What was touted as the state’s first electrified truck stop, TR Auto Truck Plaza off Interstate 40 in Tennessee, now sits idle and is boarded up just months after the owner obtained more than $400,000 in federal stimulus funds to install the electrification project.
The Tennessee Dept. of Transportation (TDOT) awarded truck stop owner Rick Lewis a $424,000 Environmental Protection Agency stimulus grant for electrical hookups. Both the state and EPA were apparently unaware that he had a history of legal and financial problems and had filed for bankruptcy, according to a Fox News report.
“It is Solyndra in miniature,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., referring to a Silicon Valley solar panel manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy shortly after receiving a $535-million loan guarantee from the U.S. Dept. of Energy. “What I am questioning is the vetting and oversight and the fiduciary responsibility that the federal government — the people who run these programs — have to we, the taxpayer.”
Lewis had a history of financial troubles. Fox cited court records that show he filed for bankruptcy in 2003, a year after a conviction on 31 counts of theft and currently faces indictments for allegedly writing bad checks.
“The truck stop electrification technology installed at this location was operating as intended up until a short time ago and can be again if the property resumes operations as a truck stop,” state Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said in a written statement.