on a suspended license. He was also issued a citation for violation of the light law. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on February 19. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, February 4 a deputy spotted Anderson operating a motor vehicle on Highway 70 with headlight out. The officer conducted a traffic stop. A computer check revealed Anderson's license were suspended in Florida for failure to pay a citation.

DUD Seeks CDBG Grant

February 10, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb Utility District Board of Commissioners Thursday adopted a resolution seeking a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for DUD to run water line extensions to areas of the county in need. The County Commission approved the same resolution at the January meeting to make application for the grant on behalf of the DUD.

Keith Blair, DUD attorney, brought the resolution to the board's attention during the monthly meeting of the DUD. "There is another CDBG project that has been applied for. We have a resolution that I need you to enter a motion on and to approve. It's basically for the DUD to provide matching funds for the 2014 Community Development Block Grant application. This pertains to the Tramel Branch, Dismal to Alexandria, Oakley Road, Carter Lane, and Old Givens Hollow area. The CDBG funds are in the amount of $500,000 and the district's (DUD) portion of matching funds would be $96,000. The resolution also references a cooperative agreement which defines the relationship between the parties on this project. It also sets forth that once the project is complete that the district (DUD) will take over the lines. It employs Goodwyn, Mills Cawood & Company as the engineers and Grassroots Planning & Consulting for all administrative services for the project," said Blair.

The board unanimously approved the resolution.

During the January County Commission meeting Amanda Mainord of Grassroots Planning & Consulting, grant administrator, said the project will serve thirty eight households on Tramel Branch, Oakley Road, Carter Lane, Old Givens Hollow, and the Dismal to Alexandria Road.

"There are six houses left to complete the (existing) water line on Tramel Branch and that's just a half mile left there. On Old Givens Hollow, there's nine houses there in a mile and three tenths. The Alexandria to Dismal and the first part of Oakley Road, there's actually thirteen houses there and that is in 2.6 miles. There is kind of a spot on Oakley Road where I call no man's land because there is one house in a whole mile so we're going to leave that. It's not cost effective to run a water line to serve one person or one household. To start at the other end of Oakley Road and go on to Carter Lane, there are ten houses there and that's just a mile and eight tenths," said Mainord.

The county's grant application will be through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which if approved would assist the DeKalb Utility District in extending water lines into these areas of the county not already served.

The DUD would be responsible for paying the grant's local 20% matching requirement or $96,000 plus any additional funds required to complete the project.

The grant application is due by the end of February.

"We will send in the application in February. We'll probably be notified in October (if the grant is approved). If we get the money, we'll get started on this project," said County Mayor Mike Foster.

DUD Files Lawsuit Against City in Chancery Court (READ TEXT OF LAWSUIT HERE)

February 8, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
DUD Board of Commissioners
Smithville Mayor and Aldermen

Officials of the DeKalb Utility District are turning to the Chancery Court for relief from what they call an unreasonable water rate imposed on the utility by the City of Smithville.

The lawsuit, brought against the city by attorneys Dewey Branstetter, Jr. and Keith Blair for the DUD, was filed Friday in DeKalb County Chancery Court.

The DUD is asking the Chancellor to find that the city's new water rate to the utility of $5.00 per thousand gallons, which went into effect January 1st, is unreasonable; that the rate be set at $2.25 per thousand gallons, which the DUD believes is the actual cost of providing water services; that the city be enjoined (prohibited) from charging any rate to the DUD in excess of $2.67 per thousand while this litigation is pending; and that the city be enjoined (prohibited) from disconnecting the DUD from its water system while this lawsuit is pending. The DUD also wants the court to order a speedy hearing on this action for a declaratory judgment and to advance it on the court's calendar.

The Court is being asked by the DUD to enter a temporary injunction while this litigation is pending and a permanent injunction. "The rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons charged by the City to the DUD effective January 1, 2014 has caused and will continue to result in immediate and irreparable injury, loss, and damage to the DUD and its customers. The issuance of the temporary injunction will not cause undue inconvenience or loss to the City of Smithville, but will prevent irreparable injury to the DUD," according to the lawsuit.

Although the city has never threatened to cut off service, DUD officials are concerned about Section 18-504 of the Smithville City Code which authorizes the Water Department of the City of Smithville to cut off and discontinue water services to the DeKalb Utility District if the water bill is not paid within seven days after the District receives the bill.

DUD further asserts that "if allowed to continue to charge the $5.00 per thousand rate, the City of Smithville stands to make a profit of several hundred thousand dollars, which is contrary to (state) laws applicable to Smithville". State law provides that "rates and fees of municipal utility systems shall reflect the actual cost of providing the services rendered. No public works shall operate for gain or profit or as a source of revenue to a government entity, but shall operate for the use and benefit of the customers served by such public works".

In addition to raising the rate to an excessive and unreasonable level, the DUD claims the City of Smithville also violated Section 18-502 of the Smithville City Code, which requires the City of Smithville to give the DeKalb Utility District 30 days' notice in advance of a rate change. The City of Smithville, however, gave the DeKalb Utility District only 16 days' actual notice in advance of the rate change.

(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO READ ENTIRE TEXT OF LAWSUIT)

Complaint - DUD vs. City of Smithville 2 7 14.pdf (7.08 MB)

The essential text of the lawsuit is as follows:

The DeKalb Utility District brings this action to challenge the December 12, 2013 decision of the Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville to increase the water rate that it charges DeKalb Utility District by 144%, effective January 1, 2014.

As a result of the rate increase, DUD has had to increase the rates that it charges its approximately 4,987 customers by at least 42%, effective as of the January, 2014 billing cycle.

DUD seeks a declaration from the court that the new rate charged by the City is unreasonable.

