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VOL. 8 | NO. 1 | Saturday, December 27, 2014

Daily Digest

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Owner Files $6.1M Loan on Former Cozymel’s Site

A company affiliated with Robert F. Fogelman II has filed a loan on a key piece of East Memphis property.

Crown Centre LLC filed a $6.1 million loan with Financial Federal Bank for the old Cozymel’s Mexican Grill location at 6450 Poplar Ave. near International Paper’s campus in East Memphis, according to a Dec. 17 deed of trust.

The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2014 appraisal for the property is $1.9 million.

The old Cozymel’s restaurant was razed in 2013. A 2012 plan approved by the Land Use Control Board said Fogelman, who is listed as manager of Crown Centre LLC in the deed of trust, was seeking to develop a three-story mixed-use building with retail on the ground floor and office space on the upper floors, but several sources have indicated over the last year that the project could be shifting in focus to a more retail-oriented development.

Fogelman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Court Injunction Bars Trio as Tax Preparers

U.S. District Judge Thomas Anderson has ordered three tax preparers with ties to the Mo’ Money tax refund scandal from working as tax preparers or having anything to do with the preparation and filing of federal tax returns in any way.

Anderson approved the civil injuction Monday, Dec. 22, against Shandon Allen, Shewanda Hamilton and Tabitha Tunstall based on a request by U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton.

Allen, Hamilton and Tunstall had each managed locations of the Mo’ Money tax businesses before a 2013 federal court action alleging widespread fraud in the preparation of the tax forms and handling of the refunds led to a court order banning the compnay and its owners from tax preparation.

The three defendants have 15 days from the court order to provide the court a list with contact information of anyone for whom they and their companies prepared federal tax returns from the 2008 tax year to the present. They also have 15 days to provide the court with a list of all employees, independent contractors, managers and others who worked for them in any way.

CBHS Applies for Permit to Build Athletic Facility

Christian Brothers High School is getting ready to beef up its athletic facilities.

Christian Brothers, located at 5900 Walnut Grove Road near Interstate 240 in East Memphis, has applied for a $9.1 million building permit through the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for a “new athletic building containing locker rooms, gymnasium and weight rooms.”

Linkous Construction Co. is the contractor for the project.

Apperson Crump Names New Chief Manager

Joe Aldridge will become chief manager at Apperson Crump PLC on Jan. 1.

Aldridge, an attorney at Memphis' oldest continuously operating law firm, succeeds Richard Myers. He's also rated among U.S. News and World Report's "Best Lawyers in America."

Apperson Crump was founded in Memphis in 1865 and is located at 6070 Poplar Avenue.

St. Louis Fed Updates Memphis Board

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has announced some changes to the board of directors of its Memphis branch, effective Jan. 1.

Michael Cary, president and CEO of Carroll Bank and Trust in Huntingdon, Tenn., has been appointed to a three-year term on the board. David Cochran Jr., partner with CoCo Planting Co. and CoCo Manufacturing, both based in Avon, Miss., has also been appointed to a three-year term. And Roy Ford Jr., vice chairman and CEO of Commercial Bank and Trust Co. in Memphis, has been reappointed to a second three-year term.

The chairman of the Memphis branch board of directors for 2015 will be Carolyn Chism Hardy, president and CEO of Chism Hardy Investments LLC and Hardy Logistics Solutions LLC, both based in Memphis.

Also serving on the board are: J. Brice Fletcher, chairman of First National Bank of Eastern Arkansas in Forrest City, Ark.; Lisa McDaniel Hawkins, president of Room to Room Inc. in Tupelo, Miss.; and Charlie E. Thomas III, regional director of external and legislative affairs for AT&T Tennessee in Memphis.

Violent Crime Countywide Up 4.8 Pct. Year to Date

Major violent crime in Memphis as well as Shelby County as a whole was up compared to a year ago for the January to November period, as measured by Operation Safe Community.

The monthly report from the coalition of law enforcement, government and civic leaders shows major violent crime in Memphis for the first 11 months of 2014 increased 4.2 percent from the same period of 2013. Over the same period, major violent crime was up 4.8 percent for the entire county compared to a year ago.

The Operation Safe Community stats kept by the Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission track violent and property crimes since 2006, the year the coalition was formed and Memphis Police changed their crime-fighting strategy to shifting police resources to areas where crime increased statistically.

By that standard, in which 2006 is considered the baseline year, major violent crime is down 17.9 percent countywide and down 14 percent in Memphis.

Cordova Hotel Sells for $2.5 Million

A Microtel Inn & Suites in Cordova has sold for $2.5 million.

