Chamber aims at four-lane

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By MIKE WEST, Courier Editor

Completion of state Route 70s between Woodbury and McMinnville was at the top of the list of discussions at the Cannon County Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet.

The event, held Thursday (Jan. 16) at the Arts Center, was marked by a transition of leadership from two-term Chamber president Neal Appelbaum to new president Ron Fryar, owner of the Cannon Courier.

During the session, Appelbaum was recognized for his leadership and Carolyn Motley, Chamber coordinator, was for her hard work.

"We have a list of things we've got to do" during the coming year, Fryar said, and completion of 70S is near the top of the list.

"Cannon County is the hub of a five community wheel," he said, explaining that Woodbury is centrally located 30 miles or less from McMinnville, Murfreesboro, Manchester, Smithville and Lebanon.

"We can be the center of this," Fryar said, "and still maintain our slower pace of life, but with more amenities."

A number of people are working behind the scenes to get the highway project back on track, he said.

"The four lane completion is the key to the future for Cannon County," agreed County Executive Mike Gannon, who was among the 90 business leaders attending the banquet.

Gannon said officials from Cannon County and Woodbury will be meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23 at the Courthouse for a public meeting on the four lane project.

The meeting was marked by the introduction of the 2014 Chamber officers with Fryar as president, Connie Rigsby as vice president and Wanda Thompson as treasurer. Rigsby is director of the Cannon County Senior Center. Thompson is owner of the Blue Porch Restaurant, which catered the meal for the event.

New Chamber board members are Sue Conley, CEO of Stones River Hospital, Daryl Fisher, county maintenance supervisor, and Phillips Reed, Ace Hardware associate.

Retiring board members, Travis Hancock, Anita Parton and Anna Pittman were also recognized.

Appelbaum spoke briefly on the achievements achieved during his terms as Chamber president.

The Chamber has grown to 89 members, adding 16 new members during 2013 alone.

In 2013 the Cannon Chamber went to Murfreesboro and staged a Chamber After Hours gathering at Cannonsburgh.

"We were the first county outside of Rutherford to do this and it was a great success," Appelbaum said. "We've already been invited back."

"People who visit us are so surprised that we have so much going on in Cannon County," he said.

Appelbaum also invited several Chamber members to briefly share their stories of success.

Scarlett Turney, of the Arts Center, outlined some of the center's upcoming projects including Beauty and the Beast Jr., an upcoming play for children which opens Feb. 7.

Sandy Katz, an internationally known expert on fermentation, moved to Cannon County 20 years ago.

"I got interested in fermentation … I wrote a book about it and it did pretty well," Katz said.

He has taught hundreds of fermented food workshops around the United States and his book "Wild Fermentation" has been called a classic. Katz is currently revamping a log cabin into a classroom on Short Mountain.

Tabitha Smith told the Chamber members about the growth of her medical business. "My approach to medicine is common sense." Her business has grown from part-time to an overgrowth of full-time. Construction is beginning on her new offices on West Main Street near the Cannon Inn and a second physician has been added to the staff, Heather Melton.

Connie Rigsby said the Senior Center is a roaring success.

"Fifty percent of the seniors in Cannon County come to our place," Rigsby said, adding that additional $10,000 health exercise equipment has been ordered and will be added to the center's growing health program.

"We are a wonderful, beautiful facility," said Sue Conley, CEO of Stones River Hospital. "We have a lovely building, a great staff. They don't love you as much in Nashville."

The 60-bed hospital served 6,000 people in its emergency room during 2013. "We have a great restaurant too," Conley said.

Gary Hancock of DTC said the co-op is working hard to speed up its broadband connections. "We are just about ready to roll it out."

"We're not a huge company, but can provide the same services they can," Hancock said. Those services include tech support for computers and security performed by local employees. "People that you know."

Randall Reid, chairman of the Industrial Development Committee, talked about the quality of life in Cannon County. "Our task _ almost an obligation _ is to sell these attributes," Reid said.

