Brown leaving ORCVB for marketing, promotions job in East Tennessee

Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Welcome Center at the Midtown Community Center on Robertsville Road is pictured above.

Katy Brown has accepted a new marketing and promotions job in East Tennessee, and her last day as president of the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau will be Friday.

Brown started as a sales manager at the ORCVB in 2001, and she has been president since 2006, or about eight years.

Brown will now be a marketing and promotions specialist covering Knoxville and Chattanooga. She declined to identify her new employer, but she said it is an established company.

Brown might be most well-known for her work on the annual Secret City Festival, including her promotion of the two-day celebration. But she has also been involved in a range of other efforts to help promote and market the city, ranging from hosting travel writers from across the country to working a booth at the Oak Ridge Marina during rowing races. [Read more...]

President Obama nominates defense aide for DOE deputy secretary

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall (Photo courtesy Stanford University)

President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a presidential aide and national security official, to become deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would replace Daniel Poneman, who is stepping down from the No. 2 job this fall after five years.

Sherwood-Randall currently serves as special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for defense policy, countering weapons of mass destruction, and arms control, a position she has held since 2013. She served as special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council from 2009 to 2013.

The New York Times reported that Sherwood-Randall, 54, would bring a background in nuclear weapons and nonproliferation strategy to the department, which has split responsibilities for energy strategy and the country’s weapons and counter-proliferation work. It would be her third job in the Obama administration.

Daniel B. Poneman

Daniel B. Poneman

The newspaper said Sherwood-Randall oversaw the effort to get chemical weapons out of Syria and the development of the administration’s policy for dealing with the nuclear arsenal.

Poneman has been U.S. deputy secretary of energy since May 2009, and he also served as chief operating officer under former Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Poneman has been focused on nuclear safety and proliferation, among other issues, the Times said. He briefly served as acting secretary in 2013 before the confirmation of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. [Read more...]

Record-breaker: SNS operates at full power—1.4 megawatts—for users for first time

ORNL SNS Full Power

The accelerator-based pulse neutron source at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source operated steadily for users at the maximum design power of 1.4 megawatts on June 26. (Photo credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL)


The Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory operated steadily at its full design power of 1.4 megawatts for researchers for the first time on June 26.

“We’re producing neutrons now at this intensity for user experiments,” spokesman Bill Cabage said in a telephone interview last week.

The $1.4 billion SNS is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science user facility built on a ridge top at ORNL. It uses a linear proton accelerator and mercury target to provide the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development. The proton beam hits the mercury target, knocking off neutrons from liquid mercury atoms. The neutrons, which are used to study materials from superconductors to biological systems, are then channeled down 16 instrument beam lines, where neutron spectrometers produce data revealing the structures and dynamics of molecules and atoms.

The SNS has been used for experiments since it started producing neutrons in April 2006, but at lower power. Researchers wanted to eventually get to full power, even if that had to be done gradually during the past eight years.

“They didn’t want to have a lot of disruption playing with it,” Cabage said. “They wanted to keep it reliable for users.” [Read more...]

Former Manhattan Project headquarters, Groves home damaged in fire

Luther Brannon Oak Ridge Turnpike House Fire

The historic Luther Brannon House was damaged, but no injuries were reported in this house fire on Oak Ridge Turnpike early Monday morning. Gen. Leslie R. Groves, commander of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, once lived here, and he had his headquarters in this single-story bungalow, which was built in 1941 and soon acquired by the federal government.


Note: This story was last updated at 1 p.m. July 8.

A historic house that once served as a home and headquarters for Gen. Leslie R. Groves during the top-secret Manhattan Project in World War II was heavily damaged in a fire early Monday morning.

No injuries were reported in the house fire, which was reported at 1:36 a.m. Monday.

The one-story stone bungalow at 151 Oak Ridge Turnpike is known as the Luther Brannon House, and it’s just west of Melton Lake Drive and next to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was the first home in Oak Ridge to be privately owned.

Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Darryl Kerley said it appears that the Monday morning fire started in the kitchen. Owner Danny Brannon and his daughter were returning from a movie when they found the home on fire. They opened the front door and found the home filled with hot, black smoke, an ORFD press release said. Brannon opened the basement door to find that area clear, but he found fire coming from the kitchen window in the back of the house. The family called 911.

“We have not been able to determine what the cause is,” Kerley said. The Fire Department is waiting for an insurance company, which is sending an investigator and claims adjuster, before continuing its investigation. [Read more...]

