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Free Medical Clinic to close Briceville site, will go mobile

The Free Medical Clinic of Oak Ridge will be closing its satellite facility in Briceville, but beginning March 11 will be shifting to using its mobile clinic in Briceville and Rocky Top on certain Tuesdays each month, the clinic’s director said Monday.

Billy Edmonds, executive director of the Free Medical Clinic, said that problems with the building the clinic has been using in Briceville since it opened in August 2021 are forcing the clinic to move out.

Although the clinic is still working out the schedule, the mobile unit will be setting up on some Tuesdays each month in the parking lots of the Briceville Library or the Rocky Top Community center, Edmonds said.

Since opening at 1456 Briceville Highway in 2021, that clinic had been operating every Tuesday. The building was being provided to the clinic by the Clinton Baptist Association, which leases the facility from the old coal company that still owns it, Edmonds said.

“The building has become a little bit unsafe for our staff and patients,” he said. “Heating and cooling are difficult, and we don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars in repairs on a building we don’t own.”

The clinic opened the Briceville facility before it was able to get its mobile unit, and now believes that unit is a better choice to take its place, Edmonds said.

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Rocky Top approves $300 water deposit


Amanda Daugherty, right, Rocky Top’s city recorder, swears in the city’s police force during a ceremony at the beginning of last Thursday’s February City Council meet- ing at City Hall. The officers include, from left: Deputy Chief Matt McGhee, Sgt. Kevin Perkins, Officer Mikala Malicoat, Detective Tim Powers, Officer Matt Maples, and Officer Cody Culver. In front is Chief of Police John Thomas. - G. Chambers Williams III
Anyone moving to Rocky Top now who’s planning to rent a residence will have to pay a $300 deposit to get water service turned on, up from the previous $100 amount.

Last Thursday evening, the City Council passed on second and final reading Ordinance 582, which sets the new deposit amount.

The good news is that the deposit is fully refundable to those who pay their final bills after they move out, Mayor Kerry Templin noted.

“We’ve had issues with renters skipping out on their final bills, which has become a common occurrence,” Templin said during presentation of the proposed ordinance during last month’s council meeting, in which the ordinance was passed on first reading.

The city hopes that the new $300 deposit requirement will at least cover the final water and sewer bill if a renter leaves without paying, the mayor said.

Councilman Zack Green made the motion to approve the ordinance on second reading, and the measure was seconded by Councilwoman Stacy Phillips. The council then voted 5-0 to approve the ordinance.

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County to meet Thursday; Endo settlement, TVA reactor on agenda

The Anderson County Commission will meet on Thursday, Feb. 22, in Room 312 of Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton rather than at its usual Monday time.

The commission will vote on a deal involving the Endo bankruptcy settlement.

County Law Director Jay Yeager explained at the Feb. 12 Operations Committee meeting that Endo was a pharmaceutical company that was part of two lawsuits involving the damaging effects of opioids.

The Tennessee attorney general brought one of the suits, and the district attorneys of several counties, including Anderson, brought the other.

Endo recently filed bankruptcy, giving releases to its upper management and board of directors.

“We’re stuck with just the assets of the company,” Yeager said.

Going after the individuals involved in the company would be “extremely difficult,” he said, adding that the assets would be hard to locate, and a statute of limitations would probably be an obstacle, too.

So, the new deal, included in the Operations Committee’s agenda, takes the bankruptcy into account.

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Demolition begins on burned downtown Rocky Top building


A contractor’s crew began tearing down the rest of this building at 319 S. Main St. in downtown Rocky Top on Monday and removing the debris. The building was destroyed by fire Jan. 23, killing one of the occupants of its five second-story apartments. - G. Chambers Williams III
A contractor on Monday began tearing down the rest of the two-story building that was destroyed by fire in downtown Rocky Top on Jan. 23, killing one man and displacing tenants of five second-floor apartments.

Rocky Top City Manager Michael Ellis told the City Council during its February meeting last week that the teardown and clearing of the site would take up to three weeks.

No cause has been released yet for the early-morning fire that resulted in the death of Danny Cecil Parks, 68, who was a resident of the building.

The building, at 319 S. Main St., included a first-floor warehouse and the second-story apartments. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has not yet released a report on the cause.

Built in 1925, the building was completely destroyed and much of it collapsed during the fire, which was reported at 3:56 a.m..

Firefighters from at least nine departments were on the scene fighting the fire most of the day.

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Rocky Top considering ‘Safe Haven Baby Box’ for fire department


Clinton firefighter Dustin Wenz looks over the Safe Haven Baby Box recently installed at Station 2 in South Clinton. The box is not open for use yet, pending completion of testing and training. - G. Chambers Williams III
Rocky Top could soon have a “Safe Haven Baby Box” installed at the city’s downtown fire station, and may even have a donor who would be willing to pay the estimated $15,000 cost of

the box and its installation.

The city has been contacted about having the box installed, Mayor Kerry Templin said during last Thursday’s February City Council meeting.

“I got a call from Kingston about it,” Templin told The Courier News. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Templin said Kingston has just completed installation of one of the boxes at its fire department, and there is also one in Clinton.

