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VOL. 10 | NO. 52 | Saturday, December 23, 2017

Daily Digest

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Approval of 2 MLGW Rate Hikes Postponed by Council

Proposed increases in Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division rates for gas and electricity will be considered by the Memphis City Council at its first meeting of 2018.

The council delayed votes Wednesday, Dec. 20, on an electricity rate hike of 2.3 percent for each of the next three years and a 4.5 percent gas rate hike for each of the next two years.

The council also voted down a one-time 1 percent increase in the water rate.

The council will discuss the rates Jan. 9 starting in committee sessions before the voting meeting of the full council that afternoon.

Several council members said Wednesday MLGW leaders should have come to the council sooner than November with the rate hike proposals.

MLGW president Jerry Collins warned that a delay in approving the rate hikes and a new budget for the publicly owned utility could have an impact on its bond rating and could be a violation of bond covenants. He said, in turn, that could affect city government’s bond rating.

But Collins also said the bond rating agencies were aware of the rate hikes MLGW would propose in September.

“I’d like to bring up an ordinance so this doesn’t happen again,” said council member Philip Spinosa. “I’m beyond frustrated. We have to take action now or it’s on us. Shame on us for being here.”

Council chairman Berlin Boyd termed it “a very irresponsible way to handle a budget.”

“I think our priorities somewhere were mixed up in this thing,” he said. “As a part-time council member … you guys could not expect this body to be able to dissect the information which you guys are requesting us to approve in that short a time. I can’t vote for something that I don’t have full knowledge of.”

– Bill Dries

Lukassen Takes Treasury Management Role at FHN

First Tennessee Bank has tapped a financial services industry veteran to head up its treasury management sales team.

Kevin Lukassen has joined the company as senior vice president, Treasury Management head of sales. As part of his role, he’ll develop and oversee top-level sales strategies, approach and execution for treasury management across all areas of the company.

His concentration will be on building and refining teams to align with First Tennessee’s strategic priorities.

Lukassen has 30 years of experience in banking and two decades of experience in treasury management. Prior to joining First Tennessee, he held leadership positions at LaSalle Bank, Fifth Third Bank and at SunTrust Bank. He also has extensive experience as a relationship manager and as a leader of commercial banking.

– Andy Meek

Explore Bike Share Names Executive Director

With its spring 2018 launch right around the corner, Memphis native Trey Moore has been named the inaugural executive director of Explore Bike Share.

Prior to taking this job, Moore served as executive director of voluntary health organizations in Atlanta for more than 12 years.

“I watched my hometown of Memphis from afar and had grown eager to return to experience and take part in the city’s renaissance,” Moore said in a release. “Explore Bike Share’s mission and goals encourage me, and to be a part of connecting people to their city is powerful. I am ready to pick up the reins and continue this nonprofit’s innovative effort."

Currently, Explore Bike Share’s leadership is being housed in temporary office space at 656 Madison Ave. through February that was provided by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative. Additionally, Benjamin Orgel, Billy Orgel, Adam Slovis and Tom Marsh donated warehouse space in Uptown that will be used in early 2018 for the build-out of bikes and bike stations.

Explore Bike Share is a local nonprofit organization that is working to create a 600-bike sharing program to promote transportation, tourism, health, environment, and culture in the Memphis area. The system will expand to 900 bikes by 2019.

– Patrick Lantrip

Crisis Center Seeking Volunteers for Hotline

The Memphis Crisis Center, a free, 24/7 crisis intervention hotline for nearly 50 years, is seeking volunteers to answer calls.

The center has handled more than 100,000 calls from Mid-Southerners suffering from all types of mental distress the past five years, Mike LaBonte, executive director, said in a statement. Approximately 8,000 of those were suicide calls.

And while call volume generally goes down during the holidays, the center braces for a spike right after the holidays when the excitement of the season fades.

“We’re a full-service crisis line,” LaBonte said. Calls come in from people dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and elder abuse, as well as financial and health issues.

“The vast majority of the calls we get are coming from people who are sad, lonely, or facing a life challenge, and what they really need is a compassionate listener to help them through the trouble they are going through at the time,” LaBonte said. “So we’re here providing not just crisis intervention, but emotional support services as well.”

The center is looking for mature, responsible, committed volunteers who are good listeners, he said. The center will provide approximately 40 hours of training, including classroom time and observation in the call center under the supervision of seasoned volunteers.

