August 8 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office. 

Tennessee Governor Follows Middle Road to Success (Stateline)

Governor Bill Haslam is completing an interview on a July morning and has only one more thing he wants to mention: the dramatic increase in the number of consultants working for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The problem, Haslam explains, is that the state instituted a hiring freeze and a salary freeze a few years ago. When engineers left, the state couldn’t replace them. So it hired consultants, including some of the same engineers who had just left. “It ended up costing us two or three times as much,” Haslam tells Stateline.

Governor Bill Haslam gets an earful on education plans (C. Appeal/Kelley)

Gov. Bill Haslam met with business leaders and education officials in Memphis Tuesday to learn about cooperative efforts among institutions that don’t always communicate as well as they should. Some of the complaints that surfaced were painfully familiar to everyone around the table at a University of Tennessee Health Science Center conference room where the governor held the latest in a series of sessions particularly aimed at improving the state’s performance in postsecondary education.

Haslam announces transportation grant for Savannah (Jackson Sun)

Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer today announced a $478,938 transportation enhancement grant for Savannah to replace sidewalks and make other improvements to a historic district. The project is located on Williams, Deford, and Guinn streets, an area that has been designated as a National Historic Register Historic District, according to a news release. The Historic District Pedestrian Sidewalk Project will include the replacement of 4,000 linear feet of sidewalks, the addition of more than 3,000 linear feet of sidewalks, and pedestrian street lighting, the release said.

Grant to Help Bolivar with Walkway and Beautification (WBBJ-TV)

The City of Bolivar is getting a hand from the state to build a pedestrian walkway in Courthouse Square. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer announced the $305,120 transportation enhancement grant for the project, Tuesday afternoon. The project is Phase III of the Pedestrian Walkway Project and is located on the perimeter of the Courthouse Square in Bolivar. It will complement the previous projects by adding decorative pedestrian lighting along the sidewalks on North Main Street.

Govs to promote auto issues (Detroit News)

A bipartisan group of four governors, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, is forming an auto caucus to support policies aimed at boosting the U.S. auto industry. Snyder will unveil the National Governors Auto Caucus today, in a speech at the Center for Automotive Research’s annual Management Briefing Seminars at Grand Traverse Resort. Govs. Jay Nixon, D-Mo.; Bill Haslam, R-Tenn.; and Pat Quinn, D-Ill., are founding members of the caucus, which will be open to all governors. Its goal is to provide “a forum for governors to discuss bipartisan, noncontroversial issues related to the industry and its 8 million jobs,” the governors said in a statement.

County mayor to seek state aid for flood damage costs (Johnson City Press)

Damage to roads and bridges in Washington County during a flood on Sunday is approaching $1 million, much of which will come right out of the county budget. And private property damage — including nine homes destroyed and more than 100 damaged in the Dry Creek community alone — is around $2 million at this point. “We’ve got probably $700,000 worth of damage right now,” just on roads and bridges, “and we’re still looking,” said Johnny Deakins, Washington County road superintendent.

Downtown businesses picking up pieces after Sunday’s flood (Johnson City Press)

The water might be gone, but downtown businesses affected by Sunday’s flood are still picking up the pieces left from the storm. Schmucks, located at 109 Buffalo St., began serving pizza Tuesday after closing its doors once the water started to rise Sunday. “The floors were the biggest thing because the tables sit up so high and we have bar stools, so we got around that,” owner Adam Fair said. Before the flood, Fair said business had started to pick up over the last two weeks. But Schmucks wasn’t so lucky Sunday, as the restaurant’s entire floor had to be taken out after taking in about two feet of water during the storm.

