Local News Articles

Chamber Presents Milestone Award and Welcomes New Business

April 30, 2015
Chamber Presents Milestone Award
Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce Has Ribbon Cutting

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce presented a Chamber Milestone Award to DeKalb County Ace Hardware, 702 South Congress Boulevard, Smithville celebrating 30 years of business in this community.

Meanwhile, the Chamber had a Ribbon Cutting for new member Tidy Pets Groomers, 624 East Broad St., Smithville. Tidy Pet offers professional dog grooming and in-home boarding. For more information, call Jean Hall at 1-615-210-6658.

(TOP PHOTO: Pictured l-r: (see attached pic)

Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, Chamber President Jeff Crips, Dewain Hendrixson
- owner, County Mayor Tim Stribling, Chamber Board Member Kathy Hendrixson, Chamber Director Suzanne Williams

(BOTTOM PHOTO: Pictured l-r: (see attachment)
Barbara Hale, Gina Wheeler, Abbie Wheeler, Inga Johnson, Sierra Johnson - Groomer, Jean Hall - Tidy Pets Groomers Owner, County Mayor Tim Stribling, Chamber Board Member Kathy Hendrixson, Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, Chamber President Jeff Crips, Chamber Director Suzanne Williams

Caney Fork Electric Issues Scam Alert

April 30, 2015
Caney Fork Electric Issues Scam Alert

Caney Fork Electric Cooperative has been made aware of a scam In the CFEC service areas. A member was called and informed “their electric bill is due to be cut off for non-payment and to avoid any interruptions the member can make a payment over the phone using a credit/debit card or could give checking account information for an automatic withdrawal.”

Caney Fork Electric DOES NOT ask for this type of information over the phone. The fake caller even gave a phone number that went to an answering service saying they were Caney Fork. Please forward to as many friends and family members, so they will know not to give out any information to someone claiming to be from CFEC asking for a payment over the phone using a credit, debt card or wanting checking account information. CFEC will ask that you come to the office to make payment or to use our website payment. Please call 808-505-3030 if you want to call about the status of your bill if you receive a call.

Commission Seeks Change in State Coon Dog Training Law for DeKalb County

April 30, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Elmer Ellis, Jr. (Older Photo)
Hilton Conger (Older Photo)

A local raccoon hunter is seeking a change in state law that currently prohibits him from training coon dogs on certain land in DeKalb County except for 30 days prior to the raccoon hunting season.

The hunter, Jimmy Williams has discussed his concerns with at least one member of the county commission, Elmer Ellis, Jr. who raised the issue during Monday night's county commission meeting.

The restrictions apply to a small portion of the county identified under Tennessee Code Annotated where coon dog training is not allowed year round.

The law (Tennessee Code 70-4-122) states that it is unlawful for any person or firm to train coon dogs by chasing raccoons in that part of DeKalb County lying south and west of state highway No. 96 and U.S. Highway No. 70, except during the thirty (30) days immediately preceding the opening of the season under general laws of the state for hunting raccoons.

According to TWRA officials, this part of DeKalb County was added to the law approximately forty years ago after a property owner complained that hunting dogs were harming his livestock. County officials apparently petitioned state lawmakers to take action at the request of the property owner, who has since reportedly passed away.

In order to exclude DeKalb County from the law, the county commission will most likely have to adopt a resolution asking the Tennessee General Assembly to intervene. But the legislature has adjourned until next January.

During Monday night's meeting, Ellis made a motion for the county commission to get the measure rescinded. "There is a strip of land between DeKalb County and Cannon County on Highway 96 that was by a proclamation back some years ago that is still in effect where these coon hunters train their dogs. During hunting season it wasn't illegal to be on that land. But when it's not hunting season it's illegal to be on it. The dog recognizes no boundaries. Jimmy Williams has brought this to my attention two or three times and he talked to (former TWRA officer) Ben Franklin and Franklin told him that it was still in effect but they haven't enforced it because the man who had it done has apparently died. I would like to make a motion that we rescind that proclamation because it was done by the county court and will have to be undone by the county court," said Ellis.

County Attorney Hilton Conger said he had checked but was unable to locate such a proclamation or private act addressing this issue. The action taken by the commission Monday night was to ask the legislature to rescind any private act that might exist prohibiting the training of coon dogs in DeKalb County.

