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DeKalb Jobless Rate Drops to 9.4% in March

April 22, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate dropped to 9.4% in March, down from 10.2% in February according to new numbers released Thursday by the state. The local jobless rate for March a year ago was at 10.7%.

DeKalb County's Labor Force in March was at 10,120. A total of 9,170 were employed and 950 were unemployed

Among the fourteen counties of the Upper Cumberland, DeKalb County recorded the fourth lowest jobless rate for the month of March. Here's how the counties rank from highest to lowest in the Upper Cumberland:

Pickett County- 16.4%
Van Buren- 12.4%
Macon-12.1%
Fentress- 11.9%
Clay-11.7%
White-11.6%
Cumberland-11.5%
Overton-11.3%
Warren-11.2%
Jackson-11.1%
DeKalb- 9.4%
Smith-9.3%
Cannon- 8.8%
Putnam- 8.6%

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for March 2011, show that the rate decreased in 93 counties and increased in two counties.

Tennessee's unemployment rate for March was 9.5 percent, unchanged from the revised February rate. The national unemployment rate for March 2011 was 8.8 percent, down 0.1 percentage point from the February rate of 8.9 percent.
Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.1 percent, down from the February rate of 6.6 percent. Scott County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 21.9 percent, down from 22.6 percent in the previous month, followed by Pickett County at 16.4 percent, down from the February rate of 18.1 percent.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.0 percent, down from 7.6 percent in February. Hamilton County was 8.1 percent, down from 8.7 percent the previous month. Davidson County was 8.4 percent, down from 8.7 percent in February, and Shelby County was 10.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in February.

Jenny Norris Named DeKalb County Teacher of the Year

April 21, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jenny Norris of DCHS named DeKalb Teacher of Year
Local Teachers of Year Honored at Banquet sponsored by Liberty State Bank
Herb Leftwich, Principal of Upperman High School speaks at banquet

An educator from DeKalb County High School was named "DeKalb County Teacher of the Year" Thursday night during the fourth annual Teacher of the Year banquet at DCHS.

Jenny Norris received the honor and a check for $150 from Liberty State Bank, the sponsor of the banquet. The presentation was made by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and Roy Nelson Pugh of Liberty State Bank.

Norris was among five local educators who were recognized during the banquet for being chosen by peers as "Teacher of the Year" at their schools. The others were Christina Ontiveros from Smithville Elementary School, Michelle Jones from DeKalb Middle School, Shelia McMillen from DeKalb West School, and Lisa Mabe from Northside Elementary School.

Three of the educators, earlier this year, were selected "Teachers of the Year" locally and competed for regional honors in the Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K through sixth grade, explained how the Teachers of the Year are selected. "Every year DeKalb County participates in the Tennessee Teacher of the Year program. Each school picks a Teacher of the Year from their school. That teacher is sent to the county level and we also participate in the regional by picking a teacher in Pre-K through 4th grade, a teacher in the 5th through 8th grade, and a 9th through 12th grade teacher. This year we sent nominations over (for regional competition) and we also sent the names of all five teachers of the year where a committee made up of several supervisors from the Upper Cumberland scored our county applicants based on the Rubric scoring guide," said Burklow. The overall Teacher of the Year from DeKalb County was chosen by this committee.

Norris teaches Biology at DCHS. Ontiveros is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Smithville Elementary. McMillen is a second grade teacher at DeKalb West. Jones teaches sixth grade language arts at DeKalb Middle School and Mabe is a second grade teacher at Northside Elementary School.

DeKalb County Teacher of the Year Jenny Norris of DCHS from dwayne page on Vimeo.
The guest speaker for the banquet was Herb Leftwich, Principal of Upperman High School. Others making remarks were Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, DeKalb County Board of Education Chairman Charles Robinson, first district school board member John David Foutch, and Roy N. Pugh of Liberty State Bank.

The principals of each school introduced their teachers of the year. Mrs. Jones, the teacher of the year at DeKalb Middle School, was unable to attend the banquet.

