,

Campground Hosts, Park Attendants Sought for USACE Cumberland River Basin Rec Areas

PRESS RELEASE from the Nashville District Offics of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jan. 10, 2019:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Jan. 10, 2019) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is seeking individuals interested in 2019 Park Attendant contract positions across Tennessee and Kentucky.

A total of 21 contracts across the Cumberland River Basin are available for quote submission at seven Corps projects listed below.

  • J. Percy Priest Lake: Anderson Road Day Use, Cook Day Use, Seven Points Campground and Anderson Road Campground
  •  Old Hickory Lake: Cedar Creek Campground and Old Hickory Beach
  •  Lake Barkley: Bumpus Mills, Canal, Eureka, and Hurricane Creek Campgrounds
  • Cordell Hull Lake: Salt Lick and Defeated Creek Campgrounds
  • Center Hill Lake: Ragland Bottom, Long Branch and Floating Mill Campgrounds
  • Dale Hollow Lake: Dale Hollow Dam and Willow Grove Campgrounds
  • Lake Cumberland: Cumberland Point and Fall Creek Campgrounds

Gate attendants play a vital role at Corps of Engineers lakes by staffing the entrance fee booth, providing information to park visitors, assisting Corps staff, posting shelter reservations, maintaining quiet hours, and operating computer based park management system. For additional contract requirements performed by park attendant contractors, refer to the bid packet and work statement.

A full hookup campsite including water, sewer and electrical service is provided for the park attendant contractors selected. Contractors must provide their own self-contained camping unit and are required to reside in the campground on days of employment.

Prospective contractors must be registered in the System for Award Management and obtain a Unique Entity Identifier number (formerly DUNS) at www.sam.gov before submitting a quote. Solicitation is tentatively scheduled to be released Jan. 15, 2019 online at www.fbo.gov and can be located by entering W912P5-19 in the keyword/solicitation number field.

If you are unable to obtain the bid package from the internet or you have questions regarding a contract, please contact James Purcell, contract specialist, at james.w.purell@usace.army.mil or 615-736-7674.

The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.

,

State Library Hosting Exhibit on TN Governors

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, January 9, 2019:

Newest exhibit celebrates the 2019 Gubernatorial Inauguration and the 49 governors throughout Tennessee’s history

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee State Library and Archives announced its newest exhibit, Governors of Tennessee, in conjunction with the 2019 Gubernatorial Inauguration. Governors of Tennessee, opens to the public Jan. 8 and will run through spring 2019.

The exhibit features information and materials from the Library and Archive’s extensive collections. Visitors will experience a visual timeline, with a special focus on each of the 49 governors throughout Tennessee’s history beginning with John Sevier (1796) and ending with Bill Haslam (2019).

“The timeliness of this exhibit makes it something special for all Tennesseans,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “As we welcome the 50th governor of Tennessee, I encourage Tennesseans to visit this free exhibit where they can learn more about our great state and celebrate the strong leadership that brought us to where we are today.”

As part of the celebration, the Library and Archives will also display a curated selection of original archival documents. Exhibition cases present the personal papers and government record collections of many former governors. One display features correspondence with notable Tennessee celebrities including Elvis and Johnny Cash.

“The Library & Archives holds the papers of each of the state’s past governors. They are rich with history and tell many fascinating stories,” state librarian and archivist Chuck Sherrill said. “This exhibit provides just a glimpse of all that is here to be explored.”

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. N. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

The Governors of Tennessee exhibit is free and open to the public Tuesdays – Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

, ,

Wildlife Officials Make Regulatory Changes After CWD Confirmation

PRESS RELEASE from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Dec. 20, 2018:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission (TFWC) has made regulatory changes in response to the confirmation of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer in Fayette and Hardeman counties. The changes came at a special called meeting of the TFWC on Thursday (Dec. 20) at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency headquarters.

The commission voted to establish a CWD management zone which currently includes Fayette, Hardeman, and McNairy counties. The commission took action to create deer carcass exportation restrictions and a restriction on feeding wildlife within the high risk area of the CWD management zone, exceptions apply. The high risk area of the CWD management zone includes counties within a 10-mile radius of the location of a confirmed CWD positive deer.

Another regulation change for the CWD management zone, is the creation of a new deer hunting season. An archery/muzzleloader/gun deer season was established there for Jan. 7-31, 2019. The bag limit for the season is one antlered deer and unlimited for antlerless deer. All wildlife management areas and other public land on which deer hunting activities are permitted within the three counties will be open during this newly-established season.

