News Briefs:

Hamilton Crossing lining up businesses
Reports this week indicate that retail stores Circuit City, Old Navy and PetSmart are coming to Hamilton Crossing in Alcoa by late summer. The stores will anchor Phase 1 of a new component of Hamilton Crossing called Hamilton Crossing Plaza.

Developer is Jay Dunlap of Knoxville.

Other businesses on the horizon for Hamilton Crossing Plaza include Ross Dress for Less, Shoe Carnival, Rue21 and Fusion Tanning.

At Hamilton Crossing, one new tenant is now open and a second plans to open in mid-February.

Tobacco store Smokin’ Joes has opened and Smoothie King plans a mid-February opening date.

Tom and Barbara Marine of Knoxville plan to open Smoothie King on the weekend of Feb. 16 at 743 Louisville Road in the shopping center.

Tom Marine said there will be job opportunities for anyone interested. "I’m probably going to hire 10 to 12. I’ve got one or two already," he said. "We’re looking (to open) mid-February, hopefully around the weekend of the 16th."

Tom Marine got to know about the Smoothie King franchise when he was working in Louisiana. The company was founded in New Orleans 35 years ago.

"I started going as a customer, wanted to do something (like) a restaurant, but didn’t want to do bar and didn’t want to go away from family, and this was good fit," he said.

Marine said the business provides a positive service. "I’m helping people to get better nutrition in their body. That’s how it started with me," he said.

Marine said he decided to come to the Knoxville area with his wife, who is from here, and they opened the area’s first Smoothie King on the Cumberland Avenue strip near the University of Tennessee campus in 2000.

"This is our sixth location. When we first came here smoothie awareness was not that strong," he said.

Marine said he estimated that only about 20 percent of area residents were familiar with a smoothie and about half that percentage of the population knew Smoothie King. "Now it’s much greater, maybe 50 percent know," he said.

Marine said Smoothie King founder Steve Kuhnau named the drink after something other than its texture. "It wasn’t from texture. It had something to do with some kind of cigar. It was totally off the wall," Marine said. "He started it to treat his allergies.

Marine said people can use smoothies as a meal replacement or a heavy snack. "We’re trying to get more mainstream as being a healthy alternative to fast food," Marine said. "That’s how I got involved in it. If I couldn’t have a meal, I’d stop by Smoothie King for a (smoothie) that became my lunch. When I have them, I have them usually as a meal replacement."

Marine said coming to Blount County was simply an answer to customer’s requests. "We’ve had a clamor from customers to come to Alcoa and Maryville for several years," he said. "I think it’s going to be a great fit in this area."

Marine said store hours will be Monday through Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 12 to 7 p.m. on Sundays. To contact Tom Marine regarding job opportunities, email him at

Mike and Nancy Hicks recently opened Smokin’ Joes at 737 Louisville Road directly behind Panera Bread. Their other store is located on Papermill Road in Knoxville. The store is 18 years old, and they are in their sixth years as owners, Mike Hicks said.
Mike Hicks said he’s been in retail management his whole life. When he and his wife decided to buy a business, they found Smokin’ Joes. "It wasn’t planned," he said. "It worked out that way."

This new location is the bigger of the two stores. "This one will have the largest walk-in humidor in Tennessee and most states surrounding Tennessee," he said.

The 20-foot by 20-foot humidor holds 350 individual brands of cigars and more than 1,500 individual sizes of cigars, Hicks said. "We’ll have a smoking lounge area for folks to enjoy in our store," he said.

The store also has a full line of imported cigars, as well as smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products. "Mainly premium cigars are the business we go after," he said. "We specialize in premium cigars."

While 1999 was the bottom of the boom in cigar popularity in the 1990s, cigars have been on the increase since 2001, he said.

"The year 2000 was a horrible year for premium cigars and 2001 (the amount of cigars purchased) started gradually increasing, and the trend has increased every year," he said. "Not huge, just 4 or 5 percent each year."

