Local News Articles

Gordon Wants Congress To Repeal Outdated Phone Tax

June 17, 2006
Dwayne Page

Following the Internal Revenue Service's
announcement to stop collecting the federal excise tax on long distance
phone calls, U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon is urging congressional leaders to take
up legislation that would eliminate the excise tax from all calls.

Last month, the IRS announced it would no longer collect the 3
percent tax on long distance phone calls.

\"The federal telecommunications excise tax was originally
enacted to pay for the Spanish-American War,\" said Gordon. \"This tax
certainly has outlived its original purpose, and the time to permanently
repeal it is long overdue.

\"The IRS did the right thing by eliminating the tax on long
distance phone services. Now, Congress needs to take the next step and
eliminate the tax from local phone bills as well.\"

The tax first was levied in 1898 as a luxury tax for wealthy
Americans who could afford telephones. Since then, the tax has been
repealed and reinstated numerous times and became permanent in 1990.

Today (June 16), Gordon joined a bipartisan group of his
colleagues in sending a letter to the Speaker of the U.S. House of
Representatives expressing support for the Telephone Excise Tax Repeal Act
of 2005.

Gordon is a co-sponsor of the legislation, which would repeal the federal
excise tax on all calls.

\"With more telephones than people in the United States today,
the (federal excise tax) now represents the polar opposite of a luxury tax,
and merely serves to raise prices for consumers,\" wrote the House members.

Taxpayers will be able to file for refunds on their 2006 tax
returns for any long distance excise tax paid after February 28, 2003. More
information is available on www.irs.gov .

Sixteen Boats Damaged Or Destroyed In Fire at Hidden Harbor Marina

June 13, 2006
Dwayne Page

An early morning fire Tuesday destroyed ten boats and damaged six others at Hidden Harbor Marina at Holmes Creek on Center Hill Lake.

DeKalb County Fire Chief Donny Green says firefighters received the call around 1:30 a.m. \"We were called to Hidden Harbor Marina to a reported house boat fire. The sheriff's deputies arrived moments after the call and they reported back that we had four or five houseboats on fire. When we arrived we found that we had about five or six houseboats on fire that had been cut loose from the marina. We also had more boats attached to the pier that were still on fire. There were a total of ten houseboats or pontoon boats that were actually burning and were destroyed and six more boats were damaged. There was no one on the boats at the time so no one was injured. Thankfully, none of our fire fighters were injured either because it's a very risky situation when you're fighting a fire on the water.\"

Green says TWRA officers were of great assistance to the volunteer firefighters. \"I can't say enough about the help we got from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Officers Ben Franklin, Tony Cross, and Tommy Alexander did an excellent job. They got their quickly and they helped us. We couldn't have been successful in getting the fire controlled without their help. They did a remarkable job along with my volunteer firefighters who were there. With the help of the TWRA, We were able to pull the burning boats away from the pier and to isolate and secure them so they would not drift back into the dock. From the time we arrived until the time we controlled the fire, we did not lose any more boats other than those already on fire when we got there and we were able to isolate the fire with very minimal structural damage to the marina.\"

Green says the origin and cause of the fire is undetermined. \" We don't know how it started because at the time the fire was discovered, the gentleman at the marina who saw the fire, said there were multiple boats already involved, so at this point we don't even know which boat the fire started on. That is something the investigators will have to determine when they come in and start looking at this.\"

Members of the Cookeville Highway Station, Short Mountain Highway Station, and Midway Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded. Firefighters also used a boat equipped with an on board pump along with portable pumps to help fight the fire.

TWRA had three officers and three boats on the scene and two officers of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department rendered assistance.

DeKalb EMS also stood by as a precaution to provide medical support.

Bankruptcy Trustee Files Motion On Behalf Of Cumberland Insurance Group

June 6, 2006
Dwayne Page

Bankruptcy Trustee John C. Mclemore has filed a motion to amend Cumberland Insurance Group's minimum purchase price of the B. Don James Insurance \"book of business\" from $200,000 to $175,000.

