PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, June 29, 2017:

Tennessee-based company to invest $9 million, create 220 new jobs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Fitzgerald Collision & Repair officials announced today that the company will undergo a major expansion in the Upper Cumberland and create 220 new jobs in the region.

Fitzgerald Collision & Repair will invest $9 million to expand its existing facility in Rickman and establish new operations in Sparta.

“We want to thank Fitzgerald Collision & Repair for its investment in the Upper Cumberland region. We’re proud that Tennessee is a place where entrepreneurs like Robert Fitzgerald can turn ideas into businesses that positively benefit our local communities,” Haslam said. “Fitzgerald Collision & Repair’s significant expansion will create new job opportunities for residents in the Upper Cumberland and bring us one step closer to making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

Fitzgerald Collision & Repair recently announced a new vocational program and partnership with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Livingston, which offers students training in commercial fleet truck maintenance and repair. With the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer all citizens – both high school graduates and adults – the chance to earn a postsecondary degree or certificate free of tuition and fees.

“There’s no question that the logistics and transportation industry is a crucial part of Tennessee’s economy,” Rolfe said. “Fitzgerald Collision & Repair is a homegrown success story that plays an important role in Tennessee’s growing transportation sector. We look forward to the impact this 220-job expansion will have on residents in White and Overton counties.”

Established in 2014, Fitzgerald Collision & Repair provides collision repair for commercial truck fleets across the U.S.

Fitzgerald Collision & Repair will add 100,000 square feet to its existing state-of-the-art repair facility in Rickman. The company will also establish a new facility in White County.

“The Fitzgerald family has decades of experience in the commercial trucking industry and this most recent venture to provide best-in-class collision and repair service has been a tremendous success,” Fitzgerald Collision & Repair Founder and CEO Robert Fitzgerald said. “With growing demand for our services, we can think of no better place to invest and create more than 200 new jobs than the Upper Cumberland. I’d like to thank the State of Tennessee as well as our local partners in White and Overton counties that have offered support for Fitzgerald Collision & Repair’s expansion.”

Fitzgerald Collision & Repair plans to create 145 new jobs at its expanded operations in Overton County. It will create 75 jobs at the new facility in White County.

Local officials applauded Fitzgerald Collision & Repair for its expansion plans in the Upper Cumberland.

“Overton County is proud Fitzgerald Collision & Repair calls us home,” Overton County Executive Ben Danner said. “Fitzgerald Collision & Repair is working with the TCAT to put students right to work out of school in the Rickman facility, which makes them a very good fit for Overton County and the entire Upper Cumberland.”

“I’d like to thank Robert Fitzgerald and his team for this new investment in Sparta,” White County Executive Denny Wayne Robinson said. “New job creation in our community is always a welcome development and White County is fortunate that a first-class company like Fitzgerald Collision & Repair has decided to create 75 new jobs here in our local community.”

Interested applicants can visit for more information.

Sen. Paul Bailey (R – Sparta) represents White and Overton counties in the Tennessee Senate. In the Tennessee House of Representatives, White County is represented by Rep. Paul Sherrell (R – Sparta) and Overton County is represented by Rep. John Mark Windle (D – Livingston).

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies that help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. To grow and strengthen Team Tennessee, the department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. Tennessee is the only three-time winner of “State of the Year” for economic development by Business Facilities magazine. Find us on the web: Follow us on Twitter: @tnecd. Like us on Facebook:

MEDIA RELEASE from Tennessee Tech’s Office of Communications & Marketing, June 15, 2017:

In a full agenda, the Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees approved a nearly four percent tuition and fees increase, voted to establish Tech’s newest academic college, adopted a board policy on free speech at the university, and approved a proposed budget for 2017-2018.


For 2017-2018, an undergraduate student taking 15 credit hours will see an increase in maintenance and mandatory fees of $161 per semester.

The university’s maintenance fee (also known as tuition) covers up to 15 credit hours per semester for a student. For 2017-2018, it will be $3,828 per semester, an increase of $138 over 2016-2017. This is a 3.74 percent increase. Out-of-state students pay this maintenance fee, plus a per semester out-of-state tuition rate, which remained at $7,932. However, out-of-state students within 250 miles of Tech qualify for the Eagle’s Reach program, which offers a significant reduction to the out-of-state tuition rate.

The board also approved an increase in select mandatory fees, which are paid by all Tech students. The increased fees are the student athletic fee and the campus recreation fee. The remaining four mandatory fees remain the same as last year. The combined fees will increase $23 for 2017-2018, a 3.9 percent increase.