Since Monday night's meeting, county officials have learned that the regulation pertaining to DeKalb County was not enacted by a private act but included in a provision of Tennessee Code Annotated (state law) and that it would have to be changed by an act of the Tennessee General Assembly.

The law states as follows:

Tennessee Code 70-4-122. Coon dog training

(a) (1) It is unlawful for any person or firm to train coon dogs by chasing coons in West Tennessee and the following counties: Carter, Claiborne, Greene, Johnson, Sullivan, and that part of DeKalb County lying south and west of state highway No. 96 and U.S. Highway No. 70, except during the thirty (30) days immediately preceding the opening of the season under general laws of the state for hunting coons; provided, that none of the provisions of this subsection (a) shall apply to Shelby County or the counties of McNairy, Fayette, Hardeman, Decatur, Dyer, Carroll, Henry, Weakley and Chester.

(2) As used in this subsection (a), “West Tennessee” includes that portion of the state lying west of the Tennessee River where it enters the state from the states of Alabama and Mississippi and emerges into the state of Kentucky, but “West Tennessee” does not include Benton County, Gibson County, Madison County, Henderson County or Hardin County. The provisions of this subsection (a) also apply to the following counties located in other parts of the state: Carter, Claiborne, Greene, Johnson, Morgan, Sullivan, Unicoi, and that part of DeKalb County lying south and west of state highway No. 96 and U.S. Highway No. 70.

"It (law) specifically lists DeKalb County along with a number of other counties where they (state) has regulated this," said TWRA Officer Tony Cross in an interview with WJLE.

"If I have been told right, it was passed years ago because a certain farmer was having trouble with dogs getting into his goats. I don't know if that's a fact," he said.

During Monday night's commission meeting, County Attorney Conger said that it was his understanding that TWRA officers had indicated that this law pertaining to DeKalb County was not being enforced. "I have talked to Tony Cross and to some of the game and fish officers now and they say they don't enforce it. But I think Mr. Williams is afraid that at some point in time somebody might come along and enforce it," said Conger.

Officer Cross told WJLE that any notion the TWRA is not enforcing a law is not correct. "I have either been misunderstood or misquoted as saying we don't enforce it. Let me clarify that. We have not had any specific type of issue but we can't say that we don't enforce it. It is a law and if it comes down to it we would have to enforce it," he said.

New Sligo Bridge Ahead of Schedule

April 29, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
New Sligo Bridge Ahead of Schedule
Excavation on the Smithville side of Sligo bridge along side  Highway 70

Almost two years after construction began, the new Sligo bridge project is progressing at a good pace. In fact, it is ahead of schedule, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

"The project is currently ahead of schedule, so the completion date of June 30, 2016 is definitely very attainable. Work is going well on the project, and they should be doing some bridge deck pours in the near future," said Jennifer A. Flynn, TDOT Region 2 Community Relations Officer.

The contractor is Massman Construction Company, Incorporated of Kansas City, Missouri. Work began on May 23, 2013. The cost to build the new bridge is $39.2 million

TDOT To Open Bids in December for Highway 56 Project

April 29, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
TDOT to open bids in December on Highway 56 improvement in stretch of road where a fatal crash occurred just last week near Magness Road in DeKalb County

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is scheduled to open bids in December on a project to reconstruct State Route 56 from south of the Warren County line to Magness Road in DeKalb County.

A TDOT official told WJLE Monday that funding for the construction, $6.8 million, is included in the state's 2015-16 budget under the general Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) category of the 2015-17 three year work program. However, the new stretch of highway to be built will look different from TDOT's original, more costly plan.

According to TDOT officials, the rate of severe crashes on this portion of Highway 56 is (0.250) double the state average (0.128) for rural two lane routes but that the decision to scale back the project was out of financial necessity. Just last week, one person was killed and two others injured in a three vehicle crash on the same stretch of highway where TDOT plans to make the improvements.

Instead of building a four lane divided and five lane road, TDOT now proposes to build a new two lane road (typical section) with twelve foot lanes and ten foot paved shoulders and passing lanes along the 3.25 mile existing alignment. The plans also include adding extra safety features on the new road, such as guardrails, better road signage, pavement markings, and center line rumble stripes. The total projected cost is approximately $6.8 million. That would be a savings to the state from TDOT's original plans for this portion of Highway 56, which would have cost $20.4 million.

Original Project

•The original project was for a 3.25 mile rural 4-lane divided roadway.

•Right-of-way was purchased for this design.

