Local News Articles

Petition Drive Seeks City Referendum on Allowing Liquor Sales in Restaurants

April 4, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Petition Drive Seeks Referendum on Liquor Sales in Smithville Restaurants

A local businessman has started a petition drive calling for a public referendum in the Smithville Municipal Election June 19 to allow the licensed sales of alcoholic beverages including liquor in city restaurants.

The petition, circulated by Randy Paris, seeks to "authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in the City of Smithville". Only 90 valid signatures are needed to get the referendum on the June 19 city election ballot.

The petition states "we, the registered voters of the City of Smithville, do hereby request the holding of a local option election to authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in the City of Smithville as provided by law".

Paris, in a telephone interview with WJLE Wednesday, said this is a way to boost the local economy and bring in more tax revenue. "We're a tourist town. We have a ton of people who come from Nashville, Murfreesboro, Lebanon, and other places to use our lake and this is a way to capture some of this outside money. When I had the boat dealership (Smithville Marine), the majority of my business and the sales tax that I collected was from out of town like Nashville, Brentwood and Murfreesboro who use the lake. This is a great opportunity to generate some revenue. There's so much money being left on the table. It'll help the development of the town as a whole," said Paris.

"This would allow a restaurant to serve wine or beer with your meal," said Paris. That opens up the door for other businesses to locate in this town. The city can use that (tax) money for a lot of good things," he said.

While the move is certain to generate opposition, Paris said he expects to receive more than enough signatures on the petition to get the measure on the city ballot June 19. "There is a whole lot of support," he said.

Paris owns a laundry mat and car wash, and he rents out several commercial properties in the area. His wife also operates a local business.

Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections said that "State law allows individuals to submit a properly worded petition calling for such a referendum. In this case, the referendum is for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises within the Smithville City Limits."

Under the law, Stanley said such a petition must be presented to the election commission office no later than 45 days before the Smithville Municipal Election, which is set for June 19.

"Based on TCA 57-3-196(C), the petition must be signed by 10% or more of the registered voters voting for Governor in the last election in the city," Stanley said. "There were 891 registered Smithville voters who voted in the November, 2010 election, thus the petition will only require 90 valid signatures."

If the petition is returned by the deadline and includes the required number of signatures by registered voters in Smithville, the issue will be placed on the June 19 ballot.

TCA 57-3-101 (A) states that "alcoholic beverage means and includes alcohol, spirits, liquor, wine, high alcohol content beer, and every liquid containing alcohol, spirits, wine and high alcohol content beer and capable of being consumed by a human being, other than patent medicine or beer, as defined in 57-5-101 (b).

The City of Smithville has a beer board that issues permits to eligible applicants for the sale of beer within the city limits. But the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission would apparently have the sole authority over the issuance of liquor licenses for consumption on the premises.

Fire Chief Says City Still in Running for FEMA SAFER GRANT

April 4, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Fire Department has not yet heard from its application for a FEMA SAFER grant for hiring of full time firefighters.

While Mayor Taft Hendrixson believes Chief Charlie Parker filed for the wrong grant and has no chance of it being approved, Parker said Monday night, the city is still in the running. "Mayor Hendrixson had been advised from Congressman Black's office and sources in Washington that we had applied for the wrong grant completely," said Chief Parker. "That was not my understanding but I didn't have the paperwork with me at the last meeting. On page three of the guide under the eligibility requirements it says volunteer fire departments may apply for funding in the following categories: #1 is "Hiring of Firefighters Category (hiring career firefighters)". The second category is the "Recruitment and Retention of Volunteer Firefighters". You can apply for both if you do two applications. As I stated at the last meeting, I was really under the gun trying to do this and I barely did get the one in that I chose to. On the last page of that guide, it also has the "Specific funding parameters". It says that "10% of the grant monies is set aside for grants awarded to volunteer or mostly volunteer departments for hiring of firefighters." So in my thinking, that means they're setting 10% money back to hire new hires for volunteer departments. That's the reason why I decided to go for the grant that we did. The mayor has said we had no chance. We may get turned down tomorrow. I don't know. But as of 6:00 p.m. this evening (Monday) we've still not received any turn down notice or denial of the grant. To my knowledge we're still in the running," he said.

