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Chamber Banquet Coming Soon

January 26, 2010
Suzanne Williams
Suzanne Williams

The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce is making plans for the annual membership banquet.

The following is the monthly "Chamber Chat" article by Suzanne Williams.

We would like to invite everyone to attend the 2010 Chamber Annual Membership Banquet. This event will be held on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church, 1850 Allen Ferry Road, Smithville. The special evening begins with a “Silent Auction” at 5:30 PM; the dinner and program start at 6:00 PM. Wonderful background music will be played during the evening by pianist, Tomomi McDowell. Our singing entertainment will be provided by local talent, Mercedes Luna.

Our keynote speaker will be Coach Watson Brown, head football coach of the Tennessee Tech University Golden Eagles. Coach Brown returned to his hometown of Cookeville as the 10th head football coach in Tech history. A proven veteran in the coaching profession, Brown is known as one of the best offensive minds in football. The 2010 season will be Coach Brown’s 38th year of coaching collegiate football, and his 26th year as a collegiate head coach. Brown’s many achievements as a student-athlete and later as a coach in the state of Tennessee have not gone unnoticed. In 2003, he was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

In addition, the Leadership DeKalb Alumni group will present their winners for “Community Leader of the Year” and “Legacy” awards. Our newly-elected Chamber Board members will be introduced and our retiring directors will be honored.

Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased from any of our board members or can be picked up at our office located at 301 N. Public Square, Smithville. We are accepting "Silent Auction" donations, so if your business would like to contribute an item or service, contact the Chamber at 597-4163. We will be glad to pick it up. We hope you can join us as we celebrate our 47th year as a Chamber of Commerce.

Welcome New Chamber Members:

•Dale Hollow Marketing Group, 8500 Hwy 111, Suite 50B, Byrdstown , Owner - Terry Burckhard.

•Roses, 750 S Congress Blvd., Smithville, 215 -2015

•Heartland Café, 108 W Walnut St., Smithville, Owner – J. Ashburn - Serving BBQ and homestyle cooking, Available for catering special events. For more info, call 597-9449.

•Wheeler Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Scott Wheeler, 690 S Congress Blvd, Smithville, 597-3770

•Smithville Auto Service, 300 W Broad St, Smithville, 597-7800 – For all your auto service and repair needs

The Chamber Milestone Award was recently presented to Phillip “Fluty” and Marilyn Cantrell, owners of Cantrell’s Clothing celebrating 45 years in DeKalb County. Congratulations!

The Chamber would like to express gratitude to our retiring board members: Gina Denman, Denny Lamp; Elmer Ellis, Jr., County Commissioner, District 1; Kelley Garrett, Garrett Insurance; Charlie Parker, Smithville Builders Supply; and Chris Griffith, DeKalb Co. Farm Bureau. Their positive contributions to this organization have been invaluable. They have done an excellent job in their positions on the Board.

We would also like to acknowledge a job well done by our 2009 Chamber Executive Board: Robin Driver, President; Tim Hintz, Vice President; Kelley Garrett, Treasurer; and Valerie Laprad, Secretary; and Kerry Davis, Past President. They have served as a great team of advisors for me and supportive in every way possible. I am so appreciative.

We are excited to announce the new 2009-2011 Chamber Board Members: Tom Miller, Liberty State Bank; Keith Blair, Attorney-at-Law; George Oliver, Smithville Rotary Club; Jason Ray, Leadership Alumni – Class of 2009; Mike Williams, Sheriff’s Dept./DeKalb Fair Board. Newly appointed for resigned directors are Janna Gillard, DeKalb County Guide (serving out a 1-yr term) and Angie Meadows, Smithville Review (serving out a 2-yr.term).

The Chamber projects and events wouldn’t be possible without the devoted and talented people on the Chamber Board. They are such an asset in reaching our goals and objectives.

The Chamber would like to again express a very heartfelt thanks to Jim Finley and NHC Healthcare for sponsoring our Chamber Board of Director meetings. A wonderful meeting space and delicious lunch are provided monthly by NHC.
Good News Report!

•TN Roadscapes Grant - The Chamber applied for the Tennessee Roadscapes Grant in 2006 & 2008. Gov. Bredesen recently announced that DeKalb County has been awarded $20,000. This 80/20 matching grant will be used to create four beautiful, inviting entry signs into the county.

•Center Hill Lake Visitors’ Guide – A beautiful, full-color visitors’ guide highlighting our county businesses and Center Hill Lake plus stories of interest and information on accommodations, marinas, restaurants, shopping, events, and much more will be available in May, 2010. We are excited to have this beneficial marketing tool to highlight the positive aspects of our county.

