More than 8,000 cubic feet of natural gas leaked into former Kroger on Tuesday

Kroger Gas Leak and ORFD and ORUD

Businesses around the former Kroger grocery store on South Illinois Avenue were evacuated on Tuesday afternoon after a gas leak was reported.

 

If it had exploded, the 8,500 cubic feet of natural gas that leaked into the former Kroger grocery store on South Illinois Avenue on Tuesday could have had a devastating impact on the shopping center and blown out windows in nearby businesses, possibly even across the street, a city official said Wednesday.

“Had it exploded, we would have been on national news,” Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Darryl Kerley said. “It could have been devastating for all the businesses in that complex.”

Authorities suspect that the gas slowly flowed into the 30,000-square-foot grocery store starting Tuesday morning through an uncapped gas line that was once connected to an oven.

By the time emergency workers responded to a report of a gas leak on Tuesday afternoon, Kerley said, “the store was almost completely filled with a dangerous concentration of natural gas.” [Read more…]

After rough first quarter, Wildcats warm up in 70-54 season-opener

Oak Ridge Wildcats Geevantay Gee and Grace Christian

Junior guard Geevantay Gee (12), the only returning starter to play in the season-opener, scored the only points for the Wildcats during the first quarter against Grace Christian on Tuesday, but the rest of the team played better in the next three quarters and Oak Ridge won 70-54.

 

KARNS—They had a rough start in the season-opener on Tuesday, but the relatively young Oak Ridge Wildcats improved after the first quarter and turned a 12-point deficit into a 70-54 win.

Junior point guard Geevantay Gee, the only returning starter to play in the season-opener at Grace Christian in Karns, scored the only points for the Wildcats during the first quarter—seven total. Meanwhile, the Rams started hot and quickly racked up 19 points.

But after their nerves calmed, the Wildcats started defending better—stepping up their pressure and forcing turnovers—and their performance improved. For example, Oak Ridge Coach Aaron Green said, the Wildcats had two assists at the half, and Gee alone had five in the second.

After giving up 19 points in the first quarter, the Wildcats held the Rams to 35 total in the next three. Green said he thought Grace Christian became fatigued. [Read more…]

Shopping center evacuated after gas leak reported

Kroger Gas Leak and ORFD and ORUD

A shopping center was evacuated on Tuesday afternoon after a gas leak was reported at the former Kroger grocery store on South Illinois Avenue.

 

A shopping center was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after a gas leak was reported at the former Kroger grocery store on South Illinois Avenue.

Emergency workers remained on the scene for several hours and were still there as of about 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The gas leak was reported at about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, and Oak Ridge emergency workers quickly evacuated surrounding stores, including China Wok, Nixon’s Deli, Mr. K’s Used Books and CDs, and Big Kmart. They also closed off the surrounding parking lot.

An employee at Mr. K’s smelled gas inside the store Tuesday afternoon, evening manager Kelly Smith said. The staff initially thought it might be coming from NIxon’s, the deli next door. But then they learned that Nixon’s doesn’t use natural gas. A walk around the shopping center’s parking lot determined that the gas was probably coming from the former Kroger store, Smith said.

The odor was getting stronger and stronger, he said. [Read more…]

City board to reconsider repair, demolition orders for Tyrone Road building

Wender Building

The deadline for the demolition of a commercial building that once housed The Oak Ridger newspaper on Tyrone Road near Jackson Square expires Thursday, and after a five-month postponement, a city board will reconsider a repair or demolition order for the building that day. Under plans announced in May, the Magic Wok restaurant, which is separate from the building, would remain, as would a small northwestern portion of the building.

 

The deadline for the demolition of a commercial building that was once home to The Oak Ridger newspaper and other businesses on Tyler and East Tyrone roads expires Thursday, November 13, and a city board could reconsider a repair or demolition order that day.

The partially occupied commercial structure has been declared unfit for human occupation or use because of code violations, the city staff said.

The Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals previously tabled the repair or demolition order for five months to allow for partial demolition in preparation for the construction of the remaining building. The demolition deadline expires Thursday, and permit applications are to be submitted to the city by December.