CoverKids insurance plan can now cover more (WCYB-TV Johnson City)

There’s a new focus on CoverKids as the school year gets underway in Tennessee. CoverKids is a low-cost health insurance plan. About 55,000 children are enrolled now and, according to Governor Bill Haslam, there’s room for more. To be eligible, your family must not qualify for medicaid or have private insurance. A family of four must earn less than $57,625 a year. Children must also be uninsured for at least three months. For more information or to apply you can call 1-866-620-8864 or visit www.CoverKids.com

TDOT prepares to wrap up I-75 construction in Campbell County (WATE-TV)

Tennessee Department of Transportation construction has gone on for weeks on Interstate 75, causing lane closures and heavy traffic. It started with a landslide that happened in March. An end is finally in sight for the I-75 construction. The staff at businesses like 141 Wine and Spirits are excited for customer flow to be back to normal. “Ready to get it over with. The congestion and the clutter and hopefully people will be able to travel through here without being interrupted,” said Jeff Hoskins, co-owner of 141 Wine and Spirits.

Crimes against elderly increase in Tenn., report says (WJHL-TV Johnson City)

Fewer people in the state of Tennessee are victims of crime, but the number of elderly victims in the state is up. That’s according to the first-ever study of crimes against the elderly by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The report found between 2009 and 2011 the number of elderly victims of crime increased 7 percent. Tonight we explore why criminals are preying on the elderly. Pastor Ed Jeffries looks out for what he considers to be our region’s most vulnerable population.

Green Party still waits for listing on state’s elections website (Tennessean/Brown)

Tennessee Green Party candidates for public office will have to wait more than three weeks before their names will appear on the state’s elections website. State officials do not plan to publish the official list of candidates for the November election until Aug. 30, state elections director Mark Goins said Tuesday. That’s when Goins’ office is required by state law to finalize and announce results from Tennessee’s recent primary elections, he said. Their names will be there unless the court tells us otherwise,” Goins said.

Former Judge Richard Baumgartner fires back in federal case (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

Former Knox County Judge Richard Baumgartner’s attorneys argue that there are no grounds for a federal case against their client. They filed 11 motions late Monday night asking a judge to drop all charges against the former disgraced judge and to suppress some evidence federal agents gathered during their lengthy investigation. In May, a federal grand jury in Knoxville returned a seven-count indictment against Baumgartner, charging him with misprision of a felony. Prosecutors said Baumgarter worked to conceal the felonies of a graduate from Baumgartner’s drug court, with whom a TBI investigation revealed the judge had a sexual relationship and who had supplied Baumgartner with prescription drugs.

Beth Harwell avoids rematch with Glen Casada (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Republican Beth Harwell won’t have to worry about a renewed challenge from the man she defeated to become the first female House speaker in state history. Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin told The Associated Press that he won’t make another run at the chamber’s top job despite the defeat of seven Republican House incumbents in last week’s primary races. “Beth’s done a good job, and I will be supporting Beth for speaker next year,” Casada said in a phone interview. Casada was considered the favorite for the speakership after Republicans picked up 14 seats in the 99-member chamber in 2010. But Harwell, a former professor and state Republican Party chairwoman, won the caucus nomination in a secret ballot.

Chattanooga developer Greg Vital concedes primary (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Chattanooga developer Greg Vital conceded Tennessee’s 10th State Senate District GOP primary to Todd Gardenhire on Tuesday, declining to request a recount after statewide Republicans showed little to no interest in disputing a 39-vote margin. “It looked pretty hopeless to me, being 40 votes behind,” said Vital supporter, Harrison resident and former state Rep. Bobby Wood. “Several other primaries were even tighter than that.” Tennessee primary elections are controlled by the state parties. Wood belongs to the Tennessee Republican Party’s State Executive Committee, a 66-member body whose approval Vital needed if he wanted a recount.

Woman claims Jim Cobb knocked down opponent’s sign at poll (TFP/Bunn)

An investigation is under way into a complaint against Tennessee House District 31 Rep. Jim Cobb, who is accused of getting into a disagreement with a woman at a polling place on election night. The woman, who filed the complaint, said she confronted Cobb Thursday after he knocked down a campaign sign for Ron Travis, Cobb’s opponent in the GOP primary. Mike Taylor, district attorney in the 12th Judicial District where Rhea County is located, confirmed the incident is under investigation as a possible assault.

