Reminder: City, schools have Community Wellness Fair today (April 22)

Reminder: The City of Oak Ridge and Oak Ridge Schools will have a Community Wellness Fair today (Wednesday, April 22).

The Wellness Fair is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 22 at the Oak Ridge Civic Center. It includes a wide range of activities that include blood pressure checks, doctor’s chats, exercise tips, shingle vaccines, breast and men’s health, and dental, hearing, and diabetic foot screenings.

There will be a Medic Mobile blood drive from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Civic Center. [Read more…]

Council to consider restart on ORPD review during special meeting Tuesday

Oak Ridge City Council on Feb. 9, 2015

The Oak Ridge City Council will have a special meeting on Tuesday, April 21, to consider three recommendations related to the 30-day review of the Oak Ridge Police Department that was approved in March. (File photo)


A 30-day review of the Oak Ridge Police Department had barely gotten started before it came under fire. But the Oak Ridge City Council will try to fix that on Tuesday.

The concern centers on a report that the list of ORPD employees randomly selected for the first 20 interviews was sent to Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi and all Police Department employees, raising questions about the impartiality and anonymity of the review. The reviewer, Rex Barton of the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee, apparently sent the list to the police chief for scheduling purposes, seeking to minimize overtime and minimize stress on the officers’ off-duty life.

But those who have pressed for an investigation, including Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn, quickly objected when they learned that the list of interviewees had been sent to the police chief, who has been the subject of much of their scrutiny.

So, in a special meeting Tuesday evening, the City Council will ask Barton, an MTAS police management consultant, to create a new, random list of officers to interview. Council will also consider determining a point of contact in the Oak Ridge Police Department who can help coordinate the schedules of officers participating in the interviews. [Read more…]

State grant of $250K will help build eighth lane at Oak Ridge rowing course

Oak Ridge Rowing Lane Announcement

Tennessee Rep. John Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican, announces a $250,000 state grant for an eighth lane at the Oak Ridge rowing course on Sunday. Also pictured from left are Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank, Sen. Randy McNally, Anderson County Chamber of Commerce President Rick Meredith, Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Director Jon Hetrick, Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau President Marc DeRose, Oak Ridge City Council member Rick Chinn, and Oak Ridge Rowing Association President Russell Byrd.


A $250,000 state grant announced Sunday will be used to help build an eighth lane at the Oak Ridge rowing course. And that’s expected to significantly increase the economic impact of rowing races, or regattas, officials said.

The eighth lane has been on the city’s wish list for years, and it will allow the Oak Ridge Rowing Association to compete for bigger races and international regattas and provide more on-water capacity, allowing more competitors in events like this weekend’s SIRA Regatta.

According to rough estimates, the eighth lane could cost about $350,000 total, said Oak Ridge City Council member Rick Chinn, the father of two former rowers and a rower himself. That means the City of Oak Ridge might have to contribute up to $100,000 to complete the project.

Tennessee Representative John Ragan, the Oak Ridge Republican who spearheaded the effort to get state funding, said the regional impact of the regattas in Oak Ridge is estimated at $13 million now, but it could increase to $33 million, according to a University of Tennessee study. [Read more…]

Blankenship Field parking lot project could cost $225,000

Blankenship Field Parking Lot

The lower parking lot at Blankenship Field, which is used for football games and high school graduation.


A parking lot paving project at Blankenship Field could cost $225,000, according to an engineering estimate, a city official said Monday.

The City of Oak Ridge is working with the Blankenship Field Revitalization Foundation to address some questions about the work, Public Works Director Gary Cinder said at a City Council meeting on Monday.

The Oak Ridge City Council agreed in May 2014 to use $180,000 in traffic camera money for improvements to the lower parking lot at Blankenship Field, which is used for football games and high school graduation. [Read more…]

Jackson Square fountain won’t be ready by Lavender Fest, but other work should be

Jackson Square Parking Lot Work

The interactive fountain in the center of the Jackson Square parking lot won’t be finished before the Lavender Festival in June, but work around the fountain should be completed by then, a city official said Monday.


