Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MCNews

“Gas Tax” bill passes Tennessee General Assembly

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Rep. David Hawk attempts to convince House members to accept a different plan for TDOT funding in lieu of the IMPROVE Act.

This afternoon the Tennessee House and Senate approved the IMPROVE Act in today’s floor sessions. The bill aimed at addressing roads and bridges maintenance and construction was passed the House 61-35 and passed the Senate 25-6. Both House members representing Marion County, Reps. David Alexander and Rick Tillis, voted in favor of the bill. Senator Janice Bowling, Marion County’s state senator, voted against the measure. Supporters of the bill extol the net affect of the bill as a reduction in taxes. Opponents of the bill remain skeptical of raising any taxes in light of a state treasury surplus.

Governor Bill Haslam introduced the IMPROVE Act in his State of State address in January. The proposal called for an increase in the fuel tax to fund Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) projects to improve infrastructure in the state. Haslam, and advocates of the bill, tout the fact that the state has not modified the gas tax in over 20 years. The legislation increases the fuel tax by six cents a gallon for regular gas while increase diesel fourteen cents per gallon. Rep. Barry Doss of Leoma, TN assumed most of the heavy lifting of the Glen Casada bill to keep the bill intact for the governor. Casada’s original bill, HB0534, was broad in its scope only calling for the replacement of a clause in the Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) dealing with commercial vehicle logs. The one page proposed legislation was then amended with a 98 page amendment shortly after bill introduction which contained the substance of the IMPROVE Act.

Opponents of the bill say that there is not a revenue shortfall, but an allocation problem. Representative David Hawk of Greenville repeatedly has stood in opposition to the plan. Hawk has been the face of opposition camp to increasing taxes throughout the legislation’s committee path. Hawk proposed an amendment on the floor again today stripping the bill and allocating the sales tax on automobiles to TDOT’s budget which, by his calculations, would generate more revenue than the proposed gas tax increase. The amendment failed on the floor today. Reps. Jeremy Faison and Andy Holt also were public opponents of the bill. Senator Bowling said, “I supported the Hawk Plan… transportation funding with no tax increase. It had the support of a majority of the House republicans. It failed. I voted against the Haslam tax increase. It passed 25 to 6 in the Senate. I did not think it was a necessary tax or a sustainable revenue stream.”

Advocates for the bill claim the complexity of the bill, which includes stipulations for franchise and excise taxes, Hall tax components, grocery tax implications and other, seemingly, unrelated issues, was part of a plan to assure the legislation would be revenue neutral to Tennesseans. Opponents claim the components were thrown on the original bill in an effort to confuse the net revenue calculations. For instance, issues as simple as the increase in diesel fuel would simply be passed on to the consumer which would be a “double hit” to everyday Tennesseans. Claims that the other tax reductions only affected, at best 15 percent, of state residents made the tax breaks eligible for the higher income Tennesseans on the financial backs of the low to mid income wage earners.

The measure is headed to Governor Haslam’s desk less one House vote to reconcile a Senate amendment which addresses veteran’s income tax.

 

“Wings to Soar” at Whitwell High Gym Tonight

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Tonight! April 18 at 7:00 p.m. CST at Whitwell High School Gymnasium

In addition to live raptors and interesting information about them, there will be hang gliders and para-gliders landing near the school.

The event is sponsored by the Orena Humphreys Library and is strictly donations, which will be used to help put these birds back into the wild.

“Dressing room” violation under investigation at JMS

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Updated 4/19/2017 7:05 pm

Update: Director of Schools, Mark Griffith, has confirmed that the student who made the video has been issued a 365 day expulsion pending a Disciplinary Review  Committee hearing.

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Prompted by Jasper Middle School administration concerns, Director of Schools Mark Griffith confirms that there is an investigation taking place into a student video taping another student redressing in a bathroom stall. Griffith said, “Right now, Jasper Middle School is conducting the investigation with assistance from a School Resource Officer and some representatives from central office.” Griffith was not willing to lock down a timeline for the investigation. “It’s the intention of the investigation to be as thorough and fair as possible. It may take a day…it may take longer, but I’m asking for ‘thorough’ before I’m asking for ‘quick,'” Griffith stated.

The incident resulted in a dissemination of the video. Marion County Newspapers has been told that the victim’s parent has the video in her possession. None of the students involved names have been released due to the ages involved. Marion County Newspapers will continue to follow this story and this investigation.

Public invited to meet Chatt State president candidates

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Chattanooga State Presidential Finalist Forums Open to the Public

The public is invited to attend and participate in the open forums planned for each of the four finalists selected as the potential next president of Chattanooga State Community College. The forums will be held from 2:30-3:30 p.m. EST in the Humanities Auditorium and also live streamed via the following link: https://www.tbr.edu/hr/executivesearches/president-chattanooga-state-community-college.

