Guest column: All AC communities decreased in assessed value, which is unprecedented

Note: This is a copy of a letter from Leonard A. Abbatiello, Anderson County/Oak Ridge Equalization Board representative, to Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch and City Council regarding the 2015 Board of Equalization results.

Dear Honorable Mayor Gooch and Members of City Council:

I currently serve as the Oak Ridge representative on the Anderson County Board of Equalization.

The Anderson County Board of Equalization has completed its task of appraisal hearings for 2015. Attached is our report which has been sent to the Tennessee State Appraisal Office. It is the first year ever when there has been a decrease in the total appraisal base, Anderson County’s first in history.

This is also the lightest Board workload in recent history. This year, we evaluated 208 cases totaling $125,886,000 of appraised value, reducing their total to $95,781,000. Commercial appeals are now dominating Anderson County appeals, with the requests for changes in commercial exceeding residential values by 5.6 times. Some commercial cases are expected to also appeal to the state for additional relief. [Read more…]

Guest column: Won’t support tax increase, urges residents to prevent further waste

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

Sixteen years ago, Partners for Progress successfully lobbied the city to spend over $15 million of your (the taxpayer) money to launch a major development on the West End of Oak Ridge. The promises were enough to make people starry eyed. There was to be a picturesque subdivision of nearly 4,000 homes along with an industrial complex that, when all was said and done, would produce 17,000 jobs, $1 billion in payroll, and nearly $13 million in additional annual property taxes.

Three years ago, many of the same folks behind Partners for Progress began a similar PR campaign touting the sale and redevelopment of the mall. “More shopping choices are coming!” they proclaimed. To date, the city has approved the use of $1.5 million of your money for infrastructure costs and a $13 million TIF (tax increment financing), which will  suppress property tax revenue at current levels for the next 30 years. In other words, no matter what happens, the 64 acres will continue, as it has for the last decade, to produce only 10 percent of its original value because any increases will be used to repay the TIF loan. Developers and city officials claim that the project will produce $1 million (or 20 percent) in additional sales tax revenue to the city, though, historically, the national retail sales growth rate range is between -11.51 percent to +11.18 percent. Even if we find a way around the notoriously stringent Wal-Mart non-compete covenants and actually bring in real retail, it is absolutely impossible to expect these projections to materialize, since, even in the best of times, we’ve not seen half that level of growth. [Read more…]

Letter: Chamber board lists spending priorities

Note: This is a copy of a June 8 letter from the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce and its Board of Directors to Mayor Warren Gooch and members of City Council, and Chairman Keys Fillauer and the Board of Education.

Mayor Gooch and Chairman Fillauer:

The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted, following the recommendation of our Advocacy Committee, to request the following be given serious consideration as discussions and voting occurs for your respective Fiscal Year 2016 budgets.

Spending Priorities:

  • Development and funding of a prioritized capital improvement plan for infrastructure improvements such as city/school buildings, streets, utilities, etc.
  • Pay increase for Oak Ridge Schools teachers and staff and City of Oak Ridge staff.
  • Waterfront improvements.

While we understand that the city is faced with adjusting the tax rate to reconcile with lower property appraisals, we do feel strongly that the city needs to prioritize spending around these three areas in order to position Oak Ridge as a community of choice for new and expanding businesses and residents.


Melinda Hillman

Chairman of the Board


Parker Hardy



Letter: Expansion of DOE waste storage highlights environmental justice problem

To the Editor:

For years, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 have steered their workers to live in surrounding counties. This has boosted those economies—while lowering our home values, financially burdening our schools, and limiting our retail growth.

Now, the U.S. Department of Energy wants to store more of its nuclear waste here.

In the last four years, our two counties (Anderson and Roane) lost 20 percent of their resident DOE workers, costing us an estimated $93 million in annual DOE payroll.

DOE’s economic favoritism is environmentally unfair and politically dumb. It works against the long-term interests of DOE’s important nuclear programs—which need a strong local political base of support to successfully operate. [Read more…]

Letter: Free Medical Clinic acknowledges volunteer nurses, more nurses needed

To the Editor:

During National Nurses Week and throughout the year, the Free Medical Clinic (FMC) is proud to celebrate the role nurses play in delivering the highest level of quality care to our patients.

