Top issues identified: Housing, population, Main Street, retail

Warren Gooch

Warren Gooch

A community survey has identified housing, population, and the development of Main Street Oak Ridge and retail shopping as top issues, Mayor Warren Gooch said Tuesday.

Other top issues include jobs and economic development, and public relations efforts to promote the city.

High priorities on a list of potential capital investments or projects include infrastructure improvements, a new preschool, and funding of an incentive program for people buying or renovating a house.

Ten groups have participated in the survey since January 1, Gooch said. Those groups include the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge, the three Rotary clubs, Oak Valley Baptist Church, Anderson County Tea Party, Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce coffees, Leadership Oak Ridge, Neighborhood Watch awards banquet, and citizens at large.

Gooch, who gave a speech to the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge on Tuesday, said residents can still participate in the survey.

Here are survey results as of April 30, 2015:

What is the most important issue facing Oak Ridge?

[Read more…]

Groundbreaking, demolition for Main Street Oak Ridge on schedule for June 30, mayor says

Warren Gooch

Warren Gooch

Groundbreaking and demolition for Main Street Oak Ridge, the redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall, is on schedule to begin by June 30, Mayor Warren Gooch said Tuesday.

The $80 million redevelopment of the 60-acre site in the heart of the city is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated project of the past decade.

Crosland Southeast, the North Carolina company that has proposed Main Street Oak Ridge, announced last week that MDC Development Group of Atlanta will be the hotel developer at the site.

“MDC is also a major developer in the senior housing industry and 15 months ago opened Canterfield Oak Ridge Assisted Living,” Gooch said. “It has been very successful and well-received in our community.” [Read more…]

Council to discuss impact of proposed DOE landfill during Friday meeting

Oak Ridge Reservation with Bear Creek Valley

The proposed Environmental Management Disposal Facility would be built between the Y-12 National Security Complex and the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility, or EMWMF.


Oak Ridge officials will discuss the community impact of a proposed landfill that would hold waste from cleanup work at federal sites during a work session on Friday.

The Oak Ridge City Council work session is scheduled from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Friday, May 8, in the Municipal Building Training Room.

Council will be briefed on the Draft Community Impact Assessment of the proposed Environmental Management Disposal Facility by Karl Kalbacher, project manager for The Ferguson Group, a company that helps the city with its federal legislative agenda in Washington, D.C.

The Environmental Management Disposal Facility would be built on Bear Creek Road west of the Y-12 National Security Complex near another landfill that is already in use and has been operating since 2002. It could cost $1 billion, including construction and 23 years of operations. [Read more…]

POST asks DAs, feds to investigate whether Akagi violated state, federal law

Tasha Blakney

Tasha Blakney

Chief’s attorney calls it one more effort to vilify Akagi

The organization that certifies police officers in Tennessee has asked state and federal authorities to investigate whether Oak Ridge Police Chief James T. Akagi violated state and federal laws by possessing a firearm after being issued an ex parte order of protection during divorce proceedings in Blount County three years ago.

The April 27 letter from Ray Farris, assistant director of the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission, was sent to Mike Flynn, district attorney general in the Fifth Judicial District in Maryville; Dave Clark, district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District in Clinton; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“Documents provided to our office indicate that an order of protection was issued by the Blount County Court against Chief Akagi on April 19, 2012,” Farris said in the letter. “During the effective period of this order of protection, Chief Akagi submitted his firearms qualifications scores to the Commission, which appears to be a violation of the aforementioned order of protection.”

But Tasha Blakney, an attorney for the police chief, has said Akagi was not prohibited from carrying a firearm.

“I am absolutely confident that there has been no violation of state or federal law in this family law matter with regard to the ex parte order of protection that was temporarily entered and subsequently dismissed,” Blakney said Thursday. “They simply don’t carry any implications for an individual’s Second Amendment rights. That’s just a function of understanding the way that Tennessee law works.” [Read more…]

The numbers: ORPD turnover 2007-2015

James T. Akagi

James T. Akagi

Turnover in the Oak Ridge Police Department is one of several issues at the heart of a contentious debate over the ORPD and its chief, James T. Akagi.

But since the debate started in late January, there hasn’t been much public discussion of how the turnover rate compares, in either numbers or percentages, to the rate before Akagi started on July 1, 2011.

Information requested by Oak Ridge Today and provided by the Oak Ridge Personnel Department and Personnel Director Penny Sissom sheds some light. That data goes back more than eight years, starting in Calendar Year 2007. That’s roughly 4.5 years before Akagi started and more than 3.5 years since.

Oak Ridge Today analyzed the data by calendar year (January-December) and fiscal year (July 1-June 30). The data shows that ORPD turnover ebbs and flows from year to year, with a high of 19 and a low of one.

Oak Ridge Police Department Turnover (2007-2015)

Here are the numbers by calendar year (CY), from January to December, based on city data: [Read more…]

See current Main Street Oak Ridge plan here

Main Street Oak Ridge Site Plan April 16, 2015

This is the current version of the Main Street Oak Ridge plan. This is an April 16 site plan forwarded by Ray Evans, a consultant for the City of Oak Ridge.

Evans said this current plan reflects the increase in the number of residential units that was approved by the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission last week.

