The Mountain Press ■ Sevier County’s Daily Newspaper ■ Vol. 25, No. 364 ■ December 30, 2009 ■ www.themountainpress.com ■ 50 Cents Wednesday Alleged teen predator arrested INSIDE Central Tennessee man came here for encounter 5Still going Seymour’s Lady Eagles keep things rolling at Pilot Classic at Knox Catholic High Sports, Page A8 By JEFF FARRELL Staff Writer SEVIERVILLE — A Central Tennessee man who came here Tuesday looking for an encounter with a 14-year-old girl instead met several Sevierville police officers. Police say 35-year-old Stephen T. Williamson came to a public location in Sevierville expecting “to per- Williamson form sexual acts ... to include intercourse” with a person he believed to be a teenaged girl, according to his arrest warrant. He’d actually been having con- versations on the Internet with an undercover officer from the Sevierville Police Department, said Bob Stahlke, public information officer for the department. When Williamson showed up at the planned location, several officers took him into custody without incident. By the end of the day Tuesday, he was being held at the Sevier County Jail on charges of solicitation of a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor. His bond was set at $20,000, Stahlke said. The second charge stemmed from an Internet conversation with the officer in which Williamson allegedly exposed himself on a Web cam. The Sevierville Police Department has quietly begun an Internet Crimes Against Children program, and Tuesday’s arrest was the latest result, Stahlke said. “It’s been about one year we’ve had an undercover officer working with us, but we’ve had an investigator for longer,” he said. n firstname.lastname@example.org Keeping your tree ‘alive’ 5Free TV in jeopardy? Cable fractures networks’ audience, recession siphons advertising $$$ NATION, Page A11 Local State appointment Pigeon Forge official will serve on Municipal Technical Advisory Services committee Page A3 Weather Today Partly cloudy High: 47° Tonight Partly cloudy Low: 36° DETAILS, Page A6 Obituaries Cities’ exchange programs provide ‘win-win situation’ By ELLEN BROWN Staff Writer Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are all helping local residents stay green during the holiday season by providing recycle dropoff sites for Christmas trees. The city of Sevierville and Trees/Trails and Beautification Board have brought back the “Give a Tree, Take a Tree” program after it was discontinued for the past few years. “We were a little ahead of our time when we first started it 20 years ago,” Bob Parker, Sevierville Parks and Recreation director. “People got out of the mindset (of recycling), but then there was more education, which created more awareness.” Through Jan. 8, residents can drop off their tree in the parking lot shared by the Sevierville Community Center and Sevierville Police Department at the Municipal Complex. They will receive three tree saplings at the community center’s gym/pool office. The seedlings are donated by the Trees/Trails and Beautification Board; funds to purchase the seedlings come from private donations. The community center’s gym/pool office is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and 1-6 p.m. Sunday. The live Christmas trees will be mulched and reused for a required alternate daily cover at the Sevier Solid Waste landfill. “It saves a lot of space at the landfill and saves the city a lot of money,” said Parker, who added Sevierville has been part of the Tree City USA program for 25 years. “It’s another way to increase awareness of preserving forestry. It’s a win-win.” The Gatlinburg Recreation Department and See TREE, Page A4 Curt Habraken/The Mountain Press Sevierville Community Center employee Katie Randles separates saplings to be handed out as part of Sevierville’s program. Leslie Rosenberger Sarah Henry, 76 Michael Taylor 50 Judy Price, 64 Smoke alarm causes center evacuation in Gatlinburg DETAILS, Page A4 6,000 Christian youth inside at time Index Local & State . A1-A4,A6 Calendar . . . . . . . . . . A2 Opinion . . . . . . . . . . . . . A7 Sports . . . . . . . . . . A8-A10 Money . . . . . . . . . . . . A5 Advice . . . . . . . . . . . A17 Comics . . . . . . . . . . . . A17 Classifieds . . . . . A12-A16 Nation . . . . . A5,A11,A18 World . . . . . . . . . . . . A18 By JEFF FARRELL Staff Writer Though municipalities are required to rebid projects that only get one offer that is over the budgeted amount, it seems the state faces no such rule. “We look very closely at projects that only receive one bid,” TDOT spokeswoman Julie Oaks said, though she did not indicate that will mean the project will be sent back for another round of bidding. The only thing that might get GATLINBURG — More than 6,000 attendees at a Christian youth rally were evacuated from the Convention Center after pyrotechnics at the end of a concert set of smoke alarms inside the building. The evacuation came at the end of the first of three Xtreme Winter events at the center this week, said Dave Parella, executive director of the city’s department of tourism. The conclusion of the first event included a concert, and pyrotechnics from the show activated a smoke alarm but did not cause a fire, Parella said. “There was a lot of fog in the room from that and they set off some cold pyrotechnics and one of the sparks struck the ceiling,” he said. See BIRDS CREEK, Page A4 See EVACUATION, Page A4 Curt Habraken/The Mountain Press Corrections The Mountain Press is committed to accuracy. Please report factual errors by calling 428-0748 Ext. 214. Motorists pass within feet of a barn in a sharp curve set to be eliminated during construction work on Birds Creek Road. Birds Creek Road work near clear By DEREK HODGES Staff Writer SEVIERVILLE — Planned work to improve Birds Creek Road seems to have taken a step forward, but unofficially so. Officials with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) recently completed the bid process, in which they secure offers from contractors hoping to be hired to complete the project. Apparently, though, only one con- struction company is interested in doing the work, so that leaves some questions about how the state will proceed. As it turns out, Sevier County’s Charles Blalock & Sons, which handles a large number of TDOT projects in East Tennessee and beyond, is the lowest and only bidder for the project. The company proposed to do the work for just more than $9.78 million, higher than the $9 million state officials expected the effort to cost.