The strong commitment, compassion, and care FMC nurses display in their practice and profession contribute significantly to the good health of the residents of Anderson, Morgan, and Roane counties who can’t afford to pay for health care and have no other access to the medical services they need.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of FMC. We would like to acknowledge the nurses who volunteer. They include Kari Bowling, Meghan Cadmus, Valerie Cheatham, Jay Cole, Dot Dare, Maury Dickson, Sara Gilmartin, Carole Holbrook, Ellen Kennel, Michelle Kirchenstiner, Karen Kirkland, Linda Quinley, Karen Reardon, Pat Redmon, Luther Rogers, Katie Salzano, Peggy Smith, Tracey Viau, and Karen Wilken. [Read more…]

Guest column: Good things continue to happen in Andersonville

Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department Fire Truck

Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department Fire Truck


By Theresa Scott

The Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department recently had a task to complete. Assistant Fire Chief Brian Casto took a crew to Oak Ridge. Upon arrival at the City of Oak Ridge’s main building, Assistant Chief Casto was directed to the Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson’s office. It was time for the papers to be signed. The title needed to be transferred and keys handed over. Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley was there to give further verbal instructions.

While the department heads were inside signing documents and discussing the final technicalities, the crew waited outside. However, without patience, they were found opening doors to compartments, checking out gauges, wiping off the windshield, checking out the view from the driver’s seat of the big yellow fire truck. This big, yellow Quality fire truck is going into full service but in a different zip code. It will still get the same hands-on care that it always had, but now it will be with a new crew out in the country. Perhaps out in the country, but still in the same county. The Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department was getting one of the surplus trucks. Most of the crew were laughing and chatting like a bunch of children on Christmas morning.  The excitement was obvious.

Thank you to the City of Oak Ridge for keeping this (as well as the one that was recently transferred to our Medford Volunteer Fire Department) in our county. It is important that we continue to pay it forward amongst ourselves as we may very well need to depend on it sometime in the future. The residents of Andersonville are very fortunate to have such caring volunteers. These men and women put their lives on the line when called to the scene of an automobile accident, a working residential or commercial property fire, or even to the water if there’s been a boating accident. [Read more…]

Letter: Church Women United thanks all who contributed to Blankets+ campaign

To the Editor:

Church Women United in the Oak Ridge area thanks and blesses the many people in our community who contributed to our 2015 Blankets+ campaign this spring.

Foremost, we are thankful for the donations of many women from diverse church traditions—including AME Zion, Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, God in Christ, interdenominational, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Unitarian—who respond to CWU’s calling to celebrate unity in diversity and to pray and work for a just, peaceful, and caring society.

In addition, we are thankful for Blankets+ contributions from members of Calvary Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church, Kern Memorial Methodist Church, Solway United Methodist Church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, and United Church, Chapel on the Hill. [Read more…]

Guest column: The 2015 Karma Ride

Andre Block

Andre Block is pictured outside the former Kroger store on South Illinois Avenue in August 2012. (File photo/Mare Martell)


By Mare Martell

– August 30, 2012

Outside of the old Kroger store, I met a man named Andre Block purely by chance. He had a trailer on the back of his bike with a cardboard hand written sign that read, “Virginia to Missouri for my son.”

He was riding 822 miles from Virginia to Missouri to see his son Andre Block Jr. Read the original post here.

His ride successful, he returned to Knoxville to settle in, that is, until his pedaling feet got the itch again.

– May 24, 2015

Outside of the new Kroger store, I met a man named Andre Block purely by chance. He had a trailer on the back of his bike with a cardboard hand written sign that read, “Karma Ride.” This time, Mr. Block has chosen an even bigger piece of the pie. He started off in Knoxville, Tennessee, yesterday (May 23) on a 2,600-mile trip that will land him in Venice Beach, California.

It was a grand reunion with hugs and laughter, but the seriousness of the cause Karma Ride is riding for this time is something important to Andre. He’s riding across the country to raise awareness of Lupus. [Read more…]

Letter: Gives thanks, says this year’s Police Week a ‘great success’

Police Week at Oak Ridge Police Department

This month, the law enforcement community celebrated Police Week 2015. For those who do not know, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation that designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week.

