The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the December 8, 2014 City Council Regular Meeting. The complete agenda packet as well as a video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will most likely be posted at the city website as part of the January 2015 Regular Meeting Agenda packet.


Oak Ridge Heritage Railroad Authority Annual Report by Chairman Gordon Fee (no presentation given)

Primarily funded by the state at around $200K annually but not since 2013; currently in litigation with the state over funding suspensions. The railroad is operated by Heritage RR Corp, a whole owned subsidiary of EnergySolutions who has since been paying for all administrative costs. The primary customer is Southern Appalachian RR Museum though other customers include Energy Solutions, East TN RR Car Service, JM Huber and Olin Chemical. State funds require 10-20% local matching funds which have historically come from RR owners, Energy Solutions and/or CROET.

VII. CONSENT AGENDA  6 items passed by unanimous vote

a. Resolution entering into an agreement with TVA to amend the Green Power Providers Program

b. Resolution authorizing Wholesale Billing Adjustment Agreement with TVA

c. Resolution authorizing agreement with TVA to participate in eScore program (replaces IHEEP and terminates portions of Energy Right Program

d. Resolution awarding a bid to WESCO Distribution, Chattanooga for copper underground cable in the estimated amount of $66,686

e. Transfer of surplus 1991 fire truck #376 to Medford Volunteer Fire Dept, Rocky Top at no cost


a. Resolution to support consideration of Mark Watson, City Manager to be president-elect of the international City/County Management Association (ICMA). Motion passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”

Note: While an honorable consideration, the time and travel obligations are excessive. Affiliation with ICMA has required Mr. Watson to take 3-4 trips per year, including an annual trip overseas for up to 2 weeks (Japan, Indonesia and Copenhagen so far). This is in addition to his other regular travels in association with memberships in TML, CMA and ECA. I find no evidence of any benefit to the taxpayers of Oak Ridge who fund Mr. Watson’s salary while he is away on these trips  

b. Approval to transfer (6) city-acquired/owned properties to the Oak Ridge Land Bank. Motion passed 7-0 (117 Houston Ave, 103 Jay Lane, 138 S. Purdue, 121 Wainwright Rd, 124 Wainwright Rd and 507 W. Outer) Total properties transferred before was 12. 11 of those have been demolished. This brings the total properties in the Land Bank to 18 all purchased using CDBG, EDI and OR Housing funds .

c. Agreements with Emory Valley Center and Aid to Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties (ADFAC) for $18,577 and $15,500 for social services projects. Motion passed 7-0

I noted that we will pay off the Scarboro Community Center in 2018 which will free up $137K per year of CDBG funds. We are spending about $131K per year (though we accumulated a few years’ worth and spent about $500K this past year)  on acquiring and demolishing properties.  I encouraged staff and council to consider other uses for this money in the future. As an example, I referenced the report by TORCH of seeing 30 homeless school children last month as a higher priority. I also asked Ms. Baldwin to release the scores of all of the applicants to all of the them rather than just their individual scores. She agreed that she would.

d. Waive of competitive bids and award to Sutphen Corp for fire department tower truck equipment upgrades for $36,863. Upgrades nozzles and cameras to allow the deployment of the tower and begin flowing water in a matter of minutes with a single operator, reducing the risk to a firefighter who would normally be positioned in the bucket to direct the stream of the water. Motion passed 7-0

e. Award of contract to Morgan Contracting, Florida for wastewater system rehab Turtle Park I Project in conjunction with the EPA Administrative Order in the estimated amount of $1,864,513. Motion passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”

This spending is directly tied to the city’s multiple failures which led to the EPA administrative order(read here)  which has resulted in wastewater rate increases thus far between102% to 135%. Until the city takes responsibility for its failures and pursues alternative funding that does not further burden our ratepayers, I will not support spending without accountability.

f. Award of bid to Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Knoxville, for LED replacement lighting (to include fixtures) for the Oak Ridge Public Library in the estimated amount of $238,822. Motion passed 7-0 Funding Source: In June 2013, Clean TN Energy Grant awarded us $200,000 with a local match requirement of $425,000. Combined funds will be applied towards the library, the recreation center and other municipal buildings. The library will change from fluorescent tubes which are changed annually to LED lighting that should last up to 20 years. Annual electrical savings estimated at $40K and labor savings at $9K. Fixtures are obsolete and would have to be replaced anyway. Additional request for a hazardous part of the labor will be forthcoming in an estimated amount of $150k. (I’ve sent a follow up email to our city manager requesting how this was funded before, presuming it was outside of the $9K)

g. Resolution accepting (a portion of ) infrastructure for Oak Ridge Summit Subdivision (aka Pine Ridge) for perpetual maintenance. Section in consideration includes 1,420-2,880 linear feet of street, sidewalk, sewer & water lines, storm drains. Baughn moved to defer until January, Chinn seconded. Motion to defer passed 4-2 with Baughn, Chinn, Hope & Smith voting “Aye,” Hensley and Callison voting “Nay” and Gooch abstaining (the property owner is his client) Council had a number of questions on this matter and the property owner was not present to address them.

h. Resolution authorizing the Arts Council of Oak Ridge to provide entertainment to the 2015 Secret City Festival and authorizing reimbursement of actual costs incurred up to $150,000. Motion passed 6-1 with Hope voting “Nay”.

