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Fuson Awarded Second Place at State Essay Contest

July 13, 2016
Dwayne Page
Skylar Fuson pictured with her teacher, Jenny Elrod

Skylar Fuson, a 7th grader at DeKalb Middle School, was recently awarded Second Place in the State Essay Contest. This announcement came on Friday, June 17th at the 2016 Farm Bureau Women’s Summer Leadership Conference in Columbia, TN. The subject of the contest this year was “Why is Agriculture Important?” This is an annual contest to promote education in the use of agriculture in daily living and its effects on the economy. Skylar received a $300.00 cash prize. Pictured with Skylar is her teacher, Jenny Elrod. Mrs. Elrod was also awarded $100.00 by attending the state contest with Skylar.

County Officials Ask Commission to Reconsider Pay Plan

July 13, 2016
Dwayne Page
Jeff McMillen

A new pay plan for county employees would be implemented with passage of the 2016-17 budget later this month but some public officials don’t like it and are asking the county commission to reconsider.

Under the plan, employees of the offices of Trustee, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, Assessor of Property, County Mayor, Circuit Court Clerk, and Clerk and Master would get step raises at a percentage of what their employer earns. But since the county mayor gets $10,000 more than the other aforementioned officials, his two employees would earn more money than their clerks.

Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, in addressing the county mayor and commissioners in a workshop session Tuesday evening at the courthouse, said he doesn’t think the plan is fair.

“I consider my employees to be just as important as they are. Every office is important or they wouldn’t have it. I can’t imagine how you can think that they (county mayor’s two employees) are worth $4,000 more than my employees just because Tim (Stribling) makes $75,000 and I make $65,000. I’m not asking you to take anything away from Tim’s girls. They are important. They write the checks. They pay the bills and all that. We record the deeds. So we’re important too or we wouldn’t be there. Every office has got a function,” he said.

McMillen claims the proposed pay plan only adds to disparity which already exists between the county mayor’s employees and other clerks. According to McMillen, the county mayor’s employees earn extra pay for writing grants on behalf of the county, not part of their regular duties, but they do it while at work. “They are splitting that money ($4,500) and basically getting over $2,000 more than what our employees are,” he said.

McMillen and others are also upset that they were not invited to attend the budget committee meeting when this issue was decided. McMillen said he had to learn the particulars of the plan in a news story on WJLE's website.

During a lengthy meeting last month, the county commission’s budget committee came up with the new wage scale and tied it to the salaries of the county public officials. Because it is based on a percentage of what their boss earns, clerks would get an automatic pay hike funded by the county every time the state grants a pay raise for the county’s public officials. The plan also includes five step increases for these employees with them being eligible to earn up to 44% of their employer’s salary at level 5 after eight years of service.

Wayne Cantrell, Chairman of the Budget Committee, said automatic pay raises for clerks when their bosses get an increase is an aspect of the plan he likes.

“We came out of there (budget committee meeting) united because we thought that this was the best thing we could do right now,” added Budget Committee member Larry Summers.

McMillen warned the commission that it would be fostering division and hurt feelings if employees of one office are treated differently than the others. “Tell me what the difference is between those girls and mine. They don’t have to have a BS degree. They don’t have to have an Associate’s Degree. All they have to do is come in and apply for a job and him (county mayor) be willing to hire them because he thinks they can help him,” said McMillen.

“I think there needs to be an honest appreciation of the fact that there are different accountabilities all across our county and in your offices. If you are the manager at Food Lion, Walmart, or Federal Mogul there are people who stand side by side that earn different wages. In my mind those two people (county mayor’s employees) are not statutory clerks as all of your employees are. They don’t take an oath of office. And that doesn’t have any bearing on the raise. But in that office(county mayor), if you went to a CPA and said what would it take to do payroll for 120 people you would get a lot higher salary than probably either one of those girls make. And take into consideration accounts payable for our size county. That’s just the way I look at it,” said Budget Committee member Jack Barton.

“My office is bigger in accounts receivable than accounts payable. So how can you compare that?”, asked Trustee Sean Driver who also addressed the commission.

