Local News Articles

Senator Beavers’ Capitol Hill Week

March 23, 2012
State Senator Mae Beavers

State Senators continued to work through busy schedules this week on Capitol Hill, approving several important proposals including a proposal that calls for drug testing for welfare recipients with a past history for a drug arrest, measures to reduce the risk of flight by illegal aliens involved in traffic accidents and legislation to give teachers more authority over discipline in the classroom.

Drug Test / Welfare Recipients – The Senate Health and General Welfare Committee voted 7-1-1 in favor of legislation which calls for drug tests for applicants for Welfare benefits when that person has been arrested on a drug charge within five years. Senate Bill 2580 applies to adult recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Under the federal Welfare Reform Act passed in 1996, states were authorized to conduct drug testing for TANF recipients. The bill does not affect aid provided to children under the program.

Illegal Aliens / Risk of Flight -- The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 to approve Senate Bill 2604 that allows the court clerk to set bail for traffic violations at a higher amount than normally permitted for a defendant who is unlawfully present in the U.S. and is deemed a risk of flight. The bill, which now goes to the Finance Committee, is sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet).

Similarly, Senator Beavers led passage of another measure through the Senate Judiciary Committee requiring an officer to arrest a driver involved in an accident that results in serious bodily injury or death when the driver lacks a valid driver’s license and evidence of financial responsibility. Beavers said Senate Bill 2350 prohibits the issuance of a citation in lieu of an arrest in such circumstances due to the risk of flight. The bill is named the “Ricky Otts Act.” Mr. Otts was killed by an unlicensed driver who was suspected of being in the country illegally.

Felons with Firearms – The full Senate voted this week to enact tougher sentences for gun possession by those with prior violent felony convictions. Currently, illegal possession of a firearm for convicted violent felons is punishable as a Class E felony, which carries a one to six-year sentence and up to $3,000 in fines. Senate Bill 2250 would increase the offense to a Class C felony, which is punishable by a 3 to 15-year sentence and up to $10,000 in fines for convicted felons carrying a firearm whose crime involved the use of force, violence or a deadly weapon. The punishment would be a Class D felony for felons whose conviction involved a drug offense. The bill will be heard on final consideration in the House of Representatives on Monday.

Gangs / Crime – Another bill attacking crime that was approved by the full Senate this week enhances penalties for certain gang-related crimes committed by groups of three or more people one classification higher than if they had acted alone. A person robbed or assaulted by more than one assailant has a much greater chance of suffering severe injury or death. Senate Bill 2252 cracking down on gangs and the “Felons with Firearms” bill are part of a package of public safety bills included in Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative agenda. The bills were recommended by a Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group that developed 11 objectives and 40 action steps in their multi-year safety action plan with the goal of significantly reducing drug abuse and drug trafficking; curbing violent crime; and lowering the rate of repeat offenders in Tennessee.

Historic Documents / Ten Commandments -- Legislation authorizing local governments to display replicas of historic documents such as the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Ten Commandments has passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee. Senate Bill 2641, sponsored by Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville), would apply to county or municipal public buildings or grounds and would allow replicas to be displayed in the form of statues, monuments, or any other display that respects the dignity of the documents.

Prescription Drug Abuse -- The Senate Health and Welfare Committee has approved a proposal to curb prescription drug abuse by requiring doctors or their designees to check the state’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database for patients’ prescription history before prescribing an opioid or benzodiazepine substance. Senate Bill 2253 which is included in Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative package, requires pharmacies to collect a patient’s prescription information and report that information to the database within seven days. Currently it must be reported within 40 days. The bill also enhances penalties for doctor shopping from a Class A misdemeanor offense to a Class E Felony when it involves 250 or more pills. The stiffer penalties allow law enforcement officials to go after dealers who distribute the drugs illegally. The bill now goes to the Senate Government Operations Committee before moving to the Finance Committee and then to the floor for final consideration.

Constitutionality / Firearms Legislation -- Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper released an opinion to Senate Judiciary Committee members this week regarding the constitutionality of legislation that would allow gun owners to keep firearms locked out of sight in their vehicle while at their place of employment. The Attorney General opined that Senate Bill 3002 would be constitutionally defensible as two courts have upheld similar bills against such challenges. The bill is sponsored by Senator Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill).

