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Dandridge, Tennessee

October 3, 2011 www.jeffersoncountypost.com

Now That's Going Green 
Staff Photo

The Donahoo Farm in Dandridge always welcomes the new seasons in style. Richard Donahoo lets his artistic ability shine, with a little help from his friends and family. He started the tradition of his display for the oldest of his two grandchildren and it has grown proportionately. Locals know that the seasons have truly changed when the field art makes an appearance.

Will Mountain Plaza, Inc. Grant Impact Future Opportunities for Tennessee or Draw Fire From EPA?

Staff Photo

Jefferson County based company Mountain Plaza, Inc, which owned and operated TR Trucking located on the Deep Springs Exit in Dandridge, has recently become a topic of controversy for several State of Tennessee Governmental Departments. Mountain Plaza, Inc was owned and operated by Rick Lewis. Tennessee Department of Transportation Communications Officer Mark Nagi, confirmed that Lewis did apply for a grant from TDOT 


Some Jefferson County DOE Salaries Significantly Lower Than Formula

The salary structure for some Jefferson County Department of Education employees is significantly lower than the funding formula used by the State to determine the amount of money given to Jefferson County by the State of Tennessee. The Better Education Plan, or BEP, uses a standardized formula to calculate the amount of funds that a County will receive from the State for Education. Once a County receives their State allotted monies, they are not obligated to use them in the manner in which they were funded, meaning that though the State may fund a salary at a specific level, the County is not forced to use any or all of the money for that purpose. Jefferson County uses the bare minimum salary schedule for many employee positions, rather than the amount that is calculated in the BEP funding formula. 

Teachers and other Certified Instructional Positions are included in the funding formula at $38,700 per position. A beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Jefferson County makes slightly more than $29,000. On the current salary scale, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree will not meet the level of pay of the BEP funding formula until they have been employed more than 15 years. A teacher with a Master’s Degree in Jefferson County will not meet the State funding level until they have been employed for more than eight years. Even a Master’s + and an Educational Specialist will not meet the State Funding level for nearly half a dozen years. 

Teachers and other Certified Employees are not the only positions that do not receive the BEP funding allotment for their positions. Custodians position are funded at a level of $20,800 though most custodians in Jefferson County earn much less than that figure. Full time Custodian salaries begin at a little more than $13,000. School Secretaries are allotted a salary of $27,200, however the actual salary range in Jefferson County is $11,000 to just below $27,000. Both of these are an anomaly, as the general salaries for school secretaries in Jefferson County starts at $16,000 and tops out near $24,000.

The salary situation in Jefferson County is not new, as they have had the same funding policy for several years. Jefferson County is currently considering raises or bonus for non certified employees, however there is not currently a plan to provide a similar bonus to teachers.

in March of 2010. The scope of the grant was to provide assistance to implement a program which would reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality through an electrification project at diesel truck stops along the Interstate. The grant was funded through Federal money that was distributed from the Environmental Protection Agency. Tennessee received $2million to fund the project, of which $1,666, 525 has been awarded to four companies. Lewis’ Company was the first company to receive the grant, with the State listing his issuance date as 6/15/2010. Issuance dates for the remaining three companies are all in December of 2010. According to Nagi, shortly after Lewis was awarded the $424,000 grant, TDOT became aware that he had filed for bankruptcy. Nagi confirmed that Lewis had accurately completed the application process, however TDOT did not investigate the financial situation of the companies that applied for the grant. Nagi stated that it was a shallow application and that TDOT has no arm of its organization that is designed to investigate grant applicants. Other red flags should have been available to TDOT. In August of 2002, Lewis pled guilty to 31 counts of theft resulting from allegedly filing fraudulent tax returns, as was reported in The Newport Plain Talk. He was sentenced to 8 years of unsupervised probation. Information provided, by Public Information Officer Helm for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, is void of any information regarding the 2002 guilty plea or the Court Ordered probation. It does, however, include 4 arrests of worthless checks, the last being the same month that he made application for the TDOT grant. Helms stated that a record could be expunged and the arrest and conviction would not appear on public record. The order to expunge could be included at sentencing or could be petitioned for at a later date. 

Sharon Curtis-Flair, Director of Communications for the Tennessee State Attorney General’s Office, stated that the Attorney General did not expunge Lewis’ record, however that could have come from the District Attorney’s Office or another agency. If Lewis served the full term of his probation, he would have still been on probation for the 2002 plea when applying for the grant. It is unclear what agency is responsible for expunging the record and the reasoning behind expunging a record with multiple arrests spanning several years. 

Creditable sources have reported the Tennessee Division of State Audit is investigating the grant award in regard to Mountain Plaza, Inc. The property in question was sold on the Jefferson County Courthouse Steps on September 29,2011. The grant stipulated that the business must operate for 48 months. Several agencies are now involved in deciding how, and if, the State of Tennessee will try to recoup any of the grant funds awarded to Mountain Plaza, Inc. In response to a question regarding Lewis allegedly currently owing back taxes to the State, the Attorney General’s Office responded that because this is ongoing litigation and there are privacy laws regarding tax issues, they will only state that they have filed claims and are waiting for distribution in the ordinary course. It is unclear if the Attorney General is filing on behalf of TDOT or if the current situation will have repercussions with the EPA and future grant opportunities for Tennessee. 

High Tech Treasure Hunt

The Jefferson County Post is launching something new and exciting for readers this week. That something is "GEOCACHING".  Geocaching is a worldwide craze that combines technology with an old fashioned game of hide and seek. Geocaching has been around for a decade, however it is just making its way to rural areas across the Nation. Geocaching games are on every continent, including Antarctica. A cache consisting of some trinkets and a log book are hidden in a location. Global Positioning Coordinates (GPS) are given to player to lead them to the general location of the cache. A riddle or other clue is provided to pinpoint the hiding place of the cache. Players record their name in the log book to prove that they were there and the first successful players can remove the trinkets from the cache. Sometimes players like to leave something ( no valuables ) of their own in place of the trinket that they take, others simply log their name. The game has gained tremendous popularity throughout the world and geocaching sites have sprung up all over the internet. Some games include a traveling cache that moves to a new location with each player, others include a “brain teaser”. The cache will be easy to identify and should always 

include a log book. The game master provides coordinates to the general location, additional clues and a brief description of the caches, such as size. Caches are located on public property, unless the game master has been given specific permission from a private property owner. 

Rules and Clue to The Jefferson County Post Geocache
GPS Coordinates (approximate): N36 0.92129 W83 24.89472 - Container Size: Small 4"x4" - On Public Property
The Geocache is in a water-proof container.  Instructions are inside.
In The Jefferson County Post "JUST IN" section there will be a page where you can post comments after it is found.  Keep it a secret though!

Jack and Jill, went to town, to get a chocolate malt,

Across the floor and out the door, came to a sudden halt,

For in their line of vision, they realized with a sigh,

Was a cache of hidden treasure, where pennies go to lie.

If you want to play and do not have a GPS, you can consult google maps for the general location of the cache or just use the clues provided. Don’t forget to bring a pen to sign the log book and remember to leave the logbook and the cache for other players! 

© Copyright 2011 The Jefferson County Post All Rights Reserved

October 3, 2011 Go To Page

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