,

Comptroller’s Office Reviews TBI’s Fiscal Operations and Makes Recommendations

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, January 16, 2018:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a special report examining several aspects of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s fiscal operations, including an analysis of TBI’s budget, the procurement of its Pilatus airplane, staffing, and grants and contracts.

The special report was initiated after Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson) called for an examination of TBI’s budgeting and accounting practices.

The General Assembly included language within the 2017 Appropriations Act requiring the review to be complete by January 31, 2018.

The Comptroller’s Office found TBI’s expenditures have exceeded its budgeted estimates since 2014, and TBI has relied on its various reserve funds for its continued operations. These accounts have been greatly diminished as TBI has used these funds. The Comptroller’s Office concluded that TBI and the Department of Finance and Administration should commit to improve communication during the budget process.

The review also includes an examination of the procurement of TBI’s Pilatus Airplane. The Comptroller’s Office found that, although policies were followed, the procurement could have been more cost-effective.

Additionally, the Comptroller’s Office researched the history of TBI and performed an analysis of TBI’s independence. TBI is an operationally independent cabinet-level agency that does not clearly belong to a single branch of government. TBI’s unique role in state government requires a balance between independence and accountability.

Comptroller Justin P. Wilson will present the results of the TBI Special Report to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee on January 16, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.

The Comptroller’s Office has also released TBI’s performance audit report which found TBI’s policies surrounding the use of its aircraft were not sufficient, a failure to collect all sex offender registration fees, and the Drug Offender Registry was not always accurate or up to date.

The Comptroller’s Office will present the TBI performance audit to the Judiciary and Government Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations on January 25, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.

To view the TBI Special Report online, click here.

To view the TBI Performance Audit Report online, click here.

,

Bredesen-Chaired Solar Firm Lands Multinational Oil Company Investment

Press Release from the Silicon Ranch Corp., Jan. 15, 2018:

Shell Acquires Interest in Silicon Ranch Corporation Platform

Investment aligns Shell with best-in-class U.S. developer, owner, and operator of solar facilities

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 15, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Silicon Ranch Corporation, a leading U.S. developer, owner, and operator of solar energy plants, announced today that it has signed an agreement to make Shell its largest shareholder. As part of the agreement, Shell will acquire a 43.83% interest in Silicon Ranch from Partners Group, the global private markets investment manager, for up to $217 million in cash based on Silicon Ranch performance, with the possibility to increase its position after 2021. Partners Group will continue to support Silicon Ranch through a newly issued junior debt financing simultaneous with the closing of the sale. Subject to regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in Q1 2018.

Standing left to right: Silicon Ranch board member Byron Smith; Shell GM Solar Projects, Shell New Energies, Boris Schubert; Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CFO Reagan Farr; Silicon Ranch Chief Corporate Development Officer David Vickerman; Sitting left to right: Silicon Ranch Chairman Phil Bredesen; Shell VP of Solar Marc van Gerven; Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO Matt Kisber (PRNewsfoto/Silicon Ranch Corporation)

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch will continue to operate under its existing management and the Silicon Ranch brand. The fast-growing business has doubled its operating portfolio for three consecutive years, with approximately 880 megawatts of PV systems that are contracted, under construction, or operating in 14 states from New York to California, and close to 1 gigawatt more in its development pipeline. The innovative company has been a first-mover in a number of U.S. states and has deployed a differentiated, demand-driven approach to business development across a diverse customer set, with particular emphasis on building long-term relationships with electric cooperatives, military partners, and corporate customers across the country.

The transaction will enable Silicon Ranch to accelerate its growth strategy by developing new projects, entering new markets, and expanding product offerings across its portfolio. The strategic partnership provides Shell a platform to establish a successful global solar business by aligning with a proven team in the second largest solar market in the world.

“We were impressed by Silicon Ranch’s proven track record, its market-led development strategy, and its long-term ownership model and commitment to the communities it serves,” said Marc van Gerven, Shell Vice President of Solar. “Partnering with Silicon Ranch progresses our New Energies strategy and provides our U.S. customers with additional solar renewable options. With this entry into the fast-growing solar sector, Shell is able to leverage its expertise as one of the top three wholesale power sellers in the U.S., while expanding its global New Energies footprint.”

Matt Kisber, Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CEO, said: “Our goal at Silicon Ranch has always been to ensure that Americans have access to a reliable, affordable, and clean energy supply, and we are honored to welcome Shell as our newest business partner. By pairing our solar expertise and trusted brand with the scale, resources, and brand equity of Shell, we are well-equipped to collaborate with our utility partners to provide comprehensive, win-win energy solutions for them and their customers. As we welcome Shell to our team, Silicon Ranch also wants to thank Partners Group for the financial and commercial support that enabled us to surpass our ambitious growth targets over the last two years.”

