Guest column: Next six-month challenges in Roane County

Ron Woody

Ron Woody

By Ron Woody, writing in the January 2015 “County Executive’s Newsletter to the County Commission”

“Next Six Month Challenges”

As we begin the next calendar year, we thought it would be appropriate to identify some challenges which will come before commission in the next six months. As always, the beginning of the calendar year starts the annual budget process. Commission has made many major steps over the last number of years in establishing a more formal budget development process as budget focus has been divided into operating budgets and capital budget. We are not to the point we should be yet in both funding and understanding, but much as been accomplished and that I call a success.

Now to our six-month challenges:

  1. More deployment of capital budget. We plan on working on this in February and March. The questions to be answered are: Are we setting aside enough funds for replacement of our assets? Where do these set-aside funds come from and how do we protect these funds from competing services?
  2. Insuring that the county has a successful reappraisal program which includes not only accurate value but an understanding of the reappraisal impact.
  3. Funding of operational budgets which are either strained (general government) or suffering major loses (schools).
  4. Educational plans of capital improvements and related funding whether consolidation of schools are considered or not.

[Read more…]

Guest column: Becoming a healthy community

Stability and growth of that complex system called a community depends on honesty, equality, fairness, balance, foresight, continuity, healthy relationships, maturity, safety, common goals, and recognizable successes shared among all community members and good leadership.

Industry and government facilities were having great difficulty attracting highly educated and qualified professionals to Oak Ridge despite competitive salaries in the new millennium. One of the attractions that might help this problem was thought to be the existence of superior schools for the children of those professionals, combined with attractive, upscale housing.

As is so typical in Oak Ridge, many bright minds saw only their need and targeted the solution they hypothesized would make it work. Also, as so often happens with brilliant focused minds, the complexity of the economic and social organization, its influence, and the needs of the whole community were not factored into the equation. There was an assumption that the hypothesis of good schools, combined with an abundance of attractive housing, would solve the problem. So, $67 million was spent on building and equipping a state-of-the-art high school with amenities usually limited to high-priced, private, college prep schools. This, despite the critical need for a new preschool facility having been very high on the official city list of capital needs for over a decade. [Read more…]

Guest column: Investments—who do you trust?

Lydia Birk

Lydia Birk

By Lydia Birk

The air waves are filled with commercials regarding which investment firm you should rely on; after all, you want to eventually retire and live comfortably and healthy and maintain your lifestyle. Yet, how much do you personally know about investing: the timing, the company’s track records, transparency, can they be trusted? There is an overload of information spinning around, and for many of us, it is confusing and time-consuming, so we trust our investments to the professionals.

Those of you who donate to the United Way of Anderson County and check the box to have Fund Distribution Volunteers make investment decisions are doing the same thing. Trusting educated, informed, committed people to invest your dollars where they will do the most good. In Anderson County, we have a multitude of programs that serve the needs of youth through food programs, backpack programs, after-school programs, preschool programs, utility assistance so they don’t shiver at night, programs to inspire, to encourage, to challenge. And programs that address the mental and physical health of our youth. Which of these programs are most effective, which ones address the most pressing issues, which ones are transparent in managing your gifts, do you chose to put a roof over their heads or food in their bellies? [Read more…]

Guest column: President Obama’s manufacturing announcement—what it means for UT, ORNL, East Tennessee

Jimmy Cheek and Martin Keller and Shelby Cobra

University of Tennessee Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek, right, stands with Martin Keller, associate laboratory director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in front of a Shelby Cobra printed as a collaboration between ORNL and UT personnel. The car served as a highlight of President Obama’s visit to the area on Friday. (Photo courtesy UT) 


KNOXVILLE—President Obama’s announcement on Friday that the University of Tennessee in Knoxville would be the lead institution in a $259 million advanced composites manufacturing project known as the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, or IACMI, was met with applause, but also a few questions.

Many wondered what advanced composites manufacturing really means, why the UT-led consortium was selected, and what the impact for the area might be.

Here are some answers.

What is IACMI?

IACMI is the newest federally funded institute for manufacturing innovation. Its focus is on advancing innovation in the manufacturing of composites used in automobiles, wind turbines, and compressed gas storage tanks. [Read more…]

Letter: Commissioner Isbel asks President Obama to visit Rocky Top

Tim Isbel

Tim Isbel

Mr. President:

I am writing this letter to respectfully ask for your assistance in the resurgence of a small impoverished coal mining community that was very instrumental in the development of this great nation, during the Industrial Revolution, due to the ability to produce coal. Since the decline of the coal industry, this community has suffered economically and 50 percent of the current population lives below the poverty level.

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Tim Isbel, the Anderson County commissioner that represents this community of Lake City, Tennessee.

Just over a year ago, the mayor and city council of Lake City and myself set out to change the direction of the city. This city, nestled between Norris Lake and the Cumberland Mountains, has the assets of having two major interchanges off the I-75 corridor, an abundance of uninhabited property, existing infrastructure, and just 25 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee, and Interstate I-40. [Read more…]

Guest column: Glad she went on schools’ tour, encourages others to go

Art and Science Class

The microscope pictured above was in a combined class taught by art teacher Jim Dodson and science teacher John Beard at Jefferson Middle School. (Photos courtesy Mary Layton)


By Mary Layton

On Tuesday, December 16, I went on the inaugural Oak Ridge School’s Community Tour.

We met at the American Museum of Science and Energy bright and early at 8 am. We were divided into two groups. The Einstein Group was hosted by Tracey Beckendorf-Edou, and the Curie Group had as its leader Chris Marczak.