On or after Dec. 29, 2018, all hunters harvesting deer on weekends (Saturday-Sunday) are required to check the deer in at a physical check station. The TWRA will publish the locations of these stations on its website.

The TWRA is continuing its efforts of targeted sampling for CWD outside of the CWD management zone. Emphasis will be placed on those counties surrounding the CWD management zone.

With the positive confirmation, Tennessee became the 26th state to have documented CWD. There have also been three Canadian provinces to have CWD.

The TWRA enacted the CWD Response Plan last week following the preliminary positive detection. The response involves a coordinated effort between TWRA, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and other partners.

Although CWD has no known risk to the health of humans or livestock, it is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family. It is transmitted through animal-to-animal contact, animal contact with a contaminated environment, and with contaminated feed or water sources. It is the most significant threat to the deer population nationwide, as it is 100 percent fatal to deer and elk. Wildlife agencies across the country are working to inform the public about CWD, its deadly results and possible impacts to economies.

More information about CWD, including cervid import restrictions, and videos that explain how to properly dress an animal before transporting it, can be found on TWRA’s website at www.tnwildlife.org. (https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/twra/hunting/cwd.html/)

, ,

Comptroller Issues Report on TNReady Testing Failures

PRESS RELEASE from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, December 19, 2018:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a performance audit of the Tennessee Department of Education detailing many of the problems that led up to the difficulties in executing the spring 2018 TNReady tests.

The online student assessment tests were plagued with numerous issues including login delays, slow servers, and software bugs. The first signs of trouble began on April 16, 2018 and continued through the end of the month.

Auditors determined that many of these issues occurred primarily because of Questar Assessment, Inc’s performance and updates to the student assessment system. Auditors also found the Department of Education’s oversight of test administration fell short of expectations.

The performance audit’s nine findings include five issues surrounding TNReady. These findings include:

  • The department’s lack of sufficient, detailed information on its Work Plan with Questar rendered it less effective as a monitoring tool to ensure Questar met all deadlines.
  • Questar’s decision to make an unauthorized change to text-to-speech software without formally notifying the department. This change contributed to the online testing disruptions.
  • Questar’s failure to sufficiently staff customer support, resulting in lengthy call wait times and high rates of abandoned calls.
  • A failure to track, document, and provide status updates to districts to let them know when students’ tests would be recovered, leaving districts unaware if their students completed the required tests.
  • Inadequate evaluation and monitoring of internal controls implemented by external information technology service providers, such as Questar.

Over the course of the audit, the department and Questar worked constantly to address the issues that caused or contributed to the spring 2018 testing problems. On October 1, 2018, Questar and the department signed a contract amendment introducing new requirements and accountability measures for Questar. The department also made adjustments to improve its contract management.

The Comptroller’s Office will present its audit findings to the General Assembly’s Education, Health, and General Welfare Joint Subcommittee of Government Operations on December 19. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in House Hearing Room III.

To view the audit report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/sa/

,

Government Waste Watchdog Presents Annual ‘Pork Report’

News Release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, December 17, 2018:

Link: http://www.beacontn.org/beacon-releases-2018-pork-report/

In the 13th annual Tennessee Pork Report, the Beacon Center once again revealed millions of dollars in government waste, fraud, and abuse ranging from a new taxpayer-funded MLS soccer stadium in Nashville to a Memphis company that was given $5 million just to move across town.

The Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. The Beacon Center allowed Tennesseans to vote on their choice for the Pork of the Year award, and the “winner” was former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry.

Mayor Barry wasted over $174,000 in taxpayer money on her extramarital affair, which included paying her bodyguard overtime so that he could take trips with her to places like France and Greece. To make matters worse, she consistently lied to both the press and the public until finally pleading guilty to felony theft.

Other finalists for Pork of the Year included:

  • $5.5 million of state taxpayer money so that the company ServiceMaster could move from the outskirts of Memphis to downtown Memphis while not creating a single new job.
  • At least $17.5 million for the Wall Street Firm AllianceBernstein to move from New York City to the taxpayer-funded 5th and Broadway Building in downtown Nashville. We say “at least” because we have no idea how much the state and city actually gave AllianceBernstein since the number was blacked out for “privacy” concerns.
  • Tens of millions of dollars in buyouts by the University in Tennessee to pay for their hiring mistakes, including former Chancellor Beverly Davenport, former football coach Butch Jones, and former athletic director John Currie, just to name a few.

The 2018 Pork Report comes from state and local budgets, media reports, state audits, and independent research conducted by Beacon Center staff and scholars. An electronic version of the report (pdf) can be found here.

