News

Democratic election commissioner calls Haslam and Rial ‘crooks’ in comments on Facebook page

Melba Isom

Melba Isom

One of the people responsible for making sure Dickson County’s elections are conducted fairly and legally has accused Gov. Bill Haslam and Dickson County Mayor Bob Rial of being “crooks” in comments on social media. Melba Isom, a member of the five-member Dickson County Election Commission, made the accusations on her Facebook page July 17 in posting a link to a survey that named Tennessee as one of the nation’s most politically corrupt states based on criminal prosecutions of public officials. “I’d like to say I’m shocked but after living here the full 61+ years if (sic) my life I’m not at all surprised that Tennessee made the list. Our governor is a crook and so is our county mayor. When we (sic) ever learn to vote for honest people over the glitter and hype?” Isom posted in public comments on her page. In comments on other social media forums, Isom has endorsed the candidacy of Matthew Cunningham, a Dickson County Democratic Party-backed challenger to Rial for county mayor in the Aug. 7 election. “Something is very wrong in Dickson county (sic), it is not the good place I’ve lived all my life anymore and I’m really tired of bad leadership, nepotism, and fuzzy math budgets,” Isom posted Saturday on a group page on Facebook. Isom is one of two Democratic members of the five-member commission that oversees elections in Dickson County. She is the longest-tenured member of the commission, having been appointed by the State Election Commission in March 2010. Tennessee’s 95 county election commissions are currently comprised of three members recommended by local Republican Party leaders and two members recommended by local Democratic Party leaders. The Republican Party gained majority control of the election commissions in 2009 after winning a majority of the seats in the Tennessee General Assembly. Republican Haslam is considered a lock for a second term as governor in the Nov. 4 general election. A former officer of the Dickson County Republican Party, Rial is seeking his second four-year term as county mayor. In addition to Isom, the Dickson County Election Commission includes Democrat Allen Johnson (appointed April 2013) and Republicans Jack Garton (appointed June 2012), Tim White (appointed April 2013) and Tammy Kilgore (appointed February, 2014).

Open houses, orientations set as Dickson County schools prepare to welcome students back Friday

Dickson County schools and their staffs are preparing for the arrival of students to start a new year Friday. Most schools have posted their classroom assignments on their websites or at their buildings. Supply lists are available on the websites, at open houses or in various retail stores as well. Director of Elementary Education Ernestine Adams told the school board last week that elementary classes will continue to focus on reading skills, especially in kindergarten through third grade. Teacher orientations were held Friday and the county’s eight elementary schools began holding open houses Sunday. During the open houses, incoming kindergarteners will schedule their Brigance preschool assessment tests with kindergarten classes scheduled to begin Aug. 11. Adams said pre-K students will be assessed in their homes with those classes to begin Aug. 14, including a new pre-K class at Oakmont Elementary School. At the open houses, students can meet their teachers, see their classrooms, begin paperwork, learn pick-up and drop-off procedures, sign up for extended care, prepay for breakfasts and lunches and more. Director of Secondary Education Josh Mason said freshman and new student orientations are scheduled at the high schools. Mason said the secondary teachers’ goals for 2014-15 are to meet or exceed all academic growth and gap reduction goals and there also will be an emphasis on best practices for college and career readiness preparation. Open houses began Sunday at Centennial and Charlotte elementary schools. Open houses are scheduled this week 6-7 pm Monday at Stuart-Burns Elementary, 5-7 pm Tuesday at Oakmont Elementary, 6-7:30 pm Tuesday at White Bluff Elementary, 6-8 pm Tuesday at Vanleer Elementary, 4-6 pm Thursday at The Discovery School and 4:30-6:30 pm Thursday at Dickson Elementary. New student orientation is 8 am-3 pm today at Creek Wood High School and 6-8 pm Tuesday at Dickson County High School. More information such as supply lists and dress codes is available on each school’s website through dicksoncountyschools.org under the Our District tab. To welcome students back and help them get off to a good start, the school nutrition program is offering a free breakfast for all students on Friday.

