Monday, October 31, 2016

BOE's focus on finding new Knox Co. Schools leader, testing data

The Knox County Board of Education tonight and Wednesday will continue discussions that touch on the search for a new superintendent and whether state testing data should help determine teacher evaluations and student grades for the current year.

The board also has some “housecleaning” and policy matters that officials will address during tonight’s work session, but the two “key items” focus on testing and the school system’s next leader, BOE Chairwoman Patti Bounds told WBIR 10News on Monday morning.

Bounds said the board will talk about whether it wants to put together a search committee and – if members do want a committee – then who should serve on it. The county law department has recommended three members, but Bounds said the board doesn’t necessarily have to stick to that number.

Buzz Thomas, who oversees the Great Schools Partnership, is currently serving as interim superintendent.

However, the GSP wants him back by next summer, so Bounds said the school board wants to get it done by then.

“I don’t think there are any members of this board who will not do their due diligence to get the best person, but we know we’re on a very tight schedule,” Bounds said.

The board also will talk about a proposed resolution sponsored by Amber Rountree that comes in the wake of the state’s recent announcement that it has signed a contract with Questar to oversee Tennessee’s annual student assessments.

Rountree wants the state to grant a waiver so that the tests don’t count against teacher evaluations and student grades for the current year.

The state in the past year or so has struggled to roll out new tests for students and she wants to make sure the kinks are worked out of the new tests.

Her resolution also notes that “there are documented errors on the part of Questar” to administer similar tests in New York and Mississippi, and that Knox County teachers wouldn’t be involved in writing test items for the current year.

Thomas has called the resolution “ill-advised” and “at the very least . . . premature.”

“(The) proposed resolution does not sound like a school district that is aspiring to be the best in the South or even in the state,” Thomas wrote to board members in a Sept. 23 email. “It sounds like we are making excuses. We need a good standardized test each year to tell us how we are doing compared to others across the state and the nation. We will achieve greatness not by shying away from this accountability but by welcoming it.”

The county’s Teacher Advisory Committee met earlier this month to talk about the issue.

“A great majority of those reported that in surveying their schools the teachers were in favor of Amber’s resolution . . .  (and) that their schools and teachers were in favor of it by a pretty significant number,” Bounds said.

An advisory committee member will give board members a presentation prior to the official start of tonight’s meeting.

The board meets tonight at 5 at the Andrew Johnson Building. The board’s voting meeting is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the City County Building.

10 East Tennessee counties to vote Nov. 8 on alcohol sale expansions

Cities or towns in 10 East Tennessee counties have alcohol-related ballot measures up for vote in November.

Towns in Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Fentress, Grainger, Jefferson, Monroe, Morgan, Roane and Sevier counties will all consider approving expanded alcohol sales in some way.

Some ballot questions are to approve the sale of liquor in package stores, or by the drink. Others, like Jefferson City in Jefferson County, will vote on whether to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores.

Full story RIGHT HERE.

Eddie Smith, Gloria Johnson state House campaign turns 'clownish'

The contest for the 13th District state House seat has gotten nasty.

Late last week, the state GOP (or whoever – they’re the ones who called me anyway) put out a new mailer that appears to depict Democrat challenger Gloria Johnson as a clown and says her “liberal agenda” is “just as scary as creepy clowns.”


Anyhoo, Johnson, issued a statement this morning denouncing the “false attacks being made by special interest groups” and called on incumbent Eddie Smith, a Republican, “to condemn the smears.”

“Tennesseans for Student Success claims to be an education focused non-profit but they have spent tremendous resources launching negative attacks that have nothing to do with education, against life-long teacher and candidate for state representative, Gloria Johnson, the statement said.  Also this week, the Tennessee Republican House Caucus began a negative attack ad against Johnson making absolutely untrue claims.”

Added Johnson: “These special interest smears against our campaign are sign of desperation because they know our message of investing in schools, making health care more affordable and strengthening the middle class is winning. Eddie Smith should tell his big money friends to pack up their dirty tricks and get out of Knoxville. Volunteer families don’t want elections bought by special interests, they want fair elections and clean campaigning.”

Johnson has scheduled a press conference at 2 p.m. today at 311 Morgan St.

As always, send over your political stuff for publication consideration.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Kane, Hensley to discuss House seat

Kane, right and Hensley, left
The two candidates running for the 89th District state House seat are the guests on this Sunday’s edition of “Inside Tennessee” on WBIR 10News.

Incumbent and Republican Roger Kane and Democrat challenger Heather Hensley touch on a number of topics during the 30-minute political and public affairs program that kicks off at 9:30 a.m.

The show, which was taped on Wednesday, features a panel comprised of Don Bosch, an attorney and Democrat, Susan Williams, a Republican and public relations specialist, and 10News reporter Mike Donila.

WBIR anchor John Becker serves as the show’s moderator.

Kane, an insurance agent who has held the seat since 2012, and Hensley, a registered nurse, discuss a range of matters the General Assembly expects to act on when the body meets again in January.

Issues include: health care and Insure Tennessee, the state’s failed version of the Affordable Healthcare Act; desperately needed road repairs; whether a gas tax increase is warranted; and just how much oversight the General Assembly should have over the University of Tennessee.

The 89th District is sandwiched between Oak Ridge at the north and I-40 at the south and includes roughly 65,000 residents.

Early voting has already started for the Nov. 8 general election.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Knox Co. Clerk Arnett drops mold lawsuit against PBA, county

Foster Arnett Jr.
Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr has dropped his “toxic mold spores” lawsuit against the county and the Public Building Authority, he confirmed to WBIR 10News on Thursday.

The move comes after Knox County Circuit Court Judge Bill Ailor ruled that Arnett could not sue in his official capacity as an elected official, but could as an individual. That means Arnett – and not the taxpayers – would have to cover his attorney fees.

In his order, filed July 14, Ailor notes that neither the state nor the county charter gives the county clerk, or any elected officeholder, the authority to pursue such a lawsuit against the county.

“Thus, the Knox County Clerk may not sue the PBA because that would be Knox county suing Knox County,” Ailor wrote. “Moreover, if the claims by Foster D. Arnett Jr. in his official capacity were allowed to proceed, the court notes that no matter the outcome of the case, the Knox County taxpayer would be the loser. If the plaintiff won, defendant PBA would use Knox County taxpayer money to pay the judgment. Additionally, if the defendant won, Knox County taxpayer money would pay the Knox County Clerk’s attorneys’ fees.”

