published Monday, November 4th, 2013

Jasper may once again allow money-raising roadblocks

JASPER, Tenn. -- Fundraiser roadblocks can be a nuisance to many travelers, but in Marion County they are a near-necessity for nonprofit community organizations.

Several years ago, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen outlawed roadblocks, which had become an almost weekly occurrence, but now city leaders are reexamining that policy.

The Marion County Food Bank asked permission to have a roadblock recently because its stock had gotten so low, but city leaders refused the request based on Jasper's ordinance.

Mayor Paul Evans said some Marion County High School classes and other school organizations have approached him about having roadblocks on the weekends, too.

"You know how hard it is to get money for these organizations, but I don't want it happening every weekend," he said. "We really need to take everybody into consideration. I think we need to look at it because we can't allow one and exclude everybody else."

City Attorney Mark Raines said the city's current ordinance is "pretty clear" that roadblocks are prohibited.

"If there's a desire [by the board] to modify it or rework it, there needs to be some good guidelines in place so that you don't get back into the situation [Jasper] was in before when everybody and their uncle was down here on the street with buckets in their hand," he said.

When the roadblocks were prohibited several years ago, Alderman Leon Rash said that was the board's objective because people were not going through "the proper channels."

"They were just going down there and doing it," he said. "We were getting complaints from citizens. You couldn't go through town on Saturday without problems, so we decided we'd take care of the problem and discontinue it."

If the board is going to allow some exceptions to the rule, Raines said strict procedures will need to be in place.

"Right now, there is a blanket ban on all of them," he said. "There needs to be some rational guidelines of who you're going to permit, and there has to be a rational basis for only allowing particular organizations to conduct this type of activity."

Rash said he would be against an "open door" for just anyone to have roadblock fundraisers, and that safety at these events is a major concern for the city.

"We have kids out there, and I won't say that they're always supervised," he said. "It becomes a large liability on our part."

Raines said he will develop a proposed revision to the ordinance so the board can see what it might look like if they choose to make changes.

"We'll do it like a brainstorming session," he said. "We'll just see if there's a consensus. Maybe [the board] likes it, and maybe they don't. There may be more issues than we know."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryan lewis34@gmail.com.

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