This year, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission set a legally binding four percent cap on tuition for all state universities and colleges. This authority was given to the commission under last year’s FOCUS Act.

The board also approved a $280 increase in graduate maintenance fees for 2017-2018. This increase is not subject to THEC’s binding rates. The graduate maintenance fee covers up to 10 credit hours per semester and will be $4,880, a six percent increase.

College of Fine Arts

The new College of Fine Arts, pending final approval from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission later this month, will consist of Tech’s School of Art, Craft and Design and a newly established School of Music. The School of Art, Craft and Design was previously housed in the university’s College of Education, as was the Department of Music.

Housing these programs in an identifiable college will help build identity and visibility for fine arts at Tech, strengthening opportunities for recognition of alumni, current students and the strong arts offerings at the university.

The restructured College of Education – with the departments of counseling and psychology; curriculum and instruction; and exercise science, physical education and wellness – will also better align to accreditation requirements.

Free Speech

The free speech policy is in response to The Campus Free Speech Protection Act, which was passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam this year. The legislation requires each public university board to adopt a policy that provides certain protections related to speech on campus. Both the statute and policy reaffirm the First Amendment.

2017-2018 Budget, including employee compensation

The board approved a 2017-2018 budget of $156 million, including approximately $2 million to cover the state-mandated three percent payroll increase pool. A one percent raise, effective July 1, will be given to all benefited employees who were with the university by Dec. 31, 2016. The remaining two percent of the pool will be used to fund the university’s compensation plans for faculty and staff, and any raises under these plans will be effective Aug. 1.

In other action, the board approved:

  • Tenure and/or promotion for 38 different faculty members (25 tenure and 27 promotion)
  • Emeriti President contracts for former presidents Angelo Volpe and Bob Bell
  • Extension of intercollegiate athletics director Mark Wilson’s contract for five years
    Various university policies as part of the transition from Tennessee Board of
  • Regents governance to Tech’s independent board
  • Meeting dates for 2017-2018
  • Materials from today’s meeting and the webcast of the full board meeting are available at the board’s website,

The board’s next meeting is Aug. 17, 2017.

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, June 20, 2017:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in May. Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall May revenues were $1.1 billion, which is $53.1 million more than the state budgeted.

“Total reported revenues in May reflect significant improvement compared to this time last year and were driven primarily by sales tax receipts,” Martin said. “Franchise and Excise taxes fell short of last year’s revenues and were below the monthly budgeted estimate. All other tax revenues, taken as a group, were more than the May estimates.

“While year-to-date revenues look promising, we must continue to monitor our receipts and closely manage our expenditure patterns for the remainder of the fiscal year.”

On an accrual basis, May is the tenth month in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

General fund revenues were more than the budgeted estimates in the amount of $43.1 million while the four other funds that share in state revenues were $10.0 million less than the estimates.

Sales taxes were $44.0 million more than the estimate for May and were 6.50% more than May 2016. May sales tax revenues reflect retail business activity that occurred in April. For ten months revenues are $248.9 million higher than estimated. The year-to-date growth rate for ten months was 3.33%.

Franchise and Excise taxes combined were $9.9 million lower than the budgeted estimate in May and the growth rate compared to May 2016 was negative 3.45%. For ten months revenues are $377.1 million more than the estimate and the year-to-date growth rate is 13.72%. However, adjusting for one-time payments received in the current year the underlying recurring growth rate is positive 3.58%.

Gasoline and motor fuel revenues for May increased by 11.19% compared to May 2016 and were $8.9 million more than the budgeted estimate of $71.0 million. For ten months revenues have exceeded estimates by $44.3 million.

Tobacco taxes were $0.6 million more than the May budgeted estimate of $21.2 million. For ten months they are $3.1 million less than the budgeted estimate.

Inheritance and estate taxes were $0.9 million less than the May estimate. On a year-to-date basis revenues for ten months are $1.4 million more than the budgeted estimate.

Hall income tax revenues for May were $2.5 million less than the budgeted estimate. For ten months revenues are $43.9 million less than the budgeted estimate.

Privilege taxes were $14.7 million more than the May estimate and on a year-to-date basis, August through May, revenues are $21.1 million more than the estimate.

Business taxes were $2.6 million less than the May estimate. For ten months revenues are $16.3 million more than the budgeted estimate.

All other taxes were less than estimates by a net of $0.8 million.

Year-to-date revenues for ten months were $677.6 million more than the budgeted estimate. The general fund recorded $621.9 million more than budgeted estimates and the four other funds $55.7 million.