Volunteers are asked to work one shift every other week. Morning, afternoon, evening and overnight shifts are available.

“We really have a need for early birds (7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and night owls (11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.)," LaBonte said. “I know those night owls and early birds are out there. This would be a perfect opportunity for them.”

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center partners with the Memphis Crisis Center. UTHSC provides its call center, training facility and administrative offices on campus.

To volunteer, contact volunteers@crisis7.org or call 901-649-8572. To reach the confidential hotline, call 901-CRISIS7 or 901-274-7477.

– Daily News staff

Southaven's Henry Schein Animal Facility Opens

Henry Schein Animal Health, an Ohio-based distributor of animal health products, has opened its new Southaven facility.

The 50,000-square-foot distribution center was the result of a collaboration with the Mississippi Development Authority, according to Henry Schein Animal Health North America president Fran Dirksmeier.

“It will greatly enhance our ability to fulfill our mission to provide the best customer experience possible,” Dirksmeier said in a release announcing the deal. “Henry Schein Animal Health is committed to being the total solutions provider for veterinary professionals, and we look forward to counting ourselves as proud members of the Southaven business community.”

The facility will result in 27 new jobs in the area.

CBRE senior vice president Patrick Burke represented Henry Schein.

“We are proud that a company of this stature in the veterinarian supplies field would choose Southaven and DeSoto County for their newest distribution facility,” DeSoto County Economic Development Council president and CEO Jim Flanagan said.

– Patrick Lantrip

Navy Marketing Campaign To Make Memphis Debut

The United States Navy’s new national marketing campaign has been developed in Memphis by the Navy Partnership, a special division of Young & Rubicam, and the campaign and tagline will make its Memphis debut Dec. 30 at the 59th AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

The Navy’s new tagline, “Forged by the Sea,” will be featured at the game, and a new TV commercial, “Game,” will air in-stadium.

The Navy also will participate in a variety of activities during Bowl Week, including the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Beale Street Parade on Friday, Dec. 29.On game day at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, the Navy will present its virtual reality experience showcasing what it feels like to be part of today’s Navy. The immersive, virtual reality mobile display, named the Nimitz, will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

During the game, Petty Officer Second Class Michael Gehringer, a Navy sailor and veteran Memphis police officer, will be recognized for his service to the country and the city of Memphis. Gehringer has called Memphis home since 1999, and after nearly two decades as a local police officer, he was called to serve the U.S. Navy as a full-time recruiter.

In addition, fans will have the opportunity to witness the swearing in of new Navy sailors during an oath of enlistment ceremony.

– Andy Meek

Haslam Exonerates Man In 1978 Rape Conviction

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he has exonerated a man whose convictions for rape and robbery in a 1977 Memphis case were set aside by a court in 2009 and who was released after more than three decades in prison.

Haslam said in a news release Wednesday that he respects determinations by the court and prosecutor that Lawrence McKinney was not guilty of crimes he was convicted for in 1978

They said he would not have been prosecuted if DNA testing results were available during his trial.

McKinney had been accused of rape and burglary in the 1977 Memphis case.

Last year, a Tennessee parole board voted against recommending McKinney for exoneration, saying the absence of his DNA following a rape was not conclusive evidence of innocence.

His exoneration makes him eligible for compensation of up to $1 million.

– The Associated Press

St. Louis Cardinals Get Safety Act Protection

The St. Louis Cardinals have received federal certification giving the organization legal protections in the event of a terrorist attack at Busch Stadium.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill announced Tuesday, Dec. 19, that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security certified the Cardinals under the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act, known as the Safety Act. A DHS spokesman said the certification was approved Dec. 11.

The act encourages sports teams, entertainment venues and other organizations to develop anti-terrorism technologies and practices. In return, it places limits on lawsuits that could be filed if a terrorist attack occurs.

The Cardinals applied for certification in July. McCaskill in October urged approval of the request in a letter to acting Homeland Security director Elaine Duke. The letter was sent days after the attack on a country music concert in Las Vegas spurred new concerns about safety at entertainment and sports venues.

“Terror attacks are increasingly occurring around the world on soft targets like stadiums and concert venues, and the Cards are confronting that threat head-on,” McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement Tuesday.

Cardinals spokesman Ron Watermon said the Cardinals “remain committed to continuous safety upgrades, which include ongoing investments in people, technologies, and process improvements.”

