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letterstotheeditor


UT Arboretum praised; Reader questions new town staff position; Johns addresses ‘Our View’; Lockheed VP addresses ORNL pension

UT Arboretum praised

The University of Tennessee Arboretum Society’s fall plant and craft sale, ArborFest 2005, at the UT Arboretum was a great success. We appreciate everyone who attended the inaugural year for this fundraising event: members and other visitors, vendors, demonstrators and performers.

Our sponsors included the Dogwood Arts Festival, ORNL Federal Credit Union and the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce.

Richard Evans, director of the Forest Resources Center and Arboretum, and his staff gave generously of their time to help make the Arboretum look particularly beautiful for ArborFest and to assist with planning, parking, and clean-up.

For [more than] 40 years the UT Arboretum Society has supported the activities of the Arboretum primarily through sales of trees and specially selected ornamental plants. Our next plant sale will be in April. We also sponsor travel tours (New York in 2006), demonstrations and lectures. Proceeds from all events support the operation and maintenance of the UT Arboretum.

Please visit our Web site, www.utarbortumsociety.org for more information about the Arboretum and the Society.

Ann Arnold
Emily Jernigan,
co-chairs of ArborFest



Reader questions new town staff position

I appreciate the time and effort of the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen on behalf of the residents of Farragut. In following the discussion concerning the newly created assistant town administrator, I would like to share these comments and concerns.

• It is highly advantageous to have this position reporting to our town administrator. It is important for this position to not be a part of the political process and instead, to maintain the same professionalism as exemplified by other members of our town’s administrative and support staff.

• I remain convinced we need additional staff in our engineering and community development departments. It appears the current workload is substantial and the last thing we need is to begin pressuring staff to perform less than their usual and customary due diligence.

• There is a perception this new position has the potential of allowing developers to perform end-arounds on our town’s ordinances and on our professional staff. As such, I remain concerned about the description for this position as it relates to the development process.

In my opinion, we are putting this position in a tenuous spot by using language that says this person is charged with “facilitating and resolving conflict.”

Facilitating and encouraging an open communications pro-cess is one thing but I believe “resolving” is taking this one step too far. This language needs to be softened to something along the lines of “facilitating and attempting/helping to resolve” so that we’re not putting this person in the position of being subject to behind closed door politics or other pressures to circumvent our professional staff and the policies and procedures of our ordinances.

The message we send on the front end goes a long way toward determining the role of this new position and his/her success. The development process is by its very nature an adversarial one as developers seek to maximize their profit margins by pushing the envelope of our town’s ordinances.

Residents of this town have consistently issued their opinion at the ballot box in support of our town’s ordinances. We need to make sure the new position of assistant town administrator reflects this opinion and doesn’t fall prey to the dictates of special interests.

Jeff Elliottz,
Farragut



Johns addresses ‘Our View’

In response to the farragutpress’ “Our View” section about the new high school, “ditto” on the last part of the editorial. Growth has been moving west in Knox County for more than 20 years and having PROACTIVE planning for the Knox County school system in response to growth is still non-existent.

Although I already addressed this subject in the Aug. 25, farragutpress, the thesis is the same. Where are all the children going to go to school? We are lucky that there are some alternatives to assist the school system’s capacity issues, but, what would be the impact if the private schools closed their doors and home schooled students entered the public school system?

Although the new high school has been delayed a year from its original date, the residential development is NOT on hold. Again, we should already have the capacity of two high schools in the system and should be planning a third while this does not even address the multiple primary, elementary and middle schools that are also needed.

Transforming our region to a knowledge and technological based economy (the Jobs Now! program and “Innovation Valley” brand) while just maintaining the minimum standards to compete in a global environment will never come to fruition unless Knox County and its leadership make the necessary paradigm shift and transformation with our current education system.

I would highly recommend that farragutpress keep the “by the numbers” counter for the simple fact that breaking ground (a photo and “spin” opportunity) is quite different from delivering results with your hard-earned money in the form of taxes (new high school being opened). Please keep the “by the numbers” counter going until the first day of classes are held at the new high school.

On another note, traffic calming was covered quite a bit in last week’s farragutpress issue, but I also noticed some other chatter on extending Watt Road (intersecting Old Stage). Traffic calming and safety principles dictate that you keep major thoroughfares away from neighborhoods. With Knoxville’s major truck stops located at Watt Road, the residential neighborhoods along Old Stage have benefited from the buffer of not having tractor-trailer and transient/drifter traffic having access to the neighborhoods.

With an extension of Watt Road to Old Stage, safety becomes a major issue due to an increase with “lost traffic and strangers.” I would recommend that the neighborhood homeowner associations along Old Stage and McFee roads immediately contact the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Growth and Development at ccrgd@charter.net and/or www.ccrgd.blogspot.com for assistance about this important safety issue.

Bill Johns MPA; MBA
Bluewater Consulting



Lockheed VP addresses ORNL pension

I continually read editorial comments and stories in the local papers about the Oak Ridge DOE contractors, projecting the image that they are “really good guys” because they are concerned about the employees’ welfare to the point that they are even concentrating on such details as the type of shoes that employees wear to work.

Having worked in a govern-ment contracting environment most of my life, I personally am more impressed by contractors’ good deed[s] when it isn’t so directly related to their bottom lines or the award fee that they are paid.

At the same time that the University of Tennessee, BWXT and Battelle are being applauded for such good deeds they are committing the most egregious act of raiding the employees’ pension plan for the benefit of the people that they brought with them into this contract.

In past years the administrators of the pension plans took their responsibilities seriously and did an excellent job of insuring that more than enough money was in the plans to handle all of the future known liabilities of the plan. In an environment where we constantly read about pension plans that are underfunded and are asking for a government bail out, this plan now has a surplus of over 100 million dollars.

This money was to be held in escrow for the needs of the retirees, which was to include periodic recognition of the need for a cost of living adjustment. The original framers of the plan and previous years administrators would recoil in horror if they could witness how the plan is currently being administered.

Retirees have been reduced to begging for entitlements while at the same time the current contractors pass on expensive plan changes for themselves. What is even more perplexing is that elected officials at the Washing-ton level seem so preoccupied with their own foibles that they are unresponsive to the requests for help from the retirees?

I say shame on you UT, BWXT and Battelle. I only hope that you get what you deserve for such parasitic action and that your stay in Oak Ridge is short lived.

Chuck Landguth
Lockheed Martin
Vice President retired

 

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