The potential demolition and repair orders to be considered Thursday would not apply to the separate manufactured structure that now houses the popular Magic Wok restaurant. [Read more…]

Wildcats use playoff ‘fury,’ determination to eliminate Soddy-Daisy

Oak Ridge Wildcats Tee Higgins and Soddy-Daisy Trojans

Sophomore wide receiver Tee Higgins (5) of the Oak Ridge Wildcats catches a 30-yard touchdown pass over defender Christian Bell (26) of the Soddy-Daisy Trojans, giving Oak Ridge a 23-14 lead midway through the third quarter in a first-round playoff game on Friday. (Photos by Julio Culiat)

 

Note: This story was last updated at 10:15 a.m.

Ahead by 17-14 at halftime, the Oak Ridge Wildcats played with fury and determination in the second half of their first-round playoff game on Friday and opened up a large lead against Soddy-Daisy, winning 53-28—despite an impressive offensive performance by the Trojans.

The undefeated Wildcats were not happy with the three-point margin at halftime.

“For it to be that close was just unacceptable,” junior running back Jaylen Nickerson said.

The 11-0 team was determined to play better in the second half against the best offense they had played all year, Coach Joe Gaddis said.

“We just came out and played with a fury,” he said.

While the Trojans had held Oak Ridge to two touchdowns and a field goal in the first half, they allowed four in the second—including two by Nickerson—and gave up a safety and an interception returned for a touchdown, or 36 points total. [Read more…]

Wildcats open playoffs at home tonight; coach asks for huge, loud crowd

Oak Ridge Wildcats Football Helmet

The undefeated Oak Ridge Wildcats play in the first round of the Class 5A football playoffs at home tonight against the Soddy-Daisy Trojans. The game starts at 7 p.m. today (Friday, November 7) at Blankenship Field in Oak Ridge.

Coach Joe Gaddis is asking for a huge, loud crowd.

“As we all know, playoff games are ‘winner take all’ in nature,” Gaddis said in a note to fans.”The winner advances, and the loser is finished for the season. It’s hard to believe but we have only had one home playoff game since 2005, and with that in mind, let’s have a HUGE and LOUD crowd Friday night! The weather is going to be cool, crisp, and beautiful…real football weather!”

The Oak Ridge Wildcats Football Boosters will have a tailgate party starting at 4:30 p.m. [Read more…]

Sheriff intervenes in standoff between mayor, HR director over computer hard drives

Cathy Best of Anderson County Human Resources Department

Human Resources Director Cathy Best is pictured above in the Anderson County Human Resources Department on Wednesday afternoon. With Best’s agreement, the passwords to the department’s computers had been changed, and a few Anderson County Sheriff’s Department deputies were stationed near the entrance to the HR office as Best and Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank sought to resolve a dispute over how to copy two computer hard drives in the office.

 

CLINTON—After the sheriff intervened, the Anderson County mayor and human resources director remained at a standoff Wednesday afternoon over how to copy the hard drives of two computers in the county’s Human Resources Department.

The hard drives could contain personnel records related to building inspector Lisa Crumpley, who was terminated on October 9 and has threatened to sue the county. Her personnel file has been reported missing.

Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank said she wants to preserve records related to Crumpley’s wrongful termination claim, as instructed by Knoxville law firm Kramer Rayson LLP, which represents Crumpley.

On Tuesday, the day after Human Resources Director Cathy Best announced her resignation, Frank proposed sending the hard drives used by Best and Human Resources Generalist Kerri Ashley, who has also resigned, to a Knoxville company to have copies made.

Terry Frank

Terry Frank

But Best objected, Frank said, and the mayor had a technician from Computer Systems Plus come to the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton on Wednesday morning to make copies on-site. The county consultant had started disassembling the computers when Sheriff Paul White showed up, and the technician quit working because he believed he could be arrested if he continued, the mayor said.

Best said she does not object to copying the hard drives, but she wants to ensure that the proper procedure is followed. She said her department’s hard drives could contain health information that is not public, conversations with attorneys during the past 10 years, and information that might relate to an investigation by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department of Crumpley’s missing personnel file.

“I have a right and a duty to maintain the security of these files,” Best said. [Read more…]

School Board winners: Eby, McLean, Marshall

Four Oak Ridge Board of Education Candidates

The three winning Oak Ridge Board of Education candidates are pictured above. Bob Eby, second from right, the only incumbent, was the top vote-getter. He was followed by candidate Laura McLean, right, and Paige Marshall, left. Also pictured is Andy Howe.