Cardinals security director Phil Melcher said in an October interview that upgrades include background checks on all employees and vendors and the installation of barricades to prevent vehicles from ramming the stadium. He said the Safety Act application also requires tracking of metrics to prove the measures work.

The Cardinals are typically among the highest-drawing teams in Major League Baseball, with attendance topping 3 million every season since 2004.

In 2012, Yankee Stadium became the first sports venue to be certified through the Safety Act. Several other sports franchises have followed.

– The Associated Press

Grizzlies’ Conley Out Until Sometime in 2018

The Memphis Grizzlies’ latest medical update indicates point guard Mike Conley is not close to returning to the lineup.

Conley has not played since Nov. 13, and the update provided by the organization said he is continuing to get therapy and treatment for soreness in his left heel. The statement also noted he has not begun on-court activities yet and that another update will come in about two weeks.

Forward/center Brandan Wright, however, is close to playing. Wright, who has been out with a groin injury, has resumed on-court work and was projected to play before the end of the week.

Guard/forward Wayne Selden, who has been sidelined by a right quad injury, also has started on-court work and his return was projected for two weeks out.

The Grizzlies’ next home game is Saturday, Dec. 23, at 7 p.m. vs. the Los Angeles Clippers.

– Don Wade

‘Mountaintop’ Sculpture To be Moved Off Mall

Memphis’ longest-standing memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is moving from the Main Street Mall to one of two new memorial areas.

The city will move “The Mountaintop,” a 1977 sculpture by Richard Hunt, to the corner of Second Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, at what the city has described as a place for reflection.

The city also is building I Am A Man Plaza, a memorial plaza at Pontotoc Avenue and Hernando Street near Clayborn Temple. The centerpiece of the plaza will be a newly commissioned sculpture with the words “I Am A Man” as its centerpiece.

“The Mountaintop” is currently on the Main Street Mall between Poplar and Exchange avenues.

Both areas are expected to be ready in advance of activities in April marking the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers strike that brought King to Memphis in 1968.

– Bill Dries

Auction of Elvis Artifacts To Feature Jewelry, Gifts

The earliest known Elvis Presley concert poster and jewelry Presley gave the wife and son of his personal physician are among the highlights of next month’s Auction at Graceland.

The auction, set for Jan. 6 during the annual birthday celebration at Graceland, will feature 271 lots of rare Elvis artifacts. As with past Graceland auctions, all the items are owned by third-party collectors and are researched and certified by Graceland Authenticated. The mansion and all artifacts in the Graceland Archives are owned by Lisa Marie Presley and are not for sale.

The 1954 poster for the concert at the Eagle’s Nest, one of Presley’s first paid gigs, is estimated to sell for $15,000 to $20,000.

The auction also includes numerous pieces of jewelry, including a TCB necklace – short for “Taking Care of Business” – that Presley gave Dean Nichopoulous, son of physician Dr. George Nichopoulos, often referred to as Dr. Nick. The TCB necklace is expected to draw $20,000 to $30,000. A necklace with a TLC design (a variation on TCB) Presley gave Dr. Nick’s wife, Edna, is estimated at $15,000 to $20,000.

A platinum diamond ring Presley gave former Miss Tennessee Linda Thompson while they were dating in the early 1970s is expected to draw $30,000 to $40,000, while a pair of Grand Prix-style sunglasses he gave his karate instructor, bodyguard and friend Ed Parker is estimated at $20,000 to $30,000.

Other highlights include a leather rocking chair from the Jungle Room at Graceland ($10,000 to $15,000); the signed title to Presley’s Circle G Ranch in Mississippi ($10,000 to $20,000); the wooden desk from Presley’s home office in Palm Springs, California ($10,000 to $20,000); and an engraved 1922 Colt .32-caliber revolver Presley gave tour promoter Tom Hulett ($5,000 to $10,000).

Select artifacts will be on display at the Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex now through Jan. 4, and on Jan. 5 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at The Guest House at Graceland. The Jan. 6 auction will be held in the Guest House theater, and online registration and bidding are now open at gracelandauctions.com.

– Daily News staff

Viral Tweet Raises Nearly $185,000 for St. Jude

A Washington State University student’s viral tweet has resulted in raising nearly $185,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The spontaneous fundraising campaign began Nov. 25 when Washington State sophomore Danni Messina tweeted to her 1,617 followers that she would donate 50 cents to St. Jude for each retweet and a quarter every time someone favorited the tweet.