Reagan Farr, Silicon Ranch Co-Founder and CFO, said: “Shell shares our steadfast commitment to long-term partnership, and together we will unlock tremendous value in the U.S. solar market. This significant and strategic investment by Shell is in the best interest not only of our company and our employees, but also of our customers and the communities we serve, because it will allow us to capture synergies with Shell’s businesses and benefit from its long heritage in providing energy services around the world.”

About Silicon Ranch Corporation
Silicon Ranch, based in Nashville, Tenn., is a leading U.S. developer, owner, and operator of solar energy plants. Silicon Ranch develops to own all of its projects for the long-term and brings the economic, environmental, and community benefits of commercial and utility-scale solar energy together in a full-service model that requires no capital investment from its stakeholders. The company’s operating portfolio includes more than 100 facilities across 14 states from New York to California, including the first large-scale solar projects in Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi. To learn more, please visit www.siliconranchcorp.com and follow on Twitter @SiliconRanchCo.

,

Acclaimed Percussion Group Coming to TTU

PRESS RELEASE from Tennessee Tech University:

The Sandbox Percussion quartet will perform in the Wattenbarger Auditorium of Tennessee Tech University’s Bryan Fine Arts Building Friday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Sandbox Percussion has established themselves as a leading proponent in this generation of contemporary percussion chamber music. Brought together by their love of chamber music and the joy of playing together, Jonathan Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney seek to engage a wider audience for classical music through collaborations with composers and performers.

In addition to their concert schedule, Sandbox has also participated in various masterclasses and coachings at schools such as the Peabody Conservatory, Curtis Institute, Cornell University and Furman University.

This is a Center Stage Event made possible by the university’s general education fund. It is free and open to the public.

Wattenbarger Auditorium is in the Bryan Fine Arts Building located at 1150 N. Dixie Ave.

, , , ,

TWRA’s Phone App Updated

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, Oct. 11, 2017:

Goal to Help Users Easily Discover Outdoors Opportunities

NASHVILLE — For nearly a quarter-million users of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s ‘On The Go 2.0’ smartphone app, finding a place in Tennessee to hunt, fish, boat, and view wildlife has become easier than ever. “We have put a lot of time into improving our app and we are happy to announce it is now available and free to all who enjoy our outdoors and want to learn more,” said Michael May, a TWRA assistant director.

“If you want to find a boat ramp, public land to hunt on, a convenient way to check-in big game, places where you can view birds and other wildlife, or keep up with news that pertains to the outdoors, this updated version of our app offers unlimited sources of information,” said May.

The upgrade is easier to navigate. Users can buy licenses, check big game while afield, view interactive maps, apply for quota hunts, and visit the TWRA website. One new feature includes a “Stay Connected Page.” It provides easy access to TWRA’s social media, Tennessee WildCast podcast, newsroom, outdoors and event calendar, and more.

Smartphone users should visit TWRA’s website by clicking here. If the current version is already installed, Apple users can easily upgrade via their app, while Android users will need to uninstall their current app before uploading the new one.

Hunters will have the opportunity to report big game harvests while in the field. There is also an interactive map to find TWRA wildlife management areas (WMAs), physical check station locations, and duck blind locations.

Another special feature is the “Hunter’s Backpack” where hunter education courses, a summary of hunting seasons, and full versions of the agency hunting guides are available.

For anglers, “Fisherman’s Tacklebox” includes, fish identification, interactive maps to find boat ramp and fish access information, fish attractor locations, trout stocking locations, and trout stocking schedules.

On the app’s boating page, the “Boating Locker” includes boat regulations, safety checklists, boating education information, navigational aids, and recommended boating equipment.

For wildlife watchers, there is information about where to view watchable wildlife across the state.

,

Support for ‘Constitutional Carry’ Lacking Among Most TN Gubernatorial Candidates

Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association, October 9, 2017:

Nashville Public Radio reports today that Senator Mae Beavers is the only candidate for governor of Tennessee in 2018 who supports adoption of Constitutional Carry in Tennessee. A growing number of states have adopted constitutional carry in the last few years – 14 have adopted constitutional carry and approximately 30 have no permitting or training requirements for “open carry”. Despite having a super majority of Republican legislators since 2011, Tennessee is now “behind the pack” of states moving forward on this issue.