•The estimated cost of the construction for this design was approximately $20.4 million

•The original design was not funded for construction

EPD Project (The stretch of highway to be constructed)

•The new Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) project is for a two-lane roadway to be constructed within the ROW purchased for the initial 4-lane design. The design also includes passing lanes in some areas.

•Basically, this new road matches the elevation and vertical profile of one-side of the initial 4-lane design. TDOT went with this design in case the state ever wanted to add the other half in the future to make this a 4-lane divided section. Future expansion would require little if any changes to the EPD design.

•The estimates for the EPD project total approximately $6.8 million.

•TDOT is currently on schedule and working on construction plans.

•The construction funding is in the budget year 2015/2016 under the general the EPD category of the 2015-2017 3-year work program.

•Bids are slated to be opened in December 2015.

Omega Apparel: Growing and Diversifying

April 28, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Omega Employee stands next to new screen printer which can print 1,000 items per hour
Omega Employee operates new machine which can fasten an entire row of buttons at a time
New machine can fasten an entire row of buttons at a time
 Omega Employee operates precise laser cutter
Omega Employee operates machine making precision cuts for shirt pockets
Omega Employee working in sewing department working on military pants
Omega Employee pressing military pants
Omega Employee pressing bridal gown
Among New Apparel being Produced at Omega

Omega Apparel is on the move again.

For twenty years the Smithville based manufacturing company had just one customer, the U.S. Military. Today, in addition to supplying dress trousers, slacks, and skirts for the nation's men and women in uniform , Omega is doing business with thirty six other clients producing almost everything from oxford shirts and satin robes, to bullet proof vests. Recent clients include Nashville bridal designer Olia Zavozina and actress Reese Witherspoon, who will launch a clothing line, Draper James, later this spring.

With the military downsizing in recent years, Dean Wegner, Omega President and CEO, told WJLE Tuesday he knew it was only a matter of time before it affected his operation. " What has been painful over the last eighteen months is the contraction in our business. When I bought Omega three years ago we had one customer. It was a great customer. The military. The Department of Defense. I'm sure you've read about a shrinking military and shrinking contracts. We have not been immune to that. Our military business has been off by fifty percent. And for somebody that loves job creation and is passionate about creating jobs, it has been painful because we've gone from 220 jobs at a peak, down to 128. We saw that coming. We didn't sit idly by and wait for it to happen. We put a strategy in place to expand and diversify beyond just the military. Beyond just dress pants and skirts. That strategy is now starting to come to fruition which is why we're now looking to add more jobs. We are now currently up to 165 jobs. Over the last few months we've added another 30-40 jobs and I believe over the next three to six months we'll add another 50-100 jobs. What is really fueling that growth is the diversification from one to 37 customers," said Wegner.

To meet the demand, Wegner said Omega has added new equipment, much of which has been purchased within the last few months. One machine can fasten an entire row of buttons at a time. Another, a screen printer, can print 1,000 items per hour. There's a massive embroidery machine as well as a precise laser cutter. Another device can digitize any pattern or object and create a pattern. Each machine bears a sticker reading, "Sew it and own it." It's a testament to the pride Wegner wants each employee to take in his or her work.

In addition to expanding his production capabilities, Wegner has incorporated cutting-edge technology and a pod concept that will allow for smaller batches. "We've now added a capability to design and develop prototypes and samples for new customers who are in the middle of that process which usually takes them three to four months to go through that process," said Wegner.

While his previous output averaged 5,000 to 7,000 items of clothing per week for one customer, he now has a couple dozen clients, with runs starting as low as 50 items per week.

Last week, the DeKalb County Industrial Development Board approved new loans through UCDD for Omega totaling $550,000 to purchase more new equipment for the Smithville operation. "They are purchasing $500,000 in new equipment to upgrade and this will allow them to be more productive and profitable. They have two loans with us now, EDA and USDA. Our new loans will be for $250,000 USDA and $300,000 EDA. This is new funds plus their payoffs on their current loans. Our Loans are to the DeKalb Industrial Development Board with guarantees from Omega and Dean Wegner. Our Collateral will be the same as the first loans, first on two buildings owned by the IDB, first on all the equipment with the exception of an automated cutting machine that is leased through US Bank," said Wallace G. Austin, Program Director for the Cumberland Area Investment Corporation.

County Mayor Tim Stribling told the Industrial Board that the UCDD loan committee and CAIC board of directors have also approved the loans.

