News Briefs:

By Lance Coleman

FOP leaders meet to discuss deputy pay
About 50 Blount County deputies met with national and state leaders of the Fraternal Order of Police on Feb. 15 to discuss their wages and benefits and work conditions.

FOP national field representative Gil Gallegos said he believed Sheriff James Berrong understands the position of the FOP. "I think there’s a common goal to achieve better living standards," he said.

Tennessee FOP president Brian Moran said the question of better pay and benefits for deputies is about making them more competitive not just with Maryville and Alcoa officers, but throughout East Tennessee. "It’s really a quality of life issue. If you’re about recruiting and retaining the best, it’s a question of quality of life," Moran said.

Gallegos said the FOP has been in Blount County since 1957 to help law enforcement officers. "That’s why we’re here, to serve them. I don’t believe they’re asking for anything unreasonable."

Gallegos said the FOP will represent officers in front of the Blount County Commission. In early January, Berrong began speaking publicly about the pay of deputies and the budget crisis he said his department was left in because of not getting enough funding from the commission at the beginning of the fiscal year in July, 2006. Earlier this month, the International Union of Police Associations announced that more than 70 deputies had met and many of them had formed a local chapter of the union.

When asked if the meeting was in response to the union organization, Gallegos said that when Lt. Tony Rayburn became president of the Bud Adams Memorial Lodge Number 9 of the FOP in Blount County in January, he contacted him for assistance.

"Tony and I have been talking long before IUPA were in the process. That was something we had been talking about," he said.

Dancing Bear brings back Black Bear Bicycle Bash
It began with an inaugural event in early spring of last year and drew so many participants that a second one was held last fall, with an even greater turnout. For the third time in a year, cyclists and spectators will gather at Dancing Bear Lodge in Townsend on March 16 and 17 for another Black Bear Bicycle Bash.

The event is expected to once again attract a wide range of riders, from beginners and families to avid racers. There will be scheduled road and trail rides, games, prizes, and demonstrations of equipment and accessories.

"The turnout for our first two events has confirmed that a lot of us love to cycle in the Smokies," said Matt Alexander, an avid cyclist and Managing Partner of Dancing Bear Lodge, the host and headquarters location for the event. "The interest just keeps growing, and positive feedback from participants in the past Black Bear Bashes was really overwhelming. It is fast becoming a tradition, and we are very excited to be part of it all."

Registration for the ride is $15 per person. The ride is open to local cyclists as well as guests of Dancing Bear Lodge.

Registration for cyclists not staying at Dancing Bear Lodge is $35 and includes the ride, T-shirt and the post-ride party.
For additional information, call 865-448-6000 or visit www.dancingbearlodge.com.

Dancing Bear Lodge, formerly known as Maple Leaf Lodge, is located in Townsend.

Frist rep named director of Hillcrest-Beverly
Carolyn Carter Jensen recently was named new director of the Hillcrest-Beverly Foundation.

The foundation is the philanthropic agency for Hillcrest HealthCare, a senior care organization with four facilities in Knox County. Jensen most recently served as senior field representative for U.S. Sen. Bill Frist until the former Senate majority
leader from Tennessee retired at the end of his second term.

"I look forward to this new opportunity to continue serving the people of the Knox County area," she said. "We have some very new and innovative approaches to health care on the horizon, and I’m proud to be taking on the Foundation’s mission of improving the lives of seniors."

Mass transit in Blount? KAT official addresses group
Cindy McGinnis, general manager of Knox Area Transit, and Jeff Welch, executive director of the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, are the featured speakers for the 2007 Annual Meeting of Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension, Inc.

"The county and state have been so focused on roads and highways that we thought it would be useful to learn more about alternatives to driving our cars everywhere," said Bill Busser, CAPPE President. "Blount County had both bus and train service in the past, when our population was smaller than it is now. We spend a large proportion of our federal, state and local budgets on roads but not much on bus, rail or car and van-pooling. So we decided to ask Cindy McGinnis of KAT and Jeff Welch of the TPO to speak to our Annual Meeting about ‘The Prospects for Mass Transit in Blount County.’

The meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 26, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Dorothy Herron Room A at the Blount County Public Library. The public is welcome and refreshments will be served.

Maryville Fire expands medical services
A new level of care has been added to the Maryville Fire Department’s First Responder program. Beginning this year, the department increased its service through extensive training of four firefighters to the level of licensed paramedics. In cooperation with Blount Memorial Hospital and Rural Metro Ambulance service, the fire department now provides advanced life support services on most emergency calls within the city limits. This includes intravenous medications, advanced airway support, cardiac monitoring, and a variety of other medical life saving treatment. Blount Memorial Hospital and Rural Metro Ambulance were very instrumental in providing supplies and support to make the program happen, according to a Maryville Fire Department press release said.

Firefighters Brian Watson, Todd Blair, Dallas Stevens and Randell Moore are licensed paramedics who trained for one year and performed 500 hours of on-the-job clinical training. The Fire Department hopes to certify more firefighters so that every shift and every station will have a paramedic on duty. Another part of the response team consists of a firefighter certified in intravenous medication. Ten Maryville firefighters are in the final phase of that training. David Hodges, deputy fire chief stated, "The addition of a paramedic and an EMT/IV to each shift brings a higher level of service to our residents and those first moments can be very critical in helping to save lives."

Alcoa commissioners called to certify liquor stores
The Alcoa Board of Commissioners will meet in called session at 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 23, in the Commission Chambers of the Alcoa Municipal Building. The purposes of the meeting are to issue a certificate of compliance for package liquor stores and name Fire Chief Roger D. Robinson to the 911 Board of Directors, replacing retired Fire Chief Larry Graves.

Loudon County to take Blount stray dogs, cats
Loudon County Commission on Monday agreed to accept stray animals picked up by Blount County animal control, County Mayor Jerry Cunningham said following the Loudon meeting.

"I got a call from Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp, and they (the commission) voted to help us out on our animal control problem," Cunningham said.

The Blount County mayor said the vote took place during a special called session to discuss and decide the issue. Blount County will pay Loudon County for housing stray animals that a soon-to-be hired Blount County animal control officer will bring to the Loudon facility.

Cunningham said he planned to offer the animal control officer position to Danny McKee, a former Maryville Animal Control officer.

The need to use the Loudon facility came about after the Blount County Commission refused to allocate more funds to Maryville Animal Shelter for picking up animals in the county.

"The Loudon County Commission as gracious enough to go along," Cunningham said. "They’re going to let us take our animals to them."

In a related matter, no group submitted proposals for running a new animal shelter in Blount County. The Animal Control Committee of the Blount County Commission had set a Feb. 17 deadline for non-profit groups to submit proposals to construct and manage a new animal shelter.

The Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation didn’t turn in paper work, but officials with the group said a proposal is forthcoming. The Blount County Humane Society had no plans to submit a proposal because it did not want to operate a kill-
shelter where animals are put down after as little as three days.

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