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State lawmakers question Haslam's plan
Gov. Bill Haslam, shown speaking in McMinnville earlier this month, says privatizing maintenance work at public colleges and universities could be a big financial savings for the state.

NASHVILLE (AP) — A group of 20 state lawmakers has sent a letter to University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro questioning Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to privatize maintenance work on the campuses of the public college system.
The letter signed by 18 Republicans and two Democrats notes Haslam has left it up to the leaders of each institution to decide whether they want to participate in the outsourcing plan. Haslam has argued privatizing maintenance work at public colleges and universities could save $35 million per year and could help control future tuition hikes.
But the letter writers, led by Republican Sen. Richard Briggs of Knoxville, argue that privatization of government jobs would benefit out-of-state companies, cause a loss of flexibility for schools and hurt loyal employees.

MURFREESBORO (AP) — Rutherford County officials have appointed an interim sheriff while their local sheriff remains in jail on charges he profited from the sale of e-cigarettes to inmates.
The Rutherford County Commission voted 11-10 to appoint Michael Fitzhugh. Runner-up Dale Armour got the other votes in the final roll call, news outlets reported. There were initially 12 candidates for the job.
Fitzhugh will serve until the 2018 election unless Sheriff Robert Arnold is cleared of his charges. Arnold, his uncle John Vanderveer and former sheriff’s administrator Joe Russell have pleaded not guilty to a 14-count federal indictment that includes charges of conspiracy, fraud and bribery. They are awaiting a Feb. 7 jury trial.
The indictment alleges Arnold used his official position to promote the sale of electronic cigarettes in the jail in exchange for bribes and kickbacks from Russell and Vanderveer.
Fitzhugh had been with the sheriff’s office for about 19 years before he retired nearly four years ago because he said he disagreed with the way the sheriff’s office was being managed.
Fitzhugh said he intends to talk to his deputies soon.
“We need to come to an understanding,” he said. “We need to establish trust between each other. There is not a lot of trust there, unless you give people that and give people hope.”

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — A pipeline in Chattanooga has reopened less than a week after it was closed because of a gasoline leak.
Colonial Pipeline spokesman Aaron Smith tells news outlets that the affected portion near Signal Mountain was repaired Thursday night and service to the line has been restored. It had been closed after a resident on Saturday reported smelling gasoline.
The pipeline carries petroleum products through Chattanooga to Nashville.
Officials estimate that about 630 gallons of gasoline leaked near Shoal Creek.
Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Jason McDonald says the gas never reached the creek, which runs into the nearby Tennessee River.
Smith says there is no danger to the public and Colonial is paying the bill for the cleanup.
Colonial Pipeline, based in Alpharetta, Ga., operates about 5,600 miles of pipelines.