Local News Articles

A look at the Tennessee Legislature

April 27, 2009
by: 
Terri Lynn Weaver
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Immigration measures see passage

Legislation has been supported by members for several years, dating back to the “Tennessee Trust” initiative House lawmakers proposed in 2006 as a “contract” with voters. As a candidate then, I remember standing with House members during that press conference on the Hill back in 2006. Now as the Representative of the 40th district, illegal immigration remains a high priority with me and the people of whom I work for in Macon, DeKalb and Smith Counties.

English in the Workplace, House Bill 480, was overwhelmingly approved this week by the Employee Affairs Subcommittee. The bill closely mirrors legislation brought to the U.S. Senate in 2008 by Senator Lamar Alexander, who said that the legislation was necessary to prevent frivolous lawsuits targeting businesses that felt English should be spoken on the job due to safety concerns. “Protecting English in the Workplace” now faces the House Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee.

Sanctuary Cities, House Bill 1354, cleared the Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee and will now face the full House Judiciary Committee. A “sanctuary city” is a term given to a city in the United States that follows certain practices to protect illegal aliens. This bill would cut off economic and community grant money to any Tennessee city that might declare itself a “sanctuary city” for illegal aliens.

Though House Bill 841, which I presented last week in subcommittee, was placed off notice, by no means does that mean my bill is mute. It will come back to subcommittee in 2010 where I intend to prove the fiscal note wrong. A bill that is already law and could save the state of Tennessee millions must be enforced. I am honored to stand in the ranks of others in the General Assembly who are working towards this same goal, deal with the drain on local revenues due to illegal immigration.

House passes legislation to honor fallen Tennessee National Guardsmen
House Bill 1346 passed on the House floor Thursday, with an overwhelming number of House members applauding the measure, and signing onto the legislation as co-sponsors. The bill requires the Adjutant General to notify the Governor in the event of the death of any Tennessee National Guard member that is called into active military service and who is stationed outside the United States. In any month in which one or more notifications of death are given to the Governor, the Governor will be required to proclaim a day of mourning and order the state flag to be flown at half mast to honor the deceased National Guard member or members.

Common-sense legislation dies in Elections Subcommittee
House Bill 639 presented in the Elections Subcommittee that would require photo ID to vote did not pass in subcommittee. This bill is needed to combat voter fraud and ensure that every vote counts. This bill is the third common sense voter legislation to protect the integrity of elections. As a member who supports this legislation many of us have vowed to revive it in another form.

All in a weeks work…
House Bill 107 that would prohibit sending or reading text messages while driving cleared subcommittee and will now move to the house floor. In my opinion, texting falls under the “distraction driving” statue. So my question is how will anyone determine if one is answering or texting on the phone? Common sense says DO not Text!!! Ummmm… what do you think?

House Bill 431 was passed by the K-12 Education Subcommittee this week, and seeks to expand the recognition of homeschoolers’ diplomas. The bill requires that diplomas issued by home schools be recognized by all state and local governmental entities as having the same rights and privileges of diplomas issued by public school systems.

This past week I presented House Bill 842 that would allow homeschoolers to participate in after school academic activities such as band, theatre, and the arts. Another fellow Representative is carrying the athletic side of the bill. Working on setting up a pilot program to showcase a win win scenario for public schools and the homeschooler, let it be known I support wholeheartedly the teachers and the schools in my district. Myself a teacher who taught my son from third to twelve grade as a homeschool mom, I take very seriously the education process of our children. With that said serving on education Committee and K-12 subcommittee is an honor indeed!

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”Mark Twain

Ventriloquist David Turner Entertains at Spring Festival in the Park

April 25, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
David Turner and Todd Entertain at Spring Festival in the Park

David Turner and Friends entertained young and old alike during Saturday's first annual Spring in the Park, sponsored by the Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club.

Turner has been a performing ventriloquist for over 38 years. He has performed for churches, church groups, civic clubs, conventions, and corporations.