In addition, DUD seeks a decision from the court (a) ordering the City of Smithville to charge a reasonable rate to the DUD; (b) ordering the City to charge a rate to the DUD that reflects the actual cost of providing the services rendered; (c) finding that a rate of $2.25 per thousand gallons for the DUD reflects the actual cost of providing the services rendered; (d) enjoining the City from charging the DUD a rate in excess of $2.67 per thousand gallons during the pendency of this litigation; and (e) enjoining the City from disconnecting the DUD from its water system during the pendency of this litigation.

DUD is a wholesale water customer of the City. At present, approximately 66% of the water produced by the City is purchased by the DUD. In calendar year 2013, the DUD purchased 308,722,000 gallons of water from the City. Under a Water Purchase Contract dated March 15, 2004, the City agreed to furnish the DUD with water at an initial rate of $1.60 per thousand gallons. The 2004 Water Purchase Contract provided for annual rate increases and other rate adjustments. The 2004 Water Purchase Contract terminated on January 1, 2014. In planning for the termination of the 2004 Water Purchase Contract, in May of 2012 the Board of Commissioners of the DUD voted to approve the construction of a water treatment plant with a target completion date of early 2014. When the DUD builds its own water plant, it will have its own water supply; and it will not be dependent upon the City for water.

Unfortunately, the plans for the water treatment plant came to an abrupt halt in July of 2012 when a petition purportedly brought by the "Ratepayers of the DUD" was filed before the Tennessee Utility Management Review Board (UMRB). The petition was the product of efforts by an entity hired by the City, the Calvert Street Group, to stop the construction of the DeKalb water treatment plant, and to do so by any and all means. As enticement for getting other DUD customers to sign the petition, the Calvert Street Group offered petition circulators a prize for collecting the most signatures. The ratepayer petition filed against the DUD proceeded to a contested case hearing before the UMRB on April 4, 2013.

In the UMRB hearing, Hunter Hendrixson, the Secretary-Treasurer for the City of Smithville, testified that the City had paid the Calvert Street Group $5,000 per month, plus expenses and has an agreement to pay the Calvert Street Group a $25,000 bonus if it stops the DUD from building its water treatment plant. As of March of 2013, before the UMRB hearing, the City had paid the Calvert Street Group in excess of $78,000, not including legal fees to the attorneys representing the "ratepayers" in UMRB proceedings. At the conclusion of the April 4, 2013 UMRB hearing, the UMRB denied the petitioners' request for relief, meaning the City lost. The petitioners filed a petition for Judicial Review, which is currently pending before the Chancery Court of Davidson County, and a decision is expected within the next 30 days. At the time of the termination of the 2004 Water Purchase Contract, the City was charging the District a rate of $2.05 per thousand gallons.

On December 12, 2013 the Board of Aldermen and the Mayor of the City held a special board meeting to decide on a new water rate for the DUD beginning January 1, 2014. In the December 12, 2013 meeting, as reflected in the "Minutes of Special Called Board Meeting" Alderman Danny Washer made a motion to charge the DUD $7.50 per thousand gallons of water. This motion was subsequently withdrawn. Following the withdrawal of Alderman Washer's motion, Alderman Jason Murphy made a motion to charge the DUD $5.00 per thousand gallons and revisit this rate for the 2014-15 budget beginning in July 2014, The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to charge this rate beginning January 1, 2014 and to revisit the rate in the next fiscal budget. The Mayor approved the action of the Board of Aldermen. The City notified the DUD of the rate change by letter dated Friday, December 13, 2013 which letter the DUD received when its office opened for business on Monday, December 16, 2013. The first bill reflecting the new rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons is anticipated to be received by the middle of February, 2014 and will be due to be paid shortly thereafter.

In calendar year, 2013, the DUD purchased 308,722,000 gallons of water from the City. Based upon the contractual rate of $2.05 per thousand gallons, the DUD paid approximately $632,880 for the water purchased from the City. By the way of comparison, if the DUD purchases the same amount of water from the City in 2014, at the rate of $5.00 per thousand, the cost will soar from $632,880 to $1,543,610, an increase of $910,000.

In March of 2013, the City contracted with Warren and Associates Engineering PLLC to perform a study to determine the City's costs to treat and supply one thousand gallons of water (The Warren Study). Information provided in the Study was to be utilized "by the City to determine their actual production costs for supplying water to their citizens and to their wholesale water customers". The Warren Study concluded that the average cost to the City to treat and supply 1,000 gallons of water is $2.67. In reaching its conclusion on the average cost, the Warren Study considered the last five years of the City's Audits, which are filed with the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, and noted that the City's water and sewer departments currently have no debt. Upon information and belief, the City does not have any anticipated maintenance on its water system because of recent (2011) updates to the raw water intake and water treatment plant. Jerry Warren, a professional engineer and the owner of Warren and Associates Engineering, PLLC, testified regarding the study in the April 4, 2013 UMRB hearing. In his sworn testimony at the UMRB hearing, Warren said that because there would be no transportation costs for providing this water to the District, that the $2.67 rate could be reduced by as much as 42 cents per thousand gallons, for a rate of $2.25 per thousand gallons.

Based upon the Warren Study, the new rate that the City is charging the DUD is unreasonable because it is at approximately two times the actual cost of providing the services rendered. Charging an excessive and unreasonable rate is contrary to the public policy governing municipal utility systems as declared in Tennessee Code Annotated 9-21-308 and Tennessee Code Annotated 7-34-115.

Under TCA 9-21-308, state law specifies in pertinent part in section (e) "Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, as a matter of public policy, public works projects financed under this chapter shall be operated on sound business principles as self-sufficient entities. User charges, rates, and fees shall reflect the actual cost of providing the services rendered. Public works shall not operate for gain or profit or as a source of revenue to a government entity, but shall operate for the use and benefit of the customers served by such public works and for the improvement of the health and safety of the inhabitants of the area served".