The Beacon Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

Fresh Off Landslide Win, Vandy Poll Finds Support Running High for TN Gov-Elect Lee

PRESS RELEASE from Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Dec. 14, 2018:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Governor-elect Bill Lee will enter office with a strong favorability rating of 57 percent, with only 22 percent of registered voters holding an unfavorable view, according to the latest Vanderbilt University Poll. The findings also suggest Lee will also find support for some of his initiatives, including expanding vocational training in the state. Meanwhile, health care has surpassed the economy and education for the first time in the poll’s history as Tennesseans’ chief priority for state government.

“Overall, we see support for an agenda that could work for our incoming governor,” said John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Vanderbilt Poll. “Education and the economy are strong priorities, as well as immigration and infrastructure.”

“The one worry Bill Lee must deal with is health care, which has risen in importance to Tennesseans,” said poll co-director Josh Clinton, Abby and Jon Winkelried Professor of Political Science. “Although the two are related, health care now takes precedence above the economy to voters here.”

The poll of 1,004 demographically representative registered voters was conducted Nov. 19-Dec. 6, covering a variety of state and national issues. The margin of error is ±4.0 and full findings and methodology may be found at vu.edu/poll. Highlights include:

Health Care

Thirty percent of Tennesseans chose health care out of a list of issues as the state’s top priority and another 20 percent recommended it as the state’s second-highest priority.

Opioid addiction remains a serious concern; 86 percent of Tennesseans characterize it as an emergency or a major problem, while 43 percent say they personally know someone affected by it.

Medicaid expansion, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, remains quite popular in the state, with 66 percent in favor. This puts the state legislature’s and the Governor-elect’s position against it at odds with public opinion, Geer said, noting that this is not unique to Tennessee, and that other states have let the people decide. “There were three Republican-dominated states—Idaho, Nebraska and Utah—with the same dynamic that voted via referendum for Medicaid expansion in the last election,” he said.

Though respondents indicated a variety of preferences regarding the future of the U.S. health care system, making it hard to know what exactly voters might want, there appears to be little appetite for a return to pre-ACA days: 21 percent would like to see a Republican plan replace the ACA, 32 percent want to expand the ACA and 23 percent want a Medicare-for-all-type system.

Education

Education follows close on health care’s heels in Tennesseans’ minds, with 21 percent saying it should be the state’s top priority and another 23 percent selecting it as the state’s second-highest priority.

“There’s a real opportunity here for Governor-elect Lee to advance his support for more vocational education as he enters office,” said Geer. Fifty-seven percent of Tennesseans say it’s more important for public schools to provide vocational training, while just 33 percent say preparing students for college is more important.

Of those supporting vocational education, 71 percent would support a tax increase to fund those programs, while 59 percent would support redirecting existing resources to it. “That people are prepared to support an increase in taxes to make more vocational training available underscores the importance of this issue to voters,” said Clinton.

Consistent with previous polls, 63 percent of Tennesseans say children of undocumented immigrants should be eligible for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities.

Vouchers, by contrast, remain a big question mark in Tennessee: A full 43 percent say they don’t know enough to have a clear opinion about them, while just 24 percent say they support them.

Approval and Favorability Ratings

President Trump has a 52 percent approval rating in the state, in line with previous polls. Outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam remains the most popular politician in the state, with a 61 percent approval rating, while Senators Alexander and Corker stand at 48 percent and 45 percent, respectively—also in line with previous polling.

Congress remains highly unpopular, with just 26 percent approval, while the state legislature enjoys a healthy 54 percent approval rating.

By comparison to Governor-elect Bill Lee, Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn will arrive in Washington with much less public support. Only 45 percent of Tennesseans had a favorable view of her, with 50 percent holding an unfavorable view. Geer noted that this is particularly unusual because the candidate she beat, Phil Bredesen, received a favorability rating of 54 percent, with 34 percent unfavorable—suggesting many Tennesseans voted for her despite holding more favorable views of her opponent.

“Perhaps the Kavanaugh confirmation gave many Republicans and Independents enough reason to vote for Blackburn, despite their reservations,” said Geer.

About the Vanderbilt Poll

The Vanderbilt Poll is supported by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. The statewide poll is typically conducted just before the start of each legislative session and at the end of each session, in part to determine how closely the results of the session align with voters’ expectations and priorities. CSDI also conducts a yearly Nashville poll, as well as additional special polls. In 2015, the Vanderbilt Poll became a charter member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Transparency Initiative.