Currently, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world converge on Washington, D.C., to participate in a number of planned events that honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Here in Oak Ridge, the Police Department celebrated on a smaller scale, honoring officers everywhere with a ceremony at the Police Station on the 15th. The week was also marked by a proclamation given by the City Council declaring an official Police Week in Oak Ridge.

I represent a group of wives of police officers in Oak Ridge. We worked to make this the best police week ever for our husbands and the rest of our blue family. We organized meals, snacks, and treats for the officers, and hung banners of love and support in the station to let them know we “see them.” [Read more…]

Guest column: Council member offers summary of events related to ORPD investigation

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

By Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn

Given that there is some confusion over recent events, I offer the following summary about where we are, how we got here, and where we are headed with regards to the Oak Ridge Police Department investigation.

The ORPD has seen a total turnover rate of 45 percent in the last four years, having lost 34 of our 76 employees. Five of those individuals have departed in the last four months. Since February, all Council members have received communications from at least seven former officers, three current officers, and countless citizens expressing concerns about leadership and a potentially hostile work environment. Others have communicated anonymously citing similar concerns and attributing their anonymity to fears of retaliation.

On February 9, during a five-hour televised meeting, and in front of the largest audience any of us had ever seen, City Council formally committed to investigate the root causes behind the turnover, morale, and policy issues in the Police Department.

The resolution that was ultimately approved was brought forward by Council member Kelly Callison who stated that “We think that’s a broad, a very broad term that allows an investigator, an independent investigator to look at the issues that might be present…”  At the end of the meeting, councilmember Chuck Hope stated, “The investigation that we’ve come to an agreement among the seven of us was reached unanimously…there’s enough information that it warrants an investigation…”

During this same meeting, Council committed to ensure that the investigation would allow for the anonymity of all participants and would include both current and past employees. Mr. Callison also suggested that council select Municipal Technical Advisory Service, specifically Rex Barton, to perform the work. Council did not select MTAS at the time, but agreed to hold a special meeting to select an entity to conduct the investigation and define its parameters. Information regarding the other resolutions that Council rejected can be found here. [Read more…]

Letter: Shares Heitman story, encourages support for loved ones

To the Editor:

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, 41,149 lives were taken in 2013 from suicide. According to the website of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, people who kill themselves exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do. The more warning signs, the greater the risk!


If a person talks about:

  • Killing themselves
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Unbearable pain


A person’s suicide risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased, especially if it’s related to a painful event, loss, or change:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to kill one’s self, such as searching online for materials or means
  • Acting recklessly
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression


People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation
  • Anxiety

These are shocking. I should know. I was married to a man, who was smart, driven, and someone who, on the outside, had a very laid-back demeanor, and was extremely confident. I had known this man for 13 years. I was married to him for three before he ended his own life. You might be very familiar with this man. There have been some who have taken to the Internet to blog about him and his situation, and there has been some press about him over the last 3.5 years since his passing. Sadly, there have been a number of half-truths and pointing of fingers, and that process has defamed the characters of some citizens and a respectable city.

I am not writing to point fingers, or to publicly humiliate anyone. I want to raise awareness in hopes it helps someone else—awareness about Alex Heitman and what he experienced. I will also add that the information that I am providing is not new information and has been shared with all parties involved at one point or another since Alex’s passing. [Read more…]

Letter: Community Mediation appreciates support at Big Ed’s Memorial Golf Tournament

To the Editor:

Community Mediation Services of Anderson County deeply appreciates the support and enthusiasm of golfers, sponsors, volunteers, and the Oak Ridge Country Club at the 14th Annual Big Ed’s Memorial Golf Tournament. Thanks to you, at-risk youth and families in Anderson County continue to have a way to peacefully resolve difficult issues with solutions they themselves determine.

The golf tournament also honors Big Ed Neusel and David Neusel and their legacy of giving much to others while seeking recognition from none.

We look forward to seeing you in 2016 on the last Friday in April at the 15th Annual Big Ed’s Memorial Golf Tournament. [Read more…]