Chief Parker said the grant would fund up to three positions. "What I have proposed in this grant is for an administrative person and two forty hour per week positions. We'd have an administrator to take care of some of the paperwork and then we would have two people here on a forty hour per week job. That's basically forty hours per week during the day. We're extremely short during the daytime hours. Most of these guys and gals work at the factories and its getting to where they can't leave(work) anymore. Its hard on the factories to let some of them out because they have production they have to meet so unless its something extremely important, its hard for them to leave. Most of the maintenance has to be done during the daytime. So if we can get two people on a forty hour per week job we can take care of some of the maintenance and testing. Right now, if we need supplies, bulbs, things like this, somebody has got to take off during the day and go to the parts store or go to the shed. We need somebody to do that during the daytime. There's a lot of little things that eats up time that really nobody thinks about. We've got to do something. If we can get a two year period where we can prove ourselves (with paid firefighters) we may be able to lower our ISO ratings. I've talked to our ISO representative. If we added some people, even on a forty hour a week basis, it would go toward our ISO total scores to help us lower that, which would in turn lower insurance rates for everybody. There's several people in the city that may never need a fire truck. But when you need one, you want one then and you expect it then. There are a lot of people who don't have need of our services. That's great. But most everybody does pay insurance and if we can help lower the insurance rates for your home or business that's a benefit year after year. We're striving for better fire protection for the city of Smithville. We've got to find that niche that we can afford. I feel the people of Smithville need good fire protection. I think they deserve it. When industry comes to town, they look at these things. When they decide to relocate, they look at fire protection. They look at insurance classifications. They look at several things when they come in so we want to do our part to try and make it appealing to industry to relocate here too," said Chief Parker.

Grand Jury Indicts Cookeville Man in Alexandria Kidnapping Case

April 3, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Courtney D. Barrett

A Cookeville man was indicted by the DeKalb County Grand Jury Monday on charges of kidnapping and assaulting his uncle and a woman at a residence on Avant Circle in Alexandria last November.

23 year old Courtney D. Barrett faces two counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault. The case was investigated by Sergeant Chris Russell of the Alexandria Police Department.

Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins told WJLE that on Tuesday, November 1 Barrett allegedly kidnapped Glenda Hutchinson at 127 Avant Circle by forcing his way into the residence, holding her at gunpoint and threatening to kill her. He allegedly forced her into the bathroom and told her not to move until he left.

While in the home, Barrett is also accused of kidnapping his uncle Roger Barrett at gunpoint, hitting him with his fist and the gun, causing serious bodily injuries. He was forced into the bathroom where he stayed until Courtney Barrett left. Roger Barrett was later taken to the emergency room of DeKalb Community Hospital for treatment.

A county deputy backed up Sergeant Russell at the scene.

Barrett was among forty four people indicted by the grand jury this week including one named in a sealed indictment. All those indicted will be arraigned in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Monday, April 9 at 9:00 a.m.

Others indicted and their charges are as follows:

Tommy Parsley- Reckless endangerment, evading arrest (2 counts), and a 6th offense of driving on a suspended license

Jefry Vincent Overall- Leaving the scene of an accident

Mistey Dawn Barnes- Possession of a schedule II for Resale, driving under the influence, possession of paraphernalia, and a second offense of driving on a revoked license

James Robert Fuson- driving under the influence

Travis Joe Davenport- Possession of a schedule VI controlled substance for resale and possession of paraphernalia, driving on a suspended license

Kenny W. Dyal, Jr.- Theft over $1,000

Justin A. Cantrell- Initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine

Lonnie Wheeler- Driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law

Brandon Matthew Byford- Falsifying a drug test, disorderly conduct, theft under $500 (2 counts), criminal trespassing, filing a false report, carrying a prohibited weapon, and resisting arrest

Fred Thomas Dowell, Jr.- False report, driving on a revoked license, leaving the scene of an accident, a fourth offense of driving on a revoked license, possession of a schedule II controlled substance, and possession of paraphernalia, possession of a weapon by a felon

Jeffery L. Sanders- Vandalism over $1,000; Vandalism over $500; escape; theft over $500, resisting arrest, tampering with evidence, possession of a schedule II and IV controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia, and disorderly conduct, theft under $500

Jeffery L. Sanders and Billy Crook- Theft over $1,000 and filing a false report

Joshua Lynne Batey- Forged prescription and theft over $1,000 (2 counts)

Ernest Bane- Driving on a revoked license, aggravated assault

Art Dawson- Domestic assault, aggravated burglary, and aggravated assault

Elsie M. Judkins- Aggravated burglary and theft over $1,000.