Shiv Sai Ram LLC purchased the 66-room, three-story hotel at 2423 N. Germantown Parkway from Link-Paras LLC, according to a Dec. 15 warranty deed. The purchase price breaks down to around $37,878 per room.

Link-Paras LLC acquired the property from JM & S LLC in 1998 for $707,415. Nakhil Shah, president of Sure Development and Investment Corp., member of Link-Paras LLC, signed the warranty deed for the seller.

In conjunction with the purchase Shiv Sai Ram LLC filed a $2.1 million loan through Duluth, Ga.-based State Bank & Trust Co., according to a Dec. 15 deed of trust.

Built in 2000, the hotel is located on the east side of Germantown Parkway south of the Interstate 40 interchange near Rockcreek Parkway. The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2014 appraisal for the hotel is $1.5 million.

Wesley Housing Names New CEO

The Wesley Housing Corp. of Memphis Inc. board of directors has announced that Jim Nasso, current president and chief operating officer, will become chief executive officer following CEO Larry Kaler’s retirement Dec. 31.

Nasso will assume the role of CEO effective Jan. 1.

Ron Budynas is assuming the role of vice president and chief operating officer. Don Ollio is vice president and chief financial officer.

“I am humbled and honored to be named the next CEO of this great organization following three great leaders in Rev. Paul Eubanks, Rev. Jerry Corlew and Larry Kaler,” Nasso said in a statement. “Wesley’s mission in ministry is to serve the elderly of the Mid-South and I am excited to lead such an experienced and talented group of individuals committed to this purpose.

“The short-term goal is to preserve the current portfolio while enhancing the services and daily lives of every resident and senior being served in their home. Long term, Wesley will expand beyond its current footprint without sacrificing the quality Wesley has provided for over 45 years.”

ASD Race to the Top Grant Running Out

Tennessee's Achievement School District will have to make do with less money next year unless it finds a new source of funding.

WPLN-FM reports the agency charged with turning around Tennessee's lowest-performing schools was formed in 2010 with grant money from the federal Race to the Top program.

Like other districts, the ASD gets state funding based on enrollment. But until now, the district has also had the grant money, and that is what it has used to run its 30-employee central office.

All that money will be gone next year.

District superintendent Chris Barbic says he plans to use only about 2 or 3 percent of the state money to run the office. But that still means the individual schools will have less.

He said schools operate with autonomy, but still need some administration.

"It does require a central office. But it requires a much smaller district office," Barbic says. "I think if you were talking to any superintendent in the state or country, making this work on the public dollar is a challenge. There's no question about that. What we've tried to do is be as efficient as we possibly can."

Ardent Studios Founder John Fry Dies

John Fry, whose lengthy list of musical accomplishments includes founding Ardent Studios and producing records for Big Star, has died.

The news comes days after the Ardent family lost another longtime member, engineer John Hampton, who died last week.

Fry’s deft touch behind the control panel was a seminal ingredient in the sound of much of the music of Big Star, the Memphis power pop band with which Fry worked that led to him being included in the 2012 documentary about the band, “Nothing Can Hurt Me.”

More than that, he was a booster for Memphis music, a lifelong music fan obsessed with sound quality and getting it right.

A few months ago, Fry told The Daily News:

“Basically, I think any music that lasts is kind of a combination of really good songwriting, really good performances and things that were maybe a little misfit-sounding at the time they came out so that they’re not locked into some era. …

“(At Ardent) I think we’ve always tried to maintain the creative, attractive environment for people. And we’ve always had a great staff who – they do great work, they’re good at relationships with clients and then there’s the whole Memphis connection. There’s so many people who’ve come to record at Ardent who relate to records that have been done here and for whom the whole Memphis music history really resonates.”

Start Co. Now Taking Accelerator Applications

The Start Co. organization has started taking applications for its Seed Hatchery, Upstart and Sky High accelerators.

For the second year, the accelerators will run simultaneously, and Start Co. is looking for “passionate, flexible and execution-oriented teams.” The application window runs through March 1, and teams accepted will start their work with Start Co. on May 4.

This year, accelerator programming will feature workshops, product development sessions and other resources led by Memphis business partners, including archer-malmo, AutoZone, Baker Donelson, JumpFund, PayPal, SendGrid, Softlayer, Springboard, The Marston Group and others.

FBI Asks Agencies to Watch Memphis Bridges

The FBI asked law officers assigned to areas around the Mississippi River bridges at Memphis, Tennessee, to help keep an eye on the spans after a vague threat came in warning that one would be blown up.