Under terms of the original agreement, Cumberland Insurance Group committed to pay 45% of its gross renewal commissions or a minimum of $200,000 for the Smithville, Woodbury, and Sparta businesses of B. Don James & Sons Insurance Agency.

McClemore now wants the original order amended because \"from the date of the sale, Cumberland Insurance Group, LLC and the Trustee had problems securing the book of business controlled by the Sparta branch. According to Mclemore, the manager there was determined to keep that business for himself. He left the employ of the Debtor and joined another insurance agency, taking with him sufficient records from the Sparta office to allow him to solicit from the customers assignments of the administrative rights to their policies. This was done despite the best efforts of Cumberland Insurance Group, LLC and the Trustee.\"

According to Mclemore's motion, \" it is the opinion of the Trustee that he was unable to deliver to Cumberland Insurance Group, LLC the book of business maintained by the Sparta branch and there should be an adjustment in the minimum purchase price required of Cumberland Insurance Group, LLC.

Mclemore, in the motion, states that Cumberland Insurance was able to generate gross commissions of $364,405 with $9,305 of that coming out of the Sparta branch. As a result, 45% of the gross renewal commissions generated $163,982 for the bankruptcy court.

Mclemore further stated, \"It is the opinion of the Trustee that given the circumstances, the minimum purchase price should be reduced from $200,000 to $175,000.

Some say the motion should not be granted because it is unfair to the other companies that bid on the business and that it could potentially reduce the money available to the creditors.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for June 24th at 9:00 a.m. in Nashville.

City Board Adopts New Budget On First Reading

June 4, 2006
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopted the new 2006-2007 budget on first reading Monday night.

The new budget totals $5-million 122-thousand 699 dollars. Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at 68 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The new budget calls for the water and sewer rates to remain the same. City water customers will continue to pay $3.50 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $3.50 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are 50% higher. The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District is $1.70 per thousand gallons.

City sewer customers, under the new budget, will continue to pay the flat usage rate of $3.62 plus $3.25 per thousand gallons thereafter.

Water tap fees for customers inside the city limits is $400 for a three quarter inch water line and the sewer tap fee is $400 for a four inch sewer line. If the lines are larger, the fees are cost plus 10%. For customers outside the city limits, water tap fees are $525 for a three quarter inch line and $525 for a four inch sewer line. Again, if the lines are larger, then the fees are cost plus 10%.

The proposed budget calls for city employees with up to four years of service to get their automatic step pay increases as defined in the wage scale plus a 3.9% cost of living increase. City employees with more than four years of service, who have topped out on the wage scale including salaried employees, will only get the 3.9% cost of living increase.

When the fiscal year started July 1, 2005, the general fund was projected to be $531, 815 in the red by June 30, 2006, but by eliminating unnecessary spending during the year, city officials have revised the deficit projection down to $147,364.

The General Fund would actually show a surplus of $102,636 by the end of the month, however the cost of operating the city's sanitation system comes to $250,000 a year. Since the city has no garbage collection fee for customers, the general fund must absorb the cost, thus creating the $147,364 deficit. Funds from the city's surplus must make up the difference

City officials are projecting that the general fund will show a deficit of $714,655 by June 30, 2007 unless spending can be held in check again during the year. If not, then the city may have to use more of the money from the surplus to balance the budget.

The water and sewer fund, at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2005, was expected to finish with a surplus of $273,413 by June 30, 2006. The projection now is for the fund to show a surplus of $570,061. However, the water and sewer fund is expected to finish the new budget year on June 30, 2007 with a deficit of $67,594, unless spending can be controlled.

