Local News Articles

GED Revision At End of Year Prompts Rush to Test Centers

June 3, 2013

Tennesseans who have not taken the GED® high school equivalency test or who have passed some but not all parts of the GED® have only the remainder of 2013 to earn their high school credential under the current test structure, Labor & Workforce Development Acting Commissioner Burns Phillips announced.

Beginning January 1, 2014, partial test scores will be invalid and will not transfer to the new high school equivalency test. At that time, Tennesseans will have a choice of taking either the new 2014 GED® test or an alternative high school equivalency test designed by the Educational Testing Service called HiSET® in order to earn a high school equivalency diploma.

Since 2002 when the last change took place to reflect needed proficiencies, the General Educational Development (GED®) test – accepted by virtually all states, colleges, and employers – has been offered as a battery of five tests that measure skills in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. During the last 10 years, standards have changed, and the test is being redesigned to more accurately measure what students are expected to learn in high school to be prepared for college or a career.

“We’re urging everyone who has passed a portion of the GED® test to register and finish the test now because all partial scores will no longer be valid after January 1, 2014. In addition, the new GED® test will be computer-based and the cost increases to $120,” said Marva Doremus, state administrator for Adult Education. “Our preparation classes are filling up quickly as people prepare to get in under the wire.”

“There’s no registration deadline, but test-takers must know that by November and December if they have not registered there may not be any openings left. To ensure they can take the current version, they should do it as soon as possible.”

Those who want to take the GED® test for the first time as well as those who only lack certain parts must take the test at an official GED® Testing Center. Individuals can take the test either by computer or on paper. For details on taking the current test and information on preparation courses, contact the GED® Office in the Adult Education Division of the Department of Labor & Workforce Development 1-800-531-1515, or visit the Department’s website at http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/AE/.

According to the GED® Testing Service, more than a million adults nationwide have started but not finished the current GED® test. Last year, 9,159 Tennesseans earned GED® diplomas, but Tennessee still has more than 930,000 adults without a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Woman Injured in Sunday Rollover Accident

June 2, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville Fire Department Works to Extricate Mary Harris from her Car
Scene of Sunday Wreck on Allen Ferry Road
Woman Injured in Sunday Rollover Accident

A 64 year old Smithville woman was injured in a rollover accident Sunday afternoon on Allen Ferry Road near the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church.

Captain Steven Leffew of the Smithville Police Department said Mary Harris was driving east in a 1995 Ford Focus when she went off the right side of the road, struck a culvert, knocked down a speed limit sign, and overturned. The vehicle came to rest on its side at Mt Holly Cemetery. Police say Harris claims she lost control the car after taking her eyes of the road to reach for cigarettes she had dropped in the car.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department performed extrication services to get Harris out of the vehicle. She was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Captain Leffew said Harris will be cited for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance).

Smithville Police investigated another accident in almost the exact same spot the day before, on Saturday.

Officer Matt Farmer said 30 year old Russell Johnson was driving east on Allen Ferry Road in a Ford Ranger pickup when he lost control and went off the right side of the road and overturned. The truck came to rest on its top near the cemetery. Johnson was injured and taken to DeKalb Community Hospital by DeKalb EMS.

DeKalb Jobless Rate Holds Steady at 8.2% in April

June 2, 2013

The DeKalb County Unemployment Rate for April was 8.2%, the same as March but up from 7.5% in April, 2012.

The local labor force for April was 9,730. A total of 8,930 were employed and 800 were without work

DeKalb County's jobless rate for April was fifth lowest among the fourteen Upper Cumberland counties. Here's how they ranked from highest to lowest:

Pickett:13.2%
Van Buren: 11.6%
White:11.3%
Clay:10%
Cumberland: 9.5%
Warren: 9.3%
Fentress: 9.1%
Overton:8.7%
Jackson: 8.4%
DeKalb: 8.2%
Putnam: 7.6%
Macon: 7.5%
Smith: 7.4%
Cannon: 6.5%

County unemployment rates for April 2013 show the rate decreased in 62 counties, increased in 23, and stayed the same in ten.

