September Unemployment Rate 9.4 Percent

October 21, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-10-21) Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development James Neeley announced today Tennessee’s unemployment rate for September was 9.4 percent, down two-tenths of a percentage point from the August rate of 9.6 percent. The September 2009 rate was 10.8 percent. The national unemployment rate for September 2010 was 9.6 percent, unchanged from the August rate. “This is the first time the state rate has been below the national rate since July of 2004,” reports Labor Commissioner James Neeley.  “While monthly employment gains are encouraging in the short term, sustained growth will be needed to recover the jobs lost during this recession.” According to the Business Survey, government (due to educational services) increased by 10,100 jobs; private educational and health services increased by 7,500; and administrative, support and waste services increased by 1,400. Major employment decreases occurred in leisure and hospitality, down by 3,000; federal government declined by 1,600; and wholesale trade declined by 1,100 jobs. Year-over-year increases occurred in private educational and health services, up by 11,700; administrative, support and waste services gained 10,400; and retail trade was up by 6,800. Year-over-year decreases occurred in mining and construction, down by 5,400; transportation and warehousing lost 5,000; and information decreased by 3,400.

Armstrong Replaces Reed On County Commission

October 18, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-18) Brian Armstrong was unanimously chosen to replace former 4th District Commissioner Alan Reed, who resigned to take a job in and move to Nashville. Armstrong will hold the post until the next General Election, which will come in 2012. Brian Armstrong, who finished a narrow third in the Fourth District Commissioners race in August, was chosen by each sitting Commissioner in turn to replace Reed, whose resignation took effect on October 1. Armstrong finished just two votes behind Commissioner Dennis Sexton in the election. While the body could have chosen anyone from a field of five names placed into nomination, the Commission continued its tradition of choosing the person that finished closest to the incumbent in the previous election as the replacement for an outgoing Commissioner.  Other persons seeking the seat included Paul Honse and Terry Yancey (both who ran in the August 2010 election), Eric Green, and James (Jimmy) Hill. Armstrong will not fill the entire four-year term left by Reed. According to State statute, the appointment would be good until the next scheduled countywide General Election, which will come in August 2012. In other business Monday night, the Commission; ·        Appointed Shonda Crabtree, the Mayor’s Office Manager, as the county’s Title VI Coordinator and OSHA Director for ScottCounty, appointments that were required to comply with federal regulations; ·        Appointed County Mayor Jeff Tibbals, newly hired Finance Director Carol Lowe, County Clerk Patricia Phillips and County Trustee Jimmy D. Byrd as reimbursement signatories on various grants administered by the Mayor’s Office; ·        And approved a resolution supporting legislation at the State level that would require all future ethic laws apply to both State and Local governments. Several ethics laws passed by the state bind local governments, while not applying to State agencies.

Sheriff’s Department Canine Program Retooled

October 18, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-18) The Scott County Sheriff’s Department canine program will see a reduction in force in the immediate future, going from three dogs to just one. At the urging of Scott County Sheriff Mike Cross, the Scott County Commission Monday night cleared the way for two of the county’s three canines be sold to other police or sheriff’s departments.  According to Cross, by reducing the canine force from three to one, the department will cut operating expenses for the program. Monday night’s action will not eliminate the county’s K-9 program.  In the near future, Cross plans to obtain a multi-purpose canine cross-trained in drug interdiction, tracking, suspect apprehension, and other tasks. Currently, the three canines on the force, J.J., Gigi, and Halo, are trained only for drug interdiction. Since he took office, Sheriff Cross has had all three canines, housed in a third-party kennel for their daily care, pending a decision on the future of the canine program. Monday night, the Commission passed a resolution declaring two of the three canines, Gigi and Halo, surplus County property, opening the way for the pair to be sold to another government agency to continue their law enforcement career elsewhere. Sheriff Cross will retain J.J., and will return the canine to active duty sometime in the next month. The canine was donated to the Department in memory of slain officer Hubert “John-John” Yancey, who was killed in the line of duty. Once a suitable replacement that is cross-trained can be found, J.J. will be honorably retired from service. In other emergency services business Monday night, the Commission: ·        Approved the renewal of the contract with the State of Tennessee to house juvenile inmates at the JuvenileDetentionCenter. The State will reimburse the County $132.38 per day per inmate, with a maximum State liability of $43,318.70; ·        Awarded full-time status to three employees of the Scott County Ambulance Service, including Jason Terry, Tara Jeffers Sexton, and Stephen West; ·        And approved a request from the Pine Hill Fire Department to hold a roadblock at the intersections of Buffalo Road and Pine Hill Road, and W.J. Jeffers Road and Dexter Laxton Road on November 6, 2010.  In the event of inclement weather, it will be held November 13, 2010.