"Rutherford County's population will double in 20 years. That's a ton of opportunity for us. We are going to grow in spite of ourselves. We need to capitalize on this windfall," he explained. "We need you to help … step up to the plate."



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Chamber of Commerce, Neal Appelbaum, Ron Fryar, state Route 70S
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Members Opinions:
January 21, 2014 at 11:32am
If the Chamber supports the new proposed "by-pass" around Woodbury, then is it to be ascertained that the majority of businesses who make up the Chamber also support this idea?
January 21, 2014 at 1:43pm
The Chamber doesn't approve a specific path for the roadway. They are just supporting completion of the highway.
January 22, 2014 at 3:30pm
The chamber must not be for Woodbury if they want the bypass completed because it will only hurt town more. If the four lane is the hot place for business why aren't there more businesses on it than rock crushers (3) of them, convience stores (2) of them, a wholesale supply,ministorage and a strip of unrented buildings in about 7 miles of prime high traffic road frontage. It dos'nt look like the road is all that good for new businesses it has been open for many years with little positive development so we better keep the road through town so we are not sorry later when it is too late to back up.
January 22, 2014 at 5:47pm
So, is this to say any route approved by the County government is okay with the Chamber as long as the highway is completed?
January 23, 2014 at 9:58am
In all probability, the fate of Woodbury’s future will be determined tonight at the Open Meeting Discussion concerning the completion of Hwy70S. The road will be either a two lane or a four lane. The road will either carry traffic through the middle of Woodbury or around it. These are the only two questions that seem to be applicable to this issue. Tonight the city and county leaders will meet to discuss the merits of each plan and will presumably agree upon one plan to present for passage by the County Commission.
The citizens of Cannon County are invited to this Open Meeting. Those having an interest in the immediate effects of the decisions to be reached at this meeting and those having interest in Woodbury and Cannon County’s future should attend this meeting and be prepared to voice their own opinions should they feel they are not being represented by their elected officials.
The idea of a bypass of Woodbury is to be taken with all seriousness. Businesses will fail or flourish depending upon the outcome. What are those projections? How will a re-routed traffic flow affect local businesses? What are the traffic projections by the State for the next five years, ten years, and twenty years? How will a 50 % reduction (low estimate if re-routed around town) in traffic flow affect local businesses? How is Woodbury prepared to offset losses in tax revenue from patrons currently passing through town? How will the streets be widened should the plan to continue to route traffic through town be adopted? What do the business owners want? What do local citizens want?
How are those government entities to be present tonight to discuss this issue prepared to present a case for one option or the other? What statistics, projections, and sound facts are they prepared with to support a far sighted plan for Woodbury and the County? Is their vision for the future based upon logic and sound judgment? Is that logic sounder than that of the business community who has invested their lifetime and savings in developing their businesses?
The greatest concern for Woodbury and Cannon County citizens should be that whatever decision is reached by County leaders is done so with the absolute greatest clarity possible for the future of Cannon County. This is not a time to act based upon a “gut feeling.” It is time to act based upon having the greatest number of facts, statistics, projections, and common sense available. To arrive at a conclusion of this issue without employing such measures is to gamble with the future of Woodbury. Citizens should expect or require this data be made public so they can share in an understanding as to why any particular route proposal is chosen and more adequately prepare themselves for the consequences (either good or bad) of such a decision.
January 24, 2014 at 10:37am
I do not have a preference on any direction or if we should even have a connection at all, but I don't believe the idea that a by-pass will kill Cannon County businesses.
It's not like we have thousands of people coming through and stopping here supporting our businesses now. Primarily the support our businesses get come from the people located in our community with the occasional stop by from someone driving through on their way to some other destination.
Anyone coming to do business in Cannon County is doing so because they have a specific intent to be here. I just don't subscribe to the idea that our local businesses will lose 20-30% of their customers because we put a by-pass around the town. The only certain business that would be affected is Davenport’s gas station and the Co-Op.
There are pros to it from the stand point that we won't have 18 wheelers, dump trucks and as much car traffic tearing our roads up, etc. and less traffic is a good thing as far as safety is concerned for our children on school buses or our citizens.
This entire gloom and doom mentality we have if something changes from the way it has always been just does not cut it with me. The way to ensure we continue to have business and industry in Cannon County is to promote it, market it and encourage it. Building a by-pass will neither take away or add to what we already have or do because we simply do not market our community effectively at all.
January 24, 2014 at 5:36pm
Corey, I hope you are absolutely 100 correct in your assessment.
January 24, 2014 at 5:37pm
Is there a follow-up story by the Courier following last nights meeting?
January 24, 2014 at 6:48pm
What difference does it make.taking a quote from hilliary.Cannon County has never planned more than 12-15 mins for the saying 12-15 years.Lets move on, an work on a cause that we can make a difference in.
January 24, 2014 at 7:00pm
For those who, like me, chose not to go out into the extreme cold... Commissioner Tony Neal was in attendance and recorded the meeting. It's audio only. You can listen to it in its entirety at the link below.
January 25, 2014 at 6:22am
thanks Corey

