“Today, is really meant to put a personal face on who the Johnson City Development Authority is, address any concerns that they have, but then also let them know that we’re here to partner with them,” said JCDA Director Dianna Cantler. “Sometimes there’s just value in being heard, and want to make sure that these residents know that we are listening,” Cantler said.
More than two dozen residents mingled with members of the JCDA, who heard concerns about moving costs, crime and proximity to necessary services, among other things. On Monday, the JCDA announced it had completed the purchase of the building on Sept. 5.
“I came to find out what’s going on, how we’re going to get moved, what they’re going to do for the disabled when it comes time to move,” said resident William Lewis. “Me and my wife are both in wheelchairs, so we’ve got tons of (stuff) that needs to be moved.”
Cantler said moving costs were a frequent concern among residents, and that they were going to be a primary focus for the board going forward.
“We’ve already discussed relocation costs and how we’re going to address that and whether we can reach out to service providers to help us when the time comes,” Cantler said.
Another resident, Lowell Dalton, was confident the JCDA had the tenants’ best interests in mind, saying he doesn’t think they “would go through all this trouble” just to ignore the concerns of residents.
“They might as well (listen to us because) they’re going to have to put up with us,” Dalton said of the JCDA with a laugh. “I ain’t really worried about anything, they’re going to put us somewhere.”
One woman, who asked not to be named, addressed residents and the board, said she was tired of John Sevier residents being stereotyped, and that she also trusts the board to do the right thing when the residents are moved from the 10-story building in downtown.
“We hear all these rumors going around, but I will tell you this: I have faith we’re going to be taken care of,” she said. “There’s just no worry about that.”
The woman also said that she’s created a Facebook page, “The John Sevier Center Residents,” to keep residents informed of meetings and developments regarding them and the building.
“I’m not ashamed to tell people I live here anymore. This is my home, and you are my people,” she said as residents in attendance burst into applause.
Going forward, JCDA Chair Robert Williams says he hopes to have more events like this, and potentially turning it into a monthly affair.
“The most important thing is that we want them to know that we care about them, that we love them; they’re Johnson Citians just like we are, and we’re going to be there for them,” Williams said. “Communication is always the key — it’s important that we keep them informed and that we’re also hear to listen, so I imagine that we’ll be doing this on a continual basis.”