April 2015 Technical Society News

12 Apr

On April 6, 2014 David Butler, executive director of The Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) was the speaker. The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, presents new art and new ideas, educates and serves a diverse community, enhances Knoxville’s quality of life, and operates ethically, responsibly, and transparently as a public trust.

The KMA’s predecessor, the Dulin Gallery of Art, opened in 1961. In March 1990, the Knoxville Museum of Art opened in its current 53,200 square-foot facility. The current facility was an innovative structure and it suffered from being too innovative and it required extensive, creative repairs and alterations after a few years – and the result is a great facility. The museum supplements and complements its core permanent installations with a lively schedule of temporary exhibitions that explore aspects of regional culture and its relation to national and international artistic developments.

In spring 2014 the museum unveiled a permanent, monumental glass installation by acclaimed Knoxville artist Richard Jolley, a powerful affirmation of the KMA’s commitment to the art and artists of our region. The museum has a large bright, open area that can be rented to organizations for functions.

On April 13, 2015 Jerry Harnish, regional director of Rural Metro of Tennessee, spoke on “Fire Protection in Knox County”. Mr. Harnish has 33 years of experience in fire and emergency operations, including six years as fire chief in Knox County. He began his career as a firefighter and emergency medical technician with Rural Metro in 1980 and was named fire chief in 2007. As chief, he has been responsible for protecting 216,500 residents, operating 15 fire stations in Knox County, 12 of which house paramedic engine companies.

Prior to 1970s there was no formal fire protection in Knox County. Rural Metro covers about the same number of people as does the Knoxville city fire department but Rural Metro covers a much greater area. There are several volunteer fire departments in Knox County covering small areas. Most volunteer fire departments- unlike Rural Metro stations- are not manned continuously and as a result have significantly longer response times. About 2/3 of the calls to Rural Metro are for medical emergencies.The financing for fire protection needs to be changed. The subscribers ( insurance companies want houses to be subscribers) pay- basically the fixed costs of Rural Metro and people who are not subscribers pay what seems like a lot when they need help but the nonsubscribers pay only a small: percentage of the annual cost. This is a problem that the county government needs to fix. I, Bob Scott, TSK secretary, found it telling that Mr. Harnish said the Technical Society members had heard more about Knox County fire protection than have the county commissioners.

April 20, 2015 Axel Ringe of the Sierra Club spoke about “Climate Knoxville – an initiative to reduce energy use in the city.” The network was formed in early 2014 to support the City of Knoxville’s Smarter Cities Partnership to weatherize inner-city homes and EPA’s draft Clean Power Plan.

Weatherization of low income resident’s homes has the potential of making a big impact on low income people’s lives by saving money for utilities. Low income people may spend half of their income on KUB bills. A way to give landlords an incentive to lower energy usage is needed

The urban tree canopy is another concern. Currently Knoxville loses about 400 trees each year and plants about 400 trees each year. Some organizations are interested in starting a tree foundation.

April 27, 2015 David Dewhirst, Owner, Dewhirst Properties told how he went from being an aeronautical engineer to a developer and restorer of old buildings. He said he planned to do a few buildings and then retire (he didn’t mention his clock collection- there were too many other questions). He now has a busy organization. How he bought the old Watsons building for $510.000 was remarkable. He has been very successful in restoring buildings profitably but he brought up the need for revisions in the building code and the fire code.

He mentioned “underground Knoxville” but it seems to be in the future.

He thinks downtown is back and he is now looking further out, He was enthusiastic about the First Christian Church and the old Kerns bakery. We will hear more about David.

On April 30 the Technical Society hosted a working breakfast meeting to which representatives from all other STEM societies and STEM teachers were invited. The meeting purpose was to begin adding the role of coordinating society to the Technical Society mission.

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