Alexander Guest House renovation restores grandeur at historic hotel

Alexander Guest House Ballroom and Cafeteria Sept. 23, 2015

The ballroom and cafeteria area is pictured above at the Alexander Guest House, which converted the beloved but long-vacant Alexander Inn hotel into an assisted living center. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)


It’s been a dream for years, and now the preservation and transformation of the former Alexander Inn is nearly complete.

The two-year, $8 million construction and renovation project is almost finished, and Alexander Guest House could open as an assisted living facility in about two weeks, said Rick Dover of Dover Development of East Tennessee.

Sixty percent of the 64 apartments are already reserved, Executive Director Jody Daugherty said during a media tour Wednesday. Among those who will live there are Jean Stone of Oak Ridge and Dean Ford of Oliver Springs. They participated in the media tour on Wednesday.

“I think they’ve done a remarkable job of restoring it to its grandeur,” said Stone, a longtime Oak Ridge resident who has “many fine memories” of parties, weddings, wedding receptions, and club meetings, among other events, at the historic two-story hotel. “Once I saw what they’re doing here, I wanted to come here. I think it will be a lovely place to live. It’s absolutely tremendous.”

The historic two-story hotel was built as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, and top scientists and dignitaries once stayed there. [Read more…]

Photos: Jackson Square parking lot work continues Thursday

Jackson Square Fountain and Landscaping

New landscaping is in the foreground and the interactive fountain is in the background at Jackson Square as construction continued on the $1 million parking lot renovation on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)


The $1 million renovation of the Jackson Square parking lot continued Thursday, with the goal of finishing the project in time for Taste of Anderson County on Saturday.

Construction started in January on what has turned into one of the most closely watched projects in Oak Ridge. Work is funded with help from a $741,609 Tennessee Department of Transportation Enhancement Grant that was awarded to the city in June 2012. The TDOT grant covers 80 percent of the work, and it requires a 20 percent city match.

The work is reported to be the first major renovation at Jackson Square in 70 years. It includes a landscaped pedestrian plaza with parking, an interactive fountain, stone pavers, curbing, asphalt paving, utilities, benches, sidewalks, and upgrades under the American with Disabilities Act. [Read more…]

Scholarship Saturday at Roane State campuses in Roane, Oak Ridge

Tennessee Promise Logo

High school seniors can sign up for the Tennessee Promise and fill out their college application as part of Scholarship Saturday on September 26 at Roane State Community College’s Oak Ridge campus and at the college’s Roane County campus in Harriman.

Each event will last from 9 a.m.-noon, and refreshments will be served.

Students who attend the event at the Oak Ridge campus at 701 Briarcliff Avenue will meet in Room 118 in the Goff Health Sciences and Technology Building. Students are asked to reserve a spot by contacting Jim McDaniel at (865) 354-3000, ext. 2362, or [email protected]. [Read more…]

TDOT: Replacing ‘green bridge’ on US 25W in Clinton could cost $18.8 million

Hon. William Everette Lewallen Memorial Bridge

The Hon. William Everette Lewallen Memorial Bridge on US 25W in Clinton is pictured above. Also known as “the green bridge,” it could cost $18.8 million to replace, state officials said Thursday. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)


Replacing the Lewallen Bridge—known as “the green bridge” to locals—on US 25W in Clinton could cost $18.8 million, state officials said Thursday.

The bridge, officially known as the Hon. William Everette Lewallen Memorial Bridge, crosses over the Clinch River, and it connects downtown Clinton to South Clinton.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation said preliminary plans are under development to replace the major bridge, which connects the main route from Clinton to Knoxville. South of Clinton, the road is known as Clinton Highway.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer gave an update on that and other projects when they sat down with local and state officials in Knoxville on Thursday to discuss the region’s transportation and infrastructure needs, a press release said. [Read more…]

Three apply for 9th Judicial District Criminal Court opening; district includes Roane

NASHVILLE—The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments will consider three applicants when it meets September 25 in Harriman to select nominees for the impending criminal court vacancy in the 9th Judicial District, which serves Loudon, Meigs, Morgan, and Roane counties.

The impending vacancy has been created by the announcement by Judge E. Eugene Eblen that he is retiring effective December 31, 2015.

The applicants are:

  • Walter B. Johnson II, of Lenoir City,
  • Porsche Lyn Shantz of Lenoir City, and
  • Jeffery H. Wicks of Rockwood.

[Read more…]

ORNL manufacturing facility part of national effort to make innovations

Penny Pritzker Tours ORNL Manufacturing Demonstration Facility

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, second from left, tours Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Hardin Valley on Thursday. Also pictured from left are IACMI CEO Craig Blue; Mark Johnson, director of DOE’s office of advanced manufacturing; Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero; and ORNL Director Thom Mason. They are standing next to a Shelby Cobra sports car that was 3D-printed at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)


HARDIN VALLEY—The Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is part of a national effort to keep the United States on the cutting edge of research and manufacturing, a federal official said Thursday.

One-third of economic growth comes from innovations, and the United States must continue making new developments, said Penny Pritzker, U.S. commerce secretary.

“Research and manufacturing is not nice to have,” Pritzker said. “It’s a need to have.”

Pritzker toured the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility on Cherahala Boulevard in Hardin Valley on Thursday. It’s part of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, which was announced by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during a trip to East Tennessee in January. [Read more…]

Commerce secretary to tour UT partner IACMI, ORNL manufacturing facility

Penny Pritzker

Penny Pritzker

KNOXVILLE—On Thursday, August 27, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Department of Energy Assistant Secretary David Danielson will visit the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville.