The budgeted revenue estimates for 2016-2017 are based on the State Funding Board’s consensus recommendation of November 23, 2015 and adopted by the second session of the 109th General Assembly in April 2016. Also incorporated in the estimates are any changes in revenue enacted during the 2016 session. These estimates are available on the state’s website at

On November 17, 2016 the Funding Board met to hear updated revenue projections from the state’s various economists. On November 29, 2016 the board adopted revised recurring revenue growth ranges for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The current fiscal year’s revised ranges recognize growth in total taxes from a low of 2.50% to a high of 3.00%, and a general fund growth from a low of 2.75% to a high of 3.25%.

On May 8, 2017 in the first session of the 110th General Assembly, the legislature passed the 2017-2018 budget, which included the Funding Board’s current year revised ranges and also the administration’s amendment to the proposed budget. The governor signed the budget bill on May 25, 2017.

With the passage of the appropriations act, Public Chapter 460, the General Assembly recognized in the current fiscal year an additional $751.9 million in total revenue of which $623.7 is recurring, and a corresponding increase in general fund revenue in the amount of $663.3 million of which $481.1 million is recurring.


PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, June 19, 2017:

Immunizations Save Teaching Time, Reduce Misery and Save Lives

NASHVILLE – To prevent the spread of diseases and to keep our kids of all ages and their classmates safe, healthy and in school learning, all students in Tennessee, from kindergarten to college, must have proof of immunizations before they can start school. State leaders of health and education say it’s best to get those important vaccines now to avoid longer wait times later and to ensure a smooth beginning to the 2017 school year.

“As a parent, there is a lot on our plate before a new school year, but as a physician I know one of the most important is getting vaccinated to prevent communicable diseases that can quickly spread in group settings like schools,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Beat the rush and give the vaccine time to start working. See your healthcare provider or local health department and help our kids get a great start.”

“All classroom time is important, including those first days of a new school year when teachers and students are building their routines and relationships,” said Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. “By having all necessary paperwork and documentation of immunizations in place, parents help to ensure their children will not miss any valuable learning time.”

“Parents and students may not be aware of some required immunizations for college admission, including those to prevent meningococcal meningitis, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and in some cases Hepatitis B,” said Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings. “It’s best to contact the school as early as possible to learn what is needed so important classroom hours are not missed and communicable diseases prevented.”

Requirements for school vaccinations in Tennessee include:

  • Kindergarteners and other children enrolling in a Tennessee school for the first time must provide schools with a complete Official Tennessee Immunization Certificate before classes begin. The certificate must be signed by a qualified healthcare provider or verified by the state’s Immunization Information System.
  • All current students entering seventh grade are required to give the school a limited Official Tennessee Immunization Certificate showing they have had a second dose of chickenpox vaccine (or a history of the illness) and a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. The HPV cancer vaccine and first meningococcal meningitis vaccine are not required for school attendance, but are recommended by pediatricians and public health experts for all children at this age and can be given at the same visit.
  • Incoming college students in Tennessee public colleges who will live in on-campus housing must provide proof of immunization against meningococcal meningitis after age 16. Most private colleges also have requirements for this vaccine and some schools require it of all new students. Check with your college for details.

For more information about school immunization requirements in Tennessee, visit

The Tennessee Department of Health encourages all parents of preteens and teens to ask their healthcare providers about getting the human papillomavirus or HPV vaccine, which can protect against a variety of HPV-associated cancers than can develop over a lifetime. The HPV vaccine is available through most healthcare providers and all county health departments. Children and teens under age 19 without private insurance coverage for the vaccine may receive HPV vaccine and all other routine vaccines through most healthcare providers and all health departments for only a small administration fee through the federal Vaccines for Children program. To learn more about HPV, visit

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at

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After climbing world’s highest mountain, local man gains appreciation for TN

For his 70th birthday last year, Tim “Bubba” Garrett of Buffalo Valley wanted to do something unique, in keeping with a tradition he’s developed over the years.

So the retired businessman and software engineer decided to climb Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on planet Earth.

He didn’t go all the way to the top. Just to the base camp, and then, for the heck of it, another thousand feet or so beyond that.

Mind you, that’s no small feat. It takes at least eight days just to trek up to the base camp, which is about 17,000 feet above sea level. That’s more than three thousand feet higher than anywhere in the continental United States, and nearly 11,000 feet above Tennessee’s highest point, Clingmans Dome. Climbers often spend several days at the base camp acclimating to the altitude before ascending Everest’s highest ridges.

Tim “Bubba” Garrett holds a photo of the Mt. Everest base camp in Southern Asia that he hiked to last fall for his 70th birthday.