McMillen said the county ‘s plan also fails to take into consideration years of service. “You’re not saying anything about time of service being important. I have an employee who has been here 19 years. One employee of the county mayor’s office hasn’t been here near that long and she is going to make $3,000 more than my 19 year clerk,” he said.

When asked by Trustee Driver if he thought the plan was fair, County Mayor Stribling replied that it was the budget committee’s recommendation and that if the county commission were to vote it down then the budget committee would have to revisit it.

Should the county commission adopt the budget, which includes the new pay plan, clerks could challenge it in court. McMillen said there are no plans to do so. “There is no lawsuit guys. We’ve never met with any attorney. We’ve not talked about that. I don’t want a lawsuit. That’s not what we’re here for. When lawsuits are happening, it’s bad for all of us because you know who pays for every bit of it? The county does. We’re not into a lawsuit. We’re into a discussion,” he said.

“ I only ask that you look at paying everybody the same. I owe it to my employees to represent them”, McMillen concluded.

During a previous budget committee meeting last month, Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack and Trustee Sean Driver expressed their opposition to the proposed pay plan.

School Registration August 3, First Day of School Celebration August 5

July 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
First Day of School Celebration Set for Friday, August 5

DeKalb County Schools will re-open with registration for all students on Wednesday, August 3.

Thursday, August 4 will be an administrative day for teachers only

The first full day of school for all students will be Friday, August 5

New Student Registration for DCHS will be held on July 26th - 27th from 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. if you have any questions call Rhonda Merriman at 615-597-2249 and Freshman Orientation will be August 1st from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. at the DCHS Main Entrance.

A system wide in-service day will be Friday, July 29

All teachers will report to their individual schools on Monday and Tuesday August 1 & 2

Meanwhile, the Annual First Day of School Education Celebration for DeKalb County will be held on Friday, August 5 starting at 6:00 p.m. downtown around the courthouse square.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-Kindergarten to 6th Grade, said the event is free and all parents and students are urged to attend to help kick off the new school year. "Our goal is to provide an evening of activities, education, and enjoyment for the residents of DeKalb County. We will be having information booths, passing out school supplies, refreshments, and various activities for the students to participate in while promoting education."

"This will also provide a time for our teachers and parents to come together to build a foundation for new and positive relationships," said Burklow

"Our First Day of School Celebration is an opportunity for our schools to take a leadership role in re-enforcing and improving relationships among parents, teachers, students, and the community. This is the one day each year when it is both easiest and most important to enlist families as partners in our children's education. This is a great time for us to engage our families and make them feel welcome into our schools."

"So come out and join us. Everything is free that evening. We'll have free school supplies, free food, snacks and lots of community people coming together to make this event possible", said Burklow.

"There are many volunteers, churches, and organizations that come together to make this event possible for our children so they are able to start school with new supplies and a great positive attitude."

If you would like to help with this event please call Michelle Burklow at 615- 597-4084. Volunteers are needed.

This celebration is totally free of charge to those who attend so make plans now to join the fun downtown Smithville on Friday, August 5 from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

Holmes Creek Road Bridge Construction Expected to Begin In September

July 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
Kyle Hazel
Holmes Creek Road Bridge over Fall Creek

Construction on the new Holmes Creek Road Bridge over Fall Creek could begin by the end of September but the work may not be completed until next May.

Kyle Hazel, Civil Engineer of Professional Engineering Services in Sparta updated the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen on the project during Monday night’s regular monthly city council meeting.

“The bridge is severely corroded. It has very low clearance to the water. You can’t even walk upright under this bridge. With those steel beams being that close (three or four feet) to a wet environment because there is always flow present there is never any drying of the beams which creates a perfect storm for a corrosive environment,” said Hazel.

Since the bridge was ordered closed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation last October, Hazel said work has been done to get a design plan for the new bridge approved by TDOT and to meet requirements by other agencies. Most of these hurdles have now been cleared and the project is almost ready to be advertised for bids. Hazel said a bid opening could come as early as mid-August.