During the forums, each candidate will present an introductory speech about him or herself and then answer questions from the audience. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members are encouraged to attend and participate in the forums for this important search.

The public forums will be held for the following candidates on these dates:

April 19: Dr. Rebecca Ashford, vice president of student affairs, Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville.

April 20: Dr. Pamela Haney, provost, vice president for academic affairs, Moraine Valley Community College, Palos Hill, Ill.

April 21: Dr. Kirk Nooks, president, Metropolitan Community College – Longview, Lee’s Summit, Mo.

April 25:  Dr. Tyjaun A. Lee, vice president for student affairs, Prince George’s Community College, Largo, Md.

For more information or to review vitaes, see https://www.tbr.edu/hr/executivesearches/president-chattanooga-state-community-college.

MCN announces ad openings for “Grad Tab”

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Moms and Dads of 2017 Grads

I know it’s unnerving to think, but we are just a little over a month away from graduation! Every year, Marion County Newspapers has featured all of our area graduates in a commemorative insert featuring North Jackson High School, Richard Hardy Memorial School, South Pittsburg High School, Whitwell High School and Marion County High School. In the recent past, we’ve been told that we haven’t made people aware that they have the opportunity to place feature messages of support and/or pictures for their grads early enough. This year, we’re trying to get the message out early enough and wide enough that everybody has a shot at putting their message in.

We’ve got options ranging from $90 to $350 to start out. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to commemorate your grads proud accomplishment. Call Debbie at 423-837-6312 ASAP and we’ll be sure and reserve your space!

Kimball Easter Egg Hunt ready to launch

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We’re hanging out with friends and neighbors at Kimball Park getting ready for the Easter Egg Hunt!

MCHS Softball Field opens new season

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The efforts of family and friends of Lady Warriors softball don’t go unnoticed for fans at the new refurbished field and facilities at the Marion County High School softball field. With a renovated press box and a new retail front for their concessions, the team’s legions are rightfully proud of the accomplishments.

Check a future issue (we’re suspecting the April 25) of the Jasper Journal for the full story. As for now, have a look from one of the new box suites overlooking the outfield…okay, maybe there haven’t been that many modifications, but the picture gives you a pretty good view of the sweat equity that has been put into the field and facilities.

MCSD conducts standard search at SPHS

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Wednesday morning, South Pittsburg High School was placed on lockdown. Marion County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) was conducting normal drug sweeps through the school.

Chattanooga Police Department vehicles were on scene also, but they were merely providing the K-9 units to expedite the search. MCSD’s K-9 program was not resurrected after the passing of their last K-9 unit. Chattanooga PD emphasized they were only at the school in a supplemental capacity to detectives from MCSD.

Detective Gene Hargis emphasized there was no specific lead prompting the search. “This is just a routine random search that we periodically do at the schools,” Hargis continued, “We didn’t find anything of substance on the search.”

The MCSD makes sporadic searches throughout the county as part of an effort to dis-incentivize drug usage and distribution among young people.

Kimball Park Egg Hunt Friday Night

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Friday night, Kimball Park will be the scene of Kimball’s Easter Egg Hunt. It will begin at 6:00 pm. The hunt is open to children under 12. Don’t forget your own basket. Kimball wishes to thank the many businesses that sponsor this event.

Jasper votes water increase to stay ahead of losses

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The Water and Sewer Board of the Town of Jasper, which is composed of the alderman and mayor of the town, has voted to raise water rates for the first time in seven years. Even with the increase, the town’s prices are well below adjacent water system’s cost to consumers.

Mayor Paul Evans said in the meeting, “As you know in our latest [audit report], Paul Johnson was talking about the loss on our water.” Johnson being the primary accountant with Johnson, Murphy and Wright which was the group that conducted the town’s audit this past fiscal year. Evans extrapolated on the people included in the preparation of the rate increase including Gary Cosby with CTI Engineers and town employees. Evans then announced the proposal. “It’s an increase, just on the minimum bill, of one dollar on the town residents and four dollars outside the town. It will bring in $228,000,” Evans said. “The proposed increase would also bring transfer and connection fees from ten dollars to twenty five dollars to reimburse our costs on those actions.” The recent audit showed a $194,000 shortfall in actual operating expenses versus revenue.

The shortage in operating capital for two fiscal years in a row could lead to the State of Tennessee taking over the water operations and setting the rates as they see fit. With that reality looming, the board voted to accepted the rate changes without dissent.

The new rates will take effect on July 1, 2017. The new rates will be:

Inside Town Limits            Outside Town Limits

0-2000 Gallons (Minimum Bill)        $7.00                                $15.50

Over 2000 Gallons                          $3.00/1000 Gallons           $4.25/1000 Gallons

Transfer and Connection fees will be $25

In a followup interview, Mayor Evans pointed out, “This really only amounts to twelve dollars for people inside the town limits and forty eight dollars for people outside the town per year…so some people won’t even really notice as it’s spread out over the year’s billing.”