The Chamber wants to help promote your news or special events. Please call our office at 597-4163 or e-mail us at dekalbtn@dtccom.net and we’ll help you spread the word.

Mark your calendars:

WJLE Chamber Chat Radio Program - 1st Wednesday of every month at 8:30 AM and filmed by DTC TV and aired on myDTC3.

Tuesday, February 16th – Chamber Annual Banquet, Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church, Silent Auction begins at 5:30 PM, Program at 6 PM -- Keynote Speaker: Coach Watson Brown, head football coach of the TTU Golden Eagles. Tickets-$20 - Everyone is invited.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County’s “Real Sock Hop,” Get out your poodle skirt & bobbie socks & get ready to rock ‘n roll! on Saturday, February 13 at the 303 North Public Square Building, Smithville – Dance & Hula Hoop Contest for 50+ crowd, Best Dressed Contest & Cake Walk for everyone, Classic Car Show, Radio Personality Ralph Vaughn, Minimum Donation of $5 - Refreshments available for purchase.

Senator Beavers Confronts TDOT Officials about Sligo Bridge during Committee Meeting

January 26, 2010
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers Questioning TDOT Officials

The Sligo bridge issue was a topic of discussion Tuesday during a State Senate Transportation Committee meeting in Nashville.

Gerald Nicely, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Paul Degges, TDOT Chief Engineer, updated the committee on projects funded under the federal stimulus program.
(To view video click the following link and then click "presentation-stimulus update from TDOT")

State Senator Mae Beavers, a member of the committee, asked why the Sligo bridge was not among the projects funded. Degges, explained that the project was not "shovel" ready at the time, because issues regarding right of way had not and still have not been resolved. "We ultimately did not have the right of way in hand, in fact we don't have the right of way or the environmental issues quite worked out. The Corps of Engineers has a concession with a marina operator underneath the bridge. To build this bridge, we'll take the parking lot. There's also acid producing rock in the earth and when we build this we'll need a handling plan for that material. That stuff is still in progress and is close to being finalized. So that project was not shovel ready because we didn't have everything ready."

Senator Beavers then asked why constituents, when calling TDOT about Sligo bridge, were being told by a TDOT employee that the reason their bridge wasn't being funded was because she (Senator Beavers) and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver did not vote for the bridge bonding bill.

Degges said he confronted the employee who denied making those statements to anyone."Senator none of my staff has said that. I have heard an allegation to that affect. The commissioner and I have personally talked to an employee who denies that he said that."

Commissioner Nicely added " When that report came in both Mr. Degges and I talked to the employee and he denied it so all I can do is say that he is a pretty trust worthy individual so maybe he was misunderstood. I will point out that other bridges in DeKalb County have been funded, if the argument is going to be made it's political. Finally, the Governor has probably got more complaints about me not being political enough than he has of me being too political since I've been commissioner."

Degges told Senator Beavers that there were over twenty projects "that were in our initial assessment as potentially eligible or ready for the program that ultimately did not get funded either through the stimulus funds or through our regular work program so those projects (Sligo and Cordell Hull) have a lot of company. They were not ready."

During a meeting last Friday night in Smithville, Degges talked with WJLE about the status of Sligo bridge. "We're under development on the Sligo bridge. Hopefully, we'll be finishing up our right of way acquisition with the Corps of Engineers. There is a concessionaire under the bridge with the marina and we've been working real hard with the Corps of Engineers trying to find ways to reduce impacts on that business so that is complicating our right of way acquisition problem."

Degges says TDOT originally considered a rehabilitation of Sligo bridge, but the public outcry here was for a total replacement, which is much more expensive. "That's around a $30 million project. We had looked at doing about a five or six million dollar rehabilitation but working with the community it was very vocally told to us that everybody wants a new bridge there. So we are not working on rehab plans, we are working toward a set of replacement plans on that bridge."

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander recently helped secure $1.5 million in federal funding for right of way acquisition and for making emergency repairs to the existing bridge and is now planning to ask for funding to replace Sligo bridge as a priority project in the federal highway re-authorization appropriation later this year.

Degges said Friday night that Sligo bridge remains safe under the posted weight limits and he explained for WJLE why chunks of concrete are falling from the bridge into nets underneath the bridge. "On the Sligo bridge, a number of years ago when the bridge deck was going bad, rather than shutting the bridge down and jack hammering the deck out and putting a new deck in, we came in there real fast and poured a whole new bridge deck on top of the old bridge deck. So the new bridge deck is a structurally reinforced deck to carry the traffic. The old deck underneath it, we didn't fix it before we put the new deck on it, and we didn't need to. It is starting to flake and crumble and have pieces fall out. It's not a structural issue with the bridge, but we put the nets up under there because we were concerned about people who might be underneath the bridge, we might have a piece of concrete fall. So that's what the netting is for. We realize that it doesn't look very good up under there but we felt it was important that we put that there to provide safety for people to be under the bridge. But again, from a structural standpoint on the bridge, the new re-enforced concrete deck on top of the old one is a perfectly good deck and it will hold the traffic on it."

