Morgan County Inmate Still On The Run

December 29, 2010

Wartburg, TN (2010-12-29) The Tennessee Department of Correction Internal Affairs Division continues its search for an inmate who escaped from a minimum-custody housing unit in Morgan County during the holiday weekend. [ Read More ]

Fire Victim Identified

December 27, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-12-27) The Oneida woman who perished in a pre-Christmas house fire on Niggs Creek Road has been positively identified. Gail Longshawl, 58, of 166 Niggs Creek Road was discovered inside her gutted apartment late Thursday night. Longshawl was the lone fatality of the fire, which completely destroyed one end of the rented duplex located behind the Boys and Girls Club of Scott County.  Longshawl was found in the bathtub, where she had reportedly fled to avoid the flames. The cause of the blaze has not been determined and is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s office. Bruce Gibson, 77, of Oneida was injured in the fire, which erupted around 8:00 p.m. last Thursday night.  Gibson was taken from the scene to St. Mary’s Medical Center of Scott County.  He was later airlifted from the Scott County Airport to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga.  His condition is unknown. Members of the 7th District Fire Department, who had responded to a possible gas leak at a nearby apartment, reported the fire. Homeowners in the area, some as far away as the Ponderosa community, reported hearing an explosion around the time the fire was discovered.  The explosion, if it actually occurred, may have been caused by ruptured oxygen canisters, which were reportedly recovered at the scene.

Local Unemployment Rate Nears 20% In November

December 23, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-12-23) The unemployment rate in Scott County increased last month, nearing 20% in November.  Scott County has once again topped the list of counties with high unemployment. According to the latest statistics of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Scott County had the highest jobless rate in the State again last month.  The local unemployment rate for November was 19,9%, up a full percentage point from October.  Of the county’s labor force of 8,110, 1,620 were jobless in November.  Despite the bleak economic news, 6,500 Scott Countians still had jobs last month.  A year ago, the jobless rate in Scott County was 17.5 percent. ScottCounty wasn’t alone in increased joblessness, as 85 of the state’s 95 counties reported increases in November. In Anderson County, the jobless rate rose from 8.4 percent in October to 8.6 percent in November.  Campbell County likewise increased, going from 11.2 to 11.8 percent over the month.  Fentress County crept up to 11.1 percent, an increase of 0.6 of percentage point.  Pickett County experienced the most significant percentage increase over the month, rising 2.6 percent from 12.9 to 15.5 percent in November.  Morgan County was the only neighboring county to see a decrease in unemployment, dropping from 10.5 percent in October to 10.3 percent in November. Lincoln County registered the state’s lowest county unemployment rate at 6.3 percent, up from the October rate of 6.0 percent. Scott County had the state’s highest followed by Marshall County at 16.2 percent, up from the October rate of 15.4 percent. Knox County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.2 percent, up from 7.0 percent in October.  Hamilton County was 8.1 percent, up from 7.8 percent the previous month. Davidson County was 8.7 percent, unchanged from the previous month, and Shelby County was 9.9 percent, up one-tenth of a percentage point from October.

