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Three shootings impact county

Three shootings have occurred inside Loudon County within days from each other.

The incidences occurred inside Lenoir City, Loudon and Philadelphia, with two of the three resulting in fatalities.

Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider called the shootings rare in such a short time period.

“I just think some people are relying on the guns,” Guider said. “They are I guess using the new permitless carry law, taking it a little bit too far maybe. I do feel that the caliber of people, the integrity I guess of people, their moralities have just dropped considerably.”

Man charged with murderA Lenoir City man has been charged with first-degree murder after law enforcement responded to a shooting Aug. 11 on Bell Avenue West.

Don White, Lenoir City police chief, said officers responded to a call at 9:40 p.m. at 810 Bell Ave. Officers found Timothy Eugene Hansen, 48, in a bathroom along with a dead 47-year-old female.

“Our officers arrived on scene and they found Mr. Hansen in the residence with the victim,” White said. “EMS came in and they did check her, and she had passed away from the single gunshot wound.”

According to a report from Lenoir City Police Inv. Jason Smith, the female was lying on the bathroom floor with a fatal gunshot wound to the back of the head.

“Mr. Hansen admitted he shot Ms. Garcia,” according to the report. “Text messages on Ms. Garcia’s phone show at 9:04 p.m. she received a message from Mr. Hansen’s phone stating: ‘I knew you were cheating on me.’ Mr. Hansen also asks, ‘Where r u’ and ‘Answer.’ Ms. Garcia responded, ‘I’m scared you will hurt me’.”

Officers located a .22-caliber rifle and shell casing in the living room adjacent to the bathroom.

White said an investigation is ongoing. Preliminary autopsy reports came back Thursday, and 38 items were submitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime lab.

“There’s just a lot of things that we’ll be waiting over the coming weeks to come back to complete the case file,” White said.

Hansen is being held on $1 million bond.

Neighbor dispute turns deadly

Loudon County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a shooting after an altercation turned deadly between two neighbors.

According to LCSO, deputies were dispatched at 1:54 p.m. Thursday to 8000 Pond Creek Road in Philadelphia for a shooting. There law enforcement found Robert Banton, 84, with “what appeared to be gunshot wounds.”

Tony James, 62, was detained on scene and transported to the LCSO Criminal Investigation Division for questioning and to determine his involvement in the shooting.

“This particular altercation involved where Mr. Banton ... was grading with a yard box, gravel and stuff on the driveway, and they had a common driveway for four or four houses back there, and he was kind of grading the gravel around and somehow got too deep and hit a waterline,” Guider said. “Then he had left but the homeowner there, Mr. James, was at home and saw all the water coming out so he took off at the end of the road — and I’m going to say that’s a pretty lengthy road and it’s got a little hill on it — and went down and his cutoff valve meter was at the end of the road, at the end of the drive there are three or four meters down there, so he was going to cut his meter off and Mr. Banton was coming back up the driveway. They met and they collided, actually, and they just kind of in Mr. James’ words, ‘Had a little bit of a bumper car activity’.”

Per protocol in homicide investigations, Banton’s body was transported to the Knox County Regional Forensic Center for an autopsy.

“This is a tragic and senseless outcome to a very avoidable situation and our detectives are working diligently to examine all of the evidence available to us to determine why this happened,” Guider said in a news release. “All of the evidence and findings will be presented to Attorney General Russ Johnson’s Office for their review. At this time, this is a very active investigation and no charges have been filed at this time. ... Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of those involved.”

As of Monday, no charges have been filed.

Russell Johnson, 9th Judicial District attorney general, said the case could go before grand jury in December.

Drive-by shooting in Loudon

A Lenoir City man is now in custody after at least one witness saw him firing a .45-caliber handgun toward a residence Monday morning on Grove Street.

Jackie Lynn Turpin, 58, has been charged with reckless endangerment and felony evasion and is being held without bond. Loudon Police Inv. Brian Jenkins said Turpin also had a previous domestic violence charge still pending.

“Today at around 9 a.m. Loudon police officers responded to a drive-by shooting in the area of the 1000 block of Grove Street,” Jenkins said in a news release. “Witnesses stated a male in a small brown/gold SUV fired three shots toward the Loudon Garden Apartments while traveling north on Grove Street. No one was stuck by these shots. Within a couple of minutes of receiving this call, officer Sam Harrison spotted a vehicle matching the description given driving north on Highway 11 crossing the Tennessee River. Harrison attempted to stop this vehicle and it turned off Highway 11 and fled onto Rock Quarry Road.”

Harrison, along with other officers, eventually got the vehicle to stop on Rock Quarry Road.

“Turpin was taken into custody without incident and gave a statement indicating that he was the one that did this shooting due to his ex-wife living in those apartments and he was angry with her and attempting to send her a message,” Jenkins said. “He also stated that he threw the gun in the Tennessee River as he crossed it.”

Turpin is being held without bond.

