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New Kingston council ready to work
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The city of Kingston held its swearing-in ceremony for elected officials on Dec. 1 at City Hall. Those taking the oath included Mayor Tim Neal and Councilmembers Phillip Bredwell, Randy Childs and Lucy Johnson. They were sworn in by City Attorney Sandy McPherson.

“I thought it went really well,” Bredwell said about the ceremony. “I really enjoyed it. It was really nice.”

Six people ran for Kingston City Council in the Nov. 8 election. Johnson, Childs and Bredwell won the seats because they were the top three vote-getters.

“I’d like to say thank you to everyone who voted and supported me, especially my family and dear friends,” Johnson said.

Childs was the only incumbent in the council race.

“I’m just grateful I got reelected,” he said.

The new Council is scheduled to hold its first meeting on Dec. 13 at City Hall.

“Come to our first meeting,” Childs said. “You’ll want to be there.”

Johnson said she’s looking forward to working on the city’s efforts to land more fishing tournaments and expand Ladd Park.

“I just want to work with the council and continue the growth of Kingston,” she said.

Bredwell said creating recreational opportunities for city youth will be one of his main focuses during his term.

“Anything for the kids,” he said.

Neal defeated Becky Humphreys in the Nov. 8 election. This is his third term as mayor.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the new council and continuing to move Kingston forward as we have in the last eight years,” he said.

Neal also gave an update on the Ladd Park expansion project.

“It’s slow,” he said. “I signed some papers last week, the week before, for the funding from the state. It’s in the works and we’re hoping to get started on it sometime in early spring.”

Humphreys, the outgoing vice mayor, was recognized at the start of the ceremony. Neal presented her with a plaque.

“Becky served on the council from 2018 till 2022 and the city wants to thank you for your service that you’ve done for the city,” Neal said.

“Thank you,” Humphreys responded.

Outgoing Councilmember Jeff Griffis was also slated to be recognized for his service to the city, but he didn’t attend the ceremony.

“Jeff unfortunately is somewhere on a cruise,” Neal said.

Harriman Parade brings Holiday cheer
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Obstacles hovering over airport project
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Roane County Executive Wade Creswell has been asked to weigh in on some issues regarding a proposed airport in Oak Ridge. According to a letter he received from Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson, the airport project is in peril.

“Two conflicts have developed in recent months with this local project that will potentially cause the cancellation of this airport development,” the letter said. “First, efforts are circulating in the community to retain the ‘Haul Road’ in operation. Second, efforts have been indicated by EnergySolutions LLC to not close the rail spur that crosses the middle of the proposed airport runway.”

Watson said the “Haul Road” was constructed to serve as a temporary bridge over State Hwy. 58 to aid the cleanup activities at East Tennessee Technology Park.

“Not anticipating an adjacent airport, it is not aligned properly to preserve an identified Airport Protection Zone,” the letter said. “It must be removed or inactivated at a future date so the airport project can proceed.”

If that problem is solved, there is still the rail spur issue.

“Numerous unsuccessful options have been explored that would try to meet FAA requirements with an active rail service,” the letter said. “The use and placement of rail service is not compatible in the runway of the airport.”

Watson said the city has expended nearly $1.7 million on the proposed project. That could turn out to be a bad investment if the airport doesn’t come to fruition.

“The City of Oak Ridge City Council will be discussing this matter in earnest in January,” the letter said.

Watson added that he wants written comments from Creswell “as supplemental material in discussing the further development of this project,” the letter said.

Creswell was elected to the county executive’s position in August. His first official day on the job was Sept. 1.

“Since I’ve come into office, I have no intentions of changing Roane County’s official position, but I am trying to look at it from a broader economic development perspective,” Creswell told the Roane County News last week about the airport issues.

Part of Oak Ridge is in Roane County. Creswell said some industries could benefit from an airport in the city while others may not need one to be successful.

“If you want to go in a direction that promotes isotope companies locating here, then it’s good for us to have an airport,” he said. “Or corporate headquarters that want to be near the Oak Ridge National Lab, it would be great to have an airport for executives to fly in and out.”

“But if you wanted companies that an airport doesn’t benefit them at all, that’s a direction you could take as well,” Creswell added.

EnergySolutions Group President Joe Heckman responded to Watson’s letter, and said it has been a strong supporter of the airport project for years.

