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VOL. 122 | NO. 136 | Monday, July 23, 2007

Daily Digest

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Magnolia Homes Begins Work On Winstead Farms Property

     Local development and construction company Magnolia Homes Inc. has bought eight residential lots in Lakeland's Winstead Farms for $597,700. The lots are among 57 the company will develop into homes in the neighborhood.
     The seller was Winstead Farms LLC.
     Magnolia financed the purchase with a $2.9 million construction loan through Regions Bank.
     Winstead Farms is a 116-lot mixed use development on 77.44 acres. The property, which is across from Lakeland City Hall and has an entrance on U.S. 70, also has three lots for future commercial use, according to plans filed with the Shelby County Register of Deeds' office this month.
     Magnolia Homes did not develop the subdivision, but helped with the design, landscaping and assembling the builder group, said Magnolia vice president Reggie Garner Jr. Magnolia will build out 57 of the lots, while the 59 other lots will be divided between Kenny Cook Construction, Harrell Homebuilders Inc. and Rivercrest Homes, Garner said.
     Winstead Farms' amenities include a pool, kids' park with water sprinklers, trails, a fishing lake and jogging paths through the woods.
     The subdivision is about a mile and a half away from Cool Springs, another Magnolia Homes development.

Commission Looks at Repealing Adult-Business Ordinance

     An ordinance regulating sexually oriented businesses will have its second reading before the Shelby County Board of Commissioners' Land Use, Planning, Transportation and Codes committee today at 9:15 a.m.
     If passed, the new ordinance would repeal an earlier ordinance, Ordinance No. 81, and adopt the state's Adult-Oriented Establishment Registration Act of 1998 in Shelby County.
     The committee also will vote on a joint ordinance by the city of Memphis and the Shelby County Board of Commissioners amending the joint existing building code of Memphis and Shelby County.
     All committee meetings will be held in the fourth-floor conference room at the Shelby County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. The full commission meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. in the building's first-floor chambers.

State Unemployment Rate Drops to Lowest Since 2000

     Tennessee's unemployment rate for June was 4.1 percent, down from the seasonally adjusted May rate of 4.7 percent, commissioner of labor and workforce development James Neeley announced Thursday.
     The national unemployment rate for June was 4.5 percent, the same as May.
     "Tennessee's June unemployment rate of 4.1 percent hasn't been this low since December of 2000," Neeley said in a statement. "From June 2006 to June 2007 employment grew 2.3 percent according to the household survey. Between May and June of 2007 there was a decrease in the number of people looking for work."
     The May-to-June business survey shows leisure/hospitality employment increased by 4,700 jobs, employment in professional and business services increased by 2,400 jobs and construction employment increased by 2,300 jobs.
     Seasonal month-to-month employment decreases took place in local government educational services, down 16,900 jobs, and employment in private educational services decreased by 2,600.
     From June 2006 to June 2007, leisure and hospitality jobs increased by 8,100, construction jobs increased by 7,500 and educational and health services employment increased by 7,100.
     Significant employment decreases occurred in manufacturing jobs, down 11,200 from a year ago. Clothing and clothing accessories stores employment decreased by 1,100.

Memphians Charged With Filing Bogus Katrina Claims

     Two Memphis residents have been charged with filing bogus claims for Hurricane Katrina relief.
     Cynthia Yvonne Grice, 38, and Jonnie McGowan Jr., 41, are charged with lying about living in Mississippi or Louisiana while seeking financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. attorney's office in Memphis said Thursday.
     Grice is charged with one count of trying to defraud a federal agency while McGowan is charged with five counts in indictments returned Tuesday, the prosecutor's office said.
     Each charge carries a maximum punishment upon conviction of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Personal Bankruptcy Rate Remains High in State

     Several regions in the Southeast continue to see elevated numbers of consumer bankruptcy cases, a phenomenon some experts attribute in part to local culture.
     Bankruptcy numbers over the past few months appear to be slowing down or leveling off in many regions. More than 73 percent of the nation's federal court districts saw bankruptcy filings drop between May and June, according to Jupiter eSources, a company that tracks bankruptcy data. But bankruptcies continue to climb or remain elevated in the three highest-filing states in the country - Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.
     In Tennessee, 5.8 residents out of every 1,000 file for bankruptcy on an annual basis, compared with the national average of 2.52 per 1,000.
     Some experts have said the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 may have little effect on filing rates in states with chronically high bankruptcy rates. Economic and social factors such as low-paying jobs and high divorce rates often lead to financial hardship, but local bankruptcy experts say the sheer frequency of filings may also be whittling down the social stigma of filing.
     There is no direct way to measure stigma, but its presence can be calculated through other social behavior, according to scientists. A 2006 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City found certain social characteristics, including divorce rates, poverty and even religion, can affect a population's stigma toward filing.
     The study also found that access to legalized gambling is an important determinant of bankruptcy filings. The farther a county is from a casino, the lower its personal-bankruptcy filing rate is likely to be.
     Gambling isn't legal in Tennessee, but residents are known to trek to Tunica casinos. Shelby County has the highest bankruptcy rate of any county in the country, according to Tennessee officials.
     Many bankruptcy experts suggest the choice to file bankruptcy may have significant religious undertones in Bible Belt states. The most popular filing choice, Chapter 13, gives debtors a chance to repay creditors, a characteristic in line with the biblical teaching concerning responsibility and forgiveness, experts say.
     Chapter 13 was established with the Chandler Act of 1938, which was named after Rep. Walter "Clift" Chandler, a former Memphis mayor and staunch bankruptcy advocate.
     "It was viewed as a way to get bills paid," said Ben Sissman, a Memphis bankruptcy attorney. "Tennessee lawyers got interested, judges got interested, and bankruptcy became more practical for people."

State Cracks Down On TennCare Fraud

     Legislation punishing people who commit TennCare fraud by "doctor shopping," defined as visiting multiple doctors to obtain several prescriptions for the same or similar medications, often narcotics, has been signed into law.
     The state Office of Inspector General (OIG) is mailing about 30,000 letters to doctors, pharmacists and nurses in Tennessee informing them it is now a Class E felony for a person to "willingly go to different providers, with the intent to deceive, in search of a controlled substance prescription without disclosing to the provider they have already received one from another provider within a 30-day period."
     The law only applies to patients for whom either the clinic visit or the prescription was paid for by TennCare.
     "I want to make sure the Inspector General's office has all the tools necessary to prevent people from obtaining narcotics through TennCare and selling them in our communities," Gov. Phil Bredesen, who signed the bill into law in June, said in a statement.
     The OIG was created three years ago to identify, investigate and prosecute persons who commit fraud and abuse the TennCare program.
     Since February 2005, the OIG Special Agents have arrested 460 individuals for TennCare fraud, with more than $700,000 paid in restitution to TennCare. In that same time period, TennCare is estimated to have saved more than $75 million due to the legislation, according to the OIG's latest figures.

Hallelujah FM's Taylor Releases Debut Album

     Local radio personality Christie Taylor is releasing her debut spoken word CD "From My Heart: the Collection of Inspirational Thoughts" July 31.
     The collection is a 49-track album that features "mini-sermons" as well as a song titled "From My Heart" that was written by Keith Barrett Jr.
     Taylor is the afternoon drive-time deejay at 95.7 Hallelujah FM and the host of the ND Radio Gospel talk show, a partnership with Clear Channel and the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission. ND Radio Gospel airs bi-monthly on 95.7 Hallelujah FM.

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