Oneida Woman Perishes In Niggs Creek House Fire

December 23, 2010

Oneida, TN (2010-12-23) A residential house fire has claimed the life of an Oneida woman.  An elderly male resident of the house has been airlifted to a Chattanooga hospital for treatment of severe burns. An elderly woman reportedly perished in a residential house fire at 192 Niggs Creek Road Thursday evening.  The victim, who has not been identified, was reportedly found inside the gutted remains of her apartment, a house which had been converted into a duplex.  While the victim’s name has not been released pending positive identification, authorities confirm an elderly man, identified as Bruce Gibson, 77, of Oneida was also inside the house and suffered severe burns to his upper body and face in the fire.  He was transported from the scene by the Scott County Ambulance Service to St. Mary’s Medical Center of Scott County.  He was later airlifted from the Scott County Airport to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga. The fire was reported by members of the 7th District Fire Department, which had been dispatched to a nearby apartment to investigate a suspected gas leak.  Homeowners in the area, some as far away as the Ponderosa community, reported hearing an explosion around the time the fire was discovered.  The explosion, if it actually occurred, may have been caused by oxygen canisters, which were reportedly recovered at the scene.  The actual cause of the fire is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office. The three alarm fire gutted the apartment where the victim was found, and caused significant smoke and water damage to the other end of the duplex. The 7th District, Mid County and Oneida Fire Departments battled the fire and quickly brought it under control.  The Oneida Police Department initially responded to the call; however, the house was reportedly outside the city and the investigation was turned over to the Sheriff Mike Cross, Detective Randy Lewallen and the Scott County Sheriff’s Department. Earlier in the day, the Paint Rock and Huntsville Fire Department’s battled a fire at the home of Ricky Lowe on Huntsville Hill Road.  The house was reportedly lost; however, no injuries were reported. Scott County has experienced three residential fires in the last two weeks.  Last week, fire destroyed the home of Tim Byrge in Norma.

4-H / Chamber of Commerce Christmas Ornament Decorating Contest WinnersAnnounced

December 23, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-12-23) The beauty and spirit of the season was brought to life in a variety of sizes, styles and shaped during the first annual Scott County 4-H program / Scott County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Ornament Decorating Contest held on Monday, December 20, 2010. Despite inclement weather closing schools and hampering the collection of ornaments, the local 4-H program and Chamber of Commerce still received numerous entries in its first-ever homemade Christmas Ornament Decorating Contest.  Entries represented a variety of themes and were constructed from common household items, including pasta, paper clips and light bulbs. In the Kindergarten to Grade 2 division, Destiny West, a kindergarten student at Huntsville Elementary took home the top prize, a $50 cash prize from The Malone Company.  Destiny’s entry was a presents under a Christmas tree made of wooden craft sticks. In Grades 3 to 5, Emma Todd, a 4th grade student at Huntsville Elementary was the winner.  Emma reindeer made of paper clips earned the $50 cash prize given by South Fork Antiques and Treasures. Brianna Blount, an 8th grade student at Burchfield Elementary School, took home top honors in the Grade 6 to 8 category.  Brianna entry was a caroler made from a soda can.  The category was sponsored by First Trust and Savings Bank. In the 9th to 12th grade category, Oneida High School freshman Emily Walker walled away with the $50 prize from First National Bank.  Her entry was an elf made from a light bulb. Thomas Walker, a 4th grade student at Oneida Elementary School was awarded most creative for his entry, a wreath made from an electromagnetic coil from a computer motherboard.  He was awarded a $25 prize

TDOT Halts Highway Construction for Busy Holiday Travel Period

December 23, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-12-23) Holiday travelers should enjoy a smooth drive through Tennessee during the busy Christmas and New Year’s travel holidays. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is once again halting all lane closure activity on interstates and state highways in anticipation of higher traffic volumes across the state. No temporary lane closures will be allowed for construction on Tennessee roadways from 8:00 a.m. on Friday, December 24 through 8:00 a.m. on Monday, January 3. “This is one of the busiest travel periods of the entire year and we know many Tennesseans will be hitting the roads to visit family and friends during the holidays,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “We want to ensure that motorists traveling in Tennessee arrive at their destinations safely and with as little disruption as possible.” Except for a few long-term closures which must remain in place for safety, all construction related closures will be suspended. Workers will also be on site in some construction zones. Drivers should obey all posted speed limits, particularly in construction areas. Slower speeds are necessary in work zones due to the temporary layout of the roadway and will be enforced. Drivers convicted of speeding through work zones where workers are present face a fine of $250 to $500, plus court fees and possible increased insurance premiums. “Drivers can expect to see increased law enforcement on the roads throughout the holiday with a particular focus on stopping drivers who are impaired,” said Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole. “We want everyone to have a safe holiday so remember to buckle up, drive the speed limit and don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you’ve had anything to drink.” AAA predicts holiday travel will increase nearly 4% in Tennessee this year, with more than 2 million expected to travel by automobile in the volunteer state between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Across the U.S. 85.7 million people are expected to drive to their year-end holiday destinations. For up-to-date travel information, motorists may call 511 from any land line or cellular phone or visit www.TN511.com.  TDOT is also on Twitter. For statewide travel tweets follow www.twitter.com/TN511. Motorists are reminded to use all motorist information tools responsibly. Drivers should refrain from texting, tweeting or using a mobile phone while operating a vehicle. Drivers should “Know before you go!” and check traffic conditions before leaving for your destination.

