Thursday, April 30, 2009

Man convicted in 'Wooded Rapist' case faces more trials

By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • April 30, 2009 Burdick charged in a dozen rape cases Prosecutors vow they are not finished with Robert Jason Burdick. A Davidson County jury convicted Burdick, 39, on two counts of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated burglary Wednesday for attacking a Donelson woman in her home. He faces up to 56 years in prison when Judge Seth Norman sentences him June 10. This is the first conviction for the man police have charged in at least 12 rape cases in Davidson, Williamson and Wilson counties. "One down, several more to go,'' said Roger Moore, assistant district attorney. In October he will go to trial again for attacking another Davidson County woman. Investigators say the rapes are linked by a common scheme — women attacked near wooded areas on rainy nights by a man with a covered face — and DNA evidence left at many of the scenes. Moore said the DNA in this week's trial solidified the guilty verdict. Victim's actions praised He credited the then 61-year-old victim for her courage and deciding to keep her wits about her throughout the ordeal. After she was raped in November 2007, Burdick ordered her into the shower, but she stood outside the water while he fled. She also ran a cotton swab in her mouth trying to collect his saliva. Her swab was inconclusive but another swab taken at the hospital contained Burdick's DNA. "She is a role model, if there is such a thing, to someone who's been the victim of a crime," Moore said. But defense attorneys criticized the fact that the case was based purely on DNA. "This was certainly a victory for science," said defense attorney Fletcher Long. "We could not overcome the science. We'll get to another trial in the future where the DNA proof may not be this good." Long said it's the beginning of the fight for their legal team. He and John Herbison, an experienced appellate lawyer, have been retained to represent Burdick on all of his cases in Davidson County. Herbison plans to appeal the decision. Burdick was "saddened" by the verdict and knows it's an uphill battle, Long said. "He prays a lot,'' Long said. Sitting behind the woman through much of the trial was Pat Young who believes Burdick is the man who raped her in 1994. Her case has not been set for trial yet. She put her hand on the Donelson woman's shoulder when the verdict was read. She was surprised when the tears started to flow. The Tennessean does not normally identify victims of sexual assault, but Young agreed to be identified and has allowed her name to be used in several interviews. "For women who never encountered him, I'm glad he's convicted," Young said. "I'm glad this trial is over and I'm glad it was a conviction. I hope there are several more to follow.'' After the verdict, Burdick's father got into a scuffle with a news cameraman that he said kicked him outside the courtroom. Later, the cameras were pushed aside while the victim left the courtroom, smiling. Burdick showed no emotion during the trial or when the verdict was read.

Letter carriers set food drive

April 30, 2009 Tennessean MIDDLE TENNESSEE Middle Tennessee letter carriers will help Stamp Out Hunger! with a food drive on Saturday, May 9. To help, leave a sturdy bag with nonperishable foods, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal, next to your mailbox before the time of regular mail delivery on May 9. Food items should be in nonbreakable containers, such as boxes and cans. Local letter carriers will collect the donations and deliver them to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, which will sort and distribute the food to emergency food box sites and to about 400 community food partners in Middle and West Tennessee. Stamp Out Hunger! is the nation's largest single-day food drive, having collected more than 909 million pounds of food since its inception in 1993. For more information about Stamp Out Hunger! visit or According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 36 million Americans live in households that can't be sure of having food, and about one in every three of these Americans is a child.

Lawmakers agree on texting while driving proposal

Associated Press • April 30, 2009 A proposal that would ban reading or sending cellular phone text messages while driving is headed to the governor's desk after lawmakers agreed on minor differences in the proposal. The measure passed the House on Monday and the Senate approved it last week. The Senate concurred with the House version on Thursday. The proposal would impose a $50 fine for reading or writing text messages while driving. Opponents argue that law enforcement may not be able to tell whether drivers are texting or dialing and that texting is already covered under the state's distracted driving law. Gov. Phil Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker says the governor will review the legislation once it reaches his desk.

Nashville sets up swine flu hotline as TN health chief urges calm

By Heidi Hall • THE TENNESSEAN • April 30, 2009 Metro Nashville partially activated its emergency operations center and launched a swine flu hotline Thursday for residents who need up-to-date information about the pandemic. The hotline number is 615-340-7775. Tennessee's top health official said this morning residents should prepare for months of swine flu infections and make family plans to deal with it. The Centers for Disease control is working to include the Novel H1N1 virus in next year's flu shot. For now, Tennessee Health Commissioner Susan Cooper is assuring Tennesseans there is plenty of anti-viral medication for people who contract the disease, and health care workers have practiced administering it in mass quantities. She said parents need to be making plans for their families. "If your children are dismissed from school, where are they going to go?" she said. Two schools already have been temporarily closed over the state's only two probable cases to date: Harding Academy in Nashville and School of the Incarnation in Collierville. Education Commissioner Tim Webb said districts will handle school closings on a case-by-case basis in line with CDC recommendations. Schools are still taking field trips to areas that aren't heavily affected. The information came during morning a media conference call. What was missing from the information given: anything that could identify the victims outside of the schools they attend and counties where they live. Cooper wouldn't answer questions about whether the infections were related to Mexico travel. "This is a global issue. It's not just related to Mexico," she said. "Many of the cases we're seeing in the United States have no link to Mexico."

Third Priest lake cleanup is Saturday

DAVIDSON COUNTY Organizers of the Nashville Clean Water Project are hoping to set a record Saturday with a third volunteer clean up at Percy Priest Lake. The event will take place in three-hour blocks between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Boats will depart from the Nashville Shores water park to specific lake locations every 45 minutes, with the last boat departing at 2 p.m. Trash bags, gloves, T-shirts, hats, sunscreen, snacks and hand sanitizer will be provided. All volunteers must be at least 16 years old. The first cleanup, in May 2008, is thought to have been the largest in the city's history, resulting in six of Waste Management's commercial Dumpsters being filled with everything from coolers, tires, chairs and barbecue grills to a full-sized traffic light, an office copier, a residential air conditioner and even a mannequin arm. Volunteers must register in advance and may do so by visiting Anyone who would like to help fund the event may do so also by visiting the same Web site.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jury finds 'Wooded Rapist' suspect guilty on all three counts

Tennessean Jury finds Robert Jason Burdick guilty on all three counts, two counts of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated burglary. The Wooded Rapist suspect will be sentenced on June 10. Burdick is facing up to 56 years. Come back to for more. REPORTED EARLIER The jury is deliberating in the rape case against Robert Jason Burdick, accused of being the "Wooded Rapist" whose committed more than a dozen rapes across Middle Tennessee since 1994. The judge gave the jury the case about 12:15 p.m. after a two-day trial. In closing arguments today, Burdick's defense attorney, Fletcher Long, said the state's case was based purely on DNA, and that science and the people who use it are not infallible. "This man does not have to prove himself innocent or guilty," Long said. "The state has to prove him guilty... this case is a DNA case and that's all they've got." Prosecutors told the jury that the attacker came close to committing a perfect crime and getting away with it. A DNA expert testified that swabs from the victim's mouth and other parts of her body that matched Burdick's. "He couldn't keep his tongue in his mouth and he was too antsy to get away," prosecutor Dan Hamm said. "The combination of that was deadly to Mr. Burdick." Burdick is facing up to 56 years for two counts of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated burglary. He's charged in 11 other rapes throughout Middle Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wilhoite joins juvenile court clerk race

Monday, April 27, 2009 at 9:36pm By Nate Rau
The City Paper
The already crowded field to replace Juvenile Court Clerk Vic Lineweaver got a little bit more crowded Monday when District 29 Metro Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite confirmed she too will be entering the race.
The election won’t take place until summer 2010, but already four candidates have told The City Paper they intend to run. Besides Wilhoite, school board member Karen Johnson and court officer David Smith also said they intend to enter the race. Political no-name Jeff Brousal, a forensic toxicologist for the state of Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said he wants to run as well.
Wilhoite, a second term Metro Council member from the Antioch area, said her formal announcement will be coming soon. Wilhoite is actively involved with Mt. Zion Baptist Church and works for the Tennessee Regulatory Authority. She was rumored to be interested in the seat earlier this year.
“I’m running, I’ve already decided,” Wilhoite said. “I wanted to do a formal announcement, we’re just trying to make sure everything is in order. I’m looking forward to bringing my professional experience to the office of the juvenile court clerk.”
Lineweaver said after Johnson officially announced her intentions that he had no comment on the field forming to replace him. Some political observers believe a crowded field favors Lineweaver because of his name recognition.
Lineweaver was the subject of a WSMV Channel 4 exposé which showed him in his bathrobe during normal work hours. He was also found in contempt of court in 2007, because he failed to produce pertinent court documents.