Clinton City Manager Roger Houck said Monday that it has one of the baby boxes at the Fire Department’s Station 2 in South Clinton, but it isn’t ready for use yet, pending training of the staff.

“We hope to have it operable by early next month,” Houck said. “We got ours in conjunction with Isaiah House, which got a grant to pay for it.”

These boxes are made and distributed by the Safe Haven Baby Boxes organization, and are made to hold an infant safely and securely until firefighters or other emergency personnel can get the baby to a hospital.

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ORAU education grants applications open

ORAU is accepting applications for its education grants program for 2024, offering $30,000 in grant funding for teachers in five East Tennessee counties.

Educators in Anderson, Campbell, Morgan, Roane and Scott county public schools are invited to submit proposals to fund programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

ORAU’s mission is to advance national priorities and serve the public interest by integrating academic, government and scientific resources, locally and globally. The organization is committed to improving educational opportunities throughout the region.

“School systems are often under-resourced when it comes to effectively teaching STEM topics in their schools,” said Pam Bonee, director of communications and marketing at ORAU. “Our education grants program gives teachers the opportunity to get some of the resources they need to give their students a leg up in STEM.”

Funds are available for projects to be carried out during the 2024-25 school year. ORAU has $30,000 available to support the grant program.

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OR Council commits to economic development

The Oak Ridge City Council has unanimously passed a resolution encouraging Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch to work with Anderson and Roane Counties along with other groups regarding economic development.

“It doesn’t mean that we are going to agree on everything. But we are going to talk to each other. That’s a great start,” Oak Ridge City Council member Ellen Smith said. Gooch made the motion, and City Council member Sean Gleason seconded.

The resolution doesn’t create any new ordinances or contracts, but it lays out the challenges and opportunities for economic development in Oak Ridge and the two counties the city hopes to address.

“Economic development in East Tennessee is constrained by a general lack of developed land for industrial use, lack of abundant and affordable housing, and a limited number of workers for newly created jobs,” the resolution states. Nevertheless, the resolution states companies in the nuclear industry are interested in the area due to “opportunities and advantages afforded by the presence and plans of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Y-12 National Security Complex and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).”

Oak Ridge wants residents to report potholes

The city of Oak Ridge is looking for people to report potholes on its roads.

The city’s website has a form at oakridgetn.gov/reportapothole, or residents can call 865- 425-1875.

The city’s had online reporting since last May, city communications specialist Lauren Gray said.

Now, however, the city is encouraging more people to report potholes.

Gray listed 107 reports online since last Nov. 1, and 93 reports from May 26 to that date. However, she said that some of these reports may have been for private roadways the city doesn’t own.

People can also fill out a report on a form at oakridgetn.gov/Report) for concerns outside of potholes, including sidewalks or street signs that are damaged or faded, or traffic and street lights that fail to light.

Power outages must be reported at 865-425-1803.

The city’s emergency dispatch center for power outages will answer the phone after business hours and on weekends.

What form will the new housing development in Scarboro take?


This map shows the current plan for a new housing development in Scarboro. - Ben Pounds
Planners are working on a new housing development in Oak Ridge’s Scarboro neighborhood.

It’s a public-private partnership between the Oak Ridge Housing Authority and Collaborative Housing Solutions.

Richelle Patton, that company’s president, showed concept maps of the current plan at a recent meeting. This was just the latest of many meetings with citizens, which Patton said had influenced the plan she presented.

“Nobody is going to get 100% of what they want, but hopefully most of us will get most of what we want,” she said.

As an example, she said the current plan to avoid going over two stories with any buildings hurts the project financially, but people had requested it.

If it goes ahead, the project will be on about nine acres of currently vacant land ORHA purchased from the city of Oak Ridge between South Dillard, South Benedict, Carver and Wilberforce avenues, behind the Scarboro Community Center and across the street from Oak Ridge Schools’ Scarboro Preschool.

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New rifles for Oak Ridge school resource officers


Oak Ridge Police Chief Robin Smith and Fire Chief Tra- vis Solomon talk to City Council member Sean Gleason after a recent council meeting. - Ben Pounds
Oak Ridge school resource officers will get 15 new rifles to use in active-shooter situations.

Oak Ridge Police Chief Robin Smith said ORPD firearms instructors chose the Sig Sauer MPX nine-millimeter rifles because they’re “specifically designed for a situation where they’d have an active-shooter situation inside the building.”

He said the indoor setting doesn’t require long-barrel rifles. The new guns won’t have as much recoil as the patrol rifles the officers typically have at schools and elsewhere in Oak Ridge.

“It’s a smaller frame,” Smith told the City Council.

“It’s a lot easier to maneuver within a crowd,” he said. “And also, because it’s a nine-millimeter pistol round, when it recoils, it allows for the officers to stay on target more readily.”

The rifles will stay in a gun locker except during emergencies.

Smith said he did not know when they would arrive.

The City Council approved up to $35,342 for the rifles, magazines, red-dot sights and lights at its Feb. 12 meeting.

It passed unanimously among the council members present, but Mayor Pro Tem Jim Dodson and Councilman Derrick Hammond were not present.