Ear to the Ground: Downtown Draw

Downtown Draw

The East Tennessee History Museum is struggling to open a major permanent exhibit of local history, potentially a huge draw for downtown, since Knox County has reneged on its financial commitment.

The state of Tennessee contributed $2.5 million for the exhibit and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale committed $200,000 two years ago to finish it. The museum normally gets $30,000 from the county; Knox County owns the building and it houses the McClung Collection and other library materials.

Not only did the county not come through with the $200,000, the citizens panel that recommended grant funding this year did not include the museum's normal $30,000 appropriation. Staffers are working overtime to try and complete the exhibit while board members are scrambling to find additional funds.

Contract Delay Sought

Awarding a contract to operate Knox County's mulch facility may be delayed as County Commissioners are hearing more and more objections, and Democratic attorney Don Bosch and Republican Susan Williams, who often cross swords on WBIR's Inside Tennessee, have joined forces against the project.

Randy Greaves, whose company has the City of Knoxville mulch operation, has filed a protest with the county purchasing department over its recommendation that National Resource Recovery be awarded a new contract to operate the county mulch operation. Greaves lost the bid. NRR is recommended for a 10-year contract, although they are being sued over the current operation they have run for five years. They have not paid the county any royalties on the operations, citing a decision by the Solid Waste Department not to require it.

Knox County Commission is scheduled to vote on the new contract at its next meeting, though Greaves attorney Bosch and public relations executive Williams are lobbying to delay awarding the contract until the lawsuit is resolved. A private citizen has sued NRR and the county Law Department has hired attorney Dean Farmer to join in and prosecute the suit on behalf of the county.

Sloppy List

Some local investors in IdleAire must have been puzzled by a recent list of stockholders in the bankrupt company—their names didn't appear. Last week the company amended the list to include half again as many names as previously released.

Locals in the financial industry do not suspect a conspiracy, but speculate the company was sloppy keeping up with the names and addresses of stockholders, because it had become apparent months ago their money was gone.

Names we expected to see on the earlier list (a Who's Who of Knoxville) who are on the new list include News Sentinel publisher Bruce Hartmann, whose oversight also extends to Metro Pulse; former University of Tennessee athletic director Doug Dickey; Goody's CEO Bob Goodfriend; and Turkey Creek developer John Turley.

Agee Unfettered

UT professor Michael Lofaro's unexpurgated version of James Agee's famous Knoxville-based novel, A Death In the Family, has been abused by some critics, but New York-based author Will Blythe, former literary editor for Esquire, wrote a rave about it in this week's New York Times Book Review, a full-page essay called "Agee Unfettered." Blythe says he prefers the new, longer version to the one that won the Pulitzer for Agee, posthumously, in 1957. "This tidying is good in its own right, but the main reason to celebrate the publication of this version is that it serves as a fresh reminder of the wondrous nature of his prose—unabashedly poetic, sacramental in its embrace of reality, and rhythmical as rain on a Tennessee tin roof."

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