January 25, 2014 at 6:36am
The bypassing of town will negatively affect town the T-Dot spokesman said that at the meeting. The 20-30 percent figure may be low, but on the bright side we wont have to deal with the traffic because it will be on the bypass zooming by at 65 mph.
January 25, 2014 at 6:49am
The TDOT spokesman DID NOT say it would negatively affect our town, he said he knew of other towns that had a by-pass and wished they had not done it later on. I was there, I heard what he said. It is also on Tony Neal’s recording.

Again, if we had thousands or even hundreds of people stopping by our square every day and spending money in our businesses then this would be an entirely different story and argument, but we don't.
What we have are antique stores and people come to those for specific reasons and will continue to come regardless of a by-pass or not.
What businesses does everyone see that will wither and die if we build a by-pass?
You can't buy a pair of Levi's in Woodbury now. You can't buy a pair of Converse or Nike tennis shoes. You can't buy many other things because we don't have those businesses here. What we do have are businesses that are LOCAL to our area and supported by our community and will be regardless of a by-pass or not.
This boils down to an idea that has plagued Cannon County for years and that is simply no one here wants to change anything, ever.
I am neither for the by-pass or against it, but I am against the idea that we can't plan for the future and change for the betterment of the community and get off this antiquated idea of never doing anything just because it is different than what we did 50 years ago!
January 26, 2014 at 6:58am
What he said was basically the same thing I said about wishing we hadn't built it. I realize we dont have much and we never will be much more than a bedroom community because we have nothing to offer a large company to locate here or the infrastructure to support it. The state will build a bypass south of town someday that was the original plan but I don't think it will benefit anyone here only people from Warren County will benifit from what they call the Nashville Hwy.
January 26, 2014 at 10:42pm
Thanks Tony Neal for placing the recording of this meeting on YouTube so anyone interested could hear the discussion.
There was much to be learned from this meeting. Originally it was touted as a meeting of various Cannon Co. departments who could come together as a "think tank" and come up with a proposal. As it ended up, however, it was nothing more than a public meeting on the subject. Maybe this was good in that the TDOT representatives in attendance explained it quite well for the audience. The idea of a bypass is not a TDOT idea. "They could care less whether Woodbury has a bypass or not. It is up to the people in the community as to whether one is proposed or not. It is a local matter and even if desired must work its way up a chain of command for approval and funding. Potential funding may take as long as 10 years and as long as 13 to 15 years before a bypass would be completed."
There were 3 statements from citizens that seemed to sum up best the situation. F.Fann suggested the Woodbury Planning Committee should make such a decision as they had already developed a long range (50 year) plan for the city of Woodbury. Mr. Steakley suggested a gathering of facts for review before making a decision that would forever affect the future of Woodbury and Cannon County. T. Prince suggested having a group specially designed and who would meet on a regular basis to study the issue and develop a plan based upon facts.
One thing was perfectly clear during this meeting. No one had facts. TDOT presented no current analysis of traffic flow and confirmed the last study they had was done in 1999. None of the departments represented at this meeting offered up any facts beyond some personal research acquired by discussing with other counties.
In one sense the meeting was a dismal failure to those thinking the departments represented were to work together and come up with a proposal. On the other hand, it was successful in that it clearly shows Cannon County is nowhere near addressing this issue to the point any decision can be made based upon facts rather than opinions. Even TDOT advised Cannon County to get their facts together before deciding whether they wanted a bypass or not. If they did, then they must follow the process wherein such a proposal can be addressed. That first step is to ask TDOT to do an assessment analysis (EPD). It looks like Cannon County is right back where all this should have started. Getting facts.
January 27, 2014 at 7:21am
I agree with all that you said Bonnie. That was a fair summation of the entire meeting. I will add that I was asked if we could put the decision on a referendum in our upcoming August election so the citizens could vote to decide if A.) Do we even want a by-pass and B.) If we did what route it would take.
I am currently working with the State Election Commission to determine if that can be done. They are very strict on the wording of referendums and everything must be done in an exact way or they will not allow it.