Retiring, Defeated Lawmakers on Taxpayer-Funded Getaway (TN Report)

Six Tennessee legislators leaving the General Assembly this year are in Chicago this week on what could amount to a taxpayer-funded junket. Four retiring legislators and two state reps who lost their bids for re-election in last week’s primary have given the state notice they plan to get reimbursed for attending the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit in the Windy City that began Monday, a trip that could cost as much as than $2,500 in registration, airfare, hotel stay, per diem and cab rides.

Green announces he would skip per diem as senator (Leaf Chronicle)

A state Senate candidate announced Tuesday that, if elected, he wouldn’t accept a state payment expected to cover legislators’ expenses, a move that earned him a standing ovation from a conservative crowd. Mark Green, a Republican running for Sen. Tim Barnes’ district 22 seat, said it was “wrong” for Clarksville legislators to take the $173 in daily per diem payments offered by the state for legislators when they travel to Nashville for work. Barnes, he said, had taken $59,460 in per diem payments during his first term.

County Commission Seeks Legislators’ Emails (Associated Press)

Lawyers for the Shelby County Commission are asking the General Assembly for all communications related to the merger of the Memphis and Shelby County school systems and the formation of six new suburban school districts. The county commission has sued in federal court to block the Aug. 2 vote by six Shelby County municipalities, where residents decided to create their own school districts and avoid the merger. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a state law that allowed the vote.

TNDP Vows to Vet Candidates Following Clayton Nomination (WPLN-Radio)

Tennessee Democrats have missed the chance to their nominee off the ballot. But after Mark Clayton won the nomination for U.S. Senate last week, a member of the party’s executive committee is vowing to start vetting candidates. Democrats disavowed their nominee less than 24-hours after he won. The party argued that Clayton is not really a Democrat. He has described himself as a “tea party-style conservative.” The party says the only time he’s voted in a Democratic primary is for himself.

Policing Parties’ Candidates Not Within ‘State’s Purview’: Elections Official (TNR)

The state’s elections coordinator says he doesn’t have the authority to scrap the results of the Aug. 2 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, in which a little-known candidate whose “hatred and bigotry” has prompted the party to disavow his candidacy won the nomination. Elections Coordinator Mark Goins said there’s no time to hold a new primary, and no grounds to do so, in a letter to Larry Crim who came in a distant third to Mark E. Clayton. Clayton garnered 30 percent of the vote in the field of seven candidates.

Election officials: TN Dems missed chance to remove Clayton (WSMV-TV Nashville)

Tennessee Democrats are pledging to do a better job of vetting candidates who want to run under the party name in the aftermath of the primary victory for Senate candidate Mark Clayton. The party officially disavowed Clayton last Friday, one day after his win in the state primary, for his apparent radical views and associations. Now, other candidates have called for a new primary, but election officials said that is not going to happen. State election leaders said Democrats had a chance to remove Clayton from the ballot, but they didn’t take it.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate asks for new election (WATE-TV Knoxville)

Larry Crim lost the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination to Mark Clayton in last week’s election and is now asking the state to throw out the results. The Tennessee Democratic Party disavowed Clayton last week, citing Clayton’s ties to a Washington D.C. hate group. Crim finished fourth out of seven candidates in Thursday’s Democratic primary, but Crim is asking for a new primary election to be held. “I highly resent him inserting himself improperly in the Democratic primary process,” said Crim.

TN Democrats didn’t try to block Mark Clayton’s candidacy (Tenn/Cass, Sisk)

The Tennessee Democratic Party missed a chance to keep controversial candidate Mark Clayton off the Democratic primary ballot for the U.S. Senate race earlier this year, the state’s elections coordinator said Tuesday. Meanwhile, a party official said Democrats would revamp their candidate vetting process in the wake of Clayton’s victory last week, and the candidate himself told reporters that he wants President Barack Obama to “come back home” and drop his support of gay marriage.

