Council rejects ORPD investigation proposals, approves MTAS review

Oak Ridge City Council on Feb. 9, 2015

On Friday, March 27, the Oak Ridge City Council agreed to use the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee to conduct a 30-day review of turnover, morale, and administrative policies in the Oak Ridge Police Department. (File photo) 

 

Note: This story was last updated at 8:50 a.m. March 28.

Despite calls for an investigation, the Oak Ridge City Council on Friday approved a proposal from a University of Tennessee agency to review—rather than investigate—the Oak Ridge Police Department, focusing on turnover, morale, and administrative policies.

A series of motions by City Council member Trina Baughn, who has pushed hardest for an investigation of the ORPD and its police chief, were rejected. Among other things, Baughn’s proposals would have required all Police Department employees to spend at least 10 minutes with the investigator, regardless of whether they wanted to say anything; sought to interview all former workers who have left since May 2011, when Police Chief Jim Akagi was hired; given those interviewed a chance to participate in a “no confidence” vote against the chief; and look into Akagi’s previous history, including his prior employment with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Council also rejected a motion by Baughn to investigate the allegations included in a grievance filed by a former police officer and claims made in letters by former officers.

The 30-day review that was approved Friday was first proposed as a general concept by Oak Ridge City Council member Kelly Callison during a February meeting, with more detail added since then.

[Read more…]


Advertisement

Planning for national park, Park Service tours Jackson Square, K-25, ORNL, Y-12

Vic Knox of National Park Service

Vic Knox (Photo by D. Ray Smith)

Note: This story was last updated at 12:37 p.m.

Planning for the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park has started, and federal officials this week toured Jackson Square, the former K-25 site, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

Stops included the Alexander Inn, Chapel on the Hill, the former K-25 Building site, the Graphite Reactor at ORNL, and two buildings at Y-12: Building 9731, a pilot plant, and Building 9204-3, also known as Beta 3.

“Several of those sites are just amazing,” said Vic Knox, associate director of park planning, facilities, and lands for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. “They seem like they are just the way they were in 1943. It seems like they take you back in time.”

Oak Ridge was built as part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret federal program to build the world’s fist atomic weapons during World War II. Besides Oak Ridge, the new national park includes Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington. [Read more…]

Early morning fire damages duplex, possibly caused by cigarette

Hillside Road Duplex Fire

A Hillside Road duplex was damaged by fire early Thursday morning by a fire that officials believe was caused by smoking.

 

A Hillside Road duplex was damaged by fire early Thursday morning by a fire that officials believe was caused by smoking.

The fire at 4:30 a.m. Thursday at 136 Hillside Road forced the evacuation of a father and son. Neither of the residents were injured, and firefighters were able to rescue a pet cat, a City of Oak Ridge press release said.

Fire was visible from the rear of the residence when the Oak Ridge Fire Department arrived, the press release said. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading into the adjacent residence.

[Read more…]

Advertisement


Advertisement


Council to consider reviewing, investigating ORPD in special meeting Friday

Oak Ridge City Council on Feb. 9, 2015

The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday, Feb. 9, agreed to a third-party review of turnover and morale in the Oak Ridge Police Department but rejected requests for two other probes. On Friday, March 27, the Council could consider reviewing or investigating the ORPD—there has been a dispute over which term to use—placing the police chief on administrative leave, or accepting a proposal from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service to conduct a 30-day review. (File photo)

 

The Oak Ridge City Council will consider whether to review or investigate the Oak Ridge Police Department during a special meeting on Friday, March 27. The Council will also consider whether to place the police chief on administrative leave during the investigation, if one is conducted.

City Council members Trina Baughn and Rick Chinn called for the special meeting earlier this month, and it was set for this Friday, March 27. Baughn and Chinn asked to set the parameters of an investigation and possibly select an investigator during the special meeting. They also asked to discuss and possibly vote on placing the police chief on administrative leave during the investigation.

Once it became clear that the special meeting would be called, Council members Ellen Smith and Charlie Hensley asked to consider selecting a reviewer to conduct the police review, as opposed to an investigation, approved in February. [Read more…]

Main Street Oak Ridge signs first anchor lease, other leases could follow

Main Street Oak Ridge

Main Street Oak Ridge would redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall as a mixed-use project that could include retailers, restaurants, residential units, and possibly a hotel. The existing space between the two remaining anchors, Belk and JCPenney, would be demolished, although those two stores would remain.

 

Note: This story was last updated at 10:15 a.m. March 27.

The developers who want to convert the former Oak Ridge Mall into Main Street Oak Ridge signed their first anchor store lease last week, an executive said Thursday.

And three to five more leases could be signed in the next month or so, said Tim Sittema of Crosland Southeast, the North Carolina company that has proposed the roughly 60-acre redevelopment.

Main Street Oak Ridge would redevelop the mall as a mixed-use project that would include retailers, restaurants, residential units, and possibly a hotel. The existing space between the two remaining anchors, Belk and JCPenney, would be demolished, although those two stores would remain. [Read more…]

ORPD responds to reports of lockdown, active shooter; no shooter found

Oak Ridge Police Department Logo

The Oak Ridge Police Department responded to a Jackson Square office that had been locked down on Thursday morning because of reports of an active shooter, but officers could find no signs of one, a press release said.

