Group wrestles with new Siam bridge-naming requests

John Thompson • Jan 14, 2013 at 10:09 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The Highway Committee of the Carter County Commission will attempt to reach a Solomonic decision following Monday’s request by two families to have the new Siam bridge named in honor of their ancestors.

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey spoke on behalf of the John Curtis Family. He said the family wishes to have the bridge named after two members of the family named John Curtis.

Humphrey said the first John Curtis was key in the establishment of Wilbur Dam 100 years ago. Curtis convinced investors to go forward with one of the first hydroelectric dams in the state. Humphrey said Curtis also was instrumental in establishing the first telephone company in Elizabethton. A Curtis descendant said he began his electrical projects with a power plant on the Doe River to provide electricity for the East Tennessee Line and Twine Co.

Humphrey said the second John Curtis was the grandson of the first John Curtis and a World War II veteran.

A competing request is from the family of W.J. “Bill” Allen. Several family members attended Monday’s Highway Committee meeting. Allen was a dairy farmer who saw three bridges built during his lifetime on the site where the new bridge now stands. The Allen Family donated land for the bridge approaches. The family had collected 333 signatures calling for the new bridge to be named in honor of Allen.

Acting Chairman Joel Street said both candidates were “very worthy gentlemen” and looked for a way that would satisfy both families. “This committee’s intent is to not hurt anyone,” Street said.

Street said he surveyed the community and noticed the bridge that crosses Wilbur Lake in the Horseshoe area is unnamed. He asked who had jurisdiction over that bridge. He was told it was on Tennessee Valley Authority property.

Street asked “would there be any possibility we could get TVA to consider naming that bridge?”

Planning Director Chris Schuettler said “TVA is pretty flexible,” and thought the authority’s highway engineers could be approached on the matter.

Street was hopeful there might be two bridges available in the community to meet the need to commemorate the three men. A public hearing on the matter was scheduled for the committee’s February meeting.

The committee had reached a similar decision in July, when the families of Jack Barnett and Carroll Boone had asked the county to name a bridge on Tenn. Highway 143.

The committee reached a compromise by recommending the bridge be named in Boone’s honor and a section of Tenn. Highway 143 be named for Barnett.

The committee also was reminded by member John Lewis that he had asked a bridge on Swimming Pool Road in Hampton be named in honor of Robert Rainbolt. The committee agreed to place that suggestion on the agenda for the February public hearing.

The committee also heard a status report from Street on the Tennessee Department of Transportation safety projects for the county. Street said a flashing warning light for a curve on U.S. Highway 19E near the Simerly Creek and Tiger Creek intersection should soon be placed out to bid and should be competed this spring.

He said some other requests, including stop lights at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19E and and U.S. Highway 321 in Hampton, are still in the design stage.

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