Local News Articles

Willoughby to Sign New Contract with Board of Education

June 28, 2008
Dwayne Page

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby has agreed to terms of a new employment contract with the Board of Education.

The board adopted the agreement Friday night during a special session. The new contract takes effect July 1, 2008 and expires June 30th, 2011.

Willoughby's original contract with the board took effect July 1st, 2006 and was scheduled to expire June 30th, 2009. Even though Willoughby still had a year left on his original contract, the board decided to make a new agreement with Willoughby.

Terms and conditions are basically the same as in the original agreement.

In this contract, "the Board shall pay the Director an annual compensation of $87, 348 in twelve equal installments in accordance with Board policy and any additional State or Local increases. The Board shall evaluate the Director annually and shall review the Director's salary annually. The Board shall increase the salary of the Director during the term of his Contract each time an annual evaluation reflects that the Director has exceeded the expectations of the Board as follows: for the second year (2009-2010) a three percent increase; and for the third year (2010-2011) a three percent increase."

Under the original agreement, the school system funded Willoughby's total family health insurance package, a benefit of $13,793 per year.

Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins III explained that in the new contract, Willoughby will pay an employee match for the coverage. The school system will initially pay Willoughby's matching share for coverage of $5,103 per year, but Willoughby will then pay back $425.30 per month for his part. The state portion is $517.26 per month and $206.90 locally. Officials say this arrangement is not really an increase in salary or benefits for Willoughby except for retirement and tax purposes. "There was a misunderstanding about his medical insurance. We put $5,000 in there. That's Mr. Willoughby's matching portion for his medical insurance just as every teacher has a matching portion that they pay. That $5,000 amount was put into Mr. Willoughby's salary but in return for that, Mr. Willoughby will reimburse the school system that money on a monthly basis. So there's no increase in revenues for Mr. Willoughby. That's just put in their for specific reasons. That is not considered a pay raise because he does reimburse the board of education for that. That's the only change that has been made. Otherwise, this is the same contract as before. It's just a renewal and it's a three year contract. There was one year left on his old contract. It's not an extension of the contract. It's a renewal because of this one change (insurance). So there's two years that's been added to a one year contract. What you have before you is a three year contract."

The vote was 5 to 0 for approval. All members were present except Kenny Rhody and Linda Fuston.

Governor Bredesen Announces Grant for Smithville Municipal Airport

June 27, 2008

Governor Phil Bredesen announced today that $75,000 in aeronautics grant funds have been approved for the Smithville Municipal Airport.

“As our communities continue to grow and thrive, it becomes increasingly important that our airports stay competitive and efficient at meeting the needs of the travelers who use them,” said Bredesen. “The Smithville Municipal Airport is vital to this region’s economy and travel system, and I’m pleased to support its continued growth.”

Funds from this aeronautics grant will be used for installation of a fuel farm.

“It’s important to keep our airports up to date in order to remain competitive in the aeronautics industry,” said Representative Frank Buck. “I’m pleased to see the Governor and TDOT pledging these funds for improvements at the Smithville Municipal Airport.”

The grants are made available through the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Division.

“This division administers federal and state funding to assist in the location, design, construction and maintenance of Tennessee's diverse public aviation system,” reported TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “We are pleased to be able to provide millions of dollars each year for the betterment of our airports through our grant programs.”

Except for routine expenditures, grant applications are reviewed by the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission (TAC), which is a five member board charged with policy planning and with regulating changes in the state airport system plan.

TAC Chair Belinda Anderson explained, “Our board examines the applications carefully to ensure that the proper state and local matching funds are in place and that the grants will be put to good use.”

The TDOT Aeronautics Division has the responsibility of inspecting and licensing the state’s 126 heliports and 75 public/general aviation airports. The Division also provides aircraft and related services for state government and staffing for the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission.

Senator Mae Beavers also helped secure these funds for the Smithville Municipal Airport.

One Man Seriously Injured in Thursday Night Crash

June 27, 2008
Dwayne Page

One person, an Hispanic male, was seriously injured in a one vehicle crash Thursday night on Highway 70 near the high school.

The man, Baltasar Hernandez-Cruz of 1780 Old West Point, Smithville, was driving west in a 2001 Ford Explorer SUV when he crossed over all lanes, jumped a curb, went off the highway, and struck a tree in the yard of the Doston Caplinger residence at 1125 West Broad Street.