Since 1999, David was chosen by the Armed Forces Entertainment to entertain our military troops and their families overseas. He's had the opportunity to entertain our troops and their families in over 13 countries. In 2004 he was seen on "60 Minutes" performing at a convention.

David performed on the Saturday Night All-Star Show at 2008 Vent Haven Ventriloquist Convention . Terry Fator, winner of "America Got Talent" in it's 2nd season, performed on Thursday night at the convention.

Turner and his wife Roenia reside in Alexandria.

To learn more about David Turner and Friends visit http://www.davidturnerandfriends.com/

In addition to Turner, Spring Festival in the Park featured several gospel singing groups, crafts, food booths, and fun for children.

Angie Meadows, President of the Club, says funds raised through the Spring Festival will be used to support projects like Operation Head to Toe, and to help fund high school scholarship awards, and the Spirit Award during the Smithville Christmas Parade,among others. The club's major endeavor is to help upkeep Greenbrook Park.

GOP Controlled Election Commission Names Stanley Administrator

April 24, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley and Election Commission Chairman Walteen Parker
DeKalb County Election Commission

On a 3 to 2 party line vote, the GOP controlled DeKalb County Election Commission met Friday afternoon at the courthouse and named a Republican, Dennis Stanley as the new Administrator of Elections. He is expected to assume the duties around the first of May.

Lisa Peterson, a certified administrator who held the position for more than ten years, did not receive enough votes to keep her job.

Nolan Turner, a Democrat, made a motion to place Peterson's name in nomination for the position. Democrat Kenneth Moore seconded the motion. But two votes is all Peterson could get. Republican members Barbara Vanatta and Jim Dean voted against Peterson and Republican Chairman Walteen Parker chose not to vote.

In nominating Peterson, Turner praised her for the job she has done and said few if any are more qualified for this position. "I don't think anyone could have done a better job than Lisa Peterson. We employed her, not as a Democrat or Republican. We employed her to do the job. And I don't think we could find anyone in DeKalb County or very few anyway that would say that she hasn't been kind and courteous and very effective and efficient in her daily life, as far as running the operation of the election office. As a matter of fact, she is a certified administrator. She is one of the top administrators in the state and I do not see any reason why we should change at this particular point in time."

"Turner later added "Very few times as Chairman have I had to come down to work out things with her because of problems we've had because she had already worked them out. I appreciate her very much."

A few members of the public who attended the meeting applauded Turner's remarks.

Moore also expressed his support for Peterson. "We did hire her bipartisan. We didn't even ask her whether she was a Republican or Democrat, and as of today I still don't know. I've never asked her. She has done an outstanding job and is one of the best we've ever had. I will not say the best because I might hurt somebody else's feelings but she has done an outstanding job."

After Peterson failed to get the three votes she needed, Dean then placed Stanley's name in nomination for administrator. Vanatta seconded the motion. Chairman Parker joined them in voting for Stanley while Turner and Moore voted no.

After the vote, Turner addressed the commission again " A lot of DeKalb Countians are upset because of this decision. Let me say I love all of you (election commissioners). I think the world of you and I assure you that we're going to work together regardless of what transpires here today. We've got to think of what's best for DeKalb County and carry on the work of the election commission. I've been on the commission 30 years and never had this come up before. We've all worked together, Republicans and Democrats alike, without any opposition. Not one dissenting vote in my 30 years have we had on the election commission. Everything has been unanimous and that's the way it should be. Because if we're not, we're going to be like a lot of counties where they're at each other's throats constantly and I don't want that in DeKalb County. I want all of you to know I think this is wrong but the best way to right the wrong people is in the next election. If the State House and State Senate in the next election goes back to the Democrats then we (election commission) will switch to another 3-2 Democrat control. So I challenge each Democrat here tonight to think about that in the next election because that is something we need to study and think about what's best for DeKalb County."