Early voting enters final week still behind the pace of voter turnout set before August 2010 election

As the 14-day early voting period enters its final week, the turnout of voters was behind the pace set in 2010, the last time the same county and state offices were on the ballot. Friday marked the halfway point for the early voting period and the 452 voters who cast ballots in Dickson and Charlotte pushed the voter total to 2,502. Four years ago Dickson County set the early voting mark with 5,163 prior to the August election, meaning this year’s turnout so far is 48.5 percent of the 2010 total at the halfway point. With early voting open Saturday in Charlotte, Dickson and White Bluff, another 288 ballots were cast, pushing turnout to 2,790. Early voting ends Saturday. Dickson County voters can cast early ballots at the election office in Charlotte 8 am-4 pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 8 am-7 pm Wednesday and 9 am-noon Saturday. The Dickson satellite location at Restoration Church on Henslee Drive will be open 8 am-7 pm Wednesday, 8 am-4 pm Friday and 9 am-noon Saturday. The new satellite location in White Bluff Town Hall will be open 8 am-7 pm Wednesday and 9 am-noon Saturday. The Dickson County Election Commission will review the overall early voting turnout numbers as well as turnout at the new satellite in White Bluff to determine whether there will continue to be early voting offered in a second satellite location in the November general and municipal elections as well as future elections.

Creek Wood grad becomes Father Michael Fye during Nashville ordination ceremony Saturday

Father Michael Fye

Father Michael Fye

A Creek Wood High School graduate was one of nine men ordained into priesthood by the Catholic Church Saturday in Nashville. 26-year-old Father Michael Fye celebrated his first mass as a priest Sunday afternoon in his home parish of St. Christopher Church in Dickson. Fye was part of a record class of new priests ordained by Bishop David Choby in a special ceremony Saturday at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. The nine men represent the largest class of new priests ordained at once since the Diocese of Nashville was formed to represent Middle Tennessee. Fye has been studying for the past four years in Italy and will return to Rome to continue his studies before returning next year to be assigned to his first parish in Middle Tennessee. Fye and his family moved from California to Dickson County when he was in the fourth grade. He attended St. Patrick’s School in McEwen then graduated from Creek Wood High School in Charlotte. His family became members of St. Christopher where Fye was an altar server. In an interview in the Tennessee Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville, Fye says he didn’t really consider the priesthood as a career option until he was preparing to graduate from high school. He spoke with Father Stephen Gideon, then the priest at St. Christopher, and Bishop Choby about the choice and went to seminary right out of high school. He graduated from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and went to the North American College of Rome to study at the College of Santa Croce. Fye spent four years studying in Rome where all his classes were conducted in Italian and earned a baccalaureate in sacred theology. He is returning to Rome to finish his licentiate in morality at the Pontifical College of St. Thomas Aquinas. He will return to Middle Tennessee next summer for his first assignment as a priest. “I’m very much looking forward to being in the parish,” Fye said in the Tennessee Register interview. “That’s the whole purpose, sanctifying people in their lives.” Fye is the first man from the St. Christopher parish to be ordained into the priesthood. He was the only Middle Tennessee resident among the nine men ordained Saturday.

Help Center, 2nd Harvest hosting mobile pantry with perishable items at fairgrounds Tuesday

help center logoThe Dickson County Help Center and Second Harvest Food Bank will be hosting a perishable Mobile Food Pantry at 9 am Tuesday in the Chandler Building at the Dickson County Fairgrounds. This event is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis and no vouchers are required. Participants must bring their own boxes. There will not be grocery carts and there will be a limited number of volunteers so come prepared to carry your own items. The parking lot opens at 8:30 am. A perishable food pantry offers free fresh produce, cakes, dairy products and other miscellaneous items, according to Renee Boehm, executive director of the Dickson County Help Center. For more information, call the help center’s assistance office at (615) 441-0076.

