Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge Rotating Header Image


Phew! This year’s Secret City Festival was a big success but it’s a relief that it’s over, and a relief that we made it through last evening’s marathon City Council meeting.

We had a long agenda and a long meeting. Kudos to John Huotari for quickly spinning out reports on two of the major business items addressed at the meeting:

1. Mayor Beehan and Mayor pro tem Miller were both re-elected to two-year terms. I supported Beehan (he was elected unanimously) but I was one of the three who voted for David Mosby for the pro-tem position, as I saw him as the better choice to provide leadership for the City Council and the City in the absence of the mayor. Several people contacted me over the weekend and on Monday to urge me to support Miller, citing the help she has given them in getting city staff support with issues related to things like animal control and code enforcement, but that type of constituent service (which any Council member can provide) is not what I see as needed in a mayor pro-tem.

2. We delayed action on the proposed lease for the senior center to allow more time for senior services advocates to put together a funding package to allow acquisition of the former Trinity Methodist Church for use as a senior center. I’m very pleased at this result (which came on another 4-3 vote), and I hope that the senior advocates can pull it off. (This deserves its own blog post.)

In some of our other business, Council approved new one-year lobbying contracts — with Bill Nolan Associates to represent the city in Nashville and with Ferguson Group for representation at the federal level. I opposed both. One reason is because I was irritated that Council members had been uninformed about what the lobbyists were doing for the city over the 6-month contract until the 11th hour before this meeting. (OK, 3 pm Monday wasn’t the very last hour before the 7 pm Monday meeting, but there was very little margin…) I hope for better communications in the future. Also, I believe that the benefits we get from the federal lobbyist could be provided at less cost by other mechanisms (such as a combination of “Washington insider” newsletters to provide current information on issues and opportunities, plus grad student interns here in Oak Ridge to do legislative research, “legwork” on grant applications, and drafting of letters and discussion points for officials to use).

Also, we received a letter from TDOT’s Gerald Nicely regarding options for the next phase of the widening of State Route 95. The exciting part is that TDOT says that a redesign changing the “typical section” from a 48-ft depressed grass median to a 12-ft paved median (this is being called “Alternative 2” — basically, this is the change from a “rural design” to an “urban design” that some of us had been asking for) could be accomplished without delaying the September 2009 bid opening, but the City would have to compensate TDOT for any additional costs of construction. Other alternatives include a total shift of the road alignment away from the current right-of-way (this is being called Alternative 1 and is favored by some Southwood subdivision residents, but it’s impractical, and would result in a long delay in the highway project) or (in what’s being called Alternative 3) making small modifications to the “rural” design to reduce its impact (steeper slopes, modified ditches, and guardrails to reduce encroachment on the neighborhood and avoid some loss of vegetation, and lower speed limit to address noise and safety concerns). I think the new “urban” option is the right direction to go — I’m delighted that TDOT is revisiting its plan and proposing what I think is a “context sensitive” solution for this highway segment. City Council probably will have a work session to discuss the proposal on Monday July 6, followed by a special meeting to act on it on Monday July 13.

Added June 24: I forgot to say that City Council approved on first reading (second reading will be July 20th) an ordinance to change the speed limit from 55 to 45 mph on the stretch of Hwy. 95 that passes the Southwood subdivision. The lower speed limit would apply all the way west to a point 200 ft west of the western entrance to the Rarity Oaks subdivision. Among other things, a lower speed limit should improve safety near the subdivision and reduce noise for residents.



  1. Ray Kircher says:

    I’m very glad to see the work to the SR95 expansion is progressing. I believe the effort shown by Mr. Nicely is great. I expect those affected would accept some type of approach by TDOT bettering Oak Ridge along this route, yet we haven’t seen the final bids of what needs to be done. Some cost issues may try to creep up, even with the one-time stimulus funds for other road work. I suspect safety would be better with the requested options.

    About the rest of the meeting, I hope Oak Ridgers are noticing a corner to progress to and make the turn. We need all of our communities to move ahead, and stop the whining and excuses to why we cannot afford much more by our payments, rather where we are currently with costs and representation by government offices.

    Thank you for the great work, Ellen.

  2. LEROY GILLIAM (lightly edited by Ellen for readabilty) says:

    Why is there the appearance that decisions made in Oak Ridge are like a lightenimg strike rather a universal focus on Oak Ridge needs?

