By Mike Steely

The admission of out-of-county students to the L&N STEM Academy came up in a discussion at the Knox County Commission workshop last week with several commissioners questioning School Superintendent James McIntyre about the policy.

On the agenda were three items to approve agreements with Loudon, Monroe and Union counties to admit students to the school. Commissioner Mike Brown asked if the STEM Academy wasn’t established for Knox County Students.

The academy was established in 2011 to teach science, technology, engineering, and math in the Knox County School system and is located in the historic L&N Depot at 401 Henley Street downtown.

McIntyre said the school allows up to 20% of the students from other counties and expenses for those students are paid by those counties. He said there’s a waiting list for Knox County students but if the 20% is not taken by out-of-area students those seats go to local students.

The parent company of Jewelry Television, American’s Collectible Network, Inc. is asking the commission for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) as it buys the facilities the network has been leasing at 9600 Parkside Drive and 505 North Peters Road. The commission will consider the request during their regular meeting at 5 p.m. today.

The company has 1,200 employees and plans to hire additional IT employees. The PILOT incentive is most often used for new businesses in the county, according to Commissioner Ed Brantley who asked if that would be setting a precedent. Commissioner Bob Thomas answered by saying Jewelry TV could easily locate anywhere in the nation if they wished.

A company spokesperson said the company also hopes to open a GemStore in Pigeon Forge and that Jewelry TV is committed to staying in Knoxville.

Commissioner Brown once again questioned holding the body’s zoning hearings at 7 p.m. following the regular commission meetings which start at 5 p.m. He said that often the regular meeting ends and people sit around for more than an hour before the zoning portion starts. He suggested changing the meeting time to 6 p.m. or immediately following the commission session.

Chairman Brad Anders said the change would need to go through the Rules Committee, which Brown chairs, but opined that changing the meeting time “is the wrong idea.”

The commission also voted to pass along to the regular meeting several items: Renewing the contract with Pugh & Company for outside auditing services; approving a contract with Southern Construction for intersection improvements at the entrance to Pellissippi State College; building a Domestic Violence Shelter on the John Tarleton Campus; forgiving past taxes owed on the property at 625 North Broadway owned by the city; approved a 15-year tax increment financing agreement for the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District Redevelopment; and setting a special meeting Tuesday. September 1 at 4 p.m. to reorganize the commission and make appointments to boards and commissions.

The commissioners passed along most of the 66 agenda items on “consent” to tonight’s regular meeting, including the controversial Northwest Sector Plan which came back to them from the planning commission with no action taken. The plan, as requested by the commission due to citizen complaints, will drop all references to “PlanET” from the text; otherwise it is identical to the plan as passed by the city council.