 

Note: This story was last updated at 1:35 a.m. Nov. 5.

Imagine this: A politician runs for re-election and tells voters he wants to raise taxes—and they re-elect him anyway. Seems unlikely, right?

Well, that’s what happened Tuesday night in Oak Ridge.

Bob Eby, the only incumbent in the eight-person race for the Oak Ridge Board of Education, hasn’t been afraid to tell voters that he thinks Oak Ridge Schools need more money—and he intends to ask for a tax increase next year to help the school system.

His honesty hasn’t hurt him with voters; Eby was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s municipal election. He finished with 4,635 votes in Anderson and Roane counties, according to unofficial results. That was almost 900 votes ahead of the second-place finisher, newcomer Laura McLean. She ended the night with 3,774 votes.

Another newcomer, Paige Marshall, was about 400 votes behind McLean, picking up the third of the three available seats with 3,345 votes. [Read more…]

City Council winners: Gooch, Chinn, Callison, and Smith

Five Oak Ridge City Council Candidate 2014

Three of the four candidates elected to the Oak Ridge City Council on Tuesday are pictured above during a September forum. Warren Gooch, second from left, was the top vote-getter, finishing ahead of Rick Chinn, second from right, and Kelly Callison, right. Incumbent Anne Garcia Garland, center, was not re-elected. Candidate Gary Love is also pictured.

 

Note: This story was updated at 1:28 a.m. Nov. 5.

Three newcomers and a former member were elected to the Oak Ridge City Council on Tuesday. The winners were Warren Gooch, Rick Chinn, Kelly Callison, and Ellen Smith.

There were four seats available, and two incumbents—Anne Garcia Garland and David Mosby—were unseated. Two other incumbents—Mayor Tom Beehan and Mayor Pro Tem Jane Miller—did not seek re-election, meaning a majority of the seven-member body will be new.

“It’s clearly a transitional election,” said Gooch, a lawyer and the top vote-getter. [Read more…]

Eby, Marshall, McLean lead in early, absentee ballots

Bob Eby

Bob Eby

Oak Ridge Board of Education candidates Bob Eby, Laura McLean, and Paige Marshall lead in early and absentee ballots, according to early Anderson County and Roane County election results posted at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Anderson County Election Commission and Roane County Election Commission have not yet posted precinct results from Election Day voting, so the leaders could change.

Eby, the only incumbent, has 2,239 votes, or almost 500 ahead of his closest competitor, McLean, who has 1,771.

Marshall has 1,577. [Read more…]

Gooch, Chinn, Callison, Smith lead in early, absentee ballots

Warren L. Gooch

Warren L. Gooch

Oak Ridge City Council candidates Warren Gooch, Rick Chinn, Kelly Callison, and Ellen Smith lead in early and absentee ballots, according to early Anderson County and Roane County election results posted at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The Anderson County Election Commission and Roane County Election Commission have not yet posted precinct results from Election Day voting, so the leaders could change.

Gooch has 2,206 votes, which is several hundred ahead of Rick Chinn, who has 1,975.

Callison has 1,860, and Smith, a former City Council member, has 1,649. [Read more…]

Follow-up: AC Commission concurs with city’s mall TIF extension

Oak Ridge Village Area Rendering

Note: This story was updated at 10:02 a.m.

County’s part of agreement does not change

The Oak Ridge City Council has agreed to add another 10 years to the agreement that will be used to help redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall, and during its regular meeting in October, the Anderson County Commission concurred with the change.

There were no objections, and the Commission’s concurrence with the city’s 10-year extension of the tax increment financing, or TIF, passed 15-0. The city’s portion of the TIF has been extended from 20 years to 30, and the county’s remains unchanged at 20.

The city’s TIF extension had also been approved by the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, and the County Commission concurred with that change as well.

Ray Evans, retail consultant for the City of Oak Ridge, told commissioners that Crosland Southeast, the North Carolina firm that has proposed the redevelopment, could close on the property at the end of the year. Demolition could start in the first quarter of 2015, and retailers could have space in the redeveloped 59-acre site by mid-2016, Evans said.

“We think we’re very close to getting across the finish line,” Evans said. [Read more…]