Proposed capital outlay expenditures in the general fund for the new year come to $550-thousand dollars. Specific projects are as follows: Financial Administration- $7,500 including $5,000 for a computer upgrade and $2,500 unspecified; Parks and Recreation- $15,000 unspecified; Public Works/Buildings and Grounds- $15,000 unspecified; City Hall Building Alteration per ADA- $8,500 including $5,000 for handicapped rehabilitation and $3,500 unspecified; Fire Protection- $375,000 to begin the first phase of a proposed expansion of the fire hall; Street Department- $65,000 including $25,000 for sidewalk improvements, $10,000 for downtown beautification, and $30,000 unspecified; Police Department- $39,000 including $25,000 for a police car and $14,000 unspecified; Swimming Pool- $10,000 for capital repairs; Airport- $10,000 unspecified; Animal Shelter- $5,000 unspecified; Sanitation Fund- $130,000 including $125,00 for a truck&bed and $5,000 unspecified; and Drug Fund- $5,000 unspecified.

Proposed water and sewer fund capital outlay expenditures include $15,000 for a pickup truck for the sewer plant, $20,000 for an update of sewer plant equipment, $25,000 for an update of the water plant and engineering fees, and $20,000 for a sewer rehabilitation camera.

Although these capital outlay projects are budgeted, they all may not be funded during the year.

Second and final reading action on the budget will follow a public hearing at the next meeting on Monday, June 19 at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

City Fathers Deny Request From Golf Course Tenant

June 5, 2006
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen has denied a request by Jimmy Lewis, operator of the Smithville Golf and Swim Club, to reduce his rent from $2,500 to $1,250 per month in consideration for his making major improvements to the irrigation system at the golf course.

Alderman Jackie Rigsby, during Monday night's regular meeting, made a motion to grant Lewis' request but it died for the lack of a second.

Lewis, with his former partner Darryl Counts, was granted a five year extension of his lease agreement along with a five year renewal option only a few months ago as a consideration for his commitment \" to expend the sum of one hundred thousand dollars in order to dig a second well, to install a sprinkler system for the fairways, and to purchase golf carts\".

Under the previous agreement with the city, Lewis had the golf course and swimming pool leased until 2012 at a rate of $2,500 per month. Under the amended agreement, Lewis was granted an extension of his lease through 2017 at the same rate of $2,500 per month, with a five year renewal option. The monthly rate can be renegotiated in 2017.

Lewis says he has already spent more than $84,000 on the golf course and swimming pool and he now needs some help from the city.

Lewis says the volume of water needed to supply water to all the fairways cannot be supplied by the well that now exists and that two new wells are required. He says the holding pond that the golf course now has does not have the capacity to hold the volume of water needed so it will need to be enlarged or a new pond will have to be dug.

Lewis, three weeks ago, requested a reduction of $1,500 per month in his rent for sixty eight months until the irrigation improvement project is paid off, starting in June, 2006 through January 2013, which would have been a loss of revenue to the city of $102,000.

City aldermen, during the last meeting on May 15th, asked Lewis to obtain more bids on the proposed project and they would consider his request.

Lewis presented eight sealed bids to the city board during it's regular meeting Monday night and the Mayor and Aldermen reviewed them during a recess. Lewis also revised his request from three weeks ago, asking that the rent be reduced by half, to $1,250 per month.

City officials told Lewis that by taking the lowest bids on each project (digging the pond, well, and installing the irrigation system), the cost to him would be between $93,000 and $94,000, well under the $100,000 he had committed to spend himself under the extended lease agreement.

Alderman Rigsby, in making the motion to cut Lewis' rent in half, said he thought the city should help him since he had made so many improvements to the golf course. \" I can see the advantages. The golf course means so much to the industries coming in here. It brings more people into town. They spend money when they come into town. It's (golf course) picking up all the time, membership is picking up.\"

However Alderman Aaron Meeks countered that the city should not help a for profit entity at the expense of the city taxpayers. \" We just passed a budget in which we are going to take almost $715,000 out of the surplus to balance the general fund budget. Plus another $395,000 for sanitation services that are not funded. And now we're talking about giving $100,000 to a for profit operation that will be coming out of the taxpayer's pockets. Whether you take it out at $1,250 a month or $100,000 at a time, it's still coming from the taxpayers.\"

Rigsby responded, \" We're not talking about taking it all out at once, we're talking about taking $15,000 a year.\"

Meeks replied, \" That's okay, it's still coming out of the taxpayer's pockets.\"

Rigsby answered, \"That's absolutely right\".