It'll cost state employees to smoke

By Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN • April 28, 2009 Current and former state employees have until the end of this year to quit smoking, or pay the consequences. The consequences, in this case, will be a $600 smoking surcharge that goes into effect on New Year's Day 2010 for everyone in the state employee health system who smokes, or has a smoker for a spouse. The hope is that the extra $50-a- month surcharge will provide the extra push smokers need to quit — and save Tennessee an estimated $3,400 a year in lost productivity and smoking-related health claims per worker. "We're trying to create incentives for healthy living," said Brian Haile, deputy director for the state's Division of Benefits Administration, which oversees coverage for some 270,000 adults and children covered by state employee health insurance. "Fifty dollars doesn't begin to cover the costs (of smoking-related illnesses). It will never cover the costs," he said. But having money on the line can give smokers the push they need to quit. "It's been known to triple the effective quit rate if there's an economic incentive for doing so," Haile said. To help smokers quit before the deadline, the state will offer sharp discounts on prescriptions and over-the-counter products like nicotine gum and patches starting May 1. Employees will be allowed to take part in six-week smoking cessation seminars on state time. The state held its first stop-smoking seminar Monday — a 6:30 a.m. gathering at one of Nashville's correctional facilities. Similar seminars will be held in every county and at every agency, with online stop-smoking "webinars" It's not yet known how much it will cost the state to help its workers and retirees kick the habit, but Haile estimated it could cost several hundred thousand dollars. The costs will be offset by the smoking surcharge, once the insurance change goes into effect. With cigarettes selling for $5.50 a pack in Tennessee these days, the prospect of paying an extra $50 a month for health coverage was enough to get state employee Eric Sjodin ready to kick the habit. "I've been thinking about quitting for a while," said Sjodin, an employee of the state Department of Finance and administration and a smoker for the past seven years. Some of his colleagues who smoke are outraged by the policy change, but Sjodin said, "I'm not angry about it. It's definitely time" to quit. When the stop-smoking incentives kick in, Sjodin plans to visit his doctor and get a prescription. He'd tried quitting before, but found it hard when so many people around him were still smoking. This time, the peer pressure may work the other way. Surcharge controversial Jim Tucker, executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association, said the smoking surcharge has been controversial among the workers his group represents. Starting in the fall, everyone on the health-care plan — including state workers, teachers and some municipal employees — will be asked to fill out a form, identifying themselves as a smoker or a nonsmoker. Anyone caught lying on their form would face civil and legal penalties for perjury and would have to pay up to $300 in damages to the state. Some states, like Indiana, back up their smoking programs with random cheek swab testing of state workers to check for nicotine. But for the moment, Haile said, Tennessee will rely on the honor system. Employees who stop smoking, and stay smoke-free for six months, will be refunded the money they paid in smoking surcharges. Despite the controversy, most workers agree something has to be done to reduce health-care costs, before the state has to impose another double-digit insurance premium hike, as it did a decade ago. "The health plan (cost) has almost doubled in the last five years," said Tucker, noting that some employees think the state shouldn't stop with a smoker's surcharge. "It's been very controversial, just targeting the smokers, when obesity is a much larger health problem for so many people." A growing number of states are imposing smoker surcharges on their employees, including neighboring states like Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Alabama. Haile balked at the idea of an obesity surcharge, although he pointed out that the state does offer discounts for employees to join local health clubs and weight loss groups like Weight Watchers. For more information about the state's stop- smoking incentives, visit the state employees Quitters' Corner: The state also offers stop-smoking help for anyone looking to quit, through the Tennessee Tobacco Quitline:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Two-alarm condo fire displaces nearly a dozen families

WKRN NEWS Channel 2 News The Red Cross is assisting at least 10 families after several condos in a south Nashville complex caught fire late Sunday night. Firefighters responded to the two alarm fire at the Kingswood Condominiums on Selena Drive off Thompson Lane around 11 p.m. When they arrived on scene, about half of the building was engulfed in flames. Fire officials had difficulty reaching the building on fire because it was located on a one lane dead end road. "Half the building was fully involved and other parts, there's only one way in here and one way out. Then you've got residents coming in and residents trying to get out, so it's a traffic problem," District Chief Buddy Byers of the Nashville Fire Department told News 2. One of the victims said she woke up to find her patio furniture on fire and a witness told News 2 that in all the commotion, a neighbor used a ladder to rescue a mother and son trapped on a balcony. No one was injured but two cats perished in the blaze. Fire crews contained the fire to one half of the building. The other half of the building sustained water damage. The cause of the fire is under investigation. It is unclear exactly where the fire originated, though fire officials said it probably began in the front part of the building since it received the most damage.

Jury selection underway in trial of 'Wooded Rapist'

WKRN NEWS Channel 2 April 27, 2009
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Jury selection is underway Monday in the trial of the man suspected of being the serial rapist dubbed the "Wooded Rapist." Robert "Jason" Burdick is accused of raping more than a dozen women in Davidson, Williamson and Wilson counties.
He was arrested last May.
Burdick will go on trial this week for the November 2007 rape of a 61-year-old Donelson woman. Police allege Burdick broke into the women's home on Fairbrook Drive in the early morning hours of November 19 and raped her.
40 potential jurors were interviewed Monday morning and a jury could be seated by Monday evening.
Burdick faces charges in the following attacks:
Davidson County: 1994: Breaking into a home on Franklin Pike and raping a 38-year-old woman in the early morning hours of March 1. 1998: Breaking into a home on Otter Creek Road and raping a 22-year-old woman in the early morning hours of November 20. 1998: Breaking into a home on Priest Road and attempting to rape a 36-year-old woman in the early morning hours of December 29. 1999: Breaking into a home on Reagan Run and raping a 45-year-old woman in the early morning hours of September 9. 2000: Breaking into a home on Tusculum Road and raping a 29-year-old woman in the early morning hours of February 18. 2005: Breaking into a home on Otter Creek Road and attempting to rape a 26-year-old woman in the early morning hours of June 28. 2006: Attempting to rape of a woman in the yard of her Otter Creek Road home on August 10. 2007: Raping a 61-year-old woman in her Fairbrook Drive home on November 19.
Williamson County: 1999: Breaking into a home in the Mooreland Estates subdivision in Brentwood and raping a 48-year-old woman and her 16-year-old daughter on the evening of March 31. 1999: Breaking into a home in the Foxland Hall subdivision and raping a 17-year-old girl in the early morning hours of November 2. 2004: Breaking into a home in the Meadowlake subdivision and raping a 46-year-old woman on the afternoon of November 4.
Wilson County: 2008: Raping a 16-year-old girl outside her home off Highway 109 in Mt. Juliet on February 1.

Nashville crime log for April 19

Nashville crime log for April 20

Nashville crime log for April 21

Nashville Crime Log April 22

Church's cash found with teen, police say

Tennessean April 27,2009 NASHVILLE An alarm at a miniature golf course led Metro Police to a man accused of burglarizing a South Nashville church Friday. Officers checking on the golf business on Blue Hole Road spotted a man with shards of glass on his shirt, according to a news release. Police searched his backpack and found $1,271 in cash and a flashlight bearing the name of the nearby Lighthouse Baptist Church. A note on the cash had the name of the church's finance director written on it. The officers checked on the church and found that it had been burglarized. According to the release, the man they stopped, Tevin Dajuan Taylor, 18, admitted to the burglary. He remained in jail Saturday.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Area residents can bring old, unwanted equipment to Dell's Nashville campus WHO:Mayor Karl Dean, Metro Public Works and employees of Dell Inc. WHAT:Free computer recycling event for Nashville-area residents WHEN:Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. WHERE:Dell's Nashville Campus, One Dell Parkway (near intersection of Murfreesboro Road and Donelson Pike)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Country Music Marathon to draw thousands

WKRN Channel 2 News April 22, 2009 12:01 PM CDT NASHVILLE, Tenn. - More than 30,000 runners and 100,000 spectators are expected in Nashville this weekend for the 10th Annual Country Music Marathon and 1/2 Marathon. Adam Zocks, general manager for the Country Music Marathon, predicts a record number of participants in 2009. "The kid's race is bigger than ever, the half is bigger than ever, the marathon is about the same," he told News 2. "We're going to be pushing about 35,000 this weekend." Zocks said the marathon will be bigger than in 2008 but by how much is not yet known since participants can register at the marathon's Health an Fitness Thursday and Friday. The expo, held at the Nashville Convention Center in downtown, will feature more than 100 exhibitors with the latest in sports apparel, health and nutritional information and more. It is free and open to the public. Zocks said the marathon growth is "great to see", especially in the tough economy. "We had some concerns this year with the economy and everything going on in the country. We were slow for a while. I guess people just waited longer than usual and really made that decision on how they're going to spend their money," he said. Centennial Park will once again be the start of the race. Runners will cross the finish line at LP Field. Several changes to the course were made this year. "We'll run past the Symphony Center and the [Country Music] Hall of Fame and the Frist Center and all the great landmarks of Nashville," said Zocks. "It's nice to do that again." Marathon officials say they're prepared for any weather forecast. For Saturday, it looks warm. Sunny skies are in the forcast, with highs in the low 80s. "We're prepared for any weather conditions [and] always have everything we need, plenty of water, sports drink, got the spray stations ready to go when it starts to warm up. We'll be prepared to take care of our runners," said Zocks. To accommodate the marathon, roads will be closed throughout Music City on Saturday. West End Avenue, from 31st Avenue to 21st Avenue, will close at 3 a.m. Saturday and reopen at 9 a.m. West End, from 21st Avenue to 16th Avenue will close at 6 a.m. and reopen at 8:30 a.m. Broadway, from 16th Avenue to 4th Avenue will be closed from 6 a.m. to 9 am. The marathon will also impact interstate traffic. The following off-ramps will be closed in both directions beginning at 6:15 a.m. I-40 to Broadway, will reopen at 9 a.m. I-40 to Demonbruen Street, will reopen at 9:30 a.m. I-65 to Rosa Parks Boulevard, will reopen at 1:30 p.m. In 2008, organizers said the marathon added $20.2 million to Nashville's economy and generated some $3.4 million in tax revenues. 60% of last year's runners came from outside the Nashville area. Visit for complete details.