Teachers / Discipline in the Classroom -- Teachers in grades 5 – 12 would have more authority to remove disruptive students from the classroom under legislation. The bill authorizes each teacher, consistent with the local education agency’s (LEA) policy, to manage their classroom, discipline students and refer a student to the principal. It also requires principals to fully support the authority of the teacher to remove a persistently disruptive student as long as he/she was removed within the guidelines developed by the school and the LEA.

Senate Bill 3122 requires LEAs, or school boards, to adopt a complete policy regarding a teacher's ability to remove a disruptive student from the classroom. Under the bill, teachers must file a brief report with the principal detailing the behavior of the removed student. The principal must respond when a teacher refers a student by employing appropriate discipline management techniques that are consistent with the LEA policy and their student code of conduct. Following three documented removals, the principal cannot return a student back to that classroom unless the teacher consents. Similarly, principals would be prohibited from returning a student to the classroom on the day of the removal without the teacher's consent. Finally, the legislation calls for the discipline policy to be disseminated to the students, faculty, staff, and parents or guardians of students.

Parental Involvement / Parent Contracts -- Legislation that would encourage school districts to develop and implement voluntary parental involvement contracts with parents of students passed the State Senate this week. It has been found that when parents collaborate with teachers, educators hold higher expectations of students and higher opinions of the parents. Findings also show that children from diverse cultural backgrounds tend to do better because parents and professionals are bridging the gap between the culture at home and the learning institution. Senate Bill 3588 is designed to encourage and facilitate a parent's involvement in his or her child's education.

Teachers First Amendment Right Protected – The State Senate passed Senate Bill 3060 is aimed at protecting the First Amendment rights of school personnel, including teachers and administrators. The bill seeks to ensure educators can participate in programs that take place either before or after school hours and do not interfere with their school duties, including those of a religious nature as long as they are initiated by students. The action comes after reported incidents where teachers and coaches were admonished for participating in such activities as the “Meet Me at the Pole” prayer event and prayer before sporting events, both of which are outside of school hours.

Vacant School Board Seat Could be Filled Monday Night

March 22, 2012
Dwayne Page
Doug Stephens
 Boyd Trapp

The county commission Monday night may try again to fill a vacancy on the school board in the sixth district.

Two persons, Boyd Trapp and Doug Stephens, want the position but the county commission last month was deadlocked six to six on which of the two should get the seat.

During the February 27 meeting, county commissioners voting for Trapp were Elmer Ellis, Jr from the first district, Bobby Joines from the second district, Jerry Scott from the third district, Jeff Barnes and Marshall Ferrell from the sixth district, and Jimmy Poss from the seventh district.

Those voting for Stephens were Jack Barton from the second district, Bradley Hendrix from the third district, Wayne Cantrell and David McDowell from the fourth district, Jerry Adcock from the fifth district, and Larry Summers from the seventh district.

Two members, John Green from the fifth district, and Mason Carter from the first district were absent.

County Mayor Mike Foster could have broken the tie but chose not to do so.

Later in the meeting, following a short recess, the commissioners took another vote but the result was the same, a tie.

The position has remained vacant.

If the commission fills the vacancy, the person chosen will serve until August 31, completing the unexpired term of Bruce Parsley, who resigned December 31.

Both Trapp and Stephens have said they intend to run for a full four year term in the August County General Election.

The county commission will meet in regular monthly session Monday night at 6:30 p.m. in the basement courtroom of the courthouse. WJLE plans LIVE coverage

The agenda is as follows:

Passage of resolution to thank all emergency agencies that helped in the aftermath of the tornado last month.

Discuss allowing the DeKalb 911 to use Fleetone for gas card service under DeKalb County, but to bill directly to 911.

Discuss DeKalb County bidding on the necessary programming of radio equipment to comply with narrow band requirements. All city, county, and other emergency radios must be programmed. One vendor will be sought to do all the work and each agency will pay for their respective equipment.

