After the controversial removal of William “Chink” Brown from the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission in February, Gov. Bill Haslam has finally appointed a replacement, reports Nooga.com David Watson, an executive and part owner of Mountain View Ford Lincoln in Chattanooga, will serve out the remainder of Brown’s term as the District 4 representative on the TFWC. The TFWC is the governing body over the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The 13 members have authority over hunting, fishing and boating regulations in Tennessee.
In the letter notifying Watson of his appointment, the governor wrote, “In the thorough and aggressive search for candidates, your individual characteristics and professional qualifications were exceptional among the number of nominees who expressed interest.”
Watson’s appointment will last until February 2015; however, insiders think it is possible that Watson will be reappointed for another six-year term at that point, although that is not guaranteed.
By Randall Dickerson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — How many wildlife agents does it take to catch a wild hog? Only one — under a new remote system used by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Richard Kirk, an agency program manager, said the new system alerts an on-call agent when there is movement under the trap. Cameras are set up with the trap and the agent can watch feral hogs by video, springing the trap by pushing a button on a computer or smartphone from miles away.
Agents set up a corral that is 35 feet in diameter and bait it with corn. When hogs wander close and set off a motion detector focused on the gate, an agent gets a text message. Then they can watch the video and drop the trap.
Kirk said the new technology can save a lot of staff time. Previously, four agents would study the feeding patterns of a group of feral hogs, set up the trap and then return early on the day they hoped to capture them. Now, they study the feeding patterns, place the trap and wait for a text message.
“This system allows one person at a computer at 2 a.m. to make the capture, versus four people spending three to four hours out there,” Kirk said.
News release from state Department of Human Services:
NASHVILLE, TN (June 17, 2013) – New Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) applicants will need to apply on October 1 instead of July 1. Administration of the federal program designed to assist households of low income pay utility bills will be transferred from the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) to the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) effective October 1, 2013.
Given LIHEAP’s transition to THDA, funds offered through the program will now be awarded to coincide with the federal fiscal year beginning October 1.
“Transitioning LIHEAP was identified during our Customer Focused Government process, formally known as the Top to Bottom Review, as a potential opportunity to increase efficiency and effectiveness in service to the people of Tennessee, said Department of Human Services’ Commissioner Raquel Hatter. “DHS is excited about this transition to improve customer service through better service alignment. We look forward to continued collaboration with community partners and THDA.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is balking at enforcing dam tailwater fishing restrictions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
TWRA Executive Director Ed Carter said anglers have a good safety record in fishing below Cumberland River dams and the agency doesn’t see the justification of banning tailwater fishing.
While Carter said TWRA wants to work with the Corps on safety solutions, the state agency won’t supply enforcement of permanent waterborne restrictions.
TWRA has asked the Corps to reconsider implementation of the ban, but noted the federal agency on Tuesday said it was putting the plan into place and asking wildlife agencies in Tennessee and Kentucky to enforce it.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Commercial fishermen in Tennessee say they could help reduce the number of invasive Asian carp with a relatively minor change in fishing regulations.
The carp grow up to 50 pounds. In addition to having a voracious appetite for the same food native fish feed on, the carp have injured fishermen by jumping into boats.
The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/Ybu4qj ) reported fisheries chief Bobby Wilson of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency calls them a gigantic problem.
Fishermen want the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve nets with wider openings.
Fishermen say there’s a market for the fish in China, where the flesh is considered a delicacy.
The species was accidentally released into American waters two decades ago.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE – State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), Chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said today he has put the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) on notice regarding his committee’s intentions to carefully review their spending practices. THDA came under fire after lavish spending on employee-related activities was uncovered in an investigative report by WTVF-TV in Nashville. The State and Local Government Committee reviews THDA’s budget and is responsible for recommending changes to the full Senate in the agency’s spending plan.
“It is essential that not only you but also the entire agency recognize that THDA is a state agency,” said Chairman Yager in a letter to Perrey. “This demands the agency have the fiscal discipline that is expected of every state agency. In fact, the nature of the agency’s work is such that it should be held to an even higher standard.”
“The Senate Committee I chair on State and Local Government will be reviewing the progress you make in implementing needed reforms in the coming months,” the letter continued.
