Ruby Tuesday closes in Oak Ridge

Ruby Tuesday Oak Ridge

Ruby Tuesday in Oak Ridge announced in signs posted on its front doors that it has closed.

 

Ruby Tuesday Closed Sign

Signs posted on the two front doors at Ruby Tuesday on Tuesday night announce that the Oak Ridge restaurant has closed.

Note: This story was updated at 8:25 a.m. Oct. 1.

Ruby Tuesday in Oak Ridge has closed. The restaurant announced the closure in two signs posted on its front doors.

The signs invite diners to eat at other local Ruby Tuesday restaurants in Knoxville and Lenoir City.

The front doors of the Oak Ridge restaurant were locked Tuesday night, and a worker leaving the restaurant declined to comment. A Ruby Tuesday media representative wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. [Read more...]

Mall project clears critical hurdle Monday

Oak Ridge Village Area Rendering

 

Tim Sittema

Tim Sittema

Council, IDB approve TIF extension, grant, roadway work

The proposed redevelopment of the Oak Ridge mall cleared a critical hurdle on Monday when city officials agreed to extend a property tax agreement for the 59-acre project, authorize $2 million in roadway and other infrastructure work, and offer a $500,000 grant if some federal funding is not approved.

Officials described the proposed redevelopment, named Main Street Oak Ridge, as an $80 million project that could fill a “hole in the heart” of Oak Ridge, bring new retail life to the city’s downtown, and build a lasting legacy.

Monday’s moves were meant to reduce the risk for four local lenders that could combine to offer $13 million in loans to part of the redevelopment under a tax increment financing, or TIF, agreement. That incentive would use new property tax revenues generated at the mall site and 120 surrounding acres included in the TIF area to repay those loans. Officials said the loans could be repaid in 18 years, according to financial models.

David Bradshaw

David Bradshaw

But in two separate special meetings on Monday, the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board and Oak Ridge City Council agreed to extend the TIF term from 20 years to 30. That extra 10 years is meant to act as a “shock absorber” and help make sure that the banks are repaid if there is a “glitch” in the project that would push the repayment past the previously approved 20-year term, officials said.

“This is not a ‘home run’ project for us as financial institutions,” said David R. Bradshaw, Oak Ridge president of CapitalMark Bank and Trust, one of the financial institutions that could participate. But, he added, “It is the right thing to do for the community.” [Read more...]

ORHS evacuated after chemistry experiment sets off smoke detectors

Oak Ridge High School Chem Lab Evacuation

Oak Ridge High School students were briefly evacuated Tuesday morning after a chemistry lab experiment in LC212 set off smoke detectors. The students were let back in about 20 minutes after the 10:30 a.m. call.

 

Students at Oak Ridge High School were briefly evacuated Tuesday morning after a chemistry experiment set off smoke detectors, authorities said.

A small amount of zinc chloride and water created water vapor that set off the smoke detectors, which then shut chemistry lab hoods, Oak Ridge firefighters said. The Oak Ridge Fire Department manually opened the vents in the room (LC212) until the smoke detector system reset. Firefighters checked the air, making sure it was safe to breathe, Battalion Chief Jody Durham said.

There was no fire, no damage, and no injuries, firefighters said.

“No student was ever in any real danger,” Durham said.

[Read more...]

IDB, Council to consider longer tax agreement, road improvements for mall project

Main Street Oak Ridge Site Plan without Tenants

A Main Street Oak Ridge site plan from Tuesday, without tenants shown. (Submitted image)

 

Oak Ridge Village Area Rendering

In two special meetings today, local officials will consider adding another 10 years to a tax incentive agreement for the long-awaited redevelopment of the Oak Ridge mall, and they will also consider authorizing improvements to public infrastructure, including the rebuilding of three private roads: Main Street East, Main Street West, and Wilson Street.

The tax incentive is known as tax increment financing, or TIF. It would use new property tax revenues generated at the mall site, which will be renamed Main Street Oak Ridge, to help pay for development costs.

A 20-year, $13 million TIF and economic impact plan were approved by the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, City Council, and Anderson County Commission in November, and by Tennessee officials in January.

But the IDB and City Council will now consider extending the TIF term to 30 years. The extension would also have to be approved by the Anderson County Commission and Tennessee officials. [Read more...]

Fifty evacuated, one treated after small fire at Callaghan Towers

Robert Burk and Jean Rivera Evacuation

Oak Ridge Fire Department firefighter and paramedic Robert Burk, right, evacuates Jean Rivera, a resident of the six-story Frank Callaghan Towers on Fairbanks Road after a small fire on Thursday afternoon. Burk is carrying Rivera’s dog Taco. Rivera, who can’t walk steps, said firefighters practically had to carry her downstairs. “I’m shook up,” she said. “I’m nervous.”

 

About 50 residents were evacuated and one person was treated for smoke inhalation after a small fire was reported in an apartment at Frank Callaghan Towers on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

The fire appears to have been caused by an electrical short at an outlet in a second-floor apartment on the northwest side of the building, Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Darryl Kerley said.

A clothes hamper full of clothes ignited, and the fire burned the side of an entertainment center, two lamps, and materials around a window, Kerley said.

“It was a fairly small fire, but it generated a lot of black smoke,” he said. The first three floors of the six-story building were evacuated, and two cats were rescued from the apartment that burned. The apartment resident was not at home at the time. [Read more...]

Hitson named OSTI director

Brian Hitson

Brian A. Hitson

Brian A. Hitson has been appointed director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information in Oak Ridge, officials said this week.