Knox County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 6.4 percent, up from 6.2 percent in March. Davidson County also increased from 6.2 in March to 6.5 in April. Hamilton County was 7.5 percent, down from 7.6 percent in the previous month. Shelby County was 9.2 percent, down from 9.5 percent in March.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate for April was 8.0 percent, which increased two tenths of one percentage point from the March revised rate of 7.8 percent. The national unemployment rate for April 2013 was 7.5 percent, decreasing by one tenth of one percentage point from the previous month.

The state unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted while the county unemployment rates are not. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series.

City of Smithville Facing Tight Budget Year

May 30, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville Mayor and Aldermen (Older Photo)

Facing a tight budget year with no tax increase, city officials are not expecting much in the way of extra spending for 2013-14. That may not be good news for the Smithville Fire Department which had hoped to add one or two new paid full time firefighters.

In their final workshop before Monday night's council meeting, the mayor and aldermen met Tuesday evening with financial consultant, Janice Plemmons-Jackson to crunch the budget numbers. Jackson said she and secretary-treasurer Hunter Hendrixson have gone over the proposed budget in recent days cutting "fluff". But with all the revisions that have been made, the city could still go slightly in the red or just break even by the end of the fiscal year. "The (proposed) general fund had a (projected) $200,000 deficit for the year," said Jackson. "Hunter and I went through and talked about taking out all the fluff, or the rounding, or the cushioning. We decided to go back to a barebones (budget). We've got the general fund tightened down as good as we can get it without eliminating positions or hours. This is a very tight budget," she said.

If emergency spending is required during the year, Jackson said the aldermen could approve budget amendments, taking money from the general fund surplus.

As for the fire department's request, Jackson said with revenue streams not keeping pace with expenses, the city would have to look for new money at some point if it added another firefighter position. "We've weeded out a lot of fluff. If you want to do it (add firefighter position), you've got surpluses that will provide some money to do it. But to know that it's a today, tomorrow, in the future and a never ending thing makes me look at revenues and other expenses and say, sometime you're going to need more revenues or you can't afford it. Right now today, yeah you can afford it but you may have to cut other things out. Revenues are pretty flat. They are not growing at the same rate that expenses are growing. That's why I'm cautious about adding new kinds of recurring things when you're not adding sources of revenue," said Jackson.

Still, Aldermen Shawn Jacobs and Gayla Hendrix want to find a way to fund one new firefighter position this year. "We have a group of city firefighters and a majority have been with the department for a long time, fifteen, twenty, thirty years, which is almost unheard of," said Alderman Hendrix. "You're not going to see this coming up in the newer generation. The younger people are not going to make that kind of commitment . Full volunteer departments will eventually become a thing of the past because people have jobs that they can't take off from and leave when there is a call. Factories are not going to let you up and leave like it was when we were an agricultural community when people worked for themselves and they could do that. These guys have been doing all this stuff volunteer on weekends and nights away from their families for years and years. I like the idea that we would have people on staff that could make a call in the middle of the day if someone else were not available. I would like to see us put in one more position. I think there's a lot of other areas we could start cutting back on to make this work. I think that's more necessary than a lot of things we're putting money into right now. We know we're never going to have a full time paid fire department. We're still going to rely on volunteers, but if you have a couple of paid firefighters who can do so much stuff during the week, that keeps the volunteers from having to spend all their time doing the regular routine stuff that has to be done, then the volunteers can be there to do the training and be ready to go on a call when needed," said Alderman Hendrix.

"If he gets one other firefighter, (Fire Chief) Charlie (Parker) and that firefighter could respond with a vehicle immediately. One person can't do that. They could also do first responder calls, said Alderman Jacobs. "Sometimes we fool ourselves by saying every job is as important as the other. That's not true. Public safety is a special breed and I think you've got to pay for it. If we do add this extra fireman, I would like to see the salary start at the same salary that our policemen start at," said Alderman Jacobs.

"We projected what one person would cost, benefits and all that," said Jackson. "I took the middle number of (Fire Chief) Charlie (Parker's) projections $28,000 to $32,000 and said if I take $30,000 and added the payroll tax and the insurance (benefit). Its roughly $42,000. That gets you another full time person at a $30,000 salary," she said. "Some discussion came up about, maybe that's higher than what police people start at. So you may say we'll budget only $25,000 for (one firefighter) salary," said Jackson.

