Brookshire Strikes Again

Once again, showing his utter lack of comprehension of local business, Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire finds himself on the wrong side of yet another decision that would directly effect local residents and business owners.
At Monday’s city council meeting Brookshire was proposing that council adopt the recommendation of the engineering firm the city had hired to design improvements for Hwy. 321. The recommendations had come under fire from a number of business owners along 321 due to recommendations of closing several of the median cuts. Many of the business owners raised concerns that closing the cuts would greatly hurt their businesses due to a lack of access to their businesses. Brookshire apparently planed to ignore their concerns.
Vice Mayor/councilman Eddie Simpson disagreed with Brookshire’s proposal rather proposing that more not less access to the businesses be provided. With a motion and a second on the floor for Simpson’s proposal, Brookshire attempted to forestall the vote at which point Simpson “called for the question.”   This would require an up or down vote on the motion.
Brookshire then went into one of his now famous tantrums and called for a recess to look into Robert’s Rule Of Order.
When it was all said and done, Brookshire lost again and council voted unanimously for Simpson’s proposal that would increase access for the business owners.
Matt Brookshire is the typical liberal. Even though he has never owned, operated or even managed a private sector business, he thinks he knows what’s best for everybody. Fortunately, in spite of Brookshire, council made the right decision.

Now he wants to bring his political skills to the whole county.

Mayor, council member spar over meeting procedures

Continuous turn lane approved


Tammy Cheek News Herald

Area business owners applauded Lenoir City Council during its meeting Monday, when they voted to proceed with the state's plan for seven lanes on Highway 321. During a Jan. 25 workshop, several business owners expressed their distress at engineers' proposal to close several median openings along the highway. At that time, Christopher Rhodes and Jonathan M. Moore, engineers with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn., explained the results of their firm's study of the Highway 321 corridor, offering proposed solutions to traffic problems. 

Those proposals included closing the median cuts at Gondolier Pizza, Courtyard Plaza and Ingles. These proposed closings drew outcries from business owners. Early in Monday's council meeting, Mayor Matt Brookshire said he asked the engineers to take another look at two of the median cuts and bring back an alternative to closing them. He said he anticipates hearing from them in about 10 days.

Later, Council members Eddie Simpson and Douglas "Buddy" Hines offered another option - going with a plan proposed five years ago by the state. The proposal was rejuvenated after several council members met with legislators Thursday for Legislators' Night Out. "They brought some things back to my mind that we had talked about for years, and that was how we could seriously handle the traffic on 321," Simpson said. "Everybody knows we do have some problems on 321. "What I would like to see done out there, which is the same as the state would have done several years back, is to start at Simpson Road and come toward Broadway and accept the state's plan to make that six lanes - three lanes either way - and with a turn lane all the way through that parcel of 321," he said. "Also I would like to start the other direction, and we have already contracted and working with Kimley-Horn on the improvements from Simpson Road, going the other direction as far as the Chevrolet dealership."

Simpson recommended the council move forward with that as planned, doing the turn lanes. He said he thinks the city will have enough funds through the state to fill in all the medians in the first portion but not the second.    

The third part of his motion would be to deal now with the intersection of Highway 321 and Broadway (Highway 11), he said. "We all know that's a bottleneck. It's possibly going to continue to be a bottleneck until the bridge is done," Simpson said. "We have confirmation that the bid for the bridge is going to be let December 2010, which is 11 months away. That does move that back up on this year's letting of the bids so I felt good about that." "What I would like to do from the intersection is to find out where that property is going to come out - that's where Kimley-Horn needs to be involved - and take this widening and corrections of that intersection on through to join with the bridge that crosses the Tennessee River and the railroad bridge," he said. 

Council member Tony Aikens said while he was not at the Legislator's Night Out meeting, he talked with state Rep. Dennis Ferguson Monday. Aikens said he received an e-mail reporting the three-year program (to widen Highway 321) will likely be released in April, is a candidate for funding and the plans are ready to go. "I agree the continuous turn lane is not as nice as the turn lanes the city was proposing; however, I don't see that we could turn down basically free money either," Aikens said. "Plus, as discussed in a workshop, these businesses out here on 321 that were complaining, you know, they've got a legitimate concern. We should take care of those businesses out there as much as possible, just like we take care of downtown." As such, he seconded Simpson's motion to proceed with the state plans. 