A passerby discovered the wreck and reported it around 11 p.m.

The man was airlifted from the high school/middle school parking lot and flown to Erlanger Hospital by a Life Force helicopter ambulance.

The accident was investigated by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Others on the scene included DeKalb EMS, the Smithville Police Department, and the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and extrication team.

(Click on picture to see a larger image)

DeKalb Jobless Rate Climbs to 5.6% in May

June 27, 2008
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for May was 5.6%, up from 4.9% in April and 4% in May, 2007

The local labor force for May was 10,440. A total of 9,860 were employed and 590 were unemployed.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May is at 6.4 percent, 1.0 percentage point higher than the April revised rate of 5.4 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of May was 5.5 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for May show that 94 counties increased. Trousdale County had the only decrease in unemployment, down 0.1 percentage point from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, up 0.8 from the April rate of 3.4 percent. Perry County had the state's highest at 13.1 percent, up 0.8 from the April rate of 12.3 percent, followed by Lauderdale County at 10.8 percent, up from 9.2 percent in April.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate at 4.6 percent, up 0.8 from the April rate of 3.8 percent. Davidson County was 5.0 percent, up from 4.1 in April. Hamilton County was at 5.0 percent, up 0.7 from the April rate of 4.3 percent, and Shelby County was 6.3 percent, up from the April rate of 5.5.

Leadership DeKalb's Class of 2008 Conducts Graduation

June 26, 2008

Leadership DeKalb's Class of 2008 Conducts Graduation

Leadership DeKalb celebrated the completion of its tenth class with a dinner and graduation ceremony on June 17th. The event was held at Barbara’s Cedar House Restaurant.

Members of the Class of 2008 are: Larry Briggs; Unipres USA; Michelle Burklow DeKalb Co. Board of Education; Brian Craven, SHIROKI North America/Sunbelt Realty; Chase Ferrell, DCHS student/Rotary Scholar; Michelle Fowler, Stones River/DeKalb Community Hospital; Lisa Garrison, Liberty State Bank; Tim Hintz, owner, Fresh Chairs/Off Beaten Path Studio Tour; Shawn Jacobs, WMOT-FM/MTSU; June Keith, DeKalb Community Bank; Terry McPeak, DTC/MTEMC; Kate Miller, Family Medical Center Pharmacy; Jane Ramsey, Smithville Elementary School; Tara Jane Atnip-Summers, Atnip Chiropractic Clinic; Tyler Woods, DCHS student.

The graduation opened with a welcome from Kerry Davis, President Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce. An invocation was led by class member Tyler Woods. Key-note speaker Tecia Puckett Pryor, local attorney and Leadership DeKalb Alumni Association Community Leader of 2007, entertained and inspired with the amazing story of bringing Habitat for Humanity to DeKalb County. All fourteen members of the Class of 2008 participated in the graduation. They began their presentation with a song from class member Chase Ferrell, followed by a Year-In-Review in a “time capsule” format. Members of the class spoke on each of the nine sessions from the year and placed a memento of that session in a box for the Class of 2028. The overview also included an inventive and fun PowerPoint presentation, assembled by Brian Craven, honoring the class members and highlighting favorite speakers and activities throughout the year. Alumnae and chamber board member, Sandy Brown, brought many laughs to the group with some comments celebrating 10 years of Leadership DeKalb. Plaques of completion were awarded to each graduate by Jen Sherwood, Leadership DeKalb program director, and Suzanne Williams, chamber of commerce executive director.

The Leadership DeKalb program consisted of nine sessions over nine months. It covered local and state current issues in government affairs and economic development, challenges in education and health care, and an exploration of resources and opportunities for DeKalb County and its citizens. Discussions with current local leaders and leadership skill-building topics such as team-building, leadership styles, group dynamics, problem solving, and community service were also fundamental training elements for the class. Leadership DeKalb will begin a new class in September of 2008.

For more information on becoming a member of the upcoming class, please contact Jen Sherwood at 597-4851 or the chamber of commerce at 597-4163.

County Commission Honors Jimmy Walls

June 25, 2008
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission is honoring a long time local civic leader for his service to the community.

County Mayor Mike Foster recognized Jimmy Walls during Monday night's county commission meeting.

A plaque will be presented to Walls on stage of the Fiddler's Jamboree next week.