State Park-Branded Beer, Coffee Hot Holiday Season Sellers

PRESS RELEASE from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Dec. 14, 2018:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks is encouraging shoppers this holiday to support conservation efforts through making a seasonal toast with their coffee roast or by spreading some cheer with their beer. A portion of the sales of the “State Parks Coffee” and the “State Park Blonde Ale” support the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit partner of the state parks system.

The state parks have joined Just Love Coffee on three flavors branded as Tennessee State Parks varieties – Earthy Blueberry for West Tennessee, Chocolate Raisin for Middle Tennessee, and Smoky Blueberry for East Tennessee.

The coffee flavors are available for sale in 16 state park gift shops across the state, including Cumberland Mountain, Fall Creek Falls, Montgomery Bell, Roan Mountain, Cedars of Lebanon, Dunbar Cave, Henry Horton, Natchez Trace, Old Stone Fort, Paris Landing, Pickett, Pickwick Landing, Radnor Lake, Reelfoot Lake, Sycamore Shoals, and the central office at the Tennessee Tower in downtown Nashville. Tennessee State Parks staffer David Pineros did the artwork on the labels.

Meanwhile, Tennesseans can still enjoy the State Park Blonde Ale introduced last year by the state parks in a partnership between Tennessee Brew Works and the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy.

The beer is available in select retailers in the state, including most Kroger stores in the Middle Tennessee and Knoxville areas; most Food City locations in Chattanooga and Knoxville; and most independent liquor stores including Party Mart and the Forked Vine in Jackson; Bristol Beer and Cigar in Bristol; Frugal MacDoogal, Midtown Corkdorks Wine and Spirits and the Filling Station in Nashville; Stones River Total Beverage in Murfreesboro; Chattanooga Wine and Spirits and Riverside Wine and Spirits in Chattanooga; and Total Wine and Bearden Beer Market in Knoxville.

“Tennessee is known for its unique characteristics, and these products reflect that,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “When you gift the coffee or the beer you are really making two gifts. It’s a great way to support conservation efforts in Tennessee State Parks.”

Shoppers can also give Tennessee State Parks gift cards, available at all 56 state parks, Kroger stores and Target stores throughout the state, as well as at the Tennessee State Parks central office in Nashville and online at https://tnstateparks.com/about/gift-card.

The cards are also available at GiftCardMall.com. The gift cards apply to lodging at campgrounds, cabins and inns; golfing; restaurants; marinas; gift shop items and vacation tours.

, , ,

Beacon Center: Time to Rethink Our Approach to Asset Forfeiture

Statement from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, (Dec. 11, 2018):

Link: http://www.beacontn.org/time-to-rethink-our-approach-to-asset-forfeiture

By Branden H. Boucek

The practice of civil asset forfeiture – whereby law enforcement can confiscate a person’s property or money on a suspicion of criminal activity, leaving it to the person to establish his or her innocence – may be on rocky terrain. If the skeptical questions of the Supreme Court justices in the recently argued case of Timbs v. Indiana are any indication, civil asset forfeiture may soon be subject to the constitutional prohibition on excessive fines, putting at least some limits on the practice. Some justices were apparently unmoved by the contention that law enforcement could seize a Land Rover for speeding by 5 miles-per hour.

Civil asset forfeiture is, in addition to flying in the face of the Fifth Amendment and its prohibition of taking of property without due process, bad law enforcement. The law enforcement agency typically keeps the assets. By effectively allowing for law-enforcement to self fund, civil asset forfeiture sets up all the wrong incentives. There’s every reason to chase dollars instead of bad guys.

Imagine an investigation into an international drug cartel has been underway for years when an intercepted phone call reveals that sizable monetary assets are on the move. It isn’t difficult to imagine the pressure to succumb to short-term thinking by making a bad law enforcement decision: seize the known asset rather than wait. The problem is that arresting lower level targets compromises an investigation. It’s hard to ask cash strapped agencies under continuous pressure to do more with less. The temptation to compromise a serious, long-term investigation should not exist. Law enforcement should be funded through the regular budgetary process.

Tennessee would be wise to start thinking proactively about a new approach to seizing criminal assets. Fortunately, it is not an all–or–nothing approach between civil asset forfeiture and criminals keeping drug proceeds. We have another well–established approach. It is called criminal asset forfeiture.

Criminal asset forfeiture produces the same ultimate result: divesting the criminal of illegal gains. The difference is that criminal asset forfeiture uses the regular criminal process, and assesses the forfeiture as a penalty. Under criminal asset forfeiture, the accused can either plead guilty or ask for a jury to make the determination. In other words, this is what we are already doing to anyone accused of a crime. As pointed out above, civil asset forfeiture allows for property to be seized without anyone being charged ever.