GM to shut many U.S. plants up to 9 weeks

WkRN Channel 2 News April 22, 2009 06:37 PM CDT Automaker General Motors will close most of its plants nationwide this summer for up to nine weeks because of slumping sales and growing inventories of unsold vehicles. While the exact dates of the shutdowns were not known, they will be part of the normal two-week closure in July to change from one model year to the next. The closures are expected to be staggered from Mid-May to Mid-July. GM has not said which assembly plants will be impacted.The company may not make an official announcement until Friday, but workers will be informed first. Thousands of employees could be laid off, but would still receive most of their pay. The summer closures could have a huge impact in Middle Tennessee. GM operates an assembly plant in Spring Hill. The plant employs around 3,400 workers and makes the Chevy Traverse. The facility underwent a nearly $700 million upgrade two years ago and is one of GM's newer plants. Spring Hill employees already lost many weeks of work. The plant shut down before Christmas and didn't reopen until February 2009. GM's decision to close some of its plants could also impact about 16,000 employees at a plant in Warren, Michigan, and another plant in Lordstown, Ohio which employs about 2,700 workers.The shutdown could also have devastating effects for auto parts suppliers already near bankruptcy because of previous production cuts. GM is living on $13.4 billion in government loans and faces a June 1 deadline to restructure or seek bankruptcy protection. Stay tuned to News 2 for updates on this developing story

Senate passes bill to ban texting while driving

WKRN Channel 2 News April 23, 2009 11:15 AM CDT NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Senate has passed a proposal that would ban reading or sending cellular phone text messages while driving. The measure sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican, was approved 22-6 on Thursday. The bill would impose a $50 fine for reading or writing text messages while driving. Opponents argue that law enforcement may not be able to tell whether drivers are texting or dialing and that texting is already covered under the state's distracted driving law. The companion bill is scheduled to be voted on by the full House on Monday. (Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Drug bust leads police to stolen jewelry

WKRN Channel 2 news NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Police in Nashville arrested a UPS supervisor Tuesday night after finding drugs and an estimated $15,000 worth of stolen jewelry in his car. Officers received a tip Tuesday night of a car parked outside a business on Dana Way in Antioch with marijuana inside. While an officer on the scene was gathering information, the car's owner, Richard Traughber, a UPS supervisor, was dropped off by a UPS truck driver. During a subsequent search of Traughber's car, authorities found several containers of marijuana, various pills and a digital scale in addition to jewelry, including Rolex watches, rings and necklaces totaling approximately $15,000 inside the car. Traughber, 31, admitted he pawned items stolen from UPS packages in the past. UPS security personnel confirmed the packages were missing and said the insurance claims were already paid out on the packages. Traughber is charged with three counts of felony drug possession, theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is being held in lieu of $37,000 bond.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New BlueCross unit in Nashville to bring 60 jobs

Metro, Nissan are among its clients By Getahn Ward • THE TENNESSEAN • April 22, 2009 BlueCross BlueShield said it opened a member benefits administration unit office in Nashville this week, a move that should expand its staff here by 60 people. The state's largest health insurer, based out of Chattanooga, already employed 100 people at its Nashville offices off West End Avenue. Employees being added with the new unit here will include claims processors consumer advisors, research associates and analysts that would administer member benefits for the State of Tennessee, Nissan, Metro government and Metro teachers accounts, BlueCross said in a prepared statement. The expansion is designed to help the insurer to attract staff for current and future operations from the growing Nashville market, one of the nation's main health-care hubs, officials said. "This is an exciting opportunity for us," said Venessa Marsh, who oversees member benefits administration operations for the State, Tennessee Valley Authority and Metro accounts in Chattanooga and would manage the new operations in Nashville. Current BlueCross employees will be offered the new positions first, Marsh said. The new unit began operations Monday and the expansion would continue in phases over the coming months, BlueCross said. Member support for TVA will remain in Chattanooga. Before the latest expansion, the 100 employees at BlueCross' Nashville offices worked in areas such as marketing, account management, provider relations, medical review, client services, government relations, long-term care and CoverTN. Commercial operations including member benefits administration were located in Chattanooga and Memphis.

House subcommittee to discuss creation of convention center authority

By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • April 22, 2009 A bill that would set up an independent authority to build and manage the proposed downtown convention center is moving through the state legislature. A subcommittee is scheduled to hold the House's first hearing this morning on the measure, which would give Metro the power to set up an authority that would build and operate the Music City Center. The hearing comes two weeks after a Senate subcommittee took that chamber's first vote on the measure, unanimously recommending that it pass with an amendment that would prohibit using property taxes to pay for the building. Metro plans to pay for the $595 million building with taxes on hotel rooms and rental cars. The House version will be amended today to add the same prohibition, said Rich Riebeling, Metro's finance director.

Nashville Convention Center plan clears first hurdle

Council gives preliminary approval to buy land By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • April 22, 2009 A critical step in Mayor Karl Dean's downtown convention center plan cleared its first hurdle in stride Tuesday, but a debate in the Metro Council is likely next month. The council unanimously approved a convention center land acquisition bill on the first of three required votes. The bill, now headed to the council's committee system, would allow the Metro Development and Housing Agency to borrow up to $75 million from a group of banks. MDHA would use the money to buy property and relocate businesses in the convention center footprint south of Sommet Center and First Baptist Church. Dean has said it makes sense to start buying the land now and allow more time for the nation's credit markets to thaw, creating a better environment in which to finance the $595 million facility. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a Congressional panel Tuesday that credit still is not flowing like it should be, The New York Times reported. But some council members have said the city can't buy the land unless it intends to build a convention center there. They've said they're not comfortable making that statement without knowing how Metro would pay for the project. "It's very hard for me to support land acquisition without knowing what the financing package is," Councilman Jason Holleman, who is Mt. Juliet's city attorney, said in an interview. Holleman said he is eager to get legal advice from Metro's bond counsel, Bass, Berry & Sims, as to whether the city would be able to keep collecting convention center revenues to repay its bank debt if it decided not to build the facility. If that would be allowed, he said, he might vote for the land purchases. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said he had not received an opinion from Bass, Berry & Sims. Councilman Eric Crafton said the city would have to pledge some kind of tax dollars to help pay off construction debt in case tourism taxes and fees fall short. Though Dean has promised not to use property tax money, sales tax revenues could be used, and it might be necessary to raise property taxes to replace that money in the general fund, Crafton said. "Either way, taxpayers are on the hook," he said, citing documents submitted to the city by Goldman Sachs, an investment bank advising Dean's administration. But Riebeling said Crafton's comments were "completely erroneous and out of context." "There will be ample time for discussion," he said. "There's been no discussion about using sales tax."

Proposal for higher unemployment taxes divides Tenn. House

GOP is concerned that strategy to shore up unemployment trust fund places too great a burden on small businesses By Erik Schelzig • ASSOCIATED PRESS • April 22, 2009 A partisan fight erupted in the House on Tuesday over efforts to shore up Tennessee's unemployment trust fund by raising taxes on businesses. Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, the leadership of the Republican-controlled Senate and state business groups have agreed that increasing the unemployment tax is preferable to triggering a federal takeover of the fund, which could run out of money amid a jobless rate that is approaching 10 percent. A bill advancing in the Senate is meant to stave off bankruptcy for the fund by increasing the amount of an employee's wages subject to the unemployment tax from $7,000 to $9,000 and raise the tax rate by 0.6 percentage points. But Republicans in the closely divided House are balking at the plan. "There's got to be a better way than putting the entire burden on the small-business man, because the result is it's going to run him out of business and lay people off," said House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin. The move, which would increase employers' unemployment taxes by about $110 a year per employee, comes as employers are faced with paying a higher rate brought on by the rapid rise in unemployment claims. About 113,000 people in the state were certified to receive unemployment checks last week, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development said. But supporters nonetheless say higher unemployment taxes are the only way to save the state's unemployment trust fund from bankruptcy. The fund's balance has fallen to $131 million in mid-April from $468 million a year ago, the department said. Jim Brown, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, which advocates for small and independent businesses, said his organization continues to support the governor's tax plan but will hear out negotiations. "The bill, as is, we support because the alternative is worse than not passing it, but there may be ways that they're talking about making it a little better," he said. "We'll look at that if they put ideas on the table." GOP support sought Some lawmakers and business groups had proposed a month ago using some of the money that the state will receive through the federal stimulus plan to put off or reduce the tax increase. Bredesen ruled out that option, saying it would do little more than push the need to take action back by a few months. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner says his members are willing to support the tax increase, but only if a significant number of Republicans vote for it, too. Republicans hold a 19-14 advantage in the Senate and a one-seat majority in the House. "This is the right thing to do," said Turner, of Old Hickory. "The feds could come in and make it a lot worse." "Occasionally you have to do things you're not comfortable with," he said. "I think their goal is to use this against us in election campaigns." Casada said his resistance is not a political ploy. "Mike needs to quit worrying about politics and worry more about public policy," he said. "I told him that some of us just have heartburn about this." House Republicans want to look at what other states are doing before resorting to the tax increase on employers, Casada said. "Here I am in a position saying, 'I don't like what we're doing, but I don't have an answer.' And I don't like where I am," Casada said. "We're not going to be obstinate, we're not going to hold it hostage, it's not a political thing."

