Anderson, three other counties join Retire Tennessee program

Retire Tennessee

Anderson, Carter, Sumner, and Unicoi counties align with 15 established communities 

NASHVILLE—Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett announced last week that Anderson, Carter, Sumner, and Unicoi counties have been added to Retire Tennessee, the state’s retiree recruitment marketing program. That brings the total number of active Retire Tennessee counties to 19, a press release said.

“It’s great to officially add four new counties to this important state program,” Triplett said. “Tennessee has much to offer people making retirement decisions based on quality of life and cost of living. Our state has the lowest cost of living in the Southeast and second lowest in the nation, no state income tax, and low property tax. Add to that, the state’s breathtaking scenic beauty and unparalleled hospitality, and it’s only natural Tennessee would rank high among the population relocating after retirement.”

The four counties join Cumberland, Franklin, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hardin, Jefferson, Loudon, Maury, Putnam, Rhea,  Roane, Robertson, Sullivan, Warren, and White counties as Retire Tennessee counties. Now in its ninth year, Retire Tennessee inspired more than 10,000 inquiries from potential retirees last year. Tennessee is one of only four states with retiree recruitment as a formal program and continues to gain momentum as a potential retirement destination for more than 78 million baby boomers. [Read more…]

Main Street Oak Ridge site plan to be considered Aug. 6

Oak Ridge Mall

A site plan for Main Street Oak Ridge, the $80 million redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall, which is pictured above, will be considered by city officials on Thursday, August 6, 2015. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

 

A site plan for Main Street Oak Ridge, the $80 million redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall, will be considered by city officials next week.

The site plan was submitted on Monday, June 29. It’s one of several steps that have been recently announced on the eagerly anticipated 60-acre redevelopment. Other steps include pre-demolition activities and bid reviews, and roughly $500,000 worth of pledges from six local employers to help cover public infrastructure costs.

The City of Oak Ridge has also received and is considering a preliminary subdivision plat that details construction plans for East and West Main Street and Wilson Street, which are private roads but could become public streets. [Read more…]

Pay raises, new money for schools in jeopardy

Anderson County Teachers at County Commission

Roughly three-quarters of those attending the budget deliberations at Anderson County Commission on Monday, July 20, 2015, wore red—”Red for Public Ed.” Teachers thought they could be getting a 2 percent pay raise, but after a special Thursday night meeting to adopt the new tax rate, it’s not clear if that will still happen. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

 

Note: This story was last updated with a poll at 10 a.m. July 31.

CLINTON—Pay raises for county employees and educators and new money for three school systems, including Oak Ridge’s, are in jeopardy after the Anderson County Commission rejected a property tax rate increase on Thursday.

A 10-cent rate hike had been anticipated in a budget approved by the Anderson County Commission in a 9-5-1 vote on Monday, July 20.

But the Commission failed to adopt the new higher tax rate during a follow-up meeting on Thursday, July 30. Commissioners rejected the higher rate in an 8-5 vote. Nine votes were needed for passage.

The higher tax rate was expected to help fund 2 percent pay raises for Anderson County Schools teachers and staff and county employees. It was also expected to generate another $423,000 in funding for Oak Ridge Schools and $134,000 for Clinton Schools. [Read more…]

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City Council to consider tax rate on second, final reading on Monday

Oak Ridge City Council on July 27, 2015

The Oak Ridge City Council raised the trash pickup fee by $3.50 during a special budget meeting on Monday, July 27, 2015, and the Council set aside an extra $260,000 for capital projects such as buildings and schools. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

 

The Oak Ridge City Council will have a second and final meeting on Monday, August 3, to adopt the new property tax rate of $2.52.

The previous tax rate had been $2.39 per $100 of assessed value, so the new rate is 13 cents higher than the old one.