Michael Brandon Colwell- Attempted burglary, burglary (2 counts), theft under $500 (5 counts), auto burglary (4 counts), theft over $500 (2 counts) vandalism over $1,000, carrying a prohibited weapon, resisting arrest

Scotty W. Knowles- Driving on a suspended license, failure to appear, and possession of paraphernalia

Donna Overall Blankenship- Theft under $500

Josh L. Tate- Theft under $500

Joshua L. Jones- Burglary and theft over $1,000

Joshua L. Jones and Daniel Lee Taylor- Theft over $1,000

Lynn Jones- Initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia

Shannon Newby- Aggravated burglary (3 counts) and theft over $1,000 (3 counts), burglary (2 counts), theft under $500, theft over $1,000 (3 counts), theft over $500

Joshua J. Bain- a second offense of driving under the influence, driving on revoked license, and reckless driving

Clayton Bradley Lance- Violation of the habitual motor offender order, a second offense of driving under the influence, and possession of a schedule III controlled substance

Hani Mohamad Ittayem- Reckless endangerment and evading arrest with a motor vehicle

William H. Bogle, Jr.- Hindering a secured creditor; Fraudulent transfer of a vehicle

Johnny Lynn Devault- Hindering a secured creditor

Latasha N. Cantrell- Possession of paraphernalia (2 counts), initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine.

Lisa Porterfield-Theft over $1,000

Teresa Thomas- Possession of a schedule III controlled substance with intent to sell and deliver ( 2 counts), possession of a schedule VI controlled substance with intent to sell and deliver; sale and delivery of a schedule VI controlled substance, and possession of paraphernalia

Shane N. Miller- Theft under $500 (3 counts)

Nena Renea Chapman- Aggravated burglary and theft over $500

Michael Stewart Brown- Possession of a schedule V controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia

David Dixon- Possession of a schedule VI controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia, and public intoxication

Stephen Pugh- a second offense of driving under the influence, possession of a schedule VI controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia, and driving on a revoked license.

Ricky Allen Ashford, Jr.- Theft over $1,000 and contributing to the delinquency of a minor

Courtney D. Barrett- Aggravated kidnaping (2 counts) and aggravated assault (2 counts)

Jeremy Shelton and Jennifer Johnson- Aggravated burglary and theft over $1,000

Timothy L. Caldwell- Driving under the influence

Joe Anthony Young- Driving under the influence (2 counts) and leaving the scene of an accident, theft over $500.

City to Seek Bids to Purchase Ladder Truck for Fire Department

April 2, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
City Fire Department Seeks Aerial Ladder Truck similar to vehicle shown here

The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department may soon get an aerial ladder truck.

On a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Smithville City Council Monday night approved a motion offered by Alderman Shawn Jacobs to advertise for bids for a new or demonstration ladder truck and to fund it under a lease purchase plan.

Alderman Jacobs made the motion after reading a letter addressed to him from the wife of one of the city volunteer fire fighters. In the letter, Lori Poss, wife of John Poss made a plea for a ladder truck and for paid firefighters "It's the job that they train for hours on end because they care about our city and the people in it. This is why I have no problem asking our mayor, city aldermen, those running for these offices, and the citizens of Smithville to consider a full time department and a ladder truck. We do not ask our police officers to go into a domestic without a gun, nor do we ask our EMS to work a wreck without an ambulance. So why would we ask our firefighters to go to a building fully engulfed without the proper equipment and gear? We do not ask our other emergency services to be volunteers. So why should we expect our firefighters to volunteer their services when it is such a dangerous job?," she wrote.

In making the motion, Alderman Jacobs said "given the facts detailed in this letter, reaction from the recent fire department ladder truck informational meeting, and comments from numerous other city residents, I make the following motion. That the city immediately advertise for bids for a new or demonstration ladder truck meeting the specifications enumerated by Chief Parker and that said ladder truck be paid for under a lease purchase plan or financial arrangement as determined by this board as the plan most beneficial to the city. Since the city has more than the anticipated cost of the ladder truck in its financial reserves, this should result in no tax increase," said Alderman Jacobs.

This action comes almost three weeks after members of the fire department unveiled their recommendation for purchasing a 75 foot ladder truck during a public forum at city hall.