“Of course the closing of the bridge prompted the design for the replacement of the bridge. When we were hired to provide our services to the city we knew there would be four hurdles to overcome. We needed the design plan approved by TDOT. We had to get permitted through the Corps of Engineers and TDEC. We had to work with the property owners to acquire any necessary rights of ways and temporary easements. And we have to work with the local utility companies if any utilities happen to be in conflict with the project,” said Hazel.

“We are close to having all the approvals. We do have the approved plans. We do have the permits. We do have the rights of ways. They have been submitted to TDOT. They have to give their blessing that we acquired those (rights of ways) in accordance with federal laws. And we have made contact with the local utilities. All of those ducks are lined up as soon as we receive the letter (from TDOT),” Hazel continued.

“They did attach one extra requirement that we did not anticipate for this project when we started it. And that was our plans were approved contingent upon us performing an asbestos survey on the bridge. I have touched base with the company that is performing that service for us. They did the survey about a week and a half ago. They have received the lab results back and there is no contaminant down there. Nothing hazardous or any kind of asbestos containing materials. We’re clear on that,” he added.

“Whenever we do receive TDOT’s approval for the right of way acquisition I’ll be contacting (city officials) to say we’re ready to go. We can prepare an advertisement for the newspaper. I anticipate that will be in a week or two. Sometime this month. Then we will set a bid date. We need a few weeks to advertise the project to give contractors an opportunity to pick up plans and prepare their bids. I’m anticipating we’ll have a bid opening probably by mid-August. From there, once the bids are received upon your approval we will submit that information to TDOT. A contract will then be prepared between TDOT and the City of Smithville. Once signed, the contract will be sent to Nashville for final processing which takes from four to six weeks after the bid is awarded. That would put us at the end of September. That’s when you can expect construction to begin,” said Hazel.

The contractor will then likely have from 150 to 210 days to have the bridge completed depending upon the severity of the winter. “They will not be able to get it all finished before winter time. So if we get a bid in the middle of August and get somebody down there to work by the end of September then we’ll have October, November, and December. It would be hard to get much done in January and February because they are really slow months but work would pick up in March and April. I’d say May of next year (completion date),” Hazel added.

The bridge, at the bottom of town hill behind Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, has been closed since October 30.

The state forced the City of Smithville to close the bridge due to a Tennessee Department of Transportation Evaluation Report which detailed various bridge deficiencies making it potentially unsafe.

The project is being funded under the state's 1990 Bridge Grant Program. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is to pay for 98% of the costs to replace the bridge. The local matching portion is to be 2%.

Tennessee Rush Wins AAU Division II National Championship

July 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
Tennessee Rush Wins AAU Division II National Championship
Kadee Ferrell and Kennedy Agee
Coach Josh Agee

Local coach Josh Agee and the 7th grade team of the AAU organization Tennessee Rush played in the AAU National Basketball Championship July 3-8 in Kingsport. The girls of the Rush team were up against 27 other teams of stellar competition from all across the United States. The team was undefeated for the tournament with a record of 7-0. They were able to defeat teams that ultimately finished 2nd, 4th, and 5th respectively.

RUSH 38, IL Lady Lightning 33
RUSH 60, Georgia Metros 25
RUSH 53, AL Lady Legends 21
RUSH 36, Murfreesboro Force 33
RUSH 56, CA Payes Place 46
RUSH 49, PA In The Zone 44
RUSH 47, IN Lady Impact 39

The team is comprised of 9 girls from the Upper Cumberland area: Kennedy Agee (DeKalb Co.), Kadee Ferrell (DeKalb Co.), Haylee Johnson (Fentress Co.), Shelby Beaty (Fentress Co.), Hailey Cronk (Overton Co.), Abbi Bilbrey (Pickett Co.), Chloe Burton (Pickett Co.), Bailey Evans (Pickett Co.), and Kyndal Ludick (Macon Co.) They are coached by Josh Agee and Lisa Cronk. This team also won the Division II AAU State Championship in May 2016 as well as many other tournaments throughout the season.

Tennessee Rush was created in 2009 by Matt Ferrell, Pickett Co. Middle School coach and basketball fanatic. The program has grown over the past 7 years and continues to grow and blossom.