Ailor also ruled that Arnett – because he can’t sue in his official capacity – cannot use money from the county’s general fund or his own office to pay his attorney fees.

Arnett told 10News that he "respects the judge's opinion" and opted not to further pursue the matter.

Arnett in February 2015 filed the lawsuit after, he said, the PBA failed to remove “toxic mold spores” form the Old Courthouse where he works. Arnett said the mold cause his health to deteriorate.

The PBA argued that he didn’t lack the authority to sue the county in his official capacity as the clerk.

Ailor agreed.

Since filing the lawsuit, Arnett has worked out of his Cedar Bluff satellite office.

Knox County to collect unwanted medication at disposal event

Members of the East Tennessee Regional Medication Collection Coalition will collect and properly dispose unwanted medication on Saturday.

Knox County residents can dispose of unwanted prescription medications or over-the-counter medicines on Saturday at the Ingles at 430 East Emory Road.

Saturday’s event goes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Residents can only drop off medicines at the Ingles in Powell during Saturday’s event. At all other times, residents can bring old or unused medicines to the Knoxville Police Department Safety Building at 800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave., which is open 24/7.

Go to Knox County’s website for more information.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

East Tennessee Libertarian Party to meet Thursday at Dead End BBQ

The East Tennessee Libertarian Party plans to meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Dead End BBQ on Sutherland Avenue with U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, Jr. Rep. Duncan serving as guest speaker.

Anyone interested is welcome to attend and please bring any questions you have about our presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, or libertarianism in general, the news release states.

The East Tennessee Libertarian Party includes Knox, Blount, Sevier, Loudon, and Anderson Counties. The Libertarian Party is the fastest growing political party and the only one that supports the principles of Liberty. The party says it's philosophy is: “Minimum government, Maximum Freedom."

Teachers can get free school supplies at Teacher Supply Depot on Oct. 29

The Teacher Supply Depot will open from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday to give Knox County Schools’ teachers and teaching assistants the opportunity to shop for free classroom supplies.

The Depot, located at 709 N. Cedar Bluff Road, in the former Cedar Bluff Intermediate School, is a joint venture of Knox County Schools and the Teacher Supply Depot PTA.

The Teacher Supply Depot provides KCS teachers and others with new and used classroom materials for free.

In its 15 years of service, the Teacher Supply Depot has benefited more than 10,000 KCS professionals and provided more than $2.6 million in materials through the support of local businesses and community members.

The depot is driven solely by donations and is a unique way for local businesses and community members to partner with the school system to provide material support to teachers. All donated materials are used to enhance instruction and promote student achievement in classrooms across the district.

Although donations are accepted year-round, the Teacher Supply Depot is only open on certain dates throughout each academic year. Those planning to shop at the Teacher Supply Depot must bring a school ID or another form of identification to be admitted.

Two additional Teacher Supply Depot shopping days will be held this academic year on Jan. 21 and Apr. 1, 2017.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Knoxville ordinance would bring churches and breweries closer

The Knoxville City Council will vote tonight on an ordinance that has kept churches and breweries apart for years. The change would no longer require allow churches and places receiving a beer permit to be located more than 300 feet apart.

“In my mind, it makes sense to remove that restriction for churches,” said Knoxville City Councilman Finbarr Saunders.

Saunders and his colleagues recently received a letter signed by ten churches encouraging the change.
He believes the current law is inconvenient for churches and breweries, both of which are increasingly choosing more creative locations.

“They’re in shopping centers or in office buildings or in some cases, even right next to a bar," he said.
Saunders said breweries can also work around the current law.

“You can walk right around it by going to the state and getting the ABC license to serve wine and whiskey,” he said.

According to local brewery owner Aaron McClain, it isn't that easy.

"There are mountains of paperwork and it costs thousands of dollars," said McClain, owner of Crafty Bastard Brewery.

McClain is referring to a $1,000 annual licensing fee required by the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission. That is in addition to a $300 application fee and over $2,000 in fines from the city and county. A change in the current city law would eliminate almost all of those costs for local bars and breweries.

"It's disproportionately affecting small businesses, small breweries," said McClain.

His brewery is next to St. John's Lutheran Church, requiring him to purchase state permits instead of city permits. Pastor Stephen Misenheimer also supports a change in the current law.

“As the church has changed over the years, so has the need for laws to be changed," Misenheimer said.

He said the relationship between breweries and churches has deeper ties than one might think.

"Martin Luther, it's said, was one of the original craft brewers," Misenheimer said.

This is the second attempt by the city council to pass such a law. The first attempt which failed included the separation of beer permits and other entities such as schools and daycare facilities. This one focuses on churches, which councilman Saunders says is a less controversial topic.

Knox County early voting numbers up over 2008, 2012 in first 5 days

Five days into early voting, Knox County is seeing a 50 percent increase in voter turnout over the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Cliff Rodgers, Knox County administrator of elections, said about 10,000 people have voted on each weekday and about 6,000 people cast their ballot the first Saturday of early voting bringing the total to 46,188 as of 5 p.m. Monday.

"The numbers have just been out the roof," Rodgers said. "We love it. This is great. This is what we want to see is people coming out to vote early."

According to voting data, the Downtown West location has consistently been the busiest polling location, while the Carter Branch Library location has seen the fewest voters.

"We're delighted," Rodgers said. "I think I've made my goal pretty clear. I want everybody voting early."

In order to achieve that goal, voters must follow the polling location laws and rules.

Rodgers said people cannot talk on their cell phones or take selfies inside the voting buildings.

He also said people must vote in the counties where they are registered.

RELATED: Early voting is underway - here's where to cast your ballot

"We've had some people trying to creep in here from Anderson County and Sevier County and Blount County thinking, well, they can early vote here," Rodgers said. "No, you need to go back to your county and vote."

Rodgers said voters also need to remember that campaign posters and materials, including hats, buttons and shirts cannot come within a 100-foot boundary of the polling location.

"We've had some issues with a few folks on both sides of the presidential aisle, if you will," he said.

Trinity McCulley, a first-time voter who wore a Trump t-shirt to cast her ballot, went to the New Harvest Park location to cast her ballot, but she said she had not heard of the 100-foot rule.

"When I found out I wasn't allowed to wear the shirt and that I was actually forced to take it off before I actually cast my ballot, I was a little bit annoyed by that," McCulley said.

Election officials said the rule is in place to give voters a protective zone from campaign solicitation.

"Everybody's got to learn the rules to do it effectively, and it's a part of the system so you just kind of have to comply with them," McCulley said.