Airport Authority Gets Complete Makeover

October 18, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-18) After months of discussions regarding vacancies on the Scott County Airport Authority, the Scott County Commission passed a sweeping reform Monday night to completely reorganize the committee. The Scott County Commission overhauled the Scott County Airport Authority Monday night, reappointing all eleven positions on the board. Since expanding the membership of the Authority to eleven members in 2004, and the creation of a staggered term system in 2005, the lack of appointments and late appointments had led to vacancies on the Authority and improperly staggered terms. The resolution vacated all the seats on the Authority, and reestablished the desired staggering of terms so that no more than two seats would require reappointment in any given year. Persons appointed, area represented and term of office were:  Paul Lay, 1st District, 2012; Roger Wright, 2nd District, 2014; Eric Farris, 3rd District, 2011; Palm T. Phillips, 4th District, 2012; Wayne King, 5th District, 2015; Brom Shoemaker, 6th District, 2011; George Taylor, 7th District, 2015; Wayne Hughes, At-Large, 2013; Chuck Losey, At-Large, 2014; and Mike Douglas, At-Large, 2013.  Each appointee’s term began on October 1, 2010 and will end on September 30th of the aforementioned year(s).  Subsequent appointments or reappointments will be five year terms. In addition, one person from the Scott County Commission is also appointed to the Authority.  Unlike the other members, the Commission representative will only serve during his or her tenure on the county legislative body.  From October 1, 2010 to August 31, 2014, Chairman Pro-Tem Paul C. Strunk will serve in that capacity.  

Lost BSF Hiker Found

October 18, 2010

Oneida, TN (2010-10-18) A 25-year old Knoxville man that got separated from his companions has been found safe in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Juan Narvaez, 25, of Knoxville was located at approximately 1:20 p.m. on Sunday, October 17, 2010 afternoon, after spending the night lost in Big South Fork NRRA.  Narvaez’ ordeal began on Saturday afternoon, when he became separated from other family members. On Saturday, October 16, BSF Ranger Kristy Slaven received a call from Scott County dispatch that family members had reported Narvaez was lost.  Narvaez, stated the caller, and his family had hiked the Leatherwood Loop trail to the “river overlook” around 4:30 p.m.  On the return trip, Narvaez reportedly went ahead of the other hikers.  When family members returned to their vehicle, Mr. Narvaez was not there.  Family members and park employees hiked trails in the vicinity, but did not immediately locate him.  Search and rescue members were called in and looked for Mr. Narvaez until 2:30 a.m., when searcher fatigue became a factor. The search resumed Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m., employing additional personnel.  A Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter was deployed and unsuccessfully searched the river gorge.  Searchers contacted park visitors who had seen Mr. Narvaez and followed his apparent route.  At 1:20 p.m. on Sunday, October 17, Mr. Narvaez was located approximately five miles from where he had started. Mr. Narvaez was hungry and thirsty, but was examined by a park medic and appeared in good health.  He told rescuers he had crossed the river 3 or 4 times Saturday night. The Tennessee Highway Patrol, Interagency Rescue Squad, Scott County Rescue Squad, Fentress County Rescue Squad, Scott and Fentress Fire Departments, Big South Fork NRRA staff, and Obed National Scenic River staff, and volunteers participated in the search and rescue mission.