Discuss vacancy on the DeKalb County Board of Education created by the resignation of Bruce Parsley in the sixth district

Update on equipment for the DeKalb County Complex

Discuss making corrections to the county roads list

Approval of budget amendments

Quarterly reports

Discuss passage of a resolution for naming the bridge on Highway 70 over Dry Creek in honor of PFC Billy Anderson

Update on roof repairs

Request from the election commission to address the commission

Discuss permit areas for people to bring brush. Two areas have been permitted

Discuss a report delivered by the DeKalb County Board of Education for budget year 2012-13. The report was delivered on March 14

Discuss FEMA disaster declaration

Discuss TDOT survey on cost of cleaning up roads, etc due to storm damage

Approval of notaries

Discuss any other business properly presented

Commission to Consider Naming Bridge in Honor of the late PFC Billy Gene Anderson

March 22, 2012
Dwayne Page
PFC Billy Gene Anderson

The county commission Monday night will consider adopting a resolution to name the bridge on Highway 70 over Dry Creek in honor of the late PFC Billy Gene Anderson of DeKalb County.

PFC Anderson died Monday, May 17, 2010 in Badghis province Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with improvised explosive devices. He was assigned to the 508th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Anderson enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 26th, 2009 and was deployed to Afghanistan on January 13th, 2010.

Several awards were bestowed upon him posthumously including the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with a Bronze Service Star, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.

City to Begin Uni-directional Hydrant Flushing Program

March 22, 2012
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Water Department Staff will soon begin their hydrant flushing program, an integral part of on-going efforts to deliver the safest and highest quality water possible to residents.

Hydrant flushing is a routine process of cleaning the piping of a water distribution system. This flushing enhances water quality by flushing sediment from the main lines, helps maintain chlorine residuals throughout the distribution system, and verifies the proper operation of hydrants. In other words, flushing improves the overall quality of water in the distribution system.

The uni-directional flushing is carried out by Smithville Water Department Staff, who systematically open and close fire hydrants on one section of main at a time, letting the water run at a high velocity until sediment is carried out and the water is clear.

If you see a crew flushing a hydrant on your street, avoid running water, using the dishwasher or washing light colored laundry until the flushing is done. Also, if you see hydrant flushing crews working in the area, please drive carefully and treat them like any other road construction crew.

You may notice a temporary reduction in water pressure during flushing. During and immediately following flushing, the water may look discolored. If discolored water occurs, it is caused by iron or manganese particles being dislodged from the water main. If discolored water occurs, it is not a health hazard. However, the discolored water may stain porcelain and laundry. If you encounter discolored water, shut the faucet off and wait several minutes. After waiting, run the cold water for a few minutes allowing fresh water to work its way in to your pipes. If the water is clear, it is okay to use. If not, wait a few more minutes and then check it again. If the discolored water persists more than 24 hours, please call the Smithville City Hall at 615-597-4745. This discoloration only affects the appearance of the water. It does not affect the water quality.

The hydrant flushing is expected to begin Tuesday, March 27 and continue over several days, covering certain sections of the city each day.

DeKalb County Eligible For Emergency Unemployment Benefits

March 22, 2012

The Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development announced today that Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits are now available for workers in Bradley, Claiborne, Cumberland, DeKalb, Hamilton, Jackson, McMinn, Monroe, Overton and Polk counties as a direct result of severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding from February 29, 2012, to March 2, 2012. The declaration number is FEMA-DR-4060.

"Disaster Unemployment brings some stability to those whose lives have been affected by these strong storms," said Labor Commissioner Karla Davis. "This type of unemployment assistance is available to the self-employed and others who are not ordinarily covered by the state unemployment insurance program."

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development administers the program on behalf of the federal government. Persons unemployed as a direct result of the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding must file their claim for DUA benefits within 30 days of this announcement.

If possible, individuals should have access to their 2011 income tax return, Social Security Number, and any documents with wage and employment information prior to the disaster.

Weekly DUA benefit amounts may range from $117 to $275 per week and are payable up to 26 weeks after the day of declaration, which was March 16, 2012. DUA benefits will end if unemployment is no longer the direct result of the disaster.

If your unemployment claim is a direct result of the disaster, do not file your unemployment claim by Internet to avoid delays.

Persons who are unemployed as a result of the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding that began February 29, 2012, who need to file a disaster related unemployment claim, may call 1-866-331-1271, extension 7599 when prompted, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays or report in person to one of the following TDLWD Career Centers.

