Highway Committee works to resolve citizen concerns

Published 11:17 am Monday, March 14, 2016

Mike Hill
This week on the job, I was able to arrange to install a traffic sign for a Citizen who professed that he had been dealing with an unresolved traffic problem for almost two decades.
Now, I know folks will think this is sort of a stupid topic for a guest Op-Ed column. Maybe this sign will solve a traffic problem, and maybe not, but the story that needs to be told here has everything to do with the process by which this decision was made.
You may have read the recent article questioning “who owns Slemp Lane?” in the STAR. The sign in question is being placed in this anomalous location that is on a county school campus, that is located within the Elizabethton City Limits, but controlling traffic on an open county roadway.
There was quite a bit of debate as to who had jurisdiction over the Slemp Lane intersection, which followed a lengthy amount of discourse over why the sign was needed from a citizen who was definitely not a fan of our county government, and who had been feeling unheard and neglected for a number of years.
Here is the ‘important thing’ that happened during the process of placing a single directional sign:
1) We listened to the concerned party. Many times we aren’t able to accommodate requests, but if we don’t hear concerns and legitimately try to understand the other party, nothing gets done. Sometimes the other party isn’t happy. Usually, when the other party is upset, it isn’t at us per se, it just tends to feel like it. It is important to listen anyway, no matter how difficult they might make it for us to actually hear them.
2) People from both city and county knowingly worked together and cobbled out a solution that was feasible for all parties involved.
I am extremely pleased that I could facilitate this project, even if it is only a road sign. In my opinion, more importantly than directing traffic during the school year, that sign represents the type of government relations that should be the rule around here and not the exception. Committee members conducted research and counted cars. The Road and School Superintendents and the Carter County Sheriff made recommendations for legal solutions that might work, and the City of Elizabethton was properly consulted and asked to give their blessing on the deal, which they did in short order. All relevant parties were consulted, all gave quality input, all approvals were requested and granted through proper channels. No-one’s toes were stepped on, nor was anyone’s authority usurped. A month from now the evidence of success will stand silently by the intersection in question for years to come.
City and county can work together.
This approach taken by my highway committee can, and should, be adapted to handle virtually any matter that comes up. The city and county collaborated on this deal, and the only concerns expressed by parties from either organization were in regard to taking care of OUR citizens.
The key here lies in coming to understand that at a fundamental level, we are all in this together.
When this problem was brought to my attention by the County Mayor’s office, it was expressed to me that there was uncertainty if anything at all could be done for the complainant. It turns out that listening, genuinely trying to understand the other party’s position and asking for help are all that is needed in most situations. People like to be heard and they like to be asked.
Hey! It may only be a road sign, y’all, but that road sign represents proof that relations seriously could get better around here. My fingers remain optimistically crossed.

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