THP Supports National School Bus Safety Week

October 18, 2010

Nashville, TN (2010-10-18) The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) joins the promotion of the 2010 National School Bus Safety week and its theme, “Cross in View, It’s the Right Thing to Do”.  By supporting the five-day annual event, which runs from October 18 through October 22, the THP hopes to highlight the importance of school bus safety awareness and education. “Riding the school bus is one of the safest modes of transportation; it’s when children get on or off the bus that causes concern,” said Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “That is why it is critical for parents, teachers, and school administrators to stress the importance of crossing in view of the school bus driver, and to instruct children on other safety tips that will keep them out of harm’s way.” Each day, some 480,000 school buses transport more than 26 million children to and from school and school related activities, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. An average of 19 school-age children die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year – five occupants of school buses and 14 pedestrians. Most of those killed are children five to seven years old. The “danger zone” for a school bus is the area 10 feet around the vehicle; the two most dangerous places are the front and the right rear tire area of the bus. Children must take care when boarding or leaving the school bus by following these simple rules:   Always remain in direct eyesight of the bus driver; Be alert to traffic.  Check both ways before stepping off the bus; Make eye contact with the bus driver, and wait for the bus driver’s signal before crossing the street; Walk in front of the bus; never walk behind the bus to cross the street; Never go under the bus to retrieve something you’ve dropped; Get to the bus stop in plenty of time.   “Educating children on school bus safety is a top priority, but we also want to remind drivers to slow down in school zones and obey the stop arm,” said THP Colonel Tracy Trott. “Our troopers work diligently to enforce traffic laws in the school zone, and will penalize those who blatantly disregard laws designed to protect children.” In Tennessee and in every state, drivers must stop when the stop arm is extended and red lights are flashing. Between August 1, 2010, and September 30, 2010, State Troopers wrote 343 citations to drivers as part of THP’s Back to School Enforcement Campaign. A total of 126 of those drivers were ticketed for speeding in a school zone.  In 2009, Troopers issued 5,445 citations in school zones across the state. Of those citations, 973 were speeding violations, while one citation was handed out for passing a stopped school bus. All school bus drivers in Tennessee must attend an annual training course in order to receive and maintain the school bus endorsement on their Driver License. During the 2009-10 academic year, more than 12,000 school bus drivers received training from the THP Pupil Transportation Unit. Additionally, THP also inspected 10,595 buses to ensure they were in compliance with the established safety requirements. School Bus Safety Week was created in 1960, commemorated by Congress and the President in 1969, and recognized, most recently, by a congressional resolution in 2006. The goal of SBSW, which is sponsored each year by the National Association for Pupil Transportation, National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and National School Transportation Association, is to emphasize the importance of a unified effort among students, parents and the motoring public to ensure a safe and secure ride for the nearly 26 million children who are transported daily on yellow school buses. This week also recognizes the hard work and dedication of school transportation professionals, especially the school bus drivers who ensure a safe journey for students daily. For more information about SBSW, visit www.napt.org.  

Early Voting Nearing 450 In First Three Days

October 15, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-15) The first three days of early voting in Scott County were brisk, as nearly 450 ballots were cast between Wednesday and Friday. According to Administrator of Elections Gabe Lowe, 442 people cast ballots in the first three days of Early Voting, including 348 people who cast votes by personal appearance.  The balance, 94, was cast by paper, either by mail or at one of the area nursing homes. Friday was the busiest day thus far at the polls, as 174 people voted at one of the county’s two early voting locations.  On the first day, 69 people voted, while 105 cast ballots on Thursday. Eligible registered voters may continue to cast early votes through October 28, 2010 at either the Oneida Municipal Building, 121 Municipal Drive in Oneida or the Scott County Office Building, 2845 Baker Highway in Huntsville.  Polling hours for both locations are:  Monday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Voters must present valid identification. Proof of identity and correct/current address may be in the form of a current voter’s registration card, valid Tennessee Driver’s License, Social Security Card, Credit Card containing the voters’ signature, or utility bill.  