Tennessee Democrats may be stuck with Mark Clayton (Times Free-Press/Sher)

Tennessee Democrats may be stuck with anti-gay rights activist Mark Clayton as their U.S. Senate nominee in November whether they like it or not. In a letter to Democrat Larry Crim, one of the seven little-known candidates who ran in last week’s Senate Democratic primary, state Election Coordinator Mark Goins said Tuesday, “There is not enough time to hold another statewide [primary] election before the November general election.” Crim is demanding another Democratic primary be held after the state party’s chairman, Chip Forrester, disavowed Clayton, 35, the day following Thursday’s primary.

Ex-county commissioner launches petition to reinstate polling place (NS/Balloch)

Knox County Commissioner Mark Harmon has launched an online petition urging the Knox County Election Commission to reconsider closing Belle Morris Elementary School as a polling place. “We simply want to make the election commission aware that this very bad decision cannot stand,” Harmon said. “There is substantial community objection to it. We don’t like this being sprung on us with very little community notice and a shifting and suspect list of reasons for why it was done.” The petition can be accessed at www.change.org by searching in the petition field for Belle Morris.

Provisional ballots weighed (Jackson Sun)

The Madison County Election Commission added a few more votes to the Aug. 2 election totals on Tuesday, as the commission accepted three provisional ballots and rejected three. Those who attempted to vote either during early voting or on Election Day and failed to present a government-issued photo ID were among those who could fill out a provisional ballot. The paper ballots were sealed in envelopes and held aside. Then the voter had until the end of business on the second business day after Election Day to present a photo ID to the Madison County Election Commission.

Woman says she was allowed to vote twice (WVLT-TV Knoxville)

A Sevier County woman says she’s contacted the state election commission after she was allowed to vote twice in the same election last Thursday. Brandi Reagan voted at the Catons Chapel precinct on Thursday, but after voting once realized her candidate for state representative wasn’t on the ballot. She questioned the poll worker, who admitted to giving her a Democrat ballot. He allowed her to vote again in the Republican Primary. “He said well it’ll be wrong it’ll be wrong, but loaded it for me again and selected republican Primary,” said Reagan.

Muslims gain go-ahead for prayers at new Murfreesboro mosque (Tenn./Smietana)

After two years of struggle, Murfreesboro Muslims will finally be able to hold Friday prayers in their new mosque. “I am walking out of the county building with the permit in my hand,” said Essam Fathy, head of the building committee for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, on Tuesday afternoon. Members of the Islamic Center plan to hold prayers in the new mosque at 1 p.m. Friday. County officials granted the mosque a temporary conditional occupancy permit on Tuesday after the building passed a state fire marshal’s inspection.

Islamic Center of Murfreesboro granted temporary occupancy (Daily News Journal)

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has been granted a temporary certificate of occupancy, valid for 30 days, by the state fire marshal’s office. County codes officials conducted a walk-through inspection of the building on Veals Road Friday afternoon and discovered no problems, but the state fire marshal still had to grant the OK. Today was the first day the state fire marshal was able to visit. Essam Fathy, chairman of the ICM board, said the center will begin holding Friday prayers at the new location and continue moving in during the month.

Mosque Is Expected To Open This Week (New York Times)

A new mosque that has faced arson, vandalism and a court battle has passed inspection and will be allowed to open by Friday, in time for the final week of Ramadan, its leaders said Tuesday. The State Fire Marshal’s Office said it had issued a temporary certificate of occupancy for 30 days to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. For two years, the center’s expansion has faced legal challenges and threats of violence. Vandals painted “not welcome” on construction signs at the mosque and set fire to construction equipment.

