City Reporter 

City Reporter

On the Prowl

Something is killing pets and scaring people in Orange Mound.

By Bianca Phillips

When Orange Mound resident Helyn Williams' dogs disappeared last April, she went looking for them and found more than she'd bargained for. Instead of her own dogs, she discovered a dead stray dog alongside some railroad tracks near South Cooper "that had been skinned like something was preparing to eat it."

For several months before her discovery, Williams and her neighbors had been hearing "loud roaring sounds" at night, and their outdoor pets were disappearing. Residents began calling the Tennessee Wildlife Agency to report the mysterious predator, and after several investigations, game warden Andy Tweed determined that the culprits were most likely coyotes. He never actually saw one but said the footprints were present. Williams isn't so sure.

"I know the difference between a coyote and something else. This predator's almost like a bear. I mean, I doubt it is a bear because no one's seen it, but I can hear it running while sitting in my house, so it's got to be a big animal," she said.

However, Shelby County commissioner Cleo Kirk said he has heard reports of coyote sightings in the area, and to calm residents' fears, the county spent the last several weeks clearing out underbrush and debris from a ditch near the railroad tracks where the animals may be living.

"We've finished the clean-up last week. There was so much undergrowth that the wildlife agency said they needed that gone before they could track or trap whatever's in there," said Steve Hunter, administrator of the county's roads and bridges.

Tweed said coyotes are fairly common in the Mississippi River and Wolf River bottoms, but due to urban sprawl they're being forced out of their natural habitat. He said they're one of the most adaptable species on the North American continent, and although they may be preying on people's pets, they pose little danger to humans.

"When a coyote sees another animal, whether it's a dog or a cat, they look at it as a food item," said Tweed. "But they're terrified of people and they'll generally stay away."


Sharing Support

State looks at altering child-support payment formula.

By Janel Davis

Parents paying or receiving child support could soon see a change in support amounts if Tennessee adopts a new income formula to calculate the payments.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS), the governing agency for child-support services, is working on switching from its current flat-percentage calculation method to an income-shares model.

The new model considers both parents' incomes and allocates a portion of income estimated to have been spent on the child if the household were intact.

"The income-shares model has been perceived as a more fair way of determining support," said spokesperson Michelle Mowery Johnson. "We hope to have a plan [for the change] presented to the Child Support Task Force very soon."

Administrators said the change to many parents will not have a significant impact on anyone's court order. All new cases going forward will be determined on the income-shares formula, with existing cases transitioning during periodic three-year reviews.

Tennessee will join 33 other states, including Alabama, Kentucky, and Arkansas, using the new model. Mississippi remains on the flat-percentage model.

"The main concern with the changeover here is volume," said Mitch Morgan, director of child support for Shelby County. "As of September, we had 120,000 cases here, so we've been trying to get information from other comparable cities on how to streamline the change."

So what does the change mean? Using the current model, a noncustodial parent with two children and making more than $3,000 a month would pay $784 a month for support. Under the new model, that same parent would pay $787, when the custodial parent's lesser income of $2,097 is taken into consideration.

In cases where one parent earns considerably more than the other -- for example, where a custodial parent earns more than eight times that of a noncustodial parent -- the amount paid by the noncustodial parent would decrease.

"With this plan, actual costs will be examined and you'll be able to see where the support comes from," said Morgan. "Dad's groups have said the flat-percentage model was not fair, but you still have some that say the income-shares model isn't fair either. You can't please everybody."


The Blotter

Absurd crimes from the local police files.

There goes the kindness of strangers: On November 5th, a delivery man was using a cart to bring several cases of Frito-Lay potato chips into a store on Oakwood. The delivery man later told police that a customer of the store opened the door for him to enter, but as he was coming through the door, the customer grabbed an entire case of chips and ran away.

Stealing cable: A woman on Goodbar has had several visits from a man who comes to her door and says he is there to work on her cable. She called police on November 5th because the day before, the man "advised that he was repairing the neighbor's cable and asked the complainant if hers was ok. Complainant always dismisses the man, but since his last visit, the complainant's cable has been out." The man has been identified several times committing similar crimes throughout Midtown.

From now on, you're not welcome: On November 6th, officers responded to an arson call on Overton Park. A woman who lives in an apartment there saw a man she knows bending down in front of her welcome mat. She saw him pour something on the mat and then light it on fire. The man was later arrested.

Is nothing sacred? On November 6th, the office manager at Covenant Community Church on Highland called police because of a theft. The church had ordered new checks but never received them. Unfortunately, someone else apparently had. The church's bank statement showed one check had been written for $40. n

Plates and Plays

Curtain could go up soon at Millington dinner theater.

By Chris Davis

Bill Painter, a professional actor and voiceover artist for 40 years, wants to buy former VFW Post 7175 on Cuba-Millington Road and convert it into a professional dinner theater.

In August, Painter put on a fake beard, dressed up like an old riverboat captain, and met with the Millington mayor and city council. He has some regrets about the costume. "That picture in the Millington Star made me look like a wino," Painter said. But it brought him the media attention he was seeking. A poll in the Star showed that 88.6% of respondents would support a dinner theater in Millington.

"With the next extension of U.S. 385, you'll have the hookup to Collierville, Covington, Lakeland, Bartlett, Germantown," he said. "There are the downtown dwellers, all within a 30-minute drive. And I-65 is about to come through town."

Until he can purchase the VFW post, Painter plans to partner with Ray Barton, general manager of the Admiralty Suites and Inn at 8181 N. Highway 51. Barton, who has a background in dinner theater, can offer performance space, and his wife, Mary, a professional caterer, can help with food service. Painter will present his first dinner theater production, The Owl and the Pussycat, at the Admiralty Inn on November 20th.

"I guess [the area] was just waiting for someone who was enough of a theatrical whore to come along and say, 'Hey, there's nothing wrong with Neil Simon and a good meal to boot,'" he said.


Ruff Situation

Off-road driving ban at Shelby Farms could affect retriever clubs.

By Bianca Phillips

Local hunting retriever clubs have enjoyed driving off-road in Shelby Farms for dog training for years. But a proposed ban on off-road driving may force the clubs out of the park.

Currently, both the Mid-South Hunting Retriever Club (MSHRC) and the Memphis Amateur Retriever Club can drive on the grounds.

"It's important for us to be able to utilize the grounds in the fashion that we do because of the necessity of carrying dogs, water, and equipment to the locations where we train," said John Wilkinson, MSHR secretary.

Park patrons have complained that the trucks create ruts and pose a danger to walkers. So when Steve Satterfield, interim superintendent of the Shelby Farms board, proposed a new set of park rules, he included a ban on off-road driving. It's currently being considered by a three-person rules committee.

"I welcome the retrievers here, but maybe Shelby Farms can't be everything to everybody," said Satterfield. "Preservation of the property is what we ought to be about."

Satterfield said he'd be willing to designate certain routes the clubs could use but said they were opposed to the idea.

"If this is totally banned, it will put the retriever folks out of business when it comes to utilizing these public lands," said Wilkinson. E-mail:

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