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Access to Potter Cemetery addressed again at county commission meeting

By: Bonnie Davis Guy

The Johnson County Commission met this past week in the upper courtroom of the Johnson County Courthouse for their monthly meeting. Individuals who had signed up to address the commission were invited to speak at the beginning of the meeting. Danny Wilson has been to the last four county commission meetings with concerns about access to the Potter cemetery. Wilson reiterated his concern that family of those interred at the Potter Cemetery were being blocked from access to the cemetery because of a locked gate across the new road.
The original road to the cemetery was taken over by Maymead several months ago. Access to the cemetery via the original road is now limited because traffic must pass directly through the Maymead Quarry. Wilson stated that during the Mother’s Day weekend several out of state family members had wanted to visit the cemetery but were turned back because of locked gates. The family did try to call the phone numbers listed on the signs at the gate but due to it being after business hours, no one was available. Wiley Roark from Maymead addressed the Commissioners as well as Wilson. Roark explained that Maymead was keeping the letter of the agreement his company made when the road was taken over by them. Maymead is in the process of building a new road that provides access to Potter cemetery. Due to weather issues the past few months, it has been slow going. Roark said the gates and locks were in place at the request of the cemetery caretaker, Earl Payne, who has a key as well as Maymead. Commissioner Chairman Taylor asked how much longer the new access road would take to complete. Roark stated the road was currently graveled but the grade was steep and needed to be addressed. He estimated completion within approximately eight weeks. Taylor then asked if access would be made available over the Memorial Day weekend. Roark said he assumed Payne would make the cemetery available but he would be available himself if needed. Taylor then suggested that an after-hours phone number be advertised both on the signs and at the Welcome Center so that those wishing to visit can obtain access more easily. Mr. Roark agreed to this solution. Commissioner Bill Roark then made the suggestion that in six to eight weeks the commissioners physically go to the cemetery and view the situation for themselves. A motion was made and a second was given and it was recorded that the commissioners would revisit this issue in approximately eight weeks.
Minutes for April were approved, as were committee reports and notaries. Budget amendments were also approved. Dustin Shearin addressed to Commission and offered to answer any questions they had regarding the purchasing recommendations. After a brief question and answer period, the recommendations were approved.
Charlie Curtis, Executive Director of the County Commission Association, was next to address the commissioners. He explained that his role as executive director was actually one of liaison between the county commissioners and Nashville. Taylor inquired about House bill 985 which didn’t allow county employees to also serve on county government. If that bill were to pass, county employees such as teachers, water department workers etcetera could no longer run or serve in county government. This severely limits choices in smaller counties such as Johnson. Curtis stated that so far the bill had been blocked and his office saw the problems it would cause in smaller counties and would continue to work on a solution to the bill. He invited the commissioners to attend the yearly regional commission meeting being held in Jonesborough on August 31st.

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