County Commission Approves Plan to Escort Large Trucks Across Hurricane Bridge

January 26, 2010
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night approved a plan to provide escorts of large trucks across Hurricane Bridge through at least September and to apply for a state grant to help recoup the county's costs. The purpose is to control weight loads on the bridge.

Under the proposal, County Mayor Mike Foster says the county will appropriate around $20,000 to hire at least a couple of people with experience in law enforcement or traffic control who would work a forty hour week monitoring traffic across Hurricane Bridge. These officers will be responsible for making sure that no more than one large truck passes over the bridge at a time. Foster says the Tennessee Department of Transportation has agreed to the plan. "They have agreed and if the county would agree to supply people to go down there an escort people across the bridge so that only one big truck is on Hurricane bridge at a time, they (TDOT) will allow them (trucks) to carry 72,000 pounds. This will help our industries and school buses that are crossing it, and it will cost the county probably in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $25,000 between now and September. However, I talked to Paul Degges (TDOT Chief Engineer) today and he has acquired for us a Section 402 police traffic service grant from the Governor's Highway Safety Office so that we can apply for a $20,000 grant to repay us through the sheriff's office. We will pay for it (manning the escorts) and they (state) will refund us through Sheriff Ray's office $20,000 through September. The money needs to flow through his department."

Degges told WJLE Friday night that TDOT hopes to have the design plans for the rehabilitation of Hurricane Bridge completed by September and a contract bid letting could follow this fall if state funding can be secured for the project, which is expected to cost between $12 and $15 million dollars.

Foster says once TDOT begins construction work on the bridge, the county's responsibility for manning truck escorts across Hurricane would end, because the state would be controlling traffic on the bridge.

Meanwhile, in other business the county commission voted to transfer ownership of the county owned shirt factory building, being used by Omega Apparel, to the DeKalb County Industrial Development Board.

Foster says this move will benefit Omega and help them create more jobs. "Omega is the sole maker of the 13 button broad fall Navy pants. Every pair of Navy pants is made right here and has been for fifteen years. We have about 86 jobs that work there. They recently received a new contract to make skirts. That will be 29 new jobs. They have also applied for another contract for class-A dress pants with a stripe on the side. If they get that, it will mean 82 more new jobs. They are going to apply for a federal loan but to get them a better rate and to make sure we do everything the way we're supposed to do it, we would like to ask to transfer deed of the old shirt factory building to the DeKalb County Industrial Development Board. This allows them to assist Omega in applying for low interest federal loans to help provide new jobs. It will not happen unless they get this contract and DeKalb County gets 112 new jobs out of it. But it will help them, and they will spend that money on the county building to put a new air conditioning and heating system in it, divide it, and do some work on it. They (Omega) will move their cutting room across the street (to the shirt factory building) on this side (east) of South Mountain Street and manufacturing will stay on the other side (shirt factory building on the west side). The loan is to be entirely paid back by Omega."

Foster brought the commission up to date on the latest developments with the Town and Country Shopping Center building, which is now owned by the county, and he asked for and received authorization to speak with architects about some renovation work on the buildings. "We actually got the deed to the property on January 4th and we legally could not do anything with it, nor could we take people out there to look at it, because of the liability issues. We now have it in our possession and have insured it. So we'll begin having meetings (on potential uses). We talked about title insurance. I went ahead and got title insurance because it was a very complicated title. We'd also like to get some input from architects to begin planning as to what we need to do. I would like authorization to talk to the three or four architects that you all named in the meeting the other night to get some input and ideas and settle on an architect to do this work."

On other matters, the commission appointed Judy Sandlin and Jimmy Herndon to four year terms on the county industrial development board and re-appointed Danny Pirtle and Jerry Taylor to the regional planning commission.

Foster says Jim Poss of DeKalb EMS will serve as the county's TOSHA officer, subject to completion of a job description for the position.

The commission approved the county fire department's selection for another year of Donny Green as DeKalb County Fire Chief and Roy Merriman as Assistant Chief.

The annual contract between the county and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was approved allocating $38,080 in federal funds for the sheriff's department for providing a certain number of patrols at various lake sites from April through September.

Foster received authorization for an emergency purchase to have a garbage truck repaired, which was involved in a traffic accident earlier this month near Sligo bridge on Highway 70. He says the cost is expected to be $35,488. Foster will obtain more estimates and present them to either the purchasing and or budget committees for approval.