Under TCA 7-34-115, state law provides in pertinent part in section (a) " Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, as a matter of public policy, municipal utility systems shall be operated on sound business principles as self-sufficient entities. User charges, rates, and fees shall reflect the actual cost of providing the services rendered. No public works shall operate for gain or profit or as a source of revenue to a governmental entity, but shall operate for the use and benefit of the consumers served by such public works and for the improvement of the health and safety of the inhabitants of the area served".

The lawsuit states that " If allowed to continue to charge the $5.00 per thousand rate, the City stands to make a profit of several hundred thousand dollars, which is contrary to the (state) law applicable to Smithville. According to the most recent audit report issued by the City of Smithville, the City Water and Sewer Department had a change in net position of approximately $15,000 in 2013. In addition, for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2103, the Smithville Water and Sewer Department has cash and cash equivalents on hand of $2,336,722, an increase of $396,122 since July 1, 2012. In 2012, the Smithville Water and Sewer Department had operating income in excess of $100,000. The audit reports for the City are a matter of public record and are posted on the Tennessee Comptroller's website.

As a consequence, DUD seeks a declaration from the Court that the new rate adopted by the City on December 12 is unreasonable. In addition to raising the rate to an excessive and unreasonable rate, the City of Smithville also violated Section 18-502 of the Smithville City Code, which requires the City to give the DUD 30 days' notice in advance of a rate change. The City, however, gave the DUD only 16 days actual notice in advance of the rate change.

Section 18-504 of the Smithville City Code authorizes the Water Department of the City to cut off and discontinue water services to the DUD if the water bill is not paid within seven days after the DUD receives the bill.

Pursuant to TCA 29-14-110, a decree ordering further relief is necessary and proper.

Under the circumstances of this case, further relief includes, but is not limited to a decision from this Court (a) ordering the City of Smithville to charge a reasonable rate to the DeKalb Utility District; (b) ordering the City to charge a rate to the DUD that reflects the actual cost of providing the services rendered; (c) finding that a rate of $2.25 per thousand gallons for the DUD reflects the actual cost of providing the services rendered; (d) enjoining the City from charging the DUD a rate in excess of $2.67 per thousand gallons during the pendency of this litigation; and (e) enjoining the City from disconnecting the DUD from its water system during the pendency of this litigation.

DUD requests that the Court order a speedy hearing on this action for a declaratory judgment and advance it on the Court's calendar.

The DUD requests the Court enter a temporary injunction during the pendency of this action and a permanent injunction, which: Restrains and enjoins the City from charging the DUD a rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons; Restrains and enjoins the City from charging the DUD a rate in excess of $2.67 per thousand gallons during the pendency of this litigation; and Restrains and enjoins the City from disconnecting the DUD from its water system during the pendency of this litigation.

The rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons charged by the City to the DUD effective January 1, 2014 has caused and will continue to result in immediate and irreparable injury, loss, and damage to the DUD and its customers.

The issuance of the temporary injunction will not cause undue inconvenience or loss to the City of Smithville, but will prevent irreparable injury to the DUD."

Miss Tennessee Visits Local Schools (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

February 7, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Miss Tennessee Shelby Thompson visits Smithville Elementary School
Miss Tennessee Visits DeKalb West School
Miss Tennessee Shelby Thompson Speaks to DeKalb West Students

Sharing her message of character, integrity and trust, reigning Miss Tennessee Shelby Thompson spoke to groups of students at Smithville Elementary, Northside, and DeKalb West School Friday.

"Today I spoke to about 800 students. I love children and I'm excited that I am able to convince them to think critically about their character and to come up with ways to be a more trustworthy person in their everyday life," said Thompson in an interview with WJLE.

Thompson’s lifelong dream came true when she was crowned Miss Tennessee on June 22, 2013, at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson, Tennessee. "There's a lot involved in becoming Miss Tennessee. You're tested in so many different ways. I actually went through a ten minute politically based interview. It is grueling. They can ask you anything from your deepest dreams and fears to your biggest mistake to your views on political things and your solutions for any issue going on in our country. It's a big job and preparing for that job took lots of hours. I also did a couple half marathons and a triathlon to get ready for the swimsuit competition that everyone looks forward to every year . Along with the personal talent, I studied Opera at Vanderbilt for four years. I sing opera as my talent. It's a fun job. You're tested in a lot of ways but ultimately you just focus on preparing your heart for this job in serving our state," she said.

As Miss Tennessee, Kirkland’s Inc. sponsors Shelby as she serves as Governor Haslam’s Official Spokesperson for Character Education and travels 70,000 miles speaking to 40,000 schoolchildren about the Character Education Trait: Trustworthiness. Throughout her year of travels across the state, Shelby also serves as a National Spokesperson for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Official Friends of Children’s Hospital Board Intern, Volunteer Tennessee’s Honorary Board Chair, as well as the Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network for the state of Tennessee, home to five CMN hospitals.

Shelby is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a B.S. in Public Relations, a minor in Business and has been accepted into Lipscomb University’s MBA program with a Nonprofit Management concentration. She was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, was selected as one of fifteen college seniors to participate in the Senior Leadership Capstone Course, and received the UTK’s School of Public Relations Scholarship. Shelby also received Tennessee’s Lottery HOPE Scholarship, as well as the University of Tennessee’s Center for International Education Scholarship. While a student at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, she was selected by her professors to attend the LeaderShape Institute in 2011, was employed as an Ambassador Scholar, served as Philanthropy Chair for Alpha Delta Pi Sorority where she coordinated weekly service projects for 175 members and was named Alpha Kappa Chapter’s Junior of the Year. The National Alpha Delta Pi Sorority honored Shelby as the National Collegiate Volunteer of the Year in 2011 for her work involving Ronald McDonald House Charities where she raised over $8,000 through the fundraiser she created.