Wegner said as the Smithville facility continues to grow, he is looking to expand by opening another location in Nashville. "We are looking to max out our facility in Smithville and that will probably be about 200-250 teammates at Omega but we are also looking to open up a second facility in Nashville," he said

Company Overview: Omega Apparel Incorporated is military veteran owned and the #1 supplier of dress trousers, slacks, and skirts for the US Military. Over a 20-year partnership with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Omega Apparel earned a reputation as one of the most consistent, dependable, and high quality producing manufacturers for the US Military. Omega has a long history of always delivering on time and with the highest level of quality. Omega’s production facility is located in Smithville, TN, and includes a highly trained workforce of skilled operators and supporting staff. Omega is a principles and values based organization centered on 5 Foundations of Ownership, Customer, Quality, Efficiency, and Teamwork. In 2013, Omega leveraged their depth of knowledge and expertise in the military apparel industry to enter the commercial market and provide a full range of cut and sew manufacturing capabilities to service multiple industries. In 2014, Omega established a Dress Shirt Production Line and an Assembly Division. Omega will continue to be 100% Made in the USA.

Wegner, a resident of Brentwood, TN is a 1993 graduate of West Point and a 7-year Army helicopter pilot and Army Ranger veteran.

County Commission Asks State to Fund Highway 70 Project

April 28, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Highway 70 where the 4 lane ends past Highway 96 at Liberty

It's been several years now since the Tennessee Department of Transportation completed the widening and improvement of Highway 70 from Smithville to Highway 96 at Liberty. But TDOT's plans for extension of the project from Highway 96 to just west of the Wilson County line has apparently been put on hold due to funding.

Although TDOT completed right-of-way (property) acquisition in November 2009, the project is not in the previous or current 3 year work program for construction funding, according to a TDOT spokesman.

In an effort to try and jump start the project, the county commission Monday night adopted a resolution asking members of the Tennessee Congressional delegation and Tennessee State Legislature to appropriate funds for the highway and for TDOT to let bids in its next round of contracts.

According to TDOT, the proposed project entailed reconstruction of State Route 26 (U.S. 70) from west of the Wilson County line to near State Route 96 in DeKalb County

TDOT's description of the project is as follows:
•The project is 6.2 miles in length.

•Right-of-way (property) acquisition was completed in November 2009.

•The project is not in the previous or current 3 year work program for construction funding.

•The design of the project calls for two 12-foot travel lanes in each direction, a 12-foot continuous center turn lane, and 12-foot shoulders.

•Within the city limits of Alexandria, the design calls for two 12-foot travel lanes in each direction, a 12-foot continuous center turn lane, 10-foot shoulders, curb and gutter, and 5-foot sidewalks on each side.

•The original preliminary construction estimate as of July 2014 is approximately $26.3 million.

The resolution, as adopted by the county commission Monday night, is as follows:

"Whereas, the State of Tennessee, Department of Transportation has identified Highway 70 near State Route 96 to a point 2,967 feet west of the Wilson County line as being in need of widening, and

Whereas, the State of Tennessee, Department of Transportation has designed plans and acquired the necessary right-of-way to make the improvements described in the aforementioned roadway project, and

Whereas, many land owners and businesses have been displaced and affected by the acquisition of right-of-way through the power of eminent domain, and

Whereas, the State of Tennessee Department of Transportation has yet to let the construction for the roadway project and has delayed the project for more than 10 years, and

Whereas, the improvements are sorely needed for the safety of the traveling public, and to promote economic development of the region, and

Whereas, funds for highway projects such as this are derived from both state and federal sources.

Now, therefore be it resolved that the Board of County Commissioners, in regular session assembled, hereby requests and implore the Tennessee Congressional Delegation and the Tennessee State Legislature to appropriate funds for the completion of the project and further requests and implore the State of Tennessee Department of Transportation to let the construction for the roadway project in its next round of bid letting," the resolution concluded.

Commission Votes to Grant Holiday Pay to EMS Staff According to Policy

April 28, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Joe Johnson (Older Photo)

Full time employees of the ambulance service will be compensated for holidays under a measure adopted by the county commission Monday night.

Compensation will be for eight hours per holiday.

EMS employees who work on holidays will get their regular wages plus the eight hours of holiday pay or comp time. Those who are off duty on holidays will also get eight hours of holiday pay . The county recognizes twelve holidays per year.

