By SABRINA GARRETT
The Wilson Post
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead sent out an email survey Monday where concerned citizens could voice their opinions regarding the safety project on the Lebanon Public Square. Craighead wrote they would like to have 1,000 replies to give to the State by Friday to reinforce the citys commitment to the redesign project inviting participants to drop off the surveys at City Hall or the Lebanon-Wilson Chamber of Commerce.
Whether or not they reach that goal is yet to be determined. The project is currently on hold and outspoken business owner Carolyn Markham of Markhams Shoes and longtime Wilson County resident Jack Cato are in no rush to resurrect it.
In an interview last week, Markham told The Wilson Post that she is not against a square improvement project however, she is against the proposed roundabout redesign that TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) is suggesting. Markham listed decreased parking, loss of tourism and vehicular hazards as her reasons for opposition to the plan.
She said that trucks would have trouble making deliveries and that there was a potential for vehicles to back into each other or pedestrians the redesign has been drawn.
Cato supported her statement regarding tourism, pointing out that the monument of General Robert H. Hatton is visited by tourists frequently because Lebanon is listed on a Civil War trails map. We were selected as one of the Civil War Heritage sights. You cant just invite people to town and then not let them be able to see it, he said of the monument, which in the proposed plan would stand in the middle of the square, as it is now, but without parking spaces surrounding it.
This square definitely needs some thinking but I dont think this plan has been thought out. I am all for enhancing the square, but I do not like the plan as it is written, added attorney Hugh Green, who operates an office on the Square. I have looked over the square since 1979 and many people come to this town to see the stature of General Hatton and take pictures of it. I see families out there all the time.
In lieu of the TDOT project, Cato suggested the city look into purchasing solar powered traffic signals to prevent future accidents on the Lebanon Public Square.
Mayor Craighead disagreed that there would be a loss in tourism or patrons on the square. Instead, he rebutted, It would really get people closer to the stores.
In the same article as Markham, Lebanon-Wilson Chamber of Commerce CEO Sue Vanatta pointed out that most tourist groups call ahead and speak with the Chamber about sightseeing. Vanatta said Chamber representatives have frequently escorted buses full of tourists from the parking lot that sits parallel to A-Plus Printing and Design to the statue and would continue to do so with the redesign.
Yes, you can still get out there but it wont have a designated area, Craighead explained. He added that the entire project would be funded through the state with the city paying for additional landscaping.
Craighead said the landscaping would not be costly, especially since several landscapers want to donate their time, efforts and material.
There has also been some disagreement between those in opposition and those who are for the project on the timespan of the redesign from start to finish.
Craighead said the actual construction portion of the project would not take a year. Saying that it takes a year would include engineering, design, bidding work and closing out. It wouldnt be 12 months of just closing off the square and working, he corrected.
The way I understand it is the construction part would be done in stages. It would not have a detrimental effect anywhere from four to six months. They would come in and get this done as fast as they could.
The survey is available online at mayorcraighead.com, for those wishing to participate.