A minor controversy occurred Monday night when two different petitions asking that the county names a bridge in the Roan Mountain community after two local residents were presented to the Carter County Commission.
During his monthly report to the county commission, Highway Committee Chairman Ernest “Gebe” Ritchie asked the county commission to support a motion that would rename the bridge adjacent to the Roan Mountain State Park picnic shelter on Highway 143 after local resident Carroll Boone. The request was brought to the highway committee by County Commissioner Richard Winters, who represents the Roan Mountain community.
Boone worked for the Tennessee Department of Transportation for several years before retiring from the state. The request to name the bridge in his honor was first brought to Winters by Boone’s family. Winters also advised the committee that they would be willing to pay for the cost of purchasing the sign and its installation.
After Ritchie informed the commission of the motion, County Commissioner Nancy Brown, who also represents the Roan Mountain area, stated there is a second petition to name the same bridge after Jack Barnett. Brown said the petition included the signatures of 536 residents who support the effort to place Barnett’s name on the Highway 143 bridge. She added that she and the other supporters of the effort believe the bridge should be named for Barnett as he lived just a short distance from the entrance to Roan Mountain State Park.
Seeking a potential compromise, County Commissioner Jo Ann Blankenship asked, “Is there any reason we can’t name the bridge after both men?”
A second option was presented by Ritchie. He noted that a second bridge is located a short distance down Highway 143. Ritchie stated one bridge could be named for Boone, while the other bridge for Barnett.
Winters also explained that he has the highest level of respect and admiration for Boone and Barnett. He noted, “There was no intent on anyone’s part to preempt the name of Mr. Barnett. I have great respect for him. He is a great man. I had no inclination that he would be interested or his family would be interested in naming this bridge after him. If I had known, I would certainly have pursued that.”
Winters added that he has no reservations or issues with a decision to name the bridge at the Roan Mountain Picnic Shelter for both men. He noted, “I believe we can find an amicable way to handle this and honor Mr. Barnett and Mr. Boone.”
In order to find a suitable compromise over the naming issue, the 24 members of the Carter County Commission agreed to a motion by Commissioner Brown that asked for the matter back to go back to the highway committee for further review. The committee will take up the issue at their next meeting on Monday, July 9, at 10 a.m.
The commission also approved a separate motion by a unanimous vote to name the new bridge in the Elk Mills community after local music legend, E.C. Miller. Miller, who died last month at the age of 76, was a well-known banjo player who received national recognition for his work with bluegrass legends such as Earl Scruggs and the Toe River Boys.
At last week’s highway committee meeting, County Commissioner John Lewis presented a petition with approximately 50 names from the Elk Mills and Poga communities of Carter County. The petition asked the committee and the full commission to name the new bridge in Miller’s memory.
In addition to his musical accomplishments, Miller was the focus of a CBS News program entitled “On the Road with Charles Kuralt.”