Murfreesboro Mosque Granted Temporary Codes Approval (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro is waiting to have a temporary permit in hand before moving into a new building in Rutherford County. But the mosque has passed codes inspections. It’s one of the most closely watched codes inspections in recent history. The mosque has been a center of controversy for two years, attracting bomb threats, arson attempts and protest rallies. Ultimately, a federal judge intervened to make sure the mosque would be able to open. Opponents of the project contend the congregation is getting special treatment.

Council to pick Arriola’s interim successor as Davidson Co. Clerk (CP/Garrison)

The Metro Council will choose between the Democratic Party’s nominee and a well-known council colleague Tuesday as it selects an interim Davidson County Clerk to replace John Arriola, who resigned in June. Brenda Wynn, a former U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper aide, is the heavy favorite to secure the council appointment Tuesday after the Democratic Party’s Executive Committee voted last month to place her on the November ballot. Three others are vying for the interim position, including conservative At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard.

Interim clerk replacing Arriola vows to restore trust (Tennessean/Cass)

A former Metro official and congressional aide was named the interim Davidson County clerk on Tuesday and quickly promised to restore public trust in the controversial office. Brenda Wynn was elected to the post by the Metro Council in a 28-9 vote. She defeated Councilman Charlie Tygard, who promised to donate his salary to charity and said he wouldn’t seek countywide election in November. Wynn, who will seek election as the Democratic Party’s nominee this fall, said she plans to be sworn in Friday.

Memphis City Council approves gas tax referendum (C. Appeal/Callahan)

The City Council on Tuesday approved sending a referendum to voters to add a 1-cent tax to every gallon of gasoline sold within city limits, with the proceeds going to public transportation. That 8-3 vote means the referendum will be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. Voting in favor of the referendum were Bill Boyd, Harold Collins, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert, Lee Harris, Myron Lowery and Bill Morrison. Voting against were Kemp Conrad, Reid Hedgepeth and Jim Strickland. Joe Brown was present, but did not record a vote, while Shea Flinn was not at the meeting.

City council works to give annexed residents more time to pay bills (WMC-TV)

Memphis City Council members want to give more time to newly annexed residents living in South Cordova so they can pay a new tax bill. While South Cordova residents are suing over whether or not they owe back property taxes, Memphis City Council members are debating how they can give those residents more time to pay. “Coming up with $1,500 to $2,000 in a short amount of time is very hard for some people,” said councilman Jim Strickland. The city has not yet assessed the new annexed properties and therefore, tax bills have not been mailed.

Pay equity panel explores hurdles in Bradley County (Times Free-Press/Leach)

The road to a uniform salary and benefits system for all Bradley County employees could be a tricky one to navigate, officials said. On Monday, the county’s compensation study panel met with Gary Hayes, a consultant with the County Technical Assistance Service, to discuss possible strategies and pitfalls. Core challenges to adopting a uniform pay system include acquiring full participation of all county offices, resources to conduct an objective pay study and funding to implement any changes, officials said.

John Ford close to being released from prison, brother says (Associated Press)

The brother of John Ford says the former state senator from Memphis soon will be released from federal prison after serving four years in the Tennessee Waltz extortion case. Edmund Ford Sr. told The Commercial Appeal that he expects his 70-year-old brother to be released to a halfway house on Aug. 20. Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said he couldn’t comment on a specific inmate. He said inmates can be released to a halfway house during the last year of their sentence.

Ex-Memphis senator John Ford to be released from prison (CA/Perrusquia)

Former state senator John Ford should be released from prison later this month after more than four years behind bars, his brother said Tuesday. The Memphis Democrat reported to prison on April 28, 2008, following a bribery conviction. He is expected to be released to a halfway house in less than two weeks, said his brother, Edmund Ford Sr. “The information I have is he should be here on the 20th,” said Ford, a former city councilman. Chris Burke, spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, said he can’t comment on a specific pending release but said by law inmates can be released to a halfway house anytime during the last year of their term.