Commission Meets With Potential Hospital Operator

October 14, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-14) Officials from the company that has signed a letter of intent with Mercy Health to take over operations of the Scott County Hospital introduced themselves in a presentation to Commissioners Thursday night, taking questions from the body on how they intend to turn around the struggling facility. Members of the Scott County Commission gathered at a Huntsville residence to take in a presentation given by Rural Healthcare Developers, Inc. (RHD), a Tupelo, Mississippi based healthcare company. According to Linda Webb, Vice President of Human Resources, RHD is a healthcare management and development company that specializes in the operation of rural hospitals, and has been successful is operating Critical Access Hospitals similar to the local facility. RHD also boasts a record of turning around troubled facilities. “There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in this area,” noted Ray Shoemaker, CEO of Rural Healthcare. RHD currently owns or manages six hospitals, including three in Mississippi, two in Louisiana, and one facility in Erin, Tennessee. One of the first changes likely to occur after the potential takeover would be to revive the Geriatric Psychology service at the Hospital. Shoemaker detailed that program as one of the most successful at all of RHD’s hospitals. While Mercy Health had such a program in the past, they were forced to cease offering the service. “We feel like the problem was we had the wrong psychologist at the time,” said Jack Bryan, Chief Operating Officer of the Community Hospital Division of Mercy Health. “This is something we feel we are very good at, and can help make this facility successful,” said Shoemaker. When asked by Community Development Committee Chairman Paul C. Strunk what the vision would be for the first three to six months of operation, Shoemaker noted that the first key would be to develop relationships. “I believe relationships with the local physicians, hospital employees, local government, and the community are key to making the Hospital a success,” Shoemaker said. In speaking of Hospital employees, Strunk asked how their accrued benefits, including sick and vacation time, would be handled through the transition. “We are bound by law to have a uniform benefits system across our system,” Shoemaker said. RHD policy caps banked sick time at 240 hours; however, employees with more than that amount of time would not lose those hours, but they would not accrue more time. “Each case like that would be looked at on an individual basis,” Shoemaker noted. Shoemaker made note that if RHD is to assume the lease from Mercy, they would likely continue to offer most services that are currently being offered at the facility. We want to determine what services are needed in the area, then we hope to find those services that would be profitable, and necessary,” said Shoemaker. Representatives from RHD will be meeting with local physicians in the near future to begin to develop a working relationship. One of the avenues to success outlined by Webb was to develop a network of rural clinics in the area. “We aren’t coming in here in a spirit of competition with local physicians,” stated Shoemaker, who went on to detail a hope to partner with local physicians through the hospital. “We feel this would be a win-win for all parties involved,” said Shoemaker. Both Bryan and Shoemaker stated that no timetable for RHD making a final decision on whether to assume the lease. “We are prepared to begin moving people here to start our final phase of due diligence, to check under the hood, so to speak,” Shoemaker said. Bryan stated that Mercy was comfortable with the choice of RHD. “We hope to maintain a good, continuing relationship with ScottCounty and RHD well into the future,” Bryan said.  