“This is the plan that will go before Oak Ridge City Council for second reading at the next meeting,” Evans said.

Main Street Oak Ridge is the $80 million, 60-acre project to redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall, a mostly empty shopping center in the middle of town. The redevelopment has been proposed by Crosland Southeast of Charlotte, North Carolina. [Read more…]

MTAS seeks more info on ORPD review, could charge city $50 per hour

The University of Tennessee agency asked to review the Oak Ridge Police Department has questions about the expanded scope of the inquiry—it could now include all current employees and some former employees—and the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at UT could charge the city $50 per hour for its work on the project.

MTAS had initially proposed a free limited review of turnover, morale, and administrative policies in the Oak Ridge Police Department. That review, which would have interviewed a random sample or cross-section of ORPD employees, was approved by the Oak Ridge City Council during a March 27 special meeting.

But the City Council asked to start over after the initial list of employees to be interviewed was sent to the police chief, city manager, and all Police Department employees, raising concerns about the confidentiality and impartiality of the review.

During an April 21 special meeting, City Council agreed 5-2 to start over by asking MTAS to interview all employees and try to interview former employees who have left since Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi started on July 1, 2011. But that meant the city’s contract with MTAS, which had already started the initial review, had to be renegotiated. [Read more…]

ORHS teacher suspended without pay during investigation, superintendent says

Eddie Anderson

Eddie Anderson

Oak Ridge High School science teacher and track coach Eddie Anderson has been suspended from his teaching duties without pay pending an investigation by the Oak Ridge Police Department, an official said Friday.

Information reported to the Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent’s Office on Thursday morning has been referred to the Oak Ridge Police Department for its consideration and investigation, Superintendent Bruce Borchers said in a Friday afternoon email. The information hasn’t been publicly disclosed.

[Read more…]

Preliminary injunction stops use of Rocky Top as trademark for goods, services

Ryan Levy

Ryan Levy

Note: This story was updated at 12:40 p.m.

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction to stop a group of developers who are trying to revitalize the former Lake City from using Rocky Top as a trademark for goods or services.

The preliminary injunction was issued on Friday by Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

The former Lake City Council changed the town’s name to Rocky Top in June 2014. The idea was 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 had said those developments—which have also included other options such as a hotel, restaurant, and candy company—wouldn’t happen without the name change. [Read more…]

Oak Ridge branch of Y-12 FCU will remain closed Wed., re-open Thursday

Oak Ridge Police Department at Y-12 Federal Credit Union

Oak Ridge Police Department officers were at the Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge on Tuesday morning. The branch will remain closed Wednesday and reopen Thursday, although the credit union’s headquarters will be open on Wednesday.


The Oak Ridge branch of the Y-12 Federal Credit Union will remain closed Wednesday and re-open Thursday, a spokesman said. The branch was closed Tuesday during an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and Oak Ridge Police Department into a report of a bank robbery, kidnapping, and extortion.

Police responded to the Oak Ridge branch at about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday. There were at least a half-dozen officers and detectives at the scene, and they blocked the entrance to the credit union.

Customers were not able to use the bank while authorities investigated. Chris Smith, vice president of marketing at Y-12 Federal Credit Union, said officials were only allowing staff and investigators to enter on Tuesday morning.

He said the Credit Union branch will remain closed Wednesday and reopen for normal hours on Thursday. But employees remain at the Oak Ridge headquarters, which shares a five-story building with the branch, and all staff will report to work on Wednesday, Smith said Tuesday afternoon. [Read more…]

Police respond to Y-12 Credit Union, which closes, but not clear why

Oak Ridge Police Department at Y-12 Federal Credit Union

Oak Ridge Police Department officers were at the Y-12 Federal Credit Union in Oak Ridge on Tuesday morning. The credit union was cordoned off and then closed, but it’s not clear why.


Note: This story was last updated at 1:42 p.m.

The Oak Ridge Police Department responded to the Y-12 Federal Credit Union on Tuesday morning, and the bank was cordoned off and then closed but it’s not clear why.

The ORPD has referred questions to the FBI office in Knoxville and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

The call to the ORPD came in at about 9:15 a.m. Tuesday. Officers blocked the entrance to the credit union, and at one point, they visually checked cars in a parking lot across Midland Road from the bank.

ORPD detectives were at the scene and remained there for at least a few hours afterward. The Credit Union is near the intersection of Lafayette Drive and South Illinois Avenue. [Read more…]

ORHS ranked No. 11 most challenging high school in Tenn.

Oak Ridge High School

The main entrance at Oak Ridge High School is pictured above. (Photo courtesy Oak Ridge Schools)


Oak Ridge High School was ranked number 11 on a list of the most challenging high schools in Tennessee, according to a ranking published by The Washington Post.

Other East Tennessee high schools on the list are West High School in Knoxville (#6), Farragut High School in Knoxville (#7), Morristown West in Morristown (#10), and Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport (#12).

The top five high schools are all in the Nashville area: Hume-Fogg Magnet in Nashville (#1), Martin Luther King Magnet in Nashville (#2), Brentwood in Brentwood (#3), Hillsboro in Nashville (#4), and Ravenwood in Brentwood (#5). [Read more…]