September 2020 | Vol. 6, Issue 9
What's Happening
In Oak Ridge?!
Can you believe it's almost fall? The official first day of fall is Sept. 22. Here's a peek at everything you need to know this month and what you may have missed last month!
The implementation of the new software at the billing office is progressing. Customers report liking the new statements, the online portal, and the wide range of automatic payment options. A few issues remain, but we are closing in on normal operations.

Telephone lines at the office remain extremely congested, making it very difficult at times for customers to reach the office by phone due to high calling volumes. We hope to be back to normal within the next few weeks. In the meantime, the automated payment system is still available 24/7, free of charge. You will be required to have your account number to pay through the automated payment system. The automated phone number is (833) 268-4341 and can also be found on the back of your monthly utility invoice.

The City realizes that some customers have fallen behind due to difficult circumstances. Should you need assistance, please come by our office and we’ll be happy to explore available options to work through these difficult times. 

The hot weather in July resulted in higher electric cooling bills leading some to believe that power costs have gone up. In reality, the cost of power on a unit basis between July 2019 and July 2020 went down about 3%. Rates went down more in August.
Sept. 6 proclaimed Oak Ridge-85 Students Day
Sixty-five years ago, 85 African American students entered all-white classrooms at Oak Ridge High School and Robertsville Junior High School in an historic school system desegregation.

This was the first desegregation of a public school system in the Southeast.

At the August Oak Ridge City Council meeting, council members voted to proclaim Sept. 6 Oak Ridge-85 Students Day to honor the 85 Black students who integrated Oak Ridge Schools on September 6, 1955.
The City of Oak Ridge has selected Janice Harris as its new Personnel Director.

Harris, a retired Air Force master sergeant, was among 68 applicants. Five people were selected to advance to a final round before she was ultimately chosen for the role.

She is no stranger to the City of Oak Ridge and she’s excited to get started. She has lived here since 2018.

“I’m excited for everything – just being able to work for the City. Even though we’ve been living here for two years, I’ll get to see the City through a different set of eyes now,” Harris said.

Before moving to Oak Ridge, she spent 16 years working her way through the ranks of the Air Force, where she was responsible for coaching managers on the importance of understanding mission values and how to quantify their teams’ future objectives. She also provided guidance for subordinates’ personal and professional growth by facilitating interpersonal conversations between supervisors and staff.

She then spent about 4 years working for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services where she wore many hats. She began as a customer service specialist, then financial service specialist, and eventually obtained the role of office manager for the Trent Community Service Office.

“Being in the military, I was moved around so much and had so many different careers. I can’t wait to have just one job,” she said. “Now I have something to actually hone in on.”

In June 2019, Harris took on a 6-month contract as a records coordinator with TFE, where she differentiated Department of Energy decommissioned nuclear facility records for retention from non-records based on National Archives and Records Administration Guidelines and placed them into an electronic database.

“I am very pleased to add Ms. Janice Harris to the senior leadership team of the City of Oak Ridge. I have found through the interview process that she is hard working, detail oriented, personable, ethical and has a long-term commitment to Oak Ridge. Already a resident, she is familiar with the community and the goals of the City,” said Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson. “As an Air Force veteran, she has worked with people of different backgrounds, ages and skills and can take our personnel to new training levels, enhanced diversity and increased awareness of the City of Oak Ridge as a great place to have a career.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the newly appointed members of the City of Oak Ridge Youth Advisory Board attended their first meeting of the 2020-21 term of office. City staff liaison Matt Reedy conducted the meeting and Sandy Johnson of the City Clerk’s office assisted the members through the swearing-in process. Lt. Governor Randy McNally, City Councilman Jim Dodson, and Oak Ridge Police Department Community Resource Officer Alex Velez also attended the meeting to wish the students well on a new year.

The City of Oak Ridge Youth Advisory Board (YAB), created in 1991, serves as a liaison between the Oak Ridge City Council and the youth of the community. In the 30 years since its inception, the YAB has offered input on City issues while also providing activities and programs that enhance the lives of young people in Oak Ridge.

It marks one of the oldest continuously operating community theatres in the Southeastern United States.

Thank you to Lt. Governor Randy McNally, Senator Ken Yager, State Representative John Ragan and Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch as well as Edwena Crowe, president of the Oak Ridge Playhouse, and Oak Ridge City Historian Ray Smith.
Oak Ridge Electric crews have a new bucket truck! This will be used for many things including keeping your lights on and internet going.