Alarmed homeowners question county tax reappraisals

Amid slumping market, many wonder how their property's worth could be on the upswing By Clay Carey • THE TENNESSEAN • April 22, 2009 Like many other Sumner County residents, Aaron Kisner was alarmed by the new, higher value the county government has placed on his home. On the notice he received last week, Kisner's home in Hendersonville was appraised for tax purposes at $166,000 — 15 percent more than it was three years ago. During that time, he said, he's fixed up the lawn a bit but made no major improvements to the home itself. "My initial reaction was, 'I wish,' " said Kisner, 48, who works for an engineering firm. "I told them, 'If you want to buy it at that price, come on over.' " Kisner's skepticism is shared by other homeowners in Davidson and Sumner counties, where land was revalued this year as part of a routine reappraisal that will happen in every Nashville-area county over the next three years. This year, with the housing market slumping, many of those who have been notified question how their property's worth could be on the upswing, and whether the new values are setting the stage for higher taxes. Davidson County homeowners will get their new property value notices in the mail this week, and many can expect increases: In the Sylvan Park area, values went up almost 29 percent; in the neighborhoods around Belmont and Vanderbilt, they are up more than one-third. In Sumner County, property values across the board are up 14.25 percent, property assessor John Isbell said. In more rural areas, the values have increased more slowly — land values were up 12.28 percent in tiny Westmoreland in northeastern Sumner. But in faster-growing areas closer to Nashville, increases were higher. Hendersonville property values are up 19.28 percent. "I was shocked to death. I was astounded," Hendersonville retiree Bill Carney said. The value of his home in the Rolling Acres neighborhood off New Shackle Island Road rose 10 percent from $156,000 to $172,000. "That is ridiculous," Carney said. "I would have to drive no telling how far from my neighborhood to find property selling for $172,000. … I'm floored." The state requires reappraisals every four, five or six years, depending on the county. They are designed to make sure that property values used to calculate tax bills are in line with current trends. In some cases, Isbell said, homes may not be selling for what they were a few months ago, but the adjusted values represent what the land was worth on the first day of 2009. And while land values may have gone down over the past few months, they remain above the levels of three years ago, the last time the county updated its rolls. The reappraisal "has to encompass the growth of 2006 and 2007, as well as part of '08," Isbell said. Appeals are hard to win At the end of a reappraisal, the state issues counties and cities a new certified tax rate. Governments are required to adopt those rates, which are calculated to bring in the same amount of property tax revenue that the existing rate generates. The new certified rate is almost always lower than the existing rate, but that doesn't mean taxes won't go up. Metro increased the rate after each of its last four reappraisals. After Sumner's last full reappraisal in 2003, county commissioners raised the property tax from $2.14 per $100 of assessed value to $2.59. Since Sumner homeowners started getting new property value notices last week, Isbell said, his office has fielded a steady stream of callers and visitors with complaints and concerns. Dozens have already signed up to appeal their values. "We fully expected that, given the temperament," Isbell said. Appeals will be heard in June and July. There may well be more appeals this year in Sumner and elsewhere because of tough economic times, said Steve Nelson, president of Criterion Property Resources, a Brentwood property tax consulting firm. But it isn't likely that there will be more successful appeals. That is because it is hard to show with any authority exactly what the economy did to housing values last year. Hard data on sales lag behind by as much as a year, Nelson said. "You have to prove the economy has done what we know it has done. …You have to prove your case," he said. "People may be feeling pain, but you have to have data to back it up."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Airport disaster drill will look real

WKRN Channel 2 News April 21, 2009 07:59 AM CDT NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Nashville International Airport Tuesday night will conduct a full-scale disaster drill. The drill will look real and travelers and drivers near the airport should not be alarmed when passing by. The drill will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Runway 13-31, located in the northwest corner of the field. Airport officials said the location will allow normal flight operations on the rest of the field. Aircraft, emergency vehicles and other equipment will be visible from the Interstate 40 and Briley Parkway interchange. The airport will simulate an aircraft crash and corresponding emergency response and coordination. Officials stress it is not associated with an actual emergency situation. In addition, travelers should be advised of an ongoing construction project at the airport. The airport's Terminal Access Roadway Improvements Project at the entrance and exits of the airport could cause delays. Workers will be blasting from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, until the end of May. The project is designed to improve traffic conditions on Ring Road, the one-way road that surrounds the airport's short-term and long-term parking lots and gives access to the terminal. Orange barrels and detours are set up, but the detours are narrow and curvy. Officials urge drivers to be cautious driving through the area. Phase I of the project, which began in October, should be completed in the fall. Upon completion, the project will make it easier for drivers to get to and from the airport by both Interstate 40 and Donelson Pike. It will also eliminate the need for drivers to merge and weave through several lanes of traffic on Ring Road. During the construction, travelers can access the parking areas but the cell phone/waiting area is temporarily closed. The terminal entrance off Donelson Pike, near I-40, and the economy parking lot is also temporarily closed. The main airport entrance off Donelson Pike, near the Long-term parking, remains open. Visit the Nashville International Airport Web site for more information.

Crime log for South Davidson County, April 11-15

To see entire listing go to:

Felon arrested in bank robbery

Tellis Williams (METRO POLICE)
By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • April 17, 2009 A convicted felon has been charged with robbing a US Bank on Murfreesboro Pike this week. Tellis Williams, 26, of Cedarcliff Road was caught based on a tip from a citizen about his involvement in the robbery Wednesday at the bank branch inside a Kroger store. FBI agents took him into custody outside an apartment complex Thursday on Arbor Ridge Drive and charged him federally.

Nashville airport drill to look like real thing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A disaster drill at Nashville International Airport will be visible from Interstate 40. Airport officials put out the word so drivers would be aware the event Tuesday evening is a drill and not a real disaster. The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority said the full-scale exercise, designed to test emergency agencies' readiness, would begin at 6 p.m. CDT and last for three hours. Among issues to be evaluated are safety, casualties, injuries, communications and other response components. It is designed to simulate a real aircraft disaster and will include an aircraft, emergency vehicles and other equipment on Runway 13-31, which can be seen from the highway and from a Briley Parkway interchange. Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Youth to build garden for community at East Park

April 21, 2009 (Tennessean) DAVIDSON COUNTY Children who frequent the East Park Community Center will build and plant an organic vegetable garden Saturday as part of Global Youth Service Day, an annual event organized by Youth Service America that allows youth to serve their communities through volunteer service and service-learning. Nashville-based Internet gardening retailer and raised bed manufacturer Urban Garden LLC are donating raised beds for the garden. Members of the Metro BNI Chapter, whose weekly meeting is held at East End Community Center, are providing financial support plus plants, seeds and dirt.

Tennessee House approves guns in parks

Senate action is still needed By Erik Schelzig • ASSOCIATED PRESS • April 21, 2009 Tennesseans with state-issued permits to carry loaded handguns in public would be able to bring their weapons into all state parks and some local parks under bills passed Monday in the House. The chamber voted 71-22 to approve the measure sponsored by Rep. Frank Niceley to require all state parks to allow permit-holders to carry their weapons there. The bill is opposed by the state Environment and Conservation Department, which operates state parks. Commissioner Jim Fyke testified to a House committee earlier in the session that there have been only 21 reported crimes against the more than 100 million visitors to state parks during the past three years. But supporters said they would feel safer if they could bring guns. Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said the proposal would make him feel safer, especially "as the father of a young child who's going to be utilizing the state parks as it starts to warm up." Former House Speaker Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington was one of the 22 Democrats who voted against the guns in state parks bill. He said he worried that handgun permit holders would decide to set up makeshift targets to shoot at. "My concern is what happens to the ricochet? I've been around a whole lot of guns all my life, and I know what happens with them," he told reporters after the vote. "I have a real concern about people taking their guns to these parks and (there are) folks with guns there." Local powers given The separate measure to authorize local governments to decide where to allow guns in public parks passed on a 77-14 vote. Under the measure sponsored by Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville, officials could decide to allow handguns in some areas but not others. "What local governments will have the ability to do is to decide which, if any, of their parks they would like to allow handgun carry permit holders to possess their weapons," Tindell said after the House floor session. "This is not an open season for all citizens to carry guns in parks, it's not an open season to shoot your gun in parks," he said. Tindell said it's not clear how many of the state's 450 municipal or county governments would enact laws to allow guns to be carried in their parks, greenways, ballfields or playgrounds. I think you'll see quite a mix of those that opt in or opt out," he said. The companion bills to both measures are awaiting votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Recycling Day set for April 25

Event takes place at Hermitage Police precinct By Andy Humbles • THE TENNESSEAN • April 15, 2009 A community recycling day, organized by a Leadership Donelson-Hermitage project team, will offer a chance to deal with items you don't know what to do with or get rid of some that are no longer needed. Xtreme Green is the project team organizing the event being held 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Hermitage Police precinct on James Kay Lane. "Recycling in our environment and the world today is a big deal,'' said Xtreme Green chairwoman Kristi Driver. "We thought what could be better than getting this information out and providing this opportunity.'' The recycle day will have bins for standard recyclable items like plastic and cardboard. It will also have a hazardous waste bin for items such as household batteries, cell phones, CFL and fluorescent bulbs and prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. No household paint or paint thinner will be accepted. "We love supporting these events; there is a domino effect when citizens get out and take care of their community,'' said Veronica Frazier, executive director of Metro's Beatification and Environment Commission. The project has several components that have been leading up to the recycle day. Xtreme Green has organized a poster contest for third- and fourth-grade students at 12 schools to help promote the recycling day. Students were asked to draw what recycling means to them with the basic information of the recycling day included so it can be displayed at different business storefronts in Donelson-Hermitage. All participating schools are receiving a desktop computer from Bridgestone-Firestone. Information about recycling and services provided by Metro Public Works will be distributed at the Hermitage Police Precinct. Kroger will provide free reusable grocery bags for participants. Metro Nashville Schools are sending out information on the recycling day through its electronic newsletter that goes to about 5,000 residents, and team members are passing out fliers at the Earth Day event on April 18 in Nashville. Metro Councilman Phil Claiborne is one of the Xtreme Green team members. Kim Troup is the co-chairwoman for the team. Other members are Robin Mason, Rubin Cockrell, Renee Davison, John Lavender, Tara Mielnik and Shawn Tidwell.