During that forum, Chief Charlie Parker said the department is suggesting that the mayor and aldermen include funds in the budget to make a down payment and enter into a five year lease purchase agreement. "Our recommendation is a 75 foot ladder truck with a 1,750 gallon a minute pump which gives us a 1,500 gallon a minute water way. It also has a 300 gallon tank and it carries hose and other equipment so we can use it as a first line engine also. We can count it as an engine and a ladder truck.. Our recommendation is to put a down payment down and do a lease purchase. We're looking at a five year lease purchase. This is a year to year lease. Once you make a substantial deposit, it is on a year to year lease. We think the lease purchase is probably the best way to keep some money in the bank and still accomplish what we need," said Chief Parker.

Asked about the price of such a truck, Chief Parker said the costs vary but the price on the demo truck that the department tested recently was around $680,000.

The city fire department would have a total of three trucks in the fleet with the addition of a ladder truck including a 2001 and a 1992 model.

Earlier in the meeting last night (Monday), concerned citizen Faye Sandosky suggested that the aldermen investigate further the need for a ladder truck as well as paid firefighters and then let those decisions be made in a public referendum. "Before buying a ladder truck, I think we need to know how many ladder truck necessary fires we have per year. We also need to define what we do with the two trucks we now own. Maybe if we have fewer than ten structure fires per year on average, maybe we don't need a full time force waiting at the station. I'm not clear on exactly what they would be doing. We, the citizens and taxpayers need to know how these initiatives separately or together affect the current tax base. So I think before the board starts serious deliberations about if and how to spend the citizens reserve funds, we need more facts based on what we have to have, not what we would like to have. I do want to be clear that our firemen certainly sacrifice a lot along with their families to keep us safe and I appreciate everything that they do. I thank them for everything they do. Finally, I just might add that an appropriate response to these two high ticketed initiatives might be a public referendum," said Sandosky.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson was absent Monday night due to an illness. Alderman Steve White, who serves as Vice Mayor, presided over the meeting.

Arrest Made in Liberty Home Burglary

April 2, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Justin Larry Thomas
Desiree Snyder
Nola Jean Farmer
Domingo Lopez Gomez

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has made an arrest in a recent home burglary and theft in Liberty.

25 year old Justin Larry Thomas of Old Alexandria Road, Watertown is charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $1,000. He was arrested on Tuesday, March 27. His bond is $10,000 and he will be in court on April 19

Sheriff Patrick Ray reports that on Tuesday March 20, Thomas allegedly broke into a residence on Choctaw Ridge Road, Liberty by going through a basement door with the intent to commit a felony. While there, Thomas allegedly took four gold rings valued at more than $1,000.

27 year old Desiree Snyder is charged with promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine and two counts of prescription fraud. She was arrested on Tuesday, March 27. Her bond is $20,000 and she will be in court on April 5.

Sheriff Ray reports that on Sunday, March 25 at the Snyder residence on Barnes Mill Road, she admitted to purchasing pseudoephedrine for people she knew was manufacturing methamphetamine. She allegedly bought pseudoephedrine on February 14th, 27th, 28th, March 13th & 19th. She was blocked on March 5th & 14th from buying any more pseudoephedrine because she had already bought her limit.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Ray reports that on Tuesday, March 6 Snyder allegedly obtained from a local pharmacy Claritin D by a fraudulent prescription. A doctor's name was on the prescription but he made a statement to drug detectives that he did not authorize any medication at any pharmacy for Snyder. The doctor said Snyder had not been in his office since November 12, 2009.

Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, March 19 Snyder allegedly obtained Claritin D at another local pharmacy by a fraudulent prescription. A doctor's D.E.A. number was given to obtain the prescription. The doctor, a different physician than in the March 6th case, said he did not authorize the prescription and that the last time he saw Snyder was in October, 2011.

32 year old Jamie Edward Carroll of Gentry Avenue, Smithville is charged with a fifth offense of driving on a revoked license. Carroll was also issued a citation for violation of the light law. Carroll was arrested on Tuesday, March 27. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court April 26.

Sheriff Ray reports that on March 27 Carroll was stopped by an officer for a light law violation on Highway 56. He had an ID only. A computer check revealed that his drivers license were revoked. Other offenses against him were on February 3, 2009 and February 28, 2008 in DeKalb County and January 16, 2007 and February 5, 2002 in Cannon County.

