Note: This story was updated at 12:35 p.m.
During a special meeting Tuesday, the Oak Ridge City Council will consider amending the economic impact plan for the redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall. The change is being considered primarily because the master developer has changed.
The amendment to the economic impact plan, which also includes a date change, will be considered a day earlier, on Monday, October 19, by the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board and Anderson County Commission.
The Industrial Development Board has a public hearing and special meeting on the $13 million tax increment financing, or TIF, for the redevelopment and an amendment to the economic impact plan at 3:45 p.m. Monday, October 19, in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Training Room. The County Commission is expected to consider the amendment in a meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. Monday in Room 312 of the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton.
The City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 20, is scheduled to start after a joint work session with the Oak Ridge Board of Education concludes. That work session starts at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building Courtroom.
During that work session, Council and BOE members will receive a report on the Oak Ridge Preschool Building and facilities by Shirley Raines, chair of the Preschool Committee that was set up by City Council and the Board of Education to examine options and recommendations.
Also on Tuesday, City Council will consider a resolution that invites U.S. Department of Energy officials to a City Council meeting to address DOE travel practices in Oak Ridge. City officials want a better understanding of these practices and to express to DOE “the benefit of hosting conferences, meetings, and seminars in Oak Ridge,” the meeting agenda said.
The new developer for the redevelopment of the former mall is RealtyLink of Greenville, South Carolina. That company replaced Crosland Southeast in September.
A $13 million TIF had already been approved by IDB, City Council, County Commission, and state officials. Amendments to the economic impact plan for the TIF include re-naming the corporation in the document, deferring by one year the start-up of the TIF district, adjusting the description of the project, and establishing new tax amounts.
RealtyLink has said that it, like Crosland Southeast, still plans to open the redevelopment, named Main Street, by the 2016 holiday season.
Regarding DOE travel, senators Randy McNally and Ken Yager and representatives Kent Calfee and John Ragan sent a letter to DOE officials asking the department to clarify three travel matters related to conferences, per diem rates, and travel arrangements.
“The City of Oak Ridge and its two counties are a valuable resource for the Department of Energy and the nation,” the legislators said. “The city, Anderson County, and Roane County have all actively supported DOE’s nuclear programs since the beginning. As you know, Oak Ridge has some of the finest nuclear facilities in the world.
“So, it is with concern that we hear of DOE placing conferences, meetings, and travelers outside the city,” the four said.
They said federal per diem rates in Oak Ridge are among the lowest in the area, and the city’s hotels are the closest to the DOE reservation, saving fuel and transportation costs.
“And if personal (rather than rental) vehicles are used for official travel, Oak Ridge’s cost advantage grows even larger,” the letter said. “Beyond saving travel dollars, utilizing Oak Ridge hotels helps boost local DOE residency. Such residence is essential for the future nuclear missions.”
The legislators requested information on the number of DOE and DOE contractor and subcontractor travelers that stay in hotels outside Oak Ridge, information on how DOE applies a per diem rate requirement, and the number and size of DOE and DOE contractor and subcontractor conferences and meetings held outside Oak Ridge last year.
City Manager Mark Watson said the Council has had discussions regarding DOE involvement in the community.
“In light of this recent letter,” Watson said, “staff believes that this would be a great opportunity to invite DOE officials to a City Council meeting to address these travel practices, in person, and in a setting that would allow dialogue between them and the Council. This would also be an opportunity to address the three travel matters listed in the letter from the state officials.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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