FBI spokesman Christopher M. Allen said Tuesday from Washington the threat was "unsubstantiated." The agency's Memphis office alerted local police as a matter of routine but there was no specific threat to address, Memphis Special Agent D.O. Little said Tuesday.

"It was just an anonymous threat with no actual intelligence of an attack," Little said.

Two cross-country routes traverse the Mississippi River at Memphis – Interstates 40 and 55 – and both remained open. Each bridge carries about 40,000 vehicles daily.

The FBI advisory, sent Monday, cited a threat to the "Memphis-Arkansas" bridge from an Islamic State cell in Memphis. The I-55 bridge is known as the Memphis and Arkansas Bridge but Little said Tuesday the threat was interpreted as applying to both bridges.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management said the threat had not reached a level requiring it to put anyone on standby, as it would if bad weather was approaching.

"We're not on any heightened alert," spokesman Rick Fahr said. He said threats that include specifics are rare.

Two Storage Facilities Sell for $4.9 Million

Affiliates of Oaktree Capital Management have acquired two Memphis area mini-storage properties for $4.9 million.

SSSP Kirby Raines LLC, an affiliate of Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital, acquired the mini-storage property at 6504 E. Raines Road from TSRE III Kirby Raines LLC for $2.5 million, according to a Dec. 2 warranty deed. The 50,910-square-foot storage development was built in 1995, and the Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2014 appraisal is $1.3 million.

On the same day, SSSP Collierville LLC, another affiliate of Oaktree Capital, purchased the 53,110-square-foot mini-storage development at 314 S. Mt. Pleasant Road in Collierville from VSI III Collierville Self Storage LLC for $2.4 million. The assessor’s 2014 appraisal of that property is $1.6 million.

Formed in 1995, Oaktree Capital is a global investment firm focused on alternative markets.

Rhodes Among Top Values in Liberal Arts Education

Rhodes College has been named to the “Kiplinger’s Personal Finance” list of the 100 best values in liberal arts for 2015.

To make the list, schools are evaluated on a set of criteria that include both academic quality and affordability.

According to Kiplinger’s, the list offers students a comprehensive selection of schools that balances top-quality education with affordable cost.

TruGreen Donates $125,000 Through ‘Lawn Stars’

TruGreen has announced it has donated more than $125,000 to several local and national charities through the company’s Lawn Stars program.

Each quarter, the TruGreen Lawn Stars program recognizes 21 local sales and service teams that lead their respective regions in customer growth. Each winning branch is awarded a $2,000 donation towards any charity of their choice.

The organizations TruGreen selected to receive donations from the 2014 Lawn Stars program include: American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity, The Salvation Army, Feed the Hungry, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Wounded Warriors Project, Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Council, Commission Contemplate Year Ahead

With their next meetings scheduled for January, the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission are done for the year.

The commission met one time in December instead of its normal twice-monthly schedule. The council held the second of its two monthly meetings on Dec. 16.

When the City Council returns Jan. 6, it will be with Myron Lowery as the chairman for the next year. The County Commission chairman’s term runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.

The council’s first meeting of 2015 will likely include a vote on the proposed settlement of the schools funding lawsuit announced by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. during the Dec. 16 meeting. The Shelby County Schools board approved the settlement that same evening.

The commission, which meets next on Jan. 12, is scheduled to vote next month on a resolution backing the city’s application for a Tourism Development Zone for the Mid-South Fairgrounds. The resolution includes an agreement in which the city agrees to pay back on an annual basis any sales tax revenue that would normally go to fund schools but isn’t used for that purpose.

Grizz Faith & Family Night to Feature Colton Dixon

Fans who purchase tickets to the Jan. 24 Grizzlies game versus Philadelphia will also gain access to the Grizzlies’ annual Faith and Family Night at FedExForum, highlighted by a post-game performance by “American Idol” alumnus Colton Dixon.

After appearing on season 11 of “American Idol,” Dixon received three Dove Award nominations, an award show honoring Gospel and Christian artists, where he later won the award for Best Contemporary Rock Album.

Fans will also have a chance to wave their team’s colors with Rally Flags if they are one of the first 10,000 in attendance to the game with the 76ers. The flags are sponsored by First Tennessee and SportSouth.

Discounted group tickets are available for parties of 15 or more and can be purchased by calling 901-888-HOOP. Single game tickets start at $10, and are available by calling 800-4NBA-TIX, at all Ticketmaster locations, ticketmaster.com, the FedExForum Box Office and grizzlies.com.

Gas Tax Increase Gaining Momentum in Tennessee

Momentum is mounting for a possible proposal to raise the state's gas tax for the first time in 25 years.