Rodgers said most people are following the rules, leading to the record number of early voters he would like to see continue. Early voting in Tennessee ends Nov. 3.

"We'd love to see nobody on election day," Rodger said. "That will never happen, but the more people we get to vote early, the shorter lines will be on election day."

Friday, October 21, 2016

TN House candidates Smith, Johnson face off on 'Inside Tennessee'

Gloria Johnson, left, and Eddie Smith, right
The two candidates again facing off in the battle for the 13th District state House seat are the focus of this Sunday’s edition of “Inside Tennessee” on WBIR 10News.

Incumbent and Republican Eddie Smith and Democrat challenger Gloria Johnson will sit down with reporters during the 30-minute political and public affairs program that kicks off at 9:30 a.m.

Smith and Johnson will discuss a number of issues including: health care, education, the state of the roads in Tennessee, and whether a gas tax increase is warranted.

The 13th District encompasses parts of north and south Knoxville and includes more than 62,000 residents.

Early voting has already started for the Nov. 8 general election.

Johnson won the seat in 2012, succeeding Democrat Harry Tindell, who held the seat for 22 years. Smith defeated her in 2014 by just under 200 votes.

Local politicos expect this race to be the closest of all the state House races in the Knox County area.

Sunday’s panel features moderator John Becker, WBIR reporters Mike Donila, John North and Mary Scott.

Donald Trump campaign bus, but not Trump, to hit Knox County on Monday

The Donald Trump campaign tour bus will make its way to Knox County on Monday, although the Republican presidential candidate is not expected to be here.

However, U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. and possibly Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett plan to give brief speeches.

The bus should arrive around noon at the Knoxville Expo Center at 5441 Clinton Highway and stay for about an hour.

“I don’t want people to think that Donald Trump or some big name will be on the bus, but it’s a GOP Trump rally and they’re bringing the bus through,” said Knox County Republican Party Chairman Buddy Burkhardt. “But, I’m hoping there will be a surrogate, maybe one of his kids.”

Burkhardt added: “Voter turnout has been very good for early voting, so we’re looking forward to having the bus here, which we hope will keep the motivation going for more people to get out and vote.”

The Trump bus is part of a five-state tour of the South, which kicks off in Tennessee, Burkhardt said.

Trump, a real estate mogul, faces former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 general election.

The local GOP plans to release more information about the event later Friday.

$100K Haslam donations: Just how Knox County schools are putting it to use

At Bearden High School, educators are looking to build a new future for the students through engineering, specifically robotics.

The move comes roughly a year after members of the philanthropic Haslam family and Pilot Flying J gave the Knox County school system $10 million. The bulk of the money – $8.7 million – was set aside to provide synthetic turf fields and some running tracks at the county’s 13 high schools.

But, lost in the headlines was another $100,000 donation for each of the system’s 13 traditional high schools to use for academics.

“When the money came along, I was just like, ‘This is unbelievable – this gift just fell in our lap – hey, here’s the chance to do something,’” said Bearden High School principal John Bartlett. “That’s one-time money to start up a program that’s going to help a lot of students.”

As it stands, school leaders submitted proposals to the Haslam family earlier this year, detailing how they would use the money.

The school system is now putting together a report that should be complete some time in December.

“There's a lot of flexibility that's been given to our school leaders,” interim Knox County Schools Superintendent Buzz Thomas added. “That's the way we're trying to run the school district: we're trying to make decisions as close to the action as possible, and that's the way the Haslam family did this gift."

A majority of the money so far has gone to technology, according to a WBIR 10News analysis of the expenditures.

Schools so far have purchased or plan to purchase new computers, laptops, tablets, interactive whiteboards, cameras and calculators.

They’ve also bought office and lab furniture, dry erase tables and materials to help improve test scores.

Some of the money will pay for instructional coaches and tutors and some will support career readiness programs through field trips, job shadowing and student internships.

"We're on a track over the next 3 years to have one-on-one technology in each school and each student's hands,” Thomas said. "This gift gave a lot of schools the opportunity to kind of surge ahead."

The money also enables schools to continue to update what they have.

“When we opened our doors in 2008, all of our technology was new,” Hardin Valley Academy principal Sallee Reynolds said in a letter to the Haslam family in February, adding that the school plans to spend its money almost entirely on new computers and laptops. “Eight years later, many of our teachers are still using the original laptops that have been serviced several times.”

Rest of story, with details for each school, RIGHT HERE.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Big turnout on 1st day of voting

Early voting for the presidential and state general election got underway in Knox County on Wednesday.

Election officials said more than 8,800 people cast their ballot in Knox County on the first day of the early voting period. That's a bigger turnout for the first day of early voting than in 2008, when there 5,887 voters on the first day, and 2012, when there were 6,392.

So far, the Downtown West location has been the busiest spot.

As of Wednesday, there were more than 238,000 registered voters in Knox County.

The early voting period runs through Nov. 3.

No extra fees from Knox Co Circuit Court Clerk four years running

The Knox County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office has again failed to turn over any money to the county’s coffers – for the fourth year in a row and the fifth time in the past six years.

In fact, the county – as it closes its financial books on the recently wrapped-up fiscal year – even had to underwrite the overall operation for 2016 to the tune of almost $80,000.

That’s because the juvenile court, which is under the Circuit Court clerk’s purview, spent more than the office brought in.

Now, top county leaders say they are troubled about the office’s lack of finances, but question whether they can step in.

“There’s always a concern, absolutely,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “If they don’t collect it, then the deficit is going to come from somewhere else. Either you raise taxes or you raise the base.
We’re kind of limited in local government. At some point it’s going to come from the taxpayers . . . it’s not going to magically appear.”

Knox County Commission Vice Chairman Randy Smith agreed, saying he, too, is “very concerned.”

“They need to look at aligning their staffing with the revenue streams,” Smith told WBIR 10News. “This is supposed to be at least a break-even entity.”

The Circuit Court Clerk’s Office is one of five county fee offices. These departments are run by elected leaders and are supposed to be self-funded from the fees they collect. But, they also are expected to contribute to the county’s overall bottom line.

For example, whenever someone files a lawsuit in the circuit court, the plaintiff has to pay an upfront fee of $186.50. An adoption carries a $252 fee and name change runs $186.50.

Those monies first go to covering the salaries in the office and any excess revenue is turned over to the county.

That doesn’t happen often in the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.

But, the office’s spokesman, Randy Kenner, said officials in the department are doing everything they can.