Chairman Parker explained that since the administrator position was "open" with a new election commission, Peterson was not being fired, just not re-hired. She added that the administrator serves at the pleasure of the election commission. " I don't look at this as a dismissal, but simply as not a re-hire. The position is open with the new commission and therefore the commission has spoken for Mr. Stanley."

Parker added "I do want to welcome Mr. Stanley aboard. I've read his articles in the newspaper for years and they're always non-partisan and non biased, and I want to thank him for his service in keeping our small town newspaper here. I know he's been responsible for keeping that rather than having it somewhere else, especially the way times are now. I know it's been a great deal of responsibility and sometimes probably not with a lot of appreciation because a kids picture was not in the paper often enough but I do know that looking at it from the standpoint of education, he's been extremely fair in reporting any kind of news story."

Moore later added "I have nothing against Dennis Stanley. I've always liked him but I just think we're doing the county a grave injustice by replacing Lisa because she is well trained and there's going to have to be some money spent to train Dennis. It's just got to be politics."

Chairman Parker responded, "Mr. Stanley is qualified I think in his managerial and all the duties he had to perform at the newspaper."

Moore answered, "We'll see".

Chairman Parker also denied assertions that the Republican majority violated the open meetings law. "I would like to go on record as saying there have not been any secret meetings among anybody about what is going on."

"I also want to reiterate what Mr. Turner said in that we will all work together. It's what is best for DeKalb County, for the voters of DeKalb County."

Turner read a letter by local attorney Sarah Cripps, in support of Peterson. In it, Cripps wrote, "The purpose of this letter is to express my strong and wholehearted support for Lisa Peterson and to condemn the single-minded partisanship which has led to the decision of the Election Commission to terminate Ms. Peterson from the position which she has held for more than a decade."

"For more than ten years, Ms. Peterson has devoted herself to a faithful and impartial execution and application of the federal and state laws governing elections. Ms. Peterson is a knowledgeable and an experienced administrator."

"Unfortunately, certain members of our Election Commission have decided that knowledge and experience are of no consequence. These members have, instead, proved that the 'spoils system' is alive and well in DeKalb County. Additionally, even more disturbing, these members have, in my opinion, blatantly violated Tennessee's Open Meetings Law by secretly determining to terminate Ms. Peterson and by selecting Ms. Peterson's apparent replacement in secret. This conduct makes a mockery of Tennessee's Open Meetings Law and of our democratic process. Finally, I am compelled to observe that each member of this election commission swore an oath to faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of your office. In my opinion, those who vote to terminate Ms. Peterson have abrogated this solemn oath and have elevated party poltics to a dizzying height."

"In closing, I appeal to each member of this election commission to vote according to the dictates of his or her conscience and not to the demands of a party line. I appeal to each of you to afford to Ms. Peterson the same fairness, impartiality, and blind justice that you would wish to have meted out to you were you standing in her shoes."

After the meeting, Stanley said he is looking forward to serving the people of DeKalb County. "I am elated and even though there was some opposition today, I do feel like all five election commissioners want an honest and fair election process. That's what I want so as a result, at the end of the day, we're on the same team."

Prior to the vote on Stanley, the election commission re-organized.

Former Chairman Turner called the meeting to order and accepted nominations for Chairman. Parker was nominated and elected by acclamation 5-0.

Turner was nominated as Secretary and he was also elected unanimously by acclamation. The position of secretary goes to a member of the minority party

(Top Picture- Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker)
(Bottom Picture- Front left to right- Nolan Turner and Walteen Parker- Back left to right- Kenneth Moore, Jim Dean, and Barbara Vanatta)

Lawsuit over Leaking Water Line Set for Trial

April 24, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The towns of Dowelltown and Liberty have a lawsuit pending against contractors and engineers responsible for a water line relocation project which allegedly was not done properly resulting in multiple leaks in the Dowelltown-Liberty Water System.

