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The reader will recall that many months have passed since it was announced that we had given our farm here in Lick Skillet to the State of Tennessee, subject to the reservation of a small part thereof for our continued use for life as our homeplace.
Well, you may have wondered what has happened since then?
The answer is that for the state to implement a new project takes quite some time, as it should, but progress is being made, albeit slowly.
Had you driven past on Wednesday, the 18th, you would have seen several TWRA vehicles parked at our entrance drive for some time, while several employees and officials of the agency walked about surveying the potentialities of the property, and how best to develop a plan for carrying out, in the interest of public use, these potential possibilites, including one or more fishing piers, walking paths, parking areas, etc.
We expect you will see and hear of progress towards making the place available for your use and enjoyment within the next several months.
One of the gentlemen had roughed out some suggested possibilities on a topographical plan of the area, which everyone was having difficulty reconciling with the actual site.
It became clear to us that the members of the group from Nashville were unaware of the tools so readily available here in the county, so we suggested that they might wish to visit the mapping department of our local property assessor’s office, which we told them we were fairly sure could provide them with much better and legible topographical plats and maps, including aerial photos, as well as the original TVA Land Acquisition maps.
Just to be sure that we had not over stated the available resources to our TWRA friends, we went by the Assessor’s office the next day to confirm that everything was available as we had said.
Sure enough, we were assured that the three resources we had mentioned were readily available.
This experience confirmed what we thought was the case — that our Roane County Property Assessor’s Office is one of the best run and most useful such facilities you are likely to find in all the State of Tennessee, regardless of the size of the county.
While we were in the mapping department, chief mapper, Danny Smith, who has devoted so many years of his professional life to seeing that we are always up-to-date, showed us one of his most recent projects, which is properly to correlate the ancient plan of the Hiwassee District, the original plan for land use and development that was conceived and implemented while this area was still part of the Lands Southwest of the Ohio, and part of the Indian lands belonging to the Cherokee Nation.
Danny has got well in hand this project that has mystified and stymied many previous efforts to regularize the District.
He has been working with and sharing the benefits of his researches with our neighboring counties which also contain large segments of the District.
For those not familiar with the Hiwassee District, it is a plan laid out whereby all the area covered by it is laid out in ranges, townships, sections, etc., just as the original Northwest Territory of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois was laid out.
In our county it only applies to the area South of the River, but is vital to the land titles of the property there, since it is almost universally certain that the original title would have been described in the deeds according to the plan of the Hiwassee District.
Having got this District research well in hand, Danny is now turning some of his attention to the adjacent Ocoee District.
The mapping department has for years been on the constant look out for any and all resources that will make the land titles in this county more stable and readily ascertainable.
For instance, while we were there, they showed their most recent acquisition, which is a huge map of the Wheat area made for use in acquiring the properties in that area when Oak Ridge was being developed.
One could spend hours poring over this large map showing all the major land owners in the Wheat area and imagining what this prosperous agrarian community was like prior to its incorporation into the great Manhattan Project, which did so much ultimately to win the war (World War II) against Japan.
This portion of the Property Assessor’s Office is a genuine treasure of both historical and current facts bearing upon the ownership of all the lands and holdings in Roane County, towards which we should all feel justifiable pride.
As we wrote the foregoing, and as you read it, gentle reader, no doubt the same question crossed both our minds.
Is the continued existence of the excellent resources to be found in the Assessor’s Office in danger?
This question naturally arises based upon the statements of certain candidates for the office of Assessor about the radical changes to be made in the office.
Sometimes a new broom is needed, and certainly we would not attempt to tell the voters how they should vote in the Assessor’s race, nor any other, inasmuch as our democratic form of government reposes the choice of those for whom to vote exclusively in the hands of the electors, but sometimes the sweep of a new broom is too broad, and the good is swept away without troubling to weigh whether it is good or bad.
Accordingly, we think the people are entitled to know in the few days left before the election what each of the candidates intends to do about keeping or discarding the highly efficient and highly competent staff presently working in the Assessor’s Office.
We assume that the incumbent will retain them if she is reelected.
But we have heard some disturbing reports that at least one of the challengers has promised to “clean house,” and has made promises of employment to some of his supporters. We hope this is untrue, but unless we know for sure before the election, a vote for him may well destroy the efficiency and effectiveness of the office.
Another disturbing report is that one candidate at least has promised to reduce the assessments on some folks’ property.
This is disturbing for at least two reasons: The first is the fact that county assessors no longer have the power to alter assessments at their will or whim.
They must follow rules and regulations promulgated by the State of Tennessee. Back in the days when Lish Tedder was Assessor, and even later when Marvin Steincipher held the office, an Assessor could pretty well do as he pleased in setting the assessments, subject only to appeal to the Board of Equalization.
Much has changed since then, which much of the public, including at least one of the challengers, seem to be unaware of.
Second, even if he had this power, by lowering his friends’ and supporters’ assessments, it would require that the rest of us have higher assessments, or pay higher rates, to make up for the cuts for his friends, and still meet the counties financial requirements.
We hope that the voters consider these matters before they cast their votes, for if they make a mistake, we will all suffer from it, and it cannot be undone for four years, during which a great deal of mischief can occur.