Schools gear up for ‘Battle’
  • Updated

Although the Battle of the Bridge food drive is days away from finishing, local schools have gotten off to a good start in support of the annual Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County collection.

Lenoir City and Loudon high schools started collections the first week of the school year.

The winning school will be announced Aug. 27 before kickoff between both high schools, with all proceeds going to the nonprofit that supports families.

“The BOTB is the largest food/fundraiser the Good Samaritan Center has each year,” Cindy Black, Good Sam executive director, said in an email correspondence. “This year and last year it has definitely been a resource as it has been difficult for everyone in purchasing food items to donate and other limitations because of COVID protocol. We have experienced a consistent need from our clients for food, cleaning supplies and toiletries. Because of the BOTB and the resources we receive from this drive we have been able to meet the needs of this community.

“... The BOTB is such a treasured tradition for the schools and the students,” she added. “It is a time to challenge each community and each individual, a time for the high school football season to begin and a time to reflect on our neighbors who are struggling. Success is doing this event and doing it well to serve others.”

Last year’s drive was held to only monetary gifts due to COVID-19 concerns, but this time around will be similar to previous efforts with cash and canned donations. The 2020 drive brought in $23,768.84. Loudon collected $15,501.66, while Lenoir City took in $8,267.18.

“Anything that comes into Good Samaritan as food in cans, produce or whatever it might be, does a lot of help for us,” Evelyn Edwards, Good Sam pantry manager, said. “It saves our monies, that we can take those monies that we have that are donated to us and we can put those into our dental, our electricity, our pharmacy and all the other issues. That’s why it’s so important that the donations of cans and other items that we see. ... I have a feeling that this is going to be a better, more exciting, more competition for our high school kids.”

That competition has spurred creativity to donate a larger amount. Lenoir City High School Principal Brandee Hoglund hopes for more raised than last year. To make that possible, school representatives are getting creative.

“We want our kids involved, and we’ve done that,” Hoglund said. “We did that at Panther Day and we’re going to have a drive at open house. But also trying to get our faculty and staff really involved in it coming up with creative ideas. … We’re focusing on our teachers, too, trying to get our faculty and staff involved. That’s going well. Katelyn Hanley is the person that’s over that for us, she does an excellent job, and we are actually selling cookies to faculty and staff.

“Sort of challenged us all to sell five boxes. We also had a drive for teachers to collect to get out of giving the ACT test, to administer that, and so the top three winners that raise the most money will be exempt from that,” she added with a laugh. “That was another fun one that we did.”

Loudon High School has also gotten off to a good start with collections.

“The Battle of the Bridge food drive has gained a life of its own, especially around here,” Scott MacKintosh, LHS principal, said. “... The students have immense pride in trying to figure out creative ways to get donations kind of to beat Lenoir City, but also they really and truly understand where these donations are going. It’s neat to see kids essentially, kids that are wanting to help out people that don’t have as much as they do.”

LHS teachers are also encourage to get involved, MacKintosh said.

“At this point we have encouraged our teachers to make a concerted effort in this and to the point of saying we love to see every class try to raise $100, that would be their goal,” MacKintosh said. “More is excellent but that would be a goal. Not everyone does that obviously, but if you throw that number out there there’s a goal to reach. ... We’ve got community businesses that have helped out in the past. The other thing that we do is we’ve involved our feeder schools ... and they collect both cans and money and then we pick them up late in the week of Battle of the Bridge, and so we incentivize things for them as well with our feeder schools.”

Black said donations can also be dropped off at Good Sam and designated for a school.

Chick-fil-A will also hold its annual Battle of the Chicken Nugget competition, with 10% of proceeds going 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 24 for LHS and 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 25 for LCHS.

Stormwater fee collecting big bucks

Four years after Lenoir City implemented a stormwater utility fee, only a small reserve exists for emergencies and special utility-related projects.

The fee was implemented July 1, 2017, and generated about $493,000 in the first year. The city has since budgeted roughly $550,000 annually.

For the 2020-21 fiscal year, $528,771 was collected and $503,337 spent, according to city finance director Maggie Hunt.

Greg Buckner, city stormwater manager, estimated 80% of funds each year go toward salaries and benefits, routine maintenance, administration, mapping, education, engineering fees, outreach and permitting.

“We were made to have our program,” Buckner said. “With that comes responsibilities of maintaining the infrastructure that we have to make sure it’s in working order to make sure that when the job sites come in that they’re doing their job on protecting the surrounding properties. There’s inspections that have to be done on those, there’s the plans when they come in have to meet certain criteria. All that does entail money, specifically workforce. Most of that the city was already spending, the large number out of the general fund. It had eaten away at other departments on where you could spend the money.

“Two main purposes in doing the utility fund and setting it up as a utility and not a tax is you can carry that money over for major infrastructure repairs or building in the future,” he added. “The two big things were to fund that manpower that was already being spent out of the general fund that wasn’t 15 years ago.”

The reserve fund has amassed $243,850 so far.