Hitson had been acting director of OSTI since January 12. OSTI’s former longtime director, Walter L. Warnick, retired January 3.

Hitson has held a number of positions at OSTI, most recently serving as associate director for administration and information services. In that position, he was responsible for international information exchanges, archival digitization and preservation, classified and sensitive information, cost-reimbursable product development, and administrative and financial management. [Read more...]

IDB has special meeting on Oak Ridge mall on Monday

Oak Ridge Village Area Rendering

 

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

A city board on Monday will consider extending the tax agreement for the redevelopment of the Oak Ridge mall from 20 years to 30.

The Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board will consider the change to the tax increment financing, or TIF, agreement during a special meeting Monday afternoon.

It’s one of a series of resolutions expected to be considered by the IDB and Oak Ridge City Council during special-called meetings on Monday, September 29. [Read more...]

Chamber forms Progress PAC, two Council members seek legal action

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

Note: This story was updated at 10:30 a.m.

Two Oak Ridge City Council members have requested a special meeting this week to consider litigation against the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, seeking to prevent the business organization from conducting political activities on public property, including through a new political action committee.

The special meeting, which would be open to the public, has been requested by Oak Ridge City Council members Trina Baughn and Anne Garcia Garland. Baughn said she requested the meeting to “vote upon initiating litigation against the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce so that the city may seek either injunctive relief and/or a temporary restraining order with regards to their conducting political activities on public property.”

Stephen Whitson

Stephen Whitson

On Friday, the Chamber announced it had formed a political action committee named the Progress PAC. The multi-candidate PAC will support candidates in the November elections for Oak Ridge Board of Education and City Council, a press release said.

Stephen Whitson of Oak Ridge has been elected Progress PAC chair, and David Bradshaw, also of Oak Ridge, has been named treasurer. Both are past chairs of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

In the press release, Whitson said the Progress PAC will only consider supporting candidates who respond to an issue-based written questionnaire and participate in an interview with Progress PAC members. [Read more...]

Updated: Driver injured, pulled from van crash that sparks gas line fire

Car Crash and Gas Line Fire Oak Ridge Turnpike

The male driver of this Honda Odyssey minivan was taken to the hospital after he crashed into a wooded area alongside Oak Ridge Turnpike and sparked a gas line fire. The area of the gas line fire is in the left foreground.

 

Note: This story was last updated at 9:05 p.m.

A male driver was taken to the hospital after a westbound minivan went down a small embankment on the north side of Oak Ridge Turnpike, crashed into a wooded area, and sparked a gas line fire on the east end of town.

Driver Thomas Debusk, 43, of Knoxville, was taken by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, the Oak Ridge Police Department said.

The cause of the crash, reported at about 1:43 p.m., was not immediately known. The gold 2003 Honda Odyssey van driven by Debusk struck an aboveground natural gas pipeline in a small basin below Oak Ridge Turnpike and next to the parking lot at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is across from Tractor Supply. [Read more...]

Former Oak Ridge rowing director could lead ORCVB

Marc DeRose

Marc DeRose

Note: This story was updated at 5:55 p.m.

A former Oak Ridge rowing director could become the next executive director of the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The ORCVB board of directors on Thursday voted 4-3 to offer the job to Marc A. DeRose, subject to reference checks. If hired, DeRose will replace former longtime director Katy Brown, who became ORCVB president in 2006 and left in July to take a new marketing and promotions job covering Knoxville and Chattanooga.

DeRose was hired by the Oak Ridge Rowing Association in August 2013, and he resigned from his head coach and rowing director position in May of this year, saying the job was “not the right fit for me and my family,” the ORRA said in a press release this spring.

Other candidates for the ORCVB job, which offers a starting salary of $45,000 per year, were Lila Wilson, director of special events for the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, and Naomi Asher, executive director of CASA of the Tennessee Heartland. ORCVB board members said Asher withdrew her application, saying she wanted to continue working for CASA.

Wilson received three votes on Thursday, picking up one less than DeRose’s four. [Read more...]

Oak Ridge firefighters save five lives, fire trucks help, chief says

Oak Ridge Firefighters Lifesaving Medals and Harness Family

Oak Ridge firefighter and engineer Michael Vanosdale, left; Captain Eric Rackard, second from left; and paramedic Austin Keathley, right, helped save the life of Jason Harness, 50, second from right, on July 21. The three firefighters received Lifesaving Medals during a September 5 ceremony for three new fire engines. Also pictured is Nicole Harness. “These are the men that saved my husband’s life,” she said.

 

Oak Ridge firefighters have saved five lives so far this year, and the department’s fire trucks—which carry $30,000 worth of medical gear, including cardiac equipment—played a key role, Fire Chief Darryl Kerley said this month.

The five lives have all been saved since January; they were cardiac saves, Kerley said.

“That wouldn’t happen without these trucks,” the chief said during a September 5 ceremony to unveil three new Sutphen fire engines, the first for the Oak Ridge Fire Department in about 16 years.

Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley

Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley

During that ceremony, three firefighters received Lifesaving Medals for their role in saving the life of Jason Harness, 50, on July 21 at Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue.

Harness’ wife, Nicole Harness, reported that her husband was in the car and not breathing that summer evening. The rescuers who responded moved Jason Harness from the vehicle to the ground, where “he was found to be pulseless, not breathing, and unresponsive,” Assistant Fire Chief Josh Waldo said.

Harness had had a massive heart attack, with 100 percent blockage. [Read more...]