Community tour of Oak Ridge Schools on Aug. 25; 20 spots available

There will be a community tour of Oak Ridge Schools on Tuesday, August 25, and 20 slots are available.

“Come visit elementary, middle, and high school classrooms,” a press release said. “See how Oak Ridge teachers and students are teaching and learning while school is in session.”

The tour is scheduled from 8 a.m.-2:45 p.m. Tuesday, August 25.

The day will begin at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, then will proceed through an elementary, middle, and high school for classroom visits. Lunch will be provided. [Read more…]

Opinion: Responding to Baughn, Hardy says Chamber a voice for business concerns

Parker Hardy

Parker Hardy

By Parker Hardy

Note: This is a response to a July 9 column by Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn.

Let me begin by expressing my dismay at the continued war of words fueled by “guest columns” such as Ms. Baughn’s. The practice can be divisive, driving wedges of conflict into community unity that is crucial to Oak Ridge’s future. At worst, it can be destructive, damaging the morale and reputations of  volunteers, elected and appointed officials, professional staff, local organizations, and community institutions engaged in moving our city in positive directions. I am concerned that it also may discourage residential and business prospects that are considering locating in our city.

The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce is a voice for business concerns, and it is sad that a public official thinks there’s something wrong with such a traditional role and such a fundamental right. In our almost 70 years of existence, we have built a broad membership base, most of which are small businesses. We are proud that our diverse membership ranges from local “mom-and-pop” companies, to respected professionals, to major corporations in the community and the region. In fact, if your readers will visit our online membership directory, perhaps they will recognize and support the hundreds of companies, individuals, and organizations that are investing in Oak Ridge through support for chamber initiatives. Yes, we count not-for-profits, government contractors, and out-of-town companies among our members. I believe they deserve praise, not punishment, for supporting our mission to enhance Oak Ridge’s economic vitality and business climate, and to provide business, leadership, and advocacy opportunities for our members. [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…]

Oak Ridge Chamber members hear about retail convention at networking meeting

Leigha Edwards

Leigha Edwards, vice chair of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce’s economic growth efforts, gives an update on retail activity during a Tuesday morning networking meeting. (Photo by Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce)

Leigha Edwards, one of the Oak Ridge representatives who attended a recent shopping center convention, gave an update on retail activity during a Tuesday morning networking meeting.

Edwards works for UT-Battelle, which manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and she is vice chair of the Chamber’s economic growth efforts, a press release said.

She recently attended RECon, held by the International Council of Shopping Centers, along with other representatives of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce and the City of Oak Ridge. In addition to Edwards, other representatives who attended were Melinda Hillman of Roane State Community College and chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors; Stephen Whitson of H-S Whitson; Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Smith; and Parker Hardy, president and chief executive officer of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

“The conversation at RECon about retail development in Oak Ridge has changed dramatically since the first year I attended in 2013,” Edwards said. “The fact that Crosland Southeast is purchasing the mall property changed things in a very positive way. Their reputation is such that it brought a great deal of credibility to the project and the city as a whole. [Read more…]

Ribbon-cuttings: Curves, Minuteman Press

Minuteman Press Ribbon-cutting with Oak Ridge Chamber

The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for Minuteman Press on Friday, June 26. Minuteman Press is located at 110 Bus Terminal Road. (Photo by Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce)


The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce had ribbon-cutting ceremonies last week for Minuteman Press and Curves of Oak Ridge. The Anderson County Chamber of Commerce joined the celebration at Minuteman Press on Friday, June 26.

Minuteman Press is located at 110 Bus Terminal Road, where American Reprographics used to be. David Fleming is the franchise owner in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit [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


Free workshop on accounting for small businesses

A free workshop on accounting for small businesses is being offered Friday, June 26.

The workshop is for small businesses, and it’s being offered by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Roane State Community College, in partnership with Pugh CPAs.

It’s scheduled from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Friday, June 26, at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, 1400 Oak Ridge Turnpike. [Read more…]

Construction on ORNL FCU branch on Rutgers could start this month

ORNL FCU Colin Anderson and Marcy Catron

Colin Anderson, ORNL Federal Credit Union senior vice president and chief financial officer, discusses the new Oak Ridge branch on South Rutgers Avenue during a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday. Also pictured is board chair Marcy Catron.


Construction could start this month on an ORNL Federal Credit Union branch on South Rutgers Avenue, and the building could be complete by the end of the year, officials said.

The new branch will at the same site as the original main Oak Ridge branch. The branch will move from its current location next door at the ORNL Federal Credit Union headquarters building, which is also on Rutgers Avenue.

The estimated cost of the 5,000-square-foot branch at 215 South Rutgers Avenue is $4.5 million. Some materials from the original office will be used in the new building.

“This branch represents a multi-million-dollar vote of confidence in Oak Ridge,” said acting chief executive officer Colin Anderson, ORNL FCU senior vice president and chief financial officer. [Read more…]

City proposes one-cent tax rate increase; schools’ request would add seven

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

Note: This story was last updated at 3:18 a.m. June 2.

The budget proposed by the Oak Ridge city staff on Monday includes a one-cent increase in the property tax rate. It would help maintain city services and allow for a 2 percent pay raise for city employees, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson told City Council members.

Meanwhile, the budget proposed by Oak Ridge Schools asks for the equivalent of a seven-cent tax increase. It would help cover a deficit and add money for salaries and staff, including a 3 percent pay raise. That budget has already been approved by the Oak Ridge Board of Education.

The two requests total eight cents. They were presented to the Oak Ridge City Council on Monday.

It’s not clear yet if the seven-member City Council will agree to any increases for the city or schools. The Council will consider the budget in the first of two readings on Monday, June 8, and on second and final reading on Monday, June 15. [Read more…]

Small business seminars offered in June

TSBDC and Roane State

The Tennessee Small Business Development Center will offer five free seminars in June.

The first is titled “Business Planning/Get ready to see a lender.”

It’s scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, at the Roane County Chamber of Commerce in Kingston.

“This workshop covers the fundamentals of writing a business plan, and is designed for individuals who want to increase their chances for successful self-employment,” organizers said.

The second is titled “How to do business with the government.” [Read more…]

Land Bank has first housing strategy meeting on Thursday

Oak Ridge Land Bank Housing Strategy

The Oak Ridge Land Bank Corporation will host its first housing strategy meeting on Thursday. The goal is to address the city’s housing situation while building partnerships in a collaborative effort to promote the city “as the place to live and work by improving our community’s neighborhoods,” a press release said.

The work session is scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday, May 14, at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

Agenda items including the state of housing, a mobile tour, and partner presentations by ADFAC (Aid to Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties), Habitat for Humanity of Anderson County, Oak Ridge Housing Authority, and Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. [Read more…]

World-renowned leaders to be featured at New Hope Center

Community and business leaders can access the knowledge and experience of world-renowned leaders by attending Leadercast at New Hope Center in Oak Ridge on May 8. The Oak Ridge event is sponsored by the Center for Leadership and Community Development, part of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

The Leadercast event is broadcast live from Atlanta, Georgia, to hundreds of sites around the world, including Oak Ridge. This year’s speaker lineup includes: [Read more…]