Gov. Bill Haslam told The Tennessean he thinks a legislative proposal on the issue is close and could be introduced in the next General Assembly, which convenes in January.

"At some point and time soon, either this year or next year, I think there will be a bill about gas tax," he told The Tennessean editorial board.

"It's incumbent upon us as the administration to show here's what we would do with that money if you increased the fuel tax, and then it's also I think important for all of us not to just increase it so that ... three years from now we're back in the same position."

The push comes as a group representing 40 mayors in Middle Tennessee sent a letter urging Haslam and state lawmakers to find new sources of revenue to pay for transportation needs. Chambers of commerce also are pushing the idea of increasing the gas tax.

In addition, the Tennessee Farm Bureau no longer lists opposition to a gas tax increase as among its legislative priorities.

Still, the newspaper reports any proposal to increase the tax would face hurdles and lacks support from some state Democrats.

Currently, residents pay a total of 39.8 cents tax on each gallon of gas purchased – 21.4 cents is state tax and 18.4 cents is federal tax.

Haslam isn't pushing for an increase, but says the issue must be addressed.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has said he might support an increase as part of a larger comprehensive measure.

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, hasn't publicly taken a position.

FTC Sues Data Broker for Selling Info to Scammers

In a first-of-a-kind case, the Federal Trade Commission is targeting a data broker for allegedly selling sensitive consumer information – including bank account numbers – to marketers that authorities said the broker knew had no legitimate need for it.

In its lawsuit, the commission charges that Arizona-based LeapLab bought the payday loan applications of people strapped for money, then turned around and sold that data to third-parties who most often weren't lenders at all. The loan applications contained sensitive information such as a consumer's Social Security number, bank account number and routing number to the bank.

The FTC says at least one of the marketers buying data from LeapLab used the information to withdraw more than $4 million from consumers' bank accounts without authorization.

Southwest Adding Seasonal Memphis-Baltimore Flight

Southwest Airlines is adding a seasonal second daily nonstop flight between Memphis International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport to its summer schedule, which begins June 7.

“The Washington, D.C., area is a popular destination for our passengers, so we are pleased that Southwest Airlines has chosen to add this additional summer service,” said Scott Brockman, president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, in a statement.

The additional flight will be the second seasonal addition for Southwest in 2015 and is scheduled to conclude in August.

Dan Landson of Southwest Airlines said the additional flight “is aimed at handling the expected demand during the peak summer travel period." The airline also is adding a seasonal second frequency flight to Orlando International Airport in March.

Southwest also provides nonstop service to Chicago Midway, Houston Hobby and Tampa.

Tenn. Supreme Court Rules on Hospital Liens

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that hospitals must release liens against patients once they and their insurers have paid their full charges.

The case was filed by three emergency patients against the Regional Medical Center in Memphis over the practice of refusing to release the liens after the bills had been paid.

The high court said that even when The MED determined that another person might be liable for injuries it would still file a lien against the patients in the hope of recovering additional money.

The case was initially dismissed, but was reinstated by the Court of Appeals. On appeal, the Supreme Court found that state law allowing hospital liens does not allow the Med to maintain its liens after the bills have been paid.

SCO Seeks Participants for Dry Eye Study

Southern College of Optometry has announced that it is participating in a clinical study to determine the effectiveness of a new product developed for treating dry eye in adults. The study will take place in cooperation with TearWell Advanced Dry Eye Treatment Center on campus and is the second such study the college has conducted since the Dry Eye Center of Excellence opened at SCO this summer.

Participants must be 18 years old or older, have been diagnosed with dry eye, use artificial tears at least twice daily and be willing to attend study visits during a one-month period. Qualified, enrolled patients may be eligible for compensation for participating in the study.

Dry eye is a condition in which the eyes are not producing enough tears to adequately lubricate and nourish themselves. People suffering from this condition typically do not have enough tears or produce poor-quality tears. It is a common, often chronic, problem that worsens with age and is often associated with other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems.

The study is ongoing until the required number of participants for statistical significance is achieved. For more information, contact Randy Brafford at 901-252-3660.

Tennessee Part of T-Mobile ‘Cramming’ Settlement

Tennessee consumers who got a $9.99 a month charge on their T-Mobile bills for “premium” text messages they never requested will be part of a $90 million settlement announced Friday between the phone company and all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.

The settlement includes at least $90 million in payments that consumers can submit a claim for at tmobilerefund.com. The site also includes information about eligibility and the ability to request a free account summary with details of any of the premium text message charges.

There is also a phone line for a refund administrator at 855-382-6403.

The premium text messages included the ability to get sports scores, horoscopes and trivia.