To be sure, criminal asset forfeiture is not as quick as civil asset forfeiture. Law enforcement must wait until the proceedings resolve. And now prosecutors must add and resolve an additional charge. But all this is a small price to pay for a restoration of the Fifth Amendment.

Now is as good of a time as any to start rethinking our approach to asset forfeiture.

The Beacon Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

, ,

Winter Discounts on Lodging Rentals Available at TN State Parks

PRESS RELEASE the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks are offering discounts of 25 percent off cabin and room rental rates between December 1 and February 28.

“We are entering a special time of the year to be with loved ones, and we hope these discounts will help everyone enjoy our state parks,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Our state parks have a lot to offer visitors year-round, and these discounts can help make for a great winter getaway.”

The discounts create a perfect opportunity, for example, to stay lakeside at Pickwick Landing, see eagles at Reelfoot Lake or enjoy a warm fire on a snowy evening at Roan Mountain.

The special winter rates apply to hundreds of cabins and inn rooms throughout the state.

In order to obtain the discounts, visitors are asked to complete a sign-up form online to let the state parks know they’re interested in the winter promotion. After sign-up, an email response will give details on how to secure the discount.

Visitors can sign up for the winter discount at this link: https://tnstateparks.com/about/promotion-details/winter-promotion

Information provided when submitting the form will be used only for official Tennessee State Parks communications. Tennessee State Parks do not sell or distribute personal information from the emails.

All Tennessee State Parks are open for recreational activities during the winter.

,

Next Construction Phase of Center Hill Dam Getting Underway

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE U.S ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, NOVEMBER 30, 2018:

SILVER POINT, Tenn. (Nov. 30, 2018) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District and contractor Thalle Construction Company are moving towards the conclusion of the Center Hill Dam Safety Rehabilitation Project.

The start of December marks the completion of foundation preparation for a “roller-compacted concrete” reinforcing berm downstream of Center Hill’s auxiliary dam, work that began in January 2018. A minimum of two-feet of conventional concrete, referred to as ‘mud matting,’ was placed on the 125-foot wide by 800-foot long cleaned bedrock base to allow for a good working surface to begin placement of the RCC.

The Corps blasted and excavated about 65,000 cubic yards of rock to create a solid, notched base for the large 100-foot high by 1000-foot long concrete RCC berm. The exposed rock base was then geo-mapped.

“Geo-mapping gives the agency a detailed reference picture of the bedrock, which will be the natural base of the berm foundation,” said Tommy Hollowell, Nashville District geologist. “This will allow us to plan placement of the expansion and contraction joints in the concrete berm and to monitor specific rock formations if any future issues arise.”

About two-foot diameter rocks and smaller, recycled from stabilization excavation at Center Hill Dam’s left rim, have been placed between the auxiliary dam and RCC berm. The rock fill will place pressure on the downstream auxiliary dam embankment and reduce the risk of internal erosion.

Grouting 25 feet into the mud matting and bed rock is also nearing 70 percent complete.

Linda Adcock, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District project manager, explained that the grout fills any voids that may exist between the two layers, and ‘locks’ the layers together ensuring a solid foundation for the placement of concrete to suport the berm. Concrete placement is expected to begin in January.

Thalle Construction Company has the concrete batch plant equipment in place to produce the special type of concrete, RCC, which resembles more of a solid than a liquid. As this concrete is placed on the berm site, it will be spread by a blade and compacted with a vibrating roller into one-foot layers.

“Roller compacted concrete resembles a mixture of dirt and rock more than typical, conventional concrete, due to its low moisture content,” Adcock said. “The advantage of this type of concrete is place using traditional road paving equipment which is generally much more efficient than placing typical conventional concrete.”

Alan Malcomb, civil engineer and contracting officer for the Roller Compacted Concrete phase, said the winter weather may pose a challenge the Corps of Engineers and Thalle Construction because when temperatures drop below 35 degrees Fahrenheit and precipitation exceeds a tenth of an inch per hour, concrete placement must be halted.

As work approaches the last chapter for the concrete berm, site restoration on the southwest side of Center Hill Dam is underway. The area previously known as Eisenhower Park or Center Hill Park has served as a work platform for the Dam Safety Rehabilitation Project during the past 10 years. Bluegrass Construction Corporation is grading the area and will build picnic sites, three shelters, a comfort station, and a boat ramp allowing access to Center Hill Lake. The RCC Berm and the restored boat ramp and lake access are planned to be finished by the end of 2019. The RCC berm completion is necessary before Center Hill Lake can return to normal operating lake levels.

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Center Hill Lake on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/centerhilllake.)