According to Foster, DeKalb County's economy grew last year based on sales tax collections. "December sales tax revenues were $294,241. Last year, December (2008) collections were $252, 463. That's up by $41,778, about a 14% increase over same month last year."

"For the year, DeKalb County's sales tax collections were $1,883,484, up $102,488 for the year, a 5.45% increase. We were the only county in the Upper Cumberland that had revenues that increased in sales taxes for the year."

The LOOP- A Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

January 25, 2010
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Greetings! This “Special Session” called by the Governor, I must tell you, has been a special one indeed and highly extraordinary, to say the least.

The numerous hearing meetings discussing ways we can improve Tennessee Education brought this legislation to a more finite process. Because I value the heartbeat of my district when it comes to education, my school tour last fall provided a wealth of information needed to properly understand the nuts and bolts of public education.

“Race to the Top” will give much needed assistance to our great teachers that will help them reach even greater heights and thus reap greater achievements for our schools. I am very proud of the fact that we do not have any failing schools in the fortieth district. Hats off to our administrators, our principles and most importantly our teachers who labor in the classroom preparing our children to succeed!

It is my hope that one day we will focus more on rewarding success when it comes to distributing grant funds and rewarding our teachers with a better salary reflecting their diligence in educating our children. Never the less, our schools continue to work hard enabling our students to prepare for graduation and beyond.

Listed below are bullet points of what Race to the Top will bring to the table:

Provides $4.35 billion in competitive grants.

Building data systems that measure student growth and success.

Inform teachers and principals how they can improve.

Turning around the lowest-achieving schools.

Actually use the twenty years of information to improve the quality of education and to ensure that student performance is improving.

Reform education by putting in place common sense strategies and taking bold steps in reforming education laws.

Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) can now be used for up to 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, with another 15 percent of the criteria to be determined in part by an independent committee.

Teachers and principal will mutually agree with the person(s) performing the evaluation.

Teacher evaluations will be done once a year and will give teacher training programs access to TVAAS data on their graduates to help identify strengths and weaknesses of training programs.

Legislators have, for many years, advocated these types of education reforms on the state level, and we are glad to see a step forward being made for our children and our schools.

The state plans to enhance its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program.
Finalists in the competition will be invited to Washington to present their plans to the U.S. Department of Education in March. The winners will be announced in April. If successful, Tennessee can expect to begin receiving funds in September 2010 which will continue in equal increments over four years.

Tennessee currently ranks 40th in the nation in completion of bachelor’s degrees, and 45th in completion of associate’s degrees. We were told that in order to reach the national average, Tennessee would need to graduate another 20,000 graduates annually. The House passed the “Complete College Act of 2010”. I believe this plan will increase the number of college graduates, offer easily transferrable credits, and make the community colleges, four-year institutions, and technology centers work as a tightly knit network.

The bill will:
Revise the current law by making it easier for transfers of credit among institutions.

Give students an easier, more affordable way to finish the degree of their choice.

Develop a new funding formula based on outcomes.

And in addition legislators approved $6.2 million to establish the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as a premier research institution by partnering with Oak Ridge National Lab. The partnership is expected to create nearly 200 new jobs.

In closing, we have made great strides in putting into effect policies that will greatly enhance our education system and put us on the right track to realize our goals. By implementing accountability coupled with performance "Race to the Top" and the "Complete College Act of 2010" will bring us one step further toward meeting our goal to ensure a solid foundation for the future of our great state - Tennessee. Again, thank you for allowing me to work and serve you. Never hesitate to call my office at 615.741.2192. Blessings!

Crossville Man Injured in Sunday night Crash

January 25, 2010
Dwayne Page

A 19 year old Crossville man escaped serious injury in a one car crash Sunday night on Highway 70 east near Sligo.

Trooper Todd Logan of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Andrew Morgan was driving a 1999 Nissan Altima west on U.S. 70 when he lost control while going around a curve. The car struck a guardrail on the right, went back across the highway and hit a rockwall on the left side of the road. The car then overturned into a ditch, came to rest upside down, and caught fire. Morgan apparently got out of the vehicle on his own and was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was treated and released.

Members of the Midway station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department came to the scene to extinguish the fire.

