Church Hill bans fund-raising roadblocks after teen injured

Jeff Bobo • Aug 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

CHURCH HILL — On the heels of an accident that was fairly minor but had the potential to be devastating, the Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Tuesday to ban fund-raising roadblocks in the city.

Years ago the board prohibited roadblocks but later agreed to grant variances on a case-by-case basis to allow school groups and other legitimate charitable organization an opportunity to raise funds by asking passing motorists for money.

Church Hill’s roadblocks typically took place at the traffic light at the intersection of Main Boulevard and North Central Avenue.

BMA members said Tuesday Church Hill has grown quite a bit since the roadblocks were reinstated, and the traffic count has increased substantially.

About three weeks ago, a Volunteer High School student was hit by a vehicle during a roadblock. Deal said he immediately took action that day, halting all future roadblocks until the board could meet and discuss the matter.

Although the BMA has the power to overrule Deal’s decision, board members voted unanimously in favor of Deal’s recommendation to permanently end all future charitable roadblocks in the city.

“I personally don’t think to get a donation in a bucket is worth a child’s life,” Deal said. “You can override me and reinstate the roadblocks, but this is a big problem, folks.”

The incident occurred when a VHS student reportedly got hung on a vehicle’s side mirror because the driver didn’t see her at the intersection. Deal said it was raining, and visibility was poor for the vehicle, which was southbound on North Central Avenue approaching the intersection.

The girl suffered only scratches. Deal visited the scene, spoke to the persons involved, and said it was a traumatic incident not only for the student but also for the driver of the vehicle.

“This kid was very, very lucky,” Deal said. “When I see the city threatened, it is my job to step in and put a stop to it and bring it up at the next board meeting.”

Alderman Linda Miller agreed that the charity roadblocks “have kind of gotten out of hand.”

“I think it’s the right decision, she said.

Deal added that he’s received positive comments about his decision from the public, including some teachers who agreed with stopping roadblocks. He said the teachers were wondering when the city would put a stop to roadblocks.

One parent called Deal and asked him to change his mind, but Deal said the only way he’d allow roadblocks to continue would be if the BMA voted to overrule him.

Alderman Tom Kern noted that in his travels he sees a lot of student organizations conducting contribution activities across the region such as car washes, but Hawkins County is the only place he’s seen in the region that allows roadblocks in public streets.

“I don’t want these people to think we’re trying to cut out anything. It’s just that we’re going to have to change the rules,” Kern said.

Last month the Mount Carmel BMA discussed completely banning roadblocks as well but compromised with parents and cut it back to one per month for six months a year. The concerns leading to the Mount Carmel decision included both the nuisance roadblocks create for motorists, as well as safety.

“It’s just too dangerous,” Deal said. “They can go to Food Lion, they can go to Food City, or McDonald’s — at least in a safe place. ... We were very lucky that day. We could be sitting here talking about something different. People elect us to do common-sense things for this city, and I really think that’s a common-sense approach.”

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