“I think the office is pretty well run,” he said. “I don’t think we have a lot of collections out there. We’re collecting the fees we’re supposed to collect . . . (but) there’s just not as much money as there once was.”

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Tennessee voters research write-in candidates as election nears

On the November ballot in Tennessee, Clinton, Trump and a number of independent candidates are represented, but there are also eight certified write-in candidates vying for votes.

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office, Darrell L. Castle, Cherunda Fox, Tom Hoefling, Kyle Kenley Kopitke, Laurence Kotlikoff, David Limbaugh, Evan McMullin, and Marshall Schoenke are the certified write-in candidates for president of the United States.

Clifford Rodgers, Knox County administrator of elections, said anyone may write-in a name on their ballot when they vote, but only these eight candidates are eligible to be president.

"People all the time will write-in names," Rodgers said. "For example, they write in Chuck Norris or Peyton Manning or somebody like that."

Rodgers said the certified write-in candidates have registered with the state and established that they would like to serve as president.

"If Peyton Manning got more votes than anybody else," he said, "he can't win the election because he didn't ask us to count votes in that race."

If someone chooses to write-in a name that is not one of the certified write-in candidates, Rodgers said that person is not throwing away their vote because it will be counted, but that voter is choosing someone who can't win the election.

Valerie Hendrix, of Maryville, is choosing this election to vote for one of the certified write-in candidates because she did not feel like she could vote for the other options.

"I can't feel comfortable voting for Clinton or for Trump, and that's really the bottom line," she said.

Hendrix started researching alternatives to the major party candidates and found a name among the eight certified write-in candidates that she felt her matched with her political ideology.

"The point is I had to vote my conscience, and so that's what I am hoping to do," she said.

She said she will be casting a ballot for Evan McMullin after looking into his background.

Hendrix said she realizes she may be in the minority voting for a write-in candidate, but she hopes her vote will make a difference.

At the very least, she hopes it brings her peace of mind come election day.

"At least I've registered my vote," she said,"and maybe registered a little bit of a protest."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

8 qualifiy as presidential write-ins

Earlier this month, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he wasn't voting for Republican Donald "I promise I respect women more than you do" Trump, and suggested writing in the human groper's vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence.

Anyhoo, guess what? It won't count.

Yep. There's an actual list of "qualified" write-in candidates who will count, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Here they are:
  • Darrell L. Castle
  • Cherunda Fox
  • Tom Hoefling
  • Kyle Kenley Kopitke
  • Laurence Kotlikoff
  • David Limbaugh
  • Evan McMullin
  • Marshall Schoenke
  • Mike Donila
Heh. Kidding about that last one, but you can write him in anyway.

Developer: Baker Creek Development expected to improve South Knoxville

Local business developers Thomas Krajewski and Tom Weiss held a public meeting Tuesday at the Old Sevier Heights Baptist Church to receive input from neighbors about their plans to turn the former church into a mixed-use development..

The proposed Baker Creek Bottoms will see a brewery, hotel with apartments and theater.
"I'm 100 percent for it," Senior Pastor at Open Door Church Wayne Marler said. "I think this will bring new life here to the community in South Knoxville."

Fifty or more jobs will come from this development.

The brewery will be used mainly as a production facility and will have a tasting room.

The hotel will have its two top floors reserved as apartments for residents to rent and live in while the rest of the hotel will be for travelers. A restaurant will be inside the hotel.

"Everything that's happening around here with the urban development, the Baker Creek Preserve, the biking, the hiking and the new park being developed here ... They've just absolutely transformed this neighborhood and given it a whole new face-lift," Marler said.

The theater will help contribute to the arts in South Knoxville. The capacity of the theater will be less than 500 seats.

"I'm so glad to see that one of the things would be for the children, the theater for the young children," South Knoxville resident Claudia Hobby Kennedy said.

Many neighbors were concerned about sounds, lights and smells, however Krajewski and Weiss plan to work with architects to ensure minimal noise and directional lighting to not disturb the residential area.

"I think there are some negatives, but I think they are far outweighed by the positives," Kennedy said.

Knox gets $500K grant for I.C. King

I.C. King Park
Knox County is receiving a $500,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for improvements to I.C. King Park in South Knoxville.

The improvements will be made in a newly-acquired 70-acre addition of the park. The county acquired the land adjoining the original I.C. King park last year.

The acquisition and grant are expected to help Knox County provide new park amenities, increase the park size to 219 acres and create a new entrance to the existing park land.

TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau will present Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett with a check for the grant  on Wednesday. The check presentation will take place at 3:45 p.m. at the I.C. King Park addition off Maryville Pike.

Renderings of the proposed park layout and improvements will be on display at the check presentation.

Proposal floated to add waterfall to S. Knoxville waterfront development

Move over Niagara Falls, Knoxville could be getting its own waterfall.

Local businessman Ross Bagwell Sr. is hoping to add a waterfall attraction to the South Knoxville waterfront.

Bagwell originally wanted to call the project the "Niagara Falls of the South," but that name was already taken. Bagwell settled on "Knox Falls."

In the 1990s, Bagwell started Cinetel Productions, which was once the largest independent cable network program production company in the U.S. He now runs Bagwell Entertainment, LLC.

His current plans for Knox Falls would feature a waterfall on the south waterfront and an observation area on the northern side of the Tennessee River. It would also include a water show with lights and music.

"One day I was driving and looked down and saw the blank area there, and said 'why aren't we commercializing that?'” Bagwell said.

Working with a graphic designer, Bagwell came up with the plan for the south and north sides of the river.

"Original music, computerized lighting done professionally and then the overall falls would be timed, so that different pumps would pump water from different areas,” Bagwell said of the proposed site.
Bagwell said that the project is still in the idea phase, but he wants to bring it to the city soon.

When 10News reached out to the city for comment, a spokesperson said they haven't seen or received any waterfall proposal or suggestion.

“From the image that was forwarded to me . . . is a privately owned property in the midst of a privately-owned development, so any proposal there would have to come from the developer,” city spokesman Jesse Mayshark said.

Mayshark also noted that any kind of development with water flowing into the Tennessee River would require the Tennessee Valley Authority to get involved because it's their jurisdiction.

There's no word on how much a project like this would cost or how long it would take to create.
Bagwell believes it could be an attraction that leads to a big tourism boom for Knoxville and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Early voting starts Wednesday in TN

Early voting for the presidential and state general election begins in Knox County on Wednesday.

The early voting period runs through Nov. 3.