Police officer, two others taken to hospital after Sunday afternoon crash

South Illinois Avenue Police Car Crash

An Oak Ridge police officer driving a police car and two occupants of a second car were taken to the hospital after a Sunday afternoon crash at South Illinois and Rutgers avenues.


An Oak Ridge police officer driving a police car and two occupants of a second car were taken to the hospital after a Sunday afternoon crash at South Illinois and Rutgers avenues.

The two-car crash occurred at about 2:12 p.m. Sunday, the Oak Ridge Police Department said in a statement.

The officer, the only occupant of the police vehicle, was taken by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, ORPD Capt. Charles R. Smith said in the statement. [Read more...]

City buys, demolishes blighted home in Woodland

South Purdue Avenue Home Demolition

A work crew demolishes a blighted home on South Purdue Avenue in Woodland on Thursday. (Photos courtesy City of Oak Ridge/Matt Widner)


The city of Oak Ridge bought a blighted home at the corner of Northwestern and South Purdue avenues in April and demolished it on Thursday, June 26.

“It was in really bad shape,” Oak Ridge Community Development Director Kathryn Baldwin said. “This one was past saving.”

The home, which had been vacant, was extremely contaminated and dirty inside, and there were problems with every system in the small, single-story house, including the electrical and heating and cooling systems, said Matt Widner, Oak Ridge Community Development housing specialist. The ceilings were collapsing.

“It was a mess,” Widner said.

The straw-covered quarter-acre lot is now vacant. Before the demolition, a yard sign said the project was “Turning Blight into Right.” [Read more...]

Railroad tracks removed from South Illinois, Emory Valley

South Illinois Avenue Railroad Track Removal

A work crew from Rogers Group removes unused railroad tracks from South Illinois Avenue just south of Lafayette Drive and Scarboro Road on Saturday night. After the tracks were removed, the railroad crossing was repaved, and the road reopened on Sunday.


Note: This story was last updated at 6:30 p.m.

Unused railroad tracks that crossed Briarcliff Avenue, Emory Valley Road, and South Illinois Avenue were removed on Thursday and Saturday night.

Railroad company CSX split the traffic control costs with the city and paid to remove the tracks, Oak Ridge Public Works Director Gary Cinder said. In exchange, the city agreed to repave the roadways as part of street maintenance. The crossing lights were removed as well so that commercial vehicles, including school buses, no longer have to stop at the abandoned crossings and, in the case of school buses and other vehicles that carry children, open and close their doors before proceeding.

The project has been in the works for two years.

“We’re thrilled to finally get to this stage,” Cinder said last week. “It’s been a long time coming.” [Read more...]

New Kroger Marketplace largest in Knoxville, Nashville area

Kroger Marketplace Grand Opening

The grand opening of the Kroger Marketplace in Oak Ridge was Sunday morning. The new 124,000-square-foot store is the largest in Tennessee in the Knoxville and Nashville area. Pictured at center is Store Manager Marty Irwin. To the right of her is Ed Westcott, the official U.S. government photographer in Oak Ridge during the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II. The new shopping center is named the Westcott Center in honor of him.


The Kroger Marketplace that opened in Oak Ridge on Sunday is the company’s largest store in the Knoxville and Nashville area, executives said. It’s the third Kroger Marketplace in the Knoxville area.

The 124,000-square-foot store is at the corner of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue. It’s the company’s fifth store in Oak Ridge, and it’s in a new shopping center named the Westcott Center in honor of Ed Westcott, the official U.S. government photographer here during the top-secret Manhattan Project in World War II.

Kroger said the new store created 270 jobs and will employ a total of 375 workers, including those moving from the previous store on South Illinois Avenue.

The new grocery store features larger bakery, dairy, deli, meat, and seafood sections, as well as a produce section that includes organic and local produce. There are 22 check-out registers and more than 46 aisles. [Read more...]

Family, friends remember Brayden Pearson, seek to honor his ‘zest for life’

Bubbles for Brayden Pearson

Family and friends blow bubbles for Brayden Pearson during a Friday night vigil at the Boys and Girls Club of Oak Ridge.


He wore No. 14 when he played baseball and basketball for the Boys and Girls Club. Only eight years old and going into fourth grade, he hadn’t really decided on a profession yet, but he thought playing major league baseball “would be awesome,” a family friend said.