The new tax-neutral rate provided by Tennessee officials went up because overall property assessments went down in Anderson and Roane counties in the five-year reappraisals completed this year. Since property assessments went down in those two counties, the tax-neutral rate went up in the counties and cities within them, including Clinton, Norris, Oliver Springs, and Rocky Top.

Oak Ridge is the only one of those seven governments that, as of now, does not plan to increase its property tax rate beyond the tax-neutral rate. With the help of some last-minute changes, Oak Ridge officials were able to balance the budget in a way that doesn’t require a local increase in the property tax rate. And the budget still proposes 2 percent pay raises for municipal workers and Oak Ridge Schools teachers and staff. [Read more…]

AC Senior Center dealt serious setback

Information from WYSH Radio

The one company that had expressed interest in leasing a building on South Seivers Boulevard to be used as an Anderson County Senior Center informed county leaders on Tuesday that they were withdrawing the offer.

B&B Properties had offered to lease the 10,000-square foot building to the county for five years at a cost of $1,896 per month but, in a letter to Anderson County Commission Chairman Robert McKamey, said that was no longer feasible.

The company recently leased space in Oak Ridge’s Jackson Tower to a group of doctors, which has resulted in a lack of parking for both the insurance operations housed there and the medical practice, so the company said it will be relocating some of those insurance operations to the building near downtown Clinton. [Read more…]

Civic Center Recreation Building to be temporarily closed for floor maintenance

Oak Ridge Civic Center Gym

Pictured above is a basketball game in the Oak Ridge Civic Center gym. (Photo courtesy City of Oak Ridge)

 

The Oak Ridge Civic Center Recreation Building will be closed Saturday, August 1, through Tuesday, August 4, for gym floor refinishing. This will include the gymnasium, the game room, all meeting rooms, and the indoor swimming pool.

The indoor swimming pool will reopen on Wednesday, August 5. The offices, meeting rooms, and game room will reopen on Thursday, August 6, at 8 a.m. The gym will remain closed until Monday, August 10.

During this time, visitors to the Civic Center Recreation Building will need to use the main entrance that faces the fountain. Staff will be available at both the Scarboro Community Center at (865) 425-3950 and the Oak Ridge Senior Center at (865) 425-3999.

July 4 victim says driver hit two vehicles, stopped twice, continued backing—then ‘floored it’

Michael Eldridge Testimony

Victim Michael Eldridge testifies in Anderson County General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

 

Note: This story was last updated at 10:27 p.m.

One of the victims in the July 4 parking lot crash in Oak Ridge said the driver charged with homicide and aggravated assault hit a Thunderbird, stopped, slowly continued backing, hit a van, stopped, and then slowly continued backing—and then he “floored it.”

“Then, he came toward us,” victim Michael Eldridge testified during a bond hearing in Anderson County General Sessions Court in Oak Ridge on Tuesday.

The bond hearing was for Lee Cromwell, the 65-year-old driver accused of causing the fatal crash. Cromwell has been charged with homicide and aggravated assault, among other charges.

The crash killed James Robinson, 37, of Knoxville, who was watching fireworks with his wife and two daughters, and it injured 11 other people.  [Read more…]

Bond reduced for Cromwell, driver in fatal parking lot crash

Derek Setzer and Lee Cromwell

Lee Cromwell, 65, of Oak Ridge, right, is escorted through Anderson County General Sessions Court on Tuesday by Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Derek Setzer. Cromwell has been charged with homicide and aggravated assault, among other charges, after a fatal parking lot crash after July 4 fireworks in Oak Ridge. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

 

Note: This story was last updated at 10:30 a.m. July 30.

Bond was reduced to $100,000 on Tuesday for an Oak Ridge man accused of killing one person and injuring 11 people in a parking lot crash after July 4 fireworks.

There were concerns about whether Lee Cromwell, 65, considers himself a “sovereign citizen” and denies governmental authority, and Anderson County General Sessions Court Judge Roger Miller reported that Cromwell was somewhat defiant at his arraignment.