    The majority of the citizens do not benefit from Oak Ridge prime amenities — a good example is why should I have to take comcast cable in order to get a broadcast of government functions—- Why should I have to obey the laws created in Oak Ridge when they get manipulated by Oak Ridge management — Election signs get pulled up by city employees if they are within the 15 ft boundary and these signs stay up 6-8 weeks max but there is an 8ft sign on Tuskegee and Tempera that evidently has been approved by Jim Conners —-folks the law is the law plus the 8 ft sign is a danger to the community for it blocks the view of oncoming traffic.

    Why is it that people in wheelchairs have to cruise many parking lots to find just “one” wheelchair accessible parking space. Why doesn’t Oak Ridge push to make Oak ridge businesses come into the Federally mandated compliance for “Handicapped Accessibility for People in Wheelchairs”

    The list is rather long —- Here is one wny would the city allow smaller than normal turn arounds in Clarks Preserve as compared with the Hickory Ridge cul-de-sacs. There is room for an Oak Ridge Fire Truck to turn around with a car parked on the street but there is barely enough room for one vehicle to maneuver the Clarks Preserve cul-de-sac —- where is the thinking to back up decisions made in the SECRET CITY….!!!

  3. Ray Evans says:

    The cul-de-sac radius dimensions within Clark’s Preserve are not reduced in any way. They are a standard design used by the City of Oak Ridge and most other communities. The Clark’s Preserve sign on Tuskegee will be coming down on Monday.

  4. Ellen Smith says:

    Thanks for the information, Ray!

  5. LEROY GILLIAM says:


  6. Ray Kircher says:

    Mr. Evans, who allowed you to put your sign up and now to move it? Was all this undertaken by you without help from the city?

  7. Ray Evans says:

    Our Clark’s Preserve sign was installed with the City’s concurrence. Our sign along with several other development related signs are now being removed at the request of the City.

    I don’t understand your comment about the devil loop or the gun. Again, the cul-de-sac at Clark’s Preserve are constructed to City standard as is every other infrastructure element of the project.

    The primary safety problem I see on Tracy Lane is the number of abandoned vehicles parked on the roadway.

  8. Ray Kircher says:

    Then why remove it if you had permission from the city? Do you feel the city misguided you, or did your concurrence come in the form as a waiver to the city’s sign law?

    As for the abandoned vehicles on Tracy Lane, do you know of this by personal inspection or is there a report in the city about abandoned vehicles? If the report is true, where can I find this report?

  9. LEROY GILLIAM says:

    As far as any abandoned vehicles all except one is drivable and is registered and that is the police departments job to tag any vehicles sitting on public streets —- thats Oak Ridges problem. You find the bomb after its been built and you hear a ticking —- I think that Metro Pulse had a blurb about someone’s mailbox and called out the robot and the mailbox was empty. Turns out mother nature was making the sound —-
    As far as the devils loop you need to drive a fire truck in cramped spaces you get a different perception of reality but planning only happens while sitting at a desk and you live with the results.

    Do you recoggin Kathryn Baldwin has ever ridden in a fire truck ? —- I sure haven’t but I do have respect the firemen?

    (lightly edited by Ellen for improved readability)

  10. Ellen Smith says:

    I hope that the developers of Clark’s Preserve will find a good way to label the development without blocking drivers’ line of sight.

    If people are leaving vehicles parked on the street on Tracy Lane for long periods, it’s time to get the city staff to look into the situation.

    As for turning a fire truck around in a cul de sac: I’ve never driven a fire truck either, and I’m sure I’d have a hard time turning one around (in a cul de sac or anywhere else!). I’ve noticed that experienced drivers of large trucks can maneuver them far better than I would think was possible. Oak Ridge requires a cul de sac to have an outside street diameter of at least 80 feet, which seems to be considered adequate. Fortunately, it should not be necessary to turn a fire truck around in a cul de sac while rushing to an emergency call — it should be possible to wait to turn the truck around after the emergency is over, when there’s a little more time to maneuver carefully.

  11. LEROY GILLIAM says:


    This is bunch of hooie, this street is almost vacant during the week —- most people work and the vehicles on the street are licensed
    if you want to look for a news item you need to look under different rocks just maybe ???elsewhere….chuckle!!!

  12. Ellen Smith says:

    Code Enforcement agrees that there are no issues on your street, Leroy.

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