OK folks I have been writing on this particular opinion piece for about a month. It has been an evolving document to say the least. It seems like every time I thought I had it done something else so ludicrous would happen that I thought to myself, “this must be included.” It happened again this morning but I have decided that if more happens I will just write a third piece (the second is in the works and will concern Jacksboro and Jellico). So without further ado I present to you a Tale of Two Cities: Caryville and LaFollette.
Now I know some people expect this to be a straight up rip piece but that is not the case. The purpose of this is to examine what is both right and wrong in these two municipalities. For all the bad I can write about I can also find lots of good. This is likely to jump around a bit so do try to keep up.
I will start with a subject I have visited in the past, recreation facilities. The city of LaFollette is blessed with such facilities. Johnny Byrge has done a fine job as the city’s recreation director. In LaFollette there are multiple fields for the community to use, a splash park in the summer, and two recreation centers in the form of old East and West LaFollette schools. Caryville is no slouch in that department either as Asbury Park has long been the home of recreational ball play for both children and adults. Even without a full time recreation director Caryville has managed to provide nice facilities for its citizens. LaFollette also recently had the Roots and Wings festival that drew a good crowd down town. This winter will see the city provide an ice skating rink, just like the one in Knoxville’s Market Square, for folks to enjoy. Caryville may have it best festival wise though, as the annual Louie Bluie is held there and is growing yearly.
The library is another bright spot in each city. LaFollette has an impressive new facility in the old rec center. Nancy Green has always maintained a good facility for the folks who use it. In Caryville the same can be said. Robyn Turner has masterfully stocked the library with books all of the patrons seem to clamor for. The only complaint I can remotely give about the Caryville Library is that it has out grown its current space. The city needs to step up and expand both the facility and funding that it receives. I know that Caryville City Hall has limited space but it would be nice to see the city either buy an old building in down town or build one. There are at least two properties in down town Caryville that are both for sale and bigger than the current facility. Who knows bringing that kind of extra traffic downtown may open up the doors for other things to set up shop there.
Both towns also have excellent emergency services. Both police and fire departments work hard to protect the citizens and property of their municipalities and are there to back up other emergency workers when needed. LaFollette I lucky to have a paid city operated fire department. Caryville is blessed to have a department made up of roughly 20 volunteer firemen who risk their lives to protect folks for no real compensation other than knowing they are doing the right and proper thing. Sadly this is where I will hit my first negative. I have had multiple folks, both Caryville firemen and citizens alike, that are concerned that the mayor and board of aldermen are going to interfere with the semiannual election of the officers of the department. So far these elected officials have left the department alone and allowed them to elect their officers as they always have in the past. Caryville has a fire chief that has been elected to that capacity by the other volunteers for a number of years. Some feel that his position is in jeopardy due to some unknown political vendetta. The other members of the department are willing to walk out to support their chief if he is removed. I personally support them in this solidarity. It is sad when a bunch of political types want to be jackals and interfere with a group of VOLUNTEERS that just happen to be a highly trained and rated department that has kept insurance rates low for the city’s taxpayers. I call on the Caryville board to not become jackals here and leave the fire department as it has always been.
Jobs and new businesses are another area that both cities have done well with. LaFollette has already seen Bojangles begin slinging chicken out to the masses. LaFollette is also still in line to get a new McDonalds and a Weigals. Caryville recently added a Holiday Inn Express and Dollar General. There is a pair of travel centers opening up on the next exit in Caryville in the near future. Caryville and LaFollette both also have some factory jobs in the city limits and there is supposed to be a new body armor company opening in the old PACA facility. Though both cities could stand to add some more industry to provide jobs they are still expanding the job market. Caryville has a distinct advantage here with a pair of interstate exits in the city limits. But do not count LaFollette out as they have land offer as well. Also some credit must be given to former Caryville Mayor Bobby Stooksbury for the progress in Caryville as he was in office when the initial talks with these businesses began.
Now comes the down side and that is the political antics that go on everywhere. I have already mentioned Caryville’s recent potential fire department controversy but there are other antics going on. Revently the mayor of Caryville wanted to give himself and the city council a “performance bonus”. The council would get $1,000 and the mayor would get $2,400 under this proposed budget. This is among the most foolish things I have ever heard in the city I am proud to call my home. Since when do elected officials get bonus money? This is money that could go to actual worthy projects instead of lining the pockets of a few folks that, in theory at least, sought the offices they are in to better the city. I am proud to say that the council shot this ridiculous proposal down and that the budget will have to go back to the drawing board and will hopefully not have bonus money in the next one. LaFollette is not immune to embarrassing acts by elected officials though. For the last little bit the TBI has been investigating the break in to the office of the former city administrator. Now after the investigation has been going on a long time member of the council admitted that he was the one that drilled the lock. His oh so noble reason for doing so was to return the personal belongings to the most recent city administrator, who just happens to be involved in litigation against the city. This same council member and the previous interim city administrator totaled a city owned vehicle on an unauthorized trip to a women’s prison in west Tennessee. There are plenty more an tics I could write about but I am already boiling mad writing these.
In reading this I hope you all of you see that though it is easy to see the worst of what we have going that we also have a lot of positives going as well. Remember that there will be city elections coming up in November and that if you feel the need to either keep the folks we have or to make a change that the power is in your hands.