The visit is part of a two-day tour of the institutes make up the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will join Pritzker for portions of the day’s activities.

The group will tour the U.S. Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and National Transportation Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The University of Tennessee in Knoxville is a key strategic partner of IACMI and led the proposal efforts with ORNL.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced the new institute in January during a visit to East Tennessee. The White House initiative aims to strengthen the global competitiveness of America’s manufacturing sector and the workforce. The NNMI now has six institutes, and three more are being formed. [Read more…]

Tourism revenues up 3.7 percent in Anderson County

Bill Haslam during Presidential Visit at Pellissippi State

Governor Bill Haslam is pictured above during a visit by President Barack Obama at Pellissippi State Community College on Friday, January 9. (File photo by Rob Welton)

Tourists spent a total of $115.77 million in Anderson County in 2014, state officials announced Tuesday. That was an increase of 3.7 percent compared to 2013.

The spending generated a total of $6.72 million in state and $2.47 million in local tax revenues, increases of 4.7 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. A total of 905 Anderson Countians are employed in tourism-related fields.

State officials also said that tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached $17.7 billion in 2014, up 6.3 percent, and an all-time high for the state.

The record-breaking numbers were announced in Nashville on Tuesday by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Triplett of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. [Read more…]

Merchants frustrated with progress at Jackson Square; protest sign posted

Jackson Square Parking Lot Renovations Sign

There has been some frustration among merchants at Jackson Square about not being able to use the partially paved parking lot while they wait for renovations to be completed. This protest sign saying “Free Our Parking Lot!!” was posted on Wednesday.


Merchants have grown frustrated with the pace of renovations at Jackson Square, and on Wednesday a protest sign was posted. “Free Our Parking Lot!” said the sign, which has since been removed.

For now, the parking lot inside Jackson Square remains closed off behind construction fencing as work continues on a $1 million renovation mostly funded by a state grant awarded in 2012.

But merchants wonder why they can’t use the parking lot since it was used for the Lavender Festival on June 20.

Compounding their frustration is the closure of the lower parking lot at Blankenship Field. It’s one of two lots on the north side of Broadway Avenue and Jackson Square. Employees at nearby businesses who used to park in the Blankenship Field lot are now using the second lot, the one used by the Farmers Market, reducing the parking spaces available there, one merchant said.

The Blankenship Field work, which was approved by the Oak Ridge City Council in June, is also causing concern for the Farmers Market. The Farmer Market’s vendors set up in the second parking lot on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and they now don’t have parking available at either the Blankenship Field lot or inside the Jackson Square lot. [Read more…]

Roane County issues first same-sex marriage license

Roane County Courthouse

The Roane County Courthouse in Kingston is pictured above. (File photo)


Note: This story was last updated at 4:30 p.m.

Roane County issued its first same-sex marriage license on Friday afternoon, just a few hours after the U.S. Supreme Court backed gay marriage in a landmark 5-4 ruling.

The Roane County license was issued to two women at about 3 p.m. Friday, Roane County Clerk Barbara Anthony said. She said she can’t identify the two women.

Anthony declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision, which was celebrated in some circles and criticized in others.

“We just comply with the law,” Anthony said. [Read more…]

Anderson County teachers disappointed as commissioners delay vote on budget, pay raise

Anderson County Budget Committee and Rachel Minardo, Chris Phillips, and Connie Aytes

Rachel Minardo, right, a first-grade teacher at Claxton Elementary School and president of the Anderson County Education Association, asks for a 4 percent pay raise for county teachers and school staff during a May 28 public hearing on the county budget. Also pictured are Chris Phillips, left, director of accounts and budgets for Anderson County, and Connie Aytes, deputy budget director.


CLINTON—Anderson County teachers were disappointed as they watched county commissioners postpone a vote on the budget and a possible 4 percent pay raise on Tuesday.

But they’ll be back on Monday, June 29, for the next meeting of the Anderson County Commission, said Rachel Minardo, a first-grade teacher at Claxton Elementary School and president of the Anderson County Education Association.

It’s not clear if the 16-member Commission will agree to fund the school system’s request for a 4 percent raise for all teachers and staff. That’s what the Anderson County Board of Education unanimously recommended last month. The request could require the equivalent of an 18-cent increase in the property tax rate.

But during debate over proposed pay raises for some county employees on Tuesday, several commissioners said they want to be consistent and fair to all workers. [Read more…]

State announces $347K grant to improve sidewalks in Norris

TDOT Norris Grant

Among those pictured above during a TDOT grant ceremony in Norris on Friday are, third from left, Senator Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican; Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, fourth from left; Norris Mayor Chris Mitchell; Representative Dennis Powers, a Jacksboro Republican; and partially obscured, Representative John Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican. (Photo courtesy TDOT via Facebook)


NORRIS—Tennessee officials announced Friday that they have awarded a $347,760 transportation alternative grant to the city of Norris for a project known as East Norris Sidewalk Improvements.

The grant was announced by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer during a Friday visit to East Tennessee that also includes stops in Rockwood and Knoxville.

The Norris project includes a six-foot-wide concrete trail starting at the intersection of East Norris Road and Dairy Pond Road extending approximately 2,000 feet to Andersonville Highway, a press release said. At the end of the trail, two crosswalks will be constructed to provide pedestrians with safe access to Sycamore Place and a nearby shopping center. The project will join existing sidewalks along East Norris Road, providing the final connection to area schools, recreational facilities, the local business district, and shopping. [Read more…]