Insurance premiums will go up this year

Industry woes spell consumer struggles By KATHY CHU and SANDRA BLOCK • USA TODAY • April 20, 2009 Home, car and life insurance prices are climbing as insurers grapple with lower Investment returns and profits. The cost of a typical auto insurance policy will rise 4 percent to $875 this year, on top of a 3 percent increase last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group. Consumers also will pay more for homeowners insurance: The average policy will jump 3 percent to $841. And term life insurance rates are rising after several years of declines. The price increases come as consumers struggle — the unemployment rate has reached 8.5 percent, and household wealth has plunged with investment portfolios and home prices. In this economy, "Anything that costs more is difficult for consumers," says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. The industry's profits come from insurance policies and investment returns, says Terri Vaughan, chief executive of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That's why, "If your expectations for future investment income are lower, that's going to affect premiums." Insurers collect premiums from consumers and invest the majority in bonds, the rest in stocks. Their portfolios have been under pressure amid volatile stock and bond returns. For instance, yields on ultra-safe Treasury securities — in high demand amid the economic turmoil — plunged in 2008. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average is down 43 percent from its all-time high of 14,165 on Oct. 9, 2007. Treasury securities and stocks have regained some ground recently, however. As the economy weakens, insurance rates could climb further. Insurers "cannot assume that interest rates will be much higher and stock returns much better in the foreseeable future," says Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute. In the life insurance industry, weak profits, higher reserve requirements and increased capital costs are reversing a more than decade-long trend of falling term life prices, says Byron Udell, chief executive of AccuQuote, an online insurance broker. Udell predicts average term life rates will be 5 percent to 10 percent higher at this time next year. Banner Life Insurance raised rates this year, he says. Prudential and ING have notified AccuQuote they'll raise rates in coming weeks. The rate increases — typically 2 percent to 6 percent — are significant because these three insurers are major players that frequently offer lower premiums than their competitors, Udell says.

Companies flood water with drugs

Study: Government overlooks pollution By Jeff Donn, Martha Mendoza and Justin Pritchard • ASSOCIATED PRESS • April 20, 2009 U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water — contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked, according to an Associated Press investigation. Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing processes, including drugmaking. For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder; nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives. Federal and industry officials say they don't know the extent to which pharmaceuticals are released by U.S. manufacturers because no one tracks them — as drugs. But a close analysis of 20 years of federal records found that, in fact, the government unintentionally keeps data on a few, allowing a glimpse of the pharmaceuticals coming from factories. As part of its ongoing PharmaWater investigation about trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, the AP identified 22 compounds that show up on two lists: the EPA monitors them as industrial chemicals that are released into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water under federal pollution laws, while the Food and Drug Administration classifies them as active pharmaceutical ingredients. The data don't show precisely how much of the 271 million pounds comes from drugmakers versus other manufacturers; also, the figure is a massive undercount because of the limited federal government tracking. 'Don't ask, don't tell' To date, drugmakers have dismissed the suggestion that their manufacturing contributes significantly to what's being found in water. Federal drug and water regulators agree. But some researchers say the lack of required testing amounts to a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about whether drugmakers are contributing to water pollution. "It doesn't pass the straight-face test to say pharmaceutical manufacturers are not emitting any of the compounds they're creating," said Kyla Bennett, who spent 10 years as an EPA enforcement officer before becoming an ecologist and environmental attorney. Pilot studies in the U.S. and abroad are now confirming those doubts. Last year, the AP reported that trace amounts of a wide range of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in American drinking water supplies. Including recent findings in Dallas, Cleveland and Maryland's Prince George's and Montgomery counties, pharmaceuticals have been detected in the drinking water of at least 51 million Americans. Most cities and water providers still do not test. Utilities: Water is safe Consumers are considered the biggest contributors to the contamination. People consume drugs, then excrete what their bodies don't absorb. Other times, people flush unused drugs down toilets. The AP also found that an estimated 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated packaging are thrown away each year by hospitals and long-term care facilities. Researchers have found that even extremely diluted concentrations of drugs harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species. Also, researchers report that human cells fail to grow normally in the laboratory when exposed to trace concentrations of certain drugs. Some scientists say they are increasingly concerned that the consumption of combinations of many drugs, even in small amounts, could harm humans over decades. Utilities say the water is safe. Scientists, doctors and the EPA say there are no confirmed human risks associated with consuming minute concentrations of drugs. But those experts also agree that dangers cannot be ruled out.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Crime Stoppers now takes tips sent via text message, Internet

By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • April 18, 2009 Metro police announced changes to its Crime Stoppers program on Thursday with the addition of a Web site,, and an automated system to receive text messages. Prospective tipsters can fill out a form on the Web site or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES) with the word CASH, followed by the information about the crime, police said. In return, they get a tip identification number that can be used to add more information later or ask about the reward if an arrest is made. No names are used, and the tips will be kept confidential, police said. "I am very excited about this new capability because it makes the police department and Crime Stoppers more accessible to a younger generation of citizens who have made cell phone texting part of our daily routines," Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas said in a release. More than 7,600 cases have been cleared with the help of phone calls to the tip line over the last 26 years, according to the police. Tips can still be reported, in English or Spanish, by calling 742-7463 (74-CRIME). The reports through the phone line, text message or Web site submission make tipsters eligible for up to $1,000 in reward money. The Web site will be managed by a board of directors, not the police department.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wilhoite invites Rooker to Discuss Property Reappraisal

As many of you know, it is time for the Davidson County Property Reappraisal. Some of you have already received notices. Please attend the meeting that I have set to be held 6:30pm - Thursday, April 16 - Una Elementary School (in the cafeteria) 2018 Murfreesboro Road. This is an important meeting where Mr. George Rooker and his appointees will be on hand to answer your questions about your tax assessment. Below is Correspondence from Mr. Rooker, Property Assessor. Please attend. Gratefully, Vivian Correspondence from Property Assessor George Rooker Re: Davidson County Property Reappraisal Dear friends - As you are probably aware, Davidson County is going through a property reappraisal. I appreciate the many questions that you probably have about this process. I am very interested in answering your questions thoroughly and listening to your concerns carefully. Please see the broad facts below as a starting point for discussion. Public meetings countywide: Public meetings have been scheduled around the county by many Council Members. If you are unable to make the meeting in your area, please feel free to attend any that will work with your schedule (see schedule below). Each meeting will include a quick, 20-minute power point presentation with Q and A immediately following. Notice mailing datesand property information updated online: My office will mail property reappraisal notices to approximately 260,000 property owners throughout April. The southeastern portion of the county (including Council districts 13, 16, 17, and 26-33) will receive notices around April 10. The northern portion of the county (including Council districts 1-15, excluding 13) will receive notices around April 17. The southwestern portion of the county (including Council districts 18-25, as well as 34 and 35) will receive notices around April 24. Please also see our website for more information, to view your property information specifically after the corresponding mailing date, and to contact my office if you have concerns - go to or call 862-6080. Here are important broad facts to get us started:
  • Why does the Property Assessor's office reappraise homes? To restore fairness. We are required by state law to reappraise property values periodically so the city may distribute the property tax burden fairly.
  • Why do we have a property tax? The property tax funds about half of the city's annual budget, which pays for services - fire and police protection, public schools, parks, corrections, libraries, trash collection, and so on.
  • How do you determine my property's value? Much like when you bought your home, we conduct an appraisal - which means we visit every property in the county to determine if and how the property has changed (or not). Then we compare each property in the area to similar properties in the same area that sold near January 1, 2009 (creating market value)
  • I know my property value has fallen... The reappraisal process happens every four years. The last reappraisal was done in 2005. Most properties in our city gained value throughout 2005, 2006 and part of 2007. Data show us that values have fallen since the summer of 2007, but not enough to outweigh overall gains. At the end of the day, most home values have produced a net gain since 2005.
  • The county may not make a "profit" from the reappraisal process. If the appraisals for the entire county show an increase in overall property values, the property tax rate (the multiplier) is reduced to neutralize the gain. The discussion about the property tax rate continues from there. The Property Assessor's office does not determine the final tax rate.
  • My assessment seems wrong... We want to set your property value correctly and fairly. We encourage you to check our work and inform us of any errors about your home's characteristics (number of bathrooms, for example). Please see the Property Assessor's website to view specific information about your property, and to see information about the process for informal review and appeals.
Please see the Property Assessor's website for more information and to contact us - <> . Thank you for your time and please don't hesitate to contact us if you need more information. George Rooker, Jr.Assessor of Property 615-862-6080