What the responses of the candidates – except for Mae Beavers – is that they do not make their policy decisions based on what the constitutions say. They want to “rule” our lives based on what “big government” and “law enforcement” thinks is best for you without regard to constitutional limits or requirements.

The Nashville Public Radio story reports:

Q: Do you believe Tennesseans should be able to carry handguns without getting permits?

Republicans:

Randy Boyd: So, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with law enforcement agents, and most of them are opposed to it, and I want to support law enforcement. However, I do believe that the carry permit process is maybe extraordinarily burdensome. I recently got a carry permit about four months ago. It took me eight hours and cost $85. I personally think it could’ve been free and done in an hour. So, I think maybe there’s some happy medium there where we can do it more efficiently and still meet the requirements that law enforcement officers are wanting us to meet.

Beth Harwell: I think our permit system has worked very well in this state. It’s certainly is, I think, good for gun-carrying permit holders to have a reciprocal agreement with states around us, which they would lose if we went to “constitutional carry.” So, it actually could hold back some rights that we have given to people in the state of Tennessee to bear arms. However, I will say I understand the constitutional argument for it, and should the legislature in its wisdom pass it, I would sign it as governor.

Bill Lee: I don’t. Primarily because I’m a guy who’s listening to law enforcement and what they believe, and law enforcement is very much against that. I do however believe in Second Amendment rights, and I truly believe we ought to expand those Second Amendment rights by reducing and/or eliminating the fees associated with a carry permit. So, I believe we should expand Second Amendment rights, but I believe we ought to keep in place background checks and safety requirements.

Mae Beavers: I believe in constitutional carry, if you legally own a gun, because I think our Second Amendment rights guarantee us that. Remember, I’m talking about when you legally own a gun — not if you stole it — but if you legally own a gun, you’ve gone through the background checks. They’ve found out you’re not a criminal. So why shouldn’t you be able to.

Diane Black: Well, I do think the current system is working. I think that we should continue the current system, but if the legislature sends me a bill, I will sign it. I do believe there is a constitutional guarantee to a right to defend yourself. And, again, I think our system is working well, but I certainly would sign a bill if it comes to my desk.

Democrats:

Karl Dean: I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, but I believe the gun laws that we have right now are adequate. I think they cover what needs to be covered and I don’t see a need for a change.

Craig Fitzhugh: Well, I don’t know about that. That’s what you’d call anybody carries for any purpose. I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think there should be some control so that we can try to have for the ability of people who are not qualified for whatever reason — no fault of their own, maybe some mental issues or health issues and physical issues like that — they just can’t handle a firearm. So, I do think there does need to be a permit process.

If you want to wage in on the battle to elect someone to the office of governor who puts the constitution first and is a true public steward of your rights, please take a moment and go to the TFA’s PAC website and make a donation so that we can raise the funds to restore our rights.

, ,

Dilapidated Campground at Hurricane Bridge Gets Breath of Life

PRESS RELEASE from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, Sept. 30, 2017:

Center Hill Lake volunteers convert campground into tobacco-free trail

By Park Ranger Sarah Peace

Lancaster, Tenn. (Sept. 30, 2017) – About 30 volunteers converted the former Hurricane Bridge Campground today into the new “The Old 56 Trail” at Center Hill Lake in support of National Public Lands Day.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District coordinated with the DeKalb County Health Department on the development of the trail, and garnered additional support from Tennessee Tech University’s Fisheries Society, DeKalb County High School, and other volunteers and partnerships.

The volunteers installed trail signage, distance markers, and benches. Small brush and overgrowth were taken out that revealed scenic views. Parking spaces were created at the entrance of the trail and debris and trash from years of runoff from State Route 56 were removed.

Prior to the National Public Lands Day event, decades of extensive overgrowth and debris were cleared thanks to a grant from the DeKalb County Health Department.

“The project (The Old 56 Trail) is the result of the Tennessee Department of Health Rural Access to Health and Healthy Active Built Environments grant recently awarded to DeKalb County.” explained DeKalb County Mayor Tim Stribling during his opening remarks.

The grant focused on improving health outcomes by enhancing access to free physical activity, and the county looked for areas that meets these qualifications.

A new trail at the Hurricane Bridge Recreation Area met these qualifications, and a portion of the grant helped clear the decades of overgrowth and debris, the first step to converting the campground into a paved trail.

In addition to overgrowth removal, the DeKalb County Health Government donated two new benches. The reason? The new trail at Hurricane Bridge is also the Corps’ first tobacco free area on Center Hill Lake, made possible by additional funding though a tobacco free grant.

