February 2000


Madia: “Run it like it’s being run”
Although he’s made it a point to be available to various groups at the Lab, UT-Battelle President Bill Madia held his first “all-hands” meeting with Lab staff members on January 28. And despite the fact that it was a Friday afternoon with snow in the forecast (that never materialized), a large crowd filled Wigner Auditorium to get it straight from ORNL’s director-come-April 1.

Madia introduced UT-Battelle’s senior management team-to-be, which includes “incumbents” Gil Gilliland and Jim Roberto. Madia praised Gilliland’s track record in industry and described Roberto as the Office of Science’s hands-down choice to run the Physical and Computational Sciences Directorate.

UT-Battelle’s status as a “non-profit” entity, he explained, has little to do with money. “Non-profit means that there are no owners or shareholders who have controlling authority. It’s the best way for a private institution, Battelle, to partner with a public institution, like the University of Tennessee.”

Of the two other major players in the partnership, Duke Engineering Systems will support the High-Flux Isotope Reactor and BWX Technologies will manage the “unique issues” at Building 3019, ORNL’s national repository for uranium-233. The other participating universities will bring in financial and strategic commitments, through memorandums of understanding, to build new programs at the Lab.

Lab employees in Wigner were among 600 who listened in on the first all-hands meeting of the transition.
Many of the questions that UT-Battelle has received since the contract award have been about benefits and personnel issues. As outlined in the request for proposals, little will change, Madia said. Benefits and the pension plan will transition with few, if any, changes.

However, programs like scholarships, UT tuition credits and matching contributions are still under consideration.

Except for several top-rung “key personnel,” ORNL employees should receive, by March 15, a letter of offer from UT-Battelle and a form to fill out with general benefits-related information. It’s not a job application, Madia noted. “Employment is guaranteed in the RFP. It’s a big, big, important formality.”

Other topics ranged from UT-Battelle’s desire to mount a building campaign to replace ORNL’s aging infrastructure (two-thirds of ORNL’s facilities are 40 years old or older) and to take 20 percent out of the Lab’s overhead over the next three years. The former, Madia concedes, will require creative measures, such as third-party financing with DOE’s approval. As for the latter, “Don’t expect a bunch of consultants in suits to show up telling us where to make cuts.”

Madia again stressed, as he has in his several appearances with Laboratory groups, that life at ORNL will go on much the same after April 1. ORNL, he said, “is not broken.”

“Our goal in transition is to cross over and run it like it’s being run. Will we look at new ideas and programs and benefit packages? Yes, absolutely,” he said.

“Going forward, we have a lot of things to work on.”

SNS: Legislature voices no nays
January was a crucial month for the Spallation Neutron Source, and Nashville was a crucial location. A bill to exempt the SNS from about $28 million in sales taxes over several years was voted in overwhelmingly by the Legislature. More importantly, it cleared, days before the February 1 deadline, the last hurdle placed by Congress for receiving FY 2000 funding.

The vote sent an undeniable message from the state that it supports the SNS project. The tax exemption comes at a time when state lawmakers are struggling with revenue shortfalls and a politically charged debate over how to remedy it. Even so, no lawmakers voted against the bill. The state Senate passed the measure 31–0 and the House followed up with a 96–0 vote. Finally, Gov. Don Sundquist, who attended the SNS groundbreaking in December, inked the measure into law.

ORNL Director Al Trivelpiece says he is “delighted” with the “far-sighted decision” by Sundquist and the Legislature.

Traffic: Could be a year of waiting
ORNL may be in for some Y2K problems, but they’ll have nothing to do with computing and everything to do with commuting. Simultaneous road projects on the three major routes in and out of the Oak Ridge Reservation could make traffic a little testy during the year.

Construction of a flyover will necessitate closing Kerr Hollow Road, also know as the South Illinois, and city traffic going east will be routed down Scarboro Road to Bethel Valley Road.

If you intended to miss that impending mess by going the Highway 95 route, your hopes may have been dashed by the year-long one-laning of the bridge spanning the Clinch River. That initially caused backups and delays of up to an hour, although measures taken by the state and contractor, at ORNL’s urging, appeared to alleviate the tie-ups.

Finally, work on Highway 58 on the western end of the ORR has potential for causing delays.

Since alternate routes are in short supply, the best advice for commuters is to be patient, courteous and flexible and plan a little extra time into your trips going to and from work.

Travel trimmed? Try the tube
Have the FY 2000 restrictions on travel expenditures, as mandated by Congress, clipped your wings? There could be a way around the problem beyond driving cross-country for that crucial face-to-face meeting: ORNL has videoconferencing facilities available to provide a low-cost alternative to hitting the road.

A videoconferencing task force has been formed to address short- and long-term needs for the Lab.

The Lab currently has one videocon- ferencing facility available in Building 4500-North’s Room K-221. Other units may come on line later. The video teleconferencing unit is compliant with the H.320 standard for video conferencing over ISDN and, as long as the other side is using equipment based on this standard, the vendor of choice is not an issue, says Brian Swail of the Instrumentation and Controls Division’s Technical Support section, which manages the facility.

“We already have many regular customers and would be glad to help videoconferencing novices get comfortable with using the technology,” says Swail. If you’d like to, or are forced to, give videoconferencing a try, call them at 574-4414 or 574-5635 or send an e-mail to videoconference@ornl.gov.

Who likes to fly anymore, anyway?

Reported by Bill Cabage