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VOL. 123 | NO. 239 | Monday, December 8, 2008

Daily Digest

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Highland Church Files $8.5M Construction Loan

The Highland Street Church of Christ Memphis has filed an $8.5 million construction loan through BancorpSouth Bank to build its multibuilding church campus along Houston Levee Road, northeast of the Walnut Grove Road and Houston Levee intersection.

The church held a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 30 and site work is under way for the project. Construction should begin in about two months and will take roughly 18 months, said the church’s interim administrator, Allen Hewitt.

“We’ve been working on it for sometime and I think people are getting more excited since we had the groundbreaking,” Hewitt said.

The project includes a sanctuary that seats 1,000 people, plus buildings that will house the church’s Sunday school classrooms and a day school. All told, the church campus will comprise 67,000 square feet. Highland Street Church of Christ owns about 40 acres and will develop on about half that land, Hewitt said. Plans call for walking trails on the property as well.

Linkous Construction Co. Inc. is the general contractor for the project and Renaissance Group is the architect.

Highland Street Church of Christ departed its former site at 443 S. Highland St. and currently meets at Harding Academy on Cherry Road. Its church office is at 5565 Shelby Oaks Drive.

Source: The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports

Commission to Consider Fringe Financial Ordinance

The third and final reading of an ordinance that was designed to limit the spread of check cashing, title loan and payday lending businesses in Memphis and Shelby County will be voted on today by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.

The concept began as an idea by Memphis City Council member Bill Morrison, who wanted to limit the operation of those fringe lending businesses to no less than 1,000 feet from each other. He cited a clustering effect those businesses engender and a resulting downward pressure it brings on the surrounding neighborhoods, including in the form of depressed property values. The ordinance that sprung from that idea is a joint city-county ordinance.

The commission meeting today will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Shelby County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

Home Loan Troubles Break Records Again

A record one in 10 American homeowners with a mortgage were either at least a month behind on their payments or in foreclosure at the end of September as the source of housing market pressure shifted to the crumbling U.S. economy.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported Friday the percentage of loans at least a month overdue or in foreclosure was up from 9.2 percent in the April-June quarter, and up from 7.3 percent a year earlier.

Distress in the home loan market started about two years ago as increasing numbers of adjustable-rate loans reset to higher interest rates. But the latest wave of delinquencies is coming from the surge in unemployment.

Employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. (For more, see story on Page 2.)

“Now it’s a case of job losses hitting more across the board,” said Jay Brinkmann, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Job losses are already having an impact in rising delinquency rates for traditional 30-year fixed rate loans made to borrowers with strong credit. Total delinquencies on those loans rose to 3.35 percent in September from 3.07 percent at the end of June, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported.

There were some modest signs of stabilization. The number of loans that entered the foreclosure process totaled 1.07 percent of all loans in the third quarter, flat from the second quarter.

Though that number likely reflects changes in state laws that delay or extend the foreclosure process and efforts to work out or modify loans, that could still fall back into foreclosure.

State Lifts Suspension On Dove Nursing Home

The Tennessee Department of Health last week lifted its suspension of admissions order for Dove Health & Rehab in Collierville.

The state agency said it had lifted the suspension because the facility had come into compliance by correcting deficient practices and conditions. On May 8, the state agency ordered Dove not to admit any new residents based on conditions found during a complaint investigation conducted April 29-May 6. Surveyors found building and life safety violations.

The 88-bed nursing home is at 490 W. Poplar Ave.

St. Jude Identifies Causes of Leukemia Relapse

Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have identified distinctive genetic changes in the cancer cells of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia that cause relapse.

The finding offers a pathway to designing treatments for relapse of the disease in children and, ultimately, adults, St. Jude said in a press release.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common childhood cancer.

A study of the research appears in the Nov. 28 issue of the journal Science. The authors of the study are Charles Mullighan, James Downing, Letha Phillips, Xiaoping Su, Jing Ma, Christopher Miller and Sheila Shurtleff.

In other St. Jude news, scientists at the hospital have used a “harmless virus” to insert a corrective gene into mouse blood cells, which they believe may become an important treatment for sickle cell disease. However, the scientists cautioned that applying this therapy to people presents “significant technical obstacles.”

Authors of a paper on the therapy, which was published in the online issue of the journal Molecular Therapy, are Derek Persons, Tamara Pestina, Phillip Hargrove, Dennis Jay, John Gray and Kelli Boyd.

State GOP Delays List Of Constitutional Applicants

Legislative Republicans, who in the name of greater transparency created a formal application process for Tennessee constitutional officers, said Friday they won’t immediately release the list of candidates when the deadline passes.

Applications were due by Friday afternoon from people seeking to be appointed as secretary of state, treasurer or comptroller.

But leaders wanted to take the weekend to make sure they have a complete and accurate list of applications submitted to both House and Senate offices, said Senate Republican Caucus spokeswoman Darlene Schlicher.

“There is preparation time that’s involved,” she said.

The decision to hold onto the list of names until three days after the deadline contrasts with applications for appellate judgeships, which are released by the state Administrative Office of the Courts as soon as they are submitted.

The constitutional officers are elected by a joint assembly of the House and Senate. Republicans make up a majority of the combined chambers for the first time since 1869 after gains made in November’s elections.

The application process for the constitutional officers has been heralded by leaders of the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate as building greater openness in the General Assembly.

House Majority Leader Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol, and a spokesman for Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday morning.

Republicans criticized Democrats for making previous decisions on constitutional officers behind closed doors and alleged that political considerations seeped into those decisions.

Democratic Rep. Charles Curtiss, of Sparta, acknowledged that some political considerations may have been made in the past, but that current Comptroller John Morgan and Treasurer Dale Sims are uniquely qualified to help guide the state through its current financial troubles.

Former state Sen. Jim Bryson said he was planning to turn in his application for secretary of state later Friday. He said he was unaware of the decision not to release the list of applicants, but declined to weigh in on whether the names should be immediately available to the public.

Some Republican lawmakers were surprised by the move to hold onto the applications.

“I could see where they don’t want to say who’s running or not running until the deadline has passed, but once it’s already passed I don’t understand why,” said Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville.

MIFA Offers Holiday Card Options

Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association is offering an opportunity to send out holiday cards this year while helping families in need.

For a $10 contribution per card, MIFA volunteers will sign the cards with personal greetings and address and mail the envelopes for the contributor.

MIFA has two card designs to choose from. One is the “MIFA Stars” card, which features artwork created by the child of a MIFA Housing Opportunities resident.

Cards can be sent to an unlimited number of friends and relatives. To order a card, call Nancy Martin at 529-4525 or visit www.mifa.org.

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