National Public Lands Day served as the official opening of the trail, and the announcement of the trail name, “The Old 56 Trail,” voted on by the public via a Facebook contest, “Name that Trail.”
“This trail is made by the community, for the community,” said Park Ranger John Malone, lead coordinator of Center Hill Lake’s National Public Lands Day activity. “Volunteers and community members can take pride in knowing that the trail and its name would not have been possible without them.”

The 25 sites at Hurricane Bridge Campground closed nearly 30 years ago, with just the picnic areas and two launching ramps remaining. Since that time the campground became an equipment storage area, and fell into disrepair, leaving only a slight glimpse of what was once there. Now all visitors, new and old have a trail they can use for walking, bicycling, or simply to relax and enjoy the outdoors, free of charge. They also have an outdoor area that they do not have to worry about cigarette butts, and other tobacco products. This trail is proof that through partnerships and the hard work of volunteers, great things can happen.

National Public Lands Day began in 1994, focusing on education and partnerships to care for the nation’s natural splendors. In 2016 NPLD volunteers saved taxpayers an estimated $18 million though volunteer services to improve public lands across the country. For more information on National Public Lands Day, visit: https://www.neefusa.org/public-lands-day.

(For more information about the US Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, visit the district’s website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and http://www.facebook.com/centerhilllake, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)

, ,

TN Insurance Regulators Approve Medical Premium Hikes for 2018

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, Sept. 20, 2017:

TDCI Announces Approval of Rates for 2018 Individual Marketplace

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) announces today the approval of insurance rates requested by the three carriers offering coverage on the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) ahead of Open Enrollment for 2018.

The rates sought by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Cigna, and Oscar Health for coverage on the FFM in 2018 are as follows:

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee: Average 21.4 percent increase (Range: 4.6% – 44.5%)

Cigna: Average 42.1 percent increase (Range: 12.2% – 182.2%)

Oscar Health: Initial Rate Filing (Rating Area 4)

A map detailing the carriers’ plans across Tennessee’s eight rating areas can be found here.

TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak, who testified twice this year to the Senate on behalf of consumers, has supported stabilization of the market by Congress in order to lower the 2018 rate requests. Recent bipartisan efforts ended Tuesday without an agreement.

“I’m disappointed by yesterday’s announcement out of Washington,” said McPeak. “While Tennessee is supportive of long-term strategies such as the Graham-Cassidy Amendment introduced in Congress, I appreciate the diligent efforts of Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray to find common ground in providing more immediate stabilization in the marketplace. Instead, it appears more likely that Tennesseans must prepare themselves for a round of actuarially justified rates for 2018 that are far higher than could be necessary as a result of uncertainty in Washington. On behalf of Tennessee consumers, I continue to urge Congress to take action to stabilize insurance markets. The Department stands ready to take action to aid consumers should stabilization measures be enacted.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must now review Tennessee’s approvals.

Companies will have until September 27 to sign agreements with CMS to participate in the marketplace.

On Oct. 5, the Department will hold a public meeting where insurance carriers will present their coverage plans to navigators.

Open Enrollment for 2018 is slated to begin Nov. 1 and last through Dec. 15.

,

Historian Visiting Cookeville to Discuss ‘Rowdy Origins’ of U.S. Constitution

PRESS RELEASE from Tennessee Tech University, Sept. 14, 2017:

The 13th Annual Nolan Fowler Constitution Day Celebration at Tennessee Tech presents “After Philadelphia: The Voice of the People and the Rowdy Origins of the Constitution” with Lorri Glover Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. in Derryberry Hall Auditorium.

Lorri Glover, author of “Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries”

Glover teaches at Saint Louis University, where she holds the John Francis Bannon endowed chair in history. She has written extensively about early America, from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth. Glover has published works concerning siblings and kinship in South Carolina, masculinity in the Early Republic, the seventeenth-century colonization of Virginia and its sister settlement Bermuda, the intersection of family and politics in the lives of leading American Revolutionaries, and, most recently, the contentious debates over ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787-1788.

Her latest works include “Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries;” with Craig Thompson Friend, “Death and the American South;” and “The Fate of the Revolution: Virginians Debate the Constitution.” Glover received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Alabama and her master’s degree from Clemson University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.

The Nolan Fowler Constitution Day Celebration, now in its 13th year, commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Named in honor of Nolan Fowler, a retired history professor at Tech who taught history and constitutional law at the university from 1962 to 1979, the annual event is made possible by his financial endowment to establish the Constitution Day Celebration at Tech.