Thank you to our linemen who work hard to keep your power running, especially during this time when many are working from home and are dependent on their power now, more than ever.
After 43 years of active fire service with four different fire departments and 22 years serving as a Fire Chief for three of those departments, Oak Ridge Fire Chief Darryl Kerley is hanging up his fire service career to become a full-time Fire Service Instructor and Coordinator for the State of Tennessee.

Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, was a twofold milestone for Kerley. It was the last day of his 6-year appointment to the Tennessee Commission on Firefighter Standards and Education and was his last day as Fire Chief for the City of Oak Ridge.

“Serving as Fire Chief for the important and historical City of Oak Ridge and being appointed to the Fire Commission by Governor Bill Haslam have been the highlights of my professional career. It truly has been an honor and privilege to serve as Fire Chief of such a great city and to be part of the development of the National Park at the K-25 site and the K-25 History Center,” said Chief Kerley. “Next Monday, I will transition from servant to teacher as I begin to share my years of experience with our state’s firefighters. I have always been passionate about training and believe that a trained firefighter is a safe firefighter."

The City of Oak Ridge Fire Department will be led by Fire Marshal Travis Solomon, who assumed the Interim Chief duties effective Aug. 22, 2020.
REMINDERS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
UN International Peace Day is Sept. 21
The UN General Assembly has declared Sept. 21 as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.

People in Oak Ridge will rake a peace pattern at the garden at the Peace Pavilion and the International Friendship Bell on Sept. 21.

The garden has a Japanese-style raked gravel to represent water and boulders that reflect the mountains of East Tennessee.
Oak Ridge residents will be receiving their property taxes in September this year and will have until Oct. 31, 2020, to pay them.

Typically, property taxes are billed in July and due at the end of August, but that timeline has been delayed this year due to COVID-19 and the Utilities Business Office transitioning to a new billing software.

If taxes are not paid by Oct. 31, interest will begin to accrue on the account.
Oak Ridgers now have a new way to register for the CodeRED Community Notification System, which is used by the City to make notifications during the event of an emergency, severe weather, extended power outage or other community events.

Many residences no longer have home phones but rely on their cell phone for communication. Individuals can now text the keyword ‘OAKRIDGE’, without a space, to 99411, and receive a response back containing the Community Notification Enrollment (CNE) link for the City of Oak Ridge.
Census Takers are working their way through Oak Ridge.

Time to respond is running out. As of late August, only 71% of households have responded.

With an estimated population of 30,000, this means only about 21,000 of our residents have been counted.

Everything you say to a census taker is confidential under federal law and cannot be shared with anyone, including any government agency. Census responses can never be used against you in any way.

If you would like to avoid answering these questions on your porch, you can self-respond to the census online at 2020census.gov, by phone at 844-330-2020, or mail back the completed paper questionnaire if you received one.
Welcome to Our 2020-21 AmeriCorps Members!
The City of Oak Ridge Public Works Department is proud to welcome its newest members MacKenzie Bellimam and Molly Goodman. MacKenzie and Molly will be serving with the Division of Stormwater and the Healthy Waters Program through the CAC AmeriCorps Program located out of Knoxville, Tennessee.

MacKenzie moved to East Tennessee from Alexandria, Virginia, after graduating from Emory & Henry College with a degree in Environmental Studies. During her time in college, MacKenzie fell in love with the Appalachian Mountains and East Tennessee.

“I never thought that a girl from the coast could ever adore the mountains with such wonder; the grace of nature that surrounds East Tennessee is what has drawn me to serve this abundantly biodiverse region,” she said.

MacKenzie is excited to collaborate with the local community and to learn more about how to protect local waterways through the maintenance of municipal stormwater systems. She hopes to later incorporate this knowledge and her experience into a career within the field of water resource management.

Molly graduated from Union College (Schenectady, New York) with a degree in Environmental Science. During her time at Union College, Molly enjoyed animating her academic studies by working on projects with a strong emphasis on sustainability and environmental awareness.

With such diligence, Molly accomplished a project that included the solo-acquisition, development, and management of a $25,000 grant which included the installation of a native rain garden. The focus of the rain garden is for plants to attract pollinator species and provide nesting materials and habitats for small animals and birds. She is looking forward to positively contributing to the Oak Ridge community and is thankful for the hospitality she has experienced thus far!