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New website combines county, city and Chamber

Economic development coordinator Karla Prudhomme presented information at Thursday’s commission meeting concerning the completion of a new Johnson County website. The new website combines the county, city, and Chamber of Commerce sites into one unified domain with over 70 pages of information detailing the demographics of the area, economic opportunities for potential businesses, and background information on the county and its various communities.
The website can be found at http://johnsoncountychamber.org and includes a directory of Chamber members, an updated list of local events, and information on fun things to do in the county. The website was created with the help of local web designer Darryl Barlow and the project was fully funded by Mountain Electric. Prudhomme made a special point to thank the electric co-op for their contribution, making the website a reality at no cost to the county’s citizens and businesses.
Prudhomme also addressed the county’s participation in the state 3-Star program which provides grant opportunities and other incentives to communities which meet the program’s extensive criteria. Johnson County was recently promoted to a level two position in the program, a feat which will be recognized by the state at the fall governor’s conference.
Mountain City has already seen some success with obtaining state grants when it was revealed that the town would be one of only 12 cities across the state to be a part of a new Tennessee Downtown program. Participation in the program gives the city access to a $15,000 grant to be used for downtown revitalization. State officials will provide an assessment of the downtown area with suggestions for possible projects but the final decision on the best way to utilize the money will be given to town officials.
Prudhomme ended by informing the commission that the owners of Villa Nova Vineyard in the Dry Hill Community is moving ahead with plans to purchase the old Dry Run Elementary School and convert it into a winery. Prudhomme was very excited about the prospects that the winery’s presence could bring to the area, citing the importance of such businesses to local tourism.
Local resident Earl Payne and a group of concerned citizens were in attendance at the meeting concerning the possible closure of Lane Road, a small county road off Ed Porter Road, near Maymead Quarry. Road Superintendent Tony Jennings informed the commission that last spring vandals destroyed a wooden bridge at the end of the road, which gives access to a family cemetery. Tom Reece, one of Maymead’s managers, was also present and related that since the bridge was destroyed Maymead has allowed visitors to the cemetery to use their quarry road for access. Reece went on to say that if the county desired to close the road, Maymead would be glad to provide written permission to continue using the quarry road as an access for the cemetery. Payne, who owns property off the county road and has family buried in the cemetery, voiced his concerns that the quarry road is too dangerous because of the large trucks which use it. Payne went on to say that because Maymead keeps their access gate closed to those without permission and because the county road was intended to stay open and give easy access to the cemetery, the bridge should be replaced and the road stay open.
Discussion was held on the procedures involved in closing a county road, with County Attorney Bill Cockett addressing the official steps. However, as long as interested parties such as Payne disagree with closing the road, the county cannot take such action. The issue with the road was previously discussed at the last planning commission meeting, where it was decided to direct it to the full commission. Because of Payne’s concerns and desire to keep the road open, the bridge will be replaced.
After looking at all of the available possibilities the redistricting committee brought their final plan to the commission for approval. Information from last year’s census has revealed that both the first (Laurel Bloomery/Cold Springs) and sixth (Shady Valley) voting districts have lost a significant number of their population. State law dictates that each commissioner must represent an equal number of people within a 10 percent deviation. As a result the voting districts must shift to make up losses in these two districts.
Because changes can only be made between bordering districts, a number of voters in Doe Valley will now become part of the sixth district and will be required to vote in Shady Valley. The area affected roughly falls between the right side of Slabtown Road up to the left side of Sprucey Lane, and includes Robinson Hollow Lane. Voters in this area can still vote early in Mountain City but will be required to vote in Shady Valley on election day.
While those in Doe Valley constitute the biggest change, there were also two smaller changes in the plan that affected a number of voters. Several residents in the area of Miller and Pleasant Valley Road will now be required to vote at Cold Springs and residents of Timothy Branch Road will now vote at Doe Valley. Mike Long with the county election office assured the commission that those affected would be notified.
Commissioner John Brookshire addressed each of these changes in detail and explained that the redistricting committee had looked at every avenue to try to keep changes to a minimum. Other plans that were looked at included reducing the number of commissioners from the current 15 down to 13. However, reducing the size of the commission would require changes in the school board districts as well, creating a lengthy process of state approval.
After discussing the subject at length, the commission passed a resolution to accept the redistricting committee’s chosen plan. The motion passed 12 to two with Brookshire and Commissioner Jerry Gentry voting against.
Following a recess for executive session, the commission approved a settlement agreement ending the ongoing lawsuit between Ralph Stewart and the county. The agreement was reached following a decision to allow Stewart to display his posters and a revision of the county’s public forum display policy.
Chairman Freddy Phipps expressed his desire to the rest of the commission that the county’s various departments look into the possibility of buying and utilizing only American made products. Phipps stated that he felt that such a move might set an example for other local governments and businesses and might begin a chain reaction that could help the local economy. Road Superintendent Tony Jennings voiced his agreement and stated that he would look into switching to using only American made products.
County Mayor Larry Potter brought up one of the last points of the night with a request to pass a resolution setting the county mileage rate to match the new state rate of .47 per mile. With no further business Commissioner Dean Stout made a motion to adjourn.