Mike Hicks said selection is the key to the success of his business. "Folks want to come in and have a lot to choose from. I think that’s the key and how we built our business is increasing our selection and offering more boutique blends and brands -- labels you don’t see advertised every day. We specialize in brands a lot of people don’t carry."

Hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Maryville city awarded $992,000 EPA grant
The City of Maryville announced Jan. 22 it is the recipient of $992,000 that will be used to fund the Pistol Creek Environmental Protection and Education Project.

According to a City of Maryville press release, Pistol Creek, the main tributary that runs throughout Maryville, has been cited to the State of Tennessee Section 303(d) list due to poor water quality, especially in the summer months. City Manager Greg McClain said that "the project is designed to enhance, protect, and preserve environmentally sensitive areas, and promote natural flood control. It is a project that will demonstrate and also encourage community stewardship of our environmentally sensitive Pistol Creek."

The scope of the project includes an open-air classroom and outdoor laboratory; an elevated ADA compliant boardwalk; and a parking area. Angie Luckie, director of engineering and public works, applied for the grant and stated that no matching funds will be needed on the part of the City to complete the project.

"The City did purchase and will also be reimbursed for 10 of the 12.3 acres of floodplain and wetland area where the project will be located. This land serves as an off-channel flood storage area," Luckie said. "Also, there are beaver lodges and dams along this portion of the creek and a great variety of native plants. It will be very easy to access from the Greenbelt."

The first educational component of the grant, an outdoor educational pavilion, will be available for K-12 students, Maryville College students and the public. It will be used for a variety of demonstrations. For example, rain barrels will collect storm water from the roof to illustrate how it can be captured and reused.

Erosion control is another demonstration component of the project. Native plants will replace non-native plants in some areas along Pistol Creek. Other portions of the site will be maintained in different methods which will aid in demonstrating various effects of water storage, runoff, and habitat alteration depending on the method used. Some areas will be left to grow in their natural state.

Maryville Mayor Joe Swann stated, "We are very excited about this project because of the variety of educational opportunities it will provide to our entire community. Every age group will be able to take advantage of the Pistol Creek Educational Project. "

The next component of the project is the construction of a 2700 foot long elevated boardwalk that is ADA compliant. It will meander through the site from the parking area to the garage, around an existing springhouse, adjacent to a beaver lodge, and around a pond area. Benches and platforms will be located along the boardwalk at points of interest along with informational signs throughout the area. The last component is a pervious parking area for 15 cars and three buses that will be installed to accommodate visitors. The pervious concrete will allow storm water to seep through into the ground underneath instead of creating more runoff onto the property.

Luckie said that thus far the property has been acquired. She said that Maryville College students are currently inventorying the existing wetland vegetation and wildlife. Their work will include recommendation of what non-native plants need to be removed from the site, what native plants are suitable to that area and locations for stream monitoring sites, she said.

Senator Finney named to legislative committees
State Senator Raymond Finney announced Jan. 22 that he has received his committee assignments for the 105th General Assembly (2007 and 2008).

Finney’s committee assignments are chairman of the Calendar Committee, secretary of the General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee, member of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee and member of the Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee.

"I cannot be more pleased with my committee assignments," Finney said, in a press release. Finney said he wanted to be on the General Welfare Committee "to be able to use my experience of thirty-five years of medical practice," and was eager to serve on the environment committee " because the environment and tourism are so important to my district."

The appointment to the finance committee was a surprise, he said. "I was very surprised to be appointed to the Finance Committee, which is probably the most important committee because it works with its counterpart in the House to set the state government’s budget," Finney said. "This committee is usually reserved for senators with much more seniority. I did not even request to be on this committee. Speaker Ron Ramsey told me he wants me on this committee because I have
consistently shown interest in fiscal responsibility in government."

