Four Applewood Apartment buildings still ‘unfit,’ not vacated, attorney says

Applewood Apartments at 105 Hunter Circle

A city board declared four buildings on Hunter Circle to be unfit for human occupation or use in November 2010 and, after a Tennessee Court of Appeals opinion, reaffirmed the decision in March 2013. The case has been appealed back to the appellate court.

KNOXVILLE—More than three years after they were declared “unfit,” four dilapidated Applewood Apartment buildings have still not been vacated, an attorney said Thursday.

The Anderson County Chancery Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals have both affirmed a November 2010 decision by an Oak Ridge board declaring the dilapidated buildings on Hunter Circle to be unfit for human occupation and use—and calling for them to be vacated immediately, attorney Dan Pilkington said.

The 2010 decision was reaffirmed by the city board, the Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals, in March 2013, Pilkington said.

“We believe that this order is final,” he said in a 15-minute oral argument before a three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville on Thursday. “Despite that, the buildings have never been vacated.”

The 2010 Oak Ridge board hearing was held after notices were issued citing multiple deficiencies that were hazardous to tenants, said Pilkington, who works for Knoxville law firm Watson, Roach, Batson, Rowell, and Lauderback. That company represented the City of Oak Ridge in Thursday’s oral argument before a three-judge panel that included John W. McClarty, D. Michael Swiney, and D. Kelly Thomas Jr. [Read more...]

Investigators search 200 miles of desert for pregnant Oak Ridge woman missing in California

Erin Corwin

Erin Corwin (Photos courtesy San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department)

Investigators searching for an Oak Ridge woman who now lives in California and disappeared under suspicious circumstances two weeks ago have covered more than 200 square miles of remote desert, authorities said Friday.

The search for Erin Corwin, who is 19 years old and pregnant, has been concentrated around the Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. The vast high desert reserve is east of Los Angeles and just south of the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base, where Corwin lives with her husband, U.S. Marine Cpl. Jonathan Wayne Corwin, who is also from Oak Ridge.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department said the search has found no sign of Corwin, and her disappearance does not appear to be voluntary.

The search will continue as necessary throughout the weekend using search and rescue volunteers from the San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, and Kern County Sheriff’s Departments, and Joshua Tree National Park Service rangers, authorities said.

Investigators said they haven’t released much information about Corwin’s disappearance because of its suspicious nature. [Read more...]

Parents protest expanded 1.5-mile walk zone for students

Oak Ridge School Buses at the Central Services Complex

Parents are protesting a June 23 decision to expand the walk zone for students to 1.5 miles to help reduce a $1.25 million budget deficit. The expanded walk zones mean that bus service won’t be offered to students who live within 1.5 miles of Oak Ridge schools.


Note: This story was last updated at 9:20 a.m. July 12.

Parents concerned about student safety are protesting a recent decision by Oak Ridge Schools to expand the student walk zone to 1.5 miles.

In the past two days, they’ve started a petition and Facebook group to oppose the June 23 decision, and they’ve organized a protest, rally, and walks through the expanded walk zones at several schools.

“We’re serious about this,” said Daniel Morgan, who has two sons at Linden Elementary School and a daughter who starts at Robertsville Middle School this fall. “The citizens are concerned about the safety of the children.”

The expanded walk zones mean that bus service will no longer be available to students who live within 1.5 miles of Oak Ridge schools. The change could affect 1,800 students. The new bus stops have been posted on the Oak Ridge Schools website. [Read more...]

Tennessee man pleads guilty in $2.5 million Y-12 extortion case

Y-12 Aerial Photo June 2012

The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge is pictured above in June 2012. (Photo courtesy NNSA)

KNOXVILLE—A Tennessee man who appeared on the television reality show “The Millionaire Matchmaker” has pleaded guilty in a $2.5 million extortion case involving the former managing contractor at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

Adam Winters, 26, of Robbins, Tenn., said he had copies of slides that would injure the reputation of the contractor, Babcock and Wilcox Y-12 LLC, and he met with undercover officers on May 23 to exchange the slides for the money he demanded, U.S. Attorney William C. Killian said in a Thursday afternoon press release. Law enforcement officers revealed their identity during that May 23 meeting and arrested Winters.

Earlier, on May 8, Winters had e-mailed Babcock and Wilcox and attempted to email Vice President Joe Biden about the slides, Killian said. After he sent the email, Winters used the Internet and telephone to communicate his threat to injure their reputation through the use of the slides, according to the plea agreement on file with the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Tennessee. [Read more...]

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...]