NEWS BRIEFS:

Blount budget committee votes for 5 cent tax increase
If Blount County commissioners agree with members of the budget committee, residents will be paying 5 cents more per $100 of assessed value on their property taxes.

Budget committee member voted 4-1 in favor of the move. Commissioners will vote June 21 whether to tack on 5 cents to the tax rate. This would make tax rate $2.23 per $100 of assessed value.

The 2007-2008 county budget is $150 million. It includes $39.7 million for the county general fund, $7.2 million for highways, $73.9 million for schools and $2 million for the Blount County Library.

There will be a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. on June 21. The regularly scheduled commission meeting will follow at 7 p.m.

Groundbreaking set for civic arts center at Maryville College
Area residents are invited to a groundbreaking ceremony for the new civic arts center scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 20, on the lawn in front of Maryville College’s Fine Arts Center.

Sinking shovels into the ground to officially kick off the construction phase of the $47 million facility will be Maryville College President Gerald Gibson, representatives from the cities of Maryville and Alcoa and Citizens for a Civic Arts Center and Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton Homes and member of a civic arts center fundraising committee.

"This is truly a community project," said Clayton, in a press release, "One that will transform the community and the
college. We encourage local residents to come and take part in this historic event."

The groundbreaking center also marks the countdown to the demolition of the Samuel Tyndale Wilson Chapel/Theatre Complex and the Fine Arts Center, which will be razed in July to make way for the new civic arts center. The target date for the opening of the new facility is fall of 2009.

In 2006, Maryville College entered into a formal partnership with the cities of Maryville and Alcoa to build a major performing arts facility that will include a 1,200-seat performance hall, a 250-seat recital hall, a 200-seat flexible theatre, a grand lobby offering a 250-capacity dining area, three gallery/exhibit spaces and an outdoor arts plaza that can be used for special events.

The city of Maryville agreed to contribute $9.38 million toward the project, while Alcoa leaders voted to contribute $3.75 million. Maryville College has committed to working with Clayton and other members of the civic arts center fundraising committee to raise $25 million in private dollars, in addition to donating the land where the facility will be located. Nearly $7 million in federal funds has been secured for the center and approximately $2 million is coming from state coffers.

Once open, the center’s executive director will work with a 30-person advisory board composed of individuals from the college, cities and community to plan and guide its operations. Broadway shows, concerts by touring musicians and orchestras, traveling art exhibits, film series, children’s plays and presentations by nationally recognized speakers are just some of the types of events the center will accommodate.

Alcoa Inc. Tennessee Smelter restarts ahead of schedule
From press releases

Alcoa Inc. announced Wednesday that it has begun to re-start one line at its Tennessee Operations aluminum smelter. That line was idled due to a direct lightning strike in a severe electrical storm in mid-April. The potline, which produces approximately 107,000 metric tons per year (mtpy), is expected to be fully operational by June 30.

The potline was completely "frozen" after the lightning strike and each of the 164 pots had to be dug out and repaired. It was initially expected that the re-start would take several months. It has been accomplished in approximately seven weeks thanks to the hard work of the employees at the Alcoa plant, said company officials.

The company has also reduced output at its Rockdale, Texas, aluminum smelter during refurbishment of the anode baking facilities. A line has been temporarily curtailed due to lower production of quality anodes. A refurbished bake furnace has now been started, anode quality has been restored, and pots are being restarted. This re-start will be completed during the fourth quarter of 2007.

The previously disclosed impact of the production curtailments has been updated to approximately $45 million in after-tax income in the second quarter.

Blount man, doctor plead guilty to TennCare fraud
From wire reports
A Maryville man and the doctor who provided him with a prescription have pleaded guilty to TennCare fraud related to selling prescription painkillers obtained through the program’s benefits, the agency’s Office of Inspector General announced Monday.

Dr. Ryan D. Hutson, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of delivery of a controlled substance and one count of TennCare fraud, according to the OIG announcement.

Hutson was sentenced to four years of supervised probation, with the charges to be dismissed upon successful completion of probation.

Robert Eric Stine, 30, was sentenced to three years for the delivery of a Schedule III drug, two years for TennCare fraud and an additional 11 months, 29 days for simple possession.

According to OIG, Stine obtained from Hutson a prescription for the painkiller hydrocodone, then sold it to an undercover agent, and Hutson used TennCare to pay for Stine’s office visit.

"TennCare enrollees who participate in selling drugs paid for by TennCare - or through a doctor’s visit paid for by TennCare - should understand this is a serious crime we intend to prosecute," Inspector General Deborah Y. Faulkner said.

Through the OIG Cash for Tips Program, Tennesseans can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions. To report suspected TennCare fraud call 800-433-3982, or log on to www.tncarefraud.tennessee.gov.

Arnold first woman in APD to be promoted to sergeant
Alcoa Police Department officer Laura Arnold has been promoted to police sergeant.

The promotion occurred Saturday, May 27. Sgt. Arnold has the distinction of becoming the first female officer to achieve the rank of sergeant in the department.

Arnold has served as a patrol officer since joining the police department in November 2002. She completed the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy in 2003. Since then she has since attended numerous law enforcement training events.

Sgt. Arnold, along with her three children, resides in the Maryville. Regarding her promotion, she said, "I am honored to
serve the citizens of Alcoa – not only as a sergeant, but also as the first female sergeant in the city’s history."

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