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Town officials to set record straight

By Meg Dickens

Locals are in distress after hearing about the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce’s cancelation of the popular seasonal event Christmas on Main. Mountain City locals such as business owner John Coolahan have reached out to The Tomahawk to voice their concerns. Now Chamber of Commerce member, Christmas on Main Chair, and County Commissioner Megan McEwen speak out to share their side of the story. Many of these complaints stem from town potential for tourism. Festivals and similar events bring in more people.

When asked about Coolahan’s comments on the lack of supporting for tourism, McEwen cited numbers directly from Director of Accounts and Budgets Russell Robinson.“Johnson County contributes over $20,000 toward tourism,” she said. “This money supports the local community center, provides equipment for events, and maintains an interconnected county government website.”

McEwen confirmed that “the Chamber of Commerce has full intentions of continuing the lighting on Main Street,” a decision she said was made during the September Chamber meeting, adding that the Chamber canceled the festival aspect of the event due to insufficient power supply. ,McEwen explained that the city was made aware of the issue before the 2018 festival and said that inadequate power is not fair to paying vendors.

“This is especially true when low temperatures make heaters a necessity,” McEwen said.

According to Sunflower Festival Coordinator Renee Proffitt, electricity has been an issue for years. Proffitt said that she tried to have the electrical problem fixed before the 2019 Annual Sunflower Festival but had no luck.

“Fixing this would cause a major overhaul in electric under the road,” she said. This would mean closing the road.”

Proffitt and Misste Phillippi plan to host a Christmas Village on the courthouse lawn on Saturday, December 7, 2019, during the annual parade.

Another event under fire was Scarecrows on Main. Many voiced that Coolahan’s statement misrepresented the contest when he said, “when the JCTNCC was operating the event, there were 30 or more participants, covering every street corner. Now we are lucky to see maybe six to eight at best.” City Recorder Sheila Shaw runs this event and reports that nearly all, 21 lampposts were filled by 17 organizations this year. The Tomahawk received photos of 14 scarecrows.

Shaw stepped up to share more information. One prominent piece concerns the $60,000 TDOT grant for the sidewalk bump-outs. According to Shaw, the funds were returned because there were no contractor bids for the project. “The county has no control over this,” Shaw said.”The concern over the missing trashcans on Church Street appears to be somewhat of a misunderstanding.

“The town is in the process of replacing said trashcans,” Shaw said. “New trashcans will be in place as soon as they arrive.”
Keep informed on local events, tourism, and more at Johnson County Commission meetings are the third Thursday of the month and are open to the public. See more meetings scheduled in The Tomahawk’s weekly community announcements.