The event is free and open to the public.

Derryberry Hall is located at 1 William L. Jones Drive, Cookeville.

, ,

TV’s ‘Fishing University’ to Shoot Episodes in Upper Cumberland

Press release from the Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, Sept. 12, 2017:

Area to be Featured on World Fishing Network, Sportsman, and Outdoor Channels

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Internationally televised, Emmy-nominated television show Fishing University will soon make Cookeville-Putnam County home, filming two episodes to air in 2018 and featuring not only area lakes, but local dining, activities and attractions. The film crew, along with hosts/fishing legends Charlie Ingram and Ray Brazier, will arrive in late October, fishing and filming on area lakes with Center Hill Lake already confirmed.

Fishing University holds a viewership of more than 63 million households, airing in all 50 states as well as in 51 additional countries. The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau is serving as point for the project, viewing it as strategic marketing opportunity to reach a target audience of potential guests seeking an outdoor travel destination.

“When Fishing University reached out to us with their proposal, we knew it would be a natural fit to accompany our other marketing and advertising efforts for 2018,” said Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development for the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau. “We will not only be able to put a spotlight on the world-renowned fishing opportunities in our region, but also feature the community, culture and activities that guests can experience while visiting.”

“Fishing University filming on beautiful area lakes is an exciting opportunity for Putnam County and the state,” said Kevin Triplett, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “This is a testament to the natural assets we have for professional and hobby anglers alike. They can wet a line in more than 50,000 miles of rivers and streams and a half-million acres of lakes. Being featured on Fishing University features those assets, exposes scenic outdoor destinations and gives visitors a chance to explore communities along the water. We are thrilled they have chosen Tennessee and Putnam County.”

Within each 30-minute episode of the show, a 90-second promotional spot will be included. The spots will be created to mirror marketing efforts of the visitors’ bureau. Hosts Ingram and Brazier will also include numerous mentions of their location during each show.

In addition to filming promotional spots and fishing, the hosts and film crew will also present a one-hour program at local schools to share with area youth the importance of attaining an education and the outdoor career options available to them. The session will offer a “q & a” time with discussion of majors such as communications, marketing, biology, wildlife management, and animal husbandry. Each school will have a 2-minute segment within the show.

“We are proud to welcome Fishing University to Putnam County,” said Ben Prine, chairman for the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau. “Coverage such as this will be seen by an audience of anglers that travel and have expendable income which will be good from both a branding and economic impact perspective.”

The competitive fishing show is packed with how-to tips and tricks of the trade, making it popular among competitive amateur and professional anglers. Viewers of World Fishing Network and the Outdoor and Sportsman Channels tend to spend more time on the water and are more active consumers than those of competing networks.

, , ,

Pumpkin Picking Time Arriving Promptly

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Sept. 6, 2017:

More than Pumpkins to Pick on Local Farms This Fall

NASHVILLE– A trip to the pumpkin patch has become standard fare for autumn loving locals, and this year it’s worth looking around for more than great gourds. Many farmers are expanding options for consumers to learn how and where food and home goods are grown or made.

Bountiful Acres Farm near Watertown produces a wide range of personal care products, and found that customers also wanted to learn how to make their own. Owner Sue Dickhaus added a retail store in Lebanon where she hosts soap making classes using the same goat’s milk, honey bee products and herbs her family produces on the farm.

In addition to dairy and creamery tours, Noble Springs Dairy near Franklin hosts farm festivals every Saturday from September 16 through October 28. Their celebrations include pumpkin picking, food trucks at their picnic area, a bounce house and petting zoo.

Greeneville’s Two Roots Vineyard and Alpacas hosts a National Alpacas Farm Days festival September 24 and 25. Visitors can try spinning and weaving in addition to touring the vineyard, picnicking and mingling with the farm’s alpacas.

Most agritourism farms, like Falcon Ridge near Jackson, still offer farm favorites like wagon rides, petting zoos, pony rides, all kinds of fall décor, and pumpkin picking. Family movie nights in the pumpkin patch, praise and worship opportunities for area congregations, and educational corn mazes are also popular fall fare. The Plantation Barn of 1810 in Morristown is a popular wedding venue, and this year plans to host a community wide “trunk or treat” for the first time.

Find fall farm activities and products with the Pick Tennessee mobile app or here. Most on-farm activities depend on good weather, so call ahead and check the farm’s social media posts before traveling.

Pick Tennessee is the farmer to consumer service of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and offers farm, farmers market, and farm product directories as well as seasonal recipes. Follow Pick Tennessee on social media.