County Firefighters Respond to Garage Fire

July 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
County Fire Chief Donny Green

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were summoned to a garage fire around noon Monday on Dale Ridge Road.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said a passing motorist spotted smoke coming from Edward Maynard’s detached garage and alerted him as well as Central Dispatch.

According to Chief Green, the fire started shortly after Maynard, who had been mowing, placed his riding lawn mower back in the garage and then went in his house.

When firefighters arrived they saw heavy smoke coming from the garage, which sets only a few feet from Maynard’s home. Chief Green said flames were starting to penetrate the ceiling of the garage into the loft but firefighters were able to bring the fire under control before it spread. The riding lawn mower was destroyed, but the garage, though damaged, was saved.

No one was injured.

Members of the Main Station and Liberty Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the tanker truck, DeKalb EMS, and Sheriff’s Department.

School Board Asked to Address Inequities in Supplement Pay for DCHS Coaches

July 11, 2016
Dwayne Page
School Board Members meet with DCHS Quarterback Club
School Board Asked to Address Inequities in High School Supplement Pay for Coaches

The DeKalb County Board of Education is being asked to address inequities in supplement pay particularly for the football, basketball, and cheer coaches at the high school.

Members of the DCHS Quarterback Club addressed the school board’s athletic oversight committee during a meeting Monday night concerned that the current supplement pay plan does not reward coaches for their value in contributing to the success of their sports programs and for the pride they help instill in the community.

Last month, the school board voted to move $5,000 within categories of the proposed 2016-17 budget to help rectify the inequities for these coaches, whose supplements rank below those in other counties in the district and across the state. While the board has not yet voted on how the extra money would be divided, under consideration is a proposal to give the high school head football and boys basketball coaches, Steve Trapp and Lynus Martin an additional $2,000 and for the high school football and basketball head cheer coaches to each get an extra $500. The new girls basketball coach at DCHS would not get a raise since he has just been hired.

But football boosters say while the board’s move is a step in the right direction, more should be done.

Under the current system, high school head coaches earn a $5,000 supplement per year. Assistant coaches get $2,785 or $2,400 for non-employee assistants. Cheer head coaches receive $835 per year.

Boosters say these sports demand practically a year round commitment from coaches and for the time and effort put in to prepare for each season, they should be compensated accordingly

For example, they point out that Coach Trapp has received the same supplement pay, $5,000 a year for the last twelve years, the same as his predecessor in 2004.

“Coaching is not merely showing up with your team on game day. It is an ongoing process of teaching self-discipline that includes development of life skills; not just athletic skills. Every coach has an opportunity to be a life coach. We are asking our school board members to show meaningful commitment towards recruiting and retaining quality coaches who commit and dedicate themselves to making a difference,” said Donny Green, speaking on behalf of the Boosters.

The Boosters have proposed a new pay plan for the School Board to consider which would require a total increase in budgetary funding of $16,620. This proposal only addresses proposed supplement pay increases for high school football, basketball, and cheer coaches and their assistants and would not affect the pay of coaches or assistants in other sports.

“When comparing supplemental coaching pay across our district, football, basketball, and cheer in DeKalb County rank near the very bottom. In contrast, cross country, golf, tennis, and soccer coach supplemental pays rank # 1 in the district. We need to value all of our coaches in a fair manner,” said Green.

Under the proposal, Boosters asked that the supplement for the high school head football and basketball coaches be increased from $5,000 to $8,000 per year each and that the pay for their assistant coaches (4 for football and 2 for basketball) each be increased from $2,785 ($2,400 for non-employee assistants) to $3,500 each. Supplement pay for the high school football and basketball cheer coaches would go from $835 to $2,500 but it would have to be divided among the head cheer coaches and their assistants.

“Our proposal is simply to accomplish fairness by recognizing and rewarding the value contributed to the success of our sports programs, the image of our school, and pride in our community,” Green said.

Board members acknowledged that the current pay plan for coaches is flawed but contend the problem can’t be fixed overnight. While not signaling whether they favored the Boosters’ plan, members of the School Board say they are committed to working toward a viable solution over the next few months while offering a $5,000 “band aid” approach in the meantime.