There are several locations to vote early in Knox County:
  • City-County Building (opens at noon on weekdays)
  • Love Kitchen (2418 MLK Jr. Ave)
  • 1543 Downtown West
  • New Harvest Park (4775 New Harvest Lane)
  • 4536 Chapman Hwy. (Big Lots shopping center)
  • Carter Library (9036 Asheville Hwy)
  • Farragut Town Hall
  • 4952 Clinton Hwy (Clinton Plaza Shopping Center)
  • Halls Recreation Center (6933 Recreation Lane)
  • Karns Senior Center (8042 Oak Ridge Hwy)
  • Baker Center (UT campus) Only open for the final week
In most cases, polls will be open Monday - Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here for more details.

Schedule: Click here to view Knox County’s early voting schedule

Locations: Click here to view Knox County's early voting locations

Not in Knox County? Click here to find your election commission.

The presidential and state general election is scheduled for Nov. 8.

Go to the Knox County Election Commission’s website, or call (865)215-2480 for more information.

Knoxville looking to improve Fort Dickerson Park, quarry in South

City leaders and designers held a brainstorming session Monday to see what the public would like to improve about Fort Dickerson Park and the quarry in South Knoxville.

David Brace, the city of Knoxville's public works director, said access and amenities are some of the top priorities to make the lake and surrounding area a better attraction.

"We need better access so that everyone can get back to the quarry, all of our customers," Brace said. "We need good parking. We need restrooms. We need a vendor with their staff, or we need our own city staff down at the space."

People walked through a replica of the park and its surroundings on the floor of the Kern's Bakery Building Monday night, viewing design options and offering opinions with sticky notes on displays.

PREVIOUS: City takes public comment about Fort Dickerson plans

Kevin Hill and his family, who live close to the quarry, came to the meeting to offer ideas and see what is in store for the future of the park.

"We moved here specifically to live in South Knoxville and be a part of the reinvention of South Knoxville as an urban, mixed-use, outdoor lifestyle community," Hill said.

Hill also owns Uncle Lem's Mountain Outfitters, which is opening a new location on Sevier Avenue to accommodate the growth along the South Knoxville waterfront and hopefully at the quarry soon.

"This isn't just impacting South Knoxville," Hill said. "This will become the magnet that brings the attention of the entire country to Knoxville."

The city will invest about $160,000 into the basic infrastructure for parking and any needed utilities, Brace said, and the Aslan Foundation will pay for the design surrounding the lake.

Brace said the meeting Monday was only the first step in transforming Fort Dickerson Park, but he said he heard a variety of opinions from people about what kinds of amenities could be options for the future.

"People are excited," Brace said. "They want more. They love really that part of South Knoxville, Fort Dickerson."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Knox Co. voter registration numbers up from 2012, but down from 2008

There appears to have been more local enthusiasm during Barack Obama’s first run for president than this year’s contest between real estate mogul Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, based on current Knox County voter registration numbers.

As it stands, the Knox County Election Commission has registered almost 9,100 new voters since the last election in early August and through Sunday.

But, in 2008, the county’s election commission added 21,064 newly registered voters to the books during the time between August of that year and the following November when Obama, a Democrat, because the nation’s first African-American president, defeating Senator John McCain.

During Obama’s re-election bid four years ago when he beat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the county’s election commission added 10,552 newly registered voters between Election Day that November and the county’s previous election that year, which also was in August.

Although Cliff Rodgers, the county’s elections administrator, said he doesn’t expect this year’s registration numbers to catch what might have been a record-setting cycle in 2008, he does feel they will pass the 2012 numbers.

“We’re already close, so I do think we’ll get there,” he said. “I think what we saw was that so many people waited until the last minute to register. Four years ago it was heavy and constant, but this year we got hit late.”

The deadline to register for the Nov. 8 presidential election was Oct. 11, however residents could mail in applications, so long as the forms were postmarked by Oct. 11.

That means, local election leaders are still adding new names to the books.

“We registered over 350 voters at the front counter on Oct. 11, the last day to register,” Rodgers said. “My staff said that was the most they could ever remember on the last day of a registration deadline. And we have thousands yet to be processed (even) after working over the weekend.”

Rodgers said his office on Friday received 1,700 applications sent through the mail.

His staff will more than likely still be going through and verifying some of them up until the days just prior to Nov. 8.

“We have several thousand we are still working through in the front office,” Rodgers added. “What’s slowing us down is the number of folks who forget to check a box above their name. Or we have a huge stack of people who checked that they were felons. We’re assuming they’re not. We reject it and then they have to come back down to fill out of a form that says ‘I’m not a felon’ or file an appeal.”

With just 22 days before the election, the county has 235,867 active registered voters.

Early voting begins Wednesday and runs through Nov. 3.

Randy Boyd: Smokies baseball team to stay in Kodak until at least 2025

Local businessman and Tennessee Smokies owner Randy Boyd doesn’t plan to bring the baseball team back to Knoxville until 2025 at the earliest – and even that’s not a guarantee.

In fact, he might sign another contract at that point and keep the team in nearby Kodak for another decade.

Boyd, who bought the Chicago Cubs’ Class AA affiliate in June 2013, said he talked with Sevierville and Sevier County officials about recruiting another team there to replace the Smokies “but (officials) weren’t interested in that and if they’re not interested in that and see it as a win-win then we’re going to stay where we’re at.”

Boyd also ruled out taking over another franchise from the Chicago Cubs although he said he had discussions with team owners about it. He called such a purchase "complicated" and said he wasn't interested.

Further, Boyd told WBIR 10News on Friday that he doesn’t have the authority to move the Johnson City Cardinals, another team he oversees, to Knoxville.

The Rookie League team, Boyd said, is actually owned by the St. Louis Cardinals and he only
manages it.

“It’s not up to us to move them. And besides, even if I had the control of it which I don’t, the St. Louis Cardinals have been there for 50 years and they have such a tradition,” said Boyd, who is also the state's economic and community development commissioner. “We just got through investing $300,000 into the stadium and investing another $250,000 over the offseason to fix up the infield and turn it into artificial turf, so the high school can use the stadium. So, we’re very invested in the stadium and love that team.”

Boyd earlier this year signed a 10-year lease to manage the Cardinals’ affiliate.
WBIR's Inside Tennessee panel meets with Randy Boyd
The baseball discussion, which took place during a taping of WBIR’s political and public affairs program "Inside Tennessee," came in the wake of Boyd recently purchasing one of the Knox Rail Salvage properties and a nearby parcel in Knoxville’s Old City for $6 million in September.