So it was fitting that family and friends gathered in the outfield of a baseball field at the Boys and Girls Club of Oak Ridge to remember Brayden Pearson on Friday. They described Brayden as a lively boy with thick, curly hair, and a contagious laugh—”the best laugh ever,” said Tracy Stewart, a member of the close-knit sports family at the club. Brayden loved school, family friend Sara VanLandingham said.

Brayden died Monday, two days after he had trouble while snorkeling near a swimming area at Clark Center Park in south Oak Ridge. He had to be pulled from the lake that Saturday afternoon. Family and friends performed CPR, and 911 was called. The Oak Ridge police and fire departments responded and continued CPR, and Brayden was flown by a Lifestar medical helicopter to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville.

The family said they wanted to continue Brayden’s zest for life by donating his organs to other children who need them. On Friday, VanLandingham, who has been speaking on behalf of the family, said four organs had been successfully removed for donation. [Read more...]

Lake City is now Rocky Top, Tennessee

Lake City to Rocky Top Vote

The Lake City Council on Thursday agreed to change the town’s name to Rocky Top as part of an effort to attract a multi-million dollar development that could include a water park, interactive theater with children’s museum, and coal miners music theater, among other things.


Note: This story was last updated at 1:10 p.m. June 28.

LAKE CITY—Lake City is now Rocky Top, Tennessee.

For most people, Rocky Top has been, until now, the name of a bluegrass song that is wildly popular in East Tennessee and the unofficial anthem of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Hikers might know it as a sub-peak of Thunderhead Mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains. And shoppers might recognize it as the name of a bookstore, or gas station, or wine trail, or one of many other businesses registered in Tennessee.

But officials and business leaders here have worked for months to make their town to first to use it in a city name.

The idea is to use the name change to spur developments along Interstate 75 that could be worth up to $237 million. Proposed projects include an indoor and outdoor water park, interactive theater with a children’s museum, a coal miners music theater, and laser tag, among other things. Officials have said those developments—which have also included other options such as a hotel, restaurant, and candy company—won’t happen without the name change.

Residents hope the change and subsequent developments will create jobs, add sales tax revenues, and provide a vital economic boost to this depressed town of 1,800 people in northern Anderson County. [Read more...]

South Illinois to be closed Saturday night as railroad tracks removed

South Illinois Avenue Railroad Crossing

A section of South Illinois Avenue will be closed Saturday night as a city contractor removes the abandoned railroad tracks that cross the busy roadway just south of the intersection with Lafayette Drive and Scarboro Road.


A section of South Illinois Avenue will be closed Saturday night as a city contractor removes the abandoned railroad tracks that cross the busy roadway just south of the intersection with Lafayette Drive and Scarboro Road.

The work by Rogers Group Inc. should be complete by Sunday, a city press release said.

Workers will start installing traffic control devices to close the road and divert traffic to the detour at about 6 p.m. Saturday. The road, also known as State Route 62, or SR62, will be closed at roughly 8 p.m., the press release said.

“To minimize the inconvenience to the public, this work will take place overnight,” it said. [Read more...]

Oak Ridge Schools walk zone expanded to 1.5 miles, could affect 1,800

Charlsey Cofer at Oak Ridge School Board Meeting

Oak Ridge Preschool Interim Principal Charlsey Cofer, left, says that cutting preschool transportation could result in fewer students, which would in turn result in less funding.

Note: This story was last updated at 3:15 a.m. June 25.

Starting this fall, bus service will no longer be offered to students who live within 1.5 miles of Oak Ridge schools. The move is expected to save $500,000. It’s part of a larger effort to reduce a $1.25 million deficit.

The expansion of the “parent responsibility zone” for school transportation was the largest change approved by the Oak Ridge Board of Education on Monday. The 1.5-mile walk zone could affect 1,800 students, said Karen Gagliano, Oak Ridge Schools director of business and support services.

Other budget changes approved Monday include a delay in the purchase of textbooks, a move expected to save about $330,000, and a $123,000 reduction in the number of planned hires of technicians. The school system now expects more than $200,000 in additional revenue from state Basic Education Program funding and sales and property tax revenues.

A technology initiative known as 1:1 is no longer being considered as originally envisioned, and 2 percent pay raises for school staff members are off the table.

But the school board worked to save preschool transportation, a program that costs roughly $74,000 per year. Interim Preschool Principal Charlsey Cofer warned that cutting transportation for preschoolers could result in a drop in the number of students, which would in turn affect funding. She said about 170 students used the transportation last year out of more than 200 who were enrolled. [Read more...]