Still, Miller lowered bond for Cromwell from about $205,500 to $100,000, more than cutting it in half.

Cromwell was released Tuesday evening. He is prohibited from contacting the victims. [Read more…]

Despite lobbying, Manhattan Project park HQ proposed in Denver

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 Manhattan Project National Historical Park. There is a separate effort to preserve the site’s history; that work could be incorporated into the new park. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)

 

Note: This story was last updated at 1:10 p.m. July 29.

Local officials had proposed locating it in Oak Ridge, but federal officials have proposed locating the headquarters for the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Denver.

The new park, which is still in the planning stages, would include three sites: Oak Ridge; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

A National Park Service release on Tuesday said there would be a site manager for each location who will coordinate with local U.S. Department of Energy staff, Tribes, community members, and area partners. The site managers will report to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park’s superintendent, who will be located at an NPS central office that has been proposed in Denver. [Read more…]

City budget raises trash fee, provides more for city infrastructure

Oak Ridge City Council on July 28, 2015

The Oak Ridge City Council raised the trash pickup fee by $3.50 during a special budget meeting on Monday, July 27, 2015, and the Council set aside an extra $260,000 for capital projects such as buildings and schools. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today) 

 

Note: This story was last updated at 10:05 a.m. July 28.

There will be a $3.50 increase in the monthly trash fee, and more money—$260,000—will be reserved for capital projects such as buildings and schools, while city officials are not expected to change the new property tax rate provided by the state after five-year reappraisals completed this year.

The trash fee will increase from $7 to $10.50 per month. That change is expected to provide another $335,000 per year in revenue.

The new tax rate—state officials call it a tax-neutral rate—is $2.52 per $100 of assessed value. It was approved in the first of two readings by the Oak Ridge City Council during a three-hour special meeting on Monday. The second reading hasn’t been scheduled yet, but the meeting is expected soon. [Read more…]

Democratic Women host tea

The Anderson County Democratic Women’s Club will host an English tea on Monday, July 27, for members of the Democratic Party.

The tea will be from 5-7 p.m. July 27 in the Hearth Room of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church at 809 Oak Ridge Turnpike in Oak Ridge. Tea and light refreshments will be served.

Women are invited to wear hats as they come for tea and for discussion of issues important to Democrats. The club will offer its support to Democratic candidates from the region, and candidates are invited to attend.

For more information, contact Ann Mostoller at [email protected] or Mary Matheny at (865) 483-8937.

Tax rate increases, changes in AC, Clinton, Oliver Springs, RC, Rocky Top

Increases in the property tax rate have been approved or are anticipated in budgets that have already passed in Anderson County, Clinton, Oliver Springs, Roane County, and Rocky Top.

Those increases are in addition to the increases already expected because of a drop in overall property assessments in Anderson and Roane counties. The 4 percent drop in Anderson County and 3.47 percent decline in Roane County mean the tax-neutral rate—the rate meant to bring in the same amount of revenues after a reappraisal as before—goes up.

The highest tax increase, which includes a 6-cent change in the certified tax rate after five-year reappraisals, is 40 cents. That’s in Rocky Top, where the new tax rate is $2 per $100 of assessed value.

The lowest so far is in Anderson County, where county commissioners have approved a 10-cent increase for 2 percent pay raises for school and county employees. That’s in addition to the roughly 16-cent increase in the tax-neutral, or certified, tax rate.

Oak Ridge will be the last of those half-dozen governments to consider any changes to the tax-neutral rate. In Oak Ridge, the rate has been calculated at $2.52, up 13 cents from the current $2.39.

Oak Ridge could also be the only one of those half-dozen governments that doesn’t add a tax rate increase to this year’s higher tax-neutral rate. So far, it appears that a majority of Oak Ridge City Council members could support the $2.52 rate, although two Council members, Trina Baughn and Rick Chinn, have advocated for a reduction, possibly by two cents to $2.50.

Here is information on the increases or potential increases: [Read more…]