Scott County Helps the World’s Largest Christmas Project Collect Giftsfor 8 Million Needy Kids

October 8, 2010

Oneida, TN (2010-10-08) Right now, hundreds of ScottCounty kids, families, businesses and churches are joining thousands of volunteers across America to make a difference in the lives of 8 million hurting children this Christmas. Kids and families are wrapping and packing empty shoe boxes with simple items most people take for granted, including toothpaste, toys and school supplies.  During National Collection Week, November 15-22, 2010 they will drop off their shoe box gifts at one the Boys and Girls Club of Scott County collection site.  Operation Christmas Child will then use whatever means necessary—sea containers, trucks, trains, airplanes, helicopters, boats, elephants—to hand-deliver the gifts to hurting children in more than 100 countries. “The project allows me, from right here in Winfield, to impact the lives of children in countries I may never have the opportunity to visit,” said Jessica H. Chambers, who has participated in Operation Christmas Child for 5 years.  “I hope my gift helps a child to know that they are loved—that their life is important.” Operation Christmas Child, a project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse, is the world’s largest Christmas project.  Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected more than 77 million shoe box gifts and hand-delivered them to needy children in more than 130 countries.   ·        If the 767 shoe boxes collected in 2009 by ScottCounty families were stacked on top of each other, they would reach 300 feet high. ·        In 2010, ScottCounty volunteers hope to collect 1200 shoe box gifts.   It’s the power of a simple gift that allows Operation Christmas Child to transcend all barriers—language, cultural, religious, geographical and political—with a message of hope and love.  For many of these children, the simple shoe box will be the first gift they have ever received. Samaritan’s Purse uses tracking technology that allows donors to “follow your box” to the destination country where it will be hand-delivered to a child in need.  Using the EZ Give donation form found at www.samaritanspurse.org, families can register their boxes and find out where in the world their box brought joy to a child. National Collection Week is November 15-22, 2010.  For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child or to volunteer at the nearest drop off, call (423) 539-1112 or email scottocc@gmail.com.  For more information about Operation Christmas Child visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

USDA Loan Grant Will Improve Oneida Water Service

October 5, 2010

Oneida, TN (2010-10-05) A loan/grant from the USDA Rural Development will improve water services to customers on the Oneida Water and Wastewater system. Bobby Goode, Tennessee Director of USDA Rural Development, Congressman Lincoln Davis, Oneida Mayor Jack E. Lay, Oneida Water and Wastewater Department Manager Johnny Acres, along with a host of other individuals gathered on the waters of Howard H. Baker, Jr. Lake on Tuesday to announce an USDA Rural Development loan/grant that will improve the delivery of water service to Oneida Water Department customers. According to Acres, proceeds from the loan/grant will be used to install an automated customer meter reading system throughout the district, along with operational improvements to the water treatment plant.  With funds from the award, the district will expand its Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, which will give plant operators greater flexibility in remotely controlling pumps and valves at storage tanks and booster pumps throughout the system.  The department will also deploy a solar-powered aeration system, which will capture energy from the sun to circulate water in Baker Lake.  The process should reduce the occurrence of blue-green algae in the town’s raw water supply, while also mitigating taste and odor problems. The loan/grant leveraged money made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The Town received $985,000 in loan proceeds, coupled with $375,000 in grant funds.    

Trio Indicted in Connection with String of Home Burglaries

October 5, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-05) Ten people were indicted last week by a Scott County Grand Jury, including three people charged in connection with a rash of home burglaries earlier this year. Christopher Lee Lalonde, 28, was indicted on eight counts of aggravated burglary.  Lalonde was charged in connection with a string of burglaries in and around the Winfield community between May 26, 2010 and June 17, 2010.  Authorities claim that Lalonde entered the dwellings, and was allegedly involved with the taking of items from them; thefts of jewelry, guns, and other items. James Lester McCann, II, 35, and Rebecca Joyce Cordell, 29, were indicted on separate true bills in association with Lalonde.  Authorities allege that many of the items taken from the homes burglarized by Lalonde were recovered from a Winfield mobile home occupied by McCann and Cordell.  The pair was charged with theft of more than $10,000. Gary Tyler Stephens, 22, was indicted on three counts, including burglary of a building, theft of less than $500, and vandalism of less than $500.  Stephens was accused of entering the office of a local orthodontist on August 6, 2010. Byron David Burress, 32, was indicted for the promotion of the manufacture of methamphetamine.  Burress was arrested on July 28, 2010. Troy Allen Phillips, 40, and Brandon Neil Wiseman, 24, were indicted on a joint true bill.  The pair was charged with:  Possession of more than 0.5 grams of meth with intent to deliver or sell, possession of a schedule II controlled substance (oxycodone) with intent to deliver or sell, simple possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Phillips was additionally charged with violation of the light law, driving on suspended license, and violation of the financial responsibility law.  Wiseman was also charged with criminal impersonation.  Phillips and Wiseman were arrested on August 21, 2010. Gregory Allen Phillips, 21, was indicted on four counts, including sale of a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine), failure to appear, possession of a prohibited weapon, and criminal impersonation.  The alleged incident occurred on July 24, 2009. Timothy Wayne Nash, 32, was indicted on a single count of attempted especially aggravated kidnapping.  Nash allegedly attempted to abduct a female juvenile under the age of 13 on or about July 5, 2010; and, Anthony Dean Byrd, 43, was indicted on charges of domestic assault and aggravated kidnapping.  Byrd is accused of assaulting his spouse on or about August 24, 2010. An indictment is a formal written document that is drawn up by a prosecutor accusing a designated person of having committed a felony or misdemeanor and which is presented to a Grand Jury so that it may take action upon it.  The potential for persons with similar or the same name in the community exists.  All persons are innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Health Insurance Premiums Rise For County Employees