(Top Photo left to right: Roy N. Pugh of Liberty State Bank, Jenny Norris of DCHS, and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby)

(Middle Photo left to right: Roy N. Pugh of Liberty State Bank, Jenny Norris of DCHS, Shelia McMillen of DeKalb West School, Christina Ontiveros of Smithville Elementary School, Lisa Mabe of Northside Elementary School, and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby) Not pictured- DeKalb Middle School Teacher of Year Michelle Jones)

(Bottom Photo- Herb Leftwich, Principal of Upperman High School, guest speaker at banquet)

DCHS Graduation Set for May 20th

April 21, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Britney Campbell
Tyler Seymour
Jonathan Fontanez

A total of 165 students at DeKalb County High School will receive their diplomas during graduation exercises Friday, May 20th at 7:00 p.m. on the high school football field.

The program will feature remarks by the Valedictorian Britney Campbell, the Class President, Tyler Seymour and Guest speaker Jonathan Fontanez, the Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12

The prestigious White Rose and Citizenship Awards will also be presented by DCHS Principal Kathy Hendrix to three outstanding members of the class. Diplomas will be presented to each graduate by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby. The DCHS Chorus is also expected to perform.

Meanwhile the DCHS Senior Awards Day program will be Thursday, May 19th at 8:30 a.m. at the gym. Scholarship awards will be presented.

During the graduation exercises, the honor students will be recognized including the 2011 Valedictorian Britney Campbell and the Salutatorian Martha Webb.

Students among the top twenty five senior academic ranking from numbers one to twenty five are as follows:

Britney Campbell, Valedictorian; Martha Webb, Salutatorian; Nicholas Hale, Tia Menix, Heather Owens, Ethan Duke, Clark Adcock, Tyler Seymour, Olivia Norton, Weston Rhody, Camry White, Logan Clark, Tyler Caldwell, Quincie Winchester, Zackary Vantrease, Christina Hughes, Stephanie Davis, Lauren Adcock, Brittany Malone, Jessica Alderman, Kristin Mick, Justin Turner, Tyler Kent, Justin Elmore, and Nioakah Johnson

Students earning "Highest Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.8 to 4.0 are:

Britney Campbell, Valedictorian 4.0; Martha Webb, Salutatorian 4.0, Nicholas Hale 4.0, Tia Menix 4.0, Olivia Norton 4.0, Heather Owens 4.0, Camry White 4.0, Clark Adcock, Lauren Adcock, Tyler Caldwell, Logan Clark, Stephanie Davis, Ethan Duke, Christina Hughes, Weston Rhody, Tyler Seymour, Justin Turner, Zackary Vantrease, and Quincie Winchester

Students earning "High Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.6 to 3.79 include Jessica Alderman, Elicia Cantrell, Justin Elmore, Katie Frazier, Randall Hansard, Cole Hawker, Rachel Hendrixson, Nioakah Johnson, Tyler Kent, Samantha Lewis, Brittany Malone, and Kristin Mick.

Those earning "Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.2 to 3.59 include Brandon Adcock, Alesha Bass, Keeli Bullard, Wesley Burchfield, Tiffanie Burrage, Jessica Cantrell, Alisha Chapman, Kelly Cubbins, Kylie Dildine, Brady Evans, Dalton Fish, Makenzi Gibson, Kayla Hershman, Jessica Hodges, Whitney Houk, Amanda Hughes, Kayla Judkins, Tarren Kyle, Candance Lester, Mercedes Luna, Justin Moore, Shelby Mulloy, Taylor Poss, and Vickey Vickers

Members of the DCHS Class of 2011 are as follows:

Jarrett Adams, Brandon Adcock, Clark Adcock, Lauren Adcock, Matthew Adcock, Katelyn Agee, Jessica Alderman, Azalia Arroyo, Lydia Ashford