The office lockdown was reported at about 11:10 a.m. Thursday, March 26, at the Jacobs Engineering offices on Broadway Avenue. The ORPD received several calls that the offices were locked because of an active shooter, the release said. [Read more…]

Big day: Main Street Oak Ridge, Manhattan Project Park on Thursday’s agenda

Main Street Oak Ridge Presentation

Pictured above during a presentation on Main Street Oak Ridge last week are Crosland Southeast partner James Downs, right; Barry James, Crosland Southeast senior vice president, center; and Houston E. Daugherty, Cannon and Cannon vice president.

 

A vote that could help Main Street Oak Ridge, the redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall, is on Thursday’s agenda. So is an open house on the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

They are among two of the biggest projects in Oak Ridge in years, and both are considered key parts of an economic renaissance that also includes new business development along Oak Ridge Turnpike and South Illinois Avenue, a new Kroger Marketplace shopping center, the proposed multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and the announcement by metal powder manufacturing company CVMR this month that it will move its operations from Toronto to Oak Ridge, investing $313 million and adding 620 jobs.

A rezoning has been requested for Main Street Oak Ridge. It will be considered by the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission during a meeting that starts at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26, in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom. The Planning Commission will also consider a planned unit development, or PUD, master plan for the project. [Read more…]

Planning to preserve history of K-25, which could be part of national park

K-25 Building Aerial View

Now demolished, the former mile-long, U-shaped K-25 Building, pictured above, was once used to enrich uranium for atomic weapons and commercial nuclear power plants. Located in west Oak Ridge, the site could become part of a new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. There is a separate effort to preserve K-25’s history; that work could be incorporated into the new park. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)

 

It was once the world’s largest building under one roof and part of the one of the largest industrial projects ever, a top-secret program to build the world’s first atomic weapons in World War II.

Today the building is gone—demolition was completed in December 2013—but the stories of what took place inside the former mile-long, U-shaped K-25 Building could live on in a replica equipment building, viewing tower, and history center.

And K-25 could become part of a new Manhattan Project National Historical Park approved by Congress in December and signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 19. The 14-page bill was the culmination of 15 years of work, said Colin Colverson, Manhattan Project Park lead in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office.

The law recognizes the Manhattan Project as one of the most significant events in U.S. history, with assets and history that must be preserved. It’s considered one of the top scientific achievements of the 20th century, and Oak Ridge residents still marvel at how quickly the three local sites (K-25, X-10, and Y-12) were built and began operating in all-out race to build an atomic bomb before Germany. [Read more…]

Spring Cleaning at future home of Coal Creek Miners Museum

Coal Creek Miners Museum Building

The proposed remodel of the building that will house the Coal Creek Miners Museum in Rocky Top. (Submitted photo)

 

The Coal Creek Miners Museum Board of Directors, volunteers, and the City of Rocky Top have been working hard to obtain funding for the remodel of the new Coal Creek Miners Museum building, a press release said.

Before the holidays, they applied for an Appalachian Resource Commission grant and applied to two other private foundations for funds. They are still waiting to hear whether or not they will receive any funding, the release said.

In the meantime, they are planning a Spring Cleaning at the future home of the Coal Creek Miners Museum. [Read more…]

Five more spring nature walks planned on Oak Ridge Reservation

Five more nature walks are planned this spring on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Reservation with themes of frog calls and bat monitoring, wildflowers and forest growth, bird watching, invasive plants, reptiles, and amphibians.

The frog calls and bat monitoring walk is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 4, and will be concentrated in the ponds around East Tennessee Technology Park. Wade Gefellers and Kitty McCracken of ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division will demonstrate how local bat populations are monitored and methods to identify local frog populations based on calls. Participants, limited to 25 with children allowed, will meet at the ETTP visitors overlook parking lot at 7 p.m. [Read more…]

Letter: Now is our chance to help MMC Hospitality Houses

Dear friends and fans,

Are you in it to win it? You know I am! And this time, I’m not talking about a football game. I’m talking about the game of life.

Right here in Oak Ridge, we have a place that’s helping people in need win in the game of life—the Hospitality Houses of Methodist Medical Center. When patients are traveling long distances for medical care or when families from far away need to be close to hospitalized loved ones, the Hospitality Houses are there, free of charge. [Read more…]

Oak Ridge joins statewide effort to plant 50,000 trees

Oak Ridge Tree Day Group

The City of Oak Ridge participated in the 50K Tree Day on Saturday, March 14, a statewide planting throughout Tennessee with the goal of planting 50,000 trees in one hour. (Submitted photo)

 

The City of Oak Ridge participated in the 50K Tree Day on Saturday, March 14, a statewide planting throughout Tennessee with the goal of planting 50,000 trees in one hour.

With the help of 61 volunteers, including students from Oak Ridge High School, members of Keep Anderson County Beautiful, and other community supporters, volunteers were able to plant about 400 trees at the disc golf course on Tuskegee Drive. The variety of Tennessee native trees planted included elderberry, silky dogwood, staghorn sumac, shumard oak, and ninebark.