Fri
Sep 11 2015
08:15 am

I suppose one could make a career out of correcting the Damon Lawrence stories in the Roane County News, but our interest is in giving everyone good information and letting them judge for themselves. We are only going to mention the most obvious misleading statements in this story for now.

Steve Scarborough (near and dear to us) is mentioned as the previous owner of the Academy property. Steve Scarborough was one of four partners in a real estate LLC and was the managing partner, not the sole owner as Lawrence's story implied.

Steve Kirkham does not "own Rocky Top" as the Lawrence story states. He owns the property, not the business,a situation very similar to the Roane Academy property.

We were told at closing that Steve Kirkham would be the surrogate purchaser for Omnivision (parent of Roane Academy), something that is not uncommon in business property deals.

Originally we were told that no zoning change would be required for a foster care facility. We were then told that a zoning change was needed to clear up any gray areas for a residential facility. Jim Henry is the braintrust behind Omnivision and is the one person responsible for bringing Dagger Canoe Company to Roane County (The property was a part of Dagger). Our experiences with Jim have shown him to be a good guy with the best of intentions for Roane County. Based on what we were told at the time we supported the zoning change and appeared at the commission stating that. Managers for Omnivision had made themselves available to the commissioners to answer any questions and in our judgement the commission actually had more knowledge of the plans for the facility than we did.

The County Commission, based on the information at hand, voted unanimously to approve the zoning change.

As a result the property was extensively improved by Omnivision and has quadrupled its appraised value on the tax rolls. There were zero jobs in an empty industrial facility and now there are dozens of jobs with more to come, as we understand things.

There was a great deal of misinformation disseminated in the past and some of that is still going on. Never the less, Roane Academy is in place and will most likely stay in place. My suggestion to the other occupants in the industrial park has been consistent for some time. Rather than run to the newspaper and commissioners, why not ask for a meeting with Omnivision and discuss your problems with them?

Our opinion: We think there have been significant management mistakes that need to be rectified immediately. We believe Omnivision needs to exert all efforts to correct the problems with the Roane Academy facility and management practices and work with the people and businesses in the area to gain their confidence. They have issued a lot of statements and now need to back those statements with meaningful action.

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