Reading from a resolution, Foster said " Whereas, from time to time, it is appropriate for DeKalb County to recognize people who unselfishly serve our County. It is therefore fitting that the DeKalb County Commission and County Mayor honor Jimmy Walls for the service he has given his Country, his County, and his State."

"Whereas, Jimmy Walls has served Mount Herman Baptist Church and the Boy Scouts & Cub Scouts of America.. He has served for 15 years in the National Guard and the United States Post Office. He has also served on various Commissions and Boards and any job asked of him by the City of Smithville and DeKalb County."

"It is therefore, with a great sense of pride, that we declare July 5th, 2008 as Jimmy Walls day, in honor of all the many contributions he has made to our community."

"Jimmy Walls is a member of the Mount Herman Baptist Church and serves as Sunday School Director, Vacation Bible School Director, and is Chairman of Deacons."

"Jimmy worked with the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts and served as Cub Master for several years."

"He joined the Tennessee National Guard in February, 1953 and served for 15 years. He was discharged with the rank of Staff Sergeant in February, 1968. His job in the company was Supply Sergeant."

"Jimmy began his career with the U.S. Postal Service in Smithville in March, 1954. He started as City Carrier and in September, 1971 he was appointed Rural Letter Carrier in Smithville. In December, 1995 Jimmy retired from the U.S. Postal Service with a total of forty one years and nine months service. During these years as a rural carrier, he assisted many people in need on the mail route. On one occasion during a bitterly cold day in December, he came to the rescue of an elderly woman who lived off the main road, but part of the rural route. She had been lying in the yard for about two hours and was unable to get up. She was barefoot and in short sleeves. She said 'I knew my only chance was when the mail carrier came along, because no one else was going to be here until 4:30 p.m.' He pulled his coat off and put it over her, then called for assistance in getting the lady back into her house. There were many other occasions when he was asked to assist people in need."

"In the sixties and early seventies, Jimmy was active in the Smithville Jaycees, and held every office on the local level. In 1964, he received the Distinguished Service Award. He worked on many local projects that were a benefit to the City and County. In 1970, he was given a JCI Senatorship award. He was awarded a life membership in the Tennessee Jaycees, and was also a Colonel and Commander of the Tennesee Jaycee Volunteer Corp."

"In December 1982, he was apointed by the Mayor and City Council to the Smithville Planning Commission. On April 4th, 1983, he was elected Secretary and served as Secretary until August 6th, 1992. At this time, he was elected Chairman of the Smithville Planning Commission. He served as Chairman for a total of 14 years. He resigned December 21st, 2007, serving a total of 25 years on the Smithville Planning Commission.'

"In July, 1987, he was appointed to the City of Smithville Board of Zoning Appeals. He served as Vice-Chairman and Chairman. He resigned December 2007, serving a total of 20 years.'

"In January, 2004 Jimmy was appointed as a member of the DeKalb County Joint Economic and Community Development Board, and resigned December, 2007."

UCHRA Awarded Major Transportation Grant

June 25, 2008

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $412,840.00 grant to Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency for the purchase of eight ADA vans and specialized GPS equipment according to a release from the office of U.S. Reps. Bart Gordon and Lincoln Davis.

“The vans and GPS systems will fill a great need in rural areas for the elderly, disadvantaged and persons with disabilities,” said Gordon. “Transportation for healthcare needs and basic necessities is sorely needed to help these individuals maintain a higher quality of life and self sufficiency. I appreciate UCHRA for providing these services.”

The eight ADA vans will become part of the Upper Cumberland Area Rural Transit System fleet. UCARTS provides public transportation to rural residents of all ages, giving first priority to elderly, handicapped and economically disadvantaged with medical needs.

UCHRA’s mission is to promote a strong sense of community and family values by administering programs to provide tools, knowledge and resources to improve quality of life, promote a positive sense of individual self-worth, encourage responsible decision making and provide opportunities for individuals to become productive and independent while giving first priority to the elderly, handicapped and severely economically disadvantaged.

“Our core mission is to assist those who need it most and without these types of grants we would have a very hard time fulfilling our mission and meeting our goals,” said Phyllis R. Bennett, UCHRA Executive Director. “I appreciate the support of Congressmen Davis and Gordon. They continue to be accessible and helpful advocates for us in Washington.”