The other three aldermen, Jason Murphy, Tim Stribling, and Danny Washer said the city cannot afford adding a paid firefighter position right now without tapping into general fund surpluses, a practice they believe is not appropriate for meeting recurring expenses. " I hate not to do it (fund a firefighter position). I believe in what the firefighters do. But we don't have that much of a gap (between revenues and expenses). We're eventually going to need a new fire truck. We're going to need garbage trucks and other equipment. We need to build up our fund (surplus) so that we can take those capital hits. That's what scares me about it all," said Alderman Murphy.

"Our revenue streams are going down and there's other equipment that's got to be purchased and it's going to have to come out of our surplus," said Alderman Tim Stribling. "I'm not against having them (paid firefighters) but I want to be able to fund it every year without having to worry about kicking into our surplus. Who knows, a garbage truck might break down," he said.

"I'd like to have two (paid firefighters) if we could afford it. But in my opinion, it's too much too quick," said Alderman Danny Washer. We're leveled off right now. I'd like to stay leveled off for another year and see if we generate any more revenue and see how it looks a year from now," he said.

In addition to the firefighter positions, Chief Parker had requested extra funding for other needs in the fire department. Jackson said some of those proposed amounts have been cut back in this budget. "Charlie had requested $55,000 for capital outlay but he said he had about $5,000 of specific costs for hoses. So we cut that back to $10,000. If something comes up, you could amend the budget," said Jackson.

"He (Chief Parker) had asked for $50,000 for payments to volunteers. Two years ago, the city paid $32,000. This year we paid $30,000. I bumped it down to $35,000 (in new budget). If they have a lot of fires, we'll have to amend the budget," said Jackson.

The budget does include a 1.5% pay raise for all city employees including salaried personnel and those on the police department's step increase plan.

The proposed budget for the water and sewer fund shows a deficit by the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year but that is expected to change when its known what the new water rate will be for the DeKalb Utility District in January, according to Jackson. "Water and sewer, we didn't project as much increases in revenues. We're at a (projected) loss of about $58,000 to $59,000. If you have an actual loss for two years in a row, the state makes you raise your rates to make you be profitable so we want to avoid that if possible. The big question will be what will the DUD rate be when their contract runs out?," she said. "January 1 we will be looking at having to come up with a number. We may end up, depending on where the DUD rate goes and how other costs go, that we can be profitable in 2014. My hope and goal is that we're not in the red and that we don't have to be forced to change rates," said Jackson.

The aldermen are expected to adopt on first reading Monday night, June 3 a new budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Two proposed budgets will be presented for consideration, one with a firefighter position included, and another without. Three votes are required for passage. The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. at city hall. WJLE plans LIVE coverage.

TDOT to Close Hurricane Bridge to All Traffic Friday Night

May 30, 2013

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) contract crews will close the Hurricane Bridge on SR 56 over the Caney Fork River in DeKalb County to all traffic on Friday, May 31 beginning at 8:00 p.m. for approximately 20 hours. The closure is necessary to allow the contractor to perform structural work (replacing a bearing pin on the bridge pier) that cannot be done with traffic driving on the bridge.

The work is weather dependent. Should inclement weather or unforeseen circumstances prevent this work from occurring as scheduled, it will be rescheduled to take place as soon as possible.

During the closure, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and flaggers will be present to assist with traffic control. Message boards will be in place to notify drivers of the closure. While the bridge is closed, all traffic will be redirected to the currently posted truck detour that utilizes I-40 at Exit 254 to SR 53. The bridge should be reopened to normal one-lane signal-controlled traffic by 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, 2013. The current weight postings of 10 tons for two-axle vehicles and 18 tons for vehicles with three or more axles will continue to remain in effect and will be strictly enforced.

The work is part of a $26.9 million rehabilitation project which is scheduled to be complete in October 2013.

Six Persons Seek John Green's Unexpired Term on County Commission

May 30, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page

Six people from the fifth district have applied to fill the unexpired term of John Green on the county commission.