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

IRS office in Nashville is open late to help filers

Tennessean The IRS office in Nashville will extend its hours today and Wednesday to help those filing a federal income tax return or an extension before Wednesday's midnight deadline. The Internal Revenue Service office at 801 Broadway will be open 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Wednesday. The Internal Revenue Service offers free filing and other assistance on its Web site, You can also call toll-free at 1-800-829-1040. There are also free AARP tax preparation centers operating through Wednesday for those 50 and older. Go to to find a center. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites in Middle Tennessee are for those making less than $42,000. To find a center, call 211 or 615-269-4357. U.S. Postal Service officials urge those mailing in returns to mail returns before Wednesday or as early as possible that day. The Postal Service will have workers on hand to collect tax returns until midnight Wednesday in front of the main post office, 525 Royal Parkway in Nashville. Its retail office is open from 6 a.m. until midnight to provide stamp sales and mailing assistance. The automated center can weigh or provide postage if you have a debit or credit card. Postage is 42 cents for the first ounce. Larger envelopes require additional postage. Returns will be returned to sender if postage is insufficient. — JENNY

Mayor tries to sell Metro Council on convention center

Dean says facility would bring jobs, urges land buy By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • April 14, 2009 Mayor Karl Dean took his pitch for a new, $595 million downtown convention center back to the Metro Council on Monday, arguing that "current economic conditions only further underscore the need for this facility." Dean, who asked the council to authorize land acquisition south of Broadway, said construction of the 1.2-million-square-foot facility and an attached hotel would create thousands of jobs and get Nashville back in the thick of the convention industry. He said the city has lost 297 conventions because of the size of its existing facility. "This project will act as our own local stimulus package," the mayor said during an eight-minute address to a joint meeting of two council committees. But some council members said they were worried about the timing and language of Dean's proposal, which stopped well short of including a construction financing plan for the convention center and $40 million worth of parking facilities. Some wondered if they were being asked to approve so much preliminary activity that they wouldn't be able to say no to starting construction later this year. Councilman Jerry Maynard, who represents the entire city, asked if the council could deal with the convention center after completing the Metro budget in June. He acknowledged, however, that a colleague had told him the council can "walk and chew gum at the same time." Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said waiting several months to authorize land acquisition could create costly delays in construction. Dean hopes to open the facility by January 2013, a year when two conventions are already booked. As a crowd of hospitality industry representatives packed the council chamber, Riebeling said the administration's request to the council was "pretty straightforward." "We're not asking you to complete the whole project or fund the whole project (now)," he said. It was the incremental nature of the process that concerned Councilman Mike Jameson, whose district includes the convention center site. Jameson said he worried that council approval of relatively small steps in the process, like land acquisition, could "preordain" the eventual big decision of whether to build. Jameson also noted that a resolution filed by the administration for council approval says the council "has determined that it is in the public interest to construct a new convention center and related facilities." Riebeling noted that the council voted unanimously last year to fund convention center designs and other "pre-development" work. But he said he was open to changing the language. Slow buildup praised In his opening remarks, Dean said the slow buildup makes sense financially and "will ensure this council and the entire city is involved every step of the way." Councilman Ronnie Steine said he appreciated that approach. He said it would have been easy for Dean's administration to drown the council in reams of data and expect approval on a short deadline. "This is being slowly built up in a way that can gather support," Steine said. "They're not taking the easy way out." Steine said he was impressed by the conservative financial projections in Dean's plan. The city's financial advisers on the project said revenues from a series of dedicated, tourist-targeting revenue sources would easily pay off the debt the city would take on to build the convention center. "It's a viable project," said Wayne Placide, managing director of Dallas-based First Southwest Co., which is helping the city put together a financing package. City officials and architects also showed new designs for the proposed facility, talked about tourism's impact on the city and touted their success at pre-selling more than 100,000 hotel room nights based on the promise of a building that isn't anywhere close to existing yet. The mayor, meanwhile, appealed to council members whose constituents are hurting in a recession. "What they must understand — what I'm asking this council to understand — is that this facility is a vital economic development tool for our city that our citizens won't have to pay for but will greatly benefit from, both during its construction and after," Dean said.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nashville Zoo hosts Easter egg hunt

April 10, 2009 Children are invited to Eggstravaganzoo, a family event at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. The organizers expect anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 visitors, making it one of Nashville's largest egg hunts. Those who come will also have a chance to play games and see the animals. Egg hunts are age specific and are spaced out by 30 minutes. They only take several minutes so punctuality is key. Kids are encouraged to bring their own baskets and arrive at least one hour before their age group's egg hunt. All children receive goodie bags no matter how many eggs they retrieve. Eggstravaganzoo is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, 3777 Nolensville Pike. Call 833-1534 ext. 138 for more information.

Titans fans may face $3 ticket tax

Fee would fund LP Field upkeep By Brad Schrade • THE TENNESSEAN • April 10, 2009 Tennessee Titans fans would face a $3 ticket tax for the 2010 season under a proposal to help pay for improvements to LP Field as it ages. The proposal will go before the state legislature and then to the Metro Council later this year for approval. A tax would generate between $2.7 million to $3 million a year to help Metro pay for improvements at the city-owned stadium. In addition to Titans games, the tax would apply to other events at the stadium except for Tennessee State University football games. Steve Underwood, a senior executive vice president with the team, said the money would go to the city to help pay for long-term capital needs at the stadium, such as replacing 70,000 seats. They are expected to last another 10 years, he said. "That project is probably going to cost $20 million," Underwood said. "There needs to be money on hand to pay that when it's done." The team draws about 680,000 fans through the gates each year, and other events such as the CMA Music Festival and the Music City Bowl draw thousands of additional fans. Idea gets good response Underwood delivered the proposal to the Metro Sports Authority finance committee on Thursday. Rusty Lawrence, chair of the committee, said it sounded like a good way to meet some of the needs at the building without going directly to Metro taxpayers. "It seems like a wonderful way in order to assure the long-term viability of that building without it having to come out of Metro's revenues from whatever source," Lawrence said. Mayor Karl Dean declined an interview request made Thursday through his press secretary Janel Lacy. She referred questions to the city's finance director, Rich Riebeling. Riebeling said the administration supports the proposal. The measure would need to pass in the state legislature before it would come to the Metro Council later this fall for approval. He said the tax would help the city spread cost for upkeep at the stadium to people who actually use it. He said about 40 percent of the Titans fans who attend games come from outside Davidson County. Overall, he said, the stadium, which opened in 1999, is in pretty good shape but will need some work as it enters its second decade. "There's nothing structurally wrong," Riebeling said. "There's no other major thing that I know of except the seats." Separately, the Metro Sports Authority finance committee took steps Thursday to hire outside counsel to sort through problems in the city's contract with the Nashville Predators at the Sommet Center. The full Metro Sports Authority must now approve the decision and choose a lawyer. The problems came to light last month when The Tennessean reported that according to a new contract the team was underpaying the city for a $1.75 per ticket surcharge. Under the contract's terms, the team would owe the city about $400,000, which would cover the past two seasons. "The contract says one thing," Lawrence said. "It appears that the intent of the people negotiating the contract was another." Legislation has been drafted to insert language back in the document that would release the Predators from any money owed and would limit the surcharge on lower-priced tickets. The proposed change is 5 percent of the ticket price for tickets up to $37.50, which is the way the old contract read.

Titans fans may face $3 ticket tax

Fee would fund LP Field upkeep By Brad Schrade • THE TENNESSEAN • April 10, 2009 Tennessee Titans fans would face a $3 ticket tax for the 2010 season under a proposal to help pay for improvements to LP Field as it ages. The proposal will go before the state legislature and then to the Metro Council later this year for approval. A tax would generate between $2.7 million to $3 million a year to help Metro pay for improvements at the city-owned stadium. In addition to Titans games, the tax would apply to other events at the stadium except for Tennessee State University football games. Steve Underwood, a senior executive vice president with the team, said the money would go to the city to help pay for long-term capital needs at the stadium, such as replacing 70,000 seats. They are expected to last another 10 years, he said. "That project is probably going to cost $20 million," Underwood said. "There needs to be money on hand to pay that when it's done." The team draws about 680,000 fans through the gates each year, and other events such as the CMA Music Festival and the Music City Bowl draw thousands of additional fans. Idea gets good response Underwood delivered the proposal to the Metro Sports Authority finance committee on Thursday. Rusty Lawrence, chair of the committee, said it sounded like a good way to meet some of the needs at the building without going directly to Metro taxpayers. "It seems like a wonderful way in order to assure the long-term viability of that building without it having to come out of Metro's revenues from whatever source," Lawrence said. Mayor Karl Dean declined an interview request made Thursday through his press secretary Janel Lacy. She referred questions to the city's finance director, Rich Riebeling. Riebeling said the administration supports the proposal. The measure would need to pass in the state legislature before it would come to the Metro Council later this fall for approval. He said the tax would help the city spread cost for upkeep at the stadium to people who actually use it. He said about 40 percent of the Titans fans who attend games come from outside Davidson County. Overall, he said, the stadium, which opened in 1999, is in pretty good shape but will need some work as it enters its second decade. "There's nothing structurally wrong," Riebeling said. "There's no other major thing that I know of except the seats." Separately, the Metro Sports Authority finance committee took steps Thursday to hire outside counsel to sort through problems in the city's contract with the Nashville Predators at the Sommet Center. The full Metro Sports Authority must now approve the decision and choose a lawyer. The problems came to light last month when The Tennessean reported that according to a new contract the team was underpaying the city for a $1.75 per ticket surcharge. Under the contract's terms, the team would owe the city about $400,000, which would cover the past two seasons. "The contract says one thing," Lawrence said. "It appears that the intent of the people negotiating the contract was another." Legislation has been drafted to insert language back in the document that would release the Predators from any money owed and would limit the surcharge on lower-priced tickets. The proposed change is 5 percent of the ticket price for tickets up to $37.50, which is the way the old contract read.