This is a not to exceed amount that is reimbursed through sponsorship donations. Last year, we reumbursed $109,000. Council had a lot of discussion on the quality and cost of the festival and agreed to begin discussing the merits of changing how and what we do in upcoming work sessions prior to making funding decisions for the 2016 festival.


a. Amendment to amend the FY2014 Budget total appropriations. $500K use of schools transportation Motion passed 7-0 Allowed for the use of $500K by the schools of their reserve funds for transportation with no impact on the city’s annual obligation

b. Amendment to ordinance Title 11 “Municipal Offenses” chapter 8, “Weapons” thereby removing the prohibition of carrying a knife with a blade exceeding 4 inches” in its entirety without replacement to align with state law which recently changed. Motion passed 7-0

c. Amendment to ordinance title 15 “Motor Vehicles, Traffic and Parking” chapter 1 “In General” adding a new definition of “citation” and addition a new section entitled “Electronic Traffic Citation Regulations and Fees” which will allow for the issuance of electronic citations and the collection of $5 per citation for no more than five years. Motion passed 7-0 $1 will go to the City Court for computer equipment and the remaining $4 will go to the police department for elated e-citation expenditures. The fee cannot, by law, revert to the general fund. Question of number of citations issued annually (ranges from 4,911-3,346), I requested that we consider applying those fees against the $40K annual maintenance affiliated with the Spillman software and thereby allow those funds to replenish the ERR fund that was originally used to fund the $500K software in the first place.

d. Ordinance amending Title 6 “Law Enforcement” by creating Chapter 1 “Community Notification System” that notifies schools and child care facilities of a sexual offender residing within city limits and collects $50 fees from resident offenders to defray the cost of this system. Motion passed 7-0 NOTE: There are currently 24-25 registered offenders living in Oak Ridge

X. FINAL ADOPTION OF ORDINANCES (first reading results found here)

a. Amendment to Ordinance Title 12, “Building Utility Etc. Codes” Motion passed 7-0

b. Amendment to Ordinance Title 13 “Property Maintenance Regulations” Motion passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay” Ordinance was amended from first reading to include a change that required a permanent heating source in rental properties and a change that would not permit recreational vehicles to be parked on lawns or non-paved areas of a person’s personal property. My objection was to the increased regulation of the first reading and the second amended change. 


a.City Manager’s Report

In accordance with the wishes expressed by councilmembers Gooch, Callison and Hensley, the city manager recommended that council allow the city to re-open the Boards and Commissions Application Process. Motion passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”

This makes the second time since I’ve been on council that we’ve arbitrarily “bent” our own rules on this process. Last year, the city manager added an applicant to the planning commission pool over a week after closing and that candidate was selected over others who followed the rules and applied before the deadline.

In yet another effort to manipulate the outcome of the votes, a council member expressed his displeasure with the selection of candidates in an open meeting. I hesitated to name names, but when Mr. Hensley stated that it was he who made these statements and challenged my understanding of the facts, I quoted him directly from the audio file of the November 19, 2014 Land Bank Meeting:  At 36 min 56 seconds: Hensley states: “There’s a movement afoot to postpone because new council members need to get up to speed….I think we should extend it because the new people don’t know the candidates” Jernigan said, “No one does.” Hensley says “I do…trust me, we need to extend it….hahaha…Ellen suggested don’t extend date, just reopen application process for 2 weeks….I have the luxury that I can deliberate till I’m blue in the face with the new candidates because they are not confirmed yet, I can’t talk to a council person but I can sure talk to Ellen, Rick and Gooch” Jernigan said, “It’s like hiring for a job, you only have the resumes, you don’t know the people.” Hensley said, “Some of the people I know well and you look at their resume and the resume betrays their…they aint’ the same.” Krushenski:  “I think you are straying from the agenda.”


  1. I have concerns:

    I think Council is leading us down a primrose path on all the green stuff. Half of it is never going to work. Which half ? Has anyone checked to see if the new expensive green lighting that is being put into the Civic Center and Library is going to be enough? You can’t read a newspaper in your home using most of the green replacement bulbs.

    We are also being led down the primrose path by the Landbank program. Eventually that money will be used to build homes that only lower income buyers would buy – a replacement of WWII dilapidated housing by new sub-par homes (no offsite parking, no upscale features, quarter acre lots, etc.). The Council can’t say it wants to compete with Farragut, for example, and attract new DOE employees to Oak Ridge, while locking Oak Ridge neighborhoods into mediocre housing. The majority of housing in Oak Ridge is already low-income housing; that percentage needs to be decreased if we’re to become a city that can compete with Farragut and other attractive cities.

    I do not believe the homeless numbers on Torch – or else it is a very liberal definition. If we do, in fact, have that many homeless, I suspect that it is because we have developed welfare programs to the extent that we are becoming a magnet, drawing homeless away from cities that don’t provide as much. Where’s the end game on that. How deep are our pockets ? Our taxes? Why not let helping the homeless be done by voluntary giving by citizens rather than extracting it from property owners. Council never understands that high property taxes not only prevents people from moving here but also causes some current property owners to move elsewhere.

    Jack Campbell

  2. Trina, Thank you for the factual reports and for representing the citizens on our Council. We loose workers to OOT neighborhoods because of our high taxes. What can citizens do to help/

    1. Continue to share your concerns with all of council directly and publicly. Far too many do not believe that our tax rate is a problem, at least not enough to do anything about it.

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