Caleb Bain, Dalton Bandy, Alesha Bass, Taylor Baumgard, Jessica Billings, Cody Boner, Keri Bowman, Justin Bragg, Natonda Bratcher, Rod Brock, Dillion Brown, Keeli Bullard, Wesley Burchfield, Brandon Burke, Tiffanie Burrage,

Brittany Cade, Tyler Caldwell, Alexander Campbell, Britney Campbell, Chase Cantrell, Elicia Cantrell, Jessica Cantrell, Kaycee Cantrell, Matthew Cantrell, Perri Carter, Alisha Chapman, Logan Clark, Bradley Colburn, Fernanda Cortes, John Counts, Erica Cox, Jacob Cripps, Matthew Crowe, Kelly Cubbins, Josie Culwell, Jacob Cunningham,

Stephanie Davis, Kylie Dildine, Kathy Duggin, Ethan Duke, Natasha Durocher, Cassandra Dyer,

Whitney Easterwood, Justin Elmore, Jason Ervin, Brady Evans,

Keith Ferrell, Makayla Ferrell, Dalton Fish, Justin France, Jonathan Frazee, Dustin Frazier, Katie Frazier, Crystelle Furnival,

Makenzi Gibson, Matthew Giles, Billy Golden, Bobby Goodwin, Christian Greco,

Caleb Haggard, Nicholas Hale, Quentin Hale, Randall Hansard, Cole Hawker, Rachel Hendrixson, Kayla Hershman, Tyler Hicks, Jessica Hodges, Dane Holeton, Whitney Houk, Amanda Hughes, Christina Hughes, Kelley Hunt,

Felicia Ingram,

Christopher Johnson, Nioakah Johnson, Kayla Judkins, Kathryn Julien,

Tyler Kent,

Kevin Kijanski, Bryan Kilgore, Jessica Knox, Tarren Kyle,

Keith Lafreniere, Jody Lattimore, Cameron Lester, Candace Lester, Samantha Lewis, Mercedes Luna,

Brittany Malone, Arianna Matthews, Robert May, Shelby Maynard, Amanda McCardell, Charles McCutcheon, Brady McGhee, Mark McGuire, Tia Menix, Kayla Merriman, Kristin Mick, Justin Moore, Autumn Morris, Shelby Mulloy,

Shelly Newby, Blake Nichols, Karissa Nolton, Olivia Norton,

Heather Owens,

Heather Page, Kerry Page, Luke Partridge, Skyelar Patrick, Martin Perez, Cody Poss, Taylor Poss, Ann Pursell, Ethan Ray, Jordan Reeder, Weston Rhody, Kevin Richards, Jennifer Rivera, Jesus Rivera, Ana Rodriguez-Cortes, Ciara Roehner, Dylan Roller, Allen Roysden,

Shane Salley, Tyler Seymour, Kristen Smartt, Brittany Smith, Sara Smith, Zachery Smoot, Chawn Snell, Skyler Songer, Sarah Stevens, Taylor Summers,

Joshua Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Alison Thomas, Devin Thomas, Takeshia Thomason, Hailey Thweatt, Janeth Torres, Nathan Turner, Justin Turner,

Zackary Vantrease, Trenton Vickers, Vickey Vickers,

McCullough Wallace, Martha Webb, Camry White, Michael Whitefield, II, Destry Wiggins, Quncie Winchester,

Mitch Young, and Tiffanie Youngblood

Jury Finds Ford Guilty in Meth Case

April 20, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Timothy Wade Ford

It took less than an hour Wednesday for a jury of seven women and five men to find 40 year old Timothy Wade Ford of Brush Creek guilty of initiating a process for manufacturing methamphetamine.

Ford, who stood trial in DeKalb County Criminal Court, is one of three people accused of cooking meth at the swimming hole on Dry Creek at Dowelltown last May.

