Mount Carmel may end fund-raising roadblocks

Jeff Bobo • Jun 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — The Volunteer High School girls basketball team was approved Tuesday by the Mount Carmel Board of Mayor and Aldermen to hold a fund-raising roadblock at Main Street intersections July 19 between 7 a.m. and noon.

According to Cindy Gilliam and Mike Drain, the VHS parents who made the request, the girls need to raise $3,500 to buy new uniforms.

It’s a pretty common sight in any Hawkins County town on Saturday morning to see a school organization or some other nonprofit group holding a “roadblock” — or in other words soliciting contributions at busy intersections. But the VHS girls basketball team got their Mount Carmel roadblock approved in the nick of time.

The BMA agreed during Tuesday’s meeting it will not approve any further roadblocks until the board comes up with a permanent solution for what was described Tuesday as a safety hazard and a nuisance to motorists.

That’s bad news for the VHS volleyball team, which was to be on the agenda next month for a roadblock request.

The BMA agreed Tuesday to seek a recommendation from the town’s Safety Committee, which has been directed to report back to the BMA next month.

Mount Carmel has an ordinance prohibiting roadblock fund-raisers, but the BMA approves variances to that ordinance for reputable charitable organizations on a regular basis. Alderman Carl Wolfe said Tuesday the board should consider not allowing roadblocks at all.

“They raise a lot of money for various clubs and do a good job, but I’ve had more complaints this past month and a half (about roadblocks) than I’ve ever had before,” Wolfe told the board. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me you can’t get out of Mount Carmel on Saturday no matter where you go, and if you don’t give to every one of them they look at you like they’re mad at you.”

Another complaint from the public is that they’re tired of being hit up for money every Saturday morning, every time they go through town, and at every intersection, Wolfe said.

Wolfe said that recently a group of youths were holding a roadblock without adult supervision, and one girl was performing cartwheels and somersaults in the roadway to help drum up donations. He said he doesn’t want to see a child get hurt and then have the town sued.

Town Attorney Joe May said the organization is responsible for conducting the roadblock in a safe manner. May pointed out, however, that the town has no rules or guidelines for roadblock participants.

Establishing guidelines seemed to be the direction some board members are looking for the Safety Committee to pursue.

“I think some of the issues brought to my attention in the recent past are more indicative of the sponsors of the roadblock not properly supervising some of the youngsters participating in it,” May said. “Some exuberant participants had no one there to tell them to act more adult. That could be a problem, but it doesn’t create a legal liability for the town.

“The only way a person could prevail (in a lawsuit) would be if there was a known hazard and we allowed it to go on knowing that the hazard existed.”

Aside from establishing guidelines for roadblock participant behavior, board members also discussed limiting the number of roadblocks to one or two per month, or even as few as 10 per year.

Drain asked the town to come up with a solution that won’t prevent the school groups from being able to raise money. Without the fund-raisers, the school sports teams and school organizations wouldn’t have any money to operate, Drain said.

“I agree with you that there needs to be adult supervision, and if they can’t supply it, the kids don’t need to be there,” Drain told the board. “It’s sad that the school system can’t come up with the money, and it’s sad that kids have to be put out to do this.

“They do everything — car washes, candy bars, and believe me one car wash and one intersection ain’t getting it done. It takes a bunch of stuff all year long to get these ball teams through.”

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