Drug Investigation Leads To Discovery Of Crack Cocaine

June 6, 2006
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department found about two ounces of crack cocaine Friday night after executing three search warrants at three separate locations, and while no arrests have yet been made, Sheriff Lloyd Emmons says the investigation continues and evidence will probably be presented to the August term of the Grand Jury.

The search warrants were drawn up after officers learned that crack cocaine was being sold in DeKalb County. Upon executing the search warrants, Emmons says two ounces of the drug were found at one of the homes along with a small amount of money, but no drugs were found at either of the other two locations.

Sheriff Emmons says the crack cocaine that officers found had an estimated street value of six to ten thousand dollars.

According to Emmons, the drug may be coming out of Wilson County and being transported here. \"The TBI is aware of the investigation and the players in this case may very well be some of the same people the TBI arrested in a major sting a few years ago in another county and were given probation.\"

Emmons says crack cocaine, a highly addictive drug which is as dangerous as methamphetamine, could make a comeback here unless it is dealt with by law enforcement.

McCormick honored at School Board meeting

June 8, 2006
Tom R. Duggin

Mr. Jim McCormick was honored for his many years of service to the DeKalb County School system at Thursday night?s meeting of the Board of Education. McCormick, who is retiring at the end of the month, has worked with the DeKalb County School system for nearly 40 years. The board presented him with several gifts, including a plaque and a rocking chair. Board chairman Johnny Lattimore made the presentation.

McCormick thanked all of the board members, and all the people he has worked with over the years in the school system.

In other business, the board approved consent items, including the application for Local Consolidation plan, Title I, Parts A, C, & D; Title II, Parts A & D; Title III, Part A; Title IV, Part A; Title V, Part A; and Title VI, Part B for fiscal year 2007 and the federal budget. The board approved a partnership agreement with L,B,J, & C Head Start, and approved all fundraisers and school budgets for the 2006-07 school year. The board also approved the pay calendar for the upcoming year.

Meanwhile, a wage and labor issue, regarding Teresa Miller and Jennifer Nixon was tabled until the board can look further into the issue. The board was to schedule a workshop for later in the month to discuss the issue. Also tabled was a claim by the law office of Sue Puckett-Jernigan, seeking some $17,000 for services rendered prior to McCormick?s tenure as Director of Schools. Board member, Keith Garrett, made a motion to table this issue, so the board can get more specific details on the claim. The issue will also be discussed at the workshop later this month.

DCHS Principal, Kathy Hendrix, gave the board a report on the Gateway Test results for the school.

Director McCormick gave his monthly personnel report. Those who have been employed for the 2006-07 school year include: Michelle Fontanez, teacher at DeKalb County High School; Larry Steffee, teacher at DeKalb County High School; Christine Rivers, teacher at DeKalb County High School; Kyle Rivers, teacher at Northside Elementary School; and Rolando Navarro, teacher at DeKalb County High School.

The board also approved an overnight trip request for the DeKalb County High School Band to attend a band camp at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, July 23rd through the 28th.

Man Arrested, Charged With Burglary & Theft

June 10, 2006
Dwayne Page

Smithville police have charged a 27-year old man with nine counts of burglary, six counts of theft, evading arrest, and escape after a chase on foot Thursday led to the subject?s arrest.

Police chief, Gus Clemente, says Chistopher D. Bilbrey, believed to be homeless, but originally from Davidson County, was arrested Thursday, after being found with some stolen property, and is believed to be responsible for several vehicle and building break-ins.

Smithville Police received a call around 8:14 a.m. Thursday morning, about a suspicious male allegedly going through cars at 114 South Bright Hill Road.

Officer Lonnie DeFore responded to the scene, and was met by the victim, James Young, who said he had seen the subject take items from his vehicle and go behind a column across the street. Bilbrey was at the scene upon DeFore?s arrival, and the officer escorted Bilbrey to the column, where the items that were reported stolen were found.

