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Roane Medical Center is moving from downtown Harriman to a new facility in Midtown in February. Not only does the move have the potential to change medicine in Roane County, but it also is having a huge impact on the county’s burgeoning new economic center in Midtown. Many medical offices have already made the move there, and, more recently, a gas station and fast food restaurant have announced plans to build near the hospital.
The upcoming abandonment of the current Roane Medical Center facility in downtown Harriman leaves city officials with a problem — or an opportunity. The city is talking to Veterans Administration officials about leasing the complex out as a veterans hospital or nursing home for the lofty fee of $1. The city continues to place its hopes on the newly refurbished Princess Theatre to help revitalize its city center, and it is concentrating on cleaning up or eliminating dilapidated property.
Although full approval has not been made, TVA is moving ahead with plans to build a series of smaller nuclear reactors to produce power at the old Clinch River Breeder reactor site. Some see those plans as an economic boon for the county; others worry about the safety and environmental impacts.
Swan Pond greenways
Cleanup at Kingston Fossil Plant has dominated the headlines since the 2008 ash spill. But after removing scores of houses from the area last year, this year TVA will be concentrating on a series of park-like greenways for nature watching and recreation.
Rockwood had one very bumpy year financially in 2012, with money troubles at seemingly every turn. It hired and let go a new city administrator, but kept former Morgan County Executive Becky Ruppe as city recorder. Mayor James Watts, shown above with former state Rep. Julia Hurley, says Ruppe is helping get the city finances back in shape. Unfinished business, however, includes an investigation into spending by former public works director Tom Pierce, who resigned amid the controversy.
Key new leaders
Last year’s elections brought a significant change in leadership locally and legislatively, and Roane County also has two new leaders at the top in its educational institutions. In county elections, longtime property assessor Teresa Kirkham was beaten by David Morgan, although scrapping between the two continues. Former state representative Dennis Ferguson was elected county road supervisor, replacing the retiring Tom Hamby. On the legislative front, the outspoken and often controversial Republican state respresentative Julia Hurley of Lenoir City was replaced with Roane Countian Kent Calfee, a Democrat-turned-Republican. And Rockwood, which, last year, was split away from the legislative district that contains the rest of the county, got a new state representative in Republican Ron Travis. Other big changes include the selection of Gary Aytes as director of Roane County Schools to replace the retiring Toni McGriff, and Chris Whaley to replace retiring Roane State Community College president Gary Goff. Both are home-grown leaders with well-established ties to the community.
TVA was soundly beaten in lawsuits over the 2008 ash spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant. The federal judge in the case has ordered mediation. How that works out has yet to be determined among the many plaintiffs who are seeking millions of dollars from the agency.