Buckner believes a “comfortable” reserve should be $1.5 million-$2 million, and he knows that will take time.

“That routine maintenance stuff is going to determine what gets carried over each year,” he said. “The main goal is that every year a certain portion of it that can get carried over so each you’re adding to this lump sum up here so that if we do in 10 years have something blow out, if we do in 10 years, we have enough money here that covers that and it doesn’t come out of general fund at all. ... Let’s say one year you may carry $100,000 over, one year you might carry $50,000 over. When you have a big storm like we did (in February 2019), when you’re talking two weeks of cleanup and it’s going into overtime, that man hours cuts into it a lot. You could spend $25,000 in four days on overtime.”

“And then eventually we identify certain projects,” Amber Scott, city administrator, added. “We identify that this area we’re going to fix, but you’re looking at $500,000 projects in one lick.”

Lenoir City has been classified as a Phase II municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) by Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation since 2008 and for years absorbed those costs in the regular budget.

The stormwater fee is $3 per month for residential and uses a more expensive sliding scale for non-residential.

The MS4 designation requires Lenoir City to conduct public education for residents on polluted stormwater runoff, provide opportunities for residents to participate in program development and implementation, and develop and implement a plan to eliminate illicit discharges in the storm sewer system. The city must also develop, implement and enforce programs for erosion and sediment control, discharges of post-construction stormwater runoff from new and redevelopment areas, and prevent and reduce pollutant runoff from municipal operations.

“Since the time that we became an MS4 the citizens of Lenoir City absorbed through other means the funds we needed to fulfill this program, and this fee, a user fee is really what it is,” Scott said. “... In 2017, we finally reached that point where somebody was going to say, ‘OK, why are you not funding this like you’re supposed to?’ We came up with a structure that we felt was fair. We compared it to other municipalities in areas around us. Some cities do a tax, some cities do a property tax increase and many cities do a user fee like we did.”

Recent residential construction in the city could help generate more funds, but how much remains to be seen. Scott said if all planned residential developments work out, the city could get an additional $53,000 in revenue.

“The biggest thing is new subdivisions coming in now, new commercial businesses coming in now, they have to provide their own storage to a limit for rain events,” Buckner said. “Most of the time that’s a 25-year rain event. ... Things do change and if you get bigger rains, at some point we will have to have the money there to do other projects. Newer projects that are coming in are better than the ones that were built 20 years ago and ones that were built 50 years ago.”

“And that’s why we’re building a reserve,” Scott added.

County reaches compromise on AFT

A dispute over Adequate Facilities Tax funding for Lenoir City Schools has been settled following parties involved reaching an agreement.

Loudon County Commission during a special called meeting Monday before its workshop voted 10-0 in favor of moving forward with a 12.5% contribution of AFT funding to Lenoir City Schools for at least the next four years. Commissioners Adam Waller and David Meers motioned and seconded, respectively.

“I think what it does for Lenoir City and Loudon County is it gets us behind us and we go back to taking care of our kids at both schools,” Gary Whitfield, commissioner, said. “I think the numbers were a little off from our initial vote and I think it’s just a way for us to make this thing right and to make sure that we’re supporting Lenoir City and the Lenoir City children.”

The decision comes after commission on July 6 voted to reduce AFT funding for Lenoir City by 2.5% annually for the next four years and give that money to Loudon County Schools. The initial impact was thought to be $4,600 for budget year, but was adjusted to $34,506 after further study.

Lenoir City Council in return authorized the city codes enforcement and planning department on July 12 to not participate in the AFT documentation process.

“I was one of the ‘no’ votes as it came out of budget. I think putting it to bed now is crucial and not letting this draw out,” Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw, Loudon County mayor, said. “I think we found a happy resolution here that’s going to let everybody get back to business as usual. Whether or not you agree with the 12.5% or it should be 15%, this puts the whole situation itself to bed and allows us to concentrate on what we’re doing in our schools and concentrate on educating our children.”

Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens was present Monday for the vote. He received the AFT resolution on Aug. 9 and asked for city council to gives its blessing on the document if county commission voted in favor of it. Councilmen Mike Henline and Eddie Simpson motioned and seconded, respectively, which passed 6-0 in favor. Lenoir City will now again participate in AFT documentation, Aikens said.

“I’m happy to get it behind us,” Aikens said. “It should have never have happened to begin with, but I’m happy to get it behind us. … I’ll instruct the codes office in the morning as soon as I get the resolution in hand and it signed by the mayor and the chairman and then we’ll proceed as normal.”

Matthew Tinker, commissioner, considered the resolution a “fair compromise.”

“I don’t think it should have ever happened to begin with but it did and both sides gave a little and we were able to come together and find a resolution that’s suitable for everyone,” Tinker said. “… In four years there will be another commission elected in here and so it doesn’t tie that commission to this deal all the way through their term. It gives them an opportunity to weigh in on it as well. We don’t like it when we have to do things other commissions have tied our hands with so we didn’t want to do that with the next commission.”