22 year old David Braxton White of Hurricane Ridge Road, Smithville was issued a citation on Wednesday, March 28 for failure to maintain his lane of travel and possession of drug paraphernalia. He will be in court on April 12. Sheriff Ray said that White's automobile was pulled over by an officer on the Cookeville Highway for failing to maintain his lane of travel. The vehicle was searched and a pipe was found, believed to be used to smoke marijuana.

53 year old Lola Dean Minton of Kendra Drive, Smithville is charged with public intoxication. Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court April 5. Sheriff Ray reports that on Thursday, March 29 Minton came to court under the influence. The judge ordered her to be placed in custody. She was brought to the DeKalb County jail and charged with public intoxication. She had an odor of alcohol on her person and she had trouble keeping her balance.

53 year old Nola Jean Farmer is charged with a fourth offense of driving under the influence and a second offense of driving on a revoked license. Her car was also seized. Farmer's bond is $7,000 and she will be in court April 5. Farmer was arrested on Friday, March 30

Sheriff Ray reports that on March 29, Farmer was operating a vehicle on Highway 146 when she became involved in a crash. She had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on her person and she was very unsteady on her feet. Farmer was unable to perform field sobriety tasks and she was transported to the hospital for a blood alcohol test. Other offenses against her were on October 26, 2004, July 25, 2002, and April 8th, 1997 in Putnam County. A computer check revealed that her drivers license were revoked for DUI.

21 year old Domingo Lopez Gomez of White Street, Smithville is charged with driving under the influence. Gomez was also issued a citation for violation of the implied consent law, violation of the financial responsibility and registration law, and no drivers license. He will be in court April 26. His bond is $2,500. He is being held for the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) because he is believed to be an illegal immigrant.

According to Sheriff Ray, Gomez was operating a vehicle April 1 on Highway 56 when he became involved in a crash. He had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person. Gomez admitted to drinking ten beers. He was unable to perform field sobriety tasks because of a language barrier. Gomez was unsteady on his feet and he refused to submit to a blood test.

Kitchen Fire Causes Damage to Home on Possum Hollow Road

April 2, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Anna Bell Elrod Home on Possum Hollow Road (Photo by Callie Matthews)

A kitchen fire Sunday evening caused some damage at the home of Anna Bell Elrod at 720 Possum Hollow Road.

Firefighters were notified at 6:24 p.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said a neighbor, who had just come home from church, spotted smoke coming from the Elrod house and called 911 to report it.

When firefighters arrived, Chief Green said they saw heavy smoke coming from the back of the home. They made entry through a back door into the kitchen. The fire apparently started from a stove eye, which had been left on. The blaze had spread up the wall behind the stove into the attic. The fire was contained to the kitchen area but heat and smoke spread into other parts of the house.

No one was at home at the time of the fire.

Chief Green said that Elrod had left home around 3:30 p.m. after preparing some food for her husband, who is in the nursing home in Smithville. She had left to take the food to him and apparently left the stove eye on.

Members of the Liberty, Main Station, and Short Mountain Highway Departments of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the tanker truck, DeKalb EMS, and the Sheriff's Department.

BQA Class To Be Held At UT Extension Office

April 2, 2012
by: 
Michael Barry
Michael Barry

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a national program that provides guidelines for beef cattle production. The program raises consumer confidence through offering proper management techniques and a commitment to quality within every segment of the beef industry.

BQA certification in Tennessee is good for a two year period. If your certification has expired or if you have never been certified, County Extension Director Michael Barry will be offering some BQA certification classes at the UT Extension office in Smithville. The class lasts about an hour. The BQA fees are $15 if you are a member of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association. However, if you are not a member of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, the cost is $30. And there is only one discounted BQA per TCA membership.

In addition to learning practices which are designed to help improve individual operations, increase profits and raise the overall quality of livestock and management practices in the state, BQA certification is also required to participate in the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Ag Enhancement programs.

Producers have embraced BQA because it is the right thing to do; but they have also gained through increased profitability. As an educating program, BQA helps producers identify management processes that can be improved.
BQA classes will be offered on Tuesday, April 10 at 6:00 p.m. and on Wednesday, April 11 at 1:00 p.m. The classes will be at the new UT Extension office location at 722 South Congress Boulevard, across the road from Food Lion. If you would like to register to attend one of the classes or have any questions, give me a call at the Extension office at 597-4945.

