The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday voted to provide Wi-Fi access along the downtown district’s newly expanded sidewalks and approved designs for improvement of three of the town’s busiest intersections.
Approval of the $8,000 a year Wi-Fi contract with CenturyLink came over the objection of Alderman Chuck Vest, who cited the cost, the increasing use of smartphones to access the Internet, the failure of Wi-Fi plans in other cities and the inability to control users’ access, particularly to pornography.
Mayor Kelly Wolfe argued in favor of the service as an added draw for tourists in the downtown business district that suffered economically during the year-long streetscape improvements project and as an incentive for more businesses to offer outdoor dining.
“One of the main reasons we plumped out our sidewalks there at the courthouse was to increase outdoor dining,” Wolfe said. “It think of it as investment to facilitate business and generate more traffic to downtown.
“What I find is today’s travelers, especially more sophisticated travelers, expect it,” Wolfe said.
Alderman Terry Countermine also supported the service, noting the popularity of its availability on the East Tennessee State University campus, the cost savings it provides to smartphone users with limited data plans and as an addition to the town’s considerable investment in downtown improvement.
The board approved the contract in a 3-1 vote with Vest opposed and Countermine and aldermen Adam Dickson and Homer G’Fellers voting in favor of the service.
The board approved a conceptual design recommended by the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Knoxville office to alleviate rush hour traffic backups and delays by expanding the intersection of US Highway 11E to include double turn lanes onto Boones Creek Road.
The design calls for the double traffic lanes to continue east along Boones Creek Road to the Food City access road, where a center turn lane would be added for westbound motorists attempting to turn left onto the access road.
Town Administrator Bob Browning said the Knoxville office has forwarded the plan to Nashville with recommendation for TDOT funding because of the high volume of traffic and large number of accidents that occur at the intersection.
In response to Vest’s concerns for the safety of motorists attempting to turn left across the double lanes out of the McDonald’s and Arby’s restaurants located on opposite sides of the intersection, Browning said plans call for the elimination of left turns out of the two restaurants.
The board voted unanimously to approve the plan in concept to allow further review by TDOT.
The board also unanimously approved plans for a redesign of the Boone and Main streets intersection that will allow the addition of eight diagonal off-street parking spaces at the future Jonesborough Farmers Market building, landscape buffering and completion of the brick sidewalk from Main to Sabine Drive. The project will be funded and constructed by the town.
Subject to the agreement of property owner Peggy Cloyd, the board also approved a plan to change the slope and angle of the Main Street intersection of Persimmon Ridge Road that currently prohibits large trucks from using Persimmon Ridge Road to bypass the downtown district.
If Cloyd agrees to allow the town to cut down and re-grate a portion of her property for construction of a retaining wall, Browning said TDOT will come back with an affordable plan to reconstruct the intersection with a less than 90-degree westbound turn onto Main that currently prohibits large trucks from safely negotiating the intersection.
In other business, the board voted to allow the Jonesborough Water Department to join the Johnson City Power Board and Atmos Energy in the nonprofit Hands Up emergency assistance program for low-income utility users at risk of losing their service because of their inability to pay.
The program will give Jonesborough water customers the option of adding a $1 contribution to the program with the payment of their monthly water bill.
And in a surprise agenda item, Wolfe proposed and the aldermen unanimously approved a resolution to rename Town Hall the “Robert E. Browning Town Hall Building” in honor of Browning’s 24 years of service as town administrator.