From the News Sentinel website:
Federal and local authorities seized 19 horses from a Blount County stable of a walking horse show trainer Thursday on suspicion that the animals have been subjected to the practice known as “soring.”
The trainer, Larry Joe Wheelon, 68, is charged with one felony count of animal cruelty, with additional charges pending, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
The seizure came a week after U.S. Department of Agriculture agents and Blount County authorities executed a search and seizure warrant at Wheelon’s barn on Tuckaleeche Pike in response to an anonymous tip.
Authorities returned Thursday to remove the 19 horses, which were visibly in pain, including several that were barely able to stand.
Investigators suspect the horses’ injuries were caused by soring — the application of caustic chemicals and painful devices to their hooves and legs used to produce the artificial, high-stepping “Big Lick” gait.
“It’s a significant number of horses to get to safety,” said Leighann McCollum, Tennessee director for HSUS. “Horses that will never have to endure that again — hopefully.”
The Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to All Animals and Horse Haven of Tennessee assisted in removing the horses to an undisclosed location, McCollum said. The Blount County Sheriff’s Office also provided security during the seizure.
Wheelon is an active director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer’s Association and sits on its ethics committee, according to the Humane Society. Since 1993, he has been cited by inspectors 15 times for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. Wheelon was booked into the Blount County Justice Center Thursday in lieu of $5,000 bond.
Rejecting appeals by state officials, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that three Memphis-area counties, as well as three others in East Tennessee, violate federal air-quality standards for ozone pollution, reports the Commercial Appeal. The decision, issued late Tuesday, means that Shelby, Crittenden (in Arkansas) and part of DeSoto county (in Mississipp) will remain classified as “non-attainment” for ozone standards – a designation that officials say makes it more difficult to attract industry. Anderson, Blount and Knox counties also retain the designation.
Tennessee and Mississippi had filed petitions appealing EPA’s initial decision earlier this year classifying the counties as non-attainment. The appeals cited data showing improvement in local air quality, particularly during a three-year period ending in 2011 during which all Shelby County air monitors met federal ozone standards.
State and local officials had sought to escape the non-attainment classification because of its potentially chilling effect on economic development. New or expanding industries generally are held to stricter pollution-control requirements in non-attainment areas.
And this from the AP:
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner Bob Martineau said Wednesday that the federal agency chose the “most burdensome of several options” in dealing with air pollution in the counties.
“It’s important to note that while EPA’s decision will have long-term negative economic impacts for Tennessee, this decision does nothing to improve air quality,” Martineau said.
Dorothy Cooper was the first senior citizen to get media notice for problems in getting a photo ID to vote. Olean Blount of Carroll County is the latest. From the Tennessean: Three trips. More than 120 miles. Three hours with her daughter in the car.
That is what it took for Olean Blount to get the right identification card to cast her ballot.
“I don’t know why I needed it,” she said. “Everybody around here knows me.”
The 92-year-old woman from Westport, a crossroads 11 miles southeast of Huntingdon in Carroll County, says she spent the better part of two days trying to get a picture ID in time for the March presidential primary.
…Because Carroll County lacks a driver service center, Blount and her daughter drove first to the clerk’s office in neighboring Benton County, only to be sent home because a camera was broken. They returned a few days later but were told then that the county clerk could not issue her an ID card after all. County clerks could issue a photo ID only in exchange for a non-photo driver’s license, available in Tennessee to senior citizens.
They next traveled to the driver service center in Henry County, where Blount was issued an ID. But they were wrongly charged $9.50 for the card, which by law was supposed to be issued free of charge. Blount got a refund, but she does not feel that she got her money’s worth.
“That was back when gas was around $5,” she recalled with only a slight exaggeration. “So I didn’t get my money refunded, all of it.”
In a trip to Knoxville Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced he would allocate $500,000 in his proposed state budget for 2012-13 to the Blount Mansion Association’s capital campaign. The News Sentinel notes the first state constitution was written at the Blount Mansion. “I was thinking while I was just standing in the office where the Tennessee constitution was written that I had just left a meeting where people were arguing about adding amendments to the state constitution,” he said. “It reminds you that whether you are a governor, mayor, city council member, you do not start from scratch, it is a relay race. Your job is to do everything you can to make your city, county or state a better place.”