Preliminary end-of-year numbers show schools budget finishing better than expected: Weeks

Although audited numbers won’t be available for a couple of months, the early figures for the end of the 2014 budget for the Dickson County school system are better than expected and should provide the funds needed to contribute to a $6 million facilities improvement plan. Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks told the school board Thursday night that there still might be a few outstanding bills for the fiscal year that ended June 30, but the preliminary data shows revenues exceeded projections and expenses were less than expected, giving the school system almost $1 million more than anticipated to add to its fund balance. “We’re very pleased and again, I would compliment our staff for watching money, watching spending and kind of curbing and trimming as we can. So we’re very pleased with that,” Weeks said. The financial report for the end of the budget year shows the school system revenue at $60,259,801, which is 2 percent over budget. Weeks said the school system received 4 percent more than budgeted from county property taxes and 5 percent more in sales tax funds. Expenses for the year ended at $59,570,098, allowing the system to add $689,703 to its fund balance. Based on the 2014-15 budget, the school system now expects to end the current fiscal year with an unassigned fund balance of about $4.8 million, which will enable the board to make the $1.6 million contribution to Mayor Bob Rial’s proposed Project Cooperation to fund the first two phases of a facilities improvement plan. The board passed an amendment to its new budget Thursday night to take $300,000 from capital outlay, $200,000 from its building fund reserves and $1.1 million from fund balance to make the $1.6 million contribution to the mayor’s plan, leaving a projected unassigned fund balance in June 2015 of $3.7 million, compared to the $1.9 million originally projected in the budget approved by the board. With the $1.6 million from the school system along with the $500,000 set aside for safety and security upgrades, Rial says the county can borrow $6 million for school system improvements without having to raise taxes to cover the additional debt. Rial said the $2.1 million from the school funds will cover the payments for the first five years until the county’s debt situation improves enough to absorb the additional cost. The school board is currently negotiating to expand its contract with C&I Design to include phase II of the building project. Attorney Jack Garton said he anticipates presenting the new contract to the board at its August meeting.

Dickson County early voting so far not much higher than was seen in 2010 despite state expectations

The first week of early voting has seen just over 2,000 Dickson County residents cast their ballots, which is about the same pace as four years ago. The Dickson County Election Office reports that on Thursday 149 ballots were cast at the election office in Charlotte, bringing the county’s total for the first week to 2,050. More than half of those voting early have chosen the Republican primary at 55.6 percent while 172 voters, or 8.4 percent, have skipped the primaries and voted only in the county general election. With the addition of the county and district judicial races and judicial retention votes, state election officials have been predicting longer voting times and an increased voter turnout for 2014 and have been urging voters to take advantage of the two-week early voting period. While early voting across the state is up about 15 percent over 2010, in Dickson County the numbers are running virtually the same as four years ago. The single-day early voting mark for Dickson County was set July 28, 2010, at 780 during extended voting hours on a Wednesday. The first extended day of early voting this week saw 727 early votes. There were 5,163 early votes cast in Dickson County in 2010 and only 1,757 cast in 2012. Early voting continues 8 am-4 pm today in Charlotte and at the Restoration Church in Dickson. Early voting will be 9 am-noon Saturday in Charlotte, Dickson and at White Bluff Town Hall.