Shelby has been awarded over $26,000 in college scholarships from her participation in the Miss America program. She won the Miss Tennessee Quality of Life Award 2013 and was presented the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Medal Award by HRH Prince Edward at Governor Haslam’s residence in May 2013. Shelby was a Swimsuit Preliminary Winner in 2010 and won Talent Preliminary awards in 2012 and 2013 when she competed for the Miss Tennessee crown. With the scholarships she won participating in the Miss America Organization, Shelby was afforded the opportunity to study International Public Relations and Crisis Communication in Italy at Universita di Urbino during the summer of 2011.

As a Nationally Endorsed Spokesperson for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Shelby will represent the organization during her travels across the state and will be filming a national Public Service Announcement that will run on Comcast and joins Academy Award Winner, Jamie Foxx, former Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler, Grammy Award winner, Eve, and Super Bowl Champion, Darrin Smith, as national spokespeople. Shelby is an Honorary Member of BBBS Ambassador Circle, has appeared in a statewide Public Service Announcement as Miss Tennessee in support of BBBS, and is on a billboard campaign with her Little Sister, Justice Fields, for BBBS. Over this past year, she has worked as the Fund Development Intern and has spearheaded the Tennessee chapter’s capital campaign by organizing Bowl for Kids’ Sake in five different cities that have raised $125,000, while also raising nearly $15,000 during the past ten months through online virtual fundraisers and speaking engagements. Shelby has also served as a Programs Intern for BBBS and volunteered as a Big Sister to Justice for three years, until her Little Sister graduated from the program. Shelby received the University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Honor for Extraordinary Community Service for her volunteerism with BBBS.

In addition to her work promoting Big Brothers Big Sisters, Shelby has been heavily involved with Tennessee’s five CMN hospitals and volunteered for IHOP’s CMN National Pancake Day for the past several years. Shelby created a Krafts 4 Kids Program, which she has taken to all five Tennessee CMN Hospitals, where she makes “love bug crafts” with patients who are able to participate. She has volunteered for CMN Queen for a Day events in Nashville and Memphis, hosted a Pancake Breakfast for CMN Hospitals in Knoxville, and hosted both The Children’s Christmas Artwork Winner’s Party and “Miss Tennessee Day” at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Shelby escorted youth volunteers at CMN’s Sundae with Friends and Fashion Show and worked as a phone bank volunteer for the Nashville and Knoxville CMN telethons. She volunteered at the CMN Phone-a-thon for East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, and participated in the Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving in Nashville where 27 stores provided a portion of the proceeds to CMN. Shelby has founded the GenerosiTEA fundraiser at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital where mothers can bring their daughters to have refreshments and photos with Miss Tennessee while learning about Shelby’s volunteer experiences at VCH.

When Shelby is not working on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters, CMN Hospitals and the Miss Tennessee Organization, she enjoys classical vocal performance and has had the opportunity to sing at Dollywood and Carnegie Hall. She has studied classical voice through Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, Nashville Opera and Opera Memphis. Shelby is an avid triathlete and runner, having completed both the Nashville Country Music and Chicago Half marathons and UT’s Triathlon.

Thompson said she hopes to have a career in sales and marketing or working in her family's business after her reign as Miss Tennessee and once she completes her education.

DUD Taking City to Court Seeking Adjustment in Water Rates (VIEW VIDEOS HERE)

February 6, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
DUD Board members: Seated-Roger Turney, Joe Foutch; Standing, Danny Bass, Jimmy Womack, Hugh Washer

It appears the DeKalb Utility District is taking the City of Smithville to court in a move to bring down the new $5.00 per thousand gallon water rate the municipality began charging the utility January 1st.

During its regular monthly meeting Thursday in Smithville, the DUD Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 to authorize DUD attorneys to take whatever legal action is necessary to force the city to adjust its rate. The board also voted to authorize the DUD management team to bring down the rate DUD charges its customers, after the city rate to the utility is adjusted.

"We feel that $5.00 per thousand is not reasonable," said DUD Board Chairman Roger Turney. "During the court hearing, the City of Smithville hired a company to do a rate study. They came back with a figure of $2.67 per thousand gallons which they estimated was their costs to produce water. During that hearing it was said that's not really a true figure because at least 40 cents of that would be for transportation but there is no transportation costs when it comes to us. It goes through the meter and we pay to distribute it. So their real cost is a whole lot less than $5.00 per thousand and that even $2.00 to $2.25 is probably an exaggerated cost. We sent them (city) contracts and have agreed to pay that. We said we'll be glad to pay that amount but every time we have contacted them through correspondence, they would not talk to us unless we agreed to buy a minimum amount of water and that minimum amount is the same amount that we bought last year which means, in essence, as long as you buy all your water from us, we'll cut the rates back down. We feel that $5.00 is an unreasonable rate," said Turney.

(VIEW VIDEO OF ENTIRE DUD MEETING BELOW)

Though plans are still in the making to build its own water treatment plant once all the legal hurdles have been cleared, DUD may still have to purchase water from the City of Smithville for another eighteen months after construction begins until the plant is ready to open.

Turney said the city's new $5.00 per thousand gallon rate would add hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs to the utility if it were left in place. "In 2013, we purchased about 308,722,000 gallons from Smithville at the rate of $2.05 per thousand gallons. If we had been paying $5.00 per thousand for the water at that time, that would have increased our bill for that year $910,729 extra to the City of Smithville and they (city) would have had no extra expense," he said.

