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The Bureau of the Census has done its work and begun issuing reports on its findings as to the fluxuations in population throughout the nation.
Insofar as Roane County is concerned our population has increased over the past decade by something over four percent (4.4%), to 54,181.
Our sister county, Anderson, with which we share the two cities of Oliver Springs and Oak Ridge, increased a little less than one percent more (5.3%).
And our southern neighbor, Meigs added six percent (6%).
Our other neighboring counties grew explosively, from 11.3% (Morgan), all the way to 24.2% (Loudon). Rhea County grew by 12%, which provoked reaction in some quarters.
Roane County Commission member, Ron Berry, was quoted in last Friday’s article by Damon Lawrence, as saying: “I think as a county commission we certainly have to address why we didn’t grow any more than Rhea County.”
He was further quoted thusly:
“I think it behooves us to establish some type of long-range planning committee, or to get some type of a grassroots committee together in conjunction with The Roane Alliance to look and see what we need to do to grow, because if we go another 10 years with 4 percent growth, then we really lag behind.”
Now, while we have the greatest respect for Ron, it appears to us that he is searching for a problem to which to apply a solution, for four percent growth is not a problem.
We would have thought that the ultimate goal of our public officials, and the citizenry at large as well, would be to encourage our county to be a serene and happy place, inhabited by serene and happy people.
There are, of course, a few business people who have learned no lessons whatsoever as to the effect on their business prosperity insofar as population growth is concerned.
One has only to look at the business buildings in our cities, particularly Harriman, to see what happens when outside businesses see a growth in population.
Chain stores come in, and local businesses go out of business. Maybe this is what Ron and his constituents want, but we would have thought that they would have preferred a downtown Rockwood crowded with local grocery stores, dry goods stores, hardware stores, jewelers, drug stores etc. as it was 20 years ago. Now the stores are mainly antique shops, which are delightful, but hardly the cash cows that previously occupied the buildings and thrived before the advent of the age of Walmart.
But the effect on local business is a relatively minor adverse impact of large population growth. Cumberland County with 19.8% is trying to resolve a potential water supply problem.
The big grower, London at 24.2% is having all sorts of problems coping with difficulties arising from this surging population.
We do not wish to be overly harsh in commenting on Ron’s position, but unfortunately, the body of which he is a member is responsible for many of the problems that might prevent bringing in new people or new money.
Most any land owner will tell you the taxes levied by the commission are too high.
The bureaucracy surrounding building and development is clumsy, and off-putting.
The school system is not performing up to snuff.
We still suffer from a tendency to tolerate “boss” rule, whether individual, dual, or a triumvirate.
We are weighted down with unwise Commission decisions, such as putting an industrial park adjacent to the Loudon County line, and allowing sweetheart deals there without much benefit to the county.
We waste much of our resources in such things as the bizarre jail house project.
We may be the only county in the world to have a Dollar General Store with its own jail house annex.
For years the Industrial Board and Industrial Agent have been of almost no use to us, but a drain on resources.
Neither the Commission nor anyone else has seen fit to capitalize on our incomparable natural assets.
We have done nothing to stop or even delay the continuing efforts of Oak Ridge to purloin Roane State Community College.
We have steadfastly resisted any efforts toward unifying the large number of governmental entities in the county.
But most important of all is the inferiority complex which seems to infect the so-called leaders of the community.
They refuse to recognize that this is one of the greatest places on earth to live, and that anybody who is fortunate enough to get to live here is truly blessed, and entitled to the good things that life has to offer.
Having said all of this, we can only hope that the commission and its ilk continue along their present paths that discourage population growth.
Were they to change their ways of doing business and correct all their short comings, we would be awash with new “come-heres”.
Then we would begin to experience all the difficulties that large cities inevitably do. Increased crime, school problems, pollution problems, traffic gridlock, personal alienation, increased strain on infra-structure, increased cost of living, and all the other ills one encounters in big cities.
We can only urge those of you who are dying to experience the big population life style to take a year off and go live in one of these centers of the madding crowd you think would be so grand.
If you like it, then stay there. If you find it as unpleasant as we would, come back to the more thinly populated open spaces of Roane County, enjoy the easy life style, and quit trying to foul our mutual nest by trying get crowds of new people in to destroy it.
Remember, that most dreaded affliction, cancer, is simply an outbreak of uncontrolled cellular growth. Too much population growth could be similarly dreadful.
One final reminder about figures and statistics. According to prior figures, Roane County is the county with the second highest personal incomes in the state of Tennessee.
Wonder how, wonder why.
Should this also change?