The interactive fountain won’t be in place by the Lavender Festival in June, but other perimeter work around the Jackson Square parking lot should be completed, a city official said Monday.

Construction work on the $1 million rebuild of the parking lot area at Jackson Square started in January. The construction contract was awarded to Rich Construction Inc. of Lenoir City by the Oak Ridge City Council in October.

The work is funded with help from a $741,609 Tennessee Department of Transportation Enhancement Grant that was awarded to the city in June 2012. The TDOT grant covers 80 percent of the work, and it requires a 20 percent city match.

Jackson Square is Oak Ridge’s original town center. [Read more…]

City agreed to use $150K, but low bid on Preschool paint job is $25K

Oak Ridge Preschool and School Administration Building

The Oak Ridge City Council has agreed to use $150,000 in unspent red-light camera to repair the lead-based paint on the Oak Ridge Schools Preschool and Robert J. Smallridge School Administration Building on New York Avenue. Officials say the building needs to be renovated or vacated for the Head Start program to receive funding in the 2015-2016 school year. (File photo)


The Oak Ridge City Council had agreed to use $150,000 in red-light camera money to repair the lead-based paint on the city’s Preschool, but the low bid came in significantly lower—$24,700, Public Works Director Gary Cinder said Monday.

The five bids ranged up to about $112,000, Cinder told the Oak Ridge City Council.

The low bidder has done some of this type of work at the Preschool before, Cinder said.

The work is expected to be done by this fall. It provides what officials hope will be a temporary fix while they develop a plan to permanently repair, replace, or move the Preschool. [Read more…]

MTAS: ORPD review to be extensive, but not clear who will be interviewed

Oak Ridge Police Department Review Protest

Protesters who want all officers to be able to speak to a consultant reviewing the Oak Ridge Police Department are pictured above outside the Oak Ridge Municipal Building before the Monday night City Council meeting.


Note: This story was last updated at 9:35 a.m. April 20.

The review of the Oak Ridge Police Department will be extensive, but it’s not clear yet who will be interviewed, an official said Friday.

The proposal submitted by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service and approved by the Oak Ridge City Council in March called for interviewing a randomly selected group of police department employees. It also called for interviewing other city employees and officers and possibly talking to community leaders not directly employed by the city.

But some have expressed concern that others who want to speak, including former officers and city residents, might not be able to under the limited 30-day review and random selection proposed by MTAS.

“These men deserve to be heard, all of them,” said Christen Thomas, wife of Oak Ridge Police Department Officer John Thomas.

The independent MTAS review will use Police Management Consultant Rex Barton, a former administrative captain for the Athens, Tennessee, Police Department. MTAS is part of the Institute for Public Service at the University of Tennessee. [Read more…]

Task force to consider changes to Secret City Festival

Secret City Festival Kix Brooks June 2014

Country music artist Kix Brooks, who was part of the country duo Brooks and Dunn, performs during the 2014 Secret City Festival. (Photo by Rob Welton)


A new task force is scheduled to discuss potential changes to the Secret City Festival on Thursday, including shifting the annual festival to small events from mid-October to November 11 (Veterans Day), creating a nonprofit organization to run the festival (and possibly other special events), and voting on changing the date of the festival and whether it should be a one- or two-day event.

The new task force will also discuss unique opportunities for a festival theme and could develop a list of potential entertainment venues to be used throughout the city for the festival, consider other potential festival dates, and develop a list of potential partners.

The meeting of the Special Events Advisory Task Force starts at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23, in the Oak Ridge Recreation Center’s Craft Room at 1402 Oak Ridge Turnpike. [Read more…]

New electric bucket trucks offer cleaner, quieter operation

Oak Ridge Electric Department Hybrid Bucket Truck Crew

Linemen Michael Goodpaster, left, and Steve Wilson prepare to demonstrate the Oak Ridge Electric Department’s new hybrid bucket truck, which uses electricity rather than diesel to operate its bucket boom.