In addition to the $15,000 fine imposed by the jury, Ford faces a possible sentence of 12 to 20 years in the state penitentiary as a range II offender. State prosecutors have filed a notice with the court seeking enhanced punishment against Ford based on his prior criminal record. Judge David Patterson has set a May 20th sentencing hearing for Ford.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Greg Strong and Phillip Hatch. Ford was represented by local attorney Jim Judkins.

Ford and two co-defendants, 35 year old Terry Wayne Daniels of Alexandria and 24 year old Lydia R. Judkins of Smithville were all arrested in this case on Friday, May 21st.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department received a call that day of a possible meth lab in operation at the swimming hole at Dry Creek. Deputies Jeremy Taylor and Steven Barrett responded to the scene and found a pick up truck, but there was no one inside. Shortly after their arrival, the officers heard something in the tall weeds about one hundred feet from the truck and went to investigate. There, they found Daniels and Lydia Judkins engaging in sexual activity. From another location nearby, the officers also heard the sound of glass clinking together. When officer Taylor went to check it out, he found Ford kneeling in tall weeds surrounded by meth lab components including a 2 liter bottle, tubing, drain cleaner, gloves, cold packs, jars that contained 2 layered liquids, coleman fuel, funnels, alcohol, electrical tape, and other items. It appeared that Ford was preparing to cook some methamphetamine, according to Sheriff Patrick Ray.

Ford, Daniels, and Lydia Judkins were all placed under arrest at the scene and a search of Daniels' truck yielded more items commonly used in the manufacture of meth. After arriving at the jail, officers found in Ford's pants pocket a bag that contained a powdery substance believed to be ephedrine.

Sheriff Ray and deputies Taylor and Barrett testified for the prosecution during the trial Wednesday. Ford testified in his own defense, denying that the meth lab belonged to him. Ford claims that he, Daniels, and Judkins drove to the swimming hole that day in Daniels pickup truck. Inside the truck were the meth lab components. According to Ford, after arriving at the swimming hole, Daniels and Lydia Judkins got out of the truck and left him alone. Fearing that he might be caught with the incriminating materials, Ford claims he removed those items from the truck and was placing them in the weeds, when officers arrived and discovered him.

Neither Daniels or Lydia Judkins were called to testify in the case.

In February, Lydia Judkins pleaded guilty to initiation of the manufacture of meth. She received an eight year sentence, all suspended to probation, supervised by community corrections. She was given credit for time served and fined $2,000. Judkins was given jail credit from October 10th, 2010 to February 7th.

The case against Daniels, also charged with initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine, remains pending in court.

Smithville Electric System Planning Power Outage

April 20, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Electric System is planning a power outage Saturday morning which will affect all SES customers.

"In order to increase our system’s capacity and reliability Smithville Electric is planning a Power Outage for all customers beginning April 23rd at 1:00am and possibly extending through 4:00am Saturday morning," according to a prepared statement from Smithville Electric System.

"This outage time will allow our personnel to safely install a new larger transformer in our substation. Our plans are to keep our outage time to a minimum and could be less. We do regret any inconvenience this outage may cause".

Actions you may consider before this event:

·Shut down computers or provide battery backup

·Leave electric garage doors open or cars outside

·Notify alarm system companies of outage times

For more information you may contact the Smithville Electric office Mon- Fri 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m or the
after hours answering service 24 hrs a day @ 615 597 4735.

Portion of Dry Creek Road to be closed in June for Bridge Replacement at Pea Ridge

April 20, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster

A portion of a DeKalb County road will be closed for a little more than a month this summer due to bridge construction.

County Mayor Mike Foster reported to the county commission Monday night that the state wants to close Dry Creek Road in the Pea Ridge area tentatively from June 6th through July 15th while the work is in progress. "It's really going to adversely affect some people for a short period of time. They're (state) requesting to close Dry Creek Road in order to construct the north abutment of the new bridge right below Pea Ridge. The new abutment sets on the edge of Dry Creek Road which will require a drill rig be set up that will block the road. The wing wall closest to the existing bridge sets on the edge of the roadway. This will require an excavation approximately ten feet deep into the opening up of the roadway. It is impossible to keep traffic on this section of road while this work takes place. This is the upper bridge just before you get to Pea Ridge. Everybody from just this side of the bridge, the road will be cut this side of the old bridge. So that means that everybody up there, even Cave Hollow and everything above there, will be required to go around (detour) until this bridge is replaced. It will take about five weeks. They're going to build the abutment on the south side, southwest side, and the pier and then they're going to close the road and add in the pier on this side. While that's being done, it will be closed," said Foster.

