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Fort Sanders, the City & UT: The Intersection of Public Health & Public Safety 
The City of Knoxville and the University of Tennessee have a strong collective history of partnership.

This partnership is a pivotal part of ensuring a strong base of public safety and public health, and its success is evident in the quality of life provided to all who are a part of the UT Knoxville community. 

The partnership is multifaceted and involves all aspects of the community, from leadership to enhanced public services to KPD and UTPD joining forces to spearhead public safety initiatives.

City Public Service crews have doubled down on trash collection in Fort Sanders, the city's most densely populated neighborhood.

City Public Service crews have doubled down on trash collection in Fort Sanders, the city's most densely populated neighborhood.

Collaboration and KPD's proactive engagement

Did you know that, for a typical UT home football game, the Knoxville Police Department deploys about 100 officers?

Officers provide pre- and post-game security. But they also help coordinate the flow of 100,000 fans heading to Neyland Stadium - and more who flock to downtown and Cumberland Avenue District hotels, restaurants, bars and favorite public gathering spots.

The Knoxville Police Department and UT Police Department have worked closely together for years and are continuing to grow and strengthen their union. 

For example, on game days, UTPD and KPD use “partner cars,” which consist of one UTPD officer and one KPD officer riding together in a patrol car around the UT campus and surrounding areas.

But more significantly, KPD recently made a move to ensure the increased health and safety of the UT population. The Police Department reorganized in October, expanding from two patrol districts to three. 

The Central District has been re-established. It includes all of downtown and the area surrounding the UT campus. And it's smaller than the other two districts - about 15 square miles, roughly a third the size of the other districts.

“This reorganization is really going to allow us to provide a more focused effort within each of the districts and establish strong relationships within the community,” says Scott Erland, KPD’s Communications Manager.

Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel has praised the move as enabling officers to tailor services to better address issues unique to the residents and business owners in the area they patrol.

"Adding a third district allows our officers to reduce their area of focus, more narrowly direct their efforts, be more proactive and directly engage with the community on a day-to-day basis to solve the specific public safety problems that impact each area of town," Chief Noel said in announcing the reorganization.

However, patrols and police presence alone can’t ensure public safety.

“Public safety is comprehensive,” Erland says. That's why many other partners contribute resources and do their part.

Keeping Knoxville Safe, Keeping Fort Sanders Clean

Part of the growing partnership between the University of Tennessee and the City of Knoxville includes ensuring the health and safety of the Fort Sanders area through increased trash pickup and hazard mitigation. 

This is a particularly important issue in Fort Sanders, the most densely populated neighborhood in the city.

The City has doubled its trash pickup in the Fort, from once a week service to twice a week. And last week, Public Service crews were busy cleaning up the alleys in Fort Sanders - blowing out leaves and litter and cutting down weeds and other unwanted vegetation.

Warner Foster and Jared Howard are part of the Public Service team that tidies up Fort Sanders.

Warner Foster and Jared Howard are part of the Public Service team that tidies up Fort Sanders.

But health and safety aren't the only reasons that this additional cleanup has become necessary in the area. City Councilman Tommy Smith, who helped champion this clean-up initiative, says investing in more City services protects a unique and culturally important neighborhood.

“This clean-up will also play a role in preserving the historical significance of the area and keeping the property and home values from depreciating,” Smith says.

Recently, City Council approved an agreement with UT that extends the lease of James Agee Park for 20 more years. Smith points to this lease as another illustration of the strong partnership and joint efforts to preserve what makes the Fort Sanders neighborhood special.

The City also selectively increases trash pickup on weekends when there's an influx of tens of thousands of visitors. That was the case in mid-October, when the Vols knocked off Alabama.

“We put out 70 additional trash toters ahead of the Alabama game, something we rarely do,” says Chad Weth, the City's Public Service Director. 

“We had a 15-person clean-up crew out on Saturday night, and they were out until 2 a.m., ensuring that the Fort and Old City areas stayed clean. People were able to wake up Sunday morning to clean streets.” 

Robbie Corum, the Public Service Area Manager who oversees downtown and Fort Sanders, was a part of the Saturday night clean-up crew. Added to the usual post-game celebratory debris was something downright unusual - a large orange goal post.

"We were picking up and emptying trash cans, and the students carried the goal post past us," Corum says. "I thought, 'Hmm, you don't see this every day.'"

Corum says Cumberland Avenue and Fort Sanders are packed after a Vols win - and the City crew enjoys being a part of the Big Orange vibe.

"It's a long day, because it starts with setting up the orange barricade for the game festivities," Corum says. "But it's an opportunity to take in the game day experience - and to actually enhance it.

"It's like tailgating with your work family, minus the football party food."

Prioritizing safety

Both Mayor Indya Kincannon and UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman say that safety is Job #1.

Mayor Indya Kincannon and UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman at the entrance to James Agee Park

"Assuring public safety is our top priority," Mayor Kincannon says. "But that comes in many forms. It's the police officer who patrols a beat and knows firsthand the people who live and work there. It's the firefighters and paramedics who respond to emergencies. It's the Public Service crews who go the extra mile - landscaping the Strip, or making the Fort look its best before and after football and basketball games.

"We do the most good when we share our energy and our resources, and I'm proud of the City's long-standing and growing partnership with UT."

Plowman also touts the benefits of working together.

“The safety of our students and visitors to our campus is our priority," Plowman says. "We appreciate the collaborative relationship we have with the City, and we take pride in being good neighbors and doing our part to make our campus, and the areas around it, safe for everyone.”

- Written by Baker Center Fellow Betsy Germann, a University of Tennessee student who is interning this semester in the City Communications Department

Posted by evreeland On 05 December, 2022 at 11:06 AM