The original complaint was filed two years ago and the case is tentatively set for a jury trial in DeKalb County Circuit Court this July.

The water line relocation was required due to the state's widening and improvement of Highway 70.

According to the lawsuit, Highways Incorporated of Brentwood entered into a contract with the state on February 1st, 2002 to provide certain construction work in DeKalb County. As part of it's contract in providing a water line relocation for the Dowelltown-Liberty Water System, Highways Incorporated entered into a subcontract with Civil Constructors, Incorporated of Franklin for the purposes of carrying out the construction work on the water line system. The price for doing this subcontract work on the water lines was $1-million 206-thousand 786."

"Incorporated in the contract were the bid proposal and specification documents for construction of the line relocation which were approved by Robert Neal Westerman, registered engineer for James C. Hailey & Company, Incorporated of Nashville.

Frank Buck, attorney for the towns of Dowelltown and Liberty, says after the project was completed the system sprung several leaks during the fall of 2005. "The original complaint is against Civil Constructors, Incorporated and Highways, Inc. Highways had the original road contract and Civil subbed out the moving of the water line. The Hailey Engineering Company was supposed to do the inspection and when you read the original complaint filed at the courthouse it essentially alleges that the specifications for the contract were set out in a book. There was a book that's attached to the back of the complaint, which basically has all the specifications of how you are supposed to put the water line in the ground. It is the allegation of Dowelltown-Liberty that after seven leaks, the State of Tennessee supervised an inspection, digging up three different spots, and it was discovered that the water line did not meet the specifications of the contract anywhere except in one case. For all the rest, it is alleged that the water line was not laid pursuant to the contract."

"The utility district is asking for the replacement costs taking into account inflation. Keep in mind that the water line is a plastic product and an oil product so as the price of petroleum goes up or down on the International market for a barrel of oil, then the price of that water line also goes up or down. They are asking for the replacement costs of the entire line."

The leaks caused disruptions of service to customers of the Dowelltown-Liberty Water System on several occasions and subsequent "No Drinking Water" bans were issued. Customers were requested to boil their drinking water until it was checked to make sure there was no contamination.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are the North American Pipe Corporation of Houston, Texas, the Zurich American Insurance Company of Schaumburg, Illinois and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The original complaint seeks a judgment against all defendants except the state of Tennessee for compensatory damages in the amount of $1-million, 206-thousand, 786. A judgment is also sought against James C. Hailey & Company, Inc. and Civic Constructors, Inc. for punitive damages in the amount of $5-million dollars.

DeKalb Teachers of the Year Honored at Banquet

April 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Teachers of the Year-

The DeKalb County Teachers of the Year were honored during a banquet Thursday night at the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church, sponsored by Liberty State Bank.

This year's honorees are Linda Parris and Leslie Rice at DeKalb County High School; Pat Barnes and Vicky Terrell at DeKalb Middle School; Pat Allen and Kathy Lawrence at DeKalb West School; Kathy Bryant and Carrie Gottlied at Northside Elementary School; and Karen Knowles and Crystal Young at Smithville Elementary School. Rice was unable to attend.

The principals introduced their school's teachers of the year and plaques were presented to them by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby.

Dr. Larry Locke was the keynote speaker. School Board Chairman Charles Robinson and Tom Miller of Liberty State Bank also made brief remarks.

The Teacher of the Year process begins on the school level, moves to the system level, the regional level, and finally to the state level.

Three teachers of the year, Kathy Lawrence, Carrie Gottlied, and Linda Parris were recently chosen to compete at the regional level.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers; to stimulate interest in teaching as a career; and to encourage public involvement in education.

This program is sponsored annually by the Tennessee Department of Education and the Niswonger Foundation.