Being determined as he was that Mt. Everest “wasn’t going to be the hill I died on,” Bubba said he took serious medical and training measures beforehand to prepare for the physically taxing journey.

He said avalanches are always a concern, and bad weather, but altitude sickness tends to be “the real killer.”

“People die going to base camp, because of the altitude,” he said. “There’s just no way to prepare for the altitude. It’s brutal. Just about everybody gets altitude sickness.”

In order to avoid the additional risk of food poisoning, he lived almost solely on energy bars the entire time he was on the mountain.

Bubba said October and November tend to be drier and warmer in the day, but it still gets cold after dark. “When night comes, you better have that down jacket on, cause the bottom falls out of it,” he said.

Past a certain point, “there’s nothing but rock,” Bubba said. So the accompanying yaks provide an essential source of warmth in the camp huts. “The only heat you got is burning the yak dung,” he said.

But while the yaks may be indispensable as pack-animals and fuel-providers, they aren’t particularly friendly, said Bubba. “One of the really dangerous things up there is, if you get near a drop-off, those yaks will push you off,” he said. “They tell you to watch out for the yaks. They’re mean and they’re big.”

Bubba’s camera became a yak-casualty after one of the brutes stepped on his bag.

As for day-to-day nourishment, Bubba said he lived on pretty much solely on energy bars the whole time because the last thing he wanted on top of everything else was a case of food poisoning.

His time on Mt. Everest lasted just shy of three weeks. “I arrived at base camp November the 15th, and my seventieth birthday was on the 16th,” he said. Bubba described the homeward expedition off the mountain as “starting the descent of my life.”

Nowadays Bubba has embarked upon his newest adventure: raising Tennessee fainting goats. It’s something he’s wanted to do since childhood. He’s getting assistance from his good friend, Billye Foster, a professor at Tennessee Tech’s School of Agriculture.

“She told me that ‘Raising Goats for Dummies’ was going to be too advanced for me, so she made me my own book,” Bubba said.

Bubba plans to hire out the goats for free to clear overgrown rural cemeteries around the region. Although he said that if the property owners can afford it, he’ll encourage them to make a donation to a charity that serves farmers in Africa that Professor Foster works.

Through all his travels and adventures and novel undertakings over the years — Professor Foster says Bubba is the type of person who “changes directions easily” — Bubba says he’s come to truly appreciate an old adage that says, “Happiness isn’t getting what you want, but wanting what you got.”

“People spend a lot of time saying, If only I had this or if only I had that,” said Bubba. “Well, I’ve traveled all over the world and I have never found a better place to be than right here.”


DeKalb County artist expands frontiers of experimental creativity

Claudia Lee loves what she does and loves living where she does it.

Growing up in Connecticut and New Jersey, Lee always knew she wanted to live in Tennessee.

“When I was little, I had a best friend and he and I were determined to move to Tennessee because that is where Davy Crockett was from. We were big Davy Crockett fans,” recalls Lee, who 20 years ago moved to the woodsy slopes and shady hollers northeast of Dowelltown. Prior to that she spent three decades in the Tri-Cities area, in fact not far from Crockett’s Greene County birthplace.

Lee has become something of a pioneer in her own right — not just living, as she does, encompassed by DeKalb County’s timberland wilds — but as an artist. On an old farmstead along Cripps Road, she’s made a home and runs her Liberty Paper art studio amidst the tall pines, thick cedar and sturdy hardwoods, by a small stream that runs down to Smith Fork Creek.

Lee’s artistic expertise lies in handcrafting colorfully elaborate paper — typically from raw fibrous plant materials, like flax and leaves of abaca, a species of banana tree native to the Philippines. In turn, she masterfully stitches, weaves, molds and otherwise shapes the paper into elegant sculptures, ornamental boxes, wall pieces, decorative lamps, table adornments and richly detailed book covers and scrapbook pages.

Lee says she’s always experimenting, always making unique paper sheets with novel textures, hues and consistencies.

She’s collected numerous honors and recognitions for her expressive spirit and innovative initiative over the years.

In 2011, she was commissioned to design the various individual Governor’s Awards that the Tennessee Arts Commission biennially bestows upon the Volunteer State’s most creative contributors to the arts and cultural life. “The awards themselves represent artistic genius from some of the finest working artists across the state of Tennessee,” the commission’s website declares.

Light sculptures by Claudia Lee.

Lee’s latest accolade came in the form of a cover-feature and six-page photo spread of her work in this summer’s edition of a national quarterly magazine called Bound & Lettered, which is prominent in the world of bookbinding, papercraft and calligraphy. In addition, the editors asked her to craft an essay detailing her fascination with papermaking.