The mayor then expressed his concerns. "Part of what we discussed the other night was, again, trying to make sure that whatever improvements we do, we get those improvements paid for by TDOT," Brookshire said. "TDOT much more likes the idea of the corridor improvements that Kimley-Horn has proposed, much more so than they do what they refer to, in Nashville, as 'suicide lanes,' and that is a continuous turn lane."

Brookshire said the council members are talking about taking Highway 321, designated as a scenic highway and billed in the city as 'the Lakeway to the Smokies' to capture traffic from the interstate from the Smokies, and ripping up the grass median, which has a potential to be landscaped, and putting in asphalt. He said a continuous turn lane offers no help to the motorists in how to proceed in traffic. "We think the median cuts we have now are unsafe; wait until you open that up as a free-for-all from basically Highway 11, all the way out to Burger King," the mayor said. 

He asked the council members, with exception to the median closures in question, what their opinion would be. "My opinion would be the same, after hearing what the legislators said in their meeting the other night," Simpson replied. "What the legislators said was this - it may not be as good a project as what you all wanted but we got it worked this far up the ladder," Brookshire said.

Simpson butted in to call for question to end further discussions and call for a vote. "Robert's Rules of Order doesn't mean anything," Brookshire cut in. "I've got a copy of Robert's Rules of Order in my office. That calling for question does not mean we have to vote on it."

Simpson asked the opinion of City Attourney Shannon Littleton who said the rules in question should end any discussions. "I'll ask for a recess then," Brookshire said. "I'll ask for a recess while I get my notes and the city attorney can review those." 

Simpson then objected to the recess and said he would take over the meeting if Brookshire left the room.

Brookshire turned to Littleton and asked if he can call for a recess, at which Littleton replied the mayor could do so. With that, Brookshire nodded, got up from his seat and - while walking out of the room, faced Simpson and pointed to him, saying "Don't get up." 

While absent, Simpson continued discussions. "Being scolded for something this body wishes to do, I can't have any respect for that," he said. Hines said he thought the plan to close the median cuts had no consideration for the businesses there. "I think that ought to be considered," he said. "The money we get from the state, will that do the intersection up here?" Council member Mike Henline asked. "What they told us the other night, there is an earmark of $7 million for the flyover, and the flyover came back with a $32 million cost," Simpson said. "The state or anyone else can come up with $32 million to build a flyover that passes by Lenoir City. I just feel it was useless to have it."

However, he answered, according to the state legislators, a portion of the $7 million can be used to improve the intersection and prepare it to tied to the bridge when it is finished."I personally feel we should move forward with it. We are going to be able to get the funds to do that in a timely manner," he said. "I feel confident after talking to the senators, to the legislators, that we can do that."

He noted there were nearly 50 parcels of property that would be affected by the flyover. However, with the plan involving a continuous turn lane, it is upsetting only seven parcels or less. "I think that's very important that that's what we do," Simpson said. 

Mark Matlock, a developer of property along the highway, said he would like to applaud the city council members for taking that stand.

"It's a tough decision to sit down and go through and plan what's best for our city - it's a tough job - but I think you heard the outcry from the last meeting from people who have businesses out there," Matlock said. He noted the tenants of businesses along the corridor are highly supportive of whatever can be done to help those businesses survive.  "I think it's great," he said. "I want to applaud you for taking this stand to help the businesses."

Concerning the continuous lane's control of traffic, Simpson said the state's plan calls for arrows for appropriate places to turn. "It's not going to be a raceway through there," he said. "It's going to be marked." From Simpson Road to the interstate, the median will remain open with the improvements the city has already agreed to fund, he said.  During Matlock's praise, Brookshire re-entered the room. 