Nashville airport gets $5M in stimulus funds

DAVIDSON COUNTY Nashville International Airport will receive $5 million in federal economic stimulus funds, the Department of Trasnportation announced Wednesday. Airport spokeswoman Emily Richard said Nashville will use its portion to repair the terminal apron — the paved area where aircraft park when loading and unloading passengers. Work on the apron will include replacing a 160,000-square-foot asphalt area with concrete, as well as repairing concrete slabs and other areas. Three other Tennessee airports — McGhee Tyson near Knoxville, Lovell Field in Chattanooga and Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport — also will receive upgrade funds from the legislation signed by President Barack Obama in February. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included $1.1 billion for airport projects.

Nashville loses trusted voice of Dan Miller

Dan Miller, then 44 and chief news anchor for WSMV-Channel 4, left the Nashville TV station to become anchor for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles in 1986. He returned in 1992. ROBERT JOHNSON / FILE / THE TENNESSEAN
Veteran newsman dies at 67
By Gail Kerr and Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • April 10, 2009
DAN MILLER 1941-2009 Dan Miller, the low-key "everyman" news anchor who came across as the funny, kind brother you welcome in your living room each night, died of a heart attack Wednesday night after collapsing in his hometown of Augusta, Ga. He was 67.
Mr. Miller anchored the news on WSMV-Channel 4 for more than three decades, taking it to competition-busting ratings. He left in the 1980s for a short hiatus as a Los Angeles newsman and trusty talk show sidekick to his longtime friend Pat Sajak before returning to Nashville. Visitation with the family is 3 to 6 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. Tuesday at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 3900 West End Ave. Services will be at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the church. Those who knew him, or felt like they did, were stunned Thursday morning as news of his death spread. He had returned to Augusta to see a practice round of the Masters golf tournament with WSMV sportscasters Rudy Kalis and Terry Bulger.
Mr. Miller talked Kalis into going for a walk with him around 11:30 p.m. They were staying about two blocks from Miller's childhood home, and he wanted to scout out the old neighborhood. He collapsed, never regaining consciousness.
Always 'Miller' He was a classic, old-school broadcast journalist who frowned on what he called the "flash and trash" type of local news coverage. His comfortable delivery made him a part of Middle Tennessee's dinner hour. He told viewers the news with accuracy and a calm sense that everything was going to be OK.
"It sounds cliche, but we were best friends, we were big brother and little sister, we were a team," said Demetria Kalodimos, Mr. Miller's co-anchor for more than 20 years. She called him "Miller," always. Never Dan.
"That's how he is on my speed dial. I was just so lucky to sit next to him and learn from him every day. I never admitted it to his face, but I know he knew it. He taught me everything about this business and about what's important. He was just the best."
There is one secret about "Miller" that she will not tell. Their signature "elbow bump" that ended every broadcast "is going to be our secret forever. We both vowed we would never reveal the significance."
The Miller the public saw was a friendly newsman. That's the guy viewers by the hundreds mourned Thursday in comments on
"Few local anchormen in this country have projected as modest an image," wrote Peter Rodman. "It was as if he were simply stopping by to deliver the news, on the way somewhere, but never intending (nor needing) to be the center of attention, at all.
"And yet, that 'Aw, shucks, this is no big deal' manner set him way apart, from anybody else on the air. He delivered the news straight down the middle, and you could hardly tell if he even had a political view — which is how it should be, and too often isn't anymore."
Others were shocked that the mainstay of their evening news would not be there. "My mom called me this morning to tell me," Matthew Frantom posted. " I grew up (on) Dan. For as long as I can remember Channel 4 News was always on our TV. This is really sad news, but I would bet he's in a better place. I'm praying for his family as they grieve. God bless." The private Dan Miller was actually rather shy. He loved his wife, Karen; his kids; banana pudding; and Rotier's cheeseburgers.
Friends remember his dry sense of humor. "Anyone who ever laughed with Dan really got the best," Kalodimos said. "If he got to laughing about something, he had a very sweet, infectious, sincere, darling kind of laugh." Though he was well over 6 feet tall, Mr. Miller drove a tiny Toyota Echo that stayed filthy. Colleagues said it was like watching a clown crawl out at the circus every day when he came to work. He also was quite proud of the world's ugliest pickup truck, which friends clamored to borrow when something needed moving.
Won viewers' hearts Mr. Miller first went on the air in Nashville at what was then WSM-TV as a weatherman in 1969. He began anchoring the NBC affiliate's evening news in 1971. His kind tone made him the city's most popular, and most trusted, local news broadcaster. Many feel as if they grew up with him — he is an intricate part of Nashville's landscape. He was as much a part of the dinner hour as meat and potatoes.
From 1980 to 1993, the popular anchor began a half-hour weekly late night talk show, called Miller and Company, which originated from a restaurant booth set. His first guest was Southern rock star Charlie Daniels.
"He's a good one gone," Daniels said Thursday. "He's good people, and very much an icon in the news world in Nashville."
The conversational style, with Mr. Miller's folksy questions, made the show a hit both with audiences and guests clamoring to be on it. One Christmas, he stunned a delighted viewership by showing videotape of a crackling, glowing fireplace log for 30 minutes.
"It was one of the shows you wanted to do," said country legend Vince Gill. "He was really good at making you feel at ease, asking you questions you felt were important. He didn't take up a lot of space. That's a great credit to him as a person."
Mr. Miller left Channel 4 in 1986 to take a job at KCBS, the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles. Not because the market and salary were bigger — which they were — but because "it's the double-A ballplayer who gets a shot at the majors. You may not ever become a 20-year legend, but you want to be able to tell your grandchildren you gave it a shot."
He was taken off the air a year later in what was described as a management housecleaning. With two years left on his contract, Miller described it as "television purgatory." That ended in 1989, when he joined The Pat Sajak Show as the emcee and announcer. In one memorable episode, Mr. Miller spent the entire 90-minute show wearing a giant fuzzy pink bunny costume. Sajak worked at WSM-TV from 1972 to 1975 as the weatherman, and the two remained friends over the years. Sajak remains host of the popular Wheel of Fortune game show. "I knew Dan since 1972, and we saw each other through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, romantic crises, and more professional and personal ups and downs than any pair of grown-up males should have had," Sajak wrote in an e-mail Thursday. "But mostly, we laughed. We laughed at everything and everyone, but mainly at ourselves and each other." -->(4 of 5) The show drew decent ratings but was canceled in the spring of 1990. triggerAd(4,PaginationPage,12); When Mr. Miller first left Nashville, the station manager at Channel 4 told him he was welcome back to the anchor chair at any time. He did just that, rejoining WSMV's Scene at Six on Jan. 1, 1992. He described it as "like going back home after being away for a while. It just felt like where I was supposed to be." Earned peers' respect Colleagues, competitors and leaders respected the Emmy-award-winning Mr. Miller. "He had such a tremendous impact on so many young journalists," said John Seigenthaler, a former NBC anchor who started his reporting career at WSMV. "There is no question that he was one of the best anchors in the country," Seigenthaler said. "He was a great communicator. Even if they didn't know him, everybody felt like he was their friend and they trusted him. There's no bigger compliment for a broadcast journalist. No matter what the news was, he made you feel like everything is going to be OK." Gov. Phil Bredesen said Mr. Miller was "a constant light. It's the kind of role of an anchor person that is getting too rare in this country. I thought very, very highly of him. His calm voice and authoritative way he dealt with the news was exactly what was needed. It's very sad to see someone leave life right in the prime of it the way that he did." Elden Hale, vice president and general manager of WSMV, said Mr. Miller "was a terrific human being. He loved people, understood people and he was an excellent journalist." Ken Smith, news director of WZTV-Channel 17, worked with Mr. Miller for five years at Channel 4, after growing up watching him. "He made me want to be in TV news," Smith said. "He was larger than life. He was unflappable. The control room would be going crazy, and you never knew it." Former WTVF-Channel 5 anchor Chris Clark and current WKRN-Channel 2 anchor Bob Mueller joined Mr. Miller as being the three most recognizable news men in Middle Tennessee at one point. "We were competitors, but Dan and I thought that our colleagues took that more seriously than we did," Clark said. "He was such a nice guy, a comforting figure. Dan made you feel like everything would be OK." -->(5 of 5) Mueller said in the 30 years he knew Mr. Miller, "he was very hard to beat. Dan Miller was simply the best at what he did. His style was so watchable. He didn't read you the news, he told you the news." triggerAd(5,PaginationPage,7); Kalodimos chuckled through tears when reminded of what her longtime partner had said four years ago, upon the death of The Tonight Show's Johnny Carson. "Without meeting him," Mr. Miller told The Tennessean, "we all knew him. We knew him better than some of our own relatives. For 30 years he would tell us good night every night. And no matter where life took you, he was a constant. He was always there." That hit home for Kalodimos. "He was talking about himself." Besides his wife, Miller is survived by daughters McKensie, Darcy Lashinsky and Jennifer Blumenthal; son, Stephen; sisters Debee Stayner and Sara Harper; brother, Lynwood; and three grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Martha O'Bryan Center or Circle Players.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Play Ball!!!! Sounds Baseball that is...............