It went viral in a matter of hours, ultimately receiving more than 476,000 likes and 205,000 retweets.

As news of her pledge quickly spread across the country, she set up a GoFundMe campaign to reach her goal for St. Jude. More than 1,600 people contributed to the campaign, raising nearly $100,000 in three weeks.

St. Jude partner Kmart took notice and got involved to support her efforts, creating a “Danni Messina Day” in its stores Dec. 2 that raised $86,418 for St. Jude in Messina’s name.

For her part, Messina dipped into her personal savings and contributed $1,000 to St. Jude.

After the tweet went viral, Messina told her social media followers she “did something really, really crazy, but something that’s been close to my heart for a long time.”

As a member of Tri Delta, St. Jude Partner of the Year in 2014, Messina was already familiar with the hospital’s work.

The Memphis hospital is welcoming Messina for a tour and meeting with a St. Jude patient during which her final fundraising total will be revealed.

“It has warmed my heart talking to patients and learning about their stories, but also seeing so many people help out this amazing cause,” Messina said in a release. “It started with a tweet but it’s so much more than that – it’s people coming together to make a difference this holiday season.”

– Daily News staff

Tenn. AG Issues Opinion On Immigrant Tuition Break

The state attorney general says Tennessee’s public colleges and universities can’t be left to decide whether to offer in-state tuition breaks for students whose parents brought or kept them in the country illegally.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s opinion says state lawmakers would have to pass a bill explicitly making those immigrants eligible.

The opinion addresses state legislation proposing that the boards of individual schools determine eligibility for in-state tuition. The opinion says the bill doesn’t expressly mention “unlawful aliens” and wouldn’t leave the decision to legislators, and federal law requires both.

The proposal to let individual institutions make in-state tuition decisions failed earlier this year, as did a bill to grant those students in-state tuition across all public colleges and universities.

Both bills will likely be considered again in 2018.

– The Associated Press

Former Benchmark Hotel Set for Redevelopment

The owner of the former Benchmark Hotel at Union Avenue and South B.B. King Boulevard appears ready to move forward on the redevelopment of the partially gutted five-story hotel.

MNR Hospitality LLC, an affiliate of Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based Epiq Hotels Inc., has filed a $600,100 building permit application with construction code officials to renovate the 103,000-square-foot structure at 164 Union.

The application comes three months after signage went up along the hotel’s exterior stating the property would be redeveloped as a Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott with a scheduled opening in 2019. The signage lists Cleveland Construction as the contractor and Pinnacle South as the project’s financier.

MNR bought the 124-room Benchmark in December 2012 for $3.2 million from RHG Memphis Hotel Inc. Last year, the company began demolishing the nearly 60-year-old building before running into financing issues that stalled the project.

The hotel, which closed in 2011, is situated on half an acre on the north side of Union west of South B.B. King. The Shelby County Assessor appraised it at $1.4 million this year.

– Daily News staff

Dave & Buster’s Opening Near Wolfchase in February

Dave & Buster’s is planning to open its 107th location in Memphis in February, in space that formerly housed a Sports Authority store in The Commons of Wolfcreek shopping center.

The Dallas-based restaurant, which is part adult-oriented arcade and part restaurant and had previously expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2017, is looking to make more than 230 hires for the location. Positions are available in both front- and back-of-house capacities, including servers, bartenders, hosts, line cooks and game techs, among others.

The new Dave & Buster’s will bring more than 43,000 square feet of entertainment and will offer chef-crafted food, innovative cocktails, hundreds of the latest arcade games and a state-of-the-art sports bar filled with dozens of high-definition TVs.

The Commons of Wolfcreek sits across Germantown Parkway from Wolfchase Galleria mall and houses tenants that include Target, Old Navy and Best Buy, among others.

– Andy Meek

Tigers WR Miller Adds Another All-America Award

University of Memphis senior wide receiver Anthony Miller added to his list of accolades with a first-team All-America nod from the American Football Coaches Association.

Miller was also named the winner of the Paul Warfield Award, awarded by the Touchdown Club of Columbus to college football’s top receiver. The award, named for Pro Football Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, is presented annually by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. Previous winners of the award include Amari Cooper, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss.

