Highway Committee reschedules public hearings following public notice issue

Published 4:32 pm Friday, January 5, 2018

Members of the Carter County Highway Committee were set to host several public hearings concerning bridge and road namings this coming week but those hearings have been postponed until February following an issue with the public notice which was provided by the county for those hearings.

The Carter County Highway Committee traditionally meets on the second Monday of each month at 2 p.m. at the Carter County Highway Department. During the group’s meeting in November, committee members voted to send four separate matters — three requests for memorial bridge namings and one request for a road name change — to public hearings, which is required by law. The Highway Committee, like many other county committees, did not hold a meeting in December due to the holiday, so the committee set those hearings for their regular January meeting, which was set to be held on Monday, Jan. 8, at 2 p.m.

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However, Highway Committee Chairman Mike Hill announced on Friday that the committee would have to cancel the January meeting and postpone all of the public hearings until the group’s February meeting due to an incorrect date for the meeting and hearings being listed in the public notice advertisement. Under Tennessee’s public meetings law, more commonly known as the “Sunshine Law,” governing bodies are required to provide “adequate public notice” of meetings and hearings to ensure the public has the opportunity to attend.

The public notice ad for Carter County’s committee and full Commission meetings listed the date for the Highway Committee meeting as Tuesday, Jan. 9, as did the separate ads for the scheduled public hearings. With the ad listing an incorrect date, Hill said there would likely be confusion as to when the public hearings and meeting were actually scheduled. Also, if the committee held their meeting and the public hearings on their regularly scheduled date of Jan. 8 instead of the advertised date of Jan. 9, Hill said it could have led to legal challenges of any actions the committee took.

The following items are the public hearings which will now be scheduled for Monday, Feb. 12, at 2 p.m. at the Carter County Highway Department:

• Wanda Marlow spoke to the committee and requested they name the bridge on Highway 19E which crosses over Laurel Fork Creek after SGM James Carroll Gilbert, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Highway Committee Chairman Mike Hill said Marlow presented the committee with petitions containing a large number of signatures supporting the request to name the bridge after Gilbert. Hill and fellow member Commissioner Danny Ward added their signatures to the petitions during the meeting. Commissioner John Lewis made a motion to hold a public hearing on the naming request, which is part of the procedure set forth under state law. Ward seconded the motion, which then passed unanimously on a vote by the Committee.

• Members of the Church family presented a petition to name a bridge across Elk River on Poga Road located between Ted Potter Road and Atlie Brown Road in memory of SP-4 Owen Ray Church. Lewis made a motion to set this request for a public hearing as well. Commissioner Robert Carroll seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

• Linda Johnson petitioned the Committee during the November meeting to name the bridge located on Gap Creek Road at the intersection of that road with Marion Branch Road as the “Gary D. Murphy Memorial Bridge.” Murphy was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Ward made a motion to set this naming request for a public hearing as well. Lewis provided the second for the motion, which then passed unanimously.

• During the public comments portion of the Highway Committee’s November meeting, a group of residents requested the committee to change the name of their road to help improve safety and security. The only three residents on a section of Hogum Hollow Road requested the committee to rename their section “Old Mountain Road.” The group said it would help improve safety due to GPS maps sending emergency and service vehicles through an impassable portion of the road in an attempt to access their homes. Following the request by the residents, Ward made a motion to hold a public hearing on the name change request. Lewis provided a second to the motion, which then passed unanimously.