The Oak Ridge Electric Department has a new hybrid bucket truck that uses quiet electricity rather than noisy diesel to power its bucket boom, making it easier for workers to communicate and reducing emissions and neighborhood noise.

Workers said the electric-powered boom is as fast as traditional diesel-powered booms, and the improved worker communications with the new, quieter booms helps them stay safe.

“It’s been a great thing for us,” Oak Ridge Electric Department Director Jack Suggs said. “The linemen really like it.”

Officials said the city’s Electric Department is one of several local power companies partnering with the Tennessee Valley Authority to bring energy-efficient, hybrid electric-powered bucket trucks to the Tennessee Valley. The new trucks are funded in part by a grant from TVA, the Electric Power Research Institute, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Oak Ridge received one plug-in hybrid bucket truck in October and is awaiting delivery of a plug-in hybrid pickup truck. [Read more…]

Council approves ORHS stoplight contract in 4-3 vote

Oak Ridge Turnpike Stoplight at Oak Ridge High School

In a 4-3 vote Monday, the Oak Ridge City Council approved a contract to install a traffic signal at the Oak Ridge High School on Oak Ridge Turnpike.


Note: This story was updated at 8:42 a.m. April 15.

The City Council approved a contract to install a stoplight on Oak Ridge Turnpike in front of Oak Ridge High School in a 4-3 vote on Monday.

Public Works Director Gary Cinder said the light will be green most of the time on Oak Ridge Turnpike. But it will turn red when cars are leaving the High School, giving those drivers a green light.

And the traffic signal lights will turn all-red when pedestrians are crossing, Cinder said. [Read more…]

New one-megawatt solar array at Heritage Center can power 133 homes

Powerhouse Six Solar Array Ribbon-cutting April 9, 2015

Company executives and city and federal officials celebrate a new one-megawatt solar array at Heritage Center in west Oak Ridge on Thursday with a ceremonial “plugging in.”


A new one-megawatt solar array at the Heritage Center in west Oak Ridge will provide enough clean energy to power 133 average-size homes per year, officials said.

Company and nonprofit executives joined city and federal officials for a ceremonial “plugging in” of the new Powerhouse Six photovoltaic solar array on Thursday.

The $1.8 million array has 3,268 solar modules, and it will be used to sell electric power to the Tennessee Valley Authority through the Oak Ridge Electric Department.

“We’re going live today,” said Gil Hough, renewable energy manager for RSI, or Restoration Services Inc., the Oak Ridge-based company that developed the array. [Read more…]

City, school employees lose average of 7-10 percent in Biggest Loser challenge

Biggest Loser Weigh-in April 7

City and school officials at Monday’s weigh-out for this year’s Biggest Loser challenge are pictured above. From left they are Chris Marczak, Oak Ridge Schools assistant superintendent; Mark Watson, Oak Ridge city manager; Bruce Borchers, Oak Ridge Schools superintendent; Bob Eby, Oak Ridge Board of Education vice chair; and Ellen Smith, Oak Ridge mayor pro tem.


They watched their diets, worked out and walked, and monitored their weights to lose an average of 7 to 10 percent. One unidentified city employee lost 18.44 percent of his weight, the highest percentage lost by any of the 79 Oak Ridge city and school employees who participated in this year’s Biggest Loser Challenge.

The weigh-out for the three-month competition was at the Oak Ridge Civic Center on Monday. Results, including the name of the city employee who lost the most, will be announced during a Wellness Fair in the Oak Ridge Civic Center at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 11. A winner from each organization will be awarded and so will the overall male and female winner, along with a second- and third-place winner.

The city and schools have both had the weight-loss contest before, but this is the first time they’ve teamed up to have a joint competition. It was coordinated by the City of Oak Ridge Wellness Committee and Oak Ridge Coordinated School Health.

With one exception, all of those who weighed out on Monday morning had lost weight. [Read more…]