"Take me out to the ball game! Take me out to the crowd!" Yes District 29 family the Nashville Sounds season opener will be Thursday, April 9, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. Come out and see the new and improved Nashville Sounds stadium (which is great by the way) while enjoying a great baseball game with lots of fun and excitement! "Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks, I don't care if I never get back!" See you at the game. Gratefully, Vivian

Briefs: Funds available to pay for utilities -Tennessean

The Metropolitan Action Commission has funding to help income-eligible families with electricity and natural gas payments. Metro Action received an additional $3.1 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in December. The additional funding will allow the agency to more than double the amount of families receiving help with energy payments, according to a release from the agency. Last year, the agency helped 5,993 families. As of yesterday, the agency had assisted more than 10,000 customers with electricity or natural gas payments. The agency expects to serve more than 13,000 this year. Energy assistance applications are available at all public libraries, the Nashville Electric Service and accessible on the Metro Action Web site ( Customers may bring the applications to the Metro Action office from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Completed applications may also be mailed to: Metro Action, 1624 5th Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37208. Metro Action receives federal LIHEAP funds from a pass through grant from the Tennessee Department of Human Services. Census takers hit the streets April 13 April 1 marked one year to Census Day, and the Census Bureau is set to launch its first major on-the-ground operation in Tennessee to prepare for the nationwide count in spring 2010. Beginning Monday, April 13, more than 3,000 census workers will go block-by-block across Tennessee to develop a correct and complete address list. This operation will continue through mid-summer. The updated address list will be used to deliver 2010 Census questionnaires next March. More than 140,000 address listers will knock on doors across America in the address canvassing operation. William W. Hatcher, regional director at the Charlotte Regional Census Center, said the address list developed in 2009 is the cornerstone of a good census in 2010. Census results are used to determine the number of congressional seats for each state, the shape of legislative and local government districts, and how $300 billion in federal funds are distributed annually to communities across America. Address listers will use handheld computers that capture GPS information as they comb the streets and knock on doors to verify an address and inquire about additional living quarters on the premises. Census workers also can be identified by their official U.S. Census Bureau badge or by calling a local census office. Census workers never ask for bank or Social Security information. All census employees take an oath of confidentiality and face a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison for violating that oath. The Census Bureau has opened three local census offices in Tennessee to support the address canvassing. The Nashville office can be reached at 234-5740. Sage Awards taking nominations The Council on Aging of Greater Nashville is accepting nominations for the 2009 Sage Awards. The awards are given to several older adults who have contributed to the quality of life in their community throughout the course of their lives. The deadline is May 1 to nominate an individual or couple for this honor. The 18th annual Sage Awards Luncheon will be held at noon Sept. 24 in the Curb Event Center Atrium at Belmont University . Individuals and companies interested in becoming a patron or sponsor of the 18th Annual Sage Awards Luncheon should e-mail Donna Kumar or call 353-4235. For more information about the Sage Awards, or to nominate, visit or call 353-4235. Free ice cream for Tax Day MaggieMoo's Ice Cream & Treatery has announced that on Wednesday, April 15, participating stores nationwide will reward customers with one free single-scoop of ice cream in honor of Tax Day. The nationwide ice cream social will take place throughout the day. For more information, visit

4-year-old saves family from fire

Child learned safety from Bethlehem Centers By Andy Humbles • THE TENNESSEAN • April 8, 2009 Andy Humbles / The Tennessean Ayize Al-Qadir, left, stands by Tara Hurdle, Bethlehem Centers Child Development supervisor and teacher of 3- and 4-year-olds. It's hard for most people to remember much when they were 4 years old. But Ayize Al-Qadir probably won't forget the February night he helped get his family out of a burning house they had just began renting in North Nashville. "It was red,'' Ayize said of the fire, his eyes bulging as if he was still looking at it even several weeks later. Ayize, his 2-year-old brother Malik, an older sister Raphaela Evans-El, 20, and their father Rashid Al-Qadir, 51, were staying the night in the home at 1815 Underwood St. The house was being fixed up for the family to rent. The family had only been in the home a couple of days and had come from staying in a hotel. "The house is on fire! The house is on fire!,'' Ayize remembers yelling to his father, and then hitting him in the chest when he saw the blaze. Ayize had felt ill that night and he and Malik slept with their father in one room, with their sister in another. "Ayize woke me up and the fire was in the bedroom, running straight up the wall,'' Rashid said. "I'll never forget the heat. I could literally see the baby's (Malik) skin peel off his forehead. And the flames were crayon red.'' Rashid used a coat to cover his face and got Ayize to Raphaela, who also had awakened, and they got out of the house. Then Rashid went back to get Malik out of the home. Raphaela helped put out flames on Rashid's clothes. Rashid had some bad blisters on his feet, and Malik was burned on his forehead, but otherwise the family had no major injuries. The left side of the home was burned through the roof, and the family lost most of their belongings and clothes in the fire. Raphaela is a student at Tennessee State University and lost her books and laptop computer in the fire. The fire was ruled accidental because of items left too close to a kerosene heater, said Charles Shannon of the Nashville Fire Department. There was nothing suspicious about the fire. Ayize has been enrolled in the Bethlehem Centers of Nashville Child Development preschool program on Charlotte Avenue downtown. Rashid credited the Bethlehem Centers program with helping Ayize recognize the fire and how to make an alert. The Bethlehem Centers program has monthly fire drills and talks about fire safety with the children, said Tara Hurdle, Child Development supervisor and the 3- and 4-year-old teacher where Ayize is placed. Al-Qadir's family returned to a hotel immediately after the fire with help from the Red Cross. Most recently they have been renting in East Nashville at deadline for this story. "We're looking for a place in North Nashville when we get enough money to move,'' Al-Qadir said.

Bell Road to close temporarily over Percy Priest Dam

Bell Road over J. Percy Priest Dam will be closed 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., both Wednesday and Thursday because of work scheduled at the dam. The work is not related to any dam safety issues, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A water quality valve is being installed on the downstream side of the dam. The road will be closed going both directions. - ANNE PAINE

Economy sends more people to therapy

Anxious Tennesseans fear losing their jobsBy Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN • April 8, 2009 Anxious, depressed and stressed-out Tennesseans are turning to the mental health system in droves to cope with the emotional toll of the economic downturn. "Anxiety is going through the roof," said Dr. Thomas Lavie, medical director of the Vanderbilt Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, which has seen a surge of new patients reporting mood disorders, panic attacks, insomnia and other problems stemming from their fears about their jobs, their ability to provide for their families and their economic future. They're not alone. Eighty percent of Americans named the economy as a significant source of stress in their lives, in a September survey by the American Psychological Association. Tennessee's unemployment rate hit 9.1 percent in February, and while 89.9 percent of us are still employed, it's hard to find anyone who hasn't wondered — and worried — whether their workplace might be the next one hit by layoffs. "More people are scheduling therapy," said Carlton Cornett, a Nashville-based licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. "Our most basic need in life is security … when your job is threatened, or you lose your job, that's a frontal assault on your sense of security, your sense of self-worth, your perception of your ability to provide for your loved ones." Until recently, he said, it seemed that more people were canceling therapy sessions, viewing counseling as a luxury they couldn't afford. Now, with stress levels rising, more patients seem to see therapy and counseling as a near-necessity. "They're just feeling so bad, whether it's a luxury or not, they had to do it," he said. And all that stress is taking its toll. The same survey found more people reporting stress-related physical and emotional problems in 2008 than the year before. Reports of exhaustion, irritability, sleeplessness and anger all jumped about 50 percent over the previous year's survey. At the Mental Health Association of Tennessee, calls are pouring in from callers who have lost their jobs and are struggling with the financial and emotional toll. Some 44 percent of callers have no insurance to help cover the cost of mental health treatment. And it's not just the newly unemployed who are calling in for help. "For the first time in several years, over the past few months we have also received several calls from individuals who are experiencing anxiety over working in an environment in which layoffs are occurring, even if that individual's job is directly not affected," said Noel Riley-Philpo of the Mental Health Association of Tennessee. People are worried about finding work or keeping their job. They're watching retirement savings bleed away in the stock market. They're dogged by overdue bills, creditors' calls and looming mortgage payments. For many, that stress builds up into feelings of anger, fear and anxiety. "About once a day, I see a patient who is expressing concerns or fears about the pending loss of a job, either them or their spouse," said Nashville psychiatrist Dr. Greg Kyser. Some miss payments For the patients he was already seeing, economic concerns on top of the issues they were dealing with have become "an added source of stress." Adding to counselors' stress is the fact that a growing number of patients are having trouble paying their bills or missing payments, said Kyser, past president of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association. In some instances, Kyser and his patients are working out payment plans. So what's a therapist to do when a patient comes to him, worried about the economy? He can't do anything about the stock market or the jobless rate. Kyser finds himself writing more prescriptions for drugs like Prozac to help patients ride out the ups and downs. For Cornett, the downturn is an opportunity to help people see that there is more to life than where they work and what they earn. Therapy "gives them a place to come and talk about their sense of failure, their sense that they are not of value to anybody if they can't provide for their families. For a long time, there's been a sense in our society that your only value is how much you work, how much you make," Cornett said. "There are a lot of things more important than work. There are the people we love, there's staying engaged, there's having a support network of friends and people who are important to us."