The home of William Blount is significant, the governor said. Blount, a North Carolina-native, signed the Declaration of Independence and was Tennessee’s first territorial governor.
“That is why the state wants to be involved in this, it matters that the state help preserve the place where it literally began,” he said.
Haslam said that when studying history, ideas are always important, but so are places.
“History becomes real when you can visit these places,” he said.
Patricia Brake Rutenberg, executive director of Blount Mansion Association, said the mansion received a matching $250,000 Saving America’s Treasure grant from the National Park Service. The Blount Mansion Association is engaged in a capital campaign to raise funds to conserve and restore the 220-year-old house
Rutenberg said $1 million, including the grant money, has been raised, but $2 million is needed to sufficiently restore the facility.
From reporter Josh Flory: In recent months, the News Sentinel sought travel records from local utility districts across East Tennessee and examined piles of receipts along the way. Many of them were for mundane purposes — meals at Cracker Barrel, registrations for conferences and the like.
But at some districts the records showed a willingness by employees or board members to spend ratepayers’ money on more extravagant expenses. Three local districts have either altered their travel policies or eliminated certain spending practices in recent months.
Listed expenses in the article include dinner for 18 at the Peddler in Gatlinburg for $886.99, dinner for seven at the Stock Yard in Nashville for $430.20 and dinner for six at the Palm in Nashville for $458.93.
…The (South Blount Utility) district has adjusted its policies on travel within the last year. In an interview this month, District Manager Henry Durant said that last November TAUD (Tennessee Association of Utility Districts) held a school for commissioners, and that was when South Blount learned it was not appropriate for a district to cover meal costs for spouses who are traveling with district commissioners or employees. He said South Blount stopped that practice at the end of last year.
“We didn’t really understand that there was a problem with that,” Durant said.
Durant said that because of the News Sentinel’s inquiry, South Blount decided to seek restitution for certain expenses incurred by spouses, although he said the amount of money won’t exceed $200 or $300.
In addition, Durant said that at a recent board meeting, the district adopted a travel policy to establish a per diem expense rate for employee travel. The manager said the district thought it had a travel policy, but realized recently that it did not.
Sen. Bob Corker paid a visit Monday to a downtown home once occupied by another U.S. senator — more than 200 years ago, the News Sentinel reports. “It’s a great awareness opportunity for me,” said the Tennessee Republican at the Blount Mansion, 200 W. Hill Ave. “It’s a great piece of history. I’m really just here to bring attention to it.”
Anne Pittenger, secretary of the Blount Mansion Association’s board of directors, said the house was built in 1792 by William Blount, then the governor of the Southwest Territory. Blount went on to become the first U.S. senator from Tennessee.
“That’s one of the reasons we wanted Sen. Corker to visit, because William Blount was our first U.S. senator from the state,” Pittenger said.
Victor Ashe, former Knoxville mayor and U.S. ambassador to Poland, and Congressman John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, were present at the meeting.
….Because of a recent grant, the Blount Mansion Association will be able to continue their goal of education. The National Park Service awarded a $250,000 grant, titled the Save America’s Treasures Grant, to the association.
“There’s a fight for every dollar out there,” said (U.S.Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan. “You wouldn’t have gotten this grant if you all weren’t doing a really good job.”
Not only will the building getnew wiring, new plumbing and a much needed state-of-the-art fire-suppressant system, but the association plans on increasing its educational reach.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Blount County Deputy District Attorney General Tammy Harrington as the new Fifth Judicial District Circuit Court Division One judge in Blount County.
Harrington replaces Judge W. Dale Young who retired in January after a lengthy career on the bench.
“Tammy has exceptional experience in prosecution and litigation from her 15 years in Blount County as deputy district attorney general, and the county will continue to benefit from her public service,” Haslam said.