Those hoping to succeed Green on the commission are James Young, Anita Puckett, Hunter Hendrixson, Steven Cantrell, Eugene LaFever, and Rick Cantrell.

County Commissioners are expected to interview the applicants soon and then name one of them to serve out Green's term which runs through August 31, 2014.

Green turned in his resignation letter to County Mayor Mike Foster on Monday, April 8 stating that he had moved his permanent residence to White County.

The county recently advertised seeking applications from persons in the fifth district interested in filling the unexpired term. The deadline for submitting applications was Tuesday, May 28.

Green had served on the county commission for eleven years. He was first elected in 2002 and then re-elected in 2006 and 2010.

Liberty and DeKalb County Mourn the Passing of Mayor Edward Hale

May 29, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Edward Hale

The Town of Liberty is mourning the loss of their beloved mayor.

95 year old J. Edward Hale, Jr. died Wednesday at DeKalb Community Hospital. The funeral will be Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Salem Baptist Church. Dr. Bill Northcott will officiate and burial will be in Salem Cemetery. Visitation will be Friday from 1:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Love-Cantrell Funeral Home and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until the service at 2:00 p.m. at Salem Baptist Church in Liberty.

In forty two years, Mayor Hale never lost an election, having first been elected mayor in 1971. In most of those years, he didn't even have an opponent in an election. Until his death, Mayor Hale held the distinction of being the current longest serving elected public official in DeKalb County. But rather than seek another term in the August election, Mayor Hale told WJLE earlier this month that he would not be a candidate this year.

WJLE interviewed Mayor Hale on April 4, 2013 for a feature story on his life and career that was aired on WJLE and posted on our website on April 16. You may click the following link to read the article

http://www.wjle.com/news/2013/liberty-mayor-j-edward-hale-legacy-public-....

Mr. Hale was preceded in death by his parents, John Edward Hale and Sadie Hale and two brothers, Dr. Jerre Hale and James Hale.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Gloria Hale of Liberty. Two sons, Tom Hale of Kentucky and Jamie and wife Carol Hale of Liberty. One daughter, Sally and husband Randy Baskin of Mount Juliet. Four grandchildren, Jacob Hale of Liberty, Leah Schitter of California, Anna Baskin of Mount Juliet, and Jonathan Baskin of Mount Juliet. Two great grandchildren, Lucas Hale and Livy Schitter. One sister, Betty and husband Harry Henderson of Martin, Tennessee. Five sisters-in-law, Betty Hale of Smithville, Mary Herbert of Nashville, Judy Sandlin of Alexandria, Jo Hobson and Barbara Hobson of Nashville. Several nieces and nephews survive along with a large loving church family.

Love-Cantrell Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. In addition to flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to Salem Baptist Church or Cemetery.

Power Outage Wednesday Morning Affects Customers of Caney Fork and Smithville Electric System

May 29, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page

All customers of Smithville Electric System and a large service area of Caney Fork Electric Cooperative in DeKalb County were without power for about an hour Wednesday morning after a problem developed at the sub-station on West Main Street.

"We had a fault on one of our distribution meters that came through to the backup relay and that fault caused that relay to burn up and that actually caused a little fire for a short period of time there," said Michael E. Parker, manager of Smithville Electric System.

"It caused the power to be out. We were able to restore the power by isolating and bypassing the normal backup equipment. The backup relay. We've got it back going for now but we will have to do some more repairs in the future. We hope to limit any future outages to a minimum if at all," said Parker.

Sheriff Releases Annual Report from SRO Officer

May 29, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

Sheriff Patrick Ray has released the annual report of School Resource Officer Keneth Whitehead at DeKalb County High School.

In his report to Sheriff Ray, SRO Whitehead wrote that "It has been a busy year. I have made many arrests. Sometimes we tend to think the worst of our school system because of those arrests. Regardless of the numbers, I feel that the SRO Program is a great asset to the DeKalb County School System. We should not look at only the arrests and evaluate the success or failure of the program, but look at the overall results both good and bad. I have met with many students and dealt with all kinds of problems throughout this school year. I feel that due to this contact, I have helped these students deal with some problems that the school system just does not have time to deal with. I also feel that just my presence at the school does wonders for the student body. I hope that the school system and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department continues to see the importance of the SRO program and what benefits it can obtain from having it," wrote SRO Whitehead.

