Updated: Dodson, Hammond, Hope re-elected to City Council

Jim Dodson

Note: This story was last updated at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 8.

Oak Ridge City Council members Jim Dodson, Derrick Hammond, and Chuck Hope were re-elected Tuesday.

They had one challenger, Edward Jackson Jr.

Oak Ridge Board of Education members Angi Agle and Keys Fillauer were also re-elected.

In the City Council election, Dodson received the most votes, 8,253, in Anderson County. He received the second-most votes in Roane County, 1,499. He had a total of 9,752 votes in the two counties, giving him the most total votes of any candidate and 852 more than the second-place finisher.

[Read more…]

Drive-by campaign rally for Hammond is today

Derrick Hammond

Friends of the Reverend Derrick Hammond, who is seeking re-election to Oak Ridge City Council, are hosting a drive-by campaign rally outdoors at Jackson Square from 1-3 p.m. today (Saturday, October 10).

Residents are invited to drive by to show their support for Hammond at the event, remaining in their cars to maintain social distance while observing health guidelines during the pandemic, a press release said. Supporters will have the opportunity to volunteer to sign post cards for Hammond, to request a yard sign, and to make a campaign contribution. Music will be provided by The Missing Goats as people drive by.

Hammond, who has served as pastor of Oak Valley Baptist Church since 2014, was appointed to City Council to fill a vacancy in 2018 and elected to the seat in a special election later that year. He is heavily engaged in community activities and organizations, and he has worked tirelessly to keep the faith and nonprofit communities informed about and engaged in community conversations, especially during the pandemic, the press release said. [Read more…]

Hammond seeks re-election to City Council

Derrick Hammond

Reverend Derrick Hammond is seeking re-election to the Oak Ridge City Council in the November 3 municipal election. Hammond, who has served as pastor of Oak Valley Baptist Church since 2014, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Oak Ridge City Council in 2018, and he was elected without opposition in a special election later that year.

Hammond has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Auburn University. He also completed the dual master’s degree program at Samford University, earning one master’s degree in divinity and another in business administration. In 2013, he received national accreditation as a certified church administrator by the National Association of Church Business Administration.

In addition to his pastoral duties, Hammond is heavily engaged in local and surrounding community affairs, a press release said. He serves as a board member of many local organizations, including the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, Oak Ridge Public Schools Foundation, Emory Valley Center, United Way of Anderson County, the Methodist Medical Center Advisory Board, and Maryville College Board of Church Visitors. He is also a member of the East Tennessee Economic Council and Oak Ridge Ministerial Association, an adjunct professor at Tennessee Technological University, and a faculty member of the Kettering Foundation’s Deliberative Dialogue Institute.

[Read more…]

More than 1,000 protest for equality, police reforms, end of racism

Hundreds of people march from Oak Ridge High School to the Civic Center for a Black Lives Matter protest on Tuesday afternoon, June 2, 2020. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

Note: This story was updated at 9:45 a.m. June 11.

More than 1,000 people marched and protested in Oak Ridge last week, asking for equal treatment for black people.

They said the nation is obligated to fight systemic racism, racial inequality, and police brutality. They want to live without fear. They advocated for police reforms, accountability, and the use of de-escalation tactics.

Protesters hope to end 400 years of oppression that started with slavery in America in 1619 and continued after the Civil War with attacks on black people, lynchings, the Ku Klux Klan, segregation, discrimination, and racism. That oppression has been felt in Oak Ridge, and some young adults and teenagers said they have experienced or witnessed racism.

Protesters said they were angry, upset, and frustrated. They called the death of George Floyd while he was detained by police in Minneapolis last month a murder. They recalled the deaths of other black men and boys, some killed by police and others by citizens. They acknowledged that there are many good police officers, but they condemned police officers who they said hide behind their badges to do wicked deeds.

“Enough is enough,” protesters said. “We are done dying.”

Hundreds of people meet at Oak Ridge High School before marching to Oak Ridge Civic Center for a Black Lives Matter protest on Tuesday afternoon, June 2, 2020. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

Protesters met at Oak Ridge High School Tuesday afternoon, June 2, and marched to the Oak Ridge Civic Center. They carried signs and wore T-shirts that said “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.” They chanted “No justice, no peace” and, led by organizer Trevor King, “Make racism illegal.” Silence is compliance, the protesters said, and silence in the face of evil is itself evil.

[Read more…]

Peaceful protest, conversation about race planned Tuesday

Marriah, right, and Ziyah march for Black Lives Matter on South Illinois Avenue in Oak Ridge on Sunday, May 31, 2020. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

A peaceful protest and a conversation about race relations are scheduled for Tuesday in Oak Ridge.

The conversation about race relations in the United States and Oak Ridge is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. It’s between Oak Ridge City Council member Derrick Hammond, who is a pastor; Oak Ridge Police Chief Robin Smith; and local youth. You can watch it live on Facebook at the Oak Ridge Police Department page and on the Oak Valley Baptist Church website at oakvalleybc.com.

The peaceful protest is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of Wildcat Arena at Oak Ridge High School. Participants will make signs and shirts there. At 5 p.m., they plan to march to the International Friendship Bell at Alvin K. Bissell Park, organizer Trevor King said in a Facebook post.

The Oak Ridge Police Department will be there and will participate, although it’s not a city event. Smith will walk across the street with everyone, and he has been asked to speak, City of Oak Ridge spokesperson Lauren Gray said Monday.

King said everyone is welcome to attend Tuesday’s event.