Under state law, water districts cannot operate at a loss, therefore the additional costs have to be passed on to the ratepayers. "As a district by state law, we cannot operate at a loss. We had to look at our costs and the new costs from the City of Smithville and see what we had to do to compensate for that. Their rate increase amounted to a 144% rate increase. We looked at what that's going to do to our bill from Smithville. We looked at the figures and decided to go up 42% on our customers. We realized that was an inconvenient thing to do but we really had no choice. We have to cover our costs," said Turney.

The DUD Board Chairman was quick to add that the 42% increase was only because of the city's recent rate hike to the DUD, and not because of the proposed water treatment plant. "That had nothing whatsoever to do with the water treatment plant. That 42% increase was strictly to cover the increase from the City of Smithville from $2.05 to $5.00 per thousand gallons," he said.

Turney also explained that while the DUD has to pay for all the water it gets from Smithville, the utility does not receive income from the entire supply it purchases due to water loss for various reasons. "Every single gallon that we buy from the City of Smithville, I don't care if it is to fight fires, if it's a leak, or to flush a line, we pay them $5.00 for every thousand gallons regardless of where it goes. They have no loss when it comes through our master meter. It's strictly our bill to pay. That's one of the things we have to look at as we consider what our rates are to our customers because that water has to be paid for to the City of Smithville," he said.

"I'm going to ask my board today to give our legal group the authority to proceed with any legal action necessary to see if we can't get some justification on that rate. We think that rate should be much, much lower than $5.00. I'm going to call on my board to give our legal counsel the authority to take whatever legal action it takes in order to get the City of Smithville to reconsider their cost increase to us," Turney said.

"At the same time, I'd like to ask the board to give our management team here the authority to lower our rates at the same time city rates are adjusted, so we don't have to wait for another meeting," said Turney.

The DUD board approved both requests.

Only four people attended Thursday's DUD board meeting, other than the board members, attorney, engineer, employees, and local media. While the meeting was not opened up for public comment, Chairman Turney updated the audience on the events which have occurred over the last couple of years, hoping to address public concerns or questions about the water plant project.

Turney said the DUD's decision to build its own water treatment plant was based on findings that it would save the utility money and reduce rates to customers over a period of time. " We had several different people, auditors and accountants look at what our costs would be to produce water and to buy water from Smithville. Every single scenario was looked at. Every possibility. Even the possibility if Smithville never raised another penny and kept it at $2.05 for the next thirty years. Every scenario we looked at it was going to be profitable for us to build our own treatment plant. We would, in the long run, save our customers money if we built our own treatment plant. So we as a board decided that would be our undertaking. That we would make efforts to try to build a water treatment plant. Interest rates are at an all time low. Grants are now available to us, and building costs are down because of the recession. So we felt the time was right for us to proceed on with a treatment plant and we made every effort to start with that," he said.

Another factor in the DUD's decision to build a water plant was that it might not have this opportunity again. "In fact, about ten years ago we looked at the possibility of building a water treatment plant," said Turney. "The Corps of Engineers said we as a district, DUD could purchase from them up to four million gallons of water from Center Hill Lake. As things happened at that time, the plans didn't work out. We actually had contracts bid. The contracts came back so expensive that we could not afford to build a treatment plant at that time. That's when we entered into a contract with Smithville. Since that time, the Corps came back to us about two years ago and asked us if we were still interested in water. That got us thinking. We said possibly. At that time, the amount of water that they would allocate to us had decreased from four million gallons to two million gallons due to the fact that many other places including Cookeville would love to have every drop of water from Center Hill Lake, the way Cookeville is growing. At that time we were fearful that if sometime in the future we decided to go ahead and build a treatment plant, that there might not be any water left for us. So we decided as a board at that time to go ahead and purchase from the Corps of Engineers that two million gallon allocation, so we're paying for that. We have bought two million gallons of water in the lake for future use. That has to be paid for every year. We then started making long term plans," Turney continued.

Had it not been for the City of Smithville's intervention, Turney said the DUD water plant would have been constructed by now. "Under the board's plan, the water treatment plant would have been completed by now if things had developed the way we wanted to. But unfortunately the plans for the water treatment plant came to a screeching halt in July 2012 when the so called ratepayers of DUD issued a petition with ten percent of the signatures of the ratepayers supposedly that said the rates we were charging were not right. It turns out that the petition was generated on behalf or at the expense of the City of Smithville. In fact, they hired a public relations firm out of Nashville to do everything possible to try to stop us from building a treatment plant. We were at this table. We had all the paperwork done to sign the bonds to proceed forward on the treatment plant and in about fifteen minutes before we signed those documents, the City of Smithville and the group they call the ratepayers of DUD presented that petition to the courts. Therefore the bond counsel would not sign off on the bonds at that time because of the litigation. So that put the plans at a halt," Turney continued.

The DUD Board Chairman said records reveal that tens of thousands of city taxpayer dollars have been spent by Smithville trying to thwart the DUD's plans. "The City of Smithville has decided that this is their main effort. Their main effort has been to stop us from building a treatment plant. To show you how intent the City of Smithville was in getting this done, when that petition was circulated, they offered the people that circulated the petition a prize for the one who got the most signatures. They also offered the Calvert Street Group a $25,000 bonus if we would agree not to build a treatment plant. So they were pretty adamant about trying to stop us from building a plant. At this time, at least from the records of the court hearing we had that day before the UMRB, the City of Smithville out of their taxpayer's money has spent in excess of $78,000 to try to fight our water treatment plant plus legal fees and the legal fees out of Nashville I guarantee you are not cheap," said Turney.

Meanwhile, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle is expected to decide soon whether to uphold the Tennessee Utility Management Review Board's dismissal of the City of Smithville and the DUD ratepayer's petition seeking to stop DUD's plans to build a water treatment plant. Following a hearing last April, the UMRB found that DUD's rates at the time were reasonable, clearing the way for the utility to build the facility. The petitioners then filed an appeal with the Davidson County Chancery Court asking for a judicial review and reversal of the UMRB's decision.