Upon making the discovery, DeFore attempted to place Bilbrey under arrest, but the suspect fled the scene. A pursuit on foot ensued, as Bilbrey fled onto Congress Boulevard toward the Family Medical Center, were he was apprehended.

Around the same time, Smithville Police Lieutenant Richard Jennings was working two burglary reports, one at Model City Auto Sales and one at Tennessee Credit. It was learned Bilbrey was the one allegedly responsible for those break-ins, as well.

Bilbrey is believed to have taken a Shop Vac, a gas grill, a weed eater and a battery at Model City Auto Sales, in addition to breaking into three vehicles. He is also charged with breaking into two vehicles owned by Tennessee Credit.

Bilbrey was able to start one of the vehicles he broke into and was planning
to leave the scene with the items in his possession. However, a flat tire on the truck thwarted Bilbrey?s plan, and he had to resume his getaway on foot.

After he was arrested and taken in for processing, Bilbrey was handcuffed to an eye-bolt on a bench at the Smithville Police Department while authorities continued their investigation and completed the paperwork.

Around 1:30 p.m., while police continued their work, Bilbrey managed to take the eye-bolt out of the bench and escaped from custody out a side door. He again fled onto Congress Boulevard, and was apprehended a short time later, near where he was first confronted by Officer DeFore.

?It was a joint effort and very impressive team work?, Smithville Police Chief Gus Clemente said of Bilbrey?s apprehension on both occasions.

South College Street Home Destroyed by Fire

June 12, 2006
Dwayne Page

The home of a Smithville woman was destroyed by fire Saturday night on South College Street.

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker says Royce Odom was at home around 8:00 p.m. and discovered the fire in the attic.

The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department rushed to the scene but the blaze was already well underway by the time it was discovered and the home could not be saved. Ms. Odom was not injured.

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department provided mutual aid support with manpower at the scene.

Neighbors also pitched in and helped to salvage some of Ms. Odom's furniture and other personal belongings.

Chief Parker says the fire may have started from electrical wiring in the attic but the exact cause has not officially been determined.

Four Involved In Two Separate Crashes On Allen Ferry Road

June 13, 2006
Dwayne Page

The Tennessee Highway Patrol investigated two separate traffic accidents Monday night on Highway 83 (Allen Ferry Road)

In the first accident, Trooper Johnny Farley of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 25 year old Michael P. Clayborn was driving east in a 1997 Cadillac Deville when he crossed the centerline of the road and struck a westbound 2005 Ford Tauras, driven by 59 year old Mary K. Chapman.

Chapman was transported to DeKalb Hospital by DeKalb EMS while Clayborn was taken to the hospital by a private vehicle.

Trooper Farley says Clayborn was cited for a seat belt violation, driving on an expired license, violation of the financial responsibility law, and violation of the drive right lane except to pass law.

In the second accident, Trooper Farley says 51 year old Randy Campbell was traveling east on Highway 83 in his tow truck, enroute to the scene of the first wreck, when a 1999 Chevy Suburban, driven by 36 year old Robert R. Atnip Jr. pulled out in front of him from Holmes Creek Road.

According to Trooper Farley, Atnip failed to stop at the stop sign posted at the intersection of Holmes Creek Road and Highway 83 and pulled in front of the tow truck, causing Campbell's truck to crash into the driver side door of Atnip's Suburban.

Trooper Farley says the Suburban, upon impact, overturned and went off the westbound shoulder of the road, coming to rest against some trees.

The tow truck spun around, took out a fence, and came to rest off the west bound shoulder of the road.

Campbell, who was ejected, suffered only minor injuries and refused medical treatment at the scene.

Atnip was extricated from his vehicle by the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and airlifted from near the scene by a Life Flight helicopter ambulance and flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to be treated for non-life threatening injuries.

In addition to Trooper Farley, DeKalb EMS, and the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department, others rendering assistance were members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Cookeville Station, and officers of the Smithville Police and DeKalb County Sheriff's Departments.


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