TDOT has awarded a bid to Roads, LLC of Brentwood in the amount of $623, 963 to build a concrete I-Beam bridge there. The project includes grading, drainage, and paving. Construction on this project will begin this summer. The work must be completed on or before November 30th.

Road Supervisor Kenny Edge told WJLE that the project is to be funded with 80% federal funds and 20% local matching money, including 14% from the DeKalb County Highway Department budget (state aid) and 6% from the county general fund.

City Voters May Apply for Absentee Ballots

April 20, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Dennis Stanley

Voters may now apply for absentee ballots for the Smithville Municipal election through June 14th.

The city election day is Tuesday, June 21st. Three aldermen will be elected, each to serve a two year term beginning July 1st.

Candidates are incumbents Shawn Jacobs, Aaron Meeks, and W.J. (Dub) White and challengers Gayla Hendrix, Cordell Walker, and Danny Washer

Early voting will June 1st-16th in the basement courtroom of the courthouse from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Thursdays; and from 9:00 a.m. until noon on Saturdays.

According to Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, the requirements for absentee voting are as follows:

Absentee Voting by Mail

To vote by mail, a registered voter must fall under one of the following categories:

1.The voter will be outside the county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day;

2.The voter or the voter's spouse is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration;

3.The voter's licensed physician has filed a statement with the county election commission stating that, in the physician's judgment, the voter is medically unable to vote in person. The statement must be filed not less than five (5) days before the election and signed under the penalty
of perjury. The statement must be notarized;

4.The voter resides in a licensed facility providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter's county of residence;

5.The voter will be unable to vote in person due to service as a juror for a federal or state court;

6.The voter is sixty-five (65) years of age or older;

7.The voter has a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place;

8.The voter is hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person;

9.The voter is a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled;

10.The voter is a candidate for office in the election;

11.The voter serves as an election day official or as a member or employee of the election commission;

12.The voter's observance of a religious holiday prevents him or her from voting in person during the early voting period and on election day;

13.The voter possesses a valid commercial driver license and certifies that he or she will be working outside the state or county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day. The request should contain the CDL number;

14.The voter is a member of the military or is an overseas citizen.

Requesting a Ballot

A registered voter may request a by-mail ballot by sending a written request to the DeKalb County Election Commission. The request must have the voter's signature. The request may be mailed or faxed to the county election commission office. Upon receipt of the request, the local
election commission will mail an application for ballot to the voter. The application must be mailed back to the election commission and a ballot will be mailed to the voter. However, if the voter wants to expedite the application process, the voter may place the following information in the request for ballot:

1.The name of the registered voter;

2.The address of the voter's residence;

3.The voter's social security number;

4.The address to mail the ballot outside the county (this applies only when the reason for voting by mail involves that the voter will be outside of the county during early voting and on election day);

5.The election the voter wishes to participate in. If the election involves a primary, the political party in which the voter wishes to participate;

6.The reason the voter wishes to vote absentee; and

7.The voter's signature. (If the voter is unable to sign his/her name, contact the Election Commission office for details.)

A request that contains this information will be treated and processed as an application for ballot, and a ballot will be mailed to the voter.

A registered voter may request an application for by-mail ballot no earlier than ninety (90) days before the election and no later than seven

(7) days before the election. In order to be counted the ballot must be received by election day.

The ballot must be returned by mail and not hand delivered.

DeKalb Election Commission Reorganizes

April 19, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Election Commission
Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker

The DeKalb County Election Commission has chosen its officers for the next two years.