The following Tennessee Career Center locations can assist with Disaster Unemployment Assistance claims as well as take mass lack of work claims on Mondays and Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. Cookeville, 580 South Jefferson Ave., Suite A and McMinnville, 107 Lyon Street

For updates, please check our agency's Web site at www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/

ABC Raids VFW Club; Undercover Probe Reveals Illegal Liquor Sales and Possible Gambling

March 21, 2012
Dwayne Page
VFW Club

Following an undercover investigation into allegations of illegal sales of liquor, agents of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission last Thursday, March 15 raided the VFW club on the Sparta Highway seizing gambling machines, a raffle prize, and cash.

Special Agent Brad Allison, in a telephone interview with WJLE, said bartender Brian Soye has been cited for unlawful sale of alcohol and quartermaster Thomas Skelenka was issued citations for storage of alcohol for sale and possession of gambling devices. All are misdemeanor offenses.

Operators of the VFW allegedly kept selling liquor, even after letting their liquor license expire.

Agent Allison said the investigation began after complaints surfaced about the VFW. "The Alcoholic Beverage Commission received an anonymous complaint about the VFW in Smithville selling liquor without a license. The complaint was given to the ABC Cookeville Office who researched to see if the VFW currently had a liquor license and they did not. At that time they executed an undercover operation at the establishment and were able to purchase liquor from the bartender inside the VFW. After purchasing the liquor, they then prepared and executed a search warrant on Thursday, March 15. At that time during the search warrant, there were approximately fifty bottles of liquor that were seized; four gambling machines; several envelopes with various amounts of money in the envelopes with some labeled "race boards", some labeled "dice". There was a TV seized that was in a box labeled "raffle" with the amount of the price for the raffle tickets written on the box," said Allison

As a result of the investigation, the VFW also had to surrender its beer license, pending a hearing before the DeKalb County Beer Board.

Chief Randy Caplinger Releases Update on City Crime News

March 21, 2012
Dwayne Page
Police Chief Randy Caplinger

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger has released an update on recent city crime news.

34 year old Wesley Chandler is charged with aggravated assault and cited for simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court on April 5. Chief Caplinger reports that police were called to Walmart on Monday, March 5 on a complaint that someone was threatening an employee. According to report, the employee told Chandler that the jewelry department was closed and could not be re-opened at that time. Chandler allegedly accused the employee of lying and said that he had a gun. Police were notified and arrived at the store. Chandler had no weapon but the arresting officer found on him four and half pills believed to be hydrocodone.

36 year old Tyrone Owens is charged with theft under $500 and cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on March 22. Chief Caplinger reports that police were recently called to Walmart on a shoplifting complaint. An employee allegedly saw Owens conceal three shirts under his pants. Owens was confronted by the employee but he ran off, exiting the building by the lawn and garden center. Police were notified and an officer spotted Owens on foot at Morgan Drive. He was found to have on him three shirts from Walmart, still bearing the price tags. Owens also had in his possession two used hypodermic needles.

28 year old Brandon Tallent is charged with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court on April 5. Chief Caplinger reports that Tallent allegedly sold two pills believed to be dilaudid to an undercover operative on Tuesday, March 13. Tallent was arrested at his West Main Street residence on Thursday, March 15.

24 year old Amanda Washer and 29 year old Michael Ryan Sullivan are charged with theft over $500. Washer is also charged with unlawful possession of a schedule III drug and two counts of sale of a schedule II controlled substance. Her bond is $10,500. Bond for Sullivan is $2,500. They will be in court on March 29. Chief Caplinger reports that police were called to Walmart on a shoplifting complaint Friday, March 16. Both Washer and Sullivan were found to have unpaid for items from the store in their possession. Upon arriving at the jail for booking, officers saw Washer trying to hide some pills in her pants. They recovered eleven pills believed to be oxymorphone, twenty two pills thought to be soma, and twenty nine pills suspected of being hydrocodone.

24 year old Brandy Nicole Turner is cited for shoplifting. She will be in court on March 29. According to Chief Caplinger, Turner was found at the Dollar General Store with an unpaid for item in her purse.

