Oak Ridge’s plans lay out how city will meet predicted growth

Oak Ridge Mayor Pro Tem James Dodson talks to City Manager Mark Watson. In the background is City Council member Derrick Hammond. (photo:Ben Pounds )
With neighborhoods on both the east and west sides of Oak Ridge growing, the Oak Ridge City Council is looking at how best to prepare for that growth in the next few years.

The Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission, a city board, presented the City Council with the Capital Improvement Program Monday, March 13, a plan laying out future spending on infrastructure through 2029.

The council did not approve the plans at the meeting, but just received them. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Dodson explained in an interview that a vote would occur at a future meeting. City Communications Specialist Lauren Gray said it would inform the future budget on which the council will vote in June. Still, the plan lays out some priorities for the city about future projects.

The plan focuses on what Planning Commission Chairman H. Stephen Whitson called “known growth areas.”

This includes some infrastructure, such as schools, meant to serve the west side of the city, including The Preserve, formerly Rarity Ridge on the city’s Roane County side.

But it also includes some work on the city’s east side, particularly adding a new fire station to serve the Harbour Pointe subdivision in southeast Oak Ridge.

School expenses were a top priority, with renovations to Linden Elementary School listed as having top importance.

Linden renovations are listed as totaling $15.7 million. Of medium priority is a new school for west Oak Ridge, estimated to cost a total of $29 million between 2024 and 2025. The new school is intended to keep up with the city’s west side, much of it in Roane County in neighborhoods like The Preserve.

A new wastewater treatment plant for the west end of town is also high priority, totaling $1.5 million.

A new fire station for southeast Oak Ridge in the Centennial Village area is also a top priority, as is reconstruction of the existing fire station No. 2, also in east Oak Ridge.

The new fire station is estimated at $5.65 million, while the existing fire station project will cost $6.13 million through 2029.

Another set of items listed as top priorities are transportation, pedestrian and bicycle improvements totaling $5.55 million.

Also on the Roane County side, the city is working on a small airport, and the plan lays out sources of funding. The total estimated cost to be spent in 2024 and 2025 is $52.65 million.

Perhaps among the most controversial and debated topics in the Oak Ridge Outdoor Pool, with the city considering renovating the pool and polling the public on how to do it.

It’s listed under the maintenance section of the improvement program, totaling $4,87 million.

“We have issued a request for qualifications for design/engineering,” Gray told the Courier-News regarding that project’s status.

“We are in the process of evaluating those submittals and selecting a consultant to perform those services,” he said. “We expect to take a resolution for a contract to City Council soon. Once we have a consultant under contract, the project should begin moving more quickly,”

The maintenance section also includes many other basic priorities like improvements to roads and handicap accessibility.

The full improvement plan is available at oakridgetn.gov as a link in the March 13 agenda.