Two Charged by Sheriff's Department in Three Recent Burglaries

January 25, 2010
Dwayne Page
Michael Chad Owens
Angie Dawn Taylor
Donnie Edward Stanley
Jarvis Trapp
Marty Brad Tallent

Two people were arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department last week, believed to have been responsible for at least three recent burglaries.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 28 year old Michael Chad Owens of Shady Drive Smithville and 28 year old Angie Dawn Taylor of Carter Drive Smithville were arrested on Thursday, January 21st Detectives brought charges against the two after an investigation into a January 16th burglary on Old Snow Hill Road. Taylor allegedly drove Owens to the residence where he got out of the vehicle, entered the home, and stole a diamond ring, two jewelry boxes, a basket of jewelry, and money. The next day, January 17th, Taylor allegedly drove Owens to a residence on Campbell Lane in Smithville where he got out of the vehicle and kicked in the door. During this burglary, the home owner was present and Owens was scared off . Four days later, on January 21st, Taylor drove Owens to a residence on Midway Road in Smithville where he kicked in a door to the home and stole two jewelry boxes and a box of 45 rpm records. Most of the stolen items have been recovered by detectives. Taylor is charged with three counts of aggravated burglary. Her bond was set at $75,000. Owens was charged with three counts of aggravated burglary and two counts of theft over $500. Bond for Owens was set at $95,000. Both will be in court on January 28th on the charges.

Meanwhile, in other cases, 29 year old Derrick E. Reeder of School House Road Brush Creek is charged with a fifth offense of driving on a revoked license. Sheriff Ray says on Monday, January 18th, members of the Sheriff's Department and the Alexandria Police Department were conducting investigations in Alexandria when they saw Reeder driving a motor vehicle. Having prior knowledge of Reeder's license being revoked, officers stopped Reeder and placed him under arrest. Reeder's bond was set at $10,000 and he will appear in court on April 12th.

34 year old Donnie Edward Stanley of Lucille Street is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana, and vandalism to county property. On Tuesday, January 19th, deputies spotted a vehicle parked in the roadway. Upon approaching it, an officer saw a long gun in the vehicle. Stanley, the driver, gave officers consent to search and they found a marijuana cigarette in his jacket pocket. Stanley was also in possession of rolling papers and marijuana seeds. He was placed under arrest and put into the back of a county patrol car. Stanley then kicked the back glass of the patrol car causing damage to it. Bond for Stanley was set at $4,000 and he will appear in court on February 11th. Deputies also recovered three long guns from Stanley and will be contacting the Federal division of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms hoping to indict him on gun possession charges. Stanley is a convicted felon and is prohibited from possessing any firearms.

30 year old Joshua Caleb Golden of Adams Street Smithville and 21 year old Randall Christopher Evans of Blue Springs Road were arrested on Thursday, January 21st after they were found intoxicated on Jacobs Pillar Road in Smithville. Deputies responded to a call on Jacobs Pillar Road and found both men in an intoxicated state having a smell of alcohol on their persons. Both were also unsteady on their feet. Golden and Evans admitted to drinking beer. Evans was also found to have in his possession a small bag of marijuana. Evans was charged with public intoxication and simple possession of marijuana. His bond was set at $2,000. Golden was charged with public intoxication and his bond was set at $1,000. They will appear in court on February 11th.

49 year old Jarvis L. Trapp is charged with possession of a schedule IV drug for resale. Sheriff Ray says on Friday, January 22nd, deputies received a call of a suspicious person on Highway 56. They found Trapp walking down the roadway. While the officers were talking to Trapp, he threw the backpack that he was carrying onto the hood of the patrol car and told the deputies to search it. After searching the bag, officers found an unmarked pill bottle that contained 30 pills believed to be Klonopin. Trapp said that a friend had given the drugs to him. Bond for Trapp was set at $10,000 and he will appear in court on February 18th.

43 year old Marty Brad Tallent of West Broad Street, Smithville is charged with driving under the influence, reckless endangerment, and evading arrest. Sheriff Ray says on Saturday, January 23rd, deputies while on patrol on Highway 56 South, spotted a vehicle in which the driver had committed a traffic offense. When the officer activated his blue lights, the suspect fled, driving at a high rate of speed. The vehicle turned onto Keltonburg Road and then turned onto Students Home Road where the officer ended the pursuit. The deputy was able to obtain a tag number and central dispatch contacted Warren County about the vehicle. A short time later, officers from the Warren County Sheriff's Department stopped the vehicle on Highway 56 South in Warren County. The driver, Tallent, was charged locally with DUI after he failed field sobriety tasks.. Tallent also had a smell of alcohol on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. He also admitted to the officer that he had consumed six beers. Bond for Tallent was set a $52,500 and he will appear in court on February 11th.

Also on Saturday, 31 year old James Fredrick Summers of Hodges Road Smithville came to the DeKalb County Jail to serve a weekend sentence as ordered by the court. After he was booked into the jail, Summers tried to sneak into the cell area a plastic bag that contained nine pills believed to be seroquel and a cell phone. Summers was charged with two counts of contraband into a penal institution and his bond was set at $20,000. He will appear in court on the charges February 11th .