The mayor assured business owners present at Monday's meeting, he is not going to do anything to hurt their business' accessibility.   "I think my tenure here as mayor has been pretty supportive of growth on 321 and recognize it's essential to what we do and how we proceed," he said. "My point is, simply this, we've got lots of good options, all of which could potentially be paid for by TDOT," Brookshire said. "Our city administrator was just down in Nashville the week before last. He threw out some of the options that we have been discussing until tonight." Simpson then asked the city attorney, "Who won the debate?"  "Unfortunately, both of us are right," Littleton replied, "The call for question does end the debate; however, there is a procedure to go through to end the debate. Unfortunately, we are going to get into a little bit of a mess here because - the way I see it ... I don't know if the mayor disagrees with me or not - but it's whoever had the floor at the time the question was called for."

Brookshire read from the Robert's Rules of Order, "Any member who wishes to force an end to the debate must first obtain the floor by being duly recognized to speak by the chair."  The question then became who had the floor? Simpson conceded to let the mayor finish his comments before voting. "He can't take all night, so let's hear the rest of it," Simpson said.  "That's right because we know how it's going to turn out," Brookshire said with a small laugh. He asked, "What do you want for 321?"  "The business people don't want their crossover closed, Matt," Hines said.  "I told you earlier tonight I asked Kimly-Horn to propose an alternate option that would leave them open," Brookshire said.  "Do you think we need to turn down the funding, mayor?" Aikens asked. "You miss my point," Brookshire said. "TDOT likes all of our proposals. They like the idea that we are trying to come up with a solution. They want to partner with us."

He referred to Kimley-Horn's Jan. 25 proposal and said TDOT supports that plan more than a continuous turn lane. "Why make a decision tonight, so hastily, that's not based purely on fact when we don't know exactly what TDOT will fund?" he asked then noted, "They have indicated to us that they're open to lots of ideas. They're open to funding the corridor study at the same time of funding improvements to 321, heading toward Blount County, wrapping it all into one.  "You know the flyover's not going to happen for years to come because of the cost," he said. "It started out as $7 to $7-and-a-half million. It's now up to $32 million - over $9 million just in acquisition of property.  "So, TDOT has indicated to us that maybe we can roll all this into one project: Take care of the traffic on 321 heading toward Blount County and at the same time putting in place some of these corridor improvements - and they would partner with the city and fund it the same way you are talking about," he said. "Would it come out of the same money? No, it wouldn't. It will not be the same pot of money."

He noted hopefully the money will be released three years from now on the continuous lane project. Aikens said based on the information he received from the state representative the three-year (continuous lane) project will likely be released in April and is a candidate for funding. "Mr. Ferguson seems to think that that funding is there and available," Aikens said. "The plans are ready to go, and I will agree it won't look as pretty. I think we have an excellent police department and I think they can control the traffic situation. "I just believe for those businesses out there we can't be closing the median turnarounds, and that's what was being proposed originally," he said. "I understand you (Brookshire) had contacted the architects to take another look at it, but I don't think we should be turning down funding. It's money out of the city's taxpayers' pockets, and I just don't think we should be turning it down. "It may be three years, I don't know," Aikens said. "I'm just going by what the representative said. It's my understanding, from him, that they really stressed that situation they thought the funding was going to be available and the plans have been drawn up for it. "I think we need to move forward with it," he said. 

Simpson, reading from the representative's e-mail, said, "The three-year work program will likely be released in April." "That's not saying it's going to be three years before any of that work's going to be done," he said. "That is saying that work program will be released, and how that's going to be scheduled will be decided at that point. So, that's not saying it's going to be three years before it starts."

He asked City Administrator Dale Hurst about some money earmarked for the flyover, adding Simpson thought that amount was $7 million. Hurst said the amount is $7-and-a-half million. "It's a federal earmark," he said. "There's really no reason that we couldn't use that money for the intersection," Simpson said before he again called for question. The vote to proceed with the project, which includes the continuous turn lane, received unanimous "ayes" from the council and applause from business owners in the audience.