Annual Celebration of Spring at Edgar Evins State Park set for April 14

April 1, 2012
Celebration of Spring
Edgar Evins State Park Celebration of Spring

The Annual Celebration of Spring will be Saturday, April 14th at Edgar Evins State Park, Silver Point, between Smithville and Cookeville on Center Hill Lake.

This year it will also commemorate the 75th Birthday of Tennessee State Parks. It will be a FREE day of outdoor recreation and entertainment for families and individuals, sponsored by the Friends of Edgar Evins State Park and park employees.

The day's activities will begin at 8 a.m. at the Visitors Center with registration for all and sign-ups for the events that have a maximum number of participants. The activities that have limits are the popular nature hikes led by State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath, Park Ranger Mark Taylor, and Holly Taylor as well as the approximately hour long pontoon boat rides for adults and children over 3 years accompanied by an adult.

Other events will include kite flying, face painting, 3-legged and sack races, living history demonstrations, and Ssssnakes! Ranger Ramble Raccoon, the Tennessee State Parks Mascot, will be on-hand for picture opportunities and to take part in the festivities.

Boy Scouts of Troop 875 will show how to cook in a Dutch Oven over a camp fire. Girl Scouts of Troop 1147 will assist anyone interested in making honeysuckle baskets or cornshuck dolls at the crafting workshop.

Many offerings will overlap so there will be something going on most of the day for various ages and interests. In addition there are approximately 11 miles of trails waiting to be hiked by those who prefer to explore on their own.
Live on-stage performances beginning at 8:30 a.m. will include a welcome address by James Westerfield of Murfreesboro as James Edgar Evins for whom the park was named, Minnie Pearl impersonator and country/pop singer, Patricia Jackson from Nashville, the Cannon Arts Dance Studio with Lori Christensen ("Ms. California" ) of Woodbury as Mother Nature, and the popular Flat Broke Blue Grass Band.

During the stage show there will be random Tennessee State Parks Trivia questions and prizes for correct answers. Other prizes will be awarded for the most nearly correct estimate of the candies in a jar and for winners of the races.
Participants are encouraged to pack a picnic or sack lunch and plan to stay for a fun day in the park. Those who wish to make it an overnight or weekend outing may phone the park office (1-800-250-8619 or 931-858-2114) to inquire about camping and cabins.

The website for the Friends of Edgar Evins State Park may be visited at http://foeesp.ne1.net

Election Commission Makes Plea for More Operational Space

March 31, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

Almost eight months after four of the public officials re-located to the new county administrative building on South Congress Boulevard in an effort to free up space at the courthouse, the election commission remains in cramped quarters.

Last Monday night, Election Commission Chairman Walteen Parker, Secretary Harry Lasser, and Administrator Dennis Stanley addressed the county commission requesting more storage and operational space.

The election commission operates out of two small offices on the first floor of the courthouse. Supplies and materials are kept stored in closets, hallway filing cabinets, under tables, and other nooks and crannies on the first floor.

"We were hoping we would be allowed to have more square footage and more room with the transition to the complex but it never materialized," said Chairman Parker. "Space is needed to accommodate voters, candidates, and citizens who come to our office to conduct business. That is business which is confidential or needs to be a private discussion. Much to our chagrin though we often have to discuss private information, inquiries, and matters openly and we always lack the accommodations and conveniences that our handicapped and elderly citizens and voters deserve just to complete forms. We just don't have the space. Election night is always a cramped and crowded situation. We have six to eight people in a room trying to do our job. Its just extremely overcrowded. We make this request, for more operational space," she said.

Lasser, one of two Democrats on the commission, also appealed to the County Mayor and County Commission for help. "We hold commission meetings in the back corner space (of an office). There are seven people packed in there with desks and filing cabinets. I get to sit between the door and the filing cabinets. It is not an exaggeration that Mr. (Kenneth) Moore and I have to take turns crossing our legs, otherwise we'd be playing footsie. I got to see my first countywide election on March 6 and it was chaotic. Every chair was occupied by a commissioner or by someone who was coming to vote. The election workers were in and out with folks who had questions. The phones were ringing constantly. Voters wandered in there wondering where they were supposed to vote. Chaos is the most appropriate word I can think of to describe what election day was like. When you walk into those offices, there are voter registration cards setting on desks. Those voter registration cards have names, addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers. A person could very easily walk into that office and grab a handful of voter registration cards. We're the only office that I'm aware that doesn't have some form of counter or barrier to keep visitors from sensitive information," he said.