Fire Destroys Hay Barn

January 25, 2010
County Firefighters Unable to Save Hay Barn (photo by Callie Matthews)

A fire destroyed a barn Sunday night in Lakeview Mountain Estates.

Lieutenant Brad Mullinax, Fire Prevention Officer of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department says the call came in around 6:35 p.m. " DeKalb E-911 dispatchers received multiple calls of a reported barn fire on Lakeview Drive. Upon arrival, firefighters discovered a large barn containing approximately 100 round rolls of hay belonging to Larry Summers fully involved with fire. By the time firefighters arrived it was too late to save the structure. Members of the Cookeville Highway, Short Mountain Highway, and Main stations along with the tanker truck responded and rendered aid on the scene. The cause of the fire is undetermined at this point but no one was injured. The barn and hay were destroyed.

Meanwhile around midnight, a fire was reported at 5549 McMinnville Highway and members of the Blue Springs and Keltonburg Stations responded along with DeKalb EMS and the Sheriff's Department. No one was injured. In fact, officials say the persons living there extinguished the small blaze as firefighters were enroute.

(Photo provided by Callie Matthews)

TDOT Chief Engineer Hopeful for September Hurricane Bridge Rehab Bid Letting

January 23, 2010
Dwayne Page
 TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges at Friday night Meeting

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is developing design plans for the rehabilitation of Hurricane Bridge with a possible bid letting this fall if funding becomes available.

Paul Degges, Chief Engineer for TDOT said Friday night during a meeting at Smithville City Hall that he is hopeful the project is ready in time for a September bid letting. "We are working at an accelerated pace on this project to be able to have plans available, should money become available about the same time. We will have plans ready this fall probably around the first of September. However, I want to stress that the funding of this project, while it is a top priority in the department and we know it is an important project, there is a funding component to it. We're going to have to have the funding made available to the department to be able to deliver the project to construction."

According to Degges, the price tag for the Hurricane bridge rehab project is estimated to be between $12 to $15 million, a large expenditure with limited available state and federal funds. "Our bridge funding program is pretty modest. In fact, this year we'll probably have less than $50 million dollars of federal funds available to us in our bridge program and somewhere in the vicinity of $30 million in our state bridge program."

However, Degges says TDOT's Better Bridges Program, adopted by the General Assembly last year, makes more funds available for projects like this. "Better Bridges" is a four year program approved in 2009 by the Tennessee General Assembly that utilizes bonds to pay for the repair or replacement of structurally deficient bridges in the state. The legislature must act to authorize funding each year of the program. "We were fortunate this year, the General Assembly passed a bridge bonding program to put another $87.5 million in our bridge program. So between those three components (federal, state, and bonding) hopefully in fiscal year 2011 starting July 1st, we'll have a similar program to allow us to pump a lot of money toward bridges that are in this category." Neither Hurricane bridge or Sligo bridge were included in the bridge bonding program during the first year.

Degges stressed that in order for any bridge project to be funded, design plans must first be in place."It takes a certain amount of time to do the design work. This is a pretty intricate structure. It has a lot of components and it takes a while to develop a set of plans. We actually have a consultant hired that's doing this work for us. It's moving along quite fast."

Unlike Sligo, the state will be looking to do a rehab on Hurricane bridge, not a replacement. And while both bridges remain safe to travel under posted weight limits, Degges says TDOT will likely give Hurricane bridge priority over Sligo bridge. "Certainly this bridge is one of what I would call a priority project across the state. It is very difficult to develop just a list (of priority bridges). There's a lot of different factors that come into play when you're talking about what is a relative priority but it (Hurricane bridge) is an important structure in the region. We feel that a ten ton weight limit on a bridge like this is certainly very difficult to have to live with. We want to be able to come in and put this bridge back in service at legal loads."

"This bridge (Hurricane) was built in 1944 and in the late 1970's the department came in and put a new bridge deck on it. We actually widened it. We met the design specifications at the time. Since that time, the design specifications for bridges have changed, particularly in the aftermath of the failure (of a bridge) in Minneapolis. Truss bridges in particular have been looked at a whole lot harder in the last couple of years. So we're having to go back in and based on these new design criteria, look at this bridge. This will be a rehab. We'll do a lot of work on the concrete deck. We need to narrow the shoulders a little bit and then strengthen some of the truss members underneath the bridge."

