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VOL. 122 | NO. 149 | Thursday, August 9, 2007

Daily Digest

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$8 Million Loan Filed For Tipton-Rosemark Phase III

     Tipton-Rosemark Academy (TRA) has filed an $8 million construction loan through Regions Bank for Phase III of its capital campaign, which includes building a new high school and expanding its elementary school facilities.
     TRA has cleared land and completed site work, said development director Lori Regis. The school plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony in the next few weeks, though no date has been set.
     Tipton-Rosemark, which is at 8696 Rosemark Road in Millington, has raised $541,000 toward its $1 million capital campaign goal. The school launched its "Continuing the Tradition" campaign in 1999, which resulted in construction of a new middle school.
     Phase II included a sportsplex that opened in 2006.
     The school in March filed a $3.8 million building permit application for the new high school and a $1.8 million permit for the elementary expansion.
     Regis said Phase III work is behind schedule because the loan was pushed back a bit, but TRA still plans to have its new high school open for the fall 2008 semester. The expansion will allow TRA to offer three classes per grade, she said, adding that most grades have two classes now.
     Enrollment for the 2007-2008 school year, which begins Monday, is 675 - up from 609 last year, she said. In addition, the school has added 13 new teachers and staff, a varsity girls' soccer team and a third kindergarten class.
     TRA is aiming for enrollment of 800 when expansions are complete, Regis said.
     For details on the capital campaign, see The Daily News' March 15 Daily Digest at www.memphisdailynews.com.

An Up and Down Month For Residential Home Sales

     There is good news and bad news on the home front in Shelby County.
     July home sales increased from June but declined compared to the same month last year, according to the latest data from real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.
     There were 2,116 home sales for the month, up 10.6 percent from the 1,913 homes sold in June.
     But that is down 11 percent from the record 2,377 home sales in July 2006.
     2007 year-to-date sales also are off, down 12.6 percent from 2006. At this time last year, a record 14,797 homes were sold; this year, the total is 12,939.
     Average sales price dipped slightly, 2.5 percent, from $168,905 in June to $164,872. The average sales price for July 2006 was $170,934.
     The roller coaster was a bit more dramatic for condominium sales, which rose 9.7 percent from June to July (from 103 condos sold to 113). But sales have fallen from 137 to 113, or 17.5 percent, from July 2006 to July 2007.
     Year-to-date condo sales for 2007 have plummeted 26.1 percent. At this time last year, 908 condos had sold; this year, the total is just 671.
     The average sales price for condos also dipped, from $156,010 to $138,017, for a 13 percent drop-off.

Lawsuit Filed Against Pepsi, Coke

     Thirteen Shelby County residents have filed suit in U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee, against Pepsi Co. Inc. and the Coca Cola Co. Inc. alleging a nationwide scheme of consumer misrepresentation practices by both companies concerning their bottled water products. The defendants are requesting class-action status for the lawsuit, which was filed by Memphis attorney Ricky Wilkins.
     The suit comes on the heels of the revelation that Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani water were products of "public water sources." In other words, it's tap water.
     PepsiCo officials have said they plan to change the label on their bottles to spell out the source of their water products as a "public water source." PepsiCo describes its water as "purified water that originates form public water sources" on its Web site, but the origin of the water is not spelled out so clearly on the labels.
     Critics have said in the media in recent weeks the company was misleading about the source of the water, with its mountain peak logo that leads consumers to believe the source of the water is a spring.
     "Pepsi's decision to label its Aquafina bottled water as 'P.W.S.' and provide on its online site that its water is from 'a source regulated by the (Environmental Protection Agency)' is a knowing act designed to mislead and/or create the likelihood of confusion as to the source," the plaintiffs claimed in the suit.
     The members of the class - represented by the 13 plaintiffs - are seeking more than $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Changes Possible For Judicial Selection

     Two members of the state Judicial Selection Commission said they would be open to changes in the way they choose nominees for vacant appellate court positions. But they also defended their most recent selections.
     Gov. Phil Bredesen this week criticized the panel for not recommending any minority applicants for a vacancy on the state Court of Appeals.
     There are no black judges on either the Court of Appeals or the state Supreme Court, after Justice Adolpho A. Birch retired last year. Judge J.C. McLin is the only black on the Court of Criminal Appeals.
     Under the Tennessee Plan for judicial selection, it is the job of the commission to narrow appellate court applicants to three-person slates for the governor to choose from.
     Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols, a member of the Judicial Selection Commission, said perhaps the ethnic makeup of the commission should be changed.
     "There's no question it's heavily dominated by white males," Nichols said.
     Commission members are appointed by the House and Senate speakers. Fourteen members are white, while two are black. A third black member recently left the panel. There are two women on the commission.
     Bredesen also was critical of the "secret meetings" held by commission members to select the top three nominees from the 22 applicants.
     District Attorney General Mike Bottoms, a commission member from Lawrenceburg, agreed.
     "The public is suspect, and I want the public to be comfortable," Bottoms said. "And I think if they saw how things were going in there, they'd be comfortable."
     Bottoms and Nichols said they felt the commission selected the most qualified candidates.
     Nichols said he was skeptical about opening up the final deliberations about the candidates because sensitive information, like applicants' credit histories and criminal background checks, could be discussed.

Memphis Schools Select Interim Superintendent

     Memphis education officials have picked an interim superintendent to replace Dr. Carol Johnson, who is leaving to take the same post with the Boston public school system.
     The Memphis Board of Education voted 8-0 for retired local educator Dan Ward over Floridian Robert Schiller at a Tuesday night meeting. The board hopes Ward will be in his new position by the end of this month.
     Ward, 73, has spent more than 35 years with the city school district, serving as teacher, principal and district superintendent. He also served as deputy superintendent from 2004 to 2005, helping Johnson after she moved to Memphis from Minneapolis.

Blackburn Hosts International Trade Symposium

     Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is hosting an international trade symposium in Nashville and in Memphis. It will include presentations by the Honorable Israel Hernandez, assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the U.S. Commercial Service, and the Honorable Karan Bhatia, deputy U.S. trade representative for East Asia.
     The focus of the forum is "International Trade in the 21st Century: Current Issues That Impact Your Business."
     The event is today from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in Nashville, then from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Memphis at Youth Villages, 3320 Brother Blvd.in Bartlett. Blackburn represents Tennessee's 7th congressional district, which includes parts of the Memphis area.

Cost-Share Dollars Offered to Farmers

     Tennessee farmers have until Aug. 31 to apply for cost-share dollars to help improve or expand their farming operation in diversified agricultural projects, the state agriculture commissioner, Ken Givens, has said.
     The goal of the diversification cost-share program is to build farm income by helping farmers expand or improve their operations through production of diversified agricultural products. These products include agritourism, aquaculture, bees, fruits and vegetables, horticulture, goats and sheep, organics, value-added products, viticulture and others approved by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
     Farmers can apply for reimbursement at a 35 percent cost share, up to $10,000, for farm infrastructure, specialty equipment purchases and marketing activities. In addition, farmers can apply for 50 percent cost share, up to $15,000, for investments in priority areas, which include agritourism, goats and sheep, organics and certain varieties of grapes.
     All approved projects will be announced Oct. 1, and producers will have until June 30 to complete the approved activities.

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