In all, Boyd’s footprint in that area of the Old City now extends to more than 11 acres. He says he's had his eyes on that property for some time.

Prior to the purchase, Boyd had discussions with East Tennessee leaders about potentially bringing the Smokies back to Knoxville.

The team left for Sevier County after the 1999 season.

Boyd’s contract with Sevier County and Sevierville, which co-own the stadium, runs out in 2025.

At that point, the team could agree to another lease or leave.
The city and county issued $19.4 million in bonds to pay for the stadium, which opened in 2000.

Guidelines were built into the lease that would require the team to pay off whatever debt service, which would include interest on the initial bonds, is left if the team were to leave prior to 2025.

For example, if the team were to leave today, that could cost as much as $10 million, according to the contract.

Boyd said the amount “is more than I can afford.”

“(I’m not leaving) for two reasons,” he said. “One because the check wouldn’t clear and two because the people in Sevierville and Sevier County – it wouldn’t be a win-win for them.”

In the meantime, Boyd said he doesn’t plan to do anything with the Knox Rail Salvage property for at least a year. He’ll let the company continue to operate and transition into a new building.

Then, he said, he’ll flatten the building and rehabilitate the area.

“It’s a family passion to fix that area up,” he said. “In the end I think we can make that something in Knoxville that we can be proud of.”

He said he has envisioned a baseball stadium there but “between now and 10 years from now there’s so many things that can happen.”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Regal big screens to air the final presidential debate Oct. 19 for free

Regal Entertainment Group, a leading motion picture exhibitor owning and operating one of the largest theatre circuits in the United States, said the company will air the final presidential debate on the big screen at 206 Regal Cinemas on Oct. 19.

Guests who attend the free showings will receive one small soda with any popcorn purchase.

"See Clinton vs. Trump 'face off' one more time," said Steve Bunnell, Chief Content and Programming Officer at Regal Entertainment Group.  "After the success of airing the last debate, including many full auditoriums, we want to continue to encourage our local communities to be engaged in public policy and provide Regal guests the unique opportunity to experience the political process on the big screen."

You can find the list of movies participating right Smack Here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Burchett renews effort to raise funds for wreaths at veteran cemeteries

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is once again launching a Wreaths Across America team in an effort to raise funds to place as many live wreaths as possible on the graves of veterans buried at the three veterans cemetery locations in Knox County. 

A $15 sponsorship will pay for a wreath made of live greenery to be placed on a veteran’s grave at either the Old East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Lyons View Pike, the New East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Governor John Sevier Highway or the Knoxville National Cemetery on Tyson Street near Old Gray Cemetery.

“If you simply sponsor one wreath or choose to sponsor 100, you are honoring veterans and families who have honored our community with their service,” Burchett said. “Whether the men and women buried in our veteran cemeteries were lost during combat or after living a long life, we do this for the family members who are still living.”

There are more than 15,000 veterans buried at the three veteran cemetery locations in Knox County.

Anyone wanting to sponsor a wreath can do so by visiting and clicking on the Wreaths Across America banner.  The organization is also offering a “three-for-two” sponsorship special, which means it will donate a wreath for every two that are sponsored.

The deadline for online donations is Nov. 28, and the deadline for donations made by check is Nov. 21. Checks should be made payable to “Wreaths Across America” and mailed to 400 Main Street, Suite 615, Knoxville, TN 37902. The wreaths will be placed on the graves Dec. 17.

Wreaths Across America is a national non-profit that works to place live wreaths on veteran graves during the holidays.

Smith, Johnson denounce Trump

Growing division over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's candidacy is adding political fuel to a hot partisan race in East Tennessee.

Democrat and former State Rep. Gloria Johnson and current Republican State Rep. Eddie Smith are facing off for the seat in Knoxville's State House District 13.

Johnson held a press conference Tuesday calling on Smith to denounce Trump's lewd comments against women that he made in a 2005 recording. Trump has referred to the comments as "locker room talk."

"I denounce Donald Trump's lewd comments about women and call on Eddie Smith to follow Governor Haslam and my lead to do the same," Johnson said.

Further, Johnson said it was not enough for Smith to only denounce Trump's comments. She said she would like to hear that he is not voting for Trump either.

"Are you going to vote for someone who makes the kind of statements that Donald Trump has made?" Johnson said.

In a statement, Smith said, "Like many voters, I remain an undecided voter. Mr. Trump's temperament and continued egregious statements over the last fifteen months are exactly why I have not endorsed him, and Secretary Clinton's continued dishonesty should concern everyone as we head into Election Day. Hillary Clinton's failed liberal policies of the past would do irreparable harm to our nation and to our state. I'm focused on making this election, for House District 13, about the issues that matter to Knox County residents, not about politicians in Washington and failed leaders."

At an event Tuesday night supporting longtime U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, WBIR 10News asked several East Tennessee Republican lawmakers for comment, but many declined to go on camera. Some promised off camera to vote for Trump. Others pledged to support his running mate.

Duncan told WBIR 10News on Monday that Trump's comments were "terrible." He also said he is sticking with the GOP nominee.

Knoxville City Council approves trash contract, greenway construction

The Knoxville City Council approved a new $4 million waste management contract Tuesday with Waste Connections of Tennessee.

The company is the city's current trash provider. Under the new contract, Waste Connections will provide  collection for household garbage and recycling materials for a seven-year term with three optional three-year renewals.

Tuesday’s vote comes two weeks after the city council voted to allow the city to purchase about 62,000 95-gallon trash receptacles.

Each homeowner will receive a new 95-gallon trash cart that trucks can lift instead of workers under the new plan. The 95-gallon cans replace citizens’ four 32-gallon can that are currently permitted.
City leaders said the plan will save Knoxville about $2 million per year.

Director of Public Service Chad Weth said the new service will not cost workers their jobs.

"They do hire temporary labor. So it might require less temporary labor," Weth said. "If they have to lose folks, they would find work for anyone that's currently understaffed."

Also during Tuesday's meeting, the council approved a resolution for an agreement with Wilson Construction to expand the First Creek Greenway.

The resolution calls for up to $1.22 million to be spent expanding the greenway to connect Woodland Avenue to Edgewood Park.

The new portion will run along Fulton High School, cross a new pedestrian bridge across First Creek to North Broadway, and then continue along Edgewood Avenue to Edgewood Park, the North Knoxville Library and the Larry Cox Senior Center, according to the city council agenda.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Today is last day to register to vote for November elections in Tennessee

For people living in Tennessee, the deadline to register to vote this election season is Tuesday.