If the Chancellor rules in favor of the DUD, Turney said construction may soon follow. "We're waiting and as soon as we can get comments from the Chancellor, the bond counsel has agreed, if she rules in our favor, that bond sales will go on and we'll proceed on with our water treatment plant as soon as possible. Realistically, it will take from the time we start, about eighteen months. So we've got about eighteen months when we'll have to buy water from Smithville. But as soon as we can get things rolling, we want to build our water treatment plant to take care of our customers the best that we can," Turney concluded.

Trial Date Reset for June in Case Against UCDD Defendants

February 6, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Wendy Askins

The trial date of former UCDD officials Wendy Askins, Larry Webb, and Mike Foster has been reset for June 3 in U.S. District Court in Nashville.

The trial was originally scheduled for May 20 but U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled on January 22 in favor of a motion filed by Askins for a continuance. Askins sought the delay because her daughter is getting married in May. Webb joined Askins in the request but Foster opposed the continuance. Foster wants his case dismissed or at least tried separately from Askins and Webb.

Meanwhile, Judge Trauger granted a request by Webb on January 29 for an extension of time in which all the defendants may file pre-trial motions. The new deadline is March 14. Government prosecutors in the case have until April 4 to respond to all pre-trial motions.

But to clear up any confusion, Scarlett S. Nokes, Assistant U.S. Attorney, has filed a motion seeking a clarification of the court's ruling since the judge had previously granted a 30 day extension for filing responses to Foster's motions up until February 10.

If the judge holds to the February 10 deadline, Nokes is seeking a nine day extension for filing responses to Foster's motions through February 19.

In her motion for clarification, Nokes wrote that "The government is seeking clarification of whether the responses to Fosters motions are due on April 4 or February 10, in accordance with the court's previous order of January 13, granting the government's motion for extension."

In the event that the government's responses are due by February 10, Nokes is seeking an additional nine days to respond to Foster's motions to dismiss, for a bill of particulars, for a severance, and for early disclosure and production of material. If the request for a nine day extension is granted, the government's responses will be due on or before February 19. In the alternative, if the responses are not due until April 4, the government has spoken to Foster's counsel and has agreed to file responses to the pending motions no later than February 19.

"The responses to Foster's motions, which raise several legal issues, require thorough responses and will take additional time to research in order to fully address the issues raised in the motions. However, the government does not anticipate needing any extensions beyond February 19", wrote Nokes.

Hal Hardin, the attorney for Foster filed a motion in December asking the federal court to dismiss the case against the county mayor alleging that the former UCDD Chairman made false statements to the agency's board of directors relating to the Living the Dream facility, a home for seniors in Putnam County.

In his motion to dismiss, Hardin claims that "Mr. Foster is entitled to dismissal of the charge because the "statements" he made are ambiguous to such an extent that they cannot be prosecuted as a crime".

Hardin has also filed a motion for a "Bill of Particulars" seeking specificity of the charge against Foster, and a motion for "Severance" claiming that Foster would be prejudiced by a joint trial with his co-defendants Wendy Askins and Larry Webb

At the December 10, 2013 status conference, the court established pretrial deadlines. The court ordered a deadline for the government's responses to Foster's pretrial motions to be January 10, 2014. But a 30 day extension was granted after prosecutors requested more time to respond.

Two Weeks Left for Candidates to Qualify for Local Elections

February 5, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

With two weeks left before the February 20th qualifying deadline, the DeKalb County Election Commission has released an updated list of candidates who plan to seek election to local public offices this year.

All Democrats named below have picked up petitions for the May 6th Primary. Several have not yet filed them with the election commission. Republicans listed below have been nominated by their party to run in the August 7th County General Election. Names of Independents will also appear on the August ballot. Again, the qualifying deadline for Democrats and Independents is NOON February, 20th. School Board candidates have until NOON April 3 to qualify for the August 7th election. The Dowelltown and Smithville Municipal Elections will also be held on August 7th. A mayor and two aldermen will be elected in Smithville. Dowelltown voters will elect three aldermen. The qualifying deadline for those elections is NOON April 3.

SHERIFF:
Michael J. Agee (Democrat) has filed his petition and is certified by POST to run in May 6th Primary
Larry Flair, Sr. (Democrat) has filed his petition and is certified by POST for May 6th Primary
Patrick Ray (Republican Nominee) and certified by Post for August General Election

COUNTY MAYOR:
Mike Foster (Democrat) has been issued a petition for May 6th Primary
Tim Stribling (Democrat) has been issued a petition for May 6th Primary
Chris Bratcher, II (Independent) has been issued a petition for August General Election
Chris Smithson (Republican Nominee) for August General Election

COUNTY CLERK:
Michael Clayborn (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
James L. (Jimmy) Poss (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Daniel Critser (Independent) has been issued a petition for the August General Election

GENERAL SESSIONS JUDGE:
Bratten H. Cook, II (Democrat) has filed his petition for May 6th Primary
Margie Miller (Democrat) has filed her petition for May 6th Primary
Mingy Bryant (Republican Nominee) for August General Election

ROAD SUPERVISOR:
James (Jimmy) Sprague (Democrat) has filed his petition for May 6th Primary
Shane Walker (Democrat) has been issued a petition but will NOT be a candidate
Butch Agee (Republican Nominee) for the August General Election

CIRCUIT COURT CLERK:
Katherine Pack (Democrat) has filed her petition for the May 6th Primary

REGISTER OF DEEDS:
Jeffrey McMillen (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary

TRUSTEE:
Sean Driver (Republican Nominee) for the August General Election

COUNTY COMMISSIONER (TWO TO BE NOMINATED/ELECTED FROM EACH DISTRICT)

FIRST DISTRICT:
Bennett Armstrong (Democrat) has been issued a petition for the May 6th Primary
Kenneth Clayborn (Democrat) has been issued a petition for the May 6th Primary
Elmer Lee Ellis (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Mason Carter (Republican Nominee) for the August General Election

SECOND DISTRICT:
Jerry Hutchins, Jr. (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Clarence Trapp (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Bobby Joines (Republican Nominee) for the August General Election
Jimmy Midgett (Independent) has been issued a petition for August General Election

THIRD DISTRICT:
Jack Barton (Democrat) has been issued a petition for the May 6th Primary
Bradley Hendrix (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Jerry Scott (Democrat) has been issued a petition for the May 6th Primary

FOURTH DISTRICT:
Charles Wayne Cantrell (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
David L. McDowell (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Bobby R. Taylor (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Jonathan Norris (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Anthony (Tony) Poss (Democrat) has been issued a petition for the May 6th Primary

FIFTH DISTRICT:
Anita Puckett (Democrat) has filed a petition for the May 6th Primary
Rick Cantrell (Democrat) has filed a petition for the May 6th Primary
Jerry Adcock (Republican Nominee) for the August General Election

SIXTH DISTRICT:
Betty Jean Atnip (Democrat) has filed her petition for the May 6th Primary
Jeffery Barnes (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Marshall Ferrell (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Danny L. McGinnis (Independent) has filed his petition for the August General Election

SEVENTH DISTRICT:
Larry Summers (Democrat) has filed his petition for the May 6th Primary
Kevin E. Robinson (Democrat) has filed a petition for the May 6th Primary

CONSTABLE (TO FILL VACANT POSITIONS)

FIRST DISTRICT:
Benjamin C. Curtis (Democrat) has been issued a petition for the May 6th Primary
Lee Plummer (Republican Nominee) for the August General Election

SECOND DISTRICT:
Chris Tramel (Republican Nominee) for the August General Election
Tony D. Lawson (Independent) has filed his petition for the August General Election
Jonathan Low (Independent) has filed his petition for the August General Election

THIRD DISTRICT:
Travis Bryant (Independent) has been issued a petition for the August General Election
Lou Ann Sanders (Independent) has been issued a petition for the August General Election

SCHOOL BOARD (ALL CANDIDATES RUN AS INDEPENDENTS OR NON-PARTISAN)

FIRST DISTRICT:
Matthew Boss has filed a petition
Danny Parkerson has been issued a petition

SECOND DISTRICT:
Charles Robinson has been issued a petition

THIRD DISTRICT:
Kenny Rhody has been issued a petition
Jonathan Willoughby has been issued a petition

SEVENTH DISTRICT:
Johnny Lattimore has been issued a petition

STATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE WOMAN DISTRICT 17
Jennifer Winfree (Republican) in the State Primary in August

SMITHVILLE MUNICIPAL ELECTION:
Gayla Hendrix has been issued a petition for Alderman

DOWELLTOWN MUNICIPAL ELECTION:
Ronald Griffith has been issued a petition for Alderman
Keith Farler has been issued a petition for Alderman
Brad Driver has been issued a petition for Alderman

STATE REPRESENTATIVE 40TH DISTRICT:
Krista Eickmann has been issued a petition as an Independent in the State General Election in November

New WJLE Swap & Shop Program Begins Monday

February 5, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
WJLE's Dale Carroll to host new Swap & Shop program

WJLE is changing our radio classifieds program called "Listener's Exchange".

Beginning Monday, February, 10 listeners may call the ALL NEW "WJLE SWAP & SHOP" in a NEW TIME from 9:05 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. to report "FOR SALE", WANTS TO BUY", "FOR RENT", "LOST AND FOUND" and "TO GIVE AWAY" items for FREE!

WJLE's Dale Carroll will take your call at 615-597-4265. You may make your announcements LIVE on the air each weekday, Monday through Friday from 9:05 a.m. until 9:30 a.m.

Tune in for the ALL NEW "SWAP & SHOP" starting Monday, February 10 on WJLE.

DUD and City Officials Still Blaming Each Other For Water Rate Increases

February 4, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

Many DeKalb Utility District customers are not happy with the big rate increases in their water bills this month and a lot of them are blaming the City of Smithville

City officials claim the DUD is directing any complaints they get to the city. But while the city did increase rates to the DUD by $2.95 per thousand gallons effective January 1st, the DUD raised rates to its own customers by $4.30 per thousand gallons.

"We had quite a few calls last week from DUD customers. They were told to call city hall if they had any questions on their rate. I explained to several of them that the City of Smithville does not dictate the rates of DUD customers," said Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson during Monday night's monthly city council meeting.

"Just to clarify, we do not set their (DUD customers) rates," added Alderman Danny Washer.

"We went up $2.95 per thousand gallons and they went up $4.30 per thousand gallons to their customers. If anybody (DUD customer) wants to question their increase they'll have to go to DUD," said Hendrixson.

The DUD board typically meets on the first Thursday of the month at 3:00 p.m. at their office in Smithville.

Meanwhile, city officials extended an invitation for DUD board members to attend last night's city council meeting to discuss their concerns about the new DUD water rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons but neither of the board members could make it.

In a reply to the invitation, DUD officials said they were unable to attend. "I sent a letter last week to the Board of DeKalb Utility District to meet with us if they wanted to discuss or address the board on their water rate increase that the city gave after the contract expired December 31. I got a letter today thanking us for the invitation. However they regret to inform that their board or officials will not be able to attend tonight's meeting", said Hendrixson.