October 4, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-04) Effective October 1, 2010, health insurance premiums for all employees of Scott County, except for employees of the Scott County School System, increased dramatically. The Intergovernmental Committee has recommended the County pick up the tab for the increased premium for the next 60 days, giving the County the opportunity to explore other options. Last December, Humana assumed Cariten Healthcare, the health insurance provider for Scott County employees since 2005.  In July, Humana notified Ken Coffey, the County’s Account Executive from Barnes Insurance Brokers, of a 33% increase in the county’s premiums.  A subsequent renewal was adjusted downward because of a change in the employee pool, resulting in an average net increase of around 24%, or about $88,000 annually.  Given the sharp increase, Coffey began working with the County Finance Department to find alternative coverage.  During the marketing phase, requests for quotes were sought from other carriers, including Blue Cross, United Healthcare and CIGNA.  Because of the demographic of the county employee pool, United and CIGNA declined to quote coverage.  In a last minute effort to stave off the majority of the increase, Coffey requested quotes from Humana for various benefit packages.  Ultimately, Coffey recommended the County temporarily move all current employees to one healthcare plan with Humana, a plan with a $5,000 per individual deductible.  Then, in a move designed to buy down the high deductible, Coffey suggested the purchase of a supplementary insurance or Gap Insurance product designed to lower the deductible to as little as $1,000 (individual).  Furthermore, employees could lower premiums by another $500 by participating in a Humana sponsored web-based wellness program.  Based on a $2,500 deductible, the premium would be comparable to the employee’s current expenditures. Dissatisfied with the options, the Intergovernmental Committee tentatively authorized the expenditure of up to $14,600 over the next 60-days to pay the increase in the healthcare premiums.  “This will buy us time to look for other options,” stated County Mayor Jeff Tibbals. The County has already begun working on collecting information from all employees to have a better representation of its candidate pool.  At present, the County has about 70 persons on its benefit packages, meaning insurance carriers look at the medical history of individual members.  “With pools under 100 people, they look at just individual histories. If we can get this information, we can show the total claims history,” said Coffey.  The County has about 140 employees that are eligible to take the coverage, meaning it could quality as a “large” employer, a company with over 100 employees.  Most carriers base premiums for large employers on the claims experience for the entire pool, instead of the medical history of individual applicants. Currently, Scott County contributes $192.41 per month toward each employee’s individual health insurance premium, a benefit that has not changed in many years.

Wheel Tax Procedures Discussed

October 4, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-04) The Intergovernmental Committee of the Scott County Commission took a hard look Monday night at the feasibility and procedures necessary to enact a wheel tax in the future. No action was taken at the meeting. Ben Rogers, a representative from the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS), gave Commissioners an overview of the process necessary to pass a wheel tax, as well as the potential gains from the levy. The wheel tax would add a tax to every vehicle registration renewal, except certain classes of plates statutorily exempt, including those for 100% combat wounded disabled veterans, prisoners of war, and military and government issued plates. According to Rogers, the County had three options to pass a measure to enact the wheel tax. The first option would require the Commission to pass a resolution at two consecutive regularly scheduled meetings by a 2/3 majority, or ten Commissioners, voting in favor. Should the County choose this method of enacting the tax, any registered voter could file a petition with the local Election Commission, signed by ten percent of the registered voters that cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election, to force a referendum on the issue. A second option would be passage of a resolution by the County legislative body calling for a public referendum on the question. The third option would be to enact the wheel tax through a Private Act of the Tennessee General Assembly, which, upon passage by the State Legislature, would still require a 2/3 majority confirmation by the Commission to become law. A wheel tax can be used for a number of purposes, Rogers observed, including adding to the County General Fund, General Purpose Schools Fund, Highway Fund, General Debt Service, any other designated fund, or a combination thereof. Revenue can also be earmarked for specific debts; however, once those debts are retired, the tax would sunset, requiring the passage of a new wheel tax for any future projects or purposes. According to numbers provided by Rogers, Scott County currently has approximately 17,764 eligible automobiles on the road, and 133 eligible motorcycles. Should the County implement a $50 wheel tax, and a $25 tax on motorcycles, the levy could generate up to $891,213.75 in new revenue for the County. The Commission is looking at alternative revenues to help amortize more than $43 million in debt incurred by the County, including money to build the Scott County Justice Center, as well as building projects at Burchfield, Robbins, and Oneida Schools.