The commission met in regular monthly session Tuesday afternoon at the courthouse to reorganize and to conduct other business.

Walteen Parker was named to her second term as chairman of the commission. The board's newest member, Harry Lasser was chosen as the secretary.

In other business, the commission reappointed Dennis Stanley as administrator of elections for the next two years. Stanley was the only applicant for the position. All five members voted in favor of Stanley's appointment.

The DeKalb County Election Commission members include Republicans Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean. Democratic members are Kenneth Moore and Harry Lasser.

(Pictured Above left to right: Barbara Vanatta, Kenneth Moore, Walteen Parker, Jim Dean, and Harry Lasser)

(Bottom photo- Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker)

County Commission Kills Land Deal for School Board

April 18, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby addressing county commission
Jack Barton
Mike Foster

The DeKalb County Board of Education will not be able to purchase fifty two acres of property on the Allen Ferry Road for the future home of a new school.

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night, on a 7 to 7 tie vote, denied the school board's request for approval of a budget amendment in the amount of $374,000 from the school system's Basic Education Program Reserve (BEP) Funds to buy the property.

Eight yes votes were needed for passage.

County Mayor Mike Foster could have exercised his privilege of voting to break the tie but he chose not to do so.

Those voting in favor of granting the school board's request to approve the budget amendment were Mason Carter and Elmer Ellis, Jr of the first district, Bobby Joines of the second district, David McDowell of the fourth district, Jerry Adcock of the fifth district, Marshall Ferrell of the sixth district, and Jimmy Poss of the seventh district.

Those voting against the school system's request for the budget amendment were Jack Barton of the second district, Jerry Scott and Bradley Hendrix of the third district, Wayne Cantrell of the fourth district, John Green of the fifth district, Jeff Barnes of the sixth district, and Larry Summers of the seventh district.

Although the director of schools and school board members have not said definitely that the Allen Ferry Road property was intended for a new high school location, at least some county commissioners believe that was the intent of this proposed purchase.

Seventh district member Larry Summers, prior to casting his no vote, said he favored developing two community elementary schools elsewhere in Smithville, similar to DeKalb West School, rather than building a high school. "I'm for a building program but not this building program. I think the success of the west school is known. I think two community schools up here would kind of mimic the size and community involvement like the west school and would be better served so I vote no on this property," said Summers.

Later in his remarks to the commission, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby apparently took exception to Summers statement, saying that the job of the county commission is to authorize funding for school needs, not to decide where schools should be built. "I think some members of the county court have gotten their role and the school board's role confused or mixed up. I would ask that you let the school board do their job and respectfully county commissioners I would ask that you do your job of funding. I'm not mad. I'm disappointed because I'm talking about three thousand students. To the seven members of this court (who voted no), I think you've made a bad decision about what's best for the children of DeKalb County," said Willoughby

In response to Summers' suggestion about having two community schools in Smithville similar to the west school, Willoughby explained that the west school has approximately four hundred students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade but that two similar schools in Smithville would each have about 857 students, which is more than the high school population. Willoughby questioned whether that would be a good move. "In the Smithville area where we have most of our population of students, if you have a school with more than eight hundred students the majority of the parents probably would not want kindergarten students and those in pre-school and first grade in the same building with seventh and eighth graders. Most progressive school systems are now going to a three tiered system, pre-k through 5 schools, 6th-8th grade schools, and 9th through 12th grade schools." Willoughby admitted though that studies have shown that many students experience an achievement gap when they have to move from one school building to another.

During his remarks, Willoughby read from a letter he sent to members of the county commission over the weekend making his final appeal for their approval. In the letter, Willoughby said " I am writing to request that you vote yes to allow the DeKalb County School System to amend the budget in order to purchase the property on Allen Ferry Road for a future school. This vote is not for any adult on the school board or any adult on the county commission. It is a vote for the children of DeKalb County. This has not been a rushed decision to purchase land for the children."