[Read more…]

For members: New stores planned at Main Street, but construction suspended

A crew works in the area of the second phase of construction of Main Street Oak Ridge on Thursday, March 5, 2020. The construction work has since been suspended. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

Note: This story was updated at 7:45 p.m.

Four new stores are planned at Main Street Oak Ridge, but construction has been suspended for now.


A crew works in the area of the second phase of construction of Main Street Oak Ridge on Thursday, March 5, 2020. The construction work has since been suspended. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)


Four new stores are planned at Main Street Oak Ridge, but construction has been suspended for now.

The four new stores are Five Below, Home Goods, Old Navy, and Ross Dress for Less. The retailers have signed leases, and their stores could be ready to open as soon as the spring of 2021, said Neil Wilson, principal of the development company, TN Oak Ridge Rutgers LLC. The new stores would be between JCPenney and PetSmart. That includes some of the area where the roundabout used to be.

But construction of the building that would contain the new stores has been suspended.

“Retailers are postponing the opening of new stores and re-thinking the size and configuration of store footprints,” Wilson told Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson in an April 20 letter. “As a result, the retail developers are delaying the construction of the building to house those new stores.”

Wilson said TN Oak Ridge Rutgers LLC is trying hard to get the project back into its development timeline in 60 days. The storage facility, which has previously been considered by city officials, is part of the effort to get the project back on track, he said.

Wilson said retailers are suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the estimated growth in global retail for 2020 will be cut in half from the levels that were forecast before COVID-19.

The types of stores that will be hit the hardest are “short-term, fashion, furniture, and electronics retailers,” Wilson said. Customers will buy fewer of those discretionary items, choosing instead to stock up on food and household supplies.

But in the meantime, construction could proceed quickly on a three-story self-storage facility at Main Street Oak Ridge. It would be along Rutgers Avenue, behind Burkes Outlet, Electronic Express, and PetSmart. The self-storage market is doing well, Wilson said.

Some residents and city officials, including members of the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission, have opposed the proposed self-storage facility or shown little interest in it.

But in a split vote Monday, the Oak Ridge City Council voted 4-3 to approve a zoning change that could allow it. The zoning ordinance amendment, which did not specifically approve the Main Street Oak Ridge project, is expected to be considered for final approval during another City Council meeting in June.

The rest of this story, which includes background information and information about the City Council vote, is available if you are a member: an advertiser, sponsor, or subscriber to Oak Ridge Today.

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Oak Ridge church to host Emmy-nominated vocal ensemble in free holiday concert

Inversion (Submitted photo)

An Oak Ridge church will host a free holiday concert in December that will feature Inversion, an Emmy Award-nominated vocal ensemble.

The special concert will be presented by Masskus Productions in cooperation with Oak Valley Baptist Church of Oak Ridge. The concert will be at the church at 194 Hampton Road at 5 p.m. Sunday, December 8, a press release said.

“We feel blessed here in Oak Ridge and are delighted to offer this musical celebration to the community free of charge,” said Pastor Derrick Hammond of Oak Valley Baptist Church.  “This is just one way for folks to settle down and relax during this hectic holiday season. We hope everyone will bring friends to enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon.”

Under the direction of David Ragland Jr., Inversions was born from a desire to showcase an array of talented friends, the press release said.

“They bring an eclectic vibe to a variety of musical genres,” the press release said.

[Read more…]

Oak Ridge hosting NAACP state convention

Derrick Hammond

This week, Oak Ridge is hosting the NAACP Tennessee State Convention and Civil Rights Advocacy Conference.

It’s the 73rd annual NAACP Tennessee State Convention, and it starts today (Thursday, September 26) and continues through Saturday, September 28.

Thursday’s events will be held at Oak Valley Baptist Church in Oak Ridge. The events on Friday and Saturday will be at the DoubleTree Hotel in Oak Ridge.

The Anderson County/Oak Ridge NAACP Branch under the leadership of local president Dave Anderson is the sponsoring branch, a press release said.

The convention will feature a variety of events and workshops that will 1) encourage attendees to become civically engaged around religious affairs, and 2) assist in expunging the records of people wanting to return to the workforce, the press release said. Other actions include helping members become more effective in their work related to advocacy, human rights, and youth empowerment—all designed to equip people with the necessary knowledge to assist in making their voices and votes count, the press release said.

[Read more…]

Council approves revised Main Street plan

The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday, May 13, 2019, will consider the revised plan for Main Street Oak Ridge, the 58-acre project to redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall.

Note: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. May 14.

After rejecting an earlier version, the Oak Ridge City Council voted 6-1 on Monday to approve the latest version of the revised plan for Main Street Oak Ridge, the 58-acre project to redevelop the former Oak Ridge Mall.

The vote during a regular meeting in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom on Monday was the first of two readings, or votes. The second vote could take place during a special meeting on Tuesday, May 21.

The approval on Monday occurred four months after Council rejected an earlier version of the plan in a 3-4 vote in January. Since then, a new revised plan has been submitted to the city, and there have been additional discussions between city officials and RealtyLink, the South Carolina developer. In April, the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission recommended 7-1 that the new plan, which is similar to the earlier plan, be approved with some conditions.

The revised plan is being considered as RealtyLink prepares to welcome a second wave of tenants to the site, which is in central Oak Ridge. It would be the second phase of the project, and it could include 90,000 square feet of new retail buildings, an open space near the Belk store, and new sidewalks and crosswalks. It could also include a bus drop-off area near the relocated American Museum of Science and Energy.

[Read more…]