Lee wrote that her vision has always been to “develop a signature body of work” which would blend “many textile techniques, including weaving, spinning, dyeing, and stitching.” But it’s the methods of her undertakings, as much or more even than the finished products, that fulfill her yearning for artistic adventure.

“When you make paper almost every day for more than thirty years, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the magic of the process,” Lee wrote. “It begins with a humble plant growing in yard, field, or woods; cooking the plant to remove non-cellulosic materials; beating it into pulp; and adding the pulp to a vat of water.

“Next is stirring the vat with your hands,” she continued. “An experienced papermaker can tell by the feel of the pulp in the water if the amount of pulp is sufficient for a sheet. With each dip of the mould and deckle into the vat, the sheet miraculously forms before your eyes.”

Lee doesn’t see her artistic role solely as one of blazing new trails and charting exploratory courses on her own. She gains great satisfaction and gratification in teaching the techniques of her craft both to novices and other experienced artists.

Lee said papermaking was something she learned “from the ground up.”

She knew immediately it was something she wanted to learn when she first encountered it at a craft school decades ago. It’s something that often draws people in from the moment they see it, she said.

“Sometimes people just walk into the studio and that’s it,” Lee said. “It is very tactile. And it is immediately accessible to people.”

Getting started “is so easy to do,” she said.

“I have worked with small children and handicapped kids, they can all make paper,” said Lee. “So it is a very friendly medium. If you make a mistake, you dump it back in and make another one. It is user-friendly, easy to do and you can do it very simply at home with very little equipment.”

One of Lee’s primary objectives when instructing people is to teach them in a way that build their confidence and understanding of the process, so they indeed can do it again on their own. “I want them to go home and do it,” she said. “I don’t want them to be like, OK, I did that once, now what?”

Those who take an immediate interest have sometimes become absorbed already with scrapbooking or notecards or activities that require purchasing a lot of paper at a craft store. “It’s kind of the next step up to make your own paper,” Lee said.

Working with established artists who’re already proficient in some other medium is also rewarding, she said. Helping them incorporate their own handmade paper into other projects and creations enables them to dive deeper into their own creative processes.

“People can design a unique sheet of paper for their work, so that no one else is going to have that kind of paper,” Lee said. “And the great thing about making your paper if you are an artist is you can design what you need. If you run out, you just make more.”

To set up a time to visit with Ms. Lee, tour her studio or inquire about attending classes or purchasing her work, email her at Visit her website at

Media Releasee via Tennessee Tech University Sports Information, June 15, 2017:

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech designated hitter Ryan Flick continued his run of postseason honors recently, earning a place on the 2017 South ABCA/Rawlings All-Region First Team.

Already named a Second Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball at the end of the 2017 regular season, the Bluff City, Tenn. native added All-American Second Team honors from Perfect Game and an All-American Third Team nod from the NCBWA as well. Recognized as the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament MVP after blasting five home runs and driving in 16 runs, Flick has also been named one of five finalists for the Gregg Olson Award.

On the year, Flick batted .377 with 61 runs scored, 24 doubles, 19 home runs and 74 RBI. He also finished the 2017 campaign with 87 hits, 37 walks, a .727 slugging percentage and .461 on base percentage.

His numbers ranked him tied for second in single-season program history in RBI, tied for third in doubles, tied for fifth in home runs, seventh in hits, seventh in slugging percentage, and eighth in runs scored.

During his career, Flick broke the school record for hits, total bases and RBI in a single inning, managing two home runs and a double in a single frame in 2016. He also set OVC Tournament records (while tying the school’s single-game marks) for home runs and RBI in a single game, crushing three long balls and driving in nine against Southeast Missouri.

Through three years Flick has climbed the career record book for Tech, finishing 2017 third all-time in home runs (37), fourth in RBI (170), sixth in doubles (48), 10th in walks (92), 13th in slugging percentage (.727), tied for 13th in runs scored (129) and 15th in hits (188).

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, June 13, 2017:

NASHVILLE – Summertime is the peak season for grilling, and unfortunately, grilling fires. The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office shares important guidelines to help outdoor cooks make fire safety a priority when grilling this summer.

From 2012-2016, Tennessee fire departments responded to 217 fires involving grills, hibachis or barbeques. Those fires resulted in three civilian injuries, four firefighter injuries and $3,776,248 in property damage, according to the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System (TFIRS).