"As you may know the school system in 2008 formally made a request for funding once a suitable building site was located. We have now located a suitable building site which is centrally located and has been confirmed by professional engineers. These professionals make a career out of evaluating building sites. They have evaluated this site and determined that it is in the top 33% of building sites where schools are built on. After the evaluations of the property, it is proven to be an even better site than what I thought in the very beginning. The school system is not asking for any money. The school system is only asking to use money in the BEP reserves which is intended for only one time purchases. The BEP reserves are often used by school systems throughout the state of Tennessee for such purposes. It is no secret that the future of the children of DeKalb County will have to have a new school built soon. So I ask you to allow the school system to use the money that is already in reserves for this purpose," wrote Willoughby.

Some members of the county commission have expressed concerns about the potential costs of excavation and site preparation at this location. In response, Willoughby said " It would be hard to find property at a better price, which is centrally located, even considering excavation of the land and site preparation. If excavation (site preparation) of the property is what we heard $2.1 million, I don't believe that's out of line when you consider that takes in sewage, pumping station, roads to be built and things like that. This is not out of line with any major building project of a school," said Willoughby.

Second district member Jack Barton, who voted no on the request, stressed that his opposition is based on fiscal responsibility, not whether he supports the school system. "This is not a vote about the children. This is a vote about the fiscal responsibility of trying to find the best property for the school board to build on. Ours isn't to choose the schools they build, whether it be a K-8 or a high school, but without options we can't really know for sure, with myself not being an engineer and Mr. Willoughby not, that a higher (priced) piece of property on the front end doesn't equate to a better piece of property on the back end. I've had so many people approach me about please vote for the schools. I'm not against schools. I would vote to buy property that was fiscally prudent. My no vote was not against children or the future growth of the school system. I encourage the school board to come back to us with a five year plan, a ten year plan, and a fifteen year plan of where our growth rates are going and not from somebody trying to sell us a school but from somebody who can help us arrive at correct population figures. We need to pick property that's not only fiscally sound but also provides for expansion. I'm not against the school system, Mr. Willoughby, or the school board. I'm proud of our schools, but I want to make sure that the voting public knows that this is not just about children, it's about money. Whether its BEP reserves, state money or federal money, its somebody's tax money," said Barton.

Willoughby responded "Mr. Barton that's why I hired civil engineers and architects to make the evaluation. Their evaluation proved very positive on that site. I went to professionals and asked them how it needed to be evaluated. These people build schools all over the state of Tennessee and they tell us that this building site is in the top 33% of building sites".

County Mayor Foster suggested that the school board and county commission work toward ending their differences and find common ground. "My idea is we sit down and try to solve problems rather than create problems for each other. I fully understand that the school board's responsibility is to run the schools. I also understand that these fourteen men here (county commissioners) are the ones who decide how things are funded. We have got to be together. We don't need to be two separate entities arguing with each other. I think everybody here is concerned about the children. We don't need to be argumentative. We need to sit down and communicate. We all realize that a lot of our schools are old and need something done to them. I fully agree with you Mark (Willoughby) that its your (school board's) decision what schools to build, but the county commission will have to arrange funding for that (in the future) and we'll have to ask the taxpayers to probably increase their taxes by thirty, forty, or fifty percent. We all need to be on board with that. We can't do it if we're divided. It's time we sit down and try to solve those things," said Foster

In January, the school board voted unanimously to enter into a contract to buy this property, subject to approval by the county commission and a favorable site assessment study by the engineers.

The site, which is located near the existing DCHS/DeKalb Middle School campuses, belongs to Mark and Karen Adams, Melvin and LeeAnn Crips, and Billy Crips.

Under terms of the contract, the school system had a 90 day "due diligence" period to have an engineering firm conduct core drilling, inspections of the title to the property, the environment condition of the land, and other site assessments to determine whether the property is satisfactory for it's intended purposes.

