Opinion: Let’s keep the Secret City Festival, could still honor vets in November

To the Editor:

Hopefully, the City Council will think long and hard before ending the Secret City Festival as we know it and move “something” to the fall. The Festival now has many activities for children, music by community and aspiring groups, community booths, and much more that might not be possible outside in November. Not to mention the plethora of festivals, football, and other events in the fall already, making October an impossible time to schedule things.

One thing that will definitely be gone is the TN CREATES fine art and craft show, which the city asked the Oak Ridge Art Center to develop nine years ago. It has gown in scope and interest over the years and is one reason many people come to the festival. The Art Center has had its own show in November for 30 years (November 9 this year), plus there are already numerous other shows in the fall, including Museum of Appalachia and Southern Highlands and Foothills in November, plus the non-juried Pilot Club show here in November, two weeks after the Art Center Gallery of Holiday Shops.

Has this small group, which did not ask for input from many who had led the Secret City Festival for ages, thought about a seven- to 14-day festival in late June, culminating with July 4, which is already a time of family visits home to Oak Ridge (I met dozens of my kids’ friends at Secret City last year)? What the task force seems to be envisioning as a time to honor veterans could still be held in November. We keep saying we want activities to attract younger families—let’s keep the great one we have now, which had its biggest attendance ever this past June and is a great summer family time.

Judy Kidd

Oak Ridge


Note: The submitted letters and columns published in the Opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of Oak Ridge Today or its staff.

Opinion: A thought about promoting war at a time of solemn remembrance

To Members of City Council:

The idea of emphasizing weapons of war in the fall around November 11 is highly ironic since Armistice Day originated in the desire for peace and the hope that the First World War was fought to end all wars.

November 11 originally was to remember an entire generation which was wiped out by war. Poppies were worn in hopes there would be no more war.

I have to say that trying to co-opt this solemn time of remembrance in order to show off expensive war toys is highly offensive.

Virginia M. Jones

Oak Ridge


Note: The submitted letters and columns published in the Opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of Oak Ridge Today or its staff.

Opinion: Alarmed by proposal to privatize library, calls for feasibility study

Dear Council Members:

I am both alarmed and dismayed at the current proposal to privatize the Oak Ridge Public Library beginning January 2016. I understand the City Council’s need to create a workable budget for the upcoming year, but we must beware of making sudden major changes to a valuable city resource on the vague promise of saving money. It is unconscionable that the city would make such a change without a full feasibility study of particulars, both positive and negative, along with full documentation of public comment and thoughtful analysis and response to those comments. Such a study is crucial because it would reveal the extent to which privatization would affect the city’s long-term ability to meet its citizens’ needs as well as its finances. More importantly, the study is necessary in order for our Council and citizens to exercise informed consent or dissent on the matter. [Read more…]


Letter: Rich Construction, city ‘should be ashamed’ over Jackson Square work

To the Editor:

The Rich Construction Company leadership and some officials of the City of Oak Ridge should be ashamed of themselves for the total disaster that is the reconstruction allegedly going on at Jackson Square.

My family and I have been steady customers of Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery as well as some of the other businesses there for over a year. We have seen the “progress” on the project at least weekly since its beginning. The rate of progress has been abysmal at best. There have many, many clear weather days throughout last winter and spring where work could have been going on, but there was no one in sight. In fact, the only time there seemed to be ANY sign of urgency was the two days before the Lavender Festival in June. The work then was only to minimally accommodate that event. And as soon as it was over, work stopped again.

The initial completion date the business owners were promised was in June. By that time they had suffered through over five months of loss of business and disappointed customers. When it wasn’t completed by then, the owners were promised a completion date of mid-August. Well, that didn’t happen either! Now the latest promised completion date is in mid-September. Almost 10 months after the project started. Unbelievable! [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…]

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…]

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…]

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…]

Letter: Encourages students, parents to attend discussion on student loans

To the Editor:

High school seniors should have applied for their financial packages within the last several months, and colleges push the loans, along with grants, scholarships, and job offers.

They and their parents need to understand what they are getting themselves into when they have to start paying the money back in the July after they leave college with or without a degree or good-paying job.

I personally know a young lady who was dropped in January by a university after seven semesters because her gradepoint was 0.3 point below the required gradepoint for her field, and she had to get a job. She cannot return to finish for one year, but she has to start paying on her college loans of $20,000, July 1, 2015. [Read more…]