State Enacts New Residential Building Codes; County May Opt Out

October 4, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-04) The Tennessee State Legislature has enacted new, more stringent building codes for residential construction. While mandatory  can, however, choose to opt out of the provisions. Chris Bainbridge, Director of the Codes Enforcement Division of the State Fire Marshal’s Office, appeared before the Intergovernmental Committee Monday night to explain the recent changes in Tennessee building codes. On October 1, 2010, the State began enforcing new residential building codes, which were enacted last year by the Tennessee General Assembly. The codes enforcement program was designed to cover areas of the state that do not have building codes enacted by the local government or are enforcing building codes that are more than seven years older than the latest national standards. In order to improve safety and energy efficiency in homes, the State has adopted and will be enforcing the 2009 International Residential Code and the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code. The building codes will apply to new residential construction, but not renovations, or a change of use to a residential building on or after October 1. Beginning in 2011, the law will also apply to any additions added to one or two family dwelling of more than thirty square feet. People beginning construction on a new residential home must obtain a permit from the Fire Prevention Division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance, and inspections must be performed, generally during the foundation, framing, and final stages of construction. The cost of the permit is based on the cost of construction. For a home costing between $5,000 and $100,000, the permit would be $350. For each additional $50,000 in construction cost, the permit would increase exponentially by $50. On each project, one free re-inspection may be performed if the building were to fail an earlier inspection. However, each additional re-inspection would cost an additional $100. In most cases, a licensed contractor would obtain the building permit prior to beginning construction on the home. However, if a homeowner can obtain a permit themselves, so long as the construction is to be the primary residence of the homeowner, and that homeowner has not obtained a permit within the previous 24 months. Per statute, every County in the State is automatically bound by the new building regulations; leaving the County has three options.  First, the County, by a two-thirds majority vote of the county legislative body, may opt out of the new law.  If it decides to opt out, the county would have to revisit the issue every four years; having to act within 180 days of the next General Election to decide whether or not to continue to be exempt. Secondly, the County may adopt its own set of building codes and begin local enforcement of those codes.  Lastly, by taking no action, the State will automatically begin enforcement of the new codes. To obtain a permit for new construction, or for more information, visit http://tn.gov/commerce/sfm/homebuilding/index.shtml.

AccessTN To Close Enrollment To New Members October 15

October 1, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-10-01) The AccessTN Board of Directors voted yesterday to close the state-run high risk insurance plan to new members effective Oct. 15, 2010. Those currently enrolled in AccessTN will not be affected by this change. The change comes in light of the availability of the newly created and federally funded Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which has $97 million earmarked to provide health coverage to uninsurable Tennesseans. Coverage will continue for current AccessTN members. Individuals who have already applied for coverage through AccessTN will still have the opportunity to enroll if approved for coverage. “We created AccessTN to offer an option to individuals who could not purchase health insurance due to a pre-existing medical condition,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “That program has met the needs of these individuals, and will continue to operate and serve current enrollees. The new federally sponsored health plan provides a new insurance option that will meet the health coverage needs of additional chronically ill Tennesseans. This represents a tremendous opportunity for those in our state who need health insurance but cannot enroll in private plans.” Going forward, Tennesseans who lack health insurance and cannot access private coverage because of pre-existing conditions may be eligible for coverage through PCIP. PCIP, which is administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, provides coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions who can’t get coverage on the private insurance market. Applicants for PCIP must prove uninsurable status with a denial letter from a private insurer and must be uninsured for at least six months. The federal plan offers comprehensive coverage with no pre-existing condition exclusion and no annual or lifetime benefit limit. Like AccessTN, PCIP members are responsible for paying monthly premiums, which vary from $286 to $609 per month, depending on the individual’s age. There is no premium assistance program for PCIP members. More information about PCIP, including how to apply, can be found online at www.pcip.gov or by calling 1-866-717-5826 AccessTN, which serves as Tennessee’s high risk pool, opened in April 2007 as part of Governor Bredesen’s Cover Tennessee health care initiative. In its nearly four years of operation, more than 10,000 Tennesseans have been covered through the program, which has a current membership of just less than 4,000. More information about AccessTN is available at www.covertn.gov.

