Rumors began circulating the day before the hearing that contractors and construction companies were knocking off early for the day and asking their crews to show up at the public hearing — driving their construction equipment. The venue for the public hearing had been moved to the auditorium at Southwestern Community College in anticipation of large crowds. The community college did not bargain for bulldozers and dump trucks rumbling into the school’s parking lot, however, potentially taking up parking spaces for students attending night classes and tearing up the asphalt.
So the state Highway Patrol was put on stand by to be stationed at the college and turn away anyone showing up in heavy construction equipment. Meanwhile, the county issued an emergency press release stating that “campus parking would be restricted to passenger vehicles only.”
In addition, the county organized a last-minute park-and-ride shuttle in case the parking lot at the auditorium filled up from large crowds. The DSS parking lot up the road from the college was designated for overflow with a county transit shuttle bringing people to the auditorium door. Some questioned whether the auditorium, which seats 1,000, would be large enough.
Both sides took out newspaper ads in the run-up to the public hearing touting the case for or against the moratorium. Some builders and contractors allegedly ramped down construction, instigating lay-offs, to create a false sense of economic hardship, spurring their employees to speak out at the public hearing in the name of job security.
The Smoky Mountain News went to press Tuesday afternoon, so it was not known as of press time whether rumors of the potential high-drama played out or not. A full account of the public hearing will be in next week’s paper. In the meantime, go to www.smokymountainnews.com to read about the meeting and see a photo gallery from the hearing.