TDOT notifies school system of need for land at Oakmont, Dickson Middle schools for road project

The Dickson County school system is expecting to find out how much land the Tennessee Department of Transportation will be taking for its planned improvements to Highway 46 and what the state plans to pay for it. Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks said TDOT’s right-of-way acquisitions department has contacted the school system with a proposed payment for land it will be taking along Oakmont Drive as part of a redesign of that intersection that includes adding a turning lane and traffic signals along with realigning Marshall Stuart Drive. Weeks did not say what the compensation proposal is, but said the project will require only a small strip of land 6-8 feet wide and about 50 feet long. He said the land acquisition will be much more extensive in front of Dickson Middle School, where TDOT proposes to add a second west-bound lane from Highway 46 to Academy Street where it will become a right-turn lane. Weeks said he has not received the TDOT proposal for East College Street or seen any of the design plans. Once the TDOT proposal is received, the school system has 30 days in which to accept or appeal the state’s offer. The redesign of the Oakmont Drive intersection and addition of the East College Street lane are part of an $8 million Traffic System Management proposal to improve traffic flow on Highway 46. TDOT is proposing to redesign several intersections on Highway 46 from Interstate 40 to Henslee Drive, including new traffic signals at four intersections, instead of spending $60-90 million to build a southern bypass to divert traffic to Highway 70 on the west side of town. Weeks said depending on when he receives the TDOT proposals, he might have to call a meeting of the board’s executive committee if a response is needed before the board’s next meeting in August.

Nutrition program to welcome students back with free breakfast for everyone on first day of school

To help students get a good start to the new year, the Dickson County school system is offering free breakfast to all students on the first day of school. Michelle Zirnis, director of the school nutrition program, said all of the county’s schools will be offering a free breakfast to all students on Friday, Aug. 1, the first day of the new school year. Zirnis said the nutrition program wants to welcome students back to school and help them get off to a great start for the first day of the new year. Cafeterias across the county will be open from when students first begin arriving until the school day officially begins with a free breakfast for students in all grades.

Dickson County unemployment rate rises to 6.6% as all 95 Tennessee counties see hike in June

The unemployment rate for all 95 Tennessee counties went up from May to June. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports that Dickson County’s unemployment rate rose one percentage point from 5.6 in May to 6.6 percent in June. There were 1,630 Dickson County residents receiving unemployment benefits. Despite the increase, Dickson County is still well below the 7.8 percent rate reported for the same period in 2013. Tennessee’s overall unemployment rate rose from 6.4 percent in May to 6.6 percent in June. Lincoln County had the state’s lowest rate at 5.2 percent while Scott County remained the highest at 14.2. The unemployment rate for the country actually declined from 6.3 percent in May to 6.1 percent in June.

 

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Although audited numbers won’t be available for a couple of months, the early figures for the end of the 2014 budget for the Dickson County school system are better than expected and should provide the funds needed to contribute to a $6 million facilities improvement plan. Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks told the school board Thursday night that there might still be a few outstanding bills for the fiscal year that ended June 30, but the preliminary data shows revenues exceeded projections and expenses were less than expected, giving the school system about $1 million more than anticipated to add to its fund balance. “We’re very pleased and again, I would compliment our staff for watching money, watching spending and kind of curbing and trimming as we can. So we’re very pleased with that,” Weeks said. The financial report for the end of the budget year shows the school system revenue at $60,259,801, which is 2 percent over budget. Weeks said the school system received 4 percent more than budgeted from county property taxes and 5 percent more in sales tax funds. Expenses for the year ended at $59,570,098, allowing the system to add $689,703 to its fund balance. Based on the 2014-15 budget, the school system now expects to end the current fiscal year with an unassigned fund balance of about $4.8 million, which will enable the board to make the $1.6 million contribution to Mayor Bob Rial’s proposed Project Cooperation to fund the first two phases of a facilities improvement plan. The board passed an amendment to its new budget Thursday night to take $300,000 from capital outlay, $200,000 from its building fund reserves and $1.1 million from fund balance to make the $1.6 million contribution to the mayor’s plan, leaving a projected unassigned fund balance in June 2015 of $3.7 million, compared to the $1.9 million originally projected in the budget approved by the board. With the $1.6 million from the school system along with the $500,000 set aside for safety and security upgrades, Rial says the county can borrow $6 million for school system improvements without having to raise taxes to cover the additional debt. Rial said the $2.1 million from the school funds will cover the payments for the first five years until the county’s debt situation improves enough to absorb the additional cost. The school board is currently negotiating to expand its contract with C&I Design to include phase II of the building project. Attorney Jack Garton said he anticipates presenting the new contract to the board at its August meeting.