53 year old Lola D. Minton is charged with public intoxication on Monday, March 12 and again on Friday, March 16. Her bond totals $3,000. She will be in court on March 29. In the first case, Chief Caplinger said police were called to a residence on Kendra Drive March 12 where there was an unwanted guest. Under her bond conditions in a previous case, Minton was not supposed to be at this residence. Police arrived and found that Minton had fled on foot. She was found lying in a ditch on Kendra Drive. She was initially unresponsive. The officer detected an odor of alcohol on her. DeKalb EMS was called to the scene to make sure she was okay. Minton was taken to DeKalb Community Hospital where she was treated and released. In the second incident, police were called to South Mountain and Meadowbrook Drive where Minton was seen on foot. She had fallen twice. Police asked if she needed medical treatment. Minton said she was fine. The officer detected an odor of alcohol on her. Minton tried to run into traffic but she was stopped by the officer. Minton submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks

44 year old Veronica Mooneyham is charged with public intoxication and cited for simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance. She will be in court on March 29. Chief Caplinger said police were called to a business on South Congress Boulevard on Thursday, March 15 where they found Mooneyham slumped over the steering wheel of her vehicle. She was awakened and found to have slurred speech. Mooneyham was also unsteady on her feet. The officer found drugs in her possession including what was believed to be xanax, oxycodone, and oxycontin.

19 year old Michael Jesse Dinovo and 20 year old Terry Lee Jones are cited for underage possession and consumption of alcohol. They will be in court on March 29. Chief Caplinger said police made a traffic stop of Dinovo's vehicle on Friday, March 16. The officer detected a strong odor of alcohol on the driver, Dinovo and Jones, the passenger. Two open beers along with seventeen unopened beers were found in the vehicle.

23 year old Derrick Fitts is charged with public intoxication. He is under a $1,000 bond and will be in court on March 29. Chief Caplinger said police were called to a call of physical fight on Meadowbrook Drive Saturday, March 17. The officer arrived and found Fitts in the back seat of a vehicle. He appeared to be intoxicated. EMS was called to the scene but Fitts allegedly refused medical treatment. He was belligerent and becoming an annoyance. After being told several times to do so, Fitts went inside the residence. Police left the scene but returned later when Fitts came back outside. The officer said Fitts was drinking and shouting obscenities. He was placed under arrest.

32 year old James Estes is charged with evading by a motor vehicle and driving while his license was suspended. His bond is $4,500. Chief Caplinger said that police spotted Estes speeding on Foster Road. The officer got behind him but Estes sped up, turning onto Miller Road where he allegedly crossed into the oncoming lane of travel and passed another vehicle on double yellow lines. Estes turned onto Georgia Lane and then to Kendra Drive where he stopped at an apartment complex. Estes got out of his vehicle and tried to flee on foot. Police ordered him to stop. He initially stopped and turned toward the officer, but then he took off on foot again. The officer deployed a taser and Estes was subsequently arrested.

Fire Destroys Two Camper Trailers

March 21, 2012
Dwayne Page
Fire Destroys Two Camper Trailers (Photo by Callie Matthews)

A fire destroyed two camper trailers at Lakeside Resort Tuesday afternoon.

Central dispatch received the call at 3:21 p.m.

According to County Fire Chief Donny Green, the campers served as temporary housing for construction workers at Hurricane bridge. No one was there at the time of the fire and no one was injured.

Chief Green said four camper trailers were parked side by side about six feet apart at the end of Relax Drive. One of the campers in the middle caught fire and spread to another one beside of it. Both were destroyed. Firefighters were able to save the other two campers although they received some heat damage. The blaze also spread into the woods but it was quickly brought under control.

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Members of the Short Mountain Highway, Main Station, and Cookeville Highway Station responded along with the Tennessee Forestry Division, DeKalb EMS and Sheriff's Department

Chief Green said volunteers of the local Red Cross Chapter helped provide shelter and arranged to meet other needs for victims of the fire.

Another fire was reported at 6:44 p.m. Tuesday at the trailer home of Billy and Cecilia Orchard at 160 Clear Creek Road, Liberty.

Chief Green said that Mr. and Mrs. Orchard and their two children were at home when a grease fire started from the cook stove. The family escaped unharmed. A neighbor called 911 to report the fire.