THDA was created by the General Assembly in 1973 to provide housing assistance to Tennesseans in need by offering a variety of housing-related programs, especially for those with low incomes. Until October, the agency was led by Executive Director Ted Fellman.
Perrey was questioned by Yager on Monday regarding the expenditures at a meeting of the Joint Fiscal Review Committee, which also has legislative oversight responsibilities for state spending.
“We’ve lost sight of the good you do because of these outrageous activities that were funded through your budget,” Yager told Perrey at that hearing.
He also asked Perrey about whether he expressed concerns as a former THDA Board member before being selected as the new Executive Director. Perrey said he was not aware of some of the more lavish expenditures but pledged that they would not be repeated.
“Director Perrey has given us his word that the Agency will not repeat these excessive expenditures and we are going to hold him to that,” added Yager. “We will be holding THDA fully accountable for the dollars they spend.”
State lawmakers are taking the Tennessee Housing Development Agency to task for tens of thousands of dollars spent on arcade outings and stretch limos, reports WPLN. THDA’s new director appeared before the Fiscal Review Committee Monday. Agency chief Ralph Perrey says now that he’s at the helm – quote – “what you will not see is us spending money to treat ourselves.”
THDA now estimates $75,000 was spent over the last two years on rewards. But before becoming executive director this month, Perrey was on the THDA board. So lawmakers ask why he didn’t act then.
“I was aware that we were doing some employee appreciation events. That didn’t raise a red flag to me when I heard it. It should have.”
See also a report on the hearing from Phil Williams, who first pointed out the spending on employee appreciation.
The Tennessee Housing Development Agency, created to help in financing home for low and modest income Tennesseans, also spends “tens of thousands of dollars having fun,” according to WTVF-TV’s Phil Williams. But it’s called “employee development.” So, this past summer, the entire office took off to go to Dave & Busters.
In addition to a full-course, lunch buffet, each employee also got $40 for video games or for bowling.
The total cost: $9,939.
“The people who work in accounting get to know the people who work in tax credits,” Smith explained. “The people who work in housing management get to know the people in public affairs.”
“Can they not get to know each other here at the office?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
“Yes — it’s a little crowded here,” she answered.
To celebrate Fellman’s 50th birthday, THDA bought enough balloons to fill up the boss’ office. They hired a balloon artist, as well as a caterer to serve up banana pudding.
The price tag: $1,300.
For administrative professionals day, the agency brought in a stretch limo just to take its secretaries out to lunch.
The limo by itself: $641.
News release from state Comptroller’s Office:
Taxpayer money has been used to cover $2 million for travel expenses, meals and entertainment, mobile communications devices and subsidies for a training complex and resort property used by the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations has revealed.
Among other issues, investigators found that agency officials spent nearly $60,000 on an annual trip to Washington, D.C., more than $1.6 million to subsidize its training complex and resort property, $123,000 for gift certificates for training events, more than $100,000 annually on 160 mobile communication devices for employees, and thousands of dollars for extravagant meals and entertainment.
The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency serves 14 counties in the Cumberland Plateau region with a 63-member board comprised of various county and city mayors and derives the vast majority of its funding from state and federal governments.
As of today, reports the Leaf-Chronicle, Tennesseans can download Ready TN, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency’s (TEMA) popular smartphone preparedness application, to iPhone and iPad devices and access the application’s information and resources on hazards and how to be ready for emergencies. “It is incredibly important Tennesseans take time to prepare for emergencies, and this new app from TEMA is designed to be responsive to our customers, the taxpayers,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. “Citizens are relying increasingly on their mobile devices for relevant and timely information, and the ReadyTN app delivers critical tips and resources to Tennesseans so they can be prepared the next time a disaster strikes.”
iPhone and iPad owners simply need to search for ReadyTN in the App Store or in the iTunes Store and then download the application to their devices.
The ReadyTN browser landing page in the iTunes Store is http://bit.ly/StqFxU. Once active, ReadyTN will provide location-based information on severe weather, road conditions, open shelters and local government contacts. Preparedness tips for specific hazards and checklists for emergency kit items are also provided in the application’s content