Winfield Man / Kentucky Fugitive Nabbed In Oneida

December 22, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-12-22) A Winfield man who recently pleaded guilty to drug offenses in Scott County Criminal Court to avoid jail time is behind bars.  His girlfriend has also been arrested. Ricky Vanhook, 39, of Winfield was arrested by a trio of officers from the Scott County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday.  Vanhook had been on the lam since December 8, 2010, when the Sheriff’s Department reportedly raided his Kingtown Road home searching for drugs.  While Vanhook reportedly eluded authorities, officers allegedly found drugs inside his house, including marijuana and morphine. Vanhook was reportedly captured during a traffic stop on Sand Cut Road in Oneida.  He was taken into custody without incident by Drug Agent Kris Lewallen and Detectives Tommy Silcox and Randy Lewallen. Vanhook’s girlfriend, identified as Kimberly Ross, 37, of Winfield, was also arrested on a fugitive from justice warrant for outstanding felony drug charges in Kentucky. At the time of the pair’s arrest, authorities reportedly found a portable, handheld scanner in the vehicle, which the couple had been using to keep up with local law enforcement activities. On Monday, December 6, 2010, Vanhook pleaded guilty in Scott County Criminal Court to other drug related charges.  Per the plea agreement, Vanhook was placed on probation.  Two days later, he allegedly sold narcotics to an uncover agent, which led authorities to raid his home. Vanhook was charged with violation of criminal court probation, sale of a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine), possession of a schedule II controlled substance (morphine), possession of schedule I controlled substance (marijuana),  and possession of drug paraphernalia.  

THP Reminds Celebrants: Don’t Wreck the Holidays with Too Much Cheer on the Roadways

December 21, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-12-21) In conjunction with the National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be cranking up its enforcement effort throughout the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations to find and remove impaired drivers from Tennessee roadways. State Troopers will be conducting more than 100 sobriety and driver license checkpoints with a clear message to motorists – “Don’t Wreck the Holidays.” THP is also participating in the national campaign, Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.  “The Highway Patrol will be working with law enforcement officers from hundreds of agencies across the state and country to remove impaired drivers from the road,” Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell said. “It is our duty to ensure the public’s safety through education, regulation and especially enforcement; we take this responsibility seriously on holidays and all throughout the year.” The 2010 Christmas holiday period begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 23, and runs through 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, December 26, while this year’s New Year’s holiday period will commence at 6 p.m., Thursday, December 30, and will conclude at 11:59 p.m., Sunday, January 2, 2011. The holiday season is one of the deadliest and most dangerous times of the year due to an increase in impaired driving.  In 2009, 303 people died in Tennessee traffic crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.  That’s a one percent decline from the 306 impaired driving deaths in 2008, and a 19.6% decline from the 377 impaired driving deaths in 2007. Nationwide, impaired driving fatalities dropped from 11,711 in 2008 to 10,839 in 2009, a 7.4 percent decline. “While the number of impaired driving fatalities has declined both nationwide and in Tennessee, that’s not enough,” said THP Colonel Tracy Trott.  “We will not rest…we will not stop working until drunk driving fatalities become non-existent. Our Troopers will spare no expense to keep drunk drivers off the road en route to saving lives this holiday season. If we catch you, we will arrest you.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that in December 2009, 753 people nationwide were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.  That was down from 888 people killed in similar impaired driving crashes in 2008. During the 2009 Christmas holiday period, six people were killed in traffic crashes on Tennessee roadways.  This represents one death every 17 hours.  Alcohol was involved in 33 percent of those crashes and one of the five vehicle occupants killed was not wearing a safety restraint. Thirteen people were killed during last year’s New Year’s holiday period 2009-10 and 23 percent of the fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes. In 2009, there were 989 traffic fatalities in Tennessee, down just over five percent from 1,043 fatalities in 2008.  As of December 16, preliminary statistics indicate that 996 people have died on Tennessee roadways this year, an increase of 48 deaths (9 percent) compared to 948 fatalities at this same time a year ago. If you are planning to drink alcohol with family and friends, there are several simple steps to help avoid a tragic crash or trauma and the financial costs associated with an impaired driving arrest.   Plan ahead:  Whenever you plan on consuming alcohol, designate your sober driver before going out and give that person your keys.   If you’re impaired, call a taxi, use mass transit or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely.   Wearing your seat belt or using protective gear when on your motorcycle is your best defense against an impaired driver.   And remember, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk”.  If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.   Violators often face jail time, the loss of their driver’s license, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses from attorney fees, other fines and court costs, towing and repairs, lost time at work, etc.   For more information, please visit www.StopImpairedDriving.org.  