(Pictured bottom row left to right: Linda Parris, Vicky Terrell, Kathy Bryant, and Karen Knowles.
Top row left to right: Kathy Lawrence, Pat Allen, Pat Barnes, Carrie Gottlied, Crystal Young)

DeKalb Jobless Rate at 11% for March

April 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County preliminary unemployment rate for the month of March was 11%, down a half a percent from the revised rate for February of 11.5%, but still up significantly from the rate for March, 2008 of 5.8%

The DeKalb County Labor Force for March was 9,840. A total of 8,760 were employed and 1,080 were unemployed.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March 2009 was released last week at 9.6 percent, 0.6 percentage point higher than the revised February rate of 9.0 percent. The United States’ unemployment rate for the month of March was 8.5 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for March 2009, released today, show that the rate increased in 74 counties, decreased in 19 counties and remained the same in two counties.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.9 percent, down from 7.0 percent in February. Perry County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 25.4 percent, up from 24.1 in February, followed by Scott County at 18.8 percent, up from 18.0 percent in February.

Knox County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.3 percent, up 0.2 percentage point from the February rate. Davidson County was 7.9 percent, up 0.4 from the previous month. Hamilton County was at 8.0 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from the February rate, and Shelby County was 8.9 percent, up from the February rate of 8.5 percent.

Earth Team Volunteers Answer the Call to Serve

April 23, 2009

Would you like to invest your time by working on natural resources projects that beautify your community and help farmers and ranchers protect their natural resources?

If you do, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Earth Team Volunteer Program in Tennessee has these and many other opportunities to help you accomplish that goal, said State Conservationist Kevin Brown. April 19-25 is National Volunteer Week, and this year’s Earth Team Volunteer theme is “Answer the Call to Serve.”

“If you choose to become involved in your community by volunteering, the Earth Team offers so much for you, whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, office worker, environmentalist or student,” said Brown. “If you have skills and experience and want to contribute in new ways, you can explore opportunities offered with the Earth Team.”

Nearly 500 Earth Team volunteers contributed about 8,300 hours in Tennessee last year—a value of more than $168,000 for various conservation activities, said Brown. Nationally, about 30,000 volunteers contributed more than 800,000 hours valued at over $16 million to further NRCS’s mission of helping people help the land (based on a $20.25 per hour estimate.)

“NRCS in Tennessee is proud of the dedicated volunteers who have committed their time and talents to conserving and protecting soil, water and wildlife in their communities across the state,” Brown said.

The NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Program, created in 1985, offers numerous opportunities for individuals 14 years of age or older. They help NRCS conservationists with diverse activities—from providing conservation technical assistance to teaching and generating awareness about conservation through community projects—by working on the land, in schools, with organizations, and in offices. They help with natural resource projects that improve water quality, beautify communities and reduce erosion. They also contribute their clerical, computer and writing skills in NRCS and conservation district offices across the nation.

Additional information on the Earth Team Volunteer Program is available online at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/volunteers or call 1-888-LANDCARE. NRCS is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Barn Destroyed by Fire

April 23, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A fire destroyed a barn this morning (Thursday) on Highway 70 east near the Gentleman's Club.

Firefighters received the call at 2:20 a.m.

Captain Mark Young says no one was at the barn at the time of the fire and no one was hurt. The cause is undetermined.

Firefighters could not save the barn and a car inside was also destroyed.

Captain Young says Randy Hawkins was believed to be either the owner or caretaker of the barn

Members of the Midway, Cookeville Highway, and Short Mountain Stations responded along with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and DeKalb EMS.

Page High School Student Job Shadows at WJLE

April 22, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jeffrey Bogle

A 16 year old Page High School student spent the day Wednesday job shadowing at WJLE.

Jeffrey Bogle of College Grove is a sophomore and is interested in pursuing a career in communications, particularly as a sports broadcaster.

Bogle is the son of Jeff and Beverly Bogle formerly of DeKalb County. He has a sister, 13 year old Bailey Bogle, and his grandmother is Evelyn Bogle, who is a resident of Alexandria.