County Mayor Foster said more storage space could be made available at the new county complex. "I think we all agree with your problem," said Foster. I think we have talked about doing some space. I went with Dennis out to the new building about storing all the things you need to store out there as soon as we can get two or three things done here. We've not even moved out of where I was into our office. We're still in that process. I told Dennis we could start moving anything he wants to move out there in the way of storage. We also told Dennis that you can use the conference room upstairs (for election commission meetings) which is a much better place for you to meet. That should create a lot more room for you and be a bigger help," said Foster.

Stanley said there is also a need for more space to conduct daily operations. "There are two issues here. One is a storage issue and the other is an operational issue. Really they are separate. On the storage issue, Mike (Foster) and I have talked and we have resolved most of that. I am not sure we need to move those (election) machines over there (new complex) and we'll talk about that. But a lot of the other stuff we can move over there and it'll be done. It'll be out of the way," said Stanley.

"On the operational issue, we need at least one more office so we can open up the other two (offices) and make some counter space for people to register to vote and have some privacy. At least a bar separating those people from our actual work. We've got stuff in the hall. We've got stuff in closets We've got stuff everywhere. It really needs to be organized," he said.

"If we have more operational space, it will in the end give us more storage space as well," said Stanley. "The only issue as far as storage inside the courthouse is simply voting machines and the printers. We really need some help. We've got a city election in June. Its not very large. But we've got a county wide election in August and November and if those two are any worse than what we had in March as far as activity in our office, its going to be a nightmare," said Stanley.

"Privacy was a major issue (in the March primary). One office was full of election commissioners or an inspector. I was in the other office where the machine technicians were. I had a phone call from the state coordinator's office that really needed to be private. There's no privacy at all. It is a major problem. Its rather embarrassing to me for someone to walk in and say I want to register to vote and I have to move a chair or have them move a chair and then I have to move stuff off of a desk so they can sit down and fill out a form. There is no counter there at all. Anything you can do to help us, we would certainly appreciate it and the sooner the better," said Stanley.

Other than County Mayor Foster, no county commissioner had anything to say about the problem and they moved on to other business.

While it was not mentioned publically Monday night, some election commissioners are reportedly upset that the county commission or mayor never asked them if they needed more space when the plans were being made about who was moving (to the new complex) and how office space was going to be designated. It has also been pointed out that almost every office that was moved from the courthouse has been replaced with an entity or organization that was not in the courthouse originally.

Last October, the county commission authorized the assignment of that courthouse space to others. Since then the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who had an office in the old Veteran's Building, moved into the courthouse where the Trustee's office had been. The Chamber of Commerce, in an effort to save expense, relocated from its office on the public square to the courthouse where the Register of Deeds had been. County Mayor Foster has moved his office across the hall to where the County Clerk office had been. Others are using some of the available courthouse space as well.

During that meeting in October, seventh district member Jimmy Poss came to the aid of the election commission strongly advising that the county take care of all those in the courthouse needing space before assigning all of the available courthouse space to others. Poss said the election commission is in dire need of extra space."I think we should take care of the ones in the courthouse first before we start giving rooms out," said Poss.

DeKalb Jobless Rate at 8.4% in February

March 30, 2012

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for February was at 8.4%, down from the revised rate for January of 8.6%, and down from 10.1% in February, 2011

The local labor force for January was at 9,800. A total of 8,970 were employed and 830 were without work.

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for February was the fourth lowest among the fourteen counties of the Upper Cumberland region as follows:

Pickett County- 15.9%
Van Buren- 11.9%
White- 11.1%
Clay- 11%
Jackson- 10.7%
Cumberland- 10.4%
Warren-9.8%
Overton- 9.7%
Fentress- 9.5%
Smith- 8.9%
DeKalb-8.4%
Macon- 8.1%
Cannon- 7.8%
Putnam-7.5%

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for February 2012, released today, show the rate decreased in 75 counties, increased in 10 counties, and remained the same in 10 counties.

Tennessee's unemployment rate for February fell to 8.0 percent, down from the January revised rate of 8.2 percent. The national unemployment rate for February 2012 was 8.3 percent, unchanged from the January rate.

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.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 6.1 percent, down from 6.2 percent in January. Davidson County was 7.0 percent, down from 7.1 percent in the previous month. Hamilton County was 7.7 percent, down from 7.9 percent, and Shelby County was 9.2 percent, down from the January unemployment rate of 9.4 percent.

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