Dowelltown Man Charged with Statutory Rape

July 11, 2016
Dwayne Page
Nathan Joseph Gohs
Mark Allen Thomas
Clay Andrew Bain

A 20 year old Dowelltown man is charged with two counts of statutory rape for allegedly having sex with a 16 year old girl who is now pregnant.

Nathan Joseph Gohs of Dale Ridge Road is under a $20,000 bond and his court date is July 14.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said from June to July, Gohs allegedly had sex with a 16 year old girl twice at a residence on Students Home Road.

48 year old Mark Allen Thomas of Woodbury is charged with aggravated assault and failure to appear. His bond on the assault charge is $2,500 but he is being held without bond for the separate offense of failure to appear. He will make a court appearance July 14. Sheriff Ray said that on February 25 Thomas allegedly assaulted his sister by hitting her in the face with the handle of a hammer causing redness around the left eye and cheek.

24 year old Clay Andrew Bain of Lakeview Drive, Smithville is charged with evading arrest, aggravated assault, and resisting stop, frisk, halt, arrest, or search. He was also served with warrants for violation of an order of protection and violation of probation. His bond totals $19,500 but he is being held without bond for violation of probation. His next court date is July 14.

Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, June 24 Bain rammed his automobile into another vehicle forcing it off the roadway into a ditch and putting the driver in danger of serious bodily injury. Bain then became irate and tried to fight the other driver. A deputy came upon the scene and stopped to separate the two men. Bain was ordered to get back in his vehicle and turn the engine off. Instead, Bain drove away.

Bain was also served later with a warrant for intentionally coming about a woman at her residence on Friday, June 24 who has an active order of protection against him through November 12.

Two Arrested on Meth Charges

July 11, 2016
Dwayne Page
Shannon Lynn Newby
Jessica Lauren Shaffer

A man and woman are facing drug charges after Sheriff’s Department detectives found items used to make methamphetamine in the trunk of their car during a probation search.

50 year old Shannon Lynn Newby of Anthony Avenue, Smithville and 25 year old Jessica Lauren Shaffer of Juniper Lane, Smithville are each charged with promotion of the manufacture of methamphetamine. Newby was further issued citations for simple possession of a schedule II drug (morphine and methamphetamine) and for simple possession of a schedule VI drug (marijuana). Shaffer was cited for simple possession of a schedule VI drug (marijuana) and a schedule II drug (methamphetamine).

Bond for each is $25,000 and they will appear in court on July 14.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Thursday, July 7 two detectives conducted a probation search of Newby and Shaffer and found in the trunk of his car, two-18 ounce cans of crystal drano, one bottle of brake fluid, one gallon of Coleman camp fuel, four ice compress cold packs, 30 hypodermic needles, and a blue funnel. All these items are known to be ingredients to produce methamphetamine.

Detectives also found in Newby’s possession .04 grams of methamphetamine, five-60 milligram morphine pills, and .3 grams of marijuana. Found in the floor board of the car was a marijuana cigarette believed to be Schaffer’s and inside her cigarette pack was .1 gram of ice (methamphetamine).

Counselors Available to Assist with Insurance Enrollment

July 11, 2016

The DeKalb County Health Department invites you to receive free, face-to-face assistance with applying for health insurance. Your local county health department has a certified application counselor available to assist with applying for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace for Affordable Care Act plans, TennCare and CoverKids.

Individuals and families may receive help applying, looking at different health insurance plans and enrolling. All health insurance offered through the Marketplace meets the minimum essential coverage requirements.

Counselors will help you learn about plans for which you qualify based on your income and the number of people in your household. You must apply for Marketplace plans during the open enrollment period beginning in November 2016 and running through February 2017.

You may qualify for a special enrollment period if any of the following happen to you outside of the open enrollment period: losing existing health insurance; moving; getting married; or having a child. You have 60 days from the time of the event to qualify for a special insurance enrollment! Get help throughout the year from your local health center with enrolling in a special enrollment period.

You may also receive assistance with applying for TennCare or CoverKids any time throughout the year.

Call the DeKalb County Health Department today to see about scheduling an appointment.
Megan Kinslow, Certified Application Counselor
DeKalb County Health Department
(615) 597-7599


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