Bredesen Signs Petition To Protect North Cumberland Ridgelines

October 1, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-10-01) The state of Tennessee today filed a Lands Unsuitable for Mining petition with the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining. The petition signed by Governor Phil Bredesen requests the Office of Surface Mining find ridgelines on land managed for public use on the Northern Cumberland Plateau unsuitable for coal surface mining. Much of the property covered by the petition is part of Tennessee’s landmark 2007 “Connecting the Cumberlands” conservation initiative and is located in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan and Scott counties. “These lands are managed by the state of Tennessee for hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing and other outdoor recreational activities,” said Bredesen. “This petition asks the federal government to help us prevent mining on these ridgelines to protect their important cultural, recreational and scientific resources. Surface mining along these mountain ridges would be inconsistent with uses specified in the Wildlife Management Area and Conservation Easement, including hunting and recreation, depriving future generations of these special resources.” The areas covered by the petition include the Royal Blue, Sundquist and New River – also known as the Brimstone Tract Conservation Easement – units that comprise the North Cumberland Wildlife Management area. The petition area also includes the Emory River Tract Conservation Easement, which is managed by Frozen Head State Park for public use. A portion of the Cumberland Trail also traverses the property. If approved by the Secretary of the Interior, the petition would prevent surface mining of coal for 600 feet on each side of the ridgelines in the designated area, creating a 1,200 foot ridgetop corridor encompassing approximately 67,000 acres. This area contains most of the older growth forest that exist in the area as well as a diverse array of habitats and wildlife, some of which are considered rare or threatened. The ridgelines covered in the petition include about 40 percent of the total North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area and Emory River Conservation Easement Tract. Upon receiving a complete petition, the federal Office of Surface Mining must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. This process provides an opportunity for public input prior to a decision being made about whether to accept the Lands Unsuitable for Mining petition under provisions of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. The petition does not affect underground mining or permits for surface mining that have already been issued; nor does it cover any areas in which historical mining has resulted in water pollution from acid mine drainage where re-mining could help improve environmental impacts. The North Cumberlands petition is similar to a Lands Unsuitable for Mining petition granted in 2000 that covers Fall Creek Falls State Park and the watersheds that flow into it. In 1990, the Office of Surface Mining also designated the Flat Fork watershed adjacent to Frozen Head State Park as unsuitable for mining, in part to protect the unique resources of the park. A copy of the North Cumberlands petition is available online at http://tn.gov/environment/lumpetition.shtml.  

Bredesen Proclaims October 4-10 Child Health Week in Tennessee

October 1, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-10-01) Governor Phil Bredesen and the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination have proclaimed October 4-10 Child Health Week in Tennessee. Child Health Day was first proclaimed as a national event in 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge and celebrates its 83rd observance this October.  Tennesseans are encouraged to put the health and well-being of children first during Child Health Week, and every week in the year ahead. “There’s nothing more important than the health of our children,” said Bredesen. “Childhood obesity is a serious and growing problem that adults have an opportunity and a responsibility to help solve. During Child Health Week and every week, I encourage all Tennesseans to be good role models, make healthy food choices and support active lifestyles. Together we can secure a healthier future for all of Tennessee’s children.” This year’s theme is “Healthy Youth, Healthy Future” to emphasize the belief that the health and well-being of children today are fundamental to the future progress and welfare of our state. Today, Tennessee ranks sixth in the nation for childhood overweight and obesity, with more than 30 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds who are obese, according to a 2010 report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We all have a responsibility for keeping Tennessee’s children healthy,” said Dr. Michael D. Warren, medical director for the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination. “Parents, teachers, neighbors and members of the community can serve as positive role models to help children see and practice healthy behaviors. Habits form early in life, and we must work hard to help children learn good habits like wearing seat belts, brushing teeth, getting yearly checkups and immunizations, so they can grow up strong and live long, healthy lives.” “The state of Tennessee is committed to reducing childhood obesity and improving the health of Tennesseans at all ages,” said Commissioner of Health Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “Programs like Get Fit Tennessee offer support to families, teachers and other caregivers, and provide simple tips to help children get and stay active and eat more healthfully.” Bredesen established the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination in 2004 to streamline the many health care delivery services available to children offered through state departments and the private sector. For more information about this year’s Child Health Week activities, resources for parents, schools and communities, and a list of local events, please visit http://www.tennesseeanytime.org/gov/child-health/.  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

September 29, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-09-29) Clinical breast exams and mammograms are powerful weapons in the fight against breast cancer. But many women go without these recommended screening tests for a variety of reasons: they don’t think they’re at risk for breast cancer, lack insurance coverage for the screenings, don’t have time for an exam or the means to travel to a health provider, or simply fear the results and what may come next. During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Department of Health is urging all women over age 40 to get these important annual screening tests and reminding them resources are available to assist them. [ Read More ]

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