"I guess they are not that concerned about the rate hike, I don't know. However they (DUD officials) have yet to personally come before the board and address their rate hike that they have been very public about," added Hendrixson.

In a letter to subscribers Tuesday, January 14, Board of Directors and Management of the DeKalb Utility District announced that rates to customers who receive water purchased by the DUD from the city would be increased by 42% or $4.30 per thousand gallons effective with the January billing.

DUD officials said the increase was necessary to help offset the 144% rate increase the City imposed on the DUD effective January 1.

Meanwhile, as the city and DUD await a Chancellor's ruling on a judicial review of last April's decision by the state's Utility Management Review Board, city officials point out that DUD ratepayers could petition the UMRB for an ouster proceeding against DUD board members if they believe they have been wronged by the DUD's decision to build a water treatment facility.

In a court brief defending the UMRB's ruling to dismiss the petitioner's complaint against the DUD, Deputy Attorney General Scott Jackson with the Tennessee Attorney General's Office wrote that their course of action was not the proper remedy."The Utility District Law of 1937 provides an express remedy in instances when ratepayers believe a utility district has acted improperly and they want a determination that the district has acted "wrongly". Under Tennessee Code Annotated (the Ouster Provision), ratepayers may petition the UMRB to remove board members in the event they believe that board of commissioners engaged in misconduct or failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the customers in the operation, or oversight of the district. Such a petition requires 20% of the customers of a district to request a removal. Thus, if the ratepayers truly believe the DUD acted "wrongly" as claimed here by the ratepayers in their petition, the proper recourse is a hearing under the Ouster Provision."

"Further, the Utility District Law of 1937 expressly provides that a utility may be sued. If the ratepayers truly believe that a public utility has taken action against their best interest, they can also file a lawsuit against the utility district in the appropriate court".

Last April, the Utility Management Review Board held a hearing in Smithville to review the rates to customers charged by the DeKalb Utility District at that time and rates to be charged associated with the construction of a new water treatment plant. Ratepayers and the City of Smithville, referred to as the petitioners, also wanted the UMRB to block the DUD's decision to build a water treatment plant. DUD officials contend it is in the best interest for DUD to have its own water plant and that the result would be lower rates to DUD customers over a period of time.

The UMRB, at the April hearing, found DUD's rates at the time to be reasonable and refused to intervene in DUD's business decision to build the water plant. By not reviewing "services provided" as well as "rates charged" as requested, the petitioners contend that the UMRB violated statutory provisions and or followed an illegal procedure in arriving at its decision. Attorneys for the UMRB and DUD said the Utility Management Review Board had no authority to stop the water plant project nor to force the DUD into a contractual relationship with the city.

The petitioners later filed an appeal to the Davidson County Chancery Court for a judicial review of the UMRB's decision, hoping to win a reversal. Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle held a hearing last week in Nashville with all the parties involved and said she would issue her decision within thirty days.

Attorneys for the DUD and the State Attorney General's Office for the UMRB essentially make the same arguments for the UMRB's decision to be upheld.

DUD's attorney Dewey Branstetter, Jr. wrote in his court brief that "The UMRB correctly dismissed the petition created through the efforts of the City of Smithville and filed by the Ratepayers of the DeKalb Utility District. The petitioners have not and cannot meet the burden required for this court to overturn the decision of the UMRB, to remand this case back to the UMRB, or to do anything except affirm the UMRB Order."

"The UMRB correctly decided to limit its review to the rates charged by the DUD and not to examine the business decision of the DUD to construct its own water treatment plant. While there was significant testimony about the water treatment plant, and even though the proof was overwhelming that the decision by the DUD to build its own plant was in the best interest of the customers of the DUD, the UMRB correctly decided that it was not its duty to examine that decision."

The petitioners also contend that the UMRB failed to consider the capital expenditures associated with the new water treatment plant and how that would affect future rates. The UMRB's ruling that DUD rates were reasonable was not supported by the material evidence presented at the hearing, according to the Petitioners.

In his court brief, Branstetter wrote that "the decision of the UMRB was supported by material evidence in the record. The transcript from the hearing and the exhibits introduced at the hearing show that the rates charged by the DUD are reasonable and that the rates proposed to be charged if the water treatment plant is built will also be reasonable. There was no proof introduced by the petitioners that would support a decision that the rates of DUD are not reasonable,"

Lastly, the petitioners argue that the UMRB did not conduct an "Open Hearing" to allow anyone an opportunity to speak and that the case should be remanded to the UMRB to hold another hearing to consider testimony and opinions of the ratepayers that desire to give public comment as part of the proceedings. Although the forum was open for the public to attend, it was conducted like a court hearing, with witnesses called to testify and be cross examined.

Branstetter wrote that this argument by the Petitioners is also without merit. "The UMRB proceeding was a contested case hearing under the Uniform Rules of Procedure for Hearing Contested Cases before State Administrative Agencies. It was not an open hearing under the Rules of the Comptroller of the Treasury for the Utility Management Review Board. As such, the Petitioners cannot legitimately argue that because the UMRB didn't have "open microphone night" that the case should be remanded back to the UMRB for unfettered public comment."

In the brief, Branstetter wrote that the ratepayers and the City of Smithville were represented by counsel. If their counsel had chosen to call any additional ratepayers to testify, they certainly had the right to do so. Any of the ratepayers in attendance who desired to give testimony could have been called by the counsel representing their interest, but the Petitioners failed to even attempt to call any ratepayer witnesses other than the two designate representatives, Randy Rhody and Hunter Hendrixson. The Petitioners should not now be allowed to complain that they were not given an opportunity to have an open forum when their counsel had the full ability to call any witnesses they so desired. If counsel for the Petitioners failed to call any witnesses and now assert that they were somehow prejudiced by not doing so, then it is their own fault for not calling other individuals to testify".

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