State Sen. Stewart calls for 4th District debates (Associated Press)

State Sen. Eric Stewart wants to have three debates with Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais before the Nov. 6 general election. Stewart said in a letter to DesJarlais that he wants to have the debates over the next month so voters in the 4th Congressional District will have a chance to see where the candidates stand on issues. The Winchester Democrat wants DesJarlais to respond by email to his campaign by Aug. 13. Stewart also said his staff will work with Desjarlais’ staff to find a location and time for the debates.

Roe tours Bristol packaging facility (Bristol Herald-Courier)

Triad Packaging Co. was hailed Tuesday as a model of America’s manufacturing efficiency by U.R. Rep. Phil Roe during a tour of the Industrial Drive plant. “When you tour a beautiful, clean, efficient and successful facility like Triad, right here in eastern Tennessee, it’s a wonderful reminder of just how productive our American work force truly is,” Roe, R-1st, said while touring Triad with A. Lee Shillito, the company’s president and CEO. Added Roe: “[Triad] is also a great example of how a thriving manufacturing base produces local jobs and really helps a local community.”

Gibson Guitar CEO rips government on Twitter (Tennessean/Wadhwani)

Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz struck a defiant tone with angry remarks via Twitter and on his corporate website hours after federal authorities announced an agreement with the legendary guitar maker in which Gibson acknowledged it had illegally imported endangered woods. After declining most media outlets’ requests for interviews throughout the day on Monday, the company tweeted out a statement by Juszkiewicz at 9 p.m., blasting the government for its “inappropriately targeted” investigation that the Gibson boss called “wrong and unfair.”

Proposed Gas Tax Advances to November Memphis Ballot (Memphis Daily News)

Memphis City Council members gave final approval Tuesday, Aug. 7, to a second ballot question for the Nov. 6 ballot in Memphis. On an 8-3 vote, the council approved on third and final reading the referendum ordinance that puts a one-cent-a-gallon local gas tax to Memphis voters. The same ballot will also include a referendum on a proposed half percent local sales tax hike the council approved in July. Revenue from the gas tax hike, estimated at $3 million to $6 million a year by the sponsor of the ordinance – council member Edmund Ford Jr. – would go to the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

Working-class, female voters get campaign wooing (Associated Press/Pace)

Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are making hard sells to working-class and female voters while raising the volume on their criticism to fire up the party base and cast the other as an extremist. Romney’s team thrust welfare into the campaign with an ad claiming that Obama planned to dole out taxpayer dollars to anyone, even those not trying to find work. For his part, Obama was set to appear Wednesday with Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student who became a flashpoint for women’s health and, by proxy, abortion rights.

Watts Barr, Bellefonte Reactor Licenses On Hold (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Federal Regulators say they’ll temporarily stop issuing certain licenses for nuclear reactors until they’ve sorted out how to deal with nuclear waste. That decision could affect the three reactors currently under construction at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Barr and Bellefonte power plants. A court ruling earlier this summer struck down the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rules for handling spent nuclear fuel. An array of environmental groups then filed petitions with the NRC, asking the agency not to grant any licenses related to those guidelines until new standards are in place.

Security Questions Are Raised by Break-In at a Nuclear Site (New York Times)

An 82-year-old nun and two fellow pacifists who penetrated the defenses of one of the nation’s most important nuclear weapons facilities last week are due in federal court in Knoxville, Tenn., on Thursday to face charges of trespassing and spray-painting antiwar slogans on a building that houses nuclear bomb fuel. But the incident has also put the Department of Energy’s security system on trial. The security breach, at Oak Ridge in Tennessee, has prompted the Department of Energy to reappraise security measures across its nuclear weapons program and private experts to criticize the agency’s safeguarding of nuclear stockpiles.

New security leaders appointed at Oak Ridge (Associated Press)

The security contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has announced a new acting general manager after removing top leadership following an unprecedented security breach at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant by a group of protesters. WSI confirmed to the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/MqW3ex ) that Steven C. Hafner is acting general manager effective Tuesday after Lee Brooks was removed from the position. Three anti-nuclear protesters, including an 82-year-old nun, got through the plant’s security fences on July 28.