“Get in the habit of practicing fire safety whenever you grill,” said State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Place your grill well away from siding, deck railings, eaves and overhanging branches. Never leave a grill unattended.”

Keeping safety your No. 1 priority while grilling can help make your summer cookout memorable for the right reasons. Remember:

General Grilling Tips

  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking at a grill.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
  • Never grill/barbecue in enclosed areas – carbon monoxide could be produced.
  • Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors.
  • Make sure everyone knows to Stop, Drop and Roll in case a piece of clothing does catch fire.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number if a burn warrants serious medical attention.

Propane Grills

Before using a gas grill, check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line. Make sure the venturi tubes – where the air and gas mix – are not blocked.
Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. To check for leaks: Turn the propane tank on. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle. If there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see).

Once you’ve determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or by administering the soapy bubble test and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and burners. If the leak stops at that point, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department immediately.

If you smell gas while cooking, move away from the grill and call the fire department immediately. Do not move the grill. Do not overfill the propane tank.

Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.

If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least five minutes before re-lighting it.
Charcoal Grills

Be careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid to an already lit fire because the flame can flash back up into the container and explode.

Keep all matches, lighters, and lighter fluid away from children. Teach your children to report any loose matches or lighters to an adult immediately.

Dispose of hot coals properly – douse them with plenty of water, and stir them to ensure that the fire is out. Never place them in plastic, paper or wooden containers.
For more information on making your home fire-safe, download and print the State Fire Marshal’s home fire safety checklist. Tennessee residents can request a free smoke alarm by visiting

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Parks and campgrounds urging heat-treatment certification

Federal and state natural resource agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation want to expand availability of government-certified firewood at public campgrounds.

Public lands managers are looking to put a damper on fires made from wood that hasn’t undergone heat treatment beforehand. For that reason, hauling unapproved firewood into a state park or federal recreation area might become a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future.

Their aim is to impede the spread of tree-threatening non-native creepy-crawlies, like the emerald ash borer and longhorned beetles, both indigenous to Asia, as well as the gypsy moth and gold spotted oak borer, which are unwelcome guests to Tennessee from, respectively, Europe and the southwestern United States.

“All these things have been introduced — that’s why we call them invasive,” said Greg Aydelotte, who administers plant protection and quarantine procedures for the USDA.

Aydelotte was one of several forest-health specialists who delivered presentations in Cookeville this spring during a seminar on the certification process. The goal of the May 25 conference, attended by about 50 people, was to cultivate interest in the certification program among would-be Upper Cumberland wood-products entrepreneurs.

“Emerald ash borer tends to be the one that we handle in most situations involving firewood,” Aydelotte said. “People will bring firewood from long distances.”

For that reason, campgrounds are often suspected as a point of entry when invasive pests spread into areas that were previously free of them.

According to a TDEC information sheet on the state’s “Don’t Move Firewood” campaign, “Native trees have defenses against insects and diseases that they’ve been living with for millions of years. Likewise, native predators eat native insects, keeping their numbers in check. Non-native insects and diseases have no predators in their new homes and the trees have no natural defenses against them. Because these foreign bugs don’t have anything stopping them, they reproduce rapidly, killing thousands of trees in their wake.”

All Tennessee State Parks now adhere to a certified-firewood-only “policy” — although it’s not actually a state law, according to TDEC spokeswoman Kim Schofinski.

State park managers also don’t want people bringing untreated wood in from the surrounding vicinity. TDEC officials believe areas near Tennessee state parks may in some cases already have infestations of invasive forests pests, even if they’re as yet undetected.

“We encourage campground and cabin guests to follow this policy in the effort to stem the spread of invasive pests that damage our forests,” Schofinski wrote in an email to Center Hill Sun. “This is a joint education effort with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry and the Nature Conservancy of Tennessee. National Parks also have firewood policies in place.”

Campers are still allowed to make fires using “dead material on the ground” or “downed wood collected inside the park, near the campsite.” However, in many circumstances such fuel is scarce near high-use camping areas, or gathering it may in fact be prohibited in some places.

Park and campground managers are encouraging private vendors to fill the void by selling more certified heat-treated wood that’s “clearly marked with a state/federal seal.”

Obtaining a government seal of approval — and with it, an official online listing by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture as a certified-firewood seller — requires signing a compliance agreement and acquiring a firewood-heating system, which in turn must undergo periodic inspection by regulators.

To ensure the firewood is heated to at least 140 degrees for 60 minutes, as required for the certification, temperature probes are inserted into individual sticks of firewood throughout the kiln.