County School Board Business Routine

October 14, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-14) The October meeting of the Scott County School Board was brief Thursday night; however, the body tackled a litany of routine items. In a meeting which lastly just slightly more than 30 minutes, the Scott County Board of Education address a variety of business items on it agenda, everything from making committee appointments to joining a virtual school program for expelled students. By unanimous vote Thursday night, the Board of Education opted to participate in a joint effort to establish a Virtual School, which will be operated and maintained by the Clinch-Powell Educational Cooperative.  The Virtual School will be a valuable resource for the Scott County School System, allowing them to provide an alternative form of education for certain groups of students, particularly those who are facing long-term expulsions from the school system.  While the school will be available free to the five local education agencies of the Clinch-Powell region (Scott, Claiborne, Union, Grainger and Hancock Counties), the schools must share the cost of attorney fees to write the guidelines, policies and procedures for the school, which must be submitted and approved by the Tennessee Department of Education. In other business Thursday night, the Board: Established a textbook committee for the 2010-2011 school year.  Persons named to the K-8 committee were:  Tonja Crabtree, Burchfield Elementary; Gretchen Stephens, Fairview Elementary; Denise Roberts, Huntsville Elementary and Middle; Debbie Beagle, Robbins Elementary; and Susan Vaden, Winfield Elementary.  At the high school, teachers Jessica Chambers, Tony Duncan and Dacy Williams were appointed; Created a 2010-2011 School Calendar Committee.  Named to the committee were:  Tonja Crabtree, Burchfield Elementary; Lounicia Hughett, Fairview Elementary; Sherry Trammell, Huntsville Elementary; Debbie Cross, Huntsville Middle School; Amanda Overton, Robbins Elementary; Melissa Rector, Scott High School; and Angie King, Winfield Elementary School; Renewed its Business Trip Accidental Death Coverage Insurance policy for accidental death coverage for employees on official school business.  Full-time employees and board members received $100,000 in coverage, while bus drivers and substitute bus drivers received $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.  The policy cost the district $765.00; Name members to its Disciplinary Hearing Authority Committee.  Persons placed on the committee were:  John Blakley, Chairman; Joe Carver; Tonja Crabtree, Angie King; Amanda Overton; Melissa Rector; and Kenny Vann. Approved membership in the Clinch Powell Educational Cooperative for the 2010-2011 school year.  The annual cost of membership is $2,500; Entered into a agreement with Steve and Sherry Lambert to locate a school zone flashing traffic signal on the Lambert’s property west of BurchfieldElementary School; Approved an eleven day study tour of France in June 2012 for a maximum of fifteen students in Instructor Kathy Obrusanzki’s French class at ScottHigh School.  The trip will cost $2,950 per student.  All expenses will be the responsibility of the individual students; Bid cameras for school buses, which will paid for through funds from the Safe and Drug Free Grant and Safe Schools Grant; Approved a trip for the Scott High School Student Council to attend the 2010 East Tennessee Leadership Workshop in Chattanooga on November 3-4, 2010; Approved three new staff positions for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years.  Through funding provided through the federal Education Jobs Bill, the county will hire a reading coach at Winfield Elementary; an attendance monitor at Huntsville Elementary; and a countywide maintenance worker for the Schools’ Maintenance Department; and, Recognized volunteers of the month for their contribution to the school system.  Honored were:  Teresa Smith, Burchfield Elementary; Brent Williams, Fairview Elementary; Larry and Kelly Hutson, Huntsville Elementary; Jenny West, Huntsville Middle; Richard Selby, RobbinsElementary School; Mike and Denise Keeton, ScottHigh School; and Bonnie Martin, Winfield Elemetary.

Early Voting For November General Election Underway

October 13, 2010

Huntsville, TN (2010-10-13) Early Voting for the November General Election is underway across the State.  In Scott County, about 150 people have already cast ballots. According to Administrator of Elections Gabe Lowe, 69 persons cast votes by personal appearance on Wednesday, the first day of the 14-day Early Voting period in Tennessee.  With 78 ballots already cast by either mail or paper, including 45 ballots cast by residents of area nursing homes, the total number of persons officially voting at the end of the first day was 151. Eligible registered voters may continue to cast early votes through October 28, 2010 at either the Oneida Municipal Building, 121 Municipal Drive in Oneida or the Scott County Office Building, 2845 Baker Highway in Huntsville.  Polling hours for both locations are:  Monday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.; Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Voters must present valid identification. Proof of identity and correct/current address may be in the form of a current voter’s registration card, valid Tennessee Driver’s License, Social Security Card, Credit Card containing the voters’ signature, or utility bill.

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