JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – The first county commission workshop of the new fiscal year promised to be brief and routine. Less than two weeks since the final recessed meeting in June, there were no budget amendments, committee minutes or credit card charges to approve and only a couple of routine contracts to review. When the workshop moved into the public input session residents of Shady Cove expressed concerns.

A couple of dozen residents of that Norris Lake community attended to complain about the shape of their road. Spokesperson Katie Gick set the tone of the discussion early on, telling Chairman Johnny Bruce, “You’re not opposed in this election but I promise you’ll not be unopposed in four years.”

Gick continued to exhibit a collage of photos of the poor condition of Shady Cove Road, which is a private road not a county road, and told the commissioners that Road Superintendent Ron Dilbeck refused to return her calls, adding, “In fact, they won’t even answer the phone when I call.”

She continued to insist she had proof that the highway department was maintaining the road until 2017, then stopped. “The road was maintained by the county, and we had mail delivery. Now mail delivery has stopped,” she said.

Bruce and other commissioners passed the topic to County Attorney Joe Coker, who offered little in the way of details, simply confirming that there is a process that must be followed to accept a road into the county system and adding, “Apparently that has never been done in this case.”

Another resident, Gary Parker, observed that he had researched tax records and Shady Cove residents paid $30,000 in property taxes with 25-30 full time residents and several vacation houses. “We can’t get ambulance service or fire protection, and people with disabilities have no way of getting out,” he said.

With no resolution in sight, Bruce requested a 15-minute extension as the workshop ran beyond the mandatory hour and a half limit. Gick mentioned that county tax maps showed the road to be a county road but Coker observed, “The property assessor has no statutory authority to declare a county road.”

Some commissioners began to ask questions, which extended the discussion even further, with some tempers beginning to heat up. One resident insisted that former Road Superintendent Dennis Potter had maintained the road. “He told me it was illegal, but he maintained the road anyway,” the resident claimed.

The discussion continued back and forth with no resolution in sight until Bruce suggested that he would meet Gick at the courthouse at 9:30 am Tuesday along with any other commissioners or residents that wished to meet and try to sit down with Dilbeck, Coker or other interested parties and work out a solution.

A solution may be more complicated than they expect. When the Shady Cove community was first opened by developer Fred Waddell in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the public road extended to the top of a hill, then made a sharp left turn. The extension of Shady Cove Road continued straight ahead but was blocked by a locked gate with property owners provided with keys to the “protected community.”

At some point in the late ’70s or early ’80s, the gate was removed and the road left open to the public, but no formal action is on record that Shady Cove Road was ever formally added to the county road system. Several requirements must be met to officially adopt a road into the county system, including agreement by all property owners bounded by the road and the private road must be brought up to certain standards in order to qualify.

Another topic that came up at the workshop was the ambulance service. Mayor E. L. Morton told commissioners that he was resuming his request for two additional full time EMTs so that the county service can keep its fourth ambulance in use full time. Morton said the county is losing revenue from not having enough ambulances to handle the demand for routine runs to deliver patients for dialysis or other regular scheduled treatments.

Ambulance Service Director Bruce Perkins explained again that he cannot tie up more than one ambulance on routine runs and still have ambulances available for emergencies at both LaFollette and Jellico stations. Morton said he will provide numbers to show where the money could come from existing revenues, and Commissioner Scott Kitts volunteered to carry the motion if Morton can show the numbers add up. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/13/2022-6AM)