The People’s Business – 2/11/13 Oak Ridge City Council Meeting Summary/Other Updates

The following represents an unofficial account of the items voted upon Monday night. Full video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website as part of the March Regular Meeting Agenda packet.


Briefing to the City Council by Delegation Chair Chuck Hope on recent visit to Atlanta EPA offices by City Council EPA Sub-Committee, staff, and former Councilmember Ellen Smith.

No formal request was made during this meeting. It was an “information gathering only” meeting with the goal of determining the possibility of obtaining a 5 or 10 year extension. Unofficially, the EPA said no. I asked Councilman Hope if we would be seeking an official letter from the EPA in the future with their response to which he responded in the affirmative. The official press release contains much of the details discussed during the council meeting.  

RESOLUTIONS – Both unanimously approved

a. Adoption of a resolution authorizing a professional services agreement with Vaughn & Melton Consulting Engineering, Inc., Knoxville, for engineering services related to the Jackson Square Revitalization Project Phase I, in the estimated amount of $152,945. (Part of the $1 million grant from TDOT – Oak Ridge taxpayers will match ~ $280K.)

b. Adoption of a resolution accepting an enhancement grant awarded by TDOT to the City of Oak Ridge for construction of the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum in an amount not to exceed $480,000. No match required. CROET and Heritage Center, LLC will pay construction invoices for the project to be reimbursed by the City out of grant fund disbursements.


I requested that the city manager provide council and the public with a report on the potential airport that is being explored by entities outside of council (though some council members are a part of those entities.)

I also asked for an accounting of staff hours and tax payer funds spent to date and to be spent on the PlanET initiative. I requested a listing of the benefits received thus far for Oak Ridge citizens.

UPDATES (Not from the city council meeting)

Water/Sewer Rate Info:

  • By now, you’ve received your January electric/water/sewer bill containing the new rates. I understand that many people have reported significantly higher increases than the 30% average (since last May.) Please check your bills and let me know if you need assistance verifying that your bill accurately reflects your usage and charges.
  • The results of my efforts to avoid incurring the additional $18M debt that the city is seeking to fund projects related to the EPA mandate can be found here.
  • The public has been led to believe that the two rate increases in their water/sewer bills were caused by the EPA mandate. As you can read in the communication at the end of this post, that is not true. To date, less than half of the debt incurred (for which the rate increases were to cover) has been spent on EPA-related work. I requested that the city make a public correction on the matter. My request was declined by the city manager. No other council member expressed support for my request.

 Changes to City Council Meeting Format

                Council members Mosby and Garcia Garland and I met with staff to discuss adjusting our meeting format to make them more efficient and productive. We will meet again in the near future to finalize recommendations for council approval. Some of my goals are to:

  1. Remove proclamations
  2. Require staff to provide council and the public with the complete agenda packet one full week in advance of our meetings instead of the current three days
  3. Allow and encourage the public speaking opportunities at work sessions

 Economic Diversification Fund

At our last work session, the city manager unveiled his proposal to dissolve this fund. Some of you may recall that I put a spotlight on this fund during my campaign. I am thrilled with his proposal and provided my thoughts on what I believe would be the best use of those funds here.

Sign Controversy

                Also at the work session, council tasked the planning commission to review the policy regarding electronic signs. (See my original post on the matter here). Many of us expressed a displeasure with the approach that staff was taking and expressed a desire for the end result to be one that is fair to the intent of the signage (to increase business). Once the planning commission has completed its review, they will forward their recommendations to council for approval. For those who want to be involved in the process, the planning commission will hold a public hearing on Thursday, February 21, 2013 at the Central Services Complex Multipurpose Room, 100 Woodbury Lane. The Public Hearing will be held during the regular meeting of the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission, which begins at 5:30 p.m.


EMAIL from city finance director RE: $15M debt/EPA Mandate Allocation

The City Manager asked me to send you a breakdown summary of the utilization of the proceeds of the $9,810,000 bonds issued in September 2011 and the recent $5,000,000 loan through the Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund.

 $9,810,000 Bond Issue September 2011


Use of Bond Proceeds  
Net Issuance Costs


Sewer – EPA


Sewer – Non-EPA






Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund Loan


Use of Loan Proceeds  
Issuance Costs


Sewer – EPA


Sewer – Non-EPA


Undrawn Proceeds





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