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Congressman Phil Roe set for town hall in Greene County Courthouse tonight

Becky Campbell • Mar 6, 2017 at 11:19 AM

A town hall meeting today with Congressman Phil Roe is expected to draw hundreds of area residents, but its location — the Greene County Courthouse — has a maximum capacity for 150 people, according to a spokesman for Roe.

Even with the short notice, word of the town hall spread quickly through social media, particularly Indivisible community group pages on Facebook. Many people posted critical comments about the last-minute notice as well as the limited seating available.

Roe spokesperson Tiffany Haverly said the venue is in keeping with other town hall meetings the congressman has held.

“Maximum capacity for Congressman Roe’s town hall venue is 150, which is hardly a small venue and is consistent with the other venues where Congressman Roe has held more than 40 in-person town hall meetings,” Haverly said in an email response Monday morning to questions about the meeting.

Activists in the area disputed Haverly’s claim that the venue holds 150 people and said seating is only available for about 40 people. but Greene County Circuit Court Clerk Pam Venerable confirmed by phone that the courtroom holds at least 200 in the pews available and there could be temporary seating there as well.

“Based on the number of jurors I call in, that courtroom holds about 200,” Venerable said. “It’s going to be tight.”

Venerable also said a downstairs courtroom, which holds close to the same number of people, will also be available as overflow and will have audio from the meeting.

“Venue size has never been an issue before, and the courthouse was chosen with everyone’s safety in mind. Understanding there is increased interest by some in these regularly-held meetings, there will be a space for overflow with audio of the meeting,” Haverly said. “These meetings are scheduled as frequently as Congressman Roe’s schedule permits. While we do not have another town hall meeting scheduled at this time, we do not anticipate this being his only one.”

Roe’s Facebook page posted an announcement about the town hall on Friday at 1:55 p.m.

“Since I've served as your Congressman I've held more than 40 in-person town hall meetings,” Roe’s post stated. “I'll be holding a town hall meeting in Greeneville next Monday at the Greene County Courthouse from 6 p.m.- 7:30 p.m.

“As always, this event is free, open to the public and no tickets are required to attend. Parking will be available in the courthouse parking lot after 5 p.m. Doors will open at 5 p.m. for seating, and seating will be first-come, first-served. Per court rules, please note that the use of cell phones is prohibited in the courthouse,” the post stated.

Rev. Casey Nicholson is an event organizer for the Indivisible Greene County group issued a press release raising concerns about the cellphone prohibition as well as the location.

“It seemed that the Greene County Courthouse was chosen due to the small size of the venue,” Nicholson said in his release. “The Capitol Theatre is literally right across the street from the courthouse, and the Niswonger Performing Arts Center is a minute’s drive away. Those venues would allow for between dozens and hundreds more participants, and both have been used for political debates in years past.”

Nicholson also said with cellphones prohibited, there were questions about whether or not the town hall would be recorded.

“Local Indivisible chapters are hopeful that the region’s press core will be on hand to cover the meeting, especially in light of the lack of cell phone video coverage,” Nicholson said.

Keep checking with www.JohnsonCityPress.com on this developing story and coverage of the town hall meeting.

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