Second district commissioner Joe Johnson raised the issue saying the county has been violating its own personnel policy for years in not providing holiday pay to ambulance service workers, while doing so for other county employees. The sheriff's department has its own policy under which employees get one day of comp time per month to compensate for their having to work holidays.

Since May 1, 2012, the county has operated under a revised Personnel Policy for Employees of the DeKalb County Government. Concerning "Holiday Leave", the policy states that "Holidays for employees are recognized. Holiday leave will be equivalent to a normal schedule workday consisting of the time normally worked, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (8 hours) for Full-time employees. A list of the approved (12) holidays is included in this manual."

"It (policy) says we should pay all our employees holiday pay (8 hours) which can be dollars or comp time. If you work for the ambulance service and that holiday comes and you're not scheduled to work, you don't get anything," said Johnson.

The work schedule for EMS staff is 24 hours on and 48 hours off.

After unsuccessful efforts to get the interim EMS director to act, Johnson said he decided to bring the issue directly to the county commission. According to Johnson, the interim director said he was merely following the practice of the prior director concerning the policy.

"I'm going to make the motion tonight that we direct our temporary ambulance director to pay the employees their holiday pay where they work or not. Whether it be comp time or not. And that it become retroactive to January 1, 2015 which will be for two holidays (this year). And that we direct him (interim director) to continue paying each employee their holiday pay whether they work or not the way the handbook says," said Johnson.

Seventh district member Larry Summers suggested a delay on a vote until next month in order to give the appropriate committees a chance to review it. "We have a process of working with committees. Shouldn't we direct the county executive to call (meetings) of the ambulance or finance (committees) and call anybody from the ambulance service or a spokesman that would like to address us and let us hear their feelings up front? We could bring it back at the next court meeting. That's just four weeks," said Summers.

"We're violating our own policy. We've got a policy that says they should be paid and we're not doing it. I'm wanting the policy to just be enforced," replied Johnson.

Johnson's motion was adopted on an 8-6 vote. Those voting in favor were Anita Puckett, Kevin Robinson, Joe Johnson, Betty Atnip, Bradley Hendrix, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Jimmy Midgett, and Mason Carter. Voting against were Jonathan Norris, Wayne Cantrell, Larry Summers, Jerry Adcock, Jeff Barnes, and Jack Barton. Adcock and Barton said they preferred a committee review before a commission vote.

Board to Consult TSBA on Director Selection Process (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

April 27, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education will seek consultation from the Tennessee School Boards Association is establishing a procedure for selecting the next Director of Schools.

Following an hour long work session, the board held a brief special called meeting Monday evening and voted to move forward with the process. "I make a motion that we consult TSBA for their free service with guidelines on how to proceed with our director selection process," said Fourth district member Kate Miller. Seventh district member Shaun Tubbs offered a second to the motion.

The board's policy states that the board must develop a procedure for selecting a new director before it begins a search. "Prior to conducting a search to fill the position, the Board shall initially develop the following:

* A job description
* A timeline
* A process for accepting and reviewing applications
* Selection procedures

Based on the school board's action Monday night, a TSBA consultant will be asked to meet with the board of education, at no charge or obligation, to discuss options with the Board and to explain the Search Service in detail. Specific items to be covered at that time include planning a tentative timeline; defining the scope of the search; and discussing qualifications, contractual details; community/staff involvement; media relations; and confidentiality.

Election Commission Issues Four Petitions for Alexandria Election

April 27, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page

Alexandria voters will have a chance to elect a mayor and as many as five aldermen in the town's election on September 3.

Qualifying petitions are now available from the DeKalb County Election Commission. The deadline to get in the race is noon on June 18.

In this year's Alexandria election, three aldermen are to be elected, each to serve a four year term. Meanwhile, a mayor and two other aldermen are to be elected to fill vacancies or the remaining two years of unexpired terms.

The sitting members are Mayor Tony Tarpley and Aldermen Pat Jackson, David Cripps, John Suggs, and Bennett Armstrong. All are serving as appointees except for Jackson, who was elected in 2013 and still has two years remaining in his term.

Those who have picked up petitions from the election commission to date are as follows:

Mayor: Tony Tarpley (4 year term)

Alderman: Bennett Armstrong, David G. Cripps, and John Suggs (all for 4 year terms)

No petitions have yet been issued for the two-2 year terms to fill vacant/unexpired terms.

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