“EnergySolutions has dedicated significant time and resources to cooperate with the city of Oak Ridge in working through planning and siting issues in efforts to bring this project to fruition,” Heckman wrote in a letter to Watson. “As noted in our letter dated April 16, 2021, EnergySolutions was willing to voluntarily donate over 1.67 of Heritage Railroad track as a gesture of our commitment and support for the City and airport project.”

Heckman’s letter was dated Nov. 14.

“This offer to abandon the 1.67 miles of track in the Powerhouse area was subject to receiving the consent of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) because Heritage Railroad operates as a common carrier under the jurisdiction of the STB,” Heckman wrote. “EnergySolutions cannot unilaterally abandon the section of track serving the Heritage Center area.”

Christmas bonus for school employees
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Full-time employees with Roane County Schools should see some extra money in their paychecks this month. That’s because the Roane County Board of Education approved a $1,000 Christmas bonus for all full-time employees when the budget was voted on earlier this year.

“The Christmas bonus for all full-time employees will be in the December checks,” Director of Schools Russell Jenkins told the school board last month. “Our board cares about our people.”

The motion that included the $1,000 Christmas bonus was approved unanimously by the school board back in May. With Christmas right around the corner, Jenkins said he wanted to emphasize what the board did for the employees.

“Our people are what makes us special and I want to publicly thank our board for taking this step so people can have a little better Christmas,” Jenkins said. “All full-time employees will receive this.”

Rockwood Mayor Jolly and council members sworn in
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Rockwood Mayor Jason Jolly, municipal judge Dana Pemberton, and new members of the Rockwood city council were sworn in to office on Thursday by Judge Mike Pemberton. In the name of efficiency, Pemberton elected to simply read the oath and ask the elected to concur rather than have them repeat each individual portion.

“I, Jason Jolly, do solemnly swear that I will protect the Constitution of the United States,” Pemberton said, reciting the oath of office. “The Constitution of the state of Tennessee, all ordinances in the charter of the City of Rockwood, and will well and dutifully perform the duties imposed upon me as the Mayor to the city of Rockwood, Tennessee, to the best of my ability. I will honestly and faithfully serve the citizens of Tennessee and the city of Rockwood.”

“So help me God,” replied Mayor Jolly.

Following Jolly’s oath, Steve Bryant was sworn in for a second term on the city council, and Larry Davis and Mike Reed were sworn in shortly after.

After this, the Rockwood city council appointed Greg Leffew to serve as Rockwood’s city attorney once again, and Dana Pemberton to serve as city judge, both with terms from Dec. 1, 2022 to Nov. 30, 2026.

City Administrator Beck Ruppe was appointed as City Recorder, although not without some contention from councilwoman Peggy Evans.

“Is this a fulltime position?” asked Evans.

“Yes, it is,” replied Mayor Jolly.

Evans suggested that being both City Administrator and City Recorder was too much for a single person.

“Ms. Ruppe, who is doing a fantastic job, holds two full-time positions,” said Evans. “I think we need to look into this. It’d be hard for someone to hold two full-time positions doing what is required of this city. You can go ahead and get her sworn in, and we can look at this at a later date.”

Councilor April Foust Wilson disagreed.

“I think Ms. Ruppe’s been doing it a while now, and has been doing a fantastic job, so I don’t know if there’s anything to look in to,” Wilson said.

Following this, further appointments for terms lasting from Dec. 1, 2022 to Nov. 30, 2026 included:

Larry Davis to the Rockwood Waterworks, Sewerage and Natural Gas.

Mike Reed to the Rockwood Electric Utility Board.

Steve Bryant to the Rockwood Golf Board for a second term.

Mayor Jolly to the Rockwood Regional Planning Commission and the Rockwood Board of Zoning Appeals and as a designated check signer.

And a resolution appointing councilwoman Wilson to Vice Mayor and as a designated check signer both from Dec. 1, 2022 to Nov. 30, 2024.

And a final resolution selecting Kelly Pittman to serve as Rockwood Police Chief, with Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton called to place Pittman’s new pins on his collar.

Two dogs die in house fire
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The Kingston Fire Department responded to a house fire at 903 Lakewood Drive on Sunday afternoon.

“Apparently it was from cooking,” Fire Chief Willie Gordon said. “They had left the house and was working in the building out in the yard.”

Gordon said two dogs died from smoke inhalation in the house fire. No other injuries were reported.

Gordon said it took about 45 minutes to put the fire out.