In the meantime, Degges says TDOT and the county have come up with a plan to limit weight loads on Hurricane by escorting trucks with heavy cargo across the bridge. "The department came up and met with the business officials, business leaders, and local elected officials up here about a month and a half or two months ago. What we agreed to do was sharpen our pencils and go back and look at our analysis and make sure that we were where we needed to be on the weight posting. We also committed to looking at the feasibility of putting a traffic signal on the bridge and allowing one lane at a time to go. So we went back and did that and found that we were right on target on our weight posting. We might could squeak another couple of tons out of it but that really didn't solve what the industries needs were."

"We looked at putting a one lane scenario up with a traffic signal but we felt that while we could double the weight load of a truck going across the bridge, there was a lot of negatives to it including a lot of delay time. You have people coming down the big hill, coming in from I-40. So what we came up with was, "what if there was only one vehicle on that bridge at a time?" What we found was that we can carry a full legal load across the bridge. So what we starting talking with the (county) mayor about was, how about us coming in and working with law enforcement of some sort, and basically escorting vehicles across the bridge one at a time. By doing that, industries could bring a full load across the bridge. We wouldn't have any significant delays to any other motorists using the bridge. So we think we have a solution that will work. We've worked with the county mayor to make sure that we've come up with a working solution that the county can live with. Right now, we're in the final stages of mapping that scenario out, seeing if there is a way we can fund it working with the county, what are the logistics, and who are the industries that are going to be doing this, so that's where we are. We are in the final throws in trying to get this solution. We think it will work and then ultimately we're going to have to come in and do the construction work on the bridge. When we finish the construction work, it'll be ready for a full legal load."

Once construction begins on Hurricane bridge, Degges says short term lane closures might be required. "We might have to have some short term total closures but what we think what we'll be able to do is to end up with a scenario where we put up a traffic signal and go down to one lane on it. We know that's going to be difficult but one of the things we want to come and do is before we make a final decision on traffic control, we want to come back up to the community and talk to the residents and business owners about the different options we have in traffic control and what would be the best scenario for this community."

Few attended the meeting Friday evening, which was intended primarily for local and state officials and industry representatives. Still, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, who helped set up the meeting, said it was a good forum. "It's another venue of communication. I had a meeting in my office last week with Paul Degges and he said I would like to come to your area and have a meeting. We called the industry people and let them know we were having a meeting here so he could address them and keep the communication moving forward. This is not a political issue. It matters not what side of the aisle you're on. It matters that we get the bridge done and that's why I think it's important to keep the community informed."

State Senator Mae Beaver, who was also at the meeting, said she is encouraged by the progress that's being made on the bridges. "I think it gives everyone a glimmer of hope that we are just about ready to get underway with these bridges. TDOT has helped figure out a way to get the traffic across the bridge temporarily, all the heavy loads and looking at a September letting on the Hurricane bridge so I think that's really good news for everyone. It looks like things are moving right along. Of course on the Sligo bridge, Terri Lynn and I met with Senator Lamar Alexander's staff and he is working on getting the rest of the money. We have $1.5 million now setting over at TDOT waiting to be used that they can start on. We're just looking for the rest of the money and we think it will be forthcoming."

Woman Cited for Shoplifting at Wal-Mart

January 23, 2010
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have cited a local woman for shoplifting at Wal-Mart.

32 year old Amy Jeanette Lawson of 1243 Haley Road was cited for shoplifting at Wal-Mart on Saturday, January 16th. She had $7.88 worth of merchandise in her possession. Her court date is February 11th

Meanwhile, anyone having information on the following offenses is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

On Tuesday, January 19th at 856 Cooper Street, someone took firemen equipment out of a tool box attached to the bed of Jeremy Neal's truck.

On Sunday, January 17th someone took some jewelry from Ms. Mary Hughes' room at NHC. Jewelry consists of a solid flat white gold heart with diamonds on a gold chain and one pair of matching earrings.

Any information received that will help Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

State Senator Mae Beavers Legislative Update

January 22, 2010
State Senator Mae Beavers

The following is a legislative update from State Senator Mae Beavers

Three contentious topics were addressed during a special two-week “Extraordinary Session” called by the Governor, including issues concerning worker’s compensation insurance, higher education reform, and K-12 reform. Senator Mae Beavers and the General Assembly addressed a law that went into effect on January 1 of this year that required small contractors to carry worker’s compensation insurance. In addition, the General Assembly passed a higher education reform bill that attempted to allow more Tennesseans to pursue a post-secondary education that fits their academic and workplace needs. Finally, Senator Beavers was one of only three senators to vote against President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” stimulus fund bill, a bill that was rushed through the legislature and one that Sen. Beavers and others feared would heap unfunded mandates onto our local schools and teachers, all in order to apply for the possibility of stimulus dollars and stray further from Tennessee’s ‘pay-as-you-go’ economic history.