Bogle, an avid UT football fan, says he has been influenced greatly by the former "Voice of the Vols" John Ward and has been privileged to have met and gotten to know him personally.

Station Manager Dwayne Page says "it was a pleasure to host Jeffrey for the day and show him what a typical day is like at WJLE. We wish him well as he furthers his education and urge him to continue to pursue his dream of being a broadcaster."

School Board May Use Stimulus Money to Save Positions in New Budget

April 22, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education, facing a May 15th deadline to present a tentative school budget to the county commission's budget committee, is looking for ways to balance it's proposed spending plan for the upcoming school year without eliminating positions.

Members of the board met in a workshop Tuesday night to discuss the options.

Projected revenues in the new budget are estimated to be $17-million 074-thousand 322. Anticipated expenditures are expected to be $17-million 822-thousand 740. That's a shortfall of $748-thousand 418. A total of $640-thousand 500 in BEP reserves can be programmed into the budget, but that still leaves the budget short by $108,000.

In order the balance the budget, the school board could eliminate two or three positions in the system, seek a property tax increase, or use the school system's allocation of federal stimulus money to temporarily fund local positions.

Director Mark Willoughby says the option to use the stimulus money seems to be the best under the circumstances. "The options are to do away with some positions, which we do not want to do. All employees are doing a good job and we want to keep them. We are not planning on eliminating any positions. We feel like all our positions are very needed. The federal stimulus money is one place where we may be able to come up with $108,000 but that is something that will have to be voted on by the board."

"We're waiting to see what our final budget is going to be from the state. Should we use the stimulus money the way that's been explained to us, we would have to say that we were going to use that (money) because of a shortfall in the budget. We would have to say we were going to eliminate certain positions and then we would fund those positions with the stimulus money. That would have to be voted on by the board. That is one of the options we have. In talking with several of the Upper Cumberland Directors, I think that's something that may be pretty common that's going to be used this time."

Director Willoughby says he would have preferred to use the stimulus money for other needs. "The stimulus money is there to enhance the education program that school systems across the state already have. We were hoping to use all that money to purchase things such as computers and software. We have a lot of computers which are outdated. We have a lot of software we need to upgrade. There are some computers which are just not working and need to be replaced. We might have used that money to place another elementary teacher or two to help out with some special needs children. That was the first intentions, but as the economy continued it's downturn, the federal government made it so we could use it to keep from cutting people out of jobs."

Willoughby says plans are to make cuts where possible in the budget without seeking a property tax increase. "We don't have much more to eliminate. We figured fuel costs pretty high last year because fuel was going up like crazy, and that's one of the things we've cut down a pretty good amount this time. There's different things in the budget (we've cut), a thousand dollars here, a thousand dollars there. I wouldn't say it's a pretty budget but we're trying to make it so it won't affect the taxpayers without any problem. We don't plan on asking for a tax increase at this time. Of course that's going to be the board's decision. That's not my decision. That's not something we want to do right now during these economic times. Now is not a good time to be putting more burden on the taxpayers."

The proposed budget includes no local pay raises for personnel other than step increases. Those who have already topped out on the pay scale would not get a pay raise in this budget.

Director Willoughby says the spending plan does include a small increase to help match employee's health care benefits." We're looking at no more than a one percent increase in local spending. That's almost inconceivable with the rate of inflation. We would love to possibly give a one or two percent increase to our employees on what we pay for their insurance. Keep in mind that we pay 18% of teacher's insurance so we'd like to add one or two percent more to that. For non-certified employees, we pay 50% of their insurance and we'd love to pay one or two percent more for that also."

School board members who attended Tuesday night's workshop were Chairman Charles Robinson, John David Foutch, Joan Draper, and Bruce Parsley.

Robinson said another workshop will be held to crunch the budget numbers again before the next school board meeting on Thursday, May 14th to formally act on the tentative budget. Amendments can be made to the proposed budget up until final passage by the county commission this summer.

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