After a small hiatus, with the last two city board meetings being canceled due to a lack of agenda items, the Dyersburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen held its first meeting of 2013 last Tuesday evening. Although few actions were taken, the board did receive updates on the state of Dyersburg City Schools as well as year-end updates from the Dyersburg Regional Airport, the Dyersburg Police Department and Dyersburg Emergency Operations Center. After a prayer offered by Alderman Robert Taylor Jr., the meeting began with a report from Dyersburg City School Superintendent Neel Durbin on where the city schools stand in comparison to other Tennessee schools, particularly how well Dyersburg High School is scoring on the ACT exam.
"The number one factor that will tell you how well your students will do on ACT scores has to do with how economically disadvantaged your students are," said Durbin. "We're the 117th poorest district in the state yet we have the ninth highest (ACT) scores (in the state) over the last three years. We are an anomaly. It should not be happening."
Alderman Bob Kirk asked Durbin to define what it meant to be economically disadvantaged. Durbin responded that economic status is measured by the number of students in the school system on free and reduced lunches. Dyersburg City Schools currently has approximately 80 percent of its students on free and reduced lunches.
Durbin credited the city schools success to the teachers, whom he considers to be the most important people in the school system, closely followed by the students.
"We have established an educational culture in Dyersburg that is beyond money," said Durbin. "We (in our community) still believe that people can succeed by working hard and through education."
Despite Dyersburg's culture of success in its school system, Durbin told the board that they are not satisfied where they are at, and they continue the process of getting better. Durbin pointed to the city schools initiative through the Gates Foundation, which is purchasing four camera units for the city schools, in exchange for adding teaching videos to its library, as evidence of the system's commitment to continue to improve teaching. According to Durbin, the fact that the city schools is participating in this program with the Gates Foundation library is evidence that Dyersburg City Schools are doing well.
"A negative experience will be discussed four times more than a positive experience," said Durbin. "Guys, the word is out. We're good. Because people are talking about good things."
Durbin wrapped his statements by thanking the board for its continued and future support.
After Mayor John Holden thanked Durbin for his update, the board moved on to review the attorney's invoice for the month of November and December. The November invoice received a motion for approval from Kirk and a second from Alderman Dennis Moody. However, before the motion was put to a vote, Kirk asked for clarification on why nearly $7,500 of the approximate $10,500 November bill was devoted to personnel merit board and personnel grievance. Kirk also noted that almost $5,000 of the $5,500 December bill was devoted to personnel issues as well.
"It's obvious we're having to use them (the city attorney's office) a lot for personnel problems," said Kirk. "Apparently we cannot seem to handle that in house."
Holden responded with a detailed explanation that there was a merit board hearing in October to review the appeal of an eight-day suspension by an officer with the Dyersburg Police Department. The merit board subsequently upheld the suspension and in early November, Holden and Sue Teague, the city's human-resource director, received a written grievance from the officer. In addition, an officer that according to Holden is associated with the first officer filed a grievance as well.
Holden further elaborated that the grievances required 22 officers to be interviewed.
"There are several personnel issues that we handle on our own but because of the nature of the grievance and the classified services we felt it was best to involve the city attorney," said Holden.
Holden commented that he was not revealing anything that was not public information and that the State Gazette had already requested all documents involving the investigation through a Freedom of Information request earlier this month.
Moody asked if there was an opportunity to recoup some of the attorney costs from the individuals stating that if the merit board upheld the initial suspension and the grievance was found to be without merit they should reimburse the taxpayer.
"It seems wrong that the taxpayers have to flip the bill," said Moody.
Holden said that he was not sure if the costs could be recovered but he would look into it.
After no further discussion, the motion to approve the November invoice was unanimously approved. Kirk then moved that the board approve the December invoice as well. His motion was seconded by Taylor and approved without opposition.
In the mayor's report, Holden shared that the revenue at the Dyersburg Municipal Golf Course for the month of December was $8,073.17.
Holden also discussed the revenue at the Dyersburg Regional Airport for 2012, the first full year that the city operated the airport after assuming control on Dec. 7, 2011. According to figures provided by Airport Manager Tommy Gibbons the airport has sold over 84,000 gallons of fuel in its first year of operation compared to the 57,000 gallons of fuel averaged in the previous three years under the ownership of Spindler Air Service. The year-end report for the airport reflects revenue in the amount of $484,767.43 for 2012.
Holden also presented the Dyersburg EOC Annual Report. Holden commented that the EOC would be undergoing a review in February for triple accreditation. If the department is successful in receiving that accreditation it would be only the second EOC in the state to have received triple accreditation.
Prior to the conclusion of the meeting, Holden invited DPD Chief Art Heun to discuss the DPD annual report, which included a breakdown of how crime has been reduced in the last 12 months.
"If you look at this breakdown, you will know what I have known for some time -- that we have a lot of men and women that come every day to do an outstanding job," said Heun. "They come to work and get it done."
The DPD's 2012 report reflected a reduction in crime even while the call volume for police assistance has increased by 7.2 percent over 2011. The breakdown of the reduction in crimes is as follows:
* Assaults were reduced by 4.3 percent
* Burglaries were reduced by 17.6 percent
* Auto burglaries reduced by 41.7 percent
* Forgery/Fraud/ID theft was reduced by 22.6 percent
* Robberies were reduced by 14.3 percent
* Shoplifting was reduced by 23.3 percent
* Thefts over $500 were reduced by 12.8 percent
* Thefts under $500 were reduced by 4.9 percent
* Incident reports were reduced by 7 percent
* Aggravated assaults were reduced by 22.6 percent
* Aggravated burglaries were reduced by 19.8 percent
* Motor vehicle thefts were reduced by 55.3 percent
* Aggravated robberies were reduced by 16.7 percent
* Motor vehicle crashes were reduced by 5.4 percent
* DUI arrests increased by 13.1 percent
Heun said that the DPD has worked hard at analyzing the data and making it work for them, empowering the command staff to deploy their officers to impact specific crimes that were occurring during their shifts. Heun said that changes made to the narcotics and street crimes units has resulted in the handling of 22 meth labs and the indictment of 116 individuals for the sale of drugs. In 2012, there were 455 narcotics violations.
The report did note that the number of domestic violence crimes continues to increase with domestic assaults up 10.2 percent and domestic violence aggravated assaults up 55.3 percent.
Holden thanked Heun and the officers of the DPD for the fine job they do in protecting the citizens of Dyersburg and their proactive efforts at fighting crime within the city.
In other business:
* The board unanimously approved the purchase of two pickup trucks for the Meter Reading Department in the amount of $33,253.36 ($16,626.68 for each one) from Tim Castellaw Ford in Dyersburg, the lone bidder on a motion from Alderman Bart Williams and a second from Alderman Terry Glover.
In the alderman reports:
* Williams encouraged citizens to visit the city's new library if they have not already done so and commented that it was open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday evenings.
* Alderman Kevin Chaney commented that he noticed several street lights out on Lake Road and Wade Hampton Road. Chaney asked if there was not a better way to notify someone about the need to replace lights. Holden commented that the DPD could be asked to look into that but they would review the issue.
* Kirk, Glover, Taylor, Moody, Alderwoman Jewell Horner and Alderwoman Joan Wyatt did not have anything to report.