General Assembly Delays Law Requiring the Purchase of Worker’s Compensation Insurance by Small Contractors

Senator Mae Beavers helped pass a worker’s compensation law that would seek to delay the implementation of a 2008 law that required all sole proprietors to carry worker’s compensation insurance. Beavers also plans to present a bill during regular session that would outright delete the 2008 law, a law that would force the purchase of insurance on single individuals and small companies that could account for expenses high enough to put them out of business.

“We cannot expect small businesses, particularly those sole proprietors and small contracting companies, to emerge from what has been a devastating few years in the economy and housing market if the state and federal governments continue to burden them with regulations and fees,” said Sen. Beavers. “Self-employed contractors are hurting enough as it is; the state doesn’t need to help put them out of business.”

The particular law addressed was a bill passed in 2008 that required all contractors and subcontractors – even those sole proprietorships whose owner is the only employee – to carry additional workers compensation insurance.

Beavers was one of only five senators who voted against the bill on the floor last session, and the only Republican to do so. “You have to be aware of the economic climate and what effects that state mandates will have when the legislature passes bills,” said Beavers. “I believe many legislators were quite short-sighted when they passed this law.”

Beavers urges everyone to call their legislators and ask them to support the bill she will be filing to repeal the 2008 law, in particular those who voted “aye” for the 2008 bill.

General Assembly Passes Higher Education Reform

Tennessee ranks 40th in the nation in completion of college bachelor’s degrees and 45th in associate degrees. Our dismal college attendance and graduation rates are not only educational problems, but in an ever-expanding and competitive global economy, they are proving to be an economic problem as well.

The higher education bill passed this week, called the "Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010," revises the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s master planning responsibility to increase college completion, address economic development needs and differentiate institutional missions to increase collaboration and efficiency between Tennessee’s post-secondary schools. The legislation also hopes to gear state funding for colleges based more on graduation and retention rates, rather than purely based on enrollment.

The legislation also hopes to make credits earned at community colleges easily transferrable to four-year college institutions. This system will provide a clearly designated path for students to further their education after completion of an associate degree in the state’s community colleges.

Finally, the bill originally had provisions regarding transferring authority over adult education programs to another department, a move that possibly would have financial consequences. However, Sen. Beavers and other legislators expressed concern over meddling in many programs in District 17 that are quite successful and serve to provide job training and career enhancement opportunities for adults, and therefore the provision was removed from the final bill.

Senator Beavers Votes to Refuse Federal Dollars and Mandates on our Local Schools

Senator Beavers was the sole Republican alongside two Democrats to vote against Governor Phil Bredesen and President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” education bill last Friday. The bill was introduced in a special extraordinary session called by the Governor that lasted approximately three days in order to rush through Washington-mandated and open-ended legislation to compete for federal stimulus dollars.

“By not spending the necessary time debating and coming up with sound conservative education reform – reform that gives more choice to parents and students and that enables local school boards to dictate what is best for their schools – we instead wrote the governor a blank check that includes federal guidelines in order to receive money that will bring this state further away from its ‘pay-as-you-go’ history,” said Beavers. “The last thing Tennessee’s students and teachers need is to be bribed into more centralized bureaucracy that enacts what President Obama thinks is best for all American schools.”

Another primary reason for Beavers’ opposition to the bill comes from the fact that many of the ‘reforms’ are initiatives that have been in place for many years now, as well as others that could have been enacted by the legislature during regular session. The bill contained many nonspecific guidelines, using words such as ‘may’ and ‘could’ instead of ‘shall,’ making many conservatives weary of what exactly the bill hoped to accomplish that could not be accomplished by the Republican-controlled legislature later in the year. A large portion of the federal guidelines and stimulus preconditions would be contained in the Governor’s “Race to the Top” application, which was kept hidden from the legislature when voting on the bill.

“I feel like leaders across the state need to take a step back and see why the country is in the shape that it is in – and I guarantee you that the mess we are in is not because of fiscal or constitutional conservatives who refuse to leave our grandchildren in the financial hole in order to placate President Obama and his stimulus dollars,” said Beavers “I did not vote against this bill because I disagreed with some of its conservative goals – I voted against it because it was rushed policy that not even every legislator understood that required more centralized control of our school system in the hands of the Governor and Washington…all in order to possibly receive stimulus dollars that will then not be there in a few years.”

Senator Beavers is eager to work with other legislators during the regular session to examine the effects of this legislation and help pass further meaningful reforms that will not be tied to federal stimulus mandates. In addition, if the state does not receive the federal stimulus money, lawmakers will have to cope with yet another new law and program that the state will have to fund with current revenues during this economic recession.


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