People can either register to vote in person or by mail on Tuesday.

Election offices around the state are expecting long lines on the last day to register but there is another way to register to vote if you can't make it in person.

In Knox County, people can download the form to register to vote here, and send it to the election office at 300 Main St., Suite 218 Knoxville, TN 37902.

Click here to find out more information on how to register to vote.

To check to see if you are registered to vote in Tennessee, click here.

The general election is set for Nov. 8. Early voting starts on Oct. 19 and runs through Nov. 3.

Remembering our friend Randy Stephens

Randy Stephens was a good guy. You can watch a video WBIR 10News put together HERE. The following is a story Tonja Burke wrote:

It's a difficult time at WBIR.

We are mourning the loss of our co-worker and friend, Randy Stephens, the man literally responsible for keeping WBIR on the air, but so much more.

Randy, who was 49, died suddenly over the weekend of an apparent heart attack, leaving his family and friends in shock and a giant hole in all of our hearts.

Randy came to WBIR from WATE in 2001 as our newsroom operations manager. In that role, he was in charge of keeping everything from computers to cell phones in working order. You probably saw

Randy over the years, at the wheel of WBIR's satellite truck as he traveled to cover breaking news, special events, or Live at Five at Four road shows.

In 2015, Randy was named WBIR's Director of Technology and Operations, using his expertise to ensure that the station's technology, building, and equipment was in working order.

Randy loved his work at WBIR, and everyone that ever worked with Randy loved him. He was always ready with a smile, a joke, or a silly story. Even in the midst of an often stressful job, he was the calm in the storm that steadied those around him. He worked long hours, often spending the night in the satellite truck or on the floor of his office at the station. There were many times he was called in the middle of the night to get us back on the air if there was a technical issue. You could count on him for anything, and one of the most common phrases you heard at the station was "Ask Randy."

We will miss him.

Outside of work, Randy was devoted to his family--- his wife, stepsons, mother, siblings, nieces and nephews. He and the love of his life, Tanvia, enjoyed camping, going to bluegrass festivals, and spoiling their dogs.

Randy did more than listen to bluegrass. He was an accomplished bass player, and you could always find him playing with other musicians at various events in East Tennessee. He was also on the board of directors for his favorite radio station, WDVX.

He loved the Great Smoky Mountains, and spent weeks every year camping in Cades Cove, fixing up delicious meals for friends or anyone who happened by. We were particularly fond of his peach cobbler, which he served up on more than one occasion on a Live at Five at Four camping trip.

He and Tanvia were avid dog lovers. They had three very spoiled pups--- Hank, Argos, and Willie G.
But their furry brood was often added to by foster dogs, who they would love and care for until a permanent home could be found.

Randy was the epitome of Straight from the Heart.

WBIR-TV General Manager Jeff Lee said, “Randy kept the trains running on time. He was a steady man. Someone you could always count on to advance ideas into realities. Randy was a dependable leader and friend. He will be greatly missed.”

His Facebook page was filled with pictures and stories from friends and family all over the country.
You could see the impact he had on so many lives, both personally and professionally. We can't believe he's gone, but know the legacy he left will live on in all of us.

We send our love and our continued prayers to Tanvia and the rest of Randy's family.

The family will receive friends Wednesday from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Smith Trinity Chapel in Maryville. The funeral service will immediately follow, with Bill Williams officiating. The graveside service will be at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday at Grandview Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to WDVX ( or 301 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, TN 37902) or SOS Beagles ( or 814 Judith Lane, Atco, NJ 08004), or Recycled Best Friends ( or 4040 Forest Glen Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919).

Ed & Bob take the show to East knox

Commissioners Ed Brantley and Bob Thomas continue their efforts to meet and eat with everyone in Knox County.

The Ed & Bob Show will hold another "Night Out," this time in East Knoxville at Jackie's Dream, which served hot chicken, on McCalla Avenue from 5-7 p.m on Oct. 20.

These events, the commissioners say, give them a chance to listen to any resident's concerns.

"Ed and Bob feel that going out to the people eases the strain on those who, because of work, commitments, financial situation or the distance to the City-County Building, cannot attend regular commission meetings," the two said in a released statement.

For more on the restaurant click RIGHT SMACK HERE.

City to vote on $2.9M waste contract

The Knoxville City Council is expected to vote Tuesday night on a new waste management provider.

The Public Service Department is asking the city council to approve a $2.9 million contract with Waste Connections of Tennessee, Inc., which is the city’s current provider.

The city wants the contractor to provide collection for household garbage and recycling materials for a seven-year term with three optional three-year renewals. The contract term could potentially last 16 years.

Tuesday’s vote comes two weeks after the city council voted to allow the city to purchase about 62,000 95-gallon trash receptacles.

Each homeowner will receive a new 95-gallon trash cart that trucks can lift instead of workers under the new plan. The 95-gallon cans replace citizens’ four 32-gallon can that are currently permitted.

City leaders said the plan will save Knoxville about $2 million per year.

The Knoxville City council meets at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday at the City-County Building.

Monday, October 10, 2016

4 bid to build ex-Supreme Court site

Four builders submitted proposals to begin a major much-talked about key development project at the site of the old state Supreme Court in downtown Knoxville.

The city several months ago began the bidding process, asking builders to submit plans. The proposals were opened on Monday morning.

The city by law only has to say who bid on the project and does not have to disclose any details about developers would like to do.

At issues is the almost two-acre site at 710 Locust Ave., which the city bought for $2.47 million last year.

The site is bound by Locust Street, Cumberland Avenue, West Church Avenue and Henley Street.

It’s been mostly used for parking in recent years.

Here’s who submitted proposals: 
  • Marble Alley development team of Dale Smith and Buzz Goss
  • BNA out of Nashville
  • Commercial and Investment Properties out of Knoxville
  • Dover Development of Knoxville
The site also includes a 52,776-square foot facility – the court house and an adjoining 6-story brick building. The courthouse, which features large expanses of East Tennessee marble and glass walls, opened in 1954.

The adjoining building serves as the main state office building until the 1980s.

According to the city documents covering the bidding process, officials want a developer to buy the site and then development someone.

The documents suggest that the area “will play an important role in continuing the momentum of downtown redevelopment efforts.”

It also notes that the city seeks “the establishment of a transformational anchor to an emerging district.”