Appeals Court Rejects 2 Ozone Regulations

In a victory for environmental groups, a federal appeals court rejected two Environmental Protection Agency regulations that loosened requirements for achieving compliance with more protective ozone standards.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said EPA cannot increase the amount of compliance time by an additional year and cannot revoke ozone requirements for highway projects.

The court said the two EPA regulations implementing the 2008 ozone standards exceed the agency's authority under the Clean Air Act.

Writing for the majority, appeals judge Sri Srinivasan said the EPA's action was untethered to Congress's approach. In addition, Srinivasan wrote, EPA identifies no provision under the Clean Air Act specifically authorizing revocation of the highway requirements. Srinivasan, a nominee of President Barack Obama, was joined by judge David Tatel, a nominee of President Bill Clinton.

In dissent, appeals judge A. Raymond Randolph said the court's decision and its reasoning "are, I believe, mistaken" and that EPA's interpretation of the Clean Air Act is permissible.

The Natural Resources Defense Council brought the challenges to the EPA's regulations.

UTHSC Receives Grant to Study Lung Injuries

Christopher Waters, professor and vice chair in the Department of Physiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received a four-year grant totaling $1.5 million from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. His research seeks to understand the repair process associated with various lung injuries.

The award will be used to support a project titled, “CXCR4 Signaling in Lung Epithelial Repair.”

Patients with severe lung injury can develop a disease called acute respiratory distress syndrome. This disease is one of the most frequent causes of admission into the intensive care unit. It can be caused by different types of injury to the lungs, including infections and exposure to toxic substances.

A major feature of this disease is injury to the epithelial cells that line the respiratory tract and that normally protect the lungs from harmful substances in the inhaled air. Repair of the injured cells is important for recovery from the disease.

UTHSC Researchers Awarded $1M Grant

Two researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Ilsa Schwarz, professor emeritus, and Jillian McCarthy-Maeder, assistant professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, have received a $1 million grant from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

The five-year grant will support the training of master’s level students in literacy and language outcomes by financing 32 graduate students with three semesters each of tuition remission and stipend support. Upon completion, the students will graduate with specialty training to improve the language and literacy outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The specialty preparation will include courses on the topics of language, literacy, aural habilitation and deaf education; and four semesters of practicum.

All of the trainees will also prepare a capstone research project about the language and literacy development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Additionally, trainees will complete the disciplinary requirements for state licensure and the prerequisites for starting the clinical fellowship year required for certification by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Nine students will begin the program in January.

Natural Gas Prices Down 30 Percent in a Month

The price of natural gas is down 30 percent in just over a month and homeowners could enjoy lower electricity prices and heating bills in the coming months.

A warm December and plentiful supplies are behind the plunge, which comes at a time when natural gas prices usually rise.

Natural gas is used by half of the nation's households for heating and to generate 26 percent of the nation's electricity.

Natural gas prices rose during a frigid November. But December warmed up, and temperatures for the rest of the winter are expected to be close to normal. That could keep prices low through the spring, analysts expect.

On Tuesday, natural gas rose slightly to $3.15 per 1,000 cubic feet, down from nearly $4.50 in late November.

American Airlines Offers Raise, Bargains With Pilots

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker is rewarding employees who have already reached new labor agreements with the company with an extra 4 percent raise.

The raise, which is added to employee's base salaries, will also go to all managers below the level of director.

Parker is also dangling the raise at the airline's pilots who are fighting with him over a new contract. The pilots can either take the raise, in addition to a multi-year deal that's already been proposed to them, or forego the raise and move forward with a deal set out in arbitration.

Pilots’ pay rates would be lower under the arbitrated deal; however, they would preserve many of their work rules regarding rest, seniority and where pilots are based.

Volcker Critical of Delays in Bank Rule

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker on Friday criticized a decision to delay full implementation of a rule that bears his name and aims to curb banks' risky investments.

The Fed said Thursday that it would delay until July 2017 the deadline by which U.S. banks will have to sell off potentially volatile holdings in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds.

"It is striking that the world's leading investment bankers, noted for their cleverness and agility in advising clients on how to restructure companies and even industries, however complicated, apparently can't manage the orderly reorganization of their own activities in more than five years," Volcker said in a statement.

Congress passed the Volcker Rule in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, a major overhaul of financial regulations. The rule limits banks' riskiest trading bets that could go implode at taxpayers' expense. It was risky investments that triggered the 2008 financial crisis that caused the worst disruption of the banking system since the 1930s.

PROPERTY SALES 28 290 16,197
MORTGAGES 33 165 10,087
BUILDING PERMITS 184 608 38,544
BANKRUPTCIES 33 125 7,597