City Council, Nov. 19

Following the invocation and pledge, Mayor Beehan read the following statement on the loss of Ashley Paine:

The family of Ashley Paine has suffered a tragic loss. On behalf of this Council, and the city as a whole, I want to express our deepest sympathy to the family of Ashley Paine. This has been a tragic loss for the city, as well, and we as Councilmembers grieve for her family’s loss.

She was not only a blessing to her family, but to her town, her church community, and especially to Robertsville Middle

This loss, on a personal level, has changed us as indivuals and as a community. We have been deeply moved by this event, and the celebration of Ashley’s life.

This was a tragic accident, and in our opinion, not a time to place blame, but an opportunity to make a difference, and to refocus our community to be even better.

We will continue to work in partnership with the Oak Ridge School Board to create solutions to issues of traffic safety. And in the same vein, it’s time now to look at traffic safety issues all over the city, not only in and around our schools, but in our neighborhoods and our main arteries, such as the Oak Ridge Turnpike.

We need to ensure the our town is “walker friendly”. We should revisit our greenways, sidewalks and bike paths systems to make sure they are adequate, accessible, and safe. Our passion will be to make this a pedestrian friendly city. Greenways and bike paths are a great assets to communities that are revitalizing in America.

God bless Ashley, and her family. The entire Oak Ridge Community is mourning her death. And the same time celebrating her life, and what she has passed on to others that they may live productive and fulfilling lives.

May God bless her as she enters to his loving care, and may he comfort her family and friends with the knowledge that even though she was here a short time, by her life and death, she has made a tremendous impact on the lives of others.

Jim O’Connor then presented some of the solutions investigated by the City. The new school zone lights are installed and operational along Illinois Avenue near Robertsville. Speed and traffic light camera enforcement is being investigated. Pedestrian rights of way are being studied for Council to consider. More specific detail on these issues is requested for the December Council meeting, and Mayor Beehan requests that citizens utilize electronic communication (e-mail) on the city’s website to submit specific suggestions and ideas.

A discussion ensued as to the practicality of the pedestrian crossing buttons on traffic lights; the standard design in Tennessee is to have the pedestrian button on the traffic island, such that a pedestrian has to cross the turn lane before being able to activate the crossing signal.

The School Resource Officer is already working with students who walk/bike to school to promote safe practices.

Tom Hayes points out that speed is a major factor in traffic accidents in Oak Ridge. Tom Beehan points out that there will probably be some angry citizens when tickets are issued for speeding and running red lights, but that everyone needs to understand that this is for the overall safety of our residents.

On approval of the agenda, Mayor Beehan added a first reading of a zoning change for a new Tractor Supply in the old Food City East location. Next, he asked if there were any citizens present who wished to speak during the "appearance of citizens" (normally at the end of the agenda). He was prepared to move that to the beginning, but no one indicated a desire to speak. The agenda was approved as amended.

On the issue of rezoning Clark’s Preserve, there were no citizens to speak at the public hearing. Next, they addressed the proposed rezoning of 203 Michigan Avenue (site of the First Christian Church that burned) from residential to office, for a medical office park. Again, no one rose to address Council on the rezoning. The third item for public hearing was the 08/09 Community Development Block Grant plan; again, no one addressed Council on any of these three items.

Next, Council heard the annual report of the Oak Ridge Heritage Railroad Authority. Approximately $1.4M in state funding has been garnered to maintain bridges and railroad lines.

On the rezoning of property at 203 Michigan and west Madison Lane, Ellen Smith noted that council members are in receipt of a petition opposing the rezoning.  However, the petition was never submitted to the City Clerk, so it cannot be included in the minutes from the last meeting (when the petition was presented).

I’m not feeling at all well, so I’m hanging it up for the evening.

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