Members of the Liberty and Main Stations responded and quickly extinguished the blaze. Fire damage was confined to around the area of the stove.

Volunteers of the local Red Cross Chapter helped provide shelter for the family during the night. The Orchard family is expected to return to their home Wednesday, pending an electrical inspection of the residence.

Mayor Grills Fire Chief Over Grant Application for Full Time Firefighters

March 20, 2012
Dwayne Page
Mayor Taft Hendrixson questioning Fire Chief Charlie Parker

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker was questioned by Mayor Taft Hendrixson Monday night why he chose to apply for a FEMA SAFER Grant for the hiring of full time firefighters when it appears that the city may not qualify for such a grant

During the March 5 meeting, the aldermen gave their blessing for the fire department to make application for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, which if approved, would fund the hiring of firefighters for up to two years at no costs to the city.

At that meeting, Chief Parker told the mayor and aldermen that the city would be under no obligation to keep funding the positions locally after the grant funds are exhausted. "The grant is a two year total grant and it would be for hiring full time personnel. It would go up to a max of $230,000 for salary supplements for that two years. That's the maximum amount. That doesn't mean that we will get the full amount but it could be up to that for personnel. If we do get it, it will still need to be accepted by the board," said Chief Parker.

In order to beat the filing deadline, Chief Parker apparently applied for the grant before asking the mayor and aldermen and sought approval after the fact.

During last nights (Mondays) meeting, Mayor Hendrixson said he had checked with FEMA and Congressman Diane Black's office and learned that the grant, for which Chief Parker applied, has no chance of being approved since it was for rehiring laid off firefighters, retaining firefighters who faced imminent layoff and or filling positions vacated through attrition. Smithville has an all volunteer fire department.

Mayor Hendrixson asked Chief Parker why he chose to apply for a FEMA grant ostensibly to pay full time firefighters when the city had a better chance of obtaining another grant for funding the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. "I took it upon myself to contact FEMA in Washington. We have zero chances of getting this grant (applied for by Chief Parker). It did not even go before the review board according to my contacts through Congressman Black's office," said Mayor Hendrixson.

"The recruitment and retention grants assist fire departments with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters who are involved with or trained in the operations of firefighting and emergency response," he said. "These grants are intended to create a net increase in the number of trained, certified, and competent firefighters capable of safely responding to emergencies likely to occur within the grantee's geographical area. One hundred percent funding is provided for periods up to four years on this one (recruitment and retention grant)."

"What I'm concerned about is they told me in Washington that from looking at our grant, we would have had a good chance of getting this recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters (grant). We have zero chance of getting this other one. They've already told me," said Mayor Hendrixson.

"For the benefit of your rank and file members. They (city firefighters) get paid twenty dollars per call (currently). Had we gotten this other grant, they might have gotten forty, fifty, or sixty dollars a call depending upon how much money you got (from the grant). They could have had more training. You could have provided insurance packages such as accidental death and dismemberment, disability, health, dental, and life," said Mayor Hendrixson.

"I've heard you (Chief Parker) say many times that its hard to recruit firefighters. This (grant) is a tool that will help recruit firefighters. You can recruit them or you can pay the ones already here. If you recruit a man, you can reimburse a member while he (recruit) is attending basic training, fire training, compensate for lost wages, mileage, lodging, and a per diem," he said

"Marketing costs (can be met) to recruit new members. In other words, (grant could fund) billboards, newspaper ads, radio advertisements. We could have paid for a station Internet, computers and common areas. It would have paid for that," said Mayor Hendrixson.

"Station duty uniforms for new recruits, pants, shirts, hats (could be paid for with grant funds) and non uniform clothing as part of an award program. If you get new recruits, it would have paid for a physical. It would have even paid for their turnout gear. It would have paid for any new turnout gear. Not for the ones that are here but for the new (members)," he said.

Mayor Hendrixson said money from a recruitment and retention grant could even provide yearly bonuses to city firefighters who complete training programs, just as the county firefighters receive. "I know the county does this and they're enjoying this grant right now. If their firefighters complete all their training sessions, they get a $400 bonus out of this grant. There's an awards program for participation in operational activities, length of service plaques, gift cards, mileage reimbursement for operational activities, responding to incidents, and attending training," he said.