A graduate of Christian Brothers High School, Miller will leave as the Tigers’ all-time leading receiver after walking on to the roster.

In 2017, he has 92 catches, three off his own single season record from last season, for 1,407 yards and 17 touchdowns. His 1,407 receiving yards is second in the country, as are his 17 receiving touchdowns and his 117.3 yards per game receiving.

Miller’s list of All-America honors: AFCA, first team; Associated Press, first team; ESPN, first team; Football Writers Association, second team; Sports Illustrated, second team; and The All-American, first team.

– Don Wade

BankTennessee Makes Promotion, New Hire

Corey Porta has been hired as assistant vice president and commercial loan officer at BankTennessee, working out of the Downtown Memphis office.

Porta has been in the financial services industry for several years and most recently served as business relationship manager at Iberiabank in Memphis and First Advantage Bank in Franklin, Tennessee.

The BankTennessee office in Downtown Memphis is located at 30 N. Second St. at Court Square.

Meanwhile, Mark Harris has been promoted to branch manager at the bank’s East Memphis office. He received a promotion to assistant vice president earlier this year.

Prior to joining BankTennessee, Harris was vice president and branch manager with First Alliance Bank. From February 2011 through April 2012, Mark served in Afghanistan as a mechanical tech for The Aim Group.

The East Memphis office is located at 5540 Poplar Ave. at Yates Road.

– Andy Meek

SPM Real Estate Joins Weichert Network

Arlington-based SPM Real Estate has joined Weichert Real Estate Affiliates Inc., becoming the 19th Weichert affiliate in Tennessee. The agency, owned by Harry and Missy Spore, is now named Weichert Realtors – SPM.

As part of the Weichert franchise network, the Spores’ team can take advantage of the company’s training programs, starting with a three-day in-office session next month to familiarize agents with the Weichert business approach. The Arlington affiliate also will be eligible to receive sales leads from the Weichert call center to help grow its local market share.

“Weichert just had the right management systems and back-end support needed to grow our company and help our agents achieve new levels of real estate success,” said Missy Spore. “Joining Weichert means we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to give our agents the necessary tools to thrive in this industry.”

Weichert Realtors – SPM, like all Weichert affiliates, is independently owned and operated. The office serves the Memphis metro area.

– Daily News staff

Cordova HS Coach to Join U of M Football Staff

University of Memphis head coach Mike Norvell has filled an assistant coach opening on his staff with the hiring of Anthony Jones Jr., who spent the last five seasons as head football coach at Cordova High School.

“I believe he is the perfect fit for our staff and players while bringing incredible relationships within the city of Memphis and in western Tennessee to our program,” Norvell said in a state-ment.

Jones is a 2004 graduate of Westwood High School. He attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, playing wide receiver for the Mocs from 2004 to 2007.

After his playing career at Chattanooga, which saw him earn first-team All-Southern Conference honors in 2006, Jones spent 2007 as a graduate assistant coach at Chattanooga before returning to Westwood as an assistant coach. He served in that role at Westwood from 2007 to 2010 and took over as the program’s head coach in 2010.

As the head coach at Westwood, he guided the team to its first winning season in 18 years. That marked the first of three straight regional football championships and three conference champi-onships (2010, 2011, 2012) for Westwood.

In 2013, Jones left to take over the program at Cordova High School. His first season at Cordova saw the program post its first winning season in nine years and his 2016 team posted the most wins in school history and advanced to the semifinals of the TSSAA state championships, falling to the eventual state champs.

A 2007 graduate with a degree in business from Chattanooga, Jones also holds his master’s de-gree in education from Union University.

– Don Wade

First Tennessee Bank Wins Industry Awards

First Tennessee Bank has received multiple national awards from Greenwich Associates as part of the group’s 2017 Greenwich Best Brand Awards.

In evaluating more than 750 banks, Greenwich Associates identified a select group of banks that performed at different levels compared to peers at the national level. First Tennessee won four awards recognizing its top evaluations from clients.

In the Small Business Banking category, First Tennessee won Best Brand awards for “Ease of Doing Business” and “Trust.” In the Middle Market Banking category, First Tennessee also won Best Brand awards for “Ease of Doing Business” and “Trust.”

– Andy Meek

PROPERTY SALES 56 94 12,852
MORTGAGES 23 50 8,053
BUILDING PERMITS 285 422 30,356
BANKRUPTCIES 23 67 6,131