“We’re looking for the center to reach those temperatures,” said Heather Slayton, a forest health and sustainability expert for the state Division of Forestry who has been delivering presentations around Tennessee on the firewood-certification program. “The probes are put randomly throughout your kiln, and every single one of the probes have to pass the certification.”

Slayton said there are a number of “turnkey” kilns available on the market, but homemade rigs and systems work just fine, too. Woodland property owners, farmers, loggers and anybody else that might have access to a steady supply of fuel-timber is encouraged to get into the firewood-selling game.

Constructing a homemade kiln-heating mechanism is perfectly acceptable. “We’re not certifying the kiln design,” said Slayton. “Build it how ever you want to build it.”

The central requirement is that certification regulators verify that it’s heating the wood sufficiently, and for the appropriate period of time, to terminate all unwanted bugs and their larva, she said.

According to the USDA, heat treatment procedures may employ steam, hot water, kilns or any other method that raises the center of the wood to 140 degrees for a full hour.

“It doesn’t have to be high-tech,” said Slayton. “But you do have to be able to monitor your temperatures and write them down. If you’re going to build your own, you need to make sure you think about how the thermodynamics work.”

If the kiln isn’t insulated properly or doesn’t allow for appropriate air circulation to disperse the heat, it may fail when put to the test by the certifying agents. “You’ve got to hit those temperature thresholds,” said Slayton.

Retail sellers of certified firewood include big-box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, Gander Mountain, Academy Sports, as well as numerous other smaller vendors like grocery stores and gas stations, she said.

While the number of certified firewood-drying kilns in Tennessee is still relatively small, Slayton said she’s “working extremely hard to raise that number so folks can buy Tennessee-produced certified firewood as opposed to out of state producers.”

If you’d like to get more information about the procedures for certification, contact Ms. Slayton at

PRESS RELEASE from the Tennessee Firearms Association, June 8, 2017:

Tennessee Firearms Association’s End of Session Legislative Report

The Tennessee Legislature has adjourned for 2017. Tennessee Firearms Association has worked on, tracked and many times opposed more than 70 bills that were introduced this year. Twenty-three (23) bills have been passed into law and signed by the Governor. None of them address any issue that should make you as a gun owner proud to say that “Tennessee is leading the way to protect the gun rights of Tennesseans” because, well, none of the new laws do that.

There were a number of good bills introduced. These good bills included a bill that would have moved Tennessee into the rapidly growing number of states which have full constitutional carry (approximately 14 such states as of today). These good bills included a bill that would have moved Tennessee into the group of approximately 30 states that do not require any handgun permit for citizens to carry openly, also know as permitless open carry. These good bills included bills that would have meaningfully reduce the number of gun free zones. These good bills would have removed criminal penalty consequences if a private property owner decided to ban firearms on private property. These good bills would have protected and removed infringements on your first amendment rights to raise funds through group efforts to advance constitutional issues. These good bills would have curtailed the abuses of the Tennessee Department of Safety regarding the handgun permit program and instructor licensing.

None of these good bills passed. Our Governor and his loyal followers in the Department of Safety opposed several of these bills. Other legislators, including Establishment Republican Legislative leadership, used the committee system to defeat these bills before they ever got to the floor of either house for a real debate on the merits.

So what did pass? Of the 23 bills, only a few could be classified as good. None have broad impact for most Tennesseans. None markedly advance the effort to remove the infringements on the 2nd Amendment. You can review the entire list of new laws in the Tennessee Firearms Association Legislative Report 2017.

But, here are a few of note.

SB1339/HB0688 by Sen. Paul Bailey and Rep. Micah Van Huss (Public Chapter 202) is a good bill. It moves the battle slightly forward. In 2014, Tennessee enacted a small change in the law which removed the requirement that a person have a handgun permit to legally transport any firearm in a motor vehicle. Public Chapter 202 slightly expanded the existing law (found in Tenn. Code Ann. Section 39-17-1307(e)) by adding “boats” so that now an individual, who can legally purchase and possess a firearm, can have a firearm in a legally possessed “motor vehicle” or “boat.” Of course, there are nuances to the law such as it may not apply to employer provided vehicles if certain conditions are met and it excludes “seaplanes”, for some unknown reason, from the definition of a boat.

The Senate passed the bill 30-0 and the House passed it 79-12-1 largely on party lines.

SB0145/HB0061by Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Courtney Rogers (Public Chapter 185) also helps some small number of gun owners. This bill was not really a change in the law. It was primarily a technical clarification. What it does is clarify that as a matter of state law transactions between licensed gun dealers and/or manufacturers and/or importers do not require criminal background checks. It also clarifies that under state law a federally licensed dealer or manufacturer does not have to perform a background check on a sale of a personally owned used gun (guns which are not “dealer inventory”). It also clarifies that occasional or causal sales by individuals of personally owned guns do not require criminal background checks.