Lastly, I want to say that during the meeting and even now in the comments above there are those who don't believe we have the infrastructure to support businesses to come to Cannon County.
Let me categorically deny that and say that I believe that to be 100% false. We DO have the infrastructure to support a good size business. We currently have them located here already and they are doing just fine. Crane Interiors, Inc. is a prime example of it.

We have land that is available to buy, develop and build upon right now. We have water lines that could be tapped and run to a new site because I personally talked with Alan Paschal after the meeting last week. We have fiber optic capabilities, Wi-Fi capabilities and sewage would not be an issue either because you could simply built an on-site sewage system that could handle the business coming in.

We do have the infrastructure to support several businesses, but the key is they have to be the right type of business. Could we support a chicken processing plant that would need the use of a lot of water or sewage? The answer to that is NO.
Could we build a 100,000 square foot building that could be a distribution center, a car parts or some other similar type of industry that would employ 50 people and would need two bathrooms and a small amount of water to support a water fountain and sink? The answer to that is ABSOLUTELY YES!

The by-pass is really in every sense of the word a non-issue. It will not affect what we currently have in our community in a negative way because we have nothing that will suffer. People come to Cannon County for a specific reason and a by-pass will not change it. However, we have to get out of this “we can never change box” we live in and plan ahead. The only thing stopping Cannon County from growing and planning and reaching our potential are the people who live here that complain about having nothing and yet do everything they can to prevent us from getting something.
January 27, 2014 at 1:36pm
Corey, sorry I overlooked your suggestion about adding the question to the ballot. This is a great way to assess public opinion on this issue. Before voting, however, the public must be informed and prepared with all the facts possible. Otherwise the issue remains but a ballot of opinions. Which government department, city or county, will assume the responsibility of educating the voters before the election? Can sufficient facts be gathered by August or will the EPD be required before such facts are known?
January 28, 2014 at 7:37am
Honestly Bonnie, I don't think I trust anyone in our local government to assume the responsibility of educating the people on this subject or any other. They just aren’t willing or capable. Keeping people in the dark means you get what you want vs. what they want.
The meeting the other night was asked for in the early part of December and they had weeks to try to get more accurate information to the public and basically did nothing except say "everyone show up at the courthouse and we can talk about it". As you said above, that meeting was in every sense of the word, useless.
In some cases the elected officials are paid THOUSANDS of dollars by the taxpayers of our county to know, to research and to make informed decisions but they just simply scoot along the ice and get paid to do nothing and get re-elected because they know how to kiss the babies and shake the right hands. However, they don't know their job from a hole in the ground. The idea of a referendum was something they immediately jumped on because that takes the decision making and the blame off of them during an election year.

My suggesting as far as voting on a referendum is simple.
The only thing we should vote on in August if it is allowed is: Do you want a by-pass around the city of Woodbury to connect the McMinnville Highway to the John Bragg Highway? YES or NO?
If the answer is NO then we are done and do not have to go any further. If it is YES then we put the options on a referendum for November and let the people vote for what direction they want the by-pass to take.
We need to keep the voting process as simple as possible in my opinion.
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