We began with a short history of Oak Ridge given by Ken Mayes. We were reminded of the important role our city played in World War II.

Bruce Borchers, superintendent of Oak Ridge Schools, welcomed us to the tour. He told us about the Keys to College and Career Readiness. These goals were developed by interviewing and surveying Oak Ridge students, parents, staff, and community in late 2013. The goal of the keys is to prepare students to go to college, obtain industry certification in a skill, or receive military preparation by graduation. Borchers told us that our tour would show us how they were working to obtain these goals. [Read more…]

Letter: Encourage residents, businesses to help support basketball broadcasts

Letter to supporters of the Oak Ridge community and Oak Ridge High School basketball:

We are writing this letter to encourage any Oak Ridge basketball supporters and supporters of the community in general to consider a contribution to help get the games on the radio.

The Oak Ridge boys’ team—state runner-up in March and coached by Aaron Green—is off to a school record 14-0 start and is an exciting and fun TEAM to watch play. [Read more…]

Guest column: Destiny

DESTINY! I love that term. Some people use that word when asking the question, “Where do you think you will go after death?”

Well, I prefer to ponder that word when considering the question: “What is my unique mission I am to accomplish here on earth? What is my destiny?”

A few years ago I coined my own description of the path we travel to reach our own unique destiny. I define that path to destiny as

A series of propelling events which are statistically impossible to have all happened to the same person.

You see, I don’t believe we can make our ultimate impact on this earth unless we travel this seemingly coincidental path. If we are in complete charge of our own lives, then the outcome will be our own accomplishment. But if we are cooperating with God’s unseen grace then our ultimate impact just might be accomplished. [Read more…]

Guest column: Christmas Meditation 2014

Christmas is the time of year when we think about giving and receiving. For many, the giving part comes rather easily. Indeed, we are reminded how blessed it is to give than receive. But this morning, I want to share how it’s sometimes difficult to be on the receiving end.

One summer when I was a young lad, I attended a day camp, which included horseback riding among its assorted activities. Learning to ride horses for the very first time was very exciting, but it was diminished as I discovered how unkind the instructors (college students from the local college) were to me. I never understood why.

My way of dealing with it was to keep to myself and suffer through the perceived rejection.

One day, I accidently slammed my finger in the door of a truck used to haul us around. It hurt terribly, but I resisted the notion to report it to somebody. My thought was: “Who would care that I smashed my finger?” It was unusually hard for me to ask for help in this particular instance.

Eventually, the pain became so intense I broke down and asked for help. And when I did, I discovered the most remarkable thing: The people I thought didn’t care about me were eager to help me with my dilemma. Their compassion was amazing. Their love for me was evidenced in their care and concern for my injury. [Read more…]

Guest column: Tips for managing family stress during the holidays

Submitted by Susan Moore

Around this time of year, we start hearing phrases like “Give thanks” and “get into the Christmas spirit” everywhere we go. Just about every advertisement reminds us that the holidays are right around the corner. It is a festive time of year with plenty to do. There are parades, Black Friday sales, family get-togethers, good food, and gifts to buy.

But as the joy and excitement of the season spreads, stress and anxiety also increase. During the holiday season, we actually see an increase in child abuse attributed to the additional stresses on families.

At first this sounds surprising, but everyone, especially parents, can relate to the stress of setting aside money to purchase gifts for Christmas and food for Thanksgiving. With extra expenses and additional events piling up, parents are vulnerable to losing control of themselves in an attempt to release their stress. Instead of finding a healthy outlet for stress release, many parents take out their frustration on their children and use abusive discipline.

“Typically around this time of year we see the parent with a full plate losing it a little bit and hurting their children,” says Kristen Rector of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee. “It’s not the out-of-control raging parent who usually abuses a child but the parent stressed out by the holiday expenses.” [Read more…]

Guest column: ‘More than true’…Christmas matters

I had a talk not too long ago with a very intelligent person about Christian Christmas stories. He asked, “Surely you don’t actually believe that the Christmas story you preach really happened?” It was a question that I settled long ago, although it reminded me that many people still struggle with their faith around the holidays.

Even though there are probably some good reasons to ponder the “reality” of the Nativity story over the holidays, I honestly don’t even think about it anymore. I once read a quote that went something like, “The question is not always whether it is real, but whether it matters…the things that matter most become reality.”

Atheist Sam Harris has written about “tiny lies” and the cost they have on our culture. He even discusses Santa Claus, taking on a popular non-religious Christmas tradition as a form of deception. I see Harris, much like my friend, in a very “stuck” place. When we bring the wrong question to the table, we often feel the need to “force feed” answers. No one likes being force-fed.

When it comes to Santa, the question for families is not so much whether or not he and his reindeer troop are real; rather the question is whether or not he matters. Because if he matters, every family finds a way to make him real during the season. [Read more…]

Guest column: Christmas Spirit

John Ragan

John Ragan

On Christmas Day a century ago, at several locations along the Western Front of the World War I conflict, soldiers from both sides of the Great War emerged from trenches to meet in peace and camaraderie in no-man’s-land: the war-torn spaces between the opposing trenches. In the days leading up to Christmas, troops on both sides had sometimes joined in singing Christmas carols, the melodies rising to mix in the frigid air over the battlefield.

When Christmas Day dawned, instead of exchanging artillery barrages and bayonet charges, they traded handshakes, gifts, and holiday wishes. One location even enjoyed a friendly game of soccer.

Briefly, on a European battlefield where death and bitterness had reigned supreme, there was peace on earth and good will toward men. Though it was for only a day—a Christmas Day—hatred gave way to recognition of humanity’s brotherhood. [Read more…]