Finney said he also was offered one of the three Republican slots on the Fiscal Review Committee. This committee meets twice monthly during the recess. "I declined the appointment because of my wife’s health problems. I did not want to add stress to her life by traveling with me that many extra times to Nashville, and I did not want to leave her alone," he said. "I am very pleasedwith and honored by the confidence shown in me by the Senate leadership, that I would receive these appointments."

In addition, Finney was one of seven Tennessee state legislators to be awarded the 2006/2007 Legislative Friends of the Environment Award.

This award is presented by Tennessee Conservation Voters. This non-partisan, non-political coalition of sixteen environmental, conservation, and preservation groups monitors legislators’ bills and votes during the legislative year.

Points are awarded or deducted for votes considered of most importance to the environment. A report card is issued at the end of the year. Top-ranking legislators are presented the Friends of the Environment Award.

"I do not vote to try to win an award. In fact, I do not have any way of knowing what bills the coalition is following," Finney said. "I vote what I think is best for Tennessee and my district. I am very pleased that my record on the environment is among the best in the state."

Finney said he grew up in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. "These God-given, majestic mountains create a lifetime impression of incomparable natural beauty. The happiest times my wife and I have had were while we have been in the mountains with our children and grandchildren. I regret that the mountain beauty I once knew is diminishing," he said. "I want my grandchildren’s children to know and love this beauty. We must work together to preserve pristine mountain streams, unspoiled vistas of incomparable beauty, and clean air. We can have development and growth without destroying the environment, which is our natural beauty and our heritage."

Senator Finney is beginning his third year in office.

Police wait to question suspect and victim in shooting
Police are still waiting to speak with a Maryville man who was shot in the face early Sunday morning before the suspected gunman fired on an Airport police officer who then shot him.

The suspected gunman drove from the scene before he stopped at Wrights Ferry and Airbase roads, exited the car and fell to the ground.

Both individuals were taken to University of Tennessee Medical Center. Victim Christopher Ross, 22, U.S. 411 South Maryville was listed in serious condition. The alleged shooter, whose identity has not been released, was listed in stable condition and is under guard, Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp said.

According to a Maryville police report filed by officer Kyle Mitchell, shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, Emergency 911 Communications operators were told that a man was on the ground in the parking lot in front of his apartment and was bleeding.

Officers also were told that the shooter fled in a white or light blue pickup truck. Police found Ross in the parking lot with a gunshot wound to the right side of his face in the cheek area. Officers attempted to calm Ross, but he was very aggressive toward officers, according to the report. He was taken by Rural/Metro Ambulance Service personnel to a landing zone where LifeStar helicopter airlifted him to UT Medical Center.

According to a Blount County Sheriff’s Office press release and information from Knoxville Metropolitan Airport Authority, Airport Authority public safety officer Corey Shane Ogle spotted a vehicle matching that description and initiated a traffic stop in the northbound lanes of Alcoa Highway at the Hunt Road overpass. Immediately after the stop was made, the suspect stepped out of his vehicle and fired several rounds at the Airport Authority vehicle.

The officer returned fire through his windshield and struck the suspect twice in the upper torso. The suspect then got back into his vehicle and traveled north on Alcoa Highway, turned left onto Wrights Ferry Road, and traveled approximately one mile before stopping at the intersection of Wrights Ferry and Airbase roads. He opened the door of his vehicle and fell out onto the pavement. He was immediately taken into custody by a Sheriff’s Office deputy and an Alcoa Police Department officer who had spotted and pursued the vehicle on Alcoa Highway following the shooting.

On Tuesday, Crisp said police had not charged anyone in connection with the shooting, but that detectives were "tying up" loose ends to the case, and they were ready to move forward in the matter. Crisp said detectives hadn’t yet interviewed either the suspected shooter or the victim. The nature of the relationship, if any between the two, wasn’t known, and police also were trying to determine what caused the incident.

"We know they didn’t know each other. As far as what the motive is, we don’t know," Crisp said.

According to Becky Huckaby, director of public relations with the Knoxville Metropolitan Airport Authority, Ogle is on paid administrative leave as part of standard operating procedure.

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