The first week of early voting has seen just over 2,000 Dickson County residents cast their ballots, which is about the same pace as four years ago. The Dickson County Election Office reports that on Thursday 149 ballots were cast at the election office in Charlotte, bringing the county’s total for the first week to 2,050. More than half of those voting early have chosen the Republican primary at 55.6 percent while 172 voters, or 8.4 percent, have skipped the primaries and voted only in the county general election. With the addition of the county and district judicial races, state election officials have been predicting an increased voter turnout for 2014 and have been urging voters to take advantage of the two-week early voting period. While early voting across the state is up about 15 percent over 2010, in Dickson County the numbers are running virtually the same as four years ago. The single-day early voting mark for Dickson County was set July 28, 2010, at 780 during extended voting hours on a Wednesday. The first extended day of early voting this week saw 727 early votes. There were 5,163 early votes cast in Dickson County in 2010 and only 1,757 cast in 2012. Early voting continues 8 am-4 pm today in Charlotte and at the Restoration Church in Dickson. Early voting will be 9 am-noon Saturday in Charlotte, Dickson and at White Bluff Town Hall.

The Dickson County school system is expecting to find out how much land the Tennessee Department of Transportation will be taking for its planned improvements to Highway 46 and what the state plans to pay for it. Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks said TDOT’s right-of-way acquisitions department has contacted the school system with a proposed payment for land it will be taking along Oakmont Drive as part of a redesign of that intersection that includes adding a turning lane and traffic signals along with realigning Marshall Stuart Drive. Weeks did not say what the compensation proposal is, but said the project will require only a small strip of land 6-8 feet wide and about 50 feet long. He said the land acquisition will be much more extensive in front of Dickson Middle School, where TDOT proposes to add a second west-bound lane from Highway 46 to Academy Street where it will become a right-turn lane. Weeks said he has not yet received the TDOT proposal for East College Street or seen any of the design plans. Once the TDOT proposal is received, the school system has 30 days in which to either accept or appeal the state’s offer. The redesign of the Oakmont Drive intersection and addition of the East College Street lane are part of an $8 million Traffic System Management proposal to improve traffic flow on Highway 46. TDOT is proposing to redesign several intersections on Highway 46 from Interstate 40 to Henslee Drive, including new traffic signals at four intersections, instead of spending $60-90 million to build a southern bypass to divert traffic to Highway 70 on the west side of town. Weeks said depending on when he receives the TDOT proposals, he might have to call a meeting of the board’s executive committee if a response is needed before the board’s next meeting in August.

To welcome students back for the new year next week, the Dickson County school system is offering free breakfast to all students on the first day of school. Michelle Zirnis, director of the school nutrition program, said all of the county’s schools will be offering a free breakfast to all students on Friday, Aug. 1, the first day of the new school year. Zirnis said the nutrition program wants to welcome students back to school and help them get off to a great start for the first day of the new year. Cafeterias across the county will be open from when students first begin arriving until the school day officially begins with a free breakfast for students in all grades.

The unemployment rate for all 95 Tennessee counties went up from May to June. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports that Dickson County’s unemployment rate rose one percentage point from 5.6 in May to 6.6 percent in June. There were 1,630 Dickson County residents receiving unemployment benefits. Despite the increase, Dickson County is still well below the 7.8 percent rate reported for the same period in 2013. Tennessee’s overall unemployment rate rose from 6.4 percent in May to 6.6 percent in June. Lincoln County had the state’s lowest rate at 5.2 percent while Scott County remained the highest at 14.2. The unemployment rate for the country actually declined from 6.3 percent in May to 6.1 percent in June.