State signs K-25 agreement; DOE will proceed with demolition (NS/Munger)

The state’s historic preservation officer Tuesday signed a final Memorandum of Agreement on plans for the World War II-era K-25 building, concluding years of debate and negotiations on how to treat the facility and commemorate its place in history. The MOA, which had already been signed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other parties, commits DOE to spend more than $17 million on preservation activities in Oak Ridge or other projects to make amends for tearing down the historic structure.

GM: New Spring Hill engine to launch Wednesday (Nashville Business Journal)

The Detroit automaker, which has a Middle Tennessee presence that is again growing, plans to hold a launch event, according to an announcement. The company is touting the engine as an important technological advancement and boost to the region in terms of jobs, all of which is tied to a $460 million investment at Spring Hill.  GM’s Spring Hill head, Ken Knight, recently spoke with the Nashville Business Journal about his economic outlook and the recovery’s impact on Middle Tennessee.

ABC’s ‘Nashville’ filming brings stars and money to Music City (N. Biz Journal)

Anyone who drove through the Music Row Roundabout Monday noticed that the “Nashville” series has begun filming. Local filmmakers and entertainment leaders are confident that the show’s economic boost will extend well beyond the actors’ paychecks. “This has the potential to be the biggest deal in the production community that we’ve had,” said Curt Hahn, CEO of Nashville-based Film House production company. “Unlike a movie that comes and shoots here for 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 days at the most and goes away, ‘Nashville’ has the potential to provide scores of days of production work each year indefinitely, as long as the series is renewed.”

Amazon begins accepting applications for 2 Tennessee facilities (WKRN-TV)

Amazon has begun accepting applications for their two Middle Tennessee facilities scheduled to open later this year. The fulfillment centers, located in Lebanon and Murfreesboro are expected to begin operations this fall and are looking to hire several hundred positions. Job seekers must be at least 18-years-old, as well as have a high school diploma or equivalent, willing to work all shifts and overtime and pass a drug test and background check among other requirements. Pay is expected to start between $11 to $13 per hour. Applicants are encouraged to apply at Tennessee Career Centers. Applications will be accepted through Friday, August 17.

Memorial-BlueCross rift may affect City of Chattanooga employees (TFP/Hightower)

A simmering feud between Memorial Hospital and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee may engulf city employees. City Personnel Director Donna Kelley and Madeline Green, director of risk management and incentives for Chattanooga, briefed City Council members Tuesday during the Legal and Legislative and Safety Committee meeting about the ripple effects of the two parties failing to reach a contract. “The bad news is it’s going to cost [Memorial] a lot of money and it’s going to cost us a lot of money in the long run,” Green told council members.The contract between Memorial Health Care System and BlueCross expired July 31.

Opening Bell (Memphis Daily News)

Last year of separate school systems begins with host of changes By bricks and mortar, the last school year of separate Memphis City and Shelby County schools that began Monday, Aug. 6, looked about like most school years. But before the two school systems merge there will be plenty of evidence of larger changes that would be happening even with no merger a year from now. This is the second year of “common core” standards in Tennessee, a set of student achievement standards adopted by the state and 45 other states across the country.

Buses from Bristol to help Johnson City Schools get rolling (J. City Press)

After two days of cancelled classes, Johnson City Schools will begin the 2012-2013 school year today on an abbreviated schedule. Schools were supposed to start Monday but were closed following Sunday’s widespread flooding, which damaged five city school buses. Seventeen school transit vans were also damaged during the flood. In the meantime, some students will be transported by buses from Bristol City Schools. Dr. Debra Bentley, supervisor of instruction and communication for Johnson City Schools, said parts have already been ordered for the damaged buses, and officials are assessing the remainder of the fleet.