"I can just see a lot of benefits for your men and for the department and for the city as a whole by applying for the other grant that would fit us as a volunteer department," said Mayor Hendrixson.

Chief Parker said it was his understanding that the grant for which he applied did include funding for the hiring of new firefighters, if approved, and he confirmed it after checking further during the meeting. "I went back to the FEMA 2012 eligibility guidelines and it says that the following entities are eligible to apply directly to FEMA under this solicitation. Volunteer fire departments may apply for funding in the following categories: Hiring the firefighters category. Hiring career firefighters. Second category. Recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. If the applicant wishes to fill an application for both categories, two separate applications must be completed for each. This is in the 2012 guidelines and this is what I went by to the best of my ability. That was what we were shooting for, full time people. We've already got some (firefighters) who are compensated. They are not well compensated but we have some compensated volunteer firemen now. We're looking to hire some full time people and progress a little further. So in the best interest of my department and the city, that's the reason I was pushing for full time firefighters. If we get free money, fine. If not, we'll try to push forward and if not we'll stay where we're at,"he said.

Chief Parker also asked the city to make a better effort in the future in assisting the fire department in obtaining grants. "I would like to make a formal request that we look for fire department grants from this board. We need grants for automated external defibrillators (AED's). We need AED's for each truck. We could use grants for turnout equipment. We can use grants for things on the trucks. Anything that we can apply for in a grant, I would be more than welcome for the board to do so or get somebody else to do it. Somebody has got to look for them," he said.

Alderman Gayla Hendrix defended Chief Parker saying it never hurts to apply for grants for which the city might benefit. "Chief Parker came to us with this. He explained very clearly that it was a last minute resource. That he had received a letter from Congressman Black encouraging volunteer fire departments to apply for that. He told us that. He also told us we were down to the wire and that we may be able to get it or we may not, but what's it going to hurt to apply. It never hurts to write a grant. I haven't read the entire grant but what you (mayor) just handed to us, I totally disagree with your interpretation Mr. Mayor. It specifically says the purpose of these grants is to improve or restore local fire departments staffing and deployment capabilities in two categories. Number 1, hiring firefighters. Number 2, recruiting and retention. He applied to hire. There are very few fire departments anymore in this country that are strictly volunteer. Those days are almost over. We're very fortunate that we have these people who are willing and who have fifteen, twenty, and thirty years of experience doing it. Anytime something is brought to a department head's attention that there's a possibility of getting funding for their department, its never a bad decision to try. We may get turned down but we've been turned down before. But you try and you put it out there and see what you can get. Its going to come a day when we're going to have to start staffing this volunteer department," said Alderman Hendrix.

Chief Parker told WJLE later that the mayor had requested that he attend Monday night's meeting, but he was not told for what reason. The issue was not listed on the regular meeting agenda.

Unemployment Claimants Now Required To Provide Proof Of Work Searches

March 20, 2012

Beginning in April, significant changes to the unemployment insurance system will require in-person case management and documented work searches for nearly 56,000 claimants. Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis today announced the receipt of guidance from the USDOL outlining new requirements for select claimants to continue receiving unemployment benefits.

“The reality is that as the state unemployment rate drops there will be fewer weeks of unemployment available,” said Davis. “These new requirements will make sure claimants are on track to find employment and not get caught off guard when their benefits expire.”

All claimants receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC 08) must complete two work searches weekly and provide documentation to Labor and Workforce Development upon request. Additionally, claimants must participate in case management at a Tennessee Career Center including orientation, eligibility review, assessment of skills, participation in remedial workshops, and commitment to a work search plan.

“The federal government has raised the bar on accountability for claimants,” said Commissioner Davis. “Claimants will be required to prove that they are looking for work, and they will be engaged face to face with our job service employees. If these requirements are not met they will no longer be eligible to receive benefits.”

In February 2012, federal legislation was enacted extending the deadlines for federally funded unemployment benefits through December 2012. The changes to the structure of federal benefits reduced the total amount of benefit weeks, but did not create additional benefits for those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

For up-to-date information visit http://www.tn.gov/labor-wfd/2012 Unemployment Update.html or follow the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TNLabor.


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