Mercy Withdraws Support Of Local Effort To Find Hospital Operator

December 20, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-12-20) In a reversal of its position from just two weeks ago, Mercy Health Partners has chosen not to cooperate with the County to create a local Request For Proposal (RFP) to find a new operator for the Scott County Hospital. Jack Bryan, CEO of the Community Hospital Division of Mercy Health, appeared before the Scott County Commission Monday night, informing the county that Mercy would no longer be supportive of Scott County issuing its own RFP to find a new operator for the local facility. At the December 6, 2010 meeting of the Community Development Committee, Bryan informed the County that with the withdrawal of RHD from their letter of intent, Mercy would be including the Scott County facility in a revised blanket RFP being issued in Knoxville to find a company to take over all, or some, of Mercy’s properties. At that meeting, the Committee recommended to the full Commission that Scott County move forward in creating an RFP on its own behalf, essentially assisting Mercy in the process. At that time, Bryan indicated that Mercy would be amenable to that measure and would cooperate with the County to find a potential suitor. On Monday, however, Bryan told the Commission that Mercy would no longer support the County in its effort, instead proceeding only with the blanket RFP issued by Mercy. “(Last week,) Mr. Bryan informed Mr. Tibbals that any project pursuant to leasing the Hospital must go through Mercy,” said Commissioner Paul Strunk. The situation left a number of Commissioners with questions on the future of the deal. Mercy’s RFP reportedly calls for a company to take over all, some, or any combination of Mercy’s holdings in Tennessee. “I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but I don’t have much faith that Mercy would have our best interests in mind. If someone came and said they would take everything but Scott County, they would sign it,” said Commissioner Mike Slaven. Bryan assured the County that Mercy would not leave the local facility in peril. “That would go for any of the Hospitals in our system, not just Scott County,” Bryan added. The next phase of the process will begin to unfold by the end of the year. “We have a deadline of December 30, 2010 for companies that are interested; then, we will go through an initial screening process to leave 7 or 8 potential companies,” Bryan said. Mercy hopes to identify two finalists by April of 2011. Mercy’s lease with the County expires May 24, 2012. “So if we need to find something ourselves, we would have just more than a year,” stated Commissioner Sam Lyles. Strunk summed up the feeling of the meeting by stating, “This is not the best case scenario. It’s not what we wanted, and it’s certainly not where we wanted to be tonight.” Ultimately, the county will have to wait for Mercy to complete the process on its RFP before any action can be taken locally.

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