Roane County elementary school students return to class in new school (WATE)

Teachers and parents got a first look at Roane County’s newest school Tuesday. Dyllis Springs Elementary is the result of the largest single project funded by TVA’s payout from the 2008 Kingston ash spill. The school costs $12 million. It merges Dyllis Elementary and Oliver Springs Elementary. 6 News got a sneak peek of the facility ahead of student orientation. Teachers spent much of Tuesday unpacking boxes and putting the finishing touches on their classrooms. Kindergarten teacher Becker Efferson said, “We’ve been doing a lot of unpacking and putting things away and trying to find wonderful storage for everything.”

Sullivan schools may partner with Jacobs Creek Job Corps (Times-News)

If the details are worked out among attorneys, 30 to 70 teenagers from the Jacobs Creek Job Corps may be able to get Tennessee high school diplomas through Sullivan County’s public school system. That would boost the county’s student enrollment and state funding, but officials said no local funds would be used in the proposal. The teens would not attend classes in a county school but would be eligible, based on Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) rules, to play sports at Sullivan East High School near Bluff City.

More fruits, vegetables coming in school lunches (Times Free-Press/Omarzu)

The nation’s students can expect to see more fruits and vegetables in their school lunches under new federal guidelines aimed at adding more nutrition to their diets. The regulations shouldn’t be a shock to schools and students in Northwest Georgia, which adopted similar guidelines in 2004 under a multidistrict nutrition program called Pyramid Partners. “We voluntarily changed to something very similar to what the federal regulations turned out to be,” said Phyllis Oliver, nutrition director for both the Chickamauga City Schools and the Chattooga County school system.

Meth lab detected by distinctive odor (Times-Gazette)

“A strong odor of chemicals that took our breath away” alerted Shelbyville police to a meth lab at a McBride Lane home early Friday. Michael Madden, who does not live at the address, was arrested and charged with promotion of meth manufacturing, officer Jerry Draine said in a report. Officers said they found syringes and a spoon which appeared to contain narcotics in the kitchen, a “white substance” and what appeared to be coffee filters in a bathroom toilet.

 

OPINION

 

Gail Kerr: Students paying the price in Sumner budget fight (Tennessean)

Sumner County officials are playing a dangerous game of political chicken.And the loser? The school kids these clowns were elected to educate. These so-called “leaders” ought to be downright ashamed of themselves. Sumner schools were supposed to open Monday. Kids have new crayons and backpacks. Teachers have decorated their classrooms. Parents are getting back in the routine. Instead, school doors are locked. Football teams are practicing but have no idea if they’ll be allowed to play their first games. School-run summer day care programs are forced to stay open. And the worst consequence? Sumner public school students are going to fall farther and farther behind the longer this ridiculous limbo continues.

Editorial: Voters fail to understand important of key positions (Daily News Journal)

With only 16 percent of Rutherford County’s registered voters bothering to cast a ballot for the Aug. 2 election, it is clear that local residents don’t understand the importance of the positions that were on the ballot. Three new members of the Rutherford County School Board were selected to oversee the direction of the county school system, which has nearly 40,000 students and dozens of schools with thousands of people on staff. It is one of the largest and most important endeavors in Rutherford County, and we hope those elected — Helen Blankenship, Coy Young and David Nipper plus veteran Terry Hodge — will continue efforts to lead the county school system in the right direction.

Editorial: Gibson Guitar’s offensive fumble (Commercial Appeal)

There are a couple of lessons to be learned from Gibson Guitar Corp.’s backing down in its fight with federal regulators over whether the company had purchased and imported wood illegally. If cooler heads had prevailed at Gibson and company officials had done better due diligence investigating the origin of the disputed wood, maybe the federal raids on Gibson facilities in Memphis and Nashville last year and the politicized nationwide controversy that resulted could have been avoided. And maybe the conservative pundits and politicians who used the raids as a platform from which to blame overzealous federal regulators for destroying American businesses, realize now that they jumped on the Gibson bandwagon too quickly. B