The Senate passed the bill 24-3 and the House passed it 78-14-1 with both votes taking place largely on party lines.

SB0921/HB011 by Sen. Steve Southerland and Rep. Tilman Goins (Public Chapter 339) is the Tennessee Hearing Protection Act. It removes suppressors (a/k/a “silencers”) as a prohibited weapon under Tennessee law by deleting the reference in Tenn. Code Ann. Section 39-17-1302(a)(5). While this is a good move, it does not do anything to eliminate the classification of suppressors as a regulated item under the National Firearms Act of 1934 or to remove the requirement that the purchase or transfer of a suppressor can take place only upon approval of the ATF (which is presently taking about 1 year) and the payment of a $200 federal transfer tax. DO NOT assume that you can legally make or acquire a suppressor without compliance with the NFA’s requirements until the federal law is changed as well.

The Senate passed the bill 28-1 and the House passed it 74-18.

There is a new law that looked good initially as a bill but became worse and more “statist” as the amendments came on. TFA views only part of the law as a positive step but there are aspects which are bad for gun owners sufficiently that TFA will be calling on those who voted for this to explain their votes and reasoning for expanding gun free zone “traps” on government owned, taxpayer funded properties.

The legislation was SB0445/HB508 by Sen. John Stevens and Rep. William Lamberth (Public Chapter 467). The bill started off ok, but it needed a few tweaks. The original bill did two things. First, it provided standing for individuals and interested entities to seek court rulings on whether local governments (like Knoxville and Nashville) are violating certain state laws regarding handgun use, possession, ownership, transfer, etc. The bill would also allow the recovery of attorneys fees against the local government if it is found in violation by the court.

The second thing the original bill did was to prohibit any state or local government entity in Tennessee from “posting” the property to ban handgun permit holders unless the entity a) installed metal detectors and b) had at least 1 law enforcement or private security officer properly trained and searching bags and those entering the property.

As this bill went through the broken committee system, it went from ok to worse. The problems came with respect to the banning of guns in the 2nd half of the bill. First, the sponsors agreed to remove entirely the “state” from the requirements that guns could only be banned if metal detectors and trained searches were performed. The second problem was that with respect to local governments the bill was amended to actually expand gun free zones on local government taxpayer funded properties rather than to discourage it.

For example, existing Tennessee law in Tenn. Code Ann. Section 39-17-1306 prohibited by statute carrying firearms in a room (any room) while court is in progress in that room. The language of the existing statute, before the change in the law in 2017, stated “No person shall intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry on or about the person while inside any room in which judicial proceedings are in progress.”

In Tennessee, there are many public offices in the same building as these courtrooms. In some counties, the courtrooms are frequently unused in those buildings whereas other offices such as county clerks, election administrators, county commissions, and other county office are open full time. Under the law as it was, the only spot off limits was the specific courtroom and only while in use.

Senate Bill 0455 (John Stevens) / House Bill 0508 (William Lamberth) changed the courtoom issue and changed it for the worse for many citizens. In the amendment that became part of the law as enacted, these Republican sponsors changed the word “room”, as quoted above to “building”. The second thing that the amendment did was to make the prohibition apply “at all times regardless of whether judicial proceedings are in progress.”

These two changes are enormous. First, where the law may have only applied to a single room and only while it was in use, now the law will apply to the entire building and without regard to whether the building is in use.

Not a single Republican House member voted against this bill although a few did not vote at all. Similarly, not a single Senate member voted against the bill although one, Senator Beavers was excused for illness and therefore did not vote.

Some might think that banning guns in publicly owned, taxpayer funded buildings and creating expanded gun free zones is the right thing to do. Some legislators may have understood this when they voted for the bill. Some likely did not but just “trusted” the sponsors. Either way, the effect of this new law is to potentially expand the restrictions on gun owners relative to access to public buildings and increase the number of gun free zones in Tennessee.

Without addressing each of the remaining new laws specifically, there are new laws which create new exemptions for the range training requirements for permit holders, that expand or address the expungement process, that allow domestic violence victims under certain circumstances to get expedited permits, that move funds from the general fund to the TWRA to offset “free” or reduced cost hunting and fishing licenses to some classes of people, one which allocates $20 million dollars to increased felony convictions on those possessing firearms illegally, and, finally, one which allows district attorneys and some assistant district attorneys to carry firearms full time.