The end of year SRO Report is as follows:
Offense reports including follow-ups: 4
Misdemeanor Arrests: 44
Drug Arrests: 3
Assists with Patrol Division (Police, Sheriff, or other): 39
Assists with Investigation Division (Police, Sheriff, or other) :48
Assists with Warrants or Petitions: 5
Advisory Sessions with Students (School): 1,024
Advisory Sessions with Students (Family): 17
Advisory Sessions with Students (Law Enforcement): 18
Advisory Sessions with Parents: 344
Advisory Sessions with Teachers or Staff: 489
Conflict Resolution: 21
Classroom Lectures: 36
Called out from Classroom: 4
Special School events attended (Ball Games, etc.):23
Meetings attended (school or community): 9
Court Appearances: 33
Medical Assists: 2
Motorists Assists: 37
Club Meetings: 1
Others (Not Categorized): 356

TOTAL CALLS FOR SERVICE FOR THE MONTH: 2,633
Cigarette Citations: 24
Fighting: 24
Total Value of Reported Stolen Property: $326
Total Value of Recovered Stolen Property: $211
Theft Arrests: 5
Unruly:12

SRO Whitehead, at DCHS is the county's only School Resource Officer. Sheriff Ray has asked the county budget committee to include funding for four more SROs in the 2013-14 budget so that each school in the county will have one.

Early Voting Begins for Smithville Municipal Election

May 28, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Early Voting Begins for Smithville Municipal Election

Early voting begins Wednesday, May 29 for the Smithville Municipal Election.

Three aldermen are to be elected.

Voting will be May 29 through June 13 on the following days and hours:

Mondays: Noon until 5:00 p.m.
Tuesdays: 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Wednesdays: 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Fridays: 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. until Noon

Election day is Tuesday June 18. All voting will be done on the first floor of the courthouse.

Candidates for aldermen are incumbents Gayla Hendrix, Shawn Jacobs, and Danny Washer and challengers Aaron Meeks, Josh Miller, and Anthony Scott.

To further protect the integrity of the ballot, all local voters will be asked to turn off or put away their cell phones when entering the polling place.

The DeKalb County Election Commission recently adopted policies relating to activities that are prohibited inside the polling place during early voting and on election day.

“Security and privacy of the voter and the security and privacy of their votes are the overriding concerns of the Election Commission,” said Chairman Walteen Parker. “We felt it was time to update our policies, particularly in light of today’s technology.”

One policy adopted by the commission states that “upon entering the polling place, all voters are to turn off their mobile phones and/or place them securely in a belt clip, pocket or purse. Voters are strictly prohibited from talking or texting on their mobile phone while inside the voting location.”

“Not only is it a distraction, but talking or texting on a phone inside the voting location could be considered voter assistance,” said Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections. “There are laws relating to voter assistance and forms to be completed and signed by all parties involved. Someone on the other end of a telephone conversation obviously would not be here to sign the form.”

In addition, Stanley said using a cell phone could be in violation of the state’s “Campaign Free Zone” law.

“Voters using cell phones inside the polling place only raises unnecessary questions,” Stanley continued. “Who is the voter talking to? Are they talking to their spouse about what to pick up at the store on the way home or to a candidate about who to vote for? The later would be a violation of the Campaign Free Zone. ”

Another policy adopted by the Commission relates to actions inside the actual voting booth. The policy states it is “strictly prohibited to photograph, video or by any other method, record a voter’s actual ballot whether on a voting machine or a paper ballot.”

“These two measures go hand-in-hand and are designed to eliminate the possibility of a voter voting, taking a picture of their marked ballot, casting the ballot, then publishing the picture of their marked ballot to the public,” Stanley said.

“The Election Commission has a compelling interest in protecting voters from confusion and undue influence,” Parker added. “We feel like these measures address those issues and we think the public will agree.”

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