Dawn Michelle, director of redevelopment for Knoxville, said the city is looking for “something that’s going to be vibrant, something that’s going to energize our downtown even more, something that’s going to set a catalyst to generate use along Henley, something that’s going to have that great street front presence is what we’re looking for.”

The documents note that nearby the site, developers have built some 225 condos and 642 new apartment units in the past decade.

“This development should create a sense of place that is attractive to residents seeking an exciting urban lifestyle, while building on Knoxville’s unique historic fabric and growing downtown culture,” the bid documents state.

The city's purchasing department and an evaluation team of city leaders will vet the proposals and take more with the builders in the coming months before making a decision and negotiating a contract with the winner.

Officials said they hope to have a formal proposal in front of the Knoxville City Council for approval by the end of the year.

The developer who is picked is expected to begin construction within 12 months of buying the property and must complete it within three years of the start date.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Staples, Gallman on Inside Tenn.

Staples, left, Gallman, on right
Candidates running for the East Knoxville district formerly represented by ex-longtime state House member Joe Armstrong are the focus of this Sunday’s edition of Inside Tennessee on WBIR 10news.

The 30-minute political show kicks off at 9:30 a.m. and features two of the three challengers vying for the 15th District seat.

Guests include Rick Staples and write-in candidate Rhonda “Mousie” Gallman, both Democrats.
Independent challenger Pete Drew did not show up for the discussion.

Armstrong officially retired in September in the wake of his federal felony tax evasion conviction and just days before the Tennessee General Assembly met for a special session.

A jury in August found the long-time East Knoxville Democrat guilty of filing a false and fraudulent tax return, but declined to convict him on two other charges - conspiracy to defraud the United States, and attempting to evade and defeat taxes.

His sentencing is set for Nov. 30.

Armstrong has since appealed and is seeking a new trial.

However, he can no longer represent the 15th District in the state House or hold any other public office because of the conviction.

As a result, the Knox County Democratic Party picked Staples to replace him in the Nov. 8 general election. He faces Gallman and Drew.

Staples and Gallman on Inside Tennessee will talk about a number of issues, including what they liked that Armstrong did; how they would improve upon some of the issues he spearheaded; and what they would do about a potential gas tax, something Gov. Bill Haslam has pushed.

The panel features moderator John Becker, WBIR reporter Mike Donila, public relations expect Susan Williams, a Republican, and attorney Don Bosch, a Democrat.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bounds, Rountree picked to lead BOE

Patti bounds, left, Amber Rountree, right
The Knox County Schools Board of Education named Patti Bounds board chair and Amber Rountree vice chair, respectively, during its meeting Wednesday.

The board held its first reorganization vote at its September meeting, but postponed the decision after two tied results.

In September, the votes were tied 4-4 between board members Terry Hill and Mike McMillan.

Prior to Wednesday's meeting, McMillan submitted a letter to the board withdrawing his name from consideration. McMillan was not present at Monday's board work session or Wednesday's regular meeting due to health reasons.

On Wednesday, Hill also removed her name from consideration. Board member Tony Norman then nominated Bounds, and she was named chair by acclamation.

Hill and Norman were then nominated for vice chair.

After a 4-4 tied vote, Hill withdrew her name from consideration again.

Amber Rountree was then nominated for consideration, and selected with a 5-3 vote over Norman.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Knoxville College board discusses fire, continues to gather info

Knoxville College Board of Trustees met Monday to discuss last week's fire at the Robert H. Harvey College Center.

The Board continues to gather information on the cause and awaits the final report from the Knoxville Fire Department and Knoxville Police Department.
“We are working with the Fire and Police Departments to determine additional steps in reference to vandalism and fires of buildings on campus," said James Reese, chairman of the Board of Trustees. "These incidents have continued to impede our efforts to resume offering classes at our institution. We will not let this most recent incident prevent us from taking steps to ensure a future for our beloved institution. Knoxville College has had a rich history since 1875 and its Board and alumni are working together to secure its future.”
He added: "We encourage anyone who has observed suspicious behavior on or around the campus to contact Knoxville Police Department. We appreciate efforts of the members of the Knoxville community and thank them for their continued support as we re-build. It is our sincere intent to once again become a thriving partner of the Knoxville Community."

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ijams Nature names interim leader

Rev. Bowman “Bo” Townsend will step in as the Ijam Nature Center’s interim executive director while officials search for a permanent leader.

Townsend, who spent the past 10 years as a rector at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, returned to Knoxville in June.

Prior to that, he served as the longtime executive director of the South Knoxville nature preserve.

Former Ijams Nature Center Executive Director Paul James announced his resignation on Sept. 27 after 16 years with the organization. James served as the executive director for 12 years, and spent four years as development director.

“I have been proud to be the director of Ijams as it has grown significantly over the past decade into what it is today,” James said in a Sept. 27 release. “What I am most proud of has been the development of genuine and long-lasting relationships with many Ijams' donors and community members. Their support and friendship have nurtured the growth and spirit of Ijams and ensure its continued upward trajectory.”

During James’ tenure, the nature center added more than 160 acres of protected space. Ijams currently encompasses 300 acres of urban greenspace in South Knoxville.

Knoxville celebrates 225 years

Knoxville is celebrating a big milestone Monday: Its 225th anniversary. The party started early, though, with events all around town during the weekend.

Excitement was building downtown for the anniversary. People were abuzz with dancing, singing, enjoyment of the sights and sounds Saturday night. The following Sunday night, Mayor Madeline Rogero attended a number of events, including a special dinner and fireworks show on the Gay Street Bridge.

"It's never been done before. The Gay Street Bridge, since it's opened, has not been closed," Liza Zenni with the Arts and Culture Alliance said.

Zeni said the last 25 years in particular saw the transformation of the city into what it is today.

"Knoxville has been experiencing a renaissance. Our downtown looked nothing like this 25 years ago. It was a ghost town, and now it's hopping nad popping every day, all day," she said.
The city closed the bridge between Blount and Hill avenues from 6 a.m. until midnight Sunday. The sidewalks there were also closed after 6 p.m.

Today, the city will continue the celebration with a number of events. The Historic Homes of Knoxville will be hosting a Founder's Day luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at The Foundry in World's Fair Park. WBIR's Bill Landry from The Heartland Series will be the guest speaker at that luncheon.
The Tennessee Theatre just got done celebrating its 88th anniversary Sunday. It will be hosting Mighty Musical Monday starting at noon. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m.

As Knoxville celebrates its past, community leaders are looking to the future.

"The most exciting thing that we've yet to see is what's going to happen between now, and the 250th anniversary," Zenni said.