Director of Schools Willoughby said that architects and engineers who conducted the site study found 44 usable acres suitable for a new school.

Appeal Dismissed, New Trial Date Set in Election Commission Lawsuit

April 18, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
John Harris, III

Former election administrators in DeKalb and several other Tennessee counties, claiming they were ousted in 2009 by GOP controlled county election commissions because of their political party affiliation, have lost an appeal challenging a recent court ruling over whether they can seek monetary damages against the election commissioners who didn't reappoint them.

Locally, the federal court lawsuit was filed by former election administrator Lisa Peterson who was not re-appointed in 2009 by the Republican majority of the local election commission. Another case involving the election commission, also filed by Peterson in DeKalb County Chancery Court is still pending.

In December, U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman found that the Republican election commissioners named in the lawsuit in DeKalb and other counties were not subject to liability for monetary damages sought, in their official capacities as "state actors". The plaintiff's claims, to the extent they sought declaratory and injunctive relief, remain pending. After Wiseman's ruling, attorneys for the former administrators or plaintiffs filed an appeal to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

According to John Harris, III of Nashville, an attorney for the DeKalb County Election Commission, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has now dismissed the appeal as premature, meaning that more proceedings must be held at the trial court level before an appeal can be considered at the appellate level. The dismissal of the appeal does not prohibit the parties from appealing any final judgment in the case. Meanwhile, Harris said a new trial date on the remaining issue in the case has been set for September, 2012. "The district court, in December, dismissed all of the monetary claims against the election commissioners based upon a concept called qualified immunity. Basically, that's a finding that there is no just basis to proceed on claims that these administrators were wrongfully terminated because the law prior to that point in time was unclear. The former administrators, who are the plaintiffs in the case, appealed that decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals which is a federal court sitting over Tennessee although its in Cincinnati. That court said we're going to reject the appeal because we believe that its premature. There needs to be further proceedings at the trial court before they would entertain it as an appellate matter. So the appeal in March was rejected by the (appellate) court in Cincinnati and that sends it back to the trial court level for further proceedings. Since it came back, the trial court has entered an order setting out various things that has to be done over the next year and a half. The case is now set for trial in September, 2012," said Harris.

With the appeal having been dismissed, Harris said the only significant remaining issue to be decided at the trial court level is the "injunctive relief" claim in the lawsuit and a jury trial date has been set in U.S. District Court for Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. in Nashville. "The main issue now is whether it is allowable under federal law to replace a public official with the authority and discretion that an administrator of elections had based only upon party affiliation. The court could find that this is okay because a person holding that position has sufficient political discretion in carrying out their job that party affiliation is relevant. It could easily do that here because of the fact that everybody who serves as a commissioner, either at the state or at the county level, is basically selected along party lines. Or the court could find that these are just ministerial jobs and there is no significance to party affiliation in making that selection. If the court finds that party affiliation is irrelevant, it could then issue an injunction telling future election commissions that they cannot consider party affiliation in selecting or releasing an existing administrator of elections. If it grants relief and puts down an order saying election commissions can't consider party affiliation then it also has the authority to award, under the federal statute, attorneys fees in favor of the plaintiffs and that's really the biggest issue from a short term perspective because if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs on this declaratory aspect of the case, will it then award attorneys fees in favor of the plaintiffs. If so, the concern I think most counties should have is that an award of attorneys fees in this case, given the amount of time its going to take and the possibility of an appeal, could easily be hundreds of thousands of dollars. At this point, the court has ruled that there cannot be monetary damages for things like wrongful termination or back pay. But if you consider an award of attorneys fees damages then the attorneys fees award is still a possibility," said Harris.

Meanwhile, legislation has been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly that if approved would require terms of county administrators of elections to expire when the commission's term expires. It would also allow county election commissions to consider political party affiliation, knowledge and experience when hiring administrators

Republican members of the DeKalb County Election Commission are Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean. Democratic members are Harry Lasser and Kenneth Moore.

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