UCHRA serves fourteen Tennessee counties: Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Van Buren, Warren and White.

Senator Beavers Announces Grant Awards to DeKalb County Organizations

June 25, 2008

State Senator Mae Beavers (R – Mt. Juliet), representing the 17th Senatorial District, has released the list of grant award recipients in DeKalb County from the Tennessee Arts Commission for Fiscal Year 2009 (July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2009).

These include:
TTU/Appalachian Center for Craft - $4,470.00
Friends of the Appalachian Center for Craft of TN - $5,200.00

In announcing the awards, Senator Beavers said, “The Tennessee Arts Commission’s matching grants are made possible through an appropriation of state funds by the General Assembly, federal dollars from the National Endowment for the Arts, and by Tennesseans who purchase specialty and collegiate license plates.”

The incoming chair of the Tennessee Arts Commission, Donna Chase, commented, “This state is indeed fortunate to have elected leaders who support the work of the Tennessee Arts Commission in building better communities through the arts.”

According to Chase, the Commission will award over 850 grants during Fiscal Year 2009, totaling more than $7.2 million dollars. These funds have a direct impact on communities across Tennessee, in both urban and rural areas. Grant categories include: Arts Build Communities, Art Access, Arts Education, Arts Project Support, General Operating Support, Individual Artist Fellowships, Major Cultural Institution, Rural Arts Project Support, Student Ticket Subsidy, Technical Assistance, Touring, Special Opportunities, and Professional Development Support.

The Commission’s allocation process involves a review by citizen advisory panels made up of Tennesseans with expertise in appropriate arts disciplines and a review and final approval by the full 15-member Tennessee Arts Commission.

The Tennessee Arts Commission is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences that add value to the lives of every citizen, and enhances the quality of life in Tennessee communities.

Additional information on grant programs offered by the Tennessee Arts Commission is available on their website: www.arts.state.tn.us.

Tennessee State Fire Marshal Offers Fireworks Safety Tips for Fourth of July Holiday

June 25, 2008

Tennessee State Fire Marshal Leslie Newman Offers Fireworks Safety Tips for Fourth of July Holiday

State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman wants to remind Tennesseans that while fireworks are a traditional part of Fourth of July celebrations, many people are seriously injured each year by their careless use.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office encourages you to leave fireworks to the professionals. If they are legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips:
• Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
• Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
• Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
• Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
• Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
• Keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby in case of a malfunction or fire.

Like matches and lighters, sparklers are not toys and cause hundreds of injuries every year. Sparklers burn hot, can reach temperatures as high as 1200 F, and stay hot long after they’ve burned out. You wouldn’t hand a matchbook or lighter to a child to wave around or play with, so don’t give a child a sparkler.

Fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burn and eye injuries. A new law effective in 2007 prevents children under the age of 16 from purchasing fireworks and those that are age 16 or 17 must have a photo ID to purchase them.

“Please enjoy the holiday at a public display presented by trained professionals, where compliance with state-of-the-art fire codes offers a safer way to celebrate our nation’s independence, and avoid consumer fireworks to keep festivities from turning into tragedies,” Newman said.

For more information on firework safety, visit www.tennessee.gov/sfm.

Three Arrested by Sheriff's Department in Pea Ridge Burglary & Theft

June 23, 2008
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department made three arrests in a burglary Saturday in the Pea Ridge Community.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 39 year old Wendy Whittemore of Pea Ridge Road, Liberty, 23 year old John Cummings and his wife 32 year old Toni Cummings of Dry Creek Road, Dowelltown were charged in the case.

According to Sheriff Ray, the three went to a residence on Pea Ridge and entered without the owner's consent. While inside the residence, they loaded an antique cook stove, a wood burning stove, and lots of other metal items. No one was living there at the time. The house was being used for storage. The owner, who noticed lights shining around the residence, was able to get a description of the vehicle and reported it to authorities. Deputies met the automobile on Pea Ridge Road. The driver tried to elude the deputies by turning into a field and unloading the stolen goods. Officers took two of the three suspects into custody but Whittemore took off running. She was caught a short time later.

Both John and Toni Cummings are charged with burglary and theft of property over $1,000 and bond for them was set at $